Lies, Damnable Lies, and Political Commentary
“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
Are there any limits to what can be said about political opponents? Should there be any limits? Does anything go, no matter who is the target? Are we all no better now than Karl Rove?
The moral reason we ought not to lie is because it damages others without justification, and that is as basic a human wrong as there is. The practical reason we ought not to lie is because it damages us; when we are caught, and liars always get caught, our credibility suffers and we can no longer participate in a conversation from a position of authority or respect. Telling political lies, as well as uncritically spreading them, is anti-progressive, un-liberal, and eventually ineffective in support of any agenda intended to improve the lot of humankind. It is an indefensible practice in political dialogue, and I have no patience for it.
What constitutes ethical reportage and discussion in the blogosphere? Are there standards? Should there be standards? What would those standards look like? Do they apply equitably, or can we employ baseless trashing of our perceived enemies while whimpering like little babies when it happens to those we support? If we employ a double standard, demanding that those who argue against us are despicable creeps when they make stuff up but insist that we can do it ourselves against those we oppose, do we really do ourselves and our cause any favors? Or do we so undermine our own credibility that no intelligent discussion can occur? If the latter, and I cannot see any plausible argument against it, who benefits? Not the downtrodden or the oppressed, that’s for damn sure.
When every crass lie and foundationless rumor is repeated and discussed as though it were real, on an equal basis with rational and logical positions, then every topic becomes suspect; when all sides are spreading baseless rumor and lies, then every commentator is seen as equally unreliable. When meaningful conversation is no longer possible, organized opposition to the established order also becomes impossible. I may be seen by some as old-fashioned with my rigid bottom-line morality and insistence on the societal value of gentlemanly ways, but I am absolutely certain that there is a depth to which we must not sink or all hope of progress is lost.
From the Clintons and Vince Foster to John McCain and his secret illegitimate black baby to Al Gore and the internet and Love Story to John Kerry and the Swiftboaters to every single public word that has ever come out of the mouth of George W. Bush, the VRWC lies as it breathes, without heed or concern for the consequence beyond the destruction of others and their own immediate gratification. The only long term plan is more and bigger lies.
For the rest of us, in trying to disarm and defeat the forces of tyranny and oppression, the most powerful weapon we can wield is the truth. If you don’t subscribe to that principle, you will be my enemy – just so we’re all clear with each other. If we allow ourselves to sink to the level of those we despise, we cannot win anything; we will defeat ourselves.
So how is that battle with our own better selves going? Lately, not so well.
Larry Johnson, Michelle Obama, and a great big pile of nothing
Johnson, for reasons that remain opaque but in my experience is probably due to his being a self-serving moron, chose to spread around a rumor about Michelle Obama. Why anyone would ever spread such vile rumor about any other human being is beyond me. Why someone who holds themselves out as a supporter of freedom chooses to employ the tools of tyranny cannot otherwise be explained except by the basest and most venal of self-interest and greed. There is no “good” explanation.
And he has gotten what he wanted. Based on nothing at all, he has become the recipient of a seemingly endless stream of attention and discussion. The number of search engine hits are extraordinary, for any topic, but one based on the rumor of a rumor? Here’s a recent comment here at Corrente, assessing Johnson and his methods:
I’m convinced that Larry is convinced there is such a tape. It’s entirely possible he’s the victim of a hoax, but I don’t think he’s lying.
And that, apparently, is all it takes. For myself, I would want more evidence than that for a report of a new sale at WalMart. Third or fourth or fifth hand or whatever it is by the time it got here shouldn’t be good enough for anyone about anything. All that has happened in the Johnson affair is a pre-existing anti-Obama bias has been supported by a rumor spread by someone else whose pre-existing anti-Obama biases and selfish desires are in turn being supported by the unsubstantiated rumor mongering and/or lies of unknown others, anonymous sources whose own agendas and motives remain secret and carefully hidden away. But hey, it’s fun! Pass it on.
Is it lying? Oh, hell no; innocent victim, that’s our Larry; dumb as a stump he is, wholly unable to see that anyone who would claim to have a devastating tape of the wife of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee but who also is not going to release it until some later, more devastating time, is an agent of the VRWC; so is anyone who would lie about the existence of such a tape in the hopes that someone gullible and selfish and dumb as a stump would spread it around. That’s a tough one to figure out, for sure. That Larry, less sense than God gave a cabbage or he would have been able to suss that out. Or wait; maybe he isn’t so dumb; maybe he does know all of that and he’s spreading the rumor anyway. Maybe he is a liar. Or maybe he’s lying and greedy and dumb as a stump all at the same time, and only appeared to be smart and liberal because he’s been critical of Bush - in retrospect, not all that much of a challenge.
What is the cost for spreading VRWC propaganda? Diminishment of an innocent woman, no small thing in and of itself, not to mention untold damage to the political prospects of the only human being standing between the whole wide world and the unfathomable damage that will unfold from another four years of the Nixon/Reagan/Bush/Bush/VRWC. Surely a cheap price to pay for those website hits. Great work, Larry; nicely done.
In Re: Steve Diamond
I know his work, quite well. He’s very smart, well educated, and for a teacher he is soundly grounded in real-world experience. It is on balance good to have him in academia. On corporate, labor and international finance law, he’s very rigorous and relentlessly logical. With labor practices and labor negotiations, he is well-meaning and more than decent in his intention but inclined to take a harder partisan tone than is sometimes beneficial – forgivable, if occasionally irritating.
But like so many people, people other than me, he has a flaw; once settled on a position, he will go to any lengths to promote and defend it. This is fine, even admirable for a courtroom advocate and useful sometimes for a labor negotiator, but as a political analyst it leads to behaviors that in my mind are not defensible. That’s what has occurred here; he has crossed the line from hard criticism to baseless, unprincipled trumpery.
To understand what has happened and why it cannot be allowed to stand, we should take a couple of steps back up the narrative get the bigger picture. As Sarah has suitably exposed here, this cycle will give us more of the same character assassination tactics from the VRWC and they will be spread by the corporatist controlled M$M as they so recently did to Hillary Clinton. The base units for these smear campaigns are again the “independent” 527s and 501(c)3s and the like, providing plausible deniability for the candidate who is in fact using the technique.
One of those VRWC front groups has exhumed the body and what is left of the congenitally deranged mind of an old acquaintance: Herb Romerstein. In his teens, Herb was an ardent Stalinist but he soon turned away and by the time he got back from service in the Korean War he was as fanatical an anticommunist as ever existed. He made his bones as a staffer for a New York State legislature committee investigating the Great Communist Conspiracy, eventually denouncing as Communist agents his high school teachers, summer camp councilors, family friends and assorted acquaintances; essentially everyone he had ever known who had ever uttered a kind word about any progressive policy, dozens of innocent lives ruined.
His zeal was great enough to catch the attention of national figures, and he moved up the Commie Hunt foodchain in the 60s to become Chief Investigator on the Republican side for the US House Committee on Internal Security – the renamed successor to the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). More than anything Herb wanted to be the next Joe McCarthy, and he was every bit as loathsome a character. For his final VRWC reward, he was appointed by Reagan to be Head of the deliberately misnamed Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation, part of the United States Information Agency. Herb’s job there was actually to produce disinformation, with the intent to destroy the reputations of everyone seen as an enemy of the VRWC.
[One often repeated trope is that the current ideological struggle we are urged to “get over” by Obama and his supporters if that of the 60s; this is incorrect. The struggle is as it ever was, between Them As Have Got and Them As Have Naught. The objective of the VRWC is to roll back all progressive policies and return America to the pre-FDR glory days of financial domination by a 1% elite. The framing of the attack today is in the same terms used by the Plutocracy to attack the progressive policies of FDR, just substituting the conjured enemy’s name over time from Commie to DFH to Liberal and now back again to Commie.
[In one of the more interesting political twists of all time, it was fear of Communism taking hold in America during the Great Depression that drove FDR and his allies to institute the New Deal programs; FDR co-opted the very social changes being advocated by the American Communist Party and used them to promote and eventually stabilize a new American Middle Class as the dominant socioeconomic structure, the first time in history that was ever achieved. One could say, without any exaggeration, that the publically-voiced political deceits of the Communist Party (in private truth they were of course terrible totalitarians) saved American democracy – but that isn’t the way history is taught, is it?
Herb is one of those articulate, persuasive, socially functional paranoid delusionals who see Commie Sympathizers everywhere. He truly believes, and has spoken and written extensively about it, that Harry Hopkins, FDR’s closest aide and advisor, was a Soviet spy who controlled FDR as an unwitting Soviet dupe; other Soviet spies he has helped “uncover” were J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant scientist and compassionate human being whose career was destroyed and health ruined by the false accusations, and the great and good liberal journalist and author I.F. Stone. Herb Romerstein is a very sick and very, very dangerous man.
Which makes him the perfect choice for participation in a new disinformation campaign from an outfit called America's Survival Inc., originally funded by the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Armstrong Foundation but supported exclusively from 2001 through 2006 by the Carthage Foundation – to the tune of $325,000. They’re big fans of Ron Paul (and David Vitter!) so plenty of badmouthing against Romney and McCain, but since April Fool’s Day they’ve swung their full attention to Obama. Every baseless screed you can think of they’ve posted on, but most of the emphasis is on Obama’s status as a tool of international Communism and the UN-mediated One World Order. For 325 large you can buy a lot of tinfoil.
This tiny, clearly fringe group consisting of a couple of flakes and a cadaver-in-waiting announced a press conference in DC for May 22, to be held in the basement of a DC coffee house. Not to disparage, but these kinds of little events go on all the time without notice from the press. (Go ahead; hold a basement press conference without a big name speaker on global warming or universal health care or the criminal conduct of Bush and Cheney and see what coverage you can get.) At best, some free-lance stringer might stop by to see if they can scrape together enough dregs for a spec piece to peddle to the Village Voice or McClatchy; no way would anyone of importance lower themselves to deal with this kind of trivia. The Washington Post sent Dana Milbank.
Soft-voiced, gentle, affable, charming, androgynously-named Dana, with his non-threatening big doe eyes and his please-don’t-punch-me glasses and his oft-repeated (see Lenin on lies) reputation as a trustworthy “liberal” and harsh establishment critic, had absolutely nothing better to do on May 22 of 2008 than to sit in a coffee shop basement and listen to a bunch of whackjobs – and nothing better to do that night but write about them. He delivered a full column’s worth the next day, as his bosses wanted him to, because in the whole wide world nothing more important was happening. Nothing mattered as much as making sure the message of the VRWC got the widest possible coverage.
And boy, did Dana deliver. Not a point-by-point takedown of scurrilous VRWC lies and trash-talking, no, and not a thoughtful explique on the sad consequence of cutbacks on out-patient mental health programs, oh no, not that either. What he did is what he does best, a full regurgitation of the VRWC talking points under the guise of criticism. Witness his lede, what the casual reader skimming through will assimilate and what the VRWC will be able to cut and paste as evidence that the Washington Post and even its Liberal Columnist Dana Milbank are seriously discussing:
Obama as You've Never Known Him!
By Dana Milbank
Friday, May 23, 2008; Page A03
Here are some things we can look forward to learning about Barack Obama:
• That he was mentored in high school by a member of the Soviet-controlled Communist Party.
• That he launched his Illinois state Senate campaign in the home of a terrorist and a killer.
• That while serving as a state senator, he was a member of a socialist front group.
• That his affiliations are so dodgy that he would have trouble getting a government security clearance.
• That there is reason to doubt his "loyalty to the United States."
There follows in the rest of the column a pretense at dismissal of these claims, all the while carefully repeating them along with a whole host of others; Milbank made very sure to give every one of the America’s Survival-VRWC talking points plenty of room to breathe. (Well done, Dana! Here’s another wad of cash to tuck in your pocket, along with a coupon for free eats at the next McCain BBQ. Enjoy!)
Which brings us directly to Steven Diamond.
Diamond, for reasons he best expresses himself, wrote an essay two days later on May 25 entitled Believe me, Barack is no Communist, But.... because:
Since I have been a critic here of some of the policies the Senator appears to support and people that he appears to be close to - and precisely because of their potential authoritarian implications - I thought I should address this issue.
Sure, of course. Never mind that the original source is a two-bit fringe group holding a meeting in the basement of a coffee shop, the Very Important and Well-Respected Dana Milbank is writing about it so I should write about it too because my opinions are also Very Important and Well-Respected. (Ego problems much these days, Steve?)
But wait; first thing, is there any substance to the claims about Obama and communism? Diamond says not, right in the title, and then offers more detail:
There are some indications that Obama brushed up against CP [Communist Party] members or fellow travelers in Hawaii (apparently Frank Marshall Davis, the black CP poet and journalist was friends with the Obama family in Hawaii) or in that Berkeley-lite, Hyde Park, over the years and these people may have influenced him to be more on the left side of the spectrum rather than the right. But that is a far cry from becoming a CP member or even a sympathizer. Believe me, the American CP had long stopped attracting young people to its cause by the time Obama was a teen-ager.
[Editorial aside; Hyde Park is “Berkeley-lite”? I like that; very much.]
OK, then; Obama is not a communist or a communist dupe. There is, however, that lingering “But” to deal with. Diamond has, as he says, written in the past about ties between Obama and Bill Ayers and through him to some “authoritarian Left” as Diamond would have it. Is there a real danger that the “authoritarian Left” controls or dictates or guides the policies and thinking of the next President of the United States? Here’s Diamond again:
But does this new "left" authoritarianism have the ability to control a presidential candidate, manchurian-style? Hardly, even if some in this movement had an interest in doing so.
Well, I feel better; no ability to control Obama, and no interest in trying. Even better, there apparently isn’t even an actual entity to worry about, no central organization and no discipline:
This new movement is very diverse in form and structure and plays in a variety of arenas, but has no central organizational structure or discipline.
Which would be even more of a relief to me, but Diamond senses their interconnectedness in more ephemeral ways:
There is, instead, a kind of shared, almost cultural or instinctual, identity with each other. This accounts, in part, for what is broadly known as "politcal [sic] correctness."
Oh, damn, the PC police; probably the same sort of people who natter on about my devotion to being a gentleman. So annoying, Steve; I know just what you mean. He almost has my sympathy, but then he lets slip his true self:
But the reality is that you can find these new authoritarian types all over the place: in higher education…Schools of Education…the labor movement...the Chicago anti-war movement….
OH NO! They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere! Grab the children, Ma, and head for the hills! In a darkened coffee shop basement somewhere, Herb Romerstein is smiling and nodding, gently nodding his approval.
Having dismissed claims of an Obama-communist link as well as saying that whatever sort of “authoritarian Left” there might be has no controlling effect either, Diamond still goes on to speculate. Within what looks to be some 2000 words or so, he scatters an endless stream of little rat droppings: the totalitarian regimes of Tito’s Yugoslavia and China, Che Guevara, the murderous cowards Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn and their erstwhile Weather Underground associates and convicted terrorists Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, Mexican Zapatistas, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Even the benign SDS and the perfectly fine and upright Carl Davidson (called by Diamond a “Fidelista” for opposing the continued Cuban trade sanctions) and Marilyn Katz, both of whom broke early and unequivocally from Ayers and Dohrn over using violence for political action, are seen as part of some dark design.
It is a tangled web that Diamond weaves; reminds me very much of those generated by spiders under the influence of caffeine; oddly beautiful and intriguing, but functionally useless. He’s been at this “authoritarian Left” business hot and heavy for a while now; his 2007 PhD thesis, 500 pages worth about the Sandanista Movement and associated influences, is surely much on his mind and his passion for finding some more contemporary relevance is understandable.
Still; when after 2000 words the conclusion is that
It is hard to believe that Obama really supports the full politics of Ayers and Dohrn (does he really believe, as they do, that living in the U.S. is "living in the belly of the beast"?) or Katz and Davidson.
what you’ve got is pretty thin gruel. It might be that Obama shares some views with Davidson and Katz, who are pretty unremarkable if solidly leftist, but I just can’t see Barry sitting around the kitchen table with Michelle and Bill and Bernie plotting to go blow up the Pentagon; he just doesn’t appear to have the temperament for explosives.
But hey; maybe with a little creative thinking there is a thread to pull here:
Nonetheless, Obama has been unwilling to explain his relationship to them;
And there ya go; Obama has failed to deny unfounded accusations – Gotcha now, you slippery bastard! Nothing happened, therefore it must mean something; it would be irresponsible not to speculate.
Plus, there’s this stark evidentiary trail of philosophical collusion:
…his [Obama’s]education advisor advocates one of Ayers' key policies: repaying the "education debt" - race based reparations in the form of dumping more money into a broken school system; and Obama himself has spoken sympathetically of the same idea.
Damn; really nailed Obama there. As Diamond more thoroughly documents in earlier postings , Obama’s education advisor Linda Darling-Hammond co-authored a report from the Forum for Education and Democracy advocating an aggressive Federal push for improvement in public education with particular emphasis on the disaster that is entrapping our poorest children in a lifetime of ignorance and continued impoverishment. Obama has suggested, as have many others including myself, that the issue of slavery “reparations” can be addressed through collective investment in social benefit programs such as public education for both rural and inner-city poor, and jobs training and higher education assistance for poor adults.
Diamond sees this, the salvaging of public education and the providing of economic opportunity to the downtrodden, as evidence of “authoritarianism of the Left.” I say Diamond’s claim is bullshit.
But wait, there’s more. Let’s give Diamond his full due on this topic. He has also penned an article on April 22, now with several updates, entitled Who “sent” Obama? which attempts to tie Obama tightly to both the Chicago political corruption machine and the violent authoritarianism of Ayers. It fails at both, but this time it takes him 4500 words – the thing about bullshit is the higher you try to pile it, the more work it takes.
These are Diamond’s linkage words in the critical accusation (para # 25, m/l), dissected like bones from the covering fleshy text so we can see the strength of what he has to offer as proof:
I can only speculate…it is possible…That might have happened if…if…might have…My best guess….
That’s it. That’s all that Diamond has; speculation, ifs on top of ifs, capped by a guess. Very impressive though in its own malicious way, impressive enough to generate radio talk show appearances for Diamond
What is the influence of Bill Ayers on the Obama campaign? I will be discussing that question this Sunday (June 16) at approximately 11:30 PM West Coast time (8:30 East Coast) in part II of my chat with John Batchelor. Click here to listen live on the web on KFI-640 AM (LA).
Hot damn again! A real honest-to-goodness two-part radio interview! Respect! Fame! Knowing what it feels like to be a Very Important Person, just like Dana Milbank! Mission Accomplished!
And like all good demagogues, Diamond has now declared victory over the horrific influence of the “authoritarian Left” that he conjured but failed to document. In a column today, June 10, titled Obama's retreat from Bill Ayers begins - is there room under that bus?, Diamond writes:
Finally understanding that the links between Obama and former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers are toxic, the Obama campaign has begun a strategic retreat from Comrade Ayers. Now they are hiding behind the petticoat of Hizzoner Mayor Richie Daley as explained today at Hot Air.
If you’re into Ed Morrissey - and I will unhesitatingly and proudly state that I am not - by all means go and read, but again there is no there, there. No retreat from anything, in any way at all, except in the minds of Morrissey and Diamond and those who think like them.
Recap and Conclusion
In both cases discussed above, we see the same pattern. Some VRWC operative, known in one case and unknown in another, starts an unfounded rumor designed to damage Barack Obama’s chances for the Presidency. In Larry Johnson’s case he was approached by the VRWC operatives covertly, perhaps directly but probably through trusted intermediaries, and Johnson was used to spread the deceit through the blogosphere and eventually into the M$S. In Steve Diamond’s case, the overt VWRC operatives were first facilitated by the M$M tool Milbank, whose work was picked up not only by other M$M operatives but the blogger Diamond from whence it spread again like an infection throughout the web community.
The time course is terrifying; from a VRWC presser on May 22 to the MSM on May 23 to a colluding attack by a blogger on May 25. It couldn’t be infecting faster if it were Ebola. Clickety-click, the lies are spread about Obama just as they were about Hillary and Kerry and Gore and Bill Clinton and Dukakis and Carter and on backwards as far as anyone cares to look. This cycle, however, was a big step upwards in complexity for the VRWC with a very great many of the supposedly progressive blogs joining the M$M to destroy Hillary Clinton, the stronger of the two dominant Democratic candidates.
With her apparently out of the way the M$M is now beginning to follow the lead of the VRWC and turn on Obama, again aided by foundationless attacks from supposedly progressive bloggers. I am not alone in seeing this as cause for serious concern. Anglachel, concisely and stoutly, describes the magnitude of the hazard smartly here and again more recently here. I don’t always see eye-to-eye with her, but in these two posts she is spot-on. The progressive blogosphere is systematically destroying any chance of defeating John McCain and thereby enabling the continued horrific destruction of the Plutocratic Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.
The question, of course, is why. Is it just the seemingly endless inability of the Left to get along, the apparently inevitable in-fighting that has allowed the VRWC to control the presidency or the Congress or both for such a large percentage of the last 40 years? Or is there something more going on here?
Since we’re all into speculation and supposition and connecting the dots, because it is so much fun, let’s have a go at it right here. It seems to me, looking at the above, that the migration of bloggers from the Right to what was widely seen as at least semi-progressive political positions was not what it appeared to be. Instead of being rejectionists of Bush and the Republican Party, these bloggers including Huffington and Sullivan and Kos and so many others were in actuality trained and funded operatives of the VRWC. They were sent to take over the blogosphere and allowed to establish a cover by attacking Bush et al because the VRWC powers knew that it wouldn’t matter; Bush/Cheney would just keep doing whatever they wanted anyway.
In this most perilous time, when the VRWC is on the one hand close to a full takeover of the Federal government by co-opting the courts while on the other hand teetering on the brink of possible real investigations and even criminal convictions should a Democrat gain the White House, the agents were turned loose along with the M$M to exclude Edwards and the other white males by ignoring them (Step 1) so they could focus on attacking Hillary Clinton. The Republicans knew that she would be a real threat in the general election, so she had to be shut down in the primary. It was touch and go, but with a level of virulent sexism and misogyny exceeding any plausible bounds of justifiable political discourse, they achieved Step 2.
Now, with the weaker national candidate chosen for the Democrats, the job of the VRWC is to damage him so completely that even with the American public completely disenchanted with Republican policies they will still elect John McCain (Step 3). Long buried secret agents like Steve Diamond have been activated to echo the VRWC anti-Obama talking points, so that he can seen to be under attack from both the Right and the Left for being an un-American secret tool of some kind of authoritarian conspiracy to sell out American freedom. If everyone is saying it, it must be true.
“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
Now these lies and baseless character assassinations have been brought to Corrente, by anonymous posters who are either paid operatives for or agents of the VRWC – or, possibly, their unwitting dupes. If this scurrilous behavior, this concerted effort to destroy any chance of a Democratic victory, this full-out effort to ensure that the Republican McCain will be victorious, this unrelenting drive to make certain that the crimes and destruction of the past 40 years by one Republican after another will stay protected, continues here at Corrente it will have me as an implacable foe.
One more Presidential victory is all they need; after four more years the courts will be completely overrun by VRWC agents, from Federal District Courts to the whole of the SCOTUS. The operational branches of the Executive will have been totally restructured as tools of corporatist expansion, the social safety net and public education will be destroyed beyond rescue, American Empire will squat across the Middle East at whatever cost in blood and treasure is demanded, and the broader American public will be so demoralized and subservient that extraction of capital wealth for the benefit of the upper socioeconomic 1% can continue unabated. The Plutocrats will have won.
If this despicable, destructive movement cannot be stopped here, then where? If it cannot be stopped now, then when? I will not tolerate the spreading of falsehoods that benefit the cause of the VRWC. I will not tolerate the spreading of lies about the only remaining individual who stands in the way of the destruction of my country.
I Will Not Tolerate It.