I’ve been at this since forever. I’ve been writing about politics, and have been employed in journalism (broadcast, print or internet) since high school, but I started officially “blogging” in the discussion forum of my old dot-com era cartoon portal, then in 2004 I launched my first real-life blog which has since evolved into the home base of The Bob & Chez Show. Throughout this time, I’ve watched a lot of news and politics sites come and go, especially the various liberal blogs, and among the successes and many failures, very few of those sites have been unpredictable.
At a glance, we always knew what we were going to get with the liberal blogs. Generally speaking, so many of them were entertaining, but too often safe, epistemically-closed and predictable screed machines. They’re easy reads, even though the topics were often infuriating. Admittedly, I myself spent some time ensconced in all of that, and there’s nothing terribly egregious about it — it just became too comfy.
Whenever I plan a bike ride, the most harrowing and thus the most rewarding routes feature those road signs with the serpentine arrow. By the same token, the most rewarding participation in the discourse should be, to a certain extent, uncomfortable. Eventually, our growth as citizens and participants in the debate ought to include at least exposing our brains to those with whom we disagree. This isn’t to say we have to subject ourselves to raving tea partiers who have no interest in a dialogue. Moving beyond the liberal blog bubble ought to involve giving other opinions a shot; to dare those opinion-makers to convince us we’re wrong, rather than always confirming when we’re right.
The Daily Banter provides a forum for that. While our masthead is generally left-leaning, you won’t find the usual off-the-shelf, Chomskyfied liberal dogma and insufferably lazy slacktivism that’s so prevalent elsewhere.
The Daily Banter isn’t liberal, it’s unexpected.
Frankly, when I hear Banter described as a “liberal” blog, it offends me a little because we offer so much more than what’s typically found at any old liberal blog. And I hasten to underscore that I’m not hating on liberalism. I still identify as a center-left realist. To be precise, I’m hating on unthinking, monolithic liberalism — liberalism that borrows the “with us or against us” ultimatum; liberalism that, like many on the far-right, ignores political reality and fails to evaluate each issue on its own merit, regurgitating a generally accepted slate of views, complete with overused neologisms (you won’t find the word “Rethuglican” here).
This approach is partly deliberate and partly who we are as writers. Throughout my time working for and with Banter founder Ben Cohen, we’ve always talked about defying expectations and becoming more than just another liberal blog. Along those lines, you’ll find very little political activism here either — seldom will you find the pronoun “we” alongside the proper noun “Democrats” even though it’s fairly obvious which way many of us tend to vote. Likewise, Ben has assembled a team of writers whose articles enhance the unexpected nature of the site, chiefly because we all have strong personalities and varying backgrounds that drive our analysis. Not only do you know our writing, but you know who we are as people — even if you won’t always be able to predict where we’ll land on an issue.
Whether it’s Chez Pazienza’s take on the suicide of Robin Williams, or Tommy Christopher’s take on American Sniper, or Ben’s take on the death of Eric Garner, or Jamie Frevele’s take on abortion, or my take on the Edward Snowden story (resulting in far more liberal hate mail in my Inbox these days, by the way), or Tom McKay’s take on torture, or Michael Luciano’s take on, well, just about anything, The Daily Banter is invariably unexpected and always uniquely insightful. Agree or disagree.
It’s easy to produce comfortable, party-line clickbait and crowd-pleasers, but it takes nards of iron to stand apart and to be unpredictable — to entertain, inform and essentially challenge our readers. Who knows if such an approach will work in the long-run, as much as I truly hope it continues to prosper. But if disaster strikes and if The Daily Banter disappeared tomorrow, I’d be wholly satisfied knowing that we had the integrity to stake out our own unexpected place in the debate, rather that crowding in with all the rest.