Come to think of it, I usually link books mentioned using Amazon’s Associates program, but Amazon has not had a sale from one of those in a very long time, as best I can recall. Does that count as disclosing?
Publishers sometimes send me books in hopes I’ll review or at least mention them. I occasionally attend free advance screenings of new movies (typically law-related documentaries) that filmmakers hope I’ll write about. This site has an Amazon affiliate store which has from time to time provided me with commissions after readers click links and proceed to purchase items, though it’s been almost entirely inactive for years. I get invited to attend the odd institutional banquet whose hosts sometimes give away a free book or paperweight along with the hotel meal. I’ve been sent “cause” T-shirts and law firm/support service provider promotional kits over the years, pretty much a waste of effort since I don’t much care for wearing such T-shirts and am not exactly famed for posts that sing the praises of law firms or their service providers.
Under new Federal Trade Commission guidelines in the works for some time, I could apparently get in trouble for not disclosing these and similarly exciting things. In addition, the commission’s scrutiny will extend to areas less relevant to this site, such as targeted Google advertising and results-not-typical testimonials.
Robert Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch finds it hard to see why the blogosphere has raised such a big fuss about these rules. After all, the rules (to be precise, “guidelines” backed by government lawyers with relevant enforcement powers) make clear that nondisclosure of a single minor freebie will not in itself suffice to trigger liability but instead will be counted “among several factors to be weighed” in evaluating the continuum of behavior by individuals engaging in social media (it seems the rules also apply to Twitter, Facebook, and guest appearances on talk shows, to name a few). FTC enforcers will engage in their own fact-specific, and inevitably subjective, balancing before deciding whether to press for fines or other penalties: in other words, instead of knowing whether you’re legally vulnerable or not, you get to guess.
Olson also quotes Ann Althouse, who identifies the crucial point here quite succinctly.
The most absurd part of it is the way the FTC is trying to make it okay by assuring us that they will be selective in deciding which writers on the internet to pursue. That is, they’ve deliberately made a grotesquely overbroad rule, enough to sweep so many of us into technical violations, but we’re supposed to feel soothed by the knowledge that government agents will decide who among us gets fined. No, no, no. Overbreath itself is a problem. And so is selective enforcement.
What do you suppose are the odds that Obama’s FTC is going to go after Kos for taking “consulting fees” (Kosola) from particular democrat candidates?
Firedoglake’s Jane Hamsher and the Kos himself fired (in private) the first shots in a struggle over advertising dollars and other forms of support between the left-side of the blogosphere and the financially-troubled dinosaur news media.
Some of the leading liberal bloggers are privately furious with the major progressive groups — and in some cases, the Democratic Party committees — for failing to spend money advertising on their sites, even as these groups constantly ask the bloggers for free assistance in driving their message.
It’s a development that’s creating tensions on the left and raises questions about the future role of the blogosphere at a time when a Dem is in the White House and liberalism could be headed for a period of sustained ascendancy.
A number of these top bloggers agreed to come on record with me after privately arguing to these groups that they deserved a share in the ad wealth and couldn’t be taken for granted any longer.
“They come to us, expecting us to give them free publicity, and we do, but it’s not a two way street,” Jane Hamsher, the founder of FiredogLake, said in an interview. “They won’t do anything in return. They’re not advertising with us. They’re not offering fellowships. They’re not doing anything to help financially, and people are growing increasingly resentful.”
Hamsher singled out Americans United for Change, which raises and spends big money on TV ad campaigns driving Obama’s agenda, as well as the constellation of groups associated with it, and the American Association of Retired Persons, also a big TV advertiser.
“Most want the easy way — having a big blogger promote their agenda,” adds Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos. “Then they turn around and spend $50K for a one-page ad in the New York Times or whatever.” Moulitsas adds that officials at such groups often do nothing to engage the sites’s audiences by, say, writing posts, instead wanting the bloggers to do everything for them.
Naturally enough, the spectacle of the self-appointed tribunes of the poor leaping and snapping at a major pile of cash was bound to provoke a certain amount of derision.
Hey! I’m with you guys 100%. If you’re going to shill, the least you can ask for is some pocket change. All those years of brown nosing and you’d think these big shots would have the common courtesy to toss a few coins in the hat and give you a hanky to wipe the stain off your face. I mean, what’s the use of prostituting yourself if the party pooh-bahs won’t leave any money on the dresser when they leave?
Meanwhile, Don Surber chuckled that it was too late for Jane to try to put a meter on it. “Why should they pay Hamsher to do what she was going to do anyway for free?”
Mickey Kaus suggests that Hamsher and Kos should pay attention to the approach described in Amy Wallace’s profile of Variety’s former editor-in-chief Peter Bart
I have to tell you a story,” the studio boss said, launching into a tale about a lunch with Bart the previous December. It wasn’t the first lunch the two had shared, but this one was memorable.
According to this studio chief, before they’d even looked at their menus, Bart announced: “Your studio has not been advertising enough in Variety. That has affected my Christmas bonus.” Bart said there would be repercussions, the studio chief told me: “For the next six months, you won’t catch a break in Variety.”
I asked if Bart made good on his threat. “Oh yes,” the studio chief said, noting that even on the weekends the studio came in No. 1 at the box-office, the story in Variety would start off with a dig—something like, “Despite a string of flops…” So what did you do, I asked. The studio chief didn’t hesitate: “We upped our ad buy.”
This isn’t Kos’s first grab for the bucks either. Remember the great Kosola Scandal of 2006?
It appears that the post-Yearly Kos month from hell is continuing for Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the proprietor of the Internet’s premier liberal blog Daily Kos. After receiving some extremely negative press from major publications such as The New York Times, The New Republic and Newsweek immediately following his seemingly successful bloggers’ convention in Las Vegas, Kos is now faced with an even greater challenge: dissension within his ranks.
Such internal squabbling comes at the same time that many prominent Democrats seem to be privately expressing concern about the direction the “netroots” — the self-described Internet grassroots movement of liberal bloggers and their loyal followers — are taking the Party. This seemingly inconvenient planetary alignment is not only threatening the long-term viability of this crusade, but also is putting Kos in an uncomfortable position just as his notoriety is skyrocketing.
As reported here on June 30, revelations about Kos’s friend and former business partner Jerome Armstrong — from stock fraud allegations to accepting consulting fees from not so liberal candidates — have cast a cloud over the blog and its leader. This pall has also undermined the stellar relationship Kos has had with the traditional media up to this point.
Yet, maybe more important, these revelations — along with the way Markos and his Kossacks reacted to them — have caused some prominent DKos bloggers to question the behavior of Zuniga and his devotees. Such a civil war within the liberal blogosphere certainly has the potential to further discredit it, while likely making the mainstream media as well as the candidates they revere less apt to associate with this developing train wreck.
Sometimes I am embarrassed to call myself a member of DKos.
This is one of those times.
There is a sort of groupthink, Lord of the Flies kind of behaviour at DKos over certain issues that absolutely makes me nauseated…
Increasingly, I have begun to feel intimidated or wary about writing my thoughts and doubts about these issues, lest I be set upon by a pack of Defenders of the Kos. It is this sense of intimidation that spurs me to write this, among other reasons: when I start censoring myself because I’m afraid I’ll be punished with disapproval, anyone’s disapproval, I know I’m allowing others’ opinions to matter too much to me. I shouldn’t be deciding what to say and not to say online based on any anticipated reaction.
And predicted that not even the left blogosphere’s chorus of howler-monkeys can ultimately succeed in shouting down questions about the exchange of the Kos’ influence for cash. The Kosola scandal “WILL NOT GO AWAY simply because some people don’t think Markos should be held to the standards that he WILL, ultimately, BE held to.”
Mr. Siegel’s criticism was, needless to say, not well received, and the moonbats (in their customary fashion) howled abuse and hurled dung.
In today’s continuation of the exchange of fire between New Republic and DailyKos, Lee Siegel attributes the creation of the objectionable aspects of the culture of the left-side blogosphere (the constant usage of obscenity, the readiness to resort to intimidation) to the personality and philosophy of Kos himself:
“Moron”; “Wanker” (a favorite blogofascist insult, maybe because of the similarity between the most strident blogging and masturbating); and “Asshole” have been the three most common polemical gambits. A reactor even had the gall to refer to me as a “conservative.” Another resourceful adversarialist invited me to lick his scrotum. Please send a picture and a short essay describing your favorite hobbies. One madly ambitious blogger, who has been alternately trying to provoke and fawning over TNR writers in an attempt to break down the door—I’m too polite to mention any names—even asked who it was at TNR who gave me “the keys to a blog.”
All these abusive attempts to autocratically or dictatorially control criticism came about because I said that the blogosphere had the quality of fascism, which my dictionary defines as “any tendency toward or actual exercise of severe autocratic or dictatorial control.” The proof, you might say, is in the puddingheads.
I am overwhelmed by the intolerance and rage in the blogosphere. Conscientiously criticize, in the form of a real argument, blogospheric favorites like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and the response isn’t similar criticism, done conscientiously and in the form of an argument, but insults, personal attacks, and even threats. This truly is the stuff of thuggery and fascism.
Two other traits of fascism are its hatred of the processes of politics, and the knockabout origins of its adherents. Communism was hatched by elites. Fascism was born along the drifting paths of rootless men, often ex-soldiers who had fought in the First World War and been demobilized. They turned European politics into a madhouse of deracinated ambition.
In a 2004 article in The San Francisco Chronicle, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga told a reporter that he moved to El Salvador in the late 1970s with his family—one of his parents is Salvadoran—who apparently had financial interests there. The article relates:
“I believe in government. I was in El Salvador in the late ‘70s during the civil war and I saw government as a life-and-death situation,” he said. “There was no one to root for. The government was a corrupt plutocracy and the rebels were Maoists. The concept of government is important.”
He remembers bullets flying in the marketplace and watching on television as government soldiers executed guerrillas. He also remembers watching footage of the Solidarity movement in Poland.
He was 9, and he asked his father what that was all about. His father, a furniture salesman, said, “It’s just politics.”
The future blogger said, “Tell me all about it.”
So he loves government, but hates politics. There’s something chilling about that. I wonder, does Zuniga consider the Solidarity movement disgusting, compromising, venal politics, too? And was there really no one to root for during the Salvadoran civil war? It’s hard to believe the usually inflexibly partisan Zuniga actually said that. The rebels may have been “Maoist”—whatever that meant to them in Central America at the time—but their goal of overthrowing a brutal, rapacious regime might well be something that a passionate political idealist and reformer like Zuniga, looking back at it in 2004, would sympathize with. Or so you would think.
But, then, Zuniga—let’s cut the puerile nicknames of “DailyKos, “Atrios,” “Instapundit” et al., which are one part fantasy of nom de guerres, one part babytalk, and a third thuggish anonymity—believes so deafeningly and inflexibly that it’s hard to tell what he believes at all, expecially if you try to make out his conviction over the noisy bleating of his followers.
He told Deborah Solomon in The New York Times that he joined the army out of high school to build up his self-confidence. Elsewhere, he has spoken of his love of 25-mile marches with a heavy knapsack. After the Army, college and then law school. But he never practiced law, it seems. He drifted to San Francisco and into the high-tech industry, where he designed Websites. Finally, he ended up in politics, again drifting into the Democratic party, supporting first John Edwards, and then Wesley Clark, and then, as a paid consultant, Howard Dean.
It wasn’t long after that when Zuniga began channeling other people’s rage.
Lee Siegel yesterday harshly criticized many left blogs’ more-than-shrill reaction to the New Republic’s suggestion that left-blog influence may be being traded for cash, and its revelation at the same time of the existence of systematic backroom coordination of news coverage, via “Townhouse,” a secret email list connecting the elite of leftwing blogging.
Siegel was deservedly scathing in his comments about the character and quality of the dialogue found on many of the most influential left-side blogs.
In response to Jason Zengerle’s most recent post on The Plank—”Hope you’re not tired of this Kos stuff”—no, I for one am definitely not tired of Zengerle’s artful and honest exposure of someone who, more and more, seems to represent the purest, most classical strain of hypocrisy. All the MSM has to do is reach out and touch the angriest, most vitriolic blogger, and he or she melts like butter on the beach….
..when bloggers do get the MSM to turn its head their way, the training wheels come off and they usually fall flat on their faces.
It’s a bizarre phenomenon, the blogosphere. It radiates democracy’s dream of full participation but practices democracy’s nightmare of populist crudity, character-assassination, and emotional stupefaction. It’s hard fascism with a Microsoft face. It puts some people, like me, in the equally bizarre position of wanting desperately for Joe Lieberman to lose the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont so that true liberal values might, maybe, possibly prevail, yet at the same time wanting Lamont, the hero of the blogosphere, to lose so that the fascistic forces ranged against Lieberman might be defeated. (Every critical event in democracy is symbolic of the problem with democracy.)
Even beyond the thuggishness, what I despise about so many blogurus, is the frivolity of their “readers.” DailyKos might have hundreds of responses to his posts, but after five or six of them the interminable thread meanders into trivial subjects that have nothing to do with the subject that briefly provoked it. The blogosphere’s lack of concentration is even more dangerous than all its rage. In the Middle East, they struggle with belief. In the United States, we struggle with attention. The blogosphere’s fanaticism is, in many ways, the triumph of a lack of focus.
This week has been a very interesting week for me. And I know I have sort of arrived in a scary way, because now I’m not being attacked for what I’ve said and done. People are making stuff up about me now. They’re inventing things. And so I know now I’m on a different plane.
But this is the world we live in. There are people who have a vested interest in the status quo. There are people who don’t want to see things change because they’re not used to things changing. They know the world. It’s comfortable. It’s cozy. If they read the media, the media’s not going to tell them what we’re all about. Howard Dean thought we were all young. I’m not sure where he got that, because he should have known better. Hillary Clinton came up and she quoted the netroots based on something a conservative said. They need to live it for themselves. They need to become part of it, because this is an integral part of American politics now, and that’s not going to change.
And the beauty of it is at the end of the day, they can take me down. They can take Jerome Armstrong down. They can take down Atrios. They can take down any of the so-called leaders in the movement and it doesn’t matter, because this is not a leaderless movement. I used to say this was a leaderless movement, and I was wrong. It’s not a leaderless movement; it’s a everybody-who’s-part-of-it-is-a-leader. And so you can take any single individual down, and it will continue to live on.
Jason Zangerle of the New Republic yesterday dropped a bomb on the left-side blogoshere, opening up for general discussion a very damaging story (previously reported way back in January of 2005 in the WSJ, and pooh-pooh’d at that time by Salon, finally re-emerging last week in New Republic—and in the subscriber-only section of the New York Times) of influence traded for money, and back-room coordination of the left-side blogosphere’s message.
Are Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas (Zúniga) (of the famous Daily Kos) engaged in a pay-for-play scheme in which politicians who hire Armstrong as a consultant get the support of Kos? That’s the question that’s been bouncing around the blogosphere ever since The New York Times’s Chris Suellentrop broke the news last Friday about a 2000 run-in Armstrong had with the Securities and Exchange Commission over alleged stock touting. But Armstrong, Kos, and other big-time liberal bloggers have almost entirely ignored the issue, which is a bit surprising considering their tendency to rapidly respond to even the smallest criticism.
Why the strange silence in the face of such damning allegations? Well, I think we now know the answer. It’s a deliberate strategy orchestrated by Kos. TNR obtained a missive Kos sent earlier this week to “Townhouse,” a private email list comprising elite liberal bloggers, including Jane Hamsher, Matt Stoller, and Christy Hardin Smith. And what was Kos’s message to this group that secretly plots strategy in the digital equivalent of a smoke-filled backroom? Stay mum!
Kos certainly went ballistic this morning on the New Republic:
People talk about the need for the left to work together and have a unified message in the face of a unified conservative noise machine. So a google group was created called “Townhouse”, and it included many bloggers and other representatives of the netroots as well as a large number of partisan journalists and grassroots groups. It allowed us to discuss policy, issues, tactics and coordinate as much as you can ever get a bunch of liberals to coordinate.
There was one big rule for this list, an important cog in the growing Vast Left Wing Conspiracy—everything discussed was off the record.
That was obviously violated today as the New Republic betrayed, once again, that it seeks to destroy the new people-powered movement for the sake of its Lieberman-worshipping neocon owners; that it stands with the National Review and wingnutoshpere in their opposition to grassroots Democrats.
The magazine published, in its website, an email I sent to the list. There is nothing controversial about the email, but Jason Zengerle tried to spin it as evidence that there is a “smoke-filled room” and that I send “dictats” to other bloggers, controlling what they can and cannot write about. In a subsequent post, Zengerle went further, saying that I control the financial fates of much of the progressive blogosphere. My power apparently knows no bounds!
Ludicrous, all of it, but that’s the new rules of the game. TNR and its enablers are feeling the heat of their own irrelevance and this is how they fight it—by undermining the progressive movement. Zengerle has made common cause with the wingnutosphere, using the laughable “kosola” frame they created and emailing his “scoops” to them for links. This is what the once-proud New Republic has evolved into—just another cog of the Vast RIGHT Wing Conspiracy.
If you still hold a subscription to that magazine, it really is time to call it quits. If you see it in a magazine rack, you might as well move it behind the National Review or even NewsMax, since that’s who they want to be associated with these days.
Charles Johnson of LGF thinks that New Republic’s rejoinder written by the same Jason Zengerle, has a great deal to say “about the leftist blogosphere’s coordinating committee, the private email list called ‘Townhouse,’ ” and its central role in coordinating the left-side of the Blogosphere party-line.
I’ve noticed on many occasions that all the lefty blogs will suddenly go into lockstep, echoing the same talking points, whenever a breaking event happens. Now I know why. There’s no doubt that this list is also used to coordinate attacks when they decide to go after blogs like LGF or any of their other favorite targets.
But it’s highly revealing that the very thing the moonbat blogosphere always accuses the “right” of doing—secretly following orders from a central machine—is exactly what they’re doing themselves!
If there’s an equivalent list on the “right,” no one has ever invited me. But that’s OK; I wouldn’t join anyway.
Zengerle speculates that Kos’s power on the left-side may be based on more than good looks.
Now, on to the question of the source of Kos’s influence. As I wrote in this post, some of that influence likely stems from the ideological and partisan loyalty liberal bloggers feel toward him. But I also raised the question of whether Kos exercised some degree of financial influence over liberal bloggers through something called the Advertising Liberally BlogAds network. A number of Kos’s defenders have criticized me for misunderstanding the nature of Advertising Liberally and Kos’s relationship with it. The most thorough and heated critique I’ve seen comes from the aforementioned Steve Gilliard (you can read it here), so let me try to respond to his criticisms in the interest of answering the others.
Gilliard writes, “If Zengerle had done some reporting, he would have found out that Henry Copeland, owner of BlogAds, manages the network.” This is incorrect. Henry Copeland doesn’t manage any of the networks; he operates the overall BlogAds service. Each of the networks (like Advertising Liberally) is operated by a network manager, who is a blogger. In Advertising Liberally’s case, the network manager is MyDD’s Chris Bowers. But, according to e-mails I have that Bowers wrote in 2005, he consulted with Armstrong and Kos when it came to making up the rules for the Advertising Liberally network. (Indeed, this post from today by Bowers over at MyDD acknowledges that Kos sits on the Advertising Liberally “advisory board”; Armstrong left the board in late 2005.)
As for the network manager’s rule-making power, Gilliard writes, “They [i.e. Kos, Armstrong, and Bowers] formed the network, but none of them had the right to remove any other site by fiat.” This is also incorrect. Per the BlogAds rules for its advertising networks, each network manager has absolute control over setting standards for the network and deciding who is in and who is not. This actually became an issue for the Advertising Liberally network last fall, when—according to a source and e-mails in my possession—Bowers, Kos, and Armstrong drew up new membership rules for the network, which led to some blogs being kicked out of the network.
Finally, Gilliard writes:
The idea that one must “stay in Kos’s good graces” to remain in the network is a joke. Kos doesn’t care, he has DK and a sports network to run, Armstong has a job, and Bowers has MyDD to keep up and running, and that’s not easy.
All of this may well be true. I know of no instances where Kos, Armstrong, and Bowers excluded a blog from the network explicitly because the blog did something to fall out of their good graces. But the fact remains that Kos does exercise some control over the network and, according to a source, the fear of angering Kos among some liberal bloggers stems from that control. Is the fear irrational? Maybe. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real.
Lastly, let me address the issue of Kos’s anger. His response to my original posts is basically a long and blustery attack against TNR. His restatement that he is not a consultant still does not answer the serious questions that have been raised about his relationship with Armstrong and whether there is some arrangement by which politicians who hire Armstrong as a consultant then receive Kos’s support. And yet, because I continue to ask these questions, Kos contends that “TNR’s defection to the Right is now complete.” How asking legitimate questions of and about two individuals can be construed as an attack on liberalism as a whole is beyond me. Kos evidently believes that, as The Democratic Daily put it, “the left c’est moi.”
I’d certainly like to be reading Townhouse list today, but there is the danger of one’s mailbox being filled.