If you have "no place to go," come here!

Leaving Firedoglake


[Welcome, FDL members! --lambert]

I wish to relate a story. It may not be an important story but it is one I wish to tell and have out on the net. I was a long time commenter and sometime poster at Firedoglake. On September 11, 2010, the anniversary of 9/11, the site had a book salon with Bruce Fein on his new book on the rise and fall of the American empire. Glenn Greenwald, who touts his career as a First Amendment litigator, hosted and praised Fein as an "ethical conservative". I have to say I have always thought that such appellations like "compassionate conservative", "ethical conservative", and "thoughtful conservative" were largely oxymorons. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem working with conservatives or Libertarians for that matter on specific issues, but I never delude myself into thinking that because they, for their own reasons, happen to agree with some progressive positions, they aren't batshit crazy most of the time.

I knew very little about Fein. From what I have seen and heard of him, he seems like the mildly critical voice of a thoroughly corrupt Establishment. I did bother to read his wiki though before the salon. What struck me was a section which discussed his status as a denier of the Armenian genocide, what has often been described as the first of the 20th century's, the great century for genocides, many genocides. You might wonder, as I did, how genocide denial is consistent with ethical conservatism? Or what credibility someone has writing on the decline of a current empire when they so hopelessly missed one of the salient events of the fall of an empire of the not so distant past?

So I asked Fein and my comment was censored. I was told it was "off-topic". It was inconvenient. It was uncomfortable. It was embarrassing, but it was not off topic. I went to the Seminal, the part of the Firedoglake site where commenters can post diaries on subjects of interest to them. I raised the point I made about Fein and also the issue of censorship. That post too was censored.

Think about that. It's really rich from so many perspectives. It has always been something of a myth that the left blogosphere was the transparent, fact-based side. There have been, in fact, two left blogospheres running for years in parallel with each other. You might consider them the front porch which faces the street and a back porch which is private and for members only. The front porch is what most of us see when we go to the various big name liberal blogs. Many of us probably don't even know there is a back porch. Even among those who do, it's importance is minimized. It is just bloggers talking to each other on the side, much like you or I might do having a side conversation on a topic. There is a significant difference, however. When you and I talk to each other privately we aren't setting agendas and creating policies. Obama's accession to the Presidency fragmented this system but did not end it. The pieces go on. If the left blogosphere were anywhere near as transparent as it would like to think, at a minimum, it would admit to the back porch, and the nature and results of its back channel deliberations would be reported in a timely fashion. Not going to hold my breath on that.
At the same time, an argument based on facts may not get you anywhere fast. The great recent example of this was the healthcare debate where single payer advocates faced heavy seas and storms of criticism. We were not just shut out by what Jane Hamsher so aptly called the liberal veal pen but faced fairly uniform opposition from the main posters at sites like Jane Hamsher's Firedoglake as well. Just as it never helped the left blogosphere vis-à-vis conservatives, it did not help us at all with this segment of progressives that events proved us right. Indeed Jane's belated opposition to Obamacare was declared a great victory for progressive thinking.

Censorship fits into this because it is part and parcel of this system of opaqueness. It is insidious, not just because it is arbitrary and prevents discussion. It is hidden. You don't know what's been censored or why because it has been censored. How can you even know censorship is a problem if any discussion of it is itself censored? This was the position I was in at Firedoglake, a progressive blog. I found it to be intolerable so I decided to leave. I wrote a farewell post again at the Seminal to let some of the people I had got to know there that I was leaving. I had a terrible time even getting the post up. There was a barrage of various error messages, but at last I succeeded. In the post, I had expressed some fear that it too would be censored. I was correct. There was just time for one person to comment before it too was pulled.

As I said, the ironies abound. I, a serious and long time commenter, got censored three times in one day at a progressive blog which has no censorship problem because it not only practices censorship but censors discussion of its censorship, and this began immediately under the nose of one of the progressive left's major free speech defenders. If there is a lesson in this, I would say that the left needs to stop trying to be a player, making dubious alliances, and engaging in even more dubious practices. It needs to get back to its core values. Without them, we are just another player on the make, and as history has taught us there are so many others and they are so very much better at it.

No votes yet


Submitted by libbyliberal on


During my time "in the lake" I appreciated your strong, compelling, wise voice.

Your share above resonates. Thanks for taking a stand of truth to abusive power.

FDL's loss, corrente's great gain! Kudos to lambert, too, for your and for my "higher ground!"

Looking forward to hearing more from you!

best, libby

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

especially this:

Censorship fits into this because it is part and parcel of this system of opaqueness. It is insidious, not just because it is arbitrary and prevents discussion. It is hidden. You don't know what's been censored or why because it has been censored. How can you even know censorship is a problem if any discussion of it is itself censored?

Similar sort of thing happened to me (and who knows how many others) at DK. My posting and commenting privileges were blocked until I agreed not to side with others who were "insulting" Obama followers with terms like Obamabot.

So that was the end of that. What's the point of spending time at a supposedly liberal site where you can't discuss liberal issues? Anyway, I understand Kos has gone on to new levels of suckiness, so it's not much of loss. Congratulations on landing in a better place!

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

Hi Hugh. I hope you will stick around and blog at Corrente.

BTW, here is Hugh's Obama scandals site.

And, this Hugh's List thing first started out with his list of Bush scandals.

Hugh, I so fondly remember your series about the American language. Alas, all my bookmarks for that are on a now defunct computer. But it was brilliant and absolutely hilarious.


Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

As I said, the links are lost on a now defunct computer, and it would take me more time than I have to refind them right now (got a lecture to write).

I seriously hope that this series didn't vanish from *cough* fdl amidst various site reorganizations.

Hugh might have the links... (please?) but I think he was surprised by my fandom of stuff he kinda just tossed off in a moment.

HUGH? Lambert does love language....

Submitted by lambert on

From 2006, too. Happy, innocent days....

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

Even when I don't agree with you(and I often do), I've always found you one of the most thoughtful commenters at FDL.

Submitted by lambert on

I haven't read FDL for a long time, Hugh... But there are certainly many voices welcoming you here! To which, therefore, I add my own!

Not sure about "the sterile Liebestod of the impersonal Geschellschaft," however. Sterile? Or Ersatz?

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

Lambert said "Not sure about "the sterile Liebestod of the impersonal Geschellschaft," however. Sterile? Or Ersatz?"

(LOL at that one)

Submitted by Hugh on

Thanks for the comments and the links. Just as with the power structures and elites we critique, we need to know what the past histories of those involved are and how policy really is formed of those in the blogosphere. Someone once gave me a quick history of the blogosphere and its participants before my arrival, or awareness of this other side of the left blogosphere. This isn't about conspiracy. It's more about people making decisions in the dark and then criticizing others in government and elsewhere for doing much the same thing. It is the disconnect between being told you are a community and now here is what we want you do.

Coyotecreek asked about what got censored. I could post one or both of the posts that got censored if anyone is interested. None of it was incendiary. Censorship is not so much about removing offensive content. It is about control. It lets you know that if you don't toe the line your toes will get cut off, but the line is never defined so in practice it is about chilling dissent.

FDL is at a curious place right now. Jane brought in quite a few bloggers who are pro-Democratic and to the right of much of the FDL community. I think many would like encouragement and expertise on what to do in a post-Democratic world. But the frontpagers are by and large in one where it is either Democrats or Republicans, and the goal remains how to elect more and better Democrats, or with November looming large how to avoid a well deserved Democratic debacle.

As for my series on the defense of English, I still have a file of them. The first one, the German one, I may have reworked some because the series started out because of something to do with Hillary Clinton and then kind of grew from there.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Anything tagged as a "conspiracy theory" is reflexively rejected as crazy and untrue.

One side effect of that is to make any theorizing about questions like how irrational, destructive political ideas propagate and become inviolable tribal law pretty much taboo (except when talking about another tribe).

Yet, ideas like "Obama is a progressive savior" and "the 'public option' concept (whatever it is) is the One True Health Care Agenda" propagate somehow, and somehow ranks close so no questioning or dissent is tolerated.

But we are accultured against exploring or understanding how and why they happen.

Submitted by Hugh on

In Defense of English Part I

Re the Hillary Spiel, perhaps it is merely my own Weltschmerz that I have no sense of Schadenfreude at the latest Sturm und Drang surrounding the ongoing Götterdämmerung at the Times. The demise of the Corporate Media will not result from an existential Angst or a change in the Zeitgeist, as many believe. It is their whole Gestalt that’s at fault, a failure in their Weltanschauung, gone is the gemütliche Gemeinschaft of the Sunday crossword puzzle, replaced by the sterile Liebestod of an impersonal Geschellschaft dreaming of its Isolde. Let’s face it. They are kaput. They just don’t know it yet.

By the way and somewhat OT but did I say what a big supporter I am of English as a national language?

OT in my ongoing defense of English as the national language Part II:

First off, I don’t want you to think I’m some mujik talking mat, a khren spouting govno. That said, I believe for clarity’s sake blogs should only use English for they have an important role as the new samizdat. They are the means by which we can combat the boyars of beltway borsch and the apparatchiks of the Bush agitprop, i.e. the Judy Millers and Tim Russerts, the Roves and the Mehlmans. After all, these are not an intelligentsia with ideas but, like their bosses, a nomenklatura with connections. It is precisely these connections which blogs are so effective at uncovering just like a matryoshka doll until the truth at last pops out. They are our spetsnaz fighting against the corporate media and the comfortable kulaks of the right. I am sick of the ideological, nonsensical pogroms mounted by these babushkas of babble. We are not lishenets yet. Guantanamo is a katorga but our country can still be saved from the fullblown gulag though Cheney like some evil Ded Moroz makes his lists and watches.

OT in Defense of English as a national language Part III

This may seem like déjà vu for some of you since I have already written twice vis-à-vis the importance of English as our national language. But one of my bêtes noires is the laissez faire attitude and dégagé manner of our current President who makes one gaffe and faux pas after another in what is supposed to be his native tongue. Not everyone, I know, can write or speak with élan or panache but at least Bush should be able to find the mot juste from time to time (‘suicider’ being only the most recent atrocity). To be frank, it offends my amour propre to see this daily sabotage of English camouflaged as Texan bonhomie and good old boy naïveté. Nor do you have to be a member of a soi-disant élite to feel this way but just a true blue linguistic patriot like me. The raison d’être of English as a national language movement, as I see it, is to use the force majeure of the federal government in the promotion of the proper use of English. This legislation would drag Bush from his semi literate cul-de-sac and require him to speak English for the first time in his life, comme il faut and sans détours. Gone would be the days of our acceptance of his manque of rhetorical savoir faire and toleration of his many linguistic défauts. The débâcle that is his language skills would have at last received its coup de grâce or, at the least, be rendered hors de combat. I say without a soupçon of malice and with a complete sang froid that that is a day I would dearly like to see.

In defense of English as a national language Part IV

There are some who think I have a hidden agenda or ulterior motive in defending English as the new national lingua franca and that, ipso facto, I must lack gravitas or be some kind of ignoramus or retrograde linguistic agitator, etc. I find this ad hoc if not ad hominem. While I agree that the onus is on me to present something more than a pro forma assertion that English is the nec plus ultra of languages and the sine qua non of a cohesive American society, do not expect a mea culpa from me.

First, a few caveats: caveat lector (applicable here), caveat emptor (always a good idea), and cave canem (ditto). That said, English is the de facto national language of our country. Its importance is sui generis. I think we can all agree on this although de gustibus non disputandum. De jure recognition of English would, mirabile dictu, change nothing. It would simply wrap our language in the flag and amor patriae. Some say it would be racist. O tempora! O mores! It is the vox populi. It is the modus operandi that makes our modus vivendi possible. It is not a quid pro quo. OK, well maybe it is but that’s not my point. It’s not a casus belli. It’s more sic semper tyrannis. Remember we live not in a pro bono society but a cui bono one.

I could go on ad nauseam but I think my ignotum per ignotius argument speaks for itself. English is our national language because it is our national language and can alone express what so many other languages cannot. QED.

OT in defense of English as a national language Part V

We are one nation from the Rio Grande to Montana, from Florida to Los Angeles and San Francisco. As one who is an aficionado of English, I say it is this language that binds us and our nation together. English is too important to become a political piñata. It has helped make us Número Uno in the world. We should keep it and although there is little chance of us losing it, if we did lose it, we could lose the whole enchilada and that would be plain loco. However unlikely, we could be left pronto with zero, zip, nada and that would be muy malo for us all.

Understand those who support English as the national language are not waging a guerilla war on some but are making a sincere effort to create a unifying and unitary ambiente simpático for us all. Mi casa es su casa after all. Nor is it an act of machismo by the current jefe and his junta. Indeed Bush’s pregnant pauses are the very opposite of this. They bespeak a man embarazado and that is an embarrassing state of affairs indeed.

No, amigos, compañeros, English as a national language is an act of faith, an auto de fe, as it were, of our rights. Let us not say hasta la vista, baby to an idea whose time has come. Let us embrace our inner pendejo and have the cojones to bid adiós to our doubts. To those who ask in the plaza of public opinion, ¿Qué pasa? here, let our answer and our language be clear: ¡Que será será!

OT in defense of English as a national language Part VI

This is addressed to the ordinary Americans among us, to all you schlemiels and schlimazels, nebbishes, nudniks, klutzes, putzes, schlubs, schmos, as well as schmucks, nogoodniks, and momzers, and I might add any golems, and dybbuks that happen to be lurking out there in the crowd.

Just wanted to say that like you, I get mamish sentimental when I think about English and its place in our society. To tell the truth, it makes me so verklempt I’m fit to plotz. That’s why this whole schmeer gets me so broiges when I hear these mavens and luftmenschen kvetching about it as our national language. What chutzpah! These schmegeges can schlep their schlock about the cultural and linguistic diversity of our country and of English itself but I for one am not buying their shtick. It’s all so much dreck as far as I’m concerned. I exhort you all to be Mensches about this and stand up to their fardrayt arguments and meshugganah farschtrunken assertions. It wouldn’t be kosher to do anything else. Remember when all is said and done we have English and they have bubkes.

Note: My spelling is good patriotic American spelling. Yours may vary.

OT I really thought I had done my last of these but it is such an important subject. Besides I couldn’t resist and this really is the last so here is in defense of English as a national language Part VII

Our language like our borders is in crisis. Its autochthonic ethos is threatened by the paradox of a heterodox dogma of inclusion. This embrace of linguistic schizophrenia must be anathema to all those who love the orthogonal logic of our native idiom. We must shed our dystopic entropic psychology of cataleptic catatonia with its apathetic anergy of cultural polymorphism. Anonymous polyglot iconoclasts under the aegis of heterogeneity and with a nostalgia for the exotic are making a hecatomb of our language. They accuse us of seeking our therapeutic in a sophistic xenophobia. Alas, this is not some paranoid phantasm. We stand at the edge of the abyss on the horns of a dilemma surrounded on all sides by catastrophe, cataclysm, holocaust, and a full tetrahippal apocalypse. In such a toxic atmosphere, we, the hoi polloi, must be the catalyst of a cathartic apologia leading to the agathic agape of a pragmatic paradigm shift to an English only hegemony.

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

I still read FDL daily, to see what Jane Hamsher, the terrific Emptywheel, and dday have to say. The other diaries and comments there are a mixed bag which I rarely visit. Jane herself is oddly conflicted.

While I would characterize your question as off-topic, it seems silly of them to censor it. Why not see if Fein has anything to say about it? If not, the question will just lie there. It's not as if his opinion/writing on that were hard for you or anyone to look up.

I can let you know that I've followed Bruce Fein since I saw an excellent Bill Moyers show on which he was one of the guests. As a conservative Republican, I expected him to defend Bush's illegal actions. Instead, he was one of the fiercest critics around who called for criminal charges and continues to be a great defender of the rule of law. He has many views I don't agree with but I sincerely wish the Republican party were filled with people like him.

Submitted by lambert on

on executive power. He was terrific. Of course, Obama squandered that "strange bedfellows" opportunity also, by normalizing what Bush did. So much for that.

Anyhow, nobody said Fein should be immune from questions, which is what Hugh tried to do.

NOTE "Sanity"? Where?

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

wanted questions censored. Somehow I don't think he's the type to have a problem figuring out what to do with it - whether it's answer or ignore. I agree with Hugh that FDL made a very bad decision here.

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

That was my reaction too! Hence my fond remembrance, tho I read them doled out over a longer period of time. I hope by now Hugh "gets it" as to how great this series is. I'm not sure he believed what I said at the time. ;)

Zolodoco's picture
Submitted by Zolodoco on

I think that had something to do with the election.

I was still reading this site and the Confluence up until a few months ago. After some of my comments were deleted at the latter, I'm obviously now down to one. I respect blog owners' right to do that, but it doesn't necessarily mean I'll continue to respect them.

Submitted by lambert on

... are here. Obviously, they're optimized for the sort of place I want Corrente to be, and, less obviously, for the sanity and productivity of the admin (me), but I do try to follow them.

Zolodoco's picture
Submitted by Zolodoco on

I meant that this is the only site I'm still reading. If Joseph Canon decides to start blogging again, then I'll be back up to two.