You have to hand it to the Obama administration when it comes to consistency: Its players are singularly skilled when it comes to refusing to learn from their own failures. No, I’m not talking about their cult-like belief in “green jobs” despite a mountain of evidence that those jobs only exist when taxpayers are forced to incinerate money to subsidize them. (Actually, that’s an interesting thought: Could we end up generating more power for the nation if, instead of giving half a billion dollars to a solar panel company, we just burned five hundred million one dollar bills? But I digress…)
And I’m not talking about Obama’s latest stimulus plan. Oops, we can’t say “stimulus” anymore; it’s a “jobs” plan, despite every similar policy of this president having failed spectacularly to produce a job. (Don’t forget, however, to be eternally thankful for “jobs saved.”)
The newest and simultaneously funny and frightening Obama reprise is the launch of an Obama campaign website called AttackWatch.com, designed to “Get the facts (and) Fight the smears.” According to ABC News, “Obama for America national field director Jeremy Bird said the site offers ‘new resources to fight back,’ including policy issue pages that fact check statements by Obama’s Republican opponents with links to ‘evidence’ to back them up.”
Before getting to the early reaction to AttackWatch.com, a little history is in order:
In June, 2008, the Obama campaign launched a website — which you can still see today, although it hasn’t been noticeably updated since the election — called Fight the Smears. (It should be no surprise that the SEIU has a web page with precisely the same title.) It used paid bloggers to do such things as explain to taxpayers that “a recent email smear falsely claims Michelle ordered room service, but she never even stayed at the hotel.” If only Michelle were still so careful with taxpayers’ money!
As could be expected, left-leaning bloggers suggested the site was a success while conservatives said it was a failure. Most likely, the site was preaching to the choir, with little impact on the national debate. Nevertheless, this was the Obama campaign’s last overt web-based propaganda maneuver that could have been considered even close to a success.
On August 4, 2009, in order to counter “disinformation about health insurance reform,” the White House created an e-mail address asking Americans to use it to inform on their friends and neighbors: “If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com.”
There was the predictable and justifiable response from civil libertarians and those of us who were around during the Nixon administration wondering whether the administration was collecting names for a new version of an Enemies List. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) called it the “Obama monitoring program” and wrote in a letter to the president, “I can only imagine the level of justifiable outrage had your predecessor asked Americans to forward e-mails critical of his policies to the White House.”
On August 17, 2009, less than two weeks after this e-mail snitching program was announced, and after the White House was further criticized for sending out “spam” e-mails to many Americans, firstname.lastname@example.org was unceremoniously shut down.
Obama’s Director of New Media Macon Phillips, the same gentleman who announced the beginning of the snitch-on-your-neighbor program, noted an “ironic development” from the administration’s propaganda efforts: those efforts themselves “(have) become the target of fear-mongering and online rumors…”
And that brings us to 2011 and the latest example of Obama’s “fatal conceit,” that if something failed in the past it just needs to be done bigger to succeed. And so is unleashed on unsuspecting Americans the AttackWatch.com website as well as a Twitter “hash tag” (#AttackWatch) for the nation’s many “tweeters” to use to report naughty conservatives to the government.
If there has ever been a more spectacular failure of a propaganda campaign in such a short time, I am unaware of it.
It doesn’t help the Administration’s efforts that while Fight the Smears had the look and feel of a campaign website, the new AttackWatch site is a foreboding black and red, looking like something Che Guevara or V.I. Lenin would approve. The site is an unwitting parody of itself.
The pictures on the main page are of Rick Perry (from shoulders upward) and three smaller pictures of the mouths (and only the mouths) of Perry, Mitt Romney, and Glenn Beck. Apparently, the too-clever-for-their-own-good staffers of the Obama campaign think that will focus us on the conservatives’ “lies” and “twist[ing] the facts.” Instead, it’s just uncomfortable and weird.
If Richard Nixon had kept fetish-like photos of the mouths of his “enemies,” his web page would have looked like AttackWatch, though even Nixon probably wouldn’t have used as dark and intimidating a color scheme as Obama has, and that’s saying something.
But the real beauty of AttackWatch, which is to say the seeds of its own destruction, is the campaign’s use of Twitter, allowing and encouraging thousands, or perhaps millions, of people to jump into the conversation.
As I follow #attackwatch in my Twitter application on Thursday morning, I can’t keep up with the updates. A new tweet hits about every two seconds, almost all of them obviously by people who are not just opposed to the administration’s Goebbels-like activities, but who are effectively turning AttackWatch into the biggest joke in Internet history.
Here are a few of the tweets which have come across the #attackwatch hashtag just during the writing of this article:
From DrFreeLance: “I saw a werewolf drinkin a pina colada at Trader Vic’s, and his hair was perfect.”
From chuckdevore (Republican state legislator in California): “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean a big majority of us isn’t out to get you…”
From EddieRobbins: “My neighbor removed his Obama bumper sticker. I think he’s a racist.”
From DickMeyers: “Bless me #AttackWatch for I have sinned. I have muttered naughty words about our Dear Leader 9 times & have doubted his divinity a few times”
From joaniekensil: “Ate refried beans & chips for breakfast which is sort of racist foodist – Carbon emissions to follow.”
From PoliticalGravity: “Saw a kid with a lemonade stand and she didn’t have a permit.”
From thorninaz: “Hey #attackwatch, I saw 6 ATM’s in an alley, killing a Job. It looked like a hate crime!”
And from the always excellent IowaHawkBlog: “#AttackWatch have you cried “uncle” yet? Because we can keep this up all f***in’ day.”
Most of these occurred within a 2-minute span. You get the idea.
The beauty of the Twitter situation is that it is completely out of the government’s control. They can’t turn off the hashtag the same way they can turn off an e-mail address or a web page. At this pace, it’s only a matter of time before even Jon Stewart and Jay Leno jump on the train to shame and embarrass the Obama over AttackWatch. It’s too funny to avoid, even for a liberal, not least because it is so flamboyantly self-inflicted.
It’s hard to say what’s worse, the Administration’s blatant attempts at propaganda, its failure to learn from past mistakes (in this area and many others), or its truly remarkable incompetence. Don’t forget, in 2008, voters aged 18-29, likely the biggest group of Twitter users, cast 66 percent of their ballots for Barack Obama. And at election time, that age group had a 45 percent Democratic Party affiliation versus 26 percent for the Republicans (the parties were about even in this measure just eight years earlier).
Obama needs these naïve and idealistic youngsters (their votes and their free campaign labor) to have any chance at re-election (though their horrible post-college employment prospects are making that extremely difficult). Yet this is exactly the group now most exposed to this president’s folly. Remember when John McCain said he didn’t know how to use a computer? The Obama Administration even ran an ad making fun of McCain for it, even though the primary reason for McCain’s lack of computer use is that his war wounds make typing quite painful.
But now who looks foolish and out of touch on the Web?
Twitter offered some statistics about itself last week, including: over 100 million active users around the world, averaging nearly 1.5 billion (yes, with a “b”) “tweets” per week. More from the Guardian article linked above: “Twitter’s website alone records 400 million monthly unique browsers, up 70 percent from the start of 2011, while 55 percent of active users are on mobile. In contrast with Facebook, growth is increasing this year compared with last, Twitter claims, with a further 26 million users likely to join by January. That’s more than 2006-09 combined.”
Is this really the place the Obama administration wanted to demonstrate how out of touch it is with so many Americans, how willing it is to be the domineering, mind-controlling, nagging-parent-like force that young adults regardless of political persuasion have spent their last decade or two rebelling against?
By the near-instant overwhelming of the AttackWatch story by conservatives, and the fact that the overwhelming reaction is mostly being accomplished with humor, the Obama administration has done its opponents a tremendous favor. It has allowed conservatives, for once, to be shown to a huge number of young people to be funny and light-hearted, while the administration yet again encourages Americans to use the Internet to report their friends, neighbors, and colleagues to the government.
Thank goodness Progressives never learn from their mistakes.