(updated below – Update II – Update III)
Raw Story is a moderately well-read political outlet that touts itself as “a progressive news site that focuses on stories often ignored in the mainstream media.” It recently began publishing a blog devoted exclusively to venerating the President and sliming his critics: because that’s so edgy, brave and rare; after all, the meek “MSM” would never dare glorify the nation’s most powerful political official and the party in power, so we really need a brave, dissident anti-MSM site like Raw Story to provide that. That blog promptly humiliated Raw Story this week by publishing a totally false and baseless Internet “rumor” that Wisconsin’s GOP Gov. Scott Walker “impregnant[ed] his college girlfriend and, after encouraging her to get an abortion, abandon[ed] her.” Andrew Breitbart might be dead, but his spirit is alive and well at Raw Story. In response, Raw Story‘s Executive Editor Megan Carpentier eagerly (and understandably) disclaimed any responsibility for publication of that blog, insisting (credibly) that the decision to publish it was made by Raw Story ”management.”
Last night, a different writer for that same Raw Story blog denounced critics of President Obama’s drone attacks — in particular, myself and The Nation‘s Jeremy Scahill — with attacks that would make Karl Rove and Joe McCarthy blush with shame:
After Scahill noted this, this Raw Story blogger – with his Obama re-election logo prominently displayed — tried to conceal his attacks by making his Twitter account private, but the Internet, as usual, did not cooperate with this concealment effort.
Sliming critics of the U.S. Government’s “counter-Terrorism” efforts as sympathetic to or in league with The Terrorists was, of course, a long-standing staple of neoconservative, Bush-defending rhetoric and is still a core tool of the most rabid, extremist Islamophobic venues. That this is now also a common and acceptable tactic in progressive discourse and from writers for sites like Raw Story is reflective of the presidential policies they are forced to defend. I note this not because it’s aberrational, but because any critics of Obama’s militarism and civil liberties assaults encounter these exact smears — from self-identified progressives — on a virtually daily basis (as Scahill said after his Obama/drone-criticizing MSNBC appearance this weekend: “Today on Twitter, I’ve been called a terrorist, a neo-Nazi, a traitor and a racist. I also want Romney to be president”).
Indeed, this all comes from the top: recall that The New York Times in February granted anonymity to an Obama official to smear the Bureau of Investigative Journalists as Terrorist-enablers after they documented U.S. drone attacks on rescuers and funerals (the anonymous Obama official scorned this report as coming from “elements who would like nothing more than to malign these [drone] efforts and help Al Qaeda succeed”). That’s the bile that is being spawned. Raw Story should be very proud of itself for turning itself into a venue for all of this.
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Yesterday, on Canada’s CBC Radio, I debated Obama’s drone attacks; my adversary — there to defend Obama — was Sadanand Dhume of the neocon think tank American Enterprise Institute and a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. That debate can be heard here, beginning at roughly the 9:30 mark. Afterward, Dhume sent me a message excitedly noting that a U.S. drone had killed Al Qaeda’s “number two” in Pakistan, as though that vindicated anything he was saying; as for that claim, this short Onion article — from 2006 — says all there is to say about that. Meanwhile, Philosophy Professor Chris Bertram asks this concise question about progressives and Obama’s “kill list.” And The Guardian has a scathing Editorial today — entitled “Playing God in Pakistan” — harshly denouncing Obama’s kill list and drone attacks.
UPDATE: Political scientist Brendan Nyhan has long documented how conservatives throughout the last decade routinely accused Democratic critics of Bush of being Terrorist-sympathizes and enabling Al Qaeda (he also has documented that as of January 20, 2009, the roles have reversed, with some leading progressive commentators hurling the same accusations against right-wing Obama critics). But the specific tactic of accusing left-wing critics of the President’s militarism of being Al Qaeda sympathizers and traitors is its own uniquely toxic strain of these attacks, and the fact that a self-proclaimed progressive outlet like Raw Story now provides a paid venue to those who spew things like this is significant indeed.
UPDATE II: Raw Story‘s Carpentier just tweeted this — “to @GGreenwald and @jeremyscahill, an apology” — and linked to this piece she wrote today in which she thoughtfully and commendably does exactly that. As she indicated, she also emailed a private apology. For my part, it’s accepted and appreciated. She also says that the person who operates the blog in question has asked two of its writers to leave; though she doesn’t specify who they are, one presumes one of them is the writer of the above-excerpted tweets. That’s all well in good, though I think Raw Story will continue to deeply regret — and be embarrassed by — publication of this entire blog, as it routinely spews exactly this sort of falsehood and right-wing invective and always has, but that’s its decision to make.
UPDATE III: The person who originated the blog in question has now written her own reasonably thoughtful and seemingly sincere reply, including her explanation as to why she asked the writer of those tweets to no longer post there. If this episode can be used to expunge some of the personal hostility surrounding debates on the left over Obama’s policy and presidency, all the better. Time will tell.