Some were in denial. As the election is by no means a settled matter, their hopes for a McCain victory have some basis in reality. But their guarantees showed less confidence than petulance, projecting their own peculiar beliefs upon the general electorate. Cold Fury‘s Noel, for example, told us that “when President John McCain takes the oath of office in January, it will not be because of racism, but two other ‘isms’; his patriotism and Obama’s socialism.” RedState’s NoKoolAidForMe‘s rationales were almost mystical, claiming that “It’s simply not cool to mention that you are a Republican anymore. It is the ‘new gay,’ as many who support McCain are fearful of starting a huge scene by revealing such,” and “Never before has an African American candidate been running for nationwide office… This, along with other factors, will keep Obama out of the White House.”
Bargaining was seen, too, most often at National Review, where editor Kathryn J. Lopez reminded readers that “We’re going to want as many Republicans in the Senate as possible whomever is president” and Mark Krikorian echoed David Frum‘s call to divert GOP resources to down-ticket races. If we can’t have McCain, they pleaded, at least let us have William Russell. And there was plenty of depression.
But by far the most popular stage of grief among rightbloggers was anger — against Obama, against their fellow citizens who support him, and against the stark unfairness of reality itself. This led to their most spectacular embarrassment so far: their quick acceptance of the weird tale of Ashley Todd, who claimed that a black, unusually politically-aware mugger, enraged by her McCain bumper sticker, had scratched a B-for-Barack on her face.
A few rightbloggers, to their credit, smelled a hoax from the start. But plenty jumped on the Todd bandwagon, claiming it revealed the viciousness of ordinary Obama supporters and their dupes in the Main Stream Media.
And when their hobbyhorse pulled up lame, they gingerly dismounted and explained that they were merely doing what they always do, and what the traditional media doesn’t have the guts to do: that is, report a ludicrous anti-Obama story as settled fact.
“I lay this at the feet of the mainstream media,” charged RedState‘s Erick Erickson. The MSM ate up stories of hateful comments at McCain rallies, but left it to citizen journalists like Erickson to report that a “Barack Obama supporter” had attacked Todd and “carved her face like it was a pumpkin.” And since Obama had told his supporters to “get in people’s faces,” that meant “The dude was just doing what The One asked him to. Full pardon on January 21st.” (An “editor” added that “This means we cannot just blame the media. We must blame Obama too.”)
A RedState colleague added, “Mr. Barone, about that Obama thugocracy you said was coming… [ominous white space] It’s here.”
When the fraud was revealed, Erickson was unrepentant: “For the members of the left now gloating, please remember we correct our stories. You do not.” (No cites were offered.) As for RedState commenters who disputed Erickson’s report, “Suffer. I enjoyed tossing all of you, I don’t regret it in the slightest, and you know and I know that the truth or falsity of this story wouldn’t have mattered to any of you at all.”
After a long, trusting rehash of the Todd story, Wake Up America allowed a spasm of skepticism — “There are many questions being asked about this case and whether this woman manufactured the whole story” — before explaining “why we notice so much consistent anger from Democrats.” You will not be surprised to learn that their explanation was not self-critical.
“These Obama cultists are dangerous and out of control. What the hell will these people do if the messiah loses on November 4th?” cried Wizbang. “To me, this is an argument to defeat Obama soundly on November 4th. We will not be intimidated into voting for Obama.” The media is of course implicated: “Any media report that does not include Obama’s instructions for his supporters to ‘get in their faces’ will be incomplete and do a disservice to news consumers by not giving them the full story… Come on ABCBSNBCNN, prove me and my husband wrong…”
When the story began to lose its luster, Wizbang predicted that ABCBSNBCNN would cover the case — to embarrass the GOP. Is there no end to their perfidy?
American Power tried a plausible-deniability approach: “Can we make broader generalizations from this case? Probably not, although Todd’s mutilation was clearly politically motivated.” Then they quoted rightblogger Ace of Spades (of whom more later) and from that dubious evidence concluded (until the inevitable updates) “So yes, there’s certainly much political weight to this story, however folks want to spin it… It’s a potential Pennsylvania Willie Horton game-changer for the Keystone State.”
When it all went to shit Goldberg, as is his custom, evacuated (“I didn’t read the latest version as I’m on Daddy Daycare duty today. Also I have a debilitating cold and am now going to bed for a while”); McCarthy was at first defensive (“I’m not apologizing, because the story is news and it would have been discussed whether I’d posted on it or not”), then belligerent: In a long, bizarre post, he first told critics that he was deleting their emails, then explained that he wasn’t a racist (“I grew up in meager circumstances and attended integrated schools in the Bronx”), that “the Obama supporters I have been most critical of are white,” and that Obama was the real racist.
And anyway, McCarthy rambled further, Obama once favored “direct action,” and some Saul Alinsky followers believe “that ‘direct action’ is sometimes violent lawlessness,” and this justified McCarthy’s “thinking it was possible that an Obama supporter could conceivably have attacked the woman who made the false report” (and also justified, it would appear, his spreading it), and anyone who disbelieved Todd’s peculiar story from the start was “kidding yourself.”
Thus, given the opportunity to apologize and move on, the rightbloggers simply noted that just because the facts were against them, that didn’t mean they were wrong — the quintessence of “fake but accurate.”
The Weekly Standard even praised Ace of Spades among rightbloggers whom they claimed “examined Todd’s claims with a critical eye… suggesting she might have done it to herself.” But the Ace post to which they linked was almost entirely believing, updated to say “Photo Out, and Story Looking Less Sketchy,” with Ace amplifying, “Earlier notes of skepticism deleted for three reasons: 1, doubts are mostly gone now that I see the picture… if my quotoes [?] remain, CNN will quote me when they say ‘Even conservatives smell a hoax…’ CNN only quotes conservative blogs when they make points helpful to the liberal cause.”
Ace even went so far as to specifically explain that the backwards “B” on Todd’s face didn’t suggest a fraud: “There are so many sensible explanations for this that to cry ‘hoax’ over this one point is silly.”
After the fall, talking about a separate, sensational story, Ace explained his critical method — and, probably inadvertently, the general standards for rightblogger coverage of far-out anti-Obama stories: “When I say I have a tip, I have a tip. Sometimes it turns out to be garbled (like that RICO thing), and sometimes it doesn’t pan out for reasons beyond my control or ability to predict (babysitter source getting scared), but I’m not just making this shit up, I assure you.” In other words, as long as a politically useful tale started somewhere other than in his own fevered imagination, it’s good to go.
So, post-Todd as pre-Todd, the rightbloggers go on telling their standard Obama stories: that he’s a socialist, has no birth certificate, has a girlfriend, has a wife who calls fake African news services and rants, etc. And they marvel that no one is listening to them.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 27, 2008