Bloomberg.org’s Amity Shlaes recently grouped me together with two other “left-leaning” bloggers in an article about the nefarious world of the Internets. In this murky underworld, faceless bloggers exist only to baselessly attack innocent politicians post-election as part of a dastardly plan to undermine “gentlemanly” newspapers. My qualms with Shlaes article are threefold, but I first want to offer a little background about the article and my initial response.
I am “Exhibit B” in Shlaes’s example. “Exhibit A” is Talking Point Memo’s Eric Kleefeld, and “Exhibit C” is Think Progress’s Matthew Yglesias. In a truly bizarre turn, Shlaes links to a video I cross-posted from TPM of Bobby Jindal retelling the fictitious encounter he had with Sheriff Lee in post-Katrina New Orleans. She cites the headline I gave the post: “Bobby Jindal: Chronically Stupid.” Other than the title, that blog post came entirely from TPM. So Shlaes actually presents TPM as two of three examples of the supposedly dishonest bloggers trolling the Internet.
I am sort of disappointed that Shlaes linked to one of my cross-posted blogs because she would no doubt also enjoy my original Conservative-bashing blogs where I write that Peggy Noonan is a terrible columnist, who “practically shouts that she wants a penis inside of her” at the slightest hint of an impending conflict, Davis Brooks is “elite and clueless”, and that Douglas Feith (among other former Bush officials) are war criminals. Shlaes failed to find these other, better examples of “character assassination” either because the Jindal post really pissed her off, and she was seized by the desire to use it as example of nutty bloggers gone wild, or she was too lazy to properly search my blog for an original work. The blog post is clearly marked “Talking Points Memo” with a link to the original work at the top of the page, so I have to assume the latter is true.
Some of the most prominent names in progressive politics launched a major new organization on Thursday dedicated to pinpointing and aiding primary challenges against incumbent Democrats who are viewed as acting against their constituents’ interests.
Accountability Now PAC will officially be based in Washington D.C., though its influence is designed to be felt in congressional districts across the country. The group will adopt an aggressive approach to pushing the Democratic Party in a progressive direction; it will actively target, raise funds, poll and campaign for primary challengers to members who are either ethically or politically out-of-touch with their voters. The goal, officials with the organization say, is to start with 25 potential races and dwindle it down to eight or 10; ultimately spending hundreds of thousands on elections that usually wouldn’t be touched.
“Most of the time, regardless of your record in Washington, an incumbent does not have to worry about being challenged in a primary,” explained Jeff Hauser, an online Democratic operative who will serve as the group’s executive director. “This only increases the power of the Washington echo chamber and the influence of lobbyists. We are trying to change that… We think there are potentially talented challengers out there who think the process of mounting a primary challenge is simply too daunting. When you bring to bear the resources of national organizations and the influence of the netroots, you can help these potential candidates.”
It is a concept bound — indeed, designed — to ruffle the feathers of powerful figures in Washington, in part because the names behind it are now institutions themselves. With $500,000 currently in the bank, Accountability Now will be aided, in varying forms, by groups such as MoveOn, SEIU, Color of Change, Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats and BlogPAC. FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher and Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald will serve in advisory roles, while Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos will conduct polling, with analytical help from 538.com’s Nate Silver.
“This will be very much interactive and localized,” said Hamsher. “We are already going out to local state blogs to help us identify well-qualified candidates in their communities. Once those people are identified we will be able to bring the strength of our resources to help them mount primary challenges.”
In a conversation with the Huffington Post, Hauser, Hamsher and Greenwald said that the process by which targeted incumbents were chosen would not constitute an ideological litmus test. The goal, they noted, was simply to follow the numbers: figure out which Members were casting votes that were out of tune, philosophically speaking, with their constituent’s public opinion readings. And then bear the most basic form of political pressure: encourage a primary challenger to run and help him or her campaign. Fundraising will be done by galvanizing online support for specific races — a practice now natural to Accountability Now’s principals.
The overarching premise would be to break down the power of incumbency. But the side effects would be equally lucrative: putting members on notice that their votes have consequences and offering a support structure to aspiring progressives.
“We want to normalize the idea that Democratic incumbents can be challenged…and to the extent that we can legitimize that you can then open up the conversation, causing even the good incumbents in Washington to endorse primary challengers as a means to make the political class more responsive,” said Greenwald. “We want to destroy the taboo against challenging politicians from within their own party.”
And yet, not everyone is bound to be on board, least of all official Washington. Protecting incumbency is, as Accountability Now’s founders are acutely aware, one of D.C.’s foremost operating principles (in 2008, only 23 incumbents lost their House races and only four of those losses came in the primary). And there is a reason for it. Political power comes in the form of numbers and unity. As such, keeping the majority intact often takes precedent over ideological purity. Rep. Donna Edwards’ victory over ethically challenged Al Wynn in 2008 — a template for what Accountability Now seeks to do in 2010 — was one of the few cases that went against the grain.
But in private, some Democrats expressed worry about pushing for progressive change from the outside rather than from within. Would running an election opponent be the best measure of political persuasion? What if, hypothetically, a primary challenger won the nomination only to lose in the general?
These are concerns that Accountability Now does not take lightly. They insist that they will “take district realities into account,” which means that Democrats who represent moderate districts will be forgiven for their moderate votes. But beyond that, they argue, it is the candidate’s responsibility, not theirs, to ensure reelection.
“No incumbent worth their salt should lose in a primary — their advantages are considerable, and so to be vulnerable indicates a considerable focus on K Street, not Main Street,” said Hauser. “A primary is the height of democracy, a two-year job performance review — what is wrong with having to listen to constituents as well as D.C. lobbyists and groupthink.”
One of China’s most famous bloggers was stabbed at the weekend.
Xu Lai, the writer behind Pro-State in Flames, was speaking at the One Way Street bookshop in Beijing on Saturday afternoon when he was attacked, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported. He had been speaking for a couple of hours and was answering questions when a fracas erupted.
His wife said that two men forced Xu Lai into the men’s toilet. She chased after them and found that one was holding a vegetable knife and the other a dagger. The men escaped, leaving Xu Lai on the ground with a cut to his stomach.
A report on the English-language blog Black and White Cat noted that “Xu Lai may not have the megastar status of Han Han, but he’s very much an A-list blogger.”
The Southern Metropolis Daily said: “Xu Lai is a low-key sort of person and he’s just a science journalist who wouldn’t provoke anyone. However, there are many things on his blog that can touch a nerve and he has probably made enemies that way.”
The newspaper quoted a witness as saying that they heard one of his attackers say: “You brought this on yourself. You know why we’re doing this, don’t you?”
However, this could also refer to a personal feud as much as to any ideological vendetta over views expressed in his blog.
Mr Xu is famous for his biting and often sarcastic style in commenting on social and political issues. He is an editor at the popular Beijing News daily and his book Fanciful Animals was published last November. His blog is believed to carry many entries penned by other contributors.
Blogs are extremely popular in China, where newspapers are heavily censored. Cyberspace police patrol the internet, swiftly closing sites deemed too risqué, but they remain the most important medium for self-expression in China.
A newly declassified document gives a fascinating glimpse into the US military’s plans for “information operations” – from psychological operations, to attacks on hostile computer networks.
As the world turns networked, the Pentagon is calculating the military opportunities that computer networks, wireless technologies and the modern media offer.
From influencing public opinion through new media to designing “computer network attack” weapons, the US military is learning to fight an electronic war.
The declassified document is called “Information Operations Roadmap”. It was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University using the Freedom of Information Act.
Officials in the Pentagon wrote it in 2003. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, signed it.
The “roadmap” calls for a far-reaching overhaul of the military’s ability to conduct information operations and electronic warfare. And, in some detail, it makes recommendations for how the US armed forces should think about this new, virtual warfare.
The document says that information is “critical to military success”. Computer and telecommunications networks are of vital operational importance.
The operations described in the document include a surprising range of military activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists, psychological operations troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of an enemy, computer network attack specialists who seek to destroy enemy networks.
All these are engaged in information operations.
Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military’s psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans.
“Information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and Psyops, is increasingly consumed by our domestic audience,” it reads.
“Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public,” it goes on.
The document’s authors acknowledge that American news media should not unwittingly broadcast military propaganda. “Specific boundaries should be established,” they write. But they don’t seem to explain how.
“In this day and age it is impossible to prevent stories that are fed abroad as part of psychological operations propaganda from blowing back into the United States – even though they were directed abroad,” says Kristin Adair of the National Security Archive.
Public awareness of the US military’s information operations is low, but it’s growing – thanks to some operational clumsiness.
Late last year, it emerged that the Pentagon had paid a private company, the Lincoln Group, to plant hundreds of stories in Iraqi newspapers. The stories – all supportive of US policy – were written by military personnel and then placed in Iraqi publications.
And websites that appeared to be information sites on the politics of Africa and the Balkans were found to be run by the Pentagon.
But the true extent of the Pentagon’s information operations, how they work, who they’re aimed at, and at what point they turn from informing the public to influencing populations, is far from clear.
The roadmap, however, gives a flavour of what the US military is up to – and the grand scale on which it’s thinking.
It reveals that Psyops personnel “support” the American government’s international broadcasting. It singles out TV Marti – a station which broadcasts to Cuba – as receiving such support.
It recommends that a global website be established that supports America’s strategic objectives. But no American diplomats here, thank you. The website would use content from “third parties with greater credibility to foreign audiences than US officials”.
It also recommends that Psyops personnel should consider a range of technologies to disseminate propaganda in enemy territory: unmanned aerial vehicles, “miniaturized, scatterable public address systems”, wireless devices, cellular phones and the internet.
‘Fight the net’
When it describes plans for electronic warfare, or EW, the document takes on an extraordinary tone.
It seems to see the internet as being equivalent to an enemy weapons system.
“Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will ‘fight the net’ as it would an enemy weapons system,” it reads.
The slogan “fight the net” appears several times throughout the roadmap.
The authors warn that US networks are very vulnerable to attack by hackers, enemies seeking to disable them, or spies looking for intelligence.
“Networks are growing faster than we can defend them… Attack sophistication is increasing… Number of events is increasing.”
US digital ambition
And, in a grand finale, the document recommends that the United States should seek the ability to “provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum”.
US forces should be able to “disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum”.
Consider that for a moment.
The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet.
Are these plans the pipe dreams of self-aggrandising bureaucrats? Or are they real?
The fact that the “Information Operations Roadmap” is approved by the Secretary of Defense suggests that these plans are taken very seriously indeed in the Pentagon.
And that the scale and grandeur of the digital revolution is matched only by the US military’s ambitions for it.
Sticking with the theme of shouting whatever crazy crap pops into his giant Irish head, today Chris Matthews enlightened us all by explaining journalists can’t be bloggers, and bloggers contribute nothing to journalism.
The declaration came after NY Daily News reporter Liz Benjamin cited blogs regarding the possible “affair question” with regard to Caroline Kennedy’s withdrawal from consideration for the New York Senate seat.
Matthews cut her off: “Let’s stick to journalism. I don’t do that here. If it’s just blogging let’s drop it.”
Riiiight. Apparently the law and journalism degrees are so darn heavy that graduates can’t possibly juggle their qualifications and their keyboards, rendering them physically incapable of being learned AND bloggers. Someone should really tell the thousands of qualified doctors, lawyers, civil rights workers, and authors that they are literally defying the will of nature by posting their thoughtful analyses online.
After all, Chris Matthews knows real journalism. The man has always been a professional whether he’s screaming at his producers that “We’re all reacting here and we’re putting on shit, we have nothing going,” or he’s thoughtfully analyzing the Middle East situation: “We are not going to fight it out with Iran for the next thirty years to see who the big shit…” Or who could forget his nuanced critique of geo-political post-World War II demographics? “I’m so sick of Southern guys with ranches running this country…I want a guy to run for president who doesn’t have a fucking ranch…”
I can taste the Pulitzer. To be fair, bloggers do have a habit of posting speculative gossip, which is surely why Chris Matthews dismissed them as a serious source of news. Matthews has set such a high standard of journalistic integrity that it’s no wonder he so zealously dismisses non-Washington insiders as a source of meaningful journalism. Bloggers can be gossipy and shallow.
I gave Val Kilmer a ride home last night. I met—let’s go through the names of who I met, John Cusack. I love—I always wanted to meet him. He said he always wanted to meet me. That’s kind of cool. And Ed Harris. And Robert De Niro, I met him last night.
— Chris Matthews, post-inaugural party-hopping
Bloggers can make unfair assumptions and be especially crude, sexist, and indecent:
“[T]he reason (Hillary Clinton’s) a U.S. senator, the reason she’s a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around. That’s how she got to be senator from New York. We keep forgetting it. She didn’t win there on her merit. She won because everybody felt, ‘My God, this woman stood up under humiliation,’ right? That’s what happened.”
— Chris Matthews, on Hillary Clinton
Bloggers can be partisan and regurgitate propaganda thoughtlessly:
“It’s part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama’s speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don’t have that too often.”
— Chris Matthews, post-Obamania
Bloggers can be blowhards, and social ladder climbers, quick to anger, and incapable of calm, thoughtful analysis:
Chris: What did Chamberlain do, just tell me what he did, Kevin? What did Chamberlain do that you didn’t like?
Kevin: What, what Chamberlain did? <confused> What, what, the President was talking about, you just said the President was talking about Barack. Look…
Chris: You’re making a reference to the days before our involvement in WWII. When the war in Europe began. I want you to tell me as an expert, what did Chamberlain do wrong.
Kevin: You’re not going to box me in here, Chris. President Bush was making that. I’m glad, I’m glad.
Chris: You don’t know, do you? You don’t know what Neville Chamberlain did
Kevin: Yeah, he was an appeaser, Chris….
Chris: You are BS’ing me… You don’t know what you’re talking about.
— Chris Matthews, screaming at right wing blogger, Kevin James
I guess we’ll just have to take back that Polk Award from Joshua Micah Marshall, editor and publisher of the widely read political blog, Talking Points Memo. I’m sure Josh will understand, even though the Polk award is a major journalism award, and Talking Points Memo has been hailed for “(leading) the news media in coverage of the politically motivated dismissals of United States attorneys across the country.” You know, that little story about the attorney firings that the mainstream media only started covering because those crazy bloggers kept harping on it.
Millions of international bloggers will also have to close up shop, even though they are oftentimes the only windows into their societies, especially if the press is controlled by the government. Sorry, crew, Chris Matthews says you’re not real journalists and shouldn’t be taken seriously. That means you, Yoani Sanchez, winner of Spain’s coveted Ortega and Gasset prizes for digital journalism, and Nasim Fekrat, winner of ISF’s award for freedom of expression.
Fold the laptops, people! Chris Matthews fears change!
More than print, TV or any other medium, online journalists are now the most-jailed category of journalists worldwide. A study by the Committee to Protect Journalists said that the online reporters, editors and bloggers make up 45% of the 125 journalists it found behind bars, the first time the Web category has eclipsed print (42%) since the study began in 1997.
CPJ director Joel Simon observed that without organizational support, online journalists are easier targets. “The image of the solitary blogger working at home in pajamas may be appealing, but when the knock comes on the door, they are alone and vulnerable,” Simon said in a news release.
The study notes that in China, which leads the world in captive journalists, 24 of the 28 currently behind bars did their work online. Cuba, Burma, Eritrea, and Uzbekistan round out the top five countries on the list of journo jailers.
Read more about the report at the CPJ web site.