Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Our Responsibility As Political Bloggers

"A recent poll by Momentum Analysis has Gus Bilirakis in trouble in his re-election bid in FL-9. Gus only hits 45% in the poll. Newcomer Democratic challenger Bill Mitchell currently sits at 22%, but as the campaign moves forward and his name recognition increases, he’s likely to take a large chunk of the 34% undecided vote. Undecided voters tend to break for the challenger, particularly in a Democratic year such as 2008. Additionally, the undecided voters lean Democratic, 46%-37%."

Kenneth Quinnell, President of the Florida Democratic Party PAC, the Florida Netroots Coalition.

Florida: District 9 results

Bilirakis - 197,025 62%
Mitchell - 113,000 36%

I previous wrote that Quinnell's read of the poll was pure spin. Quinnell is a supporter of Bill Mitchell and a noted FDP activist. I'm a lefty wonk blogger. Quinnell's numbers (and lack of link to the poll) didn't back his argument. The only way Bilirakis was going to lose his seat was to a strong candidate.

I have been wrong. I don't expect Quinnell to be right every time. Human error is a part of blogging in a high-paced information age.

I don't want to see progressive blogs become Democratic Party propaganda. InstaPundit has defended torture and Bush's economic policies. No rationale person takes Glenn Reynolds seriously. I have no problem lefty or conservative bloggers backing candidates or causes. Regardless, if I agree or disagree with their views. Freedom to express our values and beliefs is what makes this country great. We aren't entitled to our own set of facts. It hurts discourse and misinforms the public. Blogs are gaining more political influence. We should use our responsibility wisely.

Correction: Netroots Coalition is a constituency caucus of the Florida Democratic Party. It is not a PAC.

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At November 05, 2008 10:29 PM , Blogger Kenneth said...

I'm a little baffled that you're still talking about this. Seriously, an I told-you-so post?

The problem is that there are a ton of inaccuracies in your post.

1. My name is Quinnell.

2. I'm the executive director of FPC.

3. FPC is an LLC, not a PAC.

4. I NEVER said Mitchell would win. Not once. I said that an incumbent at 45% is in trouble. That is conventional wisdom in political analysis. I didn't make it up. The day after you said it wasn't, Kos made the exact same claim about the fact that any incumbent under 50% is in trouble. He said that because that's the commonly accepted standard. "In trouble" doesn't equal "will lose," it means "might lose."

5. I am most definitely NOT a Mitchell supporter. FPC endorsed Dicks in the primary and I stand by that endorsement.

6. There wasn't a link to the numbers at the time because they weren't online. The link same numbers appeared on the Buzz the next day. I just got them early.

7. You imply that I've never admitted that I was wrong. I would admit that in this case if I had said anything wrong. I didn't. I didn't say Mitchell would win. Last year I was completely convinced that Clinton would be the nominee. I've repeatedly admitted that I was wrong on that. When I'm actually wrong, I admit it. Saying that Bilirakis was in trouble because he was 50% wasn't wrong.

8. Suggesting that I have my own facts is ludicrous. I used a standard interpretation of actual poll data the same way that other political scientists and pundits would. It's not my fault you read something into my words that wasn't there. Feel free to reread the part you quoted. Find the part where I said Mitchell would win. You can't. It doesn't exist. Anywhere.

I'm sure there are better things you could be blogging about right now than trying to tell everybody that I was wrong to say something I never actually said.

At November 05, 2008 11:05 PM , Anonymous Dave Harper said...

Okay, I think Kenneth misread the part about the Florida Netroots Coalition which is an official caucus within the Florida Democratic Party.

Kenneth was instrumental in helping form this caucus, though if my memory serves me, Kenneth stepped down from its leadership sometime earlier in the year.

Maybe that clears things up a bit. Hopefully, we can move on to more constructive discussions.

I respect Michael's view that we should mind our responsibility to deliver accurate analysis. I certainly support Mr. Hussey's right to speak to whatever subject moves him to write. (It is his blog.)

Still, it seems we are straining out gnats here.

At November 05, 2008 11:10 PM , Blogger tas said...

After backing Carl Sheeler for Senate in 2006, I grew uncomfortable with the idea of backing local candidates -- because those endorsements get you into conversations with said candidates. Once you have a personal relationship with them, it becomes that much tougher to criticize them... And Sheeler needed criticism because the speeches he wrote were so boring and convoluted that he never got his message across. I don't think anybody told him this, though.

Anyways, once a relationship is established, there will be bias. When I supported Sheeler I made sure to post that I have had conversations with him, and I had not donated money to him. I wanted fll disclosure -- but the bias was still there. Personally, I grew uncomfortable with that despite my disclosure.

As for blogs and responsibility... The beauty (hah!) of blogging is that anyone with an opinion can start a blog to share that opinion -- no matter how looney it is. And when we look on the Right side of the fence, there are a bunch of looney toons. Dan Riehl's posts about McCain's chances of winning hhad me rolling on the floor these past couple of weeks. In essence, those were his interpretation of the polls. We found out last night just how dead fucking wrong he was, but this brings into question whether or not having an opinion is irresponsible.

Lying, for example, is irresponsible. I've taken a stand against that. Bloggers should take themselves seriously because their writing can be used as a resource by others -- especially on obscure topics. Back when I wrote about Darfur on Loaded Mouth, I would come up first in Google as searches for Janjaweed leader Mussa Hillal. I know this meant that I would be used as a goto resource by others searching for information about Darfur, and being in that position meant I needed to take journalistic responsibility for what I wrote. I had to be accurate -- and I took the extra time to do such.

That's concerning the facts, though.

Opinions are a different matter... I've been wrong many times. (Been right a whole lot more, though -- at least I'd like to think so.) Sometimes I'm even wildly off the mark. Does this mean I've been irresponsible, though? Dan Riehl was widely off the mark with his opinions on polls -- was that irresponsible? I don't think so. I do, however, think Riehl and other rightwing bloggers were irresponsible in publishing outright lies about Obama.

Opinions can come from many sources. The blogosphere is essentially a group of random people on the street. You can go upto them and ask them what they think about a certain topic, and they well give you all matter of opinions -- all of them biased. It's the job of the listener to filter out the crap.

In my opinion, if a blogger blatantly lies that's irresponsible. But if a blogger has crappy opinions, then it's just that. The onus of responsibility falls more upon the blog reader to determine what opinions are good and bad.

At November 05, 2008 11:31 PM , Blogger Kenneth said...

Dave is right, I misread that a bit.

Florida Progressive Coalition is an LLC and the post in question was posted on the FPC Blog. FPC has no connection to the Democratic Party other than that several members, such as myself, are also members of the Democratic Party. Others, like Dave, are not.

The Florida Democratic Party Netroots Coalition is a constituency caucus within the party and I am president of that organization. It is also not a PAC.


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