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Today's study in irony or a dustup in the South Florida blogosphere

It is a real slow blogging day and since no one else is writing I'll share something that happened in my neck of the Woods. Since it involves a writer at one major newspaper plus a blogger who's gotten national notoriety, I think some of you may find this interesting.

First our cast of characters

Rick owner of the now belly up blog known as Stuck on the Palmetto or SOTP for short
Bob Norman investigative reporter for The New Times and author of the blog The Daily Pulp
Bob's claim to fame could be his outing former Congressman Mark Foley as gay long before last year's scandal.
Evan Benn reporter for the Miami Herald
Val Prieto owner of the blog known as Babalu

I know a little about all four of these people and even met one of them in person and had the opportunity to meet another but other commitments prevented it.

Bob Norman I've met in person, Rick I haven't met in person but regularly emailed with and I have linked to him more often than any other Florida blogger since I discovered SOTP in the summer of 2006.

Bob and Rick are much more liberal than I am(Jim Addison here at Wizbang calls me a moderate democrat. Which is about right. I'm more conservative than most democrats and more liberal than most Republicans.) but that never kept me from enjoying both their blogs. I like reading people with a differing viewpoint than my own.

Articles written by Evan Benn have twice been subject of blog posts of mine at The Florida Masochist. I've emailed Evan on at least one prior occasion.

Val Prieto is Cuban-American and blogs mostly about Cuba and Fidel Castro. His blog has gotten national attention twice in the last 18 months when rumors were swirling about the Cuban Dictator having died. Some of these rumors, which I criticized at the time, were started by Val himself.

The name Stuck on the Palmetto comes from a South Florida expressway Rick takes on his commute from home to work and back.

The trouble started about two weeks ago when Rick blogged(Note- All links to SOTP are dead. I'm using my own posts or those of other South Florida bloggers to quote Rick ) the following.when talking about gay inmates being kept in isolation at the Broward County jail.

"Hey, if the guys wants to mix with general population, let them mix with general population. Better yet, before they transfer, let's give them some high heels, lipstick, pink tutus and a big, Costco-sized tub of Vaseline."
Bob at The Daily Pulp then replied back in this post.
Yes it's insulting. Yes it's stupid. Yes it's demeaning to a large class of people.

And all that's fine with me. Unfortunately, it's not funny, ranking right up there with Judge Jerry Levenson's idiotic "tight end" remark in court (only without the public's interest being involved). There's your crime.

Bob and Rick then had a few exchanges through the above post's comments section. At one point Bob writing- "I don't believe Rick is a "bigot." Ignorant, yes. Prejudiced, yes. Bigoted (meaning intolerant), no."

I stuck my head in at one point recalling a post I once did "You know you're married to a Filipina if......." saying I was just making fun of the idiosyncrasies of a group of Asian women. That coming from a person married to a Filipina. Am I bigot for doing that? Is Rick a bigot or being offensive when making fun of gay stereotypes?

This little tempest in a teapot seemed to be winding down till Bob made the following comment.

Rick, can you spare us your dull stinking sanctimony?

For some background, the reason Rick is implying that I "hate" the police and bash them with wild allegations is that I said several months ago that the FLPD was out of control because it had exhibited a bad habit of shooting unarmed people. Rick got his panties in a bunch about it because he's a knee-jerk maroon when it comes to the 5-0.

Otherwise, he's a decent blogger -- works his ass off on SotP, that's for sure. By the way, Rick, who pays your salary to blog all day?

Rick for his own personal reasons, has never divulged his real name or occupation. I respect that. During the time I've known him, the notion has crossed my mind of about my asking Rick his last name in an email but I never did so though once we traded home phone numbers.

While I blog semi-anonymously as The Florida Masochist, it has never been hard to discover my real name. Even in the early days of my blog, for there's a certain chess blog with my name attached to it on my blogroll that happens to give out Knucklehead awards too and whose owner was in Florida. Not too hard for anyone to figure out that was me. Now almost anyone knows my real name for I blog under it at two other blogs in addition to three here at Wizbang under the name Bill Jempty. Bill isn't my first name, want to guess what is? I give you a clue, it starts with a W.

Rick took Bob's comment as a threat to his anonymity and immediately announced he was taking a break from blogging.(Note SOTP started as a one person blog but around a year ago Rick took on a co-blogger by the name of Alex)Either temporarily or permanently.

The South Florida blogosphere lit up over this. Other bloggers, Critical Miami, Steve aka "Klotz" as in "Blood" and Manuel. I chimed in also with this post.

If you read these posts you'll note people have taken differing sides on what happened. Some supporting Rick, feeling he had the right to feel threatened because Bob is an investigative reporter besides being pushy by nature. Others disagreed, saying Rick overreacted and brought this threat to his anonymity on himself. Many speculating in SOTP's comments section if Rick worked in law enforcement.

Early on I noted the possible irony in Bob causing SOTP to shut down. See Bob's employer, The New Times, has twice named SOTP the best local blog.

Bob could have made a peace offering to Rick, either online or via email, but instead wrote-

All this is getting just a little strange. For somebody that doesn't want to lose his anonymity, Rick and his blog sure are drawing a lot of attention to the issue. Not at all what I had in mind, but now they've put me in a position where I need to expound a bit more on the thing (as self-defense, if nothing else).

A little background: Rick is/was probably the most active blogger in South Florida. He mines the newspapers and the larger Internet for his material and posts several times a day, illustrating just about every post. I'd say he averages three to four hours a day on it. Just an educated guess.

Everyone by now has gathered what line of work he's in, thanks to his bullhorning of an obscure jab that was tucked away in a comment on the Pulp. Now it's time for you to put two and two together. I've devoted half my career so far to exposing waste, corruption etc in government. So I'm not going to lie and say my eyebrows didn't raise a notch when I found out what Rick does for a living. It crossed my mind that all that Palmetto time might be better spent doing his actual job, which is not an unimportant one at all.

I barely gave it a second thought, though; this wasn't a job for Pulpman. His blog was decent and who knew how he juggled it with his job to make it happen. But when he started accusing me of bashing police and made himself out to be some avenging angel of law enforcement, it did irk me. It's the one issue Rick -- solid, middle American, mind-numbingly normal Rick -- gets totally irrational about. I knew he why he was biased, but nobody else did. Basically I thought he should admit what line of work he was in, in general terms. We tussled about it a little in the past and I nudged the guy over the weekend. I thought it was harmless.

But he overreacted and spilled it all over his blog and made a huge issue out of it. Why? Ask him, because it doesn't matter what I think. People are making this about me, but it's all about Rick. He's the one who brought attention to the issue. It's his fucking thing, not mine.

After seeing this, I felt fairly certain Rick would quit blogging.

On Sunday Rick decided to pull the plug on his blog.

I want to thank the folks who wrote us and expressed their concerns and offered their opinions on what the next course of action should be. Believe me, we mulled things over again and again hoping that SotP could be saved and still be effective in one format or another.

But after considering everything that was said and implied this week, we realized that it could never be the same. Not for me and Alex. Not for the blog. Not for readers. There would always be those people who would have seen it fit to bring up these ghosts in the heat of an argument or use them, again, to somehow, in their minds, win a debate down the road. In the end, it was the person who will forever know me the best who reminded me of what is really important and helped me arrive at this decision. And to her, a sometime-reader of SotP, I say thanks.

I've been the reader of blogs that have closed down suddenly for any number of reasons and it's never a good feeling. This is certainly not the ending I envisioned for SotP, but if it's one thing I've learned in my 46 years, it's that life rarely reads like a fairy tale.

So Stuck on the Palmetto is no more, Alex going along with Rick's decision. I wish it hadn't come to this, and wished both of them well both via email and in a post of mine.

In South Florida there was no other blogger that blogged as often on local news as SOTP. That includes myself, and Bob Norman. I found this blog indispensable so far as happenings in Miami-Dade county go. The Miami Herald doesn't have the most blogger friendly website. Most news being buried and hard to find. Take for instance today's Herald article on this controversy. I found it via The Daily Pulp. Who's going to fill the void left behind by the closure of SOTP? Manuel names a few names. As much as I like Klotz, Steve doesn't blog local news that much and Critical Miami even less. It's not a news blog. It won't be either, for I blog on just not South Florida but elsewhere.

Now for today's moments of irony. They both come in a Miami Herald article written by Evan Benn.

Stuck on the Palmetto's shutdown prompted debate about anonymous blogs.

''For the record, I HATE anonymous bloggers. They, in my view, are chickensh-- people who don't stand behind their words,'' Miami New Times editor Chuck Strouse wrote on his paper's blog, Riptide 2.0.

Funny but Strouse is employed by the same people who named SOTP the best local blog, all along knowing Rick tried to stay annonymous.

The second(and best)moment of irony involves Val Prieto.

One person who won't miss it is Val Prieto. His blog, Babalú, which focuses on politics and Cuban issues, has often been critical of Stuck on the Palmetto, and vice versa.

Prieto, whose full name appears on his site, said he thinks readers give more weight to blogs with identified writers.

''Anybody can say whatever they want if they're hiding behind a pseudonym,
'' Prieto said in a phone interview. ``It seemed to me like it was more than anonymity Rick was worried about.''
The bad blood between Babalu and SOTP is well known to the South Florida blogosphere. I'm not going to touch that subject at all.

But what the @#%^ ! is Val all high and mighty for. He has no right to be criticizing any blogger for potentially making stuff up. For Val has more than once spread rumors of Fidel Castro's demise. Here is one example.

Note- I was among the many people who fell for this.

If you think that's bad, read Val's post here-

BREAKING: FIDEL CASTRO IS DEAD

My cellphone has not stopped ringing for the past ten minutes. Various sources inform that an announcement will come within the next few minutes from the Cuban government on Cuban TV and media. Stay tuned and we'll see if we've been manipulated once again or if today is the birth date of Cuba's liberty.

When others began to question the news, Val stuck to his guns.

Here's my take, once again:

fidel castro is dead.

Take it to the bank.

I didn't fall for it the second time.

So what right does a blogger who spreads false stories have criticizing an anonymous blogger for potentially doing the same? I guess its a free world but to me its hypocrisy and bad journalism.

I wrote Evan in regards to his article, he even writing back after I told him he may be up for tomorrow's Knucklehead award(Along with Val Prieto)

Hi, William, good to hear from you again. Today's article was not an evaluation of the content on South Florida's blogs. It was about a blog shutting down and the subsequent issues it raised about anonymous blogging. Thanks for writing. Best, Evan
I still say Val is out of line when he comes to criticizing Rick so far as his annonymity. An intelligent reporter, and I've not sure if Evan Benn qualifies as one,(Check here for another example of his work), should have avoided what I think was an obvious trip. Does Evan know anything about what Babalu writes? If he didn't, a few emails to South Florida bloggers with no ax to grind in this particular affair could have given this reporter another view of Val and that this blogger really has no right criticizing his brethren who prefer to remain anonymous because that gives them a right to write anything they want. Evan has my email, or if not could have left a comment at my blog to get in touch. His article after all was written almost 3 days after SOTP's closure. He had time to do his job properly.

After putting the Val and Evan sideshow aside, I got to say what I think is obvious. The South Florida blogosphere is now a lot poorer without Alex and Rick and Stuck on the Palmetto.

Oh and leave it to Steve "Klotz" as in "Blood" to find humor in all of this.


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Comments (3)

Slow blogging day is right.... (Below threshold)

Slow blogging day is right.

What is the take down in FL... (Below threshold)
nogo war:

What is the take down in FL on exclusion of delegates at national Conventions?

This is the best summary of... (Below threshold)
Dave:

This is the best summary of the events leading to the death of SOTP I've read yet. It does seem that Bob Norman overplayed his hand in intimating Steve's profession, particularly as he is a professional journalist and ought to know that if a source prefers to remain anonymous that should be his business. For what it's worth, I think Steve did overreact in terms of shutting his blog down. I also very much appreciated it and hated to see it go. Who's to say he wasn't using his free time to blog? The day has 24 hours and anyone can put in an 8 hour workday and still blog for 3-4 hours as Norman hypothesized was the time neccesary to produce the blog.




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