Who Will Save the Gray Lady from the Clutches of the Fascist Octopus?

by Henry Farrell on June 25, 2006


All I can say is wow. “David Brooks”:http://select.nytimes.com/2006/06/25/opinion/25brooks.html?hp channels “Jeff Minter”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revenge_of_the_Mutant_Camels in the _New York Times_ today.

bq. The Keyboard Kingpin, aka Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, sits at his computer, fires up his Web site, Daily Kos, and commands his followers, who come across like squadrons of rabid lambs, to unleash their venom on those who stand in the way.

Squadrons of rabid, venom-spitting command-lambs. As I said. Wow.

(thanks to bad jim for alerting me to this in “comments”:https://crookedtimber.org/2006/06/24/blogofascism/#comment-160958).



Seth Finkelstein 06.25.06 at 9:10 am

Nonetheless, there is a significant underlying issue.

[Chris Nolan]

“What’s even more troubling? Most bloggers – partisan to their core – don’t see Moulitsas’ statements as contradictory or incriminating. They think this is business as usual. They’re right – if you’re a political consultant. In that job you’re supposed to take money from your client, the candidate, for your work – which is to get him or her elected. But if you’re “media” – mainstream, traditional, new, or old – this sort of talk ought to raise a few questions about what your job is, how you’re doing it and where you loyalties lie. What – exactly – is the relationship between DailyKos and the candidates it supports? And when are they going to stop being coy about it?”


Sandals 06.25.06 at 9:13 am

This of course being opposed to poor David Brooks, who only has a column in the frigging New York Times.

He acts like doesn’t even know about the rightwing hatemail campaigns. He damn well does. Idiot. But, we already knew that.


Sandals 06.25.06 at 9:19 am

Responding to seth: Uh, Kos discloses every relationship he has, unlike a great number of pundits in the ‘professional’ media. So where’s the coyness? This is just reaching into the generic bag of insults and pulling a few out. Didn’t we go through this whole procedure last year? It got quashed then for rampant silliness but I guess narratives have no expiration date.


David W. 06.25.06 at 9:29 am

Damn, how did I ever miss “Revenge of the Mutant Camels”? Ebay, here I come…


Seth Finkelstein 06.25.06 at 9:39 am

Sandals, read the whole article, maybe I should have quoted more:

“There are more questions to ask about Kos. My friend Micah Sifry points out that Moulitsas’ reasons for supporting Warner, who is running on the “not Hillary” plank for the Democratic nomination, amount to nothing more than Moulitsas’ endorsement of Warner’s hiring the “right people.” One on level, that’s a charming note of support for Kos’ book co-author, Jerome Armstrong who has been retained by Warner as a consultant. But it might be something else, too. It may just be a recognition that the Warner campaign – the first candidate Kos singled out when he was asked about the Vegas gathering – is money in the bank for Moulitsas and company.”


SomeCallMeTim 06.25.06 at 9:49 am

But it might be something else, too.

What, like a nefarious plot by Islamofascists to take over America through “legitimate” means? Or maybe the “something else” is “nothing at all”? Kos has been writing posts, big and small, on a daily basis, for a long, long time. People have a pretty good sense of him, and their trust in him, such as it is, is likely to be robust. I suspect those same people have less reason to trust Brooks, Zengerle, et al.

This whole thing is so stupid. Kos has never been particularly leftist, but he’s long been pretty anti-DLC. I find it bizarre that people think there is something out of character about his support for the candidate who represents, by most accounts, the best opportunity to beat the DLC candidate. OTOH, he is wierdly sized, and a certain amount of distrust on that basis seems entirely appropriate.


abb1 06.25.06 at 9:58 am

What would happen if rabid venom-spitting attack-lambs laid down with lions? It would be interesting…


jw 06.25.06 at 10:07 am

Squadrons of rabid, venom-spitting lambs? I think David Brooks must be taking writing lessons from the master of the mixed-whipped-and-pureed metaphor, Thomas Friedman.


Bruce Baugh 06.25.06 at 10:08 am

And I was just wondering why so many lions these days have visors and side-mounted lasers.


Sandals 06.25.06 at 10:33 am

Seth: Well, to be honest, I don’t read Daily Kos much these days, so I couldn’t say about the Warner business in particular. But, IIRC, this narrative was around since Jerome Armstrong and Kos-types did consulting for campaigns in 2004. Even though it was disclosed numerous times and there was even a disclaimer, it was treated as some big revelation that they did this work while blogging about those campaigns, even though disclaimers were made every time. It was transparently fake then and I don’t see any difference in the current ruckus so far regarding disclaimers and such.

I read the linked article, but the comments about ‘really just a direct mail’ got me. Daily Kos is a community site. I’ve belonged to several internet communities, political and nonpolitical. Saying its like direct mail just crams community sites into a wildly inappropriate pre-existing category that vaguely resembles them. One might as well call that Townhouse mailing list nothing but a form of direct mail.

The particularly stupid aspect of the direct mail comment is that you don’t need to hire Kos to get your word out on Daily Kos. You can post there yourself. MAGIC.

Then he talks about how blgogers can be bought. Oookay. Does “The Washington Times” ring any bells? You can buy someone in pretty much any field. So I’m not sure exactly what point he’s making here, unless it’s to slur Daily Kos indirectly by implying that the site has been bought. Since after all that’s the focus of his article. Not to mention there’s nothing wrong with having advocates. They just need to disclose any links or interests. That’s ethics, and that’s free speech.

Lots of people think a lot of media professionals are bought and paid for already, which is part of what fueled the rise of blogs. The internet is just another media, after all, it’s not that different from the current ones.

His anecdote about the Kossack and the editor is as amusing as it is unsourced. However, I would consider just who it is getting jobs in the media. Because in my unscientific opinion there seem to be a lot more right wingers yearning to make that leap while simultaneously dissing the ‘Liberal Media’. At least here in the US, in the blogging scene.

Then there’s his assuming the moral high ground of the beleaguered union worker, as compared to his carefully cherrypicked ‘Liberal Elite’ bloggers. I found that part upsetting, especially since Leftist blogs have in my experience been extremely supportive of labor and unions.


bob mcmanus 06.25.06 at 10:43 am

Thith meanth war! BaaaAAAAAH!! sss. sss.


JR 06.25.06 at 10:49 am

The Washington Post will print bought and paid for op-eds without identifying the affiliations of the author.


Josh Marshall called it “Op ed Payola” in 2002.

Andrew Young writes op-eds defending Wal-Mart without revealing that he’s on their payroll- and newspapers print them.

Kos does not claim to be a source of objective news. He’s what used to be called a pamphleteer. And unlike the newspapers, he tells you about his sources of income.


Christmas 06.25.06 at 10:54 am

The contention that Kos is on the take rests entirely on the presumption that there’s no other explanation for his support of Warner, which is utterly absurd. Kos is infamously non-ideological about the candidates he supports; as he has made clear time and time again, he wants to win before he wants anything else. The Democrats he’s mad at the most aren’t necessarily conservative or pro-war, but are the Democrats who actively damage the rest of the party by attacking it publically (a la Joe Lieberman). Warner, meanwhile, is a popular ex-governor from a winnable Southern state who generated a lot of positive buzz when he essentially got the credit for getting Tim Kaine elected. That set of characteristics, combined with a certain flexibility on Iraq, makes him appealing to the Kossite “winnerism” mentality.


Seth Finkelstein 06.25.06 at 10:54 am

Sandals, what we have here is a failure of communication. You’ve thoroughly re-iterated Nolan’s point – “They think this is business as usual”. I grasp that you think this is business as usual. That doesn’t leave much more to say, except endless repetition that this is business as usual, the MSM is supposedly worse, so what’s the problem, etc. etc. No doubt the same could be said of stock-touting (and has!).

Henry, I wish you would post some of the thoughtful commentary that’s being written, rather than cherry-picking the overwrought paragraphs. I found the last part of Brook’s flame much more relevant:

“And so the Kingpin has his relationships and his understandings and his networks and his compromises. In just a few short years he has achieved a level of self-importance it took those in the pre-blog political class decades to acquire.

He has challenged his enemy and become it.”

That, too, is business as usual.


Adam Kotsko 06.25.06 at 11:31 am

Just a second — why are you violating Kos’s explicit orders not to talk about this? I demand that you rejoin the lockstep ideological conformity of the blogofascist left!


rilkefan 06.25.06 at 12:07 pm

“Henry, I wish you would post some of the thoughtful commentary that’s being written, rather than cherry-picking the overwrought paragraphs.”

I too wish Brooks was producing some thoughtful commentary.

“the MSM is supposedly worse”

And I wish you were able to read and make distinctions. But I’m more likely to see the former wish granted.


neil 06.25.06 at 12:08 pm

Honestly, Seth, I see nothing wrong with Kos promoting Warner based on who he’s hiring. Kos’s single-minded interest is campaign strategy, and he is very open about this. In fact, I wouldn’t expect Kos’s opinions about a campaign to be based on anything else, nor would any serious readers as he is quite open about this background to his analysis.

I welcome the discussion of conflicts of interest for whose careers span both media and politics. What I don’t welcome is Markos Moulitsas becoming a pariah for his conflicts while Robert Novak and James Carville continue their careers unmolested. Come on, David Brooks, write a column condemning NBC for employing Alan Greenspan’s wife as a reporter. Then we’ll listen.


Adam Kotsko 06.25.06 at 12:22 pm

Looking back at the Brooks quote, I wonder if the “rabid lamb” thing indicates that Friedman’s supple grasp of metaphor is rubbing off on him.


nick s 06.25.06 at 12:44 pm

And the odds of Bobo’s op-ed being co-ordinated with TNR are…?

Anyway, ignore the trolls, as they say.

It may just be a recognition that the Warner campaign – the first candidate Kos singled out when he was asked about the Vegas gathering – is money in the bank for Moulitsas and company.

Yeah, because all of the diaries and comments expressing a certain degree of disgust with the opulence of Warner’s reception in Vegas were summarily deleted. Oh. If Kos has expressed a philosophical preference, it’s for western Democrats with a libertarian streak.


Cryptic Ned 06.25.06 at 12:49 pm

Lambs can be rabid, just like any other mammal. We must be wary of rabid sheep and cows.

I think the idea of a “squadron” of rabid animals is the stupid part. Rabid animals are incapable of pack-like behavior, they’re too busy wandering around aimlessly, upset by their inability to swallow, with occasional bursts of aggression.


mykej 06.25.06 at 12:50 pm

I was considering grilling some lamb this afternoon, but now I’m concerned. Is lamb like fugu? Does anyone know the safest way to remove the venom sacs?


Sandals 06.25.06 at 1:20 pm

Heh, sorry for going overboard…it wasn’t your article, after all.

I think that business as usual in the mainstream press is quite a bit worse in terms of journalistics ethics than ‘blogistan’ though. Even if journalists are honest about their conflicts on an individual level (which they arn’t a lot of the time), there’s a hell of a lot of organizational and professional conflict of interest that for the most part doesnt arise for bloggers.


Atrios 06.25.06 at 1:42 pm

as I keep saying, those who imagine some sort of “kosola” scandal should take a gander at kos’s ad rates.

He’s got the easiest job in the world, and it’s quite lucrative. The idea that he’d be wasting his time figuring out how to skim a few grand from politicians is ludicrous.


Jay C 06.25.06 at 3:11 pm

Who says the New York Times doesn’t run comics? David Brooks’ Op-Ed piece on “Kos the Kingpin” had to have been one of the funniest things I have ever read in those august pages. Without the byline, I would have taken it for a parody-piece off one of the second-tier right-wing blogs –Protein Wisdom,maybe. Brooks has often been criticised for his off-the-mark takes on a lot of things: but this column takes the cake. That “mainstream” media often doesn’t “get” the dynamics of the blogosphere isn’t really news at this point: but getting it SO wrong, as David Brooks did in his ludicrous screed is truly dredging brave new depths of cluelessness.


Barry 06.25.06 at 5:46 pm

Seth, quoting Brooks: ““And so the Kingpin has his relationships and his understandings and his networks and his compromises. In just a few short years he has achieved a level of self-importance it took those in the pre-blog political class decades to acquire.”

WTF? The level of self-importance that Brooks and the other Op-Ed swine have couldn’t be achieved by Kos, barring major arrogance gland transplant surgery, and we’d have seen the scars.


derek 06.25.06 at 5:48 pm

The New York Times is really just like direct mail! David Brooks writes a column and all those NYT readers digest the instructions it contains, and stumble off, zombie-like, to carry out their appointed tasks!

But seriously, as near as I can work out, the anti-blog criticisms from fearful journalists are boiling down to two basic complaints:

1) Anybody can write a blog! Writing should be confined to a few accredited newspapers and magazines!

2) Newspapers and magazines are numerous and diverse, while the blogs are few, and their tiny cabal of writers wield immense power and influence!

It doesn’t seem to be occurring to them to notice how comically contradictory the two complaints are.


bob mcmanus 06.25.06 at 7:57 pm

Jeralyn Merritt about Newsweek

You know, ya think this is funny, but this is an organized deliberate effort to destroy Markos and the left blogosphere. It is real. It could succeed.

When all the major news outlets, the Republican Party, and the US government act in unison, you can get stuff like tens of thousands dead in Iraq.

Laugh away.


Anderson 06.25.06 at 8:33 pm

Splendid how the Merritt cover artist made the woman’s red-polished thumbnails stand in for nipples. Real craftsmanship, that.


Jim Flannery 06.25.06 at 9:08 pm

anderson: Huh? What? Where nipples wha?


radish 06.25.06 at 9:19 pm

bob mcm: organized and deliberate, sure. Succeed? Doubtful. Maybe reduce Markos’ personal income and influence a little and cause some kossacks to hang out elsewhere — a minor tactical win but no real strategic gain. Even that I doubt. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if he came out ahead on all this, just because of the people who will show up expecting hate speech only to find a crowded, noisy, room full of mostly-regular folks who are concerned about their government and the way things are going.

Chris Nolan and Jesse Kornbluth and the like think Markos is just blowing smoke when he says that it’s not about him, or that it ultimately doesn’t matter whether the punditocracy trashes, praises or ignores. But he isn’t, it isn’t, and it doesn’t. In fact Markos is just about the crappiest writer with front page access at DKos. Brooks et al may want it to be about Markos but Markos is just the proprietor, not the institution. The DKos community isn’t going to collapse over a piddly non-story like Jerome’s run-in with the SEC, but even if the orange place gets slammed, there are nearby pubs decorated in yellow, green, purple, various shades of blue, some sort of reddish taupe, and so many other colors besides.


Scroop Moth 06.25.06 at 10:00 pm

Bo bo make boo boo. Run out of thinth to thay.


nick s 06.26.06 at 12:56 am

In fact Markos is just about the crappiest writer with front page access at DKos.

That’s perhaps the biggest challenge to the op-ed pundit parade: the tacit acknowledgement online (through links and comments) that there are people smarter or more eloquent or with greater access to information than you.

It’s an overused quotation, but I think we’re past ‘then they laugh at you’ and are now seeing ‘then they fight you’.


bad Jim 06.26.06 at 3:17 am

Look on the bright side. Brooks, when he’s at his best, is pretty silly, but sadly he hasn’t been silly for years, at least in his pieces for the Times. His latest effort, however maudlin its ending and inadvertent its appeal, was nearly hilarious.

It’s imaginable that he and his ilk consider the blogosphere, blogtopia, left blogistan, whatever, to be no more than the fever dream of one skinny Salvadoran kid of Greek ancestry, which a gust of disdain from the New York Times could disperse into a cloud of dust.

Come November, though, such rabble-rousers as Kos and Atrios will again have raised millions of dollars for progressive candidates. Funny how that works. Like-minded people working together, never giving up.


bob mcmanus 06.26.06 at 9:07 am

“…bob mcm: organized and deliberate, sure. Succeed?”

Detention for Dangerous Speech …Jack Balkin

“Posner’s main thesis is controversial enough. But in the middle, he offers the following rather surprising statements about the First Amendment:” …Jack Balkin

“Throughout American history, states and the federal government have criminalized speech that advocates the violent overthrow of the United States government and other subversive activities. These laws, which long survived judicial scrutiny, authorized criminal punishment of people who were dangerous but hadn’t actually caused harm.” …Posner

“Although in 1969 the Supreme Court held that under the First Amendment governments can ban only speech that would cause “imminent” harm– like incitement to riot– it remains an open question whether this standard is workable in an age of global terrorism exemplified by the Sept. 11 attacks. Less restrictive tests applied in earlier cases could be resurrected if the United States created a similar statute to counter the modern wave of terrorism.” …Posner

With Alito & Roberts on the court, and Eugene Debs & Emma Goldman as precedents for what might be considered “dangerous speech”;with the expansive powers granted the Executive and unknown degrees of surveillance…well, I say no more.

Ok, I say more:The MSM is giving support to the notion that the left side of the blog commentariat is an uncontrolled violent rabble. Are we close to the Bush administration dragging Kos and Atrios off to Gitmo, with the full support of the MSM? Remember blogs ain’t “real journalism”, and aren’t protected by the 1st.

How close? An attack on Iran or nuke in Chicago or another very narrow election close? Who knows?


Ginger Yellow 06.26.06 at 12:52 pm

David W: No need for Ebay. Revenge of the Mutant Camels was/is shareware. It’s no Llamatron, but it’s pretty cool.


LowLife 06.26.06 at 2:02 pm

I think McManus is showing the appropriate degree of paranoia. I hardly know how to combat the Big Media Meanies but Wolcott might be on the right track.


Uncle Kvetch 06.26.06 at 3:24 pm

Looking back at the Brooks quote, I wonder if the “rabid lamb” thing indicates that Friedman’s supple grasp of metaphor is rubbing off on him.

Everybody’s saying Friedman, but I think “squadrons of rabid lambs” is much more Noonanesque in its flamboyant silliness.

I think BoBo and the Pegster were out painting the town the night before he filed this baby.

Or is it irresponsible of me to speculate?


Morat20 06.26.06 at 3:37 pm

It’s irresponsible NOT to, Uncle Kvetch. It’s irresponsible not to.


lemuel pitkin 06.26.06 at 6:21 pm

Note that the lambs aren’t actually spitting venom, they’re “unleashing” it, making the image even more bizarre.


m. 06.26.06 at 7:18 pm

I think the most damning possibility to explain Kos’ support of Warner — and the manner in which this lines up with Jerome’s employment — is that some liberal blog higher-ups are themselves becoming subject to some sort of “conventional wisdom” or “groupthink” or “echo chamber” or whatever you want to call it, in which case Brooks & co. are in a glass house.

But even that seems unlikely. The above-mentioned “winnerism” of Markos is likely the cause. Plus, he hasn’t actually endorsed the guy, right? Whenever Schweitzer makes news I seem to recall Markos making mention of that on the site, as well as Jerome’s writers at MyDD. And Schweitzer has much the same appeal as Warner: a Dem winning in a red state (among other qualifications). If Feingold were to run I’m sure Kos would run it, but wouldn’t get behind him in the same way because I’m sure he sees an electability question there. And if Gore decides to run, my money’s on Kos getting behind him.


bob mcmanus 06.26.06 at 10:32 pm

TheSwiftboating of Kos …Billmon of Whiskey Bar

I don’t know, man, there is so much trenchant analysis and vicious snark that I hardly know where to begin. Enough quotable lines to serve me for months. I felt like a kid in a candy store. Just the finish:

“Whether the grown ups (Peretz, Lieberman, Hillary) actually set the Swiftboat in motion, or just watched approvingly (“Who shall rid us of this meddlesome blogger?”) as their hatchet boys did what comes natural, is almost irrelevant. The important thing to understand is that we have reached the point where the Dinos and their media allies are willing to use Rovian tactics against anyone who challenges their entrenched position — even someone like Kos, who is hardly the second coming of Henry Wallace or George McGovern.

Whether that’s good or bad for the Kossaks I don’t know — I suppose it depends on how much credence you give to Gandhi’s old saw: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” In the real world — and in imperial America, too — the truth is that sometimes they ignore you, then ridicule you, then fight you and crush you like an overripe eggplant. We’ll see if that’s true this time. Either way, though, it looks like the battle between the netroots and dino Dems is going to get very down and dirty indeed.” …Billmon


jonst 06.27.06 at 6:00 am

Whatever the hell Chris Nolan knows about unions, or the people in them, you could put in a thimble. Perhaps if said union members WERE “sitting in front of their computers and passoniate about politics” they would not be bending over, dreading the unjust screwing they are about to recieve. It is indeed the Swift Boating of Kos! And I don’t even like the friggin guy one bit.


dirk 06.27.06 at 10:27 pm

With uncharacteristic bombast, David Brooks is accusing the trendiest progressive blogger of vague impurity. As Claude Rains might have said: “I’m shocked, shocked, to find hype going on here!” Tom Wolfe made a splash with this sort of shallow J’accuse of liberal inconsistency 35 years ago, but with much better writing.

There seems to be some discussion of Brooks’ motive. Conspiracy? Old-guard defensiveness? Maybe. But look at the number of blog mentions Brooks has gotten since his article. Then reread the column. Rabid attack lambs? Kos as Tom Delay? Isn’t the most obvious motive simple commercial self-promotion?

With Kos hyped to the heavens, why not call-out the poster boy of progressive bloggers (and his little lambs, too)? What’s his apparent sin again? A minor hypocritical lack of transparency? Perfect. If by chance Markos really did screw up, Brooks can pretend he’s a real muckraker. Otherwise, he gets credit for forcing Markos to awkwardly explain how he wasn’t actually trying to shut down conversation on a conflict of interest (ongoing investigation, anyone?). If Markos never answers, Brooks has written the Conservative narrative on Kos.

Right or wrong, Brooks gets plenty of airtime on a hot topic. If the MSM gave out niche awards, Brooks might win “least offensive Neocon apologist” or “most thoughtful mythologizer of the Red State/Blue State distraction.” Is it really surprising he would occasionally yearn to emerge from a nearby phone booth as “Conservative MSM Slayer of Liberal Blogistan!” ? Makes for a wordy costume, but does anyone doubt it’s a growth market? The bonus for Brooks: this is one of the few positions that won’t make him even less popular in the NYT lunch room.

Shouldn’t Markos address his “omerta” request (true or untrue) and move on? Unless this is a first, his interests are best served by being as open as possible, as quickly as possible. He is increasingly perceived as a high-visibility source of power, so he’d better get used to dealing with below-the-belt questions from people who can sustain the MSM noise. Nothing personal, just business.


abb1 06.28.06 at 2:00 am

I think Dirk is onto something here. These guys have to write a column every week, and they run out of topics.

It’s worthwhile to get yourself involved into a little sweet controversy that can be milked for months or even years.

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