Renovation

I’ve been writing this blog going on 20 years, as of next February.

And while blogging is traditionally, stereo typically fairly solitary a past time, we’ve had some company here over the years.

Of course, back in the day Johnny Roosh was a regular. Bogus Doug/Diane wrote a thing or two. And when the subject of history comes up, the First Ringer makes the occasional, much welcomed appearance.

And of course, Joe Doakes, while not quite wanting to take the plunge and become an official contributor, is about as regular as it gets. He is second only to me in terms of volume of posts over the past decade or so.

And, tomorrow morning, we will welcome a new writer to the stable here at SITD.

Why yes – I’m going to leave you a cliffhanger.

Tune in tomorrow!

The Heckler’s Veto

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

A heckler can shout down a speaker, preventing the audience from hearing the message.  This activity is known as a ‘heckler’s veto.’  The heckler is abridging the freedom of speech rights of the speaker and audience while asserting his own freedom of speech right.

A troll can shout down a poster by thread-jacking or multiple inflammatory posts, thus preventing the audience from reading the message.  This activity shall henceforth be known as a ‘Troll Veto.’ The troll is interfering with the free exchange of ideas between the poster and readers while hiding behind the rules of etiquette for polite society which the troll refuses to follow himself.

Unbounded liberty without order is anarchy.  The first requirement of ordered liberty is order.  In both examples, a balance of the rights justifies removing the heckler/troll.

Drop the ban hammer.

Joe Doakes

I’m loathe to do arbritrailty what the group is perfectly good at doing organically.

But thread–jacking is wearing out its dubious welcome.

Pondering

Being a conservative is traditionally a fairly solitary thing. We tend to have higher priorities in our lives than politics.

With that in mind – know what I miss the. most from blogging’s brief, ephemeral “Glory Days?”
The social life. It’s a little ironic that “social media” cut the heart out of the actual social life that built up around blogging.

And by “social life”, I don’t mean *just* the MOB parties – although those were pretty epic, in their heyday. And not the crowd of really awesome people I met via blogging, back then – some of whom are still the core of my social circle, 17 years later.

What I – and society, I think, misses today – was the hard edge to that little home-made social network we built back then.

Back then, when somebody – a reporter or columnist, a politician, a bureaucrat – said or did something ignorant, harmful, defamatory or stupid, the answer would be a “crowdsourced” response from several, maybe dozens, of people who had some knowledge of the issue, directing the energy of dozens, sometimes hundreds, occasionally many more, to respond in a way that even the high and mighty couldn’t ignore.

The ultimate example, of course, was Rathergate; when Dan Rather tried to defame President Bush using a “letter” from a Texas Air Guard general as evidence. My friends and, at the time, cohosts at Power Line led a horde of thousands of people who pointed out facts about the “letter” that meant it could have been nothing but a forgery, and a really clumsy one at that. Dan Rather and Mary Mapes paid with their careers – and almost two decades later, and even after Hollywood put out a scabrous fabulist movie to try to rewrite the history, they remain disgraced.

And that was one of many such episodes, both earth-shaking (my friend and former co-host Ed Morrissey’s reporting leading to the toppling of the Chretien government in Canada) and minor league (me and an army other other lilliputian bloggers, bit by bit, showing the Star Tribune that Nick Coleman’s hackery was going to hurt them more than it helped).

I wouldn’t say that “Big Left” [1] created “Social Media” to divert energy, talent and effort from the DIY world of blogging. But if they had intended that, I don’t know how they could have done it better.

And I think it’s important; back when conservative blogs (and our other alternate media) *were* a major social medium, then there existed a powerful counterbalance to “cancel culture”. Now, the counterbalance has all but evaporated.

And we see the results. “Cancel Culture” is a cancer that is gutting American intellectual, social and even vocational life.

Glenn Reynolds points out that the way to fight cancel culture is “never apologize, punch back, and bring friends”. I suggest that one can’t skimp on any of the three. Which means you need friends.

Since blogging, as Brad Carlson notes, has gone pretty passé in the past ten years or so, it’s time – and imperative – for the good guys to recapture, if not the organic media we all built (although that’d be great, too), then at least the strength in numbers that allowed the Army of Davids to punch upward, and do it effectively, back in the day.

Something – an organic social group, a club, whatever – to bring some raw, motivated numbers to the fight. (And it is a fight, like it or not).

It’d be a shame to lose the culture war because nobody showed up where it mattered.

Thinking…

[1] You got Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Steel? You got Big Left.

Hackery Most Foul

John Hinderaker asks a question many of us have been mulling for nearly two decades: why does 60 Minutes still exist?

It’s a holdover from a time when American media held some general (and often ill-deserved) respect for fairness and, if not “objectivity” (that’s a myth) at least detachment.

But between Rathergate, 17 years ago, and last week’s revelations that the show presented an “expose” of Ron DeSantis edited so far out of context as to be an absolute lie, it bids the critical thinker to ask: why is the show still on the air at all, if not to serve as a Democrat PR production?

Hinderaker has the original, and edtied-out, text. It is beyond damning. You be the judge.

My only regret is, having not watched the show in nearly 20 years, I have nothing to boycott.

Ideas

Monday, I linked to an article by Glenn Reynolds about how to deal with the attack-wokies.

To wit – never apologize, bring your friends, and punch back twice as hard.

I’ll come back to that.

One of conservatism’s great mistakes was forsaking the small, independent blogs that dominated (along with, naturally, conservative talk radio) the alternative media scene in the 2000s.

During the heyday of the independent blog, there was a natural, organic network of supporters that would rally – almost always online – when one of the left’s droogs started dishing what was, at the time, almost always some pretty pathetic smack.

Since then, two things have happened:

  1. Altogether too many conservative content producers took their game to Twitter and Facebook – and either got censored into nothing, or just atrophied.
  2. Big Left invested in turning their attack machine from a pack of chancred losers into a pack of chancred losers with venal, dull but constantly practiced teeth. Cancel culture has become the norm across swathes of society that were still fairly open and healthy a decade ago when Andrew Breitbart warned us about losing the culture war.

So – how do the good guys ‘n gals start to organize, to fight the dirty part of the culture war again?

Ten years ago, when it was still good, clean fun, we had it down. Today, the jackals are running rings around the good guys.

It’s two-minute warning time at the state cuture war finals, and we’re down by two touchdowns.

How do the good guys get back in the game with the game that matters – organization, organic institutions that fight these battles, and the will to fight and win?

(While I run an open discussion at all times, lefties are urged to sit this one out).

Curiosity

I occasionally look over the traffic numbers for this blog.

The top five posts in this blog’s history – at least in terms of hits since I installed a hit counter, probably 10 years ago – were pretty steadily the same for much of that time; a piece on Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä, an article about the Gordon Kahl shootout, a few others.

But over the past year or so, a piece I wrote in 2007 about Saint Thomas University’s early adoption of cancel culture against itself seems to have run away from the pack – as in, gotten nearly triple the hits of its nearest competitor. As in, 80,000 hits to something like 30,000.

Used to be you could Google for links to individual web pages, but that seems to have been discontinued (or I’m doing it wrong).

On the one hand, immortalizing the perfidious moral cowardice of St. Thomas’s former administration is a feather in my proverbial cap.

On the other?

Who the hell is still citing an article from 13 years ago to tens of thousands of people?

Tangent

I love reading Powerline, but sometimes, their contributors completely miss the point
Here’s a column suggesting impeachment should be done fairly, on a measured and reasoned basis, with the President assisting Congress to reach the Truth.
Impeachment has nothing to do with the truth. Impeachment is strictly a political act, similar to a vote of no-confidence in Parliament. Democrats know this and are playing hard ball: anonymous rumors and gossip as “evidence,” Republicans excluded from interviewing witnesses, nobody getting  due process.
This impeachment investigation has nothing to do with high crimes or misdemeanors. This is a prolonged campaign commercial so their pals in the media can scream Trump Impeached to deceive the last few low-information voters.
There’s no mystery why Trump refuses to play along. The mystery is why establishment Republicans want him to.
Joe Doakes

Where Have You Gone, Learned Foot…

…turns out you were just too far ahead of your time.

Collecting old Kool-Aid packets is big money:

While there’s no real quantifiable way to know just how big this particular community is, the best place to pulse-check their vitality is eBay. A quick search for “Kool-Aid packet” seemed to signal the market is alive and well, returning over 250 active listings, some of which were going for triple-digit asking prices: $400 for a still- sealed case of Pink Swimmingo, $225 for a single packet of Yabba-Dabba-Doo Berry, and $195 for a single packet of one of Kool-Aid’s most beloved flavor mascots, Purplesaurus Rex, just to name a few. A search for recently completed eBay auctions showed a display of 1960s Grape packets being sold for $250 and a single packet of Rock-A-Dile Red closing out at $125. The good stuff don’t come cheap, my friends.

There has simply got to be a way to turn this into a glorious troll of obnoxious foodies.

Lines Like This…

…are why Lileks is still the best there is:

“I woke up this morning,” I said to the salesman, “and I felt like I wanted to be flattered and lied to, but there’s no brothel around so I thought I’d go to a dealership.”
If he’d been a dog he would have cocked his head sideways; it’s possible he thought “Brothel” was a new soup place down the road.

I’ve needed that dog cocking his head line so many times…

BoCo

I was remiss (overwhelmed with life, really) in not noting last week the big local media news – Bob Collins of MPR has retired after 27 years at the Taj Ma Klling and 45 in radio all together.

Bob worked at MPR, so it’s an absolute given we’d disagree on…well, most things. We sparred a time or two over at the “NewsCut” blog he ran for many years over at MPR. Which says something – Bob would spar. Most MPR figures hid behind the organization’s magisterial facade and didn’t bother engaging the peasantry.

Not Bob. He was the only MPR staffer – and one of very few mainstream media figures – to ever appear at a MOB party, back in blogging’s heyday. The image of Collins talking, I think, sports with Gary Miller was one of the highlights of that whole time of my history doing this blog thing.

And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that he wrote two of the things that I’ve been proudest of in all my years of doing this.

In 2007, I wrote a piece o the death of Bo Diddley, about which Bob wrote:

Mitch Berg, author of the Shot in the Dark blog, pens a tribute (by the way, to see why Berg is, perhaps, the best blog writer in Minnesota when it comes to music, see his post on Bruce Springsteen.), invoking some long-forgotten images of when rock married politics, as in the 1989 George Bush inaugural

I’ve gotten a lot of compliments writing this blog – notably, the fact that so many of you spend time reading it every day – but yeah, that one coming out of the blue stuck with me.

And the next year, during the run-up to the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, I walked from my job at the time over to a news conference held by a group of groups that were planning the demonstrations at the convention. Collins took up the scene:

What about what most people think when they hear a term like militant, violence, for example?
“The violence that I’m worried about is the violence that’s being carried out in Iraq right now,” she answered, which isn’t really an answer.
“You’re not answering my question,” a blogger said, uttering the five words that mark a great political journalist.
“I know,” she said, adding that she doesn’t consider the blockades being planned — allegedly — by other groups “violence.”
“That’s not what we’re planning,” she said.

I was the blogger, natch. And while I’ve never been a “political journalist” – I’ve always preferred “irascible peasant” – I always took that as a great compliment.

Anyway, good luck out there, Bob.

A Couple Of Birthdays

It’s been a little crazy lately, and in the rush I neglected two birthdays.

The first, of course, is today.

Reagan

Note:  This is an “encore” of a post I wrote in 2013

Today would be the 108th birthday of the greatest president of my lifetime.

People say “there’s no Ronald Reagan in American politics today”.  And they’re right – but as his son Michael told me in an interview a few years ago, it’s not that there couldn’t be.

Because Reagan had three great talents:   he was a great, natural communicator (who, unlike a lot of “natural communicators”, honed his craft with relentless discipline);  he developed a vision and he stuck to it with determination and focus; and most importantly for today’s  conservatives, he knew how to build coalitions, rather than exclude people from them.

We have plenty of people who can communicate well, although the conservative movement has had its share of duds in that department too.  And we have not a few who can visioneer with the best of them  – in fact, with the rise of the Tea Party, our movement’s best years may be to come, provided they keep the faith.

But as to building coalitions?

Today, we’re better at building silos.

Reagan did something that conservatives are terrible at today; he got social conservatives (at the peak of their notoriety and political cachet), blue-collar Democrats who the economy had turned into instant fiscalcons, Jack Kemp-style economic hawks and paleocons together…

…by focusing remorselessly on what they agreed on;  fixing the economy, and ending Communism.

And once in office, that’s what he focused on.  Oh, he paid lip service to issues that were to him tangents – and lip service from the world’s greatest bully pulpit ain’t chicken feed. But he didn’t fritter his political capital away with excessive natterings about issues that were tangential to his vision, and the vision his coalition all agreed on in electing him.  He spoke eloquently on issues – many of them – and that speaking had its effect.

Some call that an abdication; it was in fact a matter of leaving that work to the members of his coalition (example:  he exerted very little executive effort on abortion and gun control – but the efforts to roll both back at the state and local level started to coalesce during his time in office anyway – in part because of his leadership from the bully pulpit.  But for all that, always, the focus was on “dancing with the one what brung him” to DC at the head of an impossibly-diverse coalition; his rock-solid, bone-simple two point agenda, fixing the economy and toppling the Commies.

As I moderated the “Where Do We Go From Here” event last week at the Blue Fox, and listened to some of the friction and cat-calling across the party’s various factions, I thought there was a lot of focus on what divided us.  And so my final question to the panel was “what do we all – all of us, from socialcons like Andy Parrish to libertarians like Marianne Stebbins, actually agree on?”  Because that is the only real way forward for any of the factions – since if any faction takes Parrish’s (tongue in cheek?) advice and forms a separate party, it’s the road to mutual palookaville, with multiple parties that are less than the sum of the parts they once were.

So for my annual Gipper Day celebration, it’ll be the usual; jelly beans at my desk, taking the kids out to dinner to talk about what Reagan’s legacy has meant in their lives (other than the uninformed, out-of-context crap the DFLers in their lives’ll say)…

…and asking my fellow conservatives “what do we agree on?”

The second? Well, that’ was yesterday.

Shot In The Dark

Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of my starting this blog.

Hardly seems possible, sometimes.

Tempus Fugitive

I first remember James Lilkes’ daughter Gnat as a toddler around about 9/11, in the Daily Bleat.  Near-daily updates about Gnat were a part of the early years of this blog, reading the Bleat every morning on my way about the rest of my life.

Gnat has just graduated from high school.  It should go without saying that it snuck up on me.

Congratulations, Gnat!   And the whole Lileks family, while we’re at it.

The Blog Can Drive

And for its sixteenth birthday vehicle, it chooses a 1968 Lotus 49.

Shot In The Dark started sixteen years ago today.  I was in my isolated basement cube at a doomed startup just about the time the dotcom bubble started popping.  I read an article on Time.com about this new phenomenon, blogging, bringing unprecedented number of people to the marketplace of ideas.

Having been a frustrated pundit in my twenties, it called out to me; I started reading Andrew Sullivan, and that night I went out to Blogger.com and started “Shot in the Dark”.

The neighborhood’s changed since then.  Other blogs have come and gone.  Others – Ed Morrissey, Powerline – made it big, and turned into self-sustaining ventures.

Me?  I just kept on writing.  And here I am today.

Anyway – thanks to all of you for joining me on this ride.  It’s never gotten old.

Kind of like the Lotus 49.

Rumors Of Demise Greatly Exaggerated

Blogging is dead.

It has been for a while.  Andrew Sullivan – my blogfather – wrote about it not all that long ago (in re the death of The Awl, a blog I don’t lament in the least)

William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection attempts an autopsy of blogging – at least, of blogging as a cultural phenomenon and business model.  Both were killed by the loathsome Twitter:

Social media really is a sewer, and I attribute much of the evaporation of the blogosphere to Twitter. It’s much easier to find an instant audience on Twitter than to build the relationship with readers to get them to come to your website. Twitter pundits are the worst pundits, counting their worth based on “followers” (many of whom are fake and purchased). The NY Times had an amazing expose on the purchasing of Twitter followers in order to create a fake reality of popularity that then can be monetized as an “influencer.”

The financial pressures also are real, as ever-increasing demand for clicks to drive dwindling advertising payout creates so much noise it’s hard to be heard. And yes, the financial pressures are real in this superheated media environment.

Monday will be my sixteenth anniversary as a blogger.  I’ve never been especially sensitive to the ups and downs of the field; I never became a superstar like John Hinderaker or Ed Morrissey or Rachel Lucas.    I didn’t go down in a wave of shame and humiliation, either, like Duncan Black or Oliver Willis or pretty much a anyone who ever blogged for “Minnesota Progressive Project”.  It’s always pretty much just been me, with the odd contribution from First Ringer (and, back in the day, Johnny Roosh and Bogus Doug).

And it was about the time Twitter and its hordes of droogs took over the job of facile instant political analysis that people stared hitting the gates.

And, like the other highs and lows, I didn’t care.  Twitter bores me stiff.  I use it mosty to promote the show, and to gauge the cowardice of liberal politicians (the ones that routinely block conservatives are, in fact, gutless cravens).

But the “death” of blogging interests me not in the least.   I got into it because I enjoyed writing.  And while I’ve gotten the odd paycheck out of the deal – back in 2007, I think I was gettting $200/months in ad revenue, which has plunged to maybe $100/year lately) and my annual pledge drive always adds a nice bump to the vacation budget, I do it for the pure unadulterated love of writing stuff for people to read.

Dead, schmead.  As far as I”m concerned, it’s just beginning.

Lest I Forget

When you run a blog for a long time – and I’m pushing 16 years, here – you wind up with some regulars.  LIke most blogs, I have some commenters who’ve been here a very long time.  My blog authoring tool doesn’t record when people launched their accounts, but it does count the number of comments left.  I’ve got commenters who’ve left hundreds, thousands, and even some with over 10,000 comments.

And that’s great!

But we’ve had a couple of people pop up with their first comment today.

Welcome!  Hope  you stick around!

Perception

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The purpose of advertising is to influence behavior, we all know that.  And the more people who see the advertisement, the more potential customers whose behavior is available to be influenced.  That’s why advertisers pay millions of dollars for a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl: they know they’ll be influencing millions of potential customers with their ads.

 Which brings up the question: how long must I stare at an advertisement for it to influence me?  Does it take the full 30-seconds for the magic to work?  Could it happen more quickly?  Perhaps even unconsciously?  Does subliminal advertising work?  Lots of researchers think so.

 If they’re right, I wish they’d explain it to web designers.  I click on links because I want to read the article.  But when the web page takes forever to load, then refuses to let me click through the ad, and auto-plays videos I don’t want to see . . . I click away, having never read the article at all.  My behavior is influenced negatively.

If they’d bring up the article right away, the ads could appear in my peripheral vision while I read.  I’d actually see them, they could do their magic, my behavior would be influenced positively.  If the blog author’s article got mentioned on Instapundit, the resulting Insta-lanche would put millions of potential customers in position available to be influenced by the peripheral ads.

 Joe Doakes

Don’t look at me.  I moved my ads to the sidebar.

Remora

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is has just picked up a pound of coffee beans from the neighborhood coffee shop.  As he leaves, he notices Avery LIBRELLE sitting at a table.  BERG tries to look smaller, and starts to slink past to get to the door – but LIBRELLE notices him.

LIBRELLE:   Merg!

BERG:  Oh…hey, Avery.  What’s up?

LIBRELLE:   I’m leaving comments on your blog.

BERG:  Uh…OK.

LIBRELLE:   They call you out for being the amoral conservative scumbag you really are!

BERG:  Huh.  Just like my  mom always says.

LIBRELLE:   Hah!  I bet!  And I do it under a pseudonym, so nothing I say will ever get back to me!

BERG:  Huh.

LIBRELLE:  Because conservatives, being shriveled emotional husks of people, will track me down and attack me if they find out who is speaking truth to them!

BERG:  Hmmm.   Seems a little…hyper dramatic?

LIBRELLE:   And my comments are really, really long, because I have a lot to say!  Stuff that will enlighten the mouth-breathing morons that read your blog!

BERG:  And I’m sure we’ll all appreciate it.

LIBRELLE:   You should!  I’m brilliant!

BERG:   Huh.  And then you’ll discuss the response to your comments?  Because that is not only the purpose of my comment section, but really the entire benefit of having online comments; to have a conversation, something from which everyone learns.

LIBRELLE:   Discussion?  Are you kidding me?  What do I, someone with thirty years experience as a liberal activist, have to learn from the brain-dead impotent fat bald hate-filled pieces of shit that read your garbage blog?

BERG:  Huh.   Well, I mean, among my regular commenters we have an M.D, a couple of engineers, a couple of scientists, some accountants, a lawyer or two, some writers – people who actually have to work with fact, logic and argumentation for a living.  You might learn something.

LIBRELLE:  From who?

BERG:  Er…right.

Hey – just a suggestion, here.  Don’t you have  a blog of your own?  “The LIbrelle Point Of View?” One where you are perfectly free to write anything you want, and have the discussions…

LIBRELLE:   …no “discussions” on my blog.  Any fat, bald, white, brain-dead pieces of crap who comment on my blog get blocked.  Life’s too short for idiots and scumbags.

BERG:  Anyway, why don’t you write these earth-shaking nuggets of truth on your own blog, since you don’t really intend to actually discuss your comments?

LIBRELLE:    But I get like five readers a day on my blog.  I can get the truth out to hundreds of people in your comment section.

BERG:  Huh.

LIBRELLE:   Hey, grab me a large latte, skim, extra syrup, organic only, while you’re up.

(And SCENE)