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June 12, 2010

Blog Drama

I really should have known better to tangle with Captain Queeg. Just because now I have to do this post.

This is my own fault. Johnson didn't attack me, he attacked Allah, and Allah's a big boy, and can take care of this stuff himself. So I volunteered to get into the drama; I didn't have to, and that's on me.

Having entered the drama -- my fault again! -- I guess I now have to further it.

But at least I'll put it under the jump.


1. Thanks for publishing the headers of an email I sent you, Charles! On the pretext that I might claim the email is fake. (Hey, why not wait for me to claim that? Then you can expose me as a liar.)

I don't think someone can figure anything out from gmail headers, but it's the sort of threatening creepiness we've come to expect from him. I do appreciate the fresh worries, Chuck.

2. That email about Sweetness and Light is a damnable lie!

3. Oh wait, no it's not; it's genuine. (See, didn't really have to be creepy about this, Queeg.)

For reasons I don't want to get into -- just as when I did not want to get into them when I foolishly mentioned this Johnson -- someone I happen to trust warned me that it would be best to keep a distance from S&L.

That's sort of all I'd like to say, as it was never my idea to take that bit of it public. It was never my problem, but rather the problem of someone else I had sympathy and regard for.

And the hot tone of that email was due to the fact I'd just heard this stuff recently, as in, within the past couple of weeks. Had the thing not been recent in my mind, I would have just said, "Duly noted."

But Charles Johnson thought it best to explicitly name the a third party. Another bit of creepiness -- couldn't have just XXXXd out the third party named? No, of course not; it's The Creep's way of saying "None of your secrets are safe."

And also, of course, alerting S&L that maybe I've got something against him.

4. About his claim that he didn't get his outing-victims' information from PayPal, but rather independently from "publicly available" sources plus his helpful informants: Well, I can't know how he got the information. I note he doesn't deny that the information was available to him via PayPal; he just says he got it from a different source.

So, there's CJ"s version of guaranteed anonymity: If you piss him off, and you've donated to you, he promises he will never out you using information gotten from your donations.

It is his solemn vow that such information will instead be gotten from other sources. Instead of the three-minutes-of-work needed to out you from PayPal information, he promises he will instead put in the several hours of work to track your information from "other sources."

Whether people find that reassuring is up to them. I consider it very dirty pool, as does everyone else. The NYT profile of him noted that this was pretty much unprecedented on the Internet.

5. As to whether he grabs credit and swipes stories: This is a bit of complicated issue, involving blog courtesy and such. Since the rest of this post is so inside-blogball, I guess there's no harm in going further down this rathole.

Let me talk about "swiping stories." Johnson believes that if he throws in a lame hat-tip at the end of a post, he hasn't "swiped a story," because he's given you attribution.

That's not the case. A lame hat-tip at the end of a post covers one's ass, I suppose, in terms of attribution, but it fails to do what a proper link is supposed to do: Throw some traffic.

Some blogs are deliberately "gateway blogs," throwing out traffic wide and far in general furtherance of good-guy blogger boosterism. is deliberately, and most famously, this kind of blog.

Instapundit looks for excuses to link blogs -- not media stories, though he links them too of course; but his primary goal is to call attention to other blogs and "share the wealth." He has a very good reputation along these lines; the only problem with an Instapundit link is that it doesn't throw as much traffic as you'd think it would, but that's largely because he's linking so many blogs during the day that you're just getting a small slice of his readers.

Crucially, if a blog mentions, say, a Reuters story, Instapundit tends to link the blog which tipped him, rather than the Reuters story itself; anyone interested in that story, then, has to at least go through the blog to get to the story. They'll end up at Reuters, but they go through the tipping blog first.

On the other hand, some blogs are very jealous and ungenerous about throwing links and traffic to "competitors." Some blogs fancy themselves not "gateway blogs" but "destination blogs," and attempt to set themselves up as the only blog you need to read.

Not a portal, then, but a terminus.

It has always been my belief that Charles Johnson fancied his blog as that.

Let's say Jammie Wearing Fool tips me to a story. Now, in the story he's linked, there are only three or four quotable paragraphs -- that's the way most news stories go, right? Three or four paragraphs of good stuff, and then some background, and then some filler.

Now, if Jammie Wearing Fool tips me to this story, and quotes the two good paragraphs from it, and then when I push the story I also quote the same two paragraphs, what have I "left behind" at Jammie Wearing Fool that would induce someone to click on his link?

If you take everything from Jammie Wearing Fool, see, you're not throwing him any traffic when you lamely, at post's end, say "Thanks to JWF." That's a hat-tip, sure, and a hat-tip and four bucks will still buy you a cup of Starbucks coffee. But that's all.

To actually throw traffic to the site, you have to be able to say "More at JWF" and you have to kinda-sorta mean it most of the time. There does have to be "more" there, or else readers will soon realize you're lying when you say that.

One thing you can do to "leave something behind" is link Jammie Wearing Fool for the story itself, and not Reuters; in that case, if someone wants to read the original article in full, they have to at least go to Jammie Wearing Fool to get that link.

Sometimes this is sort of hard to avoid, stealing the guts of someone's find. Especially when it's just a hot video being linked -- at that point you have to choose whether to swipe the video and have it on your site, too, or just throw a link to the guy who had it first.

My experience with throwing tips to Charles Johnson was this: Don't bother. Because if you sent him the tip that a Reuters story included interesting paragraph 1, interesting paragraph 2, and interesting paragraph 3, your "reward" from the Great Charles Johnson was seeing this up at his wonderful blog:

Reuters [direct link to Reuters story]:

Interesting Paragraph 1. [which you sent him]

Interesting Paragraph 2. [which you sent him]

Interesting Paragraph 3. [which you sent him]

Via Ace of Spades. [Gee, thanks! You mentioned me! You see that, Ma? I'ma somebody now!]

It quickly dawned on me that if I wanted any traffic from LGF readers, the right strategy was to not tip Charles Johnson, thus forcing, sort of, his readers to come over to my blog and see for themselves if I'd found anything of interest.

Because, if I sent Johnson a tip, that whole tip was going up on his site, pretty much, just as I myself had put it on mine, with no apparent reason for any reader to click through to me. In other words, having an Ace of Spades tip up at LGF pretty much meant his readers wouldn't come over to the site, as they'd know that CJ had faithfully reproduced the only interesting thing on my site that day.

Better, then, to leave it up in the air as to whether anything interesting was going on on this site then, so at least I'd get curiosity-clicks.

It's kind of screwed up when you realize you probably get more traffic by not being linked from a site than being linked by it.

I never really sent out too many tips to anyone, but when I realized LGF was a big site (which came sort of late -- I only became aware of him kinda late in the Blog 1.0 period), I did occasionally send him tips when I sent them out to the other heavier-hitters.

Eventually I just stopped tipping him, because, I figured, why do any favors for him if none would be coming back in return?

Hell, let him find the story I found on his own. If I'm not going to get the proper link-back, then why should I just be one of his tipsters?

This is what I mean by "swiping stories." I'm not saying he doesn't offer a hat-tip. But I'm saying few in the blog-world (apart from newbies) give a crap about a hat-tip; what people want is traffic, fresh eyes checking out their sites; and Charles Johnson has been extremely begrudging and stingy about leaving anything behind at blogs he got tips from.

And this is what bloggers meant on this score, and why other bloggers simply stopped tipping him altogether. Wasn't worth the time it took to cut and paste an email, or to even bcc him into one you already did.

Unless you really just wanted to see your blog mentioned on the Great Little Green Footballs (and personally, I never got the attraction), or were big into advancing your numbers on that The Truth Laid Bear chart, what's the point?

As I said, he thinks of his site as a terminus, not a gateway. Fine. He wants his blog to be one-stop shopping, with no reason to visit other blogs. Again, fine.

But also: duly noted.

As for grabbing credit: Like I said, I realize the media wants to simplify stories to include the fewest number of actors. I get that. That's not Charles Johnson's fault. That's the way it is.

But somehow the media keeps getting the idea that Charles Johnson was the originator, or at least "the central blogger" in RatherGate.

Does he correct them? I realize that even if he corrected them in an interview, that might not make it to print.

But see this NYT profile of Johnson, calling him "the central blogger" in Rathergate. (Emphasis added by me.)

Johnson takes issue with the (quite derogatory) profile in a pair of posts; though he offers the profile several "fact-checks" (some pretty dubious), I don't see him offering any kind of nuance to their claim that he was "the central blogger" in Rathergate.

I don't see him saying, "I was a central blogger on Rathergate, but Powerline and BillINDC were also central players, not to mention the non-blogger BuckHead who broke the story, and I told them so: And yet they couldn't even get that much right."

Whether he affirmatively grabs credit I don't know, and I couldn't know. I'm not privvy to what it is he claims to media reporters.

It does seem to me that the media tends to overstate his centrality in these stories, and it also seems to me he's never been terribly eager to correct their overstatements.

Passively permitting the media to overstate your role is also a kind of spotlight-grabbing, after all: Ask Blumenfield in Connecticut. The media kept somehow getting the impression he'd been a soldier in Vietnam, and, despite frequently demanding corrections on other matters, he never corrected them on this point.

This last point is fairly churlish on my part, because Johnson did, definitely, play an important role in Rathergate; that GIF was a terrific visual.

Still -- it was a GIF. He put together two screencaps and made them cycle between each other. No credit for BillINDC, who actually landed an interview with the author of the Bible of typography (only later contacted by the media), who said that typeface simply didn't exist in the seventies. Nor credit to Rathergate.com, nor Powerline, and so on.

Look: At the end of the day, as cool as it was, Charles Johnson made a GIF. And then he did what every other blogger was doing -- he linked stories.

The central blog? Well... a central blog, sure. But more accurately: A big blog with a lot of traffic that linked stories, same as everyone else. Which also made a GIF.

Like I said: A terminus blog.


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posted by Ace at 04:27 PM

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