Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why FireDogLake Is No Innocent Party

In my last post, I mentioned FireDogLake's reaction to one blogger's views about a recent Clinton meeting in Harlem with bloggers that just so happened (as some would have us believe) not to include any bloggers of color. Well, I think it warrants a bit more attention.

Unfortunately, things got even nastier over there. At first, I simply read what the other commenters had to say. Several people tried to explain why so many bloggers of color weren't just chock full of happy thoughts (about this event) as their writers, David Ferguson (also known as "TRex") and Jane Hamsher, seemed to think we should feel. Instead of focusing on the point that she was making, Ferguson decided to make it quite clear that those at FireDogLake do not consider our issues, their issues. After making this comment:

So, Liza, dear, before you go assailing your betters and making Jane stand in for every blond white woman who ever pissed you off, maybe you should head back to eighth grade English and, you know, learn to spell and to write in a linear fashion.

and having his own supporters point out how detestable it was for him to make such a racially-loaded comment, this is what Ferguson had to say:

"Okay, let's get something straight here. By using the word "betters", I meant people who are more talented than Liza, and they are legion. If you’ve decided that there’s racial baggage in that statement, it says a lot more about your issues than mine."

Notice, nowhere in his statement does he show that he considers any of our issues to be the same as his and simply wanting to believe that his statement was not racially-loaded doesn't change the fact that it was. Furthermore, I find it very interesting that Ferguson was willing to leave the comments section open until more bloggers of color started commenting and proving that this had nothing to do with the envy that he seems to think motivated Sabater. After reading his vitriol, I gave up on the idea of trying to reason with him and instead responded to one of Hamsher's comments.

I wonder if my response had anything to do with the fact that FireDogLake immediately closed the comment section for this post. Well, since they decided to delete it on their site, I'll just put it up here and see if anyone else concludes that all of this shows that Ferguson had no intention on discussing this topic seriously. Focusing on Sabater was a classic diversionary tactic in order to avoid engaging in discussion about what many bloggers of color felt after learning about this event. Anyway, here it is--this one post out of the four hundred and thirty-eight comments under Ferguson's post that FDL felt shouldn't be included in their back-patting session:

Jane, no one had to say that it wasn't a valid question. By focusing on one blogger of color's grammar and going on ad nauseum about irrelevant nonsense like who has the most readers, this post effectively showed what those here thought was valid. It doesn't much matter whether or not Stoller brought up the problem of race at the meeting. The fact is, people of color never elected Stoller or any other white bloggers to speak for us at this event. So Stoller's words did not and could not serve as a substitute for having people of color there to discuss the issue of race on our own terms. I find it a bit saddening to see how hard it seems to be for some people here to wrap their brains around why people of color bloggers see the attitude of those who attended as extremely patronizing and quite condescending.

How long will those who consider themselves "liberal" continue on with the same sort of comments that people of color have been subjected to for several hundred years in this country? When I read your comment about whether Daou is racist, I instantly thought about the American slavery period and how so many Northern whites simply refused to believe that anything they did could be racist because when they thought about the term "racist", they tended to see that word as only including those acts that one engages in with the express purpose of discriminating on the basis of race. However, racism is much more than that. This is what this whole incident is about.

While you may feel confident in asserting that Daou is not a racist, really does that matter? Even those who are not avowed racists can engage in racist behavior. The idea that the problems with this meeting could have been solved more productively is also patronizing even if you didn't mean for it to be. Who should decide what is the most productive reaction for people of color to have had when they learned about this? My hopes are that you would not say that it's those who have not had to deal with being people of color in this country.

Would you look at the historical context of this issue? When the actions of those in positions of power consistently seems show that they have little regard for people of color, is it really reasonable to believe that these same persons of color would then go to those very same people and try to get them to address our issues after they've been ignoring them for hundreds of years? If you really think that is a reasonable request, then can you say how many more hundreds of years worth of slighting do you would take for it before it would be reasonable for us to assume that this is a waste of time?

It's true that ONE person singled you out but is that really surprising? If one is a public figure, then isn't that to be expected. I so want to believe that you are educated on the issues of privilege as it relates to gender, race, and appearance. While I truly do think that you regret the blackface incident, can you at least see how it would and has contributed to why your behavior does seem stereotypical to some?

Regarding your question about how things would have played out if you'd "made a comment like that in reverse": If you have done any research on the issue of privilege (I don't know your educational background so it would be appropriate for me to make any assumption about this) I think you know that even if you had made done this, it would have an entirely different meaning due to the fact that Liza's comments did not come from a position of privilege as yours did and would.

In order for it to be true that "Liza set the table for the tone and substance of this one", then there could have been nothing that preceded her post and that simply wasn't the case. Liza wasn't the only one who noticed the fact that not one single blogger who attended this meeting addressed the issue that was quite apparent to many bloggers of color, namely, the absence of people of color. While that may not seem like anything worth noting to you, others would beg to differ.

I also think that there was a very important topic that was lost but it isn't the one that you seem to see. In order for it to have been a flame war, two parties had to participate in it. So, whose post really made this into a "war"? So what's the important issue that was lost? It's this: Once you decide to respond to vitriol with vitriol, you lose all legitimate claim as an innocent party. That's why, whether those at FireDogLake choose to admit it, those who don't like how it played out want to decide who's at fault here, there are a lot more people to blame than just Liza.
Comparing your reaction to Lyons' remark to Liza's simply isn't valid. You were one person in a position of power responding to another person in a comparable position of power. Is that the case with Liza's comment? From the statements made by many of commenters here, that doesn't appear to be the case. How many have gleefully remarked on how they view you to be Liza's "betters" or how much more intelligent they believe the FireDogLake writers to be? Can anyone here really make a logically claim that Liza's post had the same impact as this one did? I don't think so.

I really find this statement a bit perplexing:
"Nobody has ever bothered to either defend FDL or make note of the fact that we're probably the only high traffic blog who goes to such lengths to include a variety of voices on our site."
Haven't the majority of the commenters here been defending FDL? Is there some reason why they don't count or were you referring to how many bloggers of color have defended FDL? If it is the latter and that really is the case, then I think it might be because you all seem to have the defense part covered so well that you decided to switch to the offense. Really, do you think that many bloggers of color would really see any reason to defend FDL when its writers make so many racially-charged and insensitive and downright insulting statements? I think TRex's "betters" comment epitomizes these but it certainly isn't the only one. By the way, if TRex really thinks that you all are Liza's "betters", then isn't this post rather like an adult punching a kid in the face because they stepped on your toe? Sure, the kid shouldn't have stepped on your toe but does that really mean we should defend the adult for their reaction or find it justifiable?
Personally, I don't see Liza's post as cheapening this topic in any significant way. Was she really the one in the position of power here? If we should hold Liza to account for whatever cheapening she managed to do, shouldn't we do so with FDL to an even greater degree, given the utter disregard this site has shown for its negative impact on it has had on this incident?
While you think that it will reign in your memory longer than anyone else's, I must say that is only likely to be true if I die before you do. I can definitely understand why the bloggers who were invited would have preferred for any grievance to have remained private, that seems a bit self-serving to me. Is there some reason why bloggers of color shouldn't feel free to discuss current events as we see fit? I think intelligent people can easily understand how what's considered "respectful" is absolutely subjective, so it makes no sense to suggest that people who do not share your culture should have behaved as you'd like to think you would if you were them.

If the writers at FDL really wanted to do this subject justice, you could have found posts by several other bloggers of color who have written about it. That Liza's post was the one that was focused on really gives the appearance that this isn't an issue you all wanted to address logically or intelligently. However, this is still something that you could remedy if you want to.
If you really want to learn more about how other bloggers of color felt about this whole shameful incident, including the FDL reaction, please feel free to look at what I have written about it.

Oh yes, if TRex is looking for another blogger of color to denigrate or another opportunity to play grammar police, I hope he feels absolutely free to do so with my post. I always appreciate it when people show their true colors.


Kai said...

Hello Ms. Alshamsa,

I'm a first-timer here...I've read a number of posts and have enjoyed your humanity, honesty, and intellectual clarity.

Thanks for your comments about the FDL-Culture Kitchen episode. I also tried injecting some perspective into the thread in question, and though my comments were not deleted, they produced no response. In the past I've also attracted rancid attacks at FDL for my uppity disrespect (especially when I posted a comment linking to this piece on my blog).

Anyway, I'm starting to feel a lot better about the whole incident, because as a result I've been motivated to alter my blogospheric orbit to more accurately reflect my own values, experiences, and cultural aesthetic as a person of color in a white-dominated world. In the process, I've discovered several blogs that are well worth my time, and this one's included. So I've blogrolled you. I look forward to reading more of your writings.


belledame222 said...

God, he just keeps digging and digging, doesn't he? He should bloody well know better by my lights, and I am thoroughly disgusted. took firedoglake off the 'roll back when the Lieberman blackface thing happened (a serious okay, WTF!? moment); truthfully i hadn't been that drawn to it in general anyway, but really.

as for they're "more talented than Liza;" well, smell YOU, Nancy Drew. mileage varies on that one, honey, oh yes, it does. and on yours as well, Mr. "I got here completely by my own merits." please, Mary. gah.

amba said...

Breasts, grammar -- it's all diversionary. Freeman's commenters are right -- these people's mindset is totalitarian and deeply dishonest. They're all about power and not at all about principle. Not at all.

Ryan O'Connell said...

T.Rex aka David Ferguson has another site where he has no compunctions spewing the most hateful racism and misogyny. If he's a liberal, why is it the only way I can tell him apart from Bill O'Reilly is that he uses coarser language?!

belledame222 said...

Well, I dunno about that, but, that top post wrt Malkin is, well, richly layered with multiple ironies, isn't it.

I'd had him 'rolled, I realized; I took him off. I'd liked him at Shakespeare's Sis, but...egh. sigh.