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Monday, June 26, 2006

The story behind the story 

My dad used to use the phrase "the story behind the story" -- often, when we were talking about the news of the day, he would ask "So what's the story behind the story?" -- meaning we had to look not only at the news story itself, but at why that particular story came to be cosidered as newsworthy.
This weekend, I wondered how come it took the traditional media weeks to cover the Downing Street memo and the Plame leak investigation, but both Newsweek and Time were all over a trivial column on The New Republic website in less than 24 hours.
Billmon writes a perceptive post explaining the swiftboating of Kos this weekend:
. . . I suspect the real objective here is to try to scare away the Democratic pols who have been cozying up to Kos and the liberal blogosphere. The sight of all those powerbrokers -- Harry Reid, etc. -- lining up to kiss Kos's ring in Vegas must have really set the klaxons wailing at DLC HQ . . . The Lieberman Dems don't hate and fear Kos and the Daily Kos "community" because they are too far to the left. They hate them because they represent an emerging power center within the Democratic Party that they don't control -- what's more, one that is now much closer to the public mainstream on the central issue of our time (the Iraq War) than they are.
The overriding concern for the neolibs, I think, is not that Kos and the netroot activists will lead the party off to the far-left fringes, but rather that they are willing, even eager, to form alliances with conservative nationalists like Jim Webb (the Va. Senate candidate) who've been forced out of the GOP because of their opposition to the neocons and their insane schemes. From Marty Peretz's point of view, this is very bad. Left unchecked, it could even pose a threat to the sacred alliance with Israel.
It's not that Kos (or Webb, for that matter) are outspoken critics of the special relationship. Far from it. But it is clear that the constituencies they represent, or hope to represent, are much more skeptical about U.S. intervention in the Middle East than the Democratic old guard -- which, let's face it, is practically welded to the Israel lobby. Even worse, this is all happening at a time when the Iraq quagmire is making the costs of our imperial role in the region painfully clear.
Add in the cheerful brutality with which Kos and Jerome have skewered the consultants and the DLC Dems, the primary defeat now looming over Joe Lieberman's head, and the rice bowls that could be broken if the old system of campaign graft is abandoned, and it's easy to understand why the long knives are out.
Whether the grown ups (Peretz, Lieberman, Hillary) actually set the Swiftboat in motion, or just watched approvingly ("Who shall rid us of this meddlesome blogger?") as their hatchet boys did what comes natural, is almost irrelevant. The important thing to understand is that we have reached the point where the Dinos and their media allies are willing to use Rovian tactics against anyone who challenges their entrenched position -- even someone like Kos, who is hardly the second coming of Henry Wallace or George McGovern.
Whether that's good or bad for the Kossaks I don't know -- I suppose it depends on how much credence you give to Gandhi's old saw: "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." In the real world -- and in imperial America, too -- the truth is that sometimes they ignore you, then ridicule you, then fight you and crush you like an overripe eggplant. We'll see if that's true this time. Either way, though, it looks like the battle between the netroots and dino Dems is going to get very down and dirty indeed.
This gives the whole fight a larger frame, and in an odd way, makes its very triviality more meaningful.

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