Toward the end of July 2004 I saw a brief note in James Taranto’s “Best of the Web” column that a new conservative site, called RedState, was open for business.
I had recently been banned from another conservative blog because I was a little too adept at and smug about irritating the moderators and was looking for a new home and decided to give RedState a try.* This, as you recall, was during the dogfight for the presidency in 2004 when Iraq, the 9/11 Commission Report, the Swiftboat heroes, Dan Rather, and President Bush’s tenure in the Texas Air National Guard were the big issues. I knew something about the military and had a lot of opinions about things I didn’t know anything about and I needed an outlet so I registered.
RedState of that era was interesting. The masthead contained, conservatively, a couple of dozen bloggers of various shades of right, most of whom never posted. Most of the commenters were leftwing scum that had followed Moe Lane over from Obsidian Wings or Josh Trevino from Tacitus. I quickly –and usually– found myself the only conservative commenting. The site was based heavily on dKos, including the community rating of comments and diaries. Within a couple of months I was appealing to management to remove the troll status I’d attained on the site, getting the rating meant that my comments were only visible to moderators. A couple of dKos regulars, “Armando” the famed lawyer/pompous douchebag, the ever batty Maryscott O’Connor, frequented the comments section. There was “Edward” from ether Obsidian Wings or Tacitus, an “out and proud” and obnoxious homosexual whom I was able to conjure up by simply writing “buggery” in a comment title (each comment had a title in those days) on any thread.
My first diary was in response to this post by Josh Trevino “RedState reads the 9/11 Commission Report–so you don’t have to” it was titled “The system was blinking red.” It got 0 comments and 0 recommendations.
Being the reticent and tactful person that I am, I immediately ran afoul of site moderators. On one occasion I got an email from one of the contributors telling me to make myself scarce for a day or so or I was going to be banned. He didn’t want me banned because, as he said, I was one of the few conservative commenters on the site. It was a tough time and it seemed like RedState was going to be a validation of “O’Sullivan’s Law”
Any institution that is not explicitly right wing will become left wing over time.
I persevered, wrote diaries that seemed to be unnoticed, was troll rated frequently and in December 2004 I was invited by Mike Krempasky to join the front page.
If I had to point to two turning points in the history of the site (three if you include my elevation to the front page) the first would be Mike Krempasky bringing on board Robert Hahn, aka Nick Danger, one of the directors of the Free Republic website. Robert was a great guy and a wonderful mentor. He had a Harvard MBA, he was a Navy vet, he’d been involved in several tech start-up enterprises and he could blog. Smart, witty, and insightful. He is the godfather of the RedState moderating style. Let me digress here for a moment.
Before Hahn’s arrival we were more committed to dialog with the left (if someone is bold enough ask Leon about his time at swordscrossed.com), the rather naive concept being that the left was actually reasonable and we could all get along if they just understood where we were coming from. Hahn called bulls*** on that. He said that when you engage the left in dialog you come up against their KnownFacts(tm). You can’t convince them those KnownFacts(tm) are wrong so everyday you are arguing the same stuff over and over. Your contributors get tired. Your readers get tired. They quit or leave. The same way with the left’s issues. Their issues are not our issues. Every minute you spend talking to a lefty about a lefty issue is time you are not talking to the conservative base about conservative issue. In July 2005 Mike Krempasky posted Attn Lefties at RedState
Over the next few days and weeks, we here at RedState are going to spend some time purging y’all.
That has been how we’ve operated since then. We became a site devoted to helping conservative activists. We’ve banned 9/11 Troofers and Obama Birfers and Paultards for the same reason we banned the left. They can’t be convinced and their presence takes away from our site mission.
The second key turning point for the site was bringing Erick aboard as a full-time editor. You can do a lot with a collective of volunteers, but eventually you need structure and a vision to move forward. Having Erick did that for us plus it gave the site a face and a voice when radio and television wanted a comment from RedState.
We’ve had some strange contributors to RedState. For a while John Cole of Balloon-Juice was on the front page. Weird to contemplate now but he was a pro-war sorta-Republican. RedState has always had a variety of voices, outside the pro-life requirement, and he was prominent. Steven den Beste was a contrib for a short span.
As Erick alludes to in his One Rule post, his job involves a lot of herding and then corralling cats. The cats, of course, being the contributors. We’ve historically been a volunteer force and that a group of volunteers has been held together for ten years is a tribute to Erick’s leadership and patience. RedState is often accused of being a hive and moving in lockstep. Nothing could be further from the truth. Often you can learn more about what is happening by observing what we DON’T write about and who doesn’t comment on what subject. Most of our conflicts end with a group-hug, we cry it out, and sing a couple of verses of Kumbayah… sometimes we do that over the corpses of the dead.
It has been a good ten years. I’ve met some great people, by meet I mean I couldn’t pick them out of a two-man line-up but I know about the family, education, beliefs, etc. in great detail. And I’ve met others. I’ve written some good stuff, stuff that I stumble upon occasionally and am amazed that I did write it. I’ve been read on the air by Rush three times. I’ve produced dross to fill a content vacuum. I’ve never ceased to be amazed at how it is possible to labor for six, eight hours over a thoughtful essay and get no comments… and do a toss off in about 10 minutes and get a couple of hundred comments.
I’m blessed with a good job, good health, a wonderful wife, three great (nearly perfect) kids, and truly magnificent colleagues with whom I share the front page. I don’t know how much longer this run will last, to a great extent RedState is nearly the proverbial “lightning in a bottle”, but it has been great fun and I’m happy for the extent to which I’ve had an impact in the discussion of the conservative American project.
*I commented for three years or so at Lucianne.com and found the site moderators to be humorless, unreconstructed and virulent douchebags. The site rule was that anything you posted had to be a “news article.” A couple of times I posted press releases from Department of Defense or from units in Iraq and they were pulled because they weren’t news articles. Finally, I posted this article, because it was news, right? As they say, the cop never thinks it is as funny as you do and so I was banned.