Sunday, July 08, 2007

A bit of free advice (vice, vice) We'll tell it to you now (tell it to you now)

Its odd, and it turns the "third estate" from something that is really leading the way on discussing something important (representation of women in print in the Nation) to something that feels oddly ... personal, or like a grudge more than an intelligent discussion.

So writes The Nation to us (via C.I.). First off, you've got a lot of nerve pretending to want an intelligent discussion when you feature the scribbles of AlterPunk.

But let's get serious.

We've been accused of a "war with The Nation" for some time.

Ironically, no one ever notes when they were briefly not linkable.

Let's start with that story. When The Nation was trying to beef up their online presence, they utilized Technorati. Tags. If a website mentioned The Nation, tagged the article and was read by Technorati (most aren't read by it), if you clicked on an article at The Nation and it had been commented on somewhere online (that met the qualifications we just noted), you'd be listed on their web page (most recent were listed, you could click for additional posts).

In this community, Rebecca discovered Technorati. She says we're making her sound like an explorer. We're not trying to. It already existed but she's the one who found out about us among our group. She insisted we all use it. Including C.I. It would help the community. C.I. doesn't want drive-by readers and already had more than enough attention for The Common Ills but, Rebecca argued, "If you tag, it could draw attention to any of the community sites." C.I. tagged. We all did. Even this site. Rebecca, Elaine and this site were never read by Techonrati and we dropped the tags. Kat, Betty and Cedric were read. Briefly. Technorati would read their tags and include them. Then they weren't. Cedric stopped tagging (before he and Wally started doing joint- posts). Wally was never read and stopped tagging early on. Mike and C.I.'s tags were and are still read. It is a pain in the butt to do tags. C.I. points out, "I didn't want to and now I'm stuck with it." (And if someone's quoted in an entry at The Common Ills and doesn't also get a tag, believe it or not, some will e-mail to complain. Professional journalists will e-mail that they were quoted, named and linked but they, heavens no!, didn't get a tag. It really is a pain in the ass and Ava usually replies to those e-mailing C.I. about this with two words: "Poor baby.")

Because C.I. tagged, when there was a problem, we all got e-mails. The problem? The Nation wasn't reading their tags. Bloggers, small ones, were noting their articles and tagging and not getting the links via The Nation's articles. They were furious. They staged a three week no-link to The Nation (and some never linked again). Ty estimates this was over thirty but less than fifty e-mails in all. But we honored the strike. (We always honor strikes.)

When it was over, we went back to linking. It's strange that so many want to note an undeclared war (on our part) and never notice that first incident.

Do we have a grudge against The Nation? (Mike asks, "Do they ask Stanley Aronowitz that, or just us?") Here's reality for The Nation. This site linked to it more in 2005 or 2006 than most sites ever did. Even if you don't count the multiple links to Elizabeth Holtzman's original article on impeachment by C.I., The Common Ills probably linked to The Nation more than any site online. That was partly due to the fact that friends with the magazine asked for things to be linked to (but it's also true, C.I. only linked to things worth linking to).

Now The Nation, in the same time period, linked to us how many times? If you guessed zero, you are correct. So, to pull from Sharon Stone, "Don't ask me what my problem with Ahnuld is, ask him what his problem with me is!"

As did C.I., we noted here that the impeachment talk in print in 2006 was started by Elizabeth Holtzman. For those who don't remember, she led the way. Several men followed with print articles. Several men were being credited for starting for the impeachment talk with their print articles. The only reason the record is semi-correct is because some of us repeatedly noted that Holtzman started it.

We noted The Nation repeatedly in our first edition. We noted it repeatedly throughout 2005 and 2006 until that summer when Iraq fell off the radar and the issue of the low amount of women being published was raised.

So it's a bit strange that all this time later, they want to show up and claim we have some personal grudge with The Nation.

We actually (and actively) sat on criticism about The Nation prior to that out of respect for C.I.'s fondness for Katrina vanden Heuvel. When that became an issue, we all decided we weren't going to be gatekeepers.

We've called out Amy Goodman (we've also praised her) and she's never e-mailed to whine about what we wrote. (She's never e-mailed period.) We now have a very small list of people we won't call out. There are no bigger whiners than thoses at The Nation.

The e-mail we quoted from above is from a whiner. How do we know that?

He (it's a man) wants to set the guidelines for what we can or cannot do.

Guess we missed those paychecks signed by KvH, huh?

A bit of free advice (vice)
We'll tell it to you now (nice, twice).
If you've got some habits
Some people won't allow (won't allow, allow)
Be cool; be clean
If you know what I mean.
-- "Free Advice," written by John and Michelle Phillips, recorded by the Mamas and the Papas for The Papas & The Mamas [and no, The Nation won't "know what I mean"]

If someone thinks they can dictate how we'll write, they must be paying us to write, right?

One of our few off limits groups is Media Matters. We've avoided calling them out even when we disagree. Why? Because the left (and MM is more Democratic than left) has been cowardly for too long. If MM ever goes overboard on a topic (if), we say it's long overdue and applaud their energy. The Insanity Crowd (Spinsanity) for too long represented the left with their faux b.s. It was weak and it was geared to MSM coverage and attention.

Media Matters is needed. We applaud their spirit. We applaud their passion.

The Nation apparently thinks that conversations can only take place in one manner and that they get to decide on the rules.

Doesn't work that way.

We don't work for The Nation.

And we have always argued that the answer in democracy is more voices not less and more voices speaking their truths in their voices.

But The Nation wants to tell us that we need to speak their way.

No, we don't and no, we won't.

Who's really out of bounds here?

The Nation is.

They want to show up over two years after we started, after we've built up a sizeable audience and tell us what to do.

Who the hell is The Nation to tell us anything?

Do they not get how offensive what we've quoted above is?

Now they can ask one of their writers that Ava tore into when he whined too often (yes, it was a man) to The Common Ills and he can repeat what Ava said which was, "We're focused on ending the illegal war."

We don't have time for the glad handing. We don't pretend to float on clouds and be above it all.

When we've gone to campuses with C.I., we hear the same gripes about The Nation that we've offered here and the only thing is, we heard the gripes before we wrote them. This site is run by Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. All but C.I. were college students when it started. In addition, Mike and Wally are college students. We see the same things that other students committed to ending the illegal war see. We feel the same way.

If the writer of the e-mail wants to apologize for assuming that we needed his direction or his orders, we'll be happy to forgive and move on. But as it stands now, he's insulted us. He can have all the other nice words in the e-mail and just include that portion and he's insulted us.

Unlike AlterPunk, we haven't called for a Ps & Qs online. We say, let it rip. If that's what you want to do, do it. If it's not, don't. But write in your own voice. Speak your own truths.

That's why the comments above are so damn offensive to us. We'd expect it from The New Repbulic(an) a few years back. We would have never, even at this late date, assumed The Nation would ever think they could get away with telling other people how to write.

Rebecca, who is not a college student, says, "It's as though they arrived without an invitation at my front door, stepped inside and began insulting my decor. It's flat out rude. No one asked their opinion of what we wrote and no one asked for instructions."

Elaine (using her field, we're sure ) points out an obvious: The Third Estate Sunday Review is not only reduced to Third Estate, it's in parenthesis and lower case. The Nation, on the other hand isn't in parenthesis or in lower case. What's really being said with that?

If we hear from The Nation again, we hope they will address that because we're reading it as an insult.

Betty notes that in the last mailbag, Rebecca talked about the summer thus far, for her, personally. She noted her newborn child and she noted the illegal war.

The war is personal.

We're sorry that it's not to The Nation, but we take it personally. As citizens of the US, we are responsible for an ongoing illegal war and it is our obligation to try and end it. It is our duty. We take it very personally.

To the issue of a "grudge," we didn't even see that movie. We joke, we kid. But a grudge? Our main goal is to end the illegal war. If you're in our way, you're in our way. A writer for The New Republic(an) (who, ironically, first wrote us in July 2006 telling us that we always praised The Nation and, quote, "they're not that perfect") writes this site every three to four weeks. Sometimes he includes links to the magazine. Always, he asks why doesn't he get links, what does he have to do to get links? Get serious about the illegal war.

We wish he would. We stand opposed to this day to the attacks on Arundhati Roy. But the rag could change into a mag. If it did, we'd link. C.I. has always said no to links to Newsweek (for their attack on Jean Seberg among many other things) but C.I. linked to it repeatedly last month (all one column). We'd written off In These Times but recent developments (and advocacy by one person with the magazine) are making us think we will be linking to it in the future.

We may hold a personal grudge against a person forever if it's warranted. We may not. But an outlet? You're the one, the man e-mailing from The Nation, that's personalizing.

Even with the fallout The Nation's seen recently (before we ever started calling out), if the magazine got serious, we'd link to it. We avoided linking to the editorials on the illegal war because we saw where that led. The magazine got their praise and proceeded to ignore the war. No site but C.I.'s will note any fund raising appeals from The Nation but The Nation could be linked to again if it got serious about the war and stopped this centrist crap.

This site was started by Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. (C.I. didn't come on board for full credit as a core sixer until last year.) Let's talk about The Nation for a minute because it may be past time. We're focusing on Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava here.

The magazine that thinks we have a grudge? One of the five of us has had a letter printed in your magazine praising a story. Did you know that?

No, because you don't know what you're talking about you're just assuming.

Before this site started, what were Jim and Dona doing? Regularly calling out CJR's then Campaign Desk for refusing to cover The Nation. Calling them out in all kinds of ways. One way you could check that is to go to CJR Daily and, if they still have their old discussion pages, you could look for Jim and Dona who regularly posted comments noting the fact that The Nation was ignored in "Blog reports" and "Magazine reports" and in every other way.

When this site started, that was carried over and you could check our parodies of CJR (here and here) for that as well.

So you really don't know what the hell you are talking about.

The five of the core six were like every other college student in 2004, reading The Nation, being thankful for hard hitting coverage of Iraq, praising Naomi Klein through the roof, praising many.

That's reality. Once this site started, we continued to praise The Nation.

The Nation doesn't deserve praise now. That's our opinion and you can disagree but before you toss around words like "grudge," you need to know what the hell you're talking about and, frankly, you don't.

Want to return to those days of yore? Get serious about the damn war.

C.I. pointed it out weeks ago. This silence from so many on the left (or, worse, thinking dropping back to what Judith Miller did in 2002 and 2003 counts for 'coverage') is allowing a lot of space for the center and the right. Both are interested in selling the war as 'won' and the occupation as 'lost.' That's why we use the term "war" here. If they can sell one phase as won, that means they have a chance of convincing Americans that we can win illegal wars and should win them, we just need to fine tune our occupation skills!

The left can't afford to be silent.

When the left makes like a travel study and covers every other topic in the world but Iraq, you better believe it creates huge spaces for the illegal war to be rewritten and to continue.

The current makeup of The Nation is embarrassing. But, historically, the magazine's bounced back from shoddy phases. It may happen again and, sorry, but you're honestly not important enough for a grudge.

If any of this is confusing to you, maybe next time you'll do a little research before you write an insulting e-mail that questions our character, questions our writing, questions our commitment to feminism and oh so much more. Your e-mail was insulting.

But the biggest insult was your mistake that we wanted to be on your 'level' that you (wrongly) assume we value. It's a funny sort of 'level'. It was nowhere to be seen when your magazine ripped apart Janeane Garofalo over a joke. It was nowhere to be seen when you ripped apart Sarah Chayes and Ann Jones. It was nowhere to be seen when you published that screed against Joan Mellen and others. So if you think you have a 'level,' how about you start rising to it and stay there consistently instead of lecturing us?

We know we're not supposed to talk about that, especially not about Garofalo. We know the fallout that came from that and let's go on the record and say that The Nation earned that fallout and more. That wasn't just not rising to the level you seem to think the magazine addresses from, it was a brutal stab in the back to one of the magazine's strongest supporters. If you've forgotten, until that stab in the back, Katrina vanden Heuvel was a regular guest each week and Garofalo went out of her way to be supportive no matter what was said. And her thanks for that is to be ridiculed as a second rate hack?

We honestly believe she should have cancelled the next day interview with Katrina vanden Heuvel's husband. Instead, Janeane Garofalo rose to a higher level than the magazine and did the interview.

But let's be real clear, your suggestion that there's a level is not only insulting to everyone, the laughable claim that the magazine's ever maintained a level of discourse is a flat out lie and we're too wise to buy into that myth.

You're so vain
I bet you think this song is about you
You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
Don't you, don't you, don't you
-- Carly Simon, "You're So Vain," appears first on her album No Secrets

You're not preaching to the converted, you're preaching to the observant and we know the acutalities.

As for our risk in leading . . . We already lead. We don't need the permission of The Nation to lead or the suggestions of how to lead. We lead by default in many cases because the so-called left drops Iraq all the time. We don't.
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