Saturday, June 03, 2006

Black Velvet Bruce Lee Sue-icide

Recent doings on Virginia’s political landscape have had blogging at the heart of them. One story is about a candidate's own bloggers beating up on him, without meaning to. Or, so they say. The other is about a failed candidate who has gotten so bent out of shape by his indignation he has decided to sue a blogger for driving him to distraction.

For the last week a discussion about a team of bloggers working in support of Jim Webb’s effort to win a June 13th primary has been underway on the Internet. Not so different from millions of other cyber discussions, it matters only to a tiny fraction of the potential audience available on the Internet. Inside a wee world within a world -- the Virginia political blogosphere -- it has had bloggers furiously tapping away at their keyboards in various nooks of the Old Dominion.

Actually, I only assume they are all somewhere in Virginia. In truth, for all I know some are actually somewhere in Baghdad, blogging in lulls between explosions.

SLANTblog and others have suggested that too much of those Webb bloggers’ language has been potentially alarming/annoying to a casual reader outside the Virginia political blogging loop, so over-the-top -- even silly -- that it could easily drive that reader away from further consideration of Webb.

After all, it’s reasonable to assume there will be voters searching for articles about Webb and his opponent Harris Miller online in the days just before the primary. Some of those readers, just starting to focus on a summertime primary race are going to stumble knee-deep into a you-did-it-first! you-always-lie! mudslinging contest that smells anything but pretty.

For some readers that might be entertaining. For others it will be off-putting. For all it will make the contest look typical of today’s negative style of campaigning. The problem for Webb in that scenario is that he isn’t a typical pol at all. But the style being used by some of his bloggers is painting Webb in a way that negates his uniqueness. It also obscures what I see as his strong suit -- his natural ability to project dignity.

In fairness, Miller’s bloggers can be just as obstreperous. And relax, don’t choke on your baklava, I know there a few Webb bloggers who haven’t been all that over-the-top.

So the two sides of Miller vs. Webb have been sending lowbrow zingers back and forth on the Internet all day for months and calling it “campaigning.” Unfortunately, they overlook this obvious truth: When everyone speaks in the same shrill monotone, the substance of all their speech is obscured.

That’s it in a nutshell. And, I say nutshell because some of the bloggers think I’m nuts, senile? or at least they are willing to pretend they do. Some quip, “nobody reads blogs,” then out of the other side of their mouths they brag about how many hits their web sites average.

Well, all in all, I think this discussion has been more healthy than not. It may have made a few people think for themselves, for a change, instead of always running in a pack. My thinking has been sharpened on some things. It may have even drawn some interest in the race that wasn't there before. It’s been a debate about style more than substance. After all, I’m for Webb, just as they are. Or, are they?

Could some of those Baghdad bloggers actually be Republicans posing as Democrats, just for grins? Yes, they could.

That’s how it is on the Internet. Authenticity is a rather short supply. Still, the angriest of the Webb bloggers and SLANTblog aren’t throwing any legal action at each other. Which leads us to this oddball story: On the other side of the virtual aisle they are sending in the lawyers. This story about a Manassas Republican and a web site known as Black Velvet Bruce Lee is a hoot. It’s funny to me. Probably the Webb bloggers agree; maybe the Baghdad bloggers do too. But in Manassas, to Republicans, it’s maybe not so funny, as it is pitiful.

Read about it in the Manassas Journal Messenger.

“...Chapman's spokesman, Faisal Gill, said Chapman missed the [filing deadline for candidates] because he was distracted by the ongoing defamation lawsuit against an Internet blogger. ‘I think he was kind of caught up with that and it was just something that he missed,’ Gill said.

“Chapman is suing a blogger who goes by the name Black Velvet Bruce Lee and follows Manassas politics. On several postings, the blogger and his Web site contributors ridiculed Chapman, called him derogatory names and attacked his credibility.”

Verdict: Whoever advised Steve Chapman to go for a strategy named “sue” ought to have his head examined. Suing a mischievous blog calling itself “Black Velvet Bruce Lee” is about as dumb as a bag of hammers. Now Mr. Chapman, 28, has no future in politics as a candidate with any serious players. Plus, by magnifying this thing, as he is doing by suing, Chapman is going to be hearing Black Velvet Bruce Lee jokes the rest of his life.


Virginia Centrist said...

"Well, all in all, I think this discussion has been more healthy than not. It may have made a few people think for themselves, for a change, instead of always running in a pack. My thinking has been sharpened on some things. It may have even drawn some interest in the race that wasn't there before"

That's probably right. I've been thinking hard about these issues for the last few days. And while we disagree...well yeah.

F.T. Rea said...

virginia centrist,

Allow me to say you've chosen a name for your political blogging persona -- "virginia centrist" -- that may be as opposite from what I dubbed my little 'zine in the '80s, SLANT, as I've seen. In my day, I wanted to signal the reader, plainly, I was publishing a stream-of-the-moment opinion rag, for the pure fun of it, don’t say you weren't warned.

Perhaps the name "virginia centrist" is your attempt at a wiseass goof on the whole copycat, branding, safe-as-milk way of choosing an inoffensive name for products and policies these days.

Then again, I shouldn’t assume your reasons for using that nameplate.

Either way, propaganda is an old game. There are lots of ways to play it. Some of us do the painfully obvious, others use the oblique. Sometimes the two approaches actually move toward the same end. Your comments are appreciated