Monday, January 01, 2007

Was the Aggregator a Trojan Horse? And was Virgil Goode Right?

In the comments over at Shaun Kenney's blog, I made a reference to the "Trojan Horse" in regards to the Virginia Blog Aggregator. Waldo took offense to the reference, noting that it implied a prior intent which was not in evidence.

You can go read the exchange in Commonwealth Conservative: Can we disagree without being disagreeable? But in my last response, I said some stuff I wanted to bring back to my own blog in the hopes I can get better coverage for my friends on the right who are so bent on defending Waldo that they seem to miss the big picture.

To be complete, I'll start with Waldo's response to my comment:

I'm just saying it was inconsistant with your previously stated principles.

Much as Alex's behavior was inconsistent with the accepted principles of Virginia political bloggers, at least as I understood them. Everybody has a line at which they consider something offensive. That's mine, and that's where I stop subsidizing Alex's expression. Anybody running such a service will encounter such a line at some point, and it's at that point where they have to consider which principle is more important.

My point was that your aggregator in the end was not a gift, but a trojan horse, and those who thought differently have nobody to blame but themselves.

That's hardly fair. "A trojan horse" implies a planned attack, an intend to deceive. I did nothing of the sort. One could just as easily argue that Alex's blog was a trojan horse: a site that pretended to be about reasoned and humorous discourse, but turned out to be designed to shock and offend anybody of reasonable morals. That's probably not true, either, but the logic is the same.

Here is my response, edited to make it better:

The "trojan horse" analogy is not "fair", it is an opinion that has no firm foundation in known facts.

However, it is a rational opinion, and one that I can at least back up in an ex-post-facto manner by looking at the current situation, as I have described before.

Waldo is certainly a smart person, and a strong partisan for his political philosophy. Is it impossible that he could have started the aggregator NOT simply to be nice to all of us, but instead as part of a plan to build up a following and then control the flow of information?

Waldo would no doubt disagree, and those who know him well will say it is inconsistant with who he is (but the actions he took also seem out of character).

On the other hand, we have observed actions. There was the original aggregator which had everybody on it, and an owner who wouldn't delete patently offensive images used by the left to attack those on the right. And now that same aggregator (at the same URL) is named Waldo's aggregator, with a smaller number of blogs. with several conservative blogs missing, it seems for what they have been saying.

In other words, the observed facts fit with my conjecture, and in fact if Waldo DID mean to do so this is precisely where we would be today.

Waldo could have proven this WASN'T a plan by NOT taking actions contrary to his previous statement of principles. Or he could have taken the time to clearly explain on the aggregator that he intended to boot bloggers who offended him. Or he could have deleted the offending post and then put a new list of rules on the blog. Or he could have explained why this one truthful, non-photoshopped picture was more offensive than all the previous pictures that attacked conservatives and that people complained about.

I've always felt that an aggregator controlled by the left was a bad idea for those on the right, because we can't control our own message if our opposition controls the media in which our message will be transmitted, and is willing and able to censor it at will.

Waldo said: "and that's where I stop subsidizing Alex's expression. Anybody running such a service will encounter such a line at some point,"

That is a clear statement of the reality of the "Virginia Blog Aggregator", in spite of the allusion of being a content-neutral retransmission of all comers. It was Waldo's blog -- he ran it, he paid for it, he had the power and control, and his application of that power was to block a blog from the right for the manner in which that blog chose to communicate a political message.

Waldo in fact has reinforced GGD's point. GGD simply retransmited a PUBLIC PICTURE showing what our enemies, muslims from the middle east, are willing and desirous to do to every American who does not convert to their religion.

Waldo found that so offensive he took the radical step of removing his blog from an aggregator that up to that time had never had ANY censorship, in opposition to his previously stated principles of the aggregator.

THAT is the power of our enemy, to make us give up our own freedoms and rights because we can't handle the offensiveness of their acts.

I bet Virgil Goode did not shrink back from that image -- as a public figure, I bet he suffered himself to watch the entire video, so he could truly understand the nature of our enemy in a way that those of us too chicken to do so will be able to (remember, i'm in that group).

Virgil is right. He says he wants to stop letting people BORN in the middle east, raised in the culture, trained in the madrassas, and adherents of the brand of that religion that gave us people willing to behead our fellow americans simply because we don't worship their god. He reaches that decision based on things like the picture Waldo couldn't bear to look at, that caused Waldo to take the action that led to this entire event.

GGD, whatever else he is or did, simply took a picture and used it to defend Virgil Goode's position that we should rethink our middle east immigration policy. He's a blogger who wanted to make his point in the strongest way possible. He CERTAINLY did not do so in order to offend Waldo. He certainly didn't even THINK about the aggregator when he made his post.

Waldo is the one who took offense to GGD, and he's the one who attacked GGD, not the other way around. Waldo could have responded in a rational adult fashion, and chose instead to respond in a different manner -- which was his right. But it WAS an act against GGD, while GGD's initial act was NOT an attack on Waldo.

Waldo was the first to attack, which again is why I don't understand why so many have taken Waldo as the aggrieved party. My goal is to convince people otherwise.


Shaun Kenney said...

I think everyone agrees that removing GGD from the aggregator was a bad idea. No questions there.

It's the personal attacks which followed that have earned the unanimous scorn of the Virginia blogopshere -- left, right, libertarian, and moderate. The cries for "unity" after Alex was exposed, after the personal attacks, and after the "let's use the Democrats tactics" were far too great -- especially after being so rudely coerced and rebuffed after repeated attempts to sort things out by a number of ODBA membership.

I would agree that there is a young/old divide here... but considering that those standing united are in the 18-35 category, and those on the other hand are decidedly older (with the notable exception of GGD).

The Virginia Way is still a proud tradition. Sadly, it has been lost on those who are willing to slander people rather than engage on the issue of censorship or Islamic terrorism (hint: my family is Lebanese Christian, so it's an issue close to our heart) where we win. Attacking people though? Better things to do, quite frankly.

Anyhow Charles, those are my thoughts. I am all for sticking the Dems on the issue of going soft on Islamic terror (and weeping as they watch Saddam on the gallows -- pfft), but I won't attack people. Namecalling like that kinda went out of style in the third grade.

Waldo Jaquith said...

THAT is the power of our enemy, to make us give up our own freedoms and rights because we can't handle the offensiveness of their acts.

That's right, but you're not making the point that you think that you're making. Did Alex give up any freedoms or rights? Of course not -- all of his freedoms were intact. Did I? Nope, I exercised my freedoms w/r/t private property. The only way to "give up our own freedoms and rights" in this scenarios would have been had I surrendered my freedoms of private property in the face of such an offensive image.

You continue to confuse my private property with the government's, and the rights that I grant others with fundamental rights granted under the Bill of Rights.

I'm Not Emeril said...

I agree personal attacks have no place in our daily discourse, but I have seen very, very few personal attacks on Waldo. Not even from GGD and others in the Valley.

What I have seen are many references to the hypocrisy Mr. Jaquith has shown by his actions.

If that is a personal attack, then I'm one of the biggest offenders. And I'm afraid I will continue to be, since I have no intention to cease pointing out hypocrisy when I see it.

spankthatdonkey said...

I don't mean to get technical and all about things like definitions and facts but,

Slander is spoken, and Libel written.

Your concern in our exchanges has not seemed to be establishing what is factual and what is not. Your reply post to mine, started with first buying 'hook line and sinker' that Maxfield was 16...

You later in your comments said, that it is 'us' who should be emailing you the facts...

We have not attacked Waldo, if parody done in a couple tastefully photo shop images is to be labeled "attack", then I suggest you begin banning all the political cartoonists...

The challenge has been on my blog for two days, show us where we have been 'uncivil'to Waldo.

Meanwhile, The Richmond Democrat, (whom 'Shrieks', rightly chastised) 'outed' what they even thought was a minor at the time!

Sir, with all do respect, there is a disconnect here... (or have I already posted on that?)

Tom James (aka Brave Hart) said...

Charles you are right on target.

I posted a pic of the charred bodies hanging from the bridge a few months ago.

Waldo never mentioned any objections, but the editor of Blognet wrote me a polite letter asking me to remove the pic as it offended some. Although not agreeing with the cnsorship, I removed the photo, as I felt it more important to have a forum for my voice to be heard. And it's free.

One must chose their battles.

I not aware of Waldo giving GGD the same opportunity and why wasn't my pic offensive to him.

Waldo has blocked my access to his private blog.

Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil!

I guess he feels more secure when his views are not threatened.

Tom James (aka Brave Hart) said...

I'd like to add, I too am extremely offended by the photos.

But by no means am I offended by a fellow American, who obviously loves his country, and is trying to hammer the point, these barbarians need to be purged from our planet, to folks who appear blind to this fact.

Direct your indignation at the correct party Waldo!

Not a fellow American and Virginian!

spankthatdonkey said...

Brave Hart:
I doubt any one is ever going to question your patriotism with observations like that !

You have obviously served our nation, and I Thank You Sir!

spankthatdonkey said...

I will repeat here, again for the benefit of those new to the discussion/controversy.

The aggregator is your private property and so is the Washington Posts Newspaper their property.

You put out the aggregator and said it was for everybody, but then started censoring a real, historical photo graph used to bolster an argument...

You have aptly name your aggregator now after yourself, and started kicking off all of those whom you wish to disagree with, which is also your right.

We are here to 'amplify' that fact, lest some one come onto that aggregator and think they are getting some kind of one-stop shopping for both sides of the issues...

Blog Network News is now the bastion for that...

Now the next issue we are 'amplifying' is that merely disagreeing with you and your decisions has become an 'attack'!

The worst part of all this is that some Conservatives are even buying that line of reasoning without any evidence whatsoever....

Dear God, a couple of tastefully done photo shop parodies, and dear Lord we actually disagreed with you in your comments and on other blogs we have pressed our case!!!

That is attacking?

Charles said...

I had accidentally taken a sentence from Waldo and italicized it as if it was mine (I happen to agree with the sentence, but it made Waldo's response a little less coherent).

I've fixed it, and apologize for the error.

Charles said...

Waldo, you are correct, your particular act was not one of giving up either freedom or right.

Your particular act was one of giving up your principle -- that you ran an aggregator for all blogs, that you simply were NOT going to be an editor, no matter how distasteful some people found the material posted by your friends on the left, because you valued the free expression of ideas more than the desire of some readers not to be offended.

I think I said that in my post -- that you gave up your principle. I generally claimed that the enemy wants us to give up our freedoms and rights, and we are too willing to do so in the face of what we see from our enemy, which scares us and makes us uncomfortable (this is not a specific attack on the Patriot Act, but is certainly a statement suggesting that I am not comfortable with our response to 9/11 as it respects our own liberties).

So while I did not intend to be "confused" about your private property and government, I see that the structure of my post has led you to that conclusion, and hope this has explained what my intent was.

My previous comments comparing your blog to government was not in regard to our rights, it was in regard to how in both cases a service is granted which appears free and without condition but later turns out to be anything BUT -- it is in that way alone that I find equivalence between the aggregator and the typical government program.

Charles said...


I haven't read every single comment on every blog since this event occured. And I haven't seen every private e-mail.

But I have not seen this apparent deluge of personal attacks on Waldo. I also have not seen a "unanimous" scorn -- perhaps you meant bipartisan, or broad-based, but there are a lot of bloggers, some posting right in these comments, who apparently are not joining in this scorn, which means that it's not really "unanimous".

As to the divide, I'm not sure I understood your comment. Who are the group "standing united", and who are those "on the other side"? I think I know, but I'm not positive because I'm not sure which ones you think are the ones "standing united", given your previous comment about "universal scorn".

For the record, I'm 47. Although I'm not sure I'm in either group, I'm more of a loner outcast.

Waldo Jaquith said...

Your particular act was one of giving up your principle -- that you ran an aggregator for all blogs, that you simply were NOT going to be an editor, no matter how distasteful some people found the material posted by your friends on the left, because you valued the free expression of ideas more than the desire of some readers not to be offended.

And I think that was a mistake that I should not have made in the first place. I had assumed that no Virginia political blogger would ever post anything purely for the purpose of offending. Now, whether or not Alex did that in this case is purely academic. The point is that I'd assumed that the only demand that I draw a line would be based on political disputes on which reasonable minds may disagree. Which is how it went for the first six months. Republicans and Democrats alike would say "X is being unfair because he said Y and Z is true, could you ban him?" And I'd say "nope, sorry." What hadn't crossed my mind is that somebody might post a shock site, or something like it, in order to abuse a known-decent venue.

Having a commons only functions so long as those who use in it choose to respect the common standards of decency. Whether or not the image in question offends standards of decency (which, what with it being a beheaded American captive, I think it's fair to say that it should offend all Americans' sense of decency), it raises the matter that, eventually, some dickfor is going to do it. And it is that realization that makes necessary editorial control.

I've said it many times before, and I'll say it again: It's a free market. Anybody is welcome to start their own aggregator and, as I have promoted BNN on my aggregator, I suspect I'll promote that one. (I even offered to create an aggregator for those who complained about my editorial control and flat-out give it to them, which was rudely rebuffed.) If VPB is an inferior product for my editorial control (compared to BNN's editorial control, as described here previously), then people will stop using it.

If nothing else, I've learned from all of this that I'm very, very important. Previously it was only my dog who thought that, but given the enormous role that I apparently play in the lives of the half dozen people who persist in complaining about this, it turns out that I'm an extremely powerful man. Who knew? Certainly not my wife.

Charles said...

My opinion is that the picture of the dead baby with the commentary blaming Bush was posted simply to shock and to raise the level of personal hatred, not to advance a real debate.

But since you and I disagree on that point (I presume since you didn't delete that post), it is clear that reasonable people find different things offensive.

If you had simply stated on the aggregator that you reserved the right to delete anything at any time, I would not be saying you changed your mode of operation. I might instead argue that you were wrong to delete the post, that it wasn't simply a shock post -- that that would be an argument about an issue, not about an act.

I must be mistaken, I thought I read from one of the right bloggers that they offered to take over the aggregator and take responsibility for it in order to operate it without any editorial control, but that you did not reply to the offer. Maybe you did not take the offer seriously, or maybe there were strings that were not mentioned that you couldn't live with.

I would think that whoever that blogger was (I can't remember, it might have been kilo or STD or someone else), if they were sincere, they might accept ownership of an alternate feed that you would set up for them (seems like a generous offer).

On the other hand, maybe BNN serves the purpose.

I've always known that you were a special person. I remember when a pseudonymous blogger named A.N.Muse was attacking you about something -- I rarely get stalkers, so I knew you weren't some no-name hack.

spankthatdonkey said...

You are welcome in our group anytime, as I just stated over at Elle's the benefit would be having actual conservatives 'watching your back', and should an issue arise of that association, we would not give you a 48 hour ultimatum, before moving to humilitate you, all for the glee of the other side...

Your commentary is dead on, and you were the FIRST conservative blogger wise and savvy enough to see Waldo's aggregator for what it is...

As I commented to Waldo, that us little 'caveman/woman Conservative minds, can come up with our own aggregator, Thank You very much, and of coure, that self deprecating remark, is construed as an attack...

Charles said...

To be fair, Waldo's offer certainly looked sincere to me, not at all condescending.

But maybe that's because at my age you come to appreciate the offer of assistance. I can believe setting up an aggregator is not a trivial task, and if Waldo's already done it once and is willing to do it again, that's one less thing to have to do.

I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, notwithstanding my comments about trojans.

I am certain I could set up and run an aggregator. But at my age (again) if someone else has done it already, I've got better things to do with my time.

I've been above the fray I guess, there seems to be some serious negative vibes and I'm trying to avoid getting to that point.

I wasn't the first to express doubts about the aggregator, I picked that up from someone else. And just to be clear, I don't know there was any intent to use the aggregator against anybody. I'm even willing to believe Waldo when he says he never expected to come to this, even if I did anticipate this "unexpected" happening.

If I had set up an aggregator for the masses (which I never would have done, maybe for this very reason), I never would have taken the action Waldo took. I might have simply shut it down if it became a burden.

It's nice to have people "covering your backside", but an association for that purpose is a bit too structured for my taste.

I'd like to think people will cover my back regardless of their politics because they know my history and know that I am a straight shooter who, while partisan, attempts to be a sound, reasoned partisan willing to listen to others and change my opinions and even apologize when he does wrong.

That is why I rarely post to Ben Tribbet's site anymore -- his regular commenters started answering my arguments with crude personal attacks and rude dismissive statements, and Ben wouldn't even give me the courtesy of posting a comment backing my attempts to have a discussion and defending me against the baseless charges made by his commenters.

I can say that regardless of political pursuasion, if someone commented to my blog and another commenter made rude, crude comments, I'd say something about it.

So Ben lost some points, not because he had any obligation, but because even after I took the time to write him an e-mail and ASK him to cover my back, he refused to do so. And that to me seemed like those who said they would drive by people with car trouble if they had the wrong bumper stickers.

Not Larry Sabato said...

No Charles, I just thought asking people to be more civil in the middle of an election that had gone very low on both sides was a futile effort. As you can see, I have made an effort post-election to calm things down, but it just wasn't possible right before this election.

Charles said...

I suppose getting people to be civil may not have worked, but posting a sentence or two of support was a simple thing to do, not futile at all.

See how much all your buddies on the left appreciate Shaun and other conservative bloggers coming to Waldo's defense? I wasn't asking you to do anything like that, just a sentence expressing your support for my attempts to contribute to your blog.

Your reasons for not doing so are unimportant, I cannot judge why Waldo deletes blogs or you allow people to trash your blog -- I can merely observe that he did, and you do, and object to the act.

I'm not saying we can't judge people's motives, it's just hard to know people's motives, so I feel more comfortable sticking to the realm of facts.

I didn't need to post to your blog, and I certainly could defend myself against childish attacks but simply grew weary of it and decided your blog wasn't worth the effort. Odd isn't it, given that you decided that your blog wasn't worth the effort either?