When Jim Webb's campaign for a Virginia Senate seat assigned a worker to attend all the public events of the incumbent George Felix Allen, they made an extremely shrewd move.
Gathering intel on your opponent is SOP, but doing it with a video camera in public was a new wrinkle, and it plainly annoyed, perhaps unnerved Mr Allen, who eventually unloaded on the cameraman.
The cameraman's family came from India, and Allen was careless enough to lift the corner of his racist rug and let out the French racist epithet, Macaca.
Boy was that bad tactics. Not only was his racism immediately available on the net, and eventually in the corporate media who could no longer ignore the gathering furore, as it eventually caught up with the Trent Lott racism thing, but it sent the liberal blogosphere on a "where there's smoke there's fire" search of the net.
And now the whole game is rolling out like an anchor chain. Finding the photo of Allen posing with the leading lights of the Council of Conservative Citizens was only the start, Jeffrey Feldman took it further and produced a full scale research article on Allen's racist connections, with chapter, and verse. Frameshop: Allen's Political Klanbition
Within days, Allen's previously strong campaign was in trouble, Webb was within the margin of error in the polls and Allen was steppin and fetchin all over the state, trying to stay out of the firing line and keep intact his former presidential ambitions.
I've always said that the net shifts the locus of power and control, it takes it away from the traditional owners and gives it to the wider community. It remembers and it aggregates, and it is merciless. Or as Feldman says in his piece.
In 1996, when George Allen posed for the picture, it was hard to imagine that only ten years later that the circumstances surrounding the photo, plus similar circumstances, would be so widely accessible to people beyond the semi-clandestine membership of the CCC. But now they are.
But it gets worse, because if one republican insider was working the CCC track, there's a good chance there are others. So now the citizen journalists are researching the CCC itself, looking for the reverse links to the Republican party.
No doubt someone in the CCC will soon wake up to the risks and start cleaning out the website. However, you can bet that someone already has a full copy of the site contents to sift at their leisure. Which is a nasty lesson that ABC TV in the US is learning.
After finding itself in the middle of a storm about a biased and politically motivated "docudrama" on the path to 911, ABC tried to pull down the blog it was running on the programme; mostly because the promotional value was being shredded by very pointed and aggressive comments from those who found the timing and the content to be unacceptable in a supposedly independent media organisation.
If you go to the ABC site right now you'll find the blog missing, but as with the stoush over the censoring of the NYTimes Ombudsman's blog, someone already has the copy.
Is it any wonder that the people who have controlled the message, the medium and the money for so long, want to remake the net in their own, previous, image?