Friday, October 10, 2008

Insinewating Ties

Election coverage this week has shifted from the blaze town hall draw to the cascading economic slide (i.e., a crash dragged out for a few days) to the McCain campaign's great efforts to weave strong ties between Obama and Bill Ayers. Am I riled up about any of this? Not really. I had the debate on in the background as I did other work, I have watched the modest paltry TIAA-CREF nest egg I micro-accumulated over seven years at Park U. suffer disfigurations akin to Humpty Dumpty, and I don't for a second accept that Obama is terrorist-like for the company he kept with Ayers.

So what, then?

I have been interested in the way the campaigns try to establish ties and linkages. Palin and other McCain surrogates have tried mightily to forge a strong tie between Obama and Ayers. If they succeed, if they get people to believe that such a tie is strong, that, in effect, Ayers of old and Obama of late think alike, then they will have sprung from thin air a damaging blow: probable guilt by the company one keeps. Yet, nodes perform ethos. Obama can simply say, "No tie," or "weak tie," and the burden of establishing a linkage falls on the accusers.

There are other interesting questions here about temporality and, perhaps, about how the ties suggested by associative technologies (e.g., Facebook) will function as evidence of strong ties in the future. Serving on a board together, dinner at one's house: these are time-constrained connections. They do not live on in quite the same way as some more recent developments. Maybe we'll see more of it in the weeks ahead, but so far this election cycle has seemed to me to dwell on whose network is more presidential, more executive in its constitution: McCain's? (a network of houses, a claim to be a Senate boundary-spanner, a hand in the Keating Five heist) or Obama's? (a recklessly outspoken pastor in Wright, a radical former colleague in Ayers, generous friends in F. May and F. Mack). Campaign: another name for the high stakes practice of network building at breakneck pace--a rhetorical production of ties and associations that will trip one candidate into second place and vault the other into the White House.

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Somewhat related (via). Warning: Cover their ears or the innocents will pick up a cuss at the end:

Bookmark and Share Posted by at October 10, 2008 4:10 PM to Networks
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