The more I think about it, the more I think that this whole "Kos was getting paid" flap is actually a perfect example of what David Brock labeled "The Right Wing Noise Machine" working overtime. It's almost a remarkable case study of exactly how it works, from top to bottom.
Let's examine what happened here, starting at the very beginning. About a week ago, the Armstrong Williams story broke. It came out that the Administration had been paying a journalist/commentator to publicise the NCLB act with taxpayer dollars. Rumors spread rapidly that this wasn't the only case we were going to see of this behavior. Rapidly, David Corn was saying Mr. Williams told him there were more people, bloggers and a few journalists realized that the people associated with the payments was the same company associated with similar funding to try to support the Medi-Can't bill, and news organizations started filing dozens of FOIA requests to see where else the Administration had used this tactic.
So right here, we have a geniune scandal brewing - there's clearly been wrongdoing, and there is no way that anyone can justify spending the tax dollars on paying a journalist to create positive noise about a highly controversial bill, a journalist who didn't disclose the payments during his work. It's clearly getting bigger. And there looks to be no way that anyone can honestly defend the administration - even the right wingers are saying it's wrong.
So now, what happens next? The right wing noise machine kicks in. Clearly, if the Republicans want to defend themselves from obvious wrong-doing on the part of the Administration, they need to come up with something that a crazy Democrat has done that they can attack.
A few days later, an article appears in the WSJ featuring a person from the Dean campaign who had the shocking revelation that the Dean campaign had paid a pair of bloggers in the hopes of getting good publicity from the bloggers at the time.
Right away, people start talking. It goes up on Instapundit, maybe on Drudge for a while. People start asking - so why didn't these bloggers disclose that they were being paid?
Now, as the story starts to spread, the truth of the situation falls by the wayside. As people start questionning why they didn't disclose, it is conveniently forgotten that Kos actually did disclose that he was being paid by the campaign. Moreover, it is also conveniently forgotten that the other blogger in question actually quit his blog during the time he was working for the Dean campaign. On top of that, it's ignored that no where in the agreement that either of these bloggers signed did they agree to give positive publicity or positive posts to the campaign - their actual agreements were for consulting work or something along those lines.
Every single part of the truth of this story gets completely ignored by the people who pick it up. Why? Because most of the people are too lazy to actually check into it themselves, and they don't bother to see whether or not the story about lack of disclosure is accurate. It's just assumed to be true, so it spreads to a few more sources. And on top of that, it's long enough ago that it's not immediately in people's memory - it even took me a few hours to remember that Kos had that discIaimer on the side of his page - it's not like I based my life on that disclaimer.
So the story doesn't die off, despite the fact that anyone who actually is paying attention is laughing their ass off at how pathetic the story is. As the story grows, it hits CNN.com's front page for a few hours under a headline saying something like "Dean campaign paid off blogger" or something to that effect. It literally gets posted without anyone doing a single fact check.
At the same time, almost no media organizations even try to make a connection to the Thune/Daschle race, where the Thune campaign paid $35,000 out to a pair of bloggers to post stories going after Mr. Daschle, some of which actually even made it into the regular press in South Dakota. And while Kos had disclosed everything he was doing (and in fact bragged about it & used it to help grow his page), none of the South Dakota bloggers had disclosed the payments at all.
So what happens then? It moves into the full mainstream media, and is accepted totally without question, and even blown up even more. Robert Novak, (the guy who never disclosed that he had significant personal interests in the company publishing the Swift Boats book even as he gave it publicity and complimented it on the air) goes on the air and calls it "pay for play" & says Mr. Dean clearly was engaging in dirty politics. And then the glorious opposition, Paul Begala, comes in and says that sort of behavior would be "reprehensible" and just like the Armstrong Williams matter.
And then it just keeps growing, like a cancer. It gets to O'Reilly, as I noted below, who absolutely insists that the disclosure was inadequate, and who has a guest on, a Conservative blogger, who naturally agrees with him totally. It's a clear setup, and it's 100% false. But it's still all over the place.
Look where this story has gone. It started off as a single story in the WSJ. Then the Right Wing noise machine picks up on it and it starts to spread. It serves a purpose - it makes Mr. Williams's transgression look not as bad. The right wingers - Drudge, the Instaguy, pick up on it and give it a little notice. A few news organizations look into it and realize its bogus and run nothing, and a few just pick it up from Drudge and the WSJ and mindlessly run with it without doing a proper fact check.
The story grows exponentially, all based on people not doing their jobs and checking the story out. The right wing blowhards, Novak and O'Reilly, pick up on it and insist its the truth, 100%, and no one challenges them on it. And so on.
This is how the right wing noise machine works. Someone ran a story that sounded kinda like the Armstrong Williams thing, it slips into a few right wing websites, it expands when no one fact checks the thing, and before you know it, CNN's running it like fact, they're blaming both Kos and Dean for being dirty, and then both the Crossfire and O'Reilly viewers (millions of people)are treated to the hosts saying that it's 100% true and there was no disclosure.
The whole story is garbage. It's not a story. In a week, there'll be a few small retractions issued. Kos is demanding one from the WSJ - who knows if he'll get it. The person who the original WSJ article was written about calls herself "Criminally stupid" for giving the other side ammunition. But even if full retractions happen, the story is already out there, and the next time that an administration "Payola" FOIA comes out, there'll be a few million folks out there who remember this Democrat "Scandal" and tie it all together. O'Reilly'll probably mention it a month or so on some other topic.
And then, the icing on the cake; people get pissed off at how ridiculous the story is, and Instapundit decides to complain about all the sniping and snarking from the left and how angry they are. Clearly, someone so angry is no where near qualified to lead the country. Wow.
None of it's the fault of the people not fact checking. It's all that evil left. A 100% manufactured, pure B.S. story, and it reaches millions of people who will never hear the truth. The Right Wing Noise Machine, right in front of your eyes.