The blogosphere is humming; we're all doing the new Macaca dance. The lame denials from the Allen defenders have been a real hoot. Still, while it’s fun to play with a new toy, the righteous indignation part of the “Macaca” story shouldn’t be the main thrust from here on. It’s been done. The Richmond Times-Dispatch published a story about it today. Allen has issued a rather “soft-toothed” apology. The Washington Post has covered it.
Now the mainstream media will need new developments to do much more on it. The charge has been made and denied. So, what’s next?
Should the racism charge stemming from the Macaca/Mohawk gaffe be repeated, jackhammer-like with purple passion until November 7th? Should blogging supporters of Webb continue to demand a better apology, no matter what apologies have been, or will be, made?
My answer for both questions is “no.” After another day or two of racism charges and denials, most people will be tired of this story, should there be no new material. So, most the of benefit the Webb campaign can get from those tactics has already been derived.
('toon by F.T. Rea, originally published in STYLE Weekly)
The answer is that “something better” can be created, instead of waiting for it to come along. Plus, who has time to wait?
What you can do is to go all-out making fun of George Allen’s gaffes and goofs. You can make wise cracks about his 97% dittohead voting record and his penchant for gaffes that are so funny people outside of your own clique of fellow Webb supporters will laugh, too.
Also, plenty of other people -- outside of your camp -- are bound to continue to pick at the wound to Allen’s reputation from the racism angle, apart from what you do. It's sure to happen. So, you don't need to do much more of that, unless preaching to the choir is all you want to do. Sorry, the bloggers who are saying this episode has surely scuttled Allen’s presidential hopes are exaggerating. I wish they were right.
Face it: the “Felix” thing was too silly to really catch on. While it hasn’t made Webb’s camp/bloggers look clever, it was coming from the right spirit. It just wasn’t funny.
Hey, we’ve all tried to be funny at times, when it didn’t work. The thing to do is move on to the next joke. Don’t keep repeating the one that bombed.
If some of the new jokes, blurbs, ‘toons and take-offs on this Macaca gaffe are genuinely funny, they could take on a life of their own. The effect would then be magnified. That should plant another good Allen-bashing story in the newspapers -- which like to run funny stories, because their readers like to read them.
My point here is that the aspect of the gaffe that is most useful, from here on, will be the stupidity of his making such a crack -- while he was looking into the lens of a video camera. Dig it.
Allen thought he was being cute; it was a funny-sounding word; he was working the room. Not unlike when he was working the room in 1994, at the Republican convention in Richmond, when he made his infamous “soft-teeth and whiny throats” comment from the podium (see 'toon above). Sure the Republican-only crowd laughed then. But the bigger joke was on Allen, who has been dogged by that gaffe ever since because the press was there, too.
The racist angle of the most recent gaffe is not going to outrage many independents or moderate Republicans. I’d rather see the Webb campaign try to sell them the notion that Allen is an anti-intellectual faux cowboy, who can’t think for himself, because he’s as dumb as a bag of hammers.
Make fun of the gaffe as another sign of what happens when Allen, the party animal, gets away from his handlers and tries to ad-lib. Uh, oh -- more soft teeth. Furthermore, Allen is perhaps the dumbest senator of the 100, and an embarrassment to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
By the way, this technique was used quite well on a one-term Virginia Republican senator, William Scott in the mid-1970s. Some young writers in Richmond -- led by Harry Stein -- who were working for the rather lefty Richmond Mercury, managed to get the manufactured story that Scott was the dumbest person in either house of congress planted in a national news magazine.
It was more a stunt than news, but boy did it work. However, the biggest reason the stunt worked was that it had a ring of truth to it. For instance, during a Pentagon briefing in which army officials began telling him about missile silos, Scott is widely reported to have said, “Wait a minute! I’m not interested in agriculture. I want the military stuff.”
Note: This post was updated, typos and minor copy-editing at 8 p.m. on the same day.