December 23, 2005

"Everybody says I'm an asshole, and they're right, I am."

Says Kos -- Markos Moulitsas Zuniga -- in a big feature story in Washington Monthly.
Talking with Moulitsas, like reading his blog, is a singularly withering experience. He speaks in twenty-minute chunks, so you don't need to ask questions so much as provision buckets to catch the flood. When I nodded to agree with a point he made, he looked mildly disappointed; his conversation tends to circle back over itself, probing, seeking resistance. Moulitsas is not a naturally commanding presence—he's 5'6, slender, with a high-pitched voice and a rounded face that puts you vaguely in mind of an animated frog....

Moulitsas is touchy, far too self-assured, and easily provoked. But he's more interesting in person than he is on his blog, more thoughtful and funny and even a little bit more capable of self-criticism. He laughs, he makes fun of himself, he says absurd things and then takes them back, and then thinks again and doesn't—he actually enjoys himself. He told me a long story about egging on a blogger named Chris Bowers, who posts at MyDD.com, the same site where Moulitsas got his start. “I keep telling him, Chris, you've got to be an asshole, you're too soft for politics, the only way is to be an asshole, and you know what?” Moulitsas grins triumphantly. “He did. He's a lot tougher now.”
So that's the secret to getting the big traffic numbers in political blogging, then? Be an asshole? What fascinates me here is the revelation that Kos is "more interesting in person than he is on his blog." There's the other Kos blog, the blog that might have been: the funny, quirky, revealing personal blog that is capable of self-doubt, capable of standing outside the political forces it talks about. But doing politics requires focus and self-editing -- on a blog or anywhere else. If you feel an aversion to politics.... well, you should.

75 comments:

knoxgirl said...

He sounds like a peach.

All the bile over there gets boring pretty fast for me, but it obviously works for his audience.

XWL said...

"This kind of access would not have been possible in a different political moment. But long, uninterrupted strings of losses tend to break down the old hierarchies and democratize things. The myth of Karl Rove, which looms over American politics, and the conviction that the party's wins or losses are a matter of tactics, not substance, has left the Democrats looking for their own master tactician. And some in the party seem to want to see Moulitsas in that role."

Let it be so, let it be so, let it be so.

That's what the Democratic party needs, more Berkelely, less Topeka.

(I envision stronger Republican majorities as far as the eye can see should that scenario take place, and the stronger the Republicans are the greater influence the Libertarians within the party can wield)

Meade said...

I had to stop reading when I got to the word "singularly." Gyahg!

dick said...

As Clint Eastwood said, " A man should know his limitation." Obviously Kos does.

Charlie Eklund said...

Well said, Ann. Politics can be an odious art. I'm not sure that Kos has it 100% right, however. Being an asshole isn't a hindrance in politics provided that most of the voters don't know how big an asshole the politician in question really is.

Ron said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Icepick said...

Kos has a wife? Well, I guess new little assholes need to come from somewhere....

XWL, the Republicans will likely never have a majority that is significantly larger than what they have now. The wing of the party that is pushing religion in the public sphere is always going to put a severe limit on how far the party can grow. It's about at that limit now.

But if it does grow, I'm sure the libertarian wing will get some multiple of the influence they have now. Of course, zero multiplied by anything is still zero.

reader_iam said...

Icepick: They have a 2-year-old son.

Ann: When I first read this (post and the article itself), it literally put me off my breakfast. My stomach has settled and I've found my sense of humor again--sorta.

This profile of Kos and the kind of person it depicts certainly explains the kind of commenters he gets (the apples not falling far from the tree, and all that). The scary thing is how many would-be Kos-ses there apparently are.

Not as scary as the amount of influence he seems to have, though.

Ron said...

My reference to the Philandaring Mr. Kos is related more to a joke in another Althousian thread. No actual or implied disrespect to Ms. The Kos intended...

Timothy said...

Anybody who'd marry that little troll doesn't deserve respect, far as I can tell. Kos is one of the most consistently obnoxious and crazy posters on the web, Bowers has more traffic now that he's a jerk, but he's still a jerk.

You might have the fist of righteousness on your side, but you'll never persuade anybody to vote for you by being an asshole.

Mike said...

"touchy, far too self-assured, and easily provoked." A spot-on description of his followers. That's why he has so much traffic.

PatCA said...

He's shrill, angry, and loses all his elections: in other words, a Democratic star.

tiggeril said...

He strikes me as the blogging equivalent of... well... Jim on Apprentice:Martha.

Look at me! Wild and crazy! I'm an asshole! Hey, where are you going? Come back! I'm nuts! Whee!

Gary said...

There's something especially obnoxious about people who enjoy being obnoxious. I try to avoud them like the plague.

Robert said...

Should we have a distaste for politics?

It seems reasonable - certainly meshes with our gut feelings, doesn't it? But on the other hand, what's the alternative to politics?

I think the alternative is war and rule of the strong. When I gaze into my own soul, I don't see the Buddha looking back; just another overgrown monkey with an agenda. If I didn't have the political arena to try and work for my agenda, I suspect I'd be hoisting the black flag and slitting throats.

Surely politics is better than that.

Thersites said...

That's a terrific post, Ann! One of the most fascinating and even entertaining ones I've read in a long time.

I think your therapist would get a kick out of it too.

Simon said...

It somehow doesn't seem surprising that he is "more interesting in person than he is on his blog," as it hardly seems possible that he could be any less so. I read a few liberal blogs, and many of them are on the borderline between trite and outright offensive (Pandagon, for example walks a very fine line, but is usually enjoyable on some level). Reading Kos, on the other hand, is like trying to have a conversation with a jet engine: a deafening, frustrating experience with something that doesn't understand you, is so loud it couldn't hear you, and in any case doesn't care whether or not there's more to life than spitting hot air out of its rear-end.

Palladian said...

I try to avoid assholes in political life, because what comes out of assholes is generally foul and not very valuable.

It's nice to see that so many in the Democratic party are willing to gamble their political future and values assuaging this 5'6" high-voiced elf's "little man" complex.

The Drill SGT said...

THIS IS JUST A JOKE FOLKS

But if there were anyplace that would be a good source of email addresses to put in big brother's (NSA) email screen list, it would be the wackos that psot to the Daily Kos.

Some of those rants set new records in several categories.

Pastor_Jeff said...

I don't think he's joking at all. The Moulitsas of the left and right really believe in the righteousness of their cause and that the way to acheive their ends is through hate-filled confrontation, increased partisanship, and unapologetic assholery. I'm not sure anybody wins, and I have a feeling we all lose.

brylin said...

This paragraph tells it all for me:

"... Kos hadn't just fared poorly as an armchair quarterback—he'd been beaten on the field, too. In the Democratic primaries, he first backed Dean, then Wesley Clark. Both sparked grassroots excitement, but ultimately, of course, flamed out. Then, of the 13 Democratic candidates for Congress that Moulitsas handpicked for his readers to support—and for whom he raised over $500,000– not a single one prevailed."

reader_iam said...

Quick OT: I see our Blogress has not posted since early this morning--no doubt finally doing her Christmas shopping? Here I was betting she'd wait 'til tomorrow.

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't get it. He likes the fight, but doesn't have a cause aside from "winning." That's just weird. Why bother "winning" in that case?

equalizerequalizer said...

Has anyone actually bothered to read Markos' reaction to the piece? The WaMo got so much stuff wrong, they're now planning a whole seperate piece just for corrections.

Kos is actually one of the most humble, self-mocking guys online. He's passionate but doesn't profess to knowledge he doesn't have.

And to the comment about the Democratic party needing "more Berkeley," well, you clearly didn't read the story.

brylin said...

Equalizer: The stuff about supporting 15 losing candidates is absolutely true.

EddieP said...

All I gained from reading the article is that Kos is an Asshole and he's proud of it. I'm happy for him.

I hope the dems listen closely to him and the Screamer. Kos evidently has never been on a winning political team. He ought to join up with Bob Shrum. I think Shrummy is 0 for his last 8 campaigns.

Jacob said...

All the bile over there gets boring pretty fast for me, but it obviously works for his audience.
...
Kos has a wife? Well, I guess new little assholes need to come from somewhere....

I <3 irony.

AllenS said...

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga:

What a small man. Big mouth, but a small man after the bluster. A mature Democrat of leadership qualities needs to tell him to shut up. He offers nothing. He has no policy ideas. I'm afraid, that after all that the internet has to offer, the party without an ongoing dialogue will go nowhere. There is no dialogue with him, and we are all the worse off for it.

California Dog said...

The stuff about supporting 15 losing candidates is absolutely true.

but the point is to compete in all 50 states and force the Republicans to defend "safe" seats. Paul Hackett lost too, you think that was a victory for Republicans?
Thus that statement being "absolutely true" is irrelevant, and just demonstrates that you clearly do not understand what is going on.

Palladian said...

Well, what is going on, California Dog (are even the dogs in CA leftists?)? Has Kos gone all Karl Roveian on us, supporting candidates so that they will lose as part of some secret plan for George Soros to take over the reigns of government? What does Zuniga believe in? What are his values? What do Democrats believe in? What is Kos fighting for? What will his party change?

I'm not a Republican (or a Democrat) and by asking these questions I'm not suggesting that I think that the Republican party has the answers to them either, or isn't guilty of the same meandering lack of vision and power for power's sake philosophy I see in the Democratic party. But I do think that the kind of feelings that Kos knowingly engenders in his readers are frightening and often nauseating. The last thing I want to see is the Democratic party become the party of cynical nihilists, gainsayers of every American action, any more than they have but it will continue to happen if they keep their wagon hitched to the Kos types. Who knows, he may start winning elections for them. But at what cost to our country, and for what end?

I wish we could move beyond politics as pugilism.

tiggeril said...

I wish we could move beyond politics as pugilism.

Aye, there's the rub. If there's any consolation, it's not a modern invention. You should see some of the things that President Lincoln was called by the MSM of his day.

tiggeril said...

I would provide some examples, but I just realized I can't find the book that said examples are in. I'll do some digging at my parents' place this weekend.


I've still yet to get a fun verification word.

Jacques Cuze said...

This post makes you out to be a very small person. And it brings out those qualities in your echo chamber as well.

Sad.

Merry Christmas

Palladian said...

How tall are you, quxxo? quxxo... quxxo... quxxo... quxxo.....

Sorry about the echo. echo... echo... echo... echo... echo.....

Sad. Sad... Sad... Sad... Sad... Sad...

I nominate "echo chamber" as one of the forbidden words of 2006, ala Matt Groening.

Ann Althouse said...

It's interesting that the Kos defenders who've stopped by just name call. That's no defense at all. I could return the argument in your own style and just say something like: you're stupid. See how you're just not saying anything at all? You have zero effect on anything. You haven't learned to make arguments and give reasons. Maybe that's what you like about Kos or what you learned from him. Good luck in the real world.

brylin said...

California Dog: Close only counts in horseshoes and handgrenades. In all other areas, including politics, a miss is as good as a mile.

reader_iam said...

She's baaaaaack.

Equalizer: In response to your comment, I did in fact go over and read Kos' response (took a while to find it, though, which surprised me).

It does appear that there may have been a number of factual errors in the article--we'll have to see what, if any, correction the mag comes up with.

But even granting all the issues (and assuming they're all as stated, I do find that troubling, from a credibility standpoint, for at least that reporter), none of them really have to do with what I at least found objectionable. That would be the attitude, the seemingly wearing of the persona of "asshole," as if it were a badge; and the seemingly to greater desire to be on the winning side than to actually win on the merits.

I also just don't get why major Dem Party leaders can think of this man as some sort of guru, with special insights into what this country wants and needs. I don't mean that as a gratuitous snipe: I mean that I truly don't get it. What specifically is it that they think he has to offer?

And his comments section is what it is. I understand his loyal readers love it and that that's the audience for which he plays. For good or for ill, he carries the baggage of how his followers conduct themselves and how they are perceived. It comes with the territory, and I'm sure he knows that.

Finally, I do actually think Kos chose his words very carefully and was even gracious with regard to Washington Monthly and its staff. If there were that many errors etc., I'm not sure I would have been (but then, as former reporter-type and editor-type, I'm probably less forgiving).

reader_iam said...

At least Quxxo isn't quxxoing this time (that is, introducing and persistently pursuing an OT theme).

Progress.

wildaboutharrie said...

I'm not very familiar with the subject, but is Ron's comment about Markos a fact that is common knowledge, or is it something that should perhaps be removed?

Palladian said...

wildaboutharrie, I was curious about that myself. I don't like baseless and base personal accusations, no matter how ill I think of the subject of them.

I remember the loathesome Michelangelo (I hate that he defiles this name) Signorile and some of the radical gay left delighting in personally attacking Andrew Sullivan. As much as I dislike Sullivan of late, it still disgusts me that they pulled this on him.

Jacques Cuze said...

The secret to getting high traffic is to offer value to the reader in exchange for their time. If your traffic is not as high as you would like it to be, I would suggest you think of ways that a Constitutional Law Professor in a time of War, and a Imperial Presidency could best offer value to your readers. (In the past I have suggested many such ways.)

Your readers are not dumb. Your readers recognize that posts that merely bad mouth others that do better than you are posts they can hear from any 1st and 2nd grader. Not a whole lot of value add. (And as a parent of 1st and 2nd graders, I know this all too well.)

As one of your critics that try to help guide you on the path of truth, righteousness, and the American Way, this post of yours is really disappointing to me.

Happy Hannukah.

Pooh said...

As a left-leaner, I wasn't sure where to go for 'my side' when I first started lurking/blogging. Kos was the first 'big' lefty blog I found, and after spending 15 minutes there, I understood completely why the right thinks the left is 'moonbats' (though the 'hates america' bit still mystifies and offends me).

I'm disgusted by the "I just want to win. What the hell are we fighting for, again?" attitude which Kos personifies for the left (or Atrios, or...and for the right, I offer Ann's old friends at LGF or RedState).

As an ideal, "the marketplace of ideas" requires both ideas AND their exchange - it's not the "clash of gotchas" or "carnival of ad hominems" - Kos adds nothing to that, and either intentionally or tacitly detracts from it.

wildaboutharrie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
reader_iam said...

Pooh: !!!

wildaboutharrie said...

Meh - skip it. The damage has been done, I guess.

See ya, folks.

dick said...

Pooh,

The hates America bit came about when the American contractors were killed by the terrorists and hanged from the bridge shortly after the war started. Kos said that it was good, they deserved it and more should get the same treatment. That is where he deservedly got the reputation as one who hates America. This was around the time Michael Moore came out with his insurgents = minutemen and Ted Rall was doing his worse cartoons and all were linked by their hatred of the American military and consultants who were in Iraq. That was also about the time that the Kerry campaign pulled the ads from the Kos blog.

chuck b. said...

I am laughing so hard at one of the comments right now! I wonder tho', should I be crying instead? I mean, mental illness seems like a very real possibility, and I am not a cruel person.

Blogging and commenting are such strange media. It's almost like being in a crowded elevator that locks up between floors.



How many margaritas did Chuck B. have tonight? Just two.

verification word: fsikha

ChrisO said...

As a dedicated liberal, I find Daily Kos insufferble, largely because of the comments. Frankly, the few times I drop in there I see very little original posting, and a lot of vitriolic comments.

I do think that commenters here are extrapolating quite a bit from the article. I'm not sure that there's much evidence that Democratic leaders are looking to Kos for some kind of guidance. I suspect if anything they respond to the fact that he has a large audience, although Internet visitor numbers are decidedly imprecise.

I occasionally visit Ace of Spades, which is a very popular right wing site. The comments there are very similar to Kos in their level of vitriol and simplemindedness. I find that neither one of these blogs adds much to the debate. Ace mostly just disgusts me, while Kos embarrasses me. I much prefer a place where people can disagree in comments without a ridiculous level of name calling.

Palladian said...

ChrisO: Think Ace and Kos are bad? Try Atrios or Little Green Footballs comments. Or if you're really in the mood to cleanse your digestive system (or bowels, depending) try one of the fine Indymedia portals or Free Republic. Or Slashdot. Etc.

Sadly, it's the nature of the internet. Anonymous speech encourages speen venting. Just look at the trolls who post here. Almost all of them are "profile not available" if you click on their name.

Cold Pillow said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

I believe Ron was making an allusion to the Woody Allen discussion yesterday, not really asserting a fact about Kos, but since it's obviously susceptible to misinterpretation, I've removed it. The other part of his post was: "It's good of Kos to encourage other bloggers to be assholes, because if the Internet lacks one thing, it's pompous, loudmouthed, asshole writers..."

And I see the irony of my doing this: Kos doesn't monitor his comments.

Ann Althouse said...

Cold Pillow repeated the thing Ron had, so I deleted that one too.

ntodd said...

So Ann, your strategery for generating more traffic is to whine about the big guys? Clever. Very clever.

Ann Althouse said...

Another nonargument one sees a lot is to characterize your opponent's criticism as a "whine." That is too boring! I could just say back to you that you are whining about me. What's the point? How do you begin to imagine that you've said something?

Ron said...

Thanks Ann, for removing that post! Even though I tried to explain a couple of posts down, I just didn't get it right! Cross-post jokes -- a tricky thing!

ntodd said...

You cut me to the quick, Ann! I didn't realize you were arguing anything. I certainly wasn't making an argument--I was making a simple observation about your whining. Er, "argument".

BTW, do you know where I can get some good crack?

knoxgirl said...

jacob,

Kos himself started the "asshole" line, not an Althouse commenter, so your "irony" statement doesn't really work.

Also, this thread is lightyears ahead in taste and intelligence than any thread on the daily kos. If you spend any time on this blog, you know that to be true, so stop trying to create some sort of lowest-common-denominator equivalence where there is none.

ChrisO said...

Ann, thank you for addressing one of my real pet peeves. I wish we could abolish the word "whining" from every blog on the Internet.

Of course, I may feel that way because I hear that word so much from my wife. Why does she consider it "whining" just because I complain at length about some petty thing in a nasally, obnoxious voice?

knoxgirl said...

Anyone who jumps on to post a comment in defense of someone who brags openly about being an asshole... well, you've lost the argument before you're done typing.

Thersites said...

Also, this thread is lightyears ahead in taste and intelligence than any thread on the daily kos.

Well said! Gosh, you are EVER so smart and tasteful. And so endearingly modest. I bet you're also good looking and smell like fresh-baked pastry on a bright winter's morn.

Pooh said...

ntodd,

Way to represent the liberal viewpoint with dignity, class and incisive wit. You've really accomplished your goals in coming here and the progressive agenda flourishes do to your excellent and intelligent articulation of policies and rationales. You rise above mere partisanship and make sense to the everyday American. I salute you, my fellow traveler.

Now answer me this, is it easy being green and scaly?

(And note to the right-leaners here, ntodd sounds to you just like your average LGF/RedStater does to us. It sucks when your 'representatives' make fools of themselves.)

Auguste said...

Free Republic, LGF, and even Red State. Just sayin'.

dick said...

Pooh,

That explains why the dems lose elections. They cannot differentiate between logical arguments and static.

Jacob said...

The line I quoted was insulting Kos' (future?) children. Not exactly a shining example of level-headed debate. And sure, maybe things are more bilious over there but the Kossaks aren't claiming to be pure as daisies.

Thersites said...

You rise above mere partisanship and make sense to the everyday American. I salute you, my fellow traveler.

Sing it out, brother. Because if there is one thing everyday Americans really enjoy, it is a gang of folks endlessly congratulating themselves on how nonpartisan and civilized and smart they are. Ann Althouse will NEVER be called an asshole.

knoxgirl said...

Thers--

the whole point is that it doesn't take much... you don't have to come even close to being "pure as a daisy," for example.

ntodd said...

Now answer me this, is it easy being green and scaly?

No, it's a great burden, but I bear it with grace and a modicum of humble pride.

ntodd said...

Way to represent the liberal viewpoint with dignity, class and incisive wit.

I'm curious: what "liberal viewpoint" was I representing, exactly? I'm having difficulty comprehending, but maybe some patient instruction from an erudite, non-partisan, totally-non-whining representative of the "all that is right and good viewpoint" such as yourself, I might be able to rise above my humble R-factor-dominated "thinking" and become a better lizard, or maybe even a real boy.

Thersites said...

the whole point is that it doesn't take much... you don't have to come even close to being "pure as a daisy," for example.

I salute you, most sincerely, on your ability to engage in non-partisan self reflection. You have plumbed the depths of your soul and emerged from your journey better than the people you didn't like in the first place.

I feel all Christmasy inside.

Pooh said...

ntodd,

The funny thing is, is that I'm a leftish myself. I'm not hating the game, I'm hating the player.

But it was awful nice of you to show up here just to make nice. And by make nice, I mean call our host names and look for drugs.

Will getting banned enhance your street cred? Is there a merit badge? Can I play too?

ntodd said...

The funny thing is, is that I'm a leftish myself. I'm not hating the game, I'm hating the player.

The funny thing is I don't give a shit. I'm all about the game.

But it was awful nice of you to show up here just to make nice. And by make nice, I mean call our host names and look for drugs.

It sure is nice that you think I must agree with you because you're "leftish" yourself, or that my sharing my opinion that Ann does consistently whine about the big guys and how she can't understand why they get so much traffic and she doesn't is somehow calling her names. It sure is nice to know that people can disguise being assholes by the mere fact that they don't use words like 'whine' or joke about 'crack'.

Will getting banned enhance your street cred? Is there a merit badge? Can I play too?

I don't give a shit if I get banned or not. I've got my own blog and I'll just continue to be evil in my own little corner of the blogosphere. Why do you think you can divine my intentions based upon 2 completely innocuous posts? You don't sound "leftish" to me. You sound like the rightish wingnuts who claim to know what Terri Schiavo, Casey Sheehan and George Soros are thinking.

And if Ann really feels it's necessary to ban someone like me, so be it. I won't cry censorship because as I saw to trolls elsewhere, if you come take a crap on my lawn, I have every right to sic my dog on you. I'd say she's rather thin-skinned if it comes to that, though, since I haven't once called her a goatfucking assmunch, as is my wont.

Anyway, back on your high horse, Oh Leftish Majesty. I've got some stalls to muck.

Nim said...

Hmmm. Interesting approach to reponding to criticism....pointing out hypocrisy and petty small-mindedness is now meaningless name-calling. ANY critique, or repsonse that is not mere fawning adulation is juvenile name-calling.

Since others have already pointed out the rank hypocrisy of the comments, let alone the original post, it bears repeating.

But let me say this: perhaps some of the reason that Kos and Eschaton are incredibly more popular is that they in fact have a little more self-awareness, engage in self-correction, and tolerate criticism, instead of reflexively talking down to critique like a patient grown-up explaining alien concepts to disobedient children. Which ends up saying more about the original poster than the critique.

Matlock Expressway said...

I read Kos, but not the comments. Same thing with Atrios. Any of the high-traffic blogs (left or right) get far too many foul-mouthed loons commenting to be worth my time separating signal from noise. Taking such comments and hopping on a moral high-horse about "the other side" is childish and specious, IMHO.

It's interesting that the Kos defenders who've stopped by just name call.

... for example.

Ann Althouse said...

Folks, I don't have a way to ban people! I just delete comments that violate my standards.

And I don't remember ever complaining about the fact that some bloggers get a lot of traffic! Worrying about that is like worrying about why a pop star sells a lot of records. You're misreading my posts if you interpret them that way. I may critique the blogging, but I'm not looking for tips to change my own blogging, and I'm not interested in changing my style of blogging to get more readers. If you think otherwise, you need to work on your reading skills (or take the time to read what you're criticizing before just blathering). And I will delete further crap in this thread. Some of the people taking up space here are not doing a good enough job. Shape up or see your writing deleted.

dave said...

Is this quote from the article that the author later had to retract about 90% of?

'Nuff said.