Thursday, June 22, 2006


Fearless Leader And The New Taliban

How does the right side of the blogosphere handle such issues as conflict of interest, Presidential gaffes, Vice-Presidential shooting sprees and bad behaviour by the military? They give the problem a name, shine a light on it, discuss it, treat it like adults and let the chips fall where they may. Examples: Abu Ghraib, immigration, Ben Domenech, Jeff "The Manwhore" Gannon, Harriet Miers, Gitmo. The point is not the problems, but how the right deals with them, always amidst the din of hoots, jeers and pot-banging emanating from the children over on the left. I've never heard of the right imposing a cone of silence over any such matter.

Contrast that with how those same children deal with the imminent defrocking of their high priestess, Markos Moulitsis "Screw 'Em" Zuniga. In an attempt to silence a story that he and his friend, SEC target Jerome Armstrong, have been doing funny things with other peoples' money, Kos has sent out a cautionary message to members of his "Townhall" mailing list, which says:

The YearlyKos media people have already forced corrections at Slate and NY Times (Suellentrop's blog). There has been some serious overreach by the few outlets that picked up this story (which as I mentioned before has been shopped around). It was interesting how this one piddly-ass story was used to try and smear Jerome, me, AND YearlyKos.

So the only paper to run this as a news story is the disgraceful NY Post. Others who picked up on it have had to backtrack from their original sensationalistic claims.I am exploring legal options against some of the wingnut bloggers who are claiming I'm syphoning netroots money into consultants and my own pockets. Note how Glenn Reynolds is fueling it with his typical passive aggressive, "I don't think it's a big deal, but let me provide links to everyone who thinks this is THE BIGGEST STORY EVER!"

And Jerome's case, if it could be aired out, is a non-story (he was a poor grad student at the time so he settled because he had no money). Jerome can't talk about it now since the case is not fully closed. But once it is, he'll go on the offensive. That should be a couple of months off.

This story will percolate in wingnut circles until then, but I haven't gotten a single serious media call about it yet. Not one. So far, this story isn't making the jump to the traditional media, and we shouldn't do anything to help make that happen.

My request to you guys is that you ignore this for now. It would make my life easier if we can confine the story. Then, once Jerome can speak and defend himself, then I'll go on the offensive (which is when I would file any lawsuits) and anyone can pile on. If any of us blog on this right now, we fuel the story. Let's starve it of oxygen. And without the "he said, she said" element to the story, you know political journalists are paralyzed into inaction.

Thanks, markos
So the word from Markos Moulitsis "Screw 'Em" Zuniga is to fight PR problems with moonbat rhetoric. No wonder he's one for twenty on the ol' campaign trail: Kos' approach is to bully and cajole whomever he thinks he needs to, including his faithful masses, until the heat blows over. And his minions, proudly independent mavericks all, instantly toed the line set down by their Fearless Leader.

Silence ensued; the lefty blogs were alive with the sound of crickets.

But now cracks are forming. Lefty bloggers have begun asking how long they should try to sit on the story. Faced with an imposition of Kosmerta from on high, they suddenly feel uncomfortable, the way I might if someone was using me as a human shield.

What is this, the new Taliban?

TNR's The Plank:
On June 18, two days after The New York Times's blogger Chris Suellentrop broke the news about Armstrong's run-in with the SEC and on the same day the New York Post basically recycled Suellentrop's scoop in its print edition, a blogger named Mike Stark wrote to the "Townhouse" list:

If we can ignore it, great.

But I think that's hoping for too much.

Hell, our own readers are going to bring this shit up, let alone all the dimwits in Malkinland... You just can't expect to get anything by the netroots.

So. . . there are substantial questions raised.

Gina knocked down the easy one - Markos' only involvement with the convention was lending his brand.

But if you think the hits on Markos affiliating with a DLC'r or Jerome having a (what will be spun into a criminal) history with the SEC aren't gonna take a toll... well, I'd ask a question: what's the most valuable asset a blogger has? And the answer is always their credibility. These are direct attacks on Markos' and Jerome's credibility.

I guess we can leave it to them to formulate a response. But they need to have one ready.

And of the two, I'd say that Jerome is going to have the more difficult time of it. I know that the info this article presents is pretty bare-bones, but to me hearing that he's agreed to some terms with the SEC and is in litigation over financial penalties is pretty devastating. Please don't shoot the messenger, but to unsophisticated folk like me, it's downright damning to hear that one of the leaders of the liberal blogosphere - and one of the people that are closest to the liberal blogosphere's hero (I don't like the term, but there aren't many that fit MArkos better than that given his reception at YKos) - was involved in some kind of financial predation scheme...

Finally... what if it is true? We really need to hear from Jerome - regardless of whether or not this blows up. I will not be a republican rubber stamp. If Jerome was involved in some recent financial chicanery and he doesn't have an adequate defense, how does that make him different from any of the rest of the DC lobbyist/consultant class that will do anything for a buck? I might be digging my grave here, but before I put my credibility on the line ofr anyone, I want to know I'm standing on solid ground. Jerome should provide answers or cut us loose to do what we need to do. This "movement" is bigger and more important than any one of us.

Also on June 18, the blogger Glen Greenwald wrote to the "Townhouse" list:

The anti-Jerome article in the NY Post is written very aggressively and is sure to be picked up any minute by all of the right-wing bloggers and then the right-wing press. If it isn't answered substantively by Jerome or someone on his behalf, I think it will settle in as conventional wisdom somewhat quickly and will be an albatross for some time to come. Ignoring the story or hoping it stays unnoticed doesn't sem like a viable option at this point. The "Dean-paid-Kos" story from a couple of years ago got relatively little traction, and is virtually never mentioned outside of a small circle of right-wing bloggers, because Markos put the facts on the table so quickly, candidly, and comprehensively that it became clear that there was nothing there. To similarly kill off this story quickly and prevent it from taking root, I really think Jerome -- or at least someone on his behalf -- needs to do something similar, and soon. Terse denials and politician-like refusals to talk about it will, it seems clear to me, only inflame things further.

Also on the same day, the blogger Steve Gilliard wrote to the "Townhouse" list:

I dont see how this can be ignored. We should all write in defense of this once we know the facts. Jerome?

From these e-mails, it appears there was a good amount of concern among liberal bloggers about the Armstrong SEC story and the allegations of "pay for play" against Kos and Armstrong, and some of these bloggers wanted to address these issues forthrightly. And, yet, after Kos subsequently wrote the e-mail quoted in my original post asking the bloggers to "ignore" the story in order to "starve of it oxygen," there was virtual silence in the liberal blogosphere about it. That, to me at least, suggests that Kos does indeed have a good deal of influence over what other liberal bloggers write.
Now a Times Select article rebuts Fearless Leader Markos Moulitsis "Screw 'Em" Zuniga's suggestion that his friend, SEC target Jerome Armstrong, will clear up any misunderstanding once the case against him had run its course:

Armstrong has accepted a permanent injunction that prohibits him from asserting his innocence, or from asking his friends to assert it. The injunction states that Armstrong has agreed "not to take any action or to make or permit to be made any public statement denying, directly or indirectly, any allegation in the complaint or creating the impression that the complaint is without factual basis."
And Fearless Leader is beginning to sound just a wee bit shrill. His answer to the pressure? Demonize and censor; control all thought:

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.
Can you say Lex Luthor on crack?

I appreciate LGF's take:
I can’t help noticing how much Moulitsas’ conspiracy-oriented mindset echoes the anti-rational paranoia of radical Islam. When the New Republic actually criticizes him, and reveals some of the secret Kos Nutroots Knowledge, the only explanation possible is that they’re apostates under the spell of a massive organized conspiracy. And having been cast out of the fold by Mullah Moulitsas, they’re now legitimate targets for revenge.

The irony is that there is indeed a secret organization, scheming to present a united front and keep all the stories straight and all the messages pure. And Kos admits in the first paragraph above that he’s part of it.

Baseball Crank on the most interesting aspect of this whole story:

[I]t really is revealing of the mindset at work here that anyone would even try
to get not only bloggers but journalists to not write on a story. Trust me, the idea that you could get, say, Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, Jeff Goldstein, Hugh Hewitt, Mike Krempasky, Ed Morrisey and John Hinderaker to agree on a single approach to a story or, more particularly, to not touch a story - the idea that you would even broach that topic across a list of the top conservative and libertarian blogs - is inconceivable. Despite the Online Left’s insistence that conservative bloggers march in unison on an agenda handed down by Karl Rove, it’s apparently the lefties who are the ones seeking to enforce message discipline behind the scenes.
He's correct of course: the right just doesn't roll that way.

Protein Wisdom sees the same thing:
In yesterday’s post on this story, I noted that what was being slowly revealed here—moreso, perhaps, than any evidence of wrongdoing on Kos’ part—was a progressivist mindset that is fanatical about controlling the narrative, and especially about defining the parameters of identitarian “authenticity”. Of course, little did I know at the time that Kos would be so eager to make my point for me.

To remind you, I wrote

I’ve long been a critic of the type of cynical narrative manipulation that seems pervasive [...] on the progressivist left side of the blogosphere (where repetition of debunked memes in the service of a partisan-defined “greater good” is justified by appeals to emotionalism and self-congratulatory claims of bravery and patriotism, and is encouraged and policed to the point where apostates are marginalized)—only to wake this morning to the news that The New Republic,
founded in 1914 as a supporter of the original progressive movement, had now been declared just such an apostate—and dutifully marginalized by an online power player vying for control over who gets to describe themselves as authentically liberal or progressive.

The will to power is the tool of totalitarianism. And totalitarianism is totalitarianism even when it calls itself by other names, and constantly asserts its own righteousness and benevolence.

The modern progressive movement—which is founded upon loyalty to established narratives and which defines its members by that loyalty—has nearly completed its transformation from a coalition group interested in guiding policy to an
identity group, where membership is thought of in ontological terms. Which is why Kos doesn’t allow that TNR could be comprised of liberals/progressives who disagree with his tactics and/or strategies; instead, they are now essentially right wingers. Which is to say, they are defined by their Otherness.
The first comment after the above passage:

The first rule of Kos Klub is don’t talk about Kos Klub.

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