As I write this, I don’t know whether Ned Lamont has beaten Joe Lieberman. From where I sit, Lieberman let down his party on the most important issue of our time and behaved as though voters owed him his office. He deserves to lose. I’d like to see him replaced by a Democrat who won’t hedge his bets and who will send a message to the Bush administration that its days are numbered.
But if he does lose — and whether he then petulantly runs as an independent, courts a Bush administration appointment of some kind, or graciously retires — you can bet we’re going to hear all about the bloggers. You know, those nasty ultraliberal disrespectful divisive bloggers who failed to let Lieberman’s support for the president’s miserable war pass, and who churned up anger and fanned Lamont’s primary challenge in its earliest and most fragile stages. We’ll hear about them from entrenched powerbrokers of all stripes, Democratic and Republican — about how they are a dark and dangerous force that can only bring us to woe. The outcry will be far louder than today’s tempest-in-a-server-room about whether Lieberman’s Web site was actually hacked or he just had a lousy hosting plan.
This incumbents’ backlash has in fact already begun. On today’s Wall Street Journal op-ed page comes Bill Clinton’s old lawyer, Lanny Davis, complaining about how those bloggers have treated Lieberman, for whom Davis campaigned in recent months. Conservatives aren’t the only hotheads out there, Davis discovered in his forays on Lieberman’s behalf; liberals, he is horrified to learn, can also be nasty. “The far right,” he says, “does not have a monopoly on bigotry and hatred and sanctimony.”
Davis has apparently been living offline for the last decade. So when he pokes his head out from hiding and scans the Internet’s tubes for political discourse, he discovers that many people on liberal sites are saying intemperate, even hateful things.
It may be regrettable that the leftward side of the spectrum has its own share of creeps, but, given the distribution of human traits across the political spectrum, it seems inevitable. Still, there’s a bigger problem with Davis’s argument: he cites a list of five examples of “the type of thing the liberal blog sites have been posting about Joe Lieberman” — “emotional outbursts by these usually anonymous bloggers.”
However, every single one of his examples is actually a comment on someone’s blog (in fact, they’re all comments posted either on Huffington Post or Daily Kos). They’re not “things” the “liberal blog sites” have been “posting”; they’re things various random passersby have posted.
The simple distinction between the proprietor of a site — the “blogger” — and the poster of comments is being forgotten or deliberately ignored here to score a political point. It’s a low blow, similar to what happened in 2004 when conservative critics of MoveOn behaved as though the organization was responsible for the content of every single submission to a “make your own ad” contest.
In open online environments, it simply makes no sense to hold the publisher/blogger/site owner responsible for every opinion, attitude and flame that visitors post. If that’s where we’re headed, we might as well just shut down the Net and go home.
In tarring the bloggers with the sins of their commenters, Davis is doing what I worried would happen, way back during the Dean campaign days: political campaigns that embrace openness online might find themselves bludgeoned by opponents who’d turn dumb comments posted by random jerks into lethal soundbites. It’s sad to see that happen anywhere, sadder to see one Democrat doing it to another.
[tags]Joe Lieberman, politics, blogging[/tags]
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