What a week. An intra-group internet war over a website.
This thing mushroomed like Dubyah swore Saddam’s WMD would do if we didn’t attack fast–and first. Some Obama supporters threatened to break ranks over it, insisting this proved he was nothing more than “just another politician bullying the little guy.” Those who supported Joe Anthony hurled epithets at those who supported the campaign staff. Campaign supporters hurled epithets right back at them. Ladies and gentlemen, we have had our Red Obama Supporters vs Blue Obama Supporters moment. And it was not a pretty sight.
This was not the defining moment of the Obama campaign. It was not a national nightmare. This was not lying us into war. It was not gutting the Bill of Rights. It was not violating the Geneva Conventions, torturing detainees at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and black sites. It was not illegal wiretapping, spying on American citizens. It was not weighting tax cuts on the wrong end of the economic scale at the expense of the working poor and a shrinking middle class–46 million of whom have no health insurance. It was not outing a twenty-year veteran CIA agent to get even with her husband. It was not corrupting the DOJ.
What we have here, folks, is “The human condition meets the greater cause.” In this case, it was a trainwreck.
I empathize with Joe Anthony. He starts an Obama site on MySpace after being inspired by Barack’s speech at the ’04 Democratic Convention. Good for Joe!
The site explodes with “friends” in the last three months as Barack declares his candidacy and millions of Americans begin to see what we all saw three years ago. Joe’s is the only Obama URL on MySpace. He links up with the campaign. Everyone’s working together, everyone’s happy.
Mr. Anthony is clearly overworked; he says so himself. He makes some mistakes on the website–minor ones–but those errors make news. They make national news. Newsweek.
The campaign staff is concerned. Understandable. Now everyone wants control and Joe Anthony wants compensation for the work he’s put in as a volunteer.
Let’s cut the fluff here. The MySpace site uses Barack Obama’s name. It’s a safe bet that all 100,000+ friends signed up in support of the candidate. It’s unlikely a “Joe Anthony” site would have generated so much interest. He did a great thing. No doubt about it. We should all be grateful for his effort. We are. But the URL is in Obama’s name, the campaign is his campaign, the supporters are his supporters. Most of them had no idea Joe’s website was not the official Obama site.
The Obama Campaign has every right to manage the message that goes out under the candidate’s name. Any errors made then are their errors–and there are likely to be fewer of them. Efficiency. Clarity. On point.
Joe Anthony is a fine young man who’s fallen victim to the most human of vices: The need for acknowledgement, for control, for ownership. “It’s my sandbox, they’re my friends.”
All of us who volunteer here give hours we don’t have. We give money we can’t afford to give. We organize, we fundraise, write our blogs on behalf of a candidate we believe in.
Few of us will ever be offered jobs with the campaign–as was Joe Anthony. Few of us will ever be paid a salary or a “consulting fee.” Few of us will ever meet Barack Obama or experience personal contact from the campaign staff massaging our egos. Most of us probably complain about the task we’ve taken on requiring more of us than we expected.
I’m a writer. The vast majority of us don’t make a lot of money. I set aside work on a manuscript so I could spend the time necessary to write for this campaign. Writing candidate-specific politics means I have to spend extra hours reading politics, hearing politics, watching politics. My agent isn’t too thrilled about all this. If I’m not making money on a project, neither is she. And I don’t get paid a cent for work with my.barackobama, rockwithbarack or baracktheyouthvote. I don’t expect compensation or attention from my candidate. Once the words leave my head–my ideas, my words–they are no longer solely my property. And I think that, most of the time, I’m pretty clever, too. Worth money I’m not getting. I invest my effort because I believe this is the time, this is the cause and this is the candidate.
At the end of the day, this was a tempest in a teapot. No one tried to silence Joe Anthony, no one tried to take away his “friends.” He still has his website, it’s just not the official Obama site. It never was.
And it’s a shame when we let our personal needs, our cyber-egos, get in the way of the greater cause to the extent that we say or do things that damage the efforts of the many to change this country for the better.
Obama owns Obama. Pure and simple.
And thank God for it.