Editor’s Note About Donklephant, Transparency & Contributors

By  | 

Warning, this may bore some of you to tears. Others may find it absolutely fascinating. My hope is more of you fall into the latter camp since I’ve essentially been forced to give you a behind the scenes look at how contributors come on board.

Confused? Don’t be. All will be revealed soon enough.

Some backgrond…

In July I put out a call for bloggers and received a lot of replies. A good problem to have, and I added many more than I thought.

One of them was from David Anthony Hohol, a Canadian an American living in Dubai. Upon reading some (not all) of his editorials at his site Relativity Online, I thought he could provide a unique perspective. Unfortunately, one of his first editorials accused Israelis of ethnic cleansing and characterized them as “scheming thieves.” Needless to say, his content was deleted from the site and his posting privileges were taken away (although a cache of the post still remains).

Understandably, a rather heated email exchange began. We were both able to have our say and leave it at that. Or so I thought. Because today I’m reading my private correspondence on a public blog.

Even more unfortunate? Hohol has chosen to excerpt pieces of our emails instead of reprinting them in full.

So, what follows is the ENTIRE exchange, not just the emails and segments he chose to share. I haven’t edited any grammar or spelling so all errors remain, including my own. Yeah, it’s embarrassing, but at least it’s honest. The only thing I did take out was some log in information and video embed code. Both are noted as such below.

Please feel free to tell me what you think. I’m open to constructive criticism and am curious to hear your thoughts on how this process works. Do know that I’m unable to pay anybody (at least for right now) so I have to put a lot of trust in my contributors. Sometimes it works out. This time (and recently) it didn’t. But I’ve found it’s better to cut ties quickly to avoid any further confusion and/or damage to the site.

So here we go…the private emails of one Justin Patrick Gardner…

July 2, 2009, 1:27 AM: His initial email asking if he can join
Hello Justin,

I am interested in blogging for you, am ready to commit to 5 blogs per week. Please visit http://www.relativityonline.com/ and click on the “From the Editor” tab for a sample of my writing. Visit the staff page for my bio and qualifications.

David Anthony Hohol

July 2, 2009, 4:27 PM: My response

Do you still live in Dubai? If so, I think there’s the potential to not only lend a needed perspective from the Middle East and cover foreign affairs, but also do more blogging during the time when most Donklephant authors would be sleeping.

Drop me a line with a little bit more about yourself and what niche you think you could fill at the site.


July 3, 2009, 5:09 PM: His response
Hello Justin,

Thanks for getting back to me. Yes, I still live in Dubai. As far as a niche for Donklephant, yes, a Middle Eastern perspective is something I could offer. I’ve lived in Dubai for going on six years and spent time in Syria, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, and Sudan, with much of my outside the UAE time being spent in Jordan (my wife is Jordanian) Further still, with Dubai being the Disneyland-like Crossroads of the Middle East, I have access to endless variety of nationals from around the world. Finally, not only can I access the goings on of the Middle East, but also the perspective of America and the West as seen through the eyes of this region.

My own personal perspective of this region is genuine, informed and from the inside, all of which are often limited in terms of the Western Media. Standing outside the machine, and having passed through more than forty countries also gives me a better perspective of North American life than many of those living within in it…

Let me know what you think.


July 4, 2009, 12:00 PM: Having read some of his work, my response

Okay, I’m sold, and it’s my pleasure to offer you a spot at Donklephant.

I’ll be in touch soon with more details, but my plan is to announce all of the new authors around July 13, which is the anniversary of the site launch in 2005.

Thanks so much for reaching out. Really looking forward to working with you.


July 5, 2009, 11:23 AM: His response
Hi Justin,

Thanks for the opportunity. I truly look forward to working with you. I’m currently in London adn will be arriving in Canada in a few days. I would be prepared to submit regularly by the end of the month. Let me know if yuo would need me sooner…


July 5, 2009, 12:41 PM: My response

By end of the month do you mean the week of the 20th? The reason I ask is so I can set expectations on the blog. Because I want to announce on the 13th, and if you’re going to start a week later I’d like to tell everybody that.


July 5, 2009, 6:52 PM: His response
Hi Justin,

I’m on an 8 week break from work in Dubai and will be hopping around until July 25th. I’ll swing back into my routine after that, so starting on the 27th would be more suitable for me. By the way, let me know if you have any topic areas you would like me to hit on. . . Also, I would like to direct traffic back to RELATIVITY via links within the blogs I write for you. Are you cool with that?


July 5, 2009, 11:14 PM: My response
Sounds good. I’ll be on vacation then anyway, so let’s just say Monday, August 3rd.

Yes, linking back to your own content is encouraged, not only because it sends you more traffic, but it also makes Google like Donklephant better, and vice versa. So, when you can, please link back to Donklephant from Relativity.

Also, I’m assuming you want to be know as David Hohol on the blog. If not, tell me what you want your author name to be. I prefer people to be themselves, but don’t require it.

Alright, many safe travels and I’ll be sending you an email with a bunch of info soon.


July 6, 2009, 6:29 AM: His response
Looking forward to the info… and yes I want to go by my full real name, including middle name: David Anthony Hohol

Enjoy your vacation and I look forward to hearing from you

July 12, 2009, 6:28 PM: My standard “intro” email
Hi David,

I’ll be announcing that you’re part of the team on Monday. After that feel free to begin posting any time you want. I think you said you’d begin posting at the end of July, and if that’s the case that’s fine by me.

In any event, the following are some dos and don’ts and tips about pictures, videos, etc. Please drop me a line if you have any questions.

For your first post, please provide a brief intro of yourself and then just launch into the actual post. There’s no “right” way to do this, just “your” way of doing it.

Please only use the code provided in the WordPress options. That means you shouldn’t used tags or font tags or

tags. The most important thing I can stress is that you shouldn’t simply copy and paste code from Blogpost into WordPress because it’ll cause problems with the look and feel of. I know it’s a pain, but please make sure that this code is clean. It’s essential to making sure your post looks good on Donklephant.

Also, if you ever want to code a table into a post for whatever reason, create a blog post on your Blogpost site, take a screen capture of it and embed a picture of it in your post. I recommend a desktop app called Skitch, but you can obviously use whatever you deem fit.

For photos, the maximum width is 430. You can use the following code with the width set and the height will work itself out: . Seriously. You don’t have to adjust the height and width. Just set the width and the height will set itself.

For videos, the maximum width is also 430. I would suggest embedding only YouTube videos, but I don’t want to limit you, so if you want to use one that has a bigger width, please recalculate what the height would be at a 430 width and plug the new numbers into the code. For instance, BrightCove videos nearly ALWAYS at least 480 width, but the following is even bigger…

(Boring embed code deleted)

In this code, I would have to replace numbers in two places, the top and bottom. I know I want my width to be 430, but I need the multiplier. That means I’ll take the smaller number into the larger number and come out with 0.98. Take that times 430 and you get 421. Those are my two new width and height numbers, and the code will now look like this…

(More boring embed code deleted)

As expected, the above would be the appropriate code to include in the Donklephant template to make the site look good. Anything else would look out of place.

Yes, ALWAYS check your posts after they’re posted on the site. If something looks messed up, please try to fix it. If you can’t fix it, unpublish the post and email me and I’ll fix it as soon as I can. I’d rather have something post late then post wrong. I’m sure you understand.

After you post your work, I may come in and rework some things just in case you miss something. Usually all I do is add a photo, but that’s only if I can find something appropriate for the subject and tone of your post. If I can’t, I simply leave it alone.

(Deleted for privacy)

Again, please drop me a line with any questions. I’m here to help with anything and everything.

Welcome aboard!

August 2, 2009, 10:18 PM: Notifying me he was ready to post
Hey Justin,

As promised I have submiited my first slew of articles by August 3rd. I am currently on my family’s farm in Alberta and will be heading back to Dubai in a couple of weeks.

I wasnt sure if I should directly publish my work or not. That being the case I posted them all as drafts, so you can make any changes, edits or additions that you see fit. Is this how I should always do things? Or do you want me to post them publish straight away?

I also have a confession to make… all that code shit is greek to me. I dont know how to post videos. I’m just a redneck with a laptop. I did try to upload some pics but it would not allow me to….

Best Regards,

August 2, 2009, 10:22 PM: Notifying me he had posted them all

Check that… I accidentally posed one, so I figured i’d just post them all’ Let me know if thats what I should be doing anyway…


August 3, 2009, 10:28 AM: Shorter response from me “WTF?”

I’m not sure what was unclear from my invitation to the site, but your post on Zionism is COMPLETELY inappropriate. Donklephant is about balanced coverage, not blatant advocacy. There were so many different ways you could have approached that post about the settlers, but you chose the one way that forces my hand.

Given that, I think it’s best we just called it a day on this partnership and left it at that. I simply can’t risk the integrity of the site.

Take care,

August 3, 2009, 8:15 PM: His response
Hello Justin,

I must say that I am quite surprised by your reaction to the article about Zionism. You wanted me to write about the Arab perspective (review your own description of me as an upcoming writer) and that was what I did.

My words in the article were “many in the region” (ie. the Middle East) look at Israeli as “scheming thieves”. “Many in the Region” is not Donklephant, not you, but just that – the Arabs. That, my friend is the Arab perspective. Full stop. That is the side, the perspective, the opinion, that offers the balanced coverage you say you want.

Balance is about both sides, not one side being free to say what they want and the other being forced to be politically correct. And when you then say, “Okay, I don’t want you to write anything at all anymore,” it makes me wonder why you even invited someone to offer you the Arab perspective in the first place. By telling me, a secular Canadian , that you don’t want me or my stories about the REAL Arab perspective on your site after asking me to do so, is COMPLETELY inappropriate and that, Justin, is where the integrity you say are trying to protect is lost.

Best of luck,
David Anthony Hohol

August 3, 2009, 9:21 PM: My response back

Actually, I said you’d be giving us an insider’s perspective, not a one-sided Arab perspective that accuses “Zionist Israel” of ethic cleansing. I mean COME ON. How would you ever think that’s appropriate to post given what you know about the site and its goals?

What’s more, and forgive me for being so blunt, but when you say that the words in the article aren’t Donklephant’s…are you serious? If you, as a writer for this site, use the words “scheming thieves” and then link those words back to an editorial written by you where you call the state of Israel a terrorist state, well, guess what…that makes it seems as if Donklephant is endorsing that view.

And yes, balance is about both sides. That’s why I invited you. Because I thought you were going to offer a perspective that took a look at the situation colored by more of the realities of a foreigner living in the Middle East. If you feel that viewpoint has integrity, I can’t dispute that, but as somebody who has defended Palenstine on Donklephant I can tell you that it has absolutely no integrity on the site. Think of that what you will.

August 7, 2009, 2:27 PM: He responds back 5 days later
Hello Justin,

I recently posted an article about the Burka and was thinking of your last email. In the end, I guess I couldnt resist replying to you.

It may be a rhetorical question, but when I asked you to read over my editorials so as to get a better perspective on my writing style… did you even read one article form beginning to end? If you had you would have seen where I come from what transpired could have been avoided. You would not have wasted my time… or yours for that matter. It was unprofessional on your part not to know who it is you invite to write for you. Perhaps now you’ve learned your lesson and will be more thorough in the future.

Saying you wanted an “insider’s perspective” as opposed to a “perspective of the region” is just semantics, by the way. That phrase could be defined any number of ways. At NO TIME did you ask me for a foreigner’s viewpoint, as opposed to the Arab perspective.

Further still, calling what I wrote a “one-sided Arab perspective” is flat out wrong and prejudiced. There are many in the international community, not Arab, and not even Muslim, who hold these views. I mean COME ON, you must know this.

I must say I found it interesting that in your first email you cited the phrase “scheming thieves” (which is what 99% of Arabs think of Israelis) as the problem in my article and now in your last email you have left this phrase behind and moved onto to new words like “ethnic cleansing” and “Zionism” as issues of concern. It leads me to think you are trying hard to convince yourself you are right…

Justin, ethnic cleansing is defined as when a single group of people are being eradicated or forced to disperse from their native land, through military action and illegal land grabs to create an ethnic homegeneity. In other words… this IS what’s happening in Palestine . Case in point, a recent Time Magazine article stated:

“And yet to much of the world, the Katzes (a family of West Bank Israeli settlers) are participating in illegal land grabs forbidden by the Geneva conventions, which do not allow an occupying power (like Israel ) from settling its own civilians on militarily controlled land.”

Did you know there are many Jewish groups around the world, growing by numbers and influence everyday that refer to Israeli as a Zionist Warring State ? In an open letter to the people of Palestine , Rabbi Ahron Cohen wrote:

The world stands aghast as the atrocities being committed by the Zionist regime in Gaza, becomes known in ever greater and shocking detail. Mere words are insufficient to express the pain that all mankind feels at the plight of the Gaza and Palestinian people.

Throughout their history, the Zionists have resorted to intimidation, war, ethnic cleansing and state—sponsored terrorism to achieve their goals. This is, has been and continues to be, the criminal agenda of the Zionist movement.
source: http://www.nkusa.org/index.cfm

But I guess these words, the words of a Jewish Rabbi, would not be acceptable on the pages of your magazine.

60 minutes reports, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7XtT91yO6g , Pullizter prize winning American authors http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjBttx6Gd2c , or mainstream online magazine writers http://www.counterpunch.org/loewenstein01012009.html represent the fact that the media’s viewpoint of Israel is changing. Simply put, Israel ’s is cold-blooded in its dealing with the Palestinians and the world media as a whole is shifting. You can join the fearful herd and be a follower Justin, some are better suited to do so than others. But I will join the others in the distance and lead. Being against Israeli actions in Palestine , calling them bullies and thieves, or any other number is names, is NOT anti-Judaism. This is a manipulative lie whose shelf life is finally and thankfully reading its end. Think of that what you will.

Best Regards,
David Anthony Hohol

August 7, 2009, 5:09 PM: My response back

I wasted your time? Respectfully, are you forgetting the part where you contacted me? And yes, of course I read some of your work, but I obviously didn’t read all of your work. Otherwise you never would have received an invite.

Also, you’re pulling the “prejudiced” card on me? You brought up the notion of “Arab” in your response to my initial email, and I was using that term to describe what I thought your perspective was, not to characterize the entire Arab world as sharing that perspective. And I’m sorry, but who called Israeli settlers “scheming thieves” and then linked back to his own editorial?

Moving on…you found it interesting I moved on to other terms beyond “scheming thieves?” Well, I find it interesting that you don’t understand that when you attack somebody, they’re going to defend themselves by providing more detail. Yes, I was justifying my position. It’s called debating.

As far as your definition of ethnic cleansing and then citing the activities of one family as proof? Also, a Rabbi who doesn’t even think that the state of Israel should exist? David, seriously, I’m not trying to be a dick here, but if you brought that into any serious forum for debate you’d get laughed out of the room. As I’ve said before on Donklephant, I think the Israelis have obviously overreached and need to stop building settlements. But you’re going far, far, far, far beyond that and assigning some nefarious “ethic homogeneity” plot to them. That’s just the type of conspiratorial nonsense that instantly discredits you nearly in every forum except ones that still believe that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are valid. Not good company.

Listen, we obviously don’t agree and that’s fine. I wish you and yours the best and let’s just leave it at.


December 8, 2009: The email that sparked this post
Hello Justin,

Thought you might enjoy this article. It’s about our chance online meeting this past summer.


And so here we are…

One additional note…after I revoked Hohol’s privileges and took his post down, he posted a comment on a site called Newstin that this article was the one taken down.

His post…

I was fired from donlkephant for posting this story. Told it is a “one-sided Arab perspective” and any site that would carry it had “abosultely no integrity.” RELATIVTY OnLine thankfully offers its writers the freedom to reveal their own individual perspecvtive. To read the full version of the above story click here

Note that Hohol not only linked to the wrong article, but he also claims that I said any site that would run his editorial would have no integrity. But, as you’ll remember, I actually said…

If you feel that viewpoint has integrity, I can’t dispute that, but as somebody who has defended Palenstine on Donklephant I can tell you that it has absolutely no integrity on the site.

So there you have it.

Please share your thoughts below.