Obama's Snark Czar

“.. it’s a very intimidating kind of thing” – Anita Dunn on attacking the press.

Over the course of the last year, the Obama administration has taken on an increasingly hostile tone towards critical press. During the campaign, of necessity, it was more muted (although not nonexistent, as conservative reporters discovered).

Since the inauguration, however, the practice has become more frequent and more sophisticated. Time reports that the White House has decided they are going to be a “player” in how the press is won.

So a new White House strategy has emerged: rather than just giving reporters ammunition to “fact-check” Obama’s many critics, the White House decided it would become a player, issuing biting attacks on those pundits, politicians and outlets that make what the White House believes to be misleading or simply false claims, like the assertion that health-care reform would establish new “sex clinics” in schools. Obama, fresh from his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, cheered on the effort, telling his aides he wanted to “call ’em out.”

Time calls it a “take no prisoners” stance; a war. And this war has a general: Anita Dunn. Dunn is the White House communications director and a longtime Obama advisor. She’s been a heavy-weight Democrat strategist since the 80s.

As with the citizen reporting system and many other such initiatives, censorship 2.0 is strongly internet focused. Mediaite characterizes Dunn’s new role as being the White House’s “own Glenn Beck.” She is aggressive, and is the brains behind using the White House blog as a vehicle for attacking Fox News. Dunn has crafted this adversarial pose, and stands by it. Something which would certainly disappoint a formerly vocal critic of such tactics: Anita Dunn.

The tone the administration has adopted is important. Time points out that the White House blog now “issues regular denunciations of the Administration’s critics, including a recent post that announced ‘Fox lies’ and suggested that the cable network was unpatriotic for criticizing Obama’s 2016 Olympics effort.” Dunn herself is a professed “fierce critic” of Fox News in particular, and leads the effort to withhold interviews from Fox. The tone is highly adversarial, even snarky.

In summary, Anita Dunn has crafted a policy of using a blog to attack a news organization. Some might call that intimidation; among them, Anita Dunn herself, circa February 2007. In an interview with Sara Fritz, posted on The Center for Public Integrity’s “The Buying of the President” site, Dunn had a very different view of such practices.

Near the end of the article, the interviewer points out to her that “[some journalists have] had entire blogs set up attacking [them].” Dunn’s reply:

Right. And it’s a very intimidating kind of thing. The Dean campaign pioneered this; they used to actually go tell their people, “OK, go after this reporter,” as far as I can tell. I think that the relationship continues to grow more cynical and, I think, less respectful. When I started being a press assistant way back then, everyone respected each other. We respected the press, the press respected the people, and they respected the candidates, and I think that there is a lack of respect on both sides that is so corrosive, it really is.

Got that? Intimidating. Corrosive.

Dunn goes on to lament that reporters are increasingly seen as the enemy. “I don’t think that’s fair, either,” she says. “Reporters work very, very hard.”

My how things change.

Oh and speaking of how things change, here’s another little gem to chew on, lest you think Dunn’s wrath is just for those of us on the right. Obama has enjoyed a pretty cozy relationship with the online left. DailyKos famously lost a pro-Hillary chunk of their members, and Obama has actually posted on the site before. They were a big part of his fundraising as well as the volunteer base. I wonder, then, how they’ll react to being characterized as hysterically hateful by Obama’s communication’s czar?

I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but I’ve yet to talk to a reporter, including some very progressive reporters, who haven’t had the experience of saying something that the “netroots’ decided they don’t like, and just getting bombarded with the hate e-mails.

That one’s for you, nutroots. Enjoy.