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February 25, 2007

My Salon article: Why I wouldn't blog for John Edwards

Most of you don't know this, but I declined to blog for John Edwards before Amanda and Shakes were hired. You can read the whole story at Salon.


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» Inside scoop from Majikthise from Pharyngula
It looks like Lindsay Beyerstein dodged a bulletshe was offered the position with the Edwards campaign that Amanda Marcotte accepted, and she turned it down. It's a smart articlethere are some good lessons to be learned about blogs and po... [Read More]

» Just Say No to Campaign Blogging from L'Ombre de l'Olivier
One of the ladies on my blogroll, Majikthise, was asked to be the Edwards campaign blogger before Amanda Marcotte took the job. In Salon she explains why she didn't accept the offer. I would say that any blogger of any political persuasion would bene... [Read More]

» Blogging from the top down from lotusmedia 2.0
Salon has a very interesting article today by Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise on why she turned down the job that Amanda Marcotte briefly held with the Edwards campaign. She also addresses what she thinks is a major flaw in their online strategy: by ... [Read More]

» The Edwards Blogger Controversy from VirusHead
This morning, I read a great article at Salon by Lindsay Beyerstein (Majikthise) on why she refused the Edwards campaign blogging job the others accepted. I think her analysis of the issues was dead-on, and she figured it out in advance. I also thought... [Read More]

» Bullet dodged (not by me) from Respectful Insolence
It looks to me as though one of my favorite lefty bloggers, Majikthise (real name: Lindsay Beyerstein), dodged a bullet. In a article, she describes how she originally was approached to blog for the John Edwards campaign. As you... [Read More]


Really insightful article on Salon. I think the Edwards campaign is in deep trouble, because they are trying to fabricate something that needs to happen on its own. You made a good choice. I like Edwards. I think he's right on a lot of things. But he has a lot to learn.

Glad to be introduced to your blog. You are such a good writer, it's a shame to know that your rejection of God will lead to your eternal damnation! ;-)

It's fascinating that you predicted atheism would be an issue if the John Edwards campaign hired an atheistic blogger even before Amanda Marcotte's name came up.

Anyway, I don't agree with the premise of the article. I don't believe there would have been a big controversy if you had accepted the job. While Amanda Marcotte was sunk by being an outspoken atheist (and Melissa McEwan was sunk with her) you have a different style than Marcotte.

While it was bogus to portray Marcotte as an anti-Catholic, it probably would have been too big a stretch to portray you as anti-Catholic.

One more thing: I often thought during the Amanda Marcotte controversy, "They should have hired Lindsay Beyerstein instead."

It turns out that they wanted to.

If I ever see you at a poker table, Lindsay, I am walking in the other direction.

Bruce - LOL.

If a monkey throwing darts at a dartboard covered with companies can outperform many stockbrokers, then I think a similar outcome would happen with a dartboard covered with random campaign strategies. Oh well, you can't cry over spilled milquetoast.

I wasn't surprised by you being offered the Edwards blog gig. I wasn't surprised by this, either.

Upon reading the announcement, my partner Darcy said, "I hope the Edwards campaign knows what it's in for."

I'm stuck Chasing Amy-crushing on you and bugging you for links. Sigh. Now it's time for me to listen to Al Green and heal.

Michael Hussey -

Darcy is a guy.

Very good article, and good call turning the job down. It would definitely have been tougher for the right wing to get you fired than Amanda, but I'm very glad you still have your personal blog to express unfiltered unmainstream opinions.

Hopefully the Edwards campaign can recover and do blog outreach the way you suggest.

From a different perspective, I agree with all who said that you made the right call.

A writer on a politician's payroll by definition can't be independent. Any writer, any politician.

I simply loathe most political operatives--Democratic Party, Republican Party, those attached to any particular candidate. They're like trial lawyers--they don't lie, not exactly, but by always framing every sentence fragment to the advantage of their candidate, their spin nudges the conversation away from the truth. Thats their job, to win, to win, not to tell the truth or seek the truth.

You made the right call.

Darcy is a guy.

Opps. Can we please delete that comment to avoid future embarrassment. Mainly mine.

You seem to possess wisdom beyond your years by passing up such an opportunity. I'd probably have taken the job had I been in your shoes, but that's neither here nor there because obviously you're the one with the blog and I'm the one with no blog (but semi-regular comments). It's an interesting mini-exposé into the hiring process of the Edwards campaign.

Some people have faulted Edwards for his "misstep" in hiring Marcotte and McEwan. They say it was amateurish thinking that caused him to make such a blunder. To me it wasn't a mistake to hire Amanda or Melissa. Sure, Amanda has always been a lightning rod for controversy, but since I find myself in agreement with her at least 90% of the time this has never been a problem for me. To me it was a bold decision, if nothing else. It said to me that John Edwards can unabashedly embrace passionate, outspoken, liberal advocates. So even if it was "amateurish", is that such a bad thing? It wasn't like Mr. Edwards used focus-groups to dictate his every single political maneuver. To me the slick, highly professional campaigns always reek of insincerity. Maybe that's a minority opinion, but I think it belongs to a sizable minority. Therefore even if I hadn't agreed with most of Amanda's opinions I would not have faulted John Edwards for hiring her.

However, I DO fault him for not defending her when the going got tough. Sure, he didn't fire her. Big deal; that's what you're supposed to do. As I've said before, it's like giving a guy credit for not beating his wife. Whoop-dee-fucking-doo. Edwards should have come out swinging, saying that Donahue had no room to criticize Amanda for her remarks because 1)Amanda's remarks weren't anti-Catholic, but anti-Catholic doctrine, as voiced by the Pope and his protegés, and 2) Donahue is a nutjob anti-Semite representing a shill organization for the Republican Party. The fact that he didn't defend her is what cost him my vote.

However, if I ever see you at a poker table I'm pretty sure I could still get a read on you. Once I stopped hearing you say "normative" I'd know it was time to fold 'em.

like everyone else here, i admire your choice, and the article is quite good too. the one element of the whole fiasco i never understood was why more of us weren't mad that edwards was essentially trying to buy the support of the liberal blogosphere by hiring a few a-listers. it was a miscalculation that made edwards appear disingenuous. some such miscalculation will eventually be his downfall.

I agree with you that the best bloggers are probably not the ones who need to be on the payroll of the candidates. It seems to me the relationship of American's political factions, left or right, to the major political parties is roughly the relationship of viruses to a host. The viruses may evolve or perhaps exchange genes in a promiscious manner, somewhat randomly following a path which may at some point give them a greater or lesser chance at gaining the use of that host. Those bloggers whom you term "A-list polemicists" strike me as playing an important role in the evolution of their faction's thinking. They are good at what they do, but they don't help take over the host. To continue with the metaphor, those bloggers whom you term "the party activist/consultant/blogger hybrid" (and other professional staffers) are in charge of the mechanics of reproduction. They generally don't do the deep thinking that leads to profound changes of policy, or to the spawning of new factions. That's what the A-list polemicists are for.

I don't know if this metaphor will be useful to anyone else, but for me it helps clarify what the correct relationship between bloggers and the major political parties should be.

great article, lindsay, i think you put your finger on the the problems that the edwards campaign failed to see even before hiring anyone. they thought they'd get instant net roots support with very little output.

you made a smart call not taking them up on their offer, and you also describe the right's message infrastructure quite succinctly. very nice.

opps. can we please delete that comment to avoid future embarrassment.

you mean, embarrassment over misspelling the word "oops"?

"We've all got trolls, but Amanda gets a whole different level of abuse."

Lindsay, you’ve obviously paid careful enough attention to know just how venomous the wingnut scorpions are. It still amazes, though no longer surprises me just how creepy these folks can be. I consider myself pretty cynical, but I’m actually shocked at how ugly the comments re A. Marcotte and M. McEwan have been throughout the affair. Even knowing that they have received death threats, the wingnuts continue flinging the most putrid, dangerously contagious shit imaginable. The wingers can’t corner the market on hatred, but they’re laboring mightily trying.

I haven’t read anything Marcotte and McEwan have written that I thought was offensive, but then right from the start, I was the loose-lipped, insolent, pottymouth that the other army brat kids on the block weren’t allowed to play with, which is exactly why I read them.

Democratic politicians in the United States anyway probably can’t win major elections anytime soon if they’re seen to be too be serving anything stronger that the bland oatmeal “liberal” pabulum the voters have been conditioned to accept. For the time being, independence will be necessary for bloggers to retain credibility. The politicians are in a bind however, as their campaigns and their legitimacy and credibility, are scrutinized by more and more voters through the blogging lens and found seriously wanting.
The regular Democratic forces will remain effortlessly pinned down by the fascist snipers until the bulwarks of America’s “Fortress Stupidity” are breached. Independent progressive bloggers, especially competent polemicists, are needed now as sappers.

You hit on something very important here. The strength of the right-wing machine's (including the blogosphere) is the collective and coordinated attack and smear. You can only roll hate for so long, though, and attentive Americans across the spectrum are really getting tired of that. We really long for something more positive and energizing, despite our tendencies for scapegoating.

There's nothing wrong with a campaign hiring a blogger - not at all. They should get someone witty, and someone who already agrees with most of the policies and goals of the politicians. It's a PR job, basically, and there are some good people who can craft messaging, frame the terms of presentation, and all that. Still - that's PR delivered in blog format.

To me, some of the very best blogs are providing the kind of debate and discussion that is lacking in other forms of media. The blogosphere is a democratic development comparable to the printing press and the copy machine. Freedom of speech, and debate and argument, produce better citizens and a better democracy.

Yes, there are hateful, horrible diatribes. Yes, there are also simple repetitions of talking points. What I personally enjoy, though, is seeing a whole range of people trying to think things through and figure out where they stand. Some are more compelling than others, some are better writers. But most of them, the ones who write often, and think at least sometimes, get better and better at untwisting the spin. They get a better feel for language.

I'm glad that you didn't take the job, and I completely agree with all of your reasons. There aren't many who would have been able to articulate the issues so clearly as you have in this article. Kudos!

I am, by some people's reckoning, an evil right-winger, but I have always been a big fan of Majikthise, and I think Lindsay was prescient: "A bunch of Internet staffers with private blogs sounded like a disaster waiting to happen." The pseudonymous pamphleteer has always had a place in American history, and (s)he has always worked better as a solo act.

I haven’t read anything Marcotte and McEwan have written that I thought was offensive

I've read plenty of stuff Marcotte wrote that I instantly knew other people would find offensive. I'm pretty sure the line that got the Catholic League all het up was one of them. But one thing that's gradually happened to me over the past five-odd years is that I am much, much less inclined to complain that things that don't offend me might offend somebody else. If they're offended, let them complain about it--I'm done helping them out. Right now, the polemicists on my side need to be more fearless about giving offense, not less.

This probably makes me a bad choice of campaign blogger, too. And given that people on the Internet seem to perceive my shtick as playing Mr. Reasonable, if I'm too radical to work on a political campaign it's hard to imagine who isn't.

"The pseudonymous pamphleteer has always had a place in American history, and (s)he has always worked better as a solo act."

That's true. Tom Paine was at his most effective when he was an outsider and an unknown.

Amanda Marcotte was sunk by being an outspoken atheist

A bit of clarification seems in order here: Amanda was pissed on by Donoghue et al. not for being an atheist as such, but for making a tasteless, dumb joke about the Virgin Mary. Atop which, it bears mentioning that Pandagon in general is absolutely overrun with tasteless, dumb writing - in the comments section, occasionally in Amanda's posts, and quite often in Pam's, which would've been a problem for Amanda by association, in time. She wasn't attacked because her views on anything are in any way important; she was the vector for an attack on Edwards, and was herself attacked because she's merely unprofessional. A Lutheran making the same jokes would've run into the same problem.

Lindsay - it was a well-written article. But I gotta say, one (perhaps unintentional) side-effect is that in spite of the backslapping it makes Amanda look like a goddamn fool for taking the job. I do object to one turn of phrase though: if you're not evangelizing, you're not one of the 'most outspoken atheists' we're likely to meet. :)

Something I've seen talked about all over the blogsphere, but never mentioned once in the MSM is the whole right-wing smear machine as a whole. Why isn't there anything on this in the media (or is there and I just missed it). As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out repeatedly, they only seem interested in bloggers being bashed for being liberal and using bad language, while the right-wing smears are not reported on except to go along with the smear. And their extreme behavior - death threats, etc. are ignored because they don't use "harsh" language.

Meanwhile, despite the MSM being mostly in the back pocket of the right-wing, they continue to use the "liberally biased MSM" lie without even slowing down.

I still don't quite understand what the Edwards campaign had in mind, except perhaps, as utica suggested, to win the support of hip, young internet liberals by demonstrating they were willing to give two of them jobs. I guess they'll have to go through all the options before finally settling on a bold stand or two.

Smart Girl.

Wax Banks -

Yes, Amanda Marcotte was sunk by being an atheist who criticizes religion.

Lindsay Beyerstein is public about being an atheist, but doesn't criticize religion (as far as I can recall), and so it would have been more difficult for Bill Donohue to make a controversy around her.

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