Saturday, December 31, 2005

Did Filson Freep Daily Kos?

For the last post of the year, I think it’s important to look at a recent development that caught my eye and has the potential to shape the race in the coming year. On December 21, Steve Filson posted a diary without much fanfare on Daily Kos. The diary itself was solid if not exceptional, but I don’t really want to talk about it. What really interests me more is the process of Filson posting on Daily Kos, especially in terms of what happened in the comment section.

You can read the diary here. Regardless of the content of the post, there are a couple of things about how Filson posted the diary that virtually doomed it to obscurity. First, Filson posted using the user name Fido Dem, which does not obviously label him a congressional candidate. Second, Filson titled his diary “Steve Filson for Congress,” which leaves out the state (California), the district (CA-11), and the opponent (Richard Pombo). If he had created a user name like FilsonforCongress and titled the diary “Why I’m Taking on Richard Pombo (CA-11),” I’m sure more people would have read it. Lastly, Filson tagged the diary poorly (something I have since tried to correct). For example, instead of tagging the diary with CA-11, which is the usual way on Daily Kos to abbreviate the district, Filson tagged the diary “CA-06” presumably meaning California 2006 election. I suspect that this tag will result in a number of people coming to the diary expecting to see Filson announcing his entry into the contested primary between Lynn Woolsey and Joe Nation. Still, more than anything, Filson’s missteps suggest to me that Filson is incredibly unfamiliar with the cultural norms of Daily Kos, which makes sense give his recent User ID (73385).

In some ways, it’s almost a good thing that his diary did not get noticed because Filson failed to do the one cardinal thing politicians must do on blogs like Daily Kos: respond to comments. Blogs allow for two-way communication, so it’s considered rude for politicians come to blogs, post something, and disappear without engaging in any sort of conversation. On the other hand, I suspect that Filson encouraged at least a couple of his supporters to comment on the diary after a couple of McNerney supporters left pro-McNerney comments. Although I do not have conclusive proof, it very much looked like Filson had some of his supporters freep the diary. And seeing this kind of irritated me.

If you look at the comments to Filson's diary, you see two pro-Filson comments left long after the diary was posted. First, at approximately 12:20 AM on 12/23, Buffyfan (User ID 74466) said:
I am not from California but any American who cares about the environment or ethics should be watching this race. I am looking forward to seeing you unseat Pombo.
Next, at approximately 4:30 PM on 12/23, Jbmendel (User ID 74461) posted the following comment (responding to what Filson wrote in his diary about trust):

I'll trust you, Mr. Filson. We need more strong candidates like yourself in California and across the country. I'm very excited about your candidacy.

All respect for Mr. McNerney, the "but we were here first!" mentality evinced by his supporters is frankly very unbecoming. In a hard district like yours, there's only one relevant question: "Can you win?"

I trust that you can.

Color me skeptical, but it seems incredibly unlikely that two new users (with User IDs five numbers apart no less) would find this one diary, and only this one diary, to comment on. The sheer number of intervening diaries (approximately three and five hundred respectively) between when the diary was posted and when they commented on it virtually ensures that they did not just happen upon the diary. Furthermore, it seems odd to me that these two users commented only on the one diary “Steve Filson for Congress” and no other. Even now there has been no other activity from Buffyfan or Jbmendel outside of the this diary. And look at how Jbmendel responded to me when I replied to his initial comment:

Me:


Your half right (none / 0)
You're right that "we were here first" is not a good argument. What you miss is that "we were here first" is not what McNerney supporters are saying.

Every single McNerney supporter I have spoken to believes that Jerry McNerney demonstrated significant moral courage by running against Pombo in 2004. He ran without any significant support from the Democratic Party establishment. He paid $10,000 out of his own pocket (a significant sum for a man of his means) for a recount just to get on the ballot. And he did so because he took a principled stand against giving Richard Pombo a free pass.

Moreover, Jerry McNerney did this in a district that had been thirsting for a committed, passionate Democrat who wasn't afraid to stand up and fight for Democratic beliefs.

Regardless of whether you find this motivating or not, you need to understand that the loyal cadre of McNerney supporters back McNerney so strongly because they absolutely believe in his character. He championed them when nobody else would. This is much different than "we were here first."

Him:

Where Democrats Agree (none / 0)
We agree on more than we disagree. My remark was in response to the previous comments and some of the other blogs out there which have pre-emptively begun disparaging Mr. Filson. That's not the way Democrats should do things.

I've read all about Mr. McNerney's run in 2004, and really do have great respect for the man. The numbers don't lie, though. He has a small group of very dedicated supporters, and none of the widespread support needed to win in a hard district.

I'm also familiar with Mr. Filson. He's an Eagle Scout, a former Naval pilot, and an inspiring Democrat. In just a few months he has won incredible amounts of support from both inside and outside the district. He has the people, he has the funding, and he has the saavy he needs to win in November.

We can all agree on the need for a lively primary. We can agree that beating Pombo is going to take everything we've got. And we can agree that come election day, taking back the House is the only yardstick for success.

I'm proud to support Steve Filson.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m a bit dubious that Filson just happened to have such an articulate supporter who just stumbled onto his diary and left a bunch of brute assertions about Filson and the race without bothering to back any of them up with--you know--facts, hyperlinks, quotes, or other things of the sort. I’m also particularly skeptical about Jbmendel describing Filson as “inspiring,” especially since Filson’s message up to this point has basically been “Vote for me because I can raise more money and am more electable than the other guy.” Maybe I’m just too dyspeptic to be easily inspired by such talk.

In any event, not content to stop at this diary, Jbmendel then went over to OurCongress.org to write another (and I would say, somewhat disingenuous) pro-Filson piece. Incidentally, a user named CAL11 Voter (User ID 72950) also posted pro-Filson comments in the same places as Jbmendel, although it’s possible that CAL11 Voter simply googled “jbmendel” after reading the comments on dkos and found the Our Congress entry that way.

On one level, I think it’s smart for Filson to get his supporters to provide him some cover when he posted on Daily Kos. But on another level, I’m disappointed that it looks like he got people to sign up on Daily Kos specifically to provide him that cover. These are not genuine members of the community. And the fact that it looks so transparently like he did this makes me feel like he’s being overly manipulative, which is ironic since Filson’s diary includes a bit about how we ought to trust him. Furthermore, almost everything of substance that was said about Filson could have been said more credibly by Filson himself.

Maybe I’m being too sensitive to this (or maybe too paranoid). What do you guys think?

10 Comments:

Blogger Delta said...

It looks to me like something a campaign consultant would do, especially since I noted the over-hyped announcement, quoting Filson's consultant, that ended up in the SF Chronicle when he got into the race.

8:46 PM, December 31, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're crazEEE! CHICKEN NUGGETS?!

4:55 PM, January 01, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

My take up to this point is that in the Real World, someone running for Congress needs to have had some political experience and needs to have some standing and name recognition in the community. In other words, the people (voters) should know the person as someone who has held office and has done something to garner at least some begrudging respect.

For a private citizen like Filson to get elected is nearly impossible, especially when he has such an irritating personality, and when the party he is in is at such a disadvantage in the terms of registration in the district.

The only time that happens -- that an unknown beats a strong incumbent -- is when the person has charm and charisma and runs a very unorthodox campaign that somehow connects with the people's anger and frustration. The people have to want to get rid of the incumbent and be ready to hear the new person out.

Either that, or the new person is a multi-millionaire and wants essentially to buy the office. Many times in that case, the person is already known and acknowledged as successful just from having the money -- maybe from running a successful business or from being a celebrity.

In all these ways, Filson is extremely lacking. It just ain't gonna happen with him, unless Pombo, while drunk, runs over a troop of Boy Scouts on their way to Sunday mass. Even then, he might still get elected.

I hate to see all this energy wasted on Filson. The DCCC screwed us, let's face the facts. Does not matter how much $$ he raises, unless it is in the $10 million range, plus he gets a serious personality make-over, plus it would help if Pombo got caught dressed up as Grand Duke at a satanic cult meeting.

However, if Mike Machado enters the race, well, now we are talking a "rock 'em, sock 'em" robots match. Then, Pombo should start getting his work clothes ready, because there is a very good chance he will be back on the ranch come next November.

Until that point, it is just arguing about "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" stuff. Maybe Filson freeped a blog, maybe he did not, maybe he is an untrustworthy creep, maybe not, maybe he fudges about his divorce, maybe not. (He probably does know how to clean out a swamp cooler, however, I will give him that.)

Meanwhile, Pombo, who does not seem particularly worried, is readying more of his vile legislation to rape another part of dear Mother Earth for his corporate donors. He is lining up the fund-raisers and making sure anyone with biz before the committee has paid their "fee".

Think he is worried about a nobody like Filson? I seriously doubt it. Let's get real, people, not discuss whether Filson's socks matched and what that means. He is a Loser (with a capital "L") and no amount of discussion or hand-wringing is going to change that.

7:53 PM, January 01, 2006  
Blogger Rolfyboy6 said...

It certaily was inept. I missed the diary and I'm on the lookout for "Pombo", "CA CD-11" and similar buzz words. The user ID numbers point to a manipulation most Kossacks have seen before. Whoever did it wasn't very good at posting and hyping.

11:03 PM, January 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

VPO -

I think you're not getting Matt's point. He's showcasing this admittedly small kerfuffle as yet another example of how plastic the grass is at Filson's astroturf campaign. And how their knowledge of netroot norms is about as deep as Dubya's understanding of the Constitution.

Matt's research is a confirmation of the obvious for those who aren't supporting Filson. But, for those folks who read blogs and are still on the fence, it may help determine which side they want to jump to -- real grass or artificial green.

Of course, it may all be academic in the end, but that doesn't mean SNTP should stay silent on facile freeping.

Also, although the Abramoff scandal may not hit Red on the Pombo Re-Election threat level, it has the potential to do serious damage to Pombo's teflon. And, if it does, I think you can expect Machado to jump in the race. Even if Machado keeps his mud dry till '08, Filson or McNerney might have a slim but fighting shot given the mood of the country/district circa Nov. '06.

It may not seem at all likely now, but a month is a millennium in political time. That said, a recipe for a Pombo defeat is conceivable: imagine if a "culture of corruption"/"throw the bums out" dynamic converges with a deepening quagmire/civil war in Iraq and an economic recession? Ding dong the Dick (Pombo) is dead, not to mention GOP control of Congress. (Memo to NSA: that's metaphorically speaking, of course.)

Unlikely? Of course. But we've got to fight on as if it's entirely possible. Because if the opportunity actually presents itself in the general, it would be a tragedy if we've cynically marginalized ourselves to the sidelines before the primary election.

Eden

2:01 AM, January 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Filson is extremely lacking. It just ain't gonna happen with him, unless Pombo, while drunk, runs over a troop of Boy Scouts on their way to Sunday mass. Even then, he might still get elected."

To VPO: I don't care who you are, that's funny! (And prolly true)

10:13 AM, January 03, 2006  
Anonymous some guy said...

I'm continuing to see Filson supporters on blogs around the internet. Most recently this one: http://www.tpmcafe.com/story/2006/1/8/114417/7510

It may be that Filson is following Dean's example with an internet based campaign, or at least making use of the internet more than others.

7:07 AM, January 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe the previous posts are serious. Take a look at how nasty they are. When McNerny or Filson posts they probably alert their friends to that fact. Just so I understand: When a McNerny supporter supports a McNerny post it's okay, but when a Filson supporter supports Filson it's not? That's ridiculous.

9:53 PM, January 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing that could prove (or disprove) this talk about McNerny's moral courage. Some of you folks who know him should ask him this question: If Mike Machado was in this race, would you be? Machado clearly would have been the strongest candidate so if Jerry McNerny truly has our best interests in mind the answer to that question would be no. But it's not. Ask him.

9:58 PM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

Anon,

The point is not that Filson had his supporters support him, the point is that instead of engaging in a conversation he basically set up a Potemkin Village-esque community response.

You might not believe me, but a lot of the pro-McNerney response on Daily Kos happens quite naturally because a lot of people on Daily Kos know and like McNerney from his days in the Dean Dozen. There is an organic response from the Daily Kos community. And people who are part of the community are allowed to support whomever they want, including Filson.

But it's considered (and is in fact) manipulative to set up accounts just to support a diary when those account users aren't at all part of the Kos community. It is astroturf, and I'm not the only one who sees it.

And when you do something to manipulate people and they see through your manipulation, I think you can expect a backlash. So the nastiness that you see is an entirely appropriate response by people who are offended by such antics.

Regarding your second comment, I must admit to be baffled. First, you didn't even show much enthusiasm for Machado and now you say he "clearly would have been the strongest candidate." But second, I'm baffled because you complain about Filson being attacked and then you make a nasty implication about McNerney's character. You want to know something? As far as I'm concerned Jerry McNerney demonstrated his courage when he took out a $10,000 second mortgage on his home for a recount just to get on the ballot in November of 2004. And I can just tell you that you're not going to get far attacking McNerney's character, which is unimpeachable. And in fact you're only helping Pombo. If Filson's character is similarly unimpeachable, then show us. Please. But throwing mud at McNerney doesn't do anything but lead to the impression that you have no good arguments in support of Filson.

12:03 AM, January 14, 2006  

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