Posted on | May 21, 2012 | 78 Comments
There’s never an end to these things, is there? Conferences at Which I’m Persona Non Grata, where they present Awards I’ll Never Get:
The latest honor to keep Andrew’s name and work alive is an awards dinner from The Heritage Foundation and The Franklin Center.
Rob Bluey of The Heritage Foundation told me:
“The Heritage Foundation and The Franklin Center want to recognize Andrew’s contribution to journalism, blogging and activism and we’re excited to be able to launch The Breitbart Awards at the Future of Journalism conference in June.”
The honors will be given in three categories that are well thought out to honor three main areas of Andrew’s legacy: full-time professional journalism; the new media frontier; and bold citizen action by conservatives. Nominations for these awards are currently being accepted at BreitbartAwards.com and must be submitted by May 25th.
As the website explains the awards:
Full-time Reporter: In a media environment that tells reporters to go along to get along, a few still consider it a sacred trust to keep the people informed. A few still recognize the awesome responsibility in belonging to the only profession to be enshrined in the Bill of Rights. We’ll present one Breitbart Award to a full-time news reporter to honor courage and honesty in telling the real stories that matter to people’s lives.
Blogger: When the legacy media fails to do its job, we are fortunate to have an army waiting on the Internet to hold the institutions of power accountable. We’ll honor a blogger for intrepid reporting that goes over the heads of the legacy media to communicate directly to the people.
Citizen: The fight for freedom requires a constant stream of new recruits willing to make time in their lives to serve as watchdogs in their local communities. We’ll honor an information activist committed to digging up the truth.
* * * * * * *
As if the involvement of the Heritage Foundation were not an automatic guarantee that I’d be pre-emptively blackballed — I’ve given them excellent publicity over the past 15 years, so naturally they treat me like an unwelcome embarrassment every time I show up there — the awards are co-sponsored by the Franklin Center, which recently hired Tabitha Hale, who has waged a relentless three-year campaign to destroy my career and livelihood.
Because I’m 1/32nd Cherokee (like Elizabeth Warren), I’m thinking about changing my name to Dances With Scapegoats.
UPDATE: Please excuse my expression of frustration at the conservative New Media’s continued proliferation of Organizations Run By People Who Hate Me, sponsoring Events Where I’m Not Invited, at which they present Honors For Which I’m Automatically Disqualified.
During my 22-year career in the newspaper business, I became inured to this syndrome. In 1995, my editor handed me the application form for a Nieman Fellowship, offering to recommend me for this prestigious honor. Perusing the Nieman brochure, I deduced that a right-wing white male from a small Georgia daily had zero chance of receiving such a plum. So I walked into my editor/s office and chucked the application in the trash, explaining that I refused to give those elitist swine at Harvard University an opportunity to turn me down.
Fuck Harvard University, and fuck the Nieman Fellowships. And I have never since applied for any journalism award of any kind.
About six months later — ironic twist — my editor walked over to my desk and informed me that I’d just received the George Washington Medal awarded by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. My editor had nominated me for it without my knowledge or permission.
A year or so later, I got hired by The Washington Times, which because of its known conservative posture has been blackballed by all major national journalism awards since its inception. Going to work for The Washington Times is pretty much tantamount to flipping the bird at everybody else in the news industry, so I was happy as a pig in mud for 10 years there, doing the kind of journalism that was shrewdly calculated to piss off (and piss on) liberals.
Then in January 2008, Wes Pruden retired and, in one of the greatest boneheaded blunders imaginable, management decided to replace Wes with a guy they hired from our hated rival, The Washington Post, and I took this as a sign from God that I needed to quit that job.
It was not my plan when I quit to become a blogger/freelancer. I actually had an offer from a certain conservative news operation — their managing editor called me up in sincere eagerness to hire me within the announcement of my resignation — but I subsequently discoveed that their publisher was an arrogant asshole, so strike that from the list, eh?
Meanwhile, I’d already done some freelance work for The American Spectator, so I kept doing that, started a blog, got a million hits in my first year of full-time blogging, recruited Smitty as co-blogger and was doing just fine until late summer 2010, when Tabitha Hale organized the first BlogCon, an event that was announced by Tabitha e-mailing out the Official BlogCon 2010 Agenda, with an array of speakers and panelists — all fine excellent people, many of them my personal friends and all of them admirably qualified — a list from which my name was conspicuously omitted.
Having foresworn honors and recognition for my accomplishments as a journalist even before I’d joined the staff of The Washington Times in 1997, I had long since become accustomed to never getting any kind of awards. And the only reason I was ever invited to any conference, reception or awards dinner was as a reporter, in anticipation that I could provide free publicity for the event, a task I always cheerfully performed. Never was it my thought that I should be the guest of honor at a reception, a panelist at a conference, or the recipient of any award. I understood my place in universe, and was content with it.
Making a sudden transition from the newspaper world to the blogosphere at age 48 was not widely regarded as a Brilliant Career Move by my journalistic peers (or my wife, for that matter). My subsequent success — “How to Get a Million Hits on Your Blog” — owed much to the assistance of many bloggers who linked me, for whose assistance I was profoundly grateful, and which I understood to be an indication that independent conservative New Media activists were happy to have an experienced journalist join Ye Merry Band O’ Bloggers.
As we approached Election Day 2010, with the crucial mid-term campaign cranking into its final two-month blitz, things were going just fine for me. Then one day in early September, I received an e-mail informing me that FreedomWorks — an organization with which I’d previously had a cordial relationship — would sponsor “BlogCon.” This e-mail was the first I’d heard of plans for this new event, and the e-mail included the names of everyone who had been invited to speak or participate on a panel. All of those named on the list were entirely deserving of praise and distinction. Indeed, many of them were personal friends of mine. Yet I nonetheless could not help seeing both the list and the manner in which I learned of plans for this conference as a slap in the face, so that I wrote a post with the sarcastic headline:
Tabitha Hale, who organized that conference, has never understood why I reacted that way, and even those few friends of mine in the blogosphere who sympathize have told me I was crazy to respond as I did.
Every attempt to explain why I did it that way seems to have failed to communicate my understanding of the situation, viz.: Not only was I rejected from participation in BlogCon, having been judged inferior to every other name on that list, but I was considered a person so contemptible and unworthy of respect that there was no need for any prior consultation by the representative of an organization whose personnel I considered my friends, and whose activities I’d helped to publicize. To have been insulted in such a public manner by one’s friends was the kind of personal offense about which it would be dishonorable to complain privately, you see.
No awards. No invitations.
Persona non grata, a permanent outcast. Selah.
UPDATE II: What was genuinely offensive — the insult added to injury, yet entirely predictable for all that — was how Tabitha reacted to my “Where All the Important Bloggers Will Be” post. What I was doing was the Christian thing to do, returning a curse with a blessing by using her purposeful insult to me as a way to do her a favor by publicizing the conference:
FreedomWorks made sure that only the very best bloggers were invited to speak at this weekend’s conference:
Erick Erickson, Matt Kibbe, Steven Crowder, Stephen Kruiser, Mary Katharine Ham, Melissa Clouthier, John Hawkins, Jim Hoft, Bill Whittle, Steve Green, Scott Ott, Matt Lewis, Caleb Brown, Will Lutz, Philip Klein, Lee Doren, Jason Mattera, Cord Blomquist, Max Pappas, Ace of Spades, Caleb Howe, Lori Ziganto and IowaHawk.
You wouldn’t want to miss that, would you?
As has been wisely said, there is no such thing as bad publicity )except your own obituary). Tabitha Hale and her colleagues at FreedomWorks having evidently decided that I should be subjected to public humiliation in this manner, then I would invite further humiliation — please, everybody laugh at my disgrace — by turning it into a self-deprecating joke.
And in the process, of course, I was helping publicize BlogCon, an event that I had deemed too insignificant to attend as a participant.
You’re welcome, Tabitha. Always glad to be of assistance, ma’am.
UPDATE III: It had not been my intention to attend the first BlogCon, given that the main point of the proceedings was obviously to gather together all my friends and provide them with an opportunity to laugh at me behind my back. But my buddy Chris Renner offered to give me a ride (my car had just been destroyed by a collision with a deer) and against my better judgment, I accepted his invitation.
It was a profoundly shameful and degrading experience to be at an event where my presence was so clearly unwelcome, yet I managed to maintain a semblance of good cheer. You can see my jocular coverage of BlogCon 2010 here:
UPDATE IV: Now, as I say, friends have told me that this was not the best way to deal with a snub. Some merely observed that this was counterproductive, which was self-evidently true, if my goal had been to ingratiate myself with Tabitha Hale. However, this advice suggests that I am under some obligation to kowtow — to genuflect and abase myself, to tug the forelock as if a helpless supplicant seeking favor — before someone who is rightfully my superior.
Whereas, as I saw it, Tabitha Hale is someone who should be treated as an equal, a fellow laborer in the common vineyard. However, her reaction made clear that Tabitha did not so regard our relationship. Instead, she viewed the entire conservative blogosphere as her exclusive fiefdom, wherein her authority to act as arbiter, empowered to decide which sites were actually important and which were not, was absolute and unquestionable.
Thus, by taking public notice of her snub, I was seen as an ungrateful underling who challenged the hierarchy she had established.
Many other bloggers, I suspected at the time, were quite disappointed at having been deemed Not Good Enough for BlogCon. Some of these other rejects and outcasts, having received early notice that the event was being planned, may even have attempted to lobby Tabitha for their inclusion in the proceedings, and had been compelled to suffer in silent embarrassment when their efforts were spurned.
One could imagine that there were quite a number of experienced bloggers who, seeing the names on that first BlogCon list, said to themselves, “Yeah, So-and-So is a great blogger, and Such-and-Such is a good buddy of mine but … what am I, chopped liver?”
None of them said a word in public, of course, because speaking out about such things Simply Isn’t Done, Darling, and it is just that kind of genteel Victorian hypocrisy that drives me nuts. It reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in an old movie:
“And those pantalettes, I don’t know a woman in Paris who wears pantalettes.”
“Oh Rhett, what do they …? You shouldn’t talk about such things!”
“You little hypocrite. You don’t mind my knowing about them, just my talking about it.”
Do you get what I’m talking about here? There must have been at least two dozen conservative bloggers who looked at that BlogCon 2010 agenda and said to themselves, “Hey, wait a minute here — I’ve been blogging since 200X and I get more traffic than [name of panelist], so why didn’t anybody bother asking me to be in this thing?”
At the same time, however, nobody ever voices such complaints in public, because to do so is to seem disgruntled, envious, “not a team player” or otherwise tending toward butthurt whining.
What then happens is that people will smother their resentments, harboring silent grudges that they occasionally vent privately in conversations among trusted friends, or else attempt to secretly retaliate against those they think have wronged them. A poisoned atmosphere of unspoken discontent develops, along with an environment of cliqueish rivalry and suspicion and, next thing you know, effective cooperation becomes impossible, because everybody’s to busy trying to settle scores with their enemies.
Back in March 2008, I entered the blogosphere full-time with a minimum of previous experience at blogging, and nearly zero knowledge of who hated who and why. All I wanted to do was to build an independent platform for my writing that would enable me to pick and choose my freelance assignments, rather than being so desperate for any income that I’d be forced to take on all kinds of scutwork just to pay the bills.
However, I brought with me to this endeavor many assets and skills — not just the abilities honed during more than two decades of hitting deadlines for a living — but also a profound understanding of organizational dynamics.
You learn a thing or two about teamwork in the newspaper business, and keeping up newsroom morale is one of the keys to success. One of the basic reasons for Blogger Burnout Syndrome is the demoralization that naturally occurs when people keep banging it out every day and begin to feel that their labors are unappreciated.
This I say not to lecture, but rather to explain that I realized there was some serious trouble brewing behind the scenes in the conservative blogosphere long before the eruption of Charles Johnson’s Little Green Insanity made clear where all the bad mojo was coming from.
Without knowing anything about CJ’s blog war against Pamela Geller, which began in October 2007 but escaped my notice for more than a year, I nevertheless had a feeling that there was something wrong, some behind-the-scenes feud that nobody was telling me about, which was the only possible explanation for all the otherwise unexplained weird happenings in the conservative blogosphere.
When one of the most influential sites on the Right side of the ‘sphere started melting down, everybody was afraid to say anything for fear that they might join Geller (and Robert Spencer, and many others) under the wheels of Charlie’s Little Green Bus.
This kind of secretive stuff is always deadly to organizational morale. Not everybody on the team has to like each other, but when one member of the team sets out to destroy a teammate . . .
Well, Houston we have a problem.
In the newspaper business, these kinds of problems are generally dealt with by one of two methods:
- An angry shouting match in the newsroom, where two people finally blow up and start screaming obscenities at each other; or
- Somebody says, “Fuck it. I refuse to put up with any more of this insane devious bullshit,” and quits on the spot.
Unfortunately, in the blogopshere, nobody can hear you scream.
UPDATE V: This is rapidly becoming too long, and taking too much time to tell. My larger point is that sometimes a blogwar is more than just a blogwar, and sometimes it would be helpful if conservative bloggers weren’t so damned polite about the backstabbing, childish rivalry and clique-ridden cronyism that hinders effective teamwork.
Every once in a while, Dan Riehl will go off on somebody who pisses him off, and people recoil in horror: “There goes Dan again.”
What I like about Dan, however, is exactly that: His willingness to call people out when he thinks they’re out of line. From time to time, Dan has fired a shot or two at me, and while I don’t generally take criticism well — is there really anybody who takes criticism well? — when Dan takes a shot at me, it’s always something that gets my attention and makes me think, “Hey, maybe Dan’s got a point there. Maybe I am being a ‘useless asswipe’ ” — or whatever other impolite term Dan choose from his vast thesaurus of obscene putdowns.
Dan’s not trying to win any popularity contests and, like me, he doesn’t want to see the conservative blogosphere turn into an election for high-school Homecoming Queen or “Senior Superlatives.”
While the increasing professionalization of New Media is a trend that cannot be reversed, if it is to retain any “citizen journalist” element that attracts newcomes and enables part-timer bloggers to feel they can make a difference while hoping for their shot at glory, then . . .
Well, Houston, we have a problem, and this problem is unlikely to be remedied if blogging becomes dominated by “star system,” where everyone except a favored few feel that they are permanently relegated to obscurity and irrelevance, unable to have an influence no matter what they do, simply because they aren’t BFFs with The Right Sort of People.
Having spoken out about this from time to time, I understand that this isn’t helping my own situation and, quite honestly, I don’t care. By now, I’m Doomed Beyond All Hope of Redemption. Nothing can ever retrieve the opportunities I lost because of the animosity I’ve aroused among those who are the Official Arbiters of Blogospheric Status.
Some have quite seriously advised me to “get help,” suggesting that my resentments — or at least my manner of expressing these resentments — is symptomatic of mental illness. But I’ve never denied being crazy as hell, and in fact am quite proud of my achievment in monetizing insanity. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. When America is forced to choose between a Mormon Multimillionair and a Kenyan Dog-Eater as their president, I’d say insanity ought to be a prerequisite for anyone who would attempt to make sense of it all.
Thus, as soon as I learned that the Heritage Foundation and the Franklin Center had joined forces to sponsor the “Breitbart Award,” I immediately did two things:
- Wrote about in a such a way as to make clear that I understood I was ineligible for consideration; and
- Gave it the best kind of publicity, i.e., controversy.
Some friends have misunderstood the gesture and, contrary to my wishes, nominated me for one of the awards. Of course, this is a waste of time.
Nominate Instapundit instead. Not only does he deserve it, but no one could possibly feel butthurt if he gets it.