The following is a pseudo-biography of Markos C. Alberto Moulitsas Zúñiga that I encountered today at Today's Profile.
My experience with these biographies of MAMZ that are based on interviews with him is that he tells a lot of tales that make no sense and/or are easily disproved with some Google research.
Based on my experience editing the Truth About Kos blog, there is a strong likelihood that research into the information below will turn up fatal inconsistencies, unverifiable assertions, and will be found to lack significant information. Surely, there are important facts missing and what "facts" there are, particularly about his advocacy for Latinos in Boston, deserve to be independently verified or refuted.
In fact, I challenge readers to try to independently verify or refute any detail below, and report the facts that you uncover -- with sources -- in the comments.
Moulitsas Zuniga, Markos
Sep. 11, 1971- Blogger; social activist; writer
2007 Biograph from Current Biography
The politicians had not come to meet with a labor union, environmental group, or other traditionally influential segment of voters. They were in Las Vegas to meet 900 left-wing bloggers, all of whom had descended on the city at the urging of one man, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the creator of the most widely read political blog in the country, Daily Kos.
Currently boasting up to 600,000 Internet visits per day, Daily Kos is at the forefront of a movement to reorganize the Democratic Party, and politics in general, by moving a measure of power away from the seat of national government, in Washington, D.C., and spreading it across the country through the Web. "The whole phenomenon has overturned the traditional understanding of how groups organize themselves to affect politicians," Ryan Lizza wrote for the New Republic (June 26, 2006).
As the de facto leader of this phenomenon, christened the "netroots movement," Moulitsas has risen to a position of enormous political influence in just a few years--using only a computer. In its current form, Daily Kos, an interactive Web site, allows anyone with Internet access to post a "diary" on the site; readers rate the diaries, and those with the highest recommendations appear most prominently. Daily Kos bloggers who support particular politicians can reach up to 600,000 people per day with their endorsements, making it worth the Democrats' while to put in personal appearances at conventions such as the one in Las Vegas.
While other left-wing political blogs also hold sway, Daily Kos is by far the most influential in the netroots movement. "I don't have any illusions that I'm a great writer," Moulitsas said to Current Biography, explaining his success. "The skill that I do have is being able to organize communities, and that's why Daily Kos has crushed any other political blog out there."
The veteran journalist Mickey Kaus is widely credited with inventing the blog in 1999, when he began a political diary posted on the on-line magazine Slate. The form soon took off, with people creating blogs on topics from politics to home improvement to motherhood. Blogs and bloggers are part of a culture separate from journalism or other forms of more traditional media: the language is more casual, the effects are more immediate, and, most importantly in the political realm, the blogger is not expected to conform to standards of objectivity.
As a leader in that increasingly influential field, Moulitsas has gained legions of followers as well as his share of critics. He is known for a polarizing personality that has made him a multitude of enemies among both Republicans and the mainstream media. In an article for the New York Times (September 26, 2004), Matthew Klam described Moulitsas as "cruel and superior," and while Benjamin Wallace-Wells noted in the Washington Monthly (January-February 2006) that Moulitsas is "extremely smart," he also went on to call the blogger "intense and high-strung" as well as "irascible, self-contradictory, often petty, always difficult."
Those within the blog world itself, however, tend to speak favorably of Moulitsas. "Kos is the platonic ideal of a blogger; he posts all the time, he interacts with his readers," Ana Marie Cox, formerly a political blogger, told Klam. Alex S. Jones, director of Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, expressed a theory about the level of examination now leveled at Moulitsas, one that has little to do with his personality and everything to do with the revolutionary changes in blogging over the past couple of years.
"The blogosphere has always been mainly about scrutinizing everybody else and expressing violent opinions about them," Jones told Michael Grynbaum for the Boston Globe (July 6, 2006). "Kos is a very powerful blog, so in that sense it's taken on the vulnerability of one of the [political] leaders."
In 1975, the year Alexander was born, the family moved to El Salvador during that country's brutal civil war, in which anti-Communist government forces had the backing of the United States. Living in an environment where gunshots and explosions were everyday occurrences deeply affected Moulitsas's views on war--and on recent U.S. policy regarding armed conflict.
In the U.S., "war is a video game," he told Kara Platoni for the East Bay Express (December 15, 2004). "I've seen firsthand the ravages of war and the hatred, and just the notion that politics can be a life or death issue." In 1980, when Moulitsas was nine years old, his parents received an envelope containing photographs of him and his brother boarding a bus to school, a threatening gesture from the rebel troops who wanted to use the Moulitsases' house as headquarters. The family left El Salvador soon afterward and returned to the Chicago area, this time to Schaumburg, a suburb of the city.
He described his time there--and, subsequently, at Robert Frost Junior High School and Schaumburg High School--to Current Biography: "What was tough for me, of course, was I had the funny accent, and I looked younger [than] my age." Those years, he added, were "pretty miserable." While in high school Moulitsas began taking piano lessons; playing the piano became a passion that provided an escape from the challenges of school and led him to consider a career as a professional musician. His ambitions were not limited to music, though. "I wanted to be everything when I grew up," he told Current Biography. "I wanted to be president of the United States."
For Moulitsas, who came from a lower-middle-class family, entering the military seemed a good way to obtain a college education. In addition, Moulitsas, who planned to run for elective office in the future, felt that military service would benefit him in the long term. [Emphasis added.]
"I thought if I was ever in a position to send people to war, it would be hypocritical for me to do so if I myself had not served in the army," he told Current Biography. During basic training in Oklahoma, Moulitsas managed--despite his considerably smaller build--to finish with the lead group in a grueling, 16-mile road march, the first in a series of confidence-building experiences he underwent in the army. He spent most of his service as a fire-direction specialist for a missile unit in the small town of Bamburg, Germany.
After the Persian Gulf War of 1991 was launched, Moulitsas's unit was scheduled to be deployed to Saudi Arabia. The war ended, however, before they could be called into action. Moulitsas returned to the U.S. with a newfound confidence, the nickname "Kos," and, perhaps most importantly, a radically altered set of political beliefs. When Moulitsas entered the army, he had been a fervent Republican, largely because of the Republican president Ronald Reagan's support for the Salvadoran government.
"I didn't know any better," he told Current Biography. But the communal nature of his experiences in the army made him think differently about what he described as the Republicans' "selfish" approach to government. In 1992, while still casting a vote for the Republican candidate--George H. W. Bush that year--in the presidential race, he voted for Democrats in many statewide races.
"It was hard for me to make a transition because I spent all my formative years as a Republican, and a pretty hardcore one," he told Current Biography. "It's always difficult when you believe in something so long, to admit to yourself that you were wrong." By 1996, however, Moulitsas had become what he called a "straight ticket Democrat," completely embracing a liberal agenda.
"It's always been a point of pride of mine, that I'm always on the cutting edge of technology everywhere I go," he told Current Biography. He dropped his music major and graduated in 1996 with two degrees--one in philosophy, the other in political science and journalism. Also in 1996, several years before the term "blog" was coined, Moulitsas started the Hispanic-Latino News Service, a Web site to which he devoted three hours each day, sifting through and uploading news stories from around the U.S. and entering all the programming code manually.
Soon after Daily Kos's launch, Joe Trippi, the campaign manager for the 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean, recruited Moulitsas and Armstrong as technology advisers to the Dean campaign. The pair formed a consulting firm, Armstrong-Zuniga, suggesting such then-radical ideas as using Web sites for fund-raising and enlisting the activist site MeetUp.com to organize Dean supporters in their respective locales. Armstrong stopped blogging for the duration of the campaign, moving to Dean's headquarters in Burlington, Vermont.
Moulitsas continued blogging, disclosing his work as a consultant to Dean on Daily Kos the day after the deal was made. He would be criticized often for endorsing Dean while receiving a salary from the campaign, but ultimately, because of his full disclosure, his reputation did not suffer serious damage. Dean dropped out of the race on February 18, 2004; John Kerry later became the Democratic presidential nominee.
Moulitsas, however, said that he still considered the effort a success, as he and his readers had forced several incumbent Republican candidates to spend their time and money campaigning for their previously safe seats, instead of traveling the country to stump for other candidates. The Daily Kos's fund-raising campaign also was one of the earliest examples of a movement christened "netroots," driven by an increasingly recognized group of on-line Democratic activists. By rallying his readers around specific candidates, Moulitsas nationalized what would have been, in many cases, races of purely local interest.
The "gate" of the title refers to Washington, D.C., and what Armstrong and Moulitsas see as the insularity of national politics--a quality they believe can be eliminated, at least partially, through the Internet. "What we're saying is that people now are empowered by technology to take an active role in their government, take an active role in the media and not let D.C. dictate what happens and what doesn't happen in this country anymore," he told Russert.
In an assessment for the New York Times Book Review (March 26, 2006), Peter Beinart called the book "persuasive" and an "insightful guide to how the Democratic Party can retake power." Lee Drutman similarly praised the book in the Los Angeles Times (May 30, 2006). "Crashing the Gate is brash and infuriating, as it should be . . . ," she wrote. "It commands attention."
Lizza viewed the scene differently, noting the $50,000 party thrown by former governor Warner, the open-bar party at the Hard Rock Casino hosted by General Clark, and the breakfast function organized by Governor Richardson. "Las Vegas could be the beginning of a new era of blogger influence and authority," Lizza wrote. "Or it might just be the weekend they all sold out."
For his part, Moulitsas assured the bloggers that they still represented a movement separate from the political establishment. In his keynote address at the convention, he asserted the need for bloggers and other ordinary citizens to take action. "The media elite has failed us; the political elite, both parties, has failed us--Republicans have failed us because they can't govern; Democrats have failed us because they can't get elected. So now it's our turn," he said, as quoted by Brownstein. "We have arrived," he added, as quoted by the National Review (July 5, 2006). "There's no doubt we're turning the political world upside down."
Regarding those results, Moulitsas told Current Biography, "I'm focused, really, on building a long-term movement. So I don't get too disappointed about losing . . . and I don't get too excited about winning." He said that he is looking ahead to the elections of 2016, the year he predicts the Democrats will be competitive with the Republicans in terms of party infrastructure.
He is also working on a redesign of the Daily Kos site that would allow for considerably more traffic; that project is slated for completion in 2008. In 2004 Daily Kos launched dKospedia.com, an encyclopedia of more than 7,000 political articles written and compiled by members of the Daily Kos community. In January 2005 Moulitsas began to post SB Nation, a network of sports blogs. Both dKospedia.com and SB Nation are active and expanding.
Suggested Reading: Newsweek p34+ July 3, 2006; New York Review of Books (on-line) Apr. 27, 2006; New York Times IV p12 June 25, 2006; San Francisco Chronicle A p1+ Apr. 5, 2006; Washington Monthly p18+ Jan./Feb. 2006
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