THE GLOVES COME OFF
March 23, 2007
�Cry havoc and let loose the gods of war.� --Shakespeare
To anyone who sees the new Barak Obama television ad (which isn�t on TV) a few things are immediately apparent.
This is going to be �West Side Story� rumble time. Expect Vince McMahon to try for a pay-for-view steel cage match somewhere on the road to 2008.
Obama's campaign is channeling �Sgt. Schultz� from �Hogan's Heroes� saying it had absolutely nothing to do with the video assault on Hillary. Supposedly, the ad's creator is a mystery, at least for now (like the guy in the Guy Falk�s mask in �Vendetta�).
Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute in San Francisco says, the ad �isn�t about Obama�It�s about the end of the broadcast era.�
We should probably anticipate a lot of plausible deniability in this campaign and battalions of agents provocateurs ignoring conventional wisdom and consultants advise.
If you thought the �Swift Boat Vets� did a good job of torpedoing John Kerry�s constructed history�hang on babe�'Katie Bar the Door�.'
The controversial sea change ad is called a �mashup� in the blogosphere arena, and according to experts, it has "changed the zone" between political campaigns, their followers and the Internet�and yes, it is both a blessing and a curse. It is a genie that is out of the bottle and prospects of containing it are slim and none.
Sure, it is a method for rabid activists outside the bridling influence of �official� campaign staff to say what they want, when they want, the way they want. I suspect it will soon be called �Activist anarchy.� However, in addition to being a tool for the creative extremist rhetorical bomb throwers, it is also a new and innovative way for campaigns to �anonymously� attack opponents. Sun T�zu would like this tactic almost as much as Machiavelli.
An Obama spokesman, Bill Burton acknowledged they have gotten calls on the ad, but insisted the campaign is not connected to it. �It�s somebody else�s creation,� he said, declining comment on the ad�s content. But he�s gotta love it.
A short time ago �someone� floated stories about Obama�s early education. The story noted his father and stepfather were both Muslim. He went to school in Indonesia from 1969-1971. One of his early Indonesian schools was incorrectly described as a Madrassa (a radical Muslim indoctrination school originally developed by Wahabbis). Fox news focused on the Madrassa potential and ended up with egg on their faces and a new sphincter ripped into their collective chest.
The story came and went quickly, and everyone involved was pleased to see it die. However, some still wonder who fabricated the misinformation? Was it Hillary�or a Hillary surrogate?
We may never know. However, it is safe to assume that in the long march from here to November 2008, there will a lot of misinformation, disinformation, and rhetorical excrement thrown into many a fan.
Contrary to suggestion, this really isn�t new. The yellow journalism of the past, especially the tit or tat mudslinging President Jackson was targeted for, is part of the blood sport of politics. The �mashup� is just the newest tool in the arsenal of political hacks and opposition research practitioners.
Obama may in fact choose not to engage in the politics of personal attack. However, he will benefit from the unbridled, uncensored, internal Democrat angst against the �wicked witch of the east.�
Presidential campaigns are going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising that will carpet bomb TV sets before November �08. However, just as the �Swift Boat Vets� had a significant impact on the last election, the �mashup� creators will continue to drip gasoline on any dying embers up to the big show in �08.
The Obama ad is proof that "anybody can do powerful emotional ads ... and the campaigns are no longer in control," Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network in D.C. said. "It will no longer be a top-down candidate message; that's a 20th century broadcast model."
Arguably, the most significant (and daunting) fact is that activists no longer have to wait patiently like pikemen to be called when the party elders want to unleash them. Now, as Rosenberg noted, ��they don�t have to wait for permission.�
Campaigns are in a �Catch-22.� They are hinky about the grassroots wildcat (ala the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth) pushing ads that are harder and meaner than candidates might be comfortable embracing. But there is �something� cool about this plausible deniability thing.
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The Obama ad is proof that "anybody can do powerful emotional ads ... and the campaigns are no longer in control,"