Friday, July 17, 2009

Order to Show Kos: How to survive banning, bureaucracy & trolls on the Daily Kos

(Photos are of Markos Moulitas Zuniga at the 2008 Book Expo at the Staples Center, baby Mena reading "Taking on the System" while working on her blog, my blooging friend Bob reading "Taking on the System" in a Barca-lounger, and me reading "Taking on the System" while getting a pedicure for Mothers' Day)

Have you ever posted a diary essay on the Daily Kos? It's a truly daunting experience. It's like running through a minefield. It's like playing SuperMario. You gotta know where the bombs are and where it is safe -- and if you don't, it will be "game over" before you even know what hit you.

Two weeks ago, I decided that I too wanted to post essays on the Daily Kos. Talk about your babes in the woods! Within a week, I had been insulted, spammed, trolled, called a bigot -- and then permanently banned. It was a very educational experience. Let me walk you through the minefields -- so that what happened to me won't happen to you too.

The first thing that you do is to go to and apply for a home page and a screen name. But please. Don't request anything smarmy -- nothing like "canadian gal" or "Attorney at Arms" or "Meteor Blades". Just use the freaking name that your mother originally gave you -- or, in my case, a good old-fashioned Berkeley hippie name. The name that MY mother originally gave me was "Pamela Purpus". Eeuuww. My mother was reading Regency romance novels at the time. I kid you not. But I digress.

Then, once you've got your own diary page on the Kos, you can write your little heart out on subjects that are meaningful to you regarding "The State of the Nation," ask your daughter to run it through the "Yawn" test and then post it. Voila. And after that, you just need to put on your mental Kevlar and stand back.

After your diary is posted, within seconds (Honest! Only a few freaking SECONDS!), a whole bunch of people with weird screen names will have told you that you are stupid or bigoted or uninformed or a flake -- or all four. Some of the people who respond to your post will make interesting and informative comments which you will appreciate, cherish and/or want to have a healthy debate with -- but a lot of them will just say mean things to you that really hurt, while not offering any good reasoning or evidence to back up their insulting comments.

Posting a diary on the Daily Kos can sometimes be a truly humbling experience. And it is definitely a blood sport.

Here are some of the comments that I received in response to some of my posts:

"At them [sic] minimum you were (and are) being amazingly STOOOOPID!!!"

"This One Is So Earnestly Loopy as to boggle the mind."

"See Jane run.... see jane getting banned from dkos. see us cheer."

"Your poll choices suck ass as does your diary. And not in a good way."

"I've read some silly stuff and I'm not sure this takes the prize, but it surely ranks up there for a finalist."

"This is preposterous, unsourced, unsubstantiated, misleading, and incorrect on the particulars.... This is garbage."

"It is a bullsh*t diary."

"Could an admin please fumigate this BugHouse?"

"not even propaganda. Just straight up lying."

"Ignorance, misinformation and lying. what utter bull."

"f[#]ck you anti-semite"

It really makes me wonder what kind of people actually have the time and inclination to want to write this kind of stuff.

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the guy who invented the Daily Kos and who now runs the site, appears to be a very stand-up guy. I heard him speak at a Book Expo in Los Angeles in 2008 and he gave a very nice talk -- plus he also gave me two free copies of his book, "Taking on the System". I like his essays. I like his ideas. I like his style. But the people who comment on his site are sometimes only one step above the Freepers who called Malia Obama a whore.

"Jane, you are being naive here (again)," said my blogger friend Bob. "The commenters who attack you are not only trolls but they are being PAID to be trolls."

Wow. That's amazing. Nobody ever pays ME for saying nasty things. "But who pays them?" I asked.

"Perhaps it is the people who apparently are trying to encourage intra-class warfare in the United States. It's a technique that European colonialists used to good effect in Africa when they were in the minority and they needed to keep the locals under control. Divide and conquer. Bush used this tactic in Iraq. It works. Then the members of America's minority upper class can pit members of our majority lower classes against each other and thus distract the peons while the lords of the manor steal America's wealth."

If a Freeper is busy hating an 11-year-old girl, he doesn't have time to hate Goldman-Sachs for stealing his home or the health insurance companies who are killing his wife or the senator who is knifing his union in the back and causing him to lose his job.

Still and all, whether the trolls are getting paid or not, posting on the Daily Kos is a rather daunting task -- but if you still want to live dangerously and give it a try, perhaps you can learn from my mistakes. Another friend just e-mailed me and asked, "Jane, how in the freak did you manage to get permanently banned from the Daily Kos?" Well. That's a rather long story. Here it is. Watch and learn from my mistakes:

Originally, I opened up a diary page at the Kos under the screen name of "jpstillwater," but then I realized after I had actually started posting that I wanted my screen name to be "Jane Stillwater" instead -- so I wrote the DK to ask them if they could change my name. Their webmaster/gatekeeper then e-mailed me back, telling me to open up another diary under the second name. Which I did. That was Big Mistake number one. And the scene is now set for me to encounter my next Big Mistake.

I then posted a tongue-in-cheek diary about how our government money is going to everyone in the freaking world except for the victims of the bank-engendered U.S. foreclosure fraud. American money is even allegedly going toward providing housing in Israel -- and therefore U.S. foreclosure victims would probably find housing in Israel much faster than they can find housing here. And Katrina victims could find housing there too! Here's the essay I posted:!

I myself thought that the article was rather humorous, and definitely in line with Moulitsas' original stated intention for the Daily Kos to be "a haven for progressive complaints and observations about the state of the nation". However. A whole bunch of DK commenters then went pretty much crazy and started calling me a "Jew-baiter" and worse. And suddenly there were 252 comments about my diary entry, most of them tearing me to shreds. I was completely shocked! But then I figured that everyone is entitled to free speech. I could survive this. Live and learn.

But THEN I get an automatic message from the DK webmaster/gatekeeper stating that I was being anti-Semitic and that I would be banned if I didn't acknowledge the warning. Yikes! So I acknowledged the warning. And I also wrote to the W/G, asking him if he had actually read the entry, because I thought that it hadn't been anti-Semitic. He e-mailed me back, saying that he had read it and that it clearly WAS anti-Semitic. I didn't MEAN to be anti-Semitic. Good grief!!!

Not being really clear on the Daily Kos rules, I then posted a defense of my position on my original diary page, "jpstillwater". In this post, I included a poll to see if Kos readers actually did think I was being anti-Semitic -- or only anti-justice. 45% thought I was being anti-injustice. Only 20% thought the post was anti-Semitic. Here's the poll:

You with me so far?

And then I got banned.

So I wrote to the webmaster/gatekeeper again and asked him to please reinstate me (I didn't beg, BTW. Maybe I should have begged?) He then replied that I was being banned for having two accounts. Not for anti-Semitism. Not for being a bad writer. Only for misunderstanding the rules. And of course I protested (again), saying that the W/G himself had told me to open that second account. And it turns out that he had also told me to close out the first one, but I'm a little old lady. I forgot!

Kos's webmaster/gatekeeper then stated that he would take this issue up with Markos himself. But I never heard back. And still cannot log on. So now I'm banned. Forever.

I could probably open a third dummy account on the DK under yet another name -- but why bother. If people want to read my stuff they can just go to my blog or to I'm okay with not getting published on the DK. Of course I found many really nice, well-informed commenters on the Kos who gave me a lot of helpful comments and feedback, but is it really worth it to have to wade through the minefields of all the Kos trolls first and be intimidated into fearfully keeping my mouth shut? SuperMario might think so -- but I don't.

PS: Is the term "anti-Semitic" being used in this context in order to combat religious bias? Or is it being used by Kos commenters to conveniently divert attention away from the real issues.

According to an article on, "So far, [2009] is turning into the year that American Jews made hajj to Palestine, whether to break the siege on Gaza or to participate in and document the resistance to Israel's land grab in the West Bank. I must admit that it's been exhilarating to watch. It's much different from when Arabs and non-Jews go to observe and then report because those groups are quickly dismissed as anti-Semitic or they're just ignored. But, you can't really accuse Jews of being anti-Semitic..." This article seems to indicate that many American Jews realize that standing in opposition to the massive injustices in Palestine -- being funded by the U.S. government and committed by the Israeli neo-cons -- is both a Jewish and an American thing to do.

PPS: Here are some relevant quotes from Moulitsas' book:

"I mean, the idea that Kos could use his influence, such as it is, to intimidate Left Blogistan into a quivering reign of fear is simply laughable -- a paranoid fantasy that wandered away from the Free Republic." Page 34.

"We now live in a rapidly evolving entrepreneurial age, and so the first rule is we must speak our mind, follow our heart, and question all authority. We cannot wait to get permission before we act." Page 47.

"The [Kos] movement's direction and interest flow directly from the people who compose it. The movement is a bottom-up type of thing, not something that a guy leads from the top." Page 271. [Damn straight, Markos! From what I can tell, every single bottom-up type in the country and half of Canada gets to post on the Kos -- except, of course, for me.]

"The world is often changed most radically by people who refuse to 'know their place'." Page 67.

"Bypass the Gatekeepers." Page 23

"Crush the Gatekeepers." Page 30