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AN INTERVIEW WITH THE EDITOR OF THE RIGHT SIDE OF LIFE
By John Charlton
Since the rise of the Internet, individuals have been giving the Main Stream Media a run for their money, in offering Americans a completely unfettered source of information through websites, online publications, directories, discussion forums and most recently blogs. While there has been much discussion of the impact this is having on the information we get daily, there has been little attention given to the pioneering work done by Christians in this regard.
What follows is an exact transcript of my conversation with its Editor, Phil.
MR. CHARLTON: The Right Side of Life (TRSOL) has already taken its place as a premier News Blog/Discussion site on the controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s eligibility for office, his policies, and the Nation’s reaction to the “change” he is and wants to implement. But for many of the readers of The Post & Email, the editor of TRSOL remains a mystery man. Can you tell me something about yourself, and what events led you to start the Right Side of Life?
PHIL: First, I appreciate your taking the time to ask me a number of what I consider to be very poignant questions regarding The Right Side of Life and myself.
Regarding who I am, I have — from the very beginning — preferred to remain as anonymous as possible for a number of reasons, not the least of which that I am preferring that my blog literally speak for itself without having my personality — outside of electronic penmanship — get in the way of content. So, let’s suffice it to say that my About page explains what needs to be known about who I am.
As far as what led me to get TRSOL started, I had actually been internally wrestling with some way to be able to express my thoughts with the world in some way for a few years prior. In fact, I had registered the domain name, therightsideoflife.com, a full year before this site got started, and it expired. Then, after having participated in comment discussions on Jeff Schreiber’s AmericasRight.com blog for a good month or so (back in the August/September, 2008 timeframe), the time was right for me to re-register the domain and get things started.
Since a number of your forthcoming questions have to do with faith (especially that of a Christian), it is my view that on Friday, October 24, 2008, I had an inkling from Divine Providence that that date was the “correct” date to get things started (even though I really had no idea where things were going to go with it, or that anyone would have a serious interest in what I was doing). Theologically, I would call this an “unction;” others may call it by other names.
MR. CHARLTON: What role did your Christian faith have in spurring you to action?
PHIL: My online life, as it were, began some years ago when I spent the greater part of eight years participating in and moderating Internet Relay Chat (IRC) Christian “channels.” I picked up on a lot of questioning of both my own faith and that of others, and learned a lot in terms of reasonable moderating techniques for online forums.
In the “real word,” I’ve always been a “rebel for the truth.” Basically, this means that I tend to be a rabble rouser when it comes to deep theological discussions, knowing that to really understand what the Bible has to say, you must — at the very least — be familiar with Strong’s Concordance (as a reference to the Bible’s original languages) and it’s always helpful to have an Interlinear Bible handy.
In the political realm, I take the American Constitution to be the modern-day equivalent to the Bible in terms of what roles the federal and State governments are to properly play in society and that it is ultimately up to individual citizens to hold all leaders accountable to this document. I also take a very strict interpretation of the Constitution and believe that if the document doesn’t specifically call for, say, the federal government to be in a given area of life, then the federal government must necessarily delegate that power/authority to the States and/or the People.
MR. CHARLTON: What is a citizen-journalist in your view?
PHIL: Anyone who takes a given issue, event, etc. and decides to analyze that thing is a citizen-journalist.
Fundamentally, reporters are supposed to always ask the “who, what, when, where, why, how, and to what extent” questions of anything they’re assigned to cover. When they fail to perform this essential duty, they fail at their “calling” to report; then the question becomes, should they be a reporter or perhaps they’re better suited for something else?
MR. CHARLTON: What is the Right Side of Life, in your opinion, and why did you settle upon the format it uses (Blog/Discussion)?
PHIL: TRSOL is, at its most basic point, a blog based on the WordPress platform. Prior to setting up TRSOL, I had spent a lot of time tinkering with Content Management Systems (CMS) such as PHP-Nuke (and others) as well as blogging platforms such as MovableType and eventually settled with WordPress because it’s both open source and free.
I decided on a blog format because it best represents my own thought process. Each posting is a topic unto itself, and blogs allow for commentary to be attached to each topic, thereby allowing some semblance of discussion to take place. This is much different from a forum format, where there really is no linear sequence of events, as it were, but a more structured discussion can be had.
MR. CHARLTON:What kind of viewership does TRSOL have? Can you give us some stats?
PHIL: At this point, TRSOL has viewership from every continent around the world and from all over the political spectrum.
For stats, it’s very difficult to really “know” precisely how many “hits” you receive with a site. After all, for any given user, everything that is displayed on a page can be considered a “hit” — any pictures, separate blocks of text, and so on that are being sent to the requesting IP. However, statistical programs will tend to group users using different metrics in an effort to provide some semblance of reasonable measurement. This is further complicated by the concept of “unique” visitors (first-timers) as opposed to “page views” (which may be returning users).
Depending on how “hot” the content is on my site at any given time, a slow day averages between 2,000 – 3,000 visitors; I’ve had as many as 10,000 visitors on my busiest day. I also register several hundred newsreaders on my RSS feed and have a few hundred subscribers to my Updates email list. And for the PDA users of my site, I recently installed a plugin that allows for better formatting on devices such as iPhones, BlackBerries and the like. I am also proud of the fact that I have nearly 700 Followers (thanks, all, especially for the #FollowFriday recs!) on my Twitter account and have garnered a nice following on my Facebook page.
MR. CHARLTON: What kind of committment does a site such as yours take to maintain?
PHIL: Basically, it’s an ongoing commitment that I attend to nearly every day. Typically, a singular posting will take me at least 20 minutes just to gather the relevant links together, including past references to which I may have already reported. I do my best to reasonably scan through what I receive (both in terms of emails, RSS feeds, etc. that I receive from concerned citizens as well as the Perl script that runs my RSS updater). That kind of time frame is based on a posting of which I already know the background; other posts may take longer to put together.
And that’s the posting part. Then we have the comments to the postings that, yes, I read through rather diligently to make sure that everyone is pushing forward each discussion in a civilized manner. I especially pay attention to the comments section because while they aren’t necessarily my thoughts, they are a direct part of my blog, so I take them seriously. It’s also true that sometimes I receive tips via commentary, so it takes time to vet these references as well.
MR. CHARLTON: What kind of commenters do you have?
PHIL: All types. I mean, I have not only hard-core conservative/libertarian Republicans who post, but I also have several types of Democrats that post as well — typically those who are very concerned that the Constitution is being ignored by this Administration. We’ll cover this further below.
MR. CHARLTON: Do you think that American is dividing into two camps with diametrically opposed views of morality, truth, and government?
PHIL: Most definitely. I think the split can be seen between those who are revolutionary (meaning those who wish to return the government back to its pre-defined role via the Constitution) and those who are anti-authority (meaning those who wish to rebel or otherwise incite chaos for the purposes of going against authority).
There is a very big difference between the ends of both of these sides. Those that are revolutionary do not wish to overthrow the government; rather, they wish to reaffirm the basic tenants of the Constitution by using constitutional means to reassert the federal government. However, those that are anti-authority— as long as the opposing viewpoint is in a position of power, mind you — don’t really mind what the Constitution says (unless they get caught in the process). Rather, their intent is to dismantle those things which would impinge upon their wanting to remake government as they see fit.
MR. CHARLTON: How do you manage to maintain a civil discourse among two groups which have such a fundamentally different view of America?
PHIL: For me, it’s very simple — allow anyone to express their views as long as they aren’t trying to use bashing a private individual as the basis for their argument (public figures are excluded from this). I have noticed that, in general, most individuals simply want to express themselves from time to time without having to worry whether or not their opinions are going to be censored or ridiculed. And while it is true that I currently have two individuals under a site-wide ban, they had long since built up a history of refusing to back off being uncivil when I asked them repeatedly to do so.
MR. CHARLTON:What is an Obot?
PHIL: It is a term used by so-called “birthers” (those who question the President’s eligibility) and other dissimilar but anti-Obama parties for those individuals in the opposition to their thoughts. The connotation is that such individuals do not exercise their mind when expressing their opinions; hence, Obama-bots.
Frankly, I’ve never liked the term and think it’s nothing more than an ad hominem pejorative. In classical debate theory, part of the point is to provide an opportunity for those who oppose you to join your side, for good reason.
MR. CHARLTON: What are the various views of American citizens who are opposed in some manner to the Obama administration?
PHIL: From what I’ve observed, the views really run the gamut and are too granular to really formulate a good synopsis to represent them all. I think the bottom line to most views is that these individuals are fundamentally scared of Mr. Obama because of the stances he espouses — whether it’s the concept of closing down Guantanamo Bay in Cuba (where would all the terrorists go if heading Stateside and would they become citizens?), taking over large swaths of the American economy (health care legislation being the capstone, to date, of this idea), reducing and/or removing firearms from citizens, or the fact that Mr. Obama is, quite simply, a Marxist. And, on top of all the issues, the concept that Mr. Obama may not be eligible for the presidency is truly the proverbial icing on the cake.
MR. CHARLTON: What kinds of issues are most contested?
PHIL: For those issues that have a basis of the federal government being involved per the Constitution, the question is how far people are willing to allow politicians to push those boundaries. For all other issues, it has now become a question of “by what authority” a give politician exercises their office; if said politician is knowingly doing something unconstitutional, I think it’s becoming true that their time in office could be limited.
MR. CHARLTON: In the course of your research for articles, what kinds of little known facts about the Eligibility controversy have you uncovered?
PHIL: Probably one of the biggest is the concept of Mr. Obama’s at-birth status — something that attorney Leo Donofrio first brought into the blogosphere via his site. Most other facts hinge on the nuances of the law, such as the fact that there is no law that actually enforces the presidential eligibility requirement, much less to what degree (as in, how much documentation and, specifically, what types) such eligibility should be substantiated. Also, the fact that the Supreme Court has never fully defined what it means to be a natural born citizen with respect to the Constitution.
MR. CHARLTON: What kind of allegations have you debunked?
PHIL: The biggest: that campaigns, a Joint Session of Congress or the Chief Justice’s swearing in of the President are in any way obligated to vet the President’s background.
MR. CHARLTON: What do you think are the more important issues or aspects of this controversy?
PHIL: Simply that nobody should ever assume that a given political process will always do the right thing, or that the individual ambitious enough for the President is always going to do what candidates have always done in the past. Vigilance on the part of the concerned citizen is the name of the game in terms of enforcing the Constitution. After all, if the Constitution doesn’t specifically call for the federal government to exercise power/authority, then — via the 10th Amendment — it’s up to the States or the People to take action.
MR. CHARLTON:What do you hope to achieve with TRSOL?
PHIL: As a Bible teacher once said, “I come to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted” (I’d have to look up to see if that’s actually a scripture reference or was merely his thought!). I want people to think about things. I want people to question me and to question themselves to make sure they’re going after the truth. And I want to record all of these transactions so that everyone has an opportunity to view a timeline of these events.
MR. CHARLTON: What importance do you put on the necessity of Christians to participate in the public forum today?
PHIL: As another saying puts it, “If not you, who? If not now, when?”
If those of us who have a strong basis of belief in Christianity do not take part in today’s discussions, then the legacy of ethics and morality will become dimmer in history. I don’t think the proverbial light will go out, because I think the Lord has historically shown that He will move on those who are willing to continue pushing forward for what’s right and true. I think there’s a verse in the book of Psalms that says something to the effect of, “…even the rocks will cry out…”
In my opinion, at the risk of coming across as judgmental, if a given Christian is aware of a need within the community and they either have an inkling or know full well that their spiritual gift(s) and/or talent(s) would appropriately fill this need and they don’t do it, I think they condemn themselves already by not simply taking action.
I’ve gotta say — all I did was register this domain and began writing, and everything else — everything else — has fallen into place. Taking a singular step forward is all that God asks of His kids, in my view.
MR. CHARLTON: What specific needs of the country do you see Christians fulfilling?
PHIL: The biggest is upholding the Constitution.
I found the following quotes from George Washington and John Adams, respectively:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and righteous people. It is wholly inadequate for the governance of any other.”
MR. CHARLTON: What kind of Christian spiritual support do your draw from to maintain practice such “notorious” Christian patience, as you are known for with some of the more egregiously offending commentators?
PHIL: I believe that my gifts include discernment, prophecy (as in, to tell the truth) and mercy; this is not to say that I’m imbued with patience! However, TRSOL’s been kind of a therapeutic thing for me: the more that the opposition pushes, the more that these gifts come out (usually), as long as I keep in mind that most folks aren’t opposing me, personally (nobody knows who I am, so how could they be?), but rather are simply opposing the ideas I espouse.
MR. CHARLTON: Would you characterize yourself more a man of action or of prayer?
PHIL: I’ve always leaned more towards action than prayer. In fact, I’ve found that God will sometimes put encumbrances to moving forward in my way in order for me to learn to be still at times.
MR. CHARLTON: What are some of the features of TRSOL we have not discussed?
PHIL: Actually, I think the questions you’ve posed pretty much cover what my site is all about.
MR. CHARLTON: Thank you for this opportunity to “speak” with you about your Christian activism and faith; is there anything you would like to add in closing?
PHIL: I thank you for your providing an interview platform in which to express my thoughts in a different way.
In closing, I honestly don’t know where things will go with my site from here. I try to be as open as possible for potential opportunities, but they always have to balance with my work and life outside of the site.
Also, I like the saying that goes something like this: “Question everything, in love, for the truth. Once you’ve found the truth, hold onto it for dear life.”
MR. CHARLTON: Thank you, Phil, for the taking the time out of your busy schedule, to give the readers of The Post & Email this unique look at a modern day Christian in action. It has been both a pleasure and honor.
For this reason, as part of a series on Christians putting their faith in practice, I have chosen to interview the editor/publisher of The Right Site of Life, a premier news/discussion site on American politics and Constitutional issues. For those familiar with the patriot movement, or the question regarding Barack Hussein Obama’s eligibility to be president of the United States of America, no introduction is necessary regarding The Right Side of Life, as it is a daily must read on all the latest. For those not familiar with it, you have to visit it yourself to be impressed by its comprehensive take, in-depth summaries, facility of use, and unique access to daily discussions and debates on the issues.