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More on My Watchblog Departure

Ok, so I was obviously upset last week when I had five years of my life wiped away in an instant for questioning the editor of Watchblog.  I was going to write a detailed post concerning the events surrounding what happened then, but while it was cathartic, I felt it came from a much darker place than I really wanted to put out for everyone to read.  Instead, I decided to take a week away and consider what had transpired and come back with a much calmer and more even-handed explanation of what led to this situation.

First, I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to write for Watchblog five and a half years ago, I had been doing political writing on and off before then but was just getting into making it a serious endeavor and the people at Watchblog who I agreed and disagreed with over the years made me a better writer than I ever could have been without them.  This is the one positive I can take away from the experience.

Over the past five years there have been many things with Watchblog that I was saddened to see happen to a place that I really believed in.  Writers being dismissed because they disagreed with the Managing Editor has not been an uncommon occurrence, unfortunately.  One writer was removed because he wrote an article that did not link back to another article.  This wasn’t a requirement when I was hired and indeed, I have since seen other writers doing the same thing, including the Managing Editor himself.  Other times it appears that people are blocked access because of who they disagree with rather than how they disagree.  But since none of this is made public, instead we are supposed to accept that the Managing Editor is without flaw, we must continue on and accept the situation as best we can.  Further, asking for such basic things that other blogs have now like ‘share with facebook’ or ‘digg’, etc are just not available on the site, the website’s technology has not changed in 6 years since it was originally put in place, it is even running on a very outdated version of Movable Type.  This, however, is more of the fault of the lack of interest in the site by the owner, Cameron Barrett, than the Managing Editor.

Even worse, the Managing Editor started his own copy-cat blog of Watchblog (politwatch.org) and invited many of the current writers of Watchblog to start writing for his site.  I’m sorry, but this was one of the lowest things I had seen anyone do in a long time, without even having the guts to cut ties with his current responsibilities to Watchblog but to then use his access to the email addresses and contact information for the current cadre of writers to invite them to a new site you are opening while still managing the existing one?  The fact that it is a complete failure doesn’t lesson the ethical embarrassment of what was done.  I of course declined his invitation.

Unfortunately, two weeks ago I found something that struck me to the bone even worse.  In the comments section of an article, I had engaged the Managing Editor about deficits and surpluses, etc.  In one comment he mentioned that I should be using Fiscal Year numbers, not actual year numbers, to be accurate.  I pointed out to him that if he had read the link I had presented, he would have seen that I had done just that.  Then, in his next comment, he mentioned that I should be using actual year numbers, not Fiscal Year numbers.  I was kind of dumbfounded, especially when I had just answered an comment from him stating the exact opposite.  When I went back to find the original comment he had made, I was shocked to find that the comment was no longer there!  It had been edited (or as David pointed out later, deleted and a new comment put in his place, as if that makes a difference) to not say what he had said at all!  Not that a typo had been corrected, which is really the only reason anyone should be editing anything they have previously written.  Or even grammar.  He didn’t even change it to say he really meant actual year instead of Fiscal Year, he just took that portion of the comment completely out.

I’m sorry, but this is inexcusable, not just as a writer, but such an abuse of power from an Editor, especially the Managing Editor!  The response?  Nothing.  No admission of guilt, no apology, no mention of it at all.  It just wasn’t to be talked about.  This would have cost any other writer the privilege of writing there, but the Managing Editor is able to just continue on as if it meant nothing.

So naturally, my disappointment with the way the site was being ran fell to a level that left me wondering why I was even still there.

However, the problem with leaving Watchblog is that your articles that you’ve written are lost forever.  There is no way to allow for a writer’s posts to remain but just cut them access.  Which is insane.  And very sad in the fact that many writers have been removed to have their posts removed allowing for no real history of the place.  I would have recommended changing my password and leaving the articles in place, but apparently this option has never crossed the minds of the Managing Editor, or else he wants to retain that threat to use over the heads of the writers who cross him.

Finally, last week in a comments conversation, much like several I have had over the years with David, he wrote a long reply to one of my comments saying things like calling my views ‘Bullcrap’, that I should ‘Get over it’, restating things as fact that I had refuted several times, and generally being very terse towards my views.  A couple of minutes later, he posted another comment to say ‘Let’s move this conversation to emails’.  This was done as David Remer, not as Managing Editor, as he had done in the past when warning people that they were about to cross the line.  As I was told later, it was still him and I should have shown him his due respect.  So the lesson is that David is the Managing Editor, do not cross him or disrespect him ever, in any way, or your fate may be the same.

So now we have a long public mean-spirited comment towards me left on the comments section and I was not allowed to respond to it publicly.  After everything that had happened and the lack of respect that had been shown me while writing for Watchblog, including multiple accusations of racism, I was not about to let it go without  making it clear that I did not approve.  So, my response was simply:

You mean, “let me make wild accusations, reclaim things that have already been shown to be false, jump to all kinds of conclusions and leaps of logic of dizzying hights, all in a public venue, but don’t respond to me in public…”?

Nah, I’m good with leaving it as it is.

This is what cost me five years of work and the ability to continue even commenting on anything at Watchblog.  In the emails that followed, I was told that the reason for the request to go to email was because David ‘had a feeling I would end up crossing the line in my replies’ which of course hadn’t happened in our conversations, which were much more heated over the years than this was.  Worse, he then told me that I had ‘proven him right’ by responding as I had, with a personal attack.

Now, you can say what you want about this being a personal attack.  I disagree, it was an observed redefinition of what he had said, a tactic he has used himself over the years.  But, beyond that, to not even accept that his actions of posting such a comment in public towards me and then not wanting me to respond?  To not admit that he was wrong in any way?  I just chose not to take it anymore.  I responded to him in email and let him know of my displeasure.  He responded that since my response was not sufficiently ‘bowing and scraping’ enough, that I was not
showing him any reason to be reinstated.  My response was that I had not asked to be reinstated and would not be asking such a thing since he could not accept for himself that he had done anything wrong. 

I’m sorry, but i can no longer work for this type of management of a weblog.  It is irrational and mean-spirited, accepting more of those that agree with than disagree with David politically and I simply will no longer be treated in such a manner by anyone, even if it does mean that I will no longer be writing at Watchblog.

The unfortunate piece is that I started doing this writing because I wanted to make a difference, to affect and influence the minds of people to think beyond what they are told and look at things in a new way.  I never wanted to ‘brainwash’ anyone, but to kick start the thinking processes in others so that they could come to better informed conclusions themselves.  I am saddened that it appears that no one was ever affected, that my missions was for naught.  I received one email about my leaving, I had sort of expected there to be more.  It just appears that I was not as much of an influence as I had hoped that I would be and has caused me to further evaluate my purpose in doing this writing as opposed to the other things in my life that bring me pleasure and happiness. 

If I decide not to do any more writing, I’ll make sure to post on that before I shut down this blog, but as it is I am not sure how much motivation I have to continue.  That is some soul-searching that I am going to take on and determine over the course of the next few weeks…

4 comments to More on My Watchblog Departure

  • Warped Reality

    RH,

    I’m sad to see you leave WB; I only visited rhinehold.org infrequently in the past because nearly all your essays were also posted at WB. Now that you are no longer particiating at Watchblog, I’ll have to come here to read what you write.

    I too have noticed a change in how the rules of participation have been enforced nowadays. In the past, an offending comment was replaced by one from the manager explaining the cause of dismissal. Today, comments just undergo a disappearing act without an explanation. I’ve seen this happen to my own comments on occasion, and when I emailed David about he said I must’ve referenced someone who violated the rules, but from what I recall, the only person I referenced was Christine & John, who is still a WB editor.

    In fact, right now the only reason I continue to read WatchBlog anymore is C&J’s writing. I rarely comment on the pieces written by others except when one of the other conservative editors decides to show up.

    I am still schocked that David took issue with what you wrote, since it all seemed pretty benign to me, especially in light of what I’ve seen David write.

    I also think its telling that he refused to consider my suggestion to create a new article on SS reform so that you and he could debate that on a public forum rather than a private email without derailing the topic in his thread.

    Also, if you look at the sitemeter at Watchblog, you see that it gets hundreds of hits each day. There are hundreds of people who read the comments and articles, but never comment themselves; probably because they are too timid or have privacy concerns. I bet there are dozens of people who are just as sad as I was to see you depart Watchblog. Also, the fact that you are no longer an editor may not be apparent to some how may only visit WatchBlog infrequently. In any case, I’m sure there are plenty of people who have been affected and influenced by your writing. I definately am one of them, so whatever you do, please don’t stop writing.

  • Rhinehold said: “Over the past five years there have been many things with Watchblog that I was saddened to see happen to a place that I really believed in. Writers being dismissed because they disagreed with the Managing Editor has not been an uncommon occurrence, unfortunately.”

    Pure BullShit! NO ONE was ever dismissed from Watchblog for ANY reason OTHER than violating WB’s rules. Period. The owner would not have tolerated it, and neither would I.

    Warped. I was a volunteer managing editor at WB for almost 7 years. Was a time, when WB’s software and server would allow blocking ISP’s of offenders of the rules. The owner of WB moved to another server, and that capacity was lost. The number of comments coming from those banned and the number of violations have grown over the years in number on a daily basis. As an unpaid volunteer, I was not willing to spend hours each day in the management of WB in this regard. This is the reason the practice of issuing warnings and reminders of rule violations was dropped. It became too time consuming. So, much so, that I left as managing editor at WB about a week ago. I cannot begin to express how much I am enjoying these new found hours each day.

    I wish WB the best, and will still write there. But, it is going down hill for lack of investment of time and money by the owner to upgrade the software and server. He has been talking about upgrading the software to me for years. Nothing ever came of it. WB could have been so very much more. I hope still, the owner will make good on the required investment and bring WB into the 21st century of social interaction and blogging, political news and debate. As it is, I fear its future is very dim.

  • David,

    We’ll have to disagree on my statement, that was my view of the recent activities over the past couple of years. Since we, as writers, were never given all of the information many of us had to view the results of what happened based on what we knew and saw. Commenters saw even less information and I think we lost a lot of good voices because of misunderstandings and rigidity that didn’t necessarily have to be there for everyone. I would have loved to have been privy to more information behind some of the decisions made, but that was not how you chose to run the site. Two stick out in my mind as the most obvious, being dismissed because they would not agree to how you saw things, which I was apparently unaware of being a rule, but if I dig through my email listing I will probably find more that I questioned.

    As for the changes in warnings and other rules changes over the past year or two, again this was the first I heard about such things. I know that I was left off of the mailing list after the move, it is possible that all of that was communicated to the writers during that time. But I can only go off of the information that I have, even when added back I was not given an update to anything that I missed.

    As for the owner not tolerating it, I very much question that assertion 100%. It is my opinion, based on what I saw, that he had no interest or care in questioning anything you did as he certainly did not want to do the work himself. He sure didn’t care about the issues surrounding my departure.

    However, beyond our falling out, I agree with you that it is unfortunately that Cameron did not put the work into Watchblog in order to make it what it once had the potential of being. It could have easily competed with sites like the Huffington Post had he been willing to either sell it at a reasonable price for someone else to put some effort into it or put the work into it to make it more valuable to sell for the price he was asking. I still miss writing and commenting there immensely but I have no doubt that I will find other outlets for that itch of political discourse. It is indeed sad that the potential that it had was never fully realized. And as much as I disagreed with your actions in the weeks leading up to my departure, without you working to maintain the site I don’t see how it will have any chance of succeeding.

  • I always enjoyed your writings. You have a very good style and make many good points. Keep up the blogging, what you say has value.

    Dennis

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