An Explanation

I am sure that most of you who regularly comment here have become aware of a situation that has erupted at the site over the last week concerning a number of long time members who have been banned. Since that time, some have been happy, and by far the more vocal have been upset, and there have been many requests for more information to help the commenters understand exactly what happened. As the person at the center of at least some of the controversy, it is my hope to shed at least some light on what happened. I have and had no desire to cast aspersions on anyone who is not here anymore, but after repeated calls for more information from the commenters for more information, I felt it necessary to at least say something.

For those who do not know, I have been a contributor and moderator at RedState since mid-2005. Like almost all the contributors and moderators, I do this on a volunteer basis. I have no thoughts or hope of receiving any monetary compensation from RedState at any time in the future, even through using RedState to get a job as a political consultant somewhere (a career in which I have dabbled and to which I will never return, as God is my witness). The people I have met on RedState, including Erick, Caleb, Thomas Crown, Paul Cella and numerous others, have become regular real life friends with whom I spend time as often as possible.

Although I do not get paid in money for my work at RedState, it would be dishonest to claim that I do not get any reward of any kind. I take immense pride in the work the site has done and the community it has built, and I always appreciate the ability to feel as though I am making a difference – even in a small way – in the political discourse in this country. I take the credibility and reputation of RedState seriously – we have not grown from zero to a site that gets 140K hits a day in six years by peddling hackery and falsehoods, and if we find ourselves associated with dreck on a consistent basis, we risk returning to zero again.

That brings us to the current controversy and the regrettable fallout therefrom. Unfortunately, this cannot be a full disclosure of the facts, because many of them occurred on an email list where the participants were sworn not to disclose the contents of any of the emails. And although many of the participants on the list are now dishonestly hiding behind that wall of secrecy as they snipe at RedState management now, I have no intention of breaking any confidences into which I have entered. Suffice it to say, I know that the gaming of the recommended list existed because I have seen it with my own eyes. And not just me, but several other RedState contributors also saw it with their own eyes.

This behavior, although perhaps an understandable outgrowth of solidarity amongst friends, was harmful to the site in a number of ways. In the first place, it caused new and talented writers to become discouraged from contributing to the site because no matter how talented or insightful their writing was, it became impossible to crack the recommended list at all, or at least for more than a couple hours (except in unusual cases). Second, the recommended list was originally intended as a tool for the front page contributors to easily identify diaries that possibly merited promotion to the front page, or even to consider folks who showed up regularly on the list for possible promotion to the front page. As the recommended list became more and more insular, it ceased to serve these purposes altogether.

Personally, I know that there were numerous occasions when I would look through the diaries late at night (as I sometimes do) for possible recommendations and promotions, and I would find an outstanding diary: witty, well-written, insightful, and covering a relevant topic. This diary would often have sat in the “diaries” column all day with no comments and no recommendations while diaries written by certain people (who happened to be favored by the list) rocketed up the list and stayed there for days at a time.

Another problem that I saw – again, saw with my own eyes – is that if a commenter disagreed (even in a polite or factual way) with a diary written by someone in the group, an email would go out asking those commenters to deal with a “troll” that had showed up in the diaries, and suddenly the comment would have a dozen nasty replies from long-term members of the site, usually belittling them for being a newbie and calling them stupid, etc.

As I watched this behavior unfold with growing concern, I also became aware of a new member of the group who had a tendency to write over-the-top and conspiratorial diaries. One such diary caught my attention in particular because it was picked up by FoxNation and attributed to RedState. While reading through the diary it became immediately apparent to me that the facts this particular diarist had uncovered did not at all add up to the conclusion she was peddling in her diary. I confronted her via email about this, whereupon she admitted that there was likely a much more innocuous explanation for the story than her screaming headline suggested, but that she had used a “gitcha” headline deliberately to get the attention of larger news organizations.

About that exact time, a commenter in a subsequent diary on the same topic raised some of the same legitimate concerns I had about the story, and was subjected to an orchestrated pile-on by members of the group. I know it was orchestrated because I saw the orchestration with my own eyes, and it was instigated by the author of the diary, who had admitted to me and the entire group that she was sensationalizing the story.

It became clear to me at this point that this particular poster had no interest in the well-being of RedState as a site other than to advance her own career as a muckracker. I was disgusted to see RedState commenters, who should have known better, piling on someone who had the temerity to disagree with her. I removed myself from the list and noted in public on the site that I would ban anyone involved in any more orchestrated group pile-ons. I also stated to the group my belief that the conspiracy theories needed to be toned down or at least peddled somewhere other than RedState. I had hoped that this would adequately convey to the problem diarist in question that this particular sort of story was not welcome at RedState anymore.

It did not.

Instead, it inexplicably prompted her to double down on the story in a third installment which was yet more outrageous than the first two. When I realized that she was continuing to use the site to raise her own profile despite the fact that she knew that the story was (in the most charitable view of events) an exaggeration, I snapped, and left an admittedly intemperate comment in the diary. Although the tone of this comment was not one of calm and reflection, I stand by the substance, and I also stand by the decision to call out someone whom I believed (and still do believe) was misusing a site into which I had poured a great deal of time and effort.

Those two actions created a rift between many of the frontpagers here (most notably including myself) on the one hand and that diarist and her supporters on the other hand that regrettably would never heal. They engaged in a course of conduct (which primarily occurred behind the scenes of RedState) which was designed to get back at me for confronting her in this manner. I am not going to rehash most of it here, but given that it is the subject of a substantial bit of discussion I will confirm that I did receive a certified letter at my workplace in which the diarist threatened to “invoke her lawyers” based on my actions at RedState.

Over time it became clear that the controversy would not die down and that the two groups would simply not be able to coexist in harmony at RedState. No community can abide a sustained campaign of backbiting for long, especially when a committed group seeks to foment dissension in the ranks. I offered to resign (if one can be said to resign from an unpaid position which does not technically exist) if it was thought to be in the best interest of the site, and this offer was declined. Thus the decision had to be made to remove the worst agitators from the scene, suffer the consequences, and move on as a site. They will not return. Although some have suggested that they were removed for no reason other than Rule 303, I can guarantee that this was a decision reached after literally weeks of deliberation and discussion, and hopes that perhaps the entire situation would blow over.

I know that many of you who have bothered to read this far probably hate me. I am a relatively thick-skinned individual, and although I wear the hatred of idiots like MMFA and NOW as a badge, it’s a different thing altogether to be hated by the people whom I’ve interacted with in the comments and at gatherings for the better part of 6 years. If any of you are wondering whether I am bothered by the disruption in harmony at the site and the fact that many people (correctly or incorrectly) believe me to be responsible for it, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” I realize at this point I’m not going to do anything to change it with most of those people and the die is cast. I can only hope that the folks who have departed find success wherever they go and that they are able to help the conservative cause in the way they are best able. Perhaps this will be a case of good fences making good neighbors.

Meanwhile, here at RedState we march on. Traffic this week has been about exactly what it always is, and I’m sure it will be the next and the week after that. I am not nearly so naïve or proud that I think it would be any different if I left today. The work being done at RedState has reached critical mass – thanks to the tireless effort of so many people – and it will go on without any one of us, or even several of us. That observation, however, does not mean that we do not care, and that the people who run this site have not expended countless hours deliberating over how to best handle a conflict involving a relatively small number of people in the community.

It is appropriate that we take some time to grieve for fences broken and thus we have been extremely lenient in moderating the various disputes that have arisen since Sunday. To my knowledge not a single person has been banned for expressing disagreement with the site’s decision, no matter how stridently. I hope that the time will come soon, however, that we will move on and that those who are able and willing will re-engage for the fight that lies ahead.