Doug Mataconis, RIP

The longtime OTB front-pager has passed far too soon.

Jazz Shaw drew my attention to a post on Doug’s Facebook feed from last evening:

To all of Doug’s friends, it is with a very sad heart and deep regret that we share that Doug passed away. We and the rest of the extended family appreciate all of the support that everyone has shown for Doug over the years.

Alas, I have no further details and have not yet found any other confirmation of the news but have no reason to doubt that it’s true.

Despite his long association with this blog—he started posting here in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts and likely twice that many comments—I did not know Doug well. I had lunch with him once shortly after he joined the team and saw him a handful of times at CPAC.

He disappeared from OTB, Facebook, and Twitter without notice March 11, 2019 and returned without much in the way of explanation on April 13. He then resumed his normal frenetic pace on all three until January 7, 2020, when he disappeared again. After a brief resurgence in the OTB comments section, Twitter, and Facebook in the spring of this year, he has been silent on all three since June 7.

Given that I founded the site and blogged for more than seven years before Doug came on board and have kept blogging in his absence, it’s not surprising that I remain the most prolific poster in OTB history, with 26,915 posts and counting. But he was far and away the number two front-pager here and, frankly, carried the site for quite a few years. I’m not sure the blog would have survived the Trump years without his dogged perseverance.

Doug graduated from Rutgers in 1990 and George Mason Law in 1993. That would have made him 52 or 53 years old.

I’ll post more details when I know them. Sad news, indeed, for the OTB family.

From Steven: I was saddened to learn of Doug’s passing this morning when James texted me. I never met Doug in person, although we did have some private communications over the years. There is no doubt that OTB has been a different place without him. May he rest in peace.

UPDATE (James): Doug would no doubt be amused that news of his death is trending on memorandum and going mildly viral on Twitter and Facebook.

He was perhaps more Internet-famous—and, certainly had more admirers—than I suspect he knew.

Some reflections from Twitter:

https://twitter.com/joy/status/1414605801965060098

And from John Cole over at Balloon Juice:

Doug was an interesting character, someone with whom I rarely agreed as he was a self-proclaimed libertarian, but when I did agree with him, it was virtually 100% agreement. He was funny, though, quick witted, enjoyed life and it showed through his writing, and at the same time frustrating because he loathed the modern GOP and would write posts excoriating them and then veer off and say something to the extent of “but the Democrats are no better” and all I could think was “YOU WERE SO DAMNED CLOSE.”

All, that aside, from my interactions with him I can say he was a good man and will be missed.

FILED UNDER: Best of OTB, Obituaries, OTB History
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. JohnMcC says:

    Not all who wander are lost. Although based on my experience in life, my wandering and lostness have a significant interface. Warmest thoughts and hopes that he found the road home.

    5
  2. SKI says:

    Sad news, indeed.

    May his memory be for a blessing and a comfort.

    5
  3. sam says:

    Sad news. I much appreciated Doug’s posts at OTB.

    1
  4. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Sad indeed to know we’ll never again get the benefit of his insight. RIP, Doug.

    1
  5. charon says:

    Sorry to learn that.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    Good speed, Doug. You’ll be missed.

  7. Kathy says:

    Oh damn.

    1
  8. Mu Yixiao says:

    I’m pretty sure it was because of a post from Doug that I found this place.

    Godspeed and good hunting.

    3
  9. Jen says:

    I’m so very sorry to hear this. Peace to all who knew and loved him. He’ll be missed.

    1
  10. myson15 says:

    Whoa !!! So sad

    1
  11. Teve says:

    I seldom agreed with him, but tonight I will raise a glass of Guinness in his honor.

    3
  12. Matthew Bernius says:

    Thank you for sharing this sad news James. My thoughts are with Doug’s family. He will be missed.

    6
  13. JohnSF says:

    RIP

  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I am so very sad to hear this.
    I didn’t agree with Doug on much, but I always respected his take on things…especially when the topic was legal matters.
    RIP, good man. I hope you have found a better place.

    1
  15. Kylopod says:

    I’ve been posting here since 2010, and while I often disagreed with Doug–possibly more than the other hosts–he may have been the reason I came here in the first place. He was incredibly prolific, always doing good summations of the news of the day that would provide a starting point for discussion. And I felt the gap when he stopped posting regularly.

    I was shocked when I saw the headline. My condolences to his family.

    5
  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Fck. Just fck. Fck fck fck fck fck.

    Fck.

    15
  17. Stormy Dragon says:

    Well, this is a terrible start to the week…

    I hope that whatever was happening, he found some peace before the end

    4
  18. Tony W says:

    The world lost a smart and insightful man, R.I.P Doug, we appreciate your contributions to the world.

    You made a difference.

    4
  19. Rick Almeida says:

    This is heartwrenching news. I’ll miss his commentary very much.

    2
  20. Mister Bluster says:

    Peace, Love and Tears…lots of tears…

    1
  21. de stijl says:

    I will miss Doug. Sorely.

    He was a fantastic synthesizer of disparate news stories into a meta-narrative. He was rock-solid on consolidating sourcing.

    We did not often agree on conclusions, but his sourcing and consolidation was without par. He worked extremely hard. So prolific! He was world class on spitting out well-sourced pieces daily at a remarkable rate.

    Sad and reflective at this news.

    4
  22. Modulo Myself says:

    I am very sorry to hear this. Peace to those who knew and loved him and peace to Doug.

  23. reid says:

    Whatever was going on with Doug, I didn’t think it’d come to this. Very shocking and sad. RIP.

  24. Blue Galangal says:

    I am so sad to hear this. Thank you for letting us know. Rest in peace, Doug.

  25. Chip Daniels says:

    I mostly lurk here but have been reading since the early days.

    My deepest condolences to his family and friends, his words will be missed.

    1
  26. Scott F. says:

    Such sad news. I enjoyed reading Doug’s take on the events of the day.

  27. Arnold Stang says:

    Rest in Peace Doug

  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    He always seemed to me to resist any revelation about himself. I know he lost his law license a few years ago. Sometime later stopped posting. Returned, but his comments were often full of errors he’d never have made back in the old days.

    I have a feeling depression has claimed another victim.

    Doug’s rigor, his discipline on the page, and above all his productivity, was extraordinary. As a reader I had great respect for him, as a fellow writer even more so.

    25
  29. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I share your feeling about about depression as the cause. This is unutterably sad. As far as I know, Doug’s parents were deceased, and he had no siblings, nor a spouse and children.

    11
  30. Lounsbury says:

    Oh dear, this is a genuine surprise. I liked Doug very much in his posting.

    3
  31. Tom Strong says:

    Damn. I’ve mostly been a lurker here, but always enjoyed his perspective and clear voice, even when I disagreed with him. Rest in peace.

    1
  32. Barry says:

    Doug, we will miss you.

  33. wr says:

    Shocking. Just shows how little we really know the people we feel we know from this kind of forum. All you guys take care of yourselves, y’hear!

    1
  34. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Alas, your reaction and mine are the same. I don’t know if we’ll ever know for sure.

    7
  35. Neil J Hudelson says:

    This is just incredibly sad. I hope his family and friends find comfort.

    5
  36. mattbernius says:

    @Michael Reynolds, @CSK, @James Joyner:
    You can add me to that list.

    And because of that, and my own struggles with mental and emotional illness (including depression), I’ll post the information about the 24×7 crisis txt-line:

    All you need to do is text HOME to 741741 to be connected with a live, trained Crisis Counselor who will help you move from a hot moment to a cool moment.

    More details here: https://www.crisistextline.org/

    19
  37. George says:

    He was far too young.

    4
  38. gVOR08 says:

    Damn. Just damn.

    3
  39. grumpy realist says:

    I very much enjoyed Doug’s dissection of any legal matter (even though I might have come down on the other side.)

    Bless you Doug, and may the gods hold you in their hands.

    5
  40. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    He always seemed to me to resist any revelation about himself. I know he lost his law license a few years ago. Sometime later stopped posting. Returned, but his comments were often full of errors he’d never have made back in the old days.

    I have a feeling depression has claimed another victim.

    My thought was quite different. I suspected that the “lack of rigor”, frequent spelling and word mistakes, and sometimes odd phrasing was likely from either a stroke or tumor.

    11
  41. Joe says:

    I hope his family and friends find comfort.

    I second that and I think that includes the community here, Neil.

    2
  42. Scott says:

    This was shocking to hear. I was looking forward to his return because his contribution was always a positive one even if one disagreed. May he find rest.

    3
  43. Joe says:

    I hope his family and friends find comfort.

    I second that and I think that includes the community here, Neil.

    While I think the curiosity about the cause(s) is genuine understandable, and heartfelt, having been around a few of these situations I am also gonna call it unhelpful.

    4
  44. drj says:

    Very sad to hear the news.

    He was (by far) the most prolific writer when I discovered this place.

    1
  45. Rob in CT says:

    Awful. Shocking. I don’t know what else to say.

    1
  46. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    I thought the same as to the strange lacunae in his writing, but stroke and depression are not mutually exclusive.

    6
  47. Hal_10000 says:

    This is the worst kind of news. We’ve lost too many good people lately. RIP.

    5
  48. Gustopher says:

    Well, that’s a gut kick. He seemed like a nice guy, despite his libertarianism.

    He was pretty secretive, and it seems fitting to honor that and not speculate, but that’s also really hard. I’ll note that my brother died suddenly when he was 48 or so from a heart attack, so everyone searching the tea leaves of his posts and actions might have it very wrong.

    8
  49. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Condolences to his friends and family. May he rest in eternal peace.

  50. Mikey says:

    So sad to hear this. May he rest in peace.

  51. John Peabody says:

    I first read Doug’s own blog, “Below the Beltway”, before he joined OTB. I certainly appreciated his candor and his ability to call an asshole an asshole.

    7
  52. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher: He was pretty secretive, and it seems fitting to honor that and not speculate,

    I understand the impluse to, but I’m on the same side as you.

    3
  53. Jay L Gischer says:

    Doug started posting links to OTB on Google Plus (back when it was a thing) and that’s how I found this site.

    Thanks, Doug.

    4
  54. de stijl says:

    For newbies, Mataconis was not just prolific.

    He was remarkably fair in sourcing. And acted in good faith towards those sources and voices.

    He always acted correctly on that. That is remarkable and admirable.

    On analyses, we often differed, but he never faltered on laying out the playground properly. I have undying respect for him on that.

    14
  55. Paine says:

    Very sad news.

  56. John Cole says:

    Damnit to hell.

    14
  57. Moosebreath says:

    Truly saddened to hear this. He seemed like a great person, even if we had some fundamental disagreements on the wider world.

    1
  58. becca says:

    Very sad news. Very sad.

    1
  59. flat earth luddite says:

    Enjoyed his presence, and missed him when he went AWOL, and looked forward to his return. Now I’m going to miss him even more, because it’s forever. As my sailor friends are wont to say, Doug, fair winds and a following sea.

    7
  60. David M says:

    Damn it. Doug will be missed, here and on Twitter, and in real life. RIP

  61. Andy says:

    Thanks for sharing the new James.

    That really sucks. The early 50’s is way too young to go, especially for someone with a good character and intellect. He will be missed and my thoughts are with his family.

    8
  62. Raoul says:

    RIP. It would behooves us all not to speculate on the cause of death but I hope the information would be forthcoming precisely to avoid such.

    2
  63. R. Dave says:

    Goddamn. These online forum / blog relationships are so strange – I never met Doug, he didn’t know my real name and probably wouldn’t have even recognized my handle as one of his regular interlocutors here, and yet this is just profoundly sad news to me. More of an emotional schock than I would have guess, to be honest. Not to presume, but if this was depression-related, I hope anyone else in this comments section who has such issues and may feel isolated or unloved sees how much even these virtual connections matter to people. None of us are as truly alone as we may sometimes feel in our darkest moments.

    15
  64. mistermix says:

    Sad to see this. I was always impressed with his obvious hard work putting together posts on OTB. Definitely one of the people that I disagreed with regularly, but I was always interested in his take. RIP

    4
  65. Ol Nat says:

    Oh no! Terrible news! Prayers for his family!

  66. matt says:

    Let’s all unblock troll Pavlick in Doug’s memory 😉

    1
  67. Matt says:

    @matt:

    Correction: Let’s all unblock AND troll Pavlick in Doug’s memory.

    1
  68. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Genuinely shocked and saddened to see this. Wishing for peace and healing for his family & loved ones.

    המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

    11
  69. Monala says:

    I’m so very sorry to hear this. Sending comfort and peace to his family and friends.

    1
  70. @mattbernius: We all seem to have had the same thought. I’ve had my own difficulties with depression and it’s quite hellish. It seemed recognizable to me. I’ll keep good thoughts about him, though.

    2
  71. Mike Schilling says:

    I’ll miss Doug.

    4
  72. Lauren K. says:

    Doug was a good friend to me when I was going through a difficult time. I will never forget that he was kind to me when I could not be to myself. When he made his brief return to the interwebs I had told him that I was worried and he said he did not realize his internet friends worried about him. Sadly, we rarely ever get the chance to find out how many people we will touch in our lifetime but my hope is that he realized how many people he was able to reach. RIP

    16
  73. mattbernius says:

    @Lauren K.:

    Doug was a good friend to me when I was going through a difficult time. I will never forget that he was kind to me when I could not be to myself.

    It just got really dusty in my office. This is a fine testament to Doug as a person.

    I had told him that I was worried and he said he did not realize his internet friends worried about him. Sadly, we rarely ever get the chance to find out how many people we will touch in our lifetime but my hope is that he realized how many people he was able to reach.

    I was concerned that might be the case. And I have the same hope for him.

    8
  74. CSK says:

    Jazz Shaw writes on Twitter that he’s been in touch with the family about arrangements for Doug, and that no cause of death has been determined yet.

    I’m sure he touched the lives of a great many more people than he ever realized he did.

    6
  75. Nightcrawler says:

    Walk in eternity. Rest in power.

  76. Nightcrawler says:

    @James Joyner:

    No, we may not, and I don’t want to speculate. While I admit that I’d like to know, I realize that how Doug died is none of my goddamn business. And it’s not like it matters, anyway. Knowing what killed him won’t bring him back.

    2
  77. Daniel Sachs says:

    I heard today of the passing of my friend Doug Mataconis. I met Doug in law school. He and I would sit between classes in a square of chairs outside the main lecture room discussing politics, current events, and philosophies of law. Doug had a face so serious that it could stop a baby’s cries and laugh so hardy it would fill the vacuum in one’s heart with joy.
    I regret that after law school my contact with Doug became less frequent and in the last decades only by electronic communication. I’m struggling to remember the last time I saw him in person. I fear that it was at my wedding. Doug was a member of the wedding party and held the chuppah during the ceremony.
    Doug’s libertarian ideology was tempered by practicality. His strict beliefs were softened by his wit. He will be missed.
    May his memory always be a blessing.

    26
  78. ptfe says:

    Damn, that’s a blow.

    We had our share of opposition on here, but he produced a ton of well-written, well-compiled articles and didn’t shy away from engaging.

    He’ll be missed, in real and virtual worlds.

    2
  79. LaMont Durr says:

    This is sad news indeed! No doubt Doug carried this blog for awhile. It was around the same time I started following this site. I did not agree much with his perspective on things but I always respected his takes enough to read it. RIP Doug!

    1
  80. liberal capitalist says:

    .

    Onward to greater things!

    1
  81. The Q says:

    Such horrible news. DM’s contributions were provocative and while there were disagreements it was always in the vein of jefferson’s “need not mean a difference of principles”.

    He will be greatly missed from this blog and from our world. R.I.P.

    4
  82. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    I realize that how Doug died is none of my goddamn business.

    For Whom the Bell Tolls
    by
    John Donne

    No man is an island,
    Entire of itself.
    Each is a piece of the continent,
    A part of the main.
    If a clod be washed away by the sea,
    Europe is the less.
    As well as if a promontory were.
    As well as if a manor of thine own
    Or of thine friend’s were.
    Each man’s death diminishes me,
    For I am involved in mankind.
    Therefore, send not to know
    For whom the bell tolls,
    It tolls for thee.

    6
  83. EddieInCA says:

    I reached out to Doug in person when I was in DC last year during the peak of Covid. He had been gone from OTB for awhile, and, as MR can tell you, I have friends in some good places who can get me your private phone number pretty easily.

    Anyhow, to make a long story short, I reached out with a long, long voice mail regarding depression, and, surprisingly, he responded, and thanked me, saying he had no idea his absence would affect so many people. He was genuinely surprised that anyone cared at all. Recetly, I thought (hoped?) he as getting better.

    I never did meet him, but ultimately spoke to him on the phone several times; the most recent being about two months ago.

    This sucks.

    21
  84. Wayne fields says:

    Doug was my friend for 8 years. He is the mutual of every circle of social contacts i have. He stuck by the word of the law, even when he hated its hardness. Watching 3 scotus justices replaced like they were saddened and galled him. His last post compared the latest gop affront to the law and the constitution to the german nazis. Yet in his mirth he always looked forward to the next outrageous “overlords” be they aliens from space or cocaine addicted hippos.
    You are missed my freind.

    13
  85. Lit3Bolt says:

    So sorry to hear about this. I had some fine times here engaging with Doug who was always witty and insightful, and I learned much about the world through him.

    He will be missed.

    2
  86. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    That’s awful, he’ll surely be missed. I don’t know what to say.

    3
  87. Jc says:

    Doug was one of the main reasons I read OTB. He was a fair minded guy that could go back and forth with folks and was great at explaining his thoughts and positions. My deepest sympathies to all his family and friends. I genuinely enjoyed his style, his delivery and bits of humor and lighthearted moments. A great example of how exchange, discourse, listening and engaging about politics and ideas should be done.Thank you, Doug. RIP

    4
  88. Scott O says:

    I think I found this site from blog talk radio. Once upon a time there was something called OTB radio. Doug was a regular on a show/podcast called The Rino Hour of Power on BTR for a while. There was a chat room if you were listening live and I chided Doug from time to time there but more often I chided the host, Rick Moran. Here’s a link to Doug and Rick discussing the “skewed” polls and other current events in Sept 2012.
    https://archive.org/details/podcast_rino-hour-power_poll-dancing_1000330747705

    Rest well Doug

    1
  89. Dennis L Sanders says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I was thinking the same thing. Whatever happened, I just hope he is at peace. Godspeed, Doug.

    4
  90. Jax says:

    For Doug:

    We’ll have a beer, eventually. I always imagined he’d be there at the OTB meetup we were totally gonna do before COVID.

    “After I count down three rounds, in hell I’ll be in good company….”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9FzVhw8_bY

    3
  91. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Oh my. That’s awful. I was very much looking forward to having him back on here and needling him about his libertarian bona fides after his hiatus :-(. We seldom agreed, but he was a clear-eyed and fair foil for my convictions.

    May God comfort him and his (although he probably wouldn’t be much impressed by this particular opinion of mine either …).

    2
  92. Kit says:

    I can’t speak about Doug in the real world, but in this corner of virtual reality he gave far more than he received. If karma is a thing, Doug, in his all-too-short life, has earned far more than most.

    3
  93. DeD says:

    Oh, no. Too soon. Far too soon.

    2
  94. Bokonon says:

    Doug was a personal friend of mine (as well as my wife), and this is deeply upsetting. I will miss him greatly.

    6
  95. Nightcrawler says:

    FYI, I’ve created a Find A Grave memorial for Doug. Feel free to add virtual flowers (it’s free), as well as any photographs you may have. I’ll update the memorial with burial information once we have it.

    https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/229480352/douglas-edward-mataconis#

    6
  96. Mikey says:

    Dirge Without Music

    I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
    So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
    Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
    With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

    Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
    Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
    A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
    A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

    The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
    They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
    Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
    More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

    Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
    Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
    Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
    I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

    — Edna St. Vincent Millay

    4
  97. Along with OTB, Doug helped me found The Liberty Papers in 2005. All I can say is “shit”

    1
  98. gimmeabreak says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    This is a beautiful thing you did.

    Not that it matters a whole lot, but Doug died where he was born – Piscataway, NJ.

    2
  99. Franklin says:

    I haven’t commented much the past couple years, but my-oh-my I read a ton of content from Doug. Having gone through a libertarian phase in my 20s, I had sympathy for where he was coming from. And yet, he presented facts as facts, whether it supported his opinions or not. He was also pretty level-headed despite frequent and fervent blowback. It was sad when he disappeared. I hope he knew he mattered.

    1
  100. Franklin says:

    By the way, thank you to those who personally knew him for saying some words here to let us learn a bit more. Thank you also to EddieInCA and any others who reached out to Doug, I’m sure it meant a lot.

    4
  101. Nightcrawler says:

    @gimmeabreak:

    Thank you for letting me know. I’ll update the memorial.

  102. CSK says:

    @Nightcrawler:
    Did Doug die on June 7? And we’re just finding out about it now?

  103. Skookum says:

    The Trump and Covid years have been too much for too many. Let his memory remind us to be speak truth to power and to be kind, especially when it is hard to do so.

    1
  104. Nightcrawler says:

    @CSK:

    It’s an estimate. Unfortunately, he died some time before he was found, so we may never know the exact date of death.

  105. CSK says:

    @Nightcrawler:
    God, that’s awful.

  106. Matt says:

    I was one of Doug’s many, many Facebook friends and we regularly went head-to-head on political debates there. His loss is a sad one and comes much, much too soon. RIP, man, you were one of the good ones.

    2