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DailyKos: Conversion and Conformity

ccv3h71w8aasjtlPeter Daou wrote about Markos Moulitsos, founder of DailyKos, and his announcement that he will be shifting his support to Hillary as soon as the nomination is wrapped up. Sorry, Bernie fans, time to get in line.

Atrios yesterday wrote that he doubted that one person’s “Why I am Voting for So&So diary” is worth anything. I was happy to see Atrios embrace the idea that your vote is your own but I think he’s dead wrong about the value of the conversion diary. Maybe they’re not as powerful as they used to be but I saw DailyKos lose its collective mind and then get in line twice in 2007-2008. First, it went bat s^&* crazy over John Edwards, then when Edwards became non-viable, it became moonstruck over Obama.

During the infamous Rec List Hostage Crisis of 2008, the pivot from Edwards to Obama was incredibly smooth. I could almost swear that the same people were writing those diaries.

The value of the testimonial can not be underestimated. Maybe we should get John Dehlin, psychologist, former Mormon and host of Mormon Stories to come and explain how it works. The conversion or testimonial is particularly effective in groups that are also exercising other high control tactics, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

A typical conversion story relates how a person is transformed by a moment of revelation. They become “born again” in some important way. People who study high control groups might say the convert’s  behavior has been unduly influenced by informational, emotional and thought control. Go ahead, read about the BITE model and you’ll never see DailyKos in the same way again.

That’s why I think Markos’s conversion story looks like it might not be important to those of us who have figured out how he operates even if it eventually does. His life is only going to change if his revelation leads to more advertising revenue from the Clinton campaign. Deep down inside, I doubt that Markos is wed to any one particular candidate. If anything, he seems to swing Libertarian and attracts the same guys who are stuck in adolescence who aren’t going to let any woman be the boss of them. It’s his business model.

Also, the conversion story does not work in the absence of other features. There has to be praise of the convert. In many religions and high control groups, this would include love bombing. At DailyKos, love bombing is accomplished through the use of recommendations. If a diarist gets enough recommends, their diary can make it to the recommended diary list where its prominence will influence other Kossacks.

The more you toe the founder’s line, the more mojo you get. That is, your level of  authority, at DailyKos increases and you can achieve Trusted User status. A trusted user has very few privileges and while Kossacks are told they don’t mean much, they actually do. A Trusted user can demote recommendations. They are enforcers. A mob of enforcers can deplete a Kossack’s mojo completely. If you don’t stay with the herd, you can be excommunicated and banned from the site.

This is what happened to me in January 2008 when I used the word “jihad” to explain how Obama supporters were mobbing other candidate’s supporters on DailyKos in order to get them banned. In the span of a couple hours, I went from being a trusted user to an exile. I was on to them by the time I posted that diary and while my diary was not meant to get me banned, I watched in fascination how efficiently and quickly the process worked.  I guess to someone who likes to be one of a crowd, that might have been devastating and I saw other Kossacks try very hard to not it happen to them. But for me? It was no big deal. What I learned at DailyKos was that I could write well enough to make the rec list fairly frequently. So, I left and started The Confluence. I didn’t get the fame or the ad money but I’ve enjoyed it anyway.

Those of you who still visit DailyKos can correct me if I’m wrong on any of this. Some of the rules of the game have changed since I was there last. The parameters of the model can be tweaked to keep everyone in line. But Markos knows what he’s doing and he set up his site to enforce conformity and a single message. Yes, there is a bit of wiggle room there. It’s like the difference between being a Methodist and a Presbyterian but it’s still Christianity. And when Markos signs the contract or gives the nod of the head, the machine works of his site will kick into gear and everyone will fall in line, write conversion diaries and disfellowship the apostates.

It’s conformity on a grand blog scale.

Maybe it doesn’t mean as much as it did 8 years ago. But Markos still attracts a lot of the same kind of people. They talk amongst themselves, reminisce about when they had their revelation and swallow their disappointments on queue when their leader gets “new light”.  And when it came time to throw away rules, disenfranchise voters and abbreviate roll call votes in Denver, the Kossacks were enthusiastic supporters of all things not very Democratic. We ended up with an establishment president who is more conservative than just about anyone on DailyKos but by golly, they won, didn’t they? So what if they ripped their party in two in the meantime?

They have a lot in common with Trump supporters.

Yes, conversion diaries, especially many of them, written with the blessing and encouragement and sometimes the coding skills and public megaphone of the founder, can and do make a difference. It simply is what it is, regardless of what Atrios says.


17 Responses

  1. The only joy I get out of the whole thing is the fact that the Bros are getting a taste of their own medicine.

    • Yeah, but they’re not all bros you know. Katiebird is a Bernie supporter and I can’t see Katiebird ever acting like an asshole about her candidate.
      Don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to piss her off. But you won’t find her trolling sites and writing about Butthurt or crap like that.
      Bernie supporters are some of us and I love them. We don’t have to agree on everything 100% of the time because our core values are the same.
      So, I welcome Bernie’s peeps here. They will always be welcome here.
      They make the party stronger.

      And I don’t know who those bros are. They’re just obnoxious or provocateurs. They bear no resemblance to the Bernie supporters I know or the candidate that I’ve seen.

      • To be fair, Ga6th did say “Bros,” minus the “Bernie.” I’m pretty sure she’s gloating about the trollers, not the supporters.

        (I miss Katiebird too!)

        I wouldn’t be surprised to see diehard trollers Drumpify. But for those not stuck in their own egos, I think it’s going to become increasingly obvious that a lot of the anti-Hillary memes start in right wing think tanks.

        I agree with some of your previous posts that she could talk more about helping the precariat. But I think we can take hope from her record that she actually does what she can, without talking so much about it.

        • Agreed.
          But I wouldn’t count on the anti-Hillary memes to all come from the right wing think tanks. I suspect there is a virulent pool of male grad students and former male grad students who simply can’t wrap their heads around Hillary Clinton succeeding more than some of the guys they know. I’ve seen this scenario play out at work where right wing and left wing play no part but gender seems to be the dividing line.
          They will talk themselves into just about any anti-Clinton thing they can get their hands on. Sure, there may be some prodding by cleverly disguised right wing comment thread infiltrators. But to think that these idiots don’t already exist in our own party sounds like denial.
          And let us not forget Jon Favreau’s infamous picture while he was drinking a beer and grabbing Clinton’s paper cutout breast. That guy writes speeches for Obama, in the White House. Take that in. It’s the kind of thing Trump would do. And Favreau’s supposed to be one of us.
          Make no mistake, that picture was deliberate and it was intended to send a message: they don’t give a rat’s ass about women. They’re not important and their anger and priorities can be safely ignored without any repercussions.
          A President Hillary would make them feel like their balls have been dipped in ice water. They won’t have it. That’s who we’re dealing with.

          • I agree with you that it’s not strictly a right wing thing. It’s a left wing thing too.

          • “A President Hillary would make them feel like their balls have been dipped in ice water. ”

            Oh, no question. I wasn’t trying to say the left is innocent. The fingerprints of all kinds of inadequates are all over the smears they try to leave on her.

      • The Bros are the same bros before hos crowd from 2008 that were Obama supporters who went around lecturing everyone about how Obama was Jesus. It’s a repeat except you can exchange Obama for Bernie. Honestly, in many ways it makes more sense that Hillary supporters from 2008 would be attracted to Bernie in many ways. I just think there appears to be a bunch of Reddit neckbeards who hate women and they have attached themselves to Bernie. The sexism coming from them is the same. It’s like deja vu sadly. That’s not to say all Bernie supporters are like that Katiebird for example but unfortunately the neckbeards will stalk you all over the internet lecturing you on how stupid you are for not “feeling the Bern”

        • Neckbeards! I love it!
          I think you are right. But I don’t blame Bernie in this case. Obama was a different story. He was definitely taking advantage of it.

        • The ironic thing is I *am* feeling the Bern. But I’ve always made up my own mind about who I think should be president and I don’t need some pretentious sexist asshole telling me how to think.

          I think all Americans are fed up with being told what to do this year. We’re having none of it. In fact, I have talked to a few Trump leaners who seem fascinated by Bernie Sanders.

          It’s all amok this year. In a way, that’s why I am still a Clintonista. Streadiness and stability will lead to a better outcome for us as a culture and for the economy. Not to say that change isn’t good, and as the first female president, there are going to be some significant changes. It’s just that I can’t see her making any rookie mistakes. That’s comforting.

          • Well, there definitely is a lot of things going on this year. However most Trump supporters will not vote for Bernie because “socialism”. I do however see some Bernie supporters going over to Trump because “women”.

            Yes, I am tired of inexperience too. However the interesting thing is if you listen to the media they are telling us to not nominate Hillary. People like Rachel Maddow etc. are just the same as they were in 2008 and this time they are pushing Bernie like they were pushing Obama. Wonder why that is?

          • I don’t watch cable news and I don’t encourage others to watch it either.
            I don’t know if throwing socialism around as a bad thing is going to be as effective this year. I think all voters are starting to see thru that thick fog. That might be why trump is winning. He doesn’t sound like a typical republican. His policies sound more like what a Democrat would say.
            So here is Hillary running this very tightly controlled campaign clinging to Obama and it just feels like a missed opportunity.
            It feels like she psyched herself out. I hope that changes soon. She’s going to have to show her own self soon.

      • A darned good study of Twitter found (by looking at bios of thousands of ‘Bernie-Bro’ tweeters) that they are mostly Trump supporters (over 50%), 1/4 are Repubs, and fewer than 1/5 are Bernie supporters. Can’t find it now, but I linked to it a couple of weeks ago in a post here.

    • The berniebros deserve it.
      I must disagree with RD, Bernie’s supporters are the same hard liners who hate everything Clinton. This time though, Hillary has the full support of the party.

  2. Well, RD the public at large still has an extremely negative view of socialism and it’s kind of hard to tell people they are suffering and then turn around and say your taxes are going to go up 20%. That might work for some people but for a lot of people it’s not going to. I will tell you though the thing about Bernie is he’s been in Vermont too long. He doesn’t understand any of the problems of people who live in red states and how to help them. First of all he’s heavily reliant on the states doing the heavy lifting in everything and that doesn’t work as we’ve seen under Obama. These red state or even red governors in a blue state will take the money and use it for a slush fund for their cronies or they are literally willing to let their constituents die. It’s one of the reasons Bernie has done so poorly in the south.

  3. I remember when Obamacare was passed, Bill Clinton said something like, “Well, it’s not the way I would have done it, but now we’ve got something up there as a basis whose implementation we can improve.” My friends now, laid-off professional women, are saying “This is the first time in X years I’ve had a doctor, and she’s fixing things I’ve lived with for X years.”

    In Soundbytistan, that’s not something you can go up against.

    • Really? I couldn’t afford an Obamacare policy. AND I didn’t make enough money to get a subsidy. AND I lived in a state that didn’t take medicaid.
      I don’t know who your friends are but there are a lot more people like me out there. I went without insurance for 1.5 years and that time coincided with the introduction of the ACA.
      That’s not a shining success story.

  4. Latino’s are never going to feel the Bern.
    They ran away from their nations of birth because those nations
    were torn apart by “revolutions” that always went badly.
    Bernie’s rhetoric is haunting him.
    Gradual progress is what works best.

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