The Open Thread, and a Bonus Post on Palin, Trig, and Sullivan


I’m blogging a lot less now as I’ve been in the middle of apartment searching and whatnot, but I wanted to take a quick moment to discuss some of the things going on over at the Atlantic, which is where most people reading this blog probably know me from…unless people are still reading from Facebook, which, if so, great!

So, TNC closed the Open Thread the other week.

I have mixed feelings about the decision; obviously, I got to know a lot of people there, and for that I’m very grateful. It’s nice to be able to just post whatever and know that some smart people are going to have something to say about it. I think it also kept the site light-hearted. There’d also be stuff like Gnikivar’s personal essays on India, which were compelling, and for me anyway, incredibly educational.

That said, I wonder if the Open Thread didn’t make commenting a little too…well, easy. I remember the first time I started commenting at TNC’s place, I absolutely knew I had to bring it. The intelligence of the commenters and the level of discourse was at such a level that I was somewhat intimidated, yet of course intrigued. Heh, I remember getting lectured, in a good way, by Citizen E when we were talking about Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. I think that, as a 22-year-old at the time, this was something that really should be happening.

The Open Thread changed that. It built a benevolent clique of commenters, encouraged inside jokes, and, on the whole, lowered the level of discourse. This is fine, and certainly TNC does many posts that aren’t exactly high-brow. However, I got the feeling that often the spirit of the Open Thread would take over the blog.

I should add that shortly before TNC’s decision to stop the Open Thread, I decided to go on hiatus. I made this decision for several reasons, though mostly out of a weariness of politics. There’s only so many ways and so many times you can call Fox News racist, and the GOP platform, essentially, based on lies. However, the racism and lies, sadly, are working. I thought we were better than that, but I guess not.

I’m still stopping by of course, chiming in occasionally. But it’s something I’m still trying to figure out.


I’ve been mostly sympathetic to Andrew Sullivan on the issue of Trig. I do think there are a lot of things that simply don’t add up, and I find it very unlikely that she gave birth to that child in the way she described. Then again, I find the truth of anything she says to be quite unlikely. I don’t know how you get on two long flights and deliver a speech after your water breaks. I don’t know why she would tell people this story and not expect questions. I don’t get, even if her story is true, why the birth place of a child is so important–actually, this is pretty symbolic of Palinism; honor symbolism, no matter what the actual truth and safety concerns are present in reality.

I think that, today, Andrew finally crossed the line for me. In response to Tucker Carlson, a man of, let’s say, questionable integrity, leaking this off the record Ezra Klein statement:

Seriously, folks? Best case scenario, what’s your outcome here: Her daughter, hounded by the tabloids, breaks down that it was her child, and her mother heroically took on the burden and welcomed the disabled boy as one of her own? Palin’s relationship with her children — however they may have come to her — strikes me as pretty far out of bounds. By all accounts she’s a wonderful mother, and devoted to her fifth son. Leave this be.

Andrew has this to say:

This is your liberal media, ladies and gentlemen: totally partisan, interested in the truth only if it advances their agenda, and devoid of any balls whatsoever. And people wonder how this farce of a candidate now controls one major political party and could well be our next president. One reason is that we do not have a functioning adversarial media uncorrupted by partisan loyalty and tactics.

Sullivan says this as if revealing Bristol to be Trig’s mother (which I still see as unlikely), all of a sudden Palin’s followers are suddenly going to see the light and realize her for what she is: the single most mendacious, vacuous, cynical politician of the last 50 years. According to Sullivan she’s told “92 Odd Lies;” why wasn’t the Bridge to Nowhere campaign enough?

I’m sympathetic to the idea that journalist should not restrict what they investigate. Actually, I agree with it. But what they report is something else. They have to realize that they live in a world that, when a conservative network pushes racist lies about Shirley Sherrod, they can pretend like Obama’s the problem the very next day. And they will remain the top rated cable news station in the country.

2 Responses to “The Open Thread, and a Bonus Post on Palin, Trig, and Sullivan”

  1. 1 silentbeep

    You know open thread…I kind of don’t agree with you about “lowering the discourse” as being a somewhat negative thing. i think the discourse needed to be lowered just a tad, sometimes it got entirely too serious in there, there needed to be some humor. And honestly, if you didn’t bring your game in Open Thread, people would smack you down, if you said something dumb, someone was going to call you on it, so the standards for vigorous debate were just as high as they were in the other threads, not seeing where you are coming from there.

  2. 2 carlosthedwarf

    I think you’re right, to a point. The Open Thread did make commenting easier. It also expanded the variety of issues discussed on the site and allowed the commenters to get to know each other better.

    That said, my agreement with you stops here: “It built a benevolent clique of commenters, encouraged inside jokes, and, on the whole, lowered the level of discourse. This is fine, and certainly TNC does many posts that aren’t exactly high-brow. However, I got the feeling that often the spirit of the Open Thread would take over the blog.”
    I question both the assertion that there’s been a decline in the quality of the commenting, and the hypothesis that the Open Threads are to blame. The only significant difference I see in the TNC threads of the past few months and the TNC threads from early in 2009 (when I first started reading) is an increase in the number of trolls. I think TNC’s rise in popularity and influence within the blogosphere and the deliberate race-baiting of the right wing have a lot more to do with that phenomenon than any amount of Open Threads ever have.

    I suppose I do see your point about the increase in the number of inside jokes: haircuttery, conversate, and the like. But I don’t think those have lowered the quality of the comments or the extent to which commenters push back on one another.

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