4/17/2006

You go BlogMother: MSO on the Wapo - The Left, Online and Outraged

The Left, Online and Outraged
Liberal Blogger Finds an Outlet and a Community

By David Finkel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 15, 2006; Page A01

SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. -- In the angry life of Maryscott O'Connor, the rage begins as soon as she opens her eyes and realizes that her president is still George W. Bush. The sun has yet to rise and her family is asleep, but no matter; as soon as the realization kicks in, O'Connor, 37, is out of bed and heading toward her computer.

Out there, awaiting her building fury: the Angry Left, where O'Connor's reputation is as one of the angriest of all. "One long, sustained scream" is how she describes the writing she does for various Web logs, as she wonders what she should scream about this day....

WAKE THE [expletive] UP," she writes next, and this time, instead of pausing, she keeps going, typing harder and harder on a keyboard that is surrounded by a pack of cigarettes, a dirty ashtray, a can of nonalcoholic beer, an album with photos of her dead father and a taped-up note -- staring at her -- on which she has scrawled "Why am I/you here?"

Outspoken and Uncensored

These are mean times.

"I just want to see these [expletive] swinging from their heels in the public square," reads a recent comment from someone named Dave in a discussion about the Bush administration on a Web site called Eschaton...

What's notable about this isn't only the level of anger but the direction from which it is coming. Not that long ago, it was the right that was angry and the left that was, at least comparatively, polite. But after years of being the targets of inflammatory rhetoric, not only from fringe groups but also from such mainstream conservative politicians as Newt Gingrich, the left has gone on the attack. And with Republicans in control of Washington, they have much more to be angry about.

"Powerlessness" is O'Connor's explanation. "This is born of powerlessness."

To what, effect, though? Do the hundreds of thousands of daily visitors to Daily Kos, who sign their comments with phrases such as "Anger is energy," accomplish anything other than talking among themselves? The founder of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, may have a wide enough reputation at this point to consult regularly with Democrats on Capitol Hill, but what about the heart and soul of Daily Kos, the other visitors, whose presence extends no further than what they read and write on the site?

How about the 125,000 or so daily visitors to Eschaton? Or the thousands who visit Rude Pundit, the Smirking Chimp or My Left Wing, which is O'Connor's Web site?

Put another way, can one person sitting alone in a living room, typing her fingertips numb on a keyboard, make a difference?

"Rage, rage against the Lying of the Right" is the subtitle of O'Connor's Web site.

"If I can't rant, I don't want to be part of your revolution" is how she signs her comments, in the place other people might write "Sincerely."

"I was not like this before," she says. "I was riddled with empathy for everyone suffering in the world. Classic bleeding-heart liberal.".. She signed petitions. She boycotted veal. She canvassed for Greenpeace. She donated to Planned Parenthood. She read the Nation, the New Yorker, the Utne Reader and Mother Jones. She agonized over low wages for overseas workers every time she bought a $40 leather purse.

Then George W. Bush was elected. Then came 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, the Patriot Act, secret prisons, domestic eavesdropping, the revamping of the Supreme Court, and the thought "It has come to the point where the worst people on Earth are running the Earth." And now, "I have become one of those people with all the bumper stickers on their car," she says. "I am this close to being one of those muttering people pushing a cart.

"I'm insane with rage and grief.

"But I also feel more connected than I ever have."

Angry Together

The people she's connected to include Shanikka, who decides one day to post on O'Connor's Web site a 737-word "open letter to President George W. Bush" that says in part: "You can't hide from the truth, Dubbya. You also can't hide from yourself. And it is YOU, Mr. President, that you need to run from. Because you are the problem. You destroy everything you touch professionally when you're left to do what you want. Everything."

To which another of O'Connor's connections, Bill, responds, "A most excelentest rant, shanikka, but don't you think you should distill this down to twenty-five words or less if you want [Bush] to read it? Or have it read to him. I'm sure he has ADD."

To which Nite74 responds, "ADD implies that some attention span is already present to be deficient."

To which Linnaeus responds, "I might say, though, that saying he has ADD is an insult to those who actually have it."

To which Bill, responding to his responders, writes, "It was rather though[t]less of me to compare the most asinine, brutal, criminal, disgusting, enraging, felonious, gross, horrendous, incompetent, jaundiced, kleptocratic, lazy, malicious, nefarious, objectional, psychopathic, quarrelsome, repulsive, sanctimonious, treasonous, unfit, vindictive, wasteful, xenophobic, yahooish, zealotic piece of [expletive] inhabiting the White House and the planet to persons suffering with a neurobiological disorder."

And on it goes, every day, around the clock, on Web site after Web site. Since its debut last July, My Left Wing has had some 450,000 visits and is now averaging about 3,000 visits and 14,000 page views a day. At any given moment, several dozen people are looking at the site, and user data shows that they are all over the world -- mostly from the United States, occasionally from overseas and often from Washington, D.C., where the log-on addresses sometimes end in senate.gov or house.gov.

All of which O'Connor finds remarkable, especially when she considers her route to this point...

The Left, Online and Outraged

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