Monday, December 30, 2019

R.I.P. Skippy. Happy Blogroll Amnesty Day.

There was a time, now very far away, when most political bloggers kind of sort of knew each other.  Some knew each other better than others, crossing over into "meat world," and others only knew each other online.  Many of us stopped blogging somewhere along the way, only to pick it up again later, but there were others who kept on going.

When Steve Gilliard died we were all still blogging and word spread like wildfire.  Since then, we've lost so many -- Doghouse Riley, "Jon Swift" (Al Wiesel), Bob Rixon, and just this month we lost Shaun Mullen of Kiko's House.  But perhaps no loss cuts deeper than finding out only now that last summer, unbeknownst to me, we suffered the unfathomable loss of the whimsically named "skippy the bush kangaroo," who equally unbeknownst to me, was author/actor/comedy writer Gil Christner.  Joe Gandelman wrote about him after his passing.

Skippy was one of those "big name bloggers" who always had room for us smaller folk.  He didn't care if you were famous, or if people would recognize you at Netroots Nation, or if you hung around with Markos the Huge.  Skippy was one of the founders, along with Al Wiesel, of "Blogroll Amnesty Day."

Because the families of Jon Swift (I will use his blog name from here on out) and Skippy did not see fit to allow their blogs to remain up (though both can be somewhat seen through the Wayback Machine via the links in this paragraph), you won't get the chance to really see how these two guys were the ones who formed a true community of progressive bloggers who DIDN'T pull up the ladder behind them.

Blogroll Amnesty Day started as a giant "Fuck you" to one of those ladder-pullers, Atrios, who for seventeen years has managed to build and sustain a huge following with one- and two-sentence posts.   In 2007, Atrios decided that he would purge his blogroll of all but the blogs he deemed "important", and gave himself amnesty to do so.  Amnesty against what, I don't know, unless it's amnesty for becoming exactly what progressives were fighting against.  At the time, Jon Swift wrote:

This past weekend Atrios, the proprietor of Eschaton, declared a Blogroll Amnesty Day, saying, "one of the big complaints by new bloggers is that it's impossible to get onto blogrolls because established bloggers tend not to add them." I thought that adding new lesser-known blogs to his blogroll would be a wonderful idea. Although for some inexplicable reason that I am at pains to discover, Atrios has never seen fit to link to me, I, nevertheless added Eschaton to my own blogroll and introduced myself to Atrios with a sincerely sycophantic email, since he is after all a blogging pioneer who deserves our respect.

But the more I learned about this Amnesty Day, the more I realized that it was a very strange amnesty indeed. The amnesty he granted turned out to be amnesty for himself. He wanted to assuage himself of the guilt he might feel at kicking blogs off his blogroll instead of granting amnesty to others to swarm across the border into his domain. "Everyone feels a wee bit guilty about removing blogs from their blogroll, so they're hesitant to add new ones to an ever-expanding list," he explained. So Atrios deleted his entire blogroll and disappointingly repopulated it for the most part with the usual suspects. Then others in the liberal blogosphere followed his example, including Jesus' General and PZ Myers at Pharyngula, who already takes a very Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest approach to blogrolling. Then Markos at Daily Kos joined this ruthless bloodletting. "It sucks and it feels bad," he said, daubing the tears from his eyes as he typed. So the end result of Atrios' Amnesty Day was to make some blogrolls smaller and even more exclusive than they already were.

Thus began the teaming of Jon Swift and Skippy to appropriate Blogroll Amnesty Day for mere mortals and make it an annual celebration of newer and smaller-readership blogs, combined with an exhortation to "Look up!  Link down!"


Since Jon Swift left this mortal coil, blogger Batocchio at Vagabond Scholar has been carrying the torch for these two most generous men; both professional writers who got paid for their work, but toiled away in the trenches with the rest of us under their pseudonyms, encouraging us and asserting that what we were doing had value.

Without further ado, here is this year's entry, renamed now to the Jon Swift Roundup.  I hope you'll click through and read these self-selected posts by some of the long-timers as well as those who picked up sociopolitical blogging long after it was left for dead by many.

Rest well, skippy.  The world is a darker place without you.


2 comments:

  1. What a lovely tribute. I am one of those lowly bloggers who love supporting and being supported by so many others who maintain blogrolls. I love being included in Battochio's year-end roundup, and in finding new bloggers to follow and support.
    We're in dark times and it's going to take all of us to keep up the morale.
    We're here for each other thanks to Jon Swift and so many others.
    RIP Skippy. You are missed.
    Ramona

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  2. I left the link up on my blogroll, though for months it has gone nowhere. It was/has been there from the the start. I knew of it within days, and have just sort of been waiting and watching to see who catches on. Sad to say, you're the first (in the circles I travel).

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