Saturday, May 12, 2007

ProgressOhio: How Close to the Trooth?

Despite promising to write follow-up posts about the kerfuffle between ProgressOhio Ex. Dir. Brian Rothenberg and myself, I didn’t. After the roaring silence over the last post, it seemed best to just let it die.

Then I made the mistake of reading the comments on the PO piece Monday night and was once again, well, P.O.’d. In response to a post by Jill (not our Jill), Brian says the following:

    Well, perhaps Jill, you or Pho can provide me with a list of those groups you want censored on PO's site.

    You may want to forward this also to any other site MyDD, KOS etc... that allow posters from these groups.

    And please clarify for me, if a person is a member of one of these groups you've identified -- should they be allowed to post on other issues?

    If someone posts on your site, what is your litmus test? Can you identify who you have censored or will censor?

I wrote a post brimming with bile, but I have a strict No Bloggin Angry rule. I slept on it. By the light of day (and after cooling off) I decided that wasn’t the way to go. I’ve taken a couple more cracks at editing the thing, but again it seems like a lot of bother for little gain. Brian attacked me, I hit back, leave it be.

But this business about Pho the Would–Be Censor keeps rankling. Brian’s asked a series of rhetorical questions in response to something I didn’t say. Nonetheless, I'll give him an the answer.

First off, I didn’t say PO should censor 9/11 Trooth. You can check my BSB comment and his post. He’s the one who says it’s a natural question, not me. My main takeaway from all this is that you couldn’t pay me enough to run a community blog. If it has my name on it, I want to be able to stand by it. Letting whoever come aboard and post whatever just isn’t how I roll.

On the other hand, Brian is being naïve to think he doesn’t have an issue here. Surely ProgressOhio isn’t simply the public common Brian pretends it is in his post. PO has a point of view. It’s a left of center organization. Brian can be snippy all he wants, but if Naugle tries to start a pro-Iran war group on PO and invites a bunch of RABbits come aboard and join, either the organization is going to stop them or the organization is going to tear itself apart. Yahoo can allow groups of all stripes, an organization with a political viewpoint cannot.

The question then is where they draw that line. Every line drawing decision they make has weight and consequence. If a group of DLC-loving moderates move in to the virtual space, the group becomes one thing. If it’s leftists like the PDA, that’s another thing. And if they try to be big tent and lets the pro-Palestinian and pro-North Korea radicals from International A.N.S.W.E.R. set up shop, it’s yet another thing.

Part of how PO can finesse this is by looking at different levels of involvement. I agree with the subtext of Brian’s spew that comments should be allowed regardless of political viewpoint. That’s certainly the case here on the Pages. One reason Brian’s comment so filled me with piss and vinegar was the implication that I censor commenters around here. No one who has read this blog for any length of time can honestly level that charge.

On the other end of the spectrum are actions that would lead a reasonable reader to believe that PO endorses a group. When the anti-RAB post went up I started research to respond that they were overstating PO’s approval of the group. But then I went on the PO site and saw that resident web maven Dave Harding had joined. I looked further thinking he might be a member of every group like Tom on MySpace, but at that point he was not. He had joined Trooth, however. At that point it is difficult to make any claim that PO simply provides tools for the group to use.

In the middle of the spectrum lies the passive act of allowing someone use the online tools to set up a group. As I said there is a tough line there, but where the line is drawn, means something about the organization.

After all this, I’m left wondering how PO feels about the Troothers. I think it’s a fair question. And the question for me is: Do you believe our government murdered 3000 Americans in cold blood simply to pursue a political agenda? Unless the answer is “yes” or “maybe,” Trooth becomes simply a set of conspiracy mongers. If the answer is “yes” or “maybe,” people and organizations thinking of partnering with PO should know that.

I will be at the ODP dinner. It’s entirely possible I’ll run into Brian. I’ve wondered all week what I would say to him. I have an icebreaker now.


Unknown said...

Again Pho,

I don't think PO is required to take a position on every post or every group. Nor do I think MyDD, DailyKos or any other blog is required to do so.

I also think you missed the point of the column last week.

As for seeing you at the dinner, say Hi. Not sure why this has become so personal to you -- I was just responding to some larger questions, including a few issues you raised over here. Sorry you disagree or took it personally.

Jason Haas said...

Perhaps b/c you called him out unnecessarily after misconstruing his meaning. And you launched into an argument based on that misconceptoin.

Won't speak for him, but that's a hunch.

Anonymous said...

Sorry that I'm not going to be able to be there, and I'm just getting caught up on this whole issue as well.

Hopefully I'll get the chance to see you all in person again someday in the future.

Anonymous said...

I see the internet as the latest frontier in speech. This debate is healthy and will help us make the internet a more valuable communications tool.

As an FYI, I read ProgressOhio regularly. I enjoyed its War and Remembrance page and noticed that the 911-truthies were no where to be seen. I took that as a message from PO -- since the content appeared to be all theirs.

Scott Piepho said...


Pretty much what Red said. You exagerated, distorted and just made shit up about things I said to make your larger points. In so doing you rolled me together with Matt Naugle, Matt Dole and Good Germans. Yes, I took that personally. I'm funny that way.

Scott Piepho said...


Good point about the War and Remembrance page. I know PO and Trooth are not synonymous. I just think PO could be a little more careful about distancing themselves from what I believe is a fringe, conspiracy-happy group.

As to the free speech thing, I'm all about free speech. I want everyone to have the right to speak their minds on the village common. But that doesn't mean they can do the same on my front yard.

ProgressOhio is a website with a point of view. They don't have to allow Trooth to set up shop there, but they choose to do so. That choice has implications which Brian avoids acknowledging.

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Anonymous said...

Pho, Naugle, Hickman. My head is going to explode. One quick thing to take issue with is Harding's membership in the truth group. Maybe he just wants to see what is being said? There are a number of reasons that he might be a member beyond "endorsing". That's about as cheap as your claim that Brian distorted your views. Seems a comparable distortion if you ask me.

The issue of whether or not truthers can use PO is in the end up to Brian. You are allowed to think they shouldn't. I think your claim that they were "all over PO and capable of dragging a good site down" was fairly well debunked by me along with Potts' claim that they already HAD ruined PO. Hyperbole resulting from a sincere and white hot distaste for the group. Understood.

I don't recall reading anything over the line on PO by this group. I think their group is even private, which means it's basically used as an internal listserve.

The real damage comes in this perception that PO is some shady far left fringe conspiracy nut site (which would qualify Hickman for a staff job no?). It was a concerted effort by the right to paint the organization this way and you and others fed that with your distaste for 9/11 Truth. I find that unfortunate. Could it have been avoided by not allowing them on the site at all? Of course.

But where does it stop? World Can't Wait is a group there too. They want to impeach Bush. Is this too fringe for you? Should they go as well? Dancers for Democracy? Not "progressive" enough?

I'm sure Brian will do what's in the best interest of PO ongoing. Let's not forget the bigger picture of what's going on here. This is a right-wing smear with help from some progressives. Both Naugle and Hickman have jumped up and down and challenged PO's status as a non-profit. Why should be clear. (Well, OK, not clear in Hickman's case unless you factor in dementia, but still).

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...


Get comfortable in a yoga lotus position, chant "OM" momentarily then read this:

PlunderDUMB's anti-"fringe"

Anonymous said...
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Scott Piepho said...

Jesus, Dave.

I read your first post and I'm in a quandry. I've banned you from the site but you come in here sounding reasonable. Can I make an exception to the ban. But of course you are supporting me, so what do I do.

Then you start attacking my friend Eric and I'm reminded why I banned you in the first place. If you can be part of a discussion without namecalling, I may change my mind. For now, the ban remains in effect and your posts are coming down.

If you ever learn how to have a disagreement without leaving a trial of bodies, try me again.

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Scott Piepho said...


Dave being a member is a perception thing, as I said. PO should have understood that Trooth was kryptonite and done things to keep them at arms length. Dave should either have made himself the automatic first member of every group or he should have stayed away. Maybe he had other reasons for doing so, but I wasn't going to take up the cause when I saw that. My gut impression was that Dave was a member of the group because he wanted to be. And by the way, the group was public at that time.

Since the BSB comment appears to be the source of all outrage, let me discuss. Two parts of the comment: "All over" and "capable of dragging a good site down." The second part is easiest. You keep talking about how much damage the Troothers are doing to PO's credibility. That's one way they are dragging the site down. Can't have it both ways, friend. If their presence is no problem to the site, I should be able to criticize them without being accused of damaging the progressive movement. If their presence is a problem, I was right.

As to your debunking of my "all over" statement, yes I walked away from the thread. The Troothers came in and life is too short. So now, here's what I meant. In the week or so before the post I saw a couple of Trooth blogs go up written by PeaceChicken. One was about an "Anti-9/11 Truth article" in the Dispatch and one was about Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessing to involvement in 9/11.

In addition, a number of Truthers had been commenting and as part of that dropping Trooth stuff in comments whether appropos or not. I saw it happen a couple of time and others mentioned the same thing.

Part of the Trooth method is to jump all over someone who expresses disagreement. Look at the BSB thread. Look at how they treat Russ and Jill(not Jill) in the comments on Brian's post. They make their presence felt and make it less pleasant to participate in a discussion unless you is one.

I didn't mean that they were taking over the site. I meant that they were active and that it doesn't take much of their act to sully the tener of debate.

The rest of your comment discusses the line drawing problems I talk about in my post and that Brian seems to think is beneath him. Like I said, PO has a point of view. You can't pretend that anyone is welcome.

And BTW, if as I have read World Can't Wait is run by A.N.S.W.E.R., yea they had better get the hand. Troothers have nothing on the ANSWER crowd in ability to screw up progressive organizations.

Hard to believe that one off-the-cuff comment has generated such angst. Much as I love getting comments, I'm reminded why I do little commenting myself.