This is a Democratic blog, a partisan blog. One that recognizes that Democrats run from left to right on the ideological spectrum, and yet we're all still in this fight together. We happily embrace centrists like NDN's Simon Rosenberg and Howard Dean, conservatives like Martin Frost and Brad Carson, and liberals like John Kerry and Barack Obama. Liberal? Yeah, we're around here and we're proud. But it's not a liberal blog. It's a Democratic blog with one goal in mind: electoral victory. And since we haven't gotten any of that from the current crew, we're one more thing: a reform blog. The battle for the party is not an ideological battle. It's one between establishment and anti-establishment factions. And as I've said a million times, the status quo is untenable.
It basically says that all wings of the Democratic party and their respective views are welcome here at DKos...Left, Center and Right are all legitimate factions of the party and have an important role to play in the ultimate purpose of DKos which is to elect more Democrats. One can't help but respect the aims stated in this Mission Statement as they are reasonable, inclusive and reflect the best of what makes the Democratic party just plain better than the Republican party. Unfortunately this site bears little resemblance to what's described there.
(before you attack read the whole diary please...)
That "mission statement" type paragraph sounds great and would lead one to think that DKos encourages discussions of viewpoints from all facets of the Democratic spectrum. It would further lead you to think that as long as you are a Democrat of any stripe, are willing to try to reform the status quo and have as your goal to elect more Democrats that your ideas and views would be welcome here.
In my experience that's just not the way it operates here.
I've found that if you assert an opinion that isn't endorsed by the main participants or regulars that seem to hang out here (probably including the opinion I am offering now), then you can and probably will be attacked, ridiculed and even censored. You can be labeled a Troll, or a Concern Troll (I think meaning you are "concerned" we aren't doing things right which seems to be considered treason), or a Freeper(?) or probably other things that I don't know about or understand. It's completely up to the discretion of these elite members to decide who is legitimate and who is a secret operator for the Republican party or something akin to that. And accordingly...anyone who says anything that goes against the grain of current DKos political correctness is liable to get Troll rated. It has happened to me several times and frankly I am confused and fascinated by the dynamic that plays out here on DKos.
I have been a Democrat longer than many of the members here have been alive. I consider myself a dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool, staunchly liberal Democrat and have been involved in Democratic politics off and on for over 20 years. I am known to my friends as a "pain in the ass" Democrat who never shuts up about politics, the state of the country or how the Republicans are ruining it. I'm proud to be a Democrat but it isn't that popular where I live which is in a pretty Conservative area in Pennsylvania. My unabashed support of President Clinton had gotten me into more than a few heated discussions with other Democrats and lots of Republicans. I am considered by those who know me as a bit over the top in my support for Democrats and my complete disdain and contempt for what has become of the Republican party. I do respect others right to disagree with my politics and am happy to discuss (or argue) differing views all day ...as long as they voted in the last election. If you don't vote I have no time for your argument because you don't matter. I have made it a rule that all the people that report to me at work get time off on election day to make sure every one of them votes.
I have canvased for votes by knocking on doors, manning the phones, given rides to the elderly to get them to the polls, contributed hundreds, even thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates over the course of my life....yet at DKos I am considered a Troll and have been attacked, ridiculed and censored here for stating my views.
And to make it even more absurd when I am called this "Troll" they seem to be intimating that I am a secret plant from the opposition party that is sent to wreak havoc on DKos by offering my "disturbing" opinions. At first I thought it was a joke but I seriously think they believe this!
Some are so suspicious of anyone who writes a diary that espouses a position in anyway critical of Democrats, for instance suggesting our rhetoric concerning a date certain to pullout was hurting our party's chances in the November election, was enough for me to be attacked by many DKos regulars and eventually censored. Censored!
I was censored for saying that we should keep our mouths shut about a date certain for withdrawal and to be careful in our rhetoric so as not to alienate Independent voters. Treason??
Fascinating and scary.
Why is this the case here at DKos? There seems to be a mechanism that creates a hierarchy of users that I think accounts for this behavior. It seems that if you write diaries that get recommended by members and especially some elite members of this site you accumulate status and power here. The more diaries of yours that are recommended the more power you accumulate until you become one of the hyper-involved "trusted users" or TU's. Once you become a TU then you have status and power.
There is no posting that says exactly how many recommends you need to become a TU but it seems simple enough to understand that if you keep saying what everyone already believes you will get recommends to your diary indicating that people agree with you,. The more people agree with you the more likely it is that you'll attain the elite and mysterious TU status and get the power. It's a self-enforcing mechanism that discourages dissent or alternative viewpoints because only by having people agree with you will allow you to gain authority.
What is that power that these users acquire? They get the power to censor the diaries of other users. They get to hide those users comments from anyone BUT the other TU's and so effectively they determine what users are allowed to read on this site. They can and do say what ideas are allowed to be discussed. If they are hiding your comments concerning an argument they disagree with then they are eliminating the basis for your argument. Simple. The Soviets used to do that.
They can alter the tags that appear on the diary so as to give an immediate bias to the reader that THEY have determined this is dangerous propaganda and should be ignored or at least understood as such.(especially if you want to get to be a TU!)
The net effect of this seems to lead to a lot of piling-on of condemnation towards a dissenting or alternate opinion. Once the opinion is deemed unacceptable there are many "me too's" and "fuck you's" that begin to appear. It's weird but it gains momentum...
I have to admit I've thrown a few right back and said some things in frustration that I'm not too proud of...but the saddest part is that there is never any real discussion. I've found there's very little interest in discussing the issue, but plenty of energy for condemning it with no discussion.
And so it goes...like the Stanford Prison Experiment when power is given to a few belonging to a seperate group, who can exercise it over others that they consider to be misbehaving, inherently such power leads to abuses manifested as control and ultimatly punishment. Not a direct analogy but there are some similarities to the behavior. I doubt that was the intent of this site and I wonder if Kos himself realizes this is how it has become. I have to assume he does but I've heard him say he is not in control of this site, that it is run by it's members.
I am incredibly curious to understand how a place that is designed as a forum for open discussion becomes so rife with "group think political correctness".
Somewhat encouraging is the fact that there ARE a lot of people that question the virulent Troll and Concern Troll ratings thrown around here but they are drowned out by the cacophony of negative comments and vitriol.
So I am called a Troll for expressing my opinions, a Concern Troll for expressing my concern (oddly enough) and I am accused of being a Republican rabble-rouser for thinking differently and saying so. Where are we when it is more important to agree with a party line than say what we believe? How is it healthy that just because you CAN limit speech and experssion of ideas that you should do that? Sure, DKos has the right to do whatever it wants in terms of what it allows on this site but I think the effort to bring about a consensus and ultimatly a Democratic Congress suffers when a few frame the discussion and decide what ideas will be entertained.
I thought DKos was all about reform? How is that reforming the party for the better??
I have seen members question whether something bad could be going on at DKos and ask if things are getting a little out of control with the Troll stuff. I have seen signs that some are as troubled as I am about the Troll rating epidemic and written carpet-bombing of dissenting views but that's not been the rule.
I am a Democrat and always have been. But here my legitimacy is questioned because I don't agree and say so. Doesn't that sound familiar? Why be exactly what we despise in Republicans? Why so afraid of dissent? If there are Trolls (and I'm sure there are of some kind) isn't it better to ignore them than go crazy and paranoid in trying to guard against them? Isn't that what George Bush is famous for?
You're welcome to go look through my diaries and judge for yourself whether I am a Troll or not, if they're still there.(I think there's a way to link to them but I don't really know how). I do know comments of mine were deleted and ratings were erased. I know at least one diary was edited by a TU to assert that I was pulling something sneaky by editing one of my diaries and thus providing proof I must be a Troll.
I had changed a diary after submitting it and getting unexpectedly pummeled. I had expressed the opinion that we shouldn't say too much about Iraq withdrawal, that it could hurt us in the elections. There was an outcry because I said Sen. Kerry should "shut up" about it. Not a great choice of words. I did edit the diary in an attempt to reduce inflammatory language which people complained was in the diary. Editing the diary was suggested to me by a commenting member so people wouldn't freak out at the diary. He seemed to be saying it wasn't what I said but how I said it that caused the out-cry. So I changed the diary in an attempt to be more neighborly.
Next thing I know I was accused of pulling a fast one and lending proof I was a Troll.
I admit some diaries of mine were not backed up by links and quotes or as thorough as they should have been but I didn't think I'd spend all my time defending myself but spend some time discussing it. I thought we'd have an exchange of ideas. Then I would have a chance to flesh out the arguments more and possibly change a few minds or have mine changed by someone else's argument. I tried to adhere to the basic principles of a proper diary but I readily admit I could have done a better job at supporting my assertions. Also I didn't really catch on as quick as some with the formatting (I'm still not very good at that) so it was difficult to add the links I was referring to that helped support or explain my ideas, especially in the beginning.
So censor me and others if you want DKos elites. I am not here just to be agreed with to gain status. I DO want to elect more Democrats. I had hoped to try and help the effort to elect Democrats and reform the party back to it's populist roots and centrist, middle and working-class values. But DKos isn't the most friendly place for Democrats as far as I'm concerned. I wish it was different. It's an amazing experiment of crossing an Internet community with Democratic political activism. But the truth, as I see it, is it could be so much more if agreeing with the prevailing line of thought wasn't the most important thing. If elites didn't control the content that members can see and if ideas were welcomed and debated on their merits.
Democrats shouldn't attack Democrats for expressing an alternative view. That feels kinda too Republican for my taste. The Democratic party is different than Republican party in that way. We've always been like herding cats, like Will Rogers said "I don't belong to any organized political party...I'm a Democrat!"
Conformity isn't a virtue but tolerance sure as hell is!
I know this diary will probably not win me many friends here but it's an honest portrayal of my feelings along with a desire to understand and possibly discuss the situation.
So please consider this assertion as not intended to provoke a visceral response from the members but rather to open an honest dialog with anyone interested in discussing it here at DKos. Please respond in a reasoned manner, refrain from attacks and vitriolic remarks if you wish to explain to me how I'm wrong. Or agree with me if you've noticed this trend too.
I will leave a tip jar (I've never done that before so I hope it's appropriate) which I think is designed to measure agreement with the supposition of a diary.