What is Kos?

I’m thinking that Daily Kos is not — as it wants to be and is often painted — netroots, the voice of a popular movement.

No, it’s more like Tammany Hall, a would-be powerbroker and kingmaker. And Kos is the would-be party boss.

Notice I say would-be.

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  • What is DailyKos?

    DailyKos is the most succcessful online community I know of. (Of course it has tons of problems, as well.)

    The comparison of Markos to the old style political boss is, I believe, fatally flawed. Whatever similarities there may be are dwarfed by the differences, primarily because of what I said before: the site is an online community.

    Here’s a piece from Mother Jones that takes your view: Meet the New Bosses. I argued with Mother Jones at PressThink but if I put the link in your spam filter will eat my post.


  • Jeff:

    How many party bosses are regularly admonished by their supposed patronage-muted supporters? When Markos posts something that his readers dislike, they let him know in their comments. Same with when he makes a mistake. And how many party bosses let their constituents pick their lieutenants?

    As Jay sez, DailyKos is an online community. A mid-sized virtual city, in fact, with a complex and fascinating social structure (did you know that it has a weekly gardening club?) that has enabled it to grow and keep growing even as its size has made it far less intimate than in its early days, when Markos actually knew (by name or handle) several hundred of his primary readers.

    The comparison to Tammany Hall is way off.



  • Eric Jaffa

    Kos wants politicians-he-likes to get elected.

    So does everyone who cares about politics.

    With regard to whose voices are at “Daily Kos,” anyone expressing a Democratic viewpoint can post comments and make a blog-post (“Diary”) which will be read by a lot of people if it gets voted on to the “Recommended Diaries” list.

  • Sam

    This is getting embarrassing…

  • Harrison

    Translation: Kos doesn’t support the same candidate as I do, so he must be a fraud.

    I have personally been leaning towards Clinton, but your insistence in painting anyone who disagrees with you (potentially, us) as a fraud, a huckster, etc. is a total betrayal of your own professed principals.

    You have personally sacrificed a ton of credibility. I used to see a Jarvis headline in my feed-reader and think, I should read that, he’s a bright guy. Now I see them and think, “jeez, another screed from the idiot”. Sorry, but that’s how I, and I think many, many others, think.

  • Jeff, it’s time to take a step back from your Hillary obsession. You are stating to embarrass yourself. You of all people should be able to see Dailykos for the online community that it is, with lots of differing viewpoints, and hardly a Markos dictatorship. Just because Markos and a large number of Kossacks don’t agree with your choice of candidates doesn’t make them the second coming of Boss Tweed.

    Here’s an idea. Why don’t you post your thoughts on this race on DailyKos? Make your case for why they are wrong, and you are right. That would seem to be the kind of advice you would be giving others, if you weren’t so deeply embedded in this race.

  • You post “The Truth”. I post “The Truth”. Kos posts “The Truth”.

    As each of us knows it, of course.

    It appears that you want the best for the country, Kos wants the best for the country, and I want the best for the country. We’re all well-meaning.

    The difference is, I’m the one who’s right; you and Kos are merely well-meaning. *grin*

  • pdh

    I don’t go to DailyKos. I am fascinated by the process of politicians but think most (if not all) politicians (and their rabid adherents) are unwholesome (thanks Jeff for re-enforcing that supposition). Since I don’t KOS at all, I wonder if he eliminates dissenting opinions from his site. If he does, maybe he is a dictator. If he does not, then it sounds like Democracy.

    In reading other posts by you related to the Hilary-Obama thing, you have called at least one poster a coward for saying she wouldn’t be coming back to your site. She wanted information on new media, you said she couldn’t face opinions that differed from her own. Another poster who asked that you stick to what many of us come here for was told to get lost. “This is my blog, I’ll post what I want. If you don’t like it, then leave.” I don’t know if you filter comments, JJ, but this doesn’t sound like Democracy.

    I don’t think you are embarrassing yourself. Heck, you might even be getting paid for your shameless shilling of your candidate. But I don’t find your recent rants intelligent, thought-provoking or ground-breaking. You regurgitate what others say then shout: “See, see.”

    You are sacrificing a lot of credibility. But it is not just the crap you are shoveling, it is the tone and attitude of it. It used to be that the politics of divisiveness were the province of the GOP. This primary campaign is proving to many that Dem politicians can be just as dirty and unwholesome as those other guys. Me, I never turn on FOX News, I avoid Rush Limbaugh like the plague, I stay away from all of those nattering nabobs because they can’t handle intelligent discussions and use their forums to shout: “See, see,” then brow-beat anyone who would disagree.

    Would it be an insult to say you sound a lot like them? Would you be offended to hear that you sound like a Republican? Or would you just respond, they’re popular, they’re famous, everyone knows who they are. Bully for me?

  • tom

    just unsubscribed from this feed.

  • I loved this:

    “Since I don’t KOS at all, I wonder if he eliminates dissenting opinions from his site. If he does, maybe he is a dictator. If he does not, then it sounds like Democracy.”

    I feel compelled to add that if he’s covered in whipped cream and fudge, then maybe he’s an ice cream sundae.

  • Bill McGuillicutty

    I’m so glad people are finally calling you out about the Hillary obsession. It’s so annoying.

  • Eric Jaffa

    pdh –

    Kos allows posts which disagree with him.

    But the website isn’t a place to post anything. For example, people who posted that the September 11, 2001 attacks were caused by a conspiracy within the US government have been banned by Kos.

  • Jeff, right on target. For those who suggest that Kos is fundamentally different (as opposed to different in mechanism because technology-enabled), I’d suggest a little more reading about how Tammany actually worked. I’d suggest the classic ‘Plunkett of Tammany Hall’, and the newer ‘Rainbow’s End’.


  • pdh

    As for whipped cream and hot fudge, it does sound like some would like to either he Kos or ask that he eat them. On the issue of whether he operates an open coomunity, I don’t much care. I won’t visit because I don’t the ‘discussions’ conducted by those who are rabidly polical (too crap, not enough fiber). But it takes more than a difference of opinion to be different from them. I can get free crap anywhere on the internet. I began coming here because it seemed relatively crap free.

  • Posting on DailyKos and being read are two different things. There is a clique of insiders who are granted special privileges and there is a slightly larger group of favorites whose diaries get recommended by loyal readers regardless of what they say.

    If you don’t belong to one of these two groups your individual diary will most likely be pushed down to obscurity in under an hour. This may be “democratic” in a rough sense, but it is more like a mob shouting down anyone who doesn’t toe the party line.

    There are technological solutions to this sort of problem (FIFO postings) but Kos has not see fit to implement them. For example both Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo (and its offspring) have sub categories which allow items to be sorted by topic. This way items don’t have to compete for attention when they are on totally different topics.

    DailyKos has gone from a community where policy and politics could be discussed (as well as daily events) to one solely focused on promoting favored candidates. There is probably a place for such an effort, but then just declare that is the intention and stop pretending to something else.

  • pdh

    “DailyKos has gone from a community where policy and politics could be discussed (as well as daily events) to one solely focused on promoting favored candidates. There is probably a place for such an effort, but then just declare that is the intention and stop pretending to something else.”

    I can’t help but ask: What’s the difference here?

  • So supporting a candidate is an “obsession.” I’d say the Obama cultists qualify for that description as well.

  • Jay,
    You’re usually more careful with your word choice. THE MOST SUCCESSFUL ONLINE COMMUNITY?
    OK folks, let’s hear nominees for that title.
    I’ll start with Facebook and eBay.

  • Donna

    I can’t bear Kos because they are so nasty to anyone with a different opinion. It’s not the disagreements so much it’s just the hateful one-way-ness there that’s makes it unpalatable tor me.

  • Is Facebook a “community?” I don’t see it as that. It’s not a group of people held together (online) by their shared beliefs. Facebook is many kinds of groups dwelling together on a common platform. The platform is a public space with privacy settings.

    I’ll repeat it because I thought about it the first time: Dailykos.com is the most successful online community I know of. Others may have their own nominations; Kos is mine. Not the biggest or best network, not the most successful site. The strongest, most generative, most original community of people yet birthed online. It also has innumerable problems, as I said, including some narrow minded people.

    Given the beliefs they share about democratic politics and the beliefs they share about the Net’s capacity to open up the system and re-order the hierarchies that have always run things with the Democratic Party… it is perfectly rational for this particular community to identify Obama as the candidate more in tune with DailyKos priorities and more sympathetic to the community’s basic quest. At an earlier stage it was Edwards. That’s normal politics, seems to me. They know what their interests are, and which candidate is closer to sharing those interests.

    I myself would prefer to live in a world where a strong community like DailyKos could be on the whole for Obama, but at the site community members who were for Clinton could also thrive and users could engage over their differences. I think you need major and minor chords; you need dissent, otherwise known as loyal opposition.

    I’m not sure why the blogosphere has divided the way it has this year; I would have to study it more carefully before venturing an explanation. But I am sure why DailyKos has whatever influence or weight it has: it’s a genuine activist community.

  • Jeff:

    I know that this was a barbed observation…however….let me take it at face value for a second and savor it for a moment.

    It would be so…cool…for you to be right.

    Not for Markos, per se, to emerge as some sort of kingmaker, but for an online community to become a sort of aggregate power broker.

    I personally, would love to see the current crop of professionals on both sides rendered impotent, and all the talking heads put on the program that the record business os on…

    One of the things I like most about the Obama campaign (sorry) is that they’ve raised money primarily through smaller doners – you gotta admit it’s a good trend.

    As you point out (“would be”) it’s going to be a while before any sweeping change becomes true.

    But, the same thing is going to happen to political parties as happened to the music biz or the newspaper industry. A more efficient, Internet powered, dynamic is going to emerge eventually which will basically be worse in every way but one to the current structure — but that one way is a doozy – it competes with the current model more effectively, and will strangle the current structure into decline.

    Worse is better. The Internet kills all that it confronts. Two more election cycles and the net will be in charge.

    Don’t like the Kos folks — no prob — go out and found a different batch. But let’s focus on the bigger issue — empowerment of the amateurs (ie “the people”) at the expense of some class of professionals.

    Come on, it’s our *job* to disrupt the dominant paradigm, right? :-)

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  • Jimmy

    Let me start off by saying I’m not a Daily Kos fan. When I made those first steps into online communities and blogging (not long after September 11 when I also discovered this site) Kos was one of the first I started reading and participating in, and unlike you I can still give him credit for creating, as has been noted, an extremely successful online community. For someone who repeatedly talks about the future of journalism I find it a little interesting that you so quickly dismiss Kos. As you often say, “your site, your rules,” but it’s still a little sad how you so quickly dismiss anyone who doesn’t agree with you. The Hillary supporters did not leave Kos because he kicked them off, they left because they were too thin skinned. Rather than stay and fight for their candidate as other Kos community members do, they pouted and ran.

    I don’t visit the Kos sight often simply because they aren’t to my tastes, but I do keep it on my RSS reader and occasionally they have some damn fine investigative reporting going on, the very kind of thing you so often celebrate. Are you saying your support extends only to those who agree with you? Well, as you say: your site, your rules. Still, it’s a tiny bit sad.

  • Jeremy C.

    You’re off the deep end on this one Jeff. It’s almost as if you’ve been assimilated into the Borg that is HRC fanaticism. You’re not only trumpeting her talking points but now you’re actually EMULATING the woman herself. It’s bordering on comical at this point.

    Many here have already made better arguments as to how this negatively affects your credibility than I could produce in the time I have today so I will just ‘Second’ what’s been said.

  • Jeff,

    At the risk of piling on to the verbal whoopin’ you’re taking from new media colleagues and BuzzMachine readers, I have to agree with the general consensus against your thinking in this post.

    You are right in a sense. Kos wants to be a “kingmaker,” despite his occasional protests to the contrary. That’s why I took to sarcastically calling him “Kingpin Kos” toward the end of my stint at Beltway Blogroll for NationalJournal.com. He has behaved more and more like a would-be kingmaker with every netroots success, however modest, in the political world.

    But in the bottom-up online world, Kos will never be a kingmaker. The best he can hope to do is convince people that his way is right. He has no real Tammany-Hall-like power to wield in order to force them to follow; they will or they won’t based on their beliefs. And when Kos crosses a line, he will lose their loyalty. That’s the way of the Web.

    Matt Stoller of Open Left made a powerful point about the limited reach of the netroots in the 2008 presidential election in this grudging admission: http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do;jsessionid=2DF096603C11BD609B2BB688D18C6A51?diaryId=5491.

    “I just don’t think we really have a role in this Presidential race anymore,” Stoller wrote. “It doesn’t matter what I say or do, it doesn’t matter what kinds of comments we put up, what Josh Marshall says, it only matters what Obama and a few key staffers say and think. And they don’t care what we think, they have other channels they care about, including a whole network of grassroots organizers. Their attitude is probably along the lines of ‘well we won without them, they all think they know better than we do, let them run a race for once.'”

    To the extent that Kos is a kingmaker, it’s because he is a persuasive, albeit purposefully obnoxious and arrogant, individual. He swaggers online like Jeremiah Wright did at the National Press Club this week. The difference is that Obama, or at least his campaign staff, recognized Kos for what he is early in the campaign. Perhaps one day soon the scales will fall from the eyes of the netroots masses as well.

    Danny Glover, Executive Producer
    Eyeblast TV

  • Danny,
    Wonderfully said.
    But you’re being far more critical of Kos than I am: You’re saying he wants to be a kingmaker but won’t be.
    I’m just saying he’s thinking of himself as a kingmaker.
    And that is why I don’t see DailyKos as a community. It is Kos’ community, his turf, his followers. Those who disagree be damned and be gone .That’s no community. It’s a fiefdom.
    But you’re quite right that he’s not necessarily successful at his powerbrokering. Look at Connecticut and how the self-proclaimed netroots lost a seat for the party in the Senate.
    So you’re discussing his success or failure. I’m trying to discuss the nature of the phenomenon. I see it less as a community and more as an attempt to be a Tammany Hall, successful or not.

    (Others: Sorry I haven’t joined in today but I have been head down at the keyboard on my work. Will try to get in later tonight if I make good progress. )

  • Eric Jaffa

    People who care about politics would like to get the candidates they support elected.

    Kos and millions of other people would like to do that.

    If you’re going to criticize Kos for this, you may as well criticize millions of other people, too.

    Regarding 2006, Ned Lamont ran for US Senate in CT with Kos’ support and lost. Jim Webb ran for US Senate in VA with Kos’ support and won. He wins some and loses some.

  • Jeff, after two years or so of giving up writing about politics you may want to reconsider your decision to come back to it. It’s a lot more mature than the days when you would post some trite thing about how we should go to war, get a pat on the head from Instapundit and laugh loudly about being a “warblogger”.

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