Smoke-Filled Backrooms of the Internets

Thursday night I attended the gala awards party sponsored by the Drum Major Institute honoring Wynton Marsalis, Anna Burger, and Markos Moulitsas.

I had a very good time. But I wasn’t aware until today how close I came to being sucked into a vortex of intrigue and controversy and smoke-filled rooming. And possibly money, although money has a way of fleeing the room whenever I show up, so the money thing is a long shot.

Anyway, I got to the party, held at a nightclub called Lotus on Manhattan’s west side, a bit late. The room was too tightly packed with bodies to mingle much, but I managed to wriggle my way to the bar and claimed a spot next to Steve Gilliard and his blogging partner, the lovely Jen, a.k.a. Jenonymous. So I not only could order drinks but was lucky enough to snag a couple of steak cubes as a tray floated by, which in that room was a major coup.

I couldn’t see the honorees as they were introduced and spoke to the room. But I could hear the remarks. But then I got caught up in talking to another gentleman sitting at the bar who turned out to be a frequent commenter on Unclaimed Territory. Small world. So I wasn’t listening to the remarks all that closely and don’t remember what anybody said. I’m sure it was all very stirring, though.

When the awards part of the evening had concluded, Elana Levin of DMI rounded up us bloggers and took us to a downstairs lounge where we could talk about blog stuff. This was truly a star-studded group, as bloggers go. Along with Steve and Jen were two of the Great Babes of Blogging, Liza Sabater and Lindsay Beyerstein (Lindsay did listen to the remarks and blogged about them, here). Bob Fertik of, another survivor of Conference-a-thon, seemed to have recovered from the ordeal, or else he was faking it very well. Soon Lance Mannion and Blue Girl strolled in. Also Tom Watson and several other bloggers — I have not recovered from Conference-a-thon and cannot be responsible for remembering anything clearly — were there was well. And, oh yes, Kos arrived and took a spot in the corner.

Listen, folks, this is as much celebrity gossip as you’ll ever be likely to find on The Mahablog. Enjoy it.

So we had a lively talk about blog stuff, mostly on the grand themes of what we’re all about and whether we’re really reaching anyone other than “the choir.” We let Kos get a word in here and there, but on the whole he seemed perfectly happy to just hang out and listen. Then Kos left and the crowd thinned, and we were left with a small group that included Steve, Liza, Lindsay, Bob, Elana, and some other folks, and we became determined to find something to eat. So we tumbled out of Lotus and into the West Village street. After some fruitless wandering Steve decided to take charge and lead us to a place that would reliably supply us with hamburgers. He cruised straight and purposefully through waves of strolling people like a ship under sail, with the rest of us paddling frantically in his wake, to the place of hamburgers, and they were good hamburgers. And then I realized it was close to midnight and I had to get back to Grand Central before the Metro North Railroad turned into a pumpkin.

This all seemed fairly innocent to me, but what do I know? I’m still just a small-town Ozark Mountain girl. There’s times all these big city doin’s make me feel like I jes’ left Dogpatch.

According to Jason Zengerle of the floundering New Republic, that basement lounge was in fact a smoke-filled room, albeit a no-smoking one, and I had been sitting in the midst of a conspiracy so immense it would have astonished Whittaker Chambers.

As explained by Glenn Greenwald,

Over the last few days, Jason Zengerle of The New Republic has been engaged in a bizarre crusade to depict “liberal bloggers” as a bunch of mindless, obedient zombies who take orders about what to write from Markos Moulitsas, all in order to ensure that they can continue to enjoy the great financial wealth lavished upon them by virtue of their participation in the “Advertise Liberally” network, which Markos founded but does not operate. To prove this “point,” Zengerle published what he purported to be various e-mails regarding recent accusations against Jerome Armstrong, which Zengerle claimed were sent to the “Townhouse” Google group — comprised of 300 or so journalists, political operatives, bloggers, advocacy organizations, and others designed to facilitate communication between these usually isolated groups. To the extent the “substance” of Zengerle’s accusations are worth responding to, Ezra Klein and Max Sawicky (among many) have done so quite thoroughly, respectively here and here.

I’ll let you sort out the allegations and the refutations of the allegations. But as a participant in the Advertising Liberally network, I want to assure you that the amount of revenue received is not enough to buy my loyalty. A fair amount of hamburgers, yes, but not loyalty. I’m holding out for bigger bucks on the loyalty thing. And Kos and Jerome do not run the Advertising Liberally network; Chris Bowers does. I got in because Chris invited me to join, and I didn’t have to do nothin’ for it. Believe me that any club inviting me to join is not all that exclusive, although there are specific criteria. (Also see Chris on “Who Owns the New Republic?“)

Anyway, Zengerle claims that one of the sources of his allegations was an email from Steve Gilliard. But did Steve write the email? Steve says he has no record of it.

I told Zengerle the same thing and that he needs to provide the provenance of the e-mail so I can confirm or deny it. If it turns out I didn’t write those words, I’m going to write Franklin Foer, the editor of the New Republic and demand a retraction and an apology.

I write thousands of words a day between e-mails, IM, posts and comments. It is easy to lose a phrase or e-mail in that, which I why I can’t call it a fabrication. It may be taken from another e-mail, or a post, but I cannot find those words in my mailbox.

See what I mean about controversy and intrigue? And yet not much was said about any of this Thursday night. “Zengerle is an ass and TNR sucks” pretty much sums up the consensus.

While I’m on the subject of Thursday night I want to say something about the Drum Major Institute. DMI is a progressive think tank dedicated to “defending the American dream.” They’re doing some good work, and I hope to hear more from them in the future.

10 thoughts on “Smoke-Filled Backrooms of the Internets

  1. Your excerpt is selective, as all excerpts are. 🙂

    Greenwald misrepresented what Gilliard told him.

    Greenwald: “Nor, according to Gilliard, did he ever write any such e-mail at all, to Townhouse or anyone else.

    Gilliard: “I didn’t deny writing the e-mail.

    Bluntly, Greenwald lied.

    By his own exacting standards, it is proper for us to question his credibility and impugn his motives.

  2. Maha, when it comes to you and money, I can only share Tevya’s wish…

    “Money is the curse of the people!”

    “Then may I be cursed! And may I never recover!”

  3. Bluntly, Greenwald lied.

    I don’t think so. Glenn says Steve’s email wasn’t sent to the Townhouse listserve, because he is on the listserve and he never received it. This is something I have no way to check for myself, as I’m not a member of that group. Glenn also says,

    “I then sent e-mails asking whether anyone else had received such an e-mail, and multiple individuals (who are on the Townhouse list) confirmed that they also never received any such e-mail. Gilliard then confirmed by e-mail that he did not send such an e-mail.”

    To which Steve wrote on his blog, “I didn’t send any e-mail with that phrase at all.” But then he says,

    Now, I could have claimed to have not written it, and then say I forgot if it came up, but I’m not going to play that way.

    Steve explains that it’s possible he wrote an email like the one Zengerle quotes and sent it to someone other than Townhouse, and has forgotten about it. He doesn’t want to say categorically he never wrote such an email ever and then have someone drag up something he wrote to someone else in another context. But whatever he wrote was not to the Townhouse group, and IN CONTEXT (which of course you ignore) it seems to me that when Glenn says Steve confirmed he never sent any such email he’s referring to email sent to the Townhouse group, although the way it was written wasn’t clear.

    And because it wasn’t clear, Steve felt a need to clarify:

    To be fair, I told Glenn I disagreed with the characterization of it being false, because I may have express some kind of sentiment close to that. The issue to me is not that Zengerle created it out of whole cloth, but if he got it from a source that he was too lazy and sloppy to confirm it with me. Let me be clear, I didn’t deny writing the e-mail. I said that I had no record of writing such an e-mail with that phrase, to the list on that day.

    And if the email wasn’t received by the list, it’s a pretty good bet that Steve never sent it to the list, even though he doesn’t want to deny writing the email completely.

    So, son, you’re the liar. And didn’t I ban you awhile back? No time like the present, I guess.

  4. Pingback: The Mahablog » Smoke-Filled Backrooms of the Internets, Continued

  5. Well well well! Leftie bloggers have arrived!!!Bloggers on the left must be making SOMEONE nervous to warrent all this attention!…

    Last week I was asked by no less then a dozen “main stream” ladies to explain what a “blog” even is….these are computer savvy ladies who never leave home without a laptop to use for anything from work related stuff to “power shopping” during a manicure… I can’t imagine bloggers have become a main stream threat to the political spectrum just yet…..directly…..however I think the fear is that bloggers will plant ideas into a few heads here and there and those ideas will spread.(we can’t have people off thinking for themselves now can we?)…..

    So to me the fact rightie enablers are tripping over themselves to beat the holiday rush to nip the bloggers in the bud ….means they are worried that their own plan to control the message is weak.Basically the response to bloggers on the left was, if this were a poker game , a sort of tipping of the hand….the guy across the table just told you, unwillingly, his cards suck.

    If their message is so fragile that group of bloggers must be snuffed out of reason to the mainstream consumer , that has no idea how to even find a blog much less what one is…you have found a weak spot …KICK HARDER AND DON’T STOP!!!!!

    Make me up some frigging bumperstickers with a blog printed on them and I will hang them on every pole in my friggin state!!!!… make your own blog…blog on state issues…blog till you reason with idiots….if you run a left blog , start a right one and try to get them headed back in the right direction…..write 2 blogs or 3 blogs until one sticks!If this is a weak spot …lets make it a big fat spreading spot!..

    If this is indeed a fight worth fighting then when we find a weak spot rather than run one must add boots on the ground and beat that spot for all it’s worth and then some….I see it as a challenge now.. the question will be are bloggers on the left ready to rise up and meet it?Hard blogging is going to have to take on a new meaning…

    I was thinking just the other day as I read the outstanding “Rabbit Redux” post that everyone should have the benefit of this information as apposed to the disinformation and extreme scare tactics I saw on local news,read in print, and heard about via blogs. My own local news was so atwitter they even saw fit to remind us we needed to have that food and water supply stocked and at the ready….

    So my question to you…bloggers,readers,concerned Americans….how can we reach the many many people who ask me “what is a blog and where do I find one”?, and make them ask instead how they ever lived without them?How do you reach main stream America in order to avoid “preaching to the choir”?Reader word of mouth is great,yes,but that isn’t enough.. maybe it is time to mobilize the reader to put up advertisements…for the good of the friggin country….I for one would love to hear “Mahablog” posts become “mainstream” dinner conversation.
    So, what do you think?

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