On September 10, 2008 a new creature was born into the world. Like all newborns it was very similar to those of its kind who had come before it. Also like all newborns it was in ways slightly unique, bringing into the universe something that had never precisely existed before. A new creature of kind, slightly changed from the mold of its forebearers. Evolved in modest ways it came into the world on wobbly legs with a subtly different set of aspirations, seeking a niche as yet unexploited.
Today, this Motley Moose begins its second year of life.
Motley Moose is a community blog focused primarily on American Politics. The site was a joint effort by twenty-five active political bloggers (a healthy mix of long-time Obama supporters, ‘Clintonistas’, centrists and Republicans/Obamicans) who had become tired of the trolling and flame wars found on many political sites. The idea was to build a post-partisan site that could move forward instead of looking back. The Motley Moose springs from the rich history of Progressive Blogs including MyDD (aka “The Blogfather”) and DailyKos.
The Moose has grown far beyond those original 25 bloggers by becoming a ‘home base’ for many long-time as well as new political bloggers. In separating ourselves from the political blog herd, we set out to build a new place to gather that had clear lines of moderation, fostered a strong community, promoted reasoned discourse and well-researched diaries, and included a healthy dose of snark and dry wit. We are focused on political pragmatism and centrism because we believe that without a dialogue from all sides of the political spectrum, we’ll never be able to move forward, beyond partisanship and rhetoric, and make progress on the challenges we face. We have built a strong community on which the success of the blog rests, and we believe that one blog and one blogger can make a difference in the world.
We wholeheartedly believe that there can be progress through politics. We invite you to join the discussion!
Motley: Having elements of great variety or incongruity.
Moose: A reference to the Bull Moose Party (the first Progressive Party) and a nod to our Progressive beliefs.
The Moose was born on Wednesday, September 10, 2008.
The “About” page on the Motley Moose has evolved since that date one year ago, but the above does a good job of capturing the current state and forward thoughts of the original Founding Mooses. There are plenty of places in the political blogosphere where one can go and find herds of like-minded partisans to blend in with, these serve their own purposes certainly and will no doubt continue on into the future following their own paths. But the Moose has always been intended as a place where dissimilar thoughts can be discussed in a productive and civil fashion, and while the average group of authors and commentators reflect the general leftward leanings of much of the initial herd, additional voices from the right of center have also joined the conversation. Today the Motley Moose is home to frequent contributors from perhaps as broad a segment of the political spectrum as will be found in conversation on a noticeably trafficked political forum.
For the part of this particular Founding Moose this forum has done a reasonable job of advancing us all ever so slightly into the future forecast by Orson Scott Card in the 1985 novel “Ender’s Game” and best captured by Randall Munroe in this XKCD comic:
The subplot of two prodigal children who use the online political forums of the day to influence world events resonates with what we can see today in the political blogosphere and hints at the dim outlines of the more mature forums that do not yet exist but appear predestined to come into existence in some foreseeable tomorrow.
The aspect of this theme that has long captured my attention is the assumed need for the characters to spend a significant amount of time building reputations as thoughtful and significant voices, earning the credentials that will allow them a seat in the most powerful online forums. The assumption that these forums would grow into a “nested” structure seemed at the time to be a brilliant intuitive leap and still seems so today. While most public forums are open to all who wish to speak their piece there are various schemes designed to separate the serious voices from those whose purpose is only to sow discontent. The Motley Moose has demonstrated in its own way interesting methods to achieve and maintain an intelligent discourse in a chaotic medium, in this author’s opinion advancing the goal measurably if however minutely.
The greatest accolade that has been witnessed in the first year of the Moose has come from new authors and commentors. Often enough to be a defining characteristic, the opening line for new voices has been [sic]:
I’ve been reading here for a while and have wanted to speak up, but have been a bit nervous about saying the wrong thing.
For one reason or another – perhaps simply due to the pointed efforts at civility of those who primed the conversational pump – the Moose has developed a tone of voice that encourages polite yet lively discourse. It is not possible for every person to agree on every point – nor truly for any two voices to agree on all things. It is not possible to remove the passion and emotion from topics worth discussing. But the Moose now has enough of a track record to stand as an incontrovertible example that it is possible to sustain an open enough environment to allow for these variances in views to coexist and clash productively.
As with all examples of blossoming youth there is no sure way to know what the passing adolescence of the Motley Moose will bring. Whatever this forum offers to the world in the coming stages of its life, however, it can always now be remembered as a place where the possibilities of the networked conversation showed early fruit.
Thank you all for taking part in the experiment so far, and thank you for including me in it.