Saturday, March 27, 2004
A little bit later than we expected to be doing this, we have been able to sit down with this month’s Vanity Fair and read the James Wolcott article on liberal blogs and How They Are Changing the World.
We’re tickled pink that, once Wolcott gets past his introductory grafs mentioning some famous names like Sullivan and Kaus, we’re the very first blog he mentions, at the end of a catalog of blog types that ends in the watcher blog ... exemplified, of course, by yours truly, described quite ably as “appl[ying] a magnifying glass to Andrew Sullivan’s performing-flea antics.”
Of course, what you really want to know about is what Wolcott says about Sully ... and oh boy, is there some of that!
The heart of the piece, of course, is the Sullivan-Atrios contretemp on Minnesota Public Radio in January, in which Wolcott, like us and so many other observers, detected a tectonic shift in blogospheric politics as Sullivan, completely without provocation, jumped all over Atrios for a) being anonymous so people had to attack his arguments rather than him, and b) being too partisan. He was nervous about the guy who’s since walloped him in the marketplace, and lost his cool.
Wolcott traces this back to Atrios’s complaint to Salon back when they first started running his (apparently and thankfully discontinued) weekly fisk of something or other that upset him, not so much for political but business reasons: anyone wanting Sullivan’s latest swill could get it for free at Sullivan’s own website rather than pay for Salon premium (this was before the watch-the-ad daypass option). He imagines the Blog Queen never forgiving this:
For more than an hour the ... confab was cordial, civilizes, and nonconfrontational; then Sullivan, whom I picture biding his time and biting his lip, struck. He accused Atrios of hiding behind anonymity to lob garbage. “You attack personally but can’t be attacked because no one knows who you are!”, Sullivan complained. Take off your Phantom of the Opera mask, fiend!
There is then a long retrace of familiar ground: the Christopher Farah Salon article ridiculing anonybloggers, the subsequent evisceration of that article when one of Farah’s main exhibits against Atrios, a purported email from a maid sexually abused by Bush turned out to be merely a satire of similar emails posted on The Corner about John Kerry, then a defense of anonymous political speech.
Finally, the lines you’ve all read already:
And I would add, based on my own subjective impressions, the reason Andrew Sullivan attracts so many personal attacks isn’t that he’s recognizable and his attackers aren’t, but that he makes it so easy and fun [italics in original – SW]. He’s like a bad tenor begging to be pelted with fresh produce.
Andrew Sullivan: The Carlo Bini of the blogosphere.
On the surface the battle between And[rew] and Atrios is aminor spat between a drama queen and a shrinking violet, but it has deeper ripples. That Sullivan, a well-known byliner, television pundit and former Gap model, felt impelled to pick a fight with a lesser-known blogger was a sign of insecurity – shaky status. It signifies the shift of influence and punch-power in the blogosphere from the right to the left. It is Atrios, not Andrew Sullivan, who is in ascendance in the blogosphere.
And it’s not just rhetoric, either ... the numbers are there.
He recalls some of the bluster of Sullivan and the other warbloggers around early 2002:
When I enter into some of these sites now, it’s like entering the visitors’ center of a historical landmark. The rhododendrons need dusting, and the tour guide isn’t listening to himself, having done his spiel endless times before.
posted by Sully 3/27/2004 12:52:00 AM
Thursday, March 25, 2004
WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?:
We note with some sadness today that Roger Ailes has reported that The Horse has apparently ridden off into the sunset.
We had inklings that this day would come, and perhaps as soon as it did, but just like that day after the Wisconsin primary the expectations didn’t make the reality any easier to take.
As noted at right, MWO was our inspiration. But the truth is that without MWO’s inspiration, this blog might never have come into existence.
We discovered it rather by accident in late 2001, when we were still astounded and dismayed at the intellectual and moral sinkhole Andrew Sullivan had become in the wake of 9/11. Sullivan linked, at one point, to Spinsanity to filet Michael Moore for something. Over there we saw a chance reference to Media Whores Online as still “passing on some canard” and clicked on it.
We never looked back. It quickly became something we had to go to on a daily basis. Here, at last, at long last, was the site that offered up regularly the sort of liberal-left commentary we’d heard and read so often in the streets and on comment boards, the type of commentary that could send rough-tough conservatives crying back to their mamas.
But it did more than that. True to its name, MWO urged us readers to email or otherwise contact media outlets that freely passed along misinformation, regardless of whether they were mainstream or conservative. Sometimes it worked, most famously when Steno Sue Schmidt snapped and tried to get two readers fired for emailing from work. Or when Wolf Blitzer had to correct himself and admit that yes, people were still angry over the 2000 election result. Sometimes it just provided secretaries with an entire afternoon's worth of work deleting emails.
Regardless, it gave its readers a sense of power and community they had long been deprived of. We could fight back against the media misrepresentations and make a difference!
You newer readers, who may have come here from the Vanity Fair piece (and more on that later), may not really have an idea what the blogosphere was like back in those distant times of two years ago. Wolcott is not exaggerating when he describes times in which the field was more or less a contest of who could be more right, where conservatives considered libertarians their main foes, when the conservative press could actually run articles suggesting liberals were too wussy to start blogs in response to articles by liberals bemoaning the predominance of the right online (really, try imagine that last one being written today).
And it would have seemed to a casual observer that they were right. Back then, Josh Marshall was one of the few genuinely liberal blogs on the map to attract a wide audience. Mickey Kaus was actually considered a liberal!
MWO, which Kaus often attacked, changed all that. One by one its faithful, especially once Freeper harassment forced the closure of their bulletin boards, began to leave the nest and alit upon space of their own in the blogosphere. Scoobie Davis. Then, in early 2002, Atrios. They in their turn provided links to other liberal voices that dared to flourish.
We stayed and read all the more eagerly. But it disturbed us still that so much of what the increasingly-popular Blog Queen said on his site deserved correction, condemnation or clarification ... and he didn’t always get his day’s due.
Seeing what Atrios and the others had done with their blogs, we began to wonder how easy it could really be. How much time would it take? Would we need any software we didn’t have? Over a period of weeks we dry-runned it, imagining what we would say that day, what we would tell our readers, what we would call Sullivan repeatedly (we are proud to say that the many nicknames we use were conceived in those fantastic days). We walked up to the edge of starting the blog, logging on to blogger, seeing if the name "sullywatch" was available still.
Finally, one hot night in late June, we noticed the sudden rise of "watch" blogs, particularly InstaPunditWatch and WarBloggerWatch, both still on our blogroll although the former is pretty much defunct other than us still getting hits from it, and the latter has been prone to similar chimes-at-midnight reflections itself lately.
We hurriedly conferred. We believed ourselves to be the best possible people to do a SullyWatch blog, and that if we didn't do it now someone else inevitably would. And soon.
We took the fateful step immediately thereafter. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty. But a line had been crossed, and we could never go back.
We established an email address, at the now-defunct zapo.net, shortly thereafter mainly so we could let the world know we were there. IP Watch and Atrios immediately picked up on it, but MWO offered a huge public boost and a great deal of encouragement:
Anyone on the left who has ever attempted to produce a political weblog is all too familiar with the Sullivan Problem.
Each day, Sullivan, perhaps by design, sucks his lefty readers into a swirling black hole of logical fallacies and hypocrisies, expressed with such mind-numbing levels of arrogance they beg for exposure and derision. As a result, many a blogger has found himself caught in his own sorcerer's apprentice nightmare, devoting entire days’ work and pages of webspace to highlighting the flaws and inconsistencies in each of Sullivan’s items — only to find them replenished the next day, sometimes including responses to the criticism.
With SullyWatch on the scene, a burden is lifted. MWO admires its intrepid founders and wishes them the best of luck.
(You can’t Google the original currently but it’s reposted here). We, in turn, copied their anonymity and their writing style to some extent, at least to the point that we could find our own voice.
And they gave us other boosts as well, linking when we torched Norah Vincent into slag, and later when we reprinted Sullivan’s second-hand email about how Gore “didn’t deserve to be [president].”
Finally they just put us on the blogroll. That was probably the beginning of the end (we won’t yet say “jump the shark”) for MWO. They began to take more frequent breaks, especially at year’s end, and although they remained a vital force we noticed they were doing less and less of their trademark “Email this person’s boss or this person and ask them this sarcastic question” items anymore.
They were missed less and less, which seems to have been the idea. Daily, it seemed, more and more liberals rushed out into the blogosphere, eager to join the fight. Veteran MWO and Atrios commentator Digby got his own gig, as did Leah A. Times were changing.
Every now and then we would quote them on this or that. Even as recently as January when they defended Atrios’s anonymity (and, by extensions, theirs and ours), we linked.
But it was obvious as the rage of 2002 solidified into the campaign of 2004 that the waters around the Horse had grown. We were now checking in once a week, more out of respect for what they had meant to us in the past instead of what they were doing in the present. To be honest, the site became like that bar you once went to where everyone else who was anyone in your little universe that you go in, notice that few if any customers are in and you don't know them, buy a token drink and then leave. And the next time you come back, some time later, the door's locked and the lights are out, and it’s going to stay that way, and you know you’ve moved on.
O Horse, if you’re reading this (and we know you are, wherever), we can’t thank you enough. We had thought of calling for a sort of moment of silence tomorrow afternoon, but then we realized that you’d want us to pay you a better tribute by just blogging away like nothing has changed.
Because, in reality, nothing has. The site may be down but the spirit more than lives.
You see, you rode through the desert on a horse with no name.
It felt good to get out of the rain ...
La Laaa la la la laaah ...
la la la
Few can truly say that they have earned the rest that you have. Farewell, Horse! And we really do mean it in the best of ways when we say that we hope we won’t need you back.
posted by Sully 3/25/2004 01:24:00 AM
Monday, March 22, 2004
IMMINENT AD INFINITUM:
Logan Circle Guy takes issue with Sullivan’s partial defense of Rummy:
Andrew is lying again; that is not what Rumsfeld said. He said the while some people say the threat from Iraq is not immediate, “I wouldn’t be so sure.” Which pretty clearly means he thinks it is.
You could split hairs and say that this did not constitute a direct statement, but Andrew of course leaves out the context of the quote. Watch the ad: first it shows Rumsfeld saying that neither he, nor the president, nor the vice president ever said that. Then it shows the clip Andrew mentions. Then for good measure it shows a clip where Rumsfeld says directly that Iraq posed an immediate threat.
In other words: the ad shows Rumsfeld caught on video lying. I can’t imagine what Sullivan finds so unfair about that.
posted by Sully 3/22/2004 08:56:00 PM
THE NEW IRAQ:
A year after a war that was supposed to benefit her, Riverbend isn’t feeling so triumphant:
It seems like everyone you talk to is keeping their eyes open for a job opportunity outside of the country. It depresses me. When I hear someone talking about how they intend to leave to Dubai or Lebanon or London, I want to beg them to stay… a part of me wants to scream, “But we need you here! You belong here!” Another more rational part of me knows that some of them have no options. Many have lost their jobs and don’t know how to feed their families. Others just can’t stand the constant worrying about their children or spouse. Many of the female doctors and scientists want to leave because it’s no longer safe for women to work like before. For some, the option is becoming a housewife or leaving abroad to look for the security to work.
Whatever the reason, the brains are slowly seeping out of Iraq. It’s no longer a place for learning or studying or working … it’s a place for wealthy contractors looking to get wealthier, extremists, thieves (of all ranks and origins) and troops…
And if that wasn’t bad enough, look what she’s had to say in the wake of Madrid:
[A year ago], I felt horrible that Baghdad was being reduced to rubble. With every explosion, I knew that some vital part of it was going up in flames. It was terrible and I don’t think I’d wish it on my worst enemy. That was the beginning of the ‘liberation’ … a liberation from sovereignty, a certain sort of peace, a certain measure of dignity. We've been liberated from our jobs, and our streets and the sanctity of our homes … some of us have even been liberated from the members of our family and friends.
A year later and our electricity is intermittent, at best, there constantly seems to be a fuel shortage and the streets aren’t safe. When we walk down those streets, on rare occasions, the faces are haggard and creased with concern… concern over family members under detention, homes raided by Americans, hungry mouths to feed, and family members to keep safe from abduction, rape and death.
And where are we now, a year from the war? Sure — we own satellite dishes and the more prosperous own mobile phones … but where are we really? Where are the majority?
We’re trying to fight against the extremism that seems to be upon us like a black wave; we’re wondering, on an hourly basis, how long it will take for some semblance of normality to creep back into our lives; we’re hoping and praying against civil war …
We’re watching with disbelief as American troops roam the streets of our towns and cities and break violently into our homes ... we’re watching with anger as the completely useless Puppet Council sits giving out fat contracts to foreigners and getting richer by the day — the same people who cared so little for their country, that they begged Bush and his cronies to wage a war that cost thousands of lives and is certain to cost thousands more.
We’re watching sardonically as an Iranian cleric in the south turns a once secular country into America's worst nightmare- a carbon copy of Iran. We're watching as the lies unravel slowly in front of the world — the WMD farce and the Al-Qaeda mockery
And where are we now? Well, our governmental facilities have been burned to the ground by a combination of “liberators” and “Free Iraqi Fighters”; fifty percent of the working population is jobless and hungry; summer is looming close and our electrical situation is a joke; the streets are dirty and overflowing with sewage; our jails are fuller than ever with thousands of innocent people; we’ve seen more explosions, tanks, fighter planes and troops in the last year than almost a decade of war with Iran brought; our homes are being raided and our cars are stopped in the streets for inspections … journalists are being killed “accidentally” and the seeds of a civil war are being sown by those who find it most useful; the hospitals overflow with patients but are short on just about everything else — medical supplies, medicine and doctors; and all the while, the oil is flowing.
But we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned that terrorism isn’t actually the act of creating terror. It isn’t the act of killing innocent people and frightening others … no, you see, that’s called a “liberation.” It doesn’t matter what you burn or who you kill - if you wear khaki, ride a tank or Apache or fighter plane and drop missiles and bombs, then you’re not a terrorist - you’re a liberator.
The war on terror is a joke … Madrid was proof of that last week … Iraq is proof of that everyday.
I hope someone feels safer, because we certainly don’t.
Memo to John Kerry or anyone else who wants to drive Bush out of office come November: Just read this at the convention, out loud, unabridged, in prime time. The rest of you can forward it around in email, full text with link. This says more to us than any domestic criticism of the war ever could.
And just think of this everytime Sullivan posts something about how great things are going, what a good thing we're doing for the Middle East, remember this.
posted by Sully 3/22/2004 08:47:00 PM
OLD BOYD NETWORK:
Speaking of the Blair piece, there is one interesting thing we caught in it.
When we first read the summary Slate did so you could get the juicy bits without picking it up, much less buying it, we were struck by the Boyd quote, too (Blair claiming that Boyd “devour[ed] the careers of more blacks than he saved”). Would Sullivan pick up on that, we wondered?
Yes he did. But in a way that says far more about Sullivan than either Boyd or Blair.
Immediately after quoting this, Sullivan does something he never once lifted his keyboard to during the actual scandal ... defend Gerald Boyd. He calls it “a more unsubstantiated racial smear in the book, a not-so-subtle attempt to portray Boyd as some sort of Uncle Tom.”
Even given the natural and understandable tendency to despise and distrust Jayson Blair, a tendency that we share, that’s a surprisingly swift leap to a conclusion. Given that it seems that some of Blair’s charges (that some Times reporters trade favors with publicists for mention in stories, that reporters file stories from remote datelines before they actually arrive) have shown some merit, we think you can’t dismiss it out of hand. Unless you want to believe that Jayson Blair is the only unethical and/or shockingly incompetent reporter ever employed by the Times ... which we all know isn't true (Kolata, Markoff, Miller ... the list is very long).
Or, you had been so heavily invested yourself as a bitter critic of, and ex-freelancer for, the Times in the idea of an African-American senior manager overlooking the crimes of a young hire of his own race that, when the latter suggests the former was anything but, you lash out at him, defending the former for what you had previously excoriated him for (at least by implication).
Lest we forget, here’s (no-link rule waived for this) what Sullivan himself said at the time:
Offending minority journalists is more of a no-no than allowing the paper’s reputation to hit a 152-year low. I’d go further and argue that the refusal to hold black reporters or gay reporters or any reporters to the highest possible standards is itself evidence of prejudice and condescension. Did it do Blair any good to get this kind of pampering?
Either the Times editors are completely incompetent at judging journalistic skills; or they judge reporters on the basis of their race. Neither conclusion is particularly edifying, is it?
And about Boyd specifically:
So far, Boyd, who has distanced himself from Jayson Blair faster than Rupaul from Rick Santorum, is indeed an interesting case. Given what has happened, it’s amazing no one has taken responsibility and quit at the Times. Usually, the head-guy gets his underling to walk the plank, which, in this case, would be Boyd. But the Times can hardly be seen to fire not one but two black staffers, so Boyd stays.
(Emphasis ours ... note the contrast with what he says now. Perhaps Jayson had legitimate reason to want to drive the knife deeper, Andrew dear?).
So, for Andrew Sullivan, Jayson Blair’s most grievous fault has not been to remind Sullivan of some checkerings of his own past as an editor. It has been to dare puncture the balloon that he slept on, the one that said that Howell Raines’s New York Times was so race-obsessed that people in high places protected not just one African-American but all (if one remembers correctly, a theme of Ruth Shalit’s infamous ten-page 1995 piece about the Washington Post that ran in TNR during Sullivan’s tenure ... you know, the one that got the magazine sued when she mistakenly wrote that a city official had been indicted who wasn’t in reality? Oh, wait, maybe Blair hit closer to Sullivan’s soft spot than even we realized).
posted by Sully 3/22/2004 04:38:00 PM
A NEW SCHOOL OF THOUGHT:
Just what the hell is “Nhilism” (About this? Or this?).
Or it comes from the same place as “rfelatively easy” in his Sunday Times piece on Blair.
posted by Sully 3/22/2004 03:37:00 PM
WELL, THAT FIGURES:
A year ago he was vowing to blog ... around ... the clock tonight, blog blog blog till broad daylight, as the masturbo-fascistic fantasy called the Iraq war got underway.
Now, he’s rewarding his pledgers who so faithfully support him by once again up and taking a week off, thereby depriving them of another one percent or so of what they paid for. You just know he's going to take August off again (like some decadent ... continental) and probably another week off after the election. Will any of his faithful supporters ask for a partial refund? (If you are, and you do, you know what we suggest you do with it. Even if you aren't, putting some green in that white box to your right and letting Sullivan know you did it and why might be an effective way of making the point that news never sleeps).
For our sake, we ask, couldn’t he have taken last week off? It would have harmonized so well with our schedules, as it turned out.
UPDATE: A Brooklyn Bridge takes note too, and finds the timing a little too temptingly commodious:
I won’t snark about the number of times he’s away. But I had to wonder that, in seven hours after the 60 Minutes interview with Richard Clarke, he didn’t have one comment. (His post was stamped 3:26.) Given how ardently he defends Bush on security and the war — just about the last thing he can — Andrew can’t be having much fun right now.
posted by Sully 3/22/2004 03:33:00 PM