Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Weekly Standard Does Something Awful

Every politics wonk knows The Weekly Standard, or should know it. Founded by Bill Kristol and never once operating at a profit, it perfectly espouses two foundational concepts of neoconservatism:
1. The Free Market and the Free Market of Ideas are always right — except when you're a conservative, and they demonstrably prove that everyone thinks your shit's all retarded and have no interest in buying what you're selling. In which case, here are coupla million dollars in entitlement checks to make sure you and your college 'zine about killing brown people get back on your feet and can keep yourself in some Brooks Brothers and Hickey Freeman. Come on, you look sowww saaaad. Who wants some giiiiiiiin??? Atta boy!
2. It doesn't matter if you're totally worthless at your job. Keep it. We knew your dad.
If this last comment seems a bit nebulous, perhaps the TV can help. On The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart narrates a recurring segment, "O, Bill Kristol. Are You Ever Right?" The answer is no. Still, he's managed to parlay a career of quotidian observations and methodical, relentless failure into TV appearances and even a ruthlessly stupid New York Times column that tends to make sense only after Wonkette ridicules it.

I mention Billy boy only because he's diversified his ignorance to include both internet comedy and his own base. For weeks now, members of the message board have been posting as dedicated Palinite members of the Team Sarah message board. Team Sarah describes itself as "a coalition of women dedicated to advancing the values that Sarah Palin represents in the political process." I would describe it as "a coalition of borderline racist suburban and agrarian fatty catladies bonding over their hatred of books, gooks and gays and gook bookgays who use their ivory towers and books in their anuses when not aborting babies."

I'm probably a little off base, but whichever stooge Kristol pays to be ignorant for him on TWS's website not only runs off the base, he's eating a puck and trying to heave a javelin into a ping-pong table to score field goals during this "over." He writes (and forgive the following bold-quote+reply format to follow, but it's easier to break this down):

Apparently, about 90 left-wing participants on a thread at pretended to be conservatives who loved Sarah Palin before writing racist or otherwise deranged rants against Barack Obama on the Team Sarah forums.
Even a cursory glance at the particular SomethingAwful forum that spawned this — no more than 20 minutes of idle clicking — would reveal that libertarian, small-government conservative, socialist-democrat and Marxist ideals co-exist amicably under a bond of satire. In seeking to condemn ugly generalities, the person writing this piece issues his own.

Said one interloper on the thread: "What I hope is that the fake posters eventually number the actual posters so it would be impossible to tell who is real and who is fake."
How can a non-banned member of a pay-registration site be an "interloper" on a message board? By their very existence as a valid member, they're abiding by the terms of service and cannot, by definition, be an interloper. Ironically, TWS would have done their cause a greater favor by portraying this poster as an upstanding member of the forum and thus an exemplar of the forum overall. In all likelihood, given the abusive want of understanding of language so frequently displayed by TWS contributors, this author either doesn't know how to relate pejorative nouns to the right objects, or he thought, "Interloper... mmmm. Don't know what it means. Only ever read it in context. But I know it's bad," before pounding that sumbitch through the keyboard and making sure Word hipped him to whether there were one or two Ps in it.

This new group wanted to be secretive. One of them posted a suggestion on the thread (which is no longer accessible or doesn't exist)
I don't know what a responsible and rational actor in the free market considers research, but I know that a simple google search of keywords from posts he included in his article shows me that you can read the entire thread right here. You get the sense this guy's writing articles for TWS now that he's no longer rating securities for Merill Lynch.

Anyway, the last relevant chunk of text is here:
[he suggested] that the group "just encourage the crazy members [of Team Sarah] until it reaches the point where they drive away any sane members ... Make sure you bump any particularly crazy threads you see with a message of vague support for the original post, ensuring anything sane will be quickly relegated to the 2nd or 3rd page of the forum, and the crazy threads will appear to be the most popular ideas."
Margorie Dannenfelser of Team Sarah told me the plot was "to bring down the site by turning it into a place of bigotry and hatred." She thinks they wanted to destroy the site to embarrass Sarah Palin by way of extension. They disguised themselves with names such as "Palinin2012" and "PALINITE"
That the article's author (and the article as a whole) displays a total want of understanding of the internet or even cursory examination of the data before him isn't surprising. The right isn't good at this shit. Learning new things is hard, and thinking about things you read is just taxing. And taxes are bad. No, what's surprising is the failure to understand why this works.

See, you can't infiltrate a group of believers and fellow travelers and spout racist and homophobic invective and insinuations for weeks without consequences without:
1. Racist and homophobic invective and insinuation being tacitly already present.
2. Racist and homophobic invective and insinuation being tacitly already condoned.
At best, The Weekly Standard can't understand — and at worst it refuses to acknowledge — that this infiltration couldn't have been successful if it didn't find kinship that preceded it. It can't be satire without being an amplification of ideas already extant. Nothing speaks to this very fundamental reality better than the fact that (as of three days ago) dozens of valid non-spoof members of the Team Sarah board were banned for "allegedly" being suspected SomethingAwful members.

If the racism was purely SA's fault, then why was Team Sarah killing their own? If Team Sarah did not tacitly tolerate or condone that speech, then why were these people only banned for being suspected of being "moles" of another site and not for their hateful posting over the course of months — i.e. long before a wave of SA members joined their site?

The proof of the toleration comes in the detection. Contrary to the luddite assertions of The Weekly Standard, almost nothing about SomethingAwful's spoof membership drive could be construed as "secret." Just look at the numbers. Links abound in the particular thread, all of which go to the Team Sarah site, and all of which would be logged. Anyone with a quarter of a functioning brain who runs a website can look at their Stat Tracker and see what links are sending people to their website. SomethingAwful is not a small community, and the forum where that thread was created receives a steady minute-by-minute viewership of nearly one thousand people during working hours. By internet message-board standards, that number is staggering and would command attention.

Anyone with a little time could have compiled a list of IPs associated with people who clicked links from that SomethingAwful thread, checked it against improper posting on Team Sarah and successfully banned dozens of actual dictionary-definition interlopers. That legitimate board members of months-long standing were also banned either speaks to (1) an overwhelming ignorance of even rudimentary internet fact checking, (2) a cynical desire to clean house before crying "exploitation" to the right-wing media or (3) a sincere inability to distinguish over-the-top satirical racism from the sincere racist attitudes of the voter base they hope to mobilize.

Only a polyanna could view the first explanation as a complete explanation. The most probable is that the first and third explanations met in a perfect storm of internet ignorance and social ignorance and hatred. However, given that this is a board dedicated to a woman who'd speak out of one side of her mouth about opportunity and America's melting pot and out of the other insinuate that her opponent was a terrorist — and further, that he was a crypto-muslim and that, by nature, muslims could not be good Americans — the explanation probably lies in all three.

SomethingAwful frequently creates the content that lives up to its name. In this case, they found it.