Big Brother is Us

I received an action alert from MoveOn today about fighting the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court:

Right now we urgently need more information, and we need your help to get it. In the next few hours the Internet will fill with facts, anecdotes and rumors about Harriet Miers. We need your help to sort through it all, select the relevant and important details, and let us know what you find—decentralized, grassroots research.

Does anybody else find this incredibly disturbing? MoveOn is mobilizing its membership to dig up dirt on a woman for political reasons. Who needs a government-created Big Brother when we’re willing to do the job ourselves? It almost reminds me of the snitches paid by the Communist Party to rat out their friends and neighbors.

Supporters of MoveOn will undoubtedly say that the right-wing conservative movement would do the same thing (and did do the same thing to the Clintons). But I’d like to think that fighting a war using their tactics just brings us down to their level.

I still haven’t found a concise way of expressing this idea, which is unfortunate because it comes up quite often, but it’s something like “Inverting a set of ideas only reinforces them.” It’s something like what Lakoff gets at with frames, that if you let the other side set the terms of engagement, you’ve already lost. It also relates to the idea of finite vs. infinite games; when we engage on their terms, we’re playing a zero-sum finite game, rather than changing the game to a set of rules where we move beyond the game.

But regardless, the MoveOn action alert to turn its membership into Big Brother creeps me the heck out.