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Re: Jon Walker's Defense of the Indefensible

khin's picture

Jon Walker recently wrote a post called "The Public Option Is Not Symbolic; It Is Foundational" on FDL. I have responded to Jon before about this, and this time, I was not in the mood to keep repeating the same old tired points. Here's my response this time:

We need to realize that FDL policy is to constantly push this line about the public option despite the fact that much of it has nothing to do with reality. I am not sure that this is Jon Walker talking. It seems to be FDL talking.

Any of these are very doable changes that could have completely changed the dynamics in only a few years.

Legalizing drug importation is a very doable idea that could change the dynamics of the drug market in a few years. But it never happened.

Expanding Medicare to those aged 55-64 is a very doable idea that could completely change the dynamics of Medicare in a few years. But…it never happened.

If the public option was able to to sell to the entire private insurance market

If pigs could fly…

To argue otherwise is intellectual dishonesty

Look who’s talking.

You may not agree with the methods that the supporters of the public option are using, but pretending that they are somehow fools chasing after symbolism

Not fools–in this case they’re paid bloggers with a party line. Even from the perspective of what is in this particular bill, the Medicaid expansion was far more important than the public option, for example. It insures at least 15 million (more if you use the CMS estimates) people compared with the 6 million of the public option. It is hard to see why either the taxes used to fund the bill, or the subsidies that would apply to all exchange participants and not just public option participants, were manifestly less important either. This is not even discussing single payer, because that comparison hardly needs discussion.

FDL will now probably attempt to rewrite history to duck the fact that their strategy was an absurd, pre-compromised mess and quite predictably produced a miserable failure. It’s up to us to not let them get away with it, which is why I advocate crossposting everything at Corrente and ZBlogs and also thinking about how we can start new blogs that actually dare to take progressive positions.

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selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

lambert, do you know exactly what your comment(s) was(were) that got you banned at fdl? (i have a copy of sisterkenny's before it was deleted, but not yours).

khin's picture
Submitted by khin on

FDL pays some of its writers. In general I don't know who, or if Walker specifically is being paid.

I do know that slinkerwink was paid by FDL to write on Daily Kos and struck me as basically a propagandist during my time there (not that some unpaid writers like mcjoan didn't act the same).

khin's picture
Submitted by khin on

I've now asked Jane Hamsher if all or just some of her regular bloggers get paid. We'll see if she responds.

Submitted by lambert on

Terry Partridge @25:

Are you an FDL stockholder?

To which the natural rejoinder would be: "Oh, FDL has stockholders?" Go for it...

NOTE I'm not giving the link, because it's through a proxy, and that would be confusing. the link is to the thread khin gives above.

Submitted by hipparchia on

khin's comment [to another commenter]:

Being paid can influence a person’s writing regardless of how smart they are.

I have no problem with being paid per se, but in general, I want to know whether all or just some of the regular bloggers here are paid. We need to know at least that much.

jane's response:

When the Huffington Post, the New York Times and Politico release the details of who they pay for what and when, we’ll release ours. When you convince them that this is a necessary element of disclosure, we’ll be only too happy to follow the precedent they set.

selise's comment [to another commenter]:

but you do know that he [paul krugman] is being paid and who he is being paid by. i really don’t understand why you object to the question. no one has to answer.

fwiw, my bias may in part stem from the fact that i had a hard time trying to get jason to note on his health care daily update posts who he worked for (and prepared those posts for). imo it was important to know that he worked for an anti-single payer K street lobby because that might be why single payer news had never been included.

jane's reply:

I guess I always knew that Jason worked for HCAN so I didn’t think about it but you’re right, if he was preparing the news for them and they didn’t include single payer news as a matter of policy, it should’ve been noted.

But I think that’s a different question than whether someone is paid by us or not. It just is not information typically released by media companies.

which sounds to me like she regards fdl as a media company [and in fact she does does seem to be running at least one media-related company].

i do like that wording: i guess is always knew that jason worked for hcan...

slinkerwink was definitely being paid by fdl to report on the public option's passage through the congressional sausage grinder. she at first posted on fdl and dkos, but almost entirely on dkos now [and still on twitter iirc].

not sure, but i think fdl was also paying nyceve [she was also posting occasionally at fdl and rregularly at dkos for a time].

if i had to guess, i'd guess that the main blogger in each of the fdl silos is being paid something. certainly dday [david dayen] and jon walker write enough that they must be putting in enough time for their blogging to be a full-time occupation. i would hope they're getting paid for that, anyway. meanwhile, a lot of people there are providing a lot of free work, so possibly it would stir up resentment and maybe even shrink both the readership and the free writing if it became generally known that some lucky few are getting paid.

going back to jane's 'media companies' riposte, back in the old days of dead tree media and three or four tv stations, readers and listeners mostly just assumed that regular contributors were paid as a matter of course. blogging has blurred the lines between writing for pay and not for pay, but it's still disingenuous for jane to be coy about this [and of course now i wonder if huffpo pays her for her blogging there].

note to the world at large: hipparchia is not taking even one thin dime of the corrente hamsters' kibble money. i blog for the sheer joy of inflicting my opinions on others.

Submitted by lambert on

The real question is who's paying FDL to pay which writers.

For Jason, the readers forced Jason's paymaster into the open (and I could certainly cite at least 10 comments I wrote trying to nail down Jason's editorial policy), and that was after may others did the same, including lets and selise (IIRC). So I find Jane's protestations that she wasn't paying attention just a little hard to believe.

So the question is, really, whether FDL is a conventional media company, isn't it?

Because if Jason hadn't disclosed, an unkind person would look at FDL as a sort of money and meme laundry for money that might flow like SEIU -> HCAN -> (Jason + FDL overhead?). Now, Jason kinda sorta discloses, just like McClatchy discloses Kaiser. On the other hand, there might be others who, unlike Jason, have not disclosed. If that's true, then FDL is not a conventional media company. Jane says FDL is. But that begs the question, since (a) she never defines her terms, and (b) absent disclosures, we have no way of verifying her claim. So, are there other Jasons? Should be an easy question for Jane to answer. Particularly if she values her brand.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i presume there is some ad revenue [maybe even a lot of ad revenue], and iirc, reader donations to the 'public option' effort were, among other things [presumably], funding slinkerwink's employment.

commonsense media and fdl and who knows what all else may be under one umbrella so that more lucrative arms of the total enterprise are subsidizing the less [or non] lucrative]. tv networks used to do this: the 'fluffy' shows brought in the ad $$, which were then spent on the news shows [which typically cost more money than they made]. same for newspapers [of old].

i can totally believe that jane forgot about jason + hcan, since she derided hcan rather prominently on fdl earlier this summer. fdl had raised maybe $50,000 or $150,000 [i forget which] and secured pledges from 40[?] congress critters to vote down any health care bill that did not include a public option, while hcan with their millions and millions of $$$$$$$$$ had not secured anything at all [to hear her tell it]. at the time, i thought it was rather hilarious that 'the right hand did not know what the left was doing' at fdl.

i haven't a clue whether she's running a conventional media company or not. the other thing i haven't figured out yet is whether the fdl empire exists to pay for advocating for political change, or whether the whole raison d'etre of the political advocacy is to gain stature and attention [and therefore $$$$$] for her media empire-to-be. could even be some of each. whichever it is, it leaves me not trusting her as a political ally.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm willing to be corrected, of course, by those who know FDL better. However, The Seminal is a silo that was given to Jason after somebody else had been running it. It's very hard for me to believe that Hollywood-savvy Jane did no due diligence on this. Furthermore, many at FDL were vociferous about the matter on the threads, and AFAIK, FDL is strong on thread management, so it's hard to believe the matter wasn't ever discussed or raised as an issue in whatever internal moderator's forum FDL has. Finally, if Jane's petty-minded enough to purge and ban single payer advocates, then she's petty-minded enough to remember what they wrote to make her annoyed, and I would bet that comments like "Jason, could you check with your boss at HCAN about whether it's OK to cover single payer stories?" would fall into that category. My experience with Jane is that she's very hands-on, and about as likely to "forget" an issue like this as one of the Bourbons (who, famously, learned nothing and forgot nothing).

Submitted by hipparchia on

the fdl brand started really taking off at about the point where oxdown gazette was folded into jason's the seminal. even very hands-on proprietors can lose control of parts of their organizations when explosive growth happens.

jane's attacks on single payer advocates reminded me less of petty-mindedness than of ruthless business decision-making. it looks to me like whatever jane does advocacy-wise benefits jane first and the rest of us later [if at all]. since the public option strategery was gaining her much media attention and also effectively making her into a notable campaign donation bundler, it would have been disastrous to that enterprise if single payer advocates had siphoned off large numbers of her readers [and their $$$]. this is what hcan did to the single payer movement -- siphoned off energy and money from single payer and tossed it into the public option black hole.

i'm open to equally plausible [or even implausible] theories, but it ultimately does not matter to me personally exactly what her motivations and business model are, beyond finding the lever[s] that will get single payer greater visibility at [or via] fdl.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I've always assumed that the chief silo bloggers at FDL got paid something. It's the only way they could blog so frequently.

Having said that, I feel uncomfortable about making any assumption that validity of their posts ought to be evaluated on that basis. I think we have to base our evaluations of their writings on what they say, which, I think, we do. So, let's just keep it that way.

On yet another hand, however, I do think asking who pays them is a legitimate question. If it's just Jane paying them as op-ed people or reporters, it's one thing. If it's HCAN, it's another.

Finally, not being paid for one's writing also influences what one says, though probably the reactions of people to that are different. For me not being paid, means I don't worry aboyt who I'm working for when expressing opinions. Don't know if I'd feel the same way if I worked for a village.

khin's picture
Submitted by khin on the same way that Paul Krugman is still himself even though he writes for the New York Times. You have responsibility for your own content. Still, what makes me curious is that unlike a conventional organization, we don't really know how FDL operates. I mean, we assume that the silo bloggers get paid, and it's probably a correct assumption, but nobody knows for sure. And who else is being paid?

Maybe the reason I would like to know this, is not so much that I think being paid is necessarily influencing the blogger, but that being paid is allowing people with particular views to blog extensively. So if somebody would pay me, I would be willing to blog as much as Walker does for at least, say, a few months. But I would no doubt say things on health care that would be unacceptable on a site like FDL that has championed the public "option" for this entire debate cycle.

Submitted by hipparchia on

being paid is allowing people with particular views to blog extensively

Submitted by lambert on

... but get answers like "I forgot" (an obvious non-starter, see above) only raise more questions.

Yes, "we don't know" if FDL is serving as a conduit or cutout for the views of other organizations besides HCAN. Well, why don't we know? Answering the question isn't hard, and "I don't have to" is another obvious non-starter. Or should be, I would think, for the Hollywood-savvy Jane.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

we know for the most part who is being paid, and by whom.

There is (perhaps) some difference between being paid by a big site like FDL and directly by corporate overlords. But even if FDL counts as 'media' (not a label I'd be so eager to claim if I were Hamsher but that's by the way), it's important to know who is being paid because of the 'owners' editorial policy influences. It gives the reader some indicia of trustworthiness; the same way that it's relevant that Fox stations are owned by Murdoch, or the Washington Times is owned by Rev Moon.

Esp. with FDL because we've seen publicly how Jane treated the SP activists and many of those who disagreed with her publicly. If FDL is paying a poster, that sends a pretty clear message that one's revenue stream may be in jeopardy if you don't take your cues from Jane (if you can follow them) very carefully.

Normally I agree with you that you should be able to base evaluations on the arguments alone. But the danger of doing that without knowing who's paid and by whom is not so much in being able to detect obvious biases, those are easy to pick up on. The danger is in missing what is being left out, esp. if you're a reader who isn't as well-informed as the poster is or seems to be. SP is a ravingly clear example of damage being done based on what was omitted from many analyses. The other big danger is when a poster is being influenced by their revenue stream but does not even realize it themselves. No one wants to think they're 'bought' and few people, even the most well-intentioned, can truly divorce themselves entirely from their income source.

khin's picture
Submitted by khin on

...some of which I probably should have thought of. I'm still trying to reconcile my idea of Jon Walker as an independent blogger (because he has done a lot of detailed and good analysis mixed in with the public option fixation) with the possibility that he's being influenced by FDL somehow. I have really conflicting thoughts here. I definitely wouldn't think of putting Walker in the same category as somebody like Rosenbaum, for example. But the failure of the public option strategy is so total that something in me cries out for an explanation of how anyone can keep pushing it.

What he says is theoretically true, actually. I shouldn't have said "pigs can fly" in my post above. That was dumb. Now that I'm a bit calmer, I will say he's right that the public option could have been offered to everyone in the country without Congressional approval. The problem, however, is that nobody really knows what the effects of that would be. It's possible that what he says would happen. It's also possible that the high number of people being subsidized in would have a cherry picking effect causing premiums to rise in the exchange, so people without subsidies would tend to avoid the option. Certainly in Massachusetts, eligible employers typically do not opt to get insurance through the exchange. So it might have had little effect.

Plus, even if you offer it to everyone, there's the problem of affecting payment rates. I can start a low cost plan in my backyard, but if no providers accept it, too bad. And they weren't required to: unlike in the Commonwealth study, it didn't use Medicare's provider network. So you either get a big plan with the same payment rates and therefore no effect, or a small plan or no plan at all.

Finally, there's also the obvious impossibility of building a mass movement around the idea of a public option. Maybe Walker is just not concerned with movement politics, so he's stressing these hypothetical, technical points at the expense of what matters. I don't know. What I do know is, it was a stupid strategy, and continuing to defend it is, well, indefensible.

Submitted by hipparchia on

and he's propagandizing for an organization, and that organization has fuzzy and shifting goals.

jon walker is an analyst, and a very good analyst, but his analyses are pretty much limited to the bill[s] at hand.

Submitted by gmanedit on

hctomorrow December 30th, 2009 at 5:04 pm
In response to CMike @ 107
If FDL or any other media entity paid a writer to take a certain position, it’s a conflict I’d want disclosed. But I don’t think most publishers dictate positions to their writers.

I have worked in magazine publishing. Publishers dictate positions to their editors, who hire and direct the writers.

hipparchia: "the sheer joy of inflicting my opinions on others." Thanks for the laugh.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i'm always gratified to find that somebody reads me too.

Publishers dictate positions to their editors, who hire and direct the writers.

bingo. i'd be very surprised if jane were to offer a paying position to anybody who would put as much into writing about single payer as dday and jon walker have put into their respective spheres of work there.

Submitted by Elliott Lake on

...they seem pretty shirty at the idea someone would even ask if people are paid... leading me to believe the answer is yes, they are, and they know it would make people unhappy if they disclosed it. Cause, if people weren't, the answer would be simply "no".

I did like it where one person asked for the list of topics not to raise...

I see things over there have only gotten less appealing since I quit visiting over there... last summer some time, I think it was. I never got that whole "be in line" thing, I guess.

But it is a very reasonable question---and it would be interesting to find out more specifically if paid to write propaganda, or just on retainer.