On Thursday, we reported on the mainstream media's uncritical fascination with an alleged group of pro-Hillary cranks called "HRC Super Volunteers," who are warning journalists not to use coded sexist language like "ambitious." Their warning was tweeted by a New York Times reporter, then widely reported on by other outlets, which also reported on tweets from a Twitter account supposedly belonging to the group.
I called bullshit on the whole enterprise, surmising that it was either a fake group. or a tiny set of cranks being given a megaphone by a press eager to tar Hillary with their oversensitive lunacy. Left, right, and center media love this story because it helps relieve them of responsibility for how they cover her. If everything is sexism, then nothing is sexism.
As it turns out, I was right both times. The Twitter account -- @HRCSuperVols -- is a fake, and while the "group" is "real," it appears to consist of a tiny cadre of Hillary supporters who are still living in the caves of the 2008 campaign. The group's "official" Twitter page -- @TheHRCSuperVols -- is a protected account with exactly 12 followers:
Even this tiny group is distancing itself from the banned words warning. The email, by co-founder John West, was "accidentally" sent using the group's Gmail account, according to other co-founder Kim Frederick. She appeared on Monday night's The Ed Show, however, to completely agree with West, and to accuse Lawrence O'Donnell of being sexist for saying that Hillary might ask her husband for advice from the Situation Room. Before I play Frederick's objection, here's the clip she's referring to, from the Last Word:
Now, this is where it gets super-complicated, because it's possible to say something stupid or unfair about Hillary Clinton without it being sexist. O'Donnell's point falls apart because what he's saying is true of any government official, whether or not they have a government email account; they can all get a private emails, too, and use them to keep messages off the government grid, and it will always be a matter of trust. That's the fundamental flaw in the whole Hillary Clinton email flap.
However, it's absurd to suggest that it is sexist to imagine she might consult a former President of the United States about the happenings in the Situation Room. He wasn't saying she asked how to change a tire, he was suggesting a consultation between equals. When confronted with this logic, Frederick decides it would be better if O'Donnell would instead refer to Bill Clinton as "the former president," and not Hillary Clinton's "husband."
It's ridiculous, but even more ridiculous is what The Progressive editor Ruth Conniff concludes about this lunacy:
"I think it hurts the campaign. Hillary Clinton, and anybody who is in communications, knows the last thing you want to do is tell a bunch of journalists what words they can and cannot use. So, in fact, I think this does a lot of damage to Hillary."
They all just got done saying how this group is not connected to Hillary Clinton in any way, and yet it's still going to do "a lot of damage" to her? I'm not saying she's wrong, but the only reason this is true is that the media is treating these dozen cranks like a real thing. If John West had written his warning as a blog post at DailyKos, they'd be mocking him on Red Eye, but no one else would ever hear about it.
But Conniff absolutely nailed the key to why this thing is being given such outsize and sloppy attention when she says "the last thing you want to do is tell a bunch of journalists what words they can and cannot use."
Imagine going to your editor and saying "Hey, Chief, I got this huge scoop here! A guy from a group of twelve internet cranks sent me an email! Stop the presses!"
You'd be laughed out of the building, but add Hillary Clinton and overwrought sexist word-policing to the mix, and you've got a winner, because that pisses reporters off, and Hillary Clinton's team pisses reporters off. And you know what? That's probably about 90% because of sexism, and so is the promotion of this story.