Where Once Blogs Flourished, The Void

by William Skink

The Indy has a feature piece this week about the good ol’ days of the progressive Montana blogosphere worth checking out, cleverly titled Click Fate.

Apparently 2006-2009 were the heady years of blogging, when bloggers elected Senators like Jon Tester because disgust at war and corruption under Bush was rampant. Burns went down thanks to the Jack Abramoff scandal, and bloggers like Jay Stevens and Matt Singer basked in that warm, progressive glow of knowing who your enemies are.

When did that afterglow start fading away and why? Maybe more importantly, doest it matter?

I doubt this feature piece will appeal to people outside the blog bubble, but for those of us inside it (and still writing) there are obviously some eyebrow-raising omissions.

Here’s one glaring example: Jhwygirl’s time keeping 4&20 Blackbirds going isn’t mentioned once and that is a real shame. Jon Krakauer had the good sense to credit jhwygirl for capturing Kirsten Pabst’s online smear of the Missoulian’s reporting as the rape scandal was emerging. That’s a big deal, and leads me to wonder if this sentiment from the author is genuine:

A medium once commended for its power, influence and sense of community appears to have faded just as quickly as it emerged. The question entering a volatile 2016 election season isn’t just why this switch happened, but how those still engaged in local progressive politics are filling the void.

This timely piece turning back the clock ten years is to take advantage of the fact that being “progressive” is once again a raging topic of debate, especially with New Hampshire voting next week. Hillary is desperately trying to morph rhetorically into a progressive but the youth vote ain’t buying it.

And that’s where we are in 2016. After 2009 the progressive hope was slowly smothered by the Obama administration and pointing that out is not something that wins you extensive readership among those who prefer to keep their concept of political enemies simplistically focused on Republicans.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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14 Responses to Where Once Blogs Flourished, The Void

  1. I appreciate Flathead Memo giving RD shout out. thanks James!

    • Steve W says:

      Have you been rehabed? I remember when you were unmentionable up North. Good to see.

      Really weird that the Indy missed so much. How can they be so clueless?

      • we’ve exchanged a few pleasant emails and I respect his independent disposition.

        • Steve W says:

          I like him too. I don’t always agree with him, but often I do. i like that he at least knows why he holds one opinion or another, for the most part. Also, he’s a decent writer so it’s not a chore to read usually.

          He’s not afraid to buck the herd when he’s convinced he’s right and they are wrong and i too respect him for that.

  2. Greg Strandberg says:

    What was the purpose of that Independent story today? 4,500 words to rehash the blogging heyday of the 2000s? Or is there something else going on here?

  3. JC says:

    Geez, I got so much to say about that article, but another day… My first impression is that some people only believe that blogging is about politics. Big mistake.

    Next off, is Jay is totally lying about visitation counts, and where they peak at 4&20. Fortunately you can go to archive.org and see what the counts were at various periods in time.

    total visits     date       yearly totals
    109,791     1-25-2007    109,791
    229,855     1-23-2008    120,064
    427,535      1-27-2009    197,680
    677,998     1-25-2010    250,463
    924,714     1-27-2011    246,716
    1,171,333    1-27-2012    246,619
    1,337,817    1-25-2013    166,484
    1,447,184    1-16-2014    109,367
    1,564,712    2-16-2015    117,528
    1,619,822    2-4-2016    55,110

    So Jay made the following claims:

    “…Stevens says. By the time he “pulled the plug” last year, monthly traffic had dropped to roughly 2,000 visits a month.”

    Well, 4&20 averaged over 4,000 visits per month in 2015, even given that the last 6 months had no new content (except one or two of jhwygirl’s posts).

    There were 57,542 visits between Dec 20, 2014 and July 27, 2015. A period of 7 months, for an average of 8220 visits per month — 4 times more than he claimed in the Indy article — in the period leading up to him shutting down the site mid-June. So, Jay is clearly stroking his dick ego with his interview.

    Steven’s also commented that:

    “By 2010, Stevens had shifted from 4&20 Blackbirds to Left in the West. Later that year, he and Singer announced they were bowing out entirely, leaving the Montana blogosphere without two of its most influential founders. Stevens notes that traffic declined notably in that time”

    Well, the numbers clearly show that during 2010 through the end of 2012, that visits remained at their peak of about 250,000 per year for a full three years after he left! It wasn’t until well into 2013 that visits began to decline.

    Again, Jay is very dishonest in his analysis of the traffic at 4&20. But that’s what I expect from someone who came in to shut the site down — to validate his actions, even if he has to lie about it.

  4. All of these blogs that appeared, as if on cue, during that time, including 4&20, Left in the West, Kailey’s and Pogie’s blog, were run by the Montana Democratic Party, probably a local manifestation of a national mobilization, which was still trying to understand how to use the Internet the same way it had used newspapers. It appeared in those days that newspapers were going out of business, even that the Internet might replace TV as mass control devices. So they ran out a bunch of bloggers. Montana Cowgirl was an obvious rollout, complete with a blurb from Washington Post. Complete fake.

    I had a look at Montana Cowgirl blog visits, including people online at say 3 AM. They are fake. They claim 40 people online at that time when there are none. The blog doesn’t generate numbers anything like that, so they just make up their numbers, and the staff people in Helena invent fake names for commenters too. It is all fake. So I have to assume that the 4&20 numbers above are fake too, as there is no control device in place to assure us that site visits are real numbers. There is no way to know. In all my years of blogging I have never had more than a few hundred visits a day, most drive by’s, precious few actual reads. I don’t control traffic, don’t draw it, but the point is, as you two surely know, neither does anyone else. It is not happening. It is all a fake. If you guys are doing 200 real hits a day, I’ll bet you are doing 10 reads, and Swede ain’t one of them. (Don’t worry. He didn’t read this far, won’t get his feelings hurt.)

    One by one each blogger quit as it became apparent that this was not something that could be manipulated like a newspaper, that audiences who could read and process Information were small, so now they are down to two blogs, Cowgirl and Pogie, and the content for each comes from the same source. I imagine at staff meetings each month there are threats to shut down the useless enterprises, as TV still owns minds, newspapers still control the few who read. But they are clinging on to MCG and ID as artifacts that might be activated for some other fake purpose. Right now they are walking dead, hanging in for dear life. You are marginalized, as you don’t have your minds right. You’ll never be able to generate the fake numbers they do.

    So what we have is a small group of people, a few of whom can write and think properly, who write for each other. It’s quite a tiny society of writers and commenters, and damned few others. For myself, I don’t care. I like to write, and if I can find a better outlet, I’ll vamoose. I have never had any illusions that there are enough people who can read and think to make any meaningful changes. There weren’t then, aren’t now. But gee whiz, a lot of people do vote!

    • dpogreba says:

      Actually, Mark, I think most of the blogs are written by people who the government has in hiding after faking mass shootings and terrorist attacks.

      Connect the dots!

      John Lennon writes most of the posts at ID these days.

      • picking a fight late on a Saturday night. keep it classy, Don.

        • I know reading comprehension isn’t your strong suit, but I think Mark may have posted that I am a shill for the Democratic Party, that for some reason, I lend them my name so they can write posts at my site.

          I would argue that’s picking a fight. Maybe you should ask Mark, who has probably damaged the commenting at more blogs than the number of conspiracy theories he promotes, to stop picking fights. But then I guess you wouldn’t have someone to do the fighting and personal attacks for you. Your selective outrage is typical and amusing, but not terribly persuasive.

          Feel free to offer more tips on how I should spend my weekend, though.

        • I simply point out, since I am a a person who can read, that you write in two different voices, and the tone of your posts (well-written and sourced) versus your comments (petty, juvenile and sniping) appear to me to be two different people.

          And, as I like to say, Don, regarding you constant harping on “conspiracies,” that I know you think yourself wise to avoid looking into matters that are not handed you in your lap by mainstream media, bur from my point of view it is very difficult to distinguish from your attitude and stupidity. They appear identical.

  5. Eric says:

    I rarely come to the defense of Pogie – but I’m quite certain the Dems are not writing his blog posts.

    I think that Pogie would like to be a Dem insider, but since he hasn’t figured out who and what they really are that they sill give him no respect. Probably never will.

    The Montana Dems are not progressive, they are sexist, racist, and as a whole spineless. It’s easy to see if you look beyond their rhetoric.

    Sexist? Take a look at all the females who have ran for the US Senate or US House of Representatives. In each and every case the Montana Dems have sat on their wallets, In this election cycle you will be able to look at Denise Juneau as the next one the Dems do not support. Oh, they will give her lip service, but not real money and support, not Tester & Baucus kind of money. I remember Tracy Velasquez giving a radio staion interview and saying the same thing when she was running against Denny.

    Racist? Look at the reservation system in Montana. We’ve seen Gov BS, Gov Bullock, Obama, Tester, all of them paying homage to the Native Americans, promising a new day for them, but what have they really done for them in recent history? One they get their votes – they just need to stay silent and on the reservation. And if ‘Brother Obama’ decides to take away their major source of income, coal revenue, they need to just keep quiet, stay on the Res, and keep voting for Dems anyhow.

    Spineless? That’s hard to prove because no matter what Max Baucus did, or whatever Jon Tester does, the Dems will be outraged at their country club meetings, but would never dare to take on their own Dinos, like running a primary candidate against them. That’s one of the reason the Dems are becoming a permanent minority in Helena anymore – because the GOP is much better at keeping their ranks clean. So the question is whether or not the Dems are really outraged, or if they orchestrated the whole disobedience for political / money gains.

    So getting back to my defense of Pogie – the Montana Dems would never let him and Pete run their anti-gun posts, because they know it’s a loser here. They would never let him go out charging for gay rights for the same reason. This is how I know they are not running his blog.

    • Greg Strandberg says:

      I think you get a lot right here. My question is, why are Dems sitting on their pocketbooks and not supporting people? What makes them spend and what makes them campaign for a candidate?

      Maybe if we can list off the things the insider Dems do smile upon we’ll know more on what they frown upon.

      Knowing your opponent is a vital step in defeating them.

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