Did MoveOn.org and BarackObama.com Promote Hate Speech?
The answer to this question depends on how much responsibility a moderated discussion forum has to exclude racist, anti-Semitic, and other forms of hate speech. MoveOn.org and BarackObama.com have both argued that, as anybody can post anything to their discussion forums, they are not responsible for the content.
"Exercise of editorial control" was, on the other hand, the doctrine under which Prodigy was held legally responsible for libelous material that somebody posted on a discussion board over which Prodigy exercised such control, although Congress later passed legislation to mitigate or eliminate civil liability in such cases. The bottom line is, however, that it has been proven beyond any doubt that both MoveOn.org and BarackObama.com exercised editorial control over their forums, but failed to remove hate speech even worse than what one might find at the Stormfront White Nationalist Community.
MoveOn.org and those Jewy Jews
MoveOn.org was called out in 2006 for its alleged toleration of hate speech, including the epithet "Jew Lieberman," on its prized Action Forum. MoveOn's damage control claimed that (1) right-wing operatives planted the hate speech to embarrass MoveOn.org, and (2) MoveOn.org removed the hate speech as soon as it came to MoveOn's attention.
The Action Forum's FAQ page, which is still online, proves, however, that MoveOn's moderators were fully aware of the hate speech. "All comments are read at least twice. While there is no single criteria [sic], comments that suggest a possible MoveOn action and are not duplicative are likely to be immediately passed on, or included in a summary to the whole MoveOn team." Pariser also was not truthful about the removal of the hate speech, because we harvested literally dozens of examples three weeks after it was "removed." Here are just a couple of the comments that MoveOn's moderators read at least twice but failed to remove:
"Israel is guilty of war crimes in their cowardely [sic] attack on Lebanon and the whining, arrogant Jew [Rep. Tom Lantos] wants Lebanon to demonstrate responsibility! This is another example of how many Jews/Zioniosts [sic] in our Congress use the U.S. for their own greedy purposes." Fourteen of the 17 Action Forum participants who read this voted to agree with this. Twenty-nine out of 30 agreed with a post that began, "Why are the Jews so Jew-y?," denied recognition of Israel, and said Jews control members of Congress.
Other postings included 9/11 conspiracy theories, hate speech against Evangelical Christians and Catholics, and an implication that all African-American soldiers are potential mutineers because of oppression by white people. The anti-Catholic hate speech is consistent with MoveOn's official caricature of the pope waving a gavel in front of the U.S. Supreme Court -- i.e., an accusation that "the Catholics are taking over America." Barack Obama's appearance at this organization is entirely consistent with his public appearances with the prominent racist and anti-Semite Al Sharpton, and also the management of his own campaign website in 2007 and 2008.
Barack Obama: Hate We Can Believe In
As shown by the following e-mail, Barack Obama's moderators were very diligent in removing promptly controversial material we posted from Obama's Dreams from My Father, with specific page numbers in contrast to some of the urban legends that were then in circulation.
From: email@example.com on behalf of firstname.lastname@example.org (email@example.com)
Add contact Add contact
Sent: Fri 6/27/08 5:41 PM
To: [our E-mail address]
Thank you for your involvement on My.BarackObama and the countless hours you have dedicated to this campaign. Unfortunately, we were forced to deactivate your account after you abused our blog tool. We regret having had to resort to this action.
Thank you for your understanding.
Obama for America
BarackObama.com, of course, had every right in the world to remove the damning quotations from Mr. Obama's autobiography. This, however, established beyond any doubt that the site exercised editorial control over its forums, thus making it responsible for references to Jews as kikes, Hillary Clinton as a five-letter word for a female dog, jokes about Alzheimer's Disease with regard to John McCain, and so on.
"Emily" is incidentally the same moderator who, when another participant referred to the "Jewish Lobby," counseled him to use "Israel Lobby" instead. (The participant in question posted her e-mail to BarackObama.com, which is how we found it.)
Thank you so much for your involvement in the My.BarackObama online community. Your voice is valued here; however, we were forced to remove your recent blog post that referred to the "Jewish lobby." Please use the more specific and accurate term "Israel lobby." We appreciate your understanding and hope that you continue to be active in our online community.
Obama for America
This proves unequivocally that the Obama campaign sanctioned officially the phrase "Israel Lobby." Next, we come to the kind of material that Obama's moderators did not consider abusive and did not delete (as proven by our ability to find and download the pages, and make screenshots of all of them):
- "I don't trust the [5-letter word for female dog, Hillary Clinton] or her rabid over-50 crowd." This is what the Obama campaign really means by party unity, and note also the reference to older Americans.
- "Crying, playing victim, and being a villainous [5-letter word for a female dog] all showed that women are not ready to take office yet."
- "it [a story] tells of a Field [Negro] grateful for Obama's leading people out of bondage. And the other 'voice' was that of a House [Negro], who didn't want to leave the friendly confines of the Big House for some unknown place." "Negro" was not the word the person used, but the moderators did not consider the N-word abusive.
- Another posting compared African-American Clinton supporters to house slaves as follows: "Massa Clinton been good to us. Git on 'way from here Obama. You gon cause problem fo us all!! Didn't Massa Clinton give you food and shelter all these years. Where you gon take us? You never been nowhere but right here on dis plantation wit us."
- "The kike filth are trying to steal this election from us." This received numerous replies, many of which were hostile to the person who used this anti-Semitic epithet, but the key point is that Obama's moderators did not consider it abusive -- unlike embarrassing cited quotes from Mr. Obama himself.
These are but a handful of dozens of similar examples, and we downloaded all the postings in question as proof. One might argue that, if taken alone, this is merely evidence of a poorly managed website. The addition of Mr. Obama's membership in a racist church, the contents of Dreams from My Father, and his open association with individuals like Jeremiah Wright and Al Sharpton, however, paints a comprehensive and very ugly picture of an individual who cannot be president for all Americans regardless of their race, sex, and/or religion. This is a picture on which the Romney campaign needs to focus during the coming months.
William A. Levinson, P.E. is the author of several books on business management including content on organizational psychology, as well as manufacturing productivity and quality.