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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The latest load through the spin cycle

By David Servatius

There they go again. The right-wing, faux-outrage machine is in overdrive, and gasbags all over the right side of the political spectrum are in high dudgeon, huffing and puffing on cable talk shows, hate-radio broadcasts and in the blogosphere.

The trigger this time was when the stridently anti-war advocacy group MoveOn.org ran an ad in The New York Times during the congressional testimony of General Petraeus regarding progress in Iraq. In the ad, they used a clumsy play on words, rhyming the general’s name and the phrase “betray us” to make the point that the testimony was not honest or accurate and, in effect, betrayed both the troops in the field and the United States.

A lot of rigorous reporting has shown that this is exactly the case — that the general was doing nothing more than providing President George Bush with cover behind his medals and carrying his political water for him.

But now, predictably on cue and almost symphony-like, you can hear screaming and howling and whining from coast to coast. “Oh my God, what about the children? The horror! They (shudder) rhymed a hero’s name with ‘betray us!'”

Yawn. It’s a tactic that has been used over and over. What is troubling is how highly efficient and ultimately effective it still is each time.

Here is how it works. Someone on the right catches an opponent of any right-wing policy in a benign error of judgment. The Republican National Committee spin doctors then get hold of that unfortunate moment, distort it, craft a set of talking points around it and send it all into the right-wing echo chamber where it spreads like wildfire. The Limbaughs, Hannitys, Coulters, Drudges and Freepers — and the network of clones they have spawned — all start drumming the “outrage” into a dumbed-down and distracted nation’s conscience.

Finally, the mainstream media feels an “obligation” to report on what is being discussed so frenetically on the right fringe, and the blanket saturation is complete. The whole process is lightning fast. Echo. Amplify. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. In no time, the entire country is wasting time and energy discussing what is essentially a name-calling incident instead of whether or not we are getting the whole truth from our leaders about matters of war. It’s admirable, really, if it weren’t so insidious.

We saw this same thing during the 2004 election. In one of the debates, John Kerry made a passing reference to Dick Cheney’s daughter being gay while answering a question on the subject. Suddenly, the machine kicked into gear and after only one or two news cycles — lather, rinse, repeat — the entire country was busy discussing whether or not John Kerry was a “bad, bad man” and not the fact that the senator had just completely trounced George Bush on every level in the debate.

It’s really old. Let’s not fall for it this time. Let’s see it for the dishonest tactic that it is. How can anyone take the moral indignation of the right wing seriously at this point anyway? This group essentially forfeited the moral high ground when they mocked the injuries of a decorated war hero at their party’s last presidential nominating convention. Remember how funny they all thought they were sporting their purple Band-Aids?

The outrage here is not MoveOn’s ad in The New York Times. The outrage is what Sen. Chuck Hagel, a very pro-military Republican, articulated perfectly last week on “Real Time with Bill Maher” when he said, “It’s not only a dirty trick (to send a military man to do a political sell-job), but it’s dishonest, it’s hypocritical, it’s dangerous and irresponsible. The fact is this is not Petraeus’ policy; it’s Bush’s policy. The military is subservient to the elected public officials of this country…but to put our military in a position that this administration has put them in is just wrong, and it’s dangerous.”

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