April 25, 2006

A modern fable

A comment left over at the "Beyond Print" blog just caught my eye. It was left within an enormously long string of comments on the post "Let Us Reason Together" and had escaped my notice.

But it shows such creativity that it's worthy of reprinting here.
Life is beautiful with blinders, a modern day fairy-tale.

Once upon a time a country started a revolution because of taxation without representation. A few years later a newer and novel governing idea was offered up to the inhabitants of an Illinois district of the nation that had fought for its freedom from Kings, Queens and Tyrants; Representation without voting!

Our fairy-tale begins. A popular incumbent waits until immediately after a primary election to inform his constituency: I am too sick to perform the job you have just nominated me for! Almost as quick he nominates a long time friend and confidant as the right person to replace him on the fall ballot.

Then the voters (the damsel in distress of our story) learn that the choice for the incumbent’s replacement will now lie in the hands of committeemen and not at the hand of the voters whom just days before had that choice available to them. (What’s that smell?)

There comes a buzz from the crowd that the hand picked successor to the royal crown might not be the right choice for of all the people. Contenders (the would be heroes of our story) and Pretenders for the crown commence to lineup asking for their voices to be heard. The process starts to come in question when it is learned that not only will the people not have a voice in the succession of power, but also that the people supposed to have been elected to do the job, were never voted in position to perform the work necessary.

The Machine (the villain in our story) declares, “I know what is best for the peons of this district and I will delegate people from candidates that I personally hand select for the post, they will make the correct choice for the sheep of the district, just as soon as they are done spit-polishing my boots.”

There were more rumblings from the crowd as the narcissistic noblemen began to push forward and obscure passages of an ancient document that had given the power to choose representation, to the citizens of the mighty country. The Pretenders and Contenders continued to attempt the free speech they were granted by the same old document that had promised the citizens of that country the control of their destiny.

Fearing a revolt from the peasants living in their hovels, the noblemen sent out their knights on their stallions to push the Contenders and Pretenders away from the speaking platforms. It onlt caused more furor. In the guise of fairness, the Machine declared an open forum where those desirous of the crown could speak their voice and sing the praises of joyousness and justice.

But the Machine, ever devious in their dealings, said we can only allow entry to the proceeding to those we feel worthy to understand our omniscience and abilities to properly govern the sheep. So the citizens, whom had been guaranteed control of their destiny by the ancient document, had been once again kicked to the curb by the narcissistic Machine.

The sheep afraid for their safety cried, Hurrah-Hurrah-Hurrah, we won’t have to think or fear anymore for the Machine will do all that for us! And those whom questioned the Machine and wished to be active in the selection process were locked outside awaiting the morsels of information that the machine would control and allot the citizens of the country.

Every good fable needs an ending and a moral lesson. The numerous moral lessons are already becoming obvious to those whom feel the crushing boot of the Machine. However the ending is sadly waiting to see if the voters are courageous citizens or just sheep awaiting slaughter.

Posted by NoMorePinocchios on 4/15/2006, at 1:37 pm

"Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.
It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn’t matter much to me."


At 4/25/2006 10:05 PM, Anonymous Huck Finn said...

Has there never been any thought to hving a special election? Is it/was even possible under the law?

I would have thought, at some point after Lane announced that he wouldn't run to keep his seat, that at least one of the county clerks would have come out and said, "If we were asked to hold a special election, it would cost XXXX dollars and would require XXX days to create ballots and distribute absentee ballots."

That's certainly not going to come out of the mouth of Dick Leibovitz, but idealistic old me though perhaps somewhere there's a county clerk that takes his role as chief election authority seriously enough to make the facts known instead of riding the streets in the Machine's chariot.

At 4/25/2006 10:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My understanding is that John G has cut a gentlemens deal with the southern chairmen where he will publically endorse Hare and will throw support to Sullivan the only candidate that can win this election against Zinga. You heard it here first. Hare has skeletons that even G. can't hide.

At 4/26/2006 9:16 AM, Blogger youngdem503 said...

How about the fable where the Wolf (Republican Sullivan) was hiding in a sheep’s wool (as a Democrat). If John Sullivan wanted to be a Congressman he should run against Ray LaHood in the Republican primary in his own district. My second point is that you could run a blind dog against Zinga and win. Sullivan would surely beat Zinga but be sure that he would be taken out in the next primary against a real Democrat from Rock Island County.

At 4/26/2006 10:10 AM, Anonymous RFK fan said...

Anonymous 22:34,

Forgive me, but that's the most irresponsible kind of crap. This is the sort of thing that gives blogs a bad name--absolutely no accountability. You create or report a rumor that one can't possibly disprove and just throw it out there.

Source, please, or shut up.

At 4/26/2006 10:59 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Amen RFK.

But I'd point out that readers here simply need to develop their own "radar" for judging he veracity of a comment.

Anyone who states things as fact without providing a source should be taken with a high degree of skepticism, especially when it's apparent that there are some out there who have no problem with concocting utter falsehoods if they think it will give their guy (or themselves) an advantage or cause trouble for a perceived enemy.

It's not just on blogs, but with literally anything you read, especially on the web, as a reader, you simply have to use good judgement.

I sometimes worry that people will fall for some of the irresponsible crap that commenter's write occasionally, but I imagine that I should give readers more credit for seeing through the nonsense.

As always, think about what you read and ask whether it's true. If there's nothing to back it up, and you don't know the source, then you really shouldn't give it much weight.

Sometimes what people write in is informative due to how they lie. You can figure that the sources of the lies is an opponent of whomever they're lying about or trying to distort the truth about.

In this way, they're just hurting themselves and revealing just how low they'll go.

This isn't always the case, as sometimes people simply don't like someone and it doesn't mean they support their opponent, but at any rate, the bottom line for everything you read and hear every day is that you need to judge the source, and judge how true the information is.

We do it all the time without even thinking about it, every time we hear or read an ad, read quotes from someone, etc. We're constantly judging the validity of information.

True, some people are pretty gullible, believing every UFO or scary thing they hear, etc.

This is unfortunate and contributes to the dumbing down of the entire country.

But I imagine people use their best judgement when they they read things on-line, and the same thing applies here as elsewhere. If you are not skeptical and fall for lies, then you'll be misinformed and largely ignorant. But if you are able to toss out the garbage and check the source, you'll educate yourself and become more knowledgable.

At 4/26/2006 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And then the machine picked a Congressman and all the "naysayers" fell in line. And that my "fabal challenged friend" is the rest of the story! The moral --- don't mess with the machine unless you want to get run over!

At 4/26/2006 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The machine sucks balls. A bunch of frightened creeps with nothing to offer but empty boasts, threats, and macho posturing.

Is this the freaking Mafia, or a political organization? I think you're confusing the two and trying to run it like the Mafia isn't going to turn out well.

Good luck with that.

At 4/26/2006 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous above points out, effectively, the major weakness of blog news. Without source or attribution, you don't have accountability. Without accountability and sources, you don't have responsbility. Without responsibility, you end up printing whatever so-called political "facts" that are sent in.
Then you leave it up to the readers to screen fact from fiction, and that leaves the aggrieved party in the position of disproving a negative. This empowers the liers and hurts the community discussion. Solution?
I don't know. Too often blogs may be entertaining, but to lean on them for real news is a misguided exercise.

At 4/27/2006 2:47 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I feel compelled to note that about 95% of my posts have sources readily noted in them. And most all of the time, they're established and reliable sources as well.

If you're speaking about comments, which apparently you are, then I fail to see why people seem to be in a tizzy about them.

Sure that comment reporting that John G. has some agreement, etc. is only as credible as a reader wants to make it.

No one should make the mistake of reading what an anonymous commenter says with no proof as being fact. To do so is, well, dumb.

So I find the suggestion that such comments somehow define blogs and therefore blogs are irresponsible by association to be utterly bogus.

But it shouldn't take a genius to figure that out.

RFK fan above says that unverified comments is why blogs have a bad name.

I couldn't disagree more strenuously.

Blogs are places for people to say what they want. This doesn't give blogs a bad name. And if you think it does, then you simply shouldn't bother with blogs and stick to your nice, safe, sedate newspapers. That's fine. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

But please, don't make the mistake of holding blogs to the standards of a commercial newspaper where comments are concerned.

If you want a newspaper, read a newspaper. It's that simple.

Hell, both local papers have FINALLY gotten blogs up and allow comments online. (other papers have been doing this for some time.) I guess you consider those to have a "bad name" as well.

Newspapers realize that they're being outflanked and want to join the party. Probably not a bad idea.

But if you have the mental power to make up your own mind and detect crap when you read it, which I assume you do, then I fail to see why the fact that irresponsible comments sometimes appear on blogs is such a problem.

Someone wrote in that John G. comment and I felt it was worthy of posting. It may be true, it may be shear fantasy. I don't know.

They provided no proof of their assertion.

This doesn't mean that, as RFK fan says that it's bad because you can't disprove a negative... that's baloney.

You don't NEED to disprove it.

If you think it's dubious, then it's as simple as simple can be... simply DON'T BELIEVE IT.

And, as RFK did, anyone is free to comment and say that it's not true, or irresponsible, or whatever they think. That's how it works.

I had no idea if what the commenter said was true or not, and I still don't. But I'm more than skeptical, as there's no proof other than someone saying so. The comment is out there, and people can read it and think about it, but they sure the hell shouldn't take it as fact. Frankly, I truly doubt anyone did.

That's why I don't see a blog as having a "bad name" simply because it allows something like that to be posted.

It didn't insult anyone. It didn't reveal personal information or personally attack someone, the comment was marginally on topic, and so it was accepted. It may have been a bunch of bunk, or someone's twisted idea of spreading a rumor, but, hey, as I said, I doubt anyone took it as gospel, and if they did, they're as irresponsible as the commenter.

But I'm not in a tizzy about it and wringing my hands and generalizing about the tens of millions of blogs which exist.

Again, if you don't like openess and the absence of strict control, then read the papers.

I like to think that I'm a grown up, at least to the extent that I can be exposed to such stuff and manage to navigate it without falling for a bunch of crap every time it comes along.

Give yourself more credit. Give other readers more credit.

If someone wants to believe that comment above, then let them. The're probably wrong, but so what?
If they tell it to someone, then that person should immediately ask them what their source was. When the person says they read it from an anoymous commenter on a blog, then the other person should immediately laugh in their face and tell them they're stupid for believing it.

To RFK and other hand-wringers, I'd remind you that this is NOT the front page of the Tribune. This is a blog. It wasn't created to be a newspaper, it CAN'T be newspaper, I don't want it to be a newspaper, and.... it's not a newspaper.

I'd remind RFK fan and Anonymous above that this blog (and millions of others) do not put themselves forward as news sources. If you're thinking it is, then you're bound to be confused and disappointed.

I provide excerpts and links to news sources, but if you actually consider something an anonymous commenter writes as "news", then you have a problem. As anyone should realize, it's not "news", and should never be considered to be.

News is something which is reported by a source you consider credible and/or which is backed up by evidence and valid sources.

Why then, do you confuse the comments of someone on a blog with "news"?

I've been quite surprised, and frankly, somewhat disappointed at how utterly uninformed and unfamiliar so many people in this area are with blogs, blogging, and the internet in general.

I had assumed that most people had some clue, but again and again, I'm hearing from intelligent people things which show that they have absolutely no idea what's going on as far as blogs or political sites go.

They either have had no exposure to them or have only read a very very limited number of them. Otherwise, they'd realize that nothing here is remarkable, nor that much different from any other blog of it's type. (and again, don't make the mistake of comparing a local blog in the QCs with a blog that is national in scope or run by a reporter, or a commercial blog, etc. Compare apples to apples)

And if you think that all blogs simply by definition are "irresponsible" and therefore invalid or of little use, then you simply shouldn't read them. They're a waste of your time.

But I think RFK Fan and other's who find their brows furrowed in consternation and disapproval of the wide open nature of blogs will finally, maybe in a year or two, get over their initial shock that blogs aren't rock-ribbed little clones of print media and will finally relax and get over their fussiness.

After you read 10,000 blogs, or at least many over a period of time, it becomes pretty easy to spot garbage comments and those who are willing to slant things or even lie and fabricate to promote their candidate or position. (Lord knows I've been subjected to literally over a thousand of such comments, and that's just from one political camp.)

A literate person of average intelligence should have no problem reading between the lines and coming to the correct assessment of what they read.

Bear in mind that what you see here are only the portion of comments which make the cut. I delete a huge number of comments which are even more vicious, disturbing, simply false, or which contain personal attacks, such as labeling someone "lazy" or a drunk or any number of other unsupported insults.

I'd like to note that it's impossible to only allow rational, reasonable, intelligent comments when they're in such short supply.

Things seem to improve for a while and then the Mongol hoards descend on comments and seem to scare off the rational. This pisses me off to no end, both that the numbskulls overrun the place, and that the rational are so damn timid that they allow them to.

But it could just as easily be the other way around. The idiots could start in and the rational could descend on them and chase them off, thus making this more like what they'd like it to be.

But the fishbowl phenomena is alive and well on the Inside Dope. Most are content to sit back as if they're not involved and pop up to criticize from time to time. But without participating on a regular basis, these people are simply abdicating the blog to those they condemn.

It's exceedingly frustrating.

But you know what? The rational people sometimes appear to me to be so damn "mannered" that they don't have a clue how to let their hair down and tell someone that their argument or opinion is a festering intellectual garbage dump, or something like that.

They may rarely put up a defense of their position or views, but are so used to simply issuing "pronouncements", press releases and controlled quotes, that they're not sure how to react when and if people vigorously express their opposition.

That's the thing that's almost amusing in all this. The politicians and "leaders" who are so used to having everything scripted to within an inch of its life that they panic when confronted with the sometimes raw and fast moving blog environment.

They don't know what to do.

Take the gloves off! Don't be a milquetoast. You don't have to be crude, rude, or sacrifice your dignity, but you do need to leave your veneer of pious respectibility behind and take pleasure in mixing it up.

And above all, try talking from your gut or your true feelings, don't fall back on the overly structured, ever so cautious script. Your name need not be on it, so why be so hesitant?

Say what you feel and what you know. Trust yourself to be able to speak without a piece of paper in front of you or having rehearsed your answers in advance.

One of the strengths of blogs is that you don't HAVE to hew to the usual BS acceptible line, the "safe" line, the PR line.

You can call them as you see them, so to speak, and I think that's a very valuable thing, both for those who are given the chance to say their piece as well as those whom they speak against.

The "establishment", for lack of a better word, could really learn something from some blog comments, and could get a rough idea of the zeitgeist out there, though it would be a mistake to confuse the comments of the relative few who comment on blogs with the general public as a whole.

But instead, these "establishment" types simply tut-tut and harumph about how "irresponsible" blogs are, etc. when the truth is, they're simply frustrated and a bit alarmed.

Well hell, if I was one of those people who absolutely depended on the orderly, sanitized, pretty repressed contol over their image and who are used to having near absolute control over what what gets out in the press, and what is said about them, then I'd probably be pretty shook up too.

But that does not mean that blogs are "irresponsible". They just don't play by the old rules. Why? Because they don't have to.
Why? Because no one is paying them. they're only obligated to themselves and what sort of standards they want for their blog.

And they're not part of the little web of inter-dependent people, office-holders and officials, businesses, corporations, and the wealthy who have played the media game amongst themselves for so long.

They've long become accsutomed to having the media all to themselves.

You used to only have to deal with the guy who bought ink by the barrel, now you have to deal with anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection and enough standards to attain both a degree of credibility and who provides enough content of interest that they attract many readers daily.

No wonder certain people are huffing and puffing.

There will always be all shapes, sizes, and flavors of comments and opinions, and this shouldn't be scorned or condemned, much less regarded as some reason that blogs are "bad" or irresponsible.

They're just not as easily controlled as traditional media.

But try to accept it and deal with it. Fear leads to distrust, which leads to things not going too well.

A blog is a collaboration between the blogger and the readers and readers have a large input in the equation. This is something the "establishment" isn't used to.

To them the press was largely one way. They said what they wanted the public to hear, and people listened and didn't talk back.

They like it that way, and why not?

But blogs are a two-way street with the readers and commenters having a huge stake in the tone of a blog and what it becomes or doesn't become.

I neither believe nor will accept that a blogger is soley responsible for the hundreds and hundreds of comments they receive. And neither are they responsible for censoring out comments which may offend or ruffle those who consider themselves "above" blogs.

The fact that some people may find reading comments uncomfortable or that some people may disagree with my outlook or opinion or the outlook or opinion of a commenter isn't a bad thing. It's actually inevitible.

Several times I've been accused of favoring one view or person one minute, and accused of being biased towards the other the next.

My writing or publishing something which might be at odds with your views or which you believe to be incorrect or wrong isn't wrong in and of itself. But blaming the blogger for publishing views with which you disagree is wrong.

This is even more true due to the fact that, at least on blogs, you're more than able to respond directly and express your view, correct the record, or anything else you want to say or contribute. And near instantly.

No printing a select couple of letters to the editor a week late here. It's upfront, immediate, and in your face.

Those who stand back, reading the blog all the time yet refusing to dignify it by contributing or participating have NO leg to stand on, in my opinion.

Unless you're willing to jump in and correct those you feel are under the wrong impression or misinformed or whatever, you can't honestly just sit back and point out that not everything on a blog is verifiable fact. Of course it's not! (unless it is)

If you read something you disagree with or feel or know is wrong, then it's your duty to write in and correct it. That seems pretty obvious.

Again, this is NOT a newspaper or a news outlet. I rarely, if ever, do any reporting or break any news.

But if I write it in a post, it's true to the very best of my ability.

To my knowledge, I've never presented something in a post which wasn't entirely factual. I don't write or post anything as fact that I'm uncertain of or which had no reliable source.

My opinion, of course, is my own, and is not wrong or right by definition unless I am convinced by someone or something that it is.

In that resepect, I feel confident in saying that if it's written in a post here as a fact (not opinion) then it's credible.

If anyone can point to anything which was knowingly false that I've printed, I'll gladly correct it. To my knowledge, there isn't any.

If what people think out there offends you, or if, like me, you get annoyed and pissed off when you see what appears to be people knowingly trying to spread lies or distorting the truth, but unlike me, you can't deal with it, then you're simply not a blog person.

That doesn't make blogs wrong, irresponsible, or mean that they deserve a "bad name". Only that you prefer your news and opinion in a much more controled and sanitary, non-confrontational form.

If you've made it this far, you have my gratitude. This is one damn long comment, even by my long-winded standards.

At 4/27/2006 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My point, above, is that to lean on a string of anonymous comments for "news" is a misguided exercise.
In journalism, there are standards. You have to source the information. You have to attribute your statements to a credible source. You have that accountability, which leads to a decent level of responsibility.

This isn't aimed at blog hosts, although they have an editing role that is complicated by this process. I am aiming my comments at a communication vehicle that allows anonymous commenters to toss someone's name onto a blog. This is sort of an electronic version of "Speak Out." Sometimes I think you give your readers too much credit for being able to sift through fact and fiction, truth and lies, fairness and slander.

Those are my points. And I like 'em.

At 4/27/2006 1:21 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

First of all, I'm sorry that this, like so many other threads, got diverted onto a subject other than the that of the post and got onto discussion of the blog, which really has no place in comments anyway.

As I've pleaded several times in the past, if you have something to say about me or the blog, do so in e-mail, NOT comments.

But in this case, I'm probably to blame as I responded to your comment that unsourced comments give blogs a "bad name" and to the other commenter which agreed.

This is another impossibly long comment, but please give it a read.

But your observations amounts to essentially saying you don't like blogs. How does that illuminate anything?

And you use an anonymous comment on a blog to do so. Isn't that ironic?

The fact of the matter is that any blog which allows comments is a "version of speakout" if you want to put that negative spin on it. But that’s not quite accurate.

The fact is that commenters are supposed to comment on the topic of the post, not just throw out whatever is on their minds as they do in speakout.

Speakout, after all, is a feature first started by the media source with the standards you profess to prefer, newspapers.
Why aren't you saying they're irresponsible for doing so?

Sorry you don't like the format, but you're going to be left in the dust if you expect them to change or continue to feel that they're not valid.

And I hate to break it to you, but nothing is going to change the fact that blogs allow anonymous comments.

They either allow anonymous comments or no comments at all. And I'm sure that if that were the case, you'd find that objectionable as well, due to the fact that no one would have the chance to respond to what was said in the posts.

Plus, you wouldn't have had the opportunity to tell us why you don't like anonymous comments on the blog as often as you have, again, using the very same anonymous comment to do so.

To not allow comments is to do away with one of the defining features of a blogs and to change it into something entirely different, a one way street much like a newspaper.

I also would assume, based on your feelings, that you are equally upset about newspapers allowing anonymous comments on all of their articles and the fact that nearly every media outlet now has blogs as part of their online presence.

You must be very very very unhappy about that. There's only more and more and more blogs. They're spreading, and since you don't like the very idea of them, that must be troubling to you.

Secondly, as to your seeming to suggest that people are gullible idiots, I’d only ask if you’re in the business of political PR or spin? Judging from what I see in that area, it’s clear that those responsible appear to consider the public as gullible morons.

I suppose that if someone is brand new to blogs, that they may read something controversial in comments, such as the one in question about John G. and say, "Wow! I didn't know that." and actually believe it. There’s always some not too sharp people out there.

But you know, as I said above, if anyone has read blogs and a few hundred comments, and if they have a few functioning brain cells, they're going to realize that people often say irresponsible things. They're going to clearly realize that there's no source for the info, that the commenter themselves are anonymous, or clearly biased, and put two and two together.

I’d point out that this cuts both ways. It’s equally likely that someone could make a comment containing factual and accurate information, and there would be a lot of people who simply wouldn’t believe it. I’ve experienced this countless times.

They may be inclined to believe the John G. post if it fits in with their preconceived notions, but even then, they know enough that they'd be stupid to repeat it as fact.

Give readers a little more credit.

Even if you are concerned that there are some people who don't have the capacity to assess the veracity of what they read, the fact remains that on this blog, you have the opportunity to jump in and point out that a comment is a bunch of hooey and why, or to simply caution readers to not buy it because it's unproven, or whatever you wish to say.

It all works out.

You may not believe it, but I myself have always feared that people believe what they read here literally.

A comment may come in which is such a load of BS that it's still steaming.

My first reaction is to immediately respond and deconstruct or tear apart the comment and try to illustrate why it's false and shouldn’t be believed. I point out the logical flaws, the appeals to emotion, etc.

I've always responded that way. And I've usually gotten beaten up by the irresponsible commenter in return. They continue to try to spout their irresponsible stuff because frankly I’m the only one who fights back. I've rarely, if ever, gotten backed up by other commenters in my efforts to call fouls.

If there are those of you who dislike false or irresponsible comments as much as I do, then why do you never jump in to call people on it or back me up when I do? This baffles me completely, and leads to my getting discouraged to the point where I sometimes don’t even bother to refute comments anymore. It seems that no one cares anyway.

If you want to reduce, and I say reduce because it will be hard to eliminate them completely, the number of irresponsible comments, then I have a solution which I would have thought would be readily apparent already.

If all the people who profess to dislike and be troubled by such comments simply jumped in and called people on them, then there would be less of them. If you’d take on the chore of calling bullshit on people rather than leaving it entirely up to me, then that would be an enormous help.

The reason commenters matter is simple. It's human nature.

Compare the blog to a bar. They’re both places open to the public where they can come and have a conversation of sorts. Bars have character and a certain atmosphere. They usually target or attract a certain type of crowd. It has a group of regulars and the owner who by the nature of the bar, determines in general who they’d like it to appeal to, what sort of crowd they’d like to attract. There's norms and unwritten rules and behavior which is and isn't accepted.

If a person owns a bar, they can only do so much to control who shows up. You can't kick everyone out that don’t fit your ideal or you'd soon be out of business.

But as happens in these situations, it's the regulars for the most part who enforce the standards. They like the bar, they make it the way they like it, and they reinforce the owners rules.

If someone gets out of line, they might get a lot of dirty looks, ridiculed, scorned, and if they really step out of line, a bunch of regulars might give them the bums rush and make it clear that it would be in their interest to not come back or never pull that kind of crap again.

But not here. The people who want the conversation to be fairly responsible and civil just sit back and let the yahoos take over and monopolize comments. They do nothing. It’s as if they’re afraid they might break a nail.

I try to do what I can, but again, if I posted only perfectly rational and reasonable comments, there wouldn't be many comments at all. And if as you seem to suggest, I limited myself to only comments which provided sourcing for their views, I’d publish about one a month, if that. To expect that standard is simply unrealistic and unnecessary.

I want there to be TONS of comments. I'm not here to weed out 95% of them, though I do weed out sometimes half. But I’ve always strived for more comments rather than less.

I'm doing my part, in other words, to keep this bar respectable.

But when troublemakers appear here, those who profess to want better standards sit on their hands. They stare into their beers in their oh-so-timid way, and avoid getting involved.

When I try to scold, fight back, or otherwise deal with these troublemakers, I get no back up at all. One person against thousands of comments. It get old and it gets discouraging.

My point is, IF you want this blog to be what you want it to be, then get in there and participate. Fight for it.

Simply popping up occasionally to moan about bad comments doesn't help the problem.

Participate, or give up your right to complain about things.

I can't do it alone. Readers have to take some pride in the blog, feel that they belong, and take the initiative in setting and enforcing the standards they prefer.

It is no exaggeration to say that YOU make the blog what you want.

Many blogs have developed entire communities of readers who know and enjoy each other, argue, disagree, rant, etc. They collectively develop a sort of unspoken code of conduct and it's enforced with the help of the blog owner.

But it's a matter of critical mass. If the so-called "responsible" commenters can't overcome those who aren't, then the situation will continue.

I want to believe that there are many rational, intelligent, knowledgeable readers here. I know that it's the case, as I get their comments often. I know they’re out there. But either there’s very, very few of them, or there’s a lot who simply stand back and watch as if they have nothing to do with it. These are the people who need to participate rather than chastise or criticize.

There are a rather small group of commenters here whose comments I always welcome. They're routinely thoughtful, intelligent, witty, and always interesting and instructive.

But until there are more of these A-list commenters, and until the gawkers, those who sit back and don’t participate other than to complain about the blog or commenters in general, start to participate, nothing is likely to change. If they don't participate and participate often, then those comments which they find so terrible are going to dominate. Simple as that.

It's up to you to do more than complain.

You can truly have an amazing influence here, if there are enough reasonable people who participate. It can establish the tone, enforces standards, and influence what I write about and the subjects discussed. Remember, it’s a two way street. In many respects, commenters collectively are the ones who set the tone. You can add to the discussion, elevate the tone, and chase off those who don’t, or you can occasionally rise up off your backside only to complain about how those things aren’t happening.

Have a sense of ownership, take the blog for your own, or risk allowing others to do so.

The bottom line is that I can't do it all alone. You have to help make it happen or it simply won't.

At 4/27/2006 1:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you did to that young woman was wrong. Now that her fiance knows who you are, you might want to apologize for being such a jerk!

At 4/27/2006 1:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, you've hit the nail on the head. Of course I read blogs, it's a new communications vehicle.
I don't downgrade blogs; I downgrade those who abuse blogs by posting lies and I downgrade the fact that factual inaccuracies cannot be screened for accuracy as they are with the mainstream media.

Oh, for the record, as if you couldn't tell already: I'm not a fan of "Speak Out" either. For the same reasons. Have a good day and do your best to raise the standards. I have confidence you can and will.

At 4/27/2006 2:05 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 13:14.

I did nothing to the young woman you dredge up, and have nothing to appolgize for. If as you say, this boyfriend thinks he knows who I am, then I hope he doesn't get himself in a lot of trouble by going after the wrong person.

Frankly, if he feels that way, then he's confused anyway.

I find it a bit hard to believe that a professional masseuse is at all upset at it being pointed out that they're a professional masseuse. To imply as you apparently are that there's something shameful in that is really messed up.

There's certainly nothing whatsoever dishonorable about being a trained masseuse. Many people depend on them for their health and well-being, including myself.

It's those who hold the unfair and outdated notion that there's something shady about it that are the problem here. Not myself.

If people like yourself read into the facts something which wasn't implied or suggested, then you are the source of any problems here, not myself.

She had then and has now nothing to be ashamed about, and as I've said dozens of times now, did nothing wrong no matter what the truth of the situation was.

Last time I checked, a masseuse giving a massage isn't something they're ashamed of, nor should it be.

Bottom line, we never did hear from Jacobs what the story was, and if the masseuse or anyone else is pissed off, I suggest they should direct their anger at Jacobs for not clearing it up immediately, as would have been so simple to do.

But nice try.

At 4/27/2006 5:30 PM, Anonymous Huck Finn said...

Dope, I like your writeup about your philosphy on the blogs. Frankly, I'm very new to this stuff. The whole Lane Evans scenario has really piqued my interest, and I've thrown out some ridiculous thoughts. Some of my other comments may also seem ridiculous because the thick BBQ coating of sarcasm. But I've also tried to throw out my own perspective and personal beliefs in the blogs as comments. And I have no illusion that I'm a blogger--I'm a commenter. From some of your own "feedback" I think I've been "normalizing" what I write here and elsewhere. I can see right away other comments that are ridiculous, but for the most part I ignore them. What I do like to see is the actual bloggers' entries and the comments that give opinions. Unless I see it in the paper as a fact, I take it for what it's worth...and you summed it up...bar talk. But bar talk is good, even if it's not factual. It's at least something to help frame critical thoughts. I like the blogs, especially this one and Passing Parade. The rest seem to be much weaker. Thanks, Dope, keep it up. I appreciate the conversation.

At 4/27/2006 9:02 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Huck, I like your attitude, and I appreciate your support. I think you "get it" with the blogs. It's not gospel, but it's not useless either.

And if you had the stamina to plow through those extra long comments of mine, you've got my respect!

At 4/27/2006 9:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd worry about his reaction, not hers. Tina's a small boned woman, but her fiance is a rough looking dude from Chicago!

At 4/27/2006 9:52 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

So what? I don't care if he's a 400 lb psychopathic ex-marine. I've done nothing wrong and have nothing to regret. I've never heard a peep from any of these people, and they could have easily contacted me if they were in any way upset.

You're just pulling stuff out of your ass like always. Never pass up a chance to throw out some bullshit and try to take a shot.

Frankly, you can go straight to hell for all I care.

At 4/27/2006 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So now if you say something slanderous about someone and the person doesnt deny the charge then they are to blame? Wow you have a messed up sence of justice.

At 4/28/2006 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good job, Dope, on being a responsible media monitor on this issue. No one had to sign a pledge to support a specific candidate for Congress and to suggest that is highly irresponsible, hip-shooting BS.

This is where we need accuracy in the media. When you get allegations like that, why don't you get a hold of the key sources and straighten this out? We need that kind of public leadership from you to keep the issues factual.

At 4/28/2006 12:40 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

And you have a messed up sense of spelling.

I didn't slander anyone, period, nor did I "make a charge".

If you assume that the facts make it appear that something bad went on, then that's your right to think so.

I simply stated the facts and asked a question, a question which I'd note is still unanswered.

You know that as well as I do. Surprising you still want to have it brought up.

At 4/28/2006 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Machine has a great list of Machine-appointed precinct committeemen. It's a great read.

To make it on the list: a solemn promise to vote for Hare earns appointment as a precinct committeeman. No pre-vote promise to support Hare, no appointment.

The residency requirement: apparently none. Husband and wife committemen that represent two separate precincts actually live in a third. Must be some darn HUGE properties in RICO to touch three precints.

Why not start appointing people from out of state? Let's just appoint extra committeemen and appoint a couple dozen hand-picked "notaries" to craft mail-in ballots.

When this list winds up in the D/A next week, put a column to show the appointee's precinct of residence next to the precinct the appointee represents. When they don't match, put an asterisk next to the name and below the list write:

"*Carpetbagging Campfollower of the Machine that spits on the graves of the 55 Signers and wipes with the Declaration of Independence"

At 4/28/2006 12:42 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I caution readers to be skeptical. There is no evidence that appointed committeemen have to sign or take a pledge, though certainly, it's easy to believe that they're expected to vote as they're told.

At 4/28/2006 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good job, Dope, on being a responsible media monitor on this issue. No one had to sign a pledge to support a specific candidate for Congress and to suggest that is highly irresponsible, hip-shooting BS.

This is where we need accuracy in the media. When you get allegations like that, why don't you get a hold of the key sources and straighten this out? We need that kind of public leadership from you to keep the issues factual.

At 4/28/2006 2:27 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon above,

That ain't gonna happen. To expect me to fact check every comment that lands here is ridiculous.

I've tried contacting people for their views or confirmation of things, and while some have responded and done well, some simply won't respond. That's fine.

If you're volunteering to be The Inside Dope's correspondent and do all the calling and legwork necessary to take on the vast task you suggest, get in touch. You're more than welcome to do so.

I'd hasten to remind you that if you see something you feel is incorrect, nothing is stopping YOU from finding out the facts and providing sourcing, etc. and providing it here. I'd welcome it. That's how it works.

But the blog takes up too much of my time as it is. I'm not going to appoint myself a reporter and spend twice as much time trying to run down rumors or verify every assertion ever made here.

No non-media affiliated blog does that. Why do you expect me to?

I am not going to spend 40 additional hours a week trying to run down and fact-check every one of the hundreds upon hundreds of comments that come in every week. Get real.

Again, you must be one of those misguided souls who insist on confusing blogs with newspapers.

Here's some news. They can't be compared.

Are you willing to pay say, $20 a month to read the blog? If you and about 199 others were, then it might be worth my while.

So far, it seems no one's willing to pay a dime voluntarily, (cheap bastards, God love 'em) so I'm not exactly optimistic that scenario would be likely.

If you're not willing to pony up, then don't expect me to make the blog my life's work. I have plenty of stuff on my plate off the blog, and it's very tough to devote the hours and energy to this as it is, getting nothing in return but attacks, criticism, and people telling me what I should and shouldn't be doing.

And it's often contradictory. One week it's screen out more comments, the next, allow more, etc. Everyone's feels the need to put their two cents in, and they never have the honesty to do so by e-mail where it could be discussed and taken seriously.

Despite about ten times where I've pleaded and nearly begged people to stop sending me their particular ideas about the blog in comments, it continues.

These people have NO idea what blogging's about, have NO idea what it's like to do it, have NO concern that it's actually a human being doing it by themselves, (for nothing) and have ZERO idea of what it would take to follow any of their often ill-considered advise.

And the surpreme irony is that the blog is doing JUST FINE, thank you. There's no crisis, readership is as strong as ever, everything's hunky dory. It's just that some people can't get used to the idea.

They feel compelled to constantly offer their views on how it should be, I guess for it to satisfy them as individuals.

Yet these same people haven't felt the need to drop so much as a nickle in the donation jar. Curious, eh?

They receive a service available 24 hours a day 7 days a week, 365 days a year, pay absolutely nothing, and contribute nothing but complaints or how they think things should be done.

And on top of it, they feel the need to offer these suggestions in comments to topics that have nothing to do with the blog, utterly ignoring my repeatedly saying that it is not proper to do so.

If they want to improve the blog or make suggestions, then send me an e-mail, for God's sake. What's so damn hard about that? It's easier than leaving a comment!

But no, they have to put in a thread to a post and drag the entire discussion into a back and forth about what I should or should't do and what they like and don't like.

That's bullshit!

This isn't a blog about a blog. That's ridiculous! No one comes to a blog to read endless comments about THE BLOG. Sheesh!

But I feel I have to post these critics comments as it's the ONLY way I can respond to them, since they're too cowardly or lazy to send them via e-mail where they properly belong and where I could properly discuss them more fully with the person offering the suggestion.

I'm not going to attack them. I welcome suggestions, likes, or dislikes. But not in comments PLEASE.

This is not a blog about itself, OK? I find it pretty interesting that apparently the blog and myself are more of interest to some people than the things I post about. Very weird.

Posts about national topics, often very serious ones about problems confronting our nation and which will determine the course of the country for decades if not centuries simply go by completely ignored and uncommented upon.

Yet many people seem more than interested in making the blog about me (the LAST thing it should be about) and how they think I should do things, or getting heated over whether someone has a union bug on a sign or bashing each other to within an inch of their lives.

Again, I don't mind suggestions, and welcome them, as I do people telling me what they like as well as what they don't like about the blog. I encourage people to let me know these things... BY E-MAIL for all the reasons I've stated already.

I don't mind discussing the nature of blogging or the issue of anonymity, and I've done so a lot, both here and at other blogs. But I do NOT want that to be the predominate topic here. It doesn't belong here unless there's a specific post about it.

This blog deals with politics and local events, news, and opinions. It's not a blog about blogs, though it seems to be going that way.

Maybe I'll put up a permanent post where all the comments about myself, blogs, anonymity, and all the rest can go. Think that would help?

Because I don't want to see it here where it's completely off-topic.

As to your suggestion that I take on the task of verifying and reporting on every dubious comment....

Thanks, but no thanks.

So it sure isn't worth my time or what I get paid (zip) to do reader's work for them.

Similarly, I neither can or will sit here and provide editorial assistance to readers on each of the hundreds and hundreds of comment to help them do what they should be able to do on their own, namely, judge whether something is true, sort of true, pure BS, or all of the above.

Not to be too harsh, but in other words, grow up and get used to it. Use the judgement that God and experience has given you. Have a little faith that people don't need to have someone to hold their hands when they read comments.

You want me to be a full-time reporter on top of running the blog and get paid nothing to do it.

Sorry. Ain't gonna happen.

At 4/28/2006 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't an elected or appointed committeemen do what the elected Democrat Chairman wants them to do. After all, John G is responsible for so many benefits coming to our great party. Republicans can only stand aside and look at what John G's Machine has brought! Opportunity for Democrats in state government!

I predict Rock island County Democrats will end up voting in unision, as Schweibert and Boland's canidacies are falling on deaf ears. Hare is Rock Island Counties best choice, as well as Lanes! Go Phil Hare, GO!

At 4/29/2006 7:49 AM, Blogger Huntooner said...

Anyone who predicts total unison from R.I. County isn't really thinking, because Boland's votes are sure to go to himself.

And I am also aware of several committeemen from here in R.I. county who have already committed their precint's weighted vote to Boland.

It's likely to be a pretty good horserace before it's all said and done. Of course, my personal preference is Boland.

At 4/29/2006 3:05 PM, Anonymous WhitesideDem said...

If we don't unify by Caingressman Evans and his handpicked proxy, Congressman Hare, we are going to lose this seat to Amy Stockdale! Boland can play the spoiler, but not even his wife and next cheif of staff (Don Johnston) can keep Boland from committing career suicide.

Look for Hare, Gianulis and Jacobs to dump Boland in the General Election. Long time coming, but it is clearly on the horizone!

At 4/29/2006 5:44 PM, Blogger Huntooner said...

This rumor mongering about Johnston having any alliance with Boland is getting real old. Don and I go way back, he’s been a friend of mine from long before I went to work for Mike Boland. And I have talked at length to Johnston about this horserace.

The thing is - he does NOT have a horse in this race! Don's not backing or endorsing ANY of the candidates. Don's interest is in seeing the candidate chosen in a fair (and legal) manner.

Sorry to disappoint the folks who prefer to spread disinformation, but it's just that simple.

As for Jacobs "dumping" Boland, that's a real rich one too. The Jacobs have always "played ball" with republicans when it is convenient, only two years ago I'd see Mike Jacobs constantly huddling with Steve Haring, and it was Mike Jacobs who ran Ahern (and that nutcase Druid Mirocha) against Boland.

If that was the Jacob's "friendship" - I'm sure Boland can live without it!

At 5/01/2006 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am simply writing in to thank Mike Jacobs for his legislation protecting the blind and helping them with employment opportunities.
I understand getting the bill passed hasn't been easy, and there may still be opposition, but applaud Jacobs for doing what's right in this policy matter. Perhaps the DOPE could do a special post which might help Jacobs, etc., figure out who's opposes and who's for. Rumor is the Governor's folks might be opposed.

At 5/01/2006 7:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The only time Mike Jacobs ran a campaign against Mike Boland is when he M. Jacobs) served as his father's (Denny Jacobs) campaign manager in the mid-1980's. Jacobs easily defeated Boland, and Boland was so angry that he broke ranks with the Democrat Party and publicly endorse Denny's Republican opponent, Bud Ford.

To declare that Sen. Mike Jacobs ran any other campaign against Mike Boland is false.

This season could be different!

At 5/02/2006 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there ya go folks - the Jacobs are threatening to help Republicans (again)

and I dare ANYONE to actually come up with a clipping shoing an endorsement of Ford by Boland - that's just another lie spread by the Skakey Jake's clan.

At 5/02/2006 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I supposed to believbe that you are mike Boland or M Boland because you say this about Jacobs. This is all anon and it could be Boland writing both sides to get more attention for himself. This is idiotic. It is the problem with Anon sites.

At 5/02/2006 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh puleaze!
Boland has always endorsed anyone named Jacobs since day one.
If he sees a Jacobs walking down the sidewalk he runs across the street so he doesn't have to even acknowledge them.

At 5/02/2006 7:06 PM, Blogger Huntooner said...

Does Boland like the Jacobs? hell no! There’s no news there. They don’t care for Mike Boland too much either, it takes two to tango.

So, let’s talk facts not trash! Let’s all be honest about the whole feud, because there’s two sides to every fight. And, instead of rehashing old BS from the 80's about supposed endorsements that never happened, lets talk about the current decade. OK?

Did ANYONE see me (or anyone else associated with Bolands staff) helping Paul Rumler? Nope!
Was Boland at Rumler’s announcement? Nope!

Was Denny at Dennis Ahern’s announcement when he challenged Boland? Yes!
Did the Jacobs help Ahern (and Mirocha) even contributing to their campaigns against Boland? Yes again!

And now in return for keeping his word (and NOT helping Paul Rumler become our next Senator) - the Jacobs clan is bitching and moaning already and threatening to “dump” Boland.

Yep - that’s what Rosa Parks would do . . . isn’t it?

At 5/02/2006 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you talking about Denny Jacobs or Mike Jacobs? They are two different people. Mike Jacobs and Mike Boland agreed to get along. Mike Jacobs has kept up his part of the bargain. He included Boland on all of the WIU announcements. He called Boland and told him he would not be running for the Congressional seat. This is the single nicest thing Mike Jacobs could do for him. He let the East side of RI County for Boland to try and control. Jacobs has not endorsed anyone in this process. For Huntooner to say that Boland is carrying this feud over to Mike Jacobs after his boss the speaker said for him not to be very bad. This is a time that Boland's guy should not be picking fights for Boland. Evan if Boland and Huntooner Hate Mike Jacobs he should not loose his cool and make bad decisions in the midst of a Congressional Race. Boland may be feeling the pressure of being behind to Phil Hare. I think that Boland's boss would find it odd that after Boland agreed to be nice that his staffer Huntooner would be out publicly attacking Sen. Mike Jacobs. I think that this is a post that will be sent to Madigan for him to reprimand Boland after this election. Huntooner I hope that you and Boland can be as big as "BIG" Mike Jacobs and unite after this election for the good of the party. Maybe some of your rage will be let out by then. All of this hating is bad for your soul.

I hope this helps.

At 5/03/2006 7:07 AM, Blogger Huntooner said...

Please re-read my comment if you think there's any rage on my part.

I was just stating facts, the Speaker never said Mike Boland needed to like Mike Jacobs, now did he?

Boland kept his word, he stayed out of the Rumler race despite the fact that Paul was a former intern of his.

What more do you want?

At 5/03/2006 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are the one Huntooner that seems so angry to go out and attack Jacobs with such a broad brush. Your boss is angry because he didn't have the guts to run for Senate. And yes I know that your boss was an employer of the guy that Jacobs beat for the democratic primary for Senate. I also know that for your boss to hate the son of someone he hated because he is his son. Even when Mike Jacobs bends over backward to help Boland shows the pettyness of both Boland and you. This is the wrong time for you to be in a pissing match with the Senator that has done so much for your employer. Such as get out of the Congressional race and not endorse anyone leaving a whole in the east side of the district that Boland should be able to drive through. Jacobs has included Boland on WIU when it isn't even in Bolands district and when Boland didn't know what was going on with it Jacobs kept him abreast of the issue. Jacobs has always included Boland in the Democratic team and now because of an ananymous poster says that Boland's time has come you attack like a pit bull. I don't understand the stratagy behind it. Especially with your boss in the election of his life. Maybe you could explain. Or is this just plain blind rage and hatered as you reported it to be. Hate is to strong of a word to be throwing at a son of an enemy.

At 5/04/2006 7:11 AM, Blogger Huntooner said...

The endless ad hominem attacks are getting pretty tiring.

I'll simply point out to anon 17:14 that it's others who are using the word hate - not me, and leave it there.


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