Friday, July 15, 2005

My say to the PressThink crowd

Jay Rosen's July 7 post at PressThink on how the press should shun Novak until he comes clean (how positively Amish!) notched 265 comments, the majority of which I felt served as an example of how practically any media thread these days rapidly devolves into a political food fight.

On Tuesday, a guy calling himself antimedia showed up on Rosen's comment board with a bunch of Rove stuff I hadn't read before. Definitely right wing, but pretty good stuff. Meaty. Researched. Practically footnoted. I skimmed it, went back to work, and when I checked back ... there was even MORE of it.

Between 1:12 a.m. and 10:27 p.m. on July 12, this guy antimedia filed 13 posts, several of them lengthy, with all sorts of citations to material I'd never read or heard about. Without having checked it all out, I marked it for further study. It all struck me funny. My Spidey-Sense was buzzing.

The next morning's paper featured the Rove story prominently -- but with an eye-opening twist. The stuff I'd read for the first time in antimedia's Tuesday posts was suddenly the focus of the national wire story, only it was coming out of the mouth of Ken Mehlman, the former Bush campaign manager who now runs the RNC. Later that afternoon, while tracking the consistant GOP message, I found what I was looking for. And they looked remarkably like what I'd read the day before at PressThink.

At 5:39 p.m. on July 13, I posted this question on the comment board:
Anybody else notice how antimedia showed up yesterday flashing a line of logic that was practically identical to the GOP talking points that were being circulated more or less at the same time?
Thursday was busy, but today I finally got the time to check back in.

The first response, from regular PressThink conservative contributor Trained Auditor, was about what I'd expected:

Antimedia shed some real light, slaying some sacred cows of the left in the process, chiefly that "Bush lied" - - in fact, the President's 16 words in the State of the Union address regarding African nuclear materials were well founded (see underlying report(s), excerpted by Antimedia). I don't see that point disclosed in the brief catch-up summaries that are typically included in recent news reports of the Rove connection.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at July 13, 2005 06:13 PM | Permalink

Then another new guy, going by the anonymous handle "blanknoone" showed up around 8 p.m. and made a couple of on-message, fact-packed, well-drilled pro-Rove posts. This prompted a response from Steve Lovelady of CJR, the guy who tends to ride herd on Rosen's righties.

I love it.
Now that Daniel Conover has exposed "antimedia" as a talking point parrot from the RNC, "antimedia" mysteriously disappears, only to be immediaately replaced by "blanknoone."
Come on, guys -- I can post under any name I want, but in the end I'm still Steve Lovelady.
Congrats, Jay. You've finally got the big boys, with all their numerous aliases, trying to pollute your site.
In a way, it's a compliment. They only wade in if they see something alarming on a site with wide readership.
Look at it this way: you've graduated.
Now, at last, as Phillip Roth says in Portnoy's Complaint, we can begin.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at July 13, 2005 09:26 PM | Permalink

That drew two consecutive comments from blanknoone:

Steve, I've been here for a while, even if I haven't been here for a while. I'm not new, and I'm not antimedia. M'kay? And Jay should be able to verify that by IP address without a problem. If you care, ask him to. I invite it.

Furthermore, you don't address any of my points. I haven't read any GOP talking points, at least not yet. But just because they are talking points (and I really don't think my long post could POSSIBLY be considered a talking point) doesn't mean they aren't true.

Posted by: blanknoone at July 13, 2005 09:42 PM | Permalink


BTW, Steve, has your supposedly non-partisan media watchdog group finally acknowledged having a radical left winger running the show and put him on the masthead? How long did it take? It would be obvious to anyone reading your posts, but at least you could be honest with your subscribers.

Posted by: blanknoone at July 13, 2005 09:45 PM | Permalink

And about half an hour later, here comes antimedia with another long post (excerpted):

I know this might come as a shock to you, Daniel, but contrary to the apparent majority of the commenters, I actually am capable of both reading and thinking for myself. I've never been a member of any party except the Libertarian party (for one year), and I've never been to any site where there are "talking points". This is because I don't need to be spoon fed my thoughts. I'm quite capable of thinking on my own, as should be quite clear from my comments in this thread.

A thinking person might actually question why my points so closely match the "talking points" when I obtained them independently of any political site. (I actually read the SICR, for example.) It could actually be possible that the Republicans are using facts for their talking points! (I don't know that for a fact, because I've not seen them. Nor do I care what their "talking points" are.)

As opposed to comments such as yours, invoking ad hominem to disabuse readers of the notion that I might actually have a point, I posted fact after fact after fact, none of which have been refuted by any commenter in this thread.

When I posted about Wilson's lies regarding his wife's involvement, irrefutable facts, commenters began attacking those facts by saying they were "unimportant" or "immaterial to the discussion of whether or not Rove committed a crime" or they could be "understood" in a different way. (As if there's more than one way to "understand" facts.)

So far, not one of the facts I've posted has been refuted by anyone. Many, on the other hand, have used ad hominem and condescension in an attempt to "refute" them. It hasn't worked, other than to strengthen the resolve of those who only care to see the "truth" they believe in rather than the facts of what took place.

Considering this is a journalism blog and many commenters are journalists, that ought to trouble a few of them at least. That it apparently doesn't is merely proof of the bias they insist does not exist.

Steve Lovelady wrote

Now that Daniel Conover has exposed "antimedia" as a talking point parrot from the RNC, "antimedia" mysteriously disappears, only to be immediaately replaced by "blanknoone."
Frankly, Steve, I have no idea who "blanknoone" is nor do I need his or her help to argue. But I do find your sanctimonious and condescending attitude a bit off-putting. I hope you aren't as uncivil in person.

As far as Conover "exposing" me, please don't make me laugh. Conover hasn't a clue what he's talking about. I hardly have time to sit around here conducting a pissing contest with the likes of you and your cronies. I just stopped by this evening to see if you were all still stewing in your juices, and sure enough, you were. (It's actually comforting in a way to know that some things don't change.)

This brought the ever scrappy Lovelady back out:

Nice try, antimedia/blanknoone/whatever-your-next-name- is.
Never even checked in on what the arcane and irrelevant RNC talking points are, yet you've been echoing them for four days ?
And the two of you don't even have the same ISP address ?
Gee, what a surprise that is!
Duh-uh !
Say hello to Ed Gillespie for me, boys.
If Valerie Plame had ever been this clumsy about cover, this country would be in real trouble.
But, as I said earlier -- welcome to the show. With your presence, it can only get more interesting.
We're finally dealing with players, not commentators.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at July 13, 2005 11:27 PM | Permalink

Which got about the kind of response I was rapidly coming to expect from antimedia:

Steve Lovelady, how stupid do you have to be to keep repeating this ignorant mantra "antimedia/blanknoone/whatever-your-next-name- is". Click on the link, you boob. You'll find I have a blog. I'm not playing some silly whack-a-mole game, and if you go to my blog you'll find I've written about all this stuff for over a year now.

I am not a "player" either (whatever the heck that is) despite your paranoid delusions. I'm a simple American citizen, US Navy veteran, father and husband, computer security geek. Nothing more, nothing less. The last time I got a solicitation from the Republicans I wrote them a long, nasty letter about how they were a bunch of boobs and asked them to take me off their list. (Not that it did one bit of good.) At least the Libertarians finally quit mailing me.

So there you have it: Another testy little exchange, signifying nothing. Maybe.

Here's my say on all of this:

To the antimedias of the world, let me just express, truly and sincerely, how angry you make me. It makes me angry whenever some jerk accuses everyone in my profession of the same crimes, some of which are nothing more than bitter imagination.

I don't like the showboating. I don't like macho swagger. So when you call yourself "antimedia" and show up stomping around in big boots, don't expect me to act all friendly.

Secondly, I don't cover Washington, and I don't write about it professionally. So don't walk in and throw down a gantlet on your "facts" about the Plame story and expect me to just do what you say, when you say, the way you say it. Get that chip off your shoulder when you're talking to me.

Third, I'm sick and tired of know-it-alls trying to tell me that THEIR sets of details are the ONLY ones that matter. The motto of this site is "Fight the FUD." That means I'm interested in trying to understand what's really going on, NOT in being led around by the nose in your neo-con fog because you happen to have figured out how to manipulate the media via its own rules.

WHICH, by the way, means that I'm going to stand on my post about what I believe to be true in the Valerie Plame story. WHICH, by the way, says that the facts you've presented, no matter how rigorously documented, appear to me to be nothing more than another red herring. WHICH, by the way, means that I'm not going to traipse around after whatever you guys say is important until I see some evidence that you grasp what I consider to be the significant concept: Was the administration truthful in the run-up to Iraq and is it being truthful now?

And you're not going to distract me from that. I vocally supported the decision to go to war beginning in the fall of 2002, and let me tell you smarmy punks something: I'm one of those Americans who just hates the idea of being betrayed by his government.

Unless and until I hear some conservative willingness to accept the obvious truth on that score, we don't have a conversation. It's like buying a house: Somebody has to make a qualified offer before the negotiations begin. You guys who want to start an argument with me and change my mind are like people who'd walk up to a Realtor at an open house and say "I'll give you a hundred bucks for the house, lot and the garage, and by the way, all you Realtors are lying poofs."

If I were doing true hardcore journalism on this site (which I've never claimed to be doing), you bet I'd go through your material. Exhaustively. That's the cost of doing real journalism, primary journalism, bias-filtered journalism. But why even bother with you? Most of the conservative "antimedia" critics I've met demand such things, only then when you give it to them, they dismiss the possibility of real, primary, bias-filtered reporting, call you a name and change the subject, because, you know, reporters are liberals.

You guys don't want news. You want comforting kitsch and patriotic propaganda. You don't want change, either. You want to keep the press decertified, so that you can keep ignoring it when you don't like what it says.

Now, do I agree with Lovelady that antimedia and blanknoone are one and the same? Do I think that antimedia was a GOP plant? Do I think that the Republican Noise Machine has decided to include the PressThink board in its scorched-Earth spin policy?

No, yes and maybe.

I mean, antimedia and blanknoone could be the same person. Both are anonymous and, by my way of thinking, far less credible for it. If you play clever little identity games, you're going to leave yourself open to criticism and suspicion. But that doesn't mean that they're the same person, and, by the way, who cares?

Is antimedia a GOP plant? You decide: I didn't recognize his handle, and I've been reading PressThink regularly for six months. This afternoon I checked back to May 3, and the first post by anybody named antimedia came on July 12 -- the same day that Rove and the GOP launched their counteroffensive across the media. The stuff I read in the talking points memo I heard first from antimedia.

Antimedia claims he has never seen the GOP talking points, which were distributed about 10 hours after he filed his first PressThink comment. And I suppose it's possible that a coincidence like that could happen. Only I liked what I heard Rove's biographer say this week: "There are no coincidences in Karl Rove's world."

Now, Mr. antimedia, let me clarify something. You invoked your victim status in claiming that I had engaged you in an ad hominem attack. As you know, that's a Latin term that means "attacking the man." What I did was ask a question based on an observation. An ad hominem would have gone like this:
Anybody else notice how antimedia showed up yesterday flashing a line of logic that was practically identical to the GOP talking points that were being circulated more or less at the same time? What a lying Spookworld bastard.
But I didn't say that. And as for me having a clue, that's all I had. A clue. I didn't have a conclusion. You just filled in the blanks and accused me of reaching conclusions.

I did small-scale political journalism for about 10 years of my life. I didn't play on the Washington level (although I covered local delegations), and I don't know all the Inside-the-Beltway tricks. So listen carefully to what I'm saying: I'm not claiming specific knowledge.

But I am saying that I've got enough direct experience to have a pretty good idea of how this game is played. And based on that first-hand experience of the way modern parties conduct their real-politik business, is it out of the realm of possibility that a national political organization would hire or recruit or assign people to go out in the blogosphere and try to sway the debate, frame the discussion, insult and defame their opposition? Is it unreasonable to be suspicious of such things? No.

And, had that happened, would it be reasonable to expect the guilty to fess up when confronted? "Aw shucks, boys, ya caught me!" Not on your life.

The right wing is coming apart in front of our eyes right now, but that doesn't mean the end is near, or that they'll just shrivel up when contronted with their hypocrises. It is necessary now to confront them, to oppose them, perhaps even to expose them from time to time. They cannot continue to stand on this house of cards, but history teaches they will not go quietly.

Once they are gone, let's remind people what "conservative" really means. What "liberal" really means, too. Neither is a dirty word, and neither has a stranglehold on truth or wisdom.

But until that time, George W. Bush is right: You're either for him, or you're against him. It didn't have to be this way, but so be it.