Who Is Georgia10? | Feature | Chicago Reader

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Who Is Georgia10?

One of the stars of Daily Kos, the biggest political blog on the Internet, is a 23-year-old DePaul law student who lives with her parents.

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The woman who might be Chicago's most-read political writer doesn't have an office. On most days Georgia Logothetis, 23, is either at home in the same Rogers Park three-flat where she lives with her parents or at DePaul University's downtown campus. About four or five times a day, taking a break from constitutional law homework or prepping for a moot-court trial, she'll type a righteously indignant rant clobbering the Republican Party on Iraq, warrantless spying, and the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Then she'll post it, under the screen name Georgia10, on the front page of liberal blog Daily Kos (dailykos.com), which gets between 400,000 and 800,000 unique visitors daily. The Tribune's daily circulation, just for some context, is about 586,000; its Web site gets a little over three million unique visitors per month, which averages out to around 100,000 a day. (The Tribune won't release stats on how many visitors its blogs or news columnists get.)

Those numbers have made Daily Kos an influential force in Democratic politics. The site has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for candidates, and Democratic senators, congressmen, and governors looking to curry favor with the party's most active supporters regularly write guest posts explaining their votes or responding to critics. "We read it all the time," one aide to a Democratic senator told me. "If Democratic staffers are going to read one political blog, it's going to be Daily Kos."

That's given Logothetis the kind of access that's usually reserved for Beltway journalists. Last week she was scheduled to take part in what she called an "intimate" conference call with Senator Edward Kennedy, who arranged it partly to plug his new book but also to discuss his party's agenda for the midterm elections. She was one of just four bloggers invited on the call, which she called "a great opportunity to ask more questions, have a true conversation."

The site can claim some influence outside the self-contained world of liberal politics as well. In May 2005 Logothetis and other Daily Kos denizens launched downingstreetmemo.com, which brought renewed attention to a leaked British government memo from 2002 in which an official wrote that "intelligence and facts were being fixed" by the Bush administration to support its case for invading Iraq. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman mentioned the site, bringing it to the attention of a larger audience; Logothetis was quoted by the Sun-Times's Lynn Sweet and the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz.

Despite her sizable readership--her posts inspire dozens of responses and she receives as many as 100 e-mails daily--only her parents and a few friends know that Logothetis is Georgia10. "I'll be in a class with a hundred people with laptops and I see people pulling up the site and reading my work," she says. "And they don't know I'm the one who wrote the article."

"We've been friends for a couple years now and I had no idea," says Anastasia Xinos, a classmate who learned about her blogging life only shortly before being interviewed for this article. "She's actually a pretty quiet person," Xinos says. "When she's not arguing something."

Logothetis doesn't tell people about her life as a blogger because she tends to think of it as a dorky hobby--being a Daily Kos celebrity, to her mind, is like being the best origami artist in the midwest or an internationally renowned collector of 50s lunch boxes. "I don't shout it from the rooftops," she says. "To tell you the truth, not a lot of people are interested in politics. If they don't check the site or aren't interested in politics, I don't go out of my way to say, 'Look, I'm a front-pager on Daily Kos.'"

Logothetis grew up in a close-knit household with her parents, both Greek immigrants, and her two older sisters. Her family didn't take a strong interest in politics, but soon after she started college at Northeastern Illinois University she became involved in student government. Campus politics, she says, were dominated by a political machine that was using money allocated to student groups to fund expensive parties for itself; in 2002, in her second year of classes, Logothetis ran for vice president as part of a reform slate. Based on the initial tally, her party won the election, but the incumbents weren't having it. "They created fraudulent election complaints," she says. "It was actually like Bush versus Gore."

An ugly battle played out over several months in the pages of the student paper, the Independent; Logothetis and her allies boned up on the school's constitution and election procedures before making their case before the student supreme court. "Back then it seemed like the most important thing in the world," she says.

Her party eventually prevailed. "That definitely taught me that the rule of law is paramount," she says. "Especially in times of chaos."

Logothetis graduated in 2003 with a degree in English. In the spring of '04, shortly after she started law school at DePaul, she was following news about the presidential election, which led her to Daily Kos. The site was enjoying tremendous growth at the time, thanks in part to the fervor among liberals to oust President George W. Bush. But its success was also due in part to the foresight of the site's proprietor, Chicago native Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, in leveraging its users.

Not long after launching Daily Kos in 2002, Moulitsas distinguished his blog from others by giving it a social networking element. Users could create their own blogs, called "diaries," and were encouraged to link to one another's posts. Particularly noteworthy posts might get "bumped" to the front page of the site by Moulitsas or one of his handpicked "front-pagers," where tens of thousands of visitors would read them. All of which gave members strong incentives to post regularly and communicate with other users.

By the time Logothetis discovered Daily Kos, it had approximately 20,000 registered users and just under 100,000 daily readers and had morphed from a platform for Moulitsas's views on politics to a full-fledged community. Logothetis was initially intimidated: the site is hard for a newcomer to navigate, and users' responses can be brutal. But she quickly grew addicted to Daily Kos's culture. "There were other people out there who liked politics as much as I did," she says.

She didn't start posting, however, until she was "devastated" by the presidential election results. "I loved John Kerry," she says. "I know you don't hear that every day. But I could relate to him a lot." When stories about alleged voter suppression and voting irregularities began emerging from Ohio, she paid close attention, having gone through a contested election herself. Twice a day she was posting updates about, as she puts it, "all the voter suppression in Ohio, and documenting all the connections between the Bush-Cheney campaign and the elected politicians there."

This was an especially prickly topic in the Daily Kos community. After the election, users split into two camps: those who wanted to accept Kerry's defeat and try to draw lessons from it for the future and self-described "fraudsters" who felt that Kerry's loss in Ohio was the result of dirty tricks on the part of Republicans. The debate grew increasingly heated, and fraudsters began complaining that Moulitsas was ignoring them and refusing to bump their posts to the front page. In January 2005 Moulitsas shot back, writing that "wacked out conspiracy theories hijacked the issue. . . . [A]fter myriad diaries crying wolf, claiming that this was the evidence to seal the deal, well, it got old. Then it got counterproductive, then it got embarrassing."

But a couple of days later, Logothetis emerged as the fraudsters' voice of reason. "How can we lobby for election reform unless we have a comprehensive record of what needs to be reformed?" she asked. Answering her own question, she pointed users to a 57-page Word document she'd written during finals and winter break titled "Eye on Ohio: The Informed Citizen's Guide to the 2004 Elections." The exhaustive work discussed every conceivable claim for the illegitimacy of the Ohio vote, including the two Sequoia Voting Systems executives who were indicted on bribery charges, the flyers distributed to black neighborhoods in Cleveland telling residents to vote on November 3 (the day after the election), and overcounts of absentee ballots. Her post was promoted by one of Daily Kos's front-pagers and roundly praised soon after; users mirrored the document on their own sites to help satisfy the demand for it.

Throughout 2005 Logothetis weighed in on the biggest political stories of the year--Gitmo, Tom DeLay, Harriet Miers, and more. In August she announced she was taking a break, but Katrina brought her back a few weeks later. "There is something about watching a woman guide her husband's corpse downriver that makes you realize that what's going on in your life, well, it really pales in comparison," she wrote.

At the end of every year Moulitsas selects a handful of users to become front-page posters. For the lucky few who are selected, it's like getting picked to play in their favorite band. "I wish I could pay them," Moulitsas says. "But it's a hell of a soapbox."

In December he started an "open thread" inviting readers to nominate their favorite posters. Georgia10 received an avalanche of support. "Yes, yes, hell yes," wrote one user. "Georgia10 is fucking brilliant." Another wrote: "She always has her finger on the pulse of Daily Kos, and her intellectual (not to mention good-natured) disposition always shines through."

Moulitsas wasn't surprised. "Certain people get a following online because they do stand out," he says. "[Logothetis] was a no-brainer; she was one of the easy calls."

Logothetis says she was nervous at first about living up to the legacy of previous front-pagers like Hunter and Armando--names she utters with the kind of reverence Elizabethan scholars reserve for Shakespeare. But she got over her trepidation quickly: polemical and indignant but legally precise, her posts reflect the zeal of a stickler for the rules. Like many users on Daily Kos, she's driven by the feeling that those in power are cheating. But she's uniquely skilled at setting the details of their actions against the letter of the law. In January National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, in a discussion with a reporter about the agency's domestic-spying program, argued that the Fourth Amendment didn't include a provision for probable cause. "Someone needed to tattoo the Bill of Rights on his chest, backwards, so he could read it every time he looked in the mirror," Logothetis wrote. She then laid out a detailed commentary about the distinctions between "probable cause" and "reasonable suspicion," including relevant snippets of Senate Intelligence Committee transcripts.

More than a deft prose style and an outraged disposition, the trait held in the highest regard in the lefty blogosphere is prodigiousness. The more you post, the more readers you attract, and on this front, Georgia10 is the site's workhorse. That may change starting this summer. She won't be able to attend Yearly Kos, a Daily Kos convention in Las Vegas in June featuring a keynote address by Senate minority leader Harry Reid, because she'll be studying for the bar exam. She'll also start working at a local corporate law firm. "Did she tell you if she was going to keep blogging?" Moulitsas asked me at a recent book reading. "I hope she does."

In the meantime, Logothetis's blogging has proved useful for her academically. She's researched warrantless spying so thoroughly that she decided to write about it for her final paper in a senior seminar on the legal challenges presented by the war on terror. "I wrote so much on FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] and the NSA scandals that when they do Google searches, it's my work that comes up," she says. "I wanted to tell my professor that if anything other students write looks like something I write, I got there first."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.

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