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                                       politics + culture

Thursday, September 21, 2006

the politics of Peter Daou's invite list pt. ii

I very deliberately titled my last post on this subject with Peter Daou in the title. There's a point there that I think folks have been missing.

Peter Daou works for Hillary Clinton, a U.S. Senator and presumptive Presidential candidate. It's his job to do outreach to the blogs.

To criticize Peter in that capacity is, far from being unfair, par for the course. Criticism is to be expected in politics and comes with the territory.

Had Peter been assigned to do a lunch with the Korean grocer's association of Manhattan, no one would have griped if the resulting photo depicted Clinton w/ Korean grocers. That wasn't the case here. This "bloggers lunch" and the photo that resulted from it, just did not reflect the diversity of the blogosphere or its leaders. Hell, it doesn't reflect the blogosphere that Peter himself linked to extensively in his admirable career at Salon.com. To do that meeting, with that outcome, both visible and invisible, was a mistake.

For Terrance at the Republic of T to bring that up was courageous.

Now, for a blogger to be critical of the employee of a Democratic Senator is hardly surprising or new. It's par for the course. However, in this instance Terrance made his observation with some sense of the guff and feedback he would get from the blogs...and guff and feedback he got. I respect Terrance MORE for bringing this up regardless of the criticism he would get. The photo, and the lack of inclusiveness it represents, is Peter's creation, not Terrance's.

It's Peter's job to do outreach to the blogs...to communicate...to ensure inclusion...to lead. That's what he gets paid to do. As I said in my first post, Peter led us into this situation; he has a professional obligation to lead us out of it. While I respect the diversity of links that Peter provided in his career at Salon.com and understand that he had invited people to the lunch who did not come, that doesn't absolve him from taking reponsiblity for the fact that this lunch has had some negative impacts that need to be addressed. We need to take steps to make sure this does not happen again.

Criticism of the employee of a U.S. Senator for the lack of inclusion at a bloggers meeting and in the resulting group photo made public far and wide comes with his job. It's not a personal dig; it's called professional accountability.

That's a point that too many miss here. That does not mean it was not the essential issue all along.


  • Thanks for the shout out, but I'd hesitate to critique Peter's handling of his job, mainly because I don't know how much work it takes to round up a group of bloggers and jump through all the flaming hoops that are probably necessary to get them in front of a president. I imagine there are a lot of them. The flaming hoops, that is.

    My understanding is that the meeting was arranged on short notice, and that's one of the reasons some of the people invited couldn't make it. I believe what Peter has said about that, and, as I've said before, I don't think there was any intentional exclusion.

    For my part, I'm not sure that expected a discussion quite this big would ensue. But I hope that everyone can begin to deal constructively with the issues that were brought up. Based on the discussion I've seen online, I think that's already underway.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:47 PM  

  • Terrance, that's my hope too. And I think your words on Peter and his explanations redound to the good.

    I wrote this piece because I think the "discussion" had turned to a rather bogus focus: bloggers attacking bloggers.

    In the big picture, it is just "shocking, shocking" that a blogger would criticize a Senate staffer.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 5:16 PM  

  • i want to know why he didn't invite more bloggers named after famous 60's kangaroos.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 8:07 PM  

  • I don't know that I agree with this. Well, I agree on Daou being a senate staffer, and all this being his job and that he should have made sure there were more diverse people included and all that... but not on the rest.

    But what was Daou's job? To do outreach to the blogs... and in this instance, get a group of movers and piggy bank shakers in to meet with former President Clinton. In posts on the feministe thread various people who have spoken to Daou in one way or another mention various things.

    Amanda of Pandagon says that she was sounded out about going, but when she said she couldn't was asked if there was anyone she could name who might want to go. (Her co-blogger, Pam in Durham was not issued an invitation.) She suggested he ask people in NY or closer. Jill says that he wanted to mainly have people there that he knew personally or had met in person, so that he wouldn't be bringing some iffy people in to meet Clinton. Ahem... I admit, I have to laugh everytime I see that line.

    Anyway... somehow or another he wound up with a bunch of insiders, and not a colorful person among them (not even on the phone, as the crooks and liars guy was). His mistake, that, and he certainly should bear the blame for it... but he had a limited amount of time, and apparently an extremely limited list. Maybe like an email list that doesn't exist or something.

    My point is, that I am reaching in my long winded manner... he did do his job. He got them there to meet the president, even if in a little disarray.

    Unless he is also doing political/blogger consulting on the side, his job ended when this group walked out the door... and that's exactly where the problems started.

    All this stuff flows out not from the photo itself.. but from the "leaders of the blogosphere" and the decisions they made collectively in how to deal with it. Instead of someone (one of them, instead of Liza or Terrance) saying "whew! We met Clinton today, but it looked like a blizzard had blown into NY! Here's why." they instead made other choices.

    And things went downhill from there, with every successive collective strategy employed, from being dismissive, arrogant, hostile, threatening, racist, decent or ignoring it all together, everything that has come about has resulted not from the meeting and the photo but from extremely bad decisions being made afterwards.

    I don't want to completely absolve Daou from any blame, but it is my personal opinion that the bulk of it does not rest with him. And that dealing with this issue as if it did would not further things at all.

    This entire "we cannot be questioned, we are leaders, we must be secretive, we are too important to even have decent manners!" stuff, and all the rest of it, that's what needs to be dealt with.

    Mind you, I don't frequent the "leaders of the blogosphere" type blogs anyway but, as we have seen, the fall out from the truly stupid strategies they have acted on has had a much larger ripple effect.

    I think these effects will be being felt for a while, not only over the race and inclusion issue - although I feel that well has been well and truly poisoned with all the talk about "affirmative action" for bloggers and quotas and tokens - but also over other questions that were and are being raised but are being barely heard (for now), underneath the mountains of race and breasts.

    By Blogger Nanette, at 9:24 PM  

  • Right on, kid oakland. It is about professional accountability (not personal attacks). Once this issue is seen in that light, it becomes less of an offense versus defense setup (which is something that often happens with race related discussions).

    And the use of language, I feel, is really key here. "Inclusion" is one thing -- it has the feel of "tolerance" and "cultural competency" in my mind; a more appropriate "reflection" of the blogosphere is another.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 10:20 PM  

  • the whole idea of blog leaders itself seems antithetical to the whole DIY enterprise of blogging, in my opinion. that a group of people who consider themselves "leaders" would come from a predictable demographic is worth paying attention to, but ultimately seems a product of the generally bad idea of self-appointed leaders of what should be communities of equal citizens.

    it was a teaching moment, at any rate, and well worth pointing out.

    (disclaimer: the author is also a thirtysomething white male)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:54 AM  

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