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February 20, 2013 10:13 AM Wildfire

By Ed Kilgore

Speaking of contemporary standards of conservative behavior and McCarthyite tactics, remember when the people trying to destroy Chuck Hagel were shouting about “reports” that the Nebraskan had once spoken to a group called “Friends of Hamas?” In the process of reporting that the group didn’t appear to exist, Dave Weigel noted how rapidly the claim spread after it was published by Breitbart.com’s Ben Shapiro:

It caught fire on the right in no time. “That is quite the accusation,” wrote Moe Lane at RedState. “All they have to do to debunk it is to have Hagel reveal his foreign donors.” In the National Review, Andrew Stiles reported that “rumors abound on Capitol Hill that a full disclosure of Hagel’s professional ties would reveal financial relationships with a number of ‘unsavory’ groups, including one purportedly called ‘Friends of Hamas.’” Arutz Sheva and Algemeiner, conservative pro-Israel news organizations, ran versions of the story based 100 percent on links to the Shapiro original.

As Salon’s Alex Pareene commented, that’s all it took:

[I]n case you were wondering, if you want to viciously smear someone, all you have to do is send a stupid lie to a Breitbart guy and he will publish it and then everyone in the conservative movement will repeat it.

But it gets worse: turns out New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman has come forward to say he invented the “Friends of Hamas” bit in a conversation with a Republican Hill staffer as an example of a theoretical Hagel association so obviously fictitious that it never occurred to him anyone would take it seriously. Next thing he knew, it was everywhere, spreading like wild fire.

So I’ll return to the conclusion of my last post: can you imagine how destructive Joe McCarthy would have been had anything like today’s right-wing echo chamber existed in the his day?

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Josef K on February 20, 2013 10:24 AM:

    all you have to do is send a stupid lie to a Breitbart guy

    Mr. Pareene left off an important proviso: the lie has to be about a Democrat. I can't see for a second the Breitbart crowd spreading a single bad word about Republicans (including Boehner and McConnell, traitors though they are to The Great Cause!).

  • Jeff S. on February 20, 2013 10:33 AM:

    And these guys know that their audience will believe it, even if it is an obvious joke, and not hold them accountable when it is revealed that it is a lie. It's too easy.

  • c u n d gulag on February 20, 2013 10:34 AM:

    While real reporters do research, and cite sources in it before releasing their story, all the Wingnut Keyboard Kommando's need, is some innuendo from Dr. Otto Yerass.

    Hamas, or hummus?
    Taliban, or tabouli?

    Who cares?
    Close enough to prevent government work!


  • Ron Byers on February 20, 2013 10:38 AM:

    Personally I think Shaperio got it wrong. Hagel actually spoke to the "Junior League of Hezbollah, in France." He has to tell us what he talked with them about, cookies made out of C4?

    Actually "the Junior League of Hezbolla, in France" was the other hypothetical organization Freidman used when asking his over the top question of the Republican Hill staffer.

  • Zorro on February 20, 2013 10:39 AM:

    can you imagine how destructive Joe McCarthy would have been had anything like today’s right-wing echo chamber existed in the his day?

    President McCarthy, anyone... then again, I'm sure half of today's GOP would decry him as a RINO and run to his right. It was, after all, alleged that he received support from the Communist-controlled United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Union (thanks, Wikipedia). That's all it would have taken w/today's media to portray McCarthy himself as some kind of flaming pinko commie.

    -Z

  • boatboy_srq on February 20, 2013 10:47 AM:

    Isn't it curious that some of the least genuine, most unscrupulous players in today's political game are so easily duped? Is it, perhaps, because the latest conspiracy fantasies play to their prejudices?

  • Shane Taylor on February 20, 2013 10:57 AM:

    "So I’ll return to the conclusion of my last post: can you imagine how destructive Joe McCarthy would have been had anything like today’s right-wing echo chamber existed in the his day? "

    Perhaps Cruz is just an especially stark reminder that McCarthy was one of the real founding fathers of today's right wing.

  • Perspecticus on February 20, 2013 11:23 AM:

    Still, why did it take Friedmann a minimum of 10 days to issue his explanation?

  • SecularAnimist on February 20, 2013 12:19 PM:

    Ed Kilgore wrote: "can you imagine how destructive Joe McCarthy would have been had anything like today’s right-wing echo chamber existed in the his day?"

    That's precisely why a handful of ruthless, rapacious, reactionary, extremist billionaires created today's right-wing echo chamber, Ed.

  • j on February 20, 2013 12:39 PM:

    Someone should certify that Ted Cruz, it shows he does not check out his source but will take a false innuendo and run with it, this is not the kind of senator that we should have on such a committee.

  • zandru on February 20, 2013 1:28 PM:

    What?!? Hasn't anyone yet bought "friendsofhamas.org" and pointed the domain at The Club For Growth or the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, or RNC?!?

  • boatboy_srq on February 20, 2013 1:38 PM:

    @zandru - pulling up Verisign as soon as I get home...