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Earl Mardle on George Allen’s crumbling campaign

First, a word from the almighty OneTrueWiki:

The neutrality of this article is disputed.
Please see the discussion on the talk page.
George Felix Allen (born March 8, 1952, in Whittier, California) is a Republican United States Senator from Virginia. He is running for re-election in 2006 and has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2008 Presidential election. He has recently been involved in a number of controversies, most prominently his use of the word “macaca.”

I love that disclaimer at the top. Don’t you? Self deprecation and honesty, and therefore, authority on the matter (and 63 references at the time of this writing).

Earl Mardle is all over this new media thing. He’s hit it out of the park and deserves a pat on the back. The power continues to move down the food chain and we’re seeing the toddler years ahead of us now. The 2008 race will be something quite instructive indeed.

New Media With Fangs

When Jim Webb’s campaign for a Virginia Senate seat assigned a worker to attend all the public events of the incumbent George Felix Allen, they made an extremely shrewd move.Gathering intel on your opponent is SOP, but doing it with a video camera in public was a new wrinkle, and it plainly annoyed, perhaps unnerved Mr Allen, who eventually unloaded on the cameraman. The cameraman’s family came from India, and Allen was careless enough to lift the corner of his racist rug and let out the French racist epithet, Macaca.

Boy was that bad tactics. Not only was his racism immediately available on the net, and eventually in the corporate media who could no longer ignore the gathering furore, as it eventually caught up with the Trent Lott racism thing, but it sent the liberal blogosphere on a “where there’s smoke there’s fire” search of the net.

And now the whole game is rolling out like an anchor chain. Finding the photo of Allen posing with the leading lights of the Council of Conservative Citizens was only the start, Jeffrey Feldman took it further and produced a full scale research article on Allen’s racist connections, with chapter, and verse. Frameshop: Allen’s Political Klanbition

Within days, Allen’s previously strong campaign was in trouble, Webb was within the margin of error in the polls and Allen was steppin and fetchin all over the state, trying to stay out of the firing line and keep intact his former presidential ambitions.

I’ve always said that the net shifts the locus of power and control, it takes it away from the traditional owners and gives it to the wider community. It remembers and it aggregates, and it is merciless. Or as Feldman says in his piece.

In 1996, when George Allen posed for the picture, it was hard to imagine that only ten years later that the circumstances surrounding the photo, plus similar circumstances, would be so widely accessible to people beyond the semi-clandestine membership of the CCC. But now they are.

But it gets worse, because if one republican insider was working the CCC track, there’s a good chance there are others. So now the citizen journalists are researching the CCC itself, looking for the reverse links to the Republican party.

No doubt someone in the CCC will soon wake up to the risks and start cleaning out the website. However, you can bet that someone already has a full copy of the site contents to sift at their leisure. Which is a nasty lesson that ABC TV in the US is learning.

After finding itself in the middle of a storm about a biased and politically motivated “docudrama” on the path to 911, ABC tried to pull down the blog it was running on the programme; mostly because the promotional value was being shredded by very pointed and aggressive comments from those who found the timing and the content to be unacceptable in a supposedly independent media organisation.

If you go to the ABC site right now you’ll find the blog missing, but as with the stoush over the censoring of the NYTimes Ombudsman’s blog, someone already has the copy.

Is it any wonder that the people who have controlled the message, the medium and the money for so long, want to remake the net in their own, previous, image?

Earl gets five points.

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  1. jkd | September 5, 2006 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    This is all true, but I think it’s impossible to address this issue without also including the very important role that the stodgy (note: not actually that stodgy), old-media Washington Post played in this whole affair. It was the WaPo that was actually the first media outlet (after the Webb campaign) to post the video online, and it was the WaPo that kept the pressure on the story for several days while it built into a national story. It was the WaPo that had its reporters calling the Allen campaign, pressuring them for quotes, and keeping Wadham’s non-denial denials coming.

    I have a lot of bones to pick with the WaPo, but in this instance I think they – and especially through washingtonpost.com (which is a pseudo-independent entity) – were perhaps the most important element in sustaining and building this story. The liberal blogosphere added fuel to the fire, but without the WaPo’s early and intense interest, it would’nt’ve developed into the potentially political fatality it’s become.