Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Shocked, Shocked!

Yet again, I advise you to get a day pass (or subscribe) to Salon and read this article. You, too will be shocked by what you read. The shocking part is not that MoveOn.org allowed a silly ad comparing Bush to Hitler on their website. It is also not shocking to see the RNC spin machine spin out of control on this one (interestingly the only place the ad can be seen today is not at MoveOn, but at the RNC website). The shocking part is the candor of MoveOn founders, Wes Boyd and Joan Blades.

Here are a couple of snippets of Boyd and Blades' responses...

"We had a small committee running the contest," Boyd admitted, which included Pariser and rock star Moby. "We screened mostly for legal issues" -- there are limits to what the MoveOn Voter Fund's 527 status lets the group advocate politically -- "and we referred some questionable things to our lawyers. We decided to let our members decide [on content], and actually the process mostly worked really well. The good stuff rose to the top." The Hitler ads sank.

But with hindsight, given the group's new political prominence, Boyd says, "We should probably have had a content filter in the process. It's really tough when you're dealing with political speech, but we should have had one. But that's how it works. You learn, your sensitivity grows. We expressed regret, and that is real." Boyd said he'd spent the day talking to Jewish leaders who'd been offended by the ads, explaining the group's process and personally extending his apologies. "I think they've accepted our expressions of regret."

Blades acknowledged that she worried the flap could overshadow the creativity of the group's contest winners. "But I think the contest is just so cool -- the ads that were chosen are just so powerful -- that it will do what it was meant to do. Look, this 'gotcha politics' that's practiced now causes a lot of people to be afraid of getting involved. Our end goal is bringing new people into democracy, and we're achieving that. We're flexible enough to learn along the way. So we're going, 'OK, we have to be prepared to put in place ways of making sure that stuff that shouldn't get through doesn't get through, whenever we do things like this.' "


How often do you here political types say we blew it and we plan to do better next time? This won't convince O'Reilly or Drudge, but this blogger's opinion is that MoveOn's leaders are handling this just about right. Now if they could only be heard over the din.

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