Slouching Towards Washington?

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Washington to be born?"

As we look forward to the inauguration of the first Democratic President of this century, we face numerous domestic crises recalling some of the starkest circumstances in our country's history, two wars, and various other international military and economic conflicts.  I look to MyDD as a forum to discuss the policy initiatives of the incoming administration.  That is not what I have encountered, for the most part in the past two weeks.

Instead, we have regular hit pieces.  Some are as "fair and balanced" as the news service they resemble and as intellectually honest as the talk radio personality they emulate.  One series is posted under the disingenuous heading of "Politics and Media Headlines" and has had at least one edition singled out for diary rescue.  Of course, we should tolerate a wide range of viewpoints.  But these come from someone who claims knowledge of what Obama is "really like," and challenges us to find a different and truly progressive candidate for 2012 weeks before Obama's inauguration. He hasn't taken office and he's been disqualified.  Others are posting diaries that equate support for Obama, no matter how critical, nuanced, and qualified as both endorsement of patriarchy and encouragement of rape.

In addition, we have a small cadre of users who want only to cast aspersions on the president-elect through smears and rumors that lack any substantiation and accuse anyone who argues with them of being dupes, thugs, or mesmerized minions.  I have encountered anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs, personal attacks on users' families, and the same anti-intellectualism that has been the currency of conservatives and republicans (which they have been spending to great and detrimental effect on our political culture and system for the past decades), and good will twisted into animosity.  I have encountered other users with whom I have had highly productive interchanges, in the context of both agreements and disagreements, abandoning civility and engaging in the same destructive dynamics, though generally without employing the most pernicious of these slurs.  The worst aspects of the primaries have returned like a recurring nightmare that haunts and fatigues us, and ultimately distracts from engaging reality in a productive manner.

My question here is how do we maintain this forum as a productive one?  How should we respond and/or avoid the dynamics that impede diverse and considerate exchange of perspectives and information?  How do we avoid a situation in which, to quote W.B. Yeats once more: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity."

Tags: MyDD, obama, Yeats (all tags)

Comments

36 Comments

Re: Slouching Toward Washington?

We are merely suffering from Post-Orgasmic-Stress-Disorder. It's hard to write good when you are in a state of afterglow, and almost compelling to write if you are frustrated and angry. Hence the imbalance.

by QTG 2008-12-28 09:47AM | 0 recs
Yup....

We seem stuck in a cycle of Blago, Kennedy and Warren...

While Israel heads into outright war, and first quarter of 2009 will, IMHO, be the largest lay-off in a quarter century.

Wallstreet STILL doesn't get it, we have small minded revenge seeking Southern Republicans seeking to destroy perhaps
the last vestige of American manufacturing for the idealogical hatred of the unions...

And, STILL some here think their task it to try to undercut the Obama admin by what ever means neccesary.

My take is, like it our not folks, He and his excellent team are our best, perhaps our ONLY shot before we slide into the abyss.

God Bless him, has any incoming president since FDR been handed such a plate?

If you want to see him fail, you at least should have the guts to admit the cost.

You are willing to Burn Rome, for the sake of your silly personal anger.

Highly rec'ed, for all the good it will probably do.

by WashStateBlue 2008-12-28 09:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Yup....

"If you want to see him fail, you at least should have the guts to admit the cost."

INDEED!!!

But do you have any suggestions for how to deal with those who want to derail us?  Are we giving them too much power by responding to what seem like either sincerely deranged or destructively cynical provocations?  What would an effective response look like?  I certainly haven't found one.  How important is it that we respond?  Is it possible to simply boycott the culprits?  Or are we somewhat addicted to this dynamic as well?

by Strummerson 2008-12-28 10:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Yup....

The most effective response would be, clearly, to ignore these attention-starved idiots. Despite the fact that a boycott is hard to enforce - there'll always be some simpleton around to take the bait.

On the other hand, other than a serious waste of our time - the ill-effects of said trolls appears overrated.

by Sumo Vita 2008-12-28 10:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Yup....

Seems like they gum up the works and undermine the credibility of the site.  In both cases these interchanges discourage the addition of more thoughtful users and wear out current ones.

by Strummerson 2008-12-28 10:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Yup....

That's true. Clearly, time isn't a resource they're short on. Maybe it's time to look for a better-policed alternative?

by Sumo Vita 2008-12-28 10:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Yup....

I'm not sure there are better alternatives and I loathe the idea of running away and abandoning this site on principle.  I thought the run of GBCW diaries we had a few months back very regrettable.

by Strummerson 2008-12-28 10:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Yup....

I do, too. Especially since that's precisely what the trolls want.

On the other hand, I'm not sure I can justify the time I spend on MyDD anymore. It was easier during the primaries to believe that one was making a difference - and the experience certainly taught me a good deal about my own fellow liberals and democrats.

Attention craving trolls are another matter entirely. They bring to mind the wise words: never argue with an idiot, they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience. Life's too short for all this pointless negativity.

by Sumo Vita 2008-12-29 05:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Toward Washington?

Another whiny meta diary. Get your own blog if you think Jerome is doing such a bad job here. If not then STFU.

by KnoxVow 2008-12-28 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Toward Washington?

 I  believe Strummerson was talking about the likes of you not Jerome.

by jsfox 2008-12-28 10:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Toward Washington?

Since when do you speak for Jerome? The day he encourages us to "get your own blog", we will. Until then, take your toxic sludge elsewhere.

by Sumo Vita 2008-12-28 10:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Toward Washington?

I respect your prerogative to dislike this diary and/or find it irrelevant.  If that's what you think about it, why not just ignore it?  What are you trying to accomplish with this response?  Calling me "whiny" and telling me to "STFU" certainly won't persuade me or anyone who shares these sentiments of anything?  What not take me on with a modicum of civility?

by Strummerson 2008-12-28 10:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Toward Washington?

I take it then that you approve of every attempt to ban you from this site, since you are so eager to block out constructive criticism?

by rfahey22 2008-12-28 10:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Toward Washington?

I wonder if MyDD is not actually running at its maximum efficiency in regards to the above criteria.  There will always be trolls among us, and the community does a reasonably good job of identifying them and ridiculing their efforts.  The new administration will also usher in a more intelligent breed of troll than we're used to, in that such trolls can "reasonably" disagree with various policy positions with reasonable-sounding critiques that do not betray their real intent to undermine and divide Democrats.  

The one thing I would like to see would be an un-recommend button.  The recommendation system could also probably be tweaked, so that one or a few malcontents could not monopolize the Rec List based on a few clicks within a very short span of time.  

by rfahey22 2008-12-28 10:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Toward Washington?

Yes I like the non UN-rec button idea especially now that WashStateBlue is getting recommended so often.Ha Ha

If there is a way for groups not to monopolize the Rec then I am all for it.

by canadian 2008-12-28 02:04PM | 0 recs
It's my sparkling personality

And, I suck up to everyone every chance I get!

It's easy to be a blog-slut these days...

by WashStateBlue 2008-12-28 09:30PM | 0 recs
Re: It's my sparkling personality

Ha Ha Yes I know.  Have a great 2009

by canadian 2008-12-29 12:20AM | 0 recs
MyDD is more of an chaotic market square

which builds its momentum organically. I don't know whether this is by design or by accident..it is what it is. Jerome and other moderators of the site seems to have a hands off policy. Thus when trolls run amock, this site becomes lot more chaotic. However as you said, simultaneously MyDD almost operates on its efficient frontier, organically identifying the trolls..Ultimately MyDD is a reflection of who the active users are..

There were several recommendations made earlier this year in couple of diaries (one was frontpaged) and Jerome A. did promise us a new website with the suggested changes.

by louisprandtl 2008-12-30 05:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Toward Washington?

There's something to be said for self-policing but for a site with fairly low traffic like this one, the trolls can easily take control.

I've notice that Huffington Post doesn't seem to have the level of trollish comments it used to.  Someone must have made an effort to stop it as it got so bad for awhile that I not only stopped commenting but stopped reading them.

I think moderation is long overdue here, at least until the site is cleaned up.

by GFORD 2008-12-28 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Towards Washington?

Self-policed political blogs have a way of becoming echo chambers--see Redstate before the election, NoQuarter, DailyKos, HuffingtonPost.  As far as I can tell, MyDD is one of the few that has not.  A lot of sh!t has gone on at RedState in the last couple months and they're having a much wider discussion than most lefty blogs are.

One fact of media is that the more specialized or marginal the conversation becomes, the more people listen to it.  They wind up being loyal listeners in a narrow, but deep, demographic.  A narrow demographic is more valuable to advertisers than a wide one is.  

Take Olberman, and Limbaugh for example.  As they became more partisan, their viewership increased.  Folks like me pay them no attention now, but for every one that left, two came on board.  They attract a narrower range of viewpoints, and therefore a narrower range of demographics.

MyDD has a traffic issue right now, so it's easy for riff-raff to hijack the site.  If Jerome decides to take it in the direction of becoming an Echo Chamber, the traffic will increase.  On the other hand, I will leave.

Everything's a trade-off, n'est-ce pas?

by SuperCameron 2008-12-28 12:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Towards Washington?

Interesting take.  I'm not sure that I agree in full.  But it's interesting nonetheless.  I guess what I am looking for is a progressive-democratic forum where a diversity of perspectives can be aired without the obstructions of "flame wars."  MyDD has approached that at times.  It was definitely too much to expect during the heated primaries.  But as I look forward to a democratic administration taking office, that's exactly what I think it can and should be.  I think that some of the Warren discussions functioned that way.  We'll have more substantive opportunities in the near future.

by Strummerson 2008-12-28 02:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Towards Washington?

Here's to it!  I look forward to discussing more relevant topics with you in the future.

by SuperCameron 2008-12-28 02:27PM | 0 recs
Are you referring to comments like this . . .

http://www.mydd.com/comments/2008/12/28/ 12279/305/9/post#here

or just people you disagree with?

It's funny how obscene comments are okay if they're majoritarian, and civil discourse is criticised if it's dissenting.

by kosnomore 2008-12-28 01:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Are you referring to comments like this . . .

Please note above, where I explicitly point out:

"I have encountered other users with whom I have had highly productive interchanges, in the context of both agreements and disagreements, abandoning civility and engaging in the same destructive dynamics, though generally without employing the most pernicious of these slurs."

The comment to your diary is indeed inappropriate.  It does not, however, employ anti-Semitic or homophobic slurs.  It does indeed include a personal attack that I find unwarranted and destructive.  Furthermore, I do not exclude myself from occasional inappropriateness that has exacerbated nastiness.  

This is not about silencing dissent.  But I do not consider casting aspersions and disseminating innuendo a form of dissent.  We have an incoming democratic president who is the leader of a party poised to intervene in crises and put forward some progressive initiatives.  

Do you consider it too much to ask to channel dissent at specific issues so that it works productively within a coalition?  Character assassination will do little to inform users here of opposing perspectives and approaches to the issues we face, and which our party has an opportunity to address.

by Strummerson 2008-12-28 01:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Are you referring to comments like this . . .

Hey, we'll stop asking as soon as you let us know you've stopped blowing goats.  Until then, the controversy raises serious concerns about your intimate preferences.  We need to get to the bottom of this important matter.

by username 2008-12-28 09:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Are you referring to comments like this . . .

That comment wasn't just ad-hominem thrown randomly your way, as you're trying to make out. It was employing with you the same innuendo you habitually use to generate faux outrage scenarios in your consistently tone-deaf diaries.

Few here would argue with reasonable (if dissenting) civil discourse. Unfortunately, your flawed, one-track minded, right-wing talking points don't fall into that category. The harsh wording reflects our collective frustration that you still don't get that.

by Sumo Vita 2008-12-29 05:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Towards Washington?
I think it is up to us to try as best we can to lead. By this I mean write diaries that focus on important issues or diaries that bring us
together for example WashStateBlue's  "What are you reading"
I love mydd my only worry is when groups take over but again the solution is to focus on writing a half decent diary REC
by canadian 2008-12-28 01:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Towards Washington?

I generally get my fill of honest, thoughtful, and productive commentary at Motley Moose.  Seems to me the collective IQ there is considerably higher thanthat of MyDD (lately anyway).

This place is all about Whack-a-mole.

by fogiv 2008-12-28 02:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Towards Washington?

I just went over to Motley Moose and I recognized most of the user names from mydd and the lead topic was on sexism. I will look again in a week.

by canadian 2008-12-28 02:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Towards Washington?

Have you bothered to read any of the comments in a typical diary?  Try a little compare and contrast.

by fogiv 2008-12-28 02:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Towards Washington?

As I said most of the people on Motley Moose are the same as mydd so I don't understand your IQ quote. Some of the diaries have been posted on mydd as well. Sexism feminism Gay bashing Obama bashing. Some are relatively old. I encourage others to look and form their own opinion.

by canadian 2008-12-28 02:52PM | 0 recs
motley moose

I definitely like the "Request Moderation" button.  I also appreciate the emphasis the user guidelines place on criticizing arguments over attacking fellow users.  It seems to have produced a more civil environment.

I guess I am just loathe to run from place to place or be chased away by a small group that bears ill will.  It's a bad precedent.  On the other hand, if the site is structured more effectively...

by Strummerson 2008-12-28 03:22PM | 0 recs
Re: motley moose

"Small group that bears ill will?"  No, the fish rots from the head.  The place is still good for lulz, though.

by username 2008-12-28 09:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Towards Washington?

I like Obama.  I think having the anti-gay pastor at the Inauguration was a miscalculation but am hopeful that in the future, pandering will be directed towards the people who voted for him, not the people would never vote for him!  (DOH)

-B

by BPK80 2008-12-29 01:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Slouching Towards Washington?

I think that the wider the array of opinions injected into a discussion the healthier the discussion is.  Even children with sour grapes add to the conversation by way of defining the edges of reason.

by lockewasright 2008-12-29 03:06AM | 0 recs
Agreed.

Provided that the paths we walk aren't increasingly the edges of reason, which is sadly becoming the case here.

by Sumo Vita 2008-12-29 05:37AM | 0 recs

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