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Anti-Semitism on Obama's Website

5:40 PM, Jun 8, 2008 • By DEAN BARNETT
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Image (since removed) from Obama campaign website

The internets became briefly aflutter today when Charles Johnson noticed some rather interesting stuff on Barack Obama's official website. In the site's "community blogs" section, a post slipped in with the charming title, "How the Jewish Lobby Works." Charles also dug up another one called "Jemaah Islamiyah For Obama" that included the statement:

"We support Barack Obama for President because he is sympathetic to the plight of Muslims. He is a man of integrity, who will not be bullied by the neo-cons and the zionists. He will stand up for our oppressed palestinian brothers and sisters, whose land is being illegally occupied by that evil zionist entity whose name I just hate to even write."

The Obama campaign quickly sent the "Jewish lobby" post down the memory hole. Presumably, the "Jeemah Islamiyah" post will soon share its fate.

So does this matter? Yesterday, I wrote on the McCain campaign's wisdom in actually publishing a blog that people will read. Assorted conservative netheads agreed with this assessment, but some argued that the campaign should also "build a community." Building a community means allowing readers to make comments and, in most virtual communities, permitting them to create their own blogs within the mother blog.

But there's a problem with both virtual and real-world communities, especially large ones. The bigger a community gets, the more likely it becomes that it will have some cranks and weirdos in the population. When a community becomes a certain size, the presence of such an unattractive subpopulation becomes an inevitability. Therefore, if you willingly construct an online community of a certain size, you knowingly offer a platform to a certain number of whackjobs.

There are to ways for a campaign to deal with this. The first and most logical one is to not be in the community building business. The second is to have eternal editing vigilance in the community you've built, to make sure the whackjobs' offerings have a half-life of about thirty seconds. Obviously the Obama campaign either eschewed these two options or at the very least fell down on the second.

So how bad is this situation for the Obama campaign? One could argue that it was negligent in providing a platform to nutjobs. Fair enough, but as long it corrects the matter in a timely manner, I see no grave sin.

A bigger issue could be the inevitable question of why does the Obama campaign attract such supporters? On some large websites like the Daily Kos, a certain anti-Semitic undercurrent was impossible not to notice, especially at flash point times like during the Israel-Hezbollah war. I even wrote a story on that matter for the Daily Standard.

But the fact that Obama has anti-Semitic supporters can hardly come as a surprise. According to Rasmussen, 48% of a country of 300 million supports the man. That means he'll have not only anti-Semites but sexists, racists, flat-earthers and Yankee fans walking amongst his more sane supporters. For what it's worth, the same goes for John McCain.

So then the issue becomes whether the Obama campaign attracts an outsized number of disturbing freaks. This was the case with the Ron Paul community - the freaks defined it. Personally, I see no evidence of the same phenomenon with the Obama campaign, but if the outfit remains in the community building business, I guess they'll have the chance to prove me wrong.

The Obama campaign's real sin here is apparently having the naïve belief that it could harness the excitement of the blogosphere without dragging in all of the detritus that goes with it. Now that the Obama campaign knows it has been providing platforms to cretins, one can expect it to take remedial steps. If it fails to do so and blog posts like this keep popping up, then we'll have a rather more significant issue on our hands.