Barack Obama really, really doesn't like people mentioning his past.
From the Chicago Tribune:
Now Obama's presidential campaign is increasingly using the list to beat back media messages it does not like, calling on supporters to flood radio and television stations when those opposed to him run anti-Obama ads or appear on talk shows.It did so as recently as Monday night, when it orchestrated a massive stream of complaints on the phone lines of Tribune Co.-owned WGN-AM in Chicago when the radio station hosted author David Freddoso, who has written a controversial book about the Illinois Democrat.
The latest use of the database, called the Obama Action Wire, is proving yet another new and potentially powerful tactic in the closing weeks of a campaign that has already been dominated by Internet-based messages and media. ...
"The Action Wire serves as a means of arming our supporters with the facts to take on those who spread lies about Barack Obama and respond forcefully with the truth, whether it's an author passing off fiction as biography, a Web site spreading baseless conspiracy theories or a TV station airing an ad that makes demonstrably false claims," said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt.Sen. John McCain's campaign uses the Internet for fundraising and organization but does not have anything like Obama's alert system to bombard a specific media outlet in real time.
Obama's campaign says supporters have placed thousands of phone calls to TV and radio stations and sent even more letters to newspapers.
A page on the campaign's Web site, headlined "Hit 'em where it hurts," told supporters how to complain to advertisers at stations that ran a recent anti-Obama ad.
"We'll provide you with talking points on this maliciously false hit ad to help guide you through the process," the page said, citing a spot run by a conservative group called the American Issues Project.
The campaign says supporters sent roughly 100,000 e-mails in August to stations that aired the ad, which criticized Obama for his ties to former 1960s radical William Ayers.
WGN also was flooded with calls and e-mails shortly before and during an Aug. 27 interview with Stanley Kurtz, a conservative writer who has examined Obama's ties to Ayers.
"WGN radio is giving right-wing hatchet man Stanley Kurtz a forum to air his baseless, fear-mongering terrorist smears," read the first message confronting the station, an e-mail that also provided detailed background information on Kurtz, Obama and Ayers.
The WGN alerts were sent primarily to Obama supporters in the Chicago area but were quickly posted to electronic message boards and Web sites, spreading them worldwide. Many of those who called to complain were from outside Illinois, and they flooded the station's switchboard in a way a WGN producer called "unprecedented."
On Monday night, Zack Christenson, executive producer of "Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg," said the response was about the same. "It's just constant, constant phone calls, and the e-mails are pouring in," he said, adding that the extra volume of calls made it more difficult to run the show.
Obama's campaign describes the system as a grass-roots truth squad that arms supporters with information. But others see an attempt to stifle free speech.
"If Barack Obama demonstrates this little regard for free speech from his opponents during the campaign, what could the American people expect from him as a president?" Ed Martin, president of American Issues Project, said in a statement.
I've read Fredosso's book. If there are lies in it (and I didn't notice any), Obama should sue for libel. Lotsa luck with that, Barack.
The emerging method of political power, as pioneered by Berlusconi in Italy, and imitated by Putin in Russia and by Chavez, less effectively, in Venezuela is to control what can be said on television and radio.
Obama won't actually own the airwaves and there is still that pesky First Amendment, but it appears that his team is working out a plan to use mobs to intimidate media outlets. Think about it from a station manager's point of view — We could interview some reporter who has spent months investigating Obama's relationship with Tony Rezko, and have all our advertisers receive countless fulminating emails forwarded from Team Obama threatening to never buy their products again ... or we could do a segment on Megan Fox.
Sure, it's hard to sell books without doing publicity tour interviews, so there will be fewer books about President Obama, but the publishers can instead sign Megan Fox up to write her autobiography, so everybody's happy, right?Further, considering how much the U.S. government suddenly seems to more or less own as of this week, all sorts of new possibilities are opened up. Matthew Yglesias is already salivating over what President Obama could do as the ultimate owner of the country's biggest insurance company:
In November, there’s going to be an election. And in January, there’ll be a new President. And in the interim, progressive groups will probably come up with a lot of “ten ways to make everything awesome” proposals. And it’ll take 41 conservative senators to filibuster them all, and so they’ll all be filibustered. But if the government directly controls major financial institutions, that would give the new administration extraordinary leverage over the national economy. Suppose the new CEO of AIG decided he didn’t want to insure assets of companies whose executives make unseemly multiples of the national median income? There are all kinds of crazy things you could do. And of course not all of them woul dbe good ideas. But some of them would! And the smart folks on our side need to be figuring out which ones they are. It seems doubtful to me that a progressive administration would ever be able to get away with this much nationalizing of everything, but what’s done is done and I think it creates a real opportunity for “socially conscious insurance underwriting” or whatever you care to call it.Fortunately, Obama has a trusted long-time adviser with decades of experience running socially conscious public-private partnerships. That man is otherwise occupied at the moment, but a President Obama has the Presidential Pardon to spring Tony Rezko out of the correctional facility and into the West Wing.