Enter The Network Of Political Operatives
Deep behind the scenes of the political world lies a network of internal spies, whose sole purpose is to wreak havoc on the opposing party and expose everything they possibly can, real or imagined. Democrats and Republicans alike, live in this world. They are the unnamed sources, the hacks, and the moles that one day hope to receive some kind of reward for their services; and suffice it to say that some of them will do almost anything to get recognition for their meritorious services, at some point down the road.
Gone are the days when a person could show up at a local party office, volunteer to distribute leaflets, make phone calls to prospective voters, and other kinds of legitimate methods of laborious services to get candidates elected. As a matter of fact, gone are the days when being a servant to the people actually meant getting the most votes based on a campaign of competing ideas, visions, and hopes. But, we now must fully understand that the world has changed much over the past couple of decades, much of it due to the rapid boom in technology.
Using the media always has been a tool of the political world. The Federalist Papers is a collection of essays written to newspapers by three men (under the pen name, Publius) to New York newspapers (and later compiled in a book), arguing for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Many would argue that Alexander Hamiltion, James Madison, and John Jay were being a bit on the sneaky side by using the same pen name to make their cases. But if only their critics had lived to see this day, then they would see just how far this cloak and dagger process has evolved.
From the use of newspaper editorial sections to weekly periodicals, from radio to television came a golden age of political manipulations, delivered by using the media as a messenger. And although mudslinging is certainly nothing new, the advent of electronic media has helped present more distorted pictures of opposing political candidates and the supporters that back them.
Enter the internet.
With the introduction of the internet, a certain "specialized" clandestine underworld has developed, a world in which anonymity is much better maintained than in any prior form. With the print media, television, and radio there was some measure of accountability. Now, anyone that can afford a cheap computer from Sam's Club can set up a system, get online, and put out their messages for the world to see. These messages are harder to track and harder to pinpoint.
Enter the message boards.
As message boards (and chat rooms) became the craze, a whole host of people with a reasonable guarantee of anonymity, found an outlet for socialization; and it was something that happened pretty much in real time. Chat rooms were one thing, they were instant. But message boards were something you could post for all to see when you had the time, and others could come around and read it, when they had the time.
In the midterms of 1998 and the Presidential election of 2000, message boards were used as a medium of communications for many political operatives. Democrats and Republicans both used their PCs at home (and at work) to do hatchet jobs on each other, in the forums.
On the political AOL boards (where I first met this medium of communication), there were people with multiple screen names that would post derogatory and accusatory posts against the other side and were often times baseless ad hominem attacks, designed to demoralize (and of course, garner votes in the process). In short, they were paid (and unpaid) hacks that would form alliances based on political party and in some cases ideology. Some knew each other offline beforehand. Many came to know each other online and eventually networked offline, too. Campaign directors saw a golden opportunity to use this as a means of political espionage and thus incorporated this into their strategies and their budgets.
Many of the posts would get personal with the persons behind the screen names. But all would debase the other side with the freedom of knowing that they were in an anonymous world, and the likelihood they would never become known was pretty good, as long as they didn't cross certain lines.
Enter the blogs.
Weblogs and online journals go back to 1994, but the real explosion occurred after 2000. People could have creative control over things. They could write an opinion about something (with or without anonymity) and could have visitors come to the site, read the material, and comment on it if they so desired. Many people would set up family blogs so that fanilies that were scattered across the country (and world) could interact and keep in touch. But others would set up campaign blogs for specific candidates, either pro or con, positive or negative.
As message boards would come and go, the control of the content rested solely with the operators of those boards. Constant complaining from members to the board monitor about the nasty nature of posters became widspread. When it got out of control, sometimes the only thing for them to do was shut down the board altogether. Members would then scatter and have to set up a new existence on other boards.
The blogs became a way for those same operatives to conduct their hatchet jobs, and have creative contol of what topics were to be cussed and discussed. And when bloggers exposed the Rathergate stunt, the media world had officially been put on notice that bloggers were not just a bunch of hacks, anymore.
They reached a pinnacle, a point whereby, they had to be recognized as a group of intelligent people that were tired of having to put up with collusion and bias in the media. People, then, began to recognize that bloggers were becoming a reputable source of information and commentary; and doing it more and more as time went on. In fact, it is so much so that the media has joined in and somewhat conceded to the blogosphere, as is evidenced by the many columnists that now have their own blogs.
Enter the blogosphere.
Many people, like myself, are just average joes that have gotten tired of yelling at the TV, night after night, watching the blatantly biased reporting of the oversensationalizing MSM. (In my opinion, Fox news does the best job overall, but they are not free from spin and often beat the stories into the ground, ad nauseum. They too, miss things, overlook things, ignore things, and overstate things. They too, must be watched and kept honest, as realistically possible. So, they too, must be included into the realm of media criticism.) But not everyone that administrates a blog can be trusted.
Take this blog for instance. Radar Online has a write up about it that you need to read. It accuses the blog of being bogus, and further asserts that it was set up only after the Foley scandal broke. Now, Foley deserves his constitutional rights should there turn out to be criminal activity involved here, but he doesn't get sympathy from me for his behavior, none whatsoever.
But this isn't just about Foley.
Exactly what the truth is in this case is not yet clear. But it's apparent that he did something. Why would have resigned so quickly, checked himself into an alcohol rehab facility, and come out with the story he had been molested by a clergyman, years ago?
No, this post is about the political underworld that very well could have been responsible for sitting on this information and leaking it out now, just weeks before the election. This is about an underhanded covert world of strategists and consultants that plan and plot to create upheaval. And sometimes that could very well mean sitting on a story, planting bloggers to do dirty work that they don't want to do overtly, and then waiting in the wings for the fallout that is most certainly sure to occur.
The purpose of this post is not to defend Foley, nor is it to criticize the people that exposed the situation. It's purpose is to give you an idea of how sophisticated these hacks are and how the readers of these blogs must be aware that this kind of activity is widespread.
Democrats, being the opposition party (which desperately wants back in control) is the party that is more likely to take risks like this, not only because of the anonymity that is provided, but because they have to go on the attack. They have no choice. They have no plan, they have no vision, they have not set a reasonable platform to run on, with the exception of campaigning against Bush. They, therefore, must rely on dirty tricks and manipulation that is much further devolved than many may realize.
It is about blogs becoming an integral part of major campaign process and the fact that it is here to stay. Peter Daou of the Daou Report has recently turned over the reins of the blog that bears his name, over to a man by the name of Steve Benen, his co-editor. Why, you ask? So Mr. Daou can be Hillary Clinton's blog advisor. Now, let's get this straight here, there's not a thing wrong with that, in my opinion. It just illustrates just how big this blog craze will be for the remainder of this election, and 2008. (Both Peter and Steve have been kind enough to plug PYY on occasion, and I'd like to say a special thanks for that.)
Already, we have seen the alterations of file photos in the TV world. The Rosie O'Donnell and Katie Couric slimdown jobs were subtle manipulations. We've also seen jihadists use Photoshopping for their propaganda needs. But this next job looks like the work of GOP hacks.
The Knox News is carrying a story about a GOP mailout with a photo of Harold Ford Jr. (the Democratic candidate for Senator representing Tennessee), with darker skin.
(HT: Booker Rising)
Enter common sense.
So we see that this is not just Dems that pull this kind of stunt. Both sides are guilty, it's just that one side needs it more than the other. But make no mistake, this is not an isolated instance, for either party. And it's likely to continue for as long as there is an internet or Big Brother tries to shut the blogs down, whichever.
Make no mistake, shutting down blogs is not the answer to these kinds of things, but letting the reader know what's out there and allowing them to judge the works found on these sites for themselves is a much better way to go.
You have heard the phrase buyer beware? Well, reader beware is the key phrase to remember. Reader beware.
Do not allow yourselves to be fooled. Do not get sucked up into this world. By all means, read. But read with skepticism, read with a critical eye. And do not fall for the political trickery that is so pervasive, in the world of politics today. Think long and hard as you read anything.
But above all, think.