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Should Moderators at Progressive Blog Sites Uphold Progressive Values?

letsgetitdone's picture

From time-to-time, moderators of various versions of FireDogLake's community blogging web site (The Oxdown Gazette, The Seminal, and now MyFDL have banned posters who have substantive disagreements with the site moderators, or with the primary thrust of FDL opinion as expressed by its leading blogger and the site owner, Jane Hamsher. We've seen that happen, most notably, in past years when community bloggers expressed support for single-payer health care reform and criticized FDL efforts in support of the public option “compromise,” which finally went down to defeat because, evidently, even the highly imperfect was the enemy of the good. Some of the community bloggers involved were banned outright, others were invited out and accepted the invitation. Still others simply stopped blogging at FDL in silent protest against the moderators and FDL leadership.

Another area of conflict has been the extent to which FDL should support third party efforts or efforts to primary the President in preparation for the 2012 election. Postings and commentary on third party efforts vs. primarying have been passionate, with FDL moderators clearly emphasizing the practical aspects of party work, its difficulty, and the need for a long-term commitment to activism within the Party, rather than a third party alternative to the two legacy parties. Recently a conflict erupted over a Diary posted by Rusty1776, one of the most popular of the community bloggers, who isn't also a moderator. Commentary on his post elicited responses from him that were repeatedly censored by the moderators. This behavior spread to threads on other posts, when Rusty tried to comment in other places to get by the moderators, and make his case to the community. Then Rusty was banned from FDL, his profile was erased, all of his blogs, many of which were quite beautiful and inspirational, were seemingly deleted. It was as if the moderators were trying to destroy evidence of his existence.

There were replies to these actions of the moderators. Michael Kwiatkowski, posted here in support of Rusty. Lengthy commentary on the issues may be found at a “watercooler”post by one of the moderators, Bill Egnor. Commentary and questions on moderator behavior and site process issues are provided for in FDL rules, in reply to “watercooler” posts. Many comments offered were in reply to Bill's post in support of Rusty's position, and some in support of the moderators, reflecting a split in the community. I posted the following comment.

Generally, I’m very much opposed to banning posters from community web sites like this. It does reek of censorship and is profoundly undemocratic. As far as I can see, Rusty1776?s original post was fairly moderate in content. It did contain statements that were critical of Jane and all of us. Here’s a quote:

We need to primary challenge Obama. Refusing to primary challenge him is immoral. I’m talking to you, Jane. I’m talking to you, Firedoglake. I’m talking to the front-pagers, I’m talking to the editors, I’m talking to the moderators, I’m talking to the diary writers and the readers, I’m talking to all of you. Morality is not irrelevant, it’s not meaningless, it matters, it matters more than anything else.

We all have the blood of the innocent on our hands, we’ve all been complicit in the crimes of that “government” in Washington, but we don’t have to be complicit any more. We can start washing that blood off our hands, we can begin atoning for our complicity and moral cowardice, we can take the first step down the road to redemption by primary challenging that pretty-word-peddling-puppet of the oligarchs.

Now, I’m not at all offended by this. It’s an opinion, and an exhortation, and a completely legitimate expression of opinion at a progressive web site. It should not have been deleted at a web site that claims to be progressive and to value democracy. You can still find it
here, and can judge for yourselves.

Following Rusty’s post, a vigorous and at times bitter discussion ensued and some hard words were said. The conflict spread to this post of Bill Egnor's and also to Michael Kwiatkowski’s post, and I guess to one of Kelly Canfield’s posts too, which I’ve not yet read. Rusty became increasingly outraged at what he thinks is unfair treatment by the moderators. To me, having read the threads, but not had access to the comments deleted by the mods, it does look unfair. Part of the unfairness is that Rusty was banned from the site, and his often magnificent posts were removed and lost to all members of this community who have admired them and found them uplifting.

Another part of the unfairness, or at least appearance of unfairness, lies in the lack of transparency of the moderation process. We do not know why, exactly, Rusty was banned. We don’t know what important rule he broke, and why breaking that rule was so unforgivable as to require the banning of one of our most valuable members.

We don’t know whether those who banned him did so from a position above the fray, or whether they were the very people he had started to call out as treating him unfairly, and who were opposing his point of view intellectually, as well as acting to silence him politically at FDL. If they were the same person or the same people, then they acted particularly reprehensibly, because, given their opposition to the content of what he was saying, they should have recused themselves from the process of evaluating him, and then sanctioning him. They should have done this in order to avoid winning the argument by using naked power, and not by offering the best argument. We all know that, and it is to their lasting shame that they have acted in this way.

Btw, if anyone wants to communicate with Rusty you can find him at:

Now, turning to a comment on something Bill said:

Politics can not be about absolutes. It falls apart when it is. I have no objection to people having this own ideas about what is moral and not, but a to use them as a litmus test without out looking at the totality of a politicians actions or the consequences of their defeat is to be a bully out to shame those who disagree with you. It is bad enough when the Right does it to the Left, it is worse when the Left does it to itself.

Argue that a policy is bad because of its affects, argue that it is illegal under our system of law, hell, argue that it is wrong headed because it affects you adversely but stay away from judgments of morality. That is for philosophers and theologians.

Well, first of all, I agree that we ought to look at the totality of a person’s actions before we view him as immoral. But I see no evidence that Rusty hasn’t: done that in Obama’s case, evaluated Obama’s actions as President, concluded that many of them are immoral; and that it is therefore a reasonable inference for him that Obama is an immoral political actor. I don’t think this is an unreasonable judgment, though Bill may not share it.

Second, on looking at the possible consequences of primarying Obama, I’m sure Rusty has thought about the possibilities inherent both in Obama’s victory and his defeat, and that his moral judgment about what we ought to do in this situation takes account of his thinking about the various possibilities he sees. Rusty seems pretty rational to me, so I’m pretty sure he’s done this thinking. I doubt that his analysis is the same as Bill’s, but I also think that their differences about what to do are not due to Rusty’s failing to look at likely effects of primarying Obama.

Third, Bill says that it’s OK to argue that a policy or action has:

1) bad effects;

2) is illegal under the law; or

3) will affect oneself adversely

but that it is improper to say that a policy or action or person is immoral, and he further thinks that we should leave this to the theologians and philosophers.

Well, I’m afraid that what Bill is expressing in this argument is just another philosophy, and it is not a philosophy I agree with. The reason for that is that when we oppose something for reasons in categories 1) 2) or 3), it is very easy for anyone to say so what? Who cares about current law? Who cares if it affects you adversely? Who cares if it has effects that you say are bad? When the “so what?” question is asked, we have to be able to go beyond “so what?” and reference higher principles of value theory, or Democratic Theory, or the Theory of Justice if we want to explain our views in a way that people can understand.

I agree with Bill that our ideas on these things vary all over the place and that we have no easy way to arbitrate conflicts over value and moral judgments. Nevertheless, we have every right to our theories and judgments of these kinds. In fact, we cannot escape them. We need to make them explicit, and, in my view, we need to make decisions in concrete situations in terms of an assessment of what the right or moral thing to do is in that situation.

Rusty’s theory, which may well be wrong (I’m a moral fallibilist myself) is that the right, i.e. moral thing to do next year is to primary Barack Obama. I’d like to hear a lot more about his thinking in this area, because even though he may be wrong, he also may be right. I certainly think that we deprive ourselves of the chance to learn, if we take his views off the table by banning him from this site. Even more, we also deprive ourselves of seeing whether the view held by many here, that we ought not to primary him, can stand up to the criticism that Rusty and others would provide.

Finally, I have to say that I think Bill’s position above, that we should not use our ideas about what is moral, non-moral, and immoral as “a litmus test” in deciding whether to do something or not, goes against a central tradition in western civilization in ethics. It is a very radical and controversial claim which in an earlier age was known as sophistry or sophism. It leads to the view that “Justice is the Interest of the Stronger.” This is not, in itself a valid argument against it. After all, it is ad hominem.

But considering our current context, is Bill really saying that we wouldn’t have been a lot better off if the banksters had used that litmus test before they made the decisions that ruined the world’s economy? Is he really saying, that we wouldn’t have been better off if the Bush Administration executives had used that litmus test before they decided to lie to the American people about WMD in Iraq? Is he really saying that we wouldn’t we better off, if this Administration had asked themselves whether it was right to have imprisoned Bradley Manning and thrown away the key before they did those things? is he really saying that we wouldn’t be better off if president Obama had asked himself whether it was right to insulate the banksters and fraudsters from prosecution because we needed to look forward and not backward?

I think my point is that there are a number of aspects to any human decision. They include cognitive (perception, thinking), affective (emotional), conative (intentional, purposive), and evaluative aspects. The last, evaluative, component involves morality. None of us can do without it. The only question is what moral values, and attitudes will shape our thoughts, emotions, and decisions in the here-and-now.

I call for the immediate reinstatement of Rusty1776. An injustice has been done here. If it’s not righted, it will echo through the future history of FDL. I also call for discussion of new moderation rules, a kind of constitution for the MyFDL community. these new rules would constrain posters and commenters, but they would also constrain mods. The rules I propose are here.

Please consider them as well as other proposals for a MyFDL constitution.

Later on, after my own and other comments supporting him were posted, FDL restored access to Rusty1776's diaries, his profile and his link on FDL friendship lists. It also became apparent, that the moderator who had been continuously censoring Rusty's comments was either Bill Egnor or Ruth Calvo. If it was Bill who so vigorously censored Rusty's replies to criticisms, then his actions seem particularly inappropriate, since Bill's watercooler post expresses a very strong disagreement with Rusty about the appropriateness of making public moral judgments in politics, and so, Bill clearly had an appearance of bias in evaluating Rusty's comments. Also, later on, I added this comment to my previous one:

Once again, I propose rules to constrain the moderators. I’m well aware that there are rules now. But there’s also this one:

“Our moderators reserve the right to take down any post or ban any user.”

That right must be constrained by clear rules to prevent future arbitrary action. We must know the post takedown or member banning offenses. It cannot simply be left to moderator judgment. There’s too much chance for bias to enter into the moderation process. For example, if Dean Baker or Cenk Uygur posted here in a similar vein to Rusty1776, would they have gotten the same kind of static from the moderators? Forgive me, but somehow I doubt it. FDL needs to do all it can to take the personalities out of the moderation process, especially since the moderators are themselves posters with very strong opinions. When it comes to the expression and evaluation of opinion on something identified as a community site, some ought not to be more equal than others.

As of this writing, according to Rusty's information, he is still banned from posting at FDL. I call for his posting privileges to be restored immediately. I would post this at MyFDL raher than Correntewire, except, as far as I know, MyFDL members, other than the moderators cannot file “watercooler” posts. So, I would be breaking FDL rules if I posted this there.

The actions of FDL moderators raise the larger question of free expression rights at progressive web sites. Clearly there is no right to come to such sites and to “troll,” i.e. to hijack threads by manufacturing name-calling, labeling, and ad hominem contests with other bloggers. Everyone recognizes that “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.” For that matter since progressive blogosphere sites are private, not public, and are owned by the bloggers who established and maintained them, there is no legal obligation to provide constitution-like guarantees of free speech/press to community members.

However, in the end, to retain one's credibility, one must uphold the principles one says that one believes in. The question in the title of this post is a rhetorical one. Of course, progressive web sites must uphold progressive values in their own practices. A site that doesn't do this, and that lets “the iron law of oligarchy” work unimpeded, is just not a progressive web site, no matter how loudly and frequently it proclaims that it is, and no matter how many “progressive candidates” it supports.

The progressive and open society values at issue in the banning of Rusty1776 are free press and free expression, transparency, political inclusiveness, and the right, nay the citizenship obligation, to evaluate and criticize those in authority. Jane Hamsher and the moderators at MyFDL can determine that they will uphold these values and be the thing they espouse, or they can refuse to uphold them and give up the name “progressive.” They cannot, however, have the name and act contrary to the values in their own backyard.

Restore Rusty's posting and membership rights! Clearly specify posting and banning rules and remove the moderators' right to take down any post, or ban any user, even if a post doesn't violate any rules! Give all members of myFDL a constitution! Be the progressive site you aspire to be!

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving).

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Submitted by windy on

to Kwiatkowski's first post is broken, there's an extra quote mark at the end. Great post btw!

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

for letting me know, windy.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

their moderation, won't change Jane's judgments about the practical course for FDL, but it may persuade her to be careful about getting a reputation that's in conflict with progressive, open society values.

Submitted by jawbone on

I finally had the experience of having a comment removed by an FDL moderator.

It was last Sunday during the Book Salon for Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson's new book, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer -- And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class.

Pierson gave a reply to an early question which suggested that Obama would have been more himself, or something, if he'd had more support from the Hill. Several people asked questions about this, including me.

Pierson's reply, #32:

We do not see it as one big club. We argue throughout the book that there remain big differences between the political parties. The tax policies that you get from Obama are not the same as what you get from Bush (or at least they wouldn’t be if he got more backing on the Hill). Same with health care, same with financial regulation. What we say is that on these issues “the Republicans where Black hats, the Democrats wear Grey Hats.” That is, both parties have been changed by the increasing imbalance of economic power in Washington, but they are not identical. The problem with the Democrats is that while some push for genuine reforms their strength is insufficient. There are many Democrats who are part of the problem. And the party as a whole is too conflicted and too much in need of financial and other forms of support from business to express an effective message of economic reform. Saying that is not the same as saying the two parties are the same. (My emphasis)

My question was not directly replied to, :

Reply from Prof. Pierson:

The tax policies that you get from Obama are not the same as what you get from Bush (or at least they wouldn’t be if he got more backing on the Hill). Same with health care, same with financial regulation. (Underlining added)

Could you explain a bit more about the lack of backing for Obama from the Hill? On tax cuts, it appears to me that Obama not only agreed to compromise with the Republicans, it was reported that the R’s actually were happily amazed that he gave them more than they dreamed they could get. And it was done between the R’s and Obama et al. Not within the Senate or House.

On health insurance reform, it was Obama who took single payer “off the table,” who offered the Romney/Heritage Foundation plan to ensure Big Health Insurers would continue to get big profits through mandating purchase of their products. Any attempts from the Hill to make the plan more liberal were soundly swatted down…by Obama et al. It was Obama who gave the management of this profit protection plan to Baucus and put Baucus’s former chief of staff on Obama’s WH staff.

And…Obama wanted stronger financial regulation but the Hill would’t let him? Puh-leeeze, this does not compute. Just look at HAMP and the new plan being floated to offer the bankster fraudsters’ clemency on their mortgage frauds for a mere $20B!!

Help me here: What am I missing? What did Obama really have in mind, had he been able to constrain the conservatives…or something?

But, in replying to others, Pierson stuck to his guns, that Obama was very different from Bush and would have done things differently if he'd had more support.

A commenter whose name I can't remember then listed about 14 or 15 things that he believed showed Obama's actions to be very similar to Bush's. That comment is now gone. In fact, after Cujo359 replied to it with a link to Hugh's post here at Corrente about the Obama scandals reaching 200, I was looking up the post, came back to write something about it, but by then Cujo359's comment and the link was also wiped out.

I wrote that I was looking for the link to Hugh, but it had disappeared. Did anyone know what had happened to it, etc.

Then, that comment went into moderation, but there was an italicized line saying the moderator thought the comment was off topic.

Next thing, my comment went poof.

Since both the listing of Obama actions which appeared to the commenter to be very similar to what Bush had done was very much on point, asking Pierson to defend his earlier contenttion to the opposite, and Cujo's link to Hugh made the question to Pierson even more clear, it was pretty amazing to me to see what the moderater had done.

At the time I almost posted here on the colloquy which disappeared, but RL intervened. The comments by Hacker and Pierson were very interesting in that they come to many of the same conclusions we here do about how Washington is doing the bidding of the rich, but they are absolutely unable to see any agency by Obama in these outcomes.

However, this censorship has bothered me. I had never seen this kind of removal of statements at FDL before. I'd heard about it, and then, wham bam thank you m'am, there it was, affecting little ol' me. But, what it really affected was the discussion between the authors and the FDL commenters. A topic many commenters thought was important was, well, censored.

I really like FDL for many things. OK, it took a hell of a long time for the leadership there to realize Obama had played them, but, gee, there's still really good stuff. And now they get what Obama did, in not only health care but financial regulation, union support, etc.

This incident, however, gave me pause. How does a commenter know what will set off a moderator? At least Jeralyn at Talk Left, who runs a very tight ship, makes clear, usually, what ticks her off, where a commenter has crossed lines she's asking them to within. Lambert here will ask a commenter to explain why something is germane if he himself does not see a comment's pertinence.

But, just wiping things out? Way too arbitrarily authoritarian for me.

Good luck, Lets, in getting some improvements in the moderation regimen.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

telling your story. It's important for everyone to know how the only occasional hand of the FDL moderators is impacting the dialogue over there.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

I don't remember that chat quite the way jawbone does. I reacted to someone else's comment on Hugh's list, which then disappeared. I'm not too sad my own comment disappeared, because it was little more than a one-liner, but Hugh's list was, or should have been, part of the conversation.

Removing the comment I was reacting to affected the conversation, not to mention that doing so leaves a false picture of what the authors chose to ignore during the chat, which is sometimes as revealing as the comments they make.

My own opinion from that chat was that those two authors were deluded at best, and morons at worst. I wrote comments that were a reaction to what they'd written, and they ignored those, also. Would they have if one of my comments hadn't disappeared? I have to wonder.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Cujo. Doesn't surprise me that Jacob Hacker is deluded. He certainly was deluded about health care and did us all great damage in that area. So why not deluded in this area, too. It's important to get stories out about how FDL moderators are manipulating opinion on their site. They shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

Submitted by lefttown on

but I no longer see the point in wasting my energies there. The big guns attack people personally, they kick people off, or they "moderate" people. For me personally, FDL was one big stomach ulcer waiting to happen. I got off that tightly-run merry-go-round, and I haven't regretted it since I waved good-bye. There are so many fine sites that welcome the opinion of others (like this one).

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Submitted by letsgetitdone on

But I post there to spread the word around; and I didn't want to stay silent when Rusty was getting fried. A bunch of us here were either thrown out or driven away by FDL. I've stuck it out, but, in my view, it's even more oligarchic now than when Jason Rosenbaum was running the Seminal.

Submitted by lefttown on

stood up for Rusty. I stood up for him before I left, too. The people in charge there are just too authoritarian to appreciate what a gem they had. I sometimes wonder if the moderators there don't get their marching orders from the WH.
And it's good to spread the word around. Goodness knows, it's needed there.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

But he seems to be down on blogging right now, and just seems to want justice from FDL.

Michael Kwiatkowski's picture
Submitted by Michael Kwiatkowski on

I don't know what happened to that idiot Rosenbaum, but his departure certainly did not change FDL for the better. He was too openly insulting and condescending as the editor of the Seminal. Now the moderating is done more covertly. At least before, we knew more about who was doing what.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

about morality. Morality is vital in leading a moral or harmonious and just life amongst other people. Rusty sounds like someone I would like. Life is about the decisions we make each and every day. If we don't have a fully developed sense of ourselves, then we remain children. It is what David Korten in "The Great Turning" calls the imperial consciousness unlike the more evolved social and cultural consciousnesses. The imperial conscience gives one a sense that one can get away with things. Kind of a narcissism that allows you to cheat and lie without punishment. Sometimes we refer to this as lack of empathy. Korten says that poor sociopaths go to jail. Richer ones end up in Washington and as heads of companies.

Martin Luther King, Jr said "One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right if the head is totally wrong. Only through the bringing together of head and heart--intelligence and goodness--shall man rise to a fulfillment of his true nature."

Before there was a department of political science or psychology most everything including economics fell under one study; philosophy.

How do we decide matters of right and wrong? What is a right policy or a wrong policy?
A dialectical approach of using head and heart seems to be the best idea. This is a Western idea that has worked for a long time. What these moderators are advocating sounds more like Confucianism. Loyalty to the company or family comes first. Each person has a role in the hierarchy. And each role has duties. This approach likes an authority figure. To point out that the ruler is immoral is a huge deal and probably frightening for some. But it is a courageous thing to do.

A discussion of politics without the context of ethics and morality seems like a wasteland.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

A discussion of politics without the context of ethics and morality seems like a wasteland.

And so it is, MM!

cal1942's picture
Submitted by cal1942 on

So we're supposed to wait for theologians or philosophers to make pronouncements regarding morality.

How damn lame is that.

The next time I judge a given act to be morally disgusting it appears I should withhold my own thoughts on the matter and wait for the high judgment of a theologian or philosopher. Apparently, on my own, I couldn't possibly decide what is or is not moral.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Bill, didn't exactly say that. Only in politics is there no place for moral judgments, as I read him.

Submitted by windy on

Egnor in the watercooler thread:
"I think that introducing morality as a criteria is reprehensible."

Isn't that a moral judgment?

Submitted by hipparchia on

see rule #1.

All the commenters in all the sections of fdl, and all the diarists at oxdown/seminal/myfdl are providing free, unpaid work for jane hamsher. in return, you will get some visibility for your opinions/work that you might otherwise not have been able to get on your own.

corrente is kind of the same ["community" blogs pretty much have to be, and i can promise you there's no way to design, ahead of time, a moderation policy that will cover everything that could possibly happen], but without the ruthless exploitation. the metaphor that comes to mind is the difference between lambert slowly and experimentally turning his yard into an organic garden - a little compost here, a little sheet mulch there, a little winter sowing here, a little woodchuck fence there - and jane as the blogger equivalent of a typical big ag farm - acres and acres of a few roundup-ready gmo monocrops in neat parallel rows, all tilled and planted and harvested with the latest, shiniest technology.

i'm a firm believer in the idea that if you don't like the direction/theme/policies of any particular blog, you can always go start your own. whoever puts in the bulk of the money, time, work, etc that goes into running a blog gets to have the final say.

that said, yes, i really liked rusty's writings and comments.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

We have civil discussions here. They're sharp sometimes; but it's all good!

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

i'm a firm believer in the idea that if you don't like the direction/theme/policies of any particular blog, you can always go start your own. whoever puts in the bulk of the money, time, work, etc that goes into running a blog gets to have the final say.

perhaps it is because I am currently reading the history of the reformation. splintering is a natural phenomenon. Hamsher has the right to run her blog as she pleases. No one likes to be attacked on their own blog. She offers a high traffic blog in exchange for volunteer posts. At some point you have to accept that you can't use her blog to promote anything too lefty.

Submitted by jawbone on

I almost included in my comment that site owners are, well, site owners and can run their sites as they see fit.

But, as remarked above, FDL in general is certainly showing clear growth in evaluating Obama.

And, in the example I used, no one was attacking anyone! (Er, maybe Obama's actions and hypocrisy....) Indeed, Jane herself is now pointing out, iirc, the descrepancies between Obama's words and his actiions. Perhaps the moderator didn't want the two authors to feel uncomfortable about their perception of Obama as a well-meaning, if a bit feckless, liberal. Who knows?

Submitted by hipparchia on

Perhaps the moderator didn't want the two authors to feel uncomfortable about their perception of Obama as a well-meaning, if a bit feckless, liberal.

i think this is probably right on target.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

rights. The "owners" of a site have the right, technically, to kick off whomever they please, but a LOT of the value of sites like FDL come from the commentators. FDL would be a whole lot less popular and get fewer hits and less attention if commenting wasn't part of the community there. So commenters contribute value to Hamsher and her moderators, but have no rights of their own, no protection against arbitrary behavior, and no say in the overall gestalt of a site. Some sites, and I'd put both TL and probably FDL in this category, get a very large part, if not most, of their value from the commentators. In any case, it's symbiotic relationship, but only one part gets the rights. Yes, you can always go somewhere else, but that's not really the point.

We all can exercise our various rights (such as they are), but you can also exercise your rights very badly. Or, depending on your philosophical orientation, immorally. The moderators at FDL seem (well, some of them) to want to be the ref and the player on one team at the same time.

I think the value of Lambert's moderation is not so much that it's low-key as that the rules are clear, non-arbitrary and mostly content-neutral (the one exception being no right-wing talking points). But everyone has notice, which gives us all the ability to decide up front (before becoming part of the community/contributing value) whether we want to participate.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

But the rights you're talking about are all legal ones. I think the commenters and bloggers who contribute to community sites and give them value have moral rights if not legal ones. I also think that moral people who run progressive sites should grant those rights in the form of constitutional rules. That is just because a web site is a capitalist monarchy, doesn't mean it can't be a limited monarchy.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Jane's legal right to run her blog the way she pleases, only whether she can call her blog "progressive" if its internal procedures are authoritarian.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Rusty can go elsewhere. he can even come here. But that's not the point, hipparchia.

The point is the obligation of progressive blogs to act progressively, both in their external advocacy and action, and in their internal procedures. FDL's not doing that with its moderation policy. That's the simple point. I'm calling for change and also calling for justice for Rusty. Do you really disagree with that?

Submitted by hipparchia on

since when is 'progressive' synonymous with 'non-authoritarian'? as i noted in my 'shallow thought' comment, the original progressive party was a split-off from the republican party. and i'll just add that that party appears to have been to the left of today's average career progressive.

i agree that rusty was treated badly, but i feel that fdl is redeemable in about the same way that many people feel the democratic party is redeemable. it's entirely possible that i'm wrong about that, and so i applaud your efforts, especially those on rusty's behalf, but jane hamsher is doing well and does not need me.

as for moral underpinnings, it seems to me that rusty has won [or lost] the lottery. i confess that i'm not sure if it's more moral to stay there and try to change the fdl community or to walk away.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

that's right! No one has the authority to define "progressive" as non-authoritarian. The word means many things depending on who you talk to. But I propose that a definition of progressivism ought to include support for open society including non-authoritarianism.

Also, I didn't write this because I thought FDL was redeemable, but just to raise the question in the title and point out that FDL was answering it in a negative way, so that in my view it shouldn't be described as a progressive blog site.

Submitted by hipparchia on

and in my view, they are the quintessential progressive blog site! :)

my gut feeling is that you'd lose a lot of 'progressives' if you redefined the term to include only non-authoritarianists.

i'm less concerned about who gets called what then i am about trying to figure out whose business models are what.

on fdl in particular-- my guess is that if jane were to run myfdl along the lines that you'd like [and i agree, i'd prefer your way] that it quite possibly would not fit with her goals/way of doing things. my further guess is that if she were more transparent and open about those goals and how she sees the rest of you as forwarding them, the fdl community would be less vibrant [and i really like a lot of the people there], and a less vibrant community would not help her reach her goals...

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Perhaps I'm just not a progressive! But something else entirely.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i'm not sure what i am either, some mix of anarchist, democratic socialist, and liberal, i guess, but i've found this to be a useful framework to always keep in mind.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

really follow Ian. Every time I've read a post of his I've liked it. Thanks for the link, hipparchia.

Submitted by Hugh on

Came late. What is so pernicious about FDL's censorship is that unless it happens to you or right in front of you you don't know it's going on because the evidence is erased. It's very Kremlinesque, you know those old photos of leaders watching parades from Lenin's Tomb, where some figure fallen out of favor was simply airbrushed from the scene.

This really isn't about who owns or doesn't own FDL. It's about the nature of what a liberal/progressive blog is. A real liberal blog simply would not act this way. The who owns the blog calls the shots is a false issue. You can not be liberal/progressive and run your operation like a pipsqueak Stalin. The two are antithetical. And to be clear it is not just censorship at FDL. It is the opaque way the FDL community is cut out of decision making or even many of the discussions about what goes on at the site. Jane et al are constantly asking for donations from this same community. So how small d democratic is that that she is willing to take money from the community but as far as any meaningful input goes she tells them to fuck off?

And there is the site's editorial policy. Again Jane publicizes her site as progressive but if you go through the posters and moderators, you find that many of them have far stronger ties to the Democratic party than they do to progressivism: Blue Texan, Phoenix Woman, Bill Egnor, Jason Rosenbaum, Rayne, Tbogg, and even David Dayen (especially if you catch him talking about California politics). There is also the issue of their being part of FDL but also acting as ordinary commenters. If you read FDL threads for any length of time, you no doubt have seen them "swarm". One of them will have a post, a commenter will take issue with it, sometimes very effectively, and then others of this group will pile on, defending their own and deriding the commenter who had the effrontery to question one of them. This isn't discussion. It's a ploy to manufacture consent.

Jane put these people on her payroll. She's about as progressive as Obama is socialist. And that's OK if she were being honest about it but she isn't. She sells her site as progressive but mostly it isn't. And that's wrong because it siphons off resources that should be going to actual progressives.

I have often thought, since leaving FDL, that if it did not exist Obama and the Democrats would have had to invent it. It sops up progressive resources and energies and expends them in unproductive and ineffective campaigns. It is why I describe FDL as a Trojan horse. It's main aim seems to be delay and prevent the formation of a left independent of the Democratic party.

As for what happened to Rusty1776, he has my sympathies. I don't have a doubt in the world that Rayne who is the MyFDL editor was behind it. She's a hardline Democratic operative. It's more or less her job to weed out progressive voices at the site, especially those that remark on the fact that FDL is progressive for marketing purposes only. But again as others have noted, Jane is the boss and Rayne is only doing what Jane wants her to.

sporkovat's picture
Submitted by sporkovat on

FDL is perceived as less of a groupthink, Democratic Party online outreach forum than kos, but that is partially because their censorship and purging is rather discreet.

shout out to Hugh - he knoew how to handle himself when the swarm came down.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Hugh really knows how to handle swarms of angry trolls.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

You can not be liberal/progressive and run your operation like a pipsqueak Stalin.

Loved that one! -:) -:) -:)

Submitted by hipparchia on

aside from checking dday's news reporting occasionally, and stopping by southern dragon's caturday, i don't read fdl much, but yes, pouting baby should be about ready for training pants by now, i would think.

sporkovat's picture
Submitted by sporkovat on

Shining some light on what FDL would like to keep in the dark

The policy they seem to have settled on for me was:

(1) Complete banning from the frontpage writings of Jane Hamsher and Jon Walker

(2) capricious, ad hoc indefinite detention in moderation of comments on diaries and on frontpage articles by other writers. My comments could be "pending moderator approval" for between 16 hours and 2 days, but eventually they would appear, too late to influence the conversation.

I would observe a couple things - banning and censoring by gatekeeper sites like FDL should be seen as a badge of honor, because it means they are scared of the increasing prevalence of hetrodox or heretical opinions towards their preferred Legacy Party.

I was writing acrid comments at FDL, against (D) complicity in the wars and police state encroachment, since 2006, at least. I was vociferously opposed to the nascent Obama adulation, and equally opposed to a continuation of a Clinton dynasty.

But, I noticed the censorship became more prevalent when views like mine became more popular - certainly through 2009 and 2010, cresting with that whole health care charade that drove a lot of us over to Corrente.

Not to go OT, because the subject of your post is very much worth focusing on, but I view FDL as enforcers of an outer perimeter of acceptable thought within the legacy party system, and they are staking out and defending the meme that somehow Obama and the rest of the national Democratic Party are not 'real' Democrats, like the FDR of seventy years ago.

Critique and venting within that framework is allowed - ridiculing that framework gets you banned.

See what other perimeters you find - have fun and don't forget to copy/paste your comments into a local text file, and/or take screengrabs!

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Hi spork, Very good analysis of what's going on there. I suspect it's largely right. They haven't done very much with me in terms of censorship. In fact, I can't even remember an incident of that kind. I knew about some of their censorship of others. But the replies to this post are bringing out the comprehensiveness of it for me.

TheMomCat's picture
Submitted by TheMomCat on

The Stars Hollow Gazette and Docudharma, I have major problem with deleting comments and entries. We have a strict policy at both sites about it, we don't. It's hard to argue your case when the evidence has been erased.

I found that some if the comments by the moderators in both entries at FDL, claiming that Rusty1776 violated the rules, had little, if any, credibility because of the lack of evidence. They also failed to even site the rules he broke.

Moderators directly involved in disagreements should not be involved in disciplining their adversaries, that goes to bias and they should not be allowed to delete comment or essays, no matter how egregious. (The caveat to that is revealing someone's personal information)

Rusty1776 was quite upset and angry about this and has been in contact with one of my administrators and is assessing his options.

I very rarely read MyFDL entries and even more rarely read comments, I find the format a pain. The only reason I read the comments in Rusty1776's entry is because of Michael Kwiatkowski's essay at Docudharma, otherwise, I'd know nothing about this.

I absolutely agree with you last paragraph.

Restore Rusty's posting and membership rights! Clearly specify posting and banning rules and remove the moderators' right to take down any post, or ban any user, even if a post doesn't violate any rules! Give all members of myFDL a constitution! Be the progressive site you aspire to be!