Saturday, September 18, 2004

Swift Boat Bloggers for PR

Robert Sam Anson suggests that there is something fishy about the blogger campaign to attack the CBS memos, referring to a Freeper posting by someone named 'Buckhead' a little over three hours after the CBS report first aired:

"First (leaving aside how suspiciously well Buckhead puts sentences together for a righty blogger), there's the extraordinary, yeah, boggling, knowledge of typewriting arcana. More remarkable still are the circumstances under which discernment occurred. Namely, viewing the document on a TV screen from a presumed distance of six to a dozen feet. Folks who make their living at this sort of thing rely on magnifying glasses, if not microscopes. And they don’t venture opinions unless the document's in their puss.

Then there's the warp speed with which Buckhead discerned monkey business. The last big document mess was the trove that conned Seymour Hersh into believing Jack Kennedy signed a contract with Marilyn Monroe agreeing to pay a hundred grand in consideration of her shutting up about their adventures between the sheets, as well as his pillow talk of owing the 1960 election to the good offices of Chicago mob boss Sam (Momo) Giancana. Their exposure (in which your correspondent had a walk-on) took weeks. And those documents were nutso on their face.

Another timing oddity which may or may not be related to the mysterious Buckhead, depending on your choice of villain, is the Pentagon's release of allegedly newly-discovered records of Mr. Bush’s flight hours and middling piloting abilities one day almost to the minute before Mr. Rather’s report—following four months of insisting there were no more documents to disgorge. Second coincidence: The Pentagon release came hours after the Boston Globe, poring through yet other records, reported that Mr. Bush 'fell well short of meeting his military obligation' by failing to report to a Boston-area Guard unit after he enrolled in the Harvard Business School, and by earlier ducking out on required training and drills for a total of nine months. Either could have landed Mr. Bush on full-time active duty for two years, potentially in Vietnam. But he received no punishment whatsoever.

Finally, there's a detail that appears to have escaped press notice: The Web site where Buckhead's posting appeared also happens to be the repository for anti-Jew, anti-Catholic, anti-homosexual, anti-John Kerry rants by Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D. And whom, you ask, is Dr. Corsi? Co-author of the best-selling Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, that's who."

After digesting that, read what PR Week has to say:

"Creative Response Concepts (CRC), the VA-based agency promoting the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, used right-wing blogs and news sites to turn a CBS report casting doubt on President George W. Bush's National Guard service into a potential black eye for both the network and the Democrats.

A CRC client, the Cybercast News Service (CNS), was among the first to voice suspicion that documents suggesting Bush had received preferential treatment in the Guard were forgeries.

'After the CBS story aired, [CNS] called typographical experts, got them on the record that these papers were fishy, and posted a story by 3pm Thursday,' said CRC SVP Keith Appell. 'We were immediately in contact with [Matt] Drudge, who loved the story.'

CRC worked with CNS and the Media Research Center, another media watchdog client, to push the story into the mainstream press.

'We've been communicating with bloggers and news websites to make sure they know it isn't just Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge who are raising questions,' added CRC president Greg Mueller."

After someone probably pointed out that the Official Story is that populist bloggers did the CBS story all by their lonesomes, and that PR firms are paid to stick to the Official Story and not blow their own horns, CRC issued a sort of retraction:

"Please understand, we never meant to imply that the blogosphere is something we did, or even could, control or direct. No one controls the bloggers. The extraordinary depth and breadth of their talent and resources only breeds one thing: a fierce independence much needed in the country. They are a force the PR industry and news media need to pay greater attention to.

In the interview with PR Week, we tried to communicate that the bloggers, and then CNS, were moving this story, which we then began pushing to conservative media, news websites and 'mainstream' press.

If anything, we're just proud that our client, CNS News, provided some hard news reporting to add some gasoline to the already rampant wildfire that the bloggers had started. Do we deserve credit for that? Not nearly as much as the guys at PowerLine, Instapundit, LittleGreenFootballs, INDCJournal, Allahpundit, and so many others deserve."

The conspiracy is starting to unravel. CBS was attacked, not by bloggers, but by swift boats. As I wrote a few days ago on what I called the 'quick blogger response team', the coordinated way in which the bloggers worked, together with their amazing speed and instant expertise on old typewriters and fonts, not to mention the way their postings were seamlessly integrated into the mainstream media, indicates that the attack on the CBS memos was not the bottom-up populist unorganized campaign that has been depicted by the right-wing media, but nothing less than a propaganda blitz by the Republican Party to deflect attention from some very embarrassing material by attacking the messenger. It should not be a surprise that PR firms would fasten on blogging as a method of disguising the fact that the message is coming from a partisan source. After all, deceiving people is their job. However, from now on Americans should never assume that just because information is coming from bloggers that it is not part of an organized campaign of disinformation.