Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Arianna Huffington Should Recognize a Good Smear Campaign When She Sees One

Arianna Huffington thinks Van Jones was forced to resign because of a smear campaign. It's unfortunate that Ms. Huffington missed this one. She's an intelligent woman who has run for president and is also a successful and capable businesswoman. But, repeating Van Jones' own words for all the world to hear is different than repeating others' negative words and rumors about someone. That's the difference between reporting the truth and engaging in a smear campaign.

A smear campaign, Ms. Huffington, is when you employ bloggers to distort the words and record of someone. Let's see if any famous smear campaigns come to mind. To quote my high school math teacher, "let's pick someone at random," Palin.

Here's how a smear campaign works:

Let's just say for argument sake that the Huffington Post had been front and center of a smear campaign that resulted in getting a governor of a large state to resign. A blogger, let's call her Shannyn Moore, relentlessly writes hit pieces on the Governor and draws attention to a small gaggle of fellow bloggers who drum up unsubstantiated stories about divorces, federal indictments and the maternity of a child. The bigger the lies, the better.

For it to be a smear campaign in the purest sense, you have to create a caricature of the subject and twist words and deeds to fit the caricature. If you have to play video clips of the subject's own words and reprint direct quotes from the subject which incriminate them to the charges you are making, that's not a smear campaign, unless of course you take them out of context.

Next, you have to remove the arena of ideas from a smear campaign and make it personal. Attack the shoes, the hair, the speaking style and maybe poke some fun at the kids, too. If you file a bunch of frivolous ethics complaints (which will all later be dismissed) to create a moment that makes it appear the subject is under attack for being unethical, you got a real winner.

Filing charges against Van Jones for being a communist would work in a good smear campaign. Playing a tape of him admitting he's a communist, well that's just truth. It doesn't qualify as "smear."

Lies are the most important ingredient to a smear campaign. Anyone can get the folks to believe the truth. But if you can get the folks to believe the lies, now you're talking talent here.

While I completely disagree with Huffington's politics, I just can't help being envious of her wordcraft. How I wish I could have written this about Sarah Palin:

Isn't it time we acknowledge that no human being with any passion and deeply held beliefs ever emerged flawless into the world? And that if every mistake, misstep, boneheaded decision, or error in judgment becomes an automatic disqualifier for public service, then we're going to be left with a political landscape filled with nothing but wrinkle-free, foible-free, passionless automatons who have never made a mistake because they never took the risk of having an original thought.
Yes, it is a very well written paragraph. I'm still trying to figure out why this sentiment isn't applied equally and fairly to those the Huffington Post has smeared.

"Contrary to the media caricature, the real Van Jones is a thoughtful leader who knows how to use words to move people to action. To stick him behind a desk, working out the details of tax credits for green jobs -- incredibly important though the job is -- was never the best use of his unique and abundant skills."

Hmmm, contrary to the media caricature... The more I replace Van Jones' references in Huffington's piece with Sarah Palin references in my mind as I read, the more I like the way the piece is written. But I can't help but wonder how Arianna Huffington could question media caricatures and disqualifying people for boneheaded moves when she allowed her blog site to be used in such a similar way in the relentless in the smearing of Sarah Palin. Isn't that intellectually inconsistent?

Shouldn't she be impressed with how Glenn Beck took down Van Jones instead of being outraged? Or maybe she's just a little green with envy that the Van Jones "smear campaign" was much more effective and took less time to complete than the one against Governor Palin.

If anyone should be impressed, it should be us with Huffington. Anyone can take down a government official by posting truthful videos and quotes where they damn themselves with their own words. It takes someone with a lot more savvy to do it with lies and innuendo, though.

Getting Van Jones' resignation was like shooting fish in a barrel. Getting Palin's resignation required a lot more creativity and distortion of the facts.

I still just don't understand how Huffington can be upset with Glenn Beck. Huffington stood by and watched her bloggers and readers fire point blank at Mrs. Palin. All Beck did was stand by and encourage his viewers to watch Mr. Jones fire point blank at himself. Was Beck's takeout of Van Jones too clean?

And I've never failed to be impressed by Van. He is a remarkable man. One of the things I've always found so impressive about him -- and something completely lost in the partisan mudslinging -- is his ability to build coalitions and create unlikely alliances. In pursuit of a clean energy future for America, Van has successfully brought together urban youth with clean-tech entrepreneurs,labor leaders with business leaders, civil rights activists with environmentalists. His skill in this area is exceptional, and much needed in America today.
Couldn't the sentiment expressed here be applied to Sarah Palin?

Replace some names and Ms. Huffington has a Pullitzer prize winning analysis of Sarah Palin:

Now, thanks to Glenn Beck [Shannyn Moore], we've got that voice back. No longer tied to his [her] desk with a sock in his [her] mouth, Van [Sarah] is now freed to do what he [she] does best: inspire and energize groups around the country.

If Glenn Beck [Shannyn Moore] had any sense at all, he [she] would have done everything in his [her] power to keep Van Jones [Sarah Palin] right where he [she] was.

But he [she] didn't. And for this we should all be grateful.
Here's the test Ms. Huffington should have applied when determining whether Van Jones was forced to resign because of the facts or whether he was forced to resign because of a smear campaign: replace the names with the circumstances.

If Sarah Palin was Van Jones, how would this have played out?

Consider what would have happened had Sarah Palin called Democrats "assholes," signed a petition stating 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by the Bush Administration, blamed black people for poisoning white people, admitted she was a separatist or a Nazi and told an audience that she wanted to do away with our republican system of government.

Would Ms. Huffington have defended Sarah Palin as vigorously as she has Van Jones if this was the case?

This is exactly why liberalism is an intellectually bankrupt ideology.

No comments:

Post a Comment