Breaking news: There are crazy people on the Internet

Conservative bloggers are in an uproar over items posted to Barack Obama's Web site, even though it's clear the material had nothing to do with the official campaign.

Published June 9, 2008 4:01PM (EDT)

A warning to all future Democratic presidential candidates: If you choose to run part of your Web site in a model similar to, say, DailyKos, and allow the general public posting privileges, some crazy people who clearly have nothing to do with your campaign will take advantage of the policy. And then bloggers on the right, though they're well aware of how these things work, will pretend that these crazy people are actually representative of your campaign.

That's what's happening now in the right-wing blogosphere, ever since someone discovered one anti-Semitic posting on Barack Obama's Web site. That sent conservative bloggers combing through the site looking for (and finding, it should be noted) similar material -- Little Green Footballs' Charles Johnson, for instance, has been frantically posting about this.

It's clear that the Obama campaign had nothing to do with any of this, and once it was alerted there was a problem, moderators hurriedly tried to clean up the site. (On the right, this is apparently evidence of guilt, not evidence that the Obama camp wants nothing to do with any of these people.)

But that's not an excuse, some bloggers say. Johnson, for instance -- though he has one big glass house when it comes to his own commenters -- wrote, "There's something deeply wrong with a presidential candidate who attracts so many of these hateful psychotics. Read the comments; you just won't believe what is allowed to be posted at Barack Obama's web site ... It is absolutely no excuse to say that 'anyone can post a blog there.' Barack Obama isn't running a Blogspot blog, he's running for president of the United States, and his official web site is full of hatred and antisemitism." Powerline's John Hinderaker wrote, "this is part of Obama's official web site, not an independent operation organized somewhere else." (Of course, it is an independent operation organized somewhere else; it just so happens that such groups are allowed to post to the site.) And conservatives are worried, in advance, that the liberal media will just cover all this up. At Newsbusters, Noel Sheppard wrote:

If the official John McCain for President website featured an anti-Semitic article about the Jewish lobby, would media report it?

Probably so much so that the Republican presidential nominee would be forced to issue an explanation and an apology ...

However, one has to wonder whether the Obama-loving media will pay any attention to this whatsoever, of if this will be another "gaffe" that will be totally ignored for the junior senator from Illinois' benefit.

Unfortunately for Sheppard's thesis -- and not at all surprising to anyone who knows how the Internet works -- some bloggers on the left have already noted that John McCain's Web site contains similarly objectionable material. And others suggest that the post that set off the firestorm was actually copied verbatim from a hate site on the right and was written by a supporter of Ron Paul's who's actually very much opposed to Obama.

Fortunately, some bloggers on the right have managed to keep a cool head. Patrick Ruffini wrote, "The Obama campaign is right and Charles [Johnson], Hot Air, Malkin, and the rest of the conservative blogosphere are wrong ... I hope the media doesn't bite on this. I hope this story blows over. Because we don't need to discredit the model. We need something just like it."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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