Saturday, July 5, 2008

Now batting for Pedro Borbon...Manny Mota! (mota! mota!)

I'll admit it, I've been spending way too much time paying attention to the crazy political goings-on this season. Even after the endless Bataan Death March Obama-Clinton showdown, I've continued to pay attention. But the relentless echo-chamber, especially on the right, but also on the left, is completely out of control, and blogs have made it worse. As has been pointed out many times, it really doesn't matter what anybody actually says. From Al Gore "inventing the internet" to Wesley Clark "insulting McCain's service" to Hillary Clinton "advocating the assassination of Obama", it doesn't matter that none of these things actually happened. But all of these events can at least be directly attributable to deliberate misquotations, distortions, and spin.

But two recent spin-ups have occurred that were not even based on a mis-quotation, but appeared spontaneously from the vacuum. On one side was Obama's "complete reversal" on Iraq, and on the other was the "terrorist fist-jab" (which does have the advantage of adding a new entertaining term to the lexicon.)

First, Obama on Iraq. Suddenly the blogosphere was abuzz with right-wing claims of Obama reversing completely on Iraq, and saying we'll be there forever, a-la McCain, etc. So this claim of reversing course on Iraq? It comes from sources like this. Which has great statements like:
In Baghdad, Mr. Obama will get a chance to meet with Ambassador Crocker, who is leading negotiations with the Iraqi government on the presence of American troops. Mr. Crocker will likely tell the senator that our position is not to keep bases permanently but to lease them for 10 years from the Iraqi government, whose lawmakers, he'll report, privately hope the bases will be used as barracks for our GIs.
So this is all based on what will happen? Are you serious? But all it takes is one blog to say something, and then you have a reference for whatever you might want to say. And it echoes back and forth and you don't even need to distort an existing quotation!

Second, and much less serious, is the "terrorist fist jab". Where did this (admittedly great) phrase first come from? I first heard about it from Andrew Sullivan, who linked to this posting at Slate which claimed that Cal Thomas at Human Events called the Barack-Michelle pound "a Hezbollah style fist-jabbing." A subsequent edit at Slate admitted that Cal Thomas had not made that accusation, but it was instead one of the commenters...but which one? As best I can tell, the only comments on Cal Thomas's post referring to a "Hezbollah style fist-jabbing" were left-wingers responding to the ludicrous accusation. Somebody, somewhere, accused Cal Thomas of a ridiculous statement...commenters responded without actually RTFA...and everything started cross-posting and a meme was born.

But it was (of course) Fox News who brought it to the air and cemented "terrorist fist jab" in our language. Thank you, E. D. Hill.

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