I’m just glad to be here.

Years ago I was engaged in a conversation with an old acquaintance – we went on something of a metaphysical tack. He stopped the conversation with, “Well, you know, I’m just glad to be here.”

I’m also very glad that progressive blogtopia (yes, we’re very much aware that skippy coined the phrase!) is here in its present form (since our old media does such a uniformly poor job). The progressive blogs were not quite there for the 2000 and 2004 elections.

I had some interesting experiences on the Internets in the lead up to the 2004 election. I spent far too much time on the Forum for America, the Howard Dean campaign’s lesser know cousin to the much more famous (and less sophisticated) Blog for America.

One of those eye opening experiences was an interaction between denizens of the Dean Forum and Newsweek:

The Dean Dilemma, January 12, 2004

…The murmurs of doubt are faint, barely audible above the background hum of the Internet cosmos, but they are worth listening to at the moment, for the doubters don’t seem to be “trolls”–provocateurs in digital disguise–and they express concerns about their favorite son, Dr. Howard Dean, in the bosom of his own blogosphere.

“Dammit, tell him to get his mouth under control!” says “WVMicko” on a forum conducted by Dean’s official Web site. “He’s been all over the map on a lot of things, and the way he shoots off his mouth is a big reason why.” A poster to the site named “Lancaster” frets that his wife is put off by Dean’s confrontational personality. “Her initial reaction to Dean? ‘That guy scares me.’ Now, I’m not a full-fledged Deanie, but I’m strongly leaning that way… but she’s still not convinced that Dean is the right guy for the job.” A writer named “irmaly” also views Dean’s personality as a vulnerability. “I am a strong Dean supporter,” irmaly declares, “but I think the campaign is missing this most important point–the need to focus strongly on getting up over the perception of ‘mean, angry Dean.’ Dean is portrayed as a man who, rather than share a beer in a local hangout, will fight you for yours. I realize this isn’t true, but Bush and Company knows perception is everything, and they have already had some success at seriously hurting Dean on this perception. I don’t know how you get up over this, but you have to, or we will lose…”

There are a lot of lessons in those two paragraphs. The individuals quoted in the article spent an ungodly amount of time and effort trying to correct the record – to no avail. If I recall correctly the discussion on the Forum (the old archives are long gone – there are a few fragments on the wayback machine) pointed out that a stringer had taken the quotes and passed them on to Newsweek which just plugged them into their pre-existing narrative.

A question: How could Newsweek prove if someone was a troll or not?

The main lesson: Never give the media anything that detracts from your candidate’s messages and strategies. Another simpler lesson: The Internets are forever. If everyone on this public blog can read it, so can the media.

The memory of that early January 2004 distraction was dredged up by a series of exchanges I took part in this weekend on another political site I used to  visit more frequently in the past. Until this crazy season for the amateur fans of our candidates ends (I’m hoping for February 5th) the once venerable site will continue to be the equivalent of a bunch of junior high school students throwing food in the cafeteria.

Contrary to my best intentions, I got sucked into the vortex.

I’m old school when it come to snark. Sarcasm combined with experience and an economy of words can be far too much fun. Though directing snark at humorless and psychotic true believers can generate a lot of heat.

Too many of the undisciplined amateur fans (of all Democratic presidential candidates) spend their time perpetuating right wingnut stories, talking points, and memes by directing them at the other Democratic candidates. They throw everything against the wall in the hope that something will stick, never realizing, or caring about the long term damage. The reality is that one of those candidates will be the nominee – and our lazy old media will dredge up all kinds of stuff on the progressive Internets to fit into their pre-existing narrative.

A disciplined and savvy candidate fan intent on working the progressive blogs could reinforce their candidates’ campaign message while simultaneously directing their search engine skills at the foibles of whoever happens to be that day’s republican front runner. I know, it’s probably too much to ask.  

The right and their media stenographers have already started in on all of the Democratic candidates (as if any of us should ever believe anything Novacula writes). We don’t need to do their work for them.

Remember the 2000 campaign? Remember 2004?

Campaigns know about controlling their messages with the media. Too many amateur fans don’t have a clue. When I walked the Harkin Steak Fry in September the sea of campaign workers and volunteers seeing my red press credential avoided me like the plague. The campaigns drill that into their staff and volunteers at these events – that’s discipline. And discipline is what it will take to beat the republicans at all levels in 2008.

Repetition is sound pedagogy. Never give the media anything that detracts from your Democratic Party nominee’s messages and strategies.