Yesterday, I learned that Chris Floyd had been banned from DailyKos.com. I did a little research and was unable to determine what exactly had happened, so I wrote the following letter to Kos, with copies to Jerome Armstrong, Armando, Plutonium Page, Jerome a Paris, and SusanG, whose email addresses I happened to have in my address book as a result of occasional correspondence in the past.
Now that I have finally received a response from Kos, I am posting it here, because I think that the incident raises issues that should be brought to the attention of the entire community.
If you agree with me, please recommend the diary. If you don't, please feel free to troll rate me in the comment that I am posting specifically in order to give you the opportunity to do so. I am also putting up a short poll, and I hope that you will vote.
I'm copying this to several of the front pagers and/or prominent kossacks and Jerome Armstrong because I am baffled by the banning of Chris Floyd. I did a search on his diaries and comments I really haven't found anything that remotely justifies shutting him down.
As I can't find the original diary, I have to rely on his description of it, and my own rather hazy recollections of having read it. I totally and enthusiastically agreed with him. The failure to resist Hayden's nomination was a pathetic demonstration of the Democrats' functional disability to act as an opposition party.
I cannot understand why anyone would be banned for stating this, nor for getting hot about it. I've been around on dailykos for quite a while. My user id is 8648. I wrote the first independent review of "Crashing the Gates" for AlterNet.Org. No one can challenge my credentials as a progressive liberal Democrat.
When I first came to dailykos on the recommendation of a friend, Detroit News blogger Libby Spencer, I was literally overjoyed to at last find the Democratic antidote to freerepublic.com and the other conservative noise machines. I repeatedly brought items from the site to the attention of my newsroom-l journalism discussion list, as well to my other friends in mainstream journalism.
I used to post diaries and comments more frequently, but I slowed down after the vitriolic response to my diary on the negative consequences of feminists for the Democratic party. When I mentioned this on newsroom-l, I was surprise to hear from Libby that she had abandoned dailykos because of the repressive atmosphere, which I hadn't really noticed all that much. As it turned out, she had it exactly right.
I also began to observe nasty clubbishness in the comments, bizarre troll-rating wars, reports of arbitrary banning, and what I perceived to be an epidemic of fawning on Markos and other kos celebrities. I find these to be symptoms of the emergence of a party line enforced by what I see as distasteful neo-Stalinist discipline tendencies, the same tendencies that I believe caused the current Democratic dilemma.
I don't feel that I can ventilate these feelings on dailykos. I don't feel that I can honestly respond to diaries and comments that I find offensive. I don't feel that I can write diaries defending what I call the dissenting liberal. The reason: I am afraid that I will be banned. I am not exactly a fearful individual, but I have learned the value of prudence. I used to be a very well-known writer. You can examine my credits to get a feeling for what I mean by "dissenting liberal" and "well-known." The dissenting liberal part remains, but well-known?
I don't ever indulge in martyristic personal victimology. I chose my path. When the wind shifted, I stayed my own course. I left the United States and gave up my career rather than submit to the new political line at Playboy by dumbing down my ferociously biting writing style and eliminating any defiantly non-orthodox old-hat hippie opinions. I don't have to go into the entire history of the past twenty-five years to explain myself. Suffice it to say, that when I found dailykos, I thought I had at last found media nirvana -- a site with immense reach that would publish my essays without any form of censorship at all.
So that's over, isn't it?
Carlos Fuentes once wrote, "All revolutions end with the substitution of new masters." I mentioned this in a comment at http://www.dailykos.com/... in which I observed, "When the left comes to power (as it sometimes does) it often turns authoritarian in the face of internal and external threats. The authoritarian nature is, to me, an expression of fear of loss of control."
I think that the powers-that-be at dailykos are wrong. I am not prepared to say that publicly yet because I do not wish to be subjected to party discipline and lose the right to express myself in a very popular and influential forum that is doing a great deal of good to advance the cause that best reflect my own beliefs and identification. I also feel that I owe you the opportunity to respond directly to me so that I can decide what to do about it, if anything.
I offer these thoughts to you for what they are worth. The most important point for you to consider is how my fear of being banned deprives dailykos of what could be an important voice representative of a decidedly disaffected segment of the Democratic Party that you aren't reaching (or are actively offending) and the party disdains.
You don't need me, of course, just as you didn't need Chris Floyd, and I suppose you didn't need my review of Crashing the Gate. You don't need to respond and explain yourself, either. All the power is now on your side. I'm just another annoying buzzing old bug. But I can assure you that many people I know who have views like mine have stopped voting or are voting green.
You can revile Ralph Nader (and I do think he was a rotten traitor), but he expressed part of what many of us feel, and he was a factor in Gore's loss. I had to plead with my doper friends (many of them much more influential than I am) to come out for Gore. They brushed me off. In 2004, some of them very reluctantly accepted Kerry as the lesser of two evils -- but I am not convinced that they voted for him or for anyone. Kerry didn't need those votes, of course, and you don't need them either, I guess. You've got the biggest political blog in the world. You're riding high. Sure you are. Until someone tells Hayden to shut you down and he does it. And he will. Make no mistake about that.
But you should listen to what I am saying. You are losing your soul. You are selling out to illusions of respectability that will lead you into exactly the same place in hell that you are fighting to eliminate.
After sending that out I contacted Chris to find out what actually happened. He responded:
Thanks for the message. It may well be that the banning was due to the technical reason of the same diary going up under different names. If so, that's fine -- although it seems to me to be a sentence along the lines of getting 5-10 in Leavenworth for jaywalking. I did a follow-up post addressing this charge, but as what was happening in the real world seemed more important than this blogosphere nit-picking, I decided not to post it, at least for now. But just FYI, here is the response I wrote on the "sock puppet" charge. ("Sockpuppetism" -- good god. It's like being back in junior high.) Feel free to post this up at Kos if you'd like.
Last Thoughts on Daily Kos
The stat counter for my site pointed me to a recent thread at Kos discussing my banning from the site. There, among many reasonable comments and questions and broader discussions about the nature of the Kos community (too closed? too open? just right?), there were again a couple of weaselish slanders and ignorant charges being thrown about --once again by big tough guys posting under assumed names (like the witty moniker "Republican Taliban" -- a tag perhaps more apt than he realizes).
The main "charge" these officious operators lay at my door is, once again, that I was a "sock puppet" or used a "sock puppet" -- or something about socks and a puppet, anyway. They have their own jargon, and they're more than welcome to it. Anyway, the crime seems to be that, according to them, I posted the same diary on the same day under two different names. This is, of course, false.
An identical post did appear, but here's how it happened. The Empire Burlesque webmaster, Rich Kastelein, saw my EB post on the Democratic cave-in on Hayden, and, rightly angry, posted it up on his diary slot at Kos -- with a link back to EB. Now, I know this is going to shock a lot of Kossacks, but I don't happen to pore over the site hour by hour, or even day by day. So sometime later, having never seen Rich's post nor heard about it, I thought, "Hey, maybe this EB post I wrote on Hayden would be interesting to the folks at Kos, I think I'll put it in my personal diary section over there. Why not?" So I unwittingly put up the same post that Rich had put up earlier. Thus -- in what is apparently a heinous violation of the Kosovian Mysteries -- two identical items appeared in different diaries on the same day.
Maybe such a thing has never happened before, although it seems to me it could happen all the time, with so many diarists on a site. But if it's a bannable offense, then fine, ignorance of the law is no excuse, etc., so I'm banned. But what I find utterly ridiculous is the persistent charge by the nameless weaseltons that this accident constitutes some kind of nefarious conspiracy between me and Rich to...what, exactly? Overthrow Kos? Elect Karl Rove in 2008? Sell seashells by the seashore? What exactly would be the purpose or advantage of knowingly posting identical items? It just doesn't make any sense to me. But I am admittedly not "of the body," so maybe I just don't get it. Maybe I'm actually being controlled by the Anti-Kos without knowing it.
Anyway, Richard Kastelein and Chris Floyd are two different people -- as anyone who Googled the 10 years of work I've done at the Moscow Times (and elsewhere) might have figured out. We live in different countries. In fact, we have never met personally or laid eyes on each other. But if you go to our blog, you'll see it says, "Empire Burlesque: Chris Floyd/Richard Kastelein." So yes, Rich had the practice of sometimes putting up posts from EB into his diary at Kos; why not? EB is his blog too. Now in this one instance, we both posted the same item from our joint blog into two different diaries at Kos. Again, why not? We were both angry about the Hayden sell-out, so we both independently decided to spread the word about what our blog had said about it. Of course, if I'd known Rich had posted the item earlier, I wouldn't have put it in my diary, and vice versa. But life is too damned short for that kind of picayune bookkeeping all the time, especially when far weightier matters -- such as the self-inflicted destruction of the Democratic Party as an effective defender of our consitutional liberties -- are afoot.
So that's how identical diaries came to be posted by two different people on that fateful day. Pretty straightforward, actually. Sorry about that, weasels; no grand conspiracy here. Go gnaw on someone else's ankle, OK?
I also heard from Richard Kastelein, Chris Floyd's webmaster, who explained how the error occurred:
As Floyd's webmaster and publisher, I can tell you there was a misunderstanding on our part on the publishing of that piece. We never meant to double post it - I did not think Chris would post it himself -because he was quite pissed off about the Leopold Gang Bang.
I have posted Chris's work in full in the past as ghandi at booman, eurotrib.com and Kos. Go look me up. I then gently nudged Chris into joining the community at DK because I felt it would help disseminate his work to a wider audience. And would be good for everyone.
The fact that we are suspected as being one person is pathetic and very easily disproved.
If that's what a sockpuppet is?
Anyway - Floyd won't be writing for DK again and he just wants to move on.
Stupid move on Daily Kos's part - I say - especially after I went head over heels myself to mention Daily Kos and the inspiration of a group of people which led to the www.thankyouqwest.org site where Floyd and I were both interviewed by several MSM papers including the New York Times, USA Today etc. That was a week before we were banned.
Chris runs with an interesting, influential group of bloggers and his banning has really left a bad taste in the mouths of many.
I have since removed all references to Daily Kos on the page and all links to DK from our site (I had a banner ad and a text link)
Chris is a neophyte when it comes to the Net - I had to really work hard with him to post on his own blog (which I built and maintain out of my own pocket). He's hardly capable of masking his IP which would need to be the case to the 'technical' staff at DK because it's clear my IP is from Holland and Chris's is from the UK. We are not the same person.
I copied these replies to the recipients of the original message and I also wrote:
As I see it, the real problem here is the arbitrary nature of decisions that affect the image of the entire community. I have read that only Markos has the right to ban a subscriber. It's his forum, but if one of the main purposes of DailyKos is to bring progressive democracy to the United States, it seems rather Stalinist for one person to have so much unchecked power.
To avoid this on newsroom-l, I instituted an advisory board to which subscribers can appeal if they feel a suspension is unjust. This has worked out very well. The board has overruled me on a couple of occasions. I reserve the right to reject their opinion but it's never been necessary since the last was founded four years ago.
I'm just an interested bystander on DailyKos, but I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the public image of the forum is beginning to suffer from the complete lack of accountability when it comes to issues such as who gets banned and why.
This leads me to wonder how Markos would exercise real power if it came into his hands. I don't think that is an unrealistic question to raise.
Is anyone listening?
And finally I received a reply:
Jules Siegel wrote:
This leads me to wonder how Markos would exercise real power if it came into his hands.
I would dissolve Congress, throw all nine supreme court justices into a dank cave, and declare martial law on the country. Then I would summon the Major League Baseball commissioner and head of the player's union and have a frank, er, "discussion". A few months later, the Cubs would win the World Series. Anyone who suggested that the season was rigged would be summarily executed.
So if I were you, I wouldn't vote for me when I run for dictator of the world.
Until then, I think you'll forgive me (and probably the rest of the people you keep harassing with these emails, though I won't presume to speak for them) for rolling my eyes at your histrionics.
You run your site as you see fit. I'll run mine how I see fit. It's a wonderful thing, this free country, right?
Well, until I wield real power. Then watch out!
To which I answered:
Everyone is free to act like a moron, I guess, but it's really disappointing to see someone with your kind of talent and intelligence respond to well-meaning criticism with the same brainless stupidity he condemns so harshly in others.
Fix the problem, schmuck. Don't run a creepy number on the very concerned ally who is telling you that you are wrong.