Saturday, February 17, 2007


When Atrios kicked off Blogroll Amnesty Day earlier this month, I doubt he had any idea about the blowback that would result when kos at Daily Kos decided to join him. The reaction to the culling of kos' blogroll was fast and at times furious throughout the blogosphere. skippy described the repercussions on site rankings. Renee in Ohio started a protest blog. Maryscott O'Connor tore a strip off of kos' hide. And that was just the beginning.

Since that time there has been a lot of analysis throughout the blogosphere about the much broader issue of the role of "big box blogs" (BBB) like Daily Kos as they relate to being privately-owned businesses whose main goal is simply "winning" elections.

I won't rehash all of those debates. I just thought I'd toss in my opinion about what's going on and how it relates to the position the Democrats and their supporters find themselves in now.

Anyone who's followed the American political scene on the BBBs the past few years knows the sheer agony, desperation and anger expressed about how Bushco has coopted democracy, justice and civil and human rights. All of those emotions were aimed at one thing: regaining Democratic control of congress last year. When that did happen (and it was quite a delicate win until it was finally announced that Jim Webb's win just barely gave them the senate majority), the BBB members could finally breath a sigh of relief. And that's what it was. It wasn't a massive celebration. It was more of a serious "what will the Democratic congress do now" reaction.

So they waited and patiently watched as the Dems put their first 100 hours plan into action. The thread underlying the 2006 elections for those bloggers and commenters though that had coursed through the electorate at large was the opposition to the Iraq war and the possibility of impeachment. After Bush announced his so-called surge, the Dems knew they had to proceed cautiously, all the while being criticized every step of the way by the right for supposedly having no plan and being divided. Those divisions were also obvious on the left-wing blogs where members were (and still are) fighting amongst themselves over whether to bring the troops home ASAP or to go with a gradual withdrawal; whether to cut off funding or not. No one on those blogs, from what I could see, thought Bush's plan was anything but a badly misguided policy.

So, what does all of that have to do with the blogroll amnesty blowout and the general unruliness on some of those blogs lately? Well, I think it became very obvious to some that, contrary to what kos had been preaching, simply focusing on "winning" was not enough. The Dems won. Now what?

kos has begun retooling his blogroll by linking to state blogs that are focused on electoral politics - omitting those that are more ideological in nature. As he stated clearly in 2004:

This is a Democratic blog, a partisan blog. One that recognizes that Democrats run from left to right on the ideological spectrum, and yet we're all still in this fight together. We happily embrace centrists like NDN's Simon Rosenberg and Howard Dean, conservatives like Martin Frost and Brad Carson, and liberals like John Kerry and Barack Obama. Liberal? Yeah, we're around here and we're proud. But it's not a liberal blog. It's a Democratic blog with one goal in mind: electoral victory. And since we haven't gotten any of that from the current crew, we're one more thing: a reform blog. The battle for the party is not an ideological battle. It's one between establishment and anti-establishment factions. And as I've said a million times, the status quo is untenable

As Renee in Ohio noted this week:

So, to recap. We have this guy who runs a blog and co-wrote a book, who in the process has aquired some celebrity. He uses phrases like "people powered" and "crashing the gate" as his *branding*. In the meantime, whether he has indeed "crashed a gate", or merely procured, for himself, a seat at the table, he's made it clear that he is not so interested in helping anyone else get in.

But even beyond that, he's in our f***ing way! He's become yet *another* moneyed arbiter of what news is "fit to print", as it were, and which voices will have a harder time being heard. And I *don't* make a living by blogging, but somehow squeeze it in around work and family, in what I ironically refer to as my "spare time"--because it's *that important* to me to make a positive difference.

And given the time and energy I, along with countless others, have invested in the project of taking our country back, I simply can't stand idly by while the tools of the revolution are co-opted by would-be kings.

And there's the rub. This so-called movement, this "revolution" simply comes down to "crashing the gate" to get into the halls of power. It's about becoming a part of the status quo in the hopes of somehow coopting it. It's about shovelling even more money into the hands of politicians from people who would much nore effectively support their pet causes like human rights, justice or the environment by donating to NGOs. I think some people need to take a long, hard look at the fact that even if the blogosphere never existed, the Democrats still would have won in 2006 because the American people were absolutely fed up with the war. The big box blogs attribute far more power to their efforts than they deserve and their members are starting to notice that, for all of the sweat and toil they contribute by writing free content for those sites, the people who run them are gaining notoriety and incomes on their backs.

There's a taste for a real revolution on the BBBs. That is painfully obvious when a diary like this extolling the leaders of the 60s counterculture movements has over 1200 comments from Daily Kos site members - the vast majority of whom applaud the diarist, One Pissed Off Liberal aka OPOL. To those who have followed the genesis of OPOL's participation at dkos, the irony of this oustanding show of support for his latest piece shouldn't be missed. Until even last week, some of the more conservative members on the site were bound and determined to silence his voice there.

The reason for the turning of that tide, I believe, is that many more kossacks now acknowledge that the kos "progressive" revolution has mainly been a figment of their imaginations. Think about it: the 1939 Frank Capra movie Mr Smith Goes to Washington showed "people power" in action. Thousands of telegrams were sent to DC to oppose Senator Smith (James Stewart) who was trying to expose graft in congress while hundreds of boys in his home state took it upon themselves to print and deliver flyers to inform the public of what was really going on in DC in order to support him.

Today's supposedly new-fangled technopolitical revolution led by kos (although he doesn't like to consider himself a leader), which is accomplishing exactly the same thing as that movie yet is somehow now being rebranded as being "progressive", amounts to one of the quietest revolutions in history - the only noise one often hears is the clicking of keyboard keys as one sends yet another e-mail to their congressperson or a letter to the editor to express how they feel about an issue. More clicking is involved to ship off yet another $10 donation or to write yet another diary. At the same time, many of those quiet revolutionaries heap disdain on those who choose to participate in actual street protests because they're just too "inconvenient" or "unruly". The idea of civil disobedience is definitely out. That's not to take away from people who are politically engaged locally. However, they most likely would have arrived at that position even with the BBBs.

So, what we're seeing is a perfect storm of still strong emotions that wants Bushco brought under control by a congress whose leaders have said that impeachment is off the table as they try to find some constitutional way to end the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, many liberals (not the centrists or the so-called left leaning centrists) on these BBBs are starting to realize that being beholden to the private company of Daily Kos, whose owner seems to care more about his interests than those of the strong ideologically-based voices on his blog (and those he used to include on his blogroll), is just not getting them anywhere. And they're crying out for more than mere "winning" because it too often coopts their values and social agendas. They've finally realized that their needs are not being and will not be met by sticking with the status quo that those blogs have become and the banishment from the blogrolls might have been just the wake up call they needed to rise up and reclaim their true paths.

Simply, they refuse to be stuck. More than that, they refuse to be caught up in the spiral of silence that grows each time those blogs become more authoritarian and restrictive through the use of bannings and ratings that make their uncomfortable comments disappear. They refuse to be subjected to bullying and harassment. And they have zero tolerance for site owners who let their disruptive and offensive friends get away with behaviour that would get other people kicked off those sites in no time flat.

There's a sense that there has to be more out there and there definitely is. Herding those liberal cats into a place where they can be more free is, as always, easier said than done. But to stay and fight where you're clearly not wanted is to, as they said back in those old hippie days, sell out. And there's already been more than enough of that.

And that's my 2 cents on the issue.


catnip said...

This post isn't exactly as succinct or "gathered" as I would have liked it to be, but it will do.

Miss Devore said...

it was fine by me, bh.

catnip said...

"bh" lol

PA progressive said...

Bravo. Kos runs his site like a dictator. That's his right, he owns the blog. But he shouldn't go around claiming to be aprogressive then banning someone when they disclose that a commenter like Jiacinto is a mole who works for a right wing think tank and was a wing nut in college at Dickinson.
I'm sorry but DailyKos is nothing more than an echo chamber. If you dare dissent he bans you.

catnip said...

Here's the opposite view from my perspective on dkos. Power, power, power...

catnip said...

And welcome pa progressive!

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez said...

on march 10 of 2006, i wrote (in a blog i've since locked and closed):

I do admire the "Netroots" animal, it moves sleek and vibrant, like a new victory birthing itself, and with sparkly, pixelated lapels. I find it important (in symbolism if nothing else) and I've been cheering on Democracy ever since it surprised everyone by speaking through the Internet. I do wonder sometimes if the blog movement will self-congratustruct itself into another shining example of marketing, bookselling, and sheeple physics....

and as i said on feb 6 of this year:

this is not to say i don't understand the anger people are voicing at Atrios and King Koz over this blogroll thing. i don't mean to be unduly lacking of a nurturing response. but these "A-LISTERS" ain't revolutionaries, man! did you get your hopes up? they seemed so idealistic, right? the halo effect kicked in. but oye, they believe in changing things by using the system well. people really shouldn't think these bigshots are gonna act any different than that same system teaches a bigshot to act. that's my take on it. i may be jaded! but i ain't suprised....

give it a few years. Koz and the rest will be inseparable from the system they once felt needed so much change. they are half there already. let them get some more nice clothes, cars, and fancy titles and TV slots and they wont even remember what the hell they once believed.

skippy said...

when i followed your link, catnip, to kos' "justification" of his actions vis-a-vis amnesty day, i was struck by this one line:

the more sites a blogger ads to his or her blogroll, the less value those individual links have.

which is rather like saying "the more money you have, the less value each individual dollar has."

then i found the idea that this reminded me of; a distinctly republican idea:

schwartz, author of a recent book called the paradox of choice: why more is less that pushes this notion, hooked his piece on president bush's argument in the state of the union address that "problems in education, health care, and a host of other issues can be addressed in large measure by expanding the options available to people."

as i said elsewhere, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Anonymous said...

Too bad your 2 cents wouldn't have been a rec diary at DK catnip. Try to ride on coat tails much?

Arcturus said...

o, I think you've managed to weave a number of different threads into a coherent pattern. you makar you! ;)

colleen said...

a commenter like Jiacinto is a mole who works for a right wing think tank

a slight diversion but, say what? I completely missed this. Do you have a link? Do we know which think tank?
I've been reading jacinto's racist, misogynistic, republican crap for years now (or, rather, was before I finally decided to stop reading DK) and would really appreciate the info.

catnip said...

That's an interesting observation, skippy, and as you've noted before the more links one adds to their blogroll the more currency those linked blogs gain at places like Technorati etc. So, kos' analysis in that sense is just plain wrong.

Shirl said...

Wonderful writing catnip! Best description I've seen of what's going on.

Keep at it girlfriend.


catnip said...

Thanks so much Shirl!