Conservative bloggers on Jim Webb's novels.

Conservative bloggers on Jim Webb's novels.

Conservative bloggers on Jim Webb's novels.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Oct. 27 2006 5:08 PM

Webb's Bad Fiction

Conservative bloggers have a problem with George Allen using saucy extracts from Jim Webb's novels as campaign weaponry. The "netroots" gang hopes "Google bombing" will win elections, and Matt and Trey from South Park have not yet begun to offend with their Steve-Irwin-in-hell episode.

Webb's bad fiction: "The man grabbed his young son in his arms, turned him upside down, and put the boy's penis in his mouth." So runs one sentence from Virginia Democratic Senate hopeful Jim Webb's Vietnam-based novel Lost Soldiers. (The author claims  to have witnessed just such a scene firsthand as a journalist in Bangkok.) What does such a work and its X-rated sequels say about the man behind them? asks George Allen's shocked, shocked camp. Not much, reply righties online.

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Kathryn Jean Lopez at the National Review's The Corner finds the Allen salvo against fiction "lame and unbecoming," though she also wonders how graphic the excerpts would have been in the Washington Post [note: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.] had a Republican penned them. As it happens, a prominent Republican didn't mind reading them: "Would this be a bad time to mention that John McCain wrote a blurb for [Lost Soldiers]?" Lopez adds.

Fellow righty Allah Pundit at Hot Air sees using a candidate's literature against him as the nadir of a particularly nasty election year: "The story's about Vietnam; maybe he's describing some obscure cultural practice that he encountered there. Or, just maybe, he made it up. Have we actually reached the point where Senate seats now turn on the sex scandals of fictional characters?"

Guess who else feels a desperate GOP incumbent is losing it? "Are the passages in Webb's 'Lost Soldiers' bizarre and perverted? Yes," writes popular conservative blogger Michelle Malkin. "But they are no more proof of Webb's immorality and unfitness for office than the passages in 'Sisters' are proof that Lynne Cheney hates men or that the passages in 'The Apprentice' are proof that Scooter Libby endorses sex between children and bears."

Muddy, bloody, and rude national politics may well be, but come on, reacts Rick Moran at conservative Rightwing Nuthouse: "There must be limits beyond which a candidate is penalized for exceeding. The absolutely disgusting nature of the passages quoted in the Allen press release fills that bill. The fact that they are quoting pieces of fiction obviates only slightly Webb's startling and disturbing imaginative wanderings into the sexual dark side of the human mind as it also reveals the depths to which Allen's honor and integrity have sunk."

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Read more about Webb's page-turning troubles.

Engine flooded: On the liberal side of last-minute electoral tricks, Democratic bloggers are hoping to win races this season through "Google bombing," in which they embed links to pejorative articles written about Republican candidates in the hopes that Google will then "index" those articles more feverishly and call them up at the top of searches for said candidates. Brilliant or sleazy, does this strategy come too late to pay dividends in the '06 midterms?

Andrew Dimock at D.C.-based IT blog The Bivings Report thinks so: "[I]f something is posted on a site that is new, that has few links from other sites, that has not been included within the search index previously, and/or does not produce new content on a regular basis, it can take weeks to begin appearing and it will likely not appear as high within the results."

But lefty blog Truth To Power likes Google bombing because it's democratic: "Instead of big money pols running attack ads, or incumbents getting their greasy mugs on television at every chance spewing nonsense, this action uses the web—which is where large amounts of voters are getting their information—to show a more realistic picture of a candidate."

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Center for Citizen Media is less sanguine: "This kind of tactic leaves a sour taste. But it'll be a common one in the future. This phenomenon is about the nature of Google as much as the nature of politics. Pious 'wish they wouldn't' statements from the company don't carry much weight when Google itself makes such things possible."

Read more about Google bombing.

Crikey! So Steve Irwin's in hell with a stingray stuck to his bleeding chest. That was a scene from this week's South Park and, according to Britain'sthe Daily Mail, a group called Mediawatch has labeled the cartoon "grossly insensitive" and "unacceptable."

Political-science professor James Joyner at Outside the Beltway hasn't seen the episode "but agree[s] that mocking Irwin so soon after his death is rather tacky. Still, Irwin was a celebrity and that's the path he chose. His death was big news, he was mourned in a giant state funeral, and he's been mocked publicly."

Martine Martin says the Daily Mail got the gist of the episode wrong: "Here [South Park wasn't] 'lampooning' Steve Irwin in the slightest. They were lampooning the sort of people who have mythologicised his death and who constantly force others to tiptoe around what happened, implying that to even speak of it is somehow disrespectful. Now, perhaps they didn't need to have a stingray stuck in his chest, but then his appearance wouldn't have had such impact as a statement."

Read more about Irwin's animated reprise.