I've recently learned that the “Davis Vanguard” is not a safe place in which to comment, unless you don’t mind experiencing doxing in violation of the Vanguard’s own policies, which are further discussed below.
When I first started commenting (several years ago), “real” names were not even required. Some suspected that more than one fake name/account was used, by some individual commenters. I have always used my real name, and added my last name when the Vanguard changed its policy to require full names.
However, no one “signed-up” for doxing as a result of that change in commenting requirements. Perhaps this result is predictable on a political blog in which moderation occurs “after” posting of comments – if at all.
In any case, the Vanguard is also a place to avoid if you don’t like having your comments labeled as racist by those intending to discredit others (which I’ve learned to laugh about). You can see a recent example of the latter responded to here, from the same commenter who is being defended by the Vanguard in regard to violating their own policies. So, if the doxing doesn’t discourage you from challenging the Vanguard, perhaps having your comments labeled as “racist” will.
Perhaps it’s not a “coincidence” that the commenter whose name-calling and doxing attempts (also) repeatedly attacks me in regard to development issues that the Vanguard supports. But this article isn’t primarily about having comments called “racist”, and the example above occurred after I decided to write this article. Nor is it actually about the commenter himself – it’s about how the Vanguard administers its own policies, especially when its views are challenged.
Those with views that are different than what the Vanguard espouses have long-experienced disproportionate levels of ridicule, name-calling, continuing threats of outright banning (relayed via email), and recently-created comment limitations - which don’t apply to the Executive Editor and Founder of the Vanguard, David Greenwald. Such comments originate primarily from those who largely support the Vanguard’s point of view (a small, resident “peanut gallery”), as well as directly from Greenwald and Vanguard Moderator, Don Shor. The comment section consistently degrades as a result, essentially creating a “tit-for-tat” atmosphere - in which the “judge” of what’s allowed to remain rests with those whose reporting and views are being challenged in the first place. (You can probably “guess” which comments and doxing attempts are allowed to remain, under that scenario.)
Truth be told, there aren’t a lot of slow-growth commenters left on the Vanguard, at this point. For that matter, there aren’t a lot of commenters remaining at all, these days. But (with a few exceptions) those who remain are largely the “pit bulls” of the commenting world.
It is not a level playing field, and never was. However, the most recent action is something entirely different.
Let's review the Vanguard's doxing policy:
Doxing: Doxing is not permissible. Doxing is defined as: “search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the Internet, typically with malicious intent.” This includes posting personal (information), even when publicly available.
As noted, one of the Vanguard's more-aggressive commenters (Richard McCann) recently researched and posted links to local news articles (one of which dated back several years) for the sole purpose of attempting to divulge personal information about me. The link had no relationship whatsoever to the topic of the article, nor to any of the other comments made.
The commenter then stated that I was attempting to “hide” information (and specifically cited the personal information), which is not the case (nor is it supported by any of the comments I’ve made, at any point in time). If one were to actually examine the comments I’ve made over the years, this would be obvious. Then again, I don’t feel any need to specifically disclose personal information as a requirement for commenting on the Vanguard. I recommend that no one do so either, given the commenting environment on the Vanguard. (However, as noted – others may do so “for you”, with the Vanguard’s blessing.)
Evidence of the commenter’s intent was demonstrated by inclusion of a comment (in reference to the citation) that was the opposite of what he normally argues. But more to the point, it was irrelevant and put forth solely to discredit, which violates the following Vanguard policies:
Off-Topic Commenting: Comments that do not pertain to the topic of the main post will be removed by the moderator.
Personal Comments: Discussions should be limited to the topic of conversation and not focus on the individual commenters. Any comments that focus on personal rather than substantive and topical should be removed.
All of this was brought to the attention of both Executive Editor, Greenwald and Moderator, Shor, but the comment remained for an extended period - and they have subsequently taken to defending it (and ultimately allowed a similar version to be reposted, as well). As a result, the “doxer” (and the Vanguard) assumed unilateral authority regarding “which” personal information regarding someone else will be researched and shared, and the original commenter’s decisions are rendered irrelevant.
Technically, one does not even need to actually participate on the Vanguard for this to occur.
I could post the series of subsequent emails regarding the incident in question (so that you can all be a judge of the Vanguard’s response), but I am not sure if this is a good idea. Don Shor (the Vanguard’s resident moderator) suggested more than once that I stop commenting on the Vanguard, among other things.
Mr. Shor is apparently the person who initially made the decision to both ignore my request to remove the comment, and also engaged in the series of emails referred to, above. He has repeatedly ignored the same type of doxing attempts in the past, as well – allowing them to remain in place for extended periods.
Mr. Greenwald and Mr. Shor have subsequently come up with a justification stating that since my comments appeared in a newspaper article (without my knowledge at that time), they are "fair game" for doxing purposes. There was no explanation regarding the reason that other public sources of information are "off limits", such as the source apparently used to dox one of the Vanguard's resident board members some time ago - which (of course) was quickly dealt with by the Vanguard.
Again, the links to the articles that were more recently-posted contained information that was personal and intended by the commenter to discredit, which was the sole reason for the reference to it. His accompanying comment was abundantly clear, regarding that reason.
Rather than addressing the doxing and violation of its own policies, the Vanguard has subsequently come up with a contrived distinction regarding the types of public sources that can be used for doxing. As such, this subsequent “explanation” creates more confusion and is not based upon any objective criteria. In such an environment as the Vanguard, this confusion will likely lead to more “tit-for-tat” attempts at doxing, in which the Vanguard itself will be the judge in regard to those whose comments they clearly don’t like. Again, with no objective criteria to make that decision. It is also likely that the Vanguard will end-up banning those whom they subjectively decide are “violating” policies, while also leaving the doxing comments in place. This is essentially a form of online bullying.
This is not the first time that doxing attempts have been made (and allowed to remain posted for extended periods), by various commenters. I can name all of the them here, easily. But this is the first time that the Vanguard has actually defended doxing against a commenter who consistently challenges the claims made by the Vanguard.
The principals behind the Vanguard engage in personal attacks themselves (including labeling of comments as “racist”, and outright refusal to allow responses to those attacks – regardless of content). The latter occurred in one article in which Greenwald and another commenter labeled two other commenters’ comments as racist. After a day or two, all of the comments were deleted.
The hostile commenting environment is directed at those who challenge the Vanguard, and is discouraging community dialog by driving away participants. One only has to look at “who” is left on the Vanguard, to observe the dearth of participants. Especially those whose views don’t align with the Vanguard’s in regard to slow growth goals.
The Vanguard’s focus on promoting local development, combined with a broader focus on criminal justice is a strange marriage. The Vanguard's external funding is growing (a recent article stated that it was more than $200K/year), but their 2020 tax forms have not been posted.
Of course, if an organization such as the Vanguard is supportive of attorneys or groups who are suing cities and police departments for large sums, support is likely to flow both ways. And since they’re also able to recruit pre-law students inexpensively (or "for free") - which enables those students to meet scholastic requirements, you also have a very low-cost labor force, subsidized by universities themselves. As such, the Vanguard has found a way to be successful, while alienating large portions of the community with impunity. Perhaps that’s why they believe that their own policies are irrelevant to them, and that they can easily afford to purposefully alienate others.
The same type of dynamic applies in regard to development interests (and the development community’s support of the Vanguard), as well as the Vanguard's relationship with some of the students who work for development interests.
Of course, there’s no way that I’d support the Vanguard. But what I don’t understand is why someone like Don Shor would continue to be part of it (both in terms of moderating the comments without concern regarding the Vanguard’s policy, but also – actually participating in the comments).
Of course, Don has also publicly, purposefully, and repeatedly acknowledged (on the Vanguard itself) that he is part of the development team for Nishi, while advocating for Nishi (link). He is also continuing to express support for other peripheral development, including that which contains low-density sprawl.
In any case, the Vanguard is working against the interests of Davis and its residents. Or at least anyone interested in journalistic integrity. As such, it is probably wise to avoid commenting on there, for anyone other than those without an extremely thick skin, who may also be willing to be doxed and attacked (repeatedly). And/or are determined to continue challenging them, regardless.
But don’t “mistake” the Vanguard as remotely adhering to its original guiding principles, let alone its commenting policies.
If you are nevertheless determined to support or participate in the Vanguard, note that personal information is at risk of being researched and posted in a purposeful attempt to discredit, regardless of its accuracy, completeness, or relevance. Again, as part of a blatant and naked attempt to discredit and focus attention on an individual making a comment, rather than the comment being made – in direct violation of the Vanguard’s own policies in regard to personal and off-topic comments, as well as its doxing policy.
In short, the Vanguard simply doesn’t seem to care about journalistic integrity, their own policies, or alienating large swaths of the community. The Vanguard has found a way to be successful without being concerned about such issues. You (as an individual commenter) are nothing more than a fly in their ointment - to be continuously swatted (or possibly banned – if you don’t leave on your own). Greenwald’s own comments reflect that attitude.
The Vanguard has bigger goals than Davis can offer (with the exception of its continuing promotion of local development proposals). Greenwald has proudly noted that the most-read articles are those which are focused beyond Davis. (Again, looking forward to his posting of 2020 tax returns, so we can see where the corresponding increase in funding is coming from.)
In any case, it seems that he’s not ready to move beyond his promotion on behalf of the local development community at this point.
I told David Greenwald that I was writing this article in advance of doing so. As such, Greenwald sent me an email today, stating that he was planning further doxing of me (using other public records), stating that it was “relevant” to my participation on the Vanguard, and suggested that I answer further personal questions. As part of that email, Greenwald is now threatening to expand the types of public information that that he may allow to be used for doxing purposes, in contrast to his initial response. He has since allowed a doxing comment similar to the one in question to be “re-posted”, as well.
None of this is actually documented in any of the Vanguard’s policies.
Also - in his subscriber article today, Greenwald continues to celebrate the decline of The Enterprise, and notes that he is actually planning to increase local coverage (presumably using paid staffers). As such, it appears that he wants to increasingly replace The Enterprise. As a “non-profit”, it appears that much of the Vanguard’s funding is in the form of grants provided by other organizations for specific purposes. As such, expanding local coverage could potentially lead to expenditures of funds for purposes other than their intended use. For example, for the purpose of “taking out” another news publication (in this case a traditional “for profit” one) and replacing them.
Regardless of what the Vanguard attempts with me (personally), perhaps the bigger concern is Greenwald’s apparent hope to replace the Enterprise. At least the Enterprise is not operated in a manner that’s intended to bully those with different political views/goals. Perhaps Mr. Greenwald’s plans are something that everyone should be concerned about – and not just those who experience the consequences of doxing on the Vanguard.