A Time to Purge: Meltdown at DemocraticUnderground

obama bush When last we checked in at DemocraticUnderground, where I posted as BurtWorm for seven years before getting the boot in December 2010  without a single warning, the Administrators had revamped the site and imposed a new set of rules emphasizing the “Democratic” part of the name and seeming to toss the “Underground” part, as it were, under the ground. If you’ve never heard of DU, it’s self-described as the largest “progressive” forum on the Internet, larger even than Dailykos (allegedly). Its politics, however, have been nearly dead centrist since (at least) the 2008 election, when Barack Obama made being a Democrat  “respectable” again.

I was curious how our friends over there have been handling the president’s embellishment of the Bush national security policies. I’m especially curious about how the Administrators are coping. These have got to be trying times for a forum with rules meant to stifle talk that disparages Democratic elected officials. Luckily, the administrators can always count on at least a handful of shameless partisans to carry team Obama’s water even during the worst of times. Continue reading

An Introduction: Welcome Crooks & Liars Readers

Thanks to John Perr over at Crooks & Liars for rounding my last post up along with Nevada Progressive, Kevin Drum and The Political Carnival. I’m flattered and honored to be included in such distinguished company.

Some of you may have encountered me before over at Democratic Underground, where I went by the handle Burt Worm. For the rest of you, I’ve been keeping this blog for a little over a year, sometimes with more attentiveness than others. If you look at the word cloud down the right margin a ways, you’ll get an idea of my interests. As of today, #OccupyWallStreet is still my most covered topic (tangentially, usually, these days anyway). But I also obsess over Ron Paul, libertarianism and “anarcho”-capitalism because the ideas at the heart of their philosophies, which I tend to argue with, I think are essential for understanding what’s going on in the US and the world today. I’ve also been a bit obsessed with justice lately. And I won’t even mention my dabbling in theories about the face-eating Miami “zombie.”

I hope you’ll have a little look around the joint, and if you like what you see, you’ll come back and engage with me here. Otherwise, maybe  I’ll be seeing you on Twitter.


Fractured Dems, Part 4: The Rightward Drift of DemocraticUnderground

Before the changeover to DU3, which I wrote about in my last post, Democratic Underground’s rules for posting in its forums were last modified in August of this year, about a month before the #OWS movement was front-page news. “Failure to abide by these rules,” the introduction to them warned, “may result in your post being removed, your thread locked, or your posting privileges revoked without warning.” A sampling demonstrates the administration’s bare tolerance for politics left of the Democratic center:

  • This is a website for Democrats and other progressives [sic].
  • Do not personally attack any individual DU member in any way. Do not post broad-brush attacks, rude nicknames, or crude insults toward a group of DU members.

  • Do not post support for non-viable or third-party spoiler candidates in any general election.
  • Do not post disrespectful nicknames, crude insults, or right-wing smears against Democrats.

On the face of it, the second bullet point, adapted from many previous iterations, looks like a fair (and balanced) warning to both sides of the primary wars of 2008–team Obama and team HRC–not to attack each other. Not being inside the administrators’ heads, I won’t presume that they didn’t intend it to be taken that way. The effect, however, was that by the time those revised rules were posted, most of team HRC had long before either been driven underground or “tombstoned”–as a ban from DU was called because of the image of a tombstone (with the epitaph “Here lies a disruptor. He disrupted badly.”) that replaced the offender’s avatar on their member profile page. But those primary wars had continued by proxy, it seemed to me, in battles with moderators and more and more with a stable of Obama faithfuls who were quick to gang up on anyone who made the slightest criticism of the president’s performance. Continue reading

Fractured Democrats, Part 3: The Economics of DemocraticUnderground

Since I began this series, Democraticunderground.com has undergone a major change, dropping its 2.0 version–which was launched in July 2003, two and a half years after the initial launch of the site and just three months after I became active in the community–and unveiling its 3.0 version. It’s difficult for an outsider to get a bead on why this change was deemed necessary. One plausible-enough scenario I saw some long-time DUers posit is that the software the old site was built on (DCForum+ Version 1.1) is no longer supported by the the original developers who stopped making it in 2002, so all of its fixes for bugs (and there were many) had to be jury-rigged by the site’s administrators. But many DUers, both banned and active, think the software issues are an excuse for the real reason for the change, which is to stifle dissent from DU’s inherently center-right, pro-Obama, pro-Democratic Leadership Council bias.

More than a few believe greed may be a factor, as well.

Continue reading

Fractured Democrats, Part 2: Resisting the Right

The right's use of sex to take down Bill Clinton roused some of those most disappointed in his presidency to his defense in the internet trenches.

When Democratic Underground  was first formed (for background, see Part 1 of this series here), it was an ideal refuge for Gore voters from the indifference of the news media and the outright hostility of Bush voters in non- or bipartisan forums, such as Usenet‘s political groups (alt.politics, talk.politics.misc, my own hangout during the late Clinton years alt.current-events.clinton.whitewater, etc.) . I was attracted by the subtle aptness of the new site’s name. It did, indeed, seem as though Democrats who believed Bush had been illegitimately installed as “president” had been driven out of the public discourse. We felt, without too much exaggeration,  like a resistance army gearing for rebellion against a tyrannical regime.

DU became well known in certain circles for its weekly contribution to the national discussion, Top Ten Conservative Idiots, a satirical summary of ten of the previous week’s most stomach-churning (from a liberal point of view) acts or statements from right-wingers in politics and the media. Bush, Cheney, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh usually topped the list, which was often linked to on other boards around the net. Other DU staples were the Hate Mailbag, featuring actual letters from the enemy with all their misspellings and SHOUTING IN CAPITALS left intact; Questions for Auntie Pinko (I remember the name better than the content); and satirical ragings from an invented right-winger named Bob Boudelang. The front page often also carried an essay by someone on staff or a contributor. I had a couple of essays published there (including one just after 9/11) before I became a regular on its forums.

But DU wasn’t the only game on the left side of cybertown. It was just one of a thriving subculture of dissident websites that had actually grown up around reaction to the successful right-wing grassroots campaign to impeach Bill Clinton at the dawn of the world wide web.  The left watched in mixed horror and admiration for the way their counterparts on the right used the fledgling internet to spread like wildfire every smear that had ever been formulated about the Clintons (many of which, it’s true, came from the hot medium of talk radio) to build a groundswell in the Republican party for getting rid of the Clintons by any means necessary. Truth didn’t matter, just effectiveness as a meme, to use a word that was just acquiring its imprecise shade of meaning as a viral idea that can literally be copied, cut, pasted and clicked on to move from one contaminated mind to the next. It was a sickening spectacle and a clear, disturbing sign of where the Republican base was moving in the post-Reagan era. It wasn’t toward reason or, least of all, reasonableness. Continue reading

DemocraticUnderground and the Fracturing of the Democratic Grass Roots, Part I

A couple of days ago, I accidentally stumbled upon a fascinating American subculture I was not well aquainted with:  the prickly, stranger-shy cluster of rightist (though many self-identify as “liberal”) Hillary Clinton voters who were so enraged by the alleged (not to imply falsely alleged) chicanery between Team Obama and the DNC during the 2008 Democratic primaries that they picked up stakes and headed for any hill they felt sure Obama or the Democrats hadn’t defiled with their presence.

In my ramblings on the internet over the last few years, I have encountered many a Clinton supporter of the left who was driven to internet purgatories where other disaffected or disaffiliated Democrats gathered to share solace and critiques of Obama’s America with lefties (Greens, Naderites, Marxists) who had given up on the Democrats as the best hope for progressives long, long ago.  Indeed, I’ve lately felt much more comfortable with the left-wing victims of Obama’s serial betrayals than with Obama supporters, one of which I nominally was in 2008. But this was my first encounter with the radicalized centrists and center-rightists in the Clinton contingent who felt the sting of the Party’s betrayal.

Let me tell you:  radical centrism is a trip!  I’m sure my new friends in this subculture would find such an amused anthropological assessment of them annoying. To them I can only say, I’m sorry. I can’t help it. You’d be laughing at yourselves too if you could only see yourselves through my eyes.  But I’m going to try to set aside my amusement with them, which owes mainly to their strangely and almost uniformly vicious defenses against anyone not in their club–e.g., me, in my clumsy attempts to learn more about them–and try to focus on my observations about what this group tells us–tells me, anyway–about the Democrats’ prospects in 2012 and beyond. My main interest is in how the party’s recent past and future connect with the rise of #OccupyWallStreet. My hypothesis: The story of grass roots Democrats in the 21st century is one of numerous parallel threads of ordinary Americans’ political desires being thwarted by indifferent or even hostile political institutions, and this may be the beginnings of a new American Revolution. Continue reading

9/11 Flashback: No Excuses

I wrote this in response to an analysis of George W. Bush’s actions in the wake of 9/11 by R.W. Apple of the New York Times. It was published on Democratic Underground just a week and a day after the event that supposedly changed everything. As far as I was concerned it did nothing to change my perception that the man in the White House was illegitimate. I believe that the deterioration of the American ethos that we’ve seen since that day is due largely to that central fact, which the media continue to prefer to sweep under the rug.

No Excuses
September 19, 2001
by Burt Worm

R.W. Apple and the New York Times are at it again: trying to bestow legitimacy on a president whom many people in the United States and around the world sincerely – and reasonably – believe was not legitimately elected. Continue reading