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Hi, more or less new person. If you, like me, have multiple questions about just what is going on in a variety of contentious diaries, then you may appreciate what follows.

Questions like "Why are all those comments sitting on the far right hand of the page?" or "Why did that comment need HRs, and how come it got so many recommends?" or "Why are there six other diaries about the first diary?"

Welcome to the Obama Proxy wars, some of the most distracting squirrel food ever conceived of by the mind of man (or woman...).

Sometimes a topic is only a topic. In the great majority of diaries, the subject of the diary is exactly what it says in the title. The commenters may have disagreements with the topic of the diary, or the diarist, but in general they are there because the topic is of interest to them, and the diarist wrote it because the topic was of interest to them. There may be hotly contested definitions, and alternate scenarios introduced, but by the time the diary rolls away into oblivion, the odds are that there will have been some real discussion.

And then there are the topics (and you will need a scorecard for this) which have been deemed, by some, to stand in for a general failure, and thus potentially a condemnation, of the Obama Presidency.

In those diaries, you will find a) people genuinely interested in the diary topic (sometimes including the diarist); b) people who see the situation as reflecting badly on the conduct of the Oval Office, who are unhappy about that; c) people who see the situation as reflecting badly on the conduct of the Oval Office, who are gleeful about that; d) supporters and detractors of the people in categories b and c; and e) people who like to watch fights, or have fights, and tend to enjoy spurring them on.

A word of warning: It is possible to have no interest in anything except the actual diary topic, and, by an injudicious comment manage to be unalterably defined, by one group or another, as firmly and inextricably tied to a "side" in the larger ongoing kerfluffle. Neutral observers tend to be an oppressed minority.

Go carefully - this is a vast uncharted morass for the new commenter. If you question the motive of a diarist or commenter, do it under your breath or in private to avoid being sucked into the maw of the conflict.

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