Many of you have by now seen yesterday’s discussion on Meet the Press between Markos and Democratic Leadership Council chair and should-have-been-a-Senator Harold Ford. [If you haven’t seen it or don’t know what I’m talking about, go here.] One of the more remarked-upon exchanges was near the end, when should-have-been-a-Senator Ford avoided answering Markos’ request that he stop going on Fox News by trotting out this canard:
But, but, Markos, in all fairness, your site has posted awful things about Jewish-Americans. Your site...You--now you have a site up about...something about Cindy Sheehan, she uses it as a--she has a heavy presence there in talking about her run against...
Um, no. If should-have-been-a-Senator Ford really knew anything about Daily Kos, he’d know that Cindy Sheehan did in fact post an announcement that she was pondering a run against Nancy Pelosi—something that should-have-been-a-Senator Ford shares in common with Cindy Sheehan, since he ran unsuccessfully against the Speaker when she was up for Minority Leader in 2003—and that the reaction was much less positive than she apparently expected. If he was familiar with Daily Kos, he might also know that a few days after that diary, Ms. Sheehan posted this diary, in which she (mistakenly) claimed that she had been prohibited from posting at Daily Kos.
Furthermore, if he were really familiar enough to have found anti-Semitic comments on Daily Kos on his own, he would know that they are extremely rare and almost always rebutted vigorously and usually troll-rated from sight.
What the comments by should-have-been-a-senator Ford indicated to me was that he just hasn’t read Daily Kos.
Now today, mcjoan informs us that New Yorker writer Peter Boyer—one of the few writers at that magazine whose work isn’t consistently outstanding—went on Hardball and used Daily Kos as a pejorative euphemism for something approximating "those crazy lefty whackos who scare the simple people of flyover country." Not only was the crack stupid, Boyer’s claim that Jim Webb is "not exactly a Daily Kos Democrat in Virginia" is factually incorrect, for Jim Webb is a registered user at Daily Kos.
Again, someone spouting off about Daily Kos without, it appears, having first become familiar with the place.
So, what’s going on here? And what do we do about it?
One reason for stupid cracks like those from Boyer is elitism by print journalists who can't imagine the rabble at a blog like Daily Kos could ever be informed, thoughtful, politically sophisticated and pragmatic, and from somewhere else other than San Francisco, Seattle or NYC.
Of course we know that’s stupid, that this site draws active participants from all over the country. In addition to some of the places people might expect we’d draw participants, I know of several Kosmopolitans from the Plains states, we’ve got people who live in the Great Basin, in Oklahoma next to a reservation, in Alaska, Alabama, Buffalo, Detroit, New Orleans, Phoenix...and yes, Virginia. Put up a diary about any state in the country, and you’ll see locals hopping in and talking with great sophistication about their secretary of state or the mayoral race in the state’s third biggest city. We don’t ignore flyover country. Many of us are typing away from flyover country. And we know our towns and cities, our country, we read the same newspapers the "important" people do, we canvass and make phone calls and participate in our local and state party organizations, and some of us, despite writing under a pseudonym, know quite a bit about campaigns and politics. More, I’ll bet in many cases, than Peter Boyer.
With the pols, especially the Dems, there’s another dynamic going on, and it’s related to the centrist v moderate problem. Especially on economic issues, there are quite a few moderates at Daily Kos. They don’t make the mistakes of should-have-been-a-senator Ford; they understand that we kossacks may differ ideologically, but we’re almost all proud partisans. But for the centrists—those whose politics aren’t defined by a strong sense of moderation or commitment, but by determining the ideological location of the middle of the Democratic party, and the ideological middle of the Republican party, and placing themselves roughly equidistant from the two—the perceived "extremes" are something to denounce, and often to fear. Both parties, these folks assume, have accepted extremists in to their ranks, and the extremists have to be denounced, because the American people are in the "middle," and they have to be assured us Democrats (as in the case of the DLC and their ilk) will distance ourselves from the extremists who don’t share heartland values.
We know the extremists who are part of the Republican coalition: the radical religious right, the people who want to undo the New Deal, the people who want to teach creationism, the Citizens Councils of America and the like. But here’s the thing: we don’t have odious or whacko or fringe groups as part of our coalition. Tom Wolfe wrote about radical chic over 30 years ago. Markos may live in Oakland, but it's not 1968, and he's not hanging out with Fred Hampton and Huey P. Newton and there will be no slow motion or still life of Markos Moulitsas Zúniga strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving for just the proper occasion. We're not a fringe group. We're the mainstream. And we’re not going to let some clowns make Daily Kos the progressives' counterpart to White Citizens Councils or Bob Jones University.
So, what do we do? Simple. Contact a pundit or party spokesperson who’s often on television or talking to reporters and ask them about Daily Kos. Ask them if they’ve ever read it. Offer to help them register, and familiarize them with the site. Contact political reporters and hosts of cable and radio political shows, and ask the same question and extend the same offer. Fight the ignorance. And when someone is doing it on purpose, like when BillO went after the Democratic Presidential candidates by trying to discredit Daily Kos and Yearly Kos, do what we did here (with plenty of help all over the place, including the fake news shows)—smack back, and hard. Fight the propaganda.
Some people in the traditional media get it, and should be lauded (and for the good writers like Hertzberg, regularly read). Plenty of pols get it. For those they don’t get it, and clearly haven’t read Daily Kos, lets try to bring them along. Heck, we may even end up converting them.
Remember, the most zealous proselytizers are the converts.