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Mission Mission blogger Kevin Montgomery, never one to shy away from controversy, had the temerity to post a critique of the Knockout’sDebaser 90’s Alternative Dance Party,” a regularly-scheduled evening intended to “take a look back at the decade we grew up in and try and suss out a few dominant themes, sounds, feels.”*

There was a time when some guy on a blog said something like “what brand of douchebag goes to a club that, presumably, hires some jackass” (actually, as Montgomery noted to me, the “jackass” in question is Chris Brennan, one of Debaser’s organizers) “to take photos of their trashed customers, watermarks/brands/copyrights the photo, and upload them to flickr?” and you’d hear nothing but crickets. I know this, because I said shit like this all the time in desperate bids for attention and traffic during my tenure at the early days of a local blog which was far less monolithic then than now.

But this is not 2004, this is the post Yelp bookstore beatdown era! So Debaser (should I be writing “Debaser” in all caps, like a Gate commenter? They write it in all caps. I HATE THE 90S.) goes all fatwa on Kevin’s ass, telling its “fans” “this guy at mission mission thinks you all are a bunch of douche bags. no joke. please flame him.”

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We asked Montgomery, who earns more than his fair share of negative comments on the best of days, if he’d gotten “flame”d on his blog. “I don’t think I’ve received more negative comments, I think I’ve received more comments from people with @sfsu.edu email addresses.” Montgomery said.

“In reality, asking people to “flame a blog” is generally an immature response to criticism and only makes the whole operation look more pitiful than bragging about their ‘press’ in 7×7 already did,” he said.

Montgomery says that his point is that “taking ‘sick’ photos of your customers is douchey and, guess what, for all the promotion you do, the ‘party’ really wasn’t that ‘sick.'”

I asked Montgomery do you think that Mission Mission is seen as an institution, and that maybe they felt picked on? This unleashed quite a tirade.

I think Debaser is so used to having free press in 7×7 because they have a pretentious photographer taking “party shots” all night that they are not used to people telling it like it is.

They act like the place was a non-stop dance party but no one was dancing for 2 hours.

To claim that leaving around midnight makes me a “party pooper” is kinda ridiculous. I’ve never been to a “club” in which people stood around that late. I paid 5 bucks to dance. Rolled in there with 9 people and it was dead.

We got drunk, bullshitted for hours then decided the place was not as exciting as eating Mexican fast food.

So, maybe they felt picked on, but in reality, I don’t think they are used to having to be compared to good club nights.

Sadly, our attempts to contact Debaser organizer Chris Brennan haven’t gotten a response at publication time, (I am already scared of “flaming”!) but we’ll update if we hear back.

Regardless of whether or not Debaser sucks** (as Tommy Lee Jones said in The Fugitive, “I don’t care!”), what do you think of Debaser’s retaliatory response to Montgomery’s assessment of their party? Over reaction to honest criticism, or quid pro quo in an era when the critic/critiqued relationship is a permeable membrane?

Update: huh! A tipster directs us to this update from Debaser, which says “oh my god! they are totally trolling us!” then follows with “ps. i don’t see how the dozens of really nice, supportive comments people have sent is attacking. you people are crazy!”

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No, Debaser, we’re not trolling you. We’ve tried to reach you through your FaceBook page and through the email form on one of your organizer’s, Chris Brennan’s site. Writing an article about you is not “trolling.” (And, hey, Chris just commented, so I’ve emailed him twice, after both his comments. More soon!)

As I noted in the comments and in my original footnote to this article, I was hopeful that we could have a discussion about the changing relationship between critics and the businesses they cover. It looks like that’s not an option. That’s too bad, it would have been fun.

*It is true, I did not get enough dominant theme sussing in undergrad!

**Because, right? We know how middle school this sounds. Someone was mean on a blog, then someone was mean on FaceBook OH NOES. But get past that, if you can. This is an interesting example of how businesses respond to criticism in what’s a new day.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • Xenu

    San Francisco needs a panties de-twisting agency. People get all worked up over the stupidest shit.

  • Greg Dewar

    @xenu: haha

    if they hadn’t gone all “lets spam a blog” I would never have known about any of this….

  • Haze Valet

    I went to Debaser this weekend…AND… welll, I guess you could call that dancing…. IT looked like a lot of people born in 1987 rocking out to Grunge music? Which they probably picked up from their super hip parents. I think Maybe the DJs were either born around the same time, or maybe they are just from Orange County. NEWays… Blink 182 and No Doubt are not really my idea of Alternative Rock. $5 for getting my ass all the way down to the Knockout is not worth it… and the drinks are more expensive than the Latin American Club and Uptown… Debaser dude totes needs to chill out.

  • SFGroover

    Seriously. All y’all are amateurs. Self-entitled, poor-me, I’m-a-victim amateurs.

    Don’t ever think you’re doing “journalism.”

  • micah

    As an acquaintance of Kevin, as well as old friends with both Jamie and Chris, this whole thing strikes me as completely ridiculous…

    On one hand, Kevin is right on some points. Yes, Diary at Pop’s might be a better deal, drinks-wise, what with the $1 High Life. But the comparison is a bad one, as Diary is pretty much not a dance night… It’s a bunch of people getting drunk and listening to music (which is one of Kevin’s complaints about Debaser, it would seem).

    But, to clearly go into a night with preconceived notions about what it’s all about, to leave before actually seeing the stuff he knows must happen eventually (it’s not like the pictures he lambasts are Photoshopped with anything but the watermark), and then be surprised that the promoters are upset is just, well, trolling.

    That said, that Chris and Jamie decided to respond to the trolling is pretty dumb as well.

    Hey everyone, welcome to the internet! People say mean things, get over it.
    Hey everyone, welcome to the real world! Some people have fun doing things you don’t like, get over it.

  • bloomsm

    The hipster pretentiousness levels in here are rising to threat level red.

  • Eve Batey

    I don’t know about that! Perhaps I’m risking increasing the pretentiousness level even further, but I’m fascinated with this idea of businesses that are criticized online mobilizing their customers against their critics. Is this what businesses need to do in response to Yelp, et al? Or is a reaction like that a potential threat to the free press, because it’s intimidating to writers?

    I didn’t want to say that overtly in the article because it’s Serious Media Talk, which can be so pedantic. But perhaps my flippant tone did a disservice to the serious question I want to ask, which is along the lines of where boundaries should lie for both parties (critic and business being critiqued).

    Or not! Don’t let me camp counselor the discussion. Just telling y’all where my head’s at.

  • bloomsm

    An intelligent business would avoid doing anything to offend its customers. The prudent stance is to avoid conflict and ignore the criticism.

  • sfresident

    Mission Mission practices a needlessly nasty, personal, and inane version of pseudo-journalism, seems like they probably ought to expect these sorts of responses. The club’s reaction fits well with MM’s description, though. Nobody wins.

    @blooms – I’m not entirely sure if that’s true. Ethics aside, mobilizing your customers can be a great way to build “brand loyalty.”

  • Kevin Montgomery

    Mission Mission isn’t journalism; it’s a blog.

  • Chris Brennan

    First off, nobody has tried to contact me from your site or missionmission.

    I am not THE organizer of debaser, we are several.

    I did not make the post inciting people to flame back, but I assure you the person who posted it thinks this is way funnier than I do and is not taking it seriously. He meant it as a joke, and they were getting plenty of commentary before that was posted. What I’m trying to get across here is that this is a far cry from the Yelp situations you reference.

    It’s confusing to me that this kid Kevin has taken the time to review a regular boring night at a mission bar; however it strikes me that “covering” totally banal and insignificant moments in the mission seems to be the aim of that blog so I guess it’s not that surprising. Though it is a lot more confusing that you decided this petty “flame” was worthy of reposing and interviewing Kevin about, who only talks more shit… of course.

    We don’t really advertise very much at all – in fact significantly less than a lot of other similar nights all over the city. The images are not photoshopped, and I think if I were to run photos of all the unexciting stupid things that happen in a bar there would be a lot more reason for criticism of what I do. Anyway, I wouldn’t want to compete with missionmission for coverage of all those unexciting moments.

    We actually have no reason to fear any sort of criticism at all. We have one of (if not the) busiest night at the Knockout. Plenty of people love debaser and love what we do there. If you don’t like it, that’s totally OK: blog your fucking hearts out. It’s a big internet, I’m sure you’ll find someone to commiserate with.

    Anyway.. have fun playing journalist you guys… I’m glad you’ve graduated from “desperate bids for attention and traffic” to whatever this is supposed to amount to. Hopefully you’re at least paying your hosting fees by pushing ads with this drivel.

    Our opinions and actions do not in any way reflect the Knockout or anyone that works there. We throw a party there once a month, that’s it. You guys are out here discussing if our stock is gonna drop or something, get real.

  • generic

    I’m not a professional interneter like you fine folks, so I need this explained to me in simple, clear terms that your grandmother would understand:

    How is sending traffic to someone else’s blog anything but a favor?

  • Brock Keeling

    “We actually have no reason to fear any sort of criticism at all.”

    After eight paragraphs, I for one am convinced.

  • Katied

    But not being anything like Kevin or his friends, and even having been to the Knockout many times, I agree with Kevin. There are lots of different types of people living in the Mission, and sometimes they think that the things other people are doing are ridiculous. So what’s a little snark? It makes up for the lack of adventure.

    The Knockout has some good DJs, but sometimes, when you think it’s supposed to be some epic night there, it’s not. Maybe for some, who like to have photos of themselves taken for the internet to feel something, anything – or to hang out with acquaintances and feel like you have a lot of friends.

    But maybe not for others, like me, who has had more adventures on my walk home from the Knockout, burrito in hand, and the question in my mind, “why did I try to drink so many Tecate tall-boys?”, because seriously, Debaser or otherwise, the dance nights at the Knockout never results in epic, which I try so hard to accomplish with said Tecates.

  • Chris Brennan

    Seriously WHO CARES.

  • Chris Brennan

    Just to put things into perspective.. you’re the one feverishly reading the comments section on this unnecessary up to the minute updated coverage of a boring blog drama about people you probably don’t know.

    I’m just to defend myself, you’d probably be doing the same.

  • Brock Keeling

    Oh dear. It sounds like you feel very strongly about this.

    Also, love your club. Enjoy it very much.

  • sfresident

    Writing for a “blog” might explain the excessively snarky, inane, and self-referential content, but it doesn’t excuse it.

    That being said, this whole debacle begs a much more interesting question of journalistic ethics and responsibilities in the internet age, (where does a ‘blog’ end and a reputable news source begin? What are the substantive difference in terms of obligations between a source like mission mission, one like sfist, and one like the Appeal? Interesting stuff)

    But talking about that sort of thing on a blog is probably about as productive as responding to a negative review by throwing a public hissy-fit. Which is to say, not at all.

    Oh well, at least you internet lot are more interesting and informed than Nevius & Friends down at 5th and Mission.

  • Andrew Dalton

    Over at Aggressive Panhandler we love all of our neighborhood theme nights.

    Except salsa night at Madrone. That shit’s boring.

  • Ariel.

    Your first paragraph not withstanding, I wholeheartedly agree.

  • Chris Roberts

    And yet, somehow, for the other 799,950 of us — life goes on.

  • Jeremy_ofSF

    Raise your hand if you went back to count paragraphs after reading Brock’s comment.

    On the one hand, this whole thing is a fascinating case study in local Internet etiquette, but on the other hand, “goes all fatwa on Kevin’s ass” is my current favorite line of the decade.

  • Erik

    If you want to look like a legitimate news organization then blogger slapfights shouldn’t be headlines IMO.

  • C.

    Generally, I must agree with Xenu on all of this.
    However, despite having been for a long while a big fan of Mission Mission, I have to side with Chris and Debaser on this one (dude, the photos are awesome, too!).
    Kevin’s post was judgmental in the negative, projecting quite far from his obvious minimal exposure (before midnight) on an obviously unusual night (Jan. 2!). Kevin invoked negative stereotypes, and personally insulted the photographer and the organizers. He didn’t do this with any openness (e.g. “What’s Up at Debaser?”) or any explicit lightheartedness and non-judgmental humor, nor with any degree of self-effacement. Instead, there were solidity, heaviness and extremity of negative ascription in the form and style of his writing. It’s easy to see why the Debaser folks would regard this as merely an attack; it had all the characteristics of one!
    Generally, I can’t help feeling that Kevin’s relatively frequent posts in this form and style have degraded Mission Mission, and lost much of the good will it had developed with its reader base and community. The blog seems to have become much rougher, cruder, more harsh and reactive, less appreciative and enthusiastic. There’s a significant difference between this and maintaining some edge or clarity or realism. Originally, the blog had well-fulfilled its purpose as described by its subtitle, “Saluting San Francisco’s Mission District” – that’s saluting, not snarking. The sense of discovery, appreciation, enthusiasm and sharing of it all seems drained, and even the posts on “just stuff in the Mission” seem more like random scheit, weird and disturbing, than cool little discoveries (not that there’s any lack of weird and disturbing random scheit to cover in the Mission). I still like many items on Mission Mission, and still read it, but I certainly don’t have the same love for it that I used to.
    Eve, I love the Appeal (esp. Beth’s videos!), but I don’t think it’s best to side with Kevin on this particular matter, esp. not as a case of freedom of expression in blog journalism or just respect for bloggers. As Kevin himself points out, “it’s not journalism, it’s a blog” (although there IS blog journalism), and especially this post is not “reporting” or even criticism in the sense in which it would be written by a journalistic critic. His post, as I mentioned, did have all the characteristics of an attack, and so it would seem that Kevin was using all the merit and power of Mission Mission to launch a personal attack on Debaser. Although the notion of journalistic responsibility applies to journalism and perhaps not to “just blogging”, its basis is more general, and extends to communication intentions and their involvement in ascription and sustenance of personal character, so that someone who – or some blog that – has developed a reputable character as considering and investigating before judging ought to consider and to investigate – or at least to express more openly and less solidly and heavily – before judging so negatively. Having both merit and power implies some appropriately-related responsibility.
    If Kevin wants to change Mission Mission from an appreciative, enthusiastic, shareable “saluting” blog to whatever kind of snarking and flaming blog, based on his personal tendencies or communication style, I suppose he can; but what unfortunate waste of all that has gone into making Mission Mission that would be. Maybe Kevin, basically good guy that he seems anyway to be, ought to check himself before he wrecks his blog.
    Where the heck is Allan anyway?

  • Katied

    I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but:

    1) Mission Mission has, in no way shape or form, merit or power.
    2) You cannot blame the degradation of Mission Mission solely on Kevin.
    3) Allan is a homeless person by choice. He is not Jesus and cannot save something he threw in the flames, so everyone stop asking.

  • Haze Valet

    Oh no he didn’t!!!? One thing is for sure. Debaser is going to be sick next month… if you like mosh pits… (the crowd should be great) AND There might be a party promoter vs. blogger throw-down outside the Knockout. I can’t wait to do something else that night… something of the “epic” sort that one weirdo spoke of. This is like Nirvana and Pearl Jam arguing over who is more “grungier”… except now it is “hipsterer”? I guess I will head to the Castro that night for a cat fight instead… talk about FLAMING.

  • C.

    Thanks for this, Katie. Points well-taken.
    Re (1), I guess by “merit and power”, I just meant that people seem to like Mission Mission, and to trust or to believe and even to credit it to some degree, and generally to support it; it felt like a friend. Perhaps that’s a naive view or sense to have of an internet medium such as a blog, but I think that sense tends to happen when human beings are regularly drawn to something. I think lots of that liking was based on a certain positivity of its posts, a sense of appreciation and discovery, still with some wit and clarity and edge.
    Re (2), agreed – but I do still even like some posts by Ariel, Vic, Kat and Kevin! I don’t want to sound like it’s gone completely into the gutter! But…
    Re (3), I’m not at all aware of any of the background on this (and don’t need to be), but I hope everything’s all right. Sorry if there were any offense or upset.

  • Greg Dewar

    I’m a bit unclear as to where in the US Constitution it says that every patron of every business on any night must enjoy that business 100000%, and is not to speak ill of it no matter what. If someone could find that in the Bill of Rights or something, that’d be helpful.

    Any business , no matter how great, is going to have someone come in and not like it or make snarky comments. And, thanks to the wonders of science, now, instead of just saying so at the office cooler, can do so online and then the Entire World can read what they have to say. Oh noes!

    Long responses in blog comments longer than the original post, and telling people to “get ’em! theys evil” probably doesn’t work. I know it doesn’t work in my line of work, and spending time posting eleventy billion “u suck! u r so lame, n00b?” never seems to help.

    Better to just make a joke about the offending post, so it appears in The Google, and move along and keep on doing your best. I’m sure the business in this case will not be demolished to smithereens because of one post at Mission Mission. If it is, then I assign Mission Mission the task of fixing Muni and fighting terrorism, because clearly I didn’t get the memo on their new superpowers. And San Franciscans like superpowers, right?