RK Reaps What It Sows…

Todays WaPo has blogs on page A1 when it examines the use of an RK diary in a recent Tim Hugo commercial taking issue with Rex Simmons in their House of Delegates race.

A poster blogging with the pen name “Pitin” attacked Rex Simmons during the spring primary campaign, but had since deleted the comments. Apparently many folks know who “Pitin” is:

The man Hugo identified as Pitin — Nate de la Piedra, executive director of Next Generation Democrats — did not return several telephone messages Friday seeking comment. Feld declined to confirm Pitin’s identity, but other sources familiar with the Web site confirmed Pitin is de la Piedra.

Hugo uses his comments in this ad attacking Simmons. Lowell Feld, the RK proprieter is upset because the advert makes it look like RK is not backing Simmons, when in fact Feld has endorsed him. Hugo says it is widely known who posted the articles, and that they are fair game for use.

Feld attacks the practice:

“If someone is allowed to post on a blog, does that mean the organization is responsible and a political candidate can then source an ad to them?”

Granted, RK has a special sort of situation. It is a blog community, where anyone can register and create their own “diary”, which effectively serves as a blog within a blog. One also has to be registered to discuss on blog postings.

Nonetheless, the short answer to Lowell’s question: Yes.

That is why I have posting rules on this blog…I can keep or delete comments such as I see fit within the state parameters. So those folks who choose to post as anonymous…see the rules. Over at RK there is even more control over who participates. One has to register to post or to comment, and then you have to get a password from RK…which it would seem makes it that much easier controlling what goes up in your blog.

A blogger opens a blog and allows folks to comment. Someone wants to reference a post or a comment, they have to reference the blog to show that the item was not made up out of whole cloth. Anonimity does cause an issue; but here there is not only widespread agreement over who posted the comment, but it was posted in a forum where the blog owner has complete control over who posts. Moreover, RK is a forum devoted to advancing Democratic candidates…I can only think they already patrol their forums and posts to be sure that they are not infiltrated by GOP posters advocating against them.

It may even be that a blog where the proprieter so closely controls who can post is the perfect place to find quotable and sourceable materials.

I guess if you want to use the blogosphere as a place to encourage communication and advocacy, you cannot be too surprised that comments might show up in advertisements…which means that if you allow people to post, then you have the responsibility to police what shows up on your blog.

If you don’t like it, take it down…after all, it’s your joint, and you get to serve whom you want…

RK broke ground in 2006 both as a driving source to get Jim Webb into the Senate campaing and later as a driving force to mobilize folks to get him elected.

Looks like they have again-and this time to their regret-broken new ground.


6 thoughts on “RK Reaps What It Sows…

  1. I’m going to disagree here. I think that Hugo was deliberately deceptive.

    As you say, RK is a community blog that allows diarists with varying opinions within the progressive community to post. Indeed, their stated purpose is to encourage a citizens’ square with public debate.

    In some ways, you can actually compare it to a newspaper with an op ed page. If an op ed writer penned a column disparaging candidate A, whom the newspaper’s editorial board supported and then candidate B ran an ad using quotes from the op-ed writer’s piece, attributing it to the newspaper rather than the specific writer, it would be equally dishonest.

    The proper way to have sourced the ad would have been this:

    “Pitin, writing in RK on ___(date of diary) said, (whatever quote).”

    Then Raising Kaine would not have objected. It would have been Pitin, or Nate la Piedra’s problem and Tim Hugo’s gain.

    The way it stands now, it’s a dishonest and misleading ad. And it didn’t help Hugo at all that several objective, outside experts were quoted in the article saying so.

  2. It’s also true, that if Hugo knew who posted the comments, he had the responsability to disclose that in the ad and attribute the comment to its true source– a staffer from Simmons primary opponent– and not haphazardly attribute it to the RK community.

    Hugo doesn’t get to have it both ways, he can’t claim it was fine to use the comments because it was “well known” who they were coming from and then blatanly fail to disclose proper attribution to the source of the comments.

    The source of the comments were Mate la Piedra, NOT the RK Community. If Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani wrote an op-ed in the Washington post, or if one of the staffers of either of their campaigns was leaving comments on the Washington post blog, you would attribute the comments to the newspapaer, you would attribute them to either the candidate or the campaign itself.

    By Hugo’s own admission, he knew damn well who had made those comments and chose not to cite the sources approporiately.

    Bwana, are you really making the argument that it’s standard to attribute a quote to a psuedonym when the identity behind the psuedonym is well known?

  3. No, that is the Hugo position…but although I would not have done it as he did (or used the material at all), I think his tactics fall into the “accurate but not true” distinction used by newspapers, or does so as most folks perceive blogs.

    What I am saying is that a blog owner is responsible for anything that goes up on his/her blog, and if the potential use of styles and attribution means that a comment contrary to the postion of a blog owner goes up and is attributed to that blog, that’s one of the challenges of having a blog.

    Your example about Op Ed writers is correct…to a point. Newspapers vet everything that comes in. They do that because they know they are potentially liable for libelous or slanderous (I can never be sure which one applies) for anything they print, be it in a news item or on the op ed page…or even, as I understand it, in the letters to the editor page. They are also keenly aware of the risk of losing subscribers based on what is published (look at how many times over the years simple things like cartoons have been yanked). They are still on the hook for what they print. They know it, and act accordingly.

    I suggest the same is true for blog owners. They determine the manner in which content appears on their blog, and can choose the conditions under which people post. They create the means of delivering information. They control the whole process, and I don’t think they get to jump ship and claim no knowledge because they don’t agree with something they allowed-or created the appartus to allow a comment or post-to appear on their blog.

    I think it is up to the blog owner(s)to police what appears on their blog, not just philosophically but because practically speaking there is a better than even chance that whatever appears on their blog will be cited that way.

    As far as citing sources appropriately, I haven’t seen the style book that says one has to cite the name/pseudonym of a blog poster. I think it should be, but my opinion on how blogs work and should be attributed doesn’t carry the day. For instance, I think it wrong how folks will work in a campaign and then post something about that campaign then add a disclaimer that the immediate post was their personal opinion…but folks still do it.

    RK has helped create a brave new world for blogs, and they should not be allowed to shirk responsibility for the world they have created. You want to run with the big dogs and deliver content to the public? Good for you. You want to rally the masses? Fine. But it comes with responsibilities and risks.

  4. Bwana, I agree with what you’re saying, but Lowell isn’t complaining that the comments were used as you seem to be suggesting.

    Lowell is complaining about the deceptive attribution. And there is no “rule book” for how to cite sources, but there are conventional methods and non-conventional methods, and there are methods which very clearly intend to decieve the public.

    Lowell isn’t pissed that Nate’s comments were used, Lowell is pissed because Hugo’s ad gave the impression that the comments came from “Raising Kaine” and that Hugo failed to divulge that the comments came from a staffer of an opposing campaign.

    Like I said, if you apply this on a largers scale, it’s easy to see why this is so wrong on Hugo’s part.

    Just imagine for a moment, that the day after the GOP primary a former staffer/volunteer for one of the losers posts negative comments about the winner on the washington post or the New York Times or whatever. And then, once the air has cleared and the person has had a little time to think about it, deletes the comments.

    Now imagine that the Democratic nominee took those comments and ran a television ad stating “here’s what people are saying about XXXX” and in the ad the negative comments were sourced to “the Washington Post”

    You don’t need a guidebook or style book to understand what’s wrong with it. And my larger point is that sometimes whether or not things are “technically wrong” is less important than when things are just “common sense wrong.” The fact that Hugo would do something like this is all most people should need to know about him. There’s no technical rule that we can enforce against him, but this doesn’t even pass the smell test: It’s unethical and was intended to deceive people, most importantly, the voters.

    Should people really vote for somone who is willing to deceive the voters?

  5. Well, WS, of course not…but where does that leave Mark Warner?

    By that logic one might argue Mark Warner should go down in flames next year for saying he wouldn’t raise taxes, raiseing taxes, and then discovering there would have been a budget surplus even without the tax increase. Tim Kaine could never run for office again in Virginia after campaigning in 2005 saying he would not raise taxes, then after winning the election immediately started talking about the need to raise taxes.

    That whole argument about deceiving voters often rests on where one is standing at any given moment.

    Meanwhile, back at the blogs…

    I can understand why Lowell is annoyed about the way it was displayed…hence the need to police what goes up on his site. You note the ad only says “source”, which is technically correct and even true. As much as some may not like it, I think that meets most legal requirements.

    Bottom line is that campaigns will do what they think they need to in order to win.

    I will stray off topic and say that while legally and technically Hugo is correct in what he put out, it was silly to do if only for political reasons. There was no chance that RK wouldn’t respond, there was no chance Simmons would not respond, and there was no chance it would go unrebutted. It is too early for a hit spot like that to have the intended impact.

    On the other hand, it will be enough to get the WaPo to come down even more heavily against him…and as we saw in the Senate race last year, the WaPo has no problem in going into unwarranted overkill against a candidate it wants to take down.

  6. “By that logic one might argue Mark Warner should go down in flames next year for saying he wouldn’t raise taxes, raiseing taxes, and then discovering there would have been a budget surplus even without the tax increase. Tim Kaine could never run for office again in Virginia after campaigning in 2005 saying he would not raise taxes, then after winning the election immediately started talking about the need to raise taxes.

    That whole argument about deceiving voters often rests on where one is standing at any given moment.”

    This whole thing assumes complete bias on my part, I think both Warner and Kaine should have to answer to the voters for saying one thing and doing another. There’s no question. Either they have an answer to satisfy voters, or they don’t.

    But there’s also a question of whether what really happened with Kaine and Warner is that they made a pledge they couldn’t keep. I have know idea what the truth is, but one could conceviably argue that Warner and Kaine were telling the truth at the time, or at least meant what they said. In that case what they did was revoke a promise, not deceive the public. There’s no such wiggle room with Hugo, he wasn’t making a promise to voters that he later revoked with then gave the impression of possibly having decieved voters. He intentionally misatrributed comments in order to deceive the public. It’s comparing apples to oranges, the Hugo thing is nothing like the Warner/Kaine analogy. Not by a long shot.

    And I don’t think this has anything to do with RK monitoring it’s commenters, Lowell has expressed no concern that the comments were used. And as I said, Hugo broke no law, what he did was just flat out dishonest…and as you’ve rightly pointed out politically obtuse.

    oh, and btw, I hope you’re having a good week. I always enjoy reading your blog when I get the chance.

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