The Democratic Dictatorship of Daily Kos
Warm greetings, caucus99percent.com, and thanks for having me!
I've recently been informed by the anonymous admin Demo-gods at Daily Kos, to whom I’ve contributed 154 articles over the past two-plus years, that I would no longer be welcome to publish there. There was no explanation, no message to thank me for the hundreds of thousands of page views and shares that my articles — they’re called diaries amongst Kossacks, or site members —have generated, without a penny’s compensation. There was just a stone-cold orange skull and crossbones on my profile page to inform me I’d been “bojo’ed,” or banned for life in Kos-speak.
My crime? In the wake of former president Barack Obama’s failure to endorse upstart New York progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Congress, I published a diary calling him out for it. Obama is universally revered at Daily Kos, and how dare I, especially as a black man, oppose him?
OK If Democrats Do It
My “crimes” during my two years at Daily Kos were myriad, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see this coming. For shits and giggles, I even went so far as to poke this stick in their collective eye to mock their Russia obsession and hasten a departure that was long overdue.
I didn’t do my homework before joining DK. I just assumed after years of reading the occasional DK diary that the site welcomed all progressive points of view, and that there were certain things that all progressives could agree upon. Not arming child soldier armies was one of these things.
The Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA), signed into law in George W. Bush’s last year in office, bans US military aid to countries whose armies conscript children. In 2010, Barak Obama began annually invoking CSPA’s “national security” waiver so the US could keep arming some of the world’s worst child soldier offenders, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia and South Sudan. Hillary Clinton, to whose office the waivers were addressed, accepted them every year of her tenure as secretary of state.
As Daily Kos’ mission is “electing more and better Democrats,” I assumed “better” meant not supporting child soldiers and so I wrote my very first DK diary, “Hillary Clinton: Love, Kindness and Child Soldiers,” so that Clinton supporters would know one of her darkest deeds and perhaps consider backing Bernie Sanders instead. Now, this was during the still-hot 2016 Democratic primaries. It was right around the time DK founder Markos Moulitsas, aka “Kos,” issued his infamous edict banning serious criticism of Clinton after March 15. I didn’t know about this, as I was new to the site. I had no idea I’d just stumbled into a pack of rabid hyenas howling deliriously, “We’re with her.”
Mental and Moral Gymnastics
The attacks and the flags — DK’s way of keeping everyone in line — were immediate. The average Kossack is capable of Olympic feats of mental and moral gymnastics in order to excuse all sorts of inexcusable misdeeds, so long as the perpetrator has a “D” and not an “R” after their name. Remind a Kossack that Democratic presidents waged nuclear war against defenseless cities, bombed millions of Koreans and Vietnamese to death, attacked Serbia in service of NATO’s “credibility” and bombed more countries than George W. Bush and you’ll get flagged, banned or at least roundly ridiculed and derided by liberals who think endorsements from former death squad ambassadors are welcome if they help win elections.
I witnessed an exodus of some of the brightest and most progressive voices from DK. Many of these recovering Kossacks fled after publishing masterful diaries, like this one from Mass Southpaw that remains the definitive case against Clinton. Daily Kos is a much poorer place for their absence, but their loss is our gain. And by backing Clinton, who lost to that man, Daily Kos will forever be inextricably tied to the biggest loser in the history of political loserdom. If anyone even remembers DK, that is.
When Democrats don’t win, things can get ugly at Daily Kos, like when Kos himself posted a diary celebrating when retired coal miners lost their health insurance because, well, they voted for Trump and were reaping their black-lunged comeuppance. “Don’t weep for these coal miners,” was Kos’ misanthropic message. “This is what they wanted!” I now understand why most Kossacks don’t use their real names on the site. Pseudonyms are great for face-saving anonymity. They can serve as lifeboats for those lost and adrift in a sea of shit. I’ve never used one.
and Better Democrats”
“More and better Democrats” kept playing in my head. I knew that the Democratic party will never be a party of peace and justice so long as it remains the socially progressive branch of the Big Business Party, aka the Earth Destruction Party. Both Democrats and Republicans support business as usual, that is, the corporatism and militarism that perpetuate social, economic and environmental injustice. But at Daily Kos, pointing out similarities between Democrats and Republicans will get you bojo’ed. So will even a hint of advocacy for third-party or independent candidates, no matter how progressive they are. I was once slapped with a days-long time-out ban simply for asking what would happen if I wrote an endorsement of Jill Stein.
Well, I did vote for Jill Stein, not once, but twice. I had to hide this fact while I was a Kossack for fear of reprisals. “Kossack" is an appropriate member moniker. Like the Cossacks during the Russian revolution, Kos’ followers militantly defend the old guard elite against progressive challengers and change. They’ve called me a Trump saboteur, a Russian stooge, a purity troll and much worse, and that’s before they knew I actually voted for Stein. A few Kossacks have risen to my defense, but they’ve mostly done so via private messages because they fear the consequences of speaking publicly. Vladimir Putin can only envy such self-censorship!
It wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, Kos, like so many of the centrist hawks hawked on his site, was a bonafide progressive. In those heady early days of political blogging, Daily Kos was a relevant force for positive progressive change. Once upon a time, Kos called Óscar Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop and champion of the poor and oppressed who was assassinated in 1980 by a US-backed military death squad, his hero. If he were alive today, Romero would be sickened by what he saw on DK.
Today, Daily Kos is increasingly irrelevant. It has lost almost all credibility as a progressive voice, especially after the mass exodus from DK during and after the toxic 2016 election season. Increasingly, progressive Kossacks realized that “more and better Democrats” only meant more and not better. Daily Kos supports candidates for political expediency, not for what is good and right. It definitely does not believe in democracy. Kossacks cheered when Democrats sued to keep Raph Nader — who they still falsely and ignorantly blame for the George W. Bush presidency — off the ballot in 2004. They were giddy when Jill Stein was arrested for demanding access to debate Obama, Clinton and the other corporate-owned Democrat candidates. Kossacks are certainly "Big D" Democrats. But they're piss-poor democrats.
Democracy means more participation, not less. It means alternatives to the two branches of the War and Wall Street party. It does not mean freezing out, bullying or deriding those who don’t toe a very narrow line of incrementalist orthodoxy. It does not mean red-baiting or giggling gleefully at every sophomoric flagging, every unwarranted time-out, as if these purported punishments actually hurt. Maybe they do sting the armchair politicos at Daily Kos. Those of us with other publishing and life options laugh in their pseudonym-masked faces. DK can ban whoever it wants, but the word is out — Daily Kos is a joke, and a bad one at that. I've been asked why I write there by editors at other publications, and I've noticed more of my submissions are accepted when I leave DK out of my resumé or bio line.
In Kos-speak, this post would be my GBCW, or “goodbye cruel world.” I’ll miss some people at DK —subir, Meteor Blades, TomP, SandraLLAP and the folks at Adalah, Black Kos and Political Revolution are among the handful of truly progressive voices that come to mind — but the overwhelming majority of Kossacks are an insufferable part of the problem; that is, the perpetuation of a political system that is ultimately leading humanity toward destruction. My final parting advice to them: Learn not to confuse the big “D” with the little one. Stop being the second-most enthusiastic capitalist party. And understand that there is nothing progressive about supporting candidates who favor war and corporate greed over peace and human need.
Brett Wilkins is a freelance author and journalist and editor-at-large for US news at Digital Journal. His work, which covers issues of war and peace and human rights, has recently been published or cited in Counterpunch, Common Dreams, The American Conservative, Antiwar.com, Oxford University Press and Cornell Law School Death Penalty Center. www.brettwilkins.com