Thank you and a sort of goodbye…

Thanks for being part of this community, and thank you for letting me develop my voice and ideas in concert with your voice and your ideas.  In 2007, Chris, Mike, and I started OpenLeft based on the idea that there was a new ideologically left-wing yet open set of actors on stage.  I still think this is true, and perhaps, there’s some of that going on right now in the uprisings in the Middle East.  Though it’s in fashion, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on Egypt, except to note that Facebook will totally set everyone free.  Thanks, Zuck!

The signs of a world undergoing profound change are everywhere.  Wikileaks is a genuine social innovation, a new form of collaborative media that scales what Daniel Ellsberg did.  The political blogosphere, and then the financial blogs, have sketched an open counter-elite that can truly challenge the existing financial oligarchs’ intellectual stronghold on our social order.  Much of the world is overthrowing the Washington consensus, and our elites are naked to the world in terms of their own incompetence and ignorance.

After OpenLeft, I worked for Congressman Alan Grayson, in what was the best job of my life.  He used to joke when he hired me that most Congressmen have staffers, while I had a Congressman.  Man did we have a good time, fighting the good fight.  And we accomplished a whole lot – the first audit of the Federal Reserve in history is being done right now, in part because of Grayson.  And actually, as I think about it right now, working for Grayson was a lot like blogging.  Blogging is its own form of writing, at once conversational and collaborative.  You aren’t in a room, with the door closed, trying to think up the brilliant phrase that will turn the world on its head.  You’re riding the wave.  You’re interacting with thousands.  You’re getting steamed by commenters, the flame wars and the critics, and your friends gone right and gone wrong.  At its best, blogging is a democratic space, a necessary ingredient of what Lawrence Goodwyn pointed out was a predicate to the great social movements in American history.  

OpenLeft was such a space, which is why many of us are sad about today.  It was a space to which all of us contributed.  It’s not that bloggers, commenters, and audience are going away, never to be heard from again.  I’m still around, you can find me at @matthewstoller on Twitter, stirring up trouble and ideas.  The rest of the gang is going to be on the internets as well.  But there’s a mixture that will be missing.  I know this because of the people who called me when I worked for Grayson, some of my coworkers and interns, who were part of the OpenLeft world.  There was a very specific, I don’t know what to call it, but flavor, a code, perhaps, a way of seeing the world that we all shared, and share.  When we got together at Netroots Nation, or in the comments sections, or when I meet a reader, we had and have a bond.

We can create that space again.  I suspect it will be created, in much larger forums than we ever imagined.  Humans can accomplish profoundly incredible feats when challenged.  I keep seeing Egyptians saying that they never dreamed these days would come, when their people would rise up.  I cannot right now imagine such a day for Americans, but that does not mean it won’t happen.  It means that it will happen in a way that I will not expect.  Perhaps some of you will lead such a consciousness raising moment.  The great social movements in American history worked that way, with generations passing down memories of dissent, until there was a disruptive break-out social innovation, like the farmer’s cooperatives of the 1880s, the sit-down strikes of the 1930s, or the boycotts and marches of the 1960s.  In Poland, Solidarity came from the memories of worker strikes in the 1950s, and I suspect that we will discover the roots of what is happening in Egypt come from something similar.  Like Facebook!  Zuck is so dreamy, did you see the Social Network?  It was awesome!  Oscars here we come!

We’re in a darkening period in history, there’s no doubt about that.  And I’m not a believer in progress as an inherent fact of life, I’m more of a stuff just happens kind of guy.  Before the Civil War, American slaves didn’t believe in progress.  And why should they have believed in progress?  Many of them died in chains, their lives used purely as profit generators for the “owners” who often whipped and raped them.  But they believed in dignity, and righteousness.  That attitude comes closer to what I believe, than the frustratingly callous narrative which says that life in America always gets better, and if you don’t see that, then you don’t belong.  Suffering and pain is real and inherent to life, and it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you to feel those emotions.  In fact there’s something wrong with you if you don’t feel them.  “Winning” or being on top isn’t meaning, meaning is meaning.  

During Grayson’s (and my) fight to audit the Federal Reserve, I had a conversation with William Greider, one of my heroes.  Greider wrote a book you should all read called The Secrets of the Temple, about the people who really run America.  He was appalled at the secret bailout run through the Fed, and worried that this was the final nail in the coffin of any sort of democratic impulse in America.  I responded with, the financial oligarchs have certainly taken a bunch of wealth and power, but they have also made their position explicit.  We run the world, they said, you don’t.  Making such an explicit statement about your own power reveals profound weakness.  And we’re seeing a catastrophic loss of legitimacy across all of our cultural institutions as a result, both liberal and illiberal alike.  That loss is reasonable, and we should go with it, not hold onto dying political entities that succeed only through deception and raw power.  We should innovative into the changes, take advantage of them to create new spaces like that created by Wikileaks, rather than throw good money after bad.

And so, I say a kind of goodbye, and a thank you for the collaborative work we’ve done together.  Change is what happens.  It’s sad, but I would be worried if we didn’t change after this experiment.  America is poorer and weaker than it was when we started this site, as is the Democratic Party.  Wealth stratification is higher, and the policies of the Bush administration on endless war and financial market-rigging are now openly embraced by the elites of both parties.  But none of that changes that OpenLeft is and was a great community, and an important experience for all of us.  It is now our task to spread the values that we shared, that flavor, into much bigger forums.  I hope all of you try to do that.  Maybe, some of us will succeed, but certainly, all of us will find meaning and righteousness in our lives and in the lives we touch.

75 thoughts on “Thank you and a sort of goodbye…”

  1. Your writing was always strong. But post-Grayson, it has the edge of, dare I say it, righteousness to it. Couched in some serious experience that seems to have served you (and by extension all of us) very well indeed. The few posts I’ve read  over at Naked Capitalism were suitable for framing. I hope you continue to speak The Truth as you have.

    That said, thank you for starting this community up. It’s proven a little corner of sanity in a country obsessed with the inane. In these times, that’s not something to scoff at.

  2. America is poorer and weaker than it was when we started this site, as is the Democratic Party.  Wealth stratification is higher, and the policies of the Bush administration on endless war and financial market-rigging are now openly embraced by the elites of both parties.  But none of that changes that OpenLeft is and was a great community, and an important experience for all of us.  It is now our task to spread the values that we shared, that flavor, into much bigger forums.

    Part of what makes OL going dark unfortunate is precisely because our society today needs places like OL where people can debate, argue, learn, and integrate ideas into their daily lives. Instead we’re left with “big” like DKos, HuffPo, FDL, and so on which means voices never get heard for any number of reasons.

    What made OL special was it’s combination of diarists, commenters, and readers. The founders like yourself, no offense, held far less interest to me than people like Paul Rosenberg, debcoop, jeffbinnc, and a vast number of regular commenters and diarists. I learned more from them, and got more hope and strength, than the founders (again, no offense).

    Big is not better. Just as greed is not good. Let’s hope OL will come back in a different form in different hands.

  3. Really, it’s good that you came back for a diary at this sad point in time. Imho prolly the best goodbye spech here. Really, thank you.

    However, u raised some points that are disturbing:

    “We’re in a darkening period in history, there’s no doubt about that.”

    So, that’s the right time to give one of the not-so-many platforms of progressive enlightening up?

    “America is poorer and weaker than it was when we started this site, as is the Democratic Party.”

    Doesn’t this imply tthat OpenLeft is now even ore necessary than before? Is abandonig the arms the Progressive answer to the challenges of these horribel times?

    “It is now our task to spread the values that we shared, that flavor, into much bigger forums.”

    Bigger ain’t necessarily better! We all know that. That OpenLeft wasn’t so big actually resulted in more focussed, more handable discussions. Not a bug, but a feature!

    As I see it, what you wrote is an argument for OpenLeft to be continued, not to be closed! This small “think tank”, powered bloggers and commenters, an open and determinedly left wing answer to the big money spindoctor machines is NECESSARY! Now more than ever. CLOSING it is wrong, no matter how much lipstick u all apply to that pig!

  4. I keep seeing Egyptians saying that they never dreamed these days would come, when their people would rise up.  I cannot right now imagine such a day for Americans, but that does not mean it won’t happen.  It means that it will happen in a way that I will not expect.

    I like that last part — it will happen in a way that we will not expect…

    The Egyptian revolution began 3-6 years ago, via a Facebook campaign to mobilize local workers to rise up against a manufacturer. The Facebook campaign became a movement. The Social Network movie was awesome, and I think WikiLeaks is a game changer.

    I agree with Gray: These are all reasons to continue Open Left, not to close it.

    This small “think tank”, [Open Left] powered bloggers and commenters, an open and determinedly left wing answer to the big money spindoctor machines…

  5. 1) How on earth have you made me optimistic?  

    2) Did I read it right on the next thread? You’re going to be at MSNBC?

    3) Thanks for everything.

  6. …but, of course, it’s bittersweet. I’ve kinda been hoping for your return since the morning after Election Day. Oh, well…if we ever wander into the same cyber-bar again, your next one’s on me. Now it’s off to find the next community.  

  7. To you, Matt, and Chris, David, Paul and the gang that you’ve conspired and inspired with over the years: thank you. Some of the realpolitik ideas I’ve seen here – like cash shifting from safe candidates to close races – were spawned here, and I’ve been more mightily impressed by this blog than any – bar none – for all such spawnings. Far more than rhetoric and angst came from these keyboards.

    And I trust this is no end.

    Jason Nesmith: “Never give up. Never surrender.” (Galaxy Quest)

    And for those representing us like Grayson and Feingold, who will continue the good fight sans office, one more…

    Sir Alexander Dane: “By Grabthar’s hammer, by the sons of Worvan, you shall be avenged.”

    Thank you, each and all.

  8. it is not acceptable that this ‘club’ dissolves – and IF it is only about ‘money’ – the problem is easy to resolve. I am willing to spent 30$ a month for ‘the progressive company’ of the people I met here.

    So we only need another 150? people who are willing to spent the same amount. There are over a hundred posters here who want to stick together – and I realize some might not have the money – so let’s find a way -(as anonymous once wrote) – to get the dough.

    Let’s organize it like a real company. The 30$ are ‘shares’ – an investment in a site which soon will show all the other lefty sites what’s what. To start – we need a headliner – I vote for Paul. He draws a salery. We then need as strong as a particpation as the reaction to the closing of Open Left. That shouldn’t be a problem because with having a ‘share’ – everybody will be much more involved (in creating a interesting site – finding more shareholders etc etc)

    Blogging as usual will not be enough – So we also have to get more into problem solving and act more like a ‘think tank’ -(even if we hate the word) – Huff is pretty clever and -(for example)- by helping ‘people’ – to think through the dilemma with their ‘underwater houses’ they helped themselves for example creating lots of ‘traffic’.

    That doesn’t mean we should be into ‘traffic’ – I always loved the idea of a small ‘elitist thinking blog’ – where (after a while) – people (hopefully) will beg to become a member -(and if they can afford it – pay much more than a 30$) –    

    So it’s very easy – and entirely up to y’all!

    We just need about 150 ‘club members -(cancel the membership of your dogclub instead) – and then we will be able (again) to discuss all kind of things and I can bitch about it -(I need that!)

    For example – I am very curious lately – if you can get rid of a dictator without doing so much damage to (ourselves) – ‘the people’ – and so I take the ‘freedom’ to post this suggestion on all these ByeBye posts –

    Make it fly???      

  9. as long as open left was still around i had hoped to see the days of stoller and bowers blogging together again. when chris left, the writing was on the wall, but this is it for real. of course it’s not all about stoller and bowers, but you guys set the tone way back in the day on myDD, and that is what we will no longer have.

    thanks for all the great writing, everyone.

  10. Well, when I first saw that you were closing down, I didn’t say, “Damn,” I said, “Bugger!”

    After the great horror of 2008, there were a lot of blogs I simply stopped checking altogether.  Open Left was not one of them.

    I’m really sorry you will be gone.  To me, as a blogger, a place where I know I can find decent stuff is important to me.

    You will be missed.

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  13. Some of the realpolitik ideas I’ve seen here – like cash shifting from safe candidates to close races – were spawned here, and I’ve been more mightily impressed by this blog than any – bar none – for all such spawnings. Far more than rhetoric and angst came from these keyboards. the vert

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  16. I agree with you on Big Is Not Better. Go to the “big” blogs and what do we see? A whole lotta crap, that’s what.

  17. This is why it is so frustrating to be on “the left.” This “small think tank” should be supported and valued by those with the purse strings on the left. Instead it will be allowed to be shuttered not due to lack of value, but due to simple finances.

    Crossing into the anger stage now…

  18. Sadie Baker is setting up a Facebook group to keep people organized. You can email her at b.sadie_at_gmail-dot-com. I’ve already friended her and vice versa.

    Then there’s a temp site Spit Ball set up:

    http://olsurvivorsblog.blogspo

    Also Daniel’s new joint:

    http://autonomyforall.blogspot

    So there is the means of communication and maintaining the community, if anyone is interested.

    It might take a little while to make it happen, but it could, if the interest is there.

    We don’t need anyone else to make this happen. We just need each other and some new faces as well.

    At this point, besides the fact that Paul needs to do some other things, I’m already missing the community as much as anything. Crowd sourcing isn’t a bad idea, especially in this era. There’s power in that. Somewhere…..

  19. Think on it. We can’t expect others to do what we can do for ourselves.

    I agree with you on Big Is Not Better. Go to the “big” blogs and what do we see? A whole lotta crap, that’s what. Instead of community, they have a global high school bitch fest.

    Quality before quantity!

  20. That said, thank you for starting this community up. It’s proven a little corner of sanity in a country obsessed with the inane. In these times, that’s not something to scoff at.

    No it’s not.  This was a community, and those bonds won’t go away.

  21. I’ve worked years as a web producer and know what to do. And where to go for what I don’t know or care to know, like server admin work. But the real problem to solve is building an audience and making enough money to pay hosting and other costs.

    You can find me on LinkedIn. I’d sign up to be Indian or Chief. But I don’t have any delusions we could outdo OL. that’s a tall order. But at least we would have better technology. Soapblox sucks, IMHO.

  22. This “small think tank” should be supported and valued by those with the purse strings on the left. Instead it will be allowed to be shuttered not due to lack of value, but due to simple finances.

    The financial issue was significant, but also a symptom of some sort of design flaw or difficulty of task that we didn’t anticipate.  We will try this again, in different forms.  I think we will all in our own ways try to scale the community of justice, in different ways.

  23. The Egyptian revolution began 3-6 years ago, via a Facebook campaign to mobilize local workers to rise up against a manufacturer.

    That’s very interesting, though I suspect facebook only really hit in 2006-2007.  Do you have a link?

  24. Consider that 40% of all Egyptians earn less than two bucks a day. A basic cell phone costs about 180 Egyptian Pounds (or about $30). A Blackberry runs almost 400 EP ($66 or so). A computer, much less the ability to connect that computer to the internet? When getting a cell phone means putting aside three months pay, that’s a big deal.

    The networks allow rapid transmission of info, organizing, etc. But after the govt shut down cell phones and the internet entirely, the crowds only grew massively.

    This doesn’t mean social networks didn’t have a big role to play, especially in the run-up and organizing–but they also used fax machines and pamphlets in this case. Indeed, these very same networks can be used (and have been) by these despotic regimes to their own advantage as well. I’m sure all of those in Tahrir Square with Blackberries know they will be hunted down via those same networks if they fail to achieve their objectives.

    So it cuts both ways.

    I saw a great piece on Egyptian bloggers on AJE last night. It was three years old. What struck me wasn’t the technology or the networks. It was their commitment, passion and overt willingness to deal with the dictatorship on real terms. And by real, I mean sacrifice on one level or another. They gladly embraced it.

    And that has nothing whatsoever to do with technology.

    This revolution is decades in the making, as most revolutions throughout history are and have been. This latest expression is really just what Nassr started and never finished. Instead of liberating Egypt from the colonials, he gave them a reprieve which was cut short by a series of dictators.

  25. our Egypt expert today (I’m working for a human rights group now for as long as I can stand working in an office) and he was talking about how for years now, the more experienced reformers have scoffed at the street protests and marches promoted by the new generation of reformers. They didn’t see the point. They do now. There’s a lesson in there for us.  

  26. Ironically, I was thinking just the other day that I must have missed your end of year appeal for donations and that I should donate, since I value this site so much.

  27. “The financial issue was significant, but also a symptom of some sort of design flaw or difficulty of task that we didn’t anticipate.”

    I ask for two reasons: 1. To better understands what the financial requirements to run a site like OL are like. 2. The “design flaw” comment peaks curiosity. I would like to see others on the left not fall victim to “it” and be able to learn from OL’s mistakes (if that’s the correct word).

    It’s just hard for me to understand how a resource like OL would not be supported by the institutional donor class of the left. It seems like we are disarming and preemptively giving up.

  28. By all means, do! There is demand out there by the people. Mayn are looking for a platform they can believe in, they can participate in, where they feel at home. Would be great if you, or someone else, came up with such an organisation.

    Btw, “OpenLeft” isn’t (wasn’t) only a blog and a community, but also a GREAT brand name! Don’t forget this, please. Would be economical nonsense to let this asset go to waste!

  29. The Egyptian revolution going on right now began

    on April 6, 2008. That’s almost three years ago.

    http://www.ibtimes.com/article

    My citation here is for lack of another. I know I read somewhere else in the last few days about the young person who started a Facebook page calling for revolution. She organized a local worker protest against factories and was recently arrested. For some reason, I can’t find the site I originally read this on, but anyway, I believe this is the truth about what is happening now.

    The movement was started by young activists Ahmed Maher and Ahmed Salah in order to mobilize support for striking industrial workers El-Mahalla El-Kubra. They wanted to organize people to supoprt the cause of the workers, who were planning a strike April 6, 2008.

    The point I wish to make is this: the current Egyptian uprising, the one we are watching on TV, has been a long time coming.

  30. Not even for Sadie! I don’t want to join that moloch.

    Apart from this, facebook isn’t a good discussion platform. And Twitter ain’t one, either. Both not organized enough. No different threads. Lousy tools for debates in a community.

  31. It’s just a proposal to keep organized.

    I personally would be fine with code talk leading to offline stuff that matters.

    Or there’s Spit Ball’s site. Login and say something.

  32. Ever thought of blogging?

    Good to see you here, Matt, and thanks for OpenLeft. I’m going to miss it.

    The first time I heard about Grayson was right here in a post you wrote about him, and he turned out to be as good as advertised.

    What’s Grayson next move?

  33. I had a conversation with William Greider, one of my heroes.  Greider wrote a book you should all read called The Secrets of the Temple, about the people who really run America.  He was appalled at the secret bailout run through the Fed, and worried that this was the final nail in the coffin of any sort of democratic impulse in America recette de grand mere

  34. about Egyptians not making money so how could they have access to internet. Still, this revolution began because of a Facebook campaign. Probably you are right, it did not spread via the internet, but the internet launched the idea of protest.

    Various media that I’ve seen and heard characterize this as a youth movement, as they marvel at the range of people in Tahrir Square, people of all ages, all walks of life. The older people in the crowd remember and know the 30 years of Mubarek dictatorship in a way the young people do not. It’s a perfect storm.

    Life, no matter what, finds a way.

  35. That it does.

    Historically, any successful revolution requires a perfect storm of sorts. I can’t think of any that didn’t enjoy those kinds of meteorological qualities.

    Of course, that’s why this one has it’s feel of inevitability.

  36. You’re going to be at MSNBC?

    I’ll be doing a number of things, more think tank-y and journalistic rather than partisan.  It’s idea generation time.  I’m particularly interested in issues of debt, banking, and economic justice.

  37. have been great (although it was odd for me to put them up as Quick Hits here).  We need that focus – we need to reconnect with the idea of economic democracy. The alternative is a narrow and insubstantial democracy in form not substance.

    Also, very smart of MSNBC.

  38. takes all the fun out of it, and, no offense, takes much away from the energy these people have put into it.

    I would not use that word to describe any revolution, or positive change.

  39. Rereading the most recent posts on Sunday, I came across your post here and realised I could not recommend it again….. so this is a hat tip for this precise comment.

    There is no other blog like this on the web.

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