Blog Campaigning Thesis - More Extras: Who Really broke the ‘macaca’ story?

(Wikipedia privdes a brief summary of the 'macaca' controversy for those not familiar with the incident. Click this link. The video can be viewed here.)

In my Blog Campaigning thesis I base my conclusion about the role bloggers played in sinking Senator George Allen in the 2006 Virginia Senatorial race on statements spoken by Jessica Vanden Berg, Jim Webb’s campaign manager. You can read what I write about this here

In regards to how the Webb team strategically used the ‘macaca’ video to target media and bloggers, Vander Berg argues, according to e.politics' Colin Delany:  

According to Vanden Berg, they [the Webb team] chose to post the video on YouTube because it was free (simple enough). But before they tossed it out to the public to see, they’d already pitched the story to a Washington Post reporter, who wrote it online on Monday [the video was captured on a Friday]. Only after the Post story appeared and the issue had been properly framed did the Webb folks send an email to their supporter list and to friendly bloggers.  

However, this not the story as Lowell Feld, Webb’s Netroots Coordinator knows it.  

When I recently sent my thesis to Lowell, offering him the opportunity to share his take on how the incident went down, he replied:  

Espen: [...] With regard to the "macaca" incident, I don't fully agree with the assertion that the campaign sold the story to the Washington Post before it told the bloggers.  At least, it wasn't that neat and clean in reality.  If you go back and look at how the story first broke, on the Not Larry Sabato blog, you'll see that it leaked on August 13 (Sunday), a day before the story was published in the Washington Post. You'll also notice that there was a huge frenzy over at Not Larry Sabato. Would the Washington Post have jumped on the story if there had NOT been a blog-induced frenzy already in progress, plus a YouTube video?  I don't know for sure, but my guess is that it would have been less likely and less effective…

Here is the link to the Not Larry Sabato post that broke the story which clearly states that the story was leaked from inside the Webb campaign (See also how the NLS blog first spelled ‘macaca’: Mukakkah! And check out Jeffrey Feldman’s research on the word's meaning – Great stuff!).   

Going over the comments in the NLS post you will really see that the post started a huge frenzy, just as Lowell claims! The post received a storm of comments - 477 to be accurate. The question is: Would the Post have pushed the story without this post starting a huge frenzy? Yes, it probably would. They had the video! But I would still argue that it was a wise choice to leak the story to a blog.

I don’t think Lowell ’s point changes my conclusion in regards to the role bloggers played in sinking Allen. If anything, it supports my claim that bloggers were an important intervening variable in the scenario that turned the campaign on its head - And it definitely supports Henke’s claim: that blogs can establish narratives that the media pick up on. In addition, it really proved that the Webb team did play the ‘macaca’ incident very nicely!    

Note: Lowell Feld blogs for Raising Kaine. He is currently writing a book about the incident – where he promises to tell the entire story! Can’t wait to read it!

- Espen