For quite a while, conservatives have embraced an annoying strategy — trawl through liberal blogs’ comments sections in the hopes of finding intemperate remarks. The right then takes these comments to “prove” that the left is made up of unhinged radicals.
The practice has always been rather self-defeating. In fact, about a year ago, Kevin Drum came up with a sensible maxim: “If you’re forced to rely on random blog commenters to make a point about the prevalence of some form or another of disagreeable behavior, you’ve pretty much made exactly the opposite point.” Eventually, the practice was even given a name: “Nutpicking.”
And now, “nutpicking” has reached the presidential campaign level.
Little Green Footballs, a prominent far-right blog, had this item yesterday:
A search of the official my.barackobama.com site for “Jewish Lobby” reveals an enormous amount of antisemitic hatred being posted…. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of posts that refer to the “Jewish lobby” at the Obama site. I stopped looking at the results on page 10. […]
By the way, 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.
LGF’s criticism was interesting in part because it was only partially attacking Obama. The candidate, the argument goes, is wrong for having a forum filled with ugly content, even if the campaign didn’t produce the content. And, the argument continues, it speaks poorly of the campaign in general that it attracts people who’d provide the ugly content in the first place.
There are a couple of problems with this approach. First, the Obama campaign (to its credit) created an open online forum. Anyone can “post a blog there,” and it’s not the campaign’s fault when someone adds offensive content. Second, the campaign has moderators to delete the truly ridiculous posts and comments, but it’s hard to keep up with the level of abusive text. That’s just a practical, logistical problem, but it hardly speaks to bigotry within the campaign or among the campaign’s supporters in general.