Time for MoveOn.org to move on

First it was the idiotic dis of a fine combat officer, then the incessant whining about Facebook, and now the daily Barack-a-grams. Who gave these guys the inside track on wisdom, anyway?

Speaking as someone whose political views are decidedly left, I never thought I'd say this, but would Moveon.Org just put a plug in it already?

As an Internet phenomenon, MoveOn certainly demonstrated how to mobilize public opinion. Indeed, the organization, founded in 1998 by a married couple of nouveau-riche techies, Wes Boyd and Joan Blades, acquitted itself well during the Monica Lewinsky uproar.

Unlike a sadly servile mainstream media, which insisted upon playing to the lowest common denominator, a spunky MoveOn appeared seemingly out of nowhere to rally online opposition to the sham taking place in Washington.

But no matter what you thought about the nature of Bill Clinton's actions leading up to Lewinsky-gate, MoveOn's organizational activity represented a textbook example how civil society is supposed to function in a republic. This was interest group politics at its best--as American as apple pie and Federalist Paper No. 10.

MoveOn has played a big role in Congress' (still-to-be-decided) Net neutrality debate, while its pressure tactics also helped stoke opposition to Facebook's ill-considered program, which would have posted information about users' activities on partner sites. I wasn't as exercised about Beacon's threat to our individual liberties. Facebook was more guilty of glossing over legitimate privacy concerns than it was due to nefarious intent. In any case, Facebook users would have rejected Beacon and forced the company to go back to the drawing board on their own. Did they really need an energetic, group-think organization to dictate the correct party line?

Even before then, my enthusiasm for MoveOn's shtick had begun to wane. I think it was the "" advertisement last September that was the last straw.

Nobody in this country should be above criticism--and that includes appointed military leaders. But the ad unfairly smeared Petraeus, a dedicated professional and one of the most capable U.S. officers ever to serve in Iraq. MoveOn's lame response was that the ad was "successful" in its intent. To wit: "Call the credibility of Petraeus' testimony into question. It garnered more coverage than any ad that MoveOn.org has run in years. Every time Republicans debated the ad, they helped raise questions around reliability of the General's report."

When I read that, I could only murmur sotto voce a disgusted, "you've got to be f---ing kidding me."

Now it's Obama-grams seemingly every day arriving in my inbox from the MoveOn crowd. Enough! I'll make up my own mind. Barack Obama's a fine candidate, but I think Hillary Clinton would make just as capable a 44th president.

Blades and Boyd made a bundle by convincing a sucker to pay millions for the flying toaster screen servers and other forgettable pop-culture bric-a-brac turned out by their company. But business savvy doesn't always translate into political acumen. (If they want to give me an argument, I'd only point to Dick Cheney's multimillion dollar payday from Halliburton as Exhibit A.)

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About the author

Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.

 

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