Montana Blogosphere Melodrama, Pt. 2

by lizard

In highlighting some of the best political blog posts of 2013, the discontent that bills itself as “intelligent” is hosting spillover from the mess of Cowgirl, a blog Don Pogreba loyally describes as “the best insider coverage of Montana politics in the state.”

I’ve been pretty clear about my opinion regarding the melodrama emanating from the Cowgirl. As national attention prepares to descend on Montana politics this year, the one blog that has received a few stabs of the national spotlight will probably be the go-to source for pundits trying to gauge the political climate of our state. I hope they don’t read the comment threads.

I’m going to bring up (again) the problematic behavior of the primary commenter at Cowgirl, Larry Kralj. Maybe I don’t understand because, like Larry has pointed out, I’m an out-of-stater who has only lived in Montana for 13 years (my response to Larry never made it beyond the intelligent discontent “moderation”).

The notorious environmental ranger has been doing his schtick for a long time. I poked around the 4&20 archives and found this post from seven years ago. From that same time period, I also found an entire post from David Crisp, titled Corraling Kralj. Here is how Crisp opens his post:

I’ve been lax about letting Larry Kralj use this space to insult and demean other visitors here. Frankly, I find his stuff so painful to read that I skip nearly all of it, and I have been letting things get by that shouldn’t. This is my house, and people who comment here are my guests. When one of those guests becomes rude and abusive, it’s my job to stop him.

Don Pogreba and whoever pens the Cowgirl these days obviously have different ideas about what their role is regarding moderating comments. As long as you’re a party loyalist, rude and abusive comments are just fine.

In the Cowgirl’s most recent post, Looks Who’s Back, Larry has made a comment that I think warrants a little extra scrutiny. Here it is:

Can I be serious for a moment? You see, I don’t like to talk about it, but it is a serious topic. Yes, the Rangers have been threatened a time or two, and it’s not pleasant. But we had a very unique way of dealing with it. You see, when someone threatened a Ranger, we went straight to the person that we thought was most responsible, in person, and informed that person that even though you weren’t the one the pulled the trigger, you would be the first to go! And we meant it! For you see, the bad guys have lots of psycopaths, and we have some very tough guys who mean business. They are NOT guys you want to cross! So, when I read something like this, I wish that they had some Environmental Rangers back there by Georgetown U. It’s a whole LOT harder to call for the assassination of the president when you KNOW that you will be next to go! Think about it. It makes one a whole lot more accountable for treasonous remarks!

At the end of this invective, Larry links to this story about a Georgetown professor making some very dangerous comments regarding president Obama. I’m assuming a combination of testosterone and alcohol inspired Larry Kralj’s response.

If Larry was a Republican making these kinds of incendiary comments on an anonymous Republican blog, I guarantee people like Don Pogreba would be outraged.

I don’t expect principled consistency from partisans, so I assume the selective tolerance and the selective outrage will continue. Whatever. We’re just bloggers, anyways, so I doubt anyone takes any of this petty crap seriously.

Why should they?

  1. mike

    Comment removed.


    • lizard19

      people who make calls to violence don’t get to comment here. go troll the cowgirl, mike, I’m sure they would appreciate your insightful commentary.

  2. What is more telling is that your post was moderated but the blatant attacks on Rob and I by Larry and Norma were left up. It certainly calls the entire idea of “moderation” into question. It is his blog, though, and he gets to decide what he leaves up in the way of comment content. I left the discussion the moment the “Larry and Norma” show hit the scene. I stopped reading cowgirl because of the toxic waste dump that site has become – primarily due to those two.

  3. Don has the right to selectively moderate comments at his site, just as we have the right to question why certain personal attack comments were removed while others were allowed to stand.

    • My policy is pretty clear. Comments from pseudonyms get far less latitude than those from real names.

      • So I am just trying to be clear here.. It is OK to personally attack someone if you use your real name, but not OK if you use an internet handle or pseudonym?

        • Not quite.

          The most important thing is that I’m not going to read through comments to make sure that people aren’t being mean to each other. If I happen to read the comments or someone sends a complaint about a particular comment, I might delete it.

          That being said, I am far more likely to remove a personal attack that comes from a pseudonym, for the reasons I articulated below. If someone wants to risk their reputation making personal attacks online using their name, I’m far less likely to intervene, but using anonymity to attack people is cowardly and unfair,

  4. Abe Froman

    Norma and Larry really are batshit crazy. There isn’t much more to it than that.

  5. As I have explained to you roughly 43,000 times, my policy is clear: you don’t get to make personal attacks from behind a pseudonym. Why? Because people who post personal attacks using their names are responsible for their advocacy. Any embarrassment, shame, disapproval, or other consequences are born by the person using her name.

    When someone lacks that courage (or foolishness) they don’t get to make personal attacks at my site. That’s my rule. You don’t have to like it or agree with it. It’s not going to change.

    If you imagine that I am going to wade through yet another interminable slap fight between online commenters who don’t like each other to make nuanced judgments about the legitimacy of their comments, you imagine I have a great deal more free time and interest in the subject than I do. I bet I don’t read 90% of the comments at my own site even, because they tend to happen during the day when I am at work.

    If you want to start/continue/respond to fights with people using real names, either use yours or stick to issues. It’s easy. It’s a simple moderation policy that has nothing to do with partisanship or personality.

    • If he’s using a pseudonym who’s bio and Twitter both disclose his real name, is it really a pseudonym?
      I wonder if you are splitting hairs here when anything incendiary he would post would easily be traced back to him. My concept of the who fake name thing is to dodge responsibility for speech, which doesn’t make sense if his real name is easily a click away from anything he’s writing.

      • lizard19

        William Skink is also a pseudonym, Tim.

        • Well now I feel deceived. Why use one pseudonym to mask another that is not as obvious? Perhaps you should do a post on the reasons everyone around here needs to use fake names. I’ve seen a similar trend in other blogs and newspaper websites where the tone is strikingly much better when people use real names. See Bozeman Daily Chronicle comment section (where even the editors will use fake names to attack readers) vs the Gazette, where you need a Facebook account.

          • lizard19

            there are a few reasons I’ve chosen to remain anonymous on this forum. the topics I choose to comment on, for one, because certain topics can illicit blowback, like criticizing the apartheid state of Israel. there are also certain politicians that don’t like criticism, and I know someone who directly experienced retaliation from an ex-Governor.

            Abe’s comment below also has some merit, though I’m not concerned about Norma stalking me. in my day job I interact with people who are not always mentally stable, and that’s a reality that has implications for me, personally. just last week I received a letter from a woman who is fixated on me. I’ve had an order of protection against this woman, but it hasn’t stopped the letters. the letters used to come to my workplace, but last week I got a letter at my home address, so she now knows where I live. this woman has even threatened to take my kids.

            so that’s part of my reasoning. thanks for reading and commenting, Tim.

            • If your goal is remaining anonymous, you’re probably revealing more about yourself than is wise. Bits and pieces of information revealed in disparate posts can add up to an identity.

              • lizard19

                I’ve been sloppy about it from the beginning, James.

              • For what it’s worth, I’ve never been threatened for anything I’ve posted on Flathead Memo. I have had political candidates whom I’ve taken to task come up to me at supermarkets to thank me for not being anonymous. On the other hand, I don’t have wild women stalking me, either, although at my age I might consider that a blessing, depending on the woman.

              • Pogo Possum

                James……..While Lizard sometimes overshares about his personal life that could reveal his identity, he does have very legitimate reasons to use an alias. If I were his employer, I would insist he not identify himself on any public blog or forum both for his privacy and protection and for the protection of his employer and the people it serves.

                You should be a little more careful Liz. The world can be a dangerous place. Be safe.

              • Pogo’s 11:56 comment should not go unremarked. I don’t know Lizard’s situation, so I don’t know whether posting under his real name provides safety that is actually needed. But I certainly defer to his judgment.

                Pogo’s comment, “If I were his employer, I would insist he not identify himself on any public blog or forum both for his privacy and protection and for the protection of his employer and the people it serves.” is remarkable for its arrogance and authoritarian attitude. What gives an employer the right to tell an employee he can’t blog under his own name as a condition of employment? Would an employer have the right to forbid an employee from writing letters to the editor, or opeds, or testifying at a city council meeting, as a condition of employment? As long as the employee sticks to issues other than what his employer does, what he says online on his own time is none of his employer’s business. Vladimir Putin might disagree, but we don’t live in his country.

                There is a long and honorable history of anonymous comment in this country (see Justice Stevens’ summary in McIntyre v. Ohio), and anonymity certainly has its place. But I think that on the internet, it’s being abused by people who want to escape responsibility for what they say — the kind of people who would push you over a cliff if they thought no one was looking. Alone with their computer, they write things they never would say were they discussing an issue face-to-face with other people, and things they never would write were they writing under their real names instead of nom de plumes. Anonymity allows the inner thug to break loose and use his keyboard as a blackjack.

                And I think it’s being overused by people who have an exaggerated fear that writing under their own names will result in their homes being burned down by nightriders.

                Now, I don’t know Pogo’s situation other than I believe, from what he has written, that he’s a lawyer. His posts are civil and rational. He even said nice things about my blog, Flathead Memo, that I much appreciated. I take him at his word that something about his situation has convinced him that he need anonymity for his own protection. But among anonymous commenters, he’s an exception. I hope someday he will be able to conclude he can write under his own name and receive full credit for his contributions to civic discourse.

        • Abe Froman

          He probably doesn’t want to be stalked by Norma Duffy.

            • Steve W

              James Conner, years ago when I published the hard copy Northern Rockies Comic Gazette, i received a snail mail death threat letter in response to an anti-death penalty opinion piece I wrote under my own name. They sent the letter to the address in the mast head.

              But I’ve never received on line death threats.

              My guess is it might be harder to find people sending threats through snail mail than it would be to find them online.

  6. Not all pseudonyms are for the purpose of remaining anonymous. Anyone that has been to my blog knows my name and pretty much where I live as well as lots of other details of my life. I use a handle (Moorcat) because I have been using a handle on the internet since the Arcnet. I used it in BB, I have used it in games and I use it now on the internet. To make Don happy (since he has a thing about anonymity) I have added my name to my handle, but I will continue to use my handle because I am comfortable doing so.

    I do find it interesting that anyone would even suggest that I am not willing to handle any consequences of my involvement in discussions, blog posts or comments. How many other bloggers in Montana have had a politician actually put them in jail for blogging about them.

  7. lizard19

    it appears Cowgirl got the message. cleaning up house before things heat up. smart move.

    • Don’t get too excited, Liz. She doubled down by writing a comment specifically to Norma asking Norma to come back. She makes it sound as if Norma was the victim in all the attacks. It will rapidly return to the Norma and Larry show now. Norma will feel justified in her “holy crusade” to rid the Democratic Party of all those she deems “posers and unworthy” (her words) and the site will devolve back to the toxic mess it was. I have no intention of ever getting involved in their discussions again. It can remain the echo chamber for the bromance between Norma and Larry.

      • Craig Moore

        It is truly shocking, but not terribly surprising, for Norma to be cast as some sort of hero. Time and time again she insinuated herself into discussions with venomous personal attacks. All this shows is that is what the handlers of the CG website want is to have Norma be their whip to lash people into submission to support hyper-partisan posts. IT would be one thing for CG’s discipline to be meted out fairly given the offense. Quite another to declare one of the worst offenders exempt.

        Now, how y’all feel about Cowgirl and Norma defining Montana’s Democratic party and the litmus tests for being a Democrat?

        • I think I have been pretty clear about that. I see Norma as one of the biggest reasons to avoid even engaging with Democrats on anything. Her penchant for cyberstalking people and attempting to hurt them in the real world leaves me to believe that the Democrats are no different than the Republicans. The only thing that gives me pause is that I have a great deal of respect for my brother. Rob has been pretty clear on his take of the situation as well.

          The idea of a “purity test” from either party is so absurd as to be laughable except for the fact that both parties are using them now. Anytime I hear or see a Democrat or Republican talk about how their party is “big tent” I can’t help but laugh outloud. Rob has been a supporter of Montana Democrats since before it became vogue and was one of the first Democratic Bloggers in the State. He has given his money, time, blood sweat and tears to help this state move from a hard red state to a purple state. To hear someone like Norma call him a “Republican plant” or a DINO or a Republican poser is beyond laughable.

          Minimizing Norma and Larry was the only hope of keeping the Cowgirl site pertinent to Montana Democrats or Montana politics. By giving Norma and Larry a pass – in fact, stroking Norma’s already oversized ego, Cowgirl has doubled down on the very thing turning this state back to a red state. I find it interesting that only the Democrats can turn a real political win into failure.

          • Craig Moore

            Kenneth, it is my opinion that neither party can resist hemlock flavored power. Look at what’s happening with Christie overplaying his hand. Poof!!!!! He is finished.

          • I hardly think Christie is “finished”. The dustup over the bridge is a minor issue and unlikely to really effect him. Christie is the conservative version of Brian Schweitzer – a lot of showmanship – and it will take a lot more than this POS story to sink him. What will sink Christie is that he isn’t conservative enough to win a national primary in the Republican party.

            • Craig Moore

              In Time Square is a restaurant named Virgil’s. It serves southern BBQ and frosty foam beer. Delicious!!!! I’m fairly certain that Christie has eaten there a time or two. Last I was there they had a table BBQ sauce named “Scorned Woman.” It was rather breath taking and knee buclking. Now remember the name, Bridget Anne Kelly, who Christie has thrown under the bus calling her all sorts of things including “stupid” and “deceitful.” I would be very surprised that she doesn’t return the favor.

          • JC

            Ken, being a “supporter of Montana Democrats” has long been in vogue, way before the internet (like 1865 when Thomas Meagher was elected Governor of the Montana Territory). It wasn’t until the late 80s that the state swung red following the Reagan revolution. And Dems have ruled the governorship 15-9 since statehood.

            It’s nice of you to be loyal to your bro, but some of us were “blogging” before the term was coined, and designing/coding web precursors to modern blogging platforms 20 years ago, and putting out significant content about policy, politics & activism.

            And you are giving the political makeup of our state far more attribution to blogging than what happens offline. Political blogging in Montana is a microcosm. Sure, some people follow stuff, ideas get bandied about, a bit of investigative work gets done. But 99+% of the populace don’t have a clue. If 1% of the population of the state paid attention to political blogging, there would be 10,000 people interacting. Instead, we get a minor fraction of that. Blogging really is a minor part of politics.

          • Truth to be told, JC, I was coding sites long before “blogging” was popular too. I was also heavily involved in BBS’s. I am not, in any way, saying that Rob predates everyone in the Montana Democratic world, but give credit where credit is due. When it comes to Montana BLOGGERS, Rob was one of the first and – at one time – one of the most influential.

            I would also disagree with your characterization that Bloggers make no difference. I would venture to say – with some certainty – that Senator Tester would not be Senator Tester if It wasn’t for the Montana Blogs at the time. Not only did they have some influence in the race itself, the people behind the blogs – like my brother and Matt Singer were very active both financially and physically getting Tester elected.

            Blogs play and even bigger roll in today’s world of social media. Most blogs are connected to various social media sites (like mine is always announced on Facebook) and while you don’t see 10,000 people hitting each site, it doesn’t take 10,000 people to influence an election. Our media is slanted (Don and I argue over how it is slanted but each of us recognize that it is, in fact slanted) and more people are turning to social media and blogs for information and to discuss politics.

            I won’t argue that the Montana blog-o-sphere is a microcosm but this microcosm is having more and more effect on the overall scheme of things than it has ever had before. Blog posts are read as evidence in State Hearings and it isn’t unusual anymore to see a blog referred to by someone discussing politics.

            If I somehow offended you, I apologize and I do recognize that there are issues between you and my brother. I simply take exception to the idea that Norma had the balls to accuse my brother of being a Republican plant when he was working for Montana Democratic Candidates while she was still doing – whatever the hell she was doing – in California.

            • JC

              No you didn’t offend me. But it’s funny you bring up the role of blogging in Sen. Tester’s victory. Seems that most Montana dem bloggers don’t want to recognize the impact that dem candidate Paul Richards, and his supporters had when they all swung their support to Jon. They still want to marginalize us and the impact we had — and your brother is one of those that carries that torch.

              As to Norma… well, that sort of commenting just drives people away. I’ve mostly ignored it and what goes on at ID and CG, as I’ve either been banned or moderated out of the foray. I guess that’s the price you pay for being anonymous. Norma gets away with murder, while us “anonies” have to tiptoe around.

            • I love my brother dearly and I do have a lot of respect for him – especially when it comes to politics – but we disagree on the Tester election. Yes, he has downplayed the blogs in that race, but given the closeness of the contest and the way the blogs in the state aggressively worked for Tester to get him elected, I have a hard time discounting at least the possibility that the blogs played a role.

              He may be right and there is now way to really know, but on this subject, we disagree.

  8. larry kurtz

    Schweitzer is likely the only 2016 contender able to make Clinton squirm and having Christie taken out of the mix leaves only the nutcases to run for the GOP’s pick.

    All of a sudden the guv looks like a great interim pick for the Baucus seat.

  1. 1 The Big Tent Joke | The Road Less Traveled

    […] a “toxic waste dump”, Cowgirl instituted a policy that the comments would be moderated. Even as multiple people were heaving a sigh of relief, though, Cowgirl posted a fawning and directed appeal to Norma to come back to the site. Norma.. […]

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