No Open Discussion: Val and the senior Babalú editors micromanage every aspect of Babalú. They are not content merely to post their opinions and have their readers react to them. They feel the urge to manipulate the comment threads so that they reflect the opinions stated in the posts. A great deal of time and effort is spent tailoring other people's opinions to match their own. This is done by banning pro forma anyone who expresses an opinion contrary to theirs, or simply deleting the opinion if they feel munificent that day, with an accompanying rebuke threatening future expulsion. For a time they even doled out "suspensions" to its commenters for sundry offenses such as not being sufficiently obeisant to its editors, which is certainly understandable from the manner in which they are treated.
When, for whatever reason, a thread managed to "get away from them" and they lost control over its content, their solution was to delete the post and offending thread, that is, flush it down the memory hole. This happened only last week to Henry Gómez's "Squashing the Losers" post and its accompanying thread, where Henry tried to justify Killcastro's recent outing by Val Prieto on his own blog. Except that even Babalú's approved commenters would have none of it and challenged Henry continually on it till he said "No Más" and made the thread, and, he hoped, the controversy disappear. That post (which I have saved) was significant because in it Henry revealed in exasperation what many had long suspected: No. 1 and No. 2 not only must approve the opinions of commenters before these are inserted in Babalú, but also the posts of its contributing editors, who have only so much independence as Val & Henry choose to grant them.
The end result of all this cutting and trimming was to create a perfectly predictable blog, where everybody marched in lockstep, both posters and commenters. This is what George Moneo described, perhaps sarcastically, as "Babalú's magnificent cadres." Only yesterday, Babalú's new ideologist, rsnlk, wrote what could be called the "Babalú Creed" which codified, sanctified, enshrined all these practices into a "philosophy of conformity" that owes much to George Orwell's 1984 and to every Communist, Fascist or National Socialist programme ever devised to degrade the dignity of man and magnify the importance of the State. A Babalú contributing writer, the only professional journalist on its staff, dissented with the official ideology, as we desperately hoped against hope that someone would. It was a discussion that only Val Prieto felt safe to join. The discussion ended abruptly and without resolution. The thread has a kind of stunted appearance which suggests that others may have tried to join in the discussion but were turned away. I suppose that it is out of respect for Marc Másferrer, whose focus on political prisoners is the most laudable thing about Babalú, that his remarks have not been deleted, though don't exactly hold your breath. They have now proclaimed it: there is no room at Babalú for non-conformists. If Val's instincts are right, he has very few of those on staff.
Let us hope that Val is wrong about Babalu's contributing writers and that at least some of them will join Marc's protest. My message to the other 15 contributing writers: An audience of 2000-3000 readers a day, or even an audience of 100 million, is not worth selling you conscience and integrity for. The only culpable slaves are those who wear their chains as a talisman.
No Transparency: There has never been any transparency at Babalú. Personal revelations by its editor-in-chief, yes. Plenty of those, from Val's various ailments, depressions and even questions of personal toilet (i.e. shaving his legs) to his continuing "This New House" series dedicated to the Prieto manse, his other work in progress. But none of that is transparency, rather, it is curtain which Val's hangs to conceal the absolute lack of candor or forthrightness on Babalú. A prime example of this was disappearance -- indeed, the airbrushing -- of George Moneo, which remains to be explained by George the good soldier or anybody else at Babalú. Everybody is used to the banning of commenters at Babalú; it is the reason there are virtually none left there. But the banning of a contributing editor, with seniority over everybody except the blog owner, requires an explanation that was never proferred. It's part of their "not airing dirty linen" policy. But, of course, sometimes it is necessary to wash and air the dirty laundry. Keeping it stacked up in a smelly pile is not the answer. Light and air is.
Hopefully, Val will realize this before it's too late or the other Babalú contributors who have approved or tolerated his actions in the past will finally call him to task for sabotaging in a thousand ways their project and compromising their own integrity in the process of destroying his.