Some of you may’ve followed a controversy of a few weeks ago in which Markos Moulitsas asked members of a private discussion group not to discuss a pending SEC investigation against his friend and sometime business partner, Jerome Armstrong. The New Republic seized on Moulitsas’ missive as if was marching orders from the Don himself. From there, David Brooks and Chris Suellentrop (both of the NY Times) picked up the story and ridiculed Kos for what they viewed as his George Patton-like performance. None of this struck me as particularly important or interesting.
But Suellentrop at The Opinionator did broach what I thought was an important issue. He pointed out that Kos at one time (working for Sherrod Brown), and Armstrong even now (Mark Warner) do political consulting while running/writing political websites. So the obvious question, at least to me, is how does a political blogger who endorses candidates at his site create a transparent environment when he may also be consulting for–or have some other undisclosed relationship with–some of these same candidates? Peter Daou has gotten himself into the same potential pickle (at least in my opinion) by announcing he would join HIllary Clinton’s campaign while still maintaining his Daou Report at Salon. All this strikes me as a conflict of interest waiting to happen. Perhaps not the most heinous or troubling conflict of interest. But given the level of hackery and puffery in politics (including online politics), I feel it’s important that bloggers fully disclose such relationships.
I wrote a post about this and republished it as a diary at Daily Kos. To be clear, I explicitly said that I wasn’t raising this issue in order to attack or criticize Kos. Rather, I was raising it in an attempt to keep the entire playing field as level as possible. I also, in this post, specifically criticized John Thune‘s behavior in hiring political bloggers to create sites which savaged Tom Daschle without revealing their affiliation with Thune. I added that I found this Republican behavior even more troubling than that of Armstrong or Kos.
In short, I expected some might not like what I wrote. But I simply wasn’t prepared for the onslaught. There were of course the gratuitous insults, deliberate distortions and other doo-doo humor in the comments thread. There’s this from Boadicea:
You’re missing a tag “Things blown out of my butt about which I am completely, utterly clueless”.
And there was this delightful one from Opendna of the (I kid you not) Socal Cossacks Network, which only proved the validity of my code of ethics concept:
You’re a prostitute, eh?
Are you suggesting that I must be willing to compromise my ethics for a couple thousand dollars in consulting fees?
Are you suggesting that I’m such a cheap intellectual whore that I’ll endorse someone because they take out advertising on my blog?
Them’s fighting words, bitch. Say’em to my face and I’ll put you on your back.
That you’d even ask these questions suggests you have no respect for your own integrity – it’s for sell cheap, eh? Would you lie to America $10K? Evidently, you would.
Some of us put a higher value on their integrity. slutSome of us make our living on our integrity. Just because you’re a $1000 ho, doesn’t mean the rest of us are. So, yeah, maybe we get a little agitated when someone challenges it with nothing to back them up.
In short: You ain’t shit. Try again.
To hear an ass like this talk of “integrity” and “ethics” makes a mockery of the very terms. He may “make a living” but certainly not on his integrity.
And there was oh so much more. First, in the Kos diaries anyone may add tags to a diary entry. So some of the ‘really mature’ site members take it upon themselves to police diaries they don’t like by adding malicious tags. That’s what a delightful schmuck named Boadicea did. [UPDATE: Boadicea below claims she did not engage in this behavior. Apparently, when she suggested to me (in the comment quoted above) that I add a tag that would’ve been malicious in nature, this gave another Kos coward the brilliant idea to do so. But the ‘credit’ for the above quoted comment is still all hers.] So I edited my diary entry to remove the malicious tags. Then, I contacted the site admin to report the tagging behavior and ask that the tagger not repeat this behavior.
Since the overall tone of the comments were so distressing and uniformly insulting I let the diary slide for a week or so and only yesterday visited it again. I found new malicious tags (“Concern Troll, Blah, blah, blah, schmuckery”) to replace the earlier ones. The effect of wiping out real tags and replacing them with insulting ones is that your diary is no longer available for searching since the real keywords which a reader might search have disappeared. The bad apples have essentially “disappeared” your diary (at least from the search process). I’ve replaced them yet again with legitimate tags. But of course the diary is now so old that it won’t matter.
In the diary’s comment thread I wrote a comment just after posting the diary replying to some misunderstandings/distortions raised by other commenters. Since commenters were claiming I was ignorant of Kos’ record on this issue, I asked readers to post links to any statements he might’ve made so that I could educate myself. Wonder of wonders, that comment too has disappeared.
Yesterday, I wrote another post to the site admin asking for an explanation of this behavior. So far, neither of my two e mails has received a reply.
And the final oddity of this whole episode is that several commenters told me in no uncertain terms to delete my diary (“This diary should be deleted”). I simply couldn’t believe it. Given what I thought was the nuance I tried to add to my post, why would Kos’ protectors and defenders get so indignant that they’d insist that I delete the post. What was my crime? What was so damaging about the diary?
I want to make clear that I am a progressive Democrat (which is why I’ve posted diaries at Daily Kos for quite some time) and I have no love for David Brooks or the New Republic. But I have to say that behavior like what I’ve described above–not just behavior by members, but apparently behavior aided and abetted by the site administrator/s–allows me to understand some of the criticism of Kos and his site flung at him by his critics. My treatment made me feel more like I was participating in a cult in which I’d insulted the chief leader and was receiving the deep six treatment in response.
We Democrats critical of precisely this type of rigid, censorious, know-it-all behavior on the part of conservatives? What is wrong with questioning our standards and behavior once in a while? Must one be labelled a “concern troll” and political enemy for suggesting that political bloggers observe a code of ethics? What are the people at Daily Kos afraid of?
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.