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World Wide Dean

Howard Dean, the Blog for America, and the candidacy of the self.

11:00 PM, Jan 8, 2004 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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IT HAS BEEN WIDELY OBSERVED that Dean for President--or, as the partisans call it, "Dean for America"--isn't so much a political campaign as a movement. But if that's true of the Deaniacs in general, it's doubly true of their virtual selves. The online Dean world isn't so much a virtual community as a cult.

There's the main site, of course, there's African Americans for Dean (not to be confused with Blacks for Dean--who said the good doctor was having trouble with minorities?), Project Deanlight, Republicans for Dean--there's even a charming site called DEANIE.org, which helps people who believe in campaign finance reform, but have already maxed out their independent expenditures, navigate a loophole and find ways to donate money to other Dean supporters who need money for campaign activities. This will be the most ethical campaign in history!

But the heart and soul of Virtual Dean is his blog, the aptly named Blog for America.

THE FIRST THING one notices about the Dean blog is its authorial voice. Even though the entries are signed by individuals, it's written largely in the second person. The effect is somewhat Orwellian, and long on the ick factor.

For example, blogger Mark Sundeen wrote in mid-December, "when we reach the point where Americans get the real scoop on the propaganda before they get fed the propaganda itself . . . that's when you'll know, once again, how much you have changed politics in this country. You are unstoppable. Contribute now to defend your campaign, and keep up the vigilance."

Earlier this week, Matthew Gross told the Deaniacs, "together, as Americans, you have built the only campaign strong enough to defeat George Bush and his corporate backers," while Clare Gannon warned that "the W. camp will try to bury you, but you don't have to let him."

The second impression from the blog is how full of indoctrination it is. Zephyr Teachout told a revival-style tale about her trip to Philadelphia:

Later we sat in the 30th street station and yelled at the ceiling so our voices would bounce back and others could hear the echoes, sharing stories that I've now heard thousands of times, but never in the same voice, stories about the why and the how of getting involved in the your hard-fought and hopeful American political revolution. [sic]

Imploring Deanites to hand out campaign literature, Gross asked readers to "please take the time to read the documents. Then, download and hand out copies of Howard Dean's Common Sense for a New Century. Ask others to join our cause. Whether responding to attack ads that perpetuate the politics of the past or leading the way to a new politics of participation, ours is the greatest grassroots campaign of the modern era--and together we are taking our country back."

And on New Year's day, Gannon was busily awarding gold stars to the best Dean followers:

So you think you're committed to this campaign? Are you committed like this? Kathleen Gallagher and Scott Morschhauser were trying to decide when to get married. Scott lives in Bettendorf, Iowa which is right on the Mississippi River and Kathleen lives in Illinois. They realized if they got married right away and Kathleen moved to Bettendorf right away, she could caucus for Dean on January 19. So they hopped on a plane to Vegas and tied the knot. . . .

Change a word here or there and the Blog for America could be a pitch for Amway or Scientology.

ONE OF THE MOST striking features of the Dean blog is the comment section, which allows readers to post their thoughts and interact with the writers and other readers in real time.