Siberian Khatru: On Being Banned by Daily Kos

Last week, I was banned from contributing to Daily Kos, apparently for criticizing the Democratic cave-in on Peeper Hayden's CIA nomination a bit too forcefully. At least I think that was the reason; maybe they just didn't like the cut of my jib, I don't know. This banishment to Kossack Siberia is a matter of no great importance, of course, neither to the wider world nor to me, but as the shunning was accompanied by several ugly and false personal accusations against me (and our webmaster here, Richard Kastelein, who was also banned), I thought I would take this opportunity to respond. I wouldn't want to let swift-boatian slanders enter the public record unchallenged. (Although I suppose I could emulate the exquisite timing of John Kerry, and make a bold stand in my own defense – two years from now.)

Anyway, for anyone interested in this admittedly esoteric subject, the response can be found after the jump.


After the banning, I asked DK if I could respond to the lies and insults of some of the site's commenters. This request wasn't granted, but below is the reply I would have posted.


Correcting Some Misapprehensions
As a very occasional diarist on Daily Kos, I seem to have stepped into a controversy that has left me puzzled. I honestly could not figure out why such an uproar had arisen over a short diary that I posted following the overwhelming Senate vote to confirm Gen. Michael Hayden, the operator of the Bush Administration's covert campaign against the privacy of American citizens, as CIA director. Having thought a bit about the situation, I decided that it sprang largely misapprehensions by some Kos readers -- and on my part as well. This is an attempt to correct some of those misapprehensions.

First, I'd like to address the accusation that I'm some kind of "troll," that I "love being derogatory to Democrats," etc. This charge is incomprehensible to me. I don't feel I have to prove my bona fides to anybody in this regard, but perhaps in these overheated days, I do. I published my first piece attacking right-wing Republicans in 1978 -- before many of commenters here were even born, I'm sure. I first attacked, in print, the rise of the fanatical, politicized "Christian Right" and its growing symbiosis with the Republican Party in 1982. For almost 30 years, I have been denouncing, in print, in public, this nightmare hard-right movement that has slowly consumed our Republic and now reached its apotheosis in the Bush II administration. To those readers who accuse me of being a troll, of "loving to be derogatory to Democrats," I can only say: what have you been doing to combat the right-wing for the past 30 years? When did you start speaking out against it, putting your neck on the line in public? Or do you confine yourself only to snarky web comments, under pseudonyms, against anyone who offends your refined sensibilities?

And one more word to those accusers: I support the constitutional Republic of the United States before any political party. And although I have never voted for any candidate who wasn't a Democrat -- and this will be my 30th* year of voting -- when I see the leadership of the Democratic Party acting in ways that aid and abet the destruction of the Republic, then by God, I will denounce them for it, and make no apologies for doing so.

Second, I'd like to address the Jason Leopold controversy, since that was drawn into the accuasations against me and probably contributed to the banning as well. In this regard, let me first clear up the quite frankly stupid accusations about me and Rich Kastelein (Ghandi). Rich is the webmaster at the blog I write, Empire Burlesque. He emailed me about the Jason Leopold controversy at Kos; I sent him a response, then did a quick comment, buried miles deep on an existing Kos thread that I thought was an appropriate venue. Maybe it was the wrong thread, I don't know, or maybe I should have put it in a diary; I could never really get a firm grasp on the somewhat Byzantine court etiquette at DK. (But then again, as an American living in England, I have a hard time getting a firm grasp on the social niceties here as well.)

But that's it. That's the extent of the "pseudo-lefty conspiracy" that was bruited by some Kos commenters, who came up with a new axis of evil: Leopold, Kastelein and Floyd. According to these febrile minds, Rich and I are actually one person, deviously posting under separate names, all to do the bidding of the Great Satan in Santa Monica, Leopold, acting as his "sock puppets." One excitable commenter even suggested that both Rich and I were fictitious creatures, fronts being used by Leopold himself.

I'm sorry these anonymous snark-puppies got themselves all het up, but none of this is true.

I simply wrote my own opinon of the Leopold matter. I've never met Jason Leopold, know him only by his work. And my comments dealt solely with his story about the Rove indictment and what I believe is the overreaction to it. Let me state it again: It seems to me that even in the worst-case scenario for the Leopold story, all you would have is that an investigative reporter got burned by his sources. This happens to every reporter; even Sy Hersh has been burned spectacularly on a few occasions. Again, the level of anger and personal animus at Leopold is incomprehensible to me. If the sources were wrong, either unwittingly or deliberately, then the story was wrong. This is an occupational hazard of journalism. Why this should result in such vitriolic personal attacks on Leopold is something I can't fathom.

Also, every single element of the Plame story and the Fitzgerald investigation has played out very slowly, with the truth emerging only months, even years later. Why should we assume that the denial of Rove's lawyer simply settles the matter? Why not let it play out and see what happens? Why this rush to pillory an investigator just because his story made some very powerful people uncomfortable for a minute or two? Yet the Kos FAQ now ranks Leopold with Lyndon LaRouche. I have to say -- and it gives me absolutely no pleasure to say it -- that some of these reactions remind me of old-time Soviet campaigns against someone who has departed from the established line. It was never enough simply to disagree, or to criticize in a rational fashion (e.g., "I think Jason has overstepped the mark here; perhaps his sources haven't given him reliable information; let's hold our fire on this story until we can learn more"); no, the target had to be personally smeared, banished, erased from the discourse. Maybe this doesn't bother other people, but it bothers me.

Anyway, that's the extent of the "conspiracy." Rich told me about the Leopold controversy; I posted my own, honest opinion of the affair, made no claims of secret insider knowledge about it; indeed, based most of my comment on what I considered to be the worst-case scenario: that Leopold was wrong. And I offered these opinions – as I have done for 30 years – in my own name, aboveboard, in public. For this, I've been transformed into a "troll," a conspirator, a pseudo-lefty (whatever the hell that is), a sock-puppet controlled by nefarious forces, etc. This isn't political discourse or honest debate; this is childish nonsense.

But perhaps I'm in the wrong. And I mean that sincerely. Perhaps I have been laboring under a misapprehension about the nature and purpose of the Kos community. I assumed that Daily Kos was a community devoted to dissent against the status quo -- against the manifold depredations of the Bush Regime, and also against the prevailing attitudes of quietism, corporatism and collusion that have characterized the Democratic leadership in general during the Bush years. Indeed, Kos himself and the larger DK community have earned a reputation as offering a viable alternative to the outmoded and obviously unsuccessful DLC philosophy. Therefore, based on these assumptions -- which I believe are sound -- I further assumed that my style of dissent against these same Bush depredations and Democratic failings would be welcome in the Kos community. Not that I expected or wanted everyone to agree with me on every point, but I never thought that either the style or the content of my writings would be considered beyond the pale.

Of course I recognize the need for monitoring comments, diaries etc. on a blog to weed out unacceptable material; I do that myself at my blog. I guess I'm just a bit surprised at where the lines of unacceptability are being drawn these days at Daily Kos.

Again, all this may be down to misapprehensions on my part. As it turns out, it's obvious that the Kos community wishes to hew to a much more centrist line, in tone and content, than I was aware of. This is a perfectly legitimate line to take. I suppose that my material and style were too strident (as a devoted centrist would see it) to fit in well with the goals of the Kos community, which seem to me to be aimed more at making practical changes in the Democratic Party. Again, a worthy goal.

But I personally am not a party activist. I'm not even a political activist. I don't have any ideological line to push, secretly or otherwise. I don't have any "agenda" at all, beyond wanting the government to quit committing so many goddamned crimes in my name, and a rather wan hope that maybe one day society can become more just and enlightened. The old Emersonian ideals still seem good to me. I write when something moves me -- often to outrage, but sometimes to hope or inspiration. I write to try to figure out what's going on in the world, to articulate my understanding of the world for myself and then convey this articulation to others, if I feel it might have some resonance, make some connection, be of some benefit by adding to the weight of dissent against political crime and folly. To borrow Eliot's phraseology, I write to contribute my fragment to shore up against the ruins. That's it.

If the way I do this was somehow injurious to or incompatible with the larger interests of the Kos community, then I guess I should be banned. Again, I only started cross-posting some of my material on Kos because I thought that perhaps my fragments might be simpatico with the folks there; since that's not the case, I'll simply continue to write elsewhere, and wish Kos and the Kossacks all success in whatever they seek to do.

*CORRECTION: I prematurely aged myself in the draft I posted earlier, referring to my 4oth year of voting. I must have been feeling my arthritis when I wrote that.*