January 5, 2010
Confessions of an American Thinker Moderator
It's 6:00 a.m. Bleary-eyed and groggy, the AT moderator drags herself out of bed with a pounding heart and the urgency of an astronaut headed for a space launch. Pulling on sweats, she shuffles into the kitchen to crank up Mr. Coffee while her trusty Mac grinds to life on the workstation in the corner of her bedroom. No time to shower -- the morning rush-hour comment traffic is piling up like the L.A. freeway in a snowstorm. Don't want to keep friends and patriots waiting. Angrytom, Gatorgirl and PsychoDad are likely anxious to join the discussion. Time to check, too, and see if the Midnight Trolls and the sellers of boots and trips to Bali have been cleared from the unapproved comment board.
American Thinker. A community for thinkers from all walks of life, a cyber-world coffee shop, truck stop, water cooler, break room, newsstand. A place where farmers, ranchers, truckers, oilmen, moms, CEOs, and gun shop owners come for their early-morning catch-up of events; where bricklayers, doctors, teachers, and tree-trimmers come to join the discussion, share opinions, and ask questions; where military men and women come to talk about the future of our country. And yes, where the Lefty trolls -- the purveyors of liberal propaganda -- come to disrupt the discussion and undermine conservative resolution and principles.
What is a moderator? Like a civilized home, a reader forum needs ground rules to maintain order, control the food fights, and prevent primordial mud-wallowing. Moderators review incoming comments within the framework of a set of basic comment rules.
"We keep the flow of information and civil discussion moving," says AT moderator Wally. "We're traffic lights -- we turn it green and red and sometimes yellow. But for the most part, we stay out of the way and let the reader express his thoughts." A moderator sometimes feels that he's wearing the hat of a school crossing guard, a high school hall monitor, a coach, or sometimes Mother Teresa or Conan the Barbarian. Moderator Troy says, "I feel a huge sense of responsibility. It's like being a big brother for all the commenters."
American Thinker comment traffic never stops; it flows 24/7/365. The pulse of the nation is felt on the comment pages. Frustration, anger, stress, fear, optimism, and most of all, a deep love of country -- it all comes to us through the voices of our readers. AT regulars keep moderators busy -- Ninja Mouse, Southern Tom, Black Flag, AtomicSwirl, and Nuclear Waste, all dropping in to catch up with fellow thinkers and writers on the current political storms and breaking news.
The 6:00 a.m. moderator -- hunched over her Mac, clicking away on her keyboard stained with spaghetti splatter from last night's late supper while tending to midnight postings -- is not alone. It's a team effort, and the team (volunteers all) is spread far and wide across the land -- from Alaska to Florida, California to North Carolina, Arizona to Minnesota, and Texas to Idaho. Nose glued to the computer, elbows bruised, eyes bloodshot, back sore, legs stiff, kitchen cupboards bare, laundry piled up, mail unread, doctor exams postponed, friends' emails unanswered, oil change overdue, meals forgotten, and that box of Champagne Blonde Lady Clairol sitting way too long unopened, this moderator can understand why one might ask, "Why?"
Moderator Curt says, "I'm treating this moderator thing as a means by which the Universe is teaching me to be more tolerant of all views, and not to rush to judgment. I was moved by a post last night by a man who had gone through World War II." Moderator Kes e-mails the team coordinator to say, "I'm enjoying this, and have already discovered that it's addictive!" Pennsylvania moderator Ed says, "I'm honored to have been asked to be part of the team." And Bill in New York speaks for most of us when he says, "Volunteering my time to AT is just my small way of joining with fellow patriots in fighting for America."
Sharon serves because "[w]e're fully aware that we're very likely participating in the most important political thing we have ever done in our whole thinking American life."
Former Army Airborne Ranger Karl believes, "I'm doing what I passionately think of as my continued duty of National Service; this time in the world of ideas, not air-strikes and machine-gun fire."
A patriot to the core, moderator Inge reflects the spirit of the team: "I'm thrilled to be able to use what skills I have to help save our constitutional republic."
Moderating takes on a unique sense of reality to team members. For moderator Ken, "It's a refreshing and often surprising walk on the 'Far Side' of something called a blog. Some envision Trolls; I see the bar scene from Star Wars."
For moderator Jim, it means "[b]ecoming more politically aware everyday and better equipped to confront liberals when I encounter them on the street."
Karen's sense of reality? "AT is like the 'Justice League' fighting the corrupt power villains with relentless truth. Who wouldn't want to help out Batman in his fight against The Joker?"
American Thinker is fertile ground for the opponents of conservative principles -- trolls. They come one by one and sometimes in an orchestrated firestorm. The intent? To disrupt the conversation and disseminate propaganda. Troll-spotting can be a fun sport for the team. "As the Orcs breach the newly erected AT registration barriers, 'Death to The Trolls' flashes across the team e-mail stream," says Ken. Jon is ready: "Moderating requires a different mindset. Deception trolls? Go figure? So far it's been a lot of fun. Who knew?" Troy is our Roman Centurion at the AT Gate: "Sleep? I'm never gonna sleep again. Those Acorn nuts are gonna have to pull my keyboard from my cold, dead hands!"
Challenges? The team is up for them. Ed in North Carolina says, "The worst is reviewing comments that are longer than the piece they're commenting on." For Karen, "It's reining in my favorite crazy uncles when they spike the punchbowl and set off the cherry bombs."
Dedication? The team works in relays around the clock, watching over the incoming comment board like a mother hen, a junkyard dog, a Jack Bauer on steroids. At 3:00 a.m. on the East Coast, Jon gets up to check on a sick kitty. "He's fighting off a urinary tract infection, so I just thought I'd check the comment board while I'm up to make sure the traffic's moving okay." On the other side of the country, Karen e-mails: "I had to get up to check on my sick son, thought I'd check and see if comments were backed up."
Never dull, always fun. Ron says, "The best part of moderating is having first opportunity to be dazzled or baffled," while Sharon likes it because "[t]he commenters often get it said better and with more class, wit, perspective, and precision than anyone in the MSM world that day."
For Karen, the best is "the great fun and friendship I have with my teammates. Now I have a virtual family as well as my real one -- a real balancing act -- the kids and husband are yelling at me to get in the car, waiting to go shopping, while I say, 'Wait, just one more comment!'"
Why do we love our work? Wally says it best: "Freedom, liberty and independence are enemies of the left and always have been. They fear information. A knowledgeable public is not what the left wants. As moderators, we help American Thinker provide the platform for the information that the left hates to have out there."
Karen e-mails: "Before I was a moderator I imagined a staff of maybe 20 moderators in cubbies at AT's headquarters. Little did I know it was volunteers in homes across the country, stealing a few moments from moderating to make a doctor's appointment, grab a three-minute shower, or throw a pan of brownies in the oven."
American Thinker Editor Thomas Lifson gives the team unconditional support and encouragement. "The Moderator Team performs a critical function for American Thinker. We aspire to be not just a website, but a community of thinkers. Our team enables us to have thoughtful and civil discussions, despite the best efforts of our opponents to sabotage us."