If you've ever suffered yourself to visit conservative website WorldNetDaily, you've probably despaired at the collection of nonsense and mental derangement and thought that surely the world would be a better place if the place was more regularly and rigorously challenged, especially given its propensity to propel toxic memes, such as "birtherism," into the larger discourse. Well, there's a movement afoot to "organize against" this cuckoo-bananas clearinghouse -- and, laudably, it's a movement from the right.
Over at The Next Right, Jon Henke pulls this paragraph from a recent story in the Boston Herald and calls it "hideously embarrassing":
In a second warning, the Web site Worldnetdaily.com says that the government is considering Nazi-like concentration camps for dissidents.
Jerome Corsi, the author of "The Obama Nation," an anti-Obama book, says that a proposal in Congress "appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany."
Naturally, this is all unhinged idiocy. And Henke gets right to the point:
In the 1960's, William F. Buckley denounced the John Birch Society leadership for being "so far removed from common sense" and later said "We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner."
The Birthers are the Birchers of our time, and WorldNetDaily is their pamphlet. The Right has mostly ignored these embarrassing people and organizations, but some people and organizations inexplicably choose to support WND through advertising and email list rental or other collaboration. For instance, I have been told that F.I.R.E (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) - an otherwise respectable group that does important work - uses the WND email list. They should stop.
This makes a great deal of sense. And it calls to mind a problem that Matt Yglesias brought up earlier this year:
I was observing the other day that the big problem conservatives are facing in the new media climate is that despite a plethora of outlets they don't have the skills to generate original information and research products in nearly the same volume that generally progressive outlets manage. And to clarify, the issue here is a human capital deficit rather than a financial one. There are a great many people employed in conservative media, and thus conservative media could easily support the salaries of a number of crackerjack reporters. But the reporters just don't seem to be out there.
Henke, along with Patrick Ruffini and Soren Dayton, who also ply their trade at The Next Right, are working right at the center of the technology/reportage deficit that Yglesias hit on. And they've correctly identified WorldNetDaily as an institution that works at cross-purposes to their efforts, driving simple-minded, conspiracy-based foolishness upstream into the mainstream newshole and the mouths of naive conservative politicians such as the oft-mocked Michele Bachmann (Minn.).
There's a similar abundance of bizarreness on the left, if you know where to look for it, but over time, a more sensible media apparatus has taken precedence. Outfits like Talking Points Memo, Greg Sargent's The Plum Line and Yglesias' own ThinkProgress put an emphasis on reporting and research and tend to eschew the sort of claptrap that WorldNetDaily pumps through the conservative online bloodstream. Henke and his colleagues seem to recognize the need for a similar apparatus on the right, and such efforts should be cheered on by all, because success would be a net gain for the substance of our ideological debates and political discourse.
Think about this. On The Ed Show, Ed Schultz has a daily feature called "Psycho Talk," where he ridicules the sort of feeble-minded bilge that emanates from places like WorldNetDaily. He scores points regularly, but -- take it from one who knows! -- these points are very cheaply won. Imagine if those opportunities were not there?
David Frum: The Long Road Back [Spectator]
UPDATE: As many have pointed out, one of the first entities that should disassociate itself from World Net Daily is the RNC. Media Matters has a screenshot, here.
Henke's updated his original post with this information, specific to the RNC:
I have also inquired with the RNC, which appears to have recently paid for access to the WorldNetDaily email list. I have not gotten a substantive response from the RNC yet.
In the meantime, I would encourage you to (a) email me with any substantive information you have on what other right-of-center groups advertise on, or rent email lists from, WorldNetDaily, and (b) email or call to let these groups know that Republican, conservative or libertarian groups should not support Birther/Concentration Camp conspiracy theories.