Thursday, September 18, 2008

Where is Al Gore when you need him? Three years ago, the former vice president blasted “digital brownshirts” who “harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the president.” He meant the mortal threat to the Republic of bloggers and angry Republican e-mailers. But times change, and the digital legions are greater nowadays on Mr. Gore’s side. Thus we don’t hear much fretting at all about the Obama Action Wire, which, unlike the brownshirts of yore, is actually managed by Barack Obama‘s campaign to muzzle critical media.

Here’s how it works. A message goes out over Barack Obama’s Web site with the names, phone numbers and e-mails of editors and producers foolish enough to host Obama critics. With Mr. Obama’s extensive digital following, and his extensive fund-raising and contact lists, shutting up the Democratic nominee’s critics with a fraction of Mr. Obama’s millions of supporters is relatively simple. The digital legions plug phone lines, crash servers and intimidate the advertisers of these media outlets. This must be another instance of the “new” politics that Mr. Obama frequently talks about.

The latest incident, reported in the Chicago Tribune, “orchestrated a massive stream of complaints on the phone lines of Tribune Co.-owned WGN-AM in Chicago. “The offense: The station hosted National Review’s David Freddoso, author of ‘The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media’s Favorite Candidate,’ a fair and rigorous but adversarial examination of Mr. Obama’s record. Surely, we can’t have any of that.

“The Action Wire serves as a means of arming our supporters with the facts to take on those who spread lies about Barack Obama and respond forcefully with the truth, whether it’s an author passing off fiction as biography, a Web site spreading baseless conspiracy theories or a TV station airing an ad that makes demonstrably false claims,” Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt told the Tribune.

How Orwellian. Mr. LaBolt defends the very actions that prevent WGN-AM and others from airing the facts, as though obstructionism is an “airing of facts.”

Note to the Obama campaign: Informed observers don’t get “the facts” only from a political campaign. They read and listen to the independent media outlets - the same outlets the thin-skinned Mr. Obama is currently trying to quash.

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