Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Walberg Blog Comments Project

Subscribers to the Walberg Watch Weekly E-mail Updates list already know a little bit about this. Obviously, this is a reason why you should subscribe.

Suppose you're an undecided voter. You don't know a lot about Tim Walberg, but you've gotten his glossy flyers in the mail. You've seen Mark Schauer's name somewhere, but really, you don't know much about either of them. What do you do?

For many, you type "Tim Walberg" and "Mark Schauer" into Google. Focusing on Walberg, what do you get? The first five results are all either pro-Walberg or neutral-- Walberg's House website, Walberg's blog, Wikipedia, Walberg for Congress, and a National Journal profile. (The old Walberg Watch address comes in at number nine, while the new Walberg Watch is rapidly rising, now nearing the top of the second page).

Many people will probably stick to those five results, too. Of those results, only the Wikipedia article even comes close to offering different points of view, but only in the context of controversies that have arisen for Walberg. It doesn't keep up with current issues.

So how do we fix that? How do we make sure that Walberg's side of the story isn't the only one being seen? One way, of course, is for Walberg Watch to rise in the Google page ranking, and that's happening slowly on its own. But, oddly enough, Tim Walberg gave us another way of getting opposing viewpoints into the top Google rankings, albeit not directly.

I'm talking about Congressman Walberg's official House of Representatives blog. It's usually the second result in a Google search, and it's featured prominently on Walberg's House website. Often, it's not much more than just reposting of press releases, but it has a comments feature that, to Walberg's credit, is fairly accepting of progressive views. Does everyone read the comments? No. But some people do, and that means it's an avenue for reaching more people.

With all of this in mind, I’ve got a project for Walberg Watch readers and the Michigan blogosphere.


Tim Walberg and his press office state their positions and policy proposals without being challenged. They ignore evidence that doesn’t fit their chosen positions and highlight columnists and editorials that fit their views only. Indeed, they sometimes posts assertions that are misleading at best and outright untruths at worst. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—this is politics, after all, and everyone is guilty of spin—but going unchallenged is unacceptable.

Let’s fix that. Whenever Walberg’s blog makes a misleading statement, let’s make sure the first comment calls them out on it. Whenever he cites Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity to justify his economic policies, let’s counter with real, honest-to-God economists. We talk about holding our elected officials accountable. This is one more way to hold them to the fire.


Someone is bound to ask, “But, Fitzy, what’s the point?” After all, the number of people that actually read Congressman Walberg’s blog isn’t that high, and the number that follow through to the comments is even smaller. Is this a good way of using the resources of the progressive netroots?

I say, yes, it is. If done effectively, it shows the organizing strength of progressives in a place that Walberg and his staff will see it, and in a place where other observers also have an opportunity to see it. It gives us a chance to practice and refine our arguments and, maybe, be challenged ourselves with counterpoints that we haven’t considered, which will make us better at this when we’re canvassing or phone banking. There’s nothing wrong with some good, old-fashioned political discourse. And it doesn’t cost us anything more than a few minutes every week.

And hey, we might even reach a couple of undecided voters.

But, Wait...

Walberg’s staff will just delete our comments, right? That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? It’s true, the comment system is such that new comments have to be approved before they’re posted, but they’ve been fairly accepting of opposing viewpoints. I’ve even had comments make it on that have been critical (though civil) of his conduct. This is one of the few redeeming qualities of Congressman Walberg.

But, yeah, Walberg’s office might start deleting our comments, leaving this whole project dead. What happens then? Well, we complain about how Tim Walberg silences dissent and isn’t willing to listen to well-reasoned arguments. So what if we wasted a couple of hours? In the end, it’s not that big of a deal. And it’s worth trying, because 1.) we could actually reach a couple of voters and 2.) democracy is about direct feedback from those represented to the representative.


Every Wednesday, I’ll choose three recent Tim Walberg blog posts, and post them on Walberg Watch, Michigan Liberal, and Blogging for Michigan. With each, I’ll point out a few potential flaws—places where the truth is stretched or conclusions reached are questionable—and, if I remember anything off the top of my head, I’ll throw in links to articles that I think might be helpful.

This is where you come in. Chances are, you’ve read something recently on a given issue that perfectly refutes what Walberg says. Share a link to the article, editorial, or blog post in the comments, and then go and comment on Walberg’s post. We can discuss the best arguments in the comments, and then a few people can fill Walberg’s post with their ideas. If you haven’t got time to comment on his post yourself, just give us the link, and someone else will do it. If you see someone complain about Walberg elsewhere in the blogosphere, tell them about the project.

The next week, I’ll post an update on the previous week’s projects and link to the new posts of the week. The process repeats.


I want to make a few things clear before this goes forward. The purpose of this is not to harass Tim Walberg and fill his blog with inflammatory messages. Frankly, that’s just dumb. We want to convince undecided voters and prove that our arguments are better. I heard someone call Walberg a “fascist neocon ideologue” a few weeks ago, and that does nothing but alienate people.

In other words, don’t be an asshole about it. When Walberg says something that’s wrong, don’t respond with “How stupid do you think we are?” Instead, respond with, “But, Congressman, the Detroit Free Press recently ran a story saying that...” I know that progressives are capable of well-reasoned, well-articulated, insightful arguments. Imagine if the comments on Tim Walberg’s blog were filled with those. It would embarrass him and make us look great.

Also, I’ll add that this isn’t limited to just residents of Michigan’s 7th Congressional District. Walberg’s votes have the potential to hurt the entire country, and he’s constantly an embarrassment to the people of Michigan. If you think he’s wrong, make sure he knows it.

Obviously, if there’s no interest in this, I’ll drop the project. But the internet offers so many phenomenal ways to communicate directly with your representative and make your voice heard. Why not use as many of them as possible?

Walberg Blog Comments Project - Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Here are the posts for today:

1. South-Central Michigan Residents Speak Out On High Gas Prices, by Tim Walberg (Aug. 8, 2008)

This is a collection of quotes from 7th District residents talking about how high gas prices are impacting their daily lives. Some of the stories are touching and painful, and, of course, none of them would be helped by Walberg’s “Oil Company Give-Away” drilling plan. What would help? It wouldn’t solve all the problems, but releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (which Walberg opposed) would lower prices. There is already one dissenting comment, noting that domestically-produced oil will still be sold on the world market, and won’t help Americans all that much. This is a point which can be further emphasized.

2. Nationwide Editorials Decry Democrats’ Latest Speculator Gimmick, by Walberg Press Office (Jul. 31, 2008)

Walberg’s office offers a series of links to newspaper editorials criticizing the Democratic strategy on high gas prices. Surely we can find some editorials that label the Walberg/Republican plan as the pointless idea we all know it is, right?

3. Washington Post debunks myths about offshore drilling, by Walberg Press Office (Aug. 12, 2008)

This is a big one. They cite a Washington Post editorial that claims to refute progressive arguments against offshore drilling. It’s worth noting that the same editorial also says that drilling offshore would have no immediate impact on gas prices, and that it specifically states that they support protecting ANWR, where Walberg wants to drill there. Further, where the article notes the need for a long-term, comprehensive plan, Walberg has opposed Democratic bills that would invest in alternative energies (example here). And add in his opposition to conservation through public transportation and other areas. Oh, and how about Paul Krugman’s recent op-ed reminding us about global climate change—which Walberg doesn’t believe in.

So, let’s get to it. How do we refute these? And who wants to be the first to comment?

And, of course, for you Republican lurkers out there, if we fall short on any of these, I assure you, it’s not some failing of the progressive movement. Rather, it means that we’re just not trying hard enough... yet.

As of July 09, 2008, I have been working with the Schauer for Congress campaign in Lenawee County. My thoughts and writings are my own opinions, and I do not speak for Senator Schauer or anyone else in his organization.

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