Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Great Orange Satan

RE: public enemy #1: The Daily Kos.

Fox News's Bill O'Reilly seems to take criticism very personally -- right up until the point where he attempts to convince the audience that his enemies are also, of course, their enemies. It's an interesting tactic. He did it first with Media Matters and now he's done it again with The Daily Kos. More on Media Matters at another time... today let's take a look at his persistent attack on Kos (examples here, here, and here).

I was reading and posting comments on The Daily Kos (and blogs in general) back when O'Reilly was too busy trying to bang Andrea Mackris to notice that the Great Orange Satan existed.

It was a little different back then, a smaller community. My Kos id is #36,652 and that was because I read it for a whole year before joining... currently there are probably closer to 200,000 participants registered. The organic, spontaneous grassroots nature of it was stunning, and while there were already a zillion blogs on the internet by the time I found it, none of them provided the opportunity for discourse that Kos did. The Daily Kos gave a forum to all of us with something to say and a desire to be heard. It also provided ideological shelter for those whose liberal outlook was sneered at and ridiculed by those who thought sneering and ridiculing liberals made them one of the cool kids.

In addition to Kos's "front page" posts, registered users could submit their own essays in the form of "diaries" that were read, rated, and commented on by the rest of the user community. The first thing I noticed about dKos is that there are some damn fine writers out there who don't have the benefit of a syndicated column or op ed slot. The second thing I noticed about dKos is that it resides under a big fucking tent. Oh that's right... read it and weep, people... Democrats as a group are about as diverse as it gets. You gotchyer commies, you gotchyer blue dogs, you gotchyer libs, you gotchyer progressives, you gotchyer centrists, you gotchyer moderates, you gotchyer Reagan Democrats, you gotchyer hippies, you gotchyer single issue voters, you gotchyer my-daddy-raised-me-this-way Dems, you gotchyer converts, you gotchyer militants, you gotchyer gays, you gotchyer fems, you gotchyer Jesus freaks... you name it, it posts on Daily Kos. Naturally it had me at hello.

But eventually - in my opinion - the community got too big. It fought amongst itself a lot. Not a single comment could be posted without a countervailing opinion, usually spawning a crop of counter-countervailing opinions, until it was like reading white noise. Very thoughtful and well researched diaries would scroll off the list after 30 minutes, lost forever in archive oblivion without due love or attention. I started to seek out less chaotic corners of the blogosphere (eventually creating my own).

Just before I departed, the size and raucous energy of the Daily Kos began to draw the attention of Dem politicos who didn't know quite what to do with it. They wanted to harness the energy for political gain so they began to post their own occasional diaries. Depending on the issue or the tone, our congressmen quickly discovered that the Daily Kos could not be domesticated. Kossacks were just as likely to bite them as they were to praise them. For every vocal Pelosi lover there exists his perfect evil twin: the vocal Pelosi hater. Whichever was there to receive them that day was only a matter of luck and timing. Also, the Daily Kos had long since ceased to be under the control of its creator, Kos, so trying to solicit his sponsorship is a worthless endeavor. The Daily Kos is an unmoldable entity.

Fortunately for the Kossacks there are a few relatively unifying topics, one of them being the sad state of our corporate media. And there Bill O'Reilly really shines, for nothing brings together a pack of furiously feuding Kos posters faster than an O'Reilly segment on Youtube. So, in a way, when O'Reilly calls the Daily Kos a hate site he is speaking the truth... for surely few anywhere are hated more than Bill O'Reilly.

What I have found around the intertubes is that Democrats, or at least the Daily Kos variety of them, have a wicked, free-wheeling sense of humor in comparison to their dull, robotic Red State brothers. Snark abounds, as do photoshopped pics, as does satire, and some of it ain't very nice. Humor is, after all, in they eye of the beholder. All Kossacks aren't particularly nice, either, and there are plenty who I don't like or agree with. Since there are about 200,000 who are registered to post, it would be a little difficult to police everything everyone says. And quite frankly, I think it would be criminal to try.

Because the point of it all is this: We in America are told from birth that it's our duty to participate in this democracy but, in reality, all our democracy wants from us is our money and our vote. Our politicians don't want to hear what we have to say. They want to speak for us without the burden of having to listen to us. But now -- for the first time in history -- we have a voice. The internet has proved to be a great equalizer, for not only does it enable our peasant voices to be heard, but it projects them to an audience the size of which we never could have imagined. A comment posted by me on Daily Kos -- me --the middle aged, middle class, anonymous mom from the Midwest, userid #36,652 -- can be read by 500,000 people in the course of a day, including politicians, newsmakers, newsbreakers, and John Doe from Peoria.

So let O'Reilly whine on about a few uncensored comments on the Daily Kos. Let Michelle Malkin tell her audience that the whole site is "sewage". I suspect it's closer to the truth to say that O'Reilly can't stand the sound of anyone's voice but his own. And not for lack of trying, the Republicans have not been able to duplicate the site's success. My personal theory is that the vast majority of Republicans come in two flavors these days: those who like to tell others how to think and those who like to be told how to think. Two-way conversation isn't even on the menu, hence the popularity of the one-sided conversational forum offered by popular Republican TV and radio shows.



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Gratuitous O'Reilly links:

My all time favorite, the humorously detailed sexual harassassment complaint against Mr Falafel himself. Ms Mackris taped and transcribed his phone calls for way more entertainment than Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinski ever provided.

O'Reilly the propaganda pimp.

O'Reilly calling the kettle black.

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