MoveOn.org | Ads Attacked by RNC Chairman Are Not Moveon.Org Voter Fund Ads

The Republican National Committee and its chairman have falsely accused MoveOn.org of sponsoring ads on its website which compare President Bush to Adolf Hitler. The claim is deliberately and maliciously misleading.

During December the MoveOn.org Voter Fund invited members of the public to submit ads that purported to tell the truth about the President and his policies. More than 1,500 submissions from ordinary Americans came in and were posted on a web site, bushin30seconds.org, for the public to review.

None of these was our ad, nor did their appearance constitute endorsement or sponsorship by MoveOn.org Voter Fund. They will not appear on TV. We do not support the sentiment expressed in the two Hitler submissions. They were voted down by our members and the public, who reviewed the ads and submitted nearly 3 million critiques in the process of choosing the 15 finalist entries.

We agree that the two ads in question were in poor taste and deeply regret that they slipped through our screening process.

“Slipped through”?

What does this remind me of…? Oh, yes. Remember that CNN commercial about Paula Zahn? The one that talked about how sexy she was? The one that featured a sound effect intended as a “needle scraping across record grooves” that sounded more like a zipper being unzipped? Yeah, that one (scroll down to fourth item).

Remember the full and complete explanation CNN offered of how such a spot had come to be aired? Whose idea it was, who approved it, who produced it? No? Not surprising, since CNN offered no such explanation. No one has yet taken credit for that promotion. Apparently it “just happened”.

Over at CNN, things just appear on the air spontaneously. That explains a lot.

And here it is again, the same phenomenon (albeit with a web server instead of an internationally cablecast television channel). MoveOn.org is sponsoring a “Bush in 30 Seconds” contest, in which they solicited short videos “telling the truth” about President Bush, the winner for eventual use as a broadcast advertisement for MoveOn.org.

(You’ll draw your own conclusions as to why I put “telling the truth” in quotes, I’m sure. I don’t think it would be extremist of me to say that accepting the phrase at face value would require an Orwellian definition of “truth”. They’ve made no secret of the fact that any report of the president having done something, anything, right would not be considered “truth” for their purposes.)

(Speaking of Orwellian definitions: The name “MoveOn” refers to the founding issue of the organization, the Clinton Impeachment, which they felt was Wrong and from which they advocated that the people at large and Republicans in general should “move on”. Now that their mission statement has changed and their central issue is the perceived illegitimacy of the Bush presidency, “move on” is the last thing they want to do.)

As I write, MoveOn.org has weeded the submissions down to 15 finalists, available for viewing at their website.

Yet they’re contending that the fact that submissions are viewable at their website was an accident, that certain spots comparing Bush to Hitler “just happened”: Nobody created them, nobody decided to post them on the web, nobody put them on MoveOn’s servers… it Just Happened. Could happen to anybody. Oops.

I’ll say (again) that in a free country, you can say whatever you like. You aren’t even obligated to put your name on it. But it’s rather disingenuous to suggest that MoveOn had nothing to do with it. And it’s an awfully fine distinction to draw that it isn’t actually their ad when it was created at their request and posted on their website.

So what exactly is “false” about the statement from the Republican National Committee? Are they ads? They’re ad submissions, proposed ads, given public exposure (and therefore credibility) by the agency that solicited them. I suppose if you want to be anal about it, in an absolute sense they aren’t really ads yet. But this is hair-splitting that only an attorney could love. Are they sponsored by MoveOn? They’re being served intentionally with MoveOn’s bandwidth: I’m not sure what definition of “sponsored” that doesn’t fulfill. Do they compare Bush to Hitler? Most assuredly they do.

I keep thinking this: If they didn’t want people to see it, they shouldn’t have posted it. If they’re going to post it, they should take responsibility for it. If no individual will do this, then there is no choice but to hold the entire organization responsible. If you’re going to make mistakes, you have to expect people to notice–given that the entire purpose of your organization is to create publicity.

Be careful what you wish for.

(It’s a curious interpretation of the “No Express Advocacy” limitation of a section 527 political organization that they feel they can say that Bush is Hitler, but they can’t say you shouldn’t vote for him.)

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