Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Banned At Digby's!!!

Well, this one sure goes in the Blogospheric Quirks file.

Around or about August 11 but beginning earlier, it appears that dozens, ifnothundreds, of commenters at Digby's Place were banned -- without even so much as a "have an apple." To this day, many of them may not be aware of what happened, nor would they necessarily be able to find out. While complaints have been raised from time to time about "disappearing comments" at Digby's, the excuse has always been that "there's something not working right with Echo/Halsocan, oops." But when David Atkins ("thereisnospoon") was brought on as co-blogger there, all hell broke loose. Dozens, ifnothundreds, of David's non-fans from Daily Kos migrated over to Digby's and blasted away in her comments at what a damfool David was, and a tool besides. A tool worse, if that were possible, than the heavily blog-scarred head of Ezra Klein. But I digress.

First, a little history. Digby and I go back a long way in blogtopia (h/t Skippy the Bush Kangaroo), I like to think back to the days of the Clinton Impeachment (good times!) but maybe not that far. I first remember meeting up with her in comments at the Bartcop forum, around the same time as Duncan Black, aka "Atrios", started posting there. Bartcop's forum archives only go back to 2002 which is when they switched over to different forum software, so I'm not sure exactly when I started posting at Bartcop (under a different user name than the one I mostly use now), but it was probably well before the 2000 election because I remember posting pictures I took of the Rightist demonstrations to end the recount. Gun-toting Rightist demonstrators, no less. The TeaBag hostile attitudinalism if they don't get their way IMMEDIATELY goes back at least that far (and Hate Radio jocks and right wing lobbyists were in the vanguard then, just like they are now.)

So anyway, that's where I first remember encountering Digby and I always enjoyed her posts. Whether she even noticed mine, I have no idea, though we seemed to be engaging in forum conversation periodically. When she opened her own blogshop in January of 2003, it was all very exciting. Atrios had just won the 2002 Koufax Award for Best Blog Writing at his own Eschaton, and Digby herself (though at the time most assumed she was a he) had won the Koufax for Best Commentator of 2002. Yess. She would later pick up a couple of other Koufaxes for Best Blog Writing herself in 2004 and 2005.

Things got kind of tense for me at Bartcop during the 2004 election because I was working on the Howard Dean campaign (volunteer) and getting more and more heavily involved in Progressive Democratic politics in California -- and the Bartcop crew wasn't all that thrilled by my posts about it. It caused some friction, to say the least, especially with partisans for Kerry and Clark. Eventually there was a kind of purge from the ranks of Bartcoppers, most of it voluntary by people who didn't want to deal with the hostility either from other posters or the management any more. Apparently some posters were unceremoniously booted as well. I migrated away from Bartcop in 2006, to another site that had been established by exiles from the Bartcop Forum -- where I occasionally post to this day (as long as I don't lose the bookmark!)

Once she had her place up and running, Digby didn't post at other places any more. Why should she? She had quite a following of her own by then.

Meanwhile, I'd been posting at Daily Kos almost since its inception and I also posted at Salon's Table Talk; I had tried to start a couple of blogs of my own during that period, but did not have the time or energy to stick with them. I think the first was in 2000. I tried another sometime in 2002. This one is the third attempt, started in 2007 when I finally made some time for it.

But I've long been a commenter at other places as well, including Digby's where I've been both a strong supporter and a sometimes scold. I've been particularly strenuous with her about her obsession with Chris Matthews (who cares what an idiot he is?), and with what I regard as the inappropriateness of her "Village" metaphor for the Palace culture and its courtiers in DC. But that aside, I think she's a good writer, a sensitive and genuine liberal (one of the few A list bloggers who is a genuine liberal), and an insightful observer of the haps.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered last week that all the brilliant posts I'd made in comments at her place after August 11 were... gone. Vanished. As if they had never been. Whut? I was not logged in to Echo when I made this discovery, but as soon as I did log in under my Blogger ID, behold, all my brilliant posts re-appeared as if by magic. How bizarre. Obviously they hadn't been deleted, so those who had been accusing David and Digby of "censorship" must have been wrong. But how could the comments not be there when I wasn't logged in to Blogger and suddenly reappear when I did log in? Mystery. I emailed Digby about it and what my theory was at the time, giving her credit for not deleting posts (no matter what her accusers were saying) because I could see all of mine so long as I was logged in to Blogger.

But then something strange happened. If I posted without logging in, I could see that post until I did log in and then it would disappear -- and not be retrievable. No one at all was responding to any of my posts, which wasn't all that odd in general, but it did seem a little strange even direct questions to people I'd chatted with in comments at her place got no reply. Also the number of commenters radically declined, and many of the regulars were simply gone, along with essentially all of the Spoon-haters from dKos.

Hm. Very interesting.

Something was going on, but I couldn't honestly say what. I know that I posted the story of the California Democratic Party's attempt to purge its Progressive Caucus repeatedly, and asked David specifically about it, but not only did he not respond, no one did. It would seem to me it's a fairly important story. Especially where anti-Obama/anti-Democratic Party people like to hang out (a fair description of Digby's comment section under any circumstances, even now with far reduced numbers.) I even emailed Digby about the story together with contact information for Karen Bernal. She did reply to that one with at least the suggestion of interest in "running with it." But she's written nothing about it, neither has David, and so far as I know, neither of them have contacted Karen or the Dem Party Headquarters for comment.

At least over there, it looks like the story of the Progressive Purge of the California Democratic Party went right into the memory hole.

Today I did a little sleuthing and made a discovery. My goodness, I do believe my IP has been banned from Echo comments at Digby's! I do declare!

I can post all I want, logged in or not, and all of those posts will appear on the computer on which I have made them, but not on any other -- unless I am logged in to Echo with the same ID I used when I posted the original comment. I did several tests with other computers in the house to see just what would happen. If I log on to Echo with my Blogger ID, apparently on any computer, the posts I have made under that ID will -- magically! -- show up, but they are gone again the instant I log off and clear cache. If I am not logged in at all, and cache has been cleared, none of my posts (after August 11) will appear on any computer. If I log in with a different ID, such as my Twitter account, once again I can post at will, but none of my other posts will be visible if I've cleared cache in between log ins.

So. I've been banned. By Digby of all people.

Clearly the advent of David Atkins over there has had something to do with it. I am not a Spoon-hater, though I might challenge some of his premises sometime. Those who went after him hammer and tong seemed to be carrying a lot of baggage from dealing with his posts at dKos, and the truth is, I read very few of them and never got too hot or bothered by what I read in them. Mostly it's very conventional Democratic Party partisanship, and that's fine as far as I'm concerned. The only time I really get exercised by something someone has posted (whether or not I agree with it) is when they become really hostile and unfairly hostile with others -- such as the way Armando and some others behaved at dKos a couple of years ago. It's the internet, people. But there are (usually) real people behind the screen names, and going apeshit on somebody just because you can and think you can get away with it because it is the internet is like sucker punching a blind person, and I will come down on that kind of shit.

But otherwise, it's conversation, conversation that can sometimes become heated argument. Argument is one thing but there's no reason to be offensive or cruel or unfairly hostile to those you are dealing with online. Ultimately you can't win whatever it is you think you MUST that way, and it reflects badly -- very badly -- on you. So I don't engage in it (at least I hope I don't) and if I am around people online who do it on a regular basis I will typically either intervene, or just let the place go. I don't need that kind of poison in my life. No one does.

Nevertheless! I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!!!

As if there wasn't anything more important in the whole wide world. Priorities!


  1. Wow. How undemocratic! Did you point blank email Digby and ask her if you have been banned from her comments section? Why would she (or he, if it was 'Spoon's idea) do that? I wonder if your comments would appear on my computer?

    (If you lose the LA link, I have it saved on bookmarks on backup disks as well as on my computer. Just let me know!)

  2. I've always believed that the blog owner has the right to police the comments section. However, this strikes me as bad judgment. You always try to make useful and informative comments, so it might be useful for people like Atkins to listen to them, even if he wants Digby's blog to represent the DNC.

    I wouldn't be surprised to find that my comments are now treated the same way. I'll check later on on a different computer at a different location.

    Blog politics is kind of exhausting. Blogs are good sources of information (that's what the Internet does well, after all) but I think they are not that good at advocacy. Mainly because they are rarely interested in converting people who have different points of view, and even if they were, they are self-selected... people who have their outlooks challenged will often go elsewhere.

  3. Hmm, I went to your user profile, and I see comments.... good comments... linked to pages in Echo where those comments don't show up. So, it's not your imagination.

  4. lea-p,

    Gracias! I've now got the LA bookmark on two functioning computers here -- and prolly a couple of dead ones too. The working ones would both have to die and then I'd have to start over with bookmarks to lose it again, but I'll remember your offer. Thanks!

    As for Digby, I emailed her previously regarding my theory of what was happening with those "disappearing posts" (my own and others). I thought at the time it was a browser issue+Echo issue.

    After a little more sleuthing, however, it became clear to me that the Ban Hammer was out and being used big time over there, and that I was one of those on whom it had fallen. So I have emailed her a copy of this column.

    There have been several banning episodes during this latest round -- that is since Atkins popped up there as her co-blogger -- and there also appears to be active comment moderation (either in real time or post-facto) as people are still complaining of posts disappearing more or less arbitrarily or because they don't fit the Digby-Spoon Party Line.

    It's too bad because a lot of well-thought out and considered commentary by a diverse and well-informed commentariat is simply gone -- along with some of the easily bypassed annoyances.

    Used to be that Digby would just disable comments altogether when the tumult and ferment got a bit too much for her in the Echo/Prole-sector. She would sometimes announce what she was doing and state that she didn't like to moderate comments or ban posters, so as an alternative, she'd just disable the whole thing for a while. Several days, a couple of weeks one time. And then after things calmed down, she'd turn comments back on, and pretty much the chatter would pick up where it left off, only... calmer.

    Seemed to work. But with the advent of Spoon, a whole other crew filled the comment section day after day, many, many of them, tearing Spoon an inordinate number of New Ones as they say, with immense hostility toward him and his posts, and completely dominating comments.

    Disagreeing, criticizing, and argument are part of the online process -- whether the topic is politics or anything else -- and unless you're Scott Horton at Harper's or Andy Sullivan at the Atlantic and now Daily Beast (to name two who do not allow comments at all; I think Josh Marshall falls in that category, too) an active and sometimes contentious commentariat is generally desirable.

    Apart from the personal hostility toward David that cropped up in many of the comments on his posts, there seemed to be a good deal of resistance to what looked like Democratic Party and White House propaganda. To me, that's valid argument and should be seen and listened to, whether you agree with the points or not. The fact that so much of it has been eliminated from Digby's comments is a troubling sign.

    Propaganda works in other words, but if resistance to it is stifled, as it apparently is being stifled at Digby's, then the credibility of the whole operation is in jeopardy. A lot of people say they've tuned out Digby because she's such a Party Hack (which I don't agree with; her position is somewhat more nuanced than mere Hackery) but it doesn't work in the long run to carry out purges of party dissenters in comments. It will backfire.


  5. pws,

    I have seen some of your comments at Digby's recently, so I doubt you've been banned outright. You may find, however, that some of your comments have been removed post facto -- or maybe not. Let's hope... not.

    I get your point about the ineffectiveness of most blogospheric advocacy, though, and I think it's too true. Blogs can provide news and commentary -- in other words, they can function much like the rest of the media -- and they have long been forums for discussions of advocacy among other things, which most other media have never really been.

    Some blogs can and do organize advocates, participate in electioneering, and become polemical and propaganda organs for particular political parties or interests, but when they do that, their readers easily spot what's going on and a readership self-selection process is fundamental. Newspapers have long done the same thing; television "news" has gotten into the act too with most of the mainstream competing for what is really a small (but very loyal) audience.

    It has the effect of atomizing the citizenry, however, as more and more finely divided subsections of interest assert their interests. It's kind of like what happens in the NGO realm where proliferation is constant and effectiveness rapidly diminishes. Viz: Pre- and post-earthquake Haiti as one of many examples. The primary interest of most of the "helping" NGOs is their own survival, to hell with the Haitians -- who so often are just in the way.

    I suspect that the advent of Spoon at Digby's, and all the flack and fallout from it, will be seen in retrospect as an ethical turning point rather than a political one.

    But that's as may be...

  6. Che,
    Have you seen Digby's crap about Libya? Talk about toeing the company line! She's an idiot on the subject, to say the least, although I generally like her on some other stuff.
    It seems there is now a bounty on Ghaddafi's head and that the British SAS forces have been on the ground for weeks, disguised as Arabs. No-one in the media seems to have any questions about this, or the strange morphing of the 'kinetic humanitarian action' into a freaking Wild West show where Ghaddafi is wanted "dead or alive" (No, I am not making that shit up).
    Article from the Telegraph (wherein they keep referring to Ghaddafi as "the despot" in sheer unadulterated propaganda):

  7. No, teri, I really haven't followed Digby on Libya because it's obvious that she -- shall we say -- lacks interest in the topic of Libya. I suppose if Matthews had something cross to say about it, she'd get herself worked up; otherwise, enh.

    Spoon, I think, did something about how The Fall of Tripoli just showed how Dems were right and the R's rituals of negativity wrong, but that's a purely domestic political argument having no real consciousness of the existence of "The Libyan People."

    I've become more and more ambivalent about the course of Revolution in the Arab world to date. The liberationist aspirations of the People are clear enough -- and I think real enough -- but the revolts and revolutions and civil wars going on themselves appear to be highly manipulated by shadowy international interests (sometimes not so shadowy) to force a pre-determined outcome that protects/enhances those international interests at the expense of the People who are actually putting their bodies on the line; surprise, surprise.

    As I'm pondering 1917-21 Russia these days, I'm seeing something of a parallel between then and now (not exact, of course). The Autocrat(s) may be driven from the Throne(s), but the first phase of the Revolution(s) merely gets the interference of the Throne out of the way, it does nothing for the People ("No peace, no bread, no land" -- was the criticism of the Provisional Government), and in fact makes their situation worse. It didn't get any better, in fact got manifestly worse again, after the Bolshevik Revolution and the coming of the Civil War.

    So the People suffer no matter what. The question is whether they will be able to control their own fate -- though in suffering -- or not. And so far, it looks like not.