The curious demise of Left2Right

Once upon a time a bunch of well-respected academic philosophers started a blog. The participants had high hopes for the endeavor. Their mission statement said that the contributors had "come to believe that the Left must learn how to speak more effectively to ears attuned to the Right" and that they all shared "an interest in exploring how American political discourse can get beyond the usual talking points."

Despite the terrible name, Left2Right captured an immediate readership. Some hoped that Left2Right would develop into a kind of think tank for the liberal blogosphere, but the promise of Left2Right never quite materialized.

If you followed the link above to Left2Right, you would have seen that the most recent post is dated June 9, 2006. It's not clear whether or not that was the final post, however, since all of the posts by the blog's most frequent contributor, David Velleman, have been removed. What happened?

Probably lots of things. From the beginning, Left2Right had an uneasy relationship with its commenters, so much so that it quickly became commonplace for contributors to close their posts to comments, a practice which led to the establishment of a fan run comment blog in July of 2005. It's also true that despite having twenty two authors listed on the masthead, few of the contributors to Left2Right found that, when it came down to it, they had much to say to the public. Even though Left2Right was never updated with particular frequency, a (now deleted) housekeeping post from March of 2006 declared that, "Most of us found the first year's pace unsustainable."

And then there's the case of the NYU Graduate Employee strike. The strike began in October 2005 and early on David Velleman staked out an anti-union position.[1] He continued to post occasionally about the strike through the fall and into the winter. Since so much of the content at Left2Right was contributed by Velleman, the upshot is that Left2Right became increasingly identified with the view that graduate employees should not be granted access to collective bargaining. This was not, to say the least, a popular view[2] among Left2Right's core constituency.

Was that it? Did Velleman's apostasy bring about the end of Left2Right? Or was it just a bad idea to begin with? An idea that had run its course? A bunch of academics who weren't cut out for the hurly burly of the blogosphere?

Anyway, it's gone now.

1 Incidentally, I've been spending some time going through the archives here at the big bad grad union and can testify that David Velleman has been an anti-union asshole for a long time. I also have it on good authority that he's a pleasant person otherwise.

2 Nor was it Velleman's only unpopular view. More recently Velleman's argument against gay marriage raised some hackles.

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