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What A-list blogger called Digby "a chicken shit"?

vastleft's picture

From Eric Boehlert's Bloggers on the Bus:

"I thought it was character assassination," Digby told me a couple weeks after the RFK controversy had passed. She was exhausted by the toll the campaign had already taken on the blogosphere. She was also aware of the kind of pie fights that would erupt on her site if she posted a condemnation of those who unfairly attacked Clinton for her RFK comments. So Digby, who never endorsed either candidate, simply passed on the story. "I'm a chicken shit," she said with a shake of her head.

There are two possibilities, folks:

1. Digby, after years of wisely and tirelessly critiquing the rot in our politics and punditry, was suddenly and baselessly afraid of her own shadow

2. The Obama movement bullied her into submission

In an interview with eRiposte, Boehert reports that Digby was not alone in biting her tongue, lest she be torn to shreds by the Hope Brigade:

One of the most interesting things bloggers have told me (often off the record) about the primary season was how clear it became that their readers really did dictate what the bloggers wrote. For years, bloggers and their readers had been in heated agreement about Bush, about Iraq, about the MSM. But in lots of cases they were not in agreement about who should be the Democratic nominee and bloggers mentioned to me how strange and uncomfortable that schism was, and how in the end many of them did just punt. Meaning, they got tired of fighting with their readers and simply didn’t write certain things because they knew it would create a pie fight within the site. They’re not especially proud of it, but they have conceded that they did alter what they wrote. And that for them it was a real eye-opener because they had spent years educating their readers about politics and the press and creating certain narratives together. And then during the primary season, some bloggers felt like their readers just completely ignored those shared lessons (and of course, the readers would say it was the blogger who ignored those shared lessons) that left the bloggers with the uncomfortable choice of essentially rejecting their readers or editing what they wrote. Today, some will admit they opted for the second choice.

Should the progressive blogosphere try to learn from what happened, and perhaps apologize to those who were maligned — and even threatened — for taking a stand against truthiness and abusiveness among within our own (progressive blogosphere) ranks?

Nah! Don't forget, we're all Scalia now.

No votes yet


Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Wow. Can you imagine how different things might have been if Digby had been braver?

One of the heartbreaks of last year was my disappointment with her and her blog.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

to stop the OFB from taking over the FKD?

And what you said above about Digby is shamelessly self-serving.

Digby got out there and gave the news and facts.

Did you run an A-list blog last year? Do you now?

Don't sling mud at Digby. This is not the venue that'll welcome such chickenshit behavior, even from a bird.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

It was a low-blow when you asked me how many days I spent in uniform, and this a low-blow here.

Digby, to her credit, is admitting that she didn't conduct herself in a way, during the campaign, that fills her with pride. If you take issue with any of Katiebird's arguments or characterizations, win the debate.

But don't make Digby out to be beyond criticism, something she herself isn't doing.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Please reread what katiebird said about Digby.

In the other case ... all I'll say is, we differ on the honor of serving the country in uniform, don't we?

Nadai's picture
Submitted by Nadai on

She agreed with Digby that Digby was a chickenshit and said she was disappointed in her blog because of it. How is that slinging mud? Sounds more like a statement of fact, followed up by a reasonable opinion about that fact to me.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

And I guess mine felt like that to her.

I would like to think that "together we make a better choir" but, I'm not hanging around to be bullied. And it's her blog, not mine.

From now on, I'll stick to my own neighborhood.

oceansandmountains's picture
Submitted by oceansandmountains on

we get tired of being hung from the nearest cottonwood if we don't march in step. Pleh!

Stick around and ignore the stuff that seems to prove the underlying criticism. VL's comment was right on target.

oceansandmountains's picture
Submitted by oceansandmountains on

but the bullying destroys discourse. At least she copped to it further downthread.

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

and out of line. Bullying, such as what she did right there, is what helped shut out discussion during the primaries. If what she learned from that period is how to yell more effectively, it was the wrong lesson. OandM, I'm with you.

Katiebird, I completely agree with your sentiments on Digby. She had an influencial platform and she caved when it could have made a difference. While I sympathize with why she did it, it surely is a shame. What a shock to see her admit what she did. And, as in comments below, it's surprising to know that she wasn't a true Ofan. I hope you keep commenting at corrente.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

After all, the topic of this thread is that it's better to speak up than be intimidated into silence.

Dawn's picture
Submitted by Dawn on

fighting the OFB, as much as one commenter can, on numerous blogs. We can't all run our own sites.

As if your questions deserve answers. Why the hostility?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

As for what I did in the war, I moderated and blogged at The Confluence as an unpaid volunteer. At times (most of May & Convention week) our team of administrators was deleting 80 comments an hour - so I know exactly the sorts of things that were being thrown at the bloggers who dared buck the whatever-it-was-we-were-fighting.

Is the new rule that only A listers can criticize A listers?

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

thanks for that excerpt, this is a good and useful book.

jjmtacoma's picture
Submitted by jjmtacoma on

This is where the astroturf was particularly effective: "readers really did dictate what the bloggers wrote"

So, really all anyone had to do is have some commenters be relentless and then the blogs get in line with the campaign message. Nice.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

For a while, she had to close her comments section, and it was rather obvious that after that point she began to bite her tongue. I appreciate her being candid and self-critical about it in Boehlert's book.

I surely wish she'd taken the fight to them, but I'm keenly aware of what that intimidation was like. And while I was called things like "harpy" (along with racist, hate-speaker, etc.), I had the luxury of not being the direct target of the misogyny.

I was, however, warned of credible threats to my reputation and livelihood if I continued to post critically about Barack Obama / positively about Hillary Clinton, and Corrente became a virtual cuss-word around the blogosphere, and though we still have a pretty decent readership, few dare link to us.

Really, when you get down to it, is there anything as wonderful as hope?

Submitted by jawbone on

that attacks became more brutal and even threatening. IIRC, this was before the Obama fans attacked...anyone have a better recollection? I remember she turned off comments during the first ugly attack; then she had to so again during the primary.

Those were sad times for the left blogosphere. Didn't Greenwald get the OFB attacks at one time?

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

Greenwald didn't get smacked by the Oborg until the FISA betrayal, well after the primaries. Greenwald maintained virtual silence on the abuses suffered by Clinton at the hands of the media (and of Clinton supporters throughout the blogosphere) for the entire primary season.

Indeed, I think we should have a hall of shame for these A-listers
Jane and Christie at FDL
Marci Wheeler
Duncan (Atrios)
All of whom had huge audiences and held their tongues throughout the primaries.

(this, of course, doesn't include the Markos' and Aravosis' who encouraged the abuse...)

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Before the primaries.

One thing I was thinking, as I read this, was how different things might have been, if she hadn't come out as a woman.

Would she have been as afraid to come out against things, because the gendered attacks wouldn't have happened?

If she had stood against it, would other A-listers have followed after?

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

Had Digby stood up to the abuse, I think that Jane and Christie over at FDL would have made an issue of it... and from that point other "silent" A-listers would have emerged as well.

Submitted by lambert on

I think it comes under the heading of walking in the other person's shoes.

It's been a new experience for me, for example, being hated, if only online -- leaving aside the issue of abuse in the primaries. But as a C list blogger, the volume isn't turned up as much for me as it would be for others. I've spoken to some of those higher up on the food chain, and the volume of abuse is orders of magnitude greater than what we experience. It would be discouraging and disheartening for anyone (why politics is tough).

I also think that our focus should be, not on the one person, "chickenshit" or no, but how that one person got placed in such a rotten position; clearly that's a systemic thing, and we might well ask ourselves how the same weapons deployed against Digby might be deployed again, against whom, when, and why.

Finally, I think there's a very clear distinction that needs to be made between people who aren't as courageous as we might like -- after all, I'm certainly not as courageous as the single payer advocates who got arrested -- and people who actively and continually propagated falsehoods (or right wing talking points like CDS). For the former, "go thou and sin no more." For the latter, no mercy at all.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

The point here isn't to single out Digby or any other A-lister, but to take stock of the now-public evidence that even the most highly regarded bloggers, people famous for speaking truth to power, were bullied into submission by the wave of hope, change, etc.

If that's not a teachable moment, I don't know what is.

Hats off to Eric Boehlert for getting this into the mainstream record, and my appreciation to Digby for owning up to what happened.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

I wonder what would have happened if they had....

If only one did, s/he probably would have been accused of having a phantom son working alongside Krugman, Jr. in the Hillary campaign.

Submitted by lambert on


really all anyone had to do is have some commenters be relentless and then the blogs get in line with the campaign message. Nice.

Never happened here because didn't give a shit.

Anyhow, that's exactly it. I will believe to my dying day -- although I'll have to wait for somebody to write their memoirs to prove it -- that the capture of Kos was orchestrated from both top and bottom: Kos and the sysadmins pulling, and funded commenters pushing. Relentless, as you say. I believe that the reason they all sounded the same and used the same tactics is that they were trained that way -- which Axelrod knows how to do at his day job.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

Was TalkLeft the biggest blog to report on it? I avoided all those "A-list" blogs like the plague so from what I can tell is that most, if not all, either ignored it or lied about it (e.g., Clinton tries to break the rules, when it was the Obama team who did). The readers certainly did dictate what was to be reported on and how. "Recreate '68" didn't come out of a vacuum: it came out a mob of people hellbent on getting their way, facts be damned. Jesus Christ, which "A-list" blogs even dared to tell the truth about the roll call? How could political junkies not be aware of such basics as candidates having their name and delegates counted on the first roll call, let alone in such a tightly contested race involving a "first" (No woman before HRC had won a primary or caucus)?

I can only chalk up bigotry to explain what happened last year because it was the definition of irrational, blinding hatred. And just like Pat Buchanan just can't help himself when it comes to racism, so many OFB last year almost had to feverishly attack Clinton, her voters, or anyone else who tried to use facts, evidence, or basic reasoning that didn't result in her demoniziation. I've said it before: these people defined themselves as being anti-Clinton rather than pro-Obama. And the hell with people equivocating: the OFB simply overwhelmed who dared to question, let alone call them out.

Also, I hate the term "pie fight" because it seems to trivialize what happened (just as it did the original fight against misogynistic bigotry at DKos).

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

A nurse who was (supposedly) at the Single Payer meeting with Baucus posted a diary at Daily Kos. It was a great diary but I couldn't write about it at The Confluence because at the top of the comments was a Totally Out of Control outbreak of Clinton Derangement Syndrom. It had nothing to do with the diary - they just wanted to have a good time.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

Even as an Edwards supporter back in January '08, I felt outgunned and simply hated for not worshiping Obama. I remember when I tried to back up Edwards for his stance against Obama and the use of 527s. No matter how many times you tried to state the facts, it came back to "You can't trust Edwards," which is the same thing that happened against Clinton. It didn't matter what she said or did, she could never be trusted. Meanwhile, you had to dismiss inconvenient actions by Obama because he was in the midst of 11-dimensional chess.

When people say "fight" they make it seem as if both sides were engaging in similar tactics and at equal volume. Only by projection could anyone look back on the scorched earth campaign by the OFB last year, where overt bigotry was a cherished staple, and claim that Clinton supporters were no better. There was a stark contrast.

It was like fighting against a tsunami of hysterics last year. It was bizarre.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

That prevalent wording implies that the adult thing to do was to ignore it.

The adult thing was to ignore the truthiness, the groupthink, the bullying, the misogyny, the ageism, and the classism. Nice construction, that.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

I remember the undertone from last year with regards to why Obama couldn't be bothered getting close to gays. Some of the misogyny bled into homophobia. And, sadly, I think some of that remains, like this FDL post on "bitchy" Senator Graham decked out as a pink, Hello Kitty version of Darth Vader (For those of you who don't know: Graham is rumored to be gay himself). I'm tired of femininity being considered degrading (C'mon, "teenaged girl" as an insult?).

And, yes, you're right about the "pie fight" trivialization. It's all dismissed as silly. Obama himself called that flicker of a fight waged against Bush in DC a "food fight."

Nervine5's picture
Submitted by Nervine5 on

Even the people we count on to tell the truth end up being manipulated or coerced. Only a smidgen of doubt hopefully can let us really see.

TonyRz's picture
Submitted by TonyRz on

I'm tired of femininity being considered degrading (C'mon, "teenaged girl" as an insult?).

You forgot to mention the PMS, the "scratching"...

Visualize the whole exercise recast with Barney Frank, and published at a wingnut site.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

"Did you run an A-list blog last year? Do you now?" as an argument, or the "what did you do in the war" gotcha approach.

Digby is admitting that she left certain things out of her "news and facts." I don't want to make this thread into open season on Digby, but I also don't want it to be a place where some people are considered exempt from criticism via Argument from Authority.

As to the honor of wearing the uniform, if you think being a mere candy-assed citizen lessens one's right and ability to critique our political and military policy, I would say, yes, we very much do disagree.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

At first I thought you meant the narrowly averted disaster was that SullyFick wouldn't get the chance for an instant concern-troll flameout.

But, I'm gathering that you got a little cash to tide you over, yes? Glad to hear it!

SullyFick's picture
Submitted by SullyFick on

and not a poster/commenter, but I feel I must comment on 2 things. I've felt this way for many months, but have been afraid to post because of the vitriol on this site (yes, some of it IS vitriol). I guess I can't hold this back any more, because I find myself disagreeing more than agreeing with the posts/comments on this site:

1. These types of posts (and a lot of the comments) seem designed only to inflame, not to educate or influence. There are a lot of similar posts on this site. Perhaps this is the "boldly shrill" part, but it seems to be self-defeating (assuming your goal is to influence others and not just create an echo-chamber like in Right Wingnuttistan). By throwing out entire sites with your demeaning posts and comments, you are acting just like the purity police in the Republican party (IF YOU DON'T AGREE WITH X, THEN YOU'RE NOT ONE OF US!). I expect better from progressives.

2. If your goal is to encourage others to "learn from what happened", then there are other issues besides the (very) tiring primary wars. For example, how many "progressive" bloggers supported the Iraq War at the beginning (which helped give the War credence)? How many politicians? People are still dying in this war (and in Afghanistan), yet this site seems to only be interested in calling names (which is somewhat hypocritical, considering the fact that many posts/comments seem to decry the name-calling from "them").

So as not to appear as a "concern troll", here are some suggestions:

- if you can't prevent yourself from calling someone (or some group) names, then don't be outraged when others might call you (or your group) names. An "eye for an eye" makes the whole world blind.
- the purity that you seek is an illusion.
- justifying your anger is not a progressive value.
- everything doesn't have to be shrill. In fact, people generally respond better to a message when the message is not shrill.
- ymmv

So, commence your flames of me for not agreeing to play in your (seemingly endless) re-fighting of the primary wars. I will not respond to comments of that sort, but if you would like to discuss getting a broader audience to learn from past mistakes, I am happy to respond.

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

another concern troll...

Submitted by lambert on

... with being an unpaid political operative. I get enough links, and I see points made here spread elsewhere often enough, so that I don't worry too much about this mythical "broader audience." The DFHs and the Cassandras find it pretty hard to get a broader audience... Until reality catches up. The poster must be unfamiliar with the word shrill, since they use it without irony. It was a word Versailles used for Krugman, in the days when he was almost the only one, literally the only one, to call bullshit on Bush. So shrill is a badge of honor. And Krugman did pretty well with his blog, after reality caught up with the shrill.

Shorter lambert: You're confusing me with somebody who gives a shit.

SullyFick's picture
Submitted by SullyFick on

Shorter Corrente: We're not looking to build this community. Go away, you unclean heathen!