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Did MoveOn.Org Sponsor the Hitler Advertisements

[Note: You're now getting the abridged version of this entry. In attempting to link to the 'digital brownshirts' speech of Al Gore's, now hosted on that fine purveyor of good political taste, MoveOn.Org, Adobe Acrobat crashed my editing window. What follows is much less ornate, but largely the same argument.

For those who don't want to read it all, the short answer: it's a bit rich for MoveOn.Org and their supporters to wax poetic on how horrible it is to tar the organization as the kind that would make a Bush/Hitler analogy when their front-page headline is a link to Al Gore calling the President's minions "'brownshirts'. [1]]

In my previous entry on the George Bush/John Kerry 'Who's misusing the holocaust' entry, I was severely taken to task by several readers for having stated that the ads were from 'from a rather infamous Moveon.org advertisement.' The counterarguments have variously raised that (a) the ad was not 'sponsored' by MoveOn.org; that (b) they withdrew the ads and 'apologized'; or that (c) they did not represent views that could be attributed to MoveOn.org sufficient to call them a 'MoveOn.org advertisement.' I have to admit, to me it's a rather unexpected avenue of defense of the organization, particularly from some, such as my friend Martin, who have sufficient marketing and internet background that they should at least recognize MoveOn's responsibility.

Had I the chance to write it over again, I'd probably change the phrasing to indicate that it was a contest entry. Nonetheless, I'm happy to stand by the original assertion, given that I knew of the contest at the time, and didn't consider it a stretch to attribute them to MoveOn. To demonstrate why, I'll illustrate the way in which I responsible for comments here at TYoH--if only to show that I hold to the same standards. In so doing, I'll also cover a couple of the peripheral issues that surround this dispute, and the subsequent Bush ad.

Were the Ads 'Move On' Ads?
Simply put, MoveOn would like to disclaim responsibility for the advertisements because:

None of these was our ad, nor did their appearance constitute endorsement or sponsorship by MoveOn.org Voter Fund. They will not appear on TV. We do not support the sentiment expressed in the two Hitler submissions. They were voted down by our members and the public, who reviewed the ads and submitted nearly 3 million critiques in the process of choosing the 15 finalist entries.

We agree that the two ads in question were in poor taste and deeply regret that they slipped through our screening process. In the future, if we publish or broadcast raw material, we will create a more effective filtering system.


Now, before I make a statement as regards to the merits of the claim above, let me make one assertion perfectly clear about TYoH:

I sponsor each and every comment made on Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil. Indeed, there's little way for me not to do so.

This is simply a matter of how the site is structured. I pay for hosting (including the annual payment to be made tomorrow), I pay for the software that I use to create it, and I pay for any residual expenses that I incur. If you're posting a comment here, it's riding on my dime. Does that mean I agree with everything on here? Given the amount of personal criticism I get from my comments, the answer is either a solid 'no,' or I'm the most self-loathing blogger ever to set up shop. Nonetheless, I sponsor them: if it weren't for me, and the money I've spent, these discussions would not be here.

Now, what goes for me goes triple for MoveOn.Org. I'm a relatively tiny website, with a law student's time and budget, and my posts try to invite a relatively open conversation from both sides of the political aisle. On the other hand, MoveOn.Org has a membership far beyond my possible grasp. They sponsored a contest with an express purpose of opposing an individual candidate. Further, they set up a website, provided thousands of MB of valuable bandwidth, and put their brand to bear behind hundreds of adverts. For this reason alone, I'd be happy to call them MoveOn.Org ads. The fact that they're part of a 'contest' does not mean that they appeared from some marketing equivalent of abiogenesis.

But Why Would MoveOn.Org Be Responsible?
In all of the discussion of this, the issues and facts have gotten fairly blurred, made ever more difficult by the fact that MoveOn.Org, Moveon's Voter Fund, and Bushin30Seconds all have different websites, with different pieces of the puzzle on them. None of it makes it entirely clear what exactly happened, so I'll give you the two relevant scenarios, both put in the light most favorable to MoveOn.

Scenario One
MoveOn.Org sets up the entire apparatus of a contest website, puts aside the bandwidth and purchases the URL. They plan, design, and put aside various amounts of funds and manpower for their contest, and promise to book SuperBowl time for the winner. (That they didn't get it is a bit irrelevant here.) After all of this, they put absolutely no screening process or editorial control on their site before the ads are made available for download. A few days later, after complaints, they take down the offending ads.

Now, if this is true, the people responsible for this campaign, all the way up the line, should have the words "INTERNET NEWBIE" tattooed on their scalp, a full copy of Godwin's Law tattooed on their ass, a dunce cap superglued to their scalp, and special laws passed to make sure none of them can get near a keyboard again. This--and I hope Martin would agree--is just dumb. Given MoveOn's size, the fervor of its adherents, and heck, just the open nature of the internet, you would have no idea what you would be spewing out from your server an hour after you launched the site. The legal ramifications would be galling, much less the publicity risks. [Update 1]

But, I hear you ask, isn't that what you do with your comments section here on TYoH? Well, sure but it's a risk I take consciously and conscientiously. This is a small-scale site, most of whose readership is either friends or other law students, on average an educated, moderate, and cautious bunch. I figure my chances of anyone posting anything that would make me lose a spectacular amount of face is low. (I'm not even a student senate candidate.) And if such were to occur, removal would be as swift as I could make it, a ban on that user as complete as technology allows, and an apology unqualified. This site is my responsibility, and you should expect nothing less. I've already banned users, or in some cases written an offended party and asked if they wanted the entry taken down or a chance to rebut it.

But I'm not a highly-funded political organization doing its utmost to unseat a President. What is allowable for me is foolish in such a situation. Indeed, both Bush's blog (which has no comments) and Kerry's blog (which requires registration) recognize this in exercising editorial control. (Come to think of it, Kerry's blog still hasn't given me a password. Go figure.) The large companies I worked with when I was in the web business all recognized this as a risk when we pushed interactive solutions at them.

This isn't brain surgery. If MoveOn were truly worried about this kind of thing, I can't believe they'd not put editorial control in place. If Kerry was so worried about such things, he'd not have hired Move On's web guru Zach Exley to manage his online campaign. The risk is just too big.

(Mr. J. responds to this argument as follows: "Umm, maybe that would be because he's a web-guru, and he's being hired to be a web-guru, while the error/lapse of judgment/naivete in the MoveOn situation was one of political savvy & strategy, not one of technical ability." This would be suitable if either (a) Exley were a techy and not a strategist, and (b) if this were a small mistake. Besides, I've been a web-guru, complete with the silly moniker 'Internet Strategist': predicting these things is the job description. Seriously, this was very basic. It almost transcends the bounds of belief that it could be a 'mistake.')

Scenario Two
Roughly the same the above, except that between submission and uploading, somehow the two entries just 'slipped through.' This is slightly more favorable to MoveOn, but only slightly. One reader (Martin, actually) suggested that they may have felt no choice--that this was a 'freedom of speech' issue. But of course, freedom of speech just means that you're not to be censored by the government, not that a publisher bears no responsibility for what he chooses to publish. You can't say, "Hey, it was a contest, freedom of speech, nothing to do with me, Guv." Especially when you're footing the bill.

The only other ways its slips through is if (a) the guidelines were inspecific enough ('nothing uncivil', for instance, and your reviewer is a kid who thinks Hitler analogies are fair play), or (b) your guidelines were thorough, but not implemented correctly. Both would be species of carelessness, but neither would absolve the fact that MoveOn put them online and distributed them. In which case, I'd say their opinions didn't reflect my own opinions: what MoveOn has done. But it wouldn't invalidate the Bush campaign's complaints--I let the genie out of the bottle. They wouldn't stop them from being my ads, just as any comment that appears here is a TYoH comment.

Would I hope that if something like that got posted on my site, I'd get a bit more slack? Sure. But on the other hand, as the debate on this site shows, I don't just flack for one side of the fence, my comments (or 'contests' if I ever had them) have room for both sides, and I'm willing to keep things civil. I like to think I've earned that deference. MoveOn, as one can see below, doesn't exactly have that right.

So Why Does This Say Anything About Kerry, Or MoveOn.Org?
So now someone is undoubtedly saying, "Wait, Tony, that doesn't sound right. You're defending someone calling someone else Hitler?" Well, no. However, I think that if a candidate makes an ad saying, "Some of those who support my opponent--people from whom he receives aid, support, and succor--compare me to Hitler," that's a whole different ballgame. Especially if some of them do. But of course, MoveOn.Org would never support such a thing--not on 'non-contest' pages, would it?

Erm... well. Let's take today's top headline off MoveOn.Org: "Al Gore: The Bush Administration is Destroying Democracy." This highly temperate, always civil speech was given to the American Constitution Society, recently host to Justice Calabresi's Hitler/Bush 'complex legal argument.' And right in the prepared remarks PDF, what does one find but:

The administration works closely with a network of rapid-response digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for undermining support for our troops.

(emphasis mine) Now, if your front-page headline calls followers of your opposition candidate 'brownshirts,' it's a little rich to complain that you believe comparisons to WWII dictators are beyond the pale. I mean, who did the brownshirts work for?

Most certainly Kerry could probably populate a similar ad, full of references comparing various Democrats, if not Kerry himself, to Hitler. And if he did, I'd say the same thing of him: he's probably right in saying that some do, and it would be a negative ad of stunningly bad tactical strategy. But it's not the same thing as making the original comparison--or publishing it under a 'contest.'

Was the Bush campaign disingenuous in failing to mention that MoveOn.Org pulled the ad mentioned? Hell yes. Was MoveOn.Org less than forthright in its protestations of innocence and 'apology?' Well, let's just say that I would have considered good manners to suggest an actual apology to Bush for making the comparison, were it felt so heinous I pulled the ad. And if the above two weren't telling the whole truth, well, what can we say about John Kerry's fundraising letter, which fails to mention any relationship between those images an MoveOn.Org at all? Certainly no party in this dispute is being a paragon of clarity. That, unfortunately, is politics today, and largely what I write my Ridiculous Bipartisanship about. But you can't have it both ways: if you're mad at the Bush campaign, the others are using the same playbook.

But can MoveOn disclaim responsibility for the ads? Hardly. Were it not for MoveOn, they would not have gotten the bandwidth they did, the audience they did, or the popularity they did. Everything here on TYoH is sponsored by me, unless you're paying me for ad space. I just don't see why anyone would excuse MoveOn.

[1]: And for those who object to me calling Bush's staff or helpers 'minions,' please remember that here at TYoH, the term is used with much fondness...

UPDATE 1: If you really need an example of the legal risks, think of the size of the site, its multi-state and multi-national readership, and what happens if someone uploads child porn. I'm certainly not expert enough to know for sure, but I know that I wouldn't take that kind of risk.

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Comments

Hmm. Now that I look back on it, this abridged version isn't very abridged. ;)
Won't read all of that sophistry, but I'll respond. Before you attack me for that, reference your entries on M. Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11. I did read the final paragraph: "But can MoveOn disclaim responsibility for the ads? Hardly. Were it not for MoveOn, they would not have gotten the bandwidth they did, the audience they did, or the popularity they did." Actually, only the bandwidth is attributable to MoveOn. The audience and popularity of those ads is entirely due to the herculean efforts of the right wing to publish them.
I won't attack you for that. I'll simply take your comments for what they're worth.
Fair enough. I deserved that. Your dishonesty really pisses me off, though, and it's made worse by the fact that I can't decide whether it's purposeful or not.
(Mr. J. responds to this argument as follows: "Umm, maybe that would be because he's a web-guru, and he's being hired to be a web-guru, while the error/lapse of judgment/naivete in the MoveOn situation was one of political savvy & strategy, not one of technical ability." This would be suitable if either (a) Exley were a techy and not a strategist, and (b) if this were a small mistake. Besides, I've been a web-guru, complete with the silly moniker 'Internet Strategist': predicting these things is the job description. Seriously, this was very basic. It almost transcends the bounds of belief that it could be a 'mistake.') Come on Tony. It is suitable because a) Exley is a techie, and because b) the screening process/lack thereof, whether naive or stupid or whatever, again, was not technical or web-related. It was a judgment call. Neither you nor I know who made it. But Exley is a techie, and the Kerry campaign hired him as such, & he will not likely be in a position to make similar judgment calls, as he was hired for his internet expertise. Again, I imagine he'll be kept under a strict leash by his strategist supervisors & asked to implement their ideas (or develop & implement his own ideas, after approval). Lastly, nice try at moving the goalposts. That MoveOn.org currently is displaying that speech has nothing to do with whether or not it's correct or misleading or dishonest to simply call the hitler ads "MoveOn.org ads" without any further description or qualification. They clearly apologized for them & removed them. Are no mistakes to be forgiven? I thought Bush's favorite political philosopher was Christ. In the other thread you make this response to me: Me -Nonetheless, if Will Baude allowed you to guest blog & you mentioned you'd be voting for President Bush, you don't think Will would be right to chastise me if I started describing his blog as "the right-wing blog Crescat Setentia, which has already expressed its intent to vote for Bush" or referring to "the avowed Bush-backer @ Crescat"? you: Well, no. And if the Bush-ad did that in anything except the most fevered of imaginations, I'd probably change my tune. But that's not what the commercial does. I wasn't talking at this point about the Bush commercial--I am talking about your stubborn insistence on calling the hitler ads "MoveOn.org ads." My point is that repeatedly describing a rejected & publicly disowned entry to an ad contest put on by MoveOn as simply a "MoveOn.org ad" is dishonest, just as it would be for me to repeatedly decry "the Bush-backing blog Crescat/DeNovo/whatever," merely because you had guest blogged, espoused your support for Bush, only for the regular bloggers to delete your post & publish a forcible rejection of your views. Let's make it very clear-- It is wrong for you/me to take the hitler ads/your guest post @ blog x and then discuss "MoveOn.org ads"/"Bush-backing Blog X" because while MoveOn.org/Blog X erred in screening entrants' creations/your post & putting this content on their site, they have since strongly disavowed & removed the material. My problem isn't with your take on the Bush ad--as you said, you thought it was clumsy & poorly conceived. I agree--and I think an ad titled "The Faces of John Kerry's Democratic Party" which contains images of Hitler, however used or intended, is going to primarily leave the impression that Hitler'd be at home in John Kerry's Democratic Pary. I understand the GOP point that were simply making an ad playing up how unreasonable & intemperate their opponents are, and that could very well be their intention. But after it's been pointed out to them that their homepage prominently features an ad titled "The Faces of John Kerry's Democratic Party" & contains images of Hitler, and they keep it up, that conduct is a little fishy. They could at least change the title a bit--say, "Hate Speech from Kerry & Friends" or something. That's all beside the point & it wasn't the point of any of my earlier posts tho. My problem is your sloppy & misleading characterization of the odious hitler ads. Enjoy the gym when you get a chance.
But certainly, you protest too much, J. Look at your statement: My point is that repeatedly describing a rejected & publicly disowned entry to an ad contest put on by MoveOn as simply a "MoveOn.org ad" is dishonest, just as it would be for me to repeatedly decry "the Bush-backing blog Crescat/DeNovo/whatever," merely because you had guest blogged, espoused your support for Bush, only for the regular bloggers to delete your post & publish a forcible rejection of your views. But of course, the two statements you give are qualitatively different in character, which was my point w/ reference to the Bush ad. You're saying that my saying they were 'MoveOn ads' (in which, to be precise, MoveOn is an adjective modifying 'ad') is the equivalent of you stating that my hypothetical Baude-piece is a 'Crescat entry' or 'Crescat article', leaving a reader who was so inclined to make the connection that Crescat approved of the content. But I can't see you having grave issue with that--it's what the entry was, after all. It's not the same to use the whole to modify the subset as to use a quality of the subset to modify the whole. In order to get to your expression of moral outrage from my example, you have to say that I said something I didn't in the statement you're criticizing: that MoveOn.Org agrees with the content of the ad. As stated above, I think referencing it with them is fine simply because they hosted it and promoted it--as I would with Crescat, and as I consider your comment above to be a TYoH comment. As for the 'techie' thing... well, if you don't believe me, I'll wait for either Len or Martin to back me up here. Let's just say that as a former web professional, you're way wrong here. 'Director of Internet Organization' is not a mere technical role, nor was his role at MoveOn a codemonkey's. Even assuming one considered such an error to be outside the realm of a tech--and I'd've castigated my programmers if they'd said such a thing--he's not merely, or I'd argue even primarily, a tech.
Is a GOP Campaign created ad with Hitler and then posted on their website the same as a non-MoveOn person uploading a similar ad to the MoveOn website? I will grant you that MoveOn provided sponsorship by allowing it to remain. However MoveOn moved to correct their mistake once they realized it. As I understand it, the GOP has done no such thing. Between the two organizations only the GOP is still appropriating Hitler's image in a political ad. Perhaps that's were the liberal anger comes from. For the record, I'm uniformly annoyed by both groups on this issue. The misinformation ad campaigns afflict people from both sides of the political spectrum. The Annenberg Political Fact Check provides a fairly detailed analysis of political ads from various groups.
And as for you, CLS1L, your casual accusations of dishonesty are ill-becoming and tiresome. If you want to engage in discussion, do so. If you wish to engage in hyperbole ('entirely due to'), at least make it amusing. If you are willing to do neither, sling insults elsewhere.
You're saying that my saying they were 'MoveOn ads' (in which, to be precise, MoveOn is an adjective modifying 'ad') is the equivalent of you stating that my hypothetical Baude-piece is a 'Crescat entry' or 'Crescat article', leaving a reader who was so inclined to make the connection that Crescat approved of the content. But I can't see you having grave issue with that--it's what the entry was, after all. Well, if Crescat deleted your 'crescat entry' & posted a vehement rejection of your 'crescat entry,' yes, I would think that's deeply unfair to them & dishonest. My repeatedly calling it a shameful Crescat entry would be technically accurate--we're getting into Clintonian-meaning-of-is terrority here--when we all really know I'm referring to a shameful Tony Rickey entry, once posted at but now deleted & denounced by Crescat. I think referencing it with them is fine simply because they hosted it and promoted it--as I would with Crescat, and as I consider your comment above to be a TYoH comment. And should you delete my comments/entries/guest posts, strongly denounce everything I said in it, if Billy Bob on the street kept slamming you and the idiocy/moronic-pinko-fanaticism of TYoH entries, wouldn't you feel Billy was being just a wee bit disingenuous--why, it's almost like Billy was totally ignoring what you said & did subsequently in order to score a cheap political & rhetorical point! As for the 'techie' thing... well, if you don't believe me, I'll wait for either Len or Martin to back me up here. Let's just say that as a former web professional, you're way wrong here. 'Director of Internet Organization' is not a mere technical role, nor was his role at MoveOn a codemonkey's. Even assuming one considered such an error to be outside the realm of a tech--and I'd've castigated my programmers if they'd said such a thing--he's not merely, or I'd argue even primarily, a tech. This is all speculation, and I'm sorry if my point isn't clear. The lack of a screening process is not a technical fault. It's a very poor strategic decision. Maybe Exley made it, maybe he didn't--neither you or I know that. We do know that Kerry hired him to help with his web deployment & development--I'm merely saying that I very much doubt Exley will be given any near as much strategic latitude as he enjoyed back at MoveOn (where, obviously, and I've never disputed your characterization, he did exercise plenty of, as Bush would say, strategeric muscle). Kerry is not hiring him to make political decisions; he's hiring him to help utilize the web to spread the message & strategy developed by Kerry's closest & top advisors & policy-makers; I have great doubt that Exley is anywhere near the top of Kerry's strategic advisors, and therefore I view his appointment to the campaign as more of a technical implementer. But again, this is all speculation, and, if we're going to engage in that, how about speculating why the makers of such a grotesque ad were so keen to insert that little "Sponsored by MoveOn.org" tag at the end? As I said, it's awfully convenient, and seems as tho the creator wanted to be very sure every viewer could associate his/her creation with MoveOn.org. Lastly, MattM makes a good point, similar to one I raised. We all know what you & the Bushies say their ad is supposed to express--outrage at Liberals' extremism & readiness to compare GOP folks to Hitler. Yet....the GOP is titling this ad, which contains Adolph Hitler's image, "The Faces of John Kerry's Democratic Party." Come on, admit it, that seems pretty likely to convey to the casual viewer that Hitler'd be a Democrat if he were alive today. Go ahead & grant them good faith--they didn't initially realize their title could have such an effect. Fine. But now it's been pointed out to them. They haven't removed it. They haven't even changed the title (to something clearer like Hate Speech from Kerry & Friends). Of course, even that could be construed as claiming Kerry & company's 'hate speech' was on par with Hitler's. Which is to say, really, there's no good way to use Hitler in an ad. They should take it down. MoveOn.org took the ad, which they didn't create & never had much distribution anyway (their voting members), down. The Bush campaign leaves it up, and prominently displays it (with, of course, the Hitler ad author's little "Sponsored by MoveOn.org tag). That's about all there is to say, really.
And should you delete my comments/entries/guest posts, strongly denounce everything I said in it, if Billy Bob on the street kept slamming you and the idiocy/moronic-pinko-fanaticism of TYoH entries, wouldn't you feel Billy was being just a wee bit disingenuous--why, it's almost like Billy was totally ignoring what you said & did subsequently in order to score a cheap political & rhetorical point! No. Again, assuming that I'm Mr. Baude, I'd probably suck it up and admit that I made a serious error in allowing a right-wing lunatic free access to my site with no editorial control. I'd then state as plainly as I possibly could that I would never advocate the views expressed in the horrible post of Mr. Rickey's, and I regret the harm it caused to its victims. Unequivocally. Of course, my retraction would be materially weakened, in fact made ridiculous, if simultaneously my lead article were busy making the same statement that I was simultaneously claiming is beyond the pale to allege my site would ever use. To pick on Mr. Baude again, if his headline were to read "BAUDE QUITS LIBERTARIANS, BECOMES AVOWED REPUBLICAN." In which case, I'd probably fall back on some specific way to distance myself from the particular imagery that was used--never mind my responsibility for it in the first place, through either negligence or incompetence--whilst disingenuously ignoring the fact that the substantive allegation is in fact true. (If MoveOn really thought Hitler comparisons were beyond the pale, Gore's words wouldn't be there.) Which is precisely what MoveOn did, and what you think is far less disingenuous than me stating the obvious--that those ads were 'MoveOn' ads, in the same way that my guest posts were 'Crescat entries' and your comments are 'TYoH' comments.
Jesus, are they giving you enough work over there? Now, while my knowledge of Internet Law extends barely beyond the UK lets give this a go. In the UK if you edit in any way the content of a page on sites you provide you're held to have published it. An exception is made for removing stuff completely. You become, in effect the publisher if you edit or otherwise moderate comments. So were Tony working from a UK server and restricting himself to deleting comments he didn't like he wouldn't have to take responsibility for those remaining. So while it's nice of Tony to take responsibility for all the bad things I've ever written in his comments I'm not going to present them as his opinions. I don't have to, because Tony is. Which is interesting because it means that anyone who wants can turn up here, post stuff to Tony's blog and at any future point explain that Tony espoused the opinion. Just as a 30 second entry submitted to Moveon becomes a Moveon ad, a 30 word comment becomes a published opinion of Tony. [Note, if an entry can become an ad a comment can sure as hell become an opinion] So rather than continue this discussion I'd propose using this thread to create and assign opinions to Mr Rickey. A man who will be delighted to learn the following * Marlbro lights are far superior in taste and aroma to the best Cuban cigars, or indeed any other form of cigars * Vegetarianism is a moral imperative for all rational beings * Bacardi Breezer should always be drunk ahead of any form of whiskey/whisky * You should only have sex with your wife Add your opinions for Tony below...
Ah, on more detailed reading of this thread I note that these aren't necessarily things you support, just things you said/published/whatevered So I'll just have to settle for saying that you published the opinions above and leave off any redeeming context...
Martin: That's perfectly fine. You see, the advantage of having a solid reputation for not believing such nonsense as the above--especially the bit about Cuban cigars--is that even were you to say such things, then anyone who knew me vaguely would wonder what it was about, look, and probably check here to see me state, categorically, that it's not so. Though I've never smoked a Marlboro Light, so who knows, you may be right, I'm not taking the risk to find out. (And anyone who didn't know me probably isn't going to care.) The damage is minimal. This is rather why I find all this effort to defend MoveOn quite so silly: MoveOn clearly isn't serious in stating that it believes a Bush/Hitler comparison is beyond the pale. At the very worst, the Bush campaign is implying that the retraction of the ad submission wasn't genuine--which, frankly, would be untrusting, but not beyond argument. In the end, MoveOn's problem is that however much it protests about that specific advertisment, the charge itself is credible to anyone with a passing knowledge of their organization. With any of your statements above... well, let's just say I don't have a reputation for vegetarianism. That's not to say, again, that the ad was good or very wise, but merely to say that MoveOn's moral outrage ('How dare they say we'd do something that tasteless!') seems odd, given that the line they draw between good taste and bad taste doesn't seem to be between the expression of an idea and its rejection, but whether it's expressed in a Flash file or a PDF.
Tony, you continue to surprise me. Moving the goalposts & distortions are not forms of argumentation I'd typically expect from you. my retraction would be materially weakened, in fact made ridiculous, if simultaneously my lead article were busy making the same statement that I was simultaneously claiming is beyond the pale to allege my site would ever use. To pick on Mr. Baude again, if his headline were to read "BAUDE QUITS LIBERTARIANS, BECOMES AVOWED REPUBLICAN." To start, you initially were calling them MoveOn ads long before you decided to try & hype the group's link/posting/whatever to Gore's speech in which he discusses digital brownshirts. That speech doesn't seem to have been part of your original reasons for using that term. That's nice that you'd now like to try & use it to justify your labeling, but I don't buy it. It would be especially believable if you said, "Hey, look, you're probably right. It was kind of unfair of me to tar MoveOn with content they've removed & strongly disavowed....However, let us examine just how truly they've disavowed it. Look at this speech. Maybe my original term wasn't so far off the mark given what they're linking to these days." That would be an argument of integrity, and a pretty strong one at that. But you don't seem to be making that--you seem to want to say that now & forever & always in the past, it was correct to call it a MoveOn.org ad. In which case, I'd probably fall back on some specific way to distance myself from the particular imagery that was used--never mind my responsibility for it in the first place, through either negligence or incompetence--whilst disingenuously ignoring the fact that the substantive allegation is in fact true. (If MoveOn really thought Hitler comparisons were beyond the pale, Gore's words wouldn't be there.) Which is precisely what MoveOn did, and what you think is far less disingenuous than me stating the obvious--that those ads were 'MoveOn' ads, in the same way that my guest posts were 'Crescat entries' and your comments are 'TYoH' comments. Where in that apology do you find MoveOn saying Hitler comparisons are beyond the pale? I see them responding the RNC charges of sponsoring the ads (neatly made possible thanks to that one author's spiffy "Sponsored by MoveOn.org" tag so conveniently included at the end): "None of these was our ad, nor did their appearance constitute endorsement or sponsorship by MoveOn.org Voter Fund. They will not appear on TV. We do not support the sentiment expressed in the two Hitler submissions. They were voted down by our members and the public, who reviewed the ads and submitted nearly 3 million critiques in the process of choosing the 15 finalist entries. We agree that the two ads in question were in poor taste and deeply regret that they slipped through our screening process. In the future, if we publish or broadcast raw material, we will create a more effective filtering system." They're saying they don't support expressions that equate Bush with Hitler. Gore's statement described the actions & activities of a few internet loons, using the term "digital brownshirts," which obviously references the Nazis but isn't unheard of in referring to generally hateful, antisocial & intolerant violent opposition to political enemies. Yes, he charged that the administration works closely with these goons, and that is over the top. But you can't possibly deny that there are people out there in this country--both on right & left, Freepers/LGF commenters & DU commenters alike--for whom that label unfortunately fits a little too comfortably. Bloggers who write pretend futuristic news stories where Democratic members of Congress have been murdered deserve the term Brownshirt. People who burn Dixie Chicks albums because a member said she was embarrassed to be from Texas are frighteningly close to deserving that term as well--so are the folks who beat the San Francisco artist whose paintings dealt with the Abu Ghraib abuse (and this blogger who thinks the beating didn't go far enough!). Etc etc. And I know you can give me examples of lefties being just as despicable & hateful, and on whom the label brownshirt wouldn't rest uncomfortably. Gore shouldn't have implied or said Bush coordinated with these goons--they clearly act on their own. They may support him, and that may be food for thought, but it's odious to suggest his encouragement & guidance to them. But describing the actions of hateful extremists as brownshirts is massively different than an ad entry which compares the President himself to Hitler. MoveOn is clearly not too squeamish about linking to those who make some pretty extreme comparisons & using some very aggressive rhetoric--but they have clearly disavowed the ads submitted to their contest which equated Bush with Hitler. Those Hitler ads simply are not MoveOn.org ads. For all the reasons outlined above, but I want to add one more--because it's not an ad!! It was never run. It was an entry to MoveOn's contest, just as this is an entry to TYoH comments. This is not a TYoH post, and that is not a MoveOn ad. If you deleted & denounced my comment, it would be incredibly dishonest of somebody to persist in banging on about the content of my "TYoH post." My writing would most accurately be described as a "comment submitted to TYoH [and later deleted & denounced]," just as the Hitler ads ought to be described as "entries to MoveOn.org's ad contest" [later deleted & denounced--tho of course you'd want to add your belief about the insincerity of their denouncement given their approval of Gore's speech. That's a fine argument, I just don't agree--I think equating Bush to Hitler & some extemist fanatics to brownshirts is a case of apples & oranges. But it'd be a lot more forthright than the ones you have been making].
By the way, I'm no huge believer in MoveOn.org. They kind of annoy me. But just as you have been known to defend different folks with whom you don't entirely agree from unfair treatment (say, that Saved movie, for instance), I'm just doing the same to MoveOn.org here in response to what I think is your unfair smear on them in repeatedly terming [& defending doing so] the Hitler ads "MoveOn ads."
To start, you initially were calling them MoveOn ads long before you decided to try & hype the group's link/posting/whatever to Gore's speech in which he discusses digital brownshirts. That speech doesn't seem to have been part of your original reasons for using that term. That's nice that you'd now like to try & use it to justify your labeling, but I don't buy it. Perhaps I was unclear, because no goalpost moving has occurred. As stated above, the fact that they published the ad on their website is perfectly sufficient for me to call them 'MoveOn ads.' What I'm trying to indicate is why doing so leads to morally justifiable results, and is thus a just thing to do. The point of that comment was merely to indicate my wonderment at an argument that boils down to, at its very best, "Bush shouldn't have accused MoveOn of being the kind of extremists who make unwarranted Hitler comparisons based on that posting! They should have based it on this one instead!" Before we get to the separate issue of the quality of Gore's 'brownshirts' remarks (on which you're too forgiving by half) let's get to what your disagreement boils down to:
It was an entry to MoveOn's contest, just as this is an entry to TYoH comments. This is not a TYoH post, and that is not a MoveOn ad....If you deleted & denounced my comment, it would be incredibly dishonest of somebody to persist in banging on about the content of my "TYoH post."
This, of course, is where we disagree: so long as you're not paying for space on here--and unless you've sent me a check recently, you aren't--it's a TYoH post. Now, we're making competing claims of moral responsibility, so let's analyse where each of our points gets us. If we accept me contention that a website owner is responsible for what is printed on his site when he has commissioned it, then I have to accept my responsibility in running this site. And if you post something meretricious, libellous, or otherwise reprehensible, I know that it will reflect badly upon me. That even if I retract it--which I will do as forcefully as possibly--TYoH will risk becoming known as a hangout for extremists, boors, the careless and the offensive. Hence, I'll act quickly to censor, discourage, or eliminate such behavior. If it looked like the comments here had a significant risk of harming my professional reputation, I'd shut them down completely. By being willing to state that posts here are TYoH posts, if not my opinions, I'm encouraged to an appropriate and professional duty of care. Under your standard, none of this has anything to do with me. I can just delete a comment, retract it, make no apology to those injured, and shrug it off. Nuthin' to do with me, guv', haven't a clue why those Nazi pictures ended up here. You can't pin those on me as mine. Thousands of MB of bandwidth? Hey, it's all these automatic machine thingamajigs, and whoudathought that if I started an anti-Bush contest, one or two of the entries might have Hitler in it? OK, we ran something saying that we sponsored it, but hell, it's not like we checked it or anything. No fair holding us to account. Not ours. Nope. As Fr. Bill so beautifully put it, you're giving a website owner--a publisher--permission to open the sluice gates and feign shock at what sloshes through. You'll excuse me if I find that moral proposition feeble indeed, and unworthy of anyone running a website, be it a simple blog or MoveOn. The brownshirts thing will have to wait. Nonetheless, I find it amusing that you think that accusing someone of being the type of person to use brownshirts isn't a direct comparison to Hitler. Nor, incidentally, were the brownshirts primarily castigated for writing futuristic news stories, burning albums that belonged to them, or writing blog entries. And somehow, if Gore was referring to the kind of actual physical violence you mentioned and stating Bush was behind it, your argument against MoveOn's extremism would seem completely flat.
Oh, and, incidentally: Where in that apology do you find MoveOn saying Hitler comparisons are beyond the pale? Well, if they don't, to what were they referring to when they said, "We agree that the two ads in question were in poor taste and deeply regret that they slipped through our screening process." I mean, I'm assuming that they were referring to Hitler comparisons. They might have been referring to the color scheme of the advertisement, the sound quality, or some other error of taste, but I must admit they seemed to be implying that comparing President Bush to Hitler was in poor taste. I suppose you might make some argument that they're in poor taste only when put in moving images and set to a soundtrack: that invoking the image of Hitler is vile, but the idea of Hitler is OK. This, however, is a distinction that passes my humble intellect's ability to fathom.
Tony, I have no doubt you'll happily continue to ignore your opponents' arguments, construct fanciful strawmen & gleefully shred them for years to come, although, sadly, this will probably be your last opportunity to do so to me. I'm glad you "find it amusing that you think that accusing someone of being the type of person to use brownshirts isn't a direct comparison to Hitler." Did you read my post? You know, that part about how I said that "Gore shouldn't have implied or said Bush coordinated with these goons" or how doing so was "over the top"? You see how I wasn't defending the term "digital brownshirts" as Gore used it (ie claiming Bush employed them)? Rather, I was merely pointing out that the term digital brownshirts--like, say, storm troopers--isn't necessarily always & inevitably & undeniably a direct comparison to Hitler, that it can generally refer to violent, extemist & hateful behavior (and combined with digital--writings). Calling someone a fascist is pretty extreme, but we hardly take the term always to refer to Mussolini, just as the 'femi-nazis' of Limbaugh were clearly not thought to be jew-hating uber-violent ladies (not that I think the term femi-nazi is acceptable, merely that after 50 years these words are often [usually unfairly] invoked to refer to generally intolerant & despicable people). Oh, incidentally, thanks for pointing out that "the brownshirts [were not] primarily castigated for writing futuristic news stories, burning albums that belonged to them, or writing blog entries." I like how you left out the mention to the beatings of the SF artist--nice one!--and thanks for the history lesson ;). And, of course, how you ignore that whole "digital" word that preceded brownshirts--which serves to indicate that the people being described possess similar hate/extremism/eliminationist rhetoric of the original brownshirts, but exhibit their anti-social behavior primarily in a digital world...by, say, fantasizing about mass murdering the opposition party's representatives in government or writing about how one's political opponents deserve severe beatings. Lastly, I enjoyed your tortured musings on my question--"Where in that apology do you find MoveOn saying Hitler comparisons are beyond the pale?" You even note their statement says "We agree that the two ads in question were in poor taste and deeply regret that they slipped through our screening process." Here I was giving you credit for being able to differentiate between the specific ("the two ads in question") and the general (say, a formulation like "Hitler comparisons are beyond the pale"). How silly of me. That is, in 2004 comparing George W Bush to Hitler is clearly a massive overexaggeration, wrong-headed, ignorant, moronic, in poor taste etc etc etc. But, generally, comparing a truly extremist/eliminationist/hateful/violent/odious etc etc individual[s] to brownshirts (or inventing a new term to [sure, just a wee bit inflammatorily ;)] describe expressions of such hate) may or may not be in poor taste, inaccurate, ignorant, overexaggerated, etc etc etc. Enjoy your summer in Japan--I'm about to head out overseas myself for a month & change, & when I return, without the down time at work, I doubt I'll read much in the blogosphere.
OK, now I'm thoroughly confused: I like how you left out the mention to the beatings of the SF artist--nice one!-- I didn't. It's addressed in the next sentence after your quote. One might consider those who beat the SF artist to be brownshirts--assuming they were organized--but I simply don't see how it's relevant, unless you're making some tie between that and Bush. If Gore were calling the folks who beat up the SF artist brownshirts, he might have a point--I don't know the story well enough--but that's not what he did. Here I was giving you credit for being able to differentiate between the specific ("the two ads in question") and the general (say, a formulation like "Hitler comparisons are beyond the pale"). How silly of me. In which case, please enlighten me, because yes, I am obviously ignorant. I can think of no rule, not even a standard, that would allow one to say that the two 'ads' that MoveOn 'regrets' are in bad taste that is not either nonsensical (the ads were images, the other's a PDF) or involves saying that Hitler comparisons are in poor taste. You see, when someone says something is in poor taste, he's not usually describing some inherent quality like 'redness' or 'loudness.' Something is in poor taste because it violates some rule or norm which 'polite society' should not cross. So unless you're saying that something's tastefulness is an inherent quality, please, give me some guidelines for why you think it's in good taste for MoveOn to run one ad, but not the other. As for ignoring your arguments--that has addressed the arguments you've made. They have merely been, for the most part, lacking in any form of ordered clarity thus far. If you wish to say that I'm not able to differentiate something, then please, include some discription as to how I might differentiate it. Have yourself a nice summer.

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