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November 15, 2006

The macaca monologue

One of my readers asked why I chose to cover the Virginia senate race, out of all the exciting contests that were underway.

I chose Virginia because the macaca incident that ultimately doomed Allen's campaign and his presidential aspirations was a blog story. The news that George Allen had been caught on tape hurling a racial slur at a dark-skinned videographer first appeared on Not Larry Sabato on August 13.

If it hadn't been for YouTube, that ugly episode probably would have been a one-day scandal. The scandal had legs in part because the raw footage was available to the public indefinitely. It didn't disappear down the memory hole like most of what we see on TV.

The macaca video was accessible to anyone, anytime. Bloggers could link to it any time they covered an Allen racism story, or an Allen bullying story. Enterprising video artists sampled and remixed the macaca monologue, parodies sprouted like mushrooms. Once the meme got into the citizen media and non-commercial culture, there was no way to squelch the story.

The lefty blogosphere seized on it this story and hammered it mercilessly. After NLS broke the news, bloggers kept the story in the news by tracking Allen's endless series of non-apologies and non-retractions. Obviously, incident generated a lot of mainstream media coverage as well. However, the tenacity of the blogosphere kept the incident in the news, day after day, until "Macaca" became George Allen's brand--racist, lying, phony.

Bloggers weren't prepared to let a self-satisfied racist bully like Allen hurl racial slurs like so many footballs. This Confederate groupie from California welcomed a native Virginian to the "real America of Virginia" and he was arrogant enough to do it on tape.

I think the story had special resonance for a lot of the electoral politics bloggers because so many of them have worked on campaigns. There's something especially grotesque about a US Senator who picks on low-level campaign staffers, like Webb's videographer. There was a sense Allen's public humiliation of V.R. Sidarth could have happened to anyone.

Then it did happen to one of our own! Then there were the Mike Stark incidents. Blogger Mike Stark got manhandled by Allen's goons when he asked a question Allen's handlers deemed inappropriate. Allen stood by as his entourage nearly pushed Mike's head through a plate glass window. At a subsequent event, Stark was taken away in handcuffs after and Allen supporter took a dive in front of him.

Through the power of blogs and YouTube, the Allen campaign was kept off-message for the final day of the campaign. They spent most of their time answering questions about their treatment of Stark, instead of hammering home their closing message. Allen's damage control amounted to saying, "I am not a bully."

Ultimately, I went to Virginia because I wanted to see the outcome of the first senate race to be tipped by the liberal blogosphere. I wasn't disappointed.


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Plus, it was cheaper than going from NYC to Montana.

Yeah, that too.

With all deference, pinning Allen's defeat on one of several racist or over-the-top remarks that he made during the campaign and throughout his career is simplistic.

For all intents and purposes, once you get beyond the Washington suburbs, Virignia might as well be Mississippi.

As Larry Sabato would tell you, this race was multi-issued, multi-layered and way complex.

Methinks Webb won because he was conservative enough, had war veteran and other flag-waving credentials enough, and perhaps most importantly managed to light a fire under his own boring ass enough to squeak by.

Methinks Webb won because he was conservative enough, had war veteran and other flag-waving credentials enough, and perhaps most importantly managed to light a fire under his own boring ass enough to squeak by.

I agree completely. Demographic shifts in Northern Virginia were also important.

Webb was the right candidate to beat Allen. Even so, Allen's gaffe's cost him a health-double digit lead.

The blogosphere's assault on Allen helped put Webb over the top.

Lindsay writes;
I agree completely. Demographic shifts in Northern Virginia were also important.

Webb was the right candidate to beat Allen. Even so, Allen's gaffe's cost him a health-double digit lead.

I tend to agree more with your first thought than this agreement. The left blogs are more significant than ever. In particular I think journalist like you are re-defining journalism. Partly your combo writing and photo work is very interesting compared to historical patterns of journalism, and that you really do root in your readers here in this blog.

I know this is hard to quantify, but I would push your statement to the edge of the envelope, and say without the blogosphere no matter how good you make Webb to be, Allen would have won. In other words there is no argument about the complexity of factors, it was the blogosphere that made this race work the way it did.


My initial reaction to your comment was that you way overstate the effects of blogs, but I'll back off a little and say this:

The effect of blogs are extremely difficult to quantify, especially when it comes to their influence on voting booth behavior. (How quickly we forget that bloggers beat their chests and declared they had "made" Lammont in Connecticut, who then got creamed by Lieberman when it really counted. And how about in Montana? Did bloggers put Tester over the top? Nah.)

A small percentage of Virginia voters may have been influenced by blogs, but a large percentage of the reporters and pundits covering the race were. Why do you think Lindsay went to Virginia and not Missouri or Montana or Tennessee?

So I see a secondary impact in Virginia, but not a direct one, and in the end not one so big that it tipped the race.

I can't speak for the rest of VA, but in my neck of the woods (Vienna), the Macaca thing undoubtedly increased turnout for Webb. My neighborhood is heavily South Asian, with significant numbers of East Asians in the mix as well. Allen could hardly have done a better GOTV job for Webb than singling out an Asian for othering.

Shaun writes;
Why do you think Lindsay went to Virginia and not Missouri or Montana or Tennessee?

Not sure I can answer for Lindsay, but let me try. I'm channeling it that was Princess Diana, I'm reaching out to Lindsay mentally...I'm reaching, reaching...oops I let go, fading back into the mist, can't reach Lindsay.

Anyhow, Everything you say is true also. The affect of the web and blogosphere is spotty. Used to be that newspapers could really affect elections in a somewhat measurable way. Still, Allen offered the sort of example I think best illustrates the power of sustained attention upon key moments that the blogs can easily display and comment on.

In other words I am saying that blogs that keep the image alive do carry forward in the election process and do actually sway elections.

Now skepticism and divergent opinions are a strength of Blog communities. So there is no point in arguing back and forth about something that otherwise is nebulous and unprovable. I say Lindsay is having a significant impact and the left blogosphere is too.

Hello Lindsay and all,

Eleven Roars Loudly

Here's some eye opening background information behind many recent watershed events (Macaca, Foley, Ted Haggart, David Kuo, the US election, Hurricane Katrina, etc., etc.) that will prove very enlightening on many levels. Many of the events and situations of recent years were not mere coincidences and I have meticulously produced stunning and comprehensive proof of this, and much else. Resist the urge to dismiss the things I discuss before you review the evidence; be patient and strive to understand what I am presenting. Ask yourself; how many unlikely coincidences are necessary before you recognize a pattern in the noise? Remember, "scoffing in the face of profundity causes blindness..."

I want you all to pay very close attention to the fact that my birthday was August 11th, the day of Mr. Allen's "Macaca" gaffe. His defeat during month 11, along with many of his ilk, was an apt belated birthday present for me. Also notice that my last name is Page, matching the so-called "page" scandal associated with Mr. Foley. Furthermore, I have been writing and exposing religious deception and hypocrisy and Ted. Haggart's downfall and David Kuo's book, along with a string of other events, served to prove my earlier assertions in stunning fashion. Inspect my photo in my Free Ebook... to see the hat I'm wearing and you'll better appreciate the full scope and import of these recent events. It is from the Troopers (11) Drum and Bugle Corp. of Casper Wyoming, who marched during the Bush-Cheney 2001 inauguration parade. Pay special attention to how the number 11 marks key events during the Bush-Cheney administration. For example, notice that Dick Cheney's hunting accident occurred on February 11th, which was the 6-month mark between August 11, 2005 and 2006 and he is from Casper, Wyoming. Likewise, notice that Hurricane Katrina was named storm number 11, came ashore on August 29, and 2+9=11. This is merely the tip of the iceberg, so be prepared to be shocked and amazed.

Here is Wisdom !!


Actually I think the influence of blogs has been understated considerably, mostly because no one paid attention to this race before "macaca."

If you look back a bit further you'll find that there was a "Draft Webb" movement that started back in late November 2005. Bloggers helped to convince Webb to run. We raised a few thousand in "starter" cash. We mobilized the effort to collect signatures and put Webb on the ballot. We also helped quite a bit with a really nasty little primary that had to be won before we could take on George Allen.

All of that was before "macaca."

Naturally, after the primary was over and more professionals and old-school Democrats came on board, bloggers were no longer as influential. In a way, "macaca" was our last hurrah. Once Allen fell in the polls the money rolled in and the Webb campaign became a lot more like a traditional professional Senate campaign.

Lindsay, did you hear about the James Carville article calling for Howard Deans resignation in the Washington Post, blaiming Howard Dean for failing to do better in the recent election?

I was in utter dismay in how it could have gone any better with his 50 state strategy.

My bad it was TNR that had the interview, not WaPo.

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