Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Flamewar Story Updated: Jerome Responds

It’s out. On popular request I’m letting you all know my ‘Journal of the Flame Wars’ has now been published in Prospect Magazine .

As with all such articles, they get cut for length, subbed and simplified, and this is even more true in a British publication where the Netroots has to be explained as Blogosphere 101. There are a lot of things – a history of snark, mentions of other bloggers that have been cut because of length and complexity.

Sorry guys. I tried to mention a lot of you. But the editors found it confusing. It really needs a longer piece to get the whole story. Maybe I should write a book

I hope you enjoy despite this. In the fierce urgency of defeating McCain Palin, I don’t want to reignite any unnecessary and ancient flame wars, so the only two issues I want to comment on are these…

Ever since online bulletin boards took off in the 1990s, there have been users whose sole aim is to disrupt the online conversation. These so-called “trolls” sow dissent, confusion and misunderstanding. In the 2008 presidential campaign, the relatively early nomination of John McCain presented Republican trolls with the perfect opportunity to attack the Democrats. In February, with Obama apparently on course for victory, the right-wing “shock jock” Rush Limbaugh launched “Operation Chaos,” urging Republicans to register as Democrats and vote for Hillary in order to deepen the rancour in Democratic ranks. Meanwhile, McCain’s team encouraged supporters to fight for their nominee online.

It’s still not over, but looking back over the last couple of months, I do thing we’ve all been vigilant about this tactic, and (so far) mounted a successful push back.

There’s also a (horribly shortened) piece on snark, though the word itself was cut:

It may seem puerile, but by then the primaries themselves had descended into farce-partly because the old “made for television” politics no longer worked in the digital age. This is something Armstrong foresaw in Crashing the Gate, arguing that the old Karl Rove-Dick Morris days of mass media campaigns were over…

Saying one thing to one electorate and another thing to another was viable in an age of local radio, television and newspapers. But with Google and YouTube, where every archived interview and campaign speech is just a click away, the contradictions could be burrowed out, held up and shown to be cynical and manipulative.

This is to me the other salient issue. Thanks the availability online of sources and stories, we’ve seen the rise of ‘citizen journalists’, who have provided many early leads on stories, especially in the vetting of Palin in the last month or so. My guess – my hope – is that it’s going to be a lot harder in the future to fix, frame and spin stories without popular support.

Lastly, there is the structure of blogs and the promise of some kind of collaborative venture:

The paradox of the netroots is that for all their bottom-up inclusiveness, these sites are run by sole proprietors-Armstrong on the pro-Hillary MyDD, Markos on the Obama backing Daily Kos-the rock stars of the liberal blogosphere. The economics of the web means that clickthrough ad revenue, driven by visitor numbers, is the main source of funding. (Based on a rough estimate of traffic and Google ad rates, Daily Kos could be earning almost $1m a year through advertising.) As with early rock stars, the balance between driving up commercial success and retaining authenticity is proving hard to pull off.

The result is an uneasy mix of democratic collectivism and Rupert Murdoch-style autocracy.

UPDATE: Jerome promotes and responds to the piece on a frontpage on MYDD…


  1. rfahey22

    a “where are they now” retrospective in 5 years.  TexasDarlin – forging birth certificates to prove that Schwarzenegger was born in the U.S. and can therefore be President; Universal – gearing up for George Allen in 2016, etc.  

  2. Well worth waiting for. Sweet reference to the Moose at the end. I read every word, something I don’t usually do with a long online article. Too much background for our crowd, but close to perfect for its intended audience. Great job. You should be justifiably proud of that article.

  3. fogiv

    The tracks of moose, more or less recent, to speak literally, covered every square rod on the sides of the mountain; and these animals are probably more numerous there now than ever before, being driven into this wilderness, from all sides, by the settlements.

    – Henry David Thoreau

  4. It filled in the some of the gaps for me, since I came in to the drama partway through.

    Who would have known eight years ago so many political fortunes could be made and lost on the Intertubes?  

    I felt in the primaries that the Democrats had reached a crossroads between the candidates – look forward, or stay the same.  The ultimate outcome in choosing Obama, of course, has just taken us to another one, of more consequence.  

  5. fogiv

    Would love to see the stuff that didn’t make the final cut.  Definitely book worthy; a chapetr each for universal, Alegre, and TexasDarlin’.  Engles!  Alivenkickin’!  Oh, the drama.

  6. fogiv

    How about a graphic novel style encyclopedia of Trolls, complete with superhero/villain style illustrations?

    *Alegre with a fat lulz nose (  :o)  )

    *Spacemanspiff in a Reefer cape

    *Student Guy (et al.) superbuff in a lab coat.

    Heh.  I crack myself up.

  7. Kysen

    In the meantime, some flaming occasionally flares on Daily Kos, led mainly by so-called purity trolls disappointed at Obama’s shift to the centre. MyDD has fewer diaries, and the comments are less rapid and intense. But another round of Republican trolls has moved into this vacuum (they came back in the summer just as they promised), and as a result a joint band of Obamaites and Clintonistas have had enough. They’re forming a new progressive blog called Motley Moose to provide a troll-free and properly moderated site in which to roam-and they want me to join them!

    So, when is your piece on the Obama victory due?

    Should have lots of firsthand info from your son….and, should have o’plenty of source material on The Moose as well.

    You did a great job with a lengthy topic, Brit.

    Bravo Zulu!

  8. ragekage

    I’m just sad they cut the multi-page in depth bio on me. Don’t worry, you can make it the focus of your new book.

  9. Jjc2008

    especially for those of us who blogged at those places; who became hooked on political blogs and soon learned some hard lessons about gender, race and how anonymity does not actually erase those issues and in some ways made those issues more contentious.

    I can’t say I agree with your pov or with Jerome’s either, but an interesting read nonetheless.

  10. dtox

    since I only just got enough time to sit down and read the thing in its entirety.

    Well done Brit. I think it captures both the craziness of it all and the empowering effect of online advocacy.

    And I think Jerome’s response has been uncharacteristically nice.  

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