Is the blogosphere a community?

On Saturday, I saw a very interesting piece by Cenk Uygur, whom I have admired, on FDL, “It’s Time for a Progressive Revolution,” in which he said:

If ever there was a time for primaries, it’s now!  Almost every Democrat running for re-election should get a primary challenge.  This is our best chance at a progressive revolution. You know who should run?  Teachers, farmers, dentists, moms, small business owners, cops, butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers.  And anyone else with a shred of integrity who actually cares about our democracy.

Normally, you need a boat load of cash to run against a member of Congress. Hence, you need special interests behind you. And hence, all of our members of Congress are sell-outs to special interests. Hence, only 8% of people want to re-elect them. But right now might be one of those moments in a democracy where the people stand up and roar. Right now, all you might need is to just not be an incumbent.

It was focused on the 2010 elections, while the Full Court Press is building for 2012 because of issues of resources and filing deadlines.  But I was piqued by his saying, “Almost every Democrat running for re-election should get a primary challenge,” and I loved the broad sentiment, “You know who should run?  Teachers, farmers, dentists, moms, small business owners, cops, butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers.  And anyone else with a shred of integrity …”  Seemed like there was the basis for some dialogue here.

So I posted the Full Court Press proposal on the Young Turks website.  I was immediately met in the comments field with a cascade of viciousness.  From KenTX:

I’m the REPUBLICAN who is kicking your ass, in your own liberal blogosphere.

We already control cable news, satellite radio, and the AM radio airwaves. Now we’re in your kitchen, cooking an omlet.

By the time 2012 gets here, there won’t be anything left of the Democrat Party…

From bobo1 I got:

Ken, I dont think… These guys understand the thrashing they are going to take in November. They’d rather call names and deny the obvious truth that no matter what they label us as, we’re coming for their representatives, their women and even their children…


Your 435 primary proposal is quite frankly its total Bull shit.

You think John Dingle is going to allow this petitioning to happen in Michigan? How about Conyers? Stupak?

How about ole Queen Bitch Pelosi herself out in California? Do you think she’s gonna let some little nobody like you garner any credible support through this plan?

How about the Teamsters or the SEIU? You think they’ll let you start your “Up With People” petitions and still let you walk? You don’t think that they’re just the hired thugs of the Democrats currently in power? Just ask Toyota and their “issues” all of the sudden…

I can tell that you are relatively new and young, probably a product of the “Hope” & “Change” revolution (as it were), but your inexperience and desire for real change are futile at best, pitiful at worst.

I can live with the criticism of Full Court Press, so what else is new?  But the “coming for … their women and even their children” and the threat of violence by proxy (Teamsters, SEIU, hired thugs) was more disturbing, as well as KenTX’s proud proclamation that he is out to destroy anything progressive.  I looked at more of bobo1’s comments, and saw a theme of threats by proxy, “It is people like me who have the guns and the know how to do these things, not leftist pansies…” and “I would love to see you tell people in Missouri, Tennessee or Georgia that YOU are a ‘real American’ and they are just trailer park trash (as you believe deep down in your soul that all Conservatives are)  Oh the fun they would have with you – You’ll meet some “Real” Americans real quick, and they’d show your lilly white Liberal ass what it means to be an American…”  It was clear that their intention was to do nothing but demoralize progressives.

The sheer maleness of this was overwhelming, to threaten women and children openly and not challenge it.

I saw that others had indeed protested this troll infestation and the moderators had ignored them.  There was an attitude that it was okay, people could just work around them, hey we’re tough.

So I wrote the site:

Dear Young Turks:

I posted for a Full Court Press today on your site.  It has some serious ideas.  In the comments, this bobo1 spews nothing but viciousness.  Are there no moderators?  The comment section is nothing but poison.  

Sample:  “no matter what they label us as, we’re coming for their representatives, their women and even their children…”

No, that’s not humorous.

How could anyone take this site seriously as a forum?  Yeah, you have a great radio show, but I haven’t seen such vicious, overwhelming trolling on a supposedly progressive site in a long time, actually, come to think of it, EVER.

Then I check out the site again today, and I notice that the responses to this trolling weren’t a whole lot better.  They would get into it over WHO deserved to be tortured, who was the moron, etc.  By getting sucked in, they remove any moral high ground for calling on the site moderators to deal with this.  I can’t help but think of how the Democrats have allowed Lieberman walk all over them in the same manner.  Allowed Stupak and Nelson to drive the bus over the women that they have thrown under it.  The capitulation is masked by sheer machismo, with no account of how this may destroy discussion, how this might drive women away from the site.

There’s not much more to say.  I’m sure the Young Turks radio show is excellent.  But the sickness their blog reflects is highly disturbing.  I expect such from the fascists such as KenTX and bobo1, but for a liberal site to allow those who call for their destruction, who threaten violence by proxy, whose proclaimed goal is disruption is most disturbing.  More disturbing is to see how progressives have been dragged down to their level.  I’m reluctant to speak ill of an entire website.  The last thing I want is to get pulled into a flame war, and the Young Turks have the right to whatever policies suit their fancy.  If they didn’t have some good people there, I wouldn’t even care any more than I care about Little Green Footballs.  But though the current inhabitants seem to revel in toughing it out with their trolls in a magnificent display of bravado, one has to wonder how many other good people stay away because they don’t like the threatening character, and what is the loss to us all.

For the progressive blogosphere is not a gaggle of individuals, it is a community.  And whatever rights the Young Turks may cling to, I have the right to speak up about the kind of poison that corrodes the spirit of that community and weakens us all.


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  1. not everyone can be as nice as I am.

  2. I suspect given their shoestring operation that their site is hardly moderated at all since most of their time and resources seem to go into the radio operation and maintaining a presence on FDL and HuffPo.

    Or perhaps they don’t mind Talking Points Trash.

    Pick ’em.

  3. I have no idea what/who “Young Turks” might be.  I’ve never visited there (you didn’t give a link).  I have no idea whether it’s a part of the “progressive blogosfera” or not.  Or whether I would consider it progressive.  I have very bizarre, high standards about that.

    I don’t think “the blogosphere” is a community.  I’m not sure what’s in “the blogosphere” and what isn’t.  I think you have a lot of voices that come through on various frequencies, or channels.  Some are pointing at good things, some not.  There’s no delineation of what belongs and what doesn’t.

    Sometimes I get comments to things I’ve written at La Naranja that make me want to kill the commenter, call him/her names, curse, wave my forefinger.  Does that mean that site is or is not part of “the progressive blogosphere”?

    If I may be so bold, I think it’s important to forget about the people who write negative things about your ideas, and to focus instead on those who will advance them.  If people at “Young Turks” aren’t ready to participate in the Full Court Press, fine.  Take the idea to those who will, and keep on truckin’.  

    Please note: if you got derailed and wrote a diary here about how they’re not progressive, you were distracted and didn’t write about what you wanted to advance.  They curtailed your campaign for FCP.

    • allenjo on February 17, 2010 at 01:12
  4. People who post attacks like this on blogs are nothing more than insecure little boys (or sometimes girls) trying to make themselves bigger than they are.

    But, beyond this, I see this kind of anti-intellectualism inherent in the type of screed you point out all too often.  The objective is to shut down considered thinking and debate, to turn thinking and sensitivity into some kind of alpha display issue and thereby to divert the issue into a kind of whose-penis-is-bigger milieu where, the commenter thinks, no real discussion of any real meaning will take place.  It’s a diversion.  And beyond this it tries to further the meme of liberal=effeminate=weak.

    I don’t see it so much as poison (though it is poisonous) as a kind of crude tactic.  All attitude, no substance of the kind that would just be laughed at in a more mature society.

    As to Cenk’s posultation, yes, it would be good if we could get ordinary people running for office more often.

    One big problem with this, though, is the nature of the political dialogue itself and the nature of blogging.

    Were I to decide to run for office, immediately every aspect of my past would be looked into, and were it known under what handles I posted, no doubt every blog post I ever made would be looked at with a magnifying glass — to say nothing of everything I ever did in real life.  It is the rare blogger in my opinion who has never posted something intemperate (which could be used to kill their political career in the crib), and of those, most of them are new at it.

    The problem is that bottomless greed is not a political career killer, though minor personality flaws can be.  To me, for example, I couldn’t have cared less about John Edwards’ flings with a mistress or the resulting procreation.  I did care, marginally more, about his hypocrisy in wondering whether and how much he could bring himself to “go there” vis a vis gays and his religion when he was involved in this — but that’s less about his personal habits and more about the structural flaws in his personal moral philosophy — from a man who was looking for a job as the nation’s “moral leader” (more about that in a bit).

    But that’s just me.  Liberals do not care about people’s personal lives to the extent they aren’t hypocrites and aren’t breaking the law, but politicos and centrists empower those who do care by making it a matter of political calculation.  

    John Edwards could never become president in this country, not because he had an affair, but because political gamesters and pundits (even self described “liberal” ones) say over and over again that he could not or that his career was destroyed.

    We need to push back against this meme.  We need to take faux-centrists to task when they do this because they are creating the very reality they talk about by fixing the attitude.  We also need to push back against the idea that our politicians are supposed to render moral judgements (in the form of legislation or otherwise) on those who elect them.  After all, they are possibly the worst possible people to be lecturing the average American on the street about morality, since they represent personal morality so badly as a class.

    In the meantime, I think bloggers by and large do not make the best political candidates.  We need teachers, doctors, etc., but these would be found outside the liberal blogospheric “community”.  In the meantime, we need to do a lot more about this flawed ideology of the type of person who is good to lead our country.

    • jeffroby on February 17, 2010 at 21:42

    The responses from the right-wingers are a given.  What has been disturbing are the responses from the progressives, who think that such bullshit is normal, that one should just ignore it, that no real harm is done.

    I differ.  While I can do little more than register my complaints IN PUBLIC, it is no more a private matter than the home you walk by and hear a woman’s screams.  As futile as it may be, at least I’ve called 911.

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