Thursday, September 20, 2007

On the MoveOn Ad

I must be scraping the bottom of the creativity barrel to want to write on this. Or perhaps it's a side-effect of the seasickness caused by sitting in my own house but by being surrounded by heavy construction work on two new McMansions, destined not to be sold for the imagined rewards? Yes, my house is actually shaking, and, no, there is not much I can do about that legally except to take pictures now before it has collapsed on me and then to take pictures, after the collapse, of my left foot sticking out from under the rubble.

Hence the sudden urge to write about the MoveOn ad, the one which called General Petraeus General BetrayUs, and the great furor that this has caused. Even the president was all upset by such vile language. Because the language is seen as implying that a military authority, just doing his job, is guilty of treason. The Senate has voted to disapprove of the ad:

Correct me if I'm wrong here. But by my calculation, more U.S. senators (72) voted today to condemn a newspaper ad attacking Gen. Petraeus than voted yesterday (56) to lengthen the time off troops get from the frontlines in Iraq, thereby reducing individual soldiers exposure to actual attacks. Am I missing something, or is that about right?

Of course choosing that specific phrase for the ad was idiotic if the goal of the ad was to gain influence, make friends and change the minds of conservative war supporters. But then those goals were pretty unlikely to happen even without the silly phrase. The real problem the "BetrayUs" snark caused was the need for everybody and their grandmother to distance from it and therefore from the general message in the MoveOn ad. The real problem was the opportunity this offered for the conservatives to strengthen their flawed message, and to turn some of the scrutiny that should have gone into studying the contents of what General Petraeus said into a totally different story about the MoveOn organization.

Still, when I first read the mainstream political reactions to the ad I was surprised by their intensity. Was the reaction to the Swift-Boating of Kerry equally strong? Were all conservatives required to publicly state that they don't support the Swift Boaters? I also wondered if my tenure here in the land of blogs has made me hardened to an extent that insults no longer shock me. On the other hand, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and others of their ilk have insults as their stock-in-trade. Have we had votes in the Senate to disapprove of the messages of the conservative pundits?

In short, the problem with the MoveOn ad was that it was a stupid choice for a theme, but an even bigger problem is the fact that this insult-game is rigged to benefit the right. Their insults are not as insulting, it seems.