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June 09, 2009


I've heard from a couple unhappy people who've left there.

Oh dear. *sigh*

I know this is a silly question, but how many letters to the editor--calling attention to domestic terrorism at clinics, educating people about the health care reform proposals on the table, or even adding to the growing chorus of voices to keep the pressure on the DOJ to investigate war crimes--do you suppose that enormous group of writers could have put together in the time it took them to compose, edit, and post that jaw-droppingly condescending and scolding, laptop-crashing disaster of a magnum hopeless?

It's such a shame, because the 'Ville was never like that back in the day, and--here's the weird thing--neither was Melissa. She was never "triggered" by things--she occasionally got angry at a troll, which resulted in a scathing takedown, usually. But there was never this huge prohibition against the most innocuous terms, never this hair-trigger (sorry) criticism of actual readers and "friends of the blog" and even contributors, never this sharp, scolding tone as if everyone was an idiot or child, followed by a pile-on of everyone seconding and thirding the criticism.

Certainly there wasn't a prohibition on humor; hell, I recall plenty of George Carlin video clips and quotes, not to mention various Brit comedians whose videos would surely now be verboten at Shakesville due to being triggering, or fat-hating, or one or another of several -ing adjectives in a list that seemed to grow by the month.

Tonight, Rachel Maddow mentioned that the perhaps the US ought to "man up" and handle the Guantánamo prisoners ourselves; later in the show, she called someone "lame". And I thought, OH NOES, if someone from Shakesville heard that, they will start hating one of the few progressive voices we even have speaking for us at all in the MSM.

Then, I thought, How sad that I would immediately and reflexively think that about a place I truly enjoyed, wherein there were contributors I've since met in person, some of whom are dear friends.

I left as a contributor last spring ('08), after unsuccessfully trying to argue that progressives should get behind Obama or Clinton, whichever one got the nod, and do so with gusto, because voting for Nader or spite-voting for McCain, if you lived in a swing state, was tantamount to helping put McCain in the WH. Well! You'd think I'd advocated wearing aprons and taking husband-pleasing classes or something, so thunderous was the pile-on of commenters parroting Melissa. Then, it was "My vote, mine." A few months later, M would write something slogan-y into a post, repeating it MLK-style throughout, and sure enough, the commenters would all parrot it in subsequent comment threads. Most recently it was "We expect more." It was eerie; it was unsettling; occasionally I would get an email from a former reader who'd found me elsewhere, saying, WTF? And what could I answer but I don't know...I have no idea what happened.

And I really don't. This did not happen as a result of the John Edwards campaign thing, when trolls went nuts at her blog. Melissa still writes for the Guardian's Comment is Free, and the comments there, being Brit-based, are all over the place (to put it mildly). In fact, it was Melissa who used to counsel me, a middle-aged newbie to blogging, when I first started writing for this medium and had to deal with my first nasty commenters.

I don't get it; but then, I haven't understood that group for a long time, and I really fear for the mental health of people who are so cowed and intimidated, they begin a comment--on a site on the Internet, for Heaven's sake--by stating "I really love this blog and truly respect all the mods here, so I hope this won't come out the wrong way and I want you to know that it isn't meant to be triggering, so please, if it....."

Sad, indeed. (And sorry this was so long; I needed to vent about this, clearly.)

blogenfreude: Yep. I know several people who have either left or been booted out of their "safe space".

litbrit: Thank you for sharing your experience and your views. Here I thought my Guys From Area 51 pals and I were the only ones who felt this way.

I was a fairly regular reader and commenter back in 2005 and 2006. I remember you posting there, especially your pro-Italy posts during the World Cup. :-)

But all of the interesting, open-minded people have either left that site or been driven away. The remaining writers are all yes men and women for their overlord Melissa. It has devolved into a cult of moderating the comment threads and shaming people who commit thought crime. Very bizarre.

Oh, you're not the only one(s) who feel that way. Far from it.


I just checked the Shakesville comments. Someone just literally posted that the word "insane" is "ablist language."

I'm sorry, that's just... wait, what word am I allowed to us?

Sorry, "USE."

Insane is ablist language? WTF...that's insane!

They have become a delusional parody of themselves.

it helped my vocabulary. the limits on acceptable language led me to learn words like 'craven,' 'asinine,' 'sycophant,' etc.

now my friends don't know what the fuck i'm saying and my enemies call me an elitist.

fuck everybody.

(used to read Shakesville, but seldom commented there.)


Thanks for creating a safe space for us, Agi. :)

anytime, nikkos!

So I can say, for example, insane fat cunts, and still be safe from, for example, insane fat cunts? I don't want to able any isms.

The actual Simpsons quote is "twirling."

Sorry, you just triggered me, is all.

heh, Agi fail.

"You know, like a left-wing version of Stephen Colbert." That's very generous. More like the armpit in our opinion. Or, rather herpit. Oh, now we've done it. No really, we really mean it this time.

Someone there is certainly full of themselves (or something) aren't they? It's just a freaking blog, for Christ's sake, reminds me of something I was told long ago. Feminists just don't have a sense of humor.

I LOVE the "Change They Can Believe In!" Laffed my ass off!

Yeah, I remember the days when Shakespeare's Sister was a fun blog. I'm not sure WTF happened, but it sure is pathetic these days.


Nikkos wins the Grand Prize! His comment was the first one up and it managed to shut down the comment thread after 744 comments! Apparently they are infighting now over whether or not Shakesville is indeed a cult!

Well played, Nikkos!

Dude, were you so very invested in posting and commenting there? You're not required to attend the blog. Bloggers control-freak their way out of readership all the time. Just consider yourself banned from speaking in a house belonging to someone you don't care for anyway.

Rachel: I was very mildly invested around 2005, before the blog devolved into its current form. I was probably in the first wave of readers to drift away.

I can and will attend any blog I choose. In fact, some sites are just too entertaining not to attend. With Shakesville, the drama is devilishly hilarious.

And don't worry, I've already been banned from commenting there. Just one comment did it. I simply wrote "safety first".

Well said, Agi. The main allure/draw of Shakesville is the entertainment value. Couldn't give a damn about the content...just dig the cultish drama of the proceedings. In terms of content, there are far more interesting blogs scattered all over the political landscape.

Bloggenfreude (and others),

I left as a contributor last spring ('08), after unsuccessfully trying to argue that progressives should get behind Obama or Clinton, whichever one got the nod... because voting for Nader or spite-voting for McCain...was tantamount to helping put McCain in the WH. Well! You'd think I'd advocated wearing aprons and taking husband-pleasing classes or something, so thunderous was the pile-on of commenters parroting Melissa.

I got ran out of there in pretty much the same way, for *almost* the same reason, around the same time.

There was a lot of talk from the more vehemently squirrely "I can't make common cause with anyone because I HATE [insert body part/orientation/minor political difference here] and want them to fail more than I want to see any aspect of my agenda succeed" crowd breathing fire on Obama -who was emerging as the primary front-runner - and threatening to spite vote for McCain/write in Hillary/Kucinich/Nader/kick and scream + not vote at all when I said something like 'blah blah blah as progressives we have more in common than we have differences and if you can't unite to get political representation you screw everyone over including yourselves so here's my 'fuck you' in advance if you pull a dumb stunt on election day instead of pulling in the same direction...etcetera". That earned a shrieking pile-on from the tribe and 'my vote mine!' thing - haven't been back since.


Most of the big dawgs eventually get too self-important to bother with anymore. I have felt the cold steel of censorship against my neck at about as many "liberal" venues as I've been banned from Rushpublican ones.

My wife asked me last night why I still bothered with Shakesville (she thinks they're insane). Other than a few facetious answers, I am a loss to reply with a cogent answer. Maybe I'm a ghoul who enjoys the constant conflict over there...maybe I'm fascinated by something I find rather repulsive (it's ironic as politically we are probably quite akin than not, though I probably drift more to the anarcho-socialist side of things than they do)...maybe I like carnage...I really don't know...

Gawd. I do remember really liking Melissa when i first read her. She was, and still is, a fantastic writer. Then I check back and it's devolved into this whiny bullshit. Cultish indeed.

I used to post there on occasion a long, long time ago (in Internet Time, at least. Back around the time Jesse and Ezra were still co-blogging Pandagon. Good times.)

I am so glad I'm not the only one wondering what the hell happened.

Damn. That graphic up top is TO DIE FOR!!! Love it!

Oops, did I just use triggering language? If so, pardon me. It's pretty damn easy when you just sputter spontaneously off the top of your head when you are cruising through in a hurry.

But seriously, Agi. You would have been banned if you had posted ONE word, like "PEACE." It's not what you said, it's who you are and your history. Because you know Portly Dyke and her boner for Disqus can decipher your intent based on your comment history and made a judgment call. Simple really. And not much different from a society in which we are followed around and tracked with surveillance cameras, but I digress.

I have a theory, and it's purely speculation since I haven't actively followed posts or threads over there on a regular basis, nor have I started working on my doctoral thesis on how to elevate a blog to implosion, but... I think some of the commenters along with Melissa may have jumped on this PC bandwagon and realized, "hey, we can take this to a whole new level! There's all kinds of triggers out there! Let's make a... a.. SAFE SPACE! YEAH!! All ABOARD!"

And it just went from that tiny little acorn to a tree chock full o' nuts.

And Melissa, so I'm told, can hold a grudge. I don't doubt it based on my experiences there. Way back in the day, if you can believe this, I'd say something like, "Hey, Liss, get off your fucking fat ass and put up a Virtual Pub." And she'd come back with a snarky wise-ass remark. It was fun and everyone knew it wasn't serious, no more so that her making fun of the "LOL Your FAT" emails.

Then, maybe around late 2007, incidentally during a time when I had just been laid off from the best job ever, I got into it with some commenters over something, and I went off the rails. I got a lot of well-deserved "what the FUCK"s from people there and Melissa. After sleeping it off I went back and apologized and tried to explain what was on my mind. Apparently it didn't work.

I really can't recall a time after that when Melissa wasn't ready to pounce on just about any comment I'd make if she felt she had a valid reason to put me in my place or insert another "fuck you." If I'd make a comment about the cats or any other light humor post, I'm pretty sure I was just ignored.

The final blow was again, a fuck-up on my part by a poor choice of words when I criticized her Margaret Cho condemnation. I used violent imagery -- not intentionally to dredge up rape memories obviously (in fact, I try NOT to think about that because it does bother me) -- but I caught hell for it. And I apologized.

It was at that point I realized I can't participate there. I open my mouth and shit comes out. I could train myself to sit on a thought for an hour obviously and/or try to read it and determine if I think there's a chance in hell someone is going to be remotely offended by anything I'm about to say, but honestly, I'd rather just shut the fuck up and leave. And I did.

The party's over.

Thank you, litbrit. I thought it was me. Yeah, the place went koo-koo. I was banned from commenting recently because I said something snarky about the poster's cooking skills. It turned into some weird pile-on. Thing is, they mostly act like the He-Man Woman-Haters Club. Not that they act like they hate women, but it's the groupthink attitude and the immaturity of it that is astounding. Melissa was definitely not like that back when she pulled of the Big Brass Alliance with several others. Then she was rational. Now it seems like the site has gone into orbit around a planet with which I am unfamiliar.

er, comment, not post. Still, it feels weird to have been part of a thing that seems so different and exclusive now.

@ben & twig: I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks Shakesville has become a totalitarian insane asylum.

@konagod: My run in with Melissa did not occur at Shakesville. She objected to the use of the word "cunt" in this post on Guys From Area 51.

My sin was refusing to censor the language of a co-blogger on the group blog that I started. I can understand enforcing language rules on her own blog - but dictating what I did on my blog crossed the line. Over email she told me that our blog (GFA51) was not a safe space and that she would be removing it from her blogroll. She also said she no longer considered me an ideological ally (whatever the hell that means?!?). Thus, I was officially a traitor!

Months later, as the Area51ers and I followed the goings on at Shakesville, we began to realize how bizarre things had turned. I know I made a few comments during the Obama v. Hillary days and accused them of engaging in a circular firing squad, which really pushed the horde over the edge.

Fast forward to this week when I wrote “safety first” in the comment thread for their grand 8-point comment policy manifesto post, and was quickly banned by Portly Dyke.

@DBK: I’m koo-koo for proggel puffs!

Has anyone raised the possibility that Melissa is not a well person? Just curious....

I think she has. But most people are not paying attention. They need, want, and demand to be fed.

I thought that's why they elected Obama

Obama will feed the masses with loaves and fishes!

@Litbrit - I was happy to read your comment here. I know how Agi and company felt about Shakesville (that's what first led me to Guys From Area 51), but as a former friend of her's, hearing about how much she's changed from one of her original guest-bloggers reassures me that, hey, it's not me who's nuts for questioning her. Melissa just changed, for the worse. A few years ago I probably could have bended Melissa's ear enough to blog on Shakesville, and now I just wonder what the hell happened since then...

@Agi - That Chairwoman McEwan picture will become a regular feature in my nightmares. Thanks.

I think a large part of it was being targeted by Bill Donohue. Not that it excuses the way they've turned on allies, but I blame Bill Donohue, Bill O'Reilley and the Catholic League more than any of the Shakesville people.

Melissa lost me with spreading the lie about Obama playing 99 Problems at a campaign event- believing that lie in the first place requires at the very least an unquestioning acceptance of some racist tropes, and to refuse to correct the record when actual proof was presented was shameful IMHO. But that is exactly the kind of thing she wouldn't have done prior to the Catholic League personal attacks.

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