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October 27, 2005

Tim vs. Steve

I cannot for the life of me figure out why Kos and Gilliard are upset here. Tim Kaine buys ads on Gilliard's website. Gilliard dresses Michael Steele up as a black-faced minstrel. Kaine's campaign pulls ads. Sounds about right to me. Kos and Gilliard are, at most times, hard-nosed, realistic guys. They know what the stakes are, they know how the smears work, and they know what the Republicans will do. Kos is worried about a "chilling effect," concerned bloggers will censor themselves for ad money. Well, yes, if you open yourself up to ads, you're going to have to be a bit careful when trotting around controversial topics. You can get around that by not accepting campaign ads, seeking out more aggressive advertisers, or letting folks pull ads when you want to paint people in blackface.

I think Gilliard went a bit too far -- but I don't advertise on his site, and really don't care what he does. I do, however, understand that advertising is a business, and were I an advertiser I would not have the same laissez-faire liberties. Part of the reason I get that is because Gilliard wrote it once, in a fusillade directed at those attacking the content of one of Kos's ads. It's really a very smart post (though I disagreed with him on that particular subject), so you should go and learn the lessons yourself, but here's a taste:

This is about survival. Making sure Kos is profitable is critical for the rest of us to succeed. I think if TBS wants to pay for liberal activism, even with a cheesy ad, let them. If you don't like the ad, tell them. But don't get into a debating circle when you think your issue is the only one, and when in reality it is not. This is not about the exploitation of women, but keeping the site running.

Replace Kos with Kaine, profitable with successful, pay with remove, and you've got this situation. It's not about Gilliard's race or the merits of his argument, it's about how it'd look in a news story. Gilliard knows this stuff, but now that someone's using the "it's just politics" line on him, all his hard-boiled realism flies out the window and suddenly Tim Kaine is a huge coward rather than, you know, a self-interested politician in a crazily close race.

Gilliard might have been right on the merits with Steele, but you're in dangerous territory when you paint anyone a minstrel, whatever color you are. And you know where campaigns never want to be? Dangerous territory. Blogging is, as Gilliard said, a business. But so is politics. Gilliard can say whatever he wants, and advertisers can pull whenever they want. Gilliard got too controversial, Kaine's sponsorship would've looked bad in the papers, and Kaine's campaign backed away. Good on everyone. Gilliard isn't censoring himself, the Kaine operation is remaining disciplined, and we can all go home friends. If we want to folks to keep buying ads and we want to keep speaking our minds (and god knows I do), some will slip through our fingers. Rejoice -- it just proves you're not a tool yet.

October 27, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

There is something distasteful about having Andrew Sullivan spurring the complaints, though.

Posted by: Jack Roy | Oct 27, 2005 4:15:24 PM

True enough, but the Kaine campaign ran because they know the complaints would work. No one's saying they're not being self-interested and scared, but frankly, for Kaine, in this race, the potential mini controversy of steve's blog ain't worth the trouble.

Posted by: Ezra | Oct 27, 2005 4:22:59 PM

I'm in total agreement with you, Ezra. It's not like advertising on Gilliard's site represents a commitment to some principle that Kaine and other Democrats ought to defend. When there's no principle at stake, there's no need to fight.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Oct 27, 2005 4:40:22 PM

The most sensible opinion on the matter I've read today. Let's think of this as an object lesson for 2006; every party involved - Gilliard, Kos, the Kaine camp (or campaigns in general) - demonstrated that they need to learn from it.

Posted by: Waveflux | Oct 27, 2005 4:51:02 PM

You're absolutely right. The price of running campaign ads is not doing things that will embarrass the candidate. Kos himself learned that last year when he made his 'mercenaries' comment--which, in fairness to Kos, was thoroughly distorted by the wingnuts, but was also foreseeably an embarrassment to anyone advertising there.

If your goal is to help a candidate/cause/party/movement, do it. If your goal is to say whatever you goddamn well feel like saying, do it. Choose one. Just don't try to pretend you can have it both ways.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Oct 27, 2005 4:59:15 PM

It is a pretty weird world view that would think content should be unrelated to advertising.

Obviously, we want to avoid a 'pay for content' situation, but when you 'sell' adspace on a site (or anywhere else for that matter) people have expectations of what that venue will be like. This is true for advertising everywhere, and when someone decides that a venue isn't what they expected, pulling ads is a frequent response.

This strikes me a throwing a tantrum.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Oct 27, 2005 5:22:26 PM

I was ticked at Gilliard over his input on the whole Kossian tantrum over the ad. I thought Kos came off badly for reasons that Lance Mannion most effectively eludicated. I ended up removing Gilliard and Kos from my regular reads for a while, and while I still visit them, it's with a mild sense of discomfort for their reactionary attitudes.

This particular turn of events neither surprises me nor seems like much of anything to get upset about. Steve and Kos both seem to have some problems seperating their egos from their judgement, but neither are running for cannonization, so that's a pretty minor point.

I give this one to Ezra. A good case of cause and effect, with noone injured more than seems expected.

Posted by: Michael McLawhorn | Oct 27, 2005 6:04:26 PM

Huh. As the blogger whose post was featured in Gilliard's original "This is about survival" lecture on the business of blogging, it's interesting to learn that apparently I was meant to take advice he isn't willing to take himself.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Oct 27, 2005 6:11:43 PM

the potential mini controversy of steve's blog ain't worth the trouble.

This is really the key here. The calculation that the campaign probably made was the benefits to be gained from keeping the ads up were minimal, while the possible disadvantages were severe. From the perspective of a campaign, this was pretty much a no-brainer, unless it sparks some kind of backlash, which seems unlikely.

Posted by: Dadahead | Oct 27, 2005 7:35:14 PM

If you take money on your blog to support yourself and you say: The ad wasn't all that important to me, but the gutlessness of the Kaine campaign is . . ..;and then you defend your friend when some people (women) had the guts to say they were offended by a pie fight ad:
Daily Kos is a business, and it needs money to operate the way it does, other people might reasonably believe the person making these statements suffers from certain delusions.

The first delusion is the belief that one can do no wrong. The second delusion is that people are free to express their opinions (with or without their ad dollars) so long as the opinions agree with your own.

The Stalinistic tone singing strongly in this mindset is total (if not totalitarian) McKrap TM.

Posted by: The Heretik | Oct 27, 2005 7:37:24 PM

If this was just about advertising, you'd have a point. But Tim Kaine isn't selling deodorant or running shoes. He's running for political office as a Democrat. When a politician pulls an ad it sends a very different message than it would for a business to do the same. Corporations are expected to dodge controversy. Politicians aren't (in theory).

By his actions, Kaine is saying either (a) Gilliard is a racist or (b) Kaine is a coward. Neither is a good message.

Politicians have to remember the value of bloggers like Gilliard. The GOP would never make this mistake. No matter how controversial Rush Limbaugh may be, GOP politicians would never consider distancing themselves from him. Staying loyal in the face of controversy can send a message to the grass-roots that you believe in the movement and will fight for the cause. I wish more Democratic politicians understood this.

Posted by: space | Oct 27, 2005 11:48:42 PM

Yeah, but Gilliard is no Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: Dadahead | Oct 28, 2005 1:23:52 AM

space, if I see Kaine saying anything, it's this: "Gilliard said something that could be too easily misinterpreted, and I'm in too close a race to risk having my views misinterpreted with him." But Kaine's not saying that, because he's not saying anything at all.

Some political moves are made to send a message. Others are made to not send a message. This is one of the latter. Kaine is worried that people might get the wrong idea. He knows it would be the wrong idea. But he can't afford to have anyone misinterpret him. This is the rational way for him to see the world, and he made the right call.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Oct 28, 2005 7:39:19 AM

talk about a non-issue. Ezra you got this right. gillard is as usual over reacting and complaining. Nothing new here. Now i remember why i stopped reading his site.

Posted by: Mihir | Oct 28, 2005 11:45:56 AM

By his actions, Kaine is saying either (a) Gilliard is a racist or (b) Kaine is a coward.

IMHO, that is a subjective analysis of what happened here. My option (c) is simply that Kaine was making no statement whatsoever. In the email you could see there was no mention why, just that they no longer wished to run the ad. Quite frankly, thats their business. And reading into beyond that is a bit unreasonable and/or irresponsable to me.

Posted by: Adrock | Oct 28, 2005 1:28:19 PM

If this was just about advertising, you'd have a point.

By his actions, Kaine is saying either (a) Gilliard is a racist or (b) Kaine is a coward. Neither is a good message.

First, it is not just about advertising. Second, what you attribute to Kaine (a or b) is a false dichotomy. Is it really only Gilliard's macho way or the highway? Such puffy bloggers make me puke on my keyboard and it is just so darn hard to clean up afterwards.

Perhaps I failed to realize that signing an advertising contract on a blog is a lifetime deal and affirmation of all things on it without question.

I failed to realize I live a in a Gilliard-centric world

Posted by: The Heretik | Oct 28, 2005 3:55:25 PM

Liberals are supposed to like gray, not black and white. It's perfectly possible to agree with the sentiment Gilliard expressed and support his right to express it but not agree with the way he expressed it.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Oct 28, 2005 4:00:49 PM

Steve Gilliard made an insightful point about the business of advertising. And now he's throwing vicious attacks at Kaine, apprently or not pulling the ad in a way that satisfies Steve Gilliard, proud businessman. And I imagine that every candidate who considers advertising on his blog will take his current behavior vis. Kaine into perspective when deciding whether an ad buy on his blog is a sound investment.

Civil discourse doesn't seem to be Gilliard's strong point. Despite the efforts made my Amanda Marcotte in fending off the borderline and over-the-line sexist trolls, few in Kos or on Gilliard's place acknowledged that the problem was one of civility toward one's allies. Kos doesn't have to like 'the women's study set', but to suggest that they're making trouble insincerely was offensive in the extreme. Gilliard is someone who seems to fail to get that if you fail to treat people civilly ( say, by photoshopping a picture to suggest that they were bought and paid for by racists), that other people (and business partners) might not want to rub elbows. And the people who are paying the bills, by and large, set the level of courtesy. Not the person cashing the check. If he doesn't understand that, maybe he's in the wrong business.

Posted by: Michael McLawhorn | Oct 29, 2005 12:48:21 AM

Steve Gilliard made an insightful point about the business of advertising. And now he's throwing vicious attacks at Kaine, apprently or not pulling the ad in a way that satisfies Steve Gilliard, proud businessman. And I imagine that every candidate who considers advertising on his blog will take his current behavior vis. Kaine into perspective when deciding whether an ad buy on his blog is a sound investment.

Civil discourse doesn't seem to be Gilliard's strong point. Despite the efforts made my Amanda Marcotte in fending off the borderline and over-the-line sexist trolls, few in Kos or on Gilliard's place acknowledged that the problem was one of civility toward one's allies. Kos doesn't have to like 'the women's study set', but to suggest that they're making trouble insincerely was offensive in the extreme. Gilliard is someone who seems to fail to get that if you fail to treat people civilly ( say, by photoshopping a picture to suggest that they were bought and paid for by racists), that other people (and business partners) might not want to rub elbows. And the people who are paying the bills, by and large, set the level of courtesy. Not the person cashing the check. If he doesn't understand that, maybe he's in the wrong business.

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