The Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away ....

Alas, the same Internet that helped propel Howard Dean to prominence is now helping devour him alive. See the LA Times story below. Videos and images of Dean’s shriek are proliferating on the Net like crazy.

The best philosophical account of this phenomenon is Hannah Arendt’s discussion in “The Human Condition,” describing public life as a “space of appearances” in which no one can ultimately control the impression people have of his/her identity and character. As someone who finds Dean basically appealing, I regret he gave today’s image shapers the very ammunition they need to shoot him down. It’s possible, but not likely, that he’ll recover. Setbacks like this – e.g., Edmund Muskie tears -- tend to be terminal, a verdict endlessly echoed in the hollow, mocking spheres of propaganda.

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Dean's Late-Night Battle Cry May Have Damaged Campaign
By Mark Z. Barabak and Faye Fiore
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

January 22, 2004

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Howard Dean's overheated concession speech in Iowa may have inflicted irreparable harm on his campaign, intensifying concerns that Vermont's former governor is prone to outbursts and fits of pique that make him unqualified to be president, analysts said Wednesday.

The image of Dean repeatedly punching the air in a performance some likened to an emotional meltdown has played endlessly on cable news networks and offered instant fodder for late-night comedy monologues.

"He's a very rational, pleasant human being, but he looked like a rabid dog," said Charlie Cook, publisher of a nonpartisan Washington political newsletter. "To say he appeared unpresidential is an understatement."

The damage was immediately quantifiable. Surveys showed a fall in Dean's approval ratings and a tightening race in New Hampshire — where he faces a major test Tuesday, when the state hosts the nation's first presidential primary.

Adding further insult, the medium that had been the most powerful force for delivering his campaign message was being used to mock him Wednesday as samples of his Iowa speech were turned into shrieking soundtracks on the Internet.

Dean, who has been criticized for his peevish personality since his days as Vermont governor, abruptly shifted his style to a more measured approach since arriving here after his third-place finish in Iowa.

Conducting a series of television interviews from Burlington, Vt., Wednesday, the former governor was asked repeatedly about his caucus night speech. Dean defended his tenor, saying he was reaching out to his tireless volunteers.

"There were 3,500 screaming kids in that room who'd worked their hearts out for me in Iowa, all of them waving an American flag," Dean told KWTV in Oklahoma City. "I thought I owed it to them to buck up their spirits and I was pleased that I did."

But the price could be one of those frozen-in-time moments that forever defines his campaign. The round-the-clock broadcasts of that isolated appearance come at a time when many voters nationwide are just tuning in to the election now that the balloting has actually started. . . . .