April 01, 2004

Drudged Up

Want to see just how off-the-charts nuts this country’s partisan warfare has gotten, in both the media and in Washington? Meet George Smith.

Smith (as he tells it in the Village Voice) is an obscure, middle-aged journalist who writes a column on technology and security issues for an little-known website called Security Focus. In early 2003, around the time now-famous White House whistleblower Richard Clarke resigned his position as White House cybersecurity czar (he had been drummed out of his counterterrorism job a year before that), Smith wrote a column on the site ripping Clarke for his “legacy of miscalculation.”

The thesis by Smith, who is a liberal but didn’t appear to have any particular political axe to grind in the column, was that Clarke had done a poor job in the cyberterror job because of his misplaced focus on “cyberattacks,” which he considered detrimental to the war on terror.

But last week, when Richard Clarke briefly became the most famous man in America, apparently someone at the RNC discovered Smith’s column, realized it was anti-Clarke, and immediately assumed that 1) it had been written that week, and 2) it was a Republican-authored hit piece on the former White House aide. The piece was linked by Drudge and spread around the “conservative echo chamber” of blogs and talk radio, proving once again that most bloggers don’t really read most of the things they link to, at least not past the first sentence, and certainly not the dateline.

(The same thing happened this week, when a year-old “I’m-breaking-with-the-left” piece by Ron Rosenbaum in the New York Observer was passed around the Blogosphere by people who apparently believed it was new).

Smith was deluged with phone calls, including invitations to appear on right-wing political talk shows, by those who believed that he was himself a right-wing partisan hack. And speaking of partisan hacks, Smith got e-mails. Lots of them. From both right-wing kooks praising him and left-wing kooks bashing him, all unaware that he is himself a man of the left. Smith’s e-mails (sidebar) alternately praised him for doing “a national service,” and called him “an idiot who crawled from under a rock.”

Everyone’s reaction to this piece –written a year ago- was to filter it through blind partisan hatred. I give credit to the Voice for acknowledging for once that left-wing ideologues are just as good as being jackasses as conservatives are. The Smith story, more than anything I’ve read since the 2000 election, is a perfect microcosm of where we are politically in 2004.

Posted by Stephen Silver at April 1, 2004 05:29 PM
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