Virtual Swords Into Plowshares

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[Note: Feel free to skip reading if you’re tired of reading about warring blogs]

I’ve received a few death threats since I began blogging. Only a couple, and both were on posts when I suggested that the state of Montana should perhaps not allow every person who wants to to carry a gun into every place he wants to. On one of the posts, some “gun enthusiast” mentioned that he was glad that my father had died when I was young so that he could avoid seeing the person I’d grown up to become.

That second one stung a little bit, but in general, one takes Internet threats and throws them aside. They’re generally throwaway one-liners from cowards who are unlikely to come back.

But some fights on the Internet don’t go away so quickly. For five years, as some of you know, the writers at another Montana blog (I don’t mention it not to be rude, but to be polite) and I have fought over issue after issue.  Essentially it comes down to two arguments: disagreement about the nature of politics and rehashing personal fights that have gone on for half a decade. Those of you who have read these comments and posts have probably grown quite tired of them, and the truth is that I have, too. Both sides have been guilty of attacking the other, and uncovering the root of the hostility at this point would be as futile as uncovering the origin of an Appalachian feud.

Yet another brush fire broke out again this week. Regrettable things were said on both sides once more. And I’m sorry for some of them. I don’t entirely understand why some of what I’ve said was so upsetting, but I’m sure they don’t understand why I am so upset either. Privately, I have apologized for some of what I imagine are the comments that most upset the other two writers, and I’ll leave that there for the sake of privacy. If they’d like me to post it here, I will.

I’ve tried, since last night, to negotiate a ceasefire.  My argument is pretty simple: it’s clear we cannot persuade each other, and it’s also clear that the history of bad blood between the two sites is so strong that we’re just not capable of seeing each other’s postings as anything other than hostile acts.  There are times when relationships become too toxic to continue, even with the best intentions, and silence is most appropriate.

So one more time, publicly, I ask: can we please put this to rest? Can we agree not to write posts about each other’s sites so that both sites can be better places for the people interested in reading what’s written there? I’m willing to do that. If the writers at the other site are not, then I have to give some thought to shutting this blog down because, rightly or wrongly, I worry that the conflict will spill over into my real life. I am a teacher foremost. This is a hobby, a weird one, yes, but a hobby. I can’t afford to jeopardize my career or personal relationships over this.

And I can’t afford the toll on myself. I have spent the last twenty four hours feeling so furious that I don’t know what to do with myself. For a middle-aged fat man, that’s probably not an ideal way to spend the day. For a human being, it’s not the right way to spend the day.

This is all I ask:

  • for a time, can we please stop writing posts about each other?
  • can we either agree to not comment at each other’s sites or to try a hell of a lot better to comment on the issues of the posts?
  • can we, for the love of God, please stop fighting about who is banned at whose site?
  • can you accept my sincere, general apology for any harm my comments have done and believe my willingness to apologize for specific offenses you’d like to enumerate, here or privately?
  • Additionally, I will take down any comments or posts here you’d like me to. You can ask privately or publicly.

If not, there’s nothing I can do. I don’t know that I’ll quit writing here, but I have to think about it.

I don’t want to stop writing here. Outside of legislative sessions, I’m don’t know that this site has ever been more popular. Our readership, through the blog itself and on Facebook, is booming, and I’ve come to meet a number of interesting people online as a result. I’m nervous, and energized about Montana politics in 2016, and want to do my little part here. Foolish as it is, I care about Montana politics and the future of our state.

WordPress says that I have written 2,568 posts since I started this blog in 2005. If you assume an average of 400 words per post, that comes out to 1,027,200 words, about 95% of them about Montana politics. I’ve been wrong a lot, right on occasion, kind periodically, and a snarky jerk more often than a person should. But if trying to get to a second million means more of this conflict, then this might be the end of the line, and I think I am okay with that.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

18 Comments

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  • Please do not stop. I have enjoyed your blog for a few years,and though I haven’t completely agreed with EVERYTHING you’ve written, I agree with most of it, and find it thoughtful, witty, and often funny. Snark and satire are perfectly fine if they point out the flaws and biases in the political system of my home state. I was transplanted to Oregon some 29 years ago to accept my first teaching position (Art and English), but I’m proud of the excellent education I received at Shelby High School (1972) and MSU. We were taught to think for ourselves and to consider things from a number of viewpoints. So don’t stop, please, even if you believe you’re a lone voice crying in the wilderness, unless you feel you have to, of course.

  • You’re vital to Democracy Don, and without dissent and debate, we don’t have citizens being engaged….thanks for your keen insights and communications skills….Nihil Bastardi Carborundum!

  • Don, please “stay the course”….you are appreciated and respected! I can only imagine the angst some issues may cause you! Respectfully yours…..dtork

  • LOng time ago I realized that you didn’t need rescuing, but I grew up in places that meant you had someone’s back. Literally and figuratively.that’s just me and of course the good evidence you offer.

    I have agreed with all I know about your style and like that we have a right to disagree….. that being said. don’t give the Naysayers eslewhere what they want, and leave…. but what they need. what we all need as edification from a clear thinking person.

    Really Don! You and your writers need a Moderator. that third wheel that keeps the Gunk of trolls off you. Your site has gone big enough that there is a ton of numbskulls out there that want to prove you wrong.

    I think you’re as good a writer as Dennison. Stay on, and stay the course!

  • We expect the barbs from the right. It’s barbs from the left that cut the deepest, at least for me. I think I understand your discouragement and frustration but this, too, shall pass. Don’t stop writing, Don, the site needs you.

  • Unlike others, I will not ask you to keep writing, though I enjoy your skill and whit a great deal. To do so would be slightly selfish. Continuing is a decision you need to make and experience has taught me that may not be the best thing for you.

    I agree with Pete that the deepest and dullest cuts (dull hurts more) come from the ‘left’. It wasn’t the right who ‘brought down’ LitW, and made political blogging a miserable experience for me at my site. It wasn’t those who disagreed. It was those who demanded that sites be what they want them to be, that writing suit their voice and no other. And more importantly, those that demand that you, or me or Cowgirl, or any other, be WHO they want us to be.

    The most toxic elements of the Montana online have never been Eric Coobs, or Craig Moore, or Aaron Flint, or Big Swede, or really any conservative/Christian conservative. It has been those who offer (as Cadfeal would say) the unexpected stroke, where agreement becomes animosity and finally deepest hostility because the agreement isn’t strong enough. It doesn’t acknowledge the superiority of the person or persons who have the ‘right’ thinking. As a gross generalization, the right goes out of it’s way to denigrate the opposition, as you do. The left goes out of it’s way to destroy the opposition from those who do not acknowledge the greater ‘leftness’. Those who do not hold to the proper line become collateral damage in a war that has no point but is deeply personal.

    I was disappointed in Lizard’s response to this post. He claims with one hand that all the disagreements between these websites are substantive and policy driven. With the other, he offers his history, his experience his fears. He personalizes what he claims isn’t at all personal. I’d love to say that’s atypical, in the interest of harmony and peace, but it’s not. It’s SOP. I am not at all trying to reignite a blog fire, but in case no one has noticed, this stuff is public, posted for all to see, and my opinion counts for no less than theirs. Or yours. Nothing you decide should ignore that, nor should it be based on the idea that burying the hatchet is a panacea when it has all become personal. You can’t make decisions for them. You can only make your own, and the cost of continuing may be more than you are willing to pay. Lizard thinks that cost is not very high for you, and much higher for him. That’s not his decision to make for you, is it?

    I sincerely wish you the best, Don.

    • Don apologized for his part in this because he crossed a line and he knows it. I will say that I too am sorry it has gotten to this point again. but he has asked that I not write about this site, which I think is too vague to say yes or no to. I will try to use other examples than posts from this site to illustrate the shit I’ve been blabbing about for 5 years now (to an ever shrinking audience, as has been so often pointed out) but right now that’s the best I can offer. I am angry about a lot of things and trying to redirect it toward more creative channels. Don refers to blogging as a hobby. for me it’s more a compulsion bordering on addiction, and it’s not healthy.

      -T

      • Instigators like Lizard don’t generally apologize Rob. I know you noticed that. nice try though.

        Conflict is drama, and how people deal with conflict shows you the kind of people they are. Don held out his hand to shake, the other person just spat on the ground

      • ” … he has asked that I not write about this site, which I think is too vague to say yes or no to,” says lizard. Putting “Pogreba” in a headline at RD would probably count as writing about this site.

  • I’ve been reading all this time and at the sites before. I suppose I’m a local blog lurker. I keep comments to a minimum, as I’ve known the fury you describe and wish to avoid it, though sometimes it seems worth the chance, and I guess this is one of them.

    People care about what you write. What you write needs to be written. Nobody else is writing it.

    Clicking on a new post, I often think ‘this should be good’ in the moments it takes to load. That’s not the case at other sites, certainly the temperately moderated site, and some of which I wouldn’t even look at if it wasn’t for their posts here. Sites which lead to other sites and some of those sites are very dark places… places that inspire the fury you describe.

    Perhaps my, and everyone’s greatest challenge in life is not letting the fury win.

    Besides, there are more important things, and you’re writing about them. Things everyone should be furious about.

    Have a Merry Christmas.

  • Obviously not my quote but while I do not agree with what you say often Don, I will defend to the death your right to say it. (

  • I just wish that if certain persons disagree with a blog-writer so much that all they can do is be disagreeable so much that that the blog-writer becomes so discouraged that he/she just wants to quit – that the certain person would just make their own life more agreeable (and everyone else’s also!) by just not coming here anymore. Win – win – win for everyone. The certain person wins because they don’t have to get aggravated at our blog-writer. The blog-writer doesn’t have to get aggravated at the certain person. All the other readers don’t have to read the arguments and we all get to enjoy the blog-writer which is why the rest of us come here in the first place.

    Now – how about some peace on earth?

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