A Barack Obama supporter in Ohio with deep roots in Democratic politics -- and a 2001 sex-related felony conviction to his name -- is behind two new confrontational videos that bait ignorant people into calling Barack Obama a terrorist.
The first video was released Wednesday and has gone viral. It currently has more than 1.1 million views on YouTube. Part II went online a day later and is well on its way to viral status, with more than 145,000 views.
The John McCain and Sarah Palin supporters in the videos are characterized as “The McCain-Palin Mob.” The videos selectively feature voters who, upon being asked antagonistic questions, make some outrageous statements about Obama.
One voter said, "I think he's a one-man terrorist cell." Another said the Democratic presidential nominee has "the bloodlines" to be a terrorist because of his Arab names, and a third called Obama "a domestic terrorist."
The videos feed into the current liberal media narrative that McCain-Palin supporters are unhinged. At least two high-profile journalists, Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic and Steve Benen of Washington Monthly, already have linked to one of the videos. Great Britain's The Guardian also has quoted lines from it.
With all of the blog and MSM chatter about angry McCain-Palin crowds, odds are good that the videos will get more attention. The media may not be as eager to tell the public about the man behind the camera, however. His name is Tim Russo of Blogger Interrupted.
Russo has a sordid history online. A May cover story in the Cleveland Free Times, an alternative newspaper, dubbed him "Ohio's most controversial blogger," and Russo acknowledges that he has been spurned by fellow Democratic activists and bloggers alike.
Here are a few facts to keep in mind now that Russo's video work is getting media attention:
-- In 2001, Russo was convicted of a fifth-degree felony for soliciting sex from a presumed minor over the Internet. He was caught in an FBI sting covered by a local news channel.
-- WRUW, the campus radio station of Case Western Reserve University, booted Russo from his volunteer show in September. Russo may sue as a result of that decision, and the potential defendants include YouTube, Facebook, the conservative publication Human Events, and Republican Ohio blogger Matt Naugle.
-- YouTube removed one of Russo’s other in-your-face videos as "content inappropriate." The site also pulled his upload of a video shot for now-Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, after a copyright claim. Vimeo yanked that video, too.
None of those facts are offered to explain away the false accusations making news these days that Obama is a terrorist, which is different than asking legitimate questions about Obama's ties to former terrorist William Ayers. McCain-Palin supporters who say such things all on their own certainly are fair game for media coverage and public criticism.
But journalists shouldn't take at face value Internet videos that are produced by activists. They shouldn’t be duped into publicizing the work of online troublemakers like Russo, who by his own profanity-laced admission is unrepentant about pursuing an agenda at all costs.
"[I]f you watch a video from my blog and you feel a bit miffed that some whining Republican thug is on tape without their consent," he wrote, "grow yourself a pair of onions and get the f--- over yourself. I'm fighting for my country."
Journalists also should report where that mindset originated -- with Obama himself. "I need you to go out and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors," Barack Obama told a crowd in Elko, Nev. "I want you to talk to them whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their face."
And the media need to start reporting the regular episodes of liberals who spit on veterans, encourage the murder of their political enemies and generally behave badly without prompting from any cameramen.
Liberal video amateurs like Russo and Mike Stark, who in 2006 was wrestled to the ground after obnoxiously asking then-Sen. George Allen if he spit on his first wife, thrive on manufacturing controversy. They want nothing more than their 15 minutes of fame.
Sadly, their antics appear likely to become commonplace in the final days of Campaign 2008. Another Russo-like video from a McCain-Palin event in Pennsylvania also went viral last week.
The question is whether journalists will reward these people with the spotlight they seek or expose them as the politically suspect agitators they are.
Cross-posted at Video Done Right