What's this Blog About?

Politics in Wisconsin as they roll up to every level... and some other thoughts that may cross my mind are explored here from my lefty point of view. My values shape my opinions. You'll always find them in here. Let's have some fun exploring why Liberal values are American values!

Your comments are both welcome and encouraged!
(The watercolor is called Magnolia Tree for Momma, by Audrey Crawford)

Monday, November 20, 2006

My Take on Download 2006

So I haul myself out to WCTC a month or so ago on a Saturday for a WI blogger conference called Download 2006. It seemed an innocent enough thing to keep me from laying on the couch on a Saturday afternoon, which that day seemed a pretty compelling option.

This is my take on the Wisconsin political blogger community. We are a loose knit group who are all fairly new at this. We go across the political spectrum from the far insane right to the far insane left and most of us (although I was once berated as Milwaukee's Very Own Jesse Jackson which I guess puts me a bit farther to the left), stuck somewhere in the middle. I have a nice list of the Wisconsin Blog-o-sphere to your right. Although it is a bit skewed to my perspective, you can find most of the righties listed on Boots and Sabers.

I guess with such a diverse group of thinkers, I expected it to be a diverse group of bloggers... I was wrong. I was I believe the only person of color in the entire room (although I was told later there was a latino I missed). Not only that, I was one of four women (one was married to a blogger, not a blogger herself).

I happen to have a friend who is a righty blogger (It's kind of like the Arabs and the Israelis-pick a side any side. If you go there, you will find many individuals who could care less about ideology and remain good friends through all the insanity around them.)

What sort of shocked me is that I said hello, hugged him (I'm a hugger, I hug everyone) when I got there, and then went on to say hello and hug my lefty blogger friends. The group of righty bloggers (all white) was behind me and as soon as I turned around, I heard 3-4 of them say in shocked unison (who's that? how do YOU know her? etc...). My friend quickly explained nicely that we are friends and pseudo neighbors.

Now this wouldn't be notable except that I got the feeling that they were all a bit shocked that my friend knew a black woman. I've known him for years, and never had any inkling he had any racist tendancies, and although he does write Kane Watch, he generally tries to make a good argument over a racist one. I find him to be somewhat of a moderate fiscal Republican and although we don't always agree over the kitchen table or online, we always have insightful and interesting conversations.

So why were the conservative bloggers so shocked when they saw me? I may never know, but it sticks with me today as one of the oddest moments I've ever experienced. A little while later, I introduced myself to the entire conservative blog-o-sphere who were all grouped together in a gaggle. They were polite, but except for my friend, hardly friendly and as soon as each of the introduced themselves, it was pretty clear that they were uncomfortable with me in the conversation. It could be that they were afraid to say something that I would find offensive and blog about, or it could be that they consider us liberal bloggers "the enemy", or it could be a mass shyness in the group, or it could be that they were talking about something they didn't want me privvy to, or it could be that my forward friendliness was outside their stereotypes, or it could be they hate my blog and had a preconceived notion of me as a radical lefty nutbag, or it could be... Well, regardless, it was awkward and I think I'll go to Drinking Right next month.

I was disappointed in the number of lefty blogger who didn't attend. I was looking forward to meeting some of my favorite writers out there. The conference went well, but I had to leave early (I promised my middle daughter that it was her, what we call "Mommy Days") .

So this is why I decided to write this blog. I get out to the parking lot and as I get to my car, a young white male was standing next to it smoking a cigarette. Not noticing him inside, I asked if he was with the conference. He say he was "kind of" and I asked what blog he wrote. He tells me he didn't write a blog, but was doing research. When I asked if he was the student writing a paper on the blogosphere, he said, "No, I'm from the other side." I could only assume at that point he knew who I was. I never got his name, but we began debating politics. We went on and on about a variety of subjects. A few stand out in my memory and won't seem to go away.

Education: My point was that it is for the common good of society to educate all members of society to the fullest. The WI GOP operative's point is best put by a facetious saying my husband has rolled off for many years now. "If everyone goes to school who's going to flip my burger?" He's always said it as a tongue and cheek point, but this guy meant it. He said that "if everyone's educated, then the job market will have a glut and wages will go down for those of us on the top. Why would we want to educate everyone when it hurts us in the long run?"

Healthcare: I say it's a fundamental human right. He says, "Why should I have to pay for healthcare for everyone? If everyone's healthy when their young, they'll live longer and I'll have to pay for them to live forever as old people. Let them die young if they can't afford to live."

Food: I say again it's a fundamental human right. He says, "I can feed my kids. Why should I have to pay to feed someone else's? If they can't feed them and they die, why is that my problem?"

After a half hour of this dribble time and again. I was pretty disgusted by every point this GOP thinktanker had to make (although strangely enough, it was a friendly enough conversation). I finally said, "So you've helped me figure out the difference between a conservative and a liberal." He said, "What's that?"

I said, "A conservative only cares about ME, a liberal cares about WE. It's just one letter flipped on it's ass, but I know for sure that I will never be a conservative."

Just then our friends came up on both sides of the political spectrum to figure out again why we were talking to the enemy (bloggers are a bit territorial about their own...LOL). We parted amicably, but as I got in my car, I thought to myself.

What kind of hatred of humanity makes someone so damn MEAN at heart??


Jenna said...

Hi Renee,

You may not remember, but I was one of the folks you met at Download 2006.

It was a pleasure meeting you, and I'm shocked that you came away with the perception you did.

I don't remember the reaction to you that you recounted, but if the friend you knew previously is who I think it is, perhaps we were all just shocked he has people willing to be his friend ;).

I don't think that anyone was necessarily shocked to see you there. Bloggers are, as you said, kind of a close-knit group. Those who know each other and hang out together treat each other differently than people like me, who had just met most of them for the first time. There may have been that.

As for me, I was trying to think back to the last thing I'd read here to try to get a handle on your blogging style/topics.

Anyway, it was a pleasure to meet you, and I am sorry you came away with the perception you did. I hope to see you at future events!

Anonymous said...


Do not be shocked at the low attendance. While the event was PROMOTED to the blog community at large it was only after it was a done deal, all set up and only a few days before the event. The "lefty" blogs that were included in the planning stages or were given that proverbial seat at the table were - yes, close knit. But a ton of us don't know 'em. We're not "safe" enough, we might say something off the talking points, might embarass the "close knit group". What an I saying - we LIVE to say what everyone else isn't saying. (Kind of the point)

You won't see any Greens in that "leftist" and "close knit" community, nor any loose cannon types who cannot be counted upon to not rattle the wrong cages.

There is not a "blogging community" in WISCONSIN as far as I can see, nor can those bloggers who I have contact with. There may be a clique or two in the lower right hand corner. And that was, IMHO, a blog clique - right and left. When I asked my FEW blog pals if they knew about the event, they did not. No clue.
So I for one was pleased to see the low attendance count. I would have been disturbed if the "public" had seemed to interpret that as some sort of legitimate representative sampling. There are some really good bloggers who are just too irritating I guess and ask the wtong questions and come to the wrong conclusions. Looked like a Milwaukee/Madison feel-good session to me. Bogus.

One thousand percent fine to bond with folks you know and all that. Completly reasonable, sounds fun. More power to ya. But as a "representative sample of dedicated WI bloggers" - that was a joke. About as representative of the blog community as the Prom Court is representative of any given High School population.

Anonymous said...

A little time past and it hit me - I owe you an apology. I stick to the points I made, they are valid, but any outrage I might feel over a silly blog thing is dwarfed by your lame-ass waste-of-a-Saturday experience.
So my apology is for blowing by what you said and using it as a jumping-off point for what I had to say.

I could not have talked to that guy in the parking lot as you did. I actually beleive conversations like that abuse the listener. He may have appeared to be "discussing issues" but I beleive there are low-life people who fully understand that they will upset others with talk like that, talk that entirely and knowingly negates them and marginalizes them, and I beleive that some people enjoy doing that. Sounds like he was one of those. A bad deal.

Cory said...

I would have emailed you but I did not see an email on your blog, which was part of the problem in contacting many bloggers for this event.

I organized this event in only two weeks and I did reach out to as many bloggers as I could find contact info for in that time. I used the extended list of bloggers at Wisopinion and the blogroll at lefty blogs to contact people. I sent an email to at least 32 lefty bloggers from all over the state (including Greens and some folks in your area). I sent an email to at least 28 righty bloggers from all over the state. We paid for advertising on Wispolitics to promote the event and other bloggers actually promoted the event on their blogs, so if you didn't hear of the event I don't know what to say. It wasn't because I didn't try to contact you.

The event was open to anyone and there was no script. You could have come and made any comment or posed any question that you wanted. The claim that your point of view would not have been welcome is absurd. You can't state your opinion if you don't even show up when invited.

Please send me your email and the email of all of these other bloggers that we missed and I will make sure that at the next event that we plan, you all will have ample notice and will be welcome, just like you were at the download. Hopefully you will all show up at the next one. If you choose not to, then I hope you are more mindful of where you place the blame.

Cory Liebmann