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"We're The Best. Why? Screw You, That's Why!"


People have asked me about  Blog Bash and the controversy surrounding the award our show won – Best in Show: Podcast.  I’m happy to explain my perspective on the matter.  Those that know me shouldn’t be surprised by this.  First, let me preface this by saying:

1) I want to thank everyone that voted for us.  Your support is overwhelming.  I only hope you voted for us because you believed that we here at Behind Enemy Lines was the best podcast of 2014. That means a lot to us. 

2) Krystal Heath (The Friddle Show) does fantastic work, gets amazing guests and is a lovely person. Her show delivers a strong message of “Faith, Family and Freedom” that resonates with many conservatives.  She is informative and entertaining.  She is also blameless in this whole sordid story. Nothing that happened with Blog Bash should ever change these facts. 

3) Blog Bash is a premiere event because it is well attended by the best and brightest of conservative new media and the right of center blogosphere.  I respect and admire everyone who takes the time to take a stands up for what they believe. 

4) This has not been, nor will it ever be, for me anyways, a personal issue. I know, and have come to find out, that some of the people I will be mentioning are a bit polarizing.  

With this understanding, let’s begin.  

The Plan


Like last year, my team and I were over the moon about being nominated for the Blog Bash Best in Show: Podcast Award.  We missed out last year when our good friend – and 2015 ACU Blogger of the Year! – Wayne Dupree beat us out.  He continually reminds me of that.  

During that year, both Wayne and I hit social media hard to get the word out for both of us.  I had access to 4 Twitter accounts myself (my own, the show’s account, the Brooklyn Yrs account, from which the show spawned from, and the Brooklyn GOP gave me permission last year as well) which I used together to get out the word.  

No complaints between competitors or participants in Blog Bash.  Wayne won fair and square.  Don’t tell him I said that, though.  We even hosted each other on our shows during CPAC.  We’re now good friends, collaborators and teammates on We Are America Radio.  He helped me up our game.

That what I always found in the blogger community – a “pay it forward” attitude of mutual respect.  Until this week, that is. But I digress.  

So after coming close in 2014,  we all thought “this is our year!” after landing some of the biggest and best shows of the year. We put together the same game plan, but bigger.  After all, there was nothing stopping us in any published rules from doing that, so away we go. 

The Playing Field 

#BlogBash

Now for those of you who don’t know, the nominees never know the voting membership in total, and are not furnished a list.  So we’re campaigning blind. The only things we can do is target social media that active voting members may be checking.  

Also, it seemed that the coordinators of Blog Bash made an error in linking to us in our nomination.  Initially, BlogBash linked to a random show we did early on that had nothing to do with our nomination.  When I asked that it be fixed, I received no response.  Whatever, I sure people are busy with more important things than our little show, right?  After all, this was an easy fix on my end – we simply revised the article accordingly. 

So again, I had 4 accounts – (@gberardelli, my personal account; @BEL_Radio, the show's account, @BklynYRs, the account for the Brooklyn YRs, who created the show, and @ROCRadio_, the account everyone in my crew shares to promote all of our collaborative efforts) – but in total, we had over a dozen Twitter accounts ready to go. 

The Fierce Competition


It wasn’t long until we found out that Krystal and her supporters were implementing the same plan –and doing so much earlier than we planned on starting.  Like days earlier. In fact, when the Friddle Show’s campaign started as early as it did, I was shocked.  She wanted it just as bad. 

We thrive on competition.  As Russ would say, “Bring. It. On.”  

And so it began.  Our plan was simple, try to stay on top of the timeline for “#blogbash” as long as possible for our category. We set up a schedule of tweeting, graphics, photos – the works. We took shifts monitoring Twitter to over-Tweet in the timeline. When Krystal used her creativity to bring up points why she deserved to win, we countered with our creativity.  When she came back at us with even more credible reasons to vote for her, we countered with our credibility.  

When Krystal got Sean Hannity, Katie Pavlich and Steven Crowder to “endorse” her, we admired the way she used her network (and even panicked a teeny tiny bit... ok, a lot panicked), and hustled to counter by asking the Benham Brothers, Eric Bolling and Dana Perino from “The Five” to come on board with us.  This was getting epic.  

Sure, we blustered when Krystal tried to play up her age and gender as criteria for winning, but knew it was all in the spirit of competition.  Krystal made us better than we ever thought we could be.  

This was true competition.  

This was a dogfight.  

This was fun! 

The Interference

Then, along came a spider last Tuesday night.  I received a Twitter direct message from Ali Akbar, who I know to be the head of Blog Bash and National Bloggers Club (I’m not sure of titles or anything – I don’t know the organization’s bylaws or organizational structure or anything like that.  It's all very hush-hush like) via Twitter about my activity on Twitter.  In under 140 characters, he asked that I stop “auto-tweeting”, which to me meant using multiple accounts at once.  I didn’t see Krystal or her show account copied on the message.

Why was I being singled out?  Both “The Friddle Show” and I were using multiple accounts.  I was just doing more of it with more accounts. I was using 4 at once because, as an attorney, my time on social media is at a premium.  Also, there was no prohibition against doing what I was doing in the rules. How else are we supposed to reach these unknown voters? It's not like I or anyone I know run in the circles that the "cool kids" like Ali run in.  No lists, no emails, no nothing. 

The above notwithstanding, I agreed to cut back, but not to stopping altogether. 

And that’s what I did.  I spaced scheduled tweets out overnight on Tuesday into Wednesday and hit the road for CPAC that afternoon. From that message on, I never used more than 2 accounts at once – the same that Krystal could have done – to keep an “even playing field”.  

I don't know if he said something before the DM or after, but Ali had decided – for the first time in Blog Bash history – to reveal whom he supported for each award.  After a statement of "respect", it was Krystal.  I wasn't surprised. 

My people, including Russell, and many people I never met, expressed frustration at this.  Frankly, I thought it inappropriate. I mean, if Ali had favorites, just give them an award! For the head of an organization to express preferences for membership seems a lot like the Board of Elections expressing preference for a candidate.  It’s just not done.  But whatever, I didn’t say anything publicly.  I can only control what I can control, and go forward with our plan. 

When at a rest stop in NJ, I used two accounts to take a picture of my lunch at Nathan’s with a quip of taking the kid outta Brooklyn, but not Brooklyn outta the kid.  



Apparently, Ali isn’t a fan of Nathan’s, as he shortly tweeted out this:



That set me off. Spamming?!? It had become clear that Ali – the head of this organization – was sandbagging me and my show's chances for his award.

The wrong link on the nomination announcement.

The silence when we requested a change.

The singling out in the DM.

The endorsement of the competition.

Now this public tweet that we were spamming?!?  

How much crap should we be made to swallow? Enough was enough.  

I decided to email Ali to see where he was coming from and to express my feelings and clear things up. I know no other way to be than up front.  I sent him my cell phone number from the road.  Here’s what I received in response:

Really?  Disappointed in me? For what?  Playing by his written rules, but not by his unwritten ones?!?  By bucking his attempt to stifle me, even though I compromised as a courtesy?  And he has time to tweet, but not talk?  

Screw this guy.  I don’t need his damn award. 

The Vendetta



At this point, I had had enough.  I no longer wanted this award.  Ali had de-valued it by sticking his nose in.  Neither Krystal nor I would really know who really was the best. It had turned into “cool kids” vs. “outsiders”.  It had turned personal.  It was, as we say among our circle of friends, vendetta.

I spoke on the phone with Russell while speeding to CPAC and told him I was out.  We agreed I would pull the plug on the campaign.  I'm not about the drama. I wasn’t going to CPAC to do anything but work from 9 to 5 and have fun the rest of the time.  Russ was OK with that.

He was OK with it, but Russell wasn’t backing down on the vendetta – we disagreed on what to do further.  I wanted him to also just drop it all.  Russell wanted his pound of flesh.  We agreed to disagree.  As pissed as I was, Russ has to be true to himself like I had to be true to me. 

I told everyone I wasn’t going to attend Blog Bash. Same reasoning – no more drama for me. But also, I felt that by accepting an award I knew to be tainted would make me feel like a hypocrite. To Russell, it wasn’t about the award for "best podcast" anymore, it was about not backing down from Ali.  He and others in my crew were escalating in expressing their displeasure.

It’s the soldier in him – fighting the good fight regardless of outcome.  It was also fun for him.  

The Outcome

I don’t know what happened at Blog Bash, as I wasn’t there.  I do know that Ali had both Russell (a few sheets to the wind at this point!) and Krystal up on stage to announce the winner – something they didn’t do for other awards from what I understand.  That seemed a particularly cruel thing to do. Regardless of outcome, it seems like the intent was to embarrass.  Krystal, who had some wonderful conversations with me after I wished to withdraw from the competition, had to have been under the impression that she was there to be given the award.  

I was brooding at a bar with friends when the texts from my inebriated and celebratory crew at Blog Bash.

I didn’t believe them.

It wasn’t until I saw a congratulatory message from my friend Scottie Hughes embedded above that I realized that we had won.  

Holy $#!T.  We won.  The vendetta, that is.

But not what I wanted.  What I wanted to win - that was taken forever.

But screw it, we won. 

The Aftermath


So where does this leave us?

I personally still don’t want any part of the award.  It had gone from being the symbol of superiority for right-of-center internet broadcasts to a war prize for our “Vendetta” mantle.  That is still how I see it.  Russ is keeping it. 

This could have all been avoided had one person simply done the right thing.  In my humble opinion, Ali could have and should have handled this better. He could’ve treated everyone equally.  He could’ve communicated with everyone equally. He could’ve respected everyone equally.  He could’ve kept up the illusion that he was impartial.  He could have bit his tongue over the perceived "loophole" we exploited and changed the rules for next year - call it the "BEL Rule", whatever.

Instead, he didn't treat everyone equally. He didn't communicate with everyone equally.  He didn't respect everyone equally. He showed himself to be partial. And he inserted himself into a campaign where he had no business whatsoever.

And even after all of this, I have nothing bad to say about Ali personally.  Because I don't know him.  I am not going to disrespect him.  I'm just going to say that I'll never interact with him personally or professionally again. 

That said, none of the above means that I won’t call our show the "Best Right of Center Podcast" or the "award-winning podcast" because I truly, in my heart of hearts, believe that Behind Enemy Lines had the biggest and best year of any right of center podcast in 2014.

And while we – and others – were robbed of the opportunity to know that for sure thanks to Ali Akbar, no one and nothing can or will convince me otherwise.
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About Behind Enemy Lines Radio

Behind Enemy Lines is a national Award-Winning radio show / podcast broadcasting live out of the belly of the Democratic beast - "The People's Republic of" New York City that airs on multiple radio stations as part of the Talk America Radio Network! The show is also available on multiple networks across the internet, with more being added regularly.