Once upon a time there was a stupid TV show.
Many, many, many years later, TBS created a stupid TV show based on that stupid TV show.
Some ad guys came up with a stupid ad to promote the stupid TV show based on the original stupid TV show.
The ad guys then came up with more stupid ads promoting the stupid ad for the stupid TV show based on the original stupid TV show that they bought space for on many blogs and websites.
One of those blogs was the DailyKos.
The stupid ad for the stupid ad for the stupid TV show based on a stupid TV show appeared on Kos' page.
Some readers of Kos' page didn't like the ad.
They thought it was more than stupid.
They thought it was offensive. They wrote to tell Kos so. They asked him why he'd chosen to let an ad that insulted and demeaned women appear on his page.
Kos replied that anybody who was upset by the ad was an ugly, humorless, prudish, scolding dyke who should just shut up, go back to the college women's studies programs where humorless dykes belong, and leave him alone to get on with the serious business of saving the county.
He didn't use exactly those words, but he used words close enough that he must have known they would remind everybody who read what he wrote of sentiments like the one above, which are part of the common reaction of sexists when confronted about their sexism.
Many women were offended by Kos' reaction, far more than they were offended by the stupid ad. People who didn't care about the stupid ad one way or another cared that Kos had been so casually sexist and insulting towards women who were only expressing a reasonable concern about what message Kos was sending by allowing that ad to appear on his page.
They let him know about it, on their blogs, in comments, and in emails. Lots of bloggers dropped Kos from their blog rolls.
(Editor's note: Tunesmith has a good summary of how the argument began and how it flared and a good explanation of why Kos' reaction to criticism was boorish, wrong-headed, and just plain wrong. Thanks to Ron Beasley for the link. Lorraine Berry at culturekitchen rounds up a good sampling of women bloggers' reactions. And thanks to mediagirl for that link.)
Kos tried to apologize. His apology came out sounding less than gracious. Actually, it sounded like Groucho apologizing for calling a rival a baboon.
"I wouldn't know what to say either if I was in your place. Maybe you can suggest something. As a matter of fact, you do suggest something. To me you suggest a baboon. I'm sorry I said that. It isn't fair to the rest of the baboons."
Hmm, after considering the early feedback, it seems most people didn’t have a problem with the ad, but had a huge problem with my sweeping generalization of the “women’s studies set”.
It’s a fair critique, and duly noted. I stand by everything else written, which is offensive enough to some people as is. But I honestly didn’t mean to smear anyone who has ever taken a women’s studies course, or majored or minored or gotten an advance degree in it. Just what is, to me, a small, extremist set looking for signs of female subjugation under every rock. So yeah, a poor choice of words that cast the net far too wide to cover the people that have, in fact, pissed me off.
Sorry about that, but not sorry about my broader point — that being sanctimonious about this ad is no different than the sanctimony we decry from people like Lieberman, Dobson, and the Family Values Coalition.
Kos probably hoped that would be the end of things. He also probably knew that it wouldn't. And it wasn't.
More angry voices were raised against him. Other counties were heard from.
One of those voices belonged to Shakespeare's Sister.
She wrote a long post laying out exactly what he'd done wrong and how he'd gone about making things worse for himself and his supporters on this matter, and there were many, most expressing their support in the same sort of language Kos used in his first attempt to shut the uppity women up.
The reaction she got from Kos' supporters was what you'd expect. In comments on her post and on their own blogs they told her to shut up.
She was hurting the cause with her criticisms of Kos and her insistence on making a mountain out of a molehill.
As if the cause and Kos are the same thing.
I can see how you might get confused. If you're from Boston, Kos and cause are pronounced alike---cawzzz.
But for all the good work Kos and the people who write for his page have done to help the Democrats, Kos is still what Gag Halfrunt said of Zaphrod Beeblebrox.
"He's just this guy, you know?"
This guy with a blog.
A famous blog. An important blog. But a blog. You start a blog, you're asking for criticism. That's the nature of the beast, the rules of the game, part of the very definition of the work!
John Cole wrote a post that he later claimed was meant to be satirical---he could have clued readers in earlier though by, well, I don't know, making it funny?---in which he pretty much captured the tone of the charges against Shakespeare's Sister.
Jazz Shaw at Running Scared wrote a post in which he affected to take Kos to task for his boorishness, but in which he spent more time explaining why Shakespeare's Sister and others with problems with Kos were causing too much trouble for the Democrats:
Like almost everything else in this snowballing debate, I think that comment [by Shakespeare's Sister] was over the top, and this is hardly a reason to stop reading her blog. I think it does, however, bring up a cautionary note. The GOP seems to be able, at election time (where the rubber really meets the road) to gel their support base into one unit, regardless of divisions inside the party. If this truly is an example of the type of issue that can immediately cause a schism in the Democratic Party, I think that's an alarm bell. If feminists, animal rights advocates, pro-choicers, tax reform advocates, civil rights workers and every other single issue group out there can't pull on the same rope, there's a rocky road ahead. I think that the party that purports to preach tolerance needs to be tolerant of divergent views inside their own ranks.
In short, I think KOS dropped the ball, but all the parties involved, in my never very humble opinion, could have taken the debate in a bit more of a low key direction.
Ok, besides the fact that it was Kos who got into trouble for being intolerant of divergent views and that bloggers like Shakespeare's Sister are being criticized here for expressing their divergent views---views that are divergent mainly in that they diverge from the views Kos and his supporters think they should have---Jazz is arguing that the best thing that good liberals and Democrats should do for the sake of the cause is pretend to be as homogenous, unquestioning, and uncritical of their Party's leadership as the Republicans are.
Even if this was wise counsel, it would be wise counsel only for people actively involved in getting a candidate elected.
We're not talking about campaign workers. We're talking about bloggers. And the point of having a blog is to use it to express one's own ideas and argue for one's own pet causes and issues.
(Editor's note: John Cole is a Republican, one of the good ones who are outraged by the incompetencies, dishonesty, and lust for power of the Bush Leaguers, but still a Republican, and Jazz Shaw was a Republican, although now he identifies as an Independent. So neither is truly representative of the liberals and Democrats criticizing Shakespeare's Sister and others who are mad at Kos. But from what I've read I think their criticisms are perfectly representative of the criticisms of the liberals and Democrats. Check out Shakespeare's Sister's comments or wade through the diaries at the DailyKos. Also the comments on Kathy Flake's post here.)
Shakespeare's Sister is having none of it. She's fighting back. Of course she is. She's a fighter. That's why she started the Big Brass Alliance, to help fight to get the regular media and the Democratic Congressional leadership to pay attention to the Downing Street Memo.
Look, I'm not taking Kos off my blogroll. His was one of the first links I put there when I started this page. I put him there under the heading of Good People at Work Saving the Republic. As I said last week, I only changed the name of that category because I thought Partisans sounds snappier. I still believe that working to save the Republic is what all of the bloggers listed there are doing, including and maybe especially Kos.
So he's there. He stays. But I'm not happy to see his name there. I'm not proud to see his name there. That would be like saying when I look out at my driveway at my station wagon I'm happy to see it and proud it's there. It's out there because it needs to be there. It's a necessary tool, one of the most important tools we use to keep the family going, and isn't that a sad commentary on American suburban life.
Kos is a station wagon on my blog roll.
I'm not going to compare Shakespeare's Sister to a car or a tool.
I am happy when I look at my blog roll and see her name on it. I'm proud her name is there. I'm thrilled whenever her name shows up in my comments. And I laugh out loud when email from her lands in my mail box.
Kos is not the liberal cause. He is not the Democratic Party. He has been important to both.
But I won't be surprised if someday, soon, Shakespeare's Sister is just as important.
When that happens, she will be just as much fair game for criticism as Kos is now. As she already is.
The difference between them is that she can take it.