Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I don't know if you paid any attention, but there was a silly flurry of activity yesterday in response to a newly unearthed video of Anita Dunn, the acting White House communications director who's attacked Fox News, talking about media strategy during the campaign. (The video is embedded below, along with a partial transcript.)

The headline of the World Net Daily story that got wingnuts (and some non-wingnuts) talking is "White House Boasts: We 'Control' News Media." This gives you a sense of the stupidity here, because the video was taped eight days before Obama was even in the White House (Dunn was talking about the '08 campaign) and she was describing not strong-arm tactics, but releasing a lot of videotaped statements by the candidate and his top campaign honchos, so their words (rather than staffers' muttered comments to reporters) would inevitably get press coverage.

But the bright, shiny object that has wingnuts mesmerized is the word "control."

I'm bringing this up out of amusement, because "control" is going to become one of those right-wing shibboleths, alongside the likes of "czar" and "teleprompter" -- words wingers say to each other to experience that thrilling shared sense of knowing the secrets of the universe that "they" won't tell everyone else! The word "control" will start appearing on tea-party signs, and a lot of people won't quite know what the hell it means. Now, folks, you know.


Here's the video:

Here's what Dunn said about the campaign:

The reality is that whether it was a David Plouffe video or an Obama speech, that a huge part of our press strategy was focused on making the media cover what Obama was actually saying as opposed to, you know, why the campaign was saying it, what the tactic was, that we -- we had a huge premium both on message discipline, on people in the campaign not leaking to reporters and people in the campaign not discussing our strategy, and also on making the press cover what we were saying.

So we, you know, one of the reasons we did so many of the David Plouffe videos was not just for our supporters, but also because it was a way for us to get our message out without having to actually talk to reporters; we just put that out there and make them write what Plouffe had said as opposed to Plouffe doing an interview with a reporter. So it was very much we controlled it, as opposed to the press controlled it.

What she's describing is pure political-communications tradecraft. But as a result, the word "control" will be now a secret handshake on the right for the foreseeable future.

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