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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 Salon.com article, she describes how she originally was approached to blog for the John Edwards campaign. As you... [Read More]

Comments

I don't know about that - I think just being an atheist is enough to get criticized. Atheists are the least likely group to get elected, below every other group in a poll I saw done recently. Lower than homosexuals, which is saying something in this current environment.

so it would have been more difficult for Bill Donohue to make a controversy around her.

Not really. Anyone who's ever said anything vaguely uncomplimentary about the pope is fresh meat for the likes of Donohue.

Perhaps the cheer leaders for Terry Schiavo's parents would have reared up instead.

No, that would've been too popular. "Edwards' blogmaster supported Michael Schiavo, just like around two thirds of Americans" isn't how you get someone fired.

Maybe you've noted this elsewhere, Lindsey, but are you supporting Edwards over, say Kucinich? The feminist/progressive blogosphere speaks with many voices, of course, but collective support could be enormously powerful at this stage. I've thrown my lot in with John Edwards, and obviously many others have as well.

On the other hand, remaining officially neutral allows the feminist wing of the netroots to pressure all of the candidates at once, which may well be useful.

Great insight and analysis. Good call on your part, too - looks like you dodged a bullet. I'm most impressed by your willingness to see beyond your own interests and warn the campaign of the dangers they were heading into. I guess you can only lead them to the water, not make them drink it.

I concur with those who say that Lindsay would be harder to smear than Amanda was. In fact, the same good sense that make her walk away from the job has also meant that she has said fewer smearable things. Lindsay may be an outspoken atheist who can make crude jokes, but every post has a level of reasonableness and balance that you don't see elsewhere.

For similar reasons, I'm pleased that "analytic philosophy" remains in the masthead of this blog, even though we don't get as much of it as we used to. I there is something of the rational spirit of analytic philosophy in Lindsay's political writing.

I enjoyed your article, Lindsay and I'm even on the "other side"! Though I've never been big into choosing sides. Pretty insightful of you to see this mess coming.

As a young guy I don't much like the show that is politics, nor do I get outraged over actions that don't relate to doing your job. Acting nice and angelic, free from impure thoughts; it's fake, and spending all that time grooming and living a lie could be better spent, you know, doing actual things. So Bush said "shit" I say "shit," who gives a shit?

That said, what I pride in my own politics is the ability to see other's viewpoints, even if I don't agree with them. That's where I think a lot of people on your "side" fall short on this Marcotte thing -- a lot of the American electorate would be highly offended by some of her comments, even if I wasn't.

Can't you just see a reporter asking, "Mr. Edwards, your blogger has said "God...white sticky...plan B, blah, blah, do you agree with those comments?" (For the record I thought it was a pretty funny joke, I've said worse...much worse) It'd be a nightmare, and the crux of your Salon article seems to be avoiding those nightmares. Of course, if a reporter asked that, people would scream "noise machine" -- which is stupid, the comments were indeed said, and, sadly, people FROM BOTH SIDES will use ANYTHING to sink a candidate.

The hoopla over the "right-wing noise machine" without, in most cases, even a slight admission that the Marcotte's remarks are offensive to some makes one seem intellectually disingenuous. The "noise-machine" may have invented the controversy but it didn't invent the comments, and I think aiming the barrels at the machine is silly. Kill the messenger and all that.

Further, to act like only on side has a "machine" -- well, I just don't see it. Kos can get anything into any paper at anytime. Fox News outrage; wham! Kos and MyDD are in the San Fran Chron, who print their accusations (which some have called into question, I'd need to see the tape before believing either side), big time politicians (hell, Kerry could be president right now) post dairies at his site, and I'm sure staffers visit daily -- staffers who could get it into the MSM right away. Not to mention MoveOn or the Ford Foundation, or any number of groups who have the cash and mouth to get picked up by the papers. Plus, MSM feels like the sky is falling with blogs and ANY chance they have to paint blogs as vile or vulgar to dissuade new readers, they'll take.

Sorry that this comment is longer than a Mel Gibson Jew Spew -- one last thing:
A commenter above me talked about "liberal bias" and a lack thereof and there's no point in rehashing that debate, but from my point of view whatever bias causes an editor/writer to print "comments some have described as offensive to catholics" as opposed to the actual Marcotte comments is a bias I don't like. The reader needs to be the judge, in this instance withholding the actual comment in question UNDOUBTEDLY gave cover to Edwards, who happens to be a Democrat.

Great piece but I think the absolute most important piece of this is the backdoor funding of the conservative bomb throwers. Bill Donohue gets $300,000 a year to spend his time agitating against liberals. That allows for the independent/not independent position to be maintained. Most liberal bloggers are volunteers and the time commitments are staggering putting an absolute limit on the potential effectiveness.

Unfortunately this will be the hardest part of the conservative machine to replicate. The funding primarily comes from a few sources but is filtered through so many fronts and Astroturf organizations so as to preserve the credibility of the recipients.

good point gabriel, but IIRC, 300K is Donohue's salary. the budget of the Catholic League is probably a good bit more.

Great article & fantastic read of the situation; I also appreciate the light shed about the thinking in the Edwards campaign. (Has anybody else longingly wished that Elizabeth Edwards could run for president?)

"Bob" sounds like a nice and idealistic person, but politically naive.

It's too bad the Edwards campaign didn't quietly hire Lindsay as a political consultant!

Despite disagreeing with your characterization of the right-wing blogosphere and the substance of Marcotte's writings, I really enjoyed the article. Thanks for sharing your experience.

A commenter above me talked about "liberal bias" and a lack thereof and there's no point in rehashing that debate, but from my point of view whatever bias causes an editor/writer to print "comments some have described as offensive to catholics" as opposed to the actual Marcotte comments is a bias I don't like.

I think that bias is the bias against talking about sticky cum in the newspaper if it can be avoided. Perhaps you and I can form a bipartisan Seeds of Integrity Alliance to combat this self-censorious scourge.

It's nice of you to voice this reasonable opinion now that it's all over, Lindsay, but it does very little to combat the appearance that while the brouhaha was going on, folks like you and Stoller were more interested in protecting patronage for your friends than engaging in an honest dialogue about how best to approach the blog-campaign interface. It would've been a credit to the netroots if more people had been saying "Here's where you went wrong" instead of just trying to protect Amanda at all costs.

This just increases me respect for people like Ezra Klein who didn't hide the fact that they realized the same things you did.

Everyone acts as if Amanda was hired to recreate Pandagon at John Edwards' site. That wasn't her job at all. As an Edwards campaign staffer her job was to communicate the Edwards message. It's just like when I was an advertising copywriter. My clients hired me because I'm a creative person who could come up with credible and compelling language to sell their product. It wasn't my job to decide whether the product was good. It wasn't even my job to choose which features and benefits to highlight. They told me what to say, and I figured out how to say it.

The Edwards campaign gave their bloggers more leeway than Madison Avenue usually gives their copywriters, but it's the same principle.

Blogging for Edwards is a job. Blacklisting employees for their prior political expression as private citizens is ugly. Sure, politics is unfair. On the other hand, we don't have to roll over and accept every narrative the right wing tries to push. Our cultural norms are in flux about blogging/commenting. On the one hand these are statements in writing, they are published statements in some senses of the term. On the other hand, in many ways blogging is more like conversation. Swearing in public won't disqualify you from working for a campaign. Campaign workers swear in front of the press all the time, even when they're technically on the record. Reporters swear around campaign operatives. It's just normal. Eventually, our norms will evolve to the point where personal blog posts will be regarded as a half-step more formal that chitchat in a bar with a source.

Edwards tried to fight back by saying, that was then, this is now, they aren't writing that stuff for me.

The critical mistake not to simultaneously crack down on private blogging. As long as the bloggers were still writing on their own, Edwards couldn't draw a bright line and move on.

Matt Stoller strongly criticized the Edwards campaign for letting staffers keep up their own blogs on the side. He gave up blogging at myDD while he was working for Corzine, and it struck him as obvious that other campaign bloggers should do the same.

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 have yet to observe anyone from Left Blogistan substantiate their accusations of smearing and quoting Amanda "out-of context." (Citing previous posts that have since become a political liability/embarrassment is neither.)

And while I certainly do not countenance the threats Amanda has been subjected to, that is a separate issue from the alleged vast, right-wing conspiracy that is to blame for smearing her, quoting her out-of-context, and stringing tin cans to the tails of her cats.


Well stated there, and I agree.

The problem is that people treat politics as though all birds of a feather flock together, and some acted as though the hiring was a tacit approval of the views expressed on Marcotte's personal blog -- which is silly, but we're probably all a bit guilty of that at times.

I would love to see the day that stops, the day that faux-outrage for the sake of making a candidate look bad (and that's across the board, outrage is a serious word. Who was personally outraged at the macca comment, a few no doubt, but honest to goodness outrage? Who was actually outraged about Marcotte being hired, for that matter who is outraged that Donahue stirred the pot? Maybe people live more wound up lives than I but I just don't get worked up over that kind of stuff. I get worked up when people don't acknowledge facts or stretch the facts to make their case or when I run out or beer or when the Redskins lose, that's about it) instead of a discussion and debate of the viewpoints the candidate is peddling. Sadly, that day seems far off.

mea culpa: My brain-needle skipped there for a second. I meant Bowers, not Stoller. Stoller didn't do anything wrong on this, as far as I know.

Darcy is specifically the guy in "Pride and Prejudice".

I was not referring specifically to Marcotte. I was referring to the general trend that the "left" blogsphere is often blasted in the media for use of swear words, while there is silence about the "right" blogsphere that has the mainstream right bloggers like Malkin, Reynolds, etc. advocating the killing of political opponents. But hey, at least they don't swear.

You nail it right here Lindsay:

"Every campaign needs a blog, but the most important part of a candidate's netroots operation is the disciplined political operatives who can quietly build relationships with bloggers outside the campaign. And the bomb-throwing surrogates need to be outside, where they can make full use of their gifts without saddling a campaign with their personal political baggage."

Bomb throwers unite!
:)

We in the boondocks are in a much less interesting world than bloggers in NY City for sure. But, the Daschle-Thune contest here in SD indicated the problems and dangers of bloggers and politics.

At that time, the MSM seemed unaware that blogs were any kind of force and also that bloggers could be bought and paid for by candidates. I don't think the MSM even in the boondocks is quite as naive now. I doubt deceptive blogging done for payola will be as effective anymore. There stuff is not going to be picked up by the conventional media without disclaimers of some kind unless that conventional media is also bought and paid for already.

The article in Salon was interesting and made many good general points. Now I will have another damn blog to check. Congratulations on having some good sense...it is not nearly as common as many people seem to think.

@ John E.

Wow, jazz composer and hero of literature!

You're a class act all the way, Lindsay. And "Bob" wasn't listening to you. The observation was made elsewhere that whoever took the job was going to be scalped. Donohue knows perfectly well the Catholic church is in no need of a champion. His job is to keep the Edwards campaign from picking up the biggest stick in the playground, and fighting his way into the White House. The power of the internet is formidable, and Edwards is way ahead of everyone else about how to use it. I'll bet even Hil and Barack will find some time to sneak in to church and light a candle for little Billyboy. Down but not out, I say.

that has the mainstream right bloggers like Malkin, Reynolds, etc. advocating the killing of political opponents.

Citation? Because you won't find one. (Hint: enemies committed to attacking the United States are not "political opponents.")

As to the main post, I really don't get your pique at the "right-wing" blogs, etc. Marcotte didn't just criticize people in a direct way. She said things that are hateful and bigoted. That Virgin Mary quote was NOT meant in jest; it was meant to be as rude and nasty as possible. That's her privilege as a person in this country. It is the privilege of others to criticize Edwards for hiring such a bigot; it calls into question his judgment, just as the "macaca" remark did for Allen. (Aside: actually, the more telling part of that clip, but one rarely focused on, is when Allen says "Welcome to America." THAT was worse, in my opinion, since it implied that Allen thought a non-white guy must be an immigrant.)

If a conservative blogger had said something that harsh about, say, Islam, and been (unwisely) hired by any Republican candidate, he/she/it would have been fired just as quickly. It would have started with Kos and Atrios and Greenwald screaming, and within a day it would have been in the NYTimes ("Republican candidate hires bigoted blogger? Comments about Islam have drawn early, unwelcome attention to the campaign of...").

Marcotte seems incapable of comprehending that saying things like that Virgin comment, or her Duke lacrosse post she later removed (which mainly said they're guilty because they're white, male and accused; she seems unaware of contrary evidence), or implying that all who disagree with her in any way are rapist-enablers, is not normal discourse. People who disagree with her on political issues are not her enemy, but she treats them that way, deleting their comments and refusing to engage in discussion. She wishes to live in a world where her views will go unchallenged. Well, sorry. We have freedom of speech in America. She can say what she wishes. Others can criticize her, and those who hire her for a campaign, if they wish.

Re Amanda's take on Catholicism, her big sin as I see it is criticizing from outside the church. I can't think of any other eras where the church deserved outspoken and shrill criticism that the last few pedophiliac years. However, lest we forget, the Cistercians, the early Cluniacs, the Jesuits, St. Theresa of Avila, et al. (let's not forget Martin Luther himself) were all outspoken in their criticisms of the church, and rightly so. She never did anything wrong in this regard. In fact, she was usually spot on right.

Fr. Ronzoni
SPQR

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