If you caught “Beat the Press” on Greater Boston on Friday evening, you saw a taped piece on political blogging — inspired by last Sunday’s NY Times op-ed piece and op-chart on blogging-for-dollars — which included a couple of snippets of an interview with yours truly. And then you saw the usual live chitchat with Greater Boston’s usual suspects, all of whom duly tut-tutted about political bloggers getting paid. If you missed it on TV, you can watch it on YouTube.
Now, for the record, I don’t really give a crap whether a campaign wants to pay a blogger to blog — as long as the blogger discloses the payments. Taking campaign money without disclosing, however, is astroturfing, and is a very bad idea that gives blogging a bad name. And I don’t think anyone seriously disagrees with that.
But “Beat the Press” made a couple of big, big mistakes in Friday night’s piece, and they were bad enough that I’m not very happy that I appeared in the show. (Unfortunately, I had no control over that — I did the interview without having any idea what the rest of the taped piece would look like, nor, of course, what the live chat would cover.) The gory details are after the flip. (Incidentally, though I rarely post at MyDD, I did cross-post this over there in light of the Jerome connection, and it got bumped to the front page and generated some interesting comments.)
First, and most embarrassingly, John Carroll (who put the taped piece together) got totally suckered by a joke post at MyDD, and as a result made a sweeping accusation of massive deception by MyDD blogger Jerome Armstrong that is, simply put, false. Here’s what Carroll said in the piece:
According to the Times, the “kept bloggers” appeared on some of the left wing’s glamor websites, from the Huffington Post to the Daily Kos to MyDD, whose sole proprietor Jerome Armstrong pocketed almost $200,000 from various candidates. The Times piece said that few of the kept bloggers shut down their independent sites after going on the take, but it went even beyond that. Armstrong bragged this week that the other bloggers he’d farmed out his website to, were in reality, him, writing under those aliases the entire time. And the blogrolling didn’t stop there: Armstrong also posed as liberal blogger Scott Shields, who posted for pay for yet another Democratic candidate. But David Kravitz says not to worry, the truth will out.
Well, I bet you’re surprised to learn that Jerome Armstrong is MyDD’s “sole proprietor,” and that Scott Shields, Matt Stoller, Chris Bowers, and the rest of the MyDD guys don’t actually exist, but are only screen aliases for Armstrong. And in fact, of course, those guys do exist, and Carroll’s piece is flat-out wrong in that respect.
Here’s what happened. After the NY Times piece was published, Jonathan Singer wrote up this snarky post at MyDD, which includes the following choice lines:
While Glover [the NYT piece's author] does note that some of “these bloggers shut down their ‘independent’ sites after signing on with campaigns” or that “most disclosed their campaign ties on their blogs”, he fails to mention the fact that a number of the bloggers, like Jerome, largely recused themselves of writing during the course of their employment, farming out writing responsibilities to other bloggers like Chris, Matt and myself.
The reason why may shock you: Chris, Matt and Jonathan do not exist, despite any previous claims. He got me. We’re all the same person. I (Jerome) have been writing under these aliases the entire time I have been working on other campaigns. I also used to write under the name of Scott Shields until I got hired under that pseudonym by another campaign. Thought you met Matt, Chris or Jonathan at Yearly Kos or some other event? Most likely you met one of the young fellows I paid to play those roles. They’re just out of work, dime a dozen actors from Los Angeles. Anyone could have played them.
So Mr. Glover, you got me. Even though on the surface I did everything possible to remove any potential conflict of interest, effectively stopping my blogging on MyDD and disclosing on this site who I was working for, it was all a big act. Sorry America.
Ha ha, right? Big joke — the line about the “dime a dozen actors” portraying Shields et al. at Yearly Kos was pretty much the giveaway on that one. Yet the post did manage to fool at least one commenter:
Re: Clearing Things Up (none / 0)
Are you serious? Is this a confession of blatant wrongdoing or are you intentionally exaggerating what appears to be a serious transgression of blogging ethics?
Roberto in Utah
by reder01 on Sun Dec 03, 2006 at 01:58:43 PM EST
Re: Clearing Things Up (none / 0)
He’s joking. We all exist.
And you’re seriously not paying attention if you think that what Glover wrote about amounts to “a serious transgression of blogging ethics.”
by Scott Shields on Sun Dec 03, 2006 at 02:17:08 PM EST
So Carroll got suckered by something that (1) is obviously a joke, and (2) could easily have been verified as such had Carroll bothered to undertake the most cursory investigation, which led to Carroll’s falsely accusing Armstrong of gross deception. And what sticks in my personal craw is that Carroll then used that false accusation as the lead-in to a quote from me which, in its original context, had nothing to do with the Armstrong story. Armstrong was never mentioned in the interview with me; what I was responding to was a question about whether secret blogging-for-dollars in general gives blogging a bad name. What I said, and what I believe is true, is that astroturfing and other forms of fake blogging (like the Charlie Bass incident up in NH) usually get sniffed out pretty quickly. But the way my quote was used, it looked as though I was excusing Armstrong’s (nonexistent) bad conduct by saying it’s no big deal because it’ll all come out in the wash. Not so — I disapprove of astroturfing, and I said so in parts of the interview that ended up on the cutting room floor.
Also extremely annoying to me was Joe Sciacca’s bizarre commentary on the role of BMG in the election. Sciacca, after making several general points that I thought were basically right, said the following:
Blue Mass. Group, for example, which is a great website, but, you know, when they endorsed Deval Patrick, people in Deval Patrick’s campaign were disappointed, because now suddenly they had sort of shown their hand, and it didn’t seem like there was some great groundswell of support on the internet for Deval, it was just basically an extension of their campaign website.
Wow. That’s both false and completely nonsensical. As far as the facts go, I have no idea who Sciacca was talking to inside the Patrick campaign (if he actually talked to anyone instead of pulling this out of his ass), but I sure never heard anything about anyone being “disappointed” that we endorsed Patrick — quite the contrary, “well-placed campaign sources” (as the saying goes) told me that the campaign was extremely pleased with our endorsement. And the notion that BMG became “an extension of [Patrick's] campaign website” after we endorsed him is ridiculous. Four days after we endorsed Patrick, Charley put up a post basically saying that Patrick’s first TV ads were weak. We criticized Patrick’s handling of the LaGuer brouhaha, both on the blog and elsewhere. What more do you want? I mean, for God’s sake, of course we wanted the guy to win — that’s why we endorsed him. But in what parallel universe does that convert BMG into an “extension” of devalpatrick.com?
Furthermore, Sciacca’s theory makes no sense at all. As he and the rest of them on the show well know (but as nobody bothered to mention until waaaaaay into the discussion), BMG was not paid by Deval Patrick or anyone else — we endorsed Patrick because we thought he was the best candidate and we wanted him to win. So how is it, exactly, that our endorsement wasn’t part of a “groundswell of support on the internet for Deval”? In fact, I’d suggest that what happened on BMG and other blogs over the last several months was exactly that. It’s not like we were the only regulars on this site who backed him. Further, what’s our alternative? Not publicly endorse him, and t
hen have someone “blow the whistle” on us when they search OCPF and “discover” that we donated to his campaign? As we said at the time we endorsed him, saying publicly who we were backing was not only a matter of trying to advance (in our modest way) the prospects of the candidate we liked, it was a matter of basic honesty with BMG’s readers who deserved to know where we were coming from. Which, incidentally, is more than you’ll get from most MSM pundits — I don’t recall Emily Rooney, John Carroll, or the rest of the gang publicly declaring who they were going to vote for (though Sciacca’s WRKO talk show is pretty much a giveaway).
Bottom line: think twice before accepting an invitation to do a taped interview. At least on the live TV talk shows, if you don’t like the way you came across you pretty much have only yourself to blame.