My Life as a Slave (AKA Lying Back and Enjoying Being Scraped)

My rule against commenting on pending and impending matters of litigation in the United States of America or its territories prevents me from opining about the law suit filed against The Huffington Post by its frequent (216 pieces) and voluntary contributor, my old buddy, far left wing lunatic Jonathan Tasini.

When this department first looked in on Tasini, he was running a Democratic Primary campaign for US Senate based on the premise that Hillary Clinton was insufficiently liberal
and that Ned Lamont’s effort to replace Joe Lieberman in Connecticut was barely an improvement.

As I’d predicted back then, the punch line of his joke of a crusade was that Tasini ended up getting most of his votes from right wing reactionaries.

Following that, perhaps in an effort to prove he was worthy of the votes he did receive, Tasini seemed to embark upon an effort to become a Republican Fifth Column, first by beginning a misbegotten campaign
opposing President Obama’s Health Care Reform from the left and then by valiantly trying to kill liberal hopes for the potential success of Bill Thompson’s Mayoral campaign, which was nearly victorious, and might have been more so, but for the efforts of those like Tasini.

Before this week, Tasini was last seen in my column
trying to bring white representation to Harlem.

My silence here on the legal issues is doubly sad, since Tasini is represented by my old
buddy, white shoe legal eagle and self-proclaimed reform hero, Jesse Strauss.

For those curious about Tasini’s reasons, I refer you to
the article he posted on Daily Kos (I wonder how much Kos paid him).

But while I cannot talk about the case, I can talk about my own experiences with The Huffington Post.

Unlike Tasini, I have never voluntarily posted anything at Huff.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been published there.

In June of 2009, a writer I recruited for Room 8, the witty Shelly Silver acolyte who called himself
NGD, emailed to let me know a piece he’d put on Room 8 was now on Huffington Post.

More than a bit jealous, I asked him how that happened.
He didn’t know, but implied it was his great genius. .

The next day,
the same thing happened to one of my pieces, without any prior permission. I responded to this blatant act of piracy by bragging to only about 300 of my closest, most intimate friends; folks like Ben Smith, Azi Paybarah Liz Benjamin and Erik Engquist.

Soon, the discovery was made that EVERYTHING on Room 8 was being reposted on Huffington Post.

We were, in the argot of the internet, being “scraped.”

If, as Tasini has asserted, Arianna Huffington was like a "slave" owner on a plantation of bloggers, it was not those who volunteered for indentured servitude who deserved such a title.

Rather, it was those of us who were kidnapped, so that the owner could enjoy the fruits of our labor without our consent, who truly deserved to be called "slaves."

Yet, at the time it first occurred, it seemed to be the occasion for boasting.

Daily Gotham and Culture Kitchen publisher Liza Sabater has lately been outspoken in criticizing Huff Post’s scraping of content from the internet without compensation, or even notice (which goes far beyond mere aggregation), and Sabater has made every effort to see that her publications’ contents are removed from Huff’s pages, at the time it first occurred, Daily Gotham’s Managing Editor, Michael Bouldin actually bragged about it.

In fact, distressed by Daily Gotham’s superior placement (front page of Huff’s NYC Section), I complained to Ben Smith, asking why he could not get the same treatment for us.

Other Room 8 bloggers, like another of my recruits, knee jerk liberal
JudgeBoyajian, also came to discover the joys of lying back and enjoying the thrill of being scraped, til they were disabused of the notion it was anything special.

Nonetheless, because of Huff, I actually got some tweets from folks who picked up my pieces there; sometimes they included celebs like consultant and political commentator
Dan Gerstein, who linked this one, which led to his attending our Room 8 party last year.

Pretty cool, huh?

Now, when Domestic Partner started nagging that I should quit blogging NYC politics and go national on Huffington, I could tell here that I already had.

Of course, there was a downside. I frequently go back and fix minor errors of spelling or grammar in my columns, make corrections (usually noted), or add new jokes.
But I had no access to my Huff columns.

When I posted about Jo Anne Simon on Room 8, I could later revised the piece to add her response (and a few new jokes at her expense), but could not do so on Huffington.
I could not even register on Huffington under my nom de plume and post there myself, as someone was already using

And somewhere a stray request for information I posted on Room 8 and later deleted still lies on Huffington without my ability to do the same.

Then there was last year’s Rock/Gatemouth war.
To review these ponderous and long-forgotten (I hope) events, in May, 2010, I foolishly tried to defend a blogger named JP against whom Rock Hackshaw had made what I considered to be unfair and unwarranted accusations of racism, because JP had the temerity to criticize the substance and quality of Rock’s prose in terms which were inarguably impolite.

In response, Rock accused me of being JP, of leading a five year long vendetta against him, and of being a racist myself. The war of words lasted a very regretful month.

My first response to Rock’s anger was preemptive surrender--I removed my initial article’s text in the hope the war would end.

But part of the problem was that the article was not merely on Room 8, it was on Huffington (if it still is, it can no longer be easily located). In fact,
Rock complained loudly that it was on Huffington. He even complained about it on Huffington himself, though I’m pretty sure he didn’t know he was doing it.

I could not get the freaking article off Huffington.

The war got far, far worse. And since the peace gesture proved so futile, I finally put the article back on Room 8.

I cannot with any certainty say when Huffington began linking me or when it stopped.

I’ve diligently searched through Google, Huff’s search function, and the places where they’ve led me, and found 21 pieces.

But the piece I noticed the day after NGD emailed me did not come up by either of these methods; I only have it because the link was in my email. This is also true of the piece linked by Gerstein, so there are probably more out there.

That brings the number up to 23, and to that I’ll add the piece which got Rock so angry, which bring the number up to 24. The earliest piece I’ve located is from June 13, 2009; the latest from July 19, 2010. During that period, I actually posted 144 pieces on Room 8, and I’m pretty sure most, if not all, landed on Huff.

So, less than 17% of what should be the Gate legacy in the Huff archives survives.

The legacy, such that it is, and which I do not control, is not a proud one.

An astonishing six of the 24 pieces are from the war with Rock (at least two Rock and one JP piece also survive from the war). Another five are Gateway pieces, two of which contain items relating to that war. Three more are the highly self indulgent pieces which launched “The Gateway” by reprinting a year’s worth of my Facebook posts.

In other words, a majority of my Huffington legacy is crap; proof, if anyone needed it, that Huff was not selecting the pieces based upon their quality. 

Of the rest, one is not even by me (it’s a Roscoe Conway guest post). Another is a piece about my still unfinished book (yawn). Only six qualify as “National” in any sense of the word, and of those, only one (besides the piece linked by Gerstein) is really top of the line (although some of the others are worth a read), but even that post (about the “Beer Summit“) is better read in
its Room 8 incarnation (where it has benefited from further revisions).

Of the local pieces, two are worth special comment because their survival on Huff, when so much else is gone, is one of those “coincidences” which helps explain why I am an agnostic rather than an atheist.

One is my post
endorsing Rock for City Council in 2009, which he thanked me for at the time.

What’s most notable about that endorsement is how much of it was later regurgitated by me, almost verbatim, in the piece which so infuriated Rock almost a year later.

The other is a piece of reporting/commentary I did in the early days of last year’s race for Male District Leader in the 52nd AD.

At the time, I documented how two ambitious “reformers” were engaged in a game of chicken with the “reform” incumbent, Vito Lopez antagonist Alan Fleishman (a pioneer in Brooklyn gay political leadership), much to Vito’s delight.

The game of chicken succeeded, emboldening Lopez (though his dreams of conquest were ultimately thwarted).

I note this piece, because one of those ambitious “reformers” is Tasini’s attorney, Jesse Strauss.

Here was my assessment of Jesse at the time; given what later followed, it was probably the nicest things I’ve ever written about him:

“…Simon and Assemblywoman Joan Millman begged and otherwise encouraged Fleishman to run again. Last week, he announced he was seeking re-election.

But it was too late. Some had gotten lover’s nuts.

Jesse Strauss, white shoe lawyer, was convinced that his “Skill Set” was so highly advanced and the need in the community for his services so imperative and obvious that “the reform community sees, at that point, that I’m the strongest candidate and decides to make me their ‘consensus candidate’” Strauss said he intended to “petition, get on the ballot and raise money” regardless of whether he was the consensus candidate in advance of petitioning, and then to “take it from there.” In Jesse’s mind “I've looked at this from many angles and ..there are more than enough votes for a reform candidate to win in a three way race.”

Was Jesse bothered that he might displace the County’s only openly gay district leader from the only district likely to elect someone from that category? “The identity politics element is the hardest- I am, alas, straight – and its with a heavy heart that I run for a seat held by Brooklyn’s only openly gay candidate.”

But, after all, there are some things far more important than having one person from an unrepresented and vilified minority in a room where his very presence alters the conversation. And there were more important things than making sure reformers didn’t divide their votes. More important things like the advancement of Jesse Strauss overdeveloped sense of entitlement.

But, to his credit, Jesse started getting cold feet the minute people started responding to his efforts. Reaching out to what he thought was a friendly audience, members of IND disgruntled with the club establishment about recent events like the sacking of the club’s former President, Kenn Lowy , Straus found himself the object of words of praise like “sleaze” and “fucking douchebag.”

Just to put the cherry on top is Gatey’s reporting about the other ambitious “reformer,” Chris Owens.

Though I later endorsed Owens, I was barely nicer to him than I was to Strauss. Among other things, I had problems with his very left ideology which I expressed thusly:

“I dunno Chris” said Gatey, “we have gotten to the point in life where we are no longer unfriendly. But, we are still very different types of Democrats, and I would have trouble voting for someone who might vote on State Committee to give Jonathan Tasini a place on a statewide ballot.” Owens laughed heartily, but Gatey noticed that he did not deny it.

I kid Jonathan Tasini, but I do it with bounteous love.

Anyway, regardless of the legalities, on a personal level, I agree that bloggers should be paid.

In fact, in the hopes of getting a check, I emailed Ben Smith and threatened to lead a boycott of Room 8, like the one Tasini is now leading at Huff.

Ben relented, and asked me if I wanted an equity share of Room 8’s profits in exchange for my work.

I agreed, and he promised to send me my share by snail mail.

It came COD. It was a bill for $1,000.