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Jane Hamsher is No "Ratfucker" (And She Shouldn't Be Required to Show Progressive Credentials Either)

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(Update below - Update 1 - Update 2)

Matt Osborne of Osborne Ink, a blog that is part of the Banter Wire media group, has taken it upon himself to decide whether Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake, deserves to enjoy the status she enjoys in progressive circles or not. In a recent post, he calls her a "ratfucker" and says there is nothing ""left' left of Hamsher." A case could be made for ignoring the content of his post entirely, but I do not wish to let Osborne turn Hamsher into some sort of pariah.

Osborne writes, "She is first and foremost a self-aggrandizing publicity prostitute whose Accountability Now PAC has so far given $0 to progressive candidates in the first two years of its existence while spending $285,272." (In an update, Osborne corrected what he said and mentioned Ryan Bucchianeri, who lost badly to an "establishment" Democrat, received money from the PAC.)

Left out of this diatribe was the fact that Accountability Now PAC was supported by MoveOn, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Daily Kos, ColorofChange.org, Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats, and BlogPAC. These are major liberal entities, which are responsible for the majority of Democratic Party activism. Without them, there would be even less people out there working to counteract Tea Party forces, which have successfully pulled President Obama's agenda to the right.

Also, as Glenn Greenwald has noted, Accountability Now PAC never intended to donate to progressive candidates. He debunked criticisms with this response posted on Balloon Juice. But, those who thought something was fishy with Accountability Now PAC chose to focus on cosmetic problems with the response instead of the substance of the response (e.g. they preferred to call Greenwald a "dick" for treating readers of Balloon Juice and other blogs like it as "Obama cultists" who get angry when one criticizes "dear leader").

Osborne calls out Hamsher for appearing on Fox News after calling for a boycott of the network. He doesn't bother to mention why she made the appearance or what she said on the air.

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"In 2000, the Republicans passed Medicare Part D, and it had no negotiation for prescription drug prices. And then in 2006, when the Democrats took over Congress, the first thing they did was say "hey, we're going to roll that back, we're going to allow for [negotiation of] prescription drug prices to be passed. But now that they actually have the chance, they're not doing it. And you've got people like Jeff Sessions on the floor of the Senate saying this is criminal, this deal is criminal, but he didn't vote for it in 2000 or 2006 when he had the chance. So we're sort of looking at a situation where people on the right, people on the left, are looking at the Senate, and they're saying "nobody's there representing us. Nobody's representing the people." It's just a matter of who's in power and who's taking PhRMA's money."

He constructs a false binary by suggesting that Hamsher cannot be against Democrats appearing on Fox News (which she has called a "partisan opinion factory") and also go on Fox News to give opinions. But, there shouldn't be anything wrong with that. There is no benefit to Democrats appearing on Fox News, as they are a GOP operation whose sole aim is to inundate the public with right wing propaganda that will make it impossible for Democrats to win elections. There is, however, a benefit to someone who has a message for a right wing audience and believes people from the left and right should unite and oppose reform packages that are essentially giveaways to corporations.

He goes after Hamsher for using a web ad company that took money from BP. Fair enough, but this seemed to be something that happened because BP purchased ads as part of their greenwashing campaign. BP effectively tried to intimidate ThinkProgress, Crooks and Liars, AmericaBlog, Eschaton and other liberal blogs relying on ad revenue from Common Sense Media. It threatened to pull ads if they were found to be appearing near posts that were "offensive" or critical of BP. Pulling the ad, of course, would mean loss of ad revenue, which is often the life's blood for blogs. Those familiar with Firedoglake know they had a BP Oil Disaster campaign that was funded by donations. It is likely that they took a minimal amount of money if any.

It is unclear whether BP ever pulled its ads from Firedoglake because they were appearing near posts criticizing BP. But, Osborne doesn't ask if this ever happened. His commitment to taking down Hamsher supersedes critical thinking. He just jumps to conclusions without reading between the lines.

Osborne criticizes Hamsher for making common cause with Break the Matrix, which represented the Ron Paul campaign, and singles it out because it promoted a "libertarianism that spawned the Tea Party." Why did Hamsher do such a thing? She was concerned about the issue of telecom immunity and, as part of the "Strange Bedfellows" campaign, she joined forces with Rick Williams and Trevor Lyman, and civil liberties writer Glenn Greenwald of Salon, and leading liberal bloggers including, Jane Hamsher of firedoglake, Matt Stoller of Open Left, John Amato of Crooks and Liars, Howie Klein of Down with Tyranny, Digby, Josh Nelson of The Seminal and activist Josh Koster to pressure Congress into following the Constitution and ending their complicity toward telecoms, which engaged in warrantless wiretapping under the Bush Administration. And, he criticizes Hamsher for making common cause with Grover Norquist in a campaign for Rahm Emanuel's resignation for his role in the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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Criticism of this nature toward Hamsher is purist and sanctimonious. It appears activists are not to make common cause with people they often disagree with when their views are in sync with one another. It seems forming a broad-based coalition that might frighten those in power because they aren't facing opposition from the left or right but from the entire American population is to be frowned upon. Bipartisanship between activists is not okay, but the American people should swallow bipartisan health reform bills that force people to buy a defective product from private insurance companies and bipartisan tax cut compromises that raise taxes on those at the bottom while cutting taxes for the top 2%.

Jane Hamsher is to be celebrated for her work as a progressive. She fervently fought for the public option and spoke out when it was clear that President Obama was working behind the scenes with pharmaceutical and private insurance company interests to prevent progressive measures for health reform from making it into the health reform legislation. Through Firedoglake, she has helped produce coverage of the push for new free trade agreements like the Korean Free Trade Agreement, TSA's invasive security procedures, foreclosure fraud, the Prop 8 Trial, and the BP Oil Disaster. She has contributed to campaigns for the legalization of marijuana and student loan reform. FDL's weekly Book Salons are invaluable. And, she was No. 15 on The Nation magazine's "30 Media Heroes" list.

Hamsher has been an adamant supporter of primary challenge campaigns--finding candidates to run against Democratic incumbents. Her work contributed to Ned Lamont's victory over Joe Lieberman (and Lamont might have defeated Sen. Lieberman if it weren't for the fact that then-Senator Obama and "Third Way" forces gave money to Sen. Lieberman to help him defeat Lamont).

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for OpEdNews.com

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