August 30, 2008

"We Just Want It To Stop!"

by Jerome du Bois

Such was the repeated demand of a Barack Obama supporter last Wednesday night, one of many who jammed Milt Rosenberg's "Extension 720" radio program on WGN-AM in Chicago, trying to get National Review's Stanley Kurtz to just shut up about Obama's still-murky relationship with Bill "Guilty As Sin, Free As A Bird" Ayers.

Now the blogosphere is all abuzz about this latest intimidation tactic by people enamored of Barack Obama. Rather than summarize it, I'd like to explore the thinking of the kind of people who do these things. Bloggers refer to "robotic legions" and "nutroots" and "obedient sheep," to "Obamabots" and "Obamatrons," without examining their psychological motivations. But I'd like to know them. And since these people don't seem to be self-reflective or confessional, one must extrapolate from their public statements and actions.

Take, for example, an excerpt from the email the Obama campaign sent out to those "legions" about Kurtz's appearance. (From Gateway Pundit; scroll down.)

Tonight, WGN radio is giving right-wing hatchet man Stanley Kurtz a forum to air his baseless, fear-mongering terrorist smears. He's currently scheduled to spend a solid two-hour block from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. pushing lies, distortions, and manipulations about Barack and University of Illinois professor William Ayers.

Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of political discourse.

Do you see it? It's that last phrase, "lowering the standards of political discourse." While dispensing all the awful adjectives --they also called Kurtz a "slimy character assassin"-- those who composed this email didn't seem to worry about the boomerang of irony they had just sailed out into the public conversation.

Why didn't they worry about it? Do they have contempt for the intelligence of those to whom they sent this email? Or do they not see the irony themselves? I wonder. Consider also the tired boilerplate --"right-wing hatchet man," "fear-mongering," "baseless attacks," "smear merchant" --like gum chewed flavorless by endless mindless jawflapping. What kind of mind would consider them fresh, effective, and sharp? (I refer to both the senders and readers here.) To me, they seem as transparently manipulative as big red buttons.

And they worked.

Guy Benson was in the studio the whole time. He writes, on NRO's Media Blog (linked above):

Evidently, much of Obama nation is composed of obedient and persistent sheep. They jammed all five studio lines for nearly the entire show while firing off dozens of angry emails. Many vowed to kick their grievances up the food chain to station management. After 90 minutes of alleged smear peddling, Milt Rosenberg (a well-respected host whose long-form interview show has aired in Chicago for decades) opened the phone lines, and blind ignorance soon began to crackle across the AM airwaves. The overwhelming message was clear: The interview must be put to an end immediately, and the station management should prevent similar discussions from taking place.

One female caller, when pressed about what precisely she objected to, simply replied, "We just want it to stop!" Another angry caller was asked what "lies" Kurtz had told in any of his reporting on Barack Obama. The thoughtful response? "Everything he said is dishonest." The same caller later refused to get into "specifics." Another gentleman called Kurtz "the most un-American person" he'd ever heard. Several of the callers did not even know Stanley's name, most had obviously never read a sentence of his meticulous research, and more than simply read verbatim from the Obama talking points.

Far from political discourse, this isn't discourse at all. These people just want all discourse to stop. Why? Because, as I've said more than once, they have been carefully taught --by, among others, Linda Darling-Hammond, one of Obama's foremost education advisers. They have been taught about the supremacy of relativism, that perception is reality, that everyone's reality has some truth to it, so there's no use in trying to find out what's really real. Thus, unmoored and uncertain, they reach out and cling to an authority who seems to sympathize with their plight. They don't know, they don't want to know, they just want to be told what to do. They have lost the ability to "get into specifics." Someone else's talking points are all they have left. And when they get those talking points, they're reassured: they have something to do, something to say. They have meaning, they have substance, they are not just shadows of their former selves, the individuals they were before their teachers brainwashed them.

They also expose themselves to easy refutations. Further down in the email, the Obama campaign people write:

It is absolutely unacceptable that WGN would give a slimy character assassin like Kurtz time for his divisive, destructive ranting on our public airwaves. At the very least, they should offer sane, honest rebuttal to every one of Kurtz's lies.

But host Milt Rosenberg, with plenty of advance notice, did extend an offer to the Obama campaign for one of their spokespersons to appear on the show for the whole two hours. The Obama people did not accept his invitation. What, did they expect Rosenberg to provide the rebuttal? Probably.

It made for interesting and revealing radio, though. Benson again:

As Rosenberg repeatedly pointed out that Team Obama had been offered the opportunity to take part in the conversation, the agitated masses adapted their argument to suggest it was outrageous to request an interview from the Obama campaign in the thick of the DNC. Delivering the line of the night, Rosenberg countered, "The Obama national headquarters is just down the street from here. They obviously have the time to send out these angry emails, but they can't walk a few blocks to our studios?"

No, they won't make that walk because they don't want to talk. They composed this email after they knew they could appear on the show. And they don't even care that everyone now knows that they were generously given the opportunity to refute the "baseless attacks." They don't care because they know they have "legions" that will obediently gang up and try to mau-mau Milt Rosenberg or anyone else to whom they point. They know their followers well, and they know their followers don't want to know themselves.

These are the supporters of Barack Obama.

In the next few days, when Stanley Kurtz starts reporting chapter and verse about the extended entanglements of Obama with Ayers, those outside the penumbra of Obama's debased charisma will make informed, self-reflective judgments about his judgments.

And in the next few weeks the nation will witness the one-on-one debates, where Barack Obama, bereft of anyone who may run interference for him, will have to answer some very uncomfortable questions. What will his followers do then? The only way to make it stop will be to clap their hands over their ears and shout "obamaobamaobama!" until they exhaust themselves. And while that's going on, objective reality will have its say.

Posted by Jerome at August 30, 2008 02:25 PM | TrackBack