One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1956 MGM’s Sci-Fi masterpiece Forbidden Planet. In the movie a space crew visits an expedition run by Dr. Edward Morbius of an alien planet once home to an advanced race of beings known as the Krell. Their mission is to investigate why everyone besides the Doctor and his daughter were killed by some mysterious force. Soon the crew itself is attacked by a giant invisible energy monster that tries to rip them to shreds. As it turns out (!!! SPOILER ALERT !!!) the force trying to kill everyone is really the twisted recesses of Dr. Morbius’ subconscious given superhuman form by the Krell’s ancient alien technology.
The online world gives a similar window into the deep underpinnings of the human brain. Free from the constraints of normal interaction it is easy for people to let loose with their darkest, innermost thoughts, and find peers that share them. People you’d normally just disagree with become asshats and traitors. Heated arguments almost as a rule transform into flame wars. The human mind is a beautifully dark landscape, and any prepared traveler along its many tubes has to be comfortable navigating inside this alien world.
On political blogs things get rockier as the unnaturally controlled world of the public campaign clashes against the unbridled id of online dialog. It doesn’t help that campaigns are such Machiavellian places. I have never met a political campaign insider from either party that didn’t have a love for the underhanded. Campaigns are battles to be won at any cost. Relationships destroyed… careers ruined… reputations sullied… these are the deadliest and often most effective weapons in any political campaign’s arsenal. Why spend thousands on TV ad buys when a few choice whispers can have the same effect?
Interestingly enough primaries bring out the worst in campaigns. In general elections the battle lines are solid, with each side ‘s intelligence on the enemy limited. In Primaries the location of every buried body is well known, and figuring out which closets have the juiciest skeletons is a nightly parlor game to be played during the closing hours at campaign headquarters. The gossip quickly oozes through each Party’s back channels leaving a swath of personal destruction in it’s wake. A case in point is last years Senate primary where we have yet to truly recover from the damage inflicted by either side.
Each person who runs an online forum has to set for themselves the standards that they hold for their site. In the case of my site it’s simple: stick to the topic at hand, don’t publish anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to someones face, and don’t mess with the Editor (aka me).
The topic at hand is the politics of the Ohio 2nd Congressional district. As such candidates are the primary target. Their positions, personality, performance, and careers are all fair game. This also hold true for their campaigns. If, in my opinion, a campaign manager didn’t do a good job in the past, I will have no problem talking about it. That’s fair game because it directly relates to the topic at hand. Generally, I don’t like to talk about it in such specific terms. I talk about the Hackett campaign or the Schmidt campaign, not David Woodruff or Barry Bennett. The names of specific players are usually overlooked except in the case of the people who have the public voice for the campaign, and usually then to quote them making statements as they directly relate back to the topic at hand.
The case of the current primary is unusual because you have a campaign manager shifting from one candidate to another. This to me is as much news as a football coach switching teams in the off season. Why did they leave? What aspects of their job performance created the rift? Will the other team be a better fit. These are all fair game as topics.
What’s not fair game are things that are generally considered private or off limits in public conversation. Gossip about such things as people’s relatives, divorce proceedings, drug use, or sex lives are all topics that simply don’t exist in this forum. While they may help a candidate that I support, dealing with them only sullies my reputation as an honest broker of relevant information.
As the Editor I rule as a benevolent yet absolute tyrant. This is not a Democracy. You have only the rights that I give you, and if you don’t like it, get your own blog. As a method of operation this only works if you show common courtesy for the people who visit your site. While I welcome dissent I hold zero tolerance for anyone who doesn’t show the same respect towards me. Comments I find distasteful get removed without notice and the worst offenders are silently disappeared in the best (best??!) traditions of our current intelligence operations. Anyone who tries to get one over on me or my readers is quickly dealt with.
Which brings us to the current threads regarding candidate Steve Black. I’ve met Steve Black on several occasions and have nothing but good things to say about our interactions. He is obviously a very accomplished person both in his professional life and for the causes that he cares about. In our last meeting he did express some dismay over how heated the dialog was here on my site. I can certainly understand that given his inexperience with the 21st century mode of political campaigning that this site was a small factor in shaping.
Having said that, lets get down to it.
Several weeks ago I was contacted by another site that was worried that one of the campaigns in the 2nd was astroturfing. I had noticed a pattern that indicated such an activity as well.
Astroturfing is simply not tolerated on my site. Campaigns are more than welcome to comment on my site, but not in the guise of grass roots support. If they have something that they want to share with the public that they can’t say as a representative of the campaign, let me know and I will certainly try to help them out, as long as it sticks to the topic at hand. There is a reason that I don’t allow anonymous posting on my site. The Southern Ohio blogosphere has already been poisoned enough by people who have been allowed to post anything anywhere. This will not happen on my site.
With that in mind I started to investigate. I quickly found evidence to that effect and contacted one of the parties. From that a lot of online back and forth happened that at times got rather heated. They did confirm my suspicions. Since we were not able to reach a private consensus, I have decided to remove the two accounts. This is the first time that I have taken such an action.
I more than welcome dialog from all parties concerning the campaign, but efforts to try and pass themselves off as something that they are not will not be tolerated.
Having said that supporters of any and all candidates are more than welcome to argue their case. I would much rather argue about ideas than deal with people trying to get one over on me.
Thank you for your time.