Big Brother Obama is watch­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Be care­ful, if you dare to crit­i­cize Cit­i­zen Obama, com­rade. The Web is watch­ing. Last week, Pres­i­dent Obama’s re­elec­tion team launched “At­tack Watch,” an in­ter­ac­tive web­site that al­lows the pres­i­dent’s reg­is­tered sup­port­ers to re­port in­stances of “at­tacks” against the com­man­der in chief or his record. Cit­i­zen snitches are asked to de­tail who the at­tacker is, the type of at­tack, and whether the of­fend­ing words were ac­tu­ally heard or passed along as sec­ond-hand ru­mors. The “At­tack Files” sec­tion pro­vides summary re­sponses to some com­mon smears. For ex­am­ple, the site ex­plains that, “Pres­i­dent Obama is a friend to Is­rael, de­spite un­founded claims to the con­trary.” For crit­ics, it rep­re­sents a handy list of the is­sues that most in­fu­ri­ate the White House.

The look and feel of the site con­veys a sense of fore­bod­ing. It’s Web de­sign by Or­well. A black back­ground, stark red head­ers and white text sur­round the site’s own at­tacks. Grainy black-and­white pho­tos de­pict those on the White House hit list, which in­cludes the likes of Rick Perry, Mitt Rom­ney and Glenn Beck. The de­sign is so un­con­sciously the­atri­cal and am­a­teur­ish it is hard to be­lieve it is not a par­ody.

It’s not the first time Mr. Obama has at­tempted to har­ness the In­ter­net to cre­ate a na­tion of in­for­mants. In Au­gust 2009, the White House set up the email ad­dress “flag@white­” to gather in­for­ma­tion dur­ing the de­bate over Oba­macare. Ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial press re­lease, peo­ple were ac­tu­ally sup­posed to send a note to the White House “if you get an email or see some­thing on the web about health in­sur­ance re­form that seems fishy.” The ef­fort raised seri- ous con­cern over the ap­pear­ance that the ad­min­is­tra­tion might be com­pil­ing an en­e­mies list. As if the pri­vacy im­pli­ca­tions weren’t bad enough, the ad­dress be­came in­stant spam bait. Af­ter three weeks of with­er­ing crit­i­cism, the White House aban­doned its fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion.

“At­tack Watch” ap­pears to be fol­low­ing the same path. This Obama pub­lic re­la­tions fi­asco raises the ques­tion why the White House thought it was nec­es­sary in the first place. It is easy enough to mon­i­tor web­sites and keep track of memes through key­word searches, email alerts, ag­gre­ga­tion sites or sim­ply check­ing out the Drudge Re­port. The real pur­pose of “At­tack Watch” has less to do with col­lect­ing sto­ries than amass­ing email lists and con­tri­bu­tions. The site prompts users to “sup­port the truth” with es­sen­tially un­trace­able online do­na­tions. It asks for email ad­dresses and ZIP codes of those who join the “at­tack wire.” Such in­for­ma­tion could come in handy to mobilize ground troops dur­ing the 2012 elec­tion. Some­one will­ing to take the time to sub­mit re­ports on their neigh­bors for al­legedly smear­ing Mr. Obama is prob­a­bly will­ing to work en­er­get­i­cally to get vot­ers to the polls.

“At­tack Watch” re­in­forces the sense that there is some­thing not quite right about the O Force. Build­ing a national data­base of in­for­mants is the work of an ob­ses­sive, fear­ful and des­per­ate team. It re­flects the stri­dent in­se­cu­rity of a leader who is not used to hard crit­i­cism. It plays to the creepy au­thor­i­tar­ian strain of leftist pol­i­tics, the stra­tum that con­sid­ers democ­racy a messy and use­less im­ped­i­ment to the re­al­iza­tion of utopia. It is a bad idea, poorly ex­e­cuted. If you’d like to re­port us for say­ing so, the ad­dress is­tack­

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