Saturday, February 17, 2007


Came across the alternative to Babble at Rabble.....still going strong with a blog and discussion forum.

Q:How did enMasse come to be?
A:Well... you'd better take a seat... Where to begin?

EnMasse came into being after Audra Williams, the moderator of the babble discussion forums at was fired by the Management Committee by e-mail during a series of life crises. Audra was an extremely well-liked moderator and was largely responsible for the creation of babble at the time of the Quebec City protests in 2001 and for its success until April of 2006, when she was summarily fired.

After firing Audra, the Management Committee proceded to adopt an extremely hardnosed attitude towards her and towards outraged members of the community, of which there were many. The Management Committee refused to negotiate and some members of the community began actively spamming the discussion forum in an effort to secure Audra's re-instatement. At the same time as the spamming of the discussion forums, a movement for a "strike" against babble developed, largely led by the babbler with the handle Kevin Laddle. The strikers refused to post to babble until Audra was re-instated.

The "Babble Strike" movement grew and on April 10, 2006, a new discussion forum was created on a server paid for by The JF. This forum was initially known as the Babble Strike Forum (BSF). In the first two days over 150 babblers left to join the BSF. At first the BSF was used as a forum to debate the response to the actions of the Management Committee and to debate the possible future of the BSF as an independent progressive discussion forum.

As it became increasingly clear that the Management Committee would never agree to the re-instatement of Audra or any of the accountability and democracy reforms demanded by the babble strikers, a consensus developed to forge ahead with the creation of a new progressive space on the internet. At that time, the site was re-named "Temporary Left Wing Board" while a decision was made regarding the naming of the site.

On April 28th of 2006, only eighteen days after the site's founding, the name "enMasse," often shortened to EM, was chosen by a significant margin in a vote of the membership.

EM has suffered through growing pains and several unfortunate and painful divisions among the membership leading to the departure of a significant number of members. However, as of September 2006 seems to be on a steady footing and is a thriving and vital community.

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Dr.Dawg said...

Good synopsis, Eugene.

I'm one of the self-banned, by the way. The moderation at EnMasse sucks, bigtime, and I was at the ass-end of that last Fall. But the creation of that board was a blow for democracy, no mistake. I simply can't believe the folks over at Rabble--my protest to Judy ended a pretty positive association with her over the years. They just got all Stalinist about their own role, about accountability, about the treatment of their own workers.

I don't see, though, when all is said and done, that EnMasse has made any improvements with respect to democracy and accountability. It, too, is a degenerate workers' state. :)

skdadl said...

Hi, Eugene. I'm sort of glad to see that some bloggers have noticed some of what happened last April-May on what eventually shook out into three boards, not just two.

Both babble and EM continue to roll along. Very shortly after the original split, a number of the long-timers from babble who had migrated to EM -- many of us women although not all -- set up a third board called Bread and Roses, whose immediate success surprised even those of us who were founders (under our Fearless Leader, Debra). Although BnR is sometimes derisively referred to as "the women's board" -- and gosh, why would that be derisive, do you think? -- the fact is that our membership is about half and half sexwise, and the male half is the cream of the blogging cream, eh? ;-)

Eugene, you have been through enough of these things to know that the history involved, for those who lived through it, is immensely complex. No outsider is ever going to be able to describe what happened to some of us in those furiously active two months last spring. The politics mattered; the personal losses mattered terribly; some wounds are very deep.

But. After a year, the three boards have settled into a decent and sometimes productive truce, imho. A lot of us have known each other for a long time now -- I've been talking to the most active babblers since spring 2001. And a number of people post to all three boards. On a couple of campaigns we have already started to co-operate -- in particular, the feminists on all three boards share some deep commitments and have been able to act together.

I'm a blogger but I come from the boards and I still spend a lot of my time there. I sometimes detect a little cheap snobbery towards the boards from bloggers, many of whom, in my experience, are a lot greener about how the innertubes work than are the vets of the boards.

On a very disciplined board like BnR, where people are committed to activism and to community support at the same time, you can get a hive-mind going that few blogs are ever going to match, and I believe that deserves some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Fearless Leader has been exemplary in teaching and encouraging all of our grils and gyus to reach out beyond our own circle, and it has been amazin' to see how quickly that can work.

It is undeniable that the splits that happened last spring really damaged some people for some time, me among them. It took me months to get over what was done to me in public at EM, and what happened in private was worse.

But still. I did get over it. There are three related boards, and they can and do cross-fertilize. I will empathize with anyone who was hurt in the cross-fire, but I think that we all managed to come through for the better.

Audra said...

Thanks for this! It's nice to see it all written down. It was like the worst thing at the worst time and I just can't even believe it still.