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Friday, February 09, 2007

Duped, distracted, and dancing

(NOTE, 2/10/07: This is an expanded version of a piece I wrote last night, which I had to cut short because my computer kept crashing. While trying to update this morning I crashed again. And again and again this afternoon)
OK, I'll admit it. I've been duped.

I've been drawn into a debate over...well, the issue itself is a bit fluid. Is it whether John Edwards should fire two bloggers he hired to work on his campaign because of things they wrote in their own personal blogs? Is it whether what the women wrote on their blogs was so vile and offensive that any reasonable person would reject and condemn the writers immediately? Is it whether William Donohue and his "Catholic League" have the right to dictate who may and may not participate in the campaign of a potential Presidential candidate if the candidates know what's good for them? Is it whether a coterie of right-wing bloggers have set themselves on a crusade to suppress free expression almost exactly a year after they so bravely fought for free speech during the Mohammed cartoon flap?

Is it all of these things? Or is it none of them?

Is it merely a distraction, like so many distractions that are thrown up to draw attention away from the real issues of the day? Is it yet another case of those who call the music, and those who dance the dance?

I first heard about this in a news report on CNN's website on Thursday. I did some follow-up reading and wrote a post about it later that day. When I saw other people I knew posting about this subject, I challenged them on their positions.

And then I did some more reading and realized I was being drawn into the hall of mirrors known as the Echo Chamber, a network of right-wing pundits, commentators and bloggers where statements can be refined, magnified, amplified, and then presented as items of vital importance. The goal is always to achieve a win-win dominance of the national discussion: if opposing voices respond to statements from the Echo Chamber, they provide validation by allowing them to be recognized as worthy of discussion, while if they remain silent, their silence can be interpreted as acquiescence to the correctness of the stated position. Truthful statements by Al Gore were conflated into lies; Howard Dean's enthusiastic cheerleading became the "Howard Dean Scream"; the attacks on John Kerry have entered the political vocabulary as "being Swift Boated"; Joe Biden's praise of Barack Obama has been interpreted as a slur against all previous black candidates; and the non-issue of a military transport arranged for the Speaker of the House by the Sergeant-at-Arms only avoided becoming a dominant news story by the untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith.

And what are we being distracted from? Iraq, and the release of the report on the intelligence that led to the invasion of Iraq in the first place? The release of the summary of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? The release of statements condemning the Bush Administration's policies of interference with and censorship of scientific studies? The continuing erosion of civil rights under the current administration? The continuing inability to answer the question "Where's Osama?" more than five years after the September 11 attacks?

Let's stop being distracted. Let's stop dancing to this music.

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