Several months ago, one of the more respected progressive political bloggers, Hesiod @ Counterspin Central, "went dark". Even though Counterspin was still online, he just quit posting without explanation. Eventually, he made an exit posting just to let everyone know he was OK.
A few months ago, Hesiod resurfaced - while not as invigorated as his prior incarnation, Counterspin was still relevant and influential. Then, in the hours following Dubya's gloating win, Counterspin disappeared. As in, totally eliminated. As in, wiped off the face of Left Blogistan, as surely as if the Death Star had zapped Alderaan. Basically, the equivalent of blogicide. Hesiod left no blogicide note (at least, not that google cache picked up), the last posting cached was Monday, and there were comments until mid-day Tuesday.
Why do I bring this up? And why should I care? Heck, Counterspin isn't even on ASZ's blogroll (well, that's not totally correct - in the first iteration of ASZ, Counterspin was listed, but then dropped when ASZ was redesigned...).
I care because Hesiod was an angry progressive voice who usually brought something good to the table. Maybe more importantly, losing the archive of discussion from an important progressive blog, a discussion that took place over many months, is like missing a piece of the big puzzle if anyone ever attempted to recreate the underpinnings of Left Blogistan (as I'm sure that someone will be wont to do in the future, if it's not already being worked somewhere).
Even more to the point, a respected voice silenced itself. Several years ago when I was very active in online community building, I read a book titled Virtual Communities by Howard Rheingold, which was a pop-pseudo-psychoanalysis of what binds online communities such as Left Blogistan. Rheingold expended a great deal of ink exploring the virtual "chaos effect" that's created when even a minor player in an online community commits cybercide. And Hesiod was certainly more than a minor player over the past few years in our collective passion play.
The reason I bring up the topic of Counterspin's demise is to frame a discussion of where we go from here (and I don't just mean the primary contributors on ASZ). I think the lessons that I had learned in the past is one reason that ASZ was formed as a group blog. One person carrying the weight of an endeavor like this blog is simply too much, plus, there's the danger of becoming too enamored with your own thoughts and words.
When Kate and Doc and I first fired this thing up, it was basically the three of us tossing out topics and then talking amongst ourselves. Very predictably, like all online communities, ASZ took on a bit of a life of its own after other like minded folks started stumbling in the door. At that point, rather than just typing words into the ether, I started watching the main page postings evolve into a vehicle for facilitating discussion among a larger group of folks rather than being the focal point of the blog. Thank you (as much as I whine about it) Haloscan!
More importantly, we developed an ersatz kind of support system among us, and that's what true virtual communities do. That's exactly what we're doing right now in our period of political mourning. I can't tell you how many times an offhanded comment to one of my "funeral dirge" type of posts has lifted my spirits and brought me out of a funk. Unlike a lot of poliblogs, Kate, Doc and I are active participants in the comments. None of us claim to be experts in anything. We don't have "inside connections" - we're guessing just like everyone else, but at least we're up front about it. ;-)
Personally, I like two-way communication. I'm more into discussion than preaching to the converted.
And that's why, even though I have the ability to do so with the click of a single button, I would never consider wiping out the history that's been compiled on ASZ as Hesiod did with Counterspin. I'd rather that it died by atrophy (which I won't let happen anyway) and benign neglect than a stake through the heart. Because once you've pushed that button in Blogger, there's no going back.
There's a certain amount of pent up anger that's welling to the surface all around Left Blogistan at the moment. I'm seeing it here, too, but not nearly to the extent that I'm feeling it on some other progressive blogs. What I'm reading and feeling and seeing here is more of a mourning phase, but the mourning is lined with the silver tinge of a determination to move ahead with some kind of focused action as a group. You don't know how good that makes me feel, above and beyond all of the emotions I've personally endured in the past 48 hours.
There will be a time very soon for regrouping and figuring out where we go from here. The seeds are being planted in the blog comments already. We progressives are either a hardy or a foolish bunch - I haven't quite figured that out yet.
Maybe it's more that we're idealists rather than absolutists, and it's just human nature that the notion of idealism is a most difficult thing to kill. Time and time again throughout the course of human history, absolutism and moral relativism have been tossed on the scrap heap of bad governance. Idealism survives. I don't think we would have made it this far as a species if idealism was a disposable commodity that could be erased with a mouse click on a Blogger button.