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Friday, May 02, 2008

Email as echo chamber

I've known about Sidney Blumenthal's emails for some months, but did not write anything about them because I lacked first-hand evidence. I am not on Blumenthal's email list. However, I did link to a Newhouse New story about the email list back in mid-February when I discussed the Barack Obama-as-messiah smear.

Peter Dreier, who gets the material via a forward, explains how it works:
Former journalist Sidney Blumenthal has been widely credited with coining the term "vast right-wing conspiracy" used by Hillary Clinton in 1998 to describe the alliance of conservative media, think tanks, and political operatives that sought to destroy the Clinton White House where he worked as a high-level aide. A decade later, and now acting as a senior campaign advisor to Senator Clinton, Blumenthal is exploiting that same right-wing network to attack and discredit Barack Obama. And he's not hesitating to use the same sort of guilt-by-association tactics that have been the hallmark of the political right dating back to the McCarthy era.

Almost every day over the past six months, I have been the recipient of an email that attacks Obama's character, political views, electability, and real or manufactured associations. The original source of many of these hit pieces are virulent and sometimes extreme right-wing websites, bloggers, and publications. But they aren't being emailed out from some fringe right-wing group that somehow managed to get my email address. Instead, it is Sidney Blumenthal who, on a regular basis, methodically dispatches these email mudballs to an influential list of opinion shapers -- including journalists, former Clinton administration officials, academics, policy entrepreneurs, and think tankers -- in what is an obvious attempt to create an echo chamber that reverberates among talk shows, columnists, and Democratic Party funders and activists. One of the recipients of the Blumenthal email blast, himself a Clinton supporter, forwards the material to me and perhaps to others.
Blumenthal has gone from critic of "right wing conspiracy" to enabler. Apparently, some of the stuff he's circulated is comparable to the "Clintons-killed-Vince Foster" crap from the 1990s.

Jonathan Tilove of Newhouse News named some of the recipients back in February:
the list of those receiving Blumenthal's e-mail included reporters John B. Judis, a senior editor at The New Republic; Joe Conason, national correspondent for The New York Observer and columnist for; and Gene Lyons, columnist with the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and author of "The Hunting of the President: The Ten Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton."
Dreier names more:
Among those whose names show up as recipients of Blumenthal's emails are writers and journalists Craig Unger, Edward Jay Epstein, Thomas Edsall (Politics Editor of the Huffington Post), Joe Conason, Gene Lyons (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist and author of The Hunting of the President: The Ten Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton), John Judis, Eric Alterman, Christine Ockrent, David Brock, Reza Aslan, Harold Evans, and Josh Marshall; academics and think tankers Todd Gitlin (Columbia U sociologist), Karen Greenberg (NYU law school), Sean Wilentz (Princeton historian), Michael Lind, William M. Drozdiak, and Richard Parker; and former Clinton administration officials John Ritch, James Rubin, Derek Shearer, and Joe Wilson.
Mark Kleiman is fairly disgusted that the journalists kept this to themselves.

I think this is why some Obama supporters so actively want to find a politician who are
"hungry for a new kind of politics, a politics that focused not just on how to win but why we should, a politics that focused on those values and ideals that we held in common as Americans; a politics that favored common sense over ideology, straight talk over spin."
On substance, there's very little separating Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The former is a bit better on health care and some other domestic issues, while I like Obama's foreign policy better.

On political process, I see big differences. Blumenthal has been sending this stuff around for six months.

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