The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Brown Bagging It: The Clinton Blogger Lunch Redux

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Clinton Blogger Lunch

This will be probably be the last I say about this, at least for today since the family and I are off to shop for a "big boy bed."

Honestly, after reading the latest FDL post — and comments — aimed at Liza, I'm begnining to think that some of these folks aren't people I want sit at a table with anyway. There's nothing more offensive than being told to remember your place, as zuzu aptly puts it. And we're supposed to be on the same team? Well, I've got a lot more to think about now. If nothing else, though, I'm glad I saw that FDL post. Experience has taught me to value and pay close attention to those moments when the mask slips and people (as Oprah one put it) show you who they really are.

Bottom line on all of this, given that folks were gonna blog about this meeting and folks were gonna read about it, some prior knowledge about who was invited but unable to attend would probably have saved everyone a lot of bandwith. There wasn't any intent or conscious effort to exclude bloggers of color, but neither was there any conscious recognition of how things would look and how they'd be interpreted in the absence of any context. Still, I'm glad I posted what I did because it was the catalyst for a much needed discussion. And because, as the FDL post I mentioned shows, it makes clear some things that weren't before.

Beyond all that, I want to chime in on a few other things.

Yes, there's definitely been a shift in power, in the blogosphere, particularly in terms of access to policymakers. From the 10,000 foot view, though, there hasn't been a shift in the general rules of the political game, as far as the relationship between access and influence; except that where bloggers are concerned it's the influence — in terms of the size of their audiences — that leads to access, rather than the other way around. Near as I can tell, those aren't rules that any of us made. It's just the nature of the beast.

Someone who linked to my post had a rather illuminating take on this as relates to electoral politics, etc.

"1) politicians care first and most about money and 2) high traffic bloggers with a track record of raising money are the logical choice for politicians to meet with …"

That's about as plain as it gets when it comes to bloggers and politicians. If you can't (a) bring them and/or their message to a wide audience and/or (b) help them raise lots of money, they don't necessarily have much of a reason to talk to you. So, ain't nobody running for any office higher than dogcatcher gonna go out of their way to talk to me as a blogger. Not because I don't have anything relevant to say, but because in a game where it's all about numbers — in terms of audience and/or money — there's not enough ROI to make it worthwhile.

But that's exactly why diversity matters. It matters who's at the table, because identity and experience inform perspective. Just as having a significant number of women at the table probalby changed the context and content of the discussion from what it would have been otherwise, so greater diversty at the table changes the discussion, by expanding the context through the wide and
varied experiences of the people at the table. It can't help but do so.
The less diverse the participants, the narrower the context of the
discussion will be, as well as the possibile solutions discussed.

Like it or not, power is now a factor in blogging — perhaps moreso in political blogging than in other spheres — and blogging is a power system. As such, it runs by simple rules.

In systems where many people are free to choose between many options, a small subset of the whole will get a disproportionate amount of traffic (or attention, or income), even if no members of the system actively work towards such an outcome. This has nothing to do with moral weakness, selling out, or any other psychological explanation. The very act of choosing, spread widely enough and freely enough, creates a power law distribution.

It needs to be extended, however, to include that failure to join that small subset doesn't necessarily have anything to do with moral weakness, lack of effort, or even the quality of those who remain outside the subset. The article goes on to explain how that subset gets reinforce when more people start reading blogs and naturally start with the ones that are most often recommended, etc. In other words, people tend to follow the herd.

I've said this before, but I find myself in a unique position in that I'm pretty well planted somewhere around the base of the long tail of blogging. Not at the bottom and not at the top, but close enough that I catch wind of what's happening at both ends. Given the kind of blogging I do, and what I tend to write about, that's probably where I'll stay, as I don't draw major traffic consistently enough to land on any top 100 list. I'm in a niche within a niche, and that's fine. But also on the radar of some other bloggers further up the curve than me — like Pam, Liz, and Michael at PageOneQ — and sometimes when my usual topics dovetail with what everyone else is talking about, they notice and send traffic my way. So, in a sense I have a foot in both worlds.

That brings me to my other point. There's another shift or change or reality check about the blogosphere that we might as well face. Some of us have known it for a while now. Some of us deny that it's a reality at all. But like it or not, the blogosphere — even the progressive blogosphere — has gatekeepers, whether they know that's what they are or not, whether any of us likes it or not.

Recognizing that reality presents an opportunity to challenge the usual rules of the game — or "power law," as Clay Shirky (author of the article linked above) likes to call it. Ignoring or denying those realities has consequences too. Little has been more frustrating than the insistence by some bloggers that the power system doesn't exist. I've read the "I am not a gatekeeper" posts. I've seen post after posts from some top progressive bloggers about who they're not going to link to and why, and they all appear to be based upon the same assumption; one that's most recently been repeated, and laid bare in its ugliest expression yet, in the FDL post I referenced earlier: anything that doesn't filter up to their level probably isn't any good and isn't worth reading, because if it were they or one of the bloggers they regularly read (and they generally all read and link to each other, regardless) would have seen it and linked it.

But, I read pretty far and wide in the progressive blogosphere. I read over 200 news and blog feeds per day. Of course some of that overlaps with my work. I know there's stuff out there among the millions of blogs that exist and the tens of thousands more that are created every day that is worth reading because it's well-written, relevant, and offers a perspective that's unlikely to be found further up the food chain. I link to as much of it as I can in hopes of bringing it to somewhat wider attention. But that's relative to and limited by my spot on the food chain.

The truth is there are different paths into the blogoshpere; a wide and well-travelled path that leads to the most popular blogs, and narrower paths that are less travelled but lead to some places worth going. Down the latter path is stuff that most people aren't going to find unless someone leads them there.

The problem stems from a couple of things that Clay Shirky points out in his article. On the one hand, there's the plight of the blog reader, faced with an ever growing number of blogs.

But people's choices do affect one another. If we assume that any blog chosen by one user is more likely, by even a fractional amount, to be chosen by another user, the system changes dramatically. Alice, the first user, chooses her blogs unaffected by anyone else, but Bob has a slightly higher chance of liking Alice's blogs than the others. When Bob is done, any blog that both he and Alice like has a higher chance of being picked by Carmen, and so on, with a small number of blogs becoming increasingly likely to be chosen in the future because they were chosen in the past.

On the other, there's the plight of the increasingly popular blogger.

At the head will be webloggers who join the mainstream media (a phrase which seems to mean "media we've gotten used to.") The transformation here is simple – as a blogger's audience grows large, more people read her work than she can possibly read, she can't link to everyone who wants her attention, and she can't answer all her incoming mail or follow up to the comments on her site. The result of these pressures is that she becomes a broadcast outlet, distributing material without participating in conversations about it.

But I'd add another facet to the scenario for Shirky's harried theoretical A-list blogger; perhaps as a result of those pressures, she largely restricts her reading and linking to those blogs in her neighborhood of the blogosphere and/or the power curve.

And an there's an extension of both in Jason Kottke's post, which linked to Shirky's article.

More specifically, the time that people have for visiting sites and linking to sites is limited. Mary only has so much time for visiting weblogs; if she goes to BoingBoing, she doesn't have time for MetaFilter. Some visitors are linkers and they link what they visit. Similarly, linkers have only so much time for linking. Sam can link to 20 sites about airplanes, but he can't link to 5000. The scarcity of people's time results in the distribution of links that can be described using power laws.

Thus the resulting rule is pretty well stated in this comment on MyDD.

Power reproduces itself. For it to be different, there needs to be an effort to make it so.

Which is basically what I said a long time ago.

It’s inevitable. That is, unless you make a conscious effort to do otherwise.

If nothing else, I hope this conversation is the beginning of that effort.

What that looks like, I don't know. Even Shirky notes audience size and traffic can't be the only metrics for success, but along with everyone else he falls short on just what those metrics are or should be. If I'm reading him right, I'd be better off blogging about what I had for dinner than about the stuff I do blog about. At least there's a metric of success for that if people I know and care about read it. But I think I fall more into the category of what he describes as "Blogging Classic" blogs, and for which even he can't offer a metric of success.

And maybe there just isn't one. Or at least not one that will get the 2nd or 3rd tier political blogger the ear of or even the time of day from policy makers. Maybe that's why bringing up all of the above usually get a frustrated response amounting to "well what do you want/expect people to do?" Maybe, as both the New York Times and the progressive blog report published by two of the top progressive bloggers notes, there are haves and have-nots in the blogosphere.

The problem, and perhaps it's more a human problem than a blogging problem, is that we can't seem to escape the assumption that anyone who's read their Lakoff knows well but thinks is only applied by the other side: He who has the most is the best. It follows, then, that who has less is less than, or at least less important than he who has the most. After all, if it were not so, he'd have more. Right?

Series NavigationBlogging While Brown, Cont’dMy Apology to Jane Hamsher and FDL

29 Comments

  1. I was going to post the following in that FDL thread you linked, in reply to yet another “she hit first” whine from Jane Hamsher. But then I figured, what would be the point? So I’ll vent here! 🙂

    you start a flame war, you better be prepared to get one back

    And sometimes, if you get a person angry, their mask slips. You really couldn’t rise above ill-considered insults from a (what was it now) “no-traffic complainer”? You, the big important A-lister?

    Trite, but no less true for that: a person is about as big as the things that make them angry.

  2. Great post.

    The only thing I’d offer is that, it seems to me, one unique attribute of the blogosphere is the speed of information exchange and the resultant potential for relative fluidity and volatility in its power structure. We’re still in the early stages of this phenomenon so it’s hard to say; and obviously the role of gate-keepers is to ensure stability and prevent volatility in power structures. But I’m kind of hoping that the composition of the group of “top-tier” blogs will be relatively less change-averse than other “markets” because of the unique “smart mob” collaborative attributes of this medium. As time passes and the wind blows, top-tier blogs could either be overtaken by yet mightier vehicles or toppled from their perch or simply encircled and engulfed.

    But who knows. I guess we’ll find out.

    Anyway, I’ve mentioned elsewhere that one silver lining of this whole episode for me is that I’ve discovered this blog. Great work! Keep it up!

    Peace,
    Kai

  3. Honestly, after seeing how ugly things have gotten, I’m sorry I brought it up at all. I wish I’d never heard about the meeting and never seen the pictures.

  4. Good lord, Terrance, you never have stopped whining, have you? I really hoped you would outgrow that.

  5. I thought the FDL post was way meaner than necessary, middle school level really, but that’s typical for FDL.. Their posters tend to meaness. I don’t read their site much for that reason.
    When I looked at the blogger lunch picture and asked myself the question, “What’s wrong with this picture?” I am ashamed to say I didn’t think of race or ethnicity. I thought that I’d like to know which names went with which pictures and I felt sorry for the two guys in the back row whose faces got obscured. It’s sort of a Rorshack ( I know I spelled that wrong )test to ask that question.
    I’ve been thinking for a while that the day was coming when the top bloggers would become the establishment. How to prevent that or how to keep it from becoming an overly homogeneous establishment are questions worth asking.
    Re: my blind spot. Why didn’t I notice all the whiteness? If they hadn’t been all white I would have been pleased but surprised. I think the whiteness didn’t register because I was expecting the picture to be of white people. I knew who the heavily-trafficked bloggers were and I knew they were white, so no surprise. I should have seen that as a problem, though, not an just a fact.
    But why are so many of the “top” bloggers white? I suppose partly just sheer demographics. There are more white Americans than non-white,and blogging grew out of that wonky, nerdy kind of college student who is usually white. I was expecting the pictured bloggers to be young, too, and I was surprised when one of them wasn’t.
    You’d think blogging would be the perfect medium for a person to rise or fall based on the content of their remarks. After all, if one doesn’t want to , one does not have to reveal age, race, ethnicity, gender, seual orientation, ot any other personal info on a blog. So it would seem that the playiing field could be level. People would just gravitate to reading what they liked to read.
    Except that people finnd websites from the websites they start with and they find those sites through their friends. I stated reading blogs with the Washington Monthly. That’s my gatekeeper. I only get out into the wider blog world when I make a concerted effort to do so. So it would be helpful if high traffic white bloggers linked to sites like yours to make that trip to the wider world shorter.
    Well I am rambling here and I don’t really have a main point except that I am very glad to discover your site.

  6. Great post, Terrance.

    TRex, I see nothing whiny about T’s rational, analytical post on what has become an overemotional, hostile flame war of unfortunate proportions. What are you referring to?

    When you step back and put this into perspective, it’s a terrible pissing contest overshadowing what could be a productive conversation on race and inclusion on the left.

    The valid points of 1) the problem of inclusion and how information about how that lunch invite list was handled, and 2) the fact that the invitees didn’t choose to comment in their posts on the lunch about the “white-out” — got torched in the flames.

    From my vantage point as I’ve said many times at my blog, POC and whites need a safe space to really discuss race. Political correctness has forced people into defensive corners of silence, and blow ups like these occur and people wonder why it gets so vile.

    What’s disappointing is that some of FDL’s readers, in their zeal to defend Jane from a personal attack, decided to blame the messenger and negate the larger issues at hand.

    I understand where the Liza’s emotion comes from when it seems like, as it did with the big boys ignoring blogger women, you see the same “oversights” occur over and over. Her approach — and the reaction to it — will now likely result in silence in the corners again. Sigh. Hands will be wrung, nothing much will happen, and eventually another flame war will ensue.

  7. Oh, I think David (that's the name I knew him by before he became "TRex") was referring to my last comment. But I could be wrong about that. Either way, it doesn't matter. Oh, and it looks like I've earned myself a deletion from the FDL blogroll. Was on there for a while, just noticed the change today.

  8. Does anyone else find it chilling that he went over to Liza’s blog to bully her into deleting her post, and when she didn’t he used FDL’s big sledgehammer to pound her? Now removing the link to your site. Alot like Bushies over there. No dissent allowed. Just read the comments, everyone fawning and sucking up, anyone who disagrees is a concern troll.

    You lost alot of minority readers for FDL with your racist remarks TRex, and the fact that Jane cheered it on, while the others of your little high school clique pretended not to notice. It says alot about who all of you really are.

  9. Pam, I agree with most of your post, and I too am sad that the main issues are , or were, in danger of being lost under all the flames.

    I don’t agree with this characterization of the matter, though:

    What’s disappointing is that some of FDL’s readers, in their zeal to defend Jane from a personal attack, decided to blame the messenger and negate the larger issues at hand.

    Glossing over what actually happened is not a good way to get anyone to come out of their corners because it is, in essence, telling people (regarding the FDL issue) who were critical of the posting that their concerns are invalid, and also giving a pass to the hierarchy of the site itself.

    One can (I guess, I personally don’t see how) disagree on the blatant use of racist codes in TRex’s post… but, while he may read the site, he can in no way be classified as just a reader. He is part of site hierarchy. And Jane’s actual readers were just following the leaders, as is their wont. They take their cue from whoever is posting, and also from Jane, who was right there in the comments of that post from the beginning, with full approval of it. As was their press secretary!? (I don’t know that suin? siun? something like that, is press secretary from personal knowledge.. some just mentioned that he/she was). If they are, boy did they do a bad job, lol.

    Anyway, I think there is lots to discuss and I really hope the discussion continues. This post by Terrance is an excellent beginning, with many good points brought out that I hope to comment on later… but moving foward, to me, does not in the least require giving the FDL crew a pass.

  10. Good lord, Terrance, you never have stopped whining, have you? I really hoped you would outgrow that. – TRex Sep 17th, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    Wow.

    So now I have several new blogs to read, and – having read about this affair at several blogs now – just the one to delete.

    Listen Terrance, you know I’ve been coming here for several years now. I get a little tired of the ‘wishing I was an A Lister’ posts you regularly make. But this stink, noticed by you, but not created by you, has been useful and illuminating.

    I’ve noticed that when you get angry, you’re writing is clear, concise and well referenced. I cannot remember you shitting on another blogger, or putting them down with a ‘best you know your place, boy’. Equally, John Arovosis from Americablog – he has some righteous anger, that man – but when did he spit it at another liberal activist?

    You saw an important fact, and so did others – the arrogance and viciousness of some A listers at the exclusive Clinton meeting (in Harlem, of all places: guess that’s a new definition of gentrification…) appals me.

    In another sphere, TRex’s job would be on the line. In the blogosphere, maybe his posting rights at FDL (previously a homepage of mine) should be suspended.

    BTW, I take back every grammatical correction I’ve ever offered you: I see how prissy and condescending it can appear to be, now I’ve seen how TRex does it.

    Pass the sick bag, Alice!

  11. You’ve said a lot and opened up lots of lines of thought, but I’m probably too tired to follow most of them at the moment, but there is this thought:

    Power reproduces itself. For it to be different, there needs to be an effort to make it so.

    So, maybe we should work on shifting the center of power?

    In the discussions and comments on this at the various Democratic blogs (FDL, kos, mydd) I noticed that quite a few of the commenters suggesting solutions (or making excuses) centered around black people being “poor, uneducated, no access to the internet and powerless” (composite, not a direct quote from anyone). And then the black people in the threads would mention their experiences with their fellow geeks, all the other black and latino and others blogs, some would mention education (masters degrees and so on)… and it was like they weren’t even there (for some). The next comment would be how blacks are poor, uneducated, no access to the internet and powerless, and how can we fix that and get them blogs? And you can be sure that if and when there is another big politician blogger meeting and black bloggers are actually included, there will be a lot of good feeling (among some) about what they’d accomplished making sure that the poor, uneducated, no access to the internet and powerless black folk got a seat at the table to talk about their little issues.

    Well, when they weren’t talking about not seeing color and color didn’t matter.

    Now, maybe it’s because people don’t actually read the comments, or it may be because certain views of people just do not compute… it just doesn’t fit into their cultural paradigm. The people they meet on blogs are not the people they see on TV which, for some, is pretty much their only exposure to people of color.

    I am not sure how to combat this sort of thing, but I think that’s one huge first step to moving at least part of the center of power. I know that a good number of POC have withdrawn from the big box sites because of the attitudes of the posters there, but even when they were there and blogging while fairly well off (or very), smart and/or degreed, obviously with access to the internet and powerful in their own rights, the same sort of attidudes were prevalent.

    So, don’t know where I’m going with this. And I don’t know what’s already being done… I am not a blogger, exactly, and while I usually surface read blogs, I am not a political activist or anything and I don’t always pay attention to various activities and so on so sorry if I’m duplicating something in suggestions.

    Anyway, one thing that is usually hastily glossed over in conversations about race, politics, blogs and so on is… wherever the Democrats are going, they can’t get there without us. No matter how much money kos or the other “netroots” raise, no matter how many political confabs they attend, no matter how many politicans they have come to their sites, or book authors or whatever… they absolutely cannot win elections without us. Contra Sharpton, we are not riding the donkey… the donkey is riding us.

    So, right there we have a at least symbolic power shift.

    That’s about as plain as it gets when it comes to bloggers and politicians. If you can’t (a) bring them and/or their message to a wide audience and/or (b) help them raise lots of money, they don’t necessarily have much of a reason to talk to you.

    If we accept this premise (and we should, no doubt) then, great… how do we get them to our door, as opposed to having us knock on the doors of the big box blogs?

    Money and access… is it possible to duplicate some of the existing structures, such as the “advertising liberally” thing, only something like “advertising colorfully”? Or instead of the “netroots”, which is pretty firmly tied to kos and satellites, a um… well, someone else can come up with the names (if they already haven’t and if the suggestions are viable). Criteria could be something like being a blogger of color, or actively supporting blogs of color on your blog or blogrolls or something (I know,I know… cries of “racist!” would abound. Tough, I say).

    Anyway, there are probably many other, much more creative ways to get not only the politicians but the blogs to come to you. I think that we should have a discussion on what some of them are and see what could be put together. We’re a pretty valuable group to politicians, so maybe it’s just a matter of getting them an easy and effective way to reach many of us at once.

  12. For what it’s worth, Culture Kitchen just got deleted from the Daily Kos blogroll.

  13. Circular firing line!

    So, if Markos has removed Culture Kitchen from his blogroll, what does that mean exactly? Markos is, of course, latino. He is also an “A-lister,” as DKos gets more pageviews a day than any other liberal blogger of any ethnicity by several orders of magnitude. This incident has covered no-one in glory, and some have gone out of their way to embarass themselves. There was an opportunity for good discussion here, but few have taken it. Republic of T is one (my newsreader welcomes you) but as I have followed the story around the Internets, it seems like folks of many colors have been acting shamefully. It would behoove everyone, I think, to take a day or two off from this incident and think it over away from the noise of the blogosphere before firing off any more broadsides.

    I have noticed in the comments here and in other places an odd categorization: that of “white” blogs and POC blogs. You seem to be forgetting someone in your racial calculus. A lot of people, actually. Millions. Can you guess who they are?

  14. Listen Terrance, you know I’ve been coming here for several years now. I get a little tired of the ‘wishing I was an A Lister’ posts you regularly make. But this stink, noticed by you, but not created by you, has been useful and illuminating.

    I actually haven’t written many posts like that for a while, as a conscious decision because I knew how much people were tiring of them. At this point, it’s not about me anyway. I’ve accepted that I will never be in that number. In order to do so, to draw that kind of traffic, I’d probalby have to completely change how I blog and what I blog about. For my niche of the blogosphere, I do alright. That will have to be enough.

    But, I don’t think that means that there aren’t some legitimate concerns that need addressing. I’ve seen that beginning in a couple of places, and I’ve emailed with people who are genuinely interested in doing that. If I can help in those endeavors, I will, thought not because I think it will raise my relative status as a blogger. Like I said before, there are other things that would have to change before that happens, and I don’t think I’m gonig to change them. Honesetly, I think other people may be better suited to carry this discussion forward than I am at this point.

    I have noticed in the comments here and in other places an odd categorization: that of “white” blogs and POC blogs. You seem to be forgetting someone in your racial calculus. A lot of people, actually. Millions. Can you guess who they are?

    Well, when I say people of color as far as I’m concerned that includes African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian/Pacific Islanders at least.Who am I missing?

  15. Multiracial people. My kids are still too young to have decided how they want to identify themselves, but I know many who choose to forgo racial classifications altogether, identifying as simply “American” for example, or “(insert country here)-American” to reflect their parents’ origins.

    Although it’s also true that many choose to identify with a racial group, however. But being as this is something close to home for me, I thought it was worth pointing out that there were many people in America who do not identify themselves as “white” or “of color.”

  16. Regarding the deblogrolling of Culture Kitchen on DKos: again, the reticence on the left regarding the open discussion on race results in actions and reactions that make the matter even worse. What a terrible signal and sign of circling the wagons.

  17. I wish I could say I was surprised at the blowback on this issue, but I suppose I’m not. People do want to hang on to their illusions, and one of those illusions is that they’re really as fair as they like to think they are.

  18. i wish the photo had been more diverse. not just oliver willis and steve gilliard, but pam for sure and then hello? are there really no liberal asian-american bloggers?

    and firedoglake is a real idiot. the longer she stays prominent, the longer the left has a big ol’ liability on its hands.

  19. Pingback: Bill Clinton Lunches With Whites. Also, Firedoglake sucks. « Creative Destruction

  20. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Bill Clinton Lunches With Whites. Also, Firedoglake sucks.

  21. Thank you for posting this, Terrance. I missed the whole hulabaloo, as I was off-line this weekend spending quality time with my son. But, if a diary is to be judged by the responses to it, your comment has actually created dialogue. (I reviewed the comments to your cross-posting to DailyKos as well).

  22. Terrance: I wrote to Jane Hamsher to protest the removing of your blog from her roll, and was advised that this occurred quite some time ago, as they moved from one blogging system to another. She was quite upset with the implication that it was otherwise, and I have apologized to her for the misunderstanding.

  23. Well, now I guess it’s my word against hers. Unless I’m seeing things, I remember seeing my blog listed on the FDL blogroll within the last few days. Yesterday I noticed it missing. But, alas, I didn’t have the forethought to take screenshots. So, I can’t prove that I saw what I thought saw.

    Beyond that I can only say that I might have been mistaken, and if I was I’m sorry for the implication that it was removed in retaliation.

  24. Terrance, I have known you long enough to know that you would not have said what you did without believing it to be true. And I choose to believe that she would not have responded as she did to me without being convinced that she was telling me the truth. Since I confronted her directly, and she gave me the courtesy of a personal response which struck me as sincere, I felt duty-bound to report that here.

  25. I haven’t commented about this anywhere, yet. I thought of weighing in at firedoglake, where I sometimes comment under another name, but decided I didn’t feel like being called a “concern troll” which is what typically what a commenter gets called when they even think of taking a dissenting point of view.

    But, I want to follow up on Pam’s excellent comments . . . that a valuable opportunity is being wasted here.

    In a sense, this entire kerfuffle began when Jane Hamsher posted that gawd-awful graphic of Joe Lieberman in blackface, in the arms of Bill Clinton in a Huffingpost blog about a week before the CT primary. An image that was posted all over the rightwing blogs–starting with Drudge, and gave Dan Gerstien some very nasty ammunition. As far as I can tell, Liza Sabater was the only person who had the guts to call her on it. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to call Hamsher an idiot, but it cannot be denied,that using that image showed an abysmal lack of judgement. Right after that, Jane Hamsher was no longer “close” to the Lamont campaign . . . I figure that the Lamont campaign had no choice but to ask her get as scarce as possible asap.

    So then this . . . and Liza lashes out a Jane again. Again, perhaps she could’ve been a little more tactful, but to criticize Liza for her temper when Jane and Christy both routinely lash out, quite nastily, at people who get under their skin is ridiculous. It looks like a huge double standard, and it is.

    So, all this to lead up to the real point I want to make. I am a white person, but I am the mother of a grown POC daughter, so I have had to learn to see things that I would not have easily seen as a white person.

    In my view, it is impossible to grow up in this country and not be somehow psychologically scared by the rampant racism which exists wthin this culture. Much of it is very subtle. In liberal, well-meaning types who abhor injustice in any form, like myself, it tends to manifest unconsciously — ie, it is not seen or even known about. So, POC see it, feel it, experience, but the “perpetrators” don’t. And when faced with an angry reaction, they feel victimized and misunderstood. One of the commenters above pointed an example of this kind of thing out when white liberals go on and on ‘sympathetically” about the “poor” “uneducated” minorities.

    I think this is why Jane Hamsher (and darkblack) were unable to understand (either before or after) why posting the blackface image is so offensive. They didn’t have the personal experience, or really understand the history of blackface in this culture. Which is ok — none of us are perfect. But what is really egregarious is the fact that they seemed so uninterested in understanding why it is such a reprehensible and learning from the mistake.

    The blackface image – in a similar way in which a swastika (which is originally an ancient and sacred sanskrit symbol) is – symbolizes “deference.” Joe Lieberman is rightly being attacked for his deference to Bush. I was shocked that Hamsher was insinuating that Joe was a subservient minstrel, that is, it could be read that african-americans are akin to Joe Lieberman. Now, I realize that that was not Hamsher’s conscious intention, but that is how unconscious communications work. And so when trex told Liza Sabater to stay in her place and respect her betters (with Jane’s overt approval and support) the same point was being made, only this time a little more overtly.

    I would love to see someone who is better equipped than I deconstruct this whole thing further.

    One more thing. Liza’s anger. Anger is never pretty. But it does have its place. And if I could count the times when I was dissed by some man and then told to get over myself by some other man when I pushed back, bitched about it, or simply refused to be “nice” about it. It’s really exactly the same thing: a person of privledge (and Jane does have whiteness, money, a bit of fame, and influence) telling a more marginalized person to shut up and be nice. It is also the way in which school yard bullies behave, and Jane Hamsher like the most creepy has a huge pack to unleash to do her dirty work.

    At any rate, I will not be going back to fdl anymore. I have been disturbed by the “tone” there for a lot of time, but it is a great source of info and I have really really wanted to believe that they weren’t really all that bad. This incident has put that hope to rest.

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  27. TRex, blog hanger-on, appears to think he’s King of the World now that he has a bully pulpit he didn’t help build. Wanna know why people started reading FDL, TRex? Wasn’t because of you, and it wasn’t because of snitty bullshit. And what the blogosphere gives, it can also take away. Oh, and replying to comments then deleting the original? Cheap, cheap, cheap.

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  29. Pingback: African American Political Pundit»Blog Archive » Blogging While Brown, Part III

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