Monthly Archives: July 2013

Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Four

Andrew Breitbart Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Four

ANDREW BREITBART:

PSYCHOSIS IN A POLITICAL MASK

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR

(This is the fourth, and final part, of what was originally intended to be a single post on Andrew Breitbart’s memoir, Righteous Indignation. It was originally a simple addendum to the third part, but because of that post’s great length, and this section’s own tumescence, it has received its own place. This is part one, part two, and part three. Byways into my research on Andrew Breitbart resulted in a section on one of Breitbart’s devotees, “BuzzFeed’s Benny Johnson: Gorgeous Animus”, while “The Invisible World: Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo, Chet Uber, Timothy Douglas Webster” was the result of Breitbart’s overlap with Anonymous. The fascinating Chet Uber of the last makes a small cameo here.

Part one dealt with Breitbart’s education and the possibility that he may have plagiarized part of his memoir’s section on the Frankfurt school from an essay in an old journal published by the notorious Lyndon LaRouche. Part two dealt with Breitbart’s attitude towards Hollywood and the Anthony Weiner scandal. Part three gave focus to his various followers in the aftermath of his death. Part four gives space to the environment in which his work briefly thrived, and what might be called the pre-revolutionary state in which we now live.

As said, though these posts were originally intended to focus entirely on Andrew Breitbart, they ended up bleeding into various other subjects, including Anonymous. As a result of the focus drifting onto the latter, some use is made of their glossary. Bluntly speaking, this means the word moralfag is used a few times, so tender readers might consider this fair warning of what’s below.

This began as a short entry, it is now the length of a too long short novel.

Originally, excerpts from Breitbart’s Righteous Indignation were transcripts from his audio book. On December 1st, 2013, they were replaced with sections taken from the actual digital print edition.)

ANGELS AND INSECTS

There is not much to say about Andrew Breitbart’s life, yet this is now the fourth part of what was originally intended as a simple analysis of his memoir, Righteous Indignation. This fourth part has almost nothing to do with him, which makes evident how so many words were spun out of this man’s life; he is an uninteresting mediocrity, but a fascinating symptom of the strifeful turbulence we now live in. His life was presented as one of happy ascent through jobs in the new media frontier, when it was that of a man for whom most work was closed off because of his ADD, who suffered through various low paying jobs, until he finally struck rich, mining the same resentment that festered inside him for those who had more than he did, those wealthy liberals who doled out special favours to those who were not him, did not look like him, those who got special racial preference where he got nothing.

Breitbart and his followers were looked on as one entity, independent of anything else, when it is necessary that they be seen in the context of other groups which have emerged in the aftermath of thirty years of growing income inequality, lower wages, less work. There is Breitbart, there is the Tea Party, there is Occupy Wall Street, and there is Anonymous. All of these groups channel an anger that is keenly and passionately felt, across the political spectrum, at a sense that one is powerless in the face of a small, cozy group which holds its riches close, while happily handing out helpful lectures on good living, diktats that are shipped out from some insular nexus, as useless to us as shoddy tractors or rusty tools sent out by the central Soviet to a Ukrainian farmer. The difference is that the anger of those on the right was very much compromised, directed towards convenient targets. The Tea Party, despite being anti-establishment, was manned by establishment figures and funded by establishment money. Andrew Breitbart was a man who waged class warfare, but it was only warfare towards one niche, liberal Hollywood and pundits, of the wealthy class. Because he directed his fire towards only this niche, as well as the occasional black man and woman, he was given a happier, more comfortable perch, especially on the right, than anyone whose career might otherwise be fueled by such resentment.

For me, the most striking example of this strange union can be found in the libertarian magazine / website, Reason. You would expect Breitbart and this group to be natural enemies. They were libertarians, and they were against the big statism of the war state. In Breitbart’s Indignation, there is only one explicit political position taken, one which sets him against the Democratic Media Complex and it is over their opposition to the Iraq war. Breitbart wants simple ideological unity, and he despises their dissent. His problem with the democratic party is not their sycophancy to the war-state, it is that they are not sycophantic enough. The problem wasn’t that the Democratic Party was the party of Joe Lieberman, but that it stopped being the party of Joe Lieberman.

A few excerpts:

September 11 obviously changed everything. It stopped the left from bleeding the country dry with its cynical partisanship veiled as “objective” and “neutral” coverage and commentary. The liberal model of separating Americans into different categories as a means toward empowering group leaders to tell their followers what to think, what to believe, and how to fight everyone else was over. They couldn’t pit Americans against each other anymore, and that scared the hell out of them, because that was how they’d gotten themselves elected for decades. September 11 took the pendulum and swung it away from polarization and toward unity; it brought America back to its natural state of E Pluribus Unum for a very short time, a time in which even Democrats were awkwardly forced to hold hands with Republicans and sing “God Bless America.”

The next step was exposing the left for what it truly was. That couldn’t be done by simply pointing them out. It had to be done with their consent, with their input. It required a near-magic confluence of events in order to happen.

And it happened.

At the exact moment in my life when I was recognizing the strength of my antileftism, my anticommunism… at the exact point when I was seeing that my emotions and theories were unintentionally driving me toward an accidental “culture-warrior” status… at the exact juncture when I was realizing that the most brutal, evil force I could imagine wasn’t Al Qaeda or radical Islam (at least you know where they’re coming from, the brutality of their mission and their anti-Western, anticlassical, liberal hatred), but the Complex surrounding me 24/7 in the form of attractive people making millions of dollars whose moral relativism and historical revisionism and collective cultural nihilism were putting them in the same boat as the martyrs of radical Islam rather than red-state Americans… at the exact time when I was undergoing the fundamental recognition that my neighbors in West Los Angeles were acting to undermine national cohesion in a time of war, which put me in a perennial state of psychic dissonance…

I watched with increasing trepidation the ultimate attack on Bush that I had previously predicted to friends and family. I watched the collective effect of the Hollywood class’s reaction to 9/11, which consisted of splitting the country when we were united. And I decided to stop fighting behind coattails and to start fighting in my own name.

That’s why, in 2004, I wrote Hollywood, Interrupted with Mark Ebner, a no-holds-barred underground Hollywood journalist. I wrote it out of the pure outrage welling up in me as I saw the Hollywood left filling the void in the Democratic Party after 9/11, normalizing the most extreme scorched-earth measures against a wartime president. I wrote it because of Sean Penn, and Martin Sheen, and all these radicals who had clean haircuts and wore three-thousand-dollar suits and used the power of their image to legitimize the profoundly damaging metamorphosis the Democratic Party was undergoing—the transition from the party of Joe Lieberman to the party of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean.

As part of this, they crafted a “dissent is patriotic” meme, an absurd slogan to begin with, that they intentionally misattributed to patriotic Founding Fathers like Benjamin Franklin (they would later be forced to attribute it to pseudoscholar Howard Zinn). Deconstructed, “Dissent is patriotic” is a self-negating slogan because its validity clearly depends on what kind of dissent you’re talking about. If you’re a member of the neo-Nazis in America, you’re dissenting, but nobody would call that dissent patriotic. But if you’re antiwar, dissent is automatically patriotic, according to David Geffen’s guest list (even if you’re a member of Al Qaeda, presumably, since they are antiwar, at least as far as the United States goes). The aphorism is nonsensical. But the left repeated it so many times and so often that it lost all meaning. They slapped it on every bumper sticker on every Prius at every Whole Foods. And it worked.

Hollywood dragged out its oldest lefties and its youngest lefties. Jann Wenner, a Baby Boomer who still force-feeds the relevance of Bruce Springsteen with repetitive front-page power picks, used this movement to promote Green Day and any other pop-cultural vessel that would create antiwar albums. MTV found selective youth, sexy youth, wearing antiwar T-shirts, and put them on TV every night. There was an urge in Hollywood from the old and the young to affirm the Baby Boomer Boss-lovers’ yearnings for the Age of Aquarius to be reborn in the Bush age.

These were the loudest people in the world. And the press was giving them free rein to say and do whatever they wanted, to incite political stunts reminiscent of the Merry Pranksters, to use media trickery to make points, to spawn a youth rebellion against the president of the United States during wartime. They were representing America abroad, and they were representing us as evil hayseeds bent on killing brown people—and the media were abetting this slander.

Between the war in Iraq, the introduction of “victims” of a manufactured “intolerance” toward dissent, the ire and tactics of the gay movement, and the unyielding propaganda of the Hollywood left, all the strands braided together to form a leftist rope of monumental strength—a rope made to hang George W. Bush from the highest turret.

This is combined with the rhetoric, already mentioned in part two, where Breitbart, a perpetually out of shape man who served no time in the military, views every political conflict in military terms – the left is an enemy, more brutal, more vile than Al-Qaeda, he is at war with it, and it must be destroyed. He makes a public speech where he expresses his wish for a civil war where the military is his ally in extinguishing the left1. This aggressive defender of the war state, the single strident political issue of Indignation, is given a happy defense by Matt Welch in his eulogy by neatly effacing him of this obvious political principle. From “Farewell to a Friend: Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)” by Welch:

It was always funny to many of his friends that Andrew Breitbart, after he became famous, was probably most famous for being a 100 percent polarizing political lightning rod. The reason that was funny was two-fold: He didn’t actually have strong philosophical/policy beliefs – at all – and he was always perfectly comfortable and perfectly welcome in ideologically and culturally diverse settings.

That the libertarians at Reason could look past this war statism is a simple question of convenience, for the reason that Breitbart was virulently anti-liberal, anti-left, anti-union. When the movie Hating Breitbart came out earlier this year, the director, Andrew Marcus, got an unskeptical promotional interview at the site2. It was a film that received a 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and yet it was gifted with a rave at Reason, “Loving Hating Breitbart”, by the magazine’s editor, Nick Gillespie. The movie is supposedly great, because it captures the great disruption which has taken place with insurgent media and the traditional press3. This is an uncritical, unskeptical view of what has taken place; one might argue that what has happened is that the resource rich institutional press has been decimated, allowing a far less resourceful press to take its place, one which simply does not have the ability to question and examine certain claims, thus eliminating many of the bulwarks of things like simple political persecution, thus granting well-funded partisan groups even greater power, and so you have an unquestioning media frenzy which results in the firing of Shirley Sherrod.

That Breitbart is to be praised as a disruptive force, whatever you think of his politics, is a little strange since Reason views another, earlier, disruptive force, Michael Moore, as an enemy. All of his movies have gotten negative reviews at the magazine, one of which labels the man as “The Left’s Weeping Clown”4. Michael Moynihan, a Reason writer, who would write the dismissal of Moore’s Sicko, “Schitcko”, would also write “Hollywood Babylon-For Ugly People”, a piece which would compare the outrage over Shirley Sherrod’s case with the supposed lack of outrage over Journolist, and after Breitbart’s death, he would tweet out an endorsement of one of the more fulsome of Breitbart epitaphs, “Breitbart’s Last Laugh”. Mike Flynn, would move from a position of director of Legislation and Policy at ALEC, to being a writer and Director of Public Affairs at Reason, and then on to Editor in Chief of BigGovernment.com, a Breitbart site, and then political editor at Breitbart.com5.

This moment from Reason senior editor Brian Doherty’s review of Capitalism: A Love Story, “Michael Moore: A Teachable Moment for Libertarianism?”, I thought was especially insightful:

What motivates Moore most in this movie is pure class envy and resentment, on behalf of not himself, doubtless more well off than most specific agents of the banks or financial institutions he’s slamming, but his imagined audience. There is no principled concern with property or justice behind Moore’s presentation in the movie, if justice means anything other than “I want who I think is the ‘advantaged’ person in the transaction to lose.”

I find it insightful because I think it echoes entirely Breitbart’s own perspective in Righteous Indignation, where Breitbart does not mention a single policy – other than dissent against the Iraq war – that he disagrees with. His animus towards the left is always the wealthy left, and it is entirely an anger about the wealthy having things that he does not. It is a screed of class warfare in the mantle of a screed against Hollywood liberals. They keep getting richer, while we grow poorer. They are all powerful, while we are powerless. Here is the part that I quoted in part two of this piece which I think best exemplifies this feeling:

They were all part of the same incestuous, elitist orgy. They were all part of the power structure of Hollywood, Washington, and New York. They were all from the same group of people who made tons of money, vacationed in the nicest places, flew first class—or private, and then dictated to the rest of America how to live “sustainable” lives. It didn’t matter how big Thomas Friedman’s house was or Al Gore’s vacation home was—they all felt the need to lecture Americans on how to behave sexually, what to eat, how to fly, where to shop… and what’s more, they agreed on the answers to all of those questions.

This is the very role that Doherty accuses Moore of playing, a multi-millionaire channeling the class envy and resentment of others.

Moore made his first movie, Roger and Me without the large funding of a major studio. He made documentaries that were critical of American economic policy, and an anti-war film when anti-war dissent was despised. Were you to look at the ideological positions of someone like Michael Moore, you would see far greater overlap with libertarianism: Moore was for gay marriage, against the drug war, and against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Breitbart was a passionate defender of those wars, a man who believed that liberal dissent of such wars made them worse than Al-Qaeda. He was against gay marriage6. One major distinction I can think of between the two men is that Moore was actually successful with a wider audience. Marcus’s Hating Breitbart has made nada drachmas, while Sicko had made over $30 million, Bowling for Columbine over $50 million, and Fahrenheit 9/11 over $200 million dollars. The other, more important one, is that Moore is loudly in favor of public health care and unions. Reason is partly funded by the Kochs, so it is expected that it will surrender its principles on the war state, but not over public health care or a minimum wage7.

We might see how far Gillespie goes to defend Breitbart in this excerpt from “Hating”:

A highlight of the documentary is the section dealing with the racially charged atmosphere around the 2010 vote on health care reform. Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) claimed that demonstrators called him and other black members of Congress “nigger” more than a dozen times when they were walking into their office building. Despite a large crowd including various journalists and police officers, Carson’s account was never corroborated by video or audio from the scene (though several of his companions, including the highly regarded Georgia Rep. John Lewis, backed Carson’s claims). Breitbart eventually offered $100,000 to anyone producing recorded evidence that supported Carson’s charge and he also compiled a number of phone and flip-cam vids that undercut Carson’s version of events. The specifics of the episode are less interesting than the use Breit­bart made of distributed snippets of video and information to challenge especially loaded charges.

A telling detail in the summary of this episode is how it underplays how often Breitbart engaged in race-baiting, how often he exploited race as an issue, and how incredibly callous he was on the subject. Tellingly, the most disgraceful moment in Breitbart’s career, the firing of Shirley Sherrod, gets no mention in the review. Equally important, it presents the Andre Carson incident as a kind of truth-telling when it is something different. Black men allege that they have been called a name that is repellingly familiar, and their allegations are dismissed not through counter-evidence but by scattered footage where the word goes unheard. The purpose is not to disprove, but only to cast doubt. You might give men such as Andre Carson and John Lewis the benefit of the doubt over this word, but Breitbart and Gillespie do no such thing.

Given that they wish to play by these rules when dealing with others, we might as well play by these rules when we look over the life of Andrew Breitbart: no benefit of doubt, none. When Breitbart said that he was a producer on the movie Valley Girl 2, he lied. His claim that the Huffington Post was his idea, and that he helped co-found it, was a lie8. When he defended himself over the Shirley Sherrod incident, he lied9. When, in the days before his death, he told a reporter that CNN had just offered him a talk show, an offer that CNN denied, Andrew Breitbart was lying. That Righteous Indignation, with its Manichean struggle against an all-powerful enemy that can distort reality, resembles the text of a paranoid conspiracist is no accident, but because Breitbart was a paranoid conspiracist10. That a thesis on the Frankfurt School in Righteous Indignation very closely resembles an essay from a Lyndon LaRouche publication, whose author would present work at a LaRouche symposium which included a speech on how B’nai B’rith was the hidden hand behind the U.S. civil war, is no accident either, because Breitbart had plagiarized it11. The only question is this: why was this lying, plagiarizing, conspiracy minded sociopath given such a comfortable place by the press?

For he surely was given a friendly perch, and not just in the hard right haven of Fox News. He got a kindly epitaph from Welch. Breitbart’s approach, which involved getting a black woman fired over bogus racism charges and shutting down ACORN, a service for those in need and of low-income, was praised by Ross Douthat as “less high-minded than the old-media era, but less stifling and conformist as well”, in his obit “The Scholar and the Rascal”. “A republic that survived the excesses of William Randolph Hearst can presumably survive the excesses of HuffPo and BigGovernment.com”, he wrote, and beyond the glib equivalence of the two, while re-reading that I could not help but think of “I Don’t Feel Your Pain: A failure of empathy perpetuates racial disparities”. It didn’t matter if certain people suffered greatly under Hearst or Breitbart, you just had to pick the right targets. Those who didn’t survive the excesses, they didn’t matter anyway.

There was “Breitbart’s Last Laugh” by “thoughtful” conservative12 Matt Labash. There was “What Andrew Breitbart Taught Me” by David Weigel and “In politics fight [sic], Breitbart knew culture is key” by Byron York. There was “Andrew Breitbart: Media manipulation as an art form” by Patrick Goldstein. Only Goldstein and Labash mentioned the Sherrod affair, but neither detailed why it was so disgraceful13. Jack Shafer’s “Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)” was more hesitant, though his “Two Cheers for Andrew Breitbart: Sometimes it takes an outsider to show the press corps the way” was enthusiastic.

A hint for why he was given this space can be found in two pieces that wrongly identify what takes place. “How Breitbart Hacks The Media” by Noah Shachtman implies that Breitbart somehow had to “hack” the press, to divert it from its own course to his own ends, when he did nothing of the kind. The content he produced was entirely consistent with the needs of the press, now. Short, self-contained stories, without context or anything like in-depth journalism, involving some exclamation point incident such as a black governmental official saying something racist or that a community organization was involved in fraud. It might be impossible to imagine a multi-part in-depth television series about hunger in America, poverty in America, unemployment in America, the abysmal quality of legal services available to the indigent – all these if actually produced, would involve true hacking of the media, but you can, without difficulty, imagine a bottom feeder show on any network being actively involved in the videos that Breitbart came up with. The m.o. of Breitbart is summarized in Christopher Beam’s “Andrew Breitbart hijacks Anthony Weiner’s press conference: What makes the conservative pundit tick.”, and it is the m.o. of most press now as well: “As long as his message is getting through, Breitbart doesn’t care if you think he’s an asshole. Assholes get attention.” The only helpful element that Breitbart brought to the party was disassociation – the press could say they did not want to get involved in this story, it just happened upon us.

It is Beam’s piece that also pinpoints why Breitbart was able to do such despicable things without consequence, by misidentifying why he was able to do so:

“I have two speeds,” Breitbart likes to say. “Humor and righteous indignation.” It’s meant to be self-deprecating. But it’s also the secret to his effectiveness. When anyone dismisses Breitbart as a loon, he comes back at them with moral fury. When they threaten to pin him down in an argument, he wriggles free with a joke.

This, if I might be allowed to lapse into my native french, is a load of horseshit. In December 2011, Playboy magazine published a discussion that had been arranged between Breitbart and left-wing stalwart Paul Krassner, with the only condition insisted on by Krasner that neither one could interrupt the other while they were talking. Krassner belongs to that often much maligned group known as sixties progressives, and that grouping might cause others to underestimate him. He is a more knowledgeable man than most who interviewed Breitbart, and during the discussion, he pinned the man down as easily as you place a glass over a bug. There were no skillful dodges, no dexterous evasions. Breitbart came across as unfunny, ignorant, and desperate, a man who, when pressed to the wall, had a pile of stale talking points and nothing more14.

The quality that Beam attributes to Breitbart, is that of the press itself, the desire to move on, to forget what happened a moment ago. The necessity of forgiving a content provider like Breitbart what he did the day before does not stem from what he did being any less malign, but because the content he will provide now makes such convenience necessary. This is the very same reason that Pat Buchanan can say so many despicable things and continue to find places on TV where he might happily guest – he is an eloquent, entertaining, full-throated speaker, and so it is necessary to forget what he just said15. This forgetting is assumed on the part of the press, and it is at the convenience of the press. Only when what is said is so egregious or so threatening to a press owner that association between the network and the content provider is a liability, is there finally an obstacle to this forgetting. Here also is the advantage of Breitbart’s content, which is both controversial and not controversial at all; this is not a man who would ever bring up the intertwining of a media company and a defense contractor, or something like the Fox Corp phone hacking scandal. No multi-national would feel as if anything he said would be against their interests.

Breitbart exploited a contemporary distrust of the press, yet the very fact that a weakened, decayed traditional press so readily took up his content or that of many conservative partisans only further intensified the distrust of other customers of the press, including myself. This distrust is often diagnosed as the result of a systemic ideological divide, a liberal coastal press and a conservative readership, when I think it is something very different, because I feel this same distrust as well. I think it is systemic, but a systemic divide that is far more complicated and difficult to repair then a simple ideological asymmetry. It is the result of people who feel themselves in desperate straits while the press appears entirely unknowing of this world. Strikes by fast food workers are not a major story, but one left to the margins of the progressive press16. The frequent reality of small town life, of the devastation of main street by box stores and the bottom basement salaries of such stores are occasionally mentioned, but not a commonplace of the press, though they are a commonplace of many lives. You are instead given abstractions, debates on the minimum wage where actual workers, actual human life, are occasionally allowed to intrude like guests briefly allowed into the mansion.

There is more and more a devotion to punditry, because punditry, “think pieces”, are cheaper than journalism, which can take weeks, months, years, to complete. We might see the contrast in a recent scandal which became an international story. There is “The Ford family’s history with drug dealing” by Greg McArthur and Shannon Kari, on the drug dealing history of the family of a Canadian mayor, which took eighteen months of careful, diligent research to produce the article. It might have involved even more research if its publication was not hastened by the posting of “For Sale: A Video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Smoking Crack Cocaine” [archive link] by John Cook, a piece of journalism which may have involved less research time, but was actual journalism, the writer traveling to Toronto and meeting with dealers, by which it was revealed that the mayor had a serious drug habit. We can compare this to the related, instant content of “The Highly Effective Idiot: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is crass, offensive, and may smoke crack. He is also a pretty good mayor” by Philip Preville, and “If Rob Ford Really Smoked Crack, He’d Have a Hell of a Time Governing Toronto” by Mansfield Frazier. The former is just an utter embarrassment, I think the second is very wrong in its central assumption, but both have all the worst qualities of such content. They are easily generated, they deal with something contemporary, and they are at a strange distance from the actual event. Frazier’s piece could be written about the mayor of any city, or governor of any state. Preville’s article would provoke commenters to ask whether he lived anywhere near Toronto, or whether he knew anything of the basic facts of the city’s administration17. Their only virtues, are those for the producer, rather than the consumer, dealing with speed and ease of production.

There is another quality that great journalism possesses, which is very distinct from punditry, and that is that the writer gives themselves over entirely to the characters of their piece. There is nothing so simple as an ideology put forth, or a specific opinion, there are simply these characters, and they are not reduced to simple judgements. Notable examples include Common Ground by J. Anthony Lukas, Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, and Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. All of these required extraordinary commitment; a recent interview with LeBlanc (“”Random Family,” Ten Years On: An Interview with Adrian Nicole LeBlanc” by Anna Altman and Katia Bachko), mentions that it involved over eleven years of in-depth reporting. None are simple advocacy of a thesis, and none of the characters exist for the purpose of advancing a thesis, as they might in the usual article which takes a position on student or minimum wage, where the people most immediately affected have brief, walk-on roles, chosen to speak a part convenient to the paper’s position.

Shorter versions of such distinguished journalism would be “A Eulogy for #Occupy” by Quinn Norton, and “A Loaded Gun: A Mass Shooter’s Tragic Past” by Patrick Radden Keefe; “Loaded Gun” deals with a provocative topic, but the reader doesn’t approach it as taking one position or another, but becomes ensnared by its characters, as one might great fiction. Although it moves quickly, and carries no portentous gravitas, the time required to capture the locale and the various characters must have been extensive. “Eulogy” takes characters that in other places are either lionized or defamed, and does neither. It attempts to present life in the Occupy community as it was lived, and it could only be the product of someone who spent extensive time there, rather than an excursion on which to launch a few deep thoughts. That more of these are not produced is not simply a question of the writers’ talents being very rare, but because the amount of time required for such work is very, very expensive. There is the implication in these works that the reader and the writer are, in the state of reading, equals. The writer must convey a universe equal to the reader’s attention, and not simply divert through cheap tricks, and not through cajoling or charming the reader through any political idea. When reading these works, the writer’s specific ideology ceases to matter, and will not be brought up by the reader.

This, I think, is a very different role than punditry, which often has the aspect of a lecture or a church service. Occasionally, I think the person and the role fits, such as the case of Paul Krugman, who is very knowledgeable in his field. His expertise in the area of economics is formidable, and I never feel as if I am bullied into agreement, or that he makes his argument by authority. Often, however, it feels as if the role of pundit and reader have arisen from this asymmetric state in which we live in, one that embodies it and enforces it: I have the power and you are powerless, I am the angel, and you are the insect, I will now tell you about your world, though I don’t live in it. I pick one notable example of this, by a writer who often raises my ire because he is so full of lectures while seemingly so blind to the realities of everyday life. He is also worth selecting because he is often cited as an important dissident voice, one outside the fray of party divides. We might turn to “The Bipartisan Interest in Making Women Feel Bad” by a writer for The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf, the essay a consolatory note to the distaff side fretting about what might await them as a result of the 2012 election:

By all means, let’s debate the full range of issues that affect women, along with every other issue in Election 2012. As it rages on, women as a class would be a whole lot better off if those of us framing the national conversation maintained a modicum of perspective. Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney dislikes women, nor is either driven by hostility to working women or stay-at-home moms. If elected, both are going to pursue policies that they earnestly think are good for Americans generally and, when aimed at women as a class, advantageous for them too. Both candidates are going to enjoy the support of millions of women, and neither group of supporters are going to be acting irrationally or suffering from false consciousness or demeaning themselves. Finally, while America circa 2013 is going to be waging wars on drugs and terrorism — with many innocents bloodied and killed as a result — it won’t be waging a war on women.

I take the last phrase of that excerpt, “Finally, while America circa 2013 is going to be waging wars on drugs and terrorism — with many innocents bloodied and killed as a result — it won’t be waging a war on women”, and I think I can reduce it to something simpler without distorting its initial meaning: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.” One might use this handy piece of soothsaying as a rhythmic break in an overview of some of what has taken in the past few months of this year.

On June 12th, Maine GOP leader Ken Fredette stated that he better understood the costs of Obamacare because of his man’s brain18. Conor Friedersdorf anticipated this: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.” The same day, the GOP was trying to pass an abortion ban bill in the U.S House of Representatives, and a democrat tried to include an amendment exempting pregnancies that were the result of rape or incest. The amendment was rejected, and Trent Franks, republican representative from Arizona had an explanation for why: “The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”19 I give the floor to Conor Friedersdorf: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.” On June 13th, Carie Charlesworth was fired after her abusive husband invaded the school where she worked. Conor Friedersdorf has something to say about this: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.” On June 16, Rick Perry vetoed a bill to prevent wage discrimination against women20. I give the floor to Conor Friedersdorf: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.” On June 26, Wendy Davis would filibuster a bill that would severely restrict access to all abortion clinics in the state of Texas21. Conor Friedersdorf sees no need to congratulate her, because he knows this a year beforehand: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.” The next day at a National Right to Life Conference, governor Rick Perry would condemn Davis’s filibuster as mob tactics that were a hijacking of the democratic process, and say that Davis had not learned from her own experience as a teen mom 22. But Conor Friedersdorf knew that things would be fine: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.” July 5, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed a bill over the long weekend, supposedly to avoid the publicity it might attract, requiring all women who sought an abortion to undergo an ultrasound23. Conor Friedersdorf has something to say: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.”

On July 11, North Carolina Republicans passed heavy regulations on abortion clinics, ostensibly to protect women’s health, but whose true intent was suspected to be to heavily restrict access, the regulations hidden in a bill dealing with motorcycle safety24. I pass the mic to Conor Friedersdorf: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.” That same day, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a parental notification law, requiring doctors to inform parents of under seventeen girls that their daughter is going to undergo an abortion25. Conor Friedersdorf had foreknowledge: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.” On July 12th, Texas debated the abortion bill which Davis’s filibuster had delayed, banning anyone from bringing in tampons to the congressional building26. Conor Friedersdorf had no worries: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.” On July 15th, the busiest abortion clinic in Virginia was forced to close due to increased regulations27. Conor Friedersdorf expected this: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.” On July 18, Rick Perry signed into law the bill which Wendy Davis had fillibustered, a bill that would heavily restrict abortion and shut down all but five clinics in the state28. Conor Friedersdorf had something to say: “In 2013, America won’t be waging a war on women.” We are all grateful for Mr. Friedersdorf’s prescience.

We might see the same distance in a column by Katie Roiphe, “Liberals Say They Want More Female CEOs, but They Hate the Ones Who Exist”. Roiphe is often mocked, though there often seems to be a misidentification of what is truly ireful in her writing29. Her talent is often underestimated: she is very well-read, someone who can create a compelling piece out of the mundane through her technical skills alone. It is the seeming distance between her life and the reader’s, her blindness to the vast gulf, that is maddening, and something more than maddening, it provokes an anger not just at the chasm between you and this writer, but an entire class, so extraordinarily perceptive, yet so happily unobservant. In “More Female CEOs”, she pushes back against the frustration of women who expected someone like Marissa Mayer to have some understanding of what they as women might go through, balancing work and motherhood, and grant them some space to raise a family, to know that few mothers have the luxury of hiring a nanny. This is a simple practical issue, having nothing to do with any expectation of the exotic qualities of the female psyche, only the expectation that a mother might know better than a man the burdens of a mother with a newborn child. Roiphe takes this feeling and transmutes it into crude envy, the impossible wish of the lowly reader wanting to be anything like Marissa Mayer. “We should not expect extraordinary women to be ordinary; we should not be constantly demanding that they live like us, or be like us or feel like us”, writes Roiphe, and her last line is something like a villain’s sneer: “If you want to see someone who is just like you, look in the mirror.” Mayer is an angel; we are insects.

A helpful accompanying context for this piece is “The Great Escape”, where Roiphe describes the happy equilibrium that she feels post-divorce, an equilibrium that she feels is so out of joint with what society expects of a divorced woman. That’s because most women have a lot less money than you do, you think. When the divorce takes place, suddenly there’s a mad, cruel fight over the meagre spoils. Most families now require two income earners to just keep things going, so after a divorce there’s a lot less for both, and a nasty battle over who still has enough left over to spend more on the kids. I don’t have a problem with Roiphe not experiencing this personally; I have a problem that it goes entirely without mention, as if without relevance. Her reflections in the essay are bookended by a look at The Age of Innocence and a contrasting of how life was for a New York divorcée then and now. These insights are interesting, though they omit a crucial point: how crucial a role money plays in Countess Olenska’s fate – if Granny Mingott doesn’t intervene, her choice is poverty or going back to a brutal husband30.

This sense of distance only aggravates distrust, a distrust not based in ideology, but something far simpler. The reader feels as if the writer is treating them like a mark, and the writer’s work is a three card monte table. The first example that comes to my mind for this would be David Weigel, and this is not a choice motivated out of malice. I do not pick him because he is a lousy reporter, but because he is one of the best. He is a genuinely passionate reporter, one of the few who have a hunger to be out in the field, rather than simply write their copy away from it. Those who disagree with his stories will often root their disagreement in ideology, that he is leftward and they are right-wing, or vicey versey. He strikes me as a very cynical libertarian31, but this is of no consequence; the obstacle is not ideology. I list these points to make clear that the problem is not ability, and nor is it political bent; it is simple trust.

A few examples that I can recall: in “The IQ Test” Weigel writes of the controversy over Jason Richiwine, who had done research into race based genetics and who had written for the Alternative Right, a web site that had been so branded by the SPLC and which Weigel properly describes as white nationalist; in this context, Weigel writes of liberals “squealing” racism and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) branding the offender with the mark of Cain. Why does he bring up this issue of liberal squealing in such a piece, of which he provides not a single case, and why does he describe it as such? He writes in “Kermit Gosnell Convicted on Three Counts of First-Degree Murder” that “it was the pro-choice movement that first wrote and talked about Gosnell, to pre-empt any sensationalism about the case.” How he’s able to impute this specific motive, an opprotunistic pre-empting of sensationalism, I have no idea; he provides no examples. I think I’ve read a moderate amount of the cited journalism, and I found nothing that implies this intent.

Most strikingly for me, was “Don’t Mess With Grandma: How a 78-year-old retiree may help the Kochs in their battle against Occupy Wall Street.”, written about a protest of an Americans For Prosperity gala event, where several protesters were knocked over by a departing car – but the lede, and focus, in Weigel’s story is given entirely over to the possible injury of a guest at the AFP dinner. Whether the injury was sustained by protesters, the woman herself mis-stepping, is unknown; the entire story’s angle is how this old woman will make the protesters look bad. I should be clear that I do not attribute these choices to Weigel being a racist, nor do I care if he’s pro-life, nor are there a lack of examples of his going after powerful conservatives. The issue is only a question of use of words or phrases which provoke distrust in me; whether his motives are cynicism gone awry, cruel mischief, or something else, this I am entirely indifferent, and for which the result in me is the same: a questioning of the writer, of wondering, what you are trying to pull off here? This, I should emphasize is not a distrust limited to Weigel, he is only the most prominent example I can think of32. It is not a distrust that brings me any comfort or pride, it only makes me feel more alienated, and it isn’t a suspicion I take any pride in, but one that I do not wish to have.

We might see a more explicit hostility in the work of Megan McArdle (formerly of The Atlantic and The Daily Beast / Newsweek, and now with Bloomberg View) who looks on her fellow members of society as something like inconvenient dust. She recently gave her libertarian comrades a happy pat on the back for their perpetual fight against the surveillance state33, but when protesters came to New York City in 2004 to protest the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, the nascent surveillance state, the war state, McArdle, writing as Jane Galt, took a gleeful pleasure in the idea of beating them like animals. From “Bring it On”, now available only via archive:

Diane E. has a link seeming to indicate that the scruffier element of Saturday’s peace rally is planning on demonstrating for peace by, er, wreaking mayhem. Nothing says “Stop the Madness of Western Imperialism” like a white college student from Winnetka opening a can of whup-ass on some Korean vegetable stand!

So I was chatting about this with a friend of mine, a propos of the fact that everyone I know in New York is a) more frightened than they’ve been since mid-September 2001 and b) madly working on keeping up the who-the-hell-cares-if-I-get-hit-by-a-truck? insouciance that New Yorkers feel is their sole civic obligation. Said friend was, two short years ago, an avowed pacifist and also a little bit to the left of Ho Chi Minh. And do you know what he said? “Bring it on.”

I can’t be mad at these little dweebs. I’m too busy laughing. And I think some in New York are going to laugh even harder when they try to unleash some civil disobedience, Lenin style, and some New Yorker who understands the horrors of war all too well picks up a two-by-four and teaches them how very effective violence can be when it’s applied in a firm, pre-emptive manner.

We might recall this in the context of Conor Friedersdorf’s recent essay on the endorsement of Ray Kelly for head of Homeland Security by Chuck Schumer, an essay where he declares this endorsement as proof that all liberals had granted Kelly and Michael Bloomberg a blank cheque on stop and frisk, a stark contrast to their harder examination of conservative racism34. He gives little mention of who this vast collection of liberals who abide Bloomberg’s tactics are, and though he cites the work of This American Life, The Village Voice and Chris Hayes on the subject, all critical of stop-and-frisk, he barely hints at the lengthy list of progressives who actually have been thorough in documenting the abuses in this area35. As for when protesters arrived in New York City in 2004, while McArdle lay enraptured in dreams of violence, it was a liberal stalwart, Jimmy Breslin, who would document Bloomberg’s confinement and caging of the protesters36. Friedersdorf has cited McArdle since this incident as an important conservative voice, an antidote to the mob stupidity of much of the conservative movement now37. You can see why your distrust of these happy lecturers grows like a contagion. You can also see what libertarian principles are worth: nothing.

This moment of violent contempt is not an isolated one for McArdle. I select this one as well, relevant, I think, in the wake of the recent, nearly successful attempts to make massive cuts to the SNAP program. This is from her time at The Atlantic, “Why not food stamps?” Note that every point which follows, that the poor don’t need food, that they’re all really fat, that they’ll probably spend all their money on drugs, is considered axiomatic, without any need for citing of evidence, as if those without money are an animal whose behavior is known to all, like the fact that dogs eat their own shit:

1) The poor don’t need more food. Obesity is a problem for the poor in America; except for people who are too screwed up to get food stamps (because they don’t have an address), food insufficiency is not. 2) Food stamps only imperfectly translate into increased cash income, meaning that the poor will spend . . . more money on food. 3) If the increase in food stamps takes the form of expanded eligibility, rather than larger grants, the administrative issues and public outreach will delay your stimulus until well after it is no longer needed. 4) The limits on the type of goods available to food stamp consumers, and the growing season, mean that some (it’s hard to say how much) of the food stamp spending will simply draw down perishable stocks rather than generating new economic activity. Eventually this will probably generate more economic activity, but probably well after your stimulus is needed. 5) The economy doesn’t need a food sector more distorted by daft government programs than it already is. If you want to give money to the poor, give it to them. Even if they spend it all on drugs, it will hardly be much worse than spending it all on increasing their already astronomical obesity rates.

This perspective is there still, now. A recent McArdle column would be an attempt to justify the ridiculous budgets McDonald’s gave out to their employees, “McDonald’s Jobs Are Drive-Thru, Not Dead End”: “$24,000 in after-tax dollars is not princely. But it doesn’t put you at significant risk of death or dismemberment.” The article’s thesis was bluntly refuted by Hamilton Nolan’s “The Fast Food Industry Is the Deadest of Dead Ends” [archive link]. Again: Conor Friedersdorf has cited McArdle as an important conservative voice, an antidote to the mob stupidity of much of the conservative movement now.

With this distrust of the press, we find ourselves in a similar place to Breitbart, and this is not entirely unexpected. For this distrust of the press is part of a larger distrust of a wayward elite, a distrust which sees the press as an extension of this elite, and this distrust knows no ideology – though this does not mean it is acted upon in equal fashion by all partisans. Out of anger with the status quo, Democrats elected Elizabeth Warren, perhaps the best hope for passing various financial reforms. All-round incompetent Megan McArdle did her best to slander Warren’s achievements prior to her election; Reason lists Warren, along with such villains as Pol Pot, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Paul Krugman, among their “45 Enemies of Freedom” 38. Even with this qualifier, however, this distrust is felt by all, and it is not a simple commonplace distrust, but something angrier, an incendiary suspicion that the ever growing powerless have of the powerful. The distrust of Breitbart took the form of the delusional paranoid; there was a single villain, a cabal of the left acting in concert against the right.

It was because of this conspiracist perspective that we had the Journolist mailing list scandal, the fans flamed by Tucker Carlson, once a solid journalist and now a vile race-baiter, a scandal which resulted in the accomplished Weigel losing his job at the Washington Post. It all supposedly centered around a group of left-wing journalists (including the not exactly left wing Weigel) acting in concert to further a progressive agenda. Breitbart would put a bounty on obtaining the full archives of the mailing list; some of the emails from June 14th, 2010 to the list’s end, on June 25th, 2010, were finally exposed earlier this year by the hacker Guccifer39. There was Weigel, who came across as a funnier, more acerbic man than in his published work40; there were in-depth discussions, with some fascinating insights, on the strategy behind minority outreach by the GOP41; there is a deeply disturbing moment when the writers speak of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) acting seemingly as a state-within-a-state and Stanley McCrystal as a man who knows where the bodies are buried, literally knows where the bodies are buried42; and in this supposed insular hothouse of left-wing passions, Nation columnist Katha Pollitt and others express their disgust with Al Gore after he is accused of sexual assault43. It was not a left-wing cabal, but it could anyway never be a left-wing cabal sufficient to the conspiracist’s imagination. We may note an irony: any attempt to limit the power of political money in the wake of Citizens United is attacked as a restriction on free speech, while a number of journalists are not allowed to speak with each other, unfettered and in electronic privacy, without being attacked as a conspiracy in motion.

I distinguish my distrust from any belief in a collective conspiracy, but rather, something that arises out of the systemic, a sense of writers working at great distance from the reader, whether that distance is geographic, professional, social or economic. My distrust is slowly becoming a distrust of the aggregate. A suspicion of several writers slowly dissolves into distrust of all. What aggravates this all is the rapid extinction of a local press. Conor Friedersdorf, in another of his less insightful moments, references Jay Z’s Decoded, when he says of Breitbart’s approach, which involved throwing out everything that was going on in his head, that “his method was so hip-hop.”44 This suggests that great hiphop is something like a murder-suicide note, where you simply say whatever is in your head, without filter, when hiphop, like any songwriting, like any writing, involves deliberate detailed choices in phrasing and structure, though these choices, when effective enough, appear entirely organic, no prominent bones or metalwork stitching everything together, so that it seemingly appears as if the MC is casually speaking of himself, or the actor is indistinguishable from the part45. So, Breitbart is not at all like hiphop in this way.

He is nothing like hiphop in another way as well, one which parallels the press we have now. As said earlier, though Breitbart was always presented as somehow antagonistic to the press, his content was entirely suited to it, exclamation mark tabloid stuff where top hat liberals or lowbrow minorities were the culprits. The press we have now is anti-local, something like a central nexus that sends out diktat to the hinterlands, while hiphop developed entirely in opposition to a larger unknowing culture that gave out only stern lectures. Hiphop is entirely local, rooted in a place, the songs of an artist often namechecking a location to establish clearly where they’re from and that they have the authority to speak of the place. Every hiphop act can almost immediately be associated with a particular geography. If you don’t know where an act is from, you don’t know the act at all. Snoop is Strong Beach. The Roots are Illadelphia. Chief Keef is Chicago. If you don’t know that Em is from Detroit, you’re probably not from planet earth. Some you can place not just in a city, but point directly to an exact part. Jay-Z is New York, Brooklyn, Marcy. Run-DMC, as everyone knows, are New York, Queens, Hollis. Katy Perry and Taylor Swift are two of the biggest acts in the world right now, and I have no idea where they’re from.

The decimation of the local, the proximate, is a severing of a vital spine in the press, of which there is no substitute waiting. The Boston Globe, which provided coverage of the bombings of the city which was a happy contrast to the stumblings of cable news, will most likely be sold at a tenth of the price at which it was bought by The New York Times Company46. The Boston Phoenix, which was so helpful for the Nadia Naffe material in part three of this series, and which was the only publication to do an in-depth piece on the Naffe story, has ceased to exist47. Other independent weeklies, such as the venerable Village Voice are now on their last legs48. You have Jim VandeHei of Politico bragging about their get of Carrie Budoff Brown from The Philadelphia Inquirer, which he describes as a crumbling shell. Politico, as the recent book This Town by Mark Leibovich detailed, is devoted to such things as a few campaign aides playing beer pong. Jonathan Chait, in “Politico Accidentally Exposes Beltway Elite”, did an excellent job pointing out the insularity of the publication, the ways in which it is focused on the priorities of budget cutting extolled by the business interests of D.C., without any sense of the impact of such cuts on those outside the capitol49.

So, you have a movement of reporters from newspapers dying in the most major cities of the United States to a central, increasingly hermetic, nexus. Rather than letting Bostonians and Philadelphians know what is taking place in their own cities, and letting D.C. know what life in those cities is like now, surviving press people will now let these cities know who is getting married in the capitol, and why the superwealthy think the poor and needy of their burgs should do with far less, with the needy of those burgs having even less or no voice than before. They will now exist only when the press decides to swoop in for a particular scandal, such as ACORN or the Kermit Gosnell abortion clinic50, trailing behind the various cheap thought pieces about the incident, then swoop out again, these beautiful birds admiring their gorgeous, noble plumage.

Nothing is coming in to replace what will soon go missing. The Awl has the excellent, dispiriting “Life After Patch.com: A Newspaper Editor Returns To Newsprint” by Ken Layne, describing a devastated newsroom. Patch.com was the failed experiment to create a set of bare bones local organizations, centrally organized and designed by AOL without any sense of the communities themselves or the resources necessary for a local newspaper51. It was an attempt to replace a dying medium funded by another dying medium: since the project cash came from AOL, the bulk of the money for this failed experiment came from the peddling of a redundant technology, dial-up services sold to seniors who had no idea they no longer needed them for broadband52. Conor Friedersdorf, has another brilliant idea in “The New Watchdogs”, proposing a set of pooled resources that could be voted on by communities to be deployed to investigate various parts of local and state government. He gives no mention of the possibility of investigating large corporations that might be dominant in a community, and perhaps this is not surprising; the piece appears in the libertarian City Journal, and the piece never brings up an obvious flaw, that such a system could easily manipulated by sock puppets set up by a corporation, to harass or cajole local governments to suit their interests. The City Journal is the child of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, whose chairman is Paul Singer, well-known for his involvement in New York state politics, which he manipulates solely for the purpose of the payment of outstanding debt owed to him by foreign nations53. Perhaps the oversight is not an oversight at all, but the entire purpose of this proposal.

There may be those who cannot conceive of major towns and cities falling into a kind of information darkness, but I don’t see why this is so difficult to imagine. There is a level of poverty and unemployment which exists now that would never have been tolerated before, that is accepted by the superwealthy with ease, their top concern only inflation or national debt, rather than the deplorable conditions of the majority. The lack of a public service such as a newspaper is nothing compared to this, and can be tolerated as well. We are, after all, only insects.

MAYHEM AND HAWHAW

I think we can speak of an angry energy that exists right now, and it is an energy that arises out of our own despairing condition and a remote, arrogant, error-prone elite. Andrew Breitbart might be seen as one attempt to channel this anger, directing it exclusively towards the left flank of the very rich. We may also see this attempt to channel and direct anger through the Tea Party group, FreedomWorks. This is a political Super PAC that presents itself as an insurgent group, an adversary to establishment Republicans54. After Citizens for a Sound Economy, a political group founded and funded by the Koch brothers, split in two, one half remained Koch controlled and re-labeled itself as Americans for Prosperity, while the other half ended up as FreedomWorks55. FreedomWorks would have three board members: C. Boyden Gray, an heir to a tobacco fortune and head of a white shoe law firm who was appointed ambassador to the EU; Dick Armey, the former Majority Whip in the House when Newt Gingrich was Majority Leader, who also signed the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security, and worked for D.C. lobby group DLA Piper; Matt Kibbe, a writer at Reason and a former Director of Federal Budget Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the most powerful lobby group in the United States56.

A substantial part of their funds would come from Richard Stephenson, a reclusive millionaire who’d made his fortune from for-profit cancer treatment centers, and who would funnel $12 million through shell entities in 2012 to the Tea Party super PAC, making these shell companies the biggest donors of the election cycle. Two watchdog groups would eventually file complaints over these donations. In a power struggle with Kibbe, Armey would ultimately be outed from the organization57. At the start of the now deflated IRS scandal, Kibbe was given space to complain in The Daily Beast, “The IRS Will Come for You Next, Unless Congress Acts Now”: “This is an attack on the civil liberties of all Americans, and Congress needs to act now to make sure it never happens again.” This group, composed of high-level veterans of government, law, and an ultra-powerful lobbying group, funded by the same people who backed the mainstream GOP, was a supposed insurgency.

However, two groups where we could see this energy expressed without filter, chaotic and without restraint, was in Occupy Wall Street and Anonymous. #OWS would fail, or perhaps we might say, it would fail in the short term, and there would be the same glee in its failure as there was in the collapse of the Resurrection City, created in the wake of Martin Luther King’s death58. Anonymous was amorphous, a group that began with simple pranking before giving itself over to many actions that had an explicit political intent. Though Breitbart and #OWS channeled this same energy, they were adversaries, and in large part this is because Breitbart was a simple reactionary, a man whose Indignation contains one overwhelming idea, the sense of being in a quasi-military conflict with those who protested the war in Iraq. “There are two paths: one is America, the other is Occupy”, he would declare in his 2012 CPAC speech59.

An interesting side note of this conflict was the involvement of Thomas Ryan, a Navy veteran, who would infiltrate #OWS and leak their emails to Andrew Breitbart and the police. So, Breitbart, who was eulogized and celebrated by libertarians, was enthusiastically involved in leaking private mail to the security state. This gives you some idea, again, of what libertarian principles are worth: nothing. Ryan led an interesting life, a man who was best-known for creating Robin Sage, a foxy internet persona built around the profile picture of a nude model, that was part of a security test to network with high level corporate and military types60. He was also suspected of being behind the patriotic hacker and Anonymous adversary, Th3J35t3r (The Jester), and perhaps the strongest evidence of this was that both had moments of striking incompetence. Ryan would out his own identity when he leaked the #OWS emails, while some of the hacks that Th3J35t3r bragged about appear to be easily discerned inventions61. Perhaps as a result of Ryan leaking the #OWS emails, his twitter account would be taken over by The Rustle League, an Anonymous off-shoot that preferred prank making to politics62. There was another way in which Ryan’s life overlapped with major events: he would speak several times with Chet Uber, who headed a group called Project Vigilant, a group which claimed to have extraordinary access to U.S. internet data through the efforts of company volunteers. Uber’s claim to historical prominence is that he was the man who Adrian Lamo said he contacted for advice during his on-line chats with Bradley Manning, and it was Uber who helped put him in touch with the appropriate security people. Though he was, based on the amount of data he claimed he could access, the head of one of the most important security companies in the United States, Uber was frequently homeless, could barely afford a razor, and had never heard of Palantir, the pre-eminent internet security firm in the U.S.63.

Following his death, the remains of the Breitbart crew would be involved in Occupy Unmasked, a documentary which argued that the Occupy protests were the result of a sinister collaboration between protesters, Anonymous, labour unions, and the White House, all part of an effort to distract from the debt ceiling fight. The film, directed by Stephen K. Bannon, took so long to make that it featured a still alive Breitbart ranting away in the movie, and you could see the hair loss of one of the talking heads over the course of filming64.

I give a transcript of one portion that I find significant, where the focus is on Anonymous, which they portray as entirely a malevolent organization. This section features contributors to Breitbart.com: Lee Stranahan, Pam Key, and Mandy Nagy65, as well as freelance cameraman Bryan Carmody. The transcript begins with Stranahan stating that what Occupy wanted was a dictatorship, to which is added the idea that Anonymous is helping them in their task.

From 25:18-27:45 of the film:

Andrew Breitbart Psychosis in a Political Mask

Andrew Breitbart Psychosis in a Political Mask

Andrew Breitbart Psychosis in a Political Mask

Andrew Breitbart Psychosis in a Political Mask

STRANAHAN
What they are really…is a dictatorship. And the people are all fooled into thinking there’s some sort of democracy, they don’t know who’s really running things behind the curtain.

PAM KEY (NAKED EMPEROR NEWS, FORMER VIDEO EDITOR AT THE BLAZE)
Anonymous has a huge role in this.

MANDY NAGY
You have a lot of hackers who have teamed up with the institutional left to help push the Occupy movement forward.

PAM KEY
What they’re doing is co-ordinating these people under one umbrella, under one flag, that they can all work together. And that is essentially what we’re facing with Occupy Wall Street. This is not a free-form…there is a reason it happened all across the country at the same time. This is completely co-ordinated, and Anonymous is a huge part of the organization, be here now, do this now, say these things now.

BRYAN CARMODY
Occupy and Anonymous are kinda separate, but they work together. Anonymous is their muscle. Occupy does something, you write that you don’t like it, Occupy narcs you out to Anonymous, Anonymous comes after you.

MANDY NAGY
Some of them are really quite dangerous. You have hackers that are able to get into government databases. You have hackers that are stealing company’s private emails…and using that to essentially hold companies hostage. You have hackers that are essentially blackmailing private citizens.

These Breitbart writers establish clearly that they view Anonymous as a Manichean foe, a nemesis that is attempting to bring about tyranny. This is what gives the moment when these two groups, Breitbart’s associates and Anonymous, cross paths a quality of stark paradox. Shortly before his death, Breitbart and his followers ended up in a feud with two men, Brett Kimberlin and Neal Rauhauser66. Through whatever circumstances, the spokesman for Anonymous, Barrett Brown, would end up in communication with one of Breitbart’s associates, Los Angeles County deputy district attorney Patrick Frey67. They would end up chatting with each other after Anonymous was involved in one of its more infamous escapades, the hacking of the security firm HBGary68. Brown was looking for a conduit to promote Anonymous, while Frey wanted help looking up information on his opponent, Brett Kimberlin, and a lawyer he would constantly associate with Kimberlin, Brad Friedman. Brown, a fascinating character, did not think of himself as a liberal. For him to speak to Frey did not involve any ideological break. What justification Frey had for speaking to a representative of a group that his own associates would accuse of trying to impose tyranny in the United States, I’m not sure – perhaps that he did not believe the creed of his own associates, perhaps that the practical trumps all. Brown would eventually be arrested late last year, and in the build up to that he felt his mother was harassed by federal agents. This stress may have led him to become more and more unhinged, so that he ended up threatening to ruin the life of a federal agent on youtube69, one of the charges for which he was arrested, and this instability shows up in one of the chats70. Aside from this moment, the conversations between Brown and Frey are entirely congenial. There are three chat transcripts, one, two, and three, the first of two which pre-date #OWS, while the third takes place afterwards.

A youtube clip where he Brown explains why he decides to release these chats:

Hi…I’m Howard Hunt. [a reference to former CIA agent and Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt] Two years ago I engaged in a conversation with a Los Angeles Country prosecutor named Patrick Frey. Patrick Frey also goes by Patterico on-line where he is a prominent conservative blogger, who has become more prominent in the last few months or so, due to to this bizarre SWATting story, that’s been described elsewhere, and that, frankly, is not that interesting. During this conversation, he noted that there was a blog post written about him by an enemey of his, another conservative blogger, named Jeff Goldstein, who runs a blog named Protein Wisdom [the original post is quoted in this Protein Wisdom post, “False Flags”. The original post appears to have disappeared.]. I noted that, being whatever it is that I am, in relation to Anonymous, that I could perhaps help him with that, by various means. In terms of having that blog post…dealt with. He agreed to have Anonymous look into that…and, uh, just left it at that. More recently, Mr. Frey has been less than forthcoming with me and, frankly, less liked, after my request that he provide me information regarding a matter of great importance to myself and my family. Frankly, the FBI investigation that led to my raid on August, sorry, March 3rd…March 6th of this year [the raid is detailed in this Pastebin document, “On the FBI Raid”], the raid of my residence and the raid of my mother’s residence.

More to the point, the ally in this matter regarding him [Frey], this SWAT deal, Robert Stacey McCain, the confederate and Washington Times editor, who is also a known white nationalist as I have described years ago, to be libeled by him in response…has decided to reject my offer that he talk to me…for ten minutes over the phone…about the libel that he has continued to produce about me…and about his calls to the FBI to investigate me. About more recently, his assertions that I am, in effect, an FBI informant. Having rejected that offer, I have decided that I must release this conversation between myself and Patrick Frey, from 2011. Which shows that this prosecutor, presumably operating from his office, asking the assistance of the alleged criminal organization Anonymous. And the alleged criminal mastermind, Barrett Brown, according to the FBI, and according to McCain himself…in dealing with some kind of technical matter, in which of course, hackers are always useful. If anyone has any questions about these circumstances of this conversation, or any details regarding Patrick Frey, or more specifically, McCain, please let me know. My email address, as always, is darriticus@gmail.com.

Uuuuuuuuuuh…that’s it.

A sample, from the second chat, where Brown tries to help Frey find what he’s looking for on their archive:

FREY
Think Progress says they were gathering info on Friedman

BROWN
the one done by federal contractors
does this info come from our heist?

FREY
Yes

BROWN
Ok
who do these people work for, one of the firms?

FREY
These people? Friedman?

BROWN
Yeah, who’s Brad Friedman?
I’ve got a cast of characters here about a hundred strong
and like I said
we’re kind of at war
so I don’t know who this is
to put it another way
did you do a piece on Greenwald?

FREY
http://thinkprogress.org/2011/02/10/chamberleaks-target-families/
No

BROWN
Okay, thanks for considering
now, regarding Friedman
you want us to look through e-mails for that?

FREY
For what?

BROWN
I don’t know, why’d you come to me on this again?

FREY
Actually, pretty much to ask what you told me: is
there some place on the Web where all this shit is?

BROWN
ah, yes
as I said

FREY
Because I figure they looked into Kimberlin if they looked
into Friedman

BROWN
anonleaks.ru is shaky
was up all week but been up and down depending on one’s location today
if you have problems, let me know
and I’ll see what else is available
we actually have a much better version going up soon
trying to find a server for it

FREY
Also: Think Progress makes it sound like Friedman’s home
address was disclosed. They redact it. But Friedman posts an address
on his own damn site that looks like a home address — a place to send
checks. I wanted to see if that is the address they got

BROWN
are you sure these come from us?
our stuff was extracted from HBGary servers
includes messages from other folks only to the extent that they were
e-mailing HBGary folks

FREY
When I put in “bradley louis friedman los angeles” I get
e-mails that do not have those terms

BROWN
or Aaron Barr himself, as we got all his e-mails
oh
I’d just search Friedman
try that

FREY
I put that in because Think Progress listed that as his name
and location

FREY
Hahahaha

BROWN
were trying to break into Greenwald’s financial records71

FREY
Found it

BROWN
ah, did you?
on anonleaks.ru?

FREY
Kimberlin is mentioned in the same fucking e-mail

BROWN
well, there you go!
aren’t you glad we’re out there doing our thing?
don’t tell me you’re not having fun right now
you are
it’s fun as shit
and now you’ve got your story

FREY
Thanks for that link
Give me the stuff about what they have been doing

BROWN
oh, happy to give it out, I assure you
who?
chamber?

FREY
So I can do my homework
Yes

BROWN
K
but they’re not the most interesting ones
just the most high-profile
what you want to look at
oh, also

FREY
I only want links to things that are out there on the Internet

BROWN
of course

FREY
Remember, FBI agents, I don’t commit crimes!

I should stress here that there is no evidence in the chats of Frey asking Brown to do anything illegal.

The document they’re searching for is mentioned as a link in Frey’s blog on February 14th, 2011, “Think Progress Makes a Martyr Out of Brad Friedman, While Censoring Any Mention of His Business Partner, Convicted Bomber Brett Kimberlin”:

This is the e-mail that describes Kimberlin as having “a bit of a checkered past and has been associated with some more radical and violent activities,” while describing Friedman as “much more mainstream” and someone who “can often be seen on many of the political talk shows.” You can click the image to read all of this.

If you want to see the entire e-mail, with appropriate redactions of personal information, you can see it here. Anonymous has put the hacked e-mails online, and they can be searched here. (I could give you a direct link to the unredacted e-mail, but I won’t.)

This post is devoted to the idea of people being treated like nothing, of having no identity, of the loss of the reporting of essential information, and to write of Anonymous turns all these concepts on their head, a group whose exploits made headlines, and yet which was also like the dark matter of space, ever present, the source of chunks of the known universe, yet entirely invisible. You cannot be “in” Anonymous, you are told by those who are alleged to be “in” Anonymous, because Anonymous does not exist as an organization. When Jay Caspian Kang writes in “Should Reddit Be Blamed for the Spreading of a Smear?” of going to Denver to meet someone associated with the group, the pseudonymous man suggests that Kang is Anonymous as well, because he went to Denver without telling anyone why72. It plays like the game in The Odyssey, where we are all no men and no women.

The Anonymous name was a franchise without license fee. Whatever your exploit, whatever your hack, you could lay claim to it – and if you didn’t, the press might, because “Anonymous Strikes Again!” was the better headline. It was easier to describe the sensibiity, which was very much that of 4chan (pendants will say that I’m conflating 4chan with its infamous sub, 4chan/b/, or /b/; I think the difference is porous enough here for me to say fuck off); many of the members of the Anonymous which made their first newsworthy strike, against Scientology, were members of the board, as were some of those who would go on to form the smaller, more accomplished group, LulzSec. Henri Bergson argued, convincingly, that true laughter is intellectual, indifferent to emotion: you laugh at the ridiculous, and you are without sympathy at what you laugh at73. I think Breitbart’s pranks are entirely of an opposite kind, where your laughter is entirely contingent on emotion, entirely ideological, laughing at people you disagree with, laughing at people you hate, the laughter provoked by your hatred. The pranks of 4chan, on the other hand, genuinely provoke Bergson’s laughter, you laugh at the ridiculous, however sick, cruel, and no doubt, hurtful. The laughter of Breitbart and his allies was that of a bully, where their enemies could be destroyed by any means necessary, while such ridiculous figures as Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin were held sacrosanct. Breitbart would joke that Angelina Jolie’s son would grow up to be a mass murderer, but Matt Labash would throw a hissy fit over Matthew Yglesias tweeting out posthumous dismissal of Breitbart because the man’s children might see it74. The laughter of 4chan was that of bullies as well, but it was far more random, far more chaotic, the laughter of a horror film where even the most virtuous are punished for just opening the wrong door.

One might list a few of the successful pranks of the 4chan members: the rigging of a contest on which country Justin Bieber should tour next with North Korea voted as top choice, the rigging of a contest to name a new Mountain Dew brand so the top entries included Diabeetus, Moist Nugget, and Adolf Niggur75. A poll for Time magazine’s Most Influential Person of the Year, rigged so that it would be won by Kim-Jong Un76. A Taylor Swift contest rigged, this one on which school the singer should play at, which resulted in the top choice being the Horace Mann School for the Deaf77. Another Taylor Swift contest, where entrants vied to meet the singer, rigged so that the winner would be a thirty-nine year old man who wanted to smell the singer’s hair78. These examples range from before Anonymous emerged and after their successor, LulzSec, collapsed, but they capture the cruel and mischievous spirit well. The sensibility emerges in a few of the details of some of the Anonymous escapades. Topiary, who wrote the often witty newsletters for LulzSec, an Anonymous off-shoot, would engage in a TV debate with Megan Phelps-Roper, spokesperson for the Westboro Baptist Church and granddaughter of its founder, Fred Phelps; though viewers heard Topiary’s actual voice, the Anonymous panel in the debate was represented by Batman fighting a shark with a light saber79. At one point, Anonymous advertised their release of Sony PlayStation Network user data by setting up a new LulzSec website; on loading, this website would play the mildly annoying theme from the 1970s TV show, “The Love Boat”. At bottom right of the site was a mute button, which, when pushed, would raise the song’s volume to its highest possible level80.

The only book to have been written about the group, We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson (Epic Win for Anonymous by Cole Stryker gives some space to Anonymous, but gives far more focus to 4chan) would mark a dividing line between those who engaged in such pranks simply to laugh at the antics, simply for the lulz, as they say, and those who saw some broader political purpose in what they did, who are given the innocuous name of “moralfags”. The overlap was the public protest against Scientology at the beginning of 2008, organized largely on 4chan, which led to the now ubiquitous appearance of the Guy Fawkes mask, an influx of new users (labeled the newfags), and a call by some to use this force for some larger political purpose, which immediately brought resistance81. People hadn’t signed up for this moralfag stuff: they were here to take a break and relax. Yes, Scientology was a terrible organization, but these protests were about laughing at a large, incredibly self-important group, and nothing else. One person who was in it for the lulz would say of Jennifer Emick, moralfag and later nemesis of Anonymous and LulzSec: “We tried to tell her these aren’t good people. They are doing fucked-up things because it’s funny.”82

Anonymous would disappear until early 2010, when it would mount Operation Payback, against Aiplex, a company that worked with various entertainment companies to attack sites like the Pirate Bay, which distributed pirated content. Aiplex would try to shutter these sites with botnets, masses of computers sending requests at once, so that a site’s server became so overwhelmed that it would shut down. Operation Payback of Anonymous would do the same in kind to Aiplex, a distributed denial of service attack which made their site go dark for twenty four hours83. They went after the site for the Motion Picture Alliance of America. They went after the Copyright Alliance site, first with a denial of service attack, then a root kit hack which allowed them to transform a site devoted to promotion of copyright into a repository of pirated games, movies, and music. The site’s front page carried the text: “Payback Is A Bitch.”84. Later that year, they would hit the web sites of PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard, all in reprisal for the companies shutting down the payment account of Wikileaks (these attacks took down the web sites that were the public face of these companies, not their resilient servers which handled actual payments)85.

Olson’s book follows those members of Anonymous who would go on to form a smaller group, LulzSec (for Lulz Security), who would be responsible for a series of attacks which would keep the name of Anonymous in the news. Where Breitbart’s group were marginal, over-thirty people headed by a man with a multimillion Brentwood mansion, LulzSec were a motley crew absent anyone with a top dollar manse, whose oldest member was thirty, people of ingenuity and imagination who confirmed, again, how much the possibilities relied on your surrounding circumstances. There was the hacking veteran, Sabu (real name: Hector Xavier Monsegur, his nom de guerre from an old wrestler), a man of substantial computer skills who lived in the Jacob Riis housing projects, whose father and aunt were in jail for dealing drugs, a man of Puerto Rican descent who had gotten involved in political hacking to protest the Navy bombing tests in Vieques86. There was Topiary (real name: Jake Davis), their spokesman and press liaison, who lived in Lerwick, in the Shetland islands, a place of no department stores and plenty of heroin users87. Others were shrouded in mystery even to their fellow LulzSec members: there was TFlow, a skilled coder with a mature older air who, when LulzSec was finally stopped and its members arrested, would turn out to be only sixteen (at the time of Olson’s book, Tflow’s name was unknown because he was a minor; in press coverage of LulzSec’s guilty pleas and sentencing, it has since been revealed to be Mustafa al-Bassam)88. There was Kayla, another excellent coder, with a girl’s name and the manner of a girl, but, of course, there was an old internet saying: there are no girls on the internet. When Kayla was arrested on September 2, 2011, in an English suburb of Yorkshire, Kayla would turn out to be an unemployed twenty-five year old British army Iraq veteran named Ryan Ackroyd89.

Breitbart’s tagrets were a mixture of convenience, opportunity, and though often denied, race. The hits of LulzSec and its members were motivated by a similar mix of convenience and opportunity. LulzSec would take down the government site for Tunisia during that country’s uprising. Gawker would mock Anonymous for their lack of coding skills. In July, Anonymous launched a denial of service attack, which failed. Gawker would mock the supposedly fearsome group and, “if sad 4chaners have a problem with that, you know how to reach me,” the writer added90. LulzSec knew how to reach him. In December, Kayla and other hackers would publish the entire contents of Gawker’s user database on 4chan. They would hit HBGary, an upstart internet security firm that was trying to make a name for itself by infiltrating Anonymous. The 2600 chat network on IRC was a place where various security-minded hackers of all persuasions would talk; sometimes their nemesis Th3J35t3r (The Jester), the patriot hacker, would hang out there as well – so the 2600 network got taken down91. PBS would air a documentary on Julian Assange that Sabu didn’t like, so they hit PBS. They got into the network’s NewsHour feed, and put out a hoax story about 2Pac and Biggie alive in New Zealand. In the news story, the evidence of the resurrection came from a dead man’s diary, a diary that had a near incomprehensible line near its end: “yank up as a vital obituary”. It was an anagram of the names of those involved in the hack: Sabu, Kayla, Topiary, and a fourth figure, AVunit92.

Breitbart’s crew played at being outlaws. LulzSec were actual outlaws. They leaked Sony playstation user data. Infraguard was a partnership program between the FBI and private internet companies; LulzSec took down the Atlanta Infraguard’s site93. They searched for a state where they could get a custom number proper to their identity, and got one in Columbus, Ohio: 1-614-LULZSEC. When you called, on rare moments you might actually talk to a LulzSec member. Usually, you got a pre-recorded message, spoken in a faux french accent, which told the caller they couldn’t come to the phone, because: “We are busy raping your Internets.” They would re-direct their hotline so anyone who called instead ended up calling an actual company. People were still quoting “How do magnets work?” then, so they sent a flood of phonecalls to Magnets.com. Then to the World of Warcraft hotline. The FBI office in Detroit. Their old victim, HBGary Inc. Topiary would call Magnets.com while they were being hit and hear in the background the sound of a company getting two hundred phonecalls a minute. He would tap a few keys to stop the redirect, and it was like the voice of god summoning the end of a monsoon94. Ryan Cleary, a LulzSec associate with a monster botnet at his command, tossed it one day at the CIA’s site, cia.gov. “CIA ovened”, Cleary said over Skype. Topiary clicked up the CIA site, and saw it was dark. He knew they were now in deep waters, and he had a funny feeling they would drown. He tweeted out a phrase that carried a nonchalance he didn’t feel at all: “Tango down—cia.gov—for the lulz.”95 When Rupert Murdoch was brought before a parliamentary inquiry over his own hacking problems, a non-LulzSec crew managed to get into The Sun‘s website. They were so impressed with Topiary’s work with LulzSec, they asked him to draft a story like the 2Pac and Biggie piece he came up with for PBS. The story Topiary wrote was a simple one: Rupert Murdoch had been found dead at his home. I give one word obvious emphasis in the key sentence, relating that the besieged titan had “ingested a large quantity of palladium before stumbling into his famous topiary garden.” The story went to the top of Google News96.

A hallucinatory fantasy could be found in Righteous Indignation where Andrew Breitbart describes his part in The Huffington Post as an act of subterfuge, a role where he was actually a double agent doing his part to expose the lunacy of the left97. He played at being an outlaw, he played at being a secret agent, and Anonymous may have been made up of people half Breitbart’s age, and Anonymous may have started out on 4chan, where the focus had been exclusively the lulz, but everything was more serious for them. They were actual outlaws. And Sabu was an actual double agent. He would be arrested on June 7, 2011, a year to the day after his grandmother, maybe the most beloved figure in his life, had died. He would be charged with crimes on-line, credit card thefts and a casino hack, as well as off: selling weed, stolen jewelry, and handgun possession98. He would get a shorter sentence by co-operating with the FBI. He had been electrified by the idea of Anonymous, of LulzSec, of being part of something larger, and as a police informer he somehow felt the same sense of belonging to something powerful: when stopped by a cop asking for ID when he visited another apartment in his neighborhood complex, he told the officer to relax. “I’m a federal agent,” he said, “I am an agent of the federal government.” He was arrested later that night for criminal impersonation99.

With Sabu’s help, everyone in LulzSec was taken down, though there was one last quarry before his identity would be revealed. If Anonymous had its roots in a place where everything was for the lulz, Jeremy Hammond was a man for whom nothing was for the lulz. “I have always made it clear that I am an anarchist-communist – as in I believe we need to abolish capitalism and the state in its entirety to realize a free, egalitarian society,” he wrote100. He lived in the kind of neighborhood that everyone knows now, described by a friend of Hammond’s as part Rust Belt and part Disney World, full of Walmarts and Niketowns, where the only job is at that mall. He had a 168 IQ, and the brutally unequitable state of the world was not something he could abide, or thought of as something he would fix with small repairs, but his overwhelming work: after September 11th, he would become more radical, a member of black bloc anarchists, then arrested ten times101. He saw the internet as an asymmetrical tool in an asymmetric time – “one hacker could outsmart a whole company.” Andrew Breitbart claimed to want to be a conservative Merry Prankster, and Hammond saw himself as part of their tradition as well. Then a hacking group he was part of got access to thousands of credit card numbers on a conservative activist site, and he was sent to a corrections facility for two years. When he got out, he was no longer so merry102.

Though originally unimpressed by Anonymous, Hammond saw in the group the potential power he had talked about: a collective force that could cross state boundaries and even the odds. There was a hacker named sup_g, a member of another group often labeled as Anonymous, the hacker collective Antisec. Sabu would share with this hacker that there was a security hole in the site for Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, a well-known intelligence analysis firm. sup_g would hack this site, then place the hacked documents on a server provided by Sabu. sup_g, both the federal government and Sabu would later allege, was Hammond. He would plead not guilty to the Statfor hack and refuse to admit that he was behind any of various on-line identities attributed to him103.

The Stratfor hit was part of a last burst of Anonymous strikes, following a LulzSec release put out by Topiary. He wrote it like he was writing a piece of fiction, yet it had the invocatory quality of any manifesto, and it was one of those moments when you cross the line into a mirror world, where the lines are so blurred you lose track of what’s fiction and what isn’t. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a plagiarism of an older satiric dialogue between Montesquieu and Machiavelli in hell, transformed into a multi-tentacled jewish octopus controlling all things. In the late sixties, future Nation editor Victor Navasky and others would write a satirical report for a make-believe think thank, which promoted the benefits of perpetual war; twenty years later, the report would be re-published as fact by a far right press104. Topiary wrote his manifesto as if it were fiction, and if people did not have an overwhelming sense now that the game was rigged, it would have been entirely ridiculous, a call for revolution in a time of comfort. But right now wasn’t a time of comfort: “As we’re aware, the government and whitehat security terrorists across the world continue to dominate and control our Internet ocean…Top priority is to steal and leak any classified government information, including email spools and documentation. Prime targets are banks and other high-ranking establishments.” The resonance of the message lay in the hearer lacking any faith in existing institutions, and many were now faithless105.

That Breitbart was held close to the conservative bosom, while Anonymous were not given equal succor at the liberal teat, is not just a result of one being a far more disruptive organization, but the separate priorities of partisans now, which are asymmetric. There are specific policies that progressives want, dealing with such things as minimum wage, worker safety, financial regulation, and global warming. U.S. conservatives are in an entirely reactionary, nihilistic mode, perhaps symptomatic of a terminal phase, and they appear to only want opposition and hurt. Their major piece of political work now is simply sabotaging Obamacare, eliminating Obamacare, without offering any substitute106.

Anonymous, and the various subentities that would carry its name, may have begun as simply lulzworthy groups, but they also were involved in far more serious work than Breitbart. When they hacked HBGary they passed their information on to Project PM, a volunteer organization developed solely to research links between private security companies and the national state. The document trove from the Stratrfor hack got passed on as well. Project PM was started by Barrett Brown, the man who ended up in contact with Breitbart associate Patrick Frey, the sort of fascinating character whose manner is a rebuke to the banality we now too readily accept. Brown speaks in a low southern drawl, and his writing is something like an ornate 19th century mansion found in a skyskrapered burg, an H.L. Mencken torn from his time and dropped in our own. An ancestor to Mencken in sensibility, though absent his prejudice107; one of Barrett Brown’s enemies was another southerner, Robert Stacy McCain, a man boldly sympathetic to the Confederacy, a member of the Confederate organization League of the South, a man known for his use of racial slurs in the workplace, and a man not a little hostile to interracial marriage108. To see a man like Brown show up in the story of Anonymous is akin to a photo of the staff at the Los Alamos Project featuring a man in Victorian dress. This, however, would suggest that it was a happy marriage, when it wasn’t. Though Brown would serve as an informal spokesman and press liaison for Anonymous, and despite a few fans like Topiary, plenty in the amorphous organization thought he was exactly the anti-thesis of everything they stood for, a pompous moralfag; they hated him for it.

Where Breitbart gave the press exactly the circuses they wanted, Brown did actual solid journalism, researching the links between private firms and the national security state, anticipating the revelations that have come out now. He may have had nothing like the cosy perch which Breitbart was given by the press, but his work was far more valuable109. Brown would eventually have to deal with federal prosecution, and the federal prosecution of his mother as an accomplice. It would wear him down, and finally to cause something in him to break. He would post a youtube video where he ranted about ruining the life of a federal agent. He would be arrested shortly afterwards, for making the threats and his possible connections to the Startfor hack110. His cause and his writing would be championed by Glenn Greenwald: “The persecution of Barrett Brown – and how to fight it”, while “The Strange Case of Barrett Brown” by Peter Ludlow, “Why Is Barrett Brown Facing 100 Years in Prison?” by Patrick McGuire, and “How Barrett Brown shone light on the murky world of security contractors” by Arun Gupta, would all examine the case of Brown and his now unfinished work.

A note might be made here of the humor of 4chan and Anonymous: the implication of a lot of the humor is that words and images, even the most powerful words and images, have no power, the joke being that they have no such power now. When words such as moralfag and newfag are constructed out of an old slur, when “Adolf Niggur” is voted one of the top possible names for a new Mountain Dew drink, or when a photo is defaced in the HBGary raid with the scrawl “NIGGER” (the person in the photo is clearly white), all these things are an expression of this: these words once had power, they now have none to me or anyone I know. This is very different from the provocation attempted through the use of these words by Matt Drudge (“Why Is the Drudge Report Covered in ‘N*GGER’? The Coming Right-Wing Freakout Over Django Unchained” [archive link]) or Rush Limbaugh (“Rush Limbaugh: ‘I Can Now’ Say ‘N—a’ (AUDIO)”), where the person clearly wants their use to be provocative to some, and their use to have political implications – that somehow African Americans are a specialized, catered to class. The use of toxic words in a way that implies they once held power but have none for the user suggest an insularity, but most of all it is a sensibility that suggests ennui, exhaustion, an end of history, and an end of the cultural universe, These words have no meaning now because nothing has meaning, whether it’s nigger, fag, the burning towers of the WTC, or photos from a death camp.

Something like this is expressed by Jake Davis, aka Topiary, at the end of We Are Anonymous:

You cannot make the Internet feel bad, you cannot make the Internet feel regret or guilt or sympathy, you can only make the Internet feel the need to have more lulz at your expense. The lulz flow through all in the faceless army as they see the twin towers falling with a dancing Hitler on loop in the bottom-left corner of their screens. The lulz strike when they open a newspaper and care nothing for any of the world’s alleged problems. They laugh at downward red arrows as banks and businesses tumble, and they laugh at our glorious government overlords trying to fix a situation by throwing more currency at it. They laugh when you try to make them feel the need to “make something of life,” and they laugh harder when you call them vile trolls and heartless web terrorists. They laugh at you because you’re not capable of laughing at yourselves and all of the pointless fodder they believe you surround yourselves in. But most of all they laugh because they can.

This makes the internet the prime mover, an autonomous entity that renders all life into something dead, where the only possible reaction is the dead one described by Henri Bergson, where we cannot connect to any of the victims of the photos, have no connection to anyone who might have been beaten to death right after they were called faggot or nigger, but where the image exists alone, the joke of a dancing Hitler next to the collapsing towers the joke that these powerful images now have no power at all. Davis identifies the internet as the prime mover, and so his perspective is similar to a passage in Tao Lin’s Taipei, where the protagonist has a vision of human life as solely fodder for the internet itself111. This, I think, misplaces the burden: it is not the internet, but human culture itself, on its own, that displays agency here. To render the most toxic images and words as banalities, is only a small step beyond a pundit class that looks at a large chunk of humanity as insects. To treat those in a tragic picture as props in a gag is not that far away, if any distance at all, from the way Shirley Sherrod or those who might have been helped by ACORN were viewed. Their lives were viewed as inconvenient to the gag, so they ceased to exist. That this effacing is degenerate, that it involves an accompanying active malice, not simply that the lives lost in the WTC cannot matter for the purposes of this joke, but that Shirley Sherrod cannot matter, and that she is of no consequence for this joke and for all things, is part of a larger perspective where the lives of a specific race matter or do not matter at someone else’s convenience.

That there is an inevitable power in words is suggested in at least one moment involving Jake Davis, when LulzSec receive documents from another hacker. They are from a hack of the Arizonia police department, and were given over to LulzSec to publicize on the belief that they contained evidence of systemic prejudice and corruption. There was a cover page for the documents which Davis would see only after he had put them out, and which he would have great misgivings over: it was an image of a machine gun accompanied by the phrases “Off the pigs” and “Chinga la migra” – fuck the police112. If words have no consequence, for ourselves, for the police, for those the police might face, then these words and the image should have given Davis no pause – yet they did. We might then argue, were we to try to convince Davis of our perspective, that if words in this moment have consequence, then words and images in other moments, the same words and images he feels are consumed by the internet without filter, sensor, or feeling, may still retain a power as well. That some of the 4chan gags which use such toxic words can be very funny – writing the phrase “when ‘Adolf Niggur’ is voted one of the top possible names for a new Mountain Dew drink” made me laugh, that I use moralfag quite a lot in this piece because I think it effectively diminishes a certain false piousness – while I remain ambivalent about use of the word itself, demonstrates that the lines of debate are ambiguous. Nor is this devaluation of words and images of their power necessarily connected to our age or entirely new either: does the death of little Nell inspire laughter or not?

The way I have written this account of Anonymous suggests certainty in the facts, when there is no such thing. This uncertainty is not an inevitability of writing, or of reporting, but because the phenomena of Anonymous was so little written about. I have relied almost entirely on Parmy Olson’s book for the preceding details, with some reference to “The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State” by the excellent writer Janet Reitman for the figure of that title, “Hello, I Am Sabu … ” by Steve Fishman for the figure of that one. The level of Sabu’s technical ability and his political commitment varies from Fishman’s profile, Reitman’s profile, and Olson’s book113. The question of who outed Sabu’s identity at one point, Jennifer Emick or Kelly Hallissey, is an open question, the dual possibilities mentioned explicitly in Fishman’s profile, the focus entirely on Emick in Olson’s Anonymous, with the dispute for credit between Emick and Hallissey shifted to the footnotes114. There is another ambiguity surrounding Emick that hints at the information darkness surrounding Anonymous. Emick started an anti-hacking business, Backtrace Security, with a man named Jin Soo Byun (screen name: Hubris), who suffers from a brain injury. In Olson’s book, where Emick is cited as a source, it is stated that Byun suffered the injury from an IED roadside bombing in Iraq. In a profile of Emick, “Anonymous Clashes With Its Adversaries At Hacker Conference” by Saki Knafo, for which Emick gives extensive quotes, it is stated that Byun suffers the injury from a motorcycle accident. How can the cause of the injury change so much in these two accounts when the source of the information is the same115?

Quinn Norton, who did major in-depth reporting for Wired on Anonymous, has questioned some of the reporting methodology in Olson’s book116. Barrett Brown, in one his chats with Patrick Frey, claims that there are many things wrong in Olson’s book, while also stating that he learned a great deal about associates that he was relatively close to, like Topiary117. The uncertainties cited are not specifically the product of Olson’s work, but a subject that is very difficult to report on, in a time when less and less actual reporting is done. The disputes over rival accounts here, and the difficulty of discerning which is true, lie not with a surplus of investigation, but a lack. Given the extraordinary commitment necessary, and her ability at rendering so many events into a compelling narrative that is easy to follow without being simpleminded, Olson’s book is a formidable achievement, and it will most likely remain the definitve work on Anonymous for some time.

The information darkness implies these subjects were not simply worth writing about, but were not worth anything. They were invisible people, unnamed anonymous, but not quite. Their non-existence fooled them into thinking that they didn’t exist at all, but they did exist: they existed long enough to be arrested for what they had done. All of the members of LulzSec were taken in, while those who participated in the initial Wikileaks PayPal attack (Operation Payback) would spend two years in agony, awaiting the possibility of fifteen years in prison. One man who had helped in the denial of service attack of the Church of Scientology would be sued by the church for a hundred thousand dollars in damages119. Hector Monsegur, a man invisible to most of society for most of his society, gained a different kind of invisibility after turning informant, disappearing from the project he’d called home all his life. A childhood friend would say, “The government wanted him. That’s how good he is. He’s like the greatest hacker in the world. To me, I look up to him”. He got what we all want, or are supposed to want, the curious paradoxical mix of non-existence and ubiquitous existence of the celebrity; a magazine profile would be titled, “How LulzSec’s Sabu Became the Most Influential Hacker in the World”119.

I AM THE MOB

Yet this information darkness also persists around the most talked over of subjects, the supposedly most important of things. There is now a reprise of the Anthony Weiner scandal, and this scandal contains almost the same elements as before. Then, the byway for the information was Andrew Breitbart, now the source was Nik Richie (this is a nom de guerre, a tip of the hat to the Zeppo Marx of the reality show team; his actual name is Hooman Karamian), a man who ran the site, TheDirty, and managed the formidable task of being a few inches lower than Breitbart in the human cesspool. Two years ago, he would ask: “Why am I a blogstar?” He would place himself in the internet strata: “I’m in that realm, with the Zuckerbergs and the Perez Hiltons.”120 Before his site was called TheDirty, it was Dirty Scottsdale, devoted to the night life of that Arizona city, featuring a section where the hottest women of Scottsdale were selected for attention, a “Brock’s chick” chosen by the “Brock Landers”. “Landers” was originally an alias of Eddie Adams, better known under his other alias, Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights, and it was an alias here as well, that of Ben Quayle, the son of the former vice-president. “When, four years later, Ben Quayle ran for congress in 2010, he would deny being Landers, then admit to it. Without Ben, there would be no TheDirty.com,” said Richie. Quayle would run as a traditional values candidate, posing in one flyer with his two young daughters, who actually weren’t his daughters, but nieces of the childless Quayle. He would win the seat, then, two years later, would lose his primary for the reason so many had before him, because he was accused of skinny dipping in the sea of Galilee121

Richie was a blogstar because TheDirty was a site where people posted pics of their exes, and when the exes would plead for the pictures to be taken down, sometimes they were, and sometimes they weren’t122. You used to have to pay a fee to have them taken down, and now you just had to pay a fee to have them taken down quickly. 123.Nude photos of ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews would be posted to the site, Andrews would ask them to be taken down, and Richie would reply: “Erin Andrews, can you ask your lawyers if this is the post they want me to take down because I am confused? Welcome back to reality…your fault.- nik.” 124. When Sarah Jones, a high school teacher and cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals, asked for one of her photos to be removed, Richie refused, saying that one of her friends had pissed him off. Various commenters claimed that she had STDs. There was a late inning twist: last March, Jones would be charged with having sex with a minor, one of her students. She would plead guilty in October to a lesser misdemeanour. Her defamation lawsuit against the site was decided two weeks ago, in her favor. A month earlier, she got engaged to her former student125. In a Huffington Post Live interview that comes across as a little softball, Richie said that the whole Anthony Weiner scandal made him feel sorry for America: “I really think he has multiple personalities. And he can’t decipher from who he is, and he thinks he’s invincible. It’s like this narcissist person, that nice person, and there’s that sexual deviant.”126 To be clear, this was Richie speaking of Weiner.

From an appearance on Dr. Phil, featuring Richie and Bruna, one of the women whose pictures had been put on TheDirty127:

Andrew Breitbart Psychosis in a Political Mask

Andrew Breitbart Psychosis in a Political Mask

Andrew Breitbart Psychosis in a Political Mask

RICHIE
I have a ton of people emailing me every day, saying “Thank you, Nic, for saving me, for going down a dark path I shouldn’t have gone, drugs, alcohol…

Audience moans.

BRUNA
OH MY GOD! You’re a joke. You are. A joke. You’re a joke. And I hope it pays off.

Audience applauds.

RICHIE
I hope this makes you feel better.

RICHIE CONT’D
If this is what you need, if it makes you feel better.

BRUNA
Actually, it really does. I wish I could actually slap (inaudible), but I can’t.

DR. PHIL
But that is very condescending. “This is what you need, [makes a brushing off gesture] go ahead.” Do you…put profit aside for a minute. Do you think this hurt this girl’s feelings?

RICHIE
Hundred percent.

DR. PHIL
Do you care about that at all?

RICHIE
No.

DR. PHIL
You have no empathy for her, whatsoever?

RICHIE
No.

In a later clip from the same show, Bruna would start to weep about her pictures being put on the site128.

Once again, there was a certain disassociation of where the Anthony Weiner sexting pictures came from, because the vile mechanics of the scandal would have gotten in the way of the pious lectures, pious lectures built on top of pornography, that felt as incongruous as an ornate church built on top of a whorehouse, the choir raising their voices to hide the noise of bedsprings below. If you perhaps didn’t want to read the endless accounts of Huma Abedin’s poise during a press conference, it was because the press conference felt like pornography, but not one the performers had agreed to. It was a pornography I couldn’t enjoy, I found it repulsive the way an up-skirt photo is repulsive; maybe, because I’m an old-fashioned girl and I like my porn to come with signed consents.

This might suggest some endorsement of Anthony Weiner as mayor or even democratic nominee, when it isn’t. The most powerful condemnations I have come across include “Weiner’s repellent personality: Just one more reason not to vote for him” by Alex Pareene, “One’s a Weiner, the Other a Hero: Why Bill and Hillary Have Nothing in Common With Anthony and Huma” by Michael Tomasky, “Anthony Weiner and Liberal Morality” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. My belief that there was a thorough attempt to trap Weiner in the last scandal does not stem from a desire for circumstances for exculpation – I do not think the circumstances exculpate him – but the circumstances themselves. A twitter account that went active a few months before the scandal with an almost generic conservative identity, that then watched Weiner’s twitter account like a hawk, twenty-four seven, and then vanished at the end of the scandal. The accounts of two teenage girls, who sent letters and identification to a reporter, a mother of one of the teenage girls even talking to this same reporter, and with the identification turning out to be utterly fabricated, the teenage girls then vanishing. This doesn’t come off of Alex Jones’ Infowars, but was the subject of a New York Times story by Jennifer Preston, “Fake Identities Were Used on Twitter in Effort to Get Information on Weiner”. The most convincing presentation of the theory that a political organization was behind those accounts is put forth not by an apologist or liberal activist, but from conservative Ladd Ehlinger, and this concept was affirmed in its soundness by Breitbart associate Mandy Nagy. If I disagree with Ehlinger and Nagy, it is in the belief that this was not politically motivated, it was the result entirely of a personal vendetta129. Now, this week, we suddenly have someone alerting Richie to these photos, and someone contacting Ben Smith of BuzzFeed about these photos just when Weiner is surging in the polls. Whether or not there’s any connection between these two scandals I have no idea, and I can have no idea absent anything that proves or disproves a connection, and it will be actual journalism that will prove or disprove this, not holy sermons.

TheDirty was a site that trafficked in humiliation, with everything done, as they say, just for the lulz. You could find something similar in one of the more disturbing moments in We Are Anonymous, a moment which followed a member of 4chan, the pseudonymous “William”, as he attempted to get a few laughs by hurting a few people. Tom Ryan would make a presentation at DEF CON about his use of alternate identities to lure and entrap people, but he was amateur hour in creating and using such false on-line personas, tic tac toe compared to the four dimensional chess of William:

William’s online exploits had become bolder, sometimes including a gang of others from /b/ to help him torment a wider group of people. For example, a few days before Christmas 2011, William was browsing what he lovingly referred to as “my /b/” when he saw a thread that started: “Post their contact info if you hate them.” These types of threads were common on /b/ and often heralded a night of fun for William.

Among the responses, one user had posted the phone number and Hotmail address of a sixteen-year-old girl in Texas named Selena, adding, “Make this girl’s life hell. She’s a slut.” When William looked her up on Facebook, he saw she had more than three thousand friends on the network. He decided to try to hack her account.

He wrote down Selena’s e-mail address on a piece of paper, went to Hotmail, clicked on the link that said “Can’t access your account?,” and then hit “Reset account.” He put in Selena’s e-mail address, then answered the security question: “What is your father’s hometown?” Selena’s Facebook page showed that she lived in Joshua, Texas, which was the correct answer.

It then asked: “What is your grandfather’s occupation?”

William sighed. He signed into one of his fake Facebook profiles, Chrissie Harman, and sent Selena a direct message.

“There’s a group of hackers after you,” he told her without bothering to introduce himself. He pasted a screenshot of the thread from /b/ with her contact details as proof. William said he was part of this fictitious hacker gang and that they were dangerous. He was willing to help but would need to be paid.

“How do I pay you?” Selena asked, worried.

“Take a photo of yourself with a shoe on your head and a time stamp.” In the past he would have wanted nude photos, but by now William had plenty and couldn’t be bothered to ask. Sure enough, within a few minutes, Selena had taken a self-portrait and sent it over. William felt a small victory.

“OK. Now I’ll ask you questions to help secure your account,” William said. He could have just told her to remove her security questions. Instead he bombarded her with technical-sounding gibberish about “randomized answers,” “servers,” and “a database string input,” a deliberate tactic in social engineering. Distract someone with enough misinformation and that person will forget what you are really trying to get, or to hide. “Pick a number between 1 and 100,” he said. “What’s your mother’s middle name? Mine’s is Deborah.” After every answer of hers, he replied, “Yes, that will work very well.”

Then he asked, “What does your grandfather do?”

“Oil,” Selena said. William opened his other window and quickly typed oil into Hotmail. Nothing. He tried oil operative, oil technician, and oil executive. They didn’t work either. He would have to try something else.

“Ok. My questions will get more technical now, but don’t worry,” William said. “This will really secure it. After this you’ll be un-hackable forever.” He asked Selena how many e-mail accounts she had and how many characters were in her average password. Then he asked her to type out her Hotmail password backward.

“Here’s mine,” he offered, pasting gibberish. Selena hesitated, then she typed it out. Within a few minutes, William had gotten into her e-mail account, and then he activated a series of steps that allowed him to reset her Facebook account too, still asking her questions so she wouldn’t get suspicious.

Before she could answer his last question, he went into her account settings and signed her out. He set up secure browsing to mask his IP address, then changed the password again. He went back to /b/.

“I’m in this girl’s account,” he said, starting a new thread and pasting a link to her Facebook profile. “Give me ideas for things to do.” One person suggested talking to Selena’s boyfriend, a local boy named James Martinez. William decided that was a good idea. He went ahead and changed Selena’s relationship status from “in a relationship” to “single” then sent boyfriend James a direct message.

“OMG I accidentally made us single!” he told him, now in the guise of Selena. “Can you give me your password so I can log into your Facebook and accept our relationship status again?” James agreed, but when he sent over the password boobies1, it didn’t work.

Exasperated, William passed the work on James off to another prankster on /b/. That was the benefit of having a /b/ behind you—if you got stuck on a problem, someone else could help you fix it. A couple of /b/ users had by now contacted William via their own fake Facebook profiles, and one, who used the fake name Ben Dover, offered to get James’s correct password. Soon enough, James realized he wasn’t talking to his sixteen-year-old girlfriend, Selena, but a malicious hacker. The Caps Lock went on.

“I’M GOING TO KICK YOUR HEAD IN,” he told William, who laughed.

“It was possibly the funniest moment of the night for me,” William later said.

For now, William wanted to keep Selena’s Facebook login credentials to himself. Selena, with her network of three thousand Facebook friends, was the jewel in his crown. As soon as he signed in to her account, ten tabs of chat messages flashed up from boys trying to talk to her. It was a reminder of how big a magnet teenage girls could be online and how blinded a man could become when he thought he was talking to one. This was the benefit the person behind Kayla found in being a sixteen-year-old girl online. William picked one of the boys trying to chat to Selena, Max Lopez, and sent a reply.

“Hey, babe :),” William wrote, still as Selena. “What you up to?” Max responded, and the two embarked on inane small talk, Max oblivious of the fact that he was actually talking to a twenty-one-year-old man in the United Kingdom.

“Well, if it’s not too weird maybe I could send you a picture. And if you don’t like it, that’s ok.” William then dug through his collection of downloaded porn and found a photo of a young woman’s breasts that he figured would pass for Selena’s, based on what he could see from her profile picture. Then he sent it over.

The goal was to get Max Lopez to send back a photo of his own genitalia. Like a charm, it worked. As soon as William sent over the photo of breasts, Lopez promptly sent back a photo of his own penis. “They’re all desperate to be complimented on their penises,” William said. “I don’t know why guys think girls want to see that but it works.”

I would argue this is the same process that takes place when dealing with these sex scandals, the allure is not the actual sex (there was none in either this affair or the last one), but the simple humiliation of the figure. It has nothing to do with how the politico or men in general see women; such a story would have to involve the original source of the photos, and then the press would have to confront why what Anthony Weiner did was unacceptable, while TheDirty was now to be abided. It would be the joy of humiliation in the guise of a moral lesson, we would be doing it for the lulz while acting like we were moralfags. This is not specific to this scandal; we had played the same roles in the past, and we would play the same roles in the future. This is what took place in this kind of scandal, but not just this kind of scandal – it’s the same process that takes place with the constant watching of someone like Amanda Bynes. This is a woman who very clearly is very disturbed, and our gratification lies in her ridiculousness, her utter lack of self-consciousness as she does things that others might consider self-abasement, and we search for some higher purpose to justify what is voyeurism. I do not speak as if I am untrammeled snow; I may have been unable to watch the Anthony Weiner press conference, but I read all the articles on Amanda Bynes that show up in the “serious” press (and the lines of that domain are our own choosing) – and I can give no justification for this. If I had a stronger sense of her self-awareness, of her connection to the actual world, I don’t think I would be able to look on as I do – and this, I think, speaks more ill of me than I would wish to admit. This was a sheer exercise of power, the press giving us what we wanted, the only thing they now had the resources to give, while implying this was the only thing we could want – and therefore, the power exercised was our own.

This debasement in the sheath of a pious lesson reminded me of one of the most powerful scenes I’ve read in any book this year, a surreal, grotesque moment from the memoir Long Hard Road Out of Hell, by Marilyn Manson and Neil Strauss. In this scene, Manson is close to the height of his fame and now deals with scores of groupies backstage. These men and women are in a state of something like secular ecstasy, entirely submissive to any whim of the star of whom they’re infautauted. They might be humiliated without difficulty, and this Manson does, before becoming bored with the process. The bus driver on his tour, Tony Wiggins, then sets up an apparatus into which these fans might be strapped in, and where they confess some great burden. The way they are strapped in leaves them entirely vulnerable and exposed; if they move in any way so they are less exposed, or if something in them weakens while they make their confession, their body will move in such a way that an apparatus rope tied around their neck will tighten, causing them to choke. The ostensible purpose might be some attempt at emotional relief, but the driving force is the thrill of this debasement. It all feels like a dark mirror of the confessional of the catholic church, the worshipful entirely given over to rapture of their idol, willing to degrade themselves in any way for their faith, the confession of sin perhaps affording some relief, but perhaps only demonstrating the power of the leviathan over the faithful.

The first relevant excerpt from Hell:

Backstage after Danzig’s set, we discovered our crew videotaping a tiny but full-bodied girl with white hair and pale skin. A boy who seemed to be her brother or boyfriend, about nineteen and skinny and effiminate with red hair in a bowl cut, a light smattering of freckles and a discolored bruise around his cheekbone, stood on the side, anxiously picking at an unlit cigarette in his hands. The smell of fresh shaving cream was in the air, and they had coaxed the girl into shaving herself and committing other unspeakable acts. It seemed like the kind of traditional exploitation that Wiggins and I were trying to avoid.

As soon as they saw me, the girl and the boy dropped to their knees. “The gods have answered our prayers,” she cried.

“I just wanted to meet you,” he told me. “That’s why we’re here.” So, naturally, Wiggins and I asked them if they had anything to confess, besides the atrocities the girl had just taken part in with our road crew. Instantly, the girl looked over at the boy, and he bowed his head in shame or sadness. We knew we had found the perfect person to test out Tony’s new invention.

Wiggins asked the boy if he minded being tied up and restrained, then brought him into the back room of the dressing area, requesting several minutes to set up. When I walked in, he was hog-tied with his hands behind his back in an apparatus that forced him to keep his legs spread at a ninety degree angle and his hands behind his back. The device was intended for women, but it looked even more disturbing to see a naked guy spread-eagled there. If he moved any limb from that position, the rope around his neck would tighten and begin to choke him. In order to keep from strangling himself, he had to work to keep himself in this awkward, vulnerable position. Tony stood over him with a video camera, capturing his struggle from every angle.

“Is there anything you’d like to confess?” Wiggins began in a genteel Southern accent with an undercurrent of menace. Outside the door, Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” provided a soundtrack to our mock-priestly endeavor.

He hesitated, and tried to squirm into a comfortable position, which was impossible. With a free hand, Tony lifted his chin up towards the video camera, and he started talking. “My sister and I, we ran away from home like two years ago. So to…” His words shortened and fragmented as he struggled with the ropes.

“Is that your sister out there?” Wiggins asked. He never let anyone get away with vagueness.

“No. Just a friend. She begs in the street with me.”

“Why did you run away?”

“Abuse, really. Just abuse. Our stepfather, mostly. So, anyway, we needed to get money for tickets. To see the concert. And for some other things. So we hitched a ride out to a sort of rest station-truck stop. I wanted to sell her. Her body.”

“What was she wearing?” Wiggins’s inquiring mind wanted to know.

“Just high heel shoes we had found. A tube top. Jeans. Some makeup we stole. But it wasn’t for sex. Just blow jobs.”

“Was that the first time you pimped her?”

“Sort of.”

“Yes or no?” Wiggins was a master.

“For money, yes.”

“Then what happened?”

“This trucker.” The boy began crying, and his face turned crimson from a combination of emotion and the fact that the rope was tightening around his neck. He flexed his freckled thighs to keep from choking. “This trucker, he took her inside. His truck. And I heard her yelling, so I climbed up. To the window. But before I could…” He gagged for a moment, then regained his equilibrium. “He hit me. He hit me. And.” He was crying, and his legs were trembling. “And I don’t know where she is…”

Another excerpt with the apparatus:

[Tony Wiggins] walked me to an out-of-the-way room where a girl in white underpants, a white bra and pink socks was waiting for me, bound and trussed in Wiggins’s sin-sucking device. She would have been attractive, but all over her body, particularly on the back of her neck and the backs of her legs, there were red splotches with raised islands of pale white flesh in the middle. It was an uncomfortable sight because, before she even confessed a word, I already felt sorry for her. Despite myself, I was also somewhat turned on because she looked like a beauty who had been mauled by a beast. And few things are more of a turn-on than beauty disfigured. Stranger still, she looked familiar, as if I had seen her somewhere before.

“What happened to you?” I asked. It was my turn to be interrogator.

“I have a skin disease. Nothing contagious.”

“Is that what you have to confess?”

“No,” she said, pausing to gather strength for what she was about to say. “What I have to confess has something to do with you.”

“Fantasies don’t count.”

“No. It’s from when I met you in person. A year ago. When you were on tour with Nine Inch Nails.” She stopped and struggled with the apparatus. She was puny and weak.

“Go ahead,” I said, knowing that if I had done anything unspeakable to her I definitely would have remembered those splotches.

“I was backstage and you said hi to me. I was the girl that went back to the hotel with Trent that night.”

“Okay, I remember,” I said, and I did.

“What happened was that I was going out with someone at the time, and he was angry at me because I wanted to go backstage and sleep with Trent. But I did it anyway.”

“So he broke up with you?”

“Yes. But that’s not what I … what I’m trying to say. The next day, my stomach started to ache and I started to have all these pains. I went to the doctor and he told me that I was several months pregnant. But,” and she broke down in tears, “I would never have the baby. I had miscarried from having sex.”

I don’t know if I believed what she said, but she seemed to. Her last word, “sex,” escaped from her throat like a dart out of a blow-gun. She had become so overwhelmed by the memory that she released the pressure on her hands and legs and allowed Wiggins’s contraption to snap tightly around her neck. Her head hit the floor, unconscious. Still shocked by her confession, I bent down in a daze and began fumbling with the knots and rope, unable to do a thing as her face swelled from red to purple. Wiggins pulled an army knife out of his pocket and sliced through the cord trailing from her neck, releasing the tension. But she didn’t wake up. We slapped her, screamed at her, dumped water on her. Nothing worked. This was bad. I didn’t want to be the first rock-and-roller to have actually killed a girl due to backstage hedonism.

After three minutes, she groaned and blinked her eyes open. That was probably the last time she ever wanted to go backstage again.

I will add, perhaps unnecessarily, that I hated Manson and Wiggins after reading this. That I thought these moments powerful enough to include here, and powerful enough that I will no doubt quote them again, are contradictions that I leave others to resolve, or that I might look at more closely another time. Manson and Wiggins might take glee from this tangential product of their apparatus: the hypocrisy of the observer of the inquisition. I’m not sure that hypocrisy absolves Manson and Wiggins.

Where William was a high school drop-out and resident of low income housing in England, Marilyn Manson was, briefly, very famous, one of the small circle to carry that unholy nimbus of fame. Manson exercises his power through his celebrity, William exerts his through subterfuge. Those on TheDirty do so by accusing a stranger of having herpes. The effect is roughly equal, done solely through different instruments. Megan McArdle, a libertarian, is joyful over the idea of those protesting the war state being smashed to the ground. She writes of herself and others beating these people, but she isn’t that stupid: she knows any force administered will be by that of the police. Robert Stacy McCain, a Confederate sympathizer, filled with glee over his enemy, Barrett Brown, broken down and finally arrested by the federal state. We might see this spectacle of debasement, where some large power acts as an instrument of debasement, and because they act in a way conincident with our passions, the power is briefly our own, as a substitute for any practical influence. I think we can see this also on a larger scale, where the attempts to end Obamacare, the endless attempts to rouse up Obama scandals have nothing to do with policy, and only humiliation of the first black president of the United States, and this political defeat is viewed not as larger interests acting on their own, solely out of their own interest, but as a humiliation which the energies of people, who feel rootless and helpless, wield. That this force, which might be referred to as conservative populism, arises from a people who still carry far more rights and privileges than others, does not diminish their own self-perception as powerless, or their desire for this instrument of debasement.

An emphasis was made in the preaching over this recent scandal on the importance of trust in the politician, that voters could no longer trust Anthony Weiner, and this may well be true; yet this implies a trust in the press that, as I’ve already mentioned, is often absent. BuzzFeed is the second site that broke this current Anthony Weiner scandal (TheDirty was the first). In “Benny Johnson: Gorgeous Animus”, I included a link to “BuzzBagger Ben” by Yasha Levine, which has its insights on Ben Smith, the head of BuzzFeed‘s news division, but I think it misrepresents Smith, who has also been accused of being too liberal in his coverage, as someone of a conservative heart. “The Boy Wonder of BuzzFeed” is maybe the proper diagnosis, implying that Smith has no strong political passions of one kind or another130; this may be the case, that Smith’s only belief is what is practical for news content now, and everything before is to be forgotten. This is the same process that Beam misattributes to Andrew Breitbart’s dexterity, when it is only the convenience of the press.

In Smith’s “Obama Prepares To Screw His Base”, the thesis is that young people will pay a disproportionate amount under the new health care law given the illnesses and injuries they suffer, versus what the elderly will pay into the same insurance pools. It is almost entirely the same thesis of “Obama’s War on the Young” by Michael Tanner, which has a second sentence that declares “Maybe they [the young] will finally realize that they are being played for patsies by the Obama administration.”131 The flimsiness of the thesis alone provokes distrust, before you even get to the possibility that Smith simply added some flourishes to somebody else’s talking points132. That Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, funded by Charles Koch, and that the Charles Koch Institute recently engaged in a few partnerships with BuzzFeed might be a few extra connections, but they’re unnecessary133. This does not imply that Smith is a hard-line conservative; these talking points were potential provocative clickworthy content, and so they were published.

You also have Smith publishing the very sound “You Don’t Have To Like Edward Snowden” which stresses that even the most despicable people can be a source of valuable information134. We might contrast this with what took place a few months earlier, when secret tapings made by a member of Progress Kentucky, a left-wing political group, revealed that Mitch McConnell would fight his potential political opponent, Ashley Judd, by bringing up her battle with mental illness, as reported by David Corn in “Secret Tape: McConnell and Aides Weighed Using Judd’s Mental Health and Religion As Political Ammo”. BuzzFeed would give great focus to the source, almost exclusive focus to the source, rather than the revelations themselves: “Potential McConnell Opponent Defends 2011 Meeting With Progress Kentucky Founder” by Evan McMorris-Santoro, “The Disastrous Collapse Of Kentucky’s Least Effective Liberal Group” by Evan McMorris-Santoro and Ruby Cramer, and “Alleged Mitch McConnell Bugger Applying For Journalism Jobs” by Ruby Cramer. This was capped off by “Mitch McConnell Schools Democrats After Secret Recordings Are Published” by Evan McMorris-Santoro, a happy celebration of McConnell’s skills at putting the emphasis on the source, rather than the story itself, which included the following gleeful sneer from a GOP consultant: “McConnell took their faux-drama and busted a cap in their ass.”135 This has nothing to do with Smith or BuzzFeed being pro-McConnell, only that their vaunted principles exist only at their convenience. When they want the story angle to be about the source, then the focus would be about the unreliable flakiness of the source. When they wished to impart a lesson on the proper way to view a source, this forgotten ideal would be flourished like a city’s foundation stone – and, no doubt, when this same ideal becomes an impediment again, it will be dropped to the earth once more.

There was the fact that Benny Johnson was on their staff (his most recent pieces include “25 Things “D.C.” People Say But Don’t Really Mean”, “29 Hill Staffer Problems”, and “The Story Of Egypt’s Revolution In “Jurassic Park” Gifs”), a man who, last year, wrote the following piece at Glenn Beck’s The Blaze: “Swamp People, Hippies, Hijabs, and a Gay Couple: See How the Obama Admin Is Branding America Abroad (& the LGBT Adviser Who’s Behind It!)”, which mocked a tourism ad put out by the federal government for having the audacity to include a gay male couple, hindus, and muslims. The implication from the piece is clear: you cannot be gay and an american, you cannot be muslim and an american, you cannot be hindu and an american. Johnson traced the reason the federal government was putting out such an anti-american ad to the fact that the man involved in the Brand USA ad campaign was openly gay136. I do not think Smith endorses these views, I simply think he believes in the idea that we are to forget what took place in the past, according to the convenience of the press. The underlying philosophy of this forgetting is simple, and it is that of the powerful: because, bitch. When Benny Johnson went after gays, he was just doing it for the lulz. And when he wrote “How To Thank A Soldier, By George W. Bush”, it was the swelling music of Mr. MoralFag. That it is expected that I forget that it was ever written is why I have no trust for Smith or BuzzFeed. This has nothing to do with BuzzFeed being one of the first venues to break this scandal: remarkably, I can have two thoughts at once, that the way Anthony Weiner treated his wife is repellent, and Johnson’s Blaze piece to be equally so.

A book that promised to capture this arrogant insular attitude is This Town, by skilled veteran reporter Mark Leibovich, and it is a little overpromised in this regard. Much of it appeared originally as individual pieces in the Times, and as individual pieces, they are superior137. Together, the book is without a central momentum or powerful characters. By the time you reach the last chapters that deal with the 2012 election, it should be the book’s crescendo, but instead feels like a ramshackle caravan that fires at random storekeeps, because it has bullets to spare and the storekeeps are there. I will qualify this by saying it feels like a book I dismiss mildly as a good, easy read, but which I will be quoting from for quite a while.

The book’s thesis is that the venal marriages between the political and the corporate, that the easy passage between public office and the private sector, is the rotting heart of our government dysfunction, and one can be contemptful of the practice while still thinking it a misanalysis. The reason for the devastating impact of the sequester, for the possibility of hard cuts to the SNAP food program, for the certain possibility that there will be another schoolyard massacre is not because of this corruption, but the stupid intransigence of a single party. That this venality is not at the root of government inadequacy, is obvious by looking at places like Kansas and Tennessee, where a fevered, stupid conservatism is turning those states into wretched dystopias for any but the rich138. When Leibovich drops a line about both parties accusing the other of destroying medicare, as if the plans of both parties are equal, or about Obama finally conceding to use a super PAC, as if both parties had super PACs of equal size, or when he writes of no gun legislation being possible because the NRA has a non-specific half of congress by the balls, as if both parties were equally faint about gun safety legislation, my reaction was blunter than anything in the book: “Oh Leibovich, you fucking coward.”139

That Terry McAuliffe is a crass opportunist can be conceded, but to make a point that D.C. doesn’t work right now because of such crassness is as inaccurate as a book about the movie business which suggests the entertainingly craven opportunism of a single producer is the reason why movies are so bad right now140. The problem is systemic, and were you to remove McAuliffe from the stage, there would be another to take his place. You can, however, imagine why those in the business would find such entertainment in a book like this, because it provides so many amusing stories, and so many people you can point to and say “I’m not that person”, with a lot of associated faux controversy. At no point when you read This Town do you ever feel angry – at no point does the book ever associate any politico who casually voted on a policy with the cruel damage done by that policy to Americans outside the gilded sphere. I try to recall something that did inspire a like fury in me, and I think of the paragraphs in Eric Schlosser’s Reefer Madness which list the politicians who happily passed various drug laws, then had a abrupt shift in legal outlook when their own children were caught up in the hysterical dragnet141. At no point does the book provoke a like anger, and so no noted figure need fear it.

Though it is critical of the idea of a special privileged class, the appeal of This Town is entirely connected to the concept of a class of significant notables. By the book’s end, it has become simple gossip, by which I mean the quoted acts of characters have no larger political significance, would have no significance whatsoever, were they not men and women of prominence. We are given a single detail of one meeting, of Richard Holbrooke making an inflated, self-righteous speech and Susan Rice giving him the finger in return, with nothing else surrounding it, and one wonders what significance does it hold? Rice is not a character in the book, and we are told nothing of the meeting in which this gesture is made. The only significance is that these men and women of prominence will sometimes express what anyone else has expressed at a tense meeting – this moment is only worth relating if you consider these men and women numinous figures, extraordinary and apart from us. You could change all the surrounding elements of this story and turn it into an old story about Hollywood, with Faye Dunaway making the same gesture to William Holden, and it holds the same frisson, for the same reasons, and is as empty of insight into political life, or why movies are good or bad. The same frisson is there, and the same lack of any greater significance is there in the moment when the former Secretary of State uses what sheltered adults such as myself refer to as the f word, about the correspondents dinner. It’s simply an executive who has endured plenty of dull ceremonies having little or no patience for another142.

By giving less focus to the systemic underpinnings which foster corruption in D.C., Leibovich grants these people a power they might wish to project, but which they lack. The Republican congressman from Kansas is constrained by the rabid wiles of his constituents, and if he deviates at all, he’ll receive a primary challenger. The president, and the people, are in turn constrained by hordes of these congresspeople in this ridiculous gerrymandered system. Always you will be challenged on not being strong enough on defense, and the only place where not every decision is not ayed or nayed by congress is state security, resulting in a state security system which grows larger and more secret. The press that covers these events are prisoners to how little money they have, and the money they have depends on how many peon eyeballs they can rustle up. That there is a certain powerlessness to the actors, just as there is a like powerlessness to the most prominent of actresses, with the roles she’s offered dependent not just on her own agency (by which I mean her free choice, not CAA), but the studio structure that surrounds her, is downplayed in This Town, just as it is downplayed in many books about Hollywood – that it is downplayed is why such books are enjoyed in their respective towns, as they briefly give the sense to those portrayed that they are more powerful than they are.

The book collapses into gossip because, as said, there are no strong characters that might serve as the spine of such an account. The most memorable, easily, is Harry Reid, who suggests a simpleton you might find in an Old West town, who a few visiting cattle barons might play cards with out of a sense of cruel amusement, yet who somehow ends up, time and time again winning the pot, till these barons are left only with the diamonds in their tiepins143. “That simpleton sure is lucky”, they might say, to which you reply, “maybe”. And then: “Maybe that simpleton isn’t so lucky. Maybe that simpleton isn’t so simple.” When Reid makes a cameo in a 2012 election chapter, it feels like a merciful rush of oxygen. There are no other vivid characters, and there are no civilians either. They are simply a great “other” who are looking for work, or in desperate straits, though you could find this great other in D.C. itself, without difficulty. This is a strange omission, because the two most important moments of the 2012 election, the ones that I think will be picked out from the dross by historians, were the intrusions of two civilians in this sacred realm.

There was Scott Prouty, the man who made the undercover film that showed off a Mitt Romney speaking of a 47% of American that were a bunch of grabby moochers144. The other key figure was Nate Silver, the baseball statistician, who was able to predict election outcomes, state by state, with such extraordinary accuracy. He used mathematical models, while the pundits gabbed about their funny feelings, the tension coming to a head when Dylan Byers, a writer at Politico, found himself in conflict with Silver, a small skirmish in Byers’ larger war against math145. This omission of these two men is, I think, telling, because in a memoir of Hollywood it is one thing to write of Hollywood’s depravities (and no one in This Town, despite the ominous pre-publication references to Julia Phillips’ You’ll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again, is shown with a coke spoon or sucking cock), it is another to imply that these stars are more and more obscure, or that the movies in which so much effort is given, are largely unseen, thought little of, and forgotten. That is a truth which is intolerable. That there was a vicious fight over David Gregory becoming host of Meet the Press is something the town can abide146; that Nate Silver is more important than David Gregory will ever be, and if not Silver, then some other statistician, is something that it cannot.

That a statistician could have such supremacy over the press was because his skills could easily surpass the punditry which the press had devolved towards. That this part was surpasable and increasingly irrelevant might give the illusion that the press as a whole was replaceable when it was not. You could read “Should Reddit Be Blamed for the Spreading of a Smear?” by Jay Caspian Kang, to see the unhappy contrast between the institutional press, and the beginnings of a world without it. I far prefer Kang’s piece to previous analysis of the false accusations over the Boston bombings, such as James Gleick’s “”Total Noise,” Only Louder” and George Packer’s “Speed Kills”. This is not because these men are poor writers – I am trying to think of a better book I read about the American side of the Iraq war than Packer’s The Assassins Gate and I can’t think of one – but because it isn’t simply an opinion piece, but actual journalism, where he goes out to speak to the people who spread the rumor of Sunil Tripathi being one of the Boston bombers, and the family of Tripathi as well. Gleick’s essay especially irks me, as it takes the tone that makes me so turn against the contemporary press now, that of sighing parent dealing with rambunctious children147. We are once again a swarm of insects.

I think I can say where Gleick is off in his essay, because though I am rarely on-line at night, let alone on twitter; on that rare night, I was on both, following the story when it began as a Harvard shooting. Gleick portrays it, wrongly, as a thrill-hungry mob, when it wasn’t. There was that element, but there were also many who were Bostonians, or who had friends and relatives in the city, and were simply exhausted by the ordeal and wanted it to end. Many openly grieved over the death of Sean Collier, and made despairing pleas that no more lives be lost. There was a sense of fear early on that parts of the MIT campus or Boston were rigged to explode. I knew the frenzy of this kinetic event happening before me, and it is much like the feeling that Breitbart described, seeing his screens alight with newsfeeds from all over the world. No doubt those who passed on various tips from the police scanners were touched by the same electric thrill he spoke of, when he would post a detail about Janet Jackson’s outfit on the Drudge Report, and suddenly it appeared throughout the world148. People would come on asking questions, and I would try to answer some, but aside from two exceptions, always relied on the institutional press for a source, because I knew that they would have a process for double checking and verifying their information. There were only two exceptions: one, was when someone asked whether a man stopped and arrested was the third bomber, and I sent them to Your Anonymous News. The second was when someone asked about the rumor that reddit had resolved the identity of the bombers. I passed on the link to a reddit thread where the identification was made, but I also qualified it with: this isn’t confirmed yet. I also know that I hesitated to even add that last part. I emphasize this so there’s no possibility that my animus towards Gleick’s essay stems from a shirking of guilt. My animus comes from the belief that you can be complicit, and still possess a fullness of humanity which Gleick’s essay does not grant.

Gleick writes of the self-congratulatory quality of the tweets proclaiming that CNN was dead, and the new press was with the people, but I think this is a mis-reading. When I read tweets like that, I didn’t feel a kindred sense of importance, I felt a kindred sense of gleeful hatred. It was not loathing of a liberal or conservative institution, and not hatred specifically for CNN, it was loathing for an entity that spoke to us while we had no power to speak back. It was hatred of a distance that could not be repaired, not easily, between those who would tell us what’s what, and ourselves. We felt this distance, and those at CNN, or wherever, felt it as well. Lee Stranahan, a Breitbart associate, was a guest on a CNN show hosted by Rick Sanchez when Stranahan was still a democrat and Sanchez was still on CNN. When Stranahan opened his mouth for a brief smile, showing that he had many missing teeth, Sanchez gave a mocking laugh, and when I saw that while researching these pieces, my thoughts had nothing to do with Sanchez’s ethnicity, or Stranahan’s ideology, or anything before or after that moment, just this man with half his teeth missing and that callous laugh, and my thoughts were very simple, and they were directed to the former CNN host: “Fuck you, you piece of shit, and good fucking god, I’m glad your ass got fired.”149

That anger, outside of politics, expresses some of the distance that I attempt to describe. What Breitbart channeled was this same anger as well, though helpfully directed only towards a west coast glitterati, far away from the class of conservative multimillionaires, of which he was one. The anger he transmitted was only anger, unaccompanied by practical solutions. Breitbart told the camera in Occupy Unmasked that the community organizing of Barack Obama wasn’t about helping your next door neighbour, but something more sinister. Yet Breitbart didn’t help his neighbor, either: he owned a multi-million Brentwood mansion, and Stranahan, his associate, still had missing teeth after he died. On the night of April 19th, Stranahan would be one of many to pass on the names of two men falsely accused of the Boston bombings, Sunil Tripathi and another man, encouraging others to spread them around150.

Our anger at this distance between ourselves and these institutions which feel like they embody a remote, hectoring elite will make us long for the end of these institutions, though we have nothing of equivalent resources to replace them. Any speculation on substitutes has the aspect of that dreamy libertarianism, which fantasized that cuts to public services would lead to the influx of private market substitutes and local, community organized solutions. No such phenomena took place, and now many are in a state of desperation that is utterly sickening. The best coverage, without a doubt, of the Boston bombings came from the Boston Globe. What awaits us is a possible future without such coverage, not the press as a restraining element, but a pseudo-press which exists solely as a kind of conducting material for electricity, with the first city of the American Revolution perhaps at some future point under siege again, this time entirely lost to ourselves, the mob.

There are only a few organizations who both have the connections in New York state and the resources for a lengthy investigation into who was behind the various twitter handles of the 2011 Anthony Weiner scandal: the Times, New York magazine, The New Yorker, Gawker, Bloomberg, and The Huffington Post. If they don’t commit the resources, there’ll be no answer, and I think a strong case could be made that in a time of few hands and little money, there are other stories of far greater priority and of greater public interest. I do not search for any vindication of Anthony Weiner, and I do not have any expectation that the hypothesis mentioned in part two will be confirmed as true. What drives me to want an answer is the same crude drive for a solution that causes us to read a mystery till dawn. I am propelled by practical questions, like: why would someone be so diligent as to come up with fake identification for two teenage girls? Or, in another case: how is it that Adrian Lamo has no background in the military, but displays such a thorough knowledge of obscure military acronyms in his chat with Bradley Manning?151 Were you to ask me what was the strongest passion felt over the course of writing this, other than answers, other than simple, soul destorying animus, it had nothing to do with Anthony Weiner; it was the righteous hope that Barrett Brown would be out of prison, soon. A website devoted to Brown’s cause is freebarrettbrown.org. A recent, hilarious piece of writing by Brown is his review of Charles Colson’s prison memoir, “Reading ‘Born Again’ in Jail”.

With this iteration of the Anthony Weiner scandal, the players were slightly different. Before Breitbart provided the lulz, but now he was dead. Before, Ann Curry got to interview the women involved, and act the weepy moralfag – but then even NBC got sick of her moralfagginess, so she was gone as well152. The routine, however, remained the same. The press that could once demonstrate its power through its investigations, now shows off its power by holding a few chosen victims in a freeze frame, conducting endless autopsies of their souls, and finding in there some lessons on proper conduct. Sometimes they would play it for the lulz, sometimes they played it as moralfags – but they were always playing. They were like a waning empire that could no longer impress citizens with their vastness, so they now corralled them with an occasional inquisition. They would then forget that this moment ever happened, and we were, once again, expected to forget as well.

This is what I think the legacy of Andrew Breitbart is, whatever the white roses laid at his mausoleum by Ross Douthat, Nick Gillespie, Matt Labash, Matt Welch, Byron York, and others: a few lives, destroyed.

(Originally this post said that three movies (Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine, Roger and Me) by Michael Moore made over $100 million dollars; only one, Fahrenheit 9/11 has done this, with Bowling for Columbine making over $20 million and Roger and Me making over $6 million. The correction was made on July 29th, 2013. This post originally stated that Barrett Brown threatened the life of a federal agent in his youtube video; rather, he threatens to ruin his life. On July 30th, 2013, the excerpts from Long Hard Road Out of Hell and We Are Anonymous involving humiliation were added, as well as links dealing with The Jester and Tom Ryan being the same person, and the material for footnote 32, the specific quotes from David Weigel’s writings. On July 31st, a large number of corrective edits were made – such things as fixing repetitive words, breaks for very long paragraphs, and the mis-spelling of Olson’s name, improperly written as Olsen in some places. A quote from Mindy Kaling was added to footnote 76. On August 1st, the section on Anonymous was completely re-written. On August 2nd, this piece received a refining edit – no new points were made, no meaning was altered, but hopefully, coherence was brought to many places which were utterly incoherent before. On August 14th, the link to Barrett Brown’s website, freebarrettbrown.org, was added, as well as his recent book review for Vice. On August 24th, the transcript was added of Brown’s youtube clip, where he explains his reasons for posting his conversations with Patrick Frey. On September 6th, a brief note on Tflow’s identity was added and a related footnote, footnote 89, was edited. On August 16, 2014, quotes were added to various article titles in the footnotes, and it was noticed that the Occupy Unmasked movie had been taken down from youtube, so footnote #66 featuring the youtube clip was removed, and the footnotes were adjusted accordingly. On April 12, 2015, this post underwent a session of copy editing.)

ANDREW BREITBART:

PSYCHOSIS IN A POLITICAL MASK

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR

FOOTNOTES

1 The following are some quotes from Indignation where he describes this conflict with the left in military terms:

The war for the soul of a nation, and perhaps the world, is being fought in the New Media. And I am right in the middle of it.

And this counterattack needs field generals, platoon leaders, and foot soldiers ready to storm every hill on the battlefield. To not yield an inch of ground to the ruthless, relentless, shameless enemy we face.

I volunteered to fight in this war. I have risen through the ranks and now find myself on the front lines with an army of New Media warriors following me into the fray. It is no longer a choice to fight; I am compelled to fight.

On the most superficial media level, Barack Obama was a godsend.

Plus he was black. For better, America needed to elect a black president. And the party that elected him or her would forever be granted that historical credit. But also, any criticism of Obama, with his thin résumé and shadowy past, could be framed by a like-minded media class as racism, cowing dissent.

A lifetime of work putting together a media and cultural system to affirm liberal narratives granted Obama a megacatapult to launch him in a way that no Republican or conservative could ever experience.

With the press, the unions, academia, and Hollywood behind Barack Obama, and the American people wanting to get the race monkey off their backs, the Obama presidency was a fait accompli—even if no one really knew anything about him.

My assessment didn’t make me popular where I live and raise my young family. Angelenos, especially of the West Los Angeles variety, especially those who work in the entertainment industry, don’t take too kindly to dissent—if you are a conservative, that is.

But I was right.

Sure, then-Senator Obama was good-looking—and sleek!—and possessed an undeniable gift for effortless, meaningless gab. But all I could think about was how uninteresting he sounded. With all his power and that massive artificial smile, I couldn’t envision wanting to have a beer with him. This was a power-hungry man who rose through the political ranks in corrupt Chicago and through the corrupt ranks of modern academia.

Without having held a real job, without a personal narrative of fulfilling the American Dream in the private sector—without having really done anything (achieving greatness only within the confines of political power doesn’t cut it)—this man was selling the government, not the individual, as the be-all and end-all. This man was preprogrammed, and I knew what he was selling.

I knew I had to stop him. And the Internet was my battlefield of choice.

I live on the battlefield.

Here is the moment where Breitbart expresses his wish for a civil war:

BREITBART
BRING THEM ON. I must say, in my non-strategic…because I’m under attack all the time, you see it on Twitter, they’re intolerant and call me gay…they’re vicious, there are death threats and everything…and so, there are times where I’m not thinking as clearly as I should…and in those unclear moments I always think to myself: fire the first shot. Bring it on. Because I know who’s on our side. And they know that. They can only win a rhetorical or propaganda war, they cannot win. We outnumber them in this country, and we have the guns. (crowd laughter) I’m not kidding. (crowd laughter) They talk a mean game, but they will not cross that line. Because they know what they’re dealing with. And I have people who come up to me in the military (makes a gesture that the person has military stripes), major names in the military, who grab me and go “thank you for what you’re doing”, and we’ve got your back. So…(very loud crowd laughter) They understand that. These are the unspoken things. We know. They know. They know who’s on their side. They’ve got Janeane Garofolo. We are freaked out by that. (laughter) When push comes to shove, they know who’s on our side. They are the bullies on the playground. And they’re starting to realize, what if we were to fight back? What if we were to slap back? You know, these union thugs, these SEIU union thugs…I’m just waiting. Bring it on. I’m sick of it. I am sick of this Trumka guy [Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO], I am sick of this John Sweeney [former head of the AFL-CIO], I am sick of the SEIU. I’m sick of them going to people’s homes. Executives’ homes and showing up, and the media not…you don’t think they have a problem with that? KATIE COURIC. What if we went to Katie Couric’s house? What if the Tea Party showed up at Katie Couric’s house? And scared the living crap out of her teenage kids? And that’s what they do, because they know the mainstream media won’t cover it. And so…just a part of me that wants them to walk over that line.

2 “Kennedy Interviews Hating Breitbart Director Andrew Marcus”

The interview is below:

3 The Rotten Tomatoes critical overview for Hating Breitbart is here.

From “Loving Hating Breitbart” by Nick Gillespie:

The late online impresario Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012) was firmly on the right side of the political spectrum. But a new documentary about his life, Hating Breitbart, transcends his politics and instead captures the tectonic shift he helped bring about from the legacy media to newer forms of distributed news-gathering and opinion-making.

This move from conventional gatekeepers and authorities (think The New York Times, official spokespeople, and established broadcast and cable news channels) to endlessly proliferating tastemakers and outlets (think Instapundit, Gawker, and Breitbart’s own suite of “Big” sites) doesn’t break along conventional ideological lines. It’s more attitudinal, more punk in the best sense of the word. When faced with a world that didn’t cater to them and their aesthetics, the punks of the late 1970s and early 1980s famously made their own clothes, hairdos, and music. If they learned how to play their instruments at all, they did it on the job. Disaffected and unsatisfied people stopped simply choking down mass culture. Instead, they seasoned off-the-shelf meals to their own tastes, tossed in whatever other ingredients they wanted (or could steal), and stirred the pot until the dish was OK by them.

“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one,” The New Yorker’s A.J. Liebling mused back in the dark ages (1960). Andrew Breitbart understood that it’s easier than ever to own a press, and that despite the vast, incomprehensible increase in chatter, the demand for even more is still infinite. You may have hated or loved what Breitbart stood for, but Hating Breitbart makes it clear that we’ll all be living in the world he called home for a long time to come. And that it’s filled with far livelier and more inclusive conversations than it would have been if he’d never been born.

4 Reviews of Michael Moore’s movies at Reason include “Michael Moore: A Teachable Moment for Libertarianism?” (a review of Capitalism: A Love Story, “The Left’s Weeping Clown” (Bowling for Columbine), “Moore Didn’t Start the Fire”, a dismissal of Fahrenheit 9/11.

5 From twitter:

From Mike Flynn’s linkedin profile:

Political Editor
Breitbart.com
March 2012 – Present (1 year 5 months)

Editor in Chief
Big Government
2009 – March 2012 (3 years)

Director of Government Affairs
Reason Foundation
March 2007 – April 2009 (2 years 2 months)

Director of Government Affairs
Berman and Company
2005 – 2007 (2 years)

Director of Legislation and Policy
ALEC
1997 – 2004 (7 years)

6 From “The Audacity of Breitbart” by Jamie Kirchick:

Which leads me to a point of more than just personal interest: In addition to being a new-media pioneer, Breitbart was a significant force in making the GOP, and the conservative movement more broadly, friendlier to gays. Not long after I met Breitbart, we began to engage in a series of debates about gay marriage, which sometimes found their way onto various radio talk shows that Breitbart would occasionally guest host.

Though he opposed gay marriage, it wasn’t the issue that got him out of bed every morning, and he argued not from a position of religious conviction, but tradition: The ideal family situation for children, he said, was with a mother and father. (Despite his image of a wild man, he was a devoted father and loving husband; he once told me, in dead seriousness, that the only reason he wasn’t a massive failure in life was because of his wife.) Breitbart himself was raised Jewish by adoptive parents, and while he was in no sense a religious man, he had a respect for religion and religious people.

7 The Box Office Mojo entry for Hating Breitbart lists a domestic gross of $81,432. The worldwide grosses for Michael Moore’s films can be found in the entry for his name: $222.4 million for Fahrenheit 9/11, $58 million for Bowling for Columbine, $36.1 for Sicko.

From the Reason foundation list of their borad of trustees:

David H. Koch
Koch Industries
New York, NY

From Sourcewatch’s list of funding by the Koch Family Foundation. Their figures are from the Family Foundation’s own returns:

Contributions of the Charles G. Koch Foundation

2004
Reason Public Policy Institute: $25,000 for “General Operating Support”

2009
Reason Foundation: $30,309 for “Educational Programs”

Contributions of the David H. Koch Foundation

1998
Reason Foundation: $100,000 for “General Operating Support”

1999
Reason Foundation: $100,000 for “General Operating Support”

2001
Reason Foundation: $100,000 for “General Operating Support”, $150,000 for “Air Traffic Control Project”.

Contributions of the Claude R. Lambe Foundation

1998
Reason Public Policy Institute: $76,500 for “Educational Programs”

2001
Reason Public Policy Institute: $191,000 for “General Operating Support”

2004
Reason Foundation: $10,000 for “General Operating Support”

2005
Reason Foundation: $65,000 for “General Operating Support”

2006
Reason Foundation: $90,000 for “General Operating Support”

2008
Reason Foundation: $50,000 for “General Operating Support”

2009
Reason Foundation: $50,000 for “Educational Programs”

2011
Reason Foundation: $75,000 for “Educational Support”
Reason Foundation: $50,000 for “General Operating Support”

Charles Koch’s recent comments on the minimum wage can be found at “Charles Koch launching Wichita campaign about economic freedom, government overreach” by Roy Wenzel, which I reached via “Absurd: Billionaire Koch Brother Claims Eliminating Minimum Wage Would Help the Poor” by Rod Bastanmehr.

The effort beginning this week will cost the Charles Koch Foundation about $200,000 and run as a media campaign in Wichita for four weeks, he said. If people like it, he said, he might expand it to other cities.

The point of it, [Charles] Koch said, is that he believes prosperity grows where economic freedom is greatest, where government intervention in business affairs is kept to a minimum. He hopes his ideas will help the country grow, he said. In his interview he emphasized several times that he believes his ideas on economics will help disadvantaged people. Government regulations – including the minimum wage law – tend to hold everyone back, he said.

8 These claims are dealt with in “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Two”.

9 Perhaps the best refutations of this incident are “Breitbart lied about Shirley Sherrod. Now he’s lying about the NAACP.” by William Saletan and “Andrew Breitbart: Big Deal, Big Coronary, Big Corpse” [archive link] by Mobutu Sese Seko and General Rehavam ‘Gandhi’ Ze’evi.

10 From “Andrew Breitbart was ‘in talks with CNN’ over new show with Anthony Weiner before he died aged just 43” by Toby Harden:

Andrew Breitbart, the conservative firebrand and new media pioneer who died suddenly at just 43, had told friends he was poised to take his jihad against the Left deeper into the mainstream media with a regular show on CNN.

Last weekend, Breitbart told friends he was in early talks with CNN about a Crossfire-style show in which he would argue from the Right alongside former US House representative Anthony Weiner taking him on from the Left.

Such a show could have been a blockbuster. In what was perhaps his finest hour, Breitbart was the man who ended the political career of Weiner by revealing that the married congressman he had sent lewd photographs sent to young women via Twitter.

“From CNN: Breitbart-Weiner show ‘totally false'” by Dylan Byers:

Earlier this evening, the Daily Mail’s Toby Harnden reported that prior to his death, Andrew Breitbart said he was “in early talks with CNN about a Crossfire-style show” that he would co-host with former House Rep. Anthony Weiner.

“Such a show could have been a blockbuster,” Harnden wrote, because Breitbart’s investigations into Weiner’s Twitter photographs led to the end of his political career.

Harnden reports that CNN had no comment on the matter. But a spokesperson with CNN tells me Harnden’s report is “totally false.”

“It’s totally false,” CNN’s Edie Emery said. “CNN was not in discussions.”

The issue of Breitbart as paranoid conspiracist is dealt with in “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Two”.

11 These claims are dealt with in “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part One”.

12 I put thoughtful in quotes, but Labash has written some good pieces, and among his best, the political bent never became too obnoxious or insufferable.

13 From “Andrew Breitbart: Media manipulation as an art form” by Patrick Goldstein:

A Government Accountability Office report cleared ACORN of criminal activities, but the explosion of news coverage put Breitbart’s BigGovernment site on the map. Other exposés weren’t as successful. Breitbart posted video excerpts of an agriculture department employee, Shirley Sherrod, supposedly making a racist remark but had to backtrack when a longer version of the tape showed Sherrod discussing bridging racial differences.

From “Breitbart’s Last Laugh” by Matt Labash:

His intensity could alternately be amusing and taxing. When he’d call you in the white-hot fever of one of the headline-garnering skirmishes that he’d inserted himself into – ACORN, Shirley Sherrod, Anthony Weiner’s schwantz pictorials – you knew that you could set the phone down, run some errands, and do some light yard work, then return without him ever realizing that you’d been gone. One of the many benefits of being friends with Andrew was that when he was on fire, which was often, there was no need to carry your share of the conversational load.

14 Two excerpts from “Krassner versus Breitbart” (link is restricted to subscribers):

KRASSNER
I know you feel strongly about people succumbing to political correctness. As a performer I’m a living paradox. Irreverence is my only sacred cow, yet I try not to let victims become the target of my humor. There was one specific routine I stopped using in 1970. It called for a “rape-in” of legislators’ wives – most legislators then were men – in order to impregnate them so they would then convince their husbands to decriminalize abortion. My feminist friends objected. I resisted at first because it was such a well-intentioned joke, but I reconsidered. Even in a joke, why should women be assaulted because men make the laws? Legislators’ wives were the victims in that joke, but the legislators themselves and their laws should have been the target. For me to stop doing that bit of comedy wasn’t censorship, it was conscious evolution. It wasn’t political correctness, it was simple respect. However, in 1982 the Radical Humor Festival at New York University sponsored an evening of radical comedy. The next day my performance was analyzed by an unofficial women’s caucus. Robin Tyler, who said, “I am not a lesbian comic; I am a comic who is a lesbian,” served as the spokesperson for their conclusions. What had caused a stir was my reference to the use of turkey basters by single mothers-to-be who were attempting to impregnate themselves by artificial insemination. Tyler explained to me, “You have to understand some women still have a hang-up about penetration.” But freedom of absurdity transcends gender difference. “Yeah,” I said, “but you have to understand that some men still feel threatened by turkey basters.”

BREITBART
First of all, there’s a difference between political correctness and human kindness. I have a specific definition of what political correctness is, and you sort of touched on it by the reference to a lesbian comedian having to differentiate her cultural identity: “I’m a comic who happens to be a lesbian.” That’s the problem: Cultural Marxism is political correctness, and political correctness is the translation of Marxist economic theories from the battle between the haves and the have-nots into the battle of the oppressor versus the oppressed. And so, given the oppressor-oppressed model, the oppressed get to maintain a permanent place of judgment against the oppressors, and blacks get to judge whites and say, “You’re not allowed to say that,” but whites aren’t allowed to say to blacks, “Chris Rock, you’re not allowed to make that joke at the expense of white people, because you’re the oppressor. It’s okay for us to make fun of you.” This double standard has created a huge quandary in our country – that somehow there’s a type of affirmative action whereby one group is allowed to castigate, excoriate, demean and defile the other as some form of cultural reparations. All it does in my mind is exacerbate the underlying social rifts, and I reject it wholly. I love Chris Rock, I love Sarah Silverman, but I also think Sam Kinison and Andrew Dice Clay should be afforded the same rule book. I remember watching back in the late 1980s when political correctness started to take over the comedy world, and the Sam Kinisons and Andrew Dice Clays were marginalized and excoriated for their routines, and today Sarah Silverman and Chris Rock get away with much harsher cultural criticism. I want to exist in a world where comedy functions as an exhaust system so that all members of our society can go into that comedy room, into the Improv, and let it all hang out. When Tracy Morgan was forced to go to reeducation camp because he’s offended gay sensibilities, I don’t think it does anyone in the gay community any favors that they show they don’t have the ability to laugh at themselves. I love Caucasian jokes, I love Jew jokes. All I can say is I like equal opportunity offenders. It is not political correctness to be outraged when somebody goes after Trig Palin because he’s mentally challenged. That’s pure crudeness and beyond inappropriate. I guess it’s sort of like the Supreme Court definition of obscenity – you know offense when you see it, and there is a difference between political correctness and saying something that’s just beyond the realm of propriety.

KRASSNER
Wouldn’t you apply that standard to Rush Limbaugh when he made fun of Michael J. Fox?

BREITBART
No, I wouldn’t. Rush was making a political point.

KRASSNER
Which was?

BREITBART
From what I recall, and I think it was proved to be true, he chose not to take the medicines that calm his symptoms of Parkinson’s so that when he did his ad, he was shaking more than he ordinarily would in order to rev up the volume of the issue, to pour oil on the fire over the issue of stem cells – to create the perception that if you’re for stem cell research, you’re for stopping this shaking. That was my perception of it. Accusing Hollywood and liberals of using emotionalism to push an intellectual argument is incredibly fair game.

This perception of Breitbart’s, was completely wrong. He thought it was proved to be true, and it wasn’t.Limbaugh would be forced to give an apology, which, as he always did, was weaselly and hedged. Three pieces on the incident are “Rush Limbaugh On the Offensive Against Ad With Michael J. Fox” by David Montgomery, “Fox Responds To Limbaugh Accusation” by CBS Interactive / Associated Press, and “Radio host apologises for claim Michael J Fox faked symptoms” by Ed Pilkington.

KRASSNER
I understand that the epiphany that caused you to make a political right turn occurred while you were watching the hearings about Clarence Thomas’s nomination to the Supreme Court. You were genuinely convinced that the treatment of him was racist. I thought he was lying when he testified under oath that he had never discussed the subject of abortion, because in response to a question by Senator Hank Brown, Anita Hill testified that she had disagreed with Thomas in a discussion about Roe v. Wade. But then-senator Joe Biden quickly interrupted her, saying, “That is not the subject of these hearings.”

BREITBART
I was upset because it was clear that the left and the Democrat media complex – that’s my description for the natural alliance of the Democratic Party liberal interest groups and the mainstream media – chose to put on a show trial by accusing Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment and then having absolutely nothing to back it up. The pretense of this show trial was clearly abortion rights, but they were willing to embarrass him as much as possible, and the mainstream media allowed this to go on without challenge. He’s sitting there and they’re asking him whether or not he’s rented pornography starring Long Dong Silver, and the point is? The point is, I guess, to make this conservative look like he’s a hypocrite because he enjoys sex. But if the whole point of Roe v. Wade is a right to privacy, these people invaded his privacy and publicly embarrassed him by flaunting what they found out about his private life. I found it to be utterly hypocritical. To watch cads and manslaughter and human sexual harassment machinery like Ted Kennedy sitting in judgement of him was beyond the pale. And one year later, to watch the same crowd that had I BELIEVE ANITA bumper stickers, that had said the threshold for sexual harassment is so low that if you mention you see a pube on a Coke can it’s sexual harassment – for those same people, the same Democratic media complex to anoint Bill Clinton as their standard-bearer, I couldn’t take the hypocrisy. I was writhing in pain. It didn’t mean I immediately went to the supermarket and signed up to become a Republican. I just started to challenge the media narrative that was being handed to me, because I saw how disingenuous that complex was.

KRASSNER
As a Supreme Court Justice, [Clarence] Thomas has declared that the Constitution gives states a right to establish an official religion, that prisoners have no constitutional right to be protected from beatings by guards, that a school official is allowed to strip search a 13-year-old girl to look for ibuprofen pills, that a key part of the Voting Rights Act giving blacks political power in the South should be struck down, that an American citizen could be held as an enemy combatant with no charges and no hearing. He announced a decision that threw out a verdict in favor of a black man who had been convicted of murder and nearly executed because prosecutors hid evidence that could have proved his innocence.

BREITBART
I don’t know the answers to these things. If you had given me this detailed information, I could have come back with a detailed response. This is like the Sarah Palin “gotcha” question on Paul Revere. I’m not able to answer this because you are coming to me armed with data, and I don’t have the ability to see whether there is a rational argument to defend it or not.

15 A listing of some of what Buchanan had said in the past can be found at “Who’s afraid of Pat Buchanan?” by Jake Tapper. “Pat Buchanan booted from MSNBC four months after being suspended over controversial book” by Aliyah Shahid would explain how after ten years on MSNBC, he would finally be terminated as a commentator after writing a book which included chapters titled “The End of White America?” and “The End of Christian America?”

He would end up working as a commentator at Fox News, where he offered his perspective during the George Zimmerman trial:

16 Accounts of this on-going fight include “Surprise fast food strike planned in St. Louis “, “Fast Food Strike Wave Spreads to Detroit” , and “”Dizzy and Sick”: McDonald’s Workers Strike After Enduring 110-Degree Heat” by Josh Eidelson.

17 Among the comments for “The Highly Effective Idiot: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is crass, offensive, and may smoke crack. He is also a pretty good mayor” by Philip Preville:

This article is so poorly researched it isn’t funny. Slate you should be put on notice. I expected better journalism from you.

In 2010 (before Ford) the city ran a $350 [million] surplus. One year later that became a $774 million deficit. Why wasn’t that reported?

And Kmacd (the commenter below) brought up a great point. Under Mayor Miller many services were expanded making Toronto a very civilized and livable city. Ford on the other hand wanted to close libraries, even in areas where low-income student required internet access to complete their homework.

Karen Stintz – the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) chairperson appointed by Mayor Ford actually oppose him to firing the TTC General manger – arguing he was great at his job. The reason the GM got ditched, was that he did not support a subway extension plan Ford had in mind. And guess what? The subway proposal died anyways – so good man ditched for no reason. it set back the TTC years.

Ford constantly misrepresents his fiscal accomplishments – even the publication The Toronto Sun – has said he often spouts baloney.

This article is highly flawed and almost fraudulent. There should be corrections made.

Um, right.

I live in Toronto, and I have friends who work for the city. The more fair-minded of the insiders will give grudging praise to Mayor Ford for tamping down some out-of-control budget issues, and for winning a round with the unions… but that’s about it. Ford’s few attempts at vision or leadership have fallen flat or become laughable, and even before all the public missteps, the city as a growing entity is essentially just hunkered down, waiting for this guy to go away, either next election, or sooner.

Ford was effective as a city councillor because that position can be effectively done in a purely reactive way, as he did. You complained, he responded, stuff got done. As a leader or a policymaker, he was and is MIA. He’s a knee-jerk fiscal conservative, full stop.

A big city needs a mayor with organizational smarts, public confidence and vision. Ford is 0 for 3 on these. He was elected in part because Canada’s formidable right-wing election-machine (including Nick Kouvalis, Campaign Research Inc) was behind him, and in part because some civic gerrymandering by a conservative provincial government in the 90s added conservative suburbs to Toronto’s electorate, who overpowered the progressive candidates from the urban core.

Ok as a quirky councilor, a failure as a mayor.

I can’t even get through this article, the premise is so utterly absurd. Most Torontonians have been embarrassed by Rob Ford since well before the crack rumours broke, this is just what made it go so international.

Let’s get one thing straight: regardless of your place on the political spectrum, Rob Ford is the worst mayor — and the least effective idiot — in the history of modern municipal governance. He was elected alongside a city council the majority of which was willing to support his smaller-govenrment agenda. He quickly lost that goodwill through his authoritarian attitude, political incompetence, and stubborn grip on imagined realities. In Toronto’s weak-mayor system, the mayor exercises power mainly by showing leadership on Council, and by ignoring that principle and presuming to weild [sic] unilateral authority that didn’t exist, Rob Ford soon became largely irrelevant. He lost touch with the important debates of the city and often didn’t show up at important council meetings. He prioritized his high school football coaching position [sic] over his mayoral duties, although yesterday he was removed from that gig by the school board (not because of the crack video but because of earlier comments he made to the media disparaging the students he coached). City Council has more or less been governing without a mayor for the past couple of years, though politics have been distracted by the constant stream of personal and political scandals from Ford’s corner: domestic disturbances, allegations of interference on behalf of his family business, outrageous comments, and a conflict of interest case that saw him ordered out of office by a judge, only to be saved on appeal by the stretchiest of technicalities.

And now this.

When Ford was tragically elected in 2010, my father said “the worst thing will be the embarrassment”. He was right: there were plenty of things Ford wanted to do to the city we didn’t like, but he was too ineffective to do most of them. Toronto has now become a case study in failed leadership.

That Slate would publish such a misleading piece is very troubling, credibility-wise.

Worst slatepitch in history?

“Under his predecessor, David Miller, city expenditures ballooned by 39 percent in a mere seven years.”

Inflation alone would have increased expenditures about 20% during this period. Further, population increased about 5% between 2001 and 2011. And Toronto administers social programs, like welfare, that are funded by the province. These are counted in the city budget even though they are only partially funded through municipal taxes or user fees. Obviously, these costs grew with the advent of the recession.

Municipalities in Ontario are required by provincial law to pass balanced budgets. In practice contingencies must be built into the budget, so the City of Toronto reports a fiscal surplus every year regardless of who happens to be mayor.

Philip Preville seems to be ignorant of these basic facts.

18 From the Maine People’s Alliance:

Today on the House floor, Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R – Newport) declared that he and most of his Republican caucus oppose accepting federal funds to expand health care coverage because of a difference in the ways people of different genders think. He cited the book Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus and claimed that his “man’s brain” was more concerned with costs while Democrats just want to get things for free.

“From the other side of the aisle I hear the conversation being about ‘free this is free, we need to take it and it’s free and we need to do it now’ and that’s sort of the fundamental message that my brain receives,” said Fredette. “Now, my brain being a man’s brain sort of thinks differently, because I say, well, it’s not if it’s free is it really free because I say in my brain there’s a cost to this.”

From Ken Fredette, Maine GOP Leader, Says ‘Man’s Brain’ Has Him Voting Against Health Care Expansion by Chris Gentilviso:

Add Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus to the list of arguments against health care expansion.

Maine House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) appeared on the state House’s floor Wednesday, making his pitch to oppose federal funding. Maine People’s Alliance posted video of Fredette invoking the book during his speech, which also included some differences between the brains of men and women.

“From the other side of the aisle I hear the conversation being about ‘free this is free, we need to take it and it’s free and we need to do it now’ and that’s sort of the fundamental message that my brain receives,” Fredette said. “Now, my brain being a man’s brain sort of thinks differently, because I say, well, it’s not if it’s free is it really free because I say in my brain there’s a cost to this.”

19 From “GOP Congressman: Pregnancy Rate From Rape Is ‘Very Low'” by Sahil Kapur:

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) claimed Wednesday that the rate of pregnancy from rape is “very low” during a House Judiciary Committee mark-up of his legislation to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” Franks said, as quoted by the Washington Post.

“When you make that exception, there’s usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours,” he said. “And in this case, that’s impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation. And that’s what completely negates and vitiates the purpose of such an amendment.”

The Arizonan was referring to an amendment by Democrats to add an exception for pregnancies that result from rape and incest. The GOP-led panel rejected that amendment.

20 From “Rick Perry Vetoes Texas Equal Pay Bill” by Amanda Terkel:

WASHINGTON — Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has vetoed a bill meant to prevent wage discrimination against women.

An aide to state Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D), who authored the equal pay bill, HB 950, said Perry’s office called on Friday to say he had vetoed it. State Sen. Wendy Davis (D), who introduced the Senate version of the legislation, told the Texas Tribune that she had received the same call.

In a statement, Thompson said she was “deeply disappointed” and “heartbroken.”

21 Described in many places, among them, “Wendy Davis’s remarkable filibuster to deny passage of abortion bill” by Tom Dart.

22 From “Texas governor Rick Perry attacks Wendy Davis over teenage pregnancy” by Amanda Holpuch:

The Texas governor, Rick Perry, turned on the newest hero of the pro-choice movement on Thursday, accusing state senator Wendy Davis of failing to “learn from her mistakes” as a single teenage mother.

Speaking at a pro-life convention in Dallas on Thursday, Perry mounted a pointedly personal attack on Davis, who spoke for 10 hours and 45 minutes this week as part of a successful attempt to stall the progress of a controversial abortion bill.

“What we witnessed Tuesday was nothing more than the hijacking of the democratic process,” Perry said.

23 From “Scott Walker Quietly Signs Bill Requiring Ultrasounds For Wisconsin Abortions” by Todd Richmond:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed a contentious Republican bill Friday that would require women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound and ban doctors who lack admitting privileges at nearby hospitals from performing the procedures.

Opponents contend legislators shouldn’t force women to undergo any medical procedure and the bill will force at least two abortion clinics where providers lack admitting privileges to shut their doors.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the bill in mid-June. Walker, a Republican, could have chosen to sign it at any time since then but decided to do it on Friday in the middle of the long 4th of July holiday weekend. The measure’s opponents accused him of trying to bury news of the signing.

24 From “North Carolina House Passes New Abortion Restrictions” by Perry Stein:

North Carolina’s GOP-controlled House passed controversial abortion measures Thursday tucked in a motorcycle safety bill on a 74-41 vote, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Republicans argue that the bill is about ensuring women’s safety, while Democrats say the bill forces abortion clinics to adhere to unneccessary regulations they can’t afford to comply with, essentially forcing the clinics to shut down.

Republicans came under fire for attaching the measure to the motorcycle safety bill because it allowed them to quickly push through the bill with limited public input.

25 From “IL Supreme Court Upholds Parental Notification Law For Abortions” by Catherine Thompson:

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for the state to enforce a disputed 1995 law requiring doctors to inform parents of girls age 17 and under that their daughter is undergoing an abortion, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.

“We find that, while a minor clearly has an expectation of privacy in her medical information, which includes the fact of her pregnancy, the intrusion on the minor’s privacy occasioned by the Act is not unreasonable,” state supreme court Justice Anne Burke wrote in the majority opinion finding the law constitutional, as quoted by the Sun-Times. “The state has an interest in ensuring that a minor is sufficiently mature and well-informed to make the difficult decision whether to have an abortion.”

26 From “Tampons Seized In Security Checks At Texas Abortion Debate” by Chris Tomlinson:

The Senate’s leader, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, was determined not to let anything – or anyone – derail a vote.

Troopers thoroughly checked the bags of person entering the gallery, which holds almost 500 spectators. Senate Sergeant-At-Arms Rick DeLeon said no props – including speculums and coat hangers – would be allowed into the Senate gallery, per decorum rules.

Troopers tossed tampons, perfume bottles, moisturizers, pencils and other things into the garbage. The leader of the chamber’s Democrats, Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, later said he intervened to stoop troopers from confiscating feminine hygiene products from women seeking to watch the debate.

27 From “Report: Busiest Abortion Clinic In Virginia Forced To Close” by Perry Stein:

The busiest abortion clinic in Virginia has closed as a result of the increasingly stringent regulations imposed on such facilities in the state, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

NOVA Women’s Healthcare performed more abortions than any other clinic in the state and operated out of an office building in Fairfax County in Northern Viriginia. The building was constantly swarmed by anti-abortion protestors and the clinic had been sued twice in the past three years by its landlord. It likely would have need to move or upgrade its facility because the state recently passed new rules requiring clinics to feature hospital-like facilities.

28 From “Perry signs sweeping Texas abortion restrictions” by Will Weissert:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed sweeping new abortion restrictions on Thursday that could shutter most of the state’s clinics that provide the procedure, a final step for the Republican-backed measure after weeks of sometimes raucous protests at the state Capitol.

Supporters credited God’s will and prayer as the governor signed the legislation, with protesters’ chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” echoing from the hallway. Opponents have vowed to fight the law, though no court challenges were immediately filed.

“Today, we celebrate the further cementing of the foundation on which the culture of life in Texas is built upon,” Perry told an auditorium full of beaming GOP lawmakers and anti-abortion activists. “It is our responsibility and duty to give voice to the unborn individuals.”

The law restricts abortions to surgical centers and requires doctors who work at abortion clinics to have hospital admitting privileges. Only five of the 42 abortion clinics in Texas – the nation’s second-largest state – currently meet those new requirements. Clinics will have a year to either upgrade their facilities or shut down after the law takes effect in October.

29 A long-time nemesis of Roiphe is Gawker, which has had such stories as “Shut up, Kate Roiphe” [archive link] by Hamilton Nolan, “Katie Roiphe Is Big Immature Baby” [archive link] by Emily Gould, “Katie Roiphe Will Not Quit the Internet No Matter How Many Friends Beg Her” [archive link] by Max Read, “Widely Despised Writer Wonders Why Commenters Are So Angry” by Hamilton Nolan, “Your rape fantasy is boring, Kate Roiphe” [archive link], “Lunchtime Poll: Have you had enough with vagina?” [archive link] by Leah Beckmann, and “Katie Roiphe Saw a Fight” [archive link] by Hamilton Nolan. Roiphe would reply to the 2007 “Immature Baby” piece in 2011, with “Gawker Is Big Immature Baby: Why can’t Gawker do nastiness the right way?”.

A more sympathetic view of Roiphe is “In defense of Katie Roiphe” by Meghan Daum.

30 From “The Great Escape”:

In times of trouble, some people turn to cigarettes and other people turn to drink and I read books I have read a million times before. And so in the harrowing time after I separated from my husband, I reread The Age of Innocence. In the early chapters, the Countess Olenska returns from Europe, having separated from her husband, and most of fashionable New York refuses to attend a dinner thrown in her honor. Even when Wharton was writing this attitude was outdated, and yet somehow I feel a hint of it still: the same stigma mingled with fascination. I feel, suddenly, an instinctive recognition of Countess Olenska, foreign, scrutinized.

The professor e-mails my closest friend, who is a bit surprised: “I am worried about Katie.” All of which reminds me that in The Age of Innocence, the rather powerful Countess Olenska is viewed by her peers as a “pathetic and even pitiful figure,” “an exposed and pitiful figure,” and “poor Ellen Olenska.”

From The Age of Innocence, the meeting between Newland Archer and Granny Mingott:

Archer wondered if her illness had blurred her faculties; but suddenly she broke out: “Well, it’s settled, anyhow: she’s going to stay with me, whatever the rest of the family say! She hadn’t been here five minutes before I’d have gone down on my knees to keep her-if only, for the last twenty years, I’d been able to see where the floor was!”

Archer listened in silence, and she went on: “They’d talked me over, as no doubt you know: persuaded me, Lovell, and Letterblair, and Augusta Welland, and all the rest of them, that I must hold out and cut off her allowance, till she was made to see that it was her duty to go back to Olenski. They thought they’d convinced me when the secretary, or whatever he was, came out with the last proposals: handsome proposals I confess they were. After all, marriage is marriage, and money’s money-both useful things in their way … and I didn’t know what to answer-” She broke off and drew a long breath, as if speaking had become an effort. “But the minute I laid eyes on her, I said: ‘You sweet bird, you! Shut you up in that cage again? Never!’ And now it’s settled that she’s to stay here and nurse her Granny as long as there’s a Granny to nurse. It’s not a gay prospect, but she doesn’t mind; and of course I’ve told Letterblair that she’s to be given her proper allowance.”

The young man heard her with veins aglow; but in his confusion of mind he hardly knew whether her news brought joy or pain. He had so definitely decided on the course he meant to pursue that for the moment he could not readjust his thoughts. But gradually there stole over him the delicious sense of difficulties deferred and opportunities miraculously provided. If Ellen had consented to come and live with her grandmother it must surely be because she had recognised the impossibility of giving him up. This was her answer to his final appeal of the other day: if she would not take the extreme step he had urged, she had at last yielded to half-measures. He sank back into the thought with the involuntary relief of a man who has been ready to risk everything, and suddenly tastes the dangerous sweetness of security.

31 Weigel gives as thorough an explanation of his political views as he does anywhere, in “Hubris and Humility: David Weigel Comes Clean on Washington Post, the D.C. Bubble, & the ‘Journolist'”:

Let’s go back to the start. I started in journalism in a fairly typical manner, by discovering how much I liked writing articles and doing interviews at my high school paper. I chose to go to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. It was there that I became editor of the campus’s weekly conservative paper, and became plugged into the campus conservative journalism network.

Was I really that conservative? Yes.

I interned at the libertarian Center for Individual Rights in the summer of 2001. I supported the Iraq War and crashed an anti-war protest on my campus. I voted in Republican primaries in 2002 and 2004. (Since I was in Illinois, I voted in 2004 for Jack Ryan to get the GOP’s nomination for Senate, to oppose Barack Obama. I’m better off than one of those guys.)

But I was never combative against liberals. Reporting in a close-knit campus community made it impossible and untenable to pick political fights every day. I was more interested in covering politics than in advocating for a political stance (outside of columns I wrote for my paper and later the daily campus paper). I cared more about finding out stories first than about advocating positions — those stories would get me the jobs I wanted, not the opinions I had. And I knew that I didn’t want to be pigeonholed.

32 “The IQ Test” by David Weigel:

But Richwine had been fascinated by it, and for a very long time, in an environment that never discouraged it. Anyone who works in Washington and wants to explore the dark arts of race and IQ research is in the right place. The city’s a bit like a college campus, where investigating “taboo” topics is rewarded, especially on the right. A liberal squeals “racism,” and they hear the political correctness cops (most often, the Southern Poverty Law Center) reporting a thinkcrime.

“Kermit Gosnell Convicted on Three Counts of First-Degree Murder” by David Weigel:

We come full circle; it was the pro-choice movement that first wrote and talked about Gosnell, to pre-empt any sensationalism about the case. It was the pro-life movement, last month, that nudged the press into covering it again. Only one quibble: Gosnell wasn’t “back-alley.” His clinic was legal; it wasn’t regularly inspected.

From “Don’t Mess With Grandma: How a 78-year-old retiree may help the Kochs in their battle against Occupy Wall Street.” by David Weigel. This is the beginning of the piece:

The video is titled “Occupy DC Pushes Grandma Down Stairs.” The conservative blog Powerline links to it with the title “Rampaging Occupiers Attack 78-Year Old Woman.” That’s not quite what happened, but it’s the official story out of the conference, a rallying cry for Tea Partiers against the Occupiers. In the culture war between the left and right over who can save the economy, this round goes to the Tea Party.

Occupy protesters will tell you that it wasn’t supposed to get ugly. Progressive activists had known for months that Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party group chaired by the industrialist/philanthropist David Koch, would spend the first weekend of November in Washington for its Defending the American Dream Summit. It was a soft, bloated target.

Progressives have been protesting the Koch apparatus all year. In January, they’d marched outside the semiannual invite-only political summit that David and his brother Charles (combined net worth: $32 billion) put on for fellow Masters of the Universe. In February, the gonzo journalist Ian Murphy posed as “David Koch” on the phone to draw Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker into a lengthy, awkward, recorded conversation about how to crush protesters. They had “changed the conversation” about the Kochs, prompting stories about Republican “ties” to the brothers, as if they were capos of some criminal enterprise.

This is the space given over to the AFP guests driving into some protesters, sending three of them to the hospital (their injuries were non-serious, according to “Occupy D.C. Protests Koch Brothers, 3 Hit by Car”):

Outside the ballroom, some of the AFPers are still rattled. There were countless short Zapruder films showing different angles of the moment a car driven by one of their own gunned it in front of an Occupier and showing moments when Occupiers shouted obscenities at AFPers. I talked to Caleb Hays, Gavin Kreidler, and Jerrod Mendicki, College Republicans from Kansas who tried to keep their distance from the shouting crowd. Hays showed me an iPhone video clip of the mob of Occupiers moving toward the car as it drove off. It’s hard to see.

“I stayed pretty far away,” he said, “because when we moved closer, they were shouting stuff like, ‘Fuck AFP.’ I felt like I was going to be injured, just for my beliefs. That’s completely un-American.”

McPherson Square, the home base of Occupy D.C., is only seven blocks from the convention center. I headed over there to reconstruct the mess from Occupiers’ accounts. Steve Hartwell, a former construction worker from Richmond (he quit the job to come up here), recalled some events and explained how he became one of the few people arrested.

“I saw the cops start to let the driver go after the car hit one of us,” he explained. “I walked up to the cop like this.” (He demonstrated by holding up the middle fingers of both hands.)

How did he feel about the scuffling and shouting? What did he think of the plight of people like Dolores Broderson, who ended up going to the hospital for a head injury?

“Some of them I talk to and seem like fine people,” said Hartwell. “Some of them seem like total assholes. It was not the best situation to understand the other, which is important. Yeah. There probably should be some more understanding.”

This is the end:

“First issue on the docket is rape,” says Breitbart. “Should we allow rape to happen at the Tea Party?”

They wiggle their fingers toward the ground, meaning no.

“OK, we’re already different than them.”

Breitbart later sought out Dolores Broderson to tell her he was sorry for what happened to her and to ask her how she was doing. She was healing. AFP gave her a plane ride home to spare her the possible jostling she would have gotten on her AFP bus ride. It would be OK.

“Congratulations,” he said. “You’re now a martyr of our cause. Unfortunately, the mainstream media doesn’t care about you. If this were the other way around, you’d be on ABC News, live. It’d be a media circus.”

33 From “Big Brother Is Watching Your Cell Phone” by Megan McArdle:

We are told to trust the Obama administration and the NSA because a fine, upstanding American government wouldn’t do anything really wrong. But how do we know? These orders are issued in secret, executed in secret. We have no idea what the government wouldn’t do, because the only time we find out about it is when someone leaks. And the government’s trying to fix that, too.

Libertarians have been saying for years that the surveillance state has gotten out of hand, but on their own they are not enough of a political force to make any change. The liberal civil liberties movement lost a lot of its fire (and most of its political power) when a Democratic president was elected, and on the conservative side, there never was much political power to begin with. And so, just as libertarians predicted, the government has extended and consolidated its surveillance powers. Fifteen years ago, all of us would have laughed at the notion that the government would assert the right to know about every phone call made by ordinary American citizens suspected of no crime-that’s something that East Germany would do, not the American government. How have we gotten so comfortable with the panopticon state in little more than a decade?

34 From “Prominent Democrats Are Now Comfortable With Racial and Ethnic Profiling” by Friedersdorf:

Racial and ethnic profiling isn’t a dealbreaker for Democratic elites anymore. A few Democratic congressmen are speaking up. But the Democratic establishment is largely fine with Kelly, just like they’re mostly willing to extol the leadership of his boss, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Of course, Democrats aren’t about to praise, let alone elevate, someone like Arpaio, or to stop deeming his supporters racially unenlightened bigots. But don’t let them tell you it’s because Arpaio is guilty of racial profiling. So long as you have the right persona, come from the northeast, and refrain from attacking prominent Democrats, racial and ethnic profiling is tolerated.

But the prevailing coverage in the “mainstream media” suggests extreme comfort with ridiculing and shaming America’s Zimmermans, Arpaios, and Cohens, as if racial profiling, or defending someone who does it, discredits a person — but then deference when American’s Bloombergs, Kellys, Schumers, and Obamas enable, implement, or excuse profiling, though the NYPD and DHS affect vulnerable minorities on a far bigger scale. Joseph Stalin supposedly said that one man’s death is a tragedy, while a million deaths are a statistic, and so it goes here. Profiling one black man is treated as a travesty — as it ought to be — while profiling many thousands of Muslims, blacks, and Latinos is a statistic that in no way disqualifies a man from being put up for promotion and praised by the president of the United States.

“For Coalition Politics; Against Hypocrisy Trolling” by Matthew Yglesias would be one reply.

35 I’ll give a brief overview of liberals who are critical of stop-and-frisk, Ray Kelly, and Michael Bloomberg. This is the result of a casual search and took less than ten minutes: “Sen. Schumer’s Bright Idea: Ray Kelly for DHS Secretary” by Gavin Aronsen, “60 Minutes Hearts NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly” by Adam Serwer, “Fact-Check: How the NYPD Overstated Its Counterterrorism Record” by Justin Elliott, “Bloomberg: More dangerous than the Koch brothers” by Michael Lind, “Mike Bloomberg’s ugly “stop and frisk” freakout”, “Mayor Bloomberg’s army” by Alex Pareene, “Kelly’s creative writing: Stop-and-frisk and Muslim surveillance are wonderful!” by Pareene, “Stop-and-frisk, eviscerated” by Kristen Gwynne, “Ray Kelly Steps Up Efforts to Defend Stop-and-Frisk” by Jon Walker, “Rev. Al Sharpton Blasts Mike Bloomberg Over Stop-and-Frisk Comments” by Hillary Crosley, “Stop and Frisk Should Disqualify Him” by Paul Butler, and “Stop Stop-and-Frisk”, a Nation initiative to stop the practice.

36 From a copy of an article that originally appeared in the Daily News, “Bloomberg, Shilling for Bush, Responsible for Penning Protesters” by Jimmy Breslin:

Michael Bloomberg, who is George Bush’s mayor in New York, was in Times Square on Saturday, shaking hands with tourists and shoppers.

He should have been minding the store for the citizens of the city.

If he had bothered to come across to the East Side and see the disgraceful performance by his police department, he might have been shaken enough to change things. For he could see in person the scope of the mistake he and his police commissioner had made.

They penned in throngs of smiling people as if they were cattle. It wasn’t the cops’ idea to do it. All they did was carry out orders as poorly as possible.

Their only excuse could be that they were practicing for the Republican National Convention. That one is going to be the great one.

The one melee out of a day when almost a million were on the streets occurred at 53rd and 3rd. “The only people who caused trouble were the New York City cops. They put people in jeopardy. There was an air of hostility from the police and it was unfounded,” Dennis Rivera of the Hospital Workers 1199 was saying yesterday. “The police caused confusion at the start. They made it sound like the march was not on. We had to put on radio ads to tell people to come. Then a lot of people went home because of the cops penning them in. We have to have a press conference tomorrow and announce a big march down Fifth Avenue next month. We will get millions. Nobody wants this war.”

37 From “Yes, Dan Mitchell, There Are Conservatives Worth Following on Twitter”:

Writing in SF Weekly, Dan Mitchell argues that there are no conservatives or libertarians worth following on Twitter or other social-media platforms. “I’ve always been open to all sane, honest opinions, including from the right,” he assures his readers, noting that he frequently read William Safire, William F. Buckley, George Will, James Kilpatrick, and Robert Novak in print, but that this new era just hasn’t produced anyone on the right that isn’t “nearly all nonsense” or “outright insane.”

Among the names Friedersdorf offers up as an antidote:

Megan McArdle has a new home.

38 McArdle’s major criticisms of Warren are “No Such Thing as a Simple Mortgage” and Elizabeth Warren The Scholar”. Responses to this were “Megan McArdle’s Hack Post on Elizabeth Warren’s Scholarship” by Mike Konzcal, “Why Friends Don’t Let Friends Cite The Atlantic’s “Business and Economics Editor”” by Tom Levenson, and “How Hard Are Fractions, Really: Elizabeth Warren Scares Her/Megan McArdle Is Always Wrong Chronicles, Cont’d”, also by Levenson.

A few from the “45 Enemies of Freedom” list, created to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Reason magazine:

4. Osama bin Laden

His desire to impose an Islamic caliphate marks the late terrorist as decidedly anti-liberty. But Osama bin Laden’s real crime against freedom was masterminding the murderous 9/11 terror attacks, which not only slaughtered nearly 3,000 people, but also inspired the U.S. government to react with overseas wars, the PATRIOT Act, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Transportation Security Administration. It is thanks in no small part to bin Laden that the United States is far less free.

8. Hillary Clinton

“It takes a village,” Hillary Clinton famously wrote, and we’ve learned since that her meaning encompassed villages in Iraq and Afghanistan to house American troops, villages of taxpayers to fund her favored programs, and villages of snoops to staff a national security state. Those villages must be prudish, too, given Clinton’s longstanding fear of video-game sex. To Hillary’s credit, she does advocate Internet freedom for villages overseas. Too bad she doesn’t promote the same idea at home.

10. Dianne Feinstein

Say Feinstein’s name in front of anybody who takes the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution seriously and watch that person’s face curdle. The California senator’s federal assault weapons ban, which passed in 1994 and expired in 2004, failed to have any noticeable impact on crime rates. She didn’t allow such facts to keep her from using the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 to unsuccessfully attempt to reinstate the ban. Like the National Rifle Association, she also blames youth violence on video games and has threatened new regulations on that industry as well.

23. Paul Krugman

The Nobel-winning economist and New York Times columnist is a reliable advocate of economic intervention and deficit spending, arguing that the problem with failed government stimulus programs to fight the recession of the ’00s was that they didn’t go far enough. Krugman’s low point in 2012 was recommending (only mostly in jest) that it would be a good thing if the government wasted huge sums of taxpayer money preparing for an alien invasion. Keep this man’s hands away from any rocks-he might try to break nearby windows to “stimulate” the economy.

26. Mao Tse-Tung

As the founder and leader of the People’s Republic of China, this Communist despot’s cruelly stupid collectivist policies killed at least 35 million Chinese citizens. He kept the hundreds of millions who managed to survive in impoverished bondage until his death in 1976.

36. Pol Pot

A French school flunkie turned peasant revolutionary, Pol Pot might have been the most efficient murderer in communism’s grisly history. It took the dictator and his Khmer Rouge less than four years to kill and centrally plan to death up to 3 million people-20 percent of the Cambodian population.

39. Diane Ravitch

A school reformer turned union flack, this New York University professor did an about-face after four decades as one of the nation’s most prominent charter advocates. Part of the right-wing think tank braintrust that hatched the initial policy proposals for vouchers, she now says “Vouchers are a con, intended to destroy public education.” She has been welcomed with open arms by defenders of the status quo.

40. John Rawls

The philosophical father of 20th century liberalism, Rawls’ seminal Theory of Justice (1971) has dominated moral and political philosophy for decades. His framing of “justice as fairness” and his notion that societies should be arranged to improve the lot of the least advantaged subtly underpin nearly all of our national policy debates, lending a justification to multitudinous extensions of state power. His longtime rival, the libertarian thinker Robert Nozick, offered an alternative based in property rights and personal liberty. Sadly, Rawls has been more influential.

45. Elizabeth Warren

One of the left’s foremost academic activists, Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat recently elected to the Senate, is a Harvard professor with a history of using shoddy scholarship to promote dubious public policies. She has exaggerated the prevalence of medical bankruptcy, argued that student loan rates should be set equal to bank loan rates, and pushed for controls on everything from credit cards to home loans. Warren’s life project amounts to an argument that most people are too stupid to know what to do with their money unless the government steps in to help.

Though his magazine had just placed Krugman as a greater enemy of freedom than Pol Pot (which might be taken either as an insult or a compliment, I guess, likewise with him being outranked by Dianne Feinstein as a nemesis of liberty), Nick Gillespie would also write “Paul Krugman’s Nasty and Inane Attack on ‘Libertarian Populism'”, which carries the summary, “The Times columnist no longer bothers to engage with his opponents, writes Nick Gillespie, but simply calls names and makes sweeping declarations.”

One might also not something else about this strange list: though christian evangelicals have been active in restricting freedom in such areas as birth control, same sex marriage, and abortion, not a single christian leader – Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Ralph Reed – shows up on this roll call.

39 “Washington Post Blogger Resigns Over Private Emails to Friends” [archive link] by Jim Newell. “Andrew Breitbart Offers $100k for Full JournoList Archives” [archive link] by Jim Newell. “Here Is the Archive of the Famous Liberal Media ‘Journolist'” [archive link] by Hamilton Nolan.

A good chunk of the journolist emails hacked by Guccifer deal with the reaction to the leaks.

On Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 6:06 PM, Ezra Klein wrote:

Actually, I just noticed I got an e-mail from the Politico reporter today, and it’s actually weirder than the one Dave posted.

Hi Ezra,

I’m the new media reporter for Politico, replacing Michael Calderoner and I’m writing a follow-up to this Weigel apology about the response on Journolist will this destroy the sense of safe space, for example and does this mean the list has grown too big? I wondered if you might have a minute to chat about it.

Jim Vandehei himself wants this story, so any help you could offer would be much appreciated.

Thanks,
Keach

Keach Hagey
Politico

Seriously? Vandehei is screaming for anonymous quotes about how people feel about sending e-mails to one another?

On Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 3:17 PM, Jesse Singal wrote:

I know we can’t quote from that email without your permission, Ezra (and I’m not blogging anywhere at the moment, anyway), but for some reason I find “Jim VandeHei himself wants this story” to be an amazing line. I could really see that taking off an a meme a still of imperial troopers talking on the Death Star with VANDEHEI HIMSELF WANTS US TO CATCH THOSE photoshopped underneath, etc.

On Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 6:09 PM, David Weigel wrote:

Obviously it’s because Vandehei wants to damage the Washington Post. There are two Post (let’s just admit it) “stars” involved in this — two guys who they’ve written about in the past, who are on TV [Klein and Weigel].

On Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 6:15 PM, Ezra Klein wrote:

Eh, I doubt it goes that far. You just got to win the mid-to–late afternoon. Break the day into small enough chunks, and you can rack up alot of points. This story could’ve totally won the latter half of 5:32pm.

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40 Indentation and spacing has been cleaned up from the original text file downloaded from “Here Is the Archive of the Famous Liberal Media ‘Journolist'” [archive link], but no attempt has been made to alter the meaning of anything said. On very rare occasions, I’ve corrected mis-spellings that are a result of transferring pdf to text. In some cases, I’ve redacted email addresses, or replaced them with the writers’ names, given the possibility that they still may be in use.

These emails, when leaked, were the ones that lost Weigel his job at the Post, as described in “Washington Post Blogger Resigns Over Private Emails to Friends” [archive link]:

On 14 June, 22:47, David Weigel wrote:

Ezra wanted one from the NYT but I think I’ve got a better gripe. I described the popular video of Rep. Bob Etheridge acting like an ass to a student who won’t ID himself this way: Last week Rep. Bob Etheridge who’s seen as a safe bet for re-election this year despite representing a somewhat conservative Cook district, ran into two self-described students with video cameras outside of a fundraiser.

“Do you fully support the Obama agenda?” asked one of the students.

“Who are you?” asked Etheridge, grabbing one of the cameras and pointing it down — a move more typically seen from Hollywood bodyguards
than congressmen. The second camera rolled as Etheridge, irritated, he1d the wrist of the first cameraman, then pulled the student to his
side and grabbed him in a hug.*

Here is how Matt Drudge linked me:

*WASH POST: NOT AN ASSAULT, A ‘HUG’…*

Please show me where I implied that Etheridge was not assaulting the kid, and where I implied that this was an affectionate hug and not
a grappling bear hug. After you have done so, please tell me what to do with the 600 emails and several phone calls calling me a “lying faggot” and threatening to kick my ass.

This would be a vastly better world to live in if Matt Drudge decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire

This was the original story: “Who TMZ’d Rep. Bob Etheridge?”.

On Jun 15, 5:15 am, Daniel Davies wrote:
just write a story saying that he’s admitted he’s wrong and apologised, then let him come after *you* looking for a correction.

On Jun 15, 9:16 am, David Weigel wrote:

Follow-up to one hell of a day: Apparently, the Washington Examiner thought it would be fun to write up an item about my dancing at the wedding of Megan McArdle and Peter Suderman. Said item included the name and job of my girlfriend, who was not even there — nor in DC at all. I’d politely encourage everyone to think twice about rewarding the Examiner with any traffic or links for a while. I know the temptation is high to follow up hot hot Byron York scoops, but please resist it.

Rick Perlstein would reply:

on Jun 15, 11:19 am, Rick Perlstein wrote:

For your delectation, Matt Drudge’s yearbook photo:

Below it he printed this:

“I Matt Drudge, being of sound mind and body, do hereby leave the following: To my only true friend Ms. thing, Vicky B, I leave a night
in Paris, a bottle of Chaps cologne and hope you find a school with original people–And to everyone else who has helped and hindred [sic]
me whether it be Staff or students, I leave a penny for each day I’ve been here and cried here. A penny rich in worthless memories. For worthless memories is what I have endured. It reminds me of a song, The Funeral Hyme”

Not making this up.

41 From Journolist, subject line, “The Rise of Republican Multiculturalism”:

On Jun 23, 1:15 pm, Jeet Heer wrote:

As some of you already know, I’m working on an article for The Globe and Mail about the rise of Republican multiculturalism, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and the many other minority candidates Republicans are fielding this year. This article in Frumforum provides a handy list of these candidates, who are much more numerous than I, for one, would have expected: http://www.frumforum.com/gop-minority-candidates-come-out-in-force/ I’m doing some interviews on the topic (including with some list folks) but I thought the issue might be worth a discussion on the list as a whole.

Here are some questions I have:

1) What’s going on here? Is this just tokenism? An attempt to prove the party is not racist? Or is this a genuine leap kind towards a more multi–racial brand of Republicanism? much of this is coming from the grassroots and how much of this deliberate recruitment effort by the party?

2) More than a few of these minority candidates are coming from the far–right, Tea Party wing of Republicanism. As the excellent Ed Kilgore noted in another thread, Tim Scott had worked in the past as a campaign manager for Storm Thurmond. So it seems that the Republicans are both moving to the right and becoming more multi-racial at the same time. How do we explain that? Is there a connection?

On Jun 23, 4:03 pm, Sarah Posner wrote:

From my vantage point, there has been a very concerted recruitment effort by the religious right. That’s been going on for a while people like Rod Parsley were seen as useful in 2004 because, while he is white, he has a big African–American following; Dobson handpicked a few people that he campaigned with in 2004 for gay marriage bans; and the Family Research Council has been incubating the Network of Politically Active Christians for several years now. NPAC is an adjunct of Wellington Boone Ministries Boone is an African–American pastor in Georgia probably best known for calling gay people “faggots” and “sissies” at the Values Voters Summit a few years ago. Out of those efforts the Frederick Douglass Foundation was launched (and yes, Frederick Douglass is probably spinning in his grave) to promote the candidacies of black, conservative Christian Republicans. Its chair, who is also the vice–chair of the North Carolina Republican Party, is a convicted felon (domestic violence). And the Freedom Federation is a loose coalition of many of these and other religious right groups that is intent on reaching out to blacks and Latinos.

This may be Warren Olney IV:

Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2010 18:09:57 -0700
Subject: Re: [JournoList] Re: Rise of Republican multiculturalism
From: [REDACTED]
To: journo1ist@goog1egroups.com

Happy to see this thread as it’s something I’ve been thinking about, too.

Would you consider me out of line if I decided to do a show on this topic on KCRW next Tuesday? I like the discussion thread, would not use comments made on the list, just would like to explore the ideas that are coming out here, and to talk to some of the folks mentioned. happy to promote and link to Jeet’s piece and any other leads mentioned here on our website. Pls. let me know so I’m not committing a no-no.

From: journolist@googlegroups.com

On Behalf Of David Greenberg

Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 5:11 PM

To: Journolist

Subject: [JournoList] Re: Rise of Republican multiculturalism

Jeet,

Your friend Andy Lamey back in his TNR intern days, if I recall correctly, had a piece on right–wing journalistic outlets, opposed to affirmative action as an editorial line, that nonetheless had affirmative action programs in place. It was a case of cultural and political divergence, with the cultural pull being stronger. i.e. even Paul Gigot and company at the WSJ realized at a certain point that if it was all white guys around their conference table, especially if seen by the public on PBS, as they were for a while, they would lack a certain credibility, at least with certain audiences.

Now, I have always found it infuriating the way that Jews assume that blacks will vote for blacks, women will vote for women, etc.; that may be true in a ceteris paribus [with other things the same] situation, but it’s simply not the case that Alan Keyes is to win the black vote or even that Joe Lieberman (post–2000) to win the Jewish vote. Nonetheless, there is a bigger issue at play. Relatively tolerant, socially liberal white and independents are the audience in mind. An all-white GOP going to strike a lot of these voters as behind the times in multicultural America. Phrases like “a bunch of white guys” “straight white males” are in the lexicon. So if the GOP fields some minority or female candidates, it may or may not win over are themselves minorities, or women; but–or so I suspect might very well help dispel bad associations has *among independent or swing voters* as a bastion of looking self-satisfied white men. In other words, multiculturalism (of a sort) has won even if it has not won as clear a victory politically.

Just some thoughts.

On Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 5:19 PM, Larry M. Bartels wrote:

From We Almost Made It, Republican ad man Malcolm MacDougall’s very entertaining book on the 1976 presidential campaign:

“We had given up on the black vote even before Mr. Butz’s remarks. We’d bought a few spots on black radio so the media couldn’t report that we’d given up. Lionel Hampton singing ‘Call Ford Mr. Sunshine.’ The only black vote we got out of that was Lionel Hampton’s.”

Larry

On 6/23/2010 5:26 PM, Jeffrey Toobin wrote:

The appointment of Clarence Thomas was going to lead to an increase in black support for Republicans. How’s that going?

On Jun 23, 5:19 pm, Mark Schmitt wrote:

I think part of this goes well beyond affirmative action a lot of these candidates are really good spokespeople for the Republican/libertarian worldview, because they have that self-made person’s belief that if they can make it anyone can. People like Haley are not pawns in someone else’s game, they are absolutely passionate conservatives who’s life experiences confirm their giving them a totally different way of talking about the world say, the grumbly Joe the Plumber. Some of these folks are complete nuts, some — e.g. Michael Steele are elevated for no reasons other than symbolism, but others are going to be very significant figures in conservative politics because of their own talents and convictions, which appeal to white voters in part because they confirm their view of the world.

On Jun 23, 7:08 pm, Rick Perlstein wrote:

Jeet, talk to met friend Angela Dillard at NYU:

[Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Now?: Multicultural Conservatism in America]

On Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 5:31 PM, John Sides

You should also talk to Tasha Philpot at the University of Texas, who has written this relevant book:

[Race, Republicans, and the Return of the Party of Lincoln (The Politics of Race and Ethnicity)]

42 From the Journolist, under the Subject heading, “The Pope was fired”. The subject was the announcement that day, June 23, 2010, of the firing of Stanley McChrystal (“US Afghan commander Stanley McChrystal fired by Obama”). I’ve attempted to get at the right chronology, but it may be a little off:

On Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 12:04 PM, Michael Tomasky wrote:

Petraeus is the one who was being groomed in certain quarters for ’12. That’s probably out now. So it’s a pretty sharp play on that level, too.

Very strong move all the way around.

On Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 3:05 PM, Warren Olney IV wrote:

So what happened the other day to cause Petraeus to faint? Are we worried about his health?

On Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 12:07 PM, Michael Tomasky wrote:

I think his accountant told him his net worth was only $1.9 million.

On Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 3:10 PM, Warren Olney IV wrote:

That would give me the vapors too. As if!

On Jun 23, 1:29 pm, Joe Klein wrote:

No, he was hired.

On Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 3:01 PM, Rich Yeselson wrote:

Exactly. The Cardinal was fired, and the Pope was hired. Substantively re: the war, things are still a mess, but the only guy who could be a plausible replacement for SM got the gig.

Political — absolutely brilliant. Having your cake–asserting civilian control, not in anger, but regret–and eating it too by hiring an even bigger superstar/coin [counter-insurgency] general to step in and clean things up.

On Jun 23, 3:12 PM, Spencer Ackerman wrote:

The Pope is McChrystal’s nickname. That’s the reason for Marc’s subject header.

On Jun 23, 2010, at 3:28 PM, Rich Yeselson wrote

Huh — Popes can’t get fired.

On Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 4:14 PM, Marc Ambinder wrote:

The Pope is a nickname that SOF [Special Operations Forces] and their admirers bestow on the commander, JSOC because Janet Reno once complained that trying to get information out of JSOC units was impossible. They were the Vatican, she grumbled. Fuck yeah was the response to that grumble. Hence the name. People who served under mcChrystal when he was CJSOC (commander of JSOC) still call him the Pope. The current Pope by rights is Admiral Wm McRaven, a former DevGru (SEAL Team Six) commander. But he’s just a weeny Navy guy. So tease the Army guys.

One of the reasons the name stuck was because JSOC was unleashed by the Bush admin. McChrystal knows where the bodies are buried. I do not mean this metaphorically. He literally knows. He knows because he buried them.

Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2010 19:21:22 -0400
From: Matthew Yglesias

The origins of the pope nickname, as explained by Marc are really horrifying. Does it strike anyone else as problematic that the affectionate nickname for the JSOC commander is a joke about how awesome it is to refuse to obey the law?

43 From Journolist, subject line “Al Gore accusations”:

On Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 5:55 AM, Nate Silver wrote:

One of the Portland TV stations posted the transcript of the police report filed by the woman who has accused Al Gore of “unwanted sexual contact”:

[the listed link no longer works. An article from a Portland paper,“Portland woman says Al Gore groped her in hotel room” by Maxine Bernstein, does include a link to the 2009 investigation with the cited transcript, “Portland Police Bureau 2009 investigative report on Al Gore incident”]

It’s a lot of reading, but what do people think? To me, she seems rather credible. And it’s an accusation of rape, or something very close to it, against a former Vice President. But it’s also a total he-said, she-said, and one that she doesn’t particularly seem interested in pursuing. Anyway, I think this is a pretty big deal, but also a story that might be very difficult for the media to cover, for a number of reasons. Am surprised that it hasn’t generated more discussion, here or elsewhere.

-Nate

On Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 9:44 AM, Katha Pollitt wrote:

I’ve only read half of this, it’s very upsetting. I think she is totally credible. Even though in the abstract I believe male politicians are mostly bastards, entitled and narcissistic, and we all know rape, molestation, violence against women are incredibly common, AND we all know lots of men use prostitutes and think massage therapists are basically prostitutes, this shocked me.

I wish I was a lesbian.

Al gore, the sanctimonious rapist. I hate him.

On Jun 24, 2010 at 6:40 AM, Katha Politt wrote:

Sorry to go on and on, but i am so disturbed.

Salon’s writer says her story isn’t credible because the police didn’t charge, because the Portland tribune said it didn’t meet unspecified “test points” of credibility, and because other celebrities have been falsely accused. that’s pretty lame, imo. I hope everyone reads the whole police statement.

The link listed in the original email no longer works. I believe this is the story, “3 reasons to doubt the Al Gore sex assault story” by Steve Kornacki.

On Jun 24, 2010 at 8:57 AM, Katha Pollitt wrote:

There was possible corroboration the police didn’t follow up on. for ex, she says she told friends right away, and she did save her clothes.

Also, she says her leg was injured during the whole thing and she was under a dr’s care for months.

I totally understand why she refused to press charges, but I don’t really understand why she went back to the police in 2009. civil suit?

But the suggestion that she is looking for a settlement damages her credibility too.

the national enquirer is suggesting that this is why tipper left gore.

also that gore has had lots of affairs and this is widely known in his circle.

On Thu Jun 24, 2010 at 6:08 PM, Lindsay Beyerstein wrote:

Why does asking for a settlement damage her credibility? I don’t know if this woman is credible or not, I’m just saying the fact that she wanted compensation doesn’t sway me one way or the other. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that she was assaulted.

We all know how horrible it is for a victim to pursue a sexual assault case through the criminal justice system. Like any victim, she could expect to be grilled about her sexual history in court. The defense would insinuate that “masseuse” is a euphemism for prostitute, an allegation that could wreck the woman’s career. After all that, the defendant would probably still walk. He is, after all, a rich white man in a rape culture.

The victim has virtually no leverage in the criminal justice system.

Whereas, she has a ton of leverage with the rich married man who assaulted her. He will probably pay her to keep his name out of the press. One of the conditions of this payout might be that she drop the charges.

Why not make the bastard pay through the nose for what he did? At least you’ll get some redress, unlike most victims of sexual violence.

On Jun 24, 5:41pm, Katha Pollitt wrote:

To you, to me, it doesn’t damage her credibility. but to lots of people it will. they will think she was not really at risk and is making up/exaggerating to extract money. that what is often said about women who accuse famous men of assault.

44 From “Andrew Breitbart’s Legacy: Credit and Blame Where It’s Due” by Friedersdorf:

In Decoded, Jay-Z’s autobiographical account of how and why he writes his rhymes, he describes the moment when the rap he was hearing on the streets of Brooklyn stopped being playful and started describing in graphic language the crack epidemic roiling urban America and the hustlers who were both its victims and its suppliers. “Hip-hop had described poverty in the ghetto and painted pictures of violence and thug life, but I was interested in something a little different: the interior space of a young kid’s head, his psychology,” he wrote. “Thirteen-year-old kids don’t just wake up one day and say, ‘Okay, I just wanna sell drugs on my mother’s stoop’… to tell the story of the kid with a gun without telling the story of why he has it is to tell a kind of lie… I wanted to tell stories and boast, to entertain and to dazzle with creative rhymes, but everything I said had to be rooted in the truth of that experience. I owed it to all the hustlers I met.”

It’s a passage I just happened upon, and reading it reminded me of Breitbart in this way: he saw conservatives as an invisibly victimized class, and although many before him had railed against the mainstream media, Hollywood, and other antagonists, he wanted to take us inside his own head, to explain the psychology of it, to tell us about his decadent time at Tulane, his squandered twenties as a default liberal, how the Clarence Thomas hearings radicalized him, and how his own biography helped him to see the master-narrative of the whole purportedly oppressive system. When he wielded a rhetorical flamethrower in the culture wars, he wanted us to know how his own observations led him to it, and made him feel self-righteous about spraying the flames. And yes, he wanted to entertain us, provoke us, dazzle us, and serve us Web ads. But he wanted it all to be true to the felt experience of aggrieved conservatives. He wanted to be their champion, to show them that someone was brazenly articulating their grievances. He felt he owed it to the nation’s Tea Partiers and denizens of flyover country. And his method was so hip-hop. Everything was filtered through the lens of Breitbart: his feuds, his put-downs, his crassness, the uncertain relationship between his public persona and what he was really like.

45 From Decoded by Jay Z:

It’s a variation on a story I’ve been telling since I was ten years old rapping into a tape recorder: I’m dope. Doper than you. But even when a rapper is just rapping about how dope he is, there’s something a little bit deeper going on. It’s like a sonnet, believe it or not. Sonnets have a set structure, but also a limited subject matter: They are mostly about love. Taking on such a familiar subject and writing about it in a set structure forced sonnet writers to find every nook and cranny in the subject and challenged them to invent new language for saying old things. It’s the same with braggadacio in rap. When we take the most familiar subject in the history of rap-why I’m dope-and frame it within the sixteen-bar structure of a rap verse, synced to the specific rhythm and feel of the track, more than anything it’s a test of creativity and wit. It’s like a metaphor for itself; if you can say how dope you are in a completely original, clever, powerful way, the rhyme itself becomes proof of the boast’s truth. And there are always deeper layers of meaning buried in the simplest verses.

But great MCing is not just about filling in the meter of the song with rhythm and melody. The other ways that poets make words work is by giving them layers of meaning, so you can use them to get at complicated truths in a way that straightforward storytelling fails to do. The words you use can be read a dozen different ways: They can be funny and serious. They can be symbolic and literal. They can be nakedly obvious and subliminally effective at the same time. The art of rap is deceptive. It seems so straightforward and personal and real that people read it completely literally, as raw testimony or autobiography.

“99 Problems” is almost a deliberate provocation to simpleminded listeners. If that sounds crazy, you have to understand: Being misunderstood is almost a badge of honor in rap. Growing up as a black kid from the projects, you can spend your whole life being misunderstood, followed around department stores, looked at funny, accused of crimes you didn’t commit, accused of motivations you don’t have, dehumanized-until you realize, one day, it’s not about you. It’s about perceptions people had long before you even walked onto the scene. The joke’s on them because they’re really just fighting phantoms of their own creation. Once you realize that, things get interesting. It’s like when we were kids. You’d start bopping hard and throw on the ice grill when you step into Macy’s and laugh to yourself when the security guards got nervous and started shadowing you. You might have a knot of cash in your pocket, but you boost something anyway, just for the sport of it. Fuck ’em. Sometimes the mask is to hide and sometimes it’s to play at being something you’re not so you can watch the reactions of people who believe the mask is real. Because that’s when they reveal themselves. So many people can’t see that every great rapper is not just a documentarian, but a trickster-that every great rapper has a little bit of Chuck and a little bit of Flav in them-but that’s not our problem, it’s their failure: the failure, or unwillingness, to treat rap like art, instead of acting like it’s just a bunch of niggas reading out of their diaries. Art elevates and refines and transforms experience. And sometimes it just fucks with you for the fun of it.

The example I immediately think in these terms is the classic Geto Boys’ track, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”. It is not a simple disgorging of the MC’s feelings, but something constructed with far more care. The repeating hook (“Hung Up On My Baby” by Isaac Hayes) doesn’t have the hot pulse of madness, but rather has a lackadaisical same-old, same-old quality. The song is not simply about madness within, but madness without. The protagonist lives in a neighbourhood that is something like a war zone, where the effects of neglect are surreal, yet almost have the aspect of everyday banality. The song is like an upriver point in Apocalypse Now, where the strangest landscapes can no longer be distinguished from the visions of the insane, and where these visions have become entirely ordinary.

46 Perhaps the best piece of coverage of the Boston bombings was “102 hours in pursuit of Marathon suspects” by Jenna Russell and Thomas Farragher; with reporting by Globe staff writers Andrea Estes, Sean P. Murphy, Shelley Murphy, Matt Carroll, Jonathan Saltzman, Michael Rezendes, David Abel, Jenn Abelson, Brian Ballou, Todd Wallack, Maria Cramer, Maria Sacchetti, Andrew Caffrey, Bill Greene, Michael Levenson, Stephanie Ebbert, Akilah Johnson, Kevin Cullen, Eric Moskowitz, Jenifer B. McKim, Wes Lowery, and Milton Valencia. Globe correspondents Evan Allen, Derek J. Anderson, and Alli Knothe also contributed.

From “New York Times Set to Sell Globe for Fraction of Purchase” by Edmund Lee:

New York Times Co. (NYT), which is accepting bids for the Boston Globe today, is likely to fetch a price that’s about a 10th of what it paid in 1993, a sign of the industry’s deterioration over the past two decades.

The bids are set to be in the range of $100 million, according to three people who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. The potential buyers include Rick Daniels, a former president of the Globe, and former Time Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jack Griffin, in partnership with cousins Steven and Ben Taylor, whose family once owned the newspaper, the people said.

Times Co. put the Boston Globe up for sale in February and hired Evercore Partners Inc. (EVR) to manage the process, part of an effort to focus on its flagship New York Times media brand. The deal will include the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and a growing printing business.

The New York-based company, which bought the Globe for $1.1 billion 20 years ago, mostly in stock, is coping with an industrywide decline in advertising that has caused a drop in sales and stock prices. Its market capitalization has fallen 19 percent since the Globe acquisition, to about $1.6 billion today, after reaching more than $8 billion in 1999.

47 “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone; “Memories of the Boston Phoenix” by Susan Orlean.

From “How the Boston Phoenix Kept Its Readers But Lost Its Advertisers” by Dan Kennedy, posted on March 19th, 2013.

For the Boston Phoenix, the decline lasted years – but the end came swiftly.

Last Thursday afternoon a local journalist called to ask if I’d heard rumors that the 47-year-old alt-weekly was about to go under. I hadn’t. Within an hour, Boston.com was reporting that the Phoenix would cease publication immediately. One more issue – online only – will be posted this week. After that, the Phoenix, my professional home for 14 years and an important part of my life since the 1970s, will go dark.

48 “Village Voice Media’s Last Ditch Effort to Save Itself Will Probably Fail” [archive link]; “‘Bloodbath’ Day at Village Voice: Musto, Sietsema, Feingold Out” [archive link], both by Hamilton Nolan.

49 While Leibovich swats away with some wit an attempt at a patent for the title, This Town by Sidney Blumenthal, he mentions two songs that shared the name:

This Town was first suggested to me as a title several months ago by my publisher, David Rosenthal. It has been the working name of the book since, the last in a series of them that has also included “Suck-up City,” “You’ll Always Have Lunch in This Town Again,” and “The Club.”

Finally, in late December, as I was leaving The Last Party, Sally Quinn mentioned to me that she liked the title This Town and that, by the way, it had also once been the name of a play in the 1990s by Sidney Blumenthal. Who knew? But I was not surprised. It is a good title. Elvis Costello had a song called “This Town,” I remembered, and Frank Sinatra, too, I think. It goes without saying that titles cannot be copyrighted.

Though these are songs by considerable artists, the “This Town” which might first come to mind, is one unmentioned by The Go-Gos, whose words are very, very apt (lyrics via lyrics.time):

This town is our town
It is so glamorous
Bet you’d live here if you could
And be one of us

Change the lines that were said before
We’re all dreamers – we’re all whores
Discarded stars
Like worn out cars
Litter the streets of this town

Another apt title, though unmarketable, as people would think the book would be about expatriates in Paris, would be “Bourgeois Blues”, by Leadbelly, very much about D.C., though portraying a different life than that lived by the characters of the book. Lyrics again via lyrics.time:

Home of the brave, land of the free
I don’t wanna be mistreated by no bourgeoisie
Lord, in a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

Well, them white folks in Washington they know how
To call a colored man a nigger just to see him bow
Lord, it’s a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

I tell all the colored folks to listen to me
Don’t try to find you no home in Washington, DC
‘Cause it’s a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around

I may have heard this song before, but I cam across it again via Paul Mooney’s Black is the New White:

Back then, Shreveport is what we used to call a “bourgeois” town, meaning a hateful, racist place. Huddie Ledbet­ter, the great blues singer Lead Belly, hung out a lot in Shreveport.

Lead Belly has a song called “The Bourgeois Blues” that I always think about when I think about Shreveport. Yeah, Lead Belly’s song is about Washington, D.C., but he could just as well be singing about Shreveport in the 1940s: “Them white folks … they know how/To call a colored man a nigger just to see him bow.”

From “”What Part of ‘Politico’ Do You Not Understand?” A conversation about the dark art of driving the conversation” by Isaac Chotiner:

IC: Is there a story that you are most proud of?

JH: I think of us more in terms of reporters and our young staff, and I think about that in terms of the broader business. It’s crumbling! Carrie Budoff Brown came to us from the Philly Inquirer. It was a shell. The Washington Post is still a strong newspaper, but no one there would say it is providing the number of opportunities for young journalists that it was able to do when I was there.

On Politico’s priorities, from This Town:

White House aides have bitched interminably about what they consider Politico’s trivial attentions to Washington’s lame celebrity doings, namely their own. When a citizen paparazzo posted on the Web a photo of speechwriter Jon Favreau and press aide Tommy Vietor playing bare-chested beer pong at a Georgetown bar one Sunday, Politico ran a prominent story wondering if the Obama White House had become overexposed, suggesting that a designated “grown-up” needed to be brought on staff and declaring that some Obama “personalities” have “not disguised their pleasure at the fast-lane opportunities opened up by their new status in Washington.” The story equated the beer pong photo to reports, in 1979, that White House chief of staff Hamilton Jordan had snorted coke during a visit to Studio 54 (a special counsel’s investigation resulted in no charges).

50 An example of this is Conor Friedersdorf suddenly declaring what the press should be concentrating on, after he heard of the Gosnell clinic: “Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s Trial Should Be a Front-Page Story”. Irin Carmon would reply to this and other posts, explaining that many in the pro-choice and feminist community had already given coverage to the story: “There is no Gosnell coverup”. Friedersdorf, strangely, did not post “How I Utterly Fucked Up My Kermit Gosnell Coverage Story”, but rather, replied with “14 Theories for Why Kermit Gosnell’s Case Didn’t Get More Media Attention”. Though he gave space to Erick Erickson for his opinion on the subject, and Carmon had made mention of Friedersdorf’s article, he made no mention of Carmon or her work.

51 From “Life After Patch.com: A Newspaper Editor Returns To Newsprint” by Ken Layne, interviewing a journalist who takes the pseudonym of “Sammy”:

Ken: And for people who haven’t come across a Patch.com site, how would you describe these local sites?

Sammy: They’re just glorified blogs. You’ll see some “local news,” sort of-you’re just as likely to see a dumb “Top 5” list designed to woo local advertisers, as in “Top 5 flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream.”? There’s also a half-completed business directory, and in fact the first thing people do when they’re hired (and launching a site, I guess they’ve all been launched by now) is run around town taking pictures and typing in addresses and phone numbers of the local hair salons, etc.

Ken: But the concept was that local reporters would cover local news, like high-school sports and planning commission meetings and neighborhood police blotters, right?

Sammy: That was the concept, originally. Then the MBAs realized that that actually takes more manpower than they were able to afford. I guess they thought all that copy and content just sort of wrote itself!

Ken: It does, as long as you just blockquote it from another website, which took it from another website, etc. But the expensive part is that starting point, where a low-paid but still compensated young journalist goes to the Town Council meeting or stops by the police station, etc.?

Sammy: Yeah, I tried to do a back of the envelope estimate once on what Patch was paying to exist. Consider a 23-year-old aspiring journo makes maybe $24K a year. But then there are full benefits-so bring it up to $50K a year. Then there are expenses-all the freelancers, etc.-which will tack on another $50K or so per site. So maybe $100K per site, per year. At the high point there were 850 sites. That is not even close to the full yearly expense.?

Ken: So the idea was two editorial staffers per town site?? Or one, plus freelancers without benefits?

Sammy: Just the one “editor” per site. This was the “local editor,” who did/does the lion’s share of the work. That person had, at first, a stable of freelancers they could tap into for help, but that budget was quickly slashed-not the required five pieces of original content per day, mind you! Just the help to do it.? The local editors, or LEs, are grouped into 12 per “region,” and above them is a “regional editor,” or RE. That person is really more of a middle manager than an editor. In my experience anyway. They spend all their time filling out paperwork and sitting in on conference calls, and their abilities vary widely. Above the I-don’t-know-how-many REs are four regional directors. Just four, countrywide. Then above them is the boss, the so-called “editor in chief,” who doesn’t do anything resembling editing.

Ken: That sounds like a standard “editor in chief” at any newspaper or magazine.

Sammy: Yes, but usually they are at least journalists, in some way, shape or form. In the case of Patch, they are MBAs. All of them. Sitting in a high rise in New York, kissing Arianna’s ass.

52 From “You’ve Got News” by Ken Auletta:

The company still gets eighty per cent of its profits from subscribers, many of whom are older people who have cable or DSL service but don’t realize that they need not pay an additional twenty-five dollars a month to get online and check their e-mail. “The dirty little secret,” a former AOL executive says, “is that seventy-five per cent of the people who subscribe to AOL’s dial-up service don’t need it.”

53 From “The New Watchdogs” by Conor Friedersdorf:

Might it be possible to change the old model-disaggregating investigation from journalism, and tapping as watchdogs folks who behave more like detectives or auditors than like reporters? As yet, I know of no nonprofit that has undertaken this approach. But a system of civic watchdogs regularly performing checks on every government entity-rather than doing spot-checks based on tips and intuition-certainly sounds appealing, at least in theory. And funding it privately might be less costly than it at first seems, at least in states like California, where the public is empowered to request most public documents.

Imagine, then, a how-to guide setting forth the basic steps that any interested watchdog should take to scrutinize a municipality, a school district, or a redevelopment agency. It could be posted on a website that included pages for every government entity in a state. Did someone just upload the campaign-finance disclosure forms for every member of the Santa Barbara City Council? Check that box. Is there a city in South Los Angeles where public officials’ salaries have gone uninvestigated for three years? Send a roving volunteer there. Whenever nonprofit investigators or auditors uncovered corruption, eager journalists would still be just a phone call away. Call it watchdog by wiki.

Such an effort could be all-volunteer or run by a professional staff. It could fund training sessions in which investigative reporters would teach citizen-journalists how to act as watchdogs. It could partner with collegiate public-policy programs to build out the online databases of uncovered information. A higher-end version might even include an algorithm that automatically prioritized the tasks deserving immediate attention. Only one thing would be nonnegotiable: the lawyers. The nonprofit would need to acquire a reputation for suing any city that didn’t comply with its volunteers’ lawful requests.

From the front page of the City Journal site:

A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.

From the trustee page of the Manhattan Institute:

Chairman of the Board Paul E. Singer Elliott Management Corporation

From “Mitt Romney’s hedge fund kingmaker” by Michelle Celarier:

Buying defaulted sovereign debt has turned Elliott into something of a bête noire in international circles. It’s also a tactic that has earned the firm big returns. The approach is simple: Buy up the bonds of struggling countries for pennies on the dollar, refuse to go along with offers other investors accept, and aggressively negotiate for every cent with the threat of a lawsuit if not satisfied. The architect of this strategy is Jay Newman, 60, a lawyer who joined Elliott in the mid-1990s after stints running emerging-markets desks at Shearson Lehman Hutton and Morgan Stanley (MS).

One of Elliott’s first big successes in deploying the hardball approach was when it bought defaulted Peruvian debt in 1996. Testifying in that case, Singer explained his firm’s position: “Peru would either pay us in full … or be sued.” The statement bolstered Peru’s argument that Elliott’s actions were illegal under what are called “champerty” laws, which, Peru claimed, don’t allow an investor to buy a claim with the sole purpose of bringing suit. In 1998 a U.S. lower court agreed with Peru. But the ruling — and that definition of “champerty” — was later overturned. In 2000, Elliott was awarded a $58 million judgment, on debt for which it paid about $11.4 million. Elliott later lobbied successfully for the repeal of the state of New York’s champerty statute. “Some of the stuff Elliott does is not good for the international system, but they’re incredibly smart players and they are winning,” says Mitu Gulati, a Duke University law professor.

While Elliott has become known as a sovereign vulture, the firm is selective in determining which countries to target. It has a policy of suing only nations that it believes can afford to pay, according to individuals close to the firm. What it does, Elliott says, is “go after bad actors.” In its effort to force Congo-Brazzaville to pay up, Elliott uncovered corruption that eventually led the government to settle for an estimated $90 million on debt for which Elliott paid less than $20 million. Some legal scholars argue that the people in undemocratic countries ruled by corrupt leaders should not have to suffer for their rulers’ misdeeds. It’s called the “odious debt” doctrine. An international movement to cancel all such debt led the U.K. in 2010 to pass a law limiting lawsuits to recover the debts of the poorest nations, including Congo-Brazzaville. While not singling out Elliott, both the IMF and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have deplored the practice of extracting large profits from countries in default.

54 From “FreedomWorks’ Matt Kibbe: “I think the Establishment’s freaking out”” by Matt Welch:

On Tuesday, during the normally boring rules-and-roll-call portion of the festivities, the Republican National Convention erupted in some contentious and confusing disputes between the GOP establishment and delegates associated with both Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and the Tea Party. Today I asked Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of the Tea Party-assisting political group FreedomWorks, to explain what it all meant.

“I think the Republican establishment is struggling with how to manage this very decentralized world we live in, and you saw signs of their acknowledgement on the stage like last night,” Kibbe said. “It wasn’t remotely about Mitt Romney, it was about giving various voices and agendas and constituencies a voice at the convention.

“The problem is there’s this thing called the Internet, and Twitter, and the ability to discover these things in real time, and this is what worries me about the Republican Establishment: If they didn’t know this was coming, they still don’t understand the nature of this decentralized world we live in.”

55 From “Armey in Exile” by Luke Mullins:

In 1996, [Matt] Kibbe joined an organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), which was founded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch to do for the right what labor unions and Ralph Nader’s consumer advocates had long done for the left.

Armey joined CSE as co-chairman the next year, providing political star power that the organization lacked. He made $430,000 a year, on top of the $750,000 salary he earned as a lobbyist for the firm DLA Piper.

But shortly after his arrival at CSE, a boardroom dispute split CSE in two. The Kochs broke off and founded Americans for Prosperity while Kibbe partnered with Armey to form FreedomWorks in 2004.

56 From “Armey in Exile” by Luke Mullins:

Kibbe wanted to make sure FreedomWorks couldn’t disband the way CSE had, Armey says, so he structured the nonprofit with an unusual three-person board of trustees that had the final say in all organizational matters. Kibbe and Armey took two of the three seats.

From “Armey in Exile” by Luke Mullins:

Furious, Armey and his wife flew to Maine to show the document to FreedomWorks’ third trustee: C. Boyden Gray, a former White House counsel.

On C. Boyden Gray, from “C. Boyden Gray” by Sara Fritz:

Aloof, aristocratic and an avowed libertarian, Gray, who built his reputation during four years as White House counsel for President George Bush, clearly takes pride in coming to conclusions, both legal and political, independent of other Republicans. For that reason, his views on the issues raised by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s time-consuming investigation of President Bill Clinton have come to be valued by the press and other lawyers.

An heir to the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune, Gray, 55, grew up in the white-columned presidential mansion on the campus of the University of North Carolina, where his father was president.

On Dick Armey’s role creating the Department of Homeland Security, “A Homeland Security Update” from PBS News Hour:

RAY SUAREZ: By accepting the chairmanship of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, Dick Armey took on the task of writing legislation creating the new Department of Homeland Security, triggering a massive restructuring of the government, the biggest in 50 years.

But today, Armey was criticized by committee Democrats for ignoring many of the recommendations made by the chairmen of the other permanent committees, all of them fellow Republicans. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority whip:

REP. NANCY PELOSI: It seems to me that that might have been an exercise in futility because although when our chairman and our ranking members came to present the bipartisan recommendations, in some indicates, in most cases unanimous recommendations from the committees, it was by and large rejected.

RAY SUAREZ: New Jersey’s Robert Menendez:

REP. ROBERT MENENDEZ: And we should be looking, n accepting it carte blanche, but we should be looking at much of what Democrats and Republicans and bipartisan votes took in committees, with the enormous amounts of expertise they have in that area, to pursue some of the suggestions they have in how we make this country more secure.

RAY SUAREZ: Democrats, in fact, were complaining that Armey had adopted, almost in its entirety, the Department of Homeland Security designed by President Bush. For instance, the Coast Guard and its mission of patrolling the coastal waters of the U.S. would be moved out of the Department of Transportation and into homeland security. The Customs Service, which conducts all border searches, also would be moved out of the Treasury Department and into the new department.

From “Armey leaves firm amid health care flap” by David Mark:

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) is resigning from DLA Piper law firm amid a wave of negative attention his grassroots organization, Freedom Works, has drawn for helping to organize protesters at health care town hall meetings with members of Congress.

In an interview with POLITCO Armey said that he was concerned about the media scrutiny the health care protests were drawing to the firm he has been associated with since retiring from Congress.

“The firm is busy with its business, and shouldn’t be asked to take time out from their work, to defend themselves of spurious allegations,” Armey said. “No client of this firm is going to be free to mind its own business without harassment as long as I’m associated with it.”

In a statement, DLA Piper Chairman Frank Burch said the parting was mutual.

From Matt Kibbe’s biography page at Freedomworks:

Before joining FreedomWorks, Kibbe’s career spanned the worlds of academia, business, and lawmaking. He served as Chief of Staff and House Budget Committee Associate for U.S. Representative Dan Miller (R-FL); Director of Federal Budget Policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Senior Economist for the Republican National Committee during Lee Atwater’s tenure as Chairman; and Managing Editor of Market Process, an academic economics journal published by the Center for the Study of Market Processes at George Mason University.

On the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, from “U.S. Chamber of Commerce Lobbying Spending Up Sharply Over Same Period Last Year”:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce — one of the most vocal opponents of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats — continues to shell out tens of millions of dollars for lobbying expenditures.

Between July and September, the Chamber and its subsidiaries spent $37.06 million on federal, state and grassroots lobbying, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of third-quarter federal lobbying reports filed Wednesday.

The massive business association has now spent more than $81.3 million on lobbying this year, easily earning its spot as the No. 1 spender between January and September. (Many other organizations and companies report spending using narrower definitions of lobbying, detailing only federal-level activities, while the Chamber reports spending on federal, state and grassroots lobbying.)

57 From “FreedomWorks tea party group nearly falls apart in fight between old and new guard”

The coup lasted all of six days. By Sept. 10, Armey was gone – with a promise of $8 million – and the five ousted employees were back. The force behind their return was Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusive Illinois millionaire who has exerted increasing control over one of Washington’s most influential conservative grass-roots organizations.

Stephenson, the founder of the for-profit Cancer Treatment Centers of America and a director on the FreedomWorks board, agreed to commit $400,000 per year over 20 years in exchange for Armey’s agreement to leave the group.

The episode illustrates the growing role of wealthy donors in swaying the direction of FreedomWorks and other political groups, which increasingly rely on unlimited contributions from corporations and financiers for their financial livelihood. Such gifts are often sent through corporate shells or nonprofit groups that do not have to disclose their donors, making it impossible for the public to know who is funding them.

In the weeks before the election, more than $12 million in donations was funneled through two Tennessee corporations to the FreedomWorks super PAC after negotiations with Stephenson over a preelection gift of the same size, according to three current and former employees with knowledge of the arrangement. The origin of the money has not previously been reported.

According to public records, FreedomWorks received more than $12 million before the election from two corporations based in Knoxville, Tenn.: Specialty Investments Group and Kingston Pike Development. The firms were established within a day of each other by William S. Rose III, a local bankruptcy lawyer.

Rose, who could not be reached for comment, has said publicly he would not answer questions about the donations. But according to three current and former FreedomWorks employees with knowledge of the donations, the money originated with Stephenson and his family, who arranged for the contributions from the Tennessee firms to the super PAC.

[Adam] Brandon, FreedomWorks’ executive vice president, told colleagues starting in August that Stephenson would be giving between $10 million and $12 million, these sources said. Brandon also met repeatedly with members of Stephenson’s family who were involved in arranging the donations, the sources said.

Stephenson attended a FreedomWorks retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in August at which a budget was being prepared in anticipation of a large influx of money, according to several employees who attended the retreat. At the retreat, Stephenson dictated some of the terms of how the money would be spent, the employees said.

“There is no doubt that Dick Stephenson arranged for that money to come to the super PAC,” said one person who attended the retreat. “I can assure you that everyone around the office knew about it.”

58 From Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King by Hampton Sides:

During its first week, Resurrection City made front-page news and enjoyed a sort of honeymoon period in the media. Reporters feasted on the spectacle of this latter-day Hooverville erected in the shadow of the Mall’s cold marble monuments. Congressional delegations walked the grounds–among the visitors was a U.S. representative from Texas named George Herbert Walker Bush. There were marches, parades, press conferences, and sit-ins; there was live music, dancing, even an Indian powwow. Peter, Paul, and Mary came, as did Pete Seeger and a host of black entertainers. Abernathy proudly baptized the first child born in the camp. Resurrection City had the feel and pulse of a freewheeling countercultural festival, a full year before Woodstock.

But by the second week, things had started to unravel. It became apparent that the Poor People’s Campaign was short on ideas–and even shorter on organizational strategy. The SCLC knew how to run a march, but it had no experience running a functioning city. Ralph Abernathy was no Martin Luther King–he had neither the shrewdness nor the charisma nor the rhetorical discipline to bring off such an ambitious campaign. Even Abernathy recognized it. “Resurrection City was flawed from the beginning,” he later conceded. “I realized more every day the loss I had suffered and the burden I had inherited.”

Most of the SCLC higher-ups didn’t even stay in Resurrection City–they decamped to a Howard Johnson across from the Watergate. In the absence of strong and present leadership, Resurrection City fell apart. Teenage gang members, who served as “marshals” along the encampment’s tattered thoroughfares, harassed and even beat up reporters. Thugs worked the long rows of tents, shaking down residents for protection money. The camp was treated to a steady drumbeat of weird and troubling anecdotes: An obese man wielding an ax stormed about the camp, hacking down several A-frame structures. Two psychiatric patients, recently released from St. Elizabeths mental hospital, set a phone booth on fire. A band of rowdies threw bottles at cars along Independence Avenue and fell into a protracted tear-gas war with the police at the east end of the Reflecting Pool. Camp officials began to receive threats on Abernathy’s life. Then a rumor went out that vandals from Chicago were planning to scale the Lincoln Memorial and spray-paint it black.

Just when it seemed as though the news reports emanating from Resurrection City couldn’t get any worse, they did. On May 23, the rains came, and the deluge didn’t stop for two weeks. As Abernathy put it, “The gray skies poured water,691 huge sheets that swept across the Mall like the monsoons of India,” leaving people “ankle deep in cold, brown slush.” It rained so much that people suspected the government had seeded the clouds. Resurrection City became, literally, a quagmire. Hosea Williams, who replaced Jesse Jackson as “city manager” after the internecine feuding became intolerable, called the campsite “that mudhole.” Pathways had to be covered in sheets of plywood. Tents collapsed. Hygiene deteriorated. Worried health department officials warned that outbreaks of dysentery and typhoid were imminent. The National Park Service would soon be presenting the SCLC with a bill of seventy-two thousand dollars for damages to the grounds of the Mall. Meanwhile, some twenty-two broken-down mules abandoned after the long trek to Washington were given over to the care of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or placed in perpetuity on a Virginia farm.

No one could have been more pleased by all this bad news than J. Edgar Hoover. Ever since the first caravans had pulled in to Washington a few weeks earlier, he’d been keeping close tabs on Project POCAM. Hoover had dozens of agents, paid informers, and undercover spies milling about the camp. One of his many sources of intelligence came from the Pentagon, which had assigned a unit of signal corpsmen to observe and photograph the encampment, night and day, from the top of the Washington Monument. Once it became obvious to Hoover that the SCLC’s internal problems prevented it from becoming the organized subversive force he had feared, he pressed his agents and informers to take a slightly different tack. In a memo, he told them to “document such things as immorality, indecency, dishonesty, and hypocrisy” among the campaign’s leadership.

But by this time, the Poor People’s Army was running out of steam, out of creativity, out of cash. People were referring to the campaign as the Little Bighorn of the civil rights movement. Now Abernathy was desperately trying to pull out of Washington with his dignity intact.

At some moment during that long, wet, turbulent month, an era had reached its denouement. The battle-fatigued nation had just about had its fill of protest politics, of marching and rioting, of scattershot airings of grievance. As Gerald McKnight put it in his classic study, The Last Crusade, most of Washington had come to regard Resurrection City as “some grotesque soap opera whose run could not end soon enough.”

59 From the 2012 speech (12:00-13:05):

The mainstream media refuses to tell you that these are the same shock troops that have been shocking us, pointing our fingers at us, trying to instigate riots with the police…these people are the definition of un-american. So you want a unity speech…you want a unity speech, I’ll give you a unity speech. I don’t care who our candidate is, and I haven’t since the beginning of this. I haven’t. Ask not what the candidate can do for you, ask what you can do for the candidate. And that’s what the Tea Party is. We are there to confront them, on behalf of our candidate. I will march behind whoever our candidate is, because if we don’t, we lose. There are two paths. There are two paths. One is America. And the other one is Occupy. One is America. The other one is Occupy.

60 From “Right-Wing Rabble-Rouser Leaks Thousands of Occupy Wall Street Emails” [archive link] by Adrian Chen:

Tom Ryan is a New York-based computer security expert who runs a tiny New York-based outfit called Provide Security, which he boasts on his blog is a “team of the most-highly trained and capable physical, threat and cyber security professionals in the world.” He’s best known for using fake social media profiles of a pretty lady to compromise the security of high-level military and intelligence officials.

Ryan and his computer buddies have been waging a months-long campaign to infiltrate and “map the ties” of the hacktivist collective Anonymous, which has had a hand in organizing the protest.

Yesterday Ryan leaked what he said were more than 3,900 emails sent to an Occupy Wall Street mailing list called September17discuss. Now they’re being used by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart to smear the movement. The emails show that Occupy Wall Street is a “conspiracy to ‘destabalize’ Global Markets,” Breitbart says!

Ryan’s presentation at DEF CON on 2010, “Blackhat 2010 Getting in bed with Robin Sage”, which features an introduction by the woman whose profile picture was used:

The wikipedia page for Robin Sage is here. The profile pic came from the portfolio on the nude site God’s Girls for Katya (NSFW).

A pdf document by Ryan about this exercise is “Getting in bed with Robin Sage”.

61 From “Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPD” [archive link] by Adrian Chen:

Since the Occupy Wall Street protest began on September 17, New York security consultant Thomas Ryan has been waging a campaign to infiltrate and discredit the movement. Ryan says he’s done contract work for the U.S. Army and he brags on his blog that he leads “a team called Black Cell, a team of the most-highly trained and capable physical, threat and cyber security professionals in the world.” But over the past few weeks, he and his computer security buddies have been spending time covertly attending Occupy Wall Street meetings, monitoring organizers’ social media accounts, and hanging out with protesters in Lower Manhattan.

As part of their intelligence-gathering operation, the group gained access to a listserv used by Occupy Wall Street organizers called September17discuss. On September17discuss, organizers hash out tactics and plan events, conduct post-mortems of media appearances, and trade the latest protest gossip. On Friday, Ryan leaked thousands of September17discuss emails to conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who is now using them to try to smear Occupy Wall Street as an anarchist conspiracy to disrupt global markets.

What may much more alarming to Occupy Wall Street organizers is that while Ryan was monitoring September17discuss, he was forwarding interesting email threads to contacts at the NYPD and FBI, including special agent Jordan T. Loyd, a member of the FBI’s New York-based cyber security team.

On September 26th, Ryan forwarded another email thread to Agent Loyd. But this time he clued in the NYPD as well, sending the email to Dennis Dragos, a detective with the NYPD Computer Crimes Squad.

Interestingly, it was Ryan who revealed himself as a snitch. We learned of these emails from the archive Ryan leaked yesterday in the hopes of undermining the Occupy Wall Street movement. In assembling the archive of September17discuss emails, it appears he accidentally included some of his own forwarded emails indicating he was ratting out organizers.

“I don’t know, I just put everything I had into one big package,” Ryan said when asked how the emails ended up in the file posted to Andrew Breitbart’s blog. Some security expert.

The most in-depth argument that Th3J35t3r (The Jester) and Ryan are the same can be found at Laboratory of Hidden Alternatives, Jester is/is not Tom Ryan or do we care? That The Jester makes hacking claims that may not be true can be found at Outcast Life: Rukshan’s Laboratory, Jester, More Questions Unanswered Than Answered.

A sample, which is very technical:

The QR code hack of Jester:

Yes, when I first read the post about the QR code hack I was like OMG (yes I have to admit that I didn’t went through the code until people started questioning about it), and soon after that many people started to question about the QR code hack, even the people within the jester’s IRC channel still are in doubt about the hack for many reasons,


  • How did jester use an exploit in webkit to hack in to Android and iOS devices that was patched back in 2010?

  • You need two shell codes for Android and iOS devices, Jester’s code lacked platform detection, and how he used a single shell to hack both iOS and Android devices is still a big problem.

  • The data that jester said he got after the QR code hack which he said he’s going to publish was never published.

  • Some of the people that said who scanned the QR code has actually never scanned the QR code.

62 One profile of The League is “Meet the Mysterious Hacking Collective Who Love Trolling Anonymous” by Fruzsina Eordogh.

63 Uber is discussed in fuller detail in “The Invisible World: Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo, Chet Uber, Timothy Douglas Webster”

64 A profile of Bannon is “On the Right Side of the Theater Aisle” by James Ulmer.

Brandon Darby in Occupy Unmasked:

Brandon Darby

Brandon Darby

65 This is a list of Lee Stranahan’s work at Breitbart. Recent pieces include “Greenwald Defenders Distract from Real Story: There Is No NSA Scandal”, “Timeline: Snowden’s Collaboration with Left-Wing Reporters”, “Fast Food Workers Strike for $15/Hour Wages” (“The entitlement culture has hit the local fast food joint, as strikes and protests are popping up all over the country”), “CNN Launches Dishonest Attack On Clarence Thomas–To Protect Voter Fraud”, “Black Conservatives Speak out on Illegal Immigration”, “Pre Memorial Day, Obama Made Political, Manipulative Speech To Military”, “Rep. Steve King: ‘I Have No Moral Obligation’ To Help Illegal Aliens Stay In USA” (“In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, straight talking Rep. Steve King (R-IA) makes a seldom heard argument that cuts to the heart of the immigration problem.”), etc.

A list of Mandy Nagy’s work at Breitbart can be found here. Much of it is link collections of the day’s tech and media stories, for example, “Social Media Backlash Over Rolling Stone’s Boston Bomber Cover + The Day’s Top Tech Picks”, “Anonymous Hacks North Korea (Again) + The Day’s Top Tech Stories”, “Verizon Handing Over Call Data to NSA + The Day’s Top Tech Stories”, etc.

A brief profile of Pam Key is Meet the Blaze Writers: Pam Key. Her last piece for Breitbart was from April of last year, “Ogletree: I Want ‘First White Victim’ from Stand Your Ground”; others were “Jesse Jackson Calls On Blacks To Wear Hoodies To Polling Places”, “Obama Gaffes: Calls Chair Of Governors Association Wrong Name”, “Santorum Adviser On Michigan: ‘We Have Already Won'”, “Fox News Psychologist: A Weaker America Obama’s Goal”, etc.

66 This feud is discussed in-depth in “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Three”

67 From Indignation:

While the crux of a story can be weaponized and launched on one of my websites, there are often peripheral angles that can be developed elsewhere with a separate but related media life of their own. For instance, the ACORN story was unbelievably complex. A key component of exposing the scandal was a detailed analysis of ACORN’s structure and its past scandals. I knew legal minds were needed to weigh in on these aspects. Patrick Frey, who runs the indispensable Patterico website, created a parallel line of attack, not just against ACORN, but against its myriad defenders, who lied and misdirected to try to kill the story.

68 A good overview of this episode is “Anonymous speaks: the inside story of the HBGary hack” by Peter Bright.

69 This was the clip, “Why I’m Going to Destroy FBI Agent Robert Smith Part Three: Revenge of the Lithe”:

A transcript of this video can be found at freebarrettbrown.org.

70 Some excerpts from a third chat transcript posted at cryptome, “LA Prosecutor Patrick Frey Chats with Barrett Brown 3”. These quotes show Brown more and more overwhelmed with an FBI investigation, where he becomes obsessed with the possible part played by Robert Stacy McCain the confederate champion and Brown’s nemesis, while Frey is certain that someone who Brown has been chatting with, @OccupyUnmasked, is actually one of his own enemies, Neal Rauhauser.

Brown:

I’ve seen several people talking about that “same shit” in last 24 hours since lots of people are following/involved in this sprawling issue, and again will remind you that you and others have jumped to pretty weird conclusions on this before, like Project PM being some kind of persona management club when there’s 3 years of press/paper trail showing otherwise. I’ve made lots of similar mistakes in last 2 years when trying to figure out where certain things were coming from, who’s connected to who and how strongly, etc.

Hey, it’s always possible that I’m wrong on this one and that the guy yesterday was Neal, and that he somehow knew I’d be checking and prepared for that. Stranger things have happened. But please chill out a little on this, especially when I’m just giving you info as-is. I’ve been very nice and even apologetic to you about this mainly because I feel awkward about having worked with Neal in the past and having him hang out in our IRC off and on for a while he’s out there doing whatever ridiculous Twitter shit, but maybe I need to reiterate that I have nothing to do with any of your problems, have given you all info I have on the matter, and have asked you literally one question about that problem. I gave you that info not because it’s fun for me to talk to some prosecutor about the giant fight he’s involved in with one of the 200 people I’ve worked with at some point in last year, but because I felt ethically obligated to do so. It would have been wrong for me not to have told you everything I know that might relate to your SWATing, and I’ll keep sending you anything that I come across regardless of whether you think it’s a secret info trap or whatever no matter how bitchy you get about it to me because I’m trying to be as decent as person as possible to make up for the very imperfect ways I’ve handled things.

Seriously, though, I need you to chill out in general when corresponding with me. I’ve spent hours of my life talking to you about your problems and even sending you e-mails and otherwise getting myself potentially involved in something I don’t want to be in, and still I got a “what have you done for me lately” from you yesterday when I asked about my own goddamn problem for once. Probably I won’t have any more questions for you on this anyway, but can you please remember that you have zero reason to think of me as however you seem to think of me? Probably I came off as kind of an asshole based on all my gloating about how we’d taken down all these other assholes last year, and maybe that’s it, but anyway I’m very ashamed of enjoying all of that, so just deal with me as you would a pretty nice guy who’s trying to help you at the risk of getting some weird nerd pissed off at him, and when he’s got his own shit going on? Thanks.

Frey:

Whoa. Chill out. ALL I am saying is @OccupyUnmasked very very very strongly sounds like Neal.

I’m not accusing you of anything and I appreciate what you have shared. Just relax and stop misreading what I write you as accusatory. OK?

Brown:

I paid attention to what you said. Guess what? McCain is among those trying to destroy me, trying to get me locked up, trying to get me hated and mistrusted by my colleagues. I know you don’t give a shit, which makes sense because you’re a fucking prosecutor and conservative blogger who’s always asking me for shit. I suggest you either learn to deal with me like a human being rather than a fucking blogger or stop communicating with me altogether, as I’ve run out of reasons to give a shit about your fight with people who are being targeted, like me, by your law enforcement buddies.

Frey:

It’s probably not productive to talk to you while you are in your current mood, but let me just suggest that I not blame you for what Rauhauser does and you not blame me for what McCain does (or what other people in my profession do).

I will try to contact him regarding you. Honestly, though, I know less about you than you probably realize. My life doesn’t revolve around the Internet and you might assume I am familiar with things I am not.

From my vantage point I would assume you have bigger worries than McCain. But I could be wrong. If I am it’s probably due to ignorance and not rudeness or whatever you’re thinking.

71 From “The leaked campaign to attack WikiLeaks and its supporters” by Glenn Greenwald:

One section of the leaked report focused on attacking WikiLeaks’ supporters and it featured a discussion of me. A graph purporting to be an “organizational chart” identified several other targets, including former New York Times reporter Jennifer 8 Lee, Guardian reporter James Ball, and Manning supporter David House. The report claimed I was “critical” to WikiLeaks’ public support after its website was removed by Amazon and that “it is this level of support that needs to be disrupted”; absurdly speculated that “without the support of people like Glenn, WikiLeaks would fold”; and darkly suggested that “these are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause.” As The Tech Herald noted, “earlier drafts of the proposal and an email from Aaron Barr used the word ‘attacked’ over ‘disrupted’ when discussing the level of support.”

72 From “Should Reddit Be Blamed for the Spreading of a Smear?” by Jay Caspian Kang:

Talking to someone in Anonymous sometimes feels like a silly metaphysical game. They will tell you nobody is ever “in” Anonymous, because Anonymous “does not exist as an organization,” therefore, as Jackal explained, @YourAnonNews both is and is not a part of Anonymous. He admitted that he has befriended and communicates with other members of Anonymous, but then he told me, with a hint of self-righteousness in his voice, that nobody is a “member” of Anonymous. (At one point, Jackal suggested that I was Anonymous because I had come to Denver without telling anyone why.)

73 Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic by Henri Bergson:

Here I would point out, as a symptom equally worthy of notice, the ABSENCE OF FEELING which usually accompanies laughter. It seems as though the comic could not produce its disturbing effect unless it fell, so to say, on the surface of a soul that is thoroughly calm and unruffled. Indifference is its natural environment, for laughter has no greater foe than emotion. I do not mean that we could not laugh at a person who inspires us with pity, for instance, or even with affection, but in such a case we must, for the moment, put our affection out of court and impose silence upon our pity. In a society composed of pure intelligences there would probably be no more tears, though perhaps there would still be laughter; whereas highly emotional souls, in tune and unison with life, in whom every event would be sentimentally prolonged and re-echoed, would neither know nor understand laughter.

A similar point is made in an interview with Colin Quinn by Michael Musto, “The Last Days of Crisco Disco: Colin Quinn on Gay Bars and Grown Ups [archive link]:

You didn’t stand long on NBC’s The Colin Quinn Show, which lasted only three episodes in 2002. Why?

I think it was too much for them at that time. It was a very shocking show. Very racial and provocative.

Too racy?

Too racial. Racy they don’t mind. Racy is not dangerous to people. When you talk about ethnicity, that’s what freaks out show biz.

But it wasn’t negative, right?

Everything in comedy is negative. Show me something positive and I’ll show you something that’s not funny.

Oh, come on. Kelly Ripa’s a riot. Anyway, why are female comics extra acerbic these days?

They always were because you’ve got to be acerbic. Every comedian has to be their most brutal self just to fucking last. Nobody wants to hear any pleasantries in comedy. No one wants to hear “I walked by this construction site. The workers were a little rude, but god bless them, they work hard.” That’s not funny. “These miserable bastards…”

A dissenting observation is made by Mindy Kaling, a vibrant individual who I’ve always thought of as wonderful and amazing, in Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? She makes clear that she has no problem with merciless teasing, and there is such a thing as too much mercy in comedy, there is also such a thing as too little, without respite:

When I see comedians roasting their victims, and viciously making light of their flaws, I want to put my hand on, say, David Hasselhoff’s shoulder and say, “David, it gets better.” If this isn’t a hate crime, then what is? But mostly, I think of the roasters. Do they call up their parents excitedly, like, “Look, Ma! I made it! I’m eviscerating Pamela Anderson on television tonight for having STDs!” Jeff Ross is one of the most gifted living comedians, in my estimation, and he does roasts all the time, which is incredibly frustrating. Jeff’s stand-up is truly funny, and it’s much more relatable and observational than his roast material. He should have his own show where he’s an awesome leading man. He should not be roasting cast members of Jersey Shore. Watching Jeff do roasts is like watching Andy Roddick destroy at Ping-Pong in your grandfather’s basement.

I do not need to hear people tearing into Lisa Lampanelli for liking to have sex only with black men. I’m sad that this is her famous running gag. I’m sad that I now know this. I’m sad that a legitimate rung on the ladder of making it in comedy is writing hateful stuff about total strangers. I don’t know. I also did not want to see photos of Osama Bin Laden’s dead body. I think the two things are related.

When I watch roasts, I actually feel physically uncomfortable, like when I see a crow feast on a squirrel that has been hit by a car but has not stopped moving yet. The self-proclaimed no-holds-barred atmosphere reminds me of signs for strip clubs on Hollywood Boulevard: “We Have Crazy Girls. They Do Anything!” We don’t have to do anything. Let’s bar some holds.

74 From “Celebrity adopto-babies” by Andrew Breitbart and Mark Ebner:

Jolie boasts of a master plan to raise Maddox on her own, splitting time between the United States and the mystical Cambodia to enable Maddox to stay in touch with his native heritage. Missing from Jolie’s strategy, however, is a father for young Maddox, as she has ruled out getting married again or having a child with another man – or woman.

“I think now having a child would mean that this person would become a father to my son, and that would have to be permanent, and I haven’t had a good experience with that, and with my father, or with the men in my life, seeing long relationships. So, I don’t want to have a temporary father for my son.”

Why is there no concern whatsoever on placing a full-time male role model permanently in his life? Didn’t Anthony Perkins’ star turn as Norman Bates laid out the inevitable ending of that horror story line?

From “Breitbart’s Last Laugh” by Matt Labash:

By way of greeting, I used to ask Breitbart what kind of evil he was up to.

“Most kinds,” he’d say, gamely.

So one could easily have envisioned this being the latest Breitbart media stunt: Fake your own demise, go missing for 24 hours, thus encouraging all your ideological adversaries to bleat and fume and make asses of themselves just to prove what kind of sonsofbitches you were up against. Let the record show that tasteful blogger Matt Yglesias came through like clockwork, nearly getting ahead of the Los Angeles coroner’s announcement by crowing: “Conventions around dead people are ridiculous. The world outlook is slightly improved with @AndrewBreitbart dead.” (Well done, Matt! Perhaps you could pass your thoughtful sentiments on to his fatherless children, since they likely don’t follow you on Twitter. Prick.)

75 “The Plot to Send Justin Bieber to North Korea” [archive link] by Maureen O’Connor; “Mountain Dew Pizza Restaurant Asks Internet to Name Its New Drink, 4chan Happily Obliges [UPDATE]” [archive link] by Neetzan Zimmerman:

Andrew Breitbart Psychosis in a Political Mask

76 “Kim Jong-un Is a Shoo-In for Time’s Most Influential Person of the Year Thanks to 4chan” [archive link] by Neetzan Zimmerman

77 From “Internet Trolls Vote to Send Taylor Swift to Perform at School for the Deaf” [archive link] by Neetzan Zimmerman:

Andrew Breitbart Psychosis in a Political Mask

78 From “4chan Rigs Contest So Creepy Man Can Smell Taylor Swift’s Hair” [archive link] by Neetzan Zimmerman:

79 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

Soon enough, Phelps-Roper was on the line too, and the video segment showed three images: [David] Pakman [the TV host] in a black blazer with his microphone; Shirley with a home printer and bookshelf in the background, her hair pulled back in a ponytail and her eyes ablaze; and a picture of a giant shark being attacked by Batman wielding a light saber-that was Topiary. Whenever Topiary spoke, his own picture glowed blue.

Anonymous Hacks Westboro Baptist Church Website LIVE:

80 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

Topiary didn’t have time to sit back and watch the fallout. He and Tflow were putting up the new LulzSec website, complete with a retro-Nyan Cat design and the soft tones of American jazz singer Jack Jones singing the theme song of The Love Boat in the background. The home page showed Topiary’s revamped “Lulz Boat” lyrics as plain black text in the middle. A link at the bottom offered viewers the option of muting it-when clicked, the link raised the volume by 100 percent. Sabu initially hated the website and yelled at Topiary and Tflow for creating something that had the potential to be DDoS’d, which would make the team look weak. Eventually Topiary convinced him that they should keep it.

81 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

But why Scientology? A bizarre performance by a celebrity and the unusual belief system of Scientology initially appealed to people who browsed image boards and eBaum’s World looking for the strange, new, and titillating. Then Scientology’s attempts to suppress the Cruise video invited a vigilante-style attack to right their wrong. Another factor was Scientology’s almost neurotic defensiveness. The church was well known by this time to have used intimidation tactics against its critics both in real life and on the Web, which made it perfect “troll bait” for the likes of 4chan and the increasingly organized Anons on Partyvan. Scientology’s previous scuffles with online dissenters were already so well known that Canada’s Globe and Mail dubbed its attempts to remove the Cruise video from YouTube “Scientology vs. The Internet, part XVII.” The church had been fighting a war with online dissenters for fifteen years, all the way back to the old days of Usenet newsgroups like alt.religion.scientology in 1994, when ex-members infuriated the church by leaking secret documents.

Then Anonymous found another way to cause a stir. Back in #marblecake, Housh had noticed one team member who had been quiet for the past four days. He asked him to figure out how many cities and countries were being represented on the chat network. When the scout came back, he reported that there were 140 to 145 different Chanology channels and participants in forty-two countries in total.

“What do we do with all these people?” one of the team asked. They started searching the Internet to see what opponents of Scientology had done in the past and stumbled across a video of anti-Scientology campaigner Tory “Magoo” Christmam, who was dancing and shouting in front of a Scientology center.

Of course, not everyone liked where this was going. Activism was not what Anonymous was about, some argued, and betrayed its origins in fun and lulz. Many of the original /b/tards who had pushed for a Scientology raid were now criticizing the continuing campaign as being hijacked by “moralfags.”

Over the next few months, more people from 4chan, 711chan, and IRC were taking part in real-world protests. On February 2, 2008, about 150 people gathered for the first time outside a Church of Scientology center in Orlando, Florida. A week later, the Tampa Bay Tribune reported that seven thousand people had protested against church centers in seventy-three cities worldwide. Often the protesters were people in their teens and early twenties, standing in groups or sitting around in lawn chairs, holding signs with Internet memes and yelling at passersby. Some of the participants saw the demonstrations as being tongue-in-cheek, an elaborate prank by the Internet itself on an established organization. Many others took the protests seriously and held up signs with messages like “$cientology Kills.” One YouTube account associating itself with Anonymous ran a regular news program on YouTube called AnonyNews. It featured an anchor reporting on the real-life protests around the world. He wore a dark suit and a red tie, slicked-back hair, and the same grinning white mask worn by the protagonist V in the 2006 dystopian movie V for Vendetta that was fast becoming a symbol for Anonymous. This was thanks to a key scene in the film, which showed thousands of people wearing V’s mask in solidarity with the main character, loosely based on British revolutionary Guy Fawkes.

That V mask was everywhere at Anonymous’s demonstrations, hiding protesters’ faces so that in at least some form they could still be anonymous in the real world. Over time, the mask would come to represent the one-half of Anonymous who took the idea of revolution and protest seriously. People like William, who thought Anonymous should be about fun and pranks, abhorred it.

82 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

“We tried to tell her Anonymous isn’t nice and it isn’t your friend,” [Wesley] Bailey [another member of Anonymous] said. “We tried to tell her these aren’t good people. They are doing fucked-up things because it’s funny.” Eventually, Emick became a target herself.

83 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

On September 8, an article about an Indian software company called Aiplex started getting passed around online. Girish Kumar, Aiplex’s CEO, had boasted to the press that his company was acting as a hit man for Bollywood, India’s booming film industry. Aiplex didn’t just sell software. It was working on behalf of movie studios to attack websites that allowed people to download pirated copies of their films.

Recently, for instance, it had launched DDoS attacks against several torrent sites, including the most famous of them all, The Pirate Bay.

Two days later they began circulating a message to the media, saying that Anonymous was avenging The Pirate Bay by hitting copyright associations and “their hired gun,” Aiplex. They called the attacks “Operation: Payback Is A Bitch” and claimed to have taken down Aiplex thanks to a “SINGLE ANON” with a botnet.

84 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

The group then hit another copyright organization, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

About a week after the DDoS attack on Aiplex, the hackers in Tflow’s group carried out the first SQL injection attack in their campaign, possibly one of the first to be committed under the banner of Anonymous. They hacked into the CopyrightAlliance.org Web server and replaced the site with the same message used on September 19, “Payback Is A Bitch.”

85 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

Now, though, the operators were doing more than just maintaining the chat network. They were organizing an attack on the PayPal blog, where the company had made its announcement about WikiLeaks. On Saturday morning, December 4, the day after PayPal said it would cut funding, the AnonOps organizers DDoS’d thepaypalblog.com. The blog went down at 8:00 a.m. eastern standard time.

Botnets, not masses of volunteers, were the real reason Anonymous could successfully take down the website of PayPal twice, then MasterCard.com for twelve hours on December 8 and Visa.com for more than twelve hours on the same day. According to one source, there were at most two botnets used to support AnonOps before November 30, rising to a peak of roughly five botnets until February, before the number of botnets went down to one or two again. Only a handful of people could call the shots with bots. For the most part, they were not lending their firepower for money. “People offered things because they believed in the same idea,” claimed the source. More than that, they liked showing off how much power they had.

86 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

Sabu’s real name was Hector Xavier Monsegur. He lived in a low-income housing project on New York’s Lower East Side, and with help from government welfare, he supported his five brothers, a sister, two female cousins for whom he was legal guardian, and a white pit bull named China. Monsegur would refer to the two girls, who were seven and twelve, respectively, in 2012, as his daughters. He was of Puerto Rican descent and a stickler for left-wing activism.

He had meanwhile discovered hacktivism. When he was sixteen and watching TV one day, Monsegur saw a news broadcast about protests in Vieques, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Navy had been using the surrounding waters as a test-bombing range, and a year earlier, in 1999, a stray bomb had killed a local civilian guard. The guard’s funeral received global press attention and sparked a wave of protests against the bombings.

By this point, Monsegur was regularly using the nickname Sabu, borrowed from the professional wrestler who was popular in the 1990s for his extreme style, and who played up his minority status by claiming to be from Saudi Arabia, when he was actually from Detroit and of Lebanese descent. Sabu, similarly, claimed online to be born and bred in Puerto Rico.

87 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

By now Topiary was almost eighteen and, in the offline world as Jake, had moved out of his mother’s home on the tiny island of Yell. He lived in a small, government-financed house in Lerwick, the capital of Shetland Mainland, and had been out of the education system for four years. Lerwick was more modern than Yell, but not by much. There were still no fast-food restaurants, no big department stores.

His home was part of an assortment of chalet-style wooden houses on a hillside about a twenty-minute walk from the center of Lerwick, in an area known as Hoofields. Drug raids by the police were common on his street, some of his neighbors being avid heroin users.

88 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

Then on July 20, two days after the Sun hack, Topiary was reading the news, and his heart leaped into his throat. According to a Fox news report, British police had arrested a suspected core member of LulzSec in London, a man who went by the nickname Tflow. The official statement said that the male they had arrested was sixteen. Topiary read that again. Tflow, the genius programmer who had written the Tunisian anti-snooping web script, configured their website, compiled all that data, was just sixteen years old. He checked his IRC client and saw the last message he’d received from Tflow had been just four hours before his arrest:

“Nice work with Sun. Do you guys have everything you need for a proper e-mail release? I don’t want to leave you guys hanging.” And that was it. Tflow had been the most reserved member of LulzSec. Mysterious, mature, and quiet, he was assumed by most people on the team to be in his twenties. He was a levelheaded programmer and evaded most questions about himself and his personal life—the complete opposite of Kayla.

Though Tflow’s name was unknown at the time of the publication of Olson’s book, it was revealed in recent articles on the group’s sentencing. From ““The cutting edge of cybercrime”—Lulzsec hackers get up to 32 months in jail” by Peter Bright:

LONDON, UK—The four British Lulzsec hackers—Mustafa “tflow” al-Bassam, Ryan “kayla” Ackroyd, Jake “topiary” Davis, and Ryan “ViraL” Cleary—were sentenced today to between 20 and 32 months in jail for crimes committed during Lulzsec’s 50 day hacking spree in 2011. Prosecutors described the men as being at the “cutting edge of contemporary and emerging criminal offending known as cybercrime” and as “latter-day pirates.”

At previous hearings, al-Bassam, 18, of Peckham, London, and Davis, 20, of the Shetland Islands, entered guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy to commit DDoS attacks against targets including Westboro Baptist Church, Sony, Bethesda, and EVE Online. They also pled to conspiracy to hack targets including Nintendo, Sony (again), PBS, and HBGary. Ackroyd, 26, of Yorkshire, pled guilty only to the hacking charge.

89 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

Kayla claimed that, along with being a sixteen-year-old girl, her parents had split when she was eleven. The story went that her father had been the more stable parent and taken custody, then moved with her to a remote town where there were few kids Kayla’s age nearby. With little else to do, she started chatting with her old friends on MSN Messenger, logging in with her real name (which she said was also “Kayla”) and other credentials. Her father, she said, was a software engineer who worked from home, and the house was littered with books on computer programming, Linux Kernel, Intel, and networking. She started reading his books and asking him questions about what he did. Encouraged by her enthusiasm, he sat with her in front of a computer and showed her how to find bugs in C source code and exploit them, then how to bypass them. Soon she was immersing herself in scripting languages like Perl, Python, and PHP, learning how to attack Web databases with the SQL injection method. It was mostly harmless, but by the time she was fourteen, Kayla claimed she was writing scripts that could automate cyber attacks.

Seven months earlier, on September 2, 2011, British police had pulled up to a family-sized house in the quiet English suburb of Mexborough, South Yorkshire. It was a cold and gray morning. One of the officers had a laptop open and was watching the @lolspoon Twitter feed, waiting for the hacker known as “Kayla” to post another tweet. When she did, several more burst in the house through a back entrance, climbed the stairs to the bedroom of Ryan Mark Ackroyd, walked in, and arrested him. Ackroyd was twenty-five and had served in the British army for four years, spending some of that time in Iraq. Now he was unemployed and living with his parents. Appearance-wise he was short, had deep-set eyebrows and dark hair in a military-style crew cut. When he spoke, the voice that emerged was a deep baritone, and the accent strongly northern English. Ackroyd’s younger sister, petite and blond, was, perhaps tellingly, named Kayleigh.

Though Kayla insisted that online life was hard because she was female, the opposite was more likely true. The real person behind her nickname was guaranteed to get more attention and more opportunities to hack others by being a friendly and mysterious girl. Females were a rare sight on image boards and hacking forums; hence the online catchphrase “There are no girls on the Internet,” and why posing as a girl has been a popular tactic for Internet trolls for years.

90 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

Gawker had once been in Anon’s good books. It had been the first news site to boldly publish the crazy Tom Cruise video that helped spark Chanology. But then the site’s famously snarky voice turned on Anonymous, reporting on major 4chan raids as examples of mass bullying. After Gawker’s Internet reporter Adrian Chen wrote several stories that poked fun at Anonymous, mocking its lack of real hacking skills and 4chan’s cat fights with Tumblr, regulars on /b/ tried to launch a DDoS attack on Gawker itself, but the attack failed. In response, Gawker writer Ryan Tate published a story on July 19, 2010, about the failed raid, adding that Gawker refused to be intimidated. If “sad 4chaners have a problem with that, you know how to reach me,” he added. Kayla, at the time, had bristled at the comment and felt her usual urge to punish anyone who underestimated her, and now Anonymous.

“We didn’t really care about it till they were like, ‘lol you can’t hack us no one can hack us,’” Kayla later said in an interview. Though Gawker had not said this literally, it was the message Kayla heard.

91 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

They lurked for two months before a member of the group finally hacked into the Twitter account of tech blog Gizmodo, part of Gawker Media, and Kayla decided to publish the private account details of the 1.3 million Gawker users on a simple web page. One member of her team suggested selling the database, but Kayla wanted to make it public. This wasn’t about profit, but revenge.

On December 12, at around eleven in the morning eastern time, Kayla came onto #InternetFeds to let the others know about her side operation against Gawker, and that it was about to become public. The PayPal and MasterCard attacks had peaked by now, and Kayla had hardly been involved. This was how she often worked—striking out on her own with a few other hacker friends to take revenge on a target she felt personally affronted by.

“If you guys are online tomorrow, me and my friends are releasing everything we have onto 4chan /b/,” she said. The following day, she and the others graced the “sad 4chaners” themselves with millions of user accounts from Gawker so that people like William could have fun with its account holders.

The best short account of the HBGary hack is “Anonymous speaks: the inside story of the HBGary hack” by Peter Bright.

From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

Awinee and many other “Twitter trolls” appeared to align themselves with The Jester, the ex-military hacker who had DDoS’d WikiLeaks in December of 2010, then taken down the Westboro Baptist Church sites in February. He was never as dangerous as the actual police, but he was certainly a source of drama and distraction. The Jester hung out in an IRC channel called #Jester, on a network aligned with the magazine 2600: The Hacker Quarterly.

Topiary and Kayla decided that, high on their victory against PBS, it was time to go after their biggest detractor, The Jester. They would not just spam his channel #Jester and boot off his so-called Jesterfags but flood the entire 2600 chat network with junk traffic and take all of it offline. It may have housed hundreds of participants, but it was still The Jester’s hideout, and Topiary hoped that the result would be the 2600 admins getting angry not at LulzSec but at The Jester for provoking them.

Storm would use his server to aim junk packets at certain sections of the 2600 chat network, server nodes of the network known as leaves. If you’re sending junk packets instead of useful data, it can overload a server and take it offline. An IRC network was like a tree, and 2600 had three so-called leaves. Instead of attacking the whole network at once, Storm flooded each individual leaf. Using this plan, he could needle the hundreds of participants to scramble from one leaf to another instead of disconnecting altogether and waiting for the network to come back up. The ultimate goal was to annoy them as much as possible.

Through the IRC command map, the LulzSec group could watch how many users were on each of their enemy network’s leaves. Before Storm’s attack there had been about six hundred people on all leaves, and then the number started dropping. In just over ten minutes, one of the leaves went down.

After seven minutes, as the users were jumping around to stay connected, Storm took down another leaf and kept it down for about fifteen minutes. He let it up again for twenty minutes so participants would think everything was okay, and then he took it down again.

92 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

In mid-May, the PBS news program Frontline showed a documentary about WikiLeaks that Sabu didn’t like one bit. It painted Julian Assange in a bad light. When he talked about it to the group, everyone else agreed. By chance, Kayla had found a vulnerability in one of PBS’s websites a few weeks earlier with her auto-scanning bot. Now Sabu asked the team if they agreed to make PBS their next big target. Never mind that it was America’s public broadcasting service and home to Sesame Street. There was no question—everyone was up for it.

In about fifteen minutes Topiary had written up an elaborate story, paragraph by paragraph, in the IRC chat, titled “Tupac Found Alive in New Zealand”:

Prominent rapper Tupac has been found alive and well in a small resort in New Zealand, locals report. The small town—unnamed due to security risks—allegedly housed Tupac and Biggie Smalls (another rapper) for several years. One local, David File, recently passed away, leaving evidence and reports of Tupac’s visit in a diary, which he requested be shipped to his family in the United States.

“We were amazed to see what David left behind,” said one of [his] sisters, Jasmine, aged 31. “We thought it best to let the world know as we feel this doesn’t deserve to be kept secret.”

David, aged 28, was recently the victim of a hit-and-run by local known gangsters. Having suffered several bullet wounds on his way home from work, David was announced dead at the scene. Police found the diary in a bedside drawer.

“Naturally we didn’t read the diary,” one officer stated. “We merely noted the request to have it sent to a U.S. address, which we did to honor the wishes of David.”

Officials have closed down routes into the town and will not speculate as to whether Tupac or Biggie have been transported to another region or country. Local townsfolk refuse to comment on exactly how long or why the rappers were being sheltered; one man simply says “we don’t talk about that here.”

The family of David File have since requested that more action be taken to arrest those responsible for the shooting. “David was a lovely, innocent boy,” reported his mother. “When he moved to New Zealand, he’d never been happier.”

His brother Jason requested that one part of David’s diary be made public in an attempt to decipher it. “Near the end,” Jason says, “there’s a line that reads ‘yank up as a vital obituary’, which we’ve so far been unable to comprehend.”

David’s girlfriend, Penny, did not wish to make a statement.

The final line in the elaborate story was a nod to HBGary’s Penny Leavy, while the phrase yank up as a vital obituary was another calling card: an anagram for Sabu, Kayla, Topiary, AVunit.

93 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson, on the Sony hack:

When the group entered the network they found a massive vault of information. It took a while to make sense of the data, but soon they had found a database with two hundred thousand users.

More shocking was that all of the data, including passwords, were stored in plaintext. The only encrypted passwords were those of server admins, and the team managed to crack those anyway.

Thirty-eight minutes after the release, Aaron Barr tweeted that LulzSec had released stolen Sony data. “The amount of user data appears significant.” In forty-five minutes fifteen thousand people had looked at the message, a rate of eighteen people a second, and two thousand had downloaded the package of Sony data from file-sharing website MediaFire.

About the Infragard hit:

With the world’s attention now moving to LulzSec and the fighting words from the U.S. administration, it seemed as good a time as any to drop the FBI affiliate Atlanta Infragard. They’d had the site under their control for months and felt they now had enough on white hat Hijazi to expose him at the same time. This would bring more heat than ever on LulzSec, but the group was on a roll and felt safe.

“Oops,” Sabu told the others. “Just deleted everything. rm –rf /*.” Kayla made the face-palm gesture, and everyone moved on. On top of everything they had already done, deleting the Infragard website contents didn’t seem like a big deal. They then used the /xOOPS.php shell to upload a giant image and title onto the Infragard home page—their deface. It was no serious admonishment of the FBI but another prank aimed at Jester’s crew. The team had replaced the Atlanta Infragard home page with a YouTube video of an Eastern European TV reporter interviewing an impeccably drunk man at a disco. Someone had added subtitles spoofing him as a wannabe hacker from 2600 who didn’t understand what LulzSec was doing. Above the video was the title “LET IT FLOW YOU STUPID FBI BATTLESHIPS,” in a window captioned “NATO—National Agency of Tiny Origamis LOL.”

94 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson, on the Sony hack:

Topiary had an idea. Instead of making prank calls, what if they got LulzSec’s Twitter followers to call them? Topiary suggested setting up a Google Voice number so that anyone in the world could call LulzSec (or at least himself). He wanted the number to spell out the group’s name, as in 1-800-LULZSEC, but he couldn’t find an area code where the number would work. Eager to prove himself, Ryan spent hours going through every possible U.S. number till he found that 614, the area code for Columbus, Ohio, was available with the corresponding digits. They now had a telephone hotline: 1-614-LULZSEC.

It was a free Google number that directed to their new Skype Unlimited-World-Extra number that in turn could bypass to two other potential numbers registered to fake IP addresses. The pair created two voice-mail messages, using voice alteration and over-the-top French accents for the fictional names Pierre Dubois and Francois Deluxe, saying they couldn’t come to the phone because “We are busy raping your Internets.”

When Topiary started thinking about the Internet meme phrase “How do magnets work?” made famous by the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse, he called up the offices at Magnets.com. He asked the woman who answered that question and got a bemused response, hung up, then redirected the LulzSec hotline to the main switchboard of Magnets.com.

“Everyone call 614-LULZSEC for a fun surprise,” he tweeted. About three minutes later he called the number again and heard dozens of phones going off at the same time with answers of “This is Magnets.com…Uh…” He asked to speak to a manager. When a man’s voice came on, Topiary explained the reason for the flood of strange calls. To his credit, the manager took it in good humor.

With a few clicks he stopped the hotline from redirecting, and he heard all the phones in the background suddenly go silent. It was like a DDoS attack by telephone. It made sense to keep this going. Soon he was redirecting the LulzSec hotline to the World of Warcraft online game, then to the main switchboard for FBI Detroit, and then, naturally, to the offices of HBGary Inc.

95 From We Are Anonymous:

Soon, though, Ryan started to get restless. He wanted to do more than just play around with hotline callers; he wanted to go back to hitting websites, bigger ones. He had a rapt audience now, and a gang of people who were willing to go after the big names under this banner of LulzSec, or Antisec, or Anonymous. Whatever. On his own initiative, he hooked up his botnet, then called up most of his bots and aimed at the main website of America’s Central Intelligence Agency. Then he fired.

Within a few minutes, CIA.gov had gone down.

“CIA ovened,” Ryan said on Skype before beginning a monologue about how he disliked the United States. Topiary was stunned. He visited the CIA’s main site and saw it really was down. He couldn’t help feeling a little uncomfortable. This was big. But he couldn’t leave it unannounced. Through Twitter he said, almost quietly:

“Tango down—cia.gov—for the lulz.”

News outlets on television, print, and the Web instantly took notice and published screaming headlines that LulzSec had just hit the CIA. A few said, incorrectly, that the CIA had been “hacked.” LulzSec was clearly provoking the authorities now, almost inviting them to come and arrest the group.

96 From We Are Anonymous:

Topiary eventually came across a new op that he couldn’t say no to. He didn’t want to get too involved, but a hacker with ties to LulzSec had found a vulnerability in the website for the Sun, a tabloid that was the most popular newspaper in the United Kingdom. It was also a staple title in News International, the media powerhouse owned by Rupert Murdoch.

The hackers who had contacted Topiary on AnonOps wanted him to write a spoof news story reminiscent of his Tupac article on PBS. It was a simple job, and Topiary agreed, thinking it was a good idea. The hackers had managed to take almost absolute control over theSun.co.uk and on July 18 broke into the tabloid’s network and redirected every link on the Sun’s website to Topiary’s story. It was headlined “Media Moguls [sic] Body Discovered” and detailed how Murdoch had been discovered dead in his garden. Topiary couldn’t leave it without a calling card for himself and one of the hackers, adding that Murdoch had “ingested a large quantity of palladium before stumbling into his famous topiary garden.” When News International released an official statement about the attack, the hackers reconfigured the page so it linked to the LulzSec Twitter feed.

97 This point is brought up in-depth in “American Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Two”.

98 From We Are Anonymous:

On August 15, he stood before a judge at a second secret hearing in the Southern District Court of New York and pleaded guilty to twelve charges, mostly related to computer hacking. Sabu agreed to help the FBI, and federal prosecutors agreed not to try Sabu for several other crimes he had committed outside the world of hacking. These included carrying a handgun, selling one pound of marijuana in 2010 and four pounds of weed in 2003, buying stolen jewelry and electronics, and running up $15,000 in charges on the credit card of a former employer. And there were plenty of other misdemeanors Sabu had carried out online; detectives found out he had hacked into an online casino and, in 2010, had hacked into a car parts company and shipped himself four car engines worth $3,450. Given how enthusiastically Sabu had boasted about his decade “underground” in which he had “owned entire governments,” there was possibly plenty more the police missed. But the Feds were more interested in the other prosecutions that Sabu could help them with.

“Since literally the day he was arrested, the defendant has been cooperating with the government proactively,” U.S. district attorney James Pastore, the prosecuting lawyer, told the judge during the August hearing. “He has been staying up sometimes all night engaging in conversations with co-conspirators that are helping the government to build cases against those co-conspirators.” Pastore read out the charges and said they could lead to a total maximum sentence of a hundred and twenty-two and a half years in prison. If Monsegur followed his “cooperation agreement” with the federal government, he could get a shorter sentence.

99 From We Are Anonymous:

The FBI wanted to capitalize on their Lower East Side snitch as much as possible. He had helped patch those flaws, and the announcement of his arrest and the revelation of his duplicity would devastate the socially disruptive ideas of Anonymous and Antisec. But the Feds could not know for sure how useful Hector Monsegur would continue to be. Though he was smart and well connected, he was also a loose cannon. One evening in early February, a cop from the NYPD encountered Hector at another apartment in his neighborhood. He asked Hector for his ID.

“My name is Boo. They call me Boo,” Hector replied. “Relax. I’m a federal agent. I am an agent of the federal government.” It seemed that Hector had started to believe that he was both Sabu and a bona fide FBI agent. That same evening he was charged with criminal impersonation.

100 From “The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State” by Janet Reitman:

Hammond, who has never admitted to any of the nine nicknames the government claims he operated under, has pleaded innocent to the Stratfor hack. But he has not disavowed his involvement with Anonymous, nor his desire to “push the struggle in a more direct action, explicitly anti-capitalist and anti-state direction,” as he wrote to me from Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he has been held for the past eight months awaiting a bail hearing. Indeed, his hallmark as an activist has always been his revolutionary, militant rhetoric, for which he is unapologetic. “I have always made it clear that I am an anarchist-communist – as in I believe we need to abolish capitalism and the state in its entirety to realize a free, egalitarian society,” he wrote. “I’m not into watering down or selling out the message or making it more marketable for the masses.”

101 From “The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State” by Janet Reitman:

This didn’t always go over well in Glendale Heights – an area Hammond’s friend Matt Muchowski describes as “part Rust Belt, part Disney World. There are a ton of Walmarts and Niketowns, so what you get growing up is a pod-person mentality: The only job that’s there for you is at the mall.”

A math and science whiz with an IQ of 168, Hammond “talked so fast it was like his mouth couldn’t keep up with his brain,” says one friend. At home, with no women around, the two brothers spent endless hours building cities with their immense Lego kits, or devouring the books in their dad’s extensive library, which ran the gamut from Fight Club and The Catcher in the Rye to Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book and Revolution for the Hell of It.

At Glenbard East High School in nearby Lombard, Illinois, the Hammond twins were part of a crowd of “very smart kids looking for something more than they’d find in high school,” as one friend, Matt Zito, recalls. Politicized, like many, by the attacks of 9/11, Jeremy was an outspoken critic of the Bush administration and the “blind patriotism” he saw as leading the U.S. to war. In his senior year he founded an underground newspaper to encourage students to question the conventional political narrative “and most of all think,” as he wrote in his first editor’s letter. “WAKE UP . . . Your mind is programmable – if you’re not programming your mind, someone else will program it for you.”

Hammond also “brought the ruckus,” as he put it, in a more serious way: joining the militant and masked black bloc anarchists, getting into scuffles with cops and amassing an impressive rap sheet. Between the ages of 18 and 21, he was arrested 10 times in three different states.

102 From “The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State” by Janet Reitman:

It was here that Hammond began to meet so-called black-hat hackers who worked below the radar to take down websites for fun or profit, or sometimes both. “These people had large amounts of power – where one hacker could outsmart a whole company,” he recalls. Street activists had very little power – but they had the politics to power the revolution. What if these two worlds could merge? “I thought hacking could be a tool – a weapon to disrupt abusive corporations.”

On Hammond’s change after prison:

Hammond ultimately confessed to the hack and was sentenced to two years at the Federal Correctional Institute at Greenville, Illinois, about 250 miles from Chicago. He doesn’t speak very much about Greenville, but his mother suggests it was a far cry from the Cook County jail, where he had been held on numerous occasions. “The first time I went to visit him, he’d been there less than a month and he was trembling,” she says. “He told me, ‘Mom, when I get out, I’m going to be a better person.’ He was scared. I thought, ‘This is not my Jeremy.'”

He emerged from Greenville 18 months later a changed man. “He seemed angry and really militant,” says his former housemate Scott Scurvy, who points out that before going to prison, Hammond had an almost Merry Prankster-like take on activism. Now, “he was talking about ‘cracking skulls’ on people he perceived as racist or homophobic. He kind of tripped me out.”

103 From “The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State” by Janet Reitman, on Hammond’s view of Anonymous:

In Chicago, Hammond was aware of Anonymous but had dismissed it. “I didn’t take them seriously. These weren’t, like, super-voodoo hackers,” he says. But he began to realize the political potential of Anonymous once they launched Operation Avenge Assange in December 2010, shortly after PayPal, Visa, MasterCard and several other financial institutions abruptly stopped processing donations to Wikileaks, which had come under fire for publishing the diplomatic cables leaked by Bradley Manning. Organizing online, Anonymous held what electronic-freedom activists call a “digital sit-in,” encouraging thousands of people to download an online tool called the Low Orbit Ion Cannon, or LOIC, to bombard the companies’ websites and knock them offline.

On sup_g and Sabu:

But Sabu’s core talent had always been as a fixer: bringing information provided to him by other hackers to people like sup_g, who could exploit it to the fullest. According to CC3, last November a hacker nobody knew told Sabu about a security hole in the website of a company called Strategic Forecasting Inc. Sabu handed that information to his team. Over the next few weeks, as his crew worked away, sup_g checked in with Sabu, giving him status updates. Needing a place to store the pilfered data, sup_g also accepted Sabu’s offer to provide an external server, in New York. When the transfer was complete and Stratfor’s website defaced, Sabu took to Twitter to announce the hack, and by Christmas the attack was all over the news.

About Hammond’s on-line identities:

Hammond, who has never admitted to any of the nine nicknames the government claims he operated under, has pleaded innocent to the Stratfor hack.

104 From The New Hate by Arthur Goldwag:

The Protocols was exposed as a hoax in August 1921, when the Constantinople correspondent of the London Times, Philip Graves, published a series of articles that revealed that a large part of its text had been lifted virtually intact from Maurice Joly’s Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu (The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu). A thinly disguised satire of Napoleon III, who, Joly believed, cloaked his illegitimate despotism in the trappings of the liberal state, the Dialogue was printed in Geneva and Brussels in 1864 and 1868 and smuggled into France.

On the Special Study Group hoax:

In 1967 in New York, Victor Navasky, the future editor of The Nation, who had lately been editor of a left-leaning humor magazine called Monocle that he founded with Calvin Trillin and others when they were students at Yale, noticed a news item about a stock market dip that was precipitated by a “peace scare.” What would happen, he wondered, if the government were to commission a think tank to consider the dire economic implications of a permanent peace? He talked his friend Leonard C. Lewin, a former labor organizer and freelance writer, into writing a book based on that very premise. Lewin dreamed up a top secret, blue-ribbon interdisciplinary Special Study Group that met in “an underground nuclear hideout for hundreds of large American corporations” near Hudson, New York. Its fifteen members included a distinguished historian, an economist, a sociologist, a cultural anthropologist, a mathematician, a literary critic, a systems planner, a businessman, and a physical chemist. Then he concocted a copiously footnoted Rand Corporation–style report, written in dense, cold-blooded bureaucratese, which promoted the political, cultural, and economic benefits of war.

Strangely (and appropriately) enough, Lewin’s book was reprinted by the far-right Liberty Lobby’s Noontide Press in the 1990s as nonfiction; Lewin sued them for copyright infringement and won. Undeterred, conspiracist Web sites continue to post the full text of the book to this day. One appends a brief note mentioning Lewin’s claim that the book was a hoax. “The only problem with this ‘hoax,’ ” it demurs, “is that everything in the original book has worked out to be true. So whether the original title is a hoax or not is irrelevant. The original book is a blueprint for the present and the future.”

105 From We Are Anonymous:

Straightaway Topiary wrote up a new official statement saying that Antisec would “begin today,” calling on more people to join the cyber insurgency LulzSec was spontaneously reviving. On the evening of Sunday, June 19, he published a statement inviting white hats, black hats, and gray hats, and just about anyone else, to join the rebellion. Later he said that writing it was, as usual, like writing a piece of fiction:

“Salutations Lulz Lizards,” it started. “As we’re aware, the government and whitehat security terrorists across the world continue to dominate and control our Internet ocean…We are now teaming up with Anonymous and all affiliated battleships….We fully endorse the flaunting of the word ‘Antisec’ on any government website defacement or physical graffiti art.…Top priority is to steal and leak any classified government information, including email spools and documentation. Prime targets are banks and other high-ranking establishments.”

106 A good analysis of this is “Anarchists of the House” by Jonathan Chait; another is “The Right’s Latest Scheme to Sabotage Obamacare” by Jonathan Cohn.

107 A good profile of Brown is “Barrett Brown is Anonymous” by Tim Rogers; the work of Project PM is discussed in “How Barrett Brown shone light on the murky world of security contractors” by Arun Gupta.

108 McCain’s anachronistic views on interracial marriage and his association with The League of the South are described in “He’s Back: Robert Stacy McCain and the Washington Times” by Heidi Beirich. This is the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) entry on the Confederate organization, League of the South.

109 From We Are Anonymous:

The son of a wealthy real estate investor, Brown had a penchant for pin-striped shirts and cowboy boots, as well as a knack for keeping Topiary’s interest piqued. “We’re about to unravel something big,” he’d say.

“To begin with I felt sorry for him,” Topiary later remembered. “He was putting in a lot of hard work, but just came across the wrong way to Anon.” It didn’t help that his IRC nickname was BarrettBrown. “Everyone hated him. There were all kinds of anti-Barrett discussions in private channels, often mocking his methods and drug addiction.” Brown was widely known in the Anon community to take hard drugs. One journalist who interviewed him over lunch recalled Brown starting off by smoking a joint, drinking alcohol, and shunning food throughout the meal, then taking a dose of a synthetic form of heroin—all the while speaking with extraordinary lucidity. Topiary dropped hints when he could that Brown wasn’t so bad if they overlooked a few things, but Brown’s rambling YouTube videos and conspiracies “just made things worse.”

110 The rant on youtube by Barrett Brown, “Why I’m Going to Destroy FBI Agent Robert Smith Part Three: Revenge of the Lithe”:

“Barrett Brown Arrested: Former Anonymous Spokesman Taken Into Custody After Threatening FBI Agent” by Gerry Smith.

111 From Taipei by Tao Lin:

At some point, Paul vaguely realized, technology had begun for him to mostly only indicate the inevitability and vicinity of nothingness. Instead of postponing death by releasing nanobots into the bloodstream to fix things faster than they deteriorated, implanting little computers into people’s brains, or other methods Paul had probably read about on Wikipedia, until it became the distant, shrinking, nearly nonexistent somethingness that was currently life-and life, for immortal humans, became the predominate distraction that was currently death-technology seemed more likely to permanently eliminate life by uncontrollably fulfilling its only function: to indiscriminately convert matter, animate or inanimate, into computerized matter, for the sole purpose, it seemed, of increased functioning, until the universe was one computer. Technology, an abstraction, undetectable in concrete reality, was accomplishing its concrete task, Paul dimly intuited while idly petting Erin’s hair, by way of an increasingly committed and multiplying workforce of humans, who receive, over hundreds of generations, a certain kind of advancement (from feet to bicycles to cars, faces to bulletin boards to the internet) in exchange for converting a sufficient amount of matter into computerized matter for computers to be able to build themselves.

112 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

There hadn’t been much time to check over the press release, and there was no editing. Once everything was ready, Topiary published it. The press release was titled “Chinga La Migra” and next to it were the words “Off the pigs”; beside that was the image of an AK-47 machine gun fashioned from keyboard symbols. Topiary did a double take. When he reread the press release, now public for everyone to see, he didn’t see LulzSec’s usual lighthearted dig at a large, faceless institution but an aggressive polemic against real police officers that revealed their home addresses. When he Googled Chinga La Migra, he learned it was a Spanish phrase for “fuck the police.” He immediately regretted posting the other hacker’s statement. It was almost encouraging people to attack cops. It turned out Tflow had also Googled Chinga La Migra and felt exactly the same way.

He sent Topiary a message. It was too much. The statement had made him feel “radicalized.”

“We don’t want to get police officers killed,” Topiary replied, agreeing. “That’s not my kind of style.” It wasn’t Tflow’s either.

113 From “The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State” by Janet Reitman:

One of those people who seemed drawn to the larger struggle was a hacker named Sabu. Born Hector Xavier Monsegur in 1983, he’d grown up in a family of drug dealers – both his father and his aunt went to prison for heroin trafficking in 1997 – and was raised by his grandmother Irma in the Jacob Riis projects of New York’s Lower East Side. A husky, bookish kid, he’d never really fit in among the gangsters and street hustlers of his mostly Puerto Rican neighborhood, but he had a natural gift for computers, as well as a rebellious streak. At 14, around the age that Hammond was wowing the Apple “geniuses,” Monsegur, whose family couldn’t afford an Internet connection, had figured out a way to get on EarthLink for free and proceeded to teach himself Linux, Unix and open-source networking. When he was 16, he defaced several Puerto Rican government websites after a U.S. Navy live-fire exercise on the island of Vieques accidentally killed a local civilian. But he was also an opportunist.

Before long, Anonymous gave Monsegur a mission – he’d later say it was a movement he had been waiting for his entire life. Calling himself Sabu, he began working his way through the various Internet relay chats (IRCs) in Anonops, the IRC network where hacktivists gathered, into the smaller, private chat rooms where illegal actions were planned. When the Middle East exploded in January 2011, he eagerly took part in what Anonymous called the “Freedom Ops”: waging war, from his computer, on the websites of the oppressive governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya and Bahrain. Yet, unlike Hammond, whose revolutionary ideology infused every aspect of his life, Sabu’s nobility of purpose was limited. His main cause, now as always, was himself. “Sabu,” one hacker later noted, “believes in Sabu.”

Most experienced hackers knew that Sabu wasn’t as talented as he purported to be. He had not, for example, hacked HBGary, as he claimed, but had only “social engineered” a password out of the company’s IT security manager. More troubling were persistent rumors of his having been compromised, even possibly arrested, after he was “doxed” by Jennifer Emick. But the newest member of Sabu’s inner circle didn’t seem to care. “Sup_g wasn’t very interested in all the drama. He just wanted action,” says one Antisec hacker. “But the thing is, you need to keep track of the drama in Anonymous. Many times, following the drama can save your life.”

From “Hello, I Am Sabu … ” by Steve Fishman:

For Monsegur, the computer was his refuge. “When he closed his eyes, he could see Sweden and Tunisia,” said Stanley ­Cohen, a lawyer who’s known him for years. Even as a teenager, Monsegur had awesome computer skills—at 14, he taught himself to program in Linux, the open-source operating system, and hacked his way to a free Internet connection. His hacking life began in earnest the next year, 1999, after a Puerto Rican was accidentally killed during a botched bombing run by a Marine Corps plane near a test range on the island of Vieques.

Sabu’s online fame grew along with Anonymous’s notoriety, and his anger helped shape Anonymous’s identity. He sympathized with the marginalized. And if the lulz were a driving force, Sabu helped make fighting oppression another. By January 2011, the Middle East was erupting—in part owing to WikiLeaks’ revelations. From his apartment in the projects, Sabu took control of a local Tunisian’s computer and, as he’d done after Vieques, defaced the website of Tunisia’s president—he posted an Anonymous logo. For Sabu, it was a peak experience.

Online, Sabu had joined a small, ultraskilled group of Anonymous hackers—its SEAL Team Six. He’d been involved in cyber attacks against government systems in Tunisia and Algeria, but this elite group’s hack of computer-security company HBGary Federal burnished the Anonymous brand—skilled, dangerous, vindictive, and capable of anything. “I’m the one that did the [HBGary Federal] op,” Sabu later bragged, though it wasn’t entirely true.

After HBGary Federal’s CEO, Aaron Barr, claimed he knew the real identities of certain Anonymous leaders, a boast to promote business, a hacker called Kayla helped break into the company’s computer system. And Sabu conned the company’s security systems administrator—“social engineering,” it’s called in the hacker world—e-mailing him from what appeared to be an HBGary account and getting him to give up an administrative password.

From We Are Anonymous:

Sabu was known to exaggerate, and other hackers who dealt with him listened to his claims with some skepticism. Though he was highly skilled, Sabu would often lie about his life, telling people things he perhaps wished were true—that he came from Puerto Rico; that his real mother had been an upstanding member of the local political community; that in real life, he was married and “highly successful in his field.” The truth was that he was jobless, insecure, and struggling to support his family.

Then in early December, out of nowhere, Anonymous burst onto the scene with WikiLeaks, offering a cause that Monsegur could be passionate about. He watched the first attack on PayPal unfold and saw echoes of his work with Hackweiser and his protest attack for the island of Vieques, but on a much grander scale. He would later say that Anonymous was the movement he had been waiting for all those years “underground.”

Sabu worked with hackers to take government websites in Algeria offline, then accessed government e-mails in Zimbabwe, seeking evidence of corruption. Sabu and Kayla continued doing the rooting; Tflow did the coordinating; and Topiary wrote the deface messages. Anonymous’s new Middle East campaign was moving at light speed, with teams of volunteers hitting a different Arab website almost every day. They were spurred on by the vulnerabilities they discovered, the newfound camaraderie—and the resulting media attention.

114 From We Are Anonymous:

But Sabu’s server address had remained in Laurelai’s log. Emick quickly highlighted it and, knowing that she was onto something, pasted it into Google. Sure enough, she came across a subdomain called ae86.prvt.org. The name ae86 was important. The subdomain linked to cardomain.com, a site for car enthusiasts, where Emick found photos and a video of a souped-up Toyota AE86. With that model number, it had to be Sabu’s car. Cross-referencing the information on the car site with the YouTube video of the AE86, she eventually found a Facebook page with the URL, facebook.com/lesmujahideen, and the name Hector Xavier Montsegur. She had slightly misspelled his last name, but this was the closest anyone had ever gotten to doxing Sabu. Emick could not get his address in the Jacob Riis housing complex, but she did figure out that he lived on New York’s Lower East Side.

Eventually Emick and her team pulled together research on seventy identities and were dropping hints on Twitter and to the media that a large group of Anons would soon be exposed. When she finally wrote her stinging profile on Sabu, published on the Backtrace Security website, she concluded that he was Puerto Rican, close to thirty, and hailed from New York’s Lower East Side. He’d had a “troubled” high school career and was relatively intelligent but resentful of authority and “success of people he perceives to be less worthy than himself…After suffering humiliations a decade ago following his posting of rambling, incoherent manifestos on defaced websites, he fell into obscurity until publicly associating himself with the Anonymous protest group.” She got ready to announce his real name to the world.

Sabu, the notorious, well-connected hacker who had rooted national domains, had just been discovered by a middle-aged mom from Michigan.

From the sourcing for the chapter “Backtrace Strikes”:

The description of Jin-Soo Byun was sourced from interviews with Jennifer Emick and Laurelai Bailey; the note that Aaron Barr was helping her investigation was sourced from an interview with Barr. The details about Emick setting up the initial Backtrace investigation into Anonymous, and then tracking down “Hector Montsegur” [sic], are sourced from interviews with Emick. Descriptions of some of Sabu’s defaces come from screenshots provided by Sabu himself as well as from a blog post by Le Researcher, an anti-Anonymous campaigner who works with Emick. Another group that includes longtime EFnet user Kelley Hallissey claims it doxed Sabu in December 2010 and passed his details to Backtrace in February 2011. Emick denies this.

From “Hello, I Am Sabu … ” by Steve Fishman:

For Sabu, the stakes were rising quickly. The FBI had been trying to track him for months. And now, so were other hackers who viewed themselves as patriots. First, Hallissey revealed his real name. Then Jennifer Emick, a Michigan housewife, who had once been sympathetic to Anonymous, released a spreadsheet of roughly 70 supposed real names of Anons in March 2011, taking up where Barr had failed. Most were wrong, but she had Sabu right (though she misspelled his name). Sabu had slipped up, once posting the address of his private server, which led her to pictures of a favorite vintage car, which was traceable.

115 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson:

Jin Soo Byun was a twenty-six-year-old security penetration tester who had once been an air force cryptologist but had retired when he was caught in an IED roadside bombing in Iraq. The accident left him with serious brain damage and memory loss, but he threw himself into the 2008 Chanology protests and built up a reputation for social engineering under the nicknames Mudsplatter and Hubris. He and Emick served as administrators on Laurelai’s website, and the pair developed a friendship via Skype, instant-message chats, and phone calls. Often they would just gossip about the hacking scene, taking pleasure in trash-talking their enemies.

On the sourcing for this section:

The description of Jin-Soo Byun was sourced from interviews with Jennifer Emick and Laurelai Bailey; the note that Aaron Barr was helping her investigation was sourced from an interview with Barr. The details about Emick setting up the initial Backtrace investigation into Anonymous, and then tracking down “Hector Montsegur” [sic], are sourced from interviews with Emick. Descriptions of some of Sabu’s defaces come from screenshots provided by Sabu himself as well as from a blog post by Le Researcher, an anti-Anonymous campaigner who works with Emick. Another group that includes longtime EFnet user Kelley Hallissey claims it doxed Sabu in December 2010 and passed his details to Backtrace in February 2011. Emick denies this.

From “Anonymous Clashes With Its Adversaries At Hacker Conference” by Saki Knafo:

[Emick] found an ally in Jin Soo Byun, a 27-year-old retired Air Force cryptologist who, like Emick, had joined Anonymous to protest Scientology. At the time, he said, he was recovering from the motorcycle injury that had ended his military career. He’d sustained serious brain damage and lost some of his memory, and Anonymous was his way of “coping,” he said.

116 From “In Flawed, Epic Anonymous Book, the Abyss Gazes Back” by Quinn Norton:

It’s hard to report on Anonymous.

It’s a non-organization of pranksters-turned-activists-turned-hackers-turned-hot-mess-of-law-enforcement-drama – a story that is hard to get, and hard to write.

To work with a secretive and hunted group requires making many non-obvious choices. One of the unnamed but extensively quoted hackers in Forbes London bureau chief Parmy Olson’s new book on the group, titled We Are Anonymous, told me once that anons were “by nature deceptive” – and they are. (How do I know it’s the same person? I recognized their way of talking. Then I asked.)

Anons lie when they have no reason to lie. They weave vast fabrications as a form of performance. Then they tell the truth at unexpected and unfortunate times, sometimes destroying themselves in the process. They are unpredictable. The nihilistic fury that Olson describes in the lifestyle of young anons goes in every direction, including inward, and it often spills over onto people like Olson and me for no obvious reason.

You can’t follow the money in Anonymous, or look at the power structures, or hunt for a greater rationale in a collective that on most days doesn’t have one. But we still have to make the choice about what we believe, why, and how it fits into a larger picture. We use circumstances, gut instincts, and plenty of what hackers call social engineering to tease out the evidence we need to write about the collective, to fulfill our role in the story.

For this reason it’s vital that we expose our methods and internal rules. Who do we name, and more importantly, who do we not? I avoided this particular ethical issue by publicly refusing to name anyone who is not, as they say in Anonymous, namefagged already. Olson plunges through hundreds of pages without even a nod in the issue’s direction.

How has Olson chosen who she trusts and when? Her methods are hidden, her notes not referenced in the text, and she appears nowhere in her book. While that’s a traditional choice for journalism, in this strange case it harms Olson’s credibility. In an environment where all your sources lie to you, you must tell the world how you came to believe the story you’re telling.

117 From “LA Prosecutor Patrick Frey Chats with Barrett Brown 3”:

Brown
In the meantime, have you ever heard of a woman named Jennifer Emick?

Brown [again]:

As noted, I will indeed send you info although since this person seems to think it was this Darby fellow based on whatever, probably it won’t be of use to you. I’ll also point out that I’ve provided you with info on this matter already without asking for anything in return, and that this included correspondence addressed to me, and that this matter also involves criminal activity towards me, which I certainly hope you’ll take as seriously as I have about criminal activity directed towards you. So, pretty please with sugar on top, answer a couple of questions for me, okay?

Frey: Sure. I read about her in that book by Parmy Olson.

Frey [again]:

If you start asking me questions like have I talked to x person about y topic etc., I may not answer. Whether I have or not.

But shoot anyway.

Brown:

Ah, you read the Parmy book. It’s okay, parts are wrong, although no one individual will ever know all the mistakes since so much is
clandestine (I actually learned a lot about what the damn Lulzsec guys did behind the scenes did Topiary ran off to join the idiot circus
instead of sticking with my research campaign, in which case he wouldn’t now be facing the kind of sentence he probably is).

118 “Alleged ‘PayPal 14’ Hackers Seek Deal To Stay Out Of Prison After Nearly 2 Years In Limbo” by Ryan J. Reilly and Gerry Smith:

Before he was charged in July 2011 with aiding the hacker group Anonymous, Josh Covelli lived what he considered the life of an ordinary 26-year-old. He spent countless hours on the Internet. He had a girlfriend. He was a student and employee at Devry University in Dayton, Ohio.

But after federal authorities accused him and 13 other people of helping launch a cyberattack against the online payment service PayPal, Covelli faced potentially 15 years in prison, and his life began to unravel.

From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson, on the Scientology lawsuit:

The “friendly conversation” lasted about an hour, giving the FBI and, later, prosecuting attorneys representing the Church of Scientology evidence to use against the hapless Mettenbrink. Later, the FBI would contact his old college to access his Internet records. [Brian] Mettenbrink [one of those who participated in the denial of service attack against Scientology] didn’t hear from the FBI again for months, and it was a year before he truly realized, during a conversation with his lawyer, the seriousness of his offense. “Do you have any idea how much monetary damage the Church of Scientology is saying you caused?” the lawyer had asked during one of his meetings with Mettenbrink.

The young man thought for a moment. “I can’t imagine there was any monetary damage,” he said. All he’d done was help send a bunch of spoof traffic to a website and slow it down for a couple days.

“They’re claiming one hundred thousand dollars,” the lawyer replied. Mettenbrink was stunned. He had attacked Scientology.org on a whim, his weapon a tiny, freely available program he’d run in the background for three days while he browsed an image board. How could that have cost someone a hundred thousand dollars?

119 “Hello, I Am Sabu … ” by Steve Fishman:

On the Internet, Monsegur was now a reviled figure. At Jacob Riis, it was a different story. Those who knew him growing up were shocked—he was always “respectful,” they said. But also, they were a little proud. In their eyes, he was a kid from the projects who’d achieved a certain success. He’d gotten out, finally. “The government wanted him. That’s how good he is. He’s like the greatest hacker in the world. To me, I look up to him,” said one of his boyhood friends.

120 These quotes can be found on a “20/20” clip at “The Man Behind TheDirty.com Is Still A Self-Aggrandizing Dick” by Tracy Egan-Morrissey.

121 From “Ben Quayle admits writing for ‘Dirty Scottsdale’ Web site” by Matt DeLong:

After initially denying the allegations, Arizona House candidate Ben Quayle (R), son of former vice president Dan Quayle, admitted on Tuesday that he used to post comments on a Web site called “Dirty Scottsdale” several years ago, Politico reports.

Karamian said Quayle posted under the name “Brock Landers,” an apparent reference to the fictional sidekick to porn star Dirk Diggler in the film “Boogie Nights.” Quayle had a featured section on the site, Karamian said, called “Brock’s Chick,” in which he sought to “find the hottest chick in Scottsdale.” He added that “Without Ben, there would be no TheDirty.com.” Quayle acknowledged Tuesday that he did contribute to the site in an interview with Phoenix’s 12 News.

The founder of an Arizona-based investment firm, Quayle is one of 10 Republicans running to replace retiring Rep. John Shadegg in Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District. His campaign Web site bills him as a “conservative Republican.” One of the candidate’s mailers, showing Quayle with two young girls, drew some attention earlier this month when it was revealed that the girls were Quayle’s nieces. He is married but childless.

From “Ben Quayle Campaign: Congressman Not Part Of Israel Naked Swimming Fiasco” by Nick Wing:

The campaign of Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) on Monday denied an earlier report that he had been involved in a controversial incident in which House Republicans swam in the Sea of Galilee, the lake in Israel where Jesus is said to have walked on water.

From “Arizona House primary results: Ben Quayle booted from Congress” by Mike Zapler and Alex Isenstadt:

Freshman Rep. Ben Quayle lost Tuesday night to fellow first-term Rep. David Schweikert in a fierce member vs. member GOP primary in Arizona, a stinging defeat after Quayle’s years-long struggle to shed his image as the privileged scion of political royalty.

With four-fifths of precincts reporting, Schweikert was leading Quayle, 53 percent to 47 percent and The Associated Press called the race. Redistricting thrust the two incumbents into battle for a Scottsdale-area seat.

122 From the Reputation Fighters site, an on-line company specializing in on-line reputation management, “TheDirty.com will seldom remove posts”:

TheDirty.com which is a website that allows anyone to submit “dirt” on anyone, such as information on cheating exes, has been known not to ever remove posts, even though they offer a removal request page. There are a few exceptions and these have to do with copyright violations. Our company has dealt with several individuals listed on TheDirty who have sent in multiple removal requests which have been denied.

123 From “‘Anderson’: Nik Richie Tries To Defend TheDirty.com, Anderson Doesn’t Let Him (VIDEO)” (from the Huffington Post, no credited writer):

Cooper also accused Richie of extortion and blackmail for his practice of charging people to have articles about them removed from the site. Richie clarified that he no longer charges for the service, but does charge for expedited service — to cover his time and trouble. Cooper failed to see how this was substantially different.

124 From “Nik Richie of The Dirty, the Man Who Posted the Anthony Weiner Sexts” by Nina Strochlic:

In the past few years, The Dirty has struggled with the blurred privacy space in which it operates. Just over a week ago, Richie lost a defamation lawsuit filed by former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones and was ordered to fork over $338,000.

It certainly wasn’t his first lawsuit. Richie’s company, Dirty World, has suffered through a series of them. In 2011, a Tennessee reporter filed a $50 million suit against The Dirty for publishing nude photos and pictures of drug use that she says weren’t her. The content was removed online and the two parties reached a settlement.

But in the past, the site has been notoriously stubborn about backing down. When ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews requested that Peeping Tom-style nude photos of her be removed, the site republished them with a note: “Erin Andrews, can you ask your lawyers if this is the post they want me to take down because I am confused? Welcome back to reality…your fault.- nik.” Two years later, the site was still linking to the photos under a “Moments in History” headline. In 2010, a woman who won a $1.5 million judgment against Richie and Dirty World filed another privacy lawsuit after an angry Richie continued posting about her.

125 From “Sarah Jones Lawsuit: Ex-Bengals Cheerleader Wins Defamation Case” by Lisa Cornwell:

COVINGTON, Ky. — A federal jury has found that a gossip website and its operator defamed a former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader and has awarded her $338,000 in damages.

Jurors in federal court in Covington, Ky., on Thursday found the 2009 posts on the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based website thedirty.com about Sarah Jones were substantially false. They also found website operator Nik Richie acted with malice or reckless disregard in posting anonymous submissions.

One of the posts alleged Jones had sex with every Bengals player, and the other said she probably had two sexually transmitted diseases. Richie denied any malice.

Jones filed the lawsuit more than three years ago. A January trial resulted in a hung jury.

“Sarah Jones, Bengals cheerleader, indicted; New details on case of alleged sex with minor” by Ian Preuth and Bill Price:

COVINGTON, Ky. – A Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader is facing criminal charges for allegedly having sex with a minor.

A Kenton County grand jury indicted Sarah Jones Thursday of first degree sexual abuse and unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual or other prohibited activities. The sexual abuse charge carries a punishment of up to five years in prison.

Cheryl Jones, Sarah’s mother, was indicted for tampering with evidence. Cheryl is the principal at Twenhofel Middle School in Independence.

Both women were taken into custody Thursday afternoon and booked into the Kenton County Jail.

“Sarah Jones, former Ben-Gal NFL cheerleader, pleads guilty to reduced charges in sex case” by Gannett News Service:

Former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones pleaded guilty Monday morning and thus avoided standing trial later this week on charges she had a sexual relationship with a student she taught at Dixie Heights High School.

Jones, 27, pleaded guilty to reduced charges of sexual misconduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in prison and custodial interference, a felony which could carry a sentence of one to five years in prison.

Jones may not spend any time behind bars. On the custodial interference charge, Kenton County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Summe sentenced Jones to two years, diverted for five years probation. If Jones does not violate probation, she will be able to petition to have the felony expunged from her record.

On the charge of sexual misconduct, Jones was sentenced to 12 months probated for two years.

Jones admitted to having a sexual relationship with the student.

“Ex-Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones engaged to former pupil Cody York” by Michael Walsh:

This tiger is no longer on the prowl.

Former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader and high school teacher Sarah Jones is engaged to Cody York, the student she got busted for bedding while he was underage.

The couple took the next step while vacationing with Jones’ family in Florida on Thursday, according to Jones’ Facebook page.

This social media page also shows Jones, 28, wearing a ring while kissing York, 19, on a beach.

126 From the interview, “Man Who Broke Weiner Scandal Speaks”:

We don’t know who Anthony Weiner is. I feel sorry for the guy, but I feel more sorry for America. Like, how, can you look at this guy and say, hey, I trust him to be the mayor of New York? Like, it’s impossible to me. He should definitely drop out.

I don’t think this thing’s going to go away…this election, is what, forty days away? So, he’s in some deep water, and I just, I pray that America wakes up and sees what the hell is going on. And doesn’t use this as some like, tactic, to say, you know, well, he made a mistake, and he keeps owning up to it…that’s not being truthful. Owning up to things is not being truthful. The lies are catapulting. And, god bless New York, if they don’t make the wrong decision.

127 This interview transcript is taken from Dr. Phil clips posted at Jezebel, “The Man Behind TheDirty.com Is Just As Awful In Person” by Tracie Egan Morrissey.

128 This takes place in the second of three clips that can be found at “The Man Behind TheDirty.com Is Just As Awful In Person” by Tracie Egan Morrissey.

129 This is all discussed in greater depth in “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Two”. At least one journalist hints that he believes someone set out to catch Anthony Weiner in a scandal, a journalist without much sympathy for the congressman, politically or otherwise; that journalist is David Weigel who hints at the belief in “The Weiner Spin Job”. I bold the significant part:

But that’s not really the “story of the scandal,” is it? Weiner reminisces about what a famous person he was, and how people came on to him, and he erred in not shutting this down. The details of the scandal, some of which do suggest that he was railroaded, are smoothed away, and we get a story of self-actualization. The details are more interesting than that!

130 From “The Boy Wonder of BuzzFeed”:

As it turns out, Mr. Smith is less a political enthusiast than a product of his upbringing. As a child, he was exposed to years of political debate between his father, a conservative Republican who was a partner at Paul Weiss, and his mother, a liberal Democrat who tutors learning-disabled children. “It’s a good background for somebody who’s not going to have incredibly strong political opinions,” he said, refuting the pro-liberal bias he is sometimes accused of.

131 From “Obama’s War on the Young” by Michael Tanner:

According to recent polls, younger Americans are increasingly disillusioned with government and cynical about the political process. Maybe they will finally realize that they are being played for patsies by the Obama administration. After all, on issue after issue, President Obama has fed younger voters a steady diet of high-minded rhetoric and then delivered policies that leave them holding the bag.

The most recent example is Obamacare.

132 A refutation of separate essays which were explicitly partisan, and based around the actual data of California insurance exchanges, is Jonathan Chait’s “Is Obamacare a War on Bros?”

133 From the author credit for “Obama’s War on the Young” by Tanner:

Michael Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution.

From the Cato 25th Anniversary page (via the Sourcewatch page for the Cato Institute):

The Institute was founded in 1977 by Edward H. Crane and Charles G. Koch in San Francisco. As the New York Times pointed out during Cato’s 10th anniversary in 1987, “Cato has managed to generate more activity and interest across a wider political spectrum than some of its more sedate competitors with much larger budgets.” Last year, FAIR reported that in a review of the top 25 think tanks that the Cato Institute had the second most major media mentions.

From “BuzzFeed Politics now sponsored by a Koch brother” by “Death and Taxes”:

Visitors to BuzzFeed Politics were greeted by a curious sponsorship badge at the top of its page Thursday. As ThinkProgress Editor-in-Chief Judd Legum pointed out, it appeared BuzzFeed pols had been sponsored by Charles Koch of Koch Industries, the second largest privately held company in the U.S. by revenue and notorious right-wing political power players.

Following that sponsorship badge brings you to a special BuzzFeed advertiser page for the Charles Koch Institute…

Screen Shot 2013 05 09 at 10 05 23 AM

The sponsorship was for a summit on immigration.

Speakers at the summit include BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith as well as speakers from conservative think tanks the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, which was founded by Koch along with the CEO of Koch industries.

As for why BuzzFeed would want to partner with Koch, the answer is simple enough: Money. As for why Koch would want to access BuzzFeed’s young and-one guesses-mostly politically progressive audience, that’s a longer story-but it’s also about following the money.

The Kochs need Republican candidates-ones they can influence-to win in future elections so that they succeed in getting policies passed that benefit their economic interests. Which is why the Kochs got Citizens United passed-which allows unchecked corporate influence in politics-and ALEC, an initiative that allows lobbyists to help legislators draft bills. But the intersection of immigration and economic interests can be seen in the controversy kicked up by Mark Zuckerberg’s political spending. His group, Fwd.us, is spending on behalf of candidates who advocate oil drilling and the Keystone Pipeline if they’re also willing to compromise on a more progressive approach to immigration reform.

The Kochs strategy here might be similar: Use immigration reform to appeal to a more populous base with switch hitters who will toe that party line while pushing a more right-wing agenda on other interests.

134 From “You Don’t Have To Like Edward Snowden” by Ben Smith:

There is now a heated debate over the moral status of Edward Snowden – who fled Hong Kong for Moscow en route, reportedly, to Ecuador Sunday – and over whether his decision to flee almost certain conviction and imprisonment in the United States means that his actions can’t be considered “civil disobedience.” These seem like good questions for a philosophy class. They are terrible, boring, ones for reporters, and have more to do with the confusing new news environment than with the actual news.

Snowden is what used to be known as a source. And reporters don’t, and shouldn’t, spend too much time thinking about the moral status of their sources. Sources sometimes act from the best of motives – a belief that readers should know something is amiss, or a simple desire to see a good story told. They also often act from motives far more straightforwardly venal than anything than has been suggested of Snowden: They want to screw someone who is in their way professionally; they want to score an ideological point by revealing a personal misdeed; they are acting on an old grudge, and serving revenge cold; they are collecting chits with the press to be cashed in later.

135 From “Mitch McConnell Schools Democrats After Secret Recordings Are Published” by Evan McMorris-Santoro:

McConnell’s strategy with the tapes, which included calling in the FBI as well as accusing his opponents of illegally bugging his office, has awed Republican political observers.

“McConnell took their faux-drama and busted a cap in their ass. He turned it within minutes into a legal, political and fundraising attack on MoJo, the DSCC, American Bridge and the rest,” said Rick Wilson, a GOP consultant based in Florida. “Really, quite impressive. Don’t let that softspoken thing fool you. He’ll cut a bitch.”

While accusing progressives of bugging his campaign office Plumbers-style could come back to haunt him if he’s not right, the early indications are McConnell has fired up his base and turned the story into a cash cow for his reelection campaign.

And he’s succeeded in quickly turning the discussion away from the substance of the tapes – a task made easier by the fact that there was no smoking gun in the recording.

136 This ad and Johnson’s other work is discussed in-depth in “Benny Johnson: Gorgeous Animus”.

137 The Leibovich pieces that make up This Town are almost all excellent, better than the book itself. They include “Terry McAuliffe and the Other Green Party” and “How to Win in Washington”. This is partly due to structure, and partly due to the emptiness of the characters themselves, an emptiness that is partly a result of the city itself, which prizes emptiness, which allows one to shift more easily from one persona to another, and which makes it easier for someone to project whatever image they want onto you – this is another way of saying that a little Kurt Bardella goes a long way. The one piece I dont much like is “Feel the Loathing on the Campaign Trail”, where Leibovich has a sentimental desire for the candidates to appear at a social event, the kind of desire having nothing to do with practical policy that might benefit anyone which implies the exact kind of insularity which Leibovich otherwise despises. This post is about the distance in political life, a distance exacerbated by the internet and the income divide that exists now; in the piece, Leibovich mentions the extraordinary stress he felt when one of his children suffered an injury. Whether or not it does anything to alleviate the distance, whether Mr. Leibovich ever reads this, whether this gesture is sentimental or not, I express my sincere hope that his daughter is now doing well. That’s actual sincerity, not the D.C. variety.

138 Profiles which capture well the miserable conditions of Kansas and Tennessee, can be found in, respectively, “Rogue State: How Far-Right Fanatics Hijacked Kansas” by Mark Binelli and “Tennessee: Ayn Rand’s vision of paradise” by Les Leopold.

139 The passage on This Town dealing with super PACs:

In February 2012, Obama ditched his long opposition to directing his campaign donors to “super PACs,” which, the president had said, were a “threat to our democracy.” But then he did a roundabout when Obama-friendly super PACs were getting outgunned by the other team. Bloomberg News reported that Obama’s reelection campaign manager, Jim Messina, had met privately with a bunch of Democratic Wall Street titans and assured them the campaign would not demonize them (as Obama had spent the better part of the previous three years doing). While he was at it, Messina also begged them for cash to fund the campaign.

Obama’s super PAC reversal brought a few days of predictable indignation from the right over his hypocrisy and hand-wringing from the left over his impurity. Overall, it was another notch in the argument that “change” was more a marketing slogan to Obama than a genuine ideal.

A passage from a transcript of the Independent Expenditures conference, in election post-mortem held at Harvard’s Campaign Decision Makers Conference gives some sense of the disparity of power and experience behind the rival super PACs (the transcript is my own, and is taken from “Campaign Decision Makers Conference: Independent Expenditures Session Transcript”):

Berke: While you’re talking, could you address the president’s resistance to Super PACs originally, and the impact that had on your fund-raising ability and so forth?

Burton: Sure. Well, it had a significant impact. Because, generally, democrats aren’t for outside groups and that sort of thing being in existence. We had to spend a good year without the blessing of the campaign or the White House, or anyone associated with it, raising money, trying to educate voters about what mean Carl Forti was going to do to the president come 2012 and, so you know, every single meeting we went to, one of the first things people said was: “isn’t the president against these groups?” I was like: “well…..YES, obviously.” But these are the rules of the game, and to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go to the election with the rules that you have, not the rules that you wish you had.

Berke: I’ve heard that you were, on many occasions, nervous that the president would come out publicly and attack Super PACs. Talk about that a little bit.

Burton: Well sure, I thought that when you are at a Super PAC, I can’t speak for these guys, you don’t really want for your principal to be principally against what you’re doing. It makes for some tougher sledding than you might otherwise have. And so, we just…the president…the irony here is that in 2008, when I was the press secretary for the campaign, I was the person with all the statements that their colleague, Collegio [Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for American Crossroads], dug up and put out the second that we announced our group. I was the person saying, “do not set up outside groups”, on behalf of then senator Obama. If you want to help the campaign, do it through the campaign. But since the rules have been changed. And it was a much different environment than it was in 2008, and if the president was going to remain competitive, it was going to need some outside presence. Folks forget in October of last year, the right track number was at fifteen. Unemployment peaked near 11%. Folks generally thought that president Obama was going to go the way of a lot of one term presidents. And it didn’t turn out that way. But we thought that in order to avoid catastrophe, we needed to set up this group.

Berke: And final point on this line of questioning, and that is: you’re a young-looking guy, you’ve never done this before, you’re not an Ickes kind of figure, you’re not a Karl Rove kind of figure, how much did that hurt? (loud laughter) And what was –

Burton: Lot of ways to go with this. (more laughter)

Berke: And what was Ickes advice to you on how you would do this job?

Burton: Well, Harold Ickes was a huge help to us. He was the president of the board of our Super PAC, and he helped raise some money. You’re right, not having big pillars of the party go out and try to put this thing together was a challenge, but, you know, after a lot of elbow grease, and some smart folks at Priorities [Priorities USA] on figuring out who to target and when to go talk to people, and how to do it, we were able to piece it together. Didn’t hurt that the campaign came in and supported us.

A good description of the genesis of the Democrat SuperPAC, Priorities USA, along with a brief profile of Bill Burton can be found in Robert Draper’s “Can the Democrats Catch Up in the Super-PAC Game?”

The passage on the rival Medicare plans:

Biden called Ryan to “welcome” him to the race, and Obama praised Ryan’s “beautiful family.”

And then, within a few days, the two campaigns were back to volleying about how many old people the other guy’s Medicare plan would kill.

The passage on the power the NRA has over D.C.:

Yet everyone knew this would all default soon enough into the familiar Kabuki. And a few days later, Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, gave a rambling press conference that was ridiculed by solemn commentators, gun-control Democrats, and a growing class of hand-wringing/self-hating Republicans. It made everyone feel better to ridicule, to feel superior to, the gun nut at the podium, never mind that his NRA still had at least half of Washington by the gonads, and that Obama was conceding privately that there was probably nothing he could do to change gun laws in any major way-as was eventually borne out.

140 A few McAuliffe moments from This Town:

In his love of the game and popularity in This Town, [Haley] Barbour [long time Republican operative and former Governor of Mississippi] reminds me of another former party chairman, Democrat Terry McAuliffe-a Haley “drinking buddy,” not shockingly. They are good-time guys and “Washington fixtures” even though Barbour set off to seek the Mississippi governor’s mansion in 2003 and McAuliffe wants to shed the “Washington fixture” label and become the next governor of Virginia. He ran and lost in 2009 and will run again in 2013. Haley and Terry also met in that most Washington of love incubators, the green room. They argued on TV in the 1990s, did the Right versus Left thing, and were soon doing business together. In late 1999, Barbour and Democratic lobbyist Tommy Boggs were planning to open a downtown restaurant called the Caucus Room, which the Washington Post described as a “red-meat emporium” that “aaill serve up power, influence, loopholes, money and all the other ingredients that make American Democracy great.” Seeking investors, Barbour called McAuliffe and asked for $100,000, which he sent over immediately. A while later, Barbour called back, said they were oversubscribed, and sent McAuliffe back a check for $50,000. “So I figure I made fifty in the deal,” said McAuliffe, who never saw a penny more.

It was around this time that Bill Clinton asked the Macker what ambassadorship he wanted for all the service he’d performed on his behalf. McAuliffe had just put together a fund-raiser at Washington’s MCI Center that sucked in more than $26 million for the DNC. (“The biggest event in the history of mankind,” McAuliffe told me. “As you know.”) He told Clinton that he wanted to be the ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, or Britain. But McAuliffe figured his appointment was no sure thing, given that it required Senate confirmation and that Republicans, who held a majority at the time, had little incentive to help a president they had just impeached. McAuliffe enlisted his friend Barbour and asked him to lobby his friend and fellow Mississippian Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, on his behalf.

The next day, Barbour called back and said the conversation went well. When I asked Barbour about the transaction, he seemed mildly annoyed at the suggestion that Republicans in the late 1990s would punish a buddy of Bill Clinton’s, or, alternatively, that McAuliffe would receive any special treatment because he was Haley Barbour’s friend. McAuliffe, he said, was qualified and effective and would represent the nation with distinction. “It would be awful if just because he was effective for the other side, we punished him,” Barbour said. “We need more of those guys, who understand that this is not personal, just because we disagree. This business should not be vengeful.”

McAuliffe was now determined to refashion himself as a Washington outsider type. This was laughable for anyone who knew him but a smart political strategy in this day and age. “I am an entrepreneur, baby,” he said to me. “Don’t forget that, I’m an entrepreneur.” Okay, he’s an entrepreneur, not a “Washington insider,” albeit one whose wedding party included Richard Gephardt; who has been a regular at ABC’s Sam Donaldson’s annual holiday party; who runs into his neighbor Dick Cheney at his daughter’s (and Cheney’s granddaughter’s) soccer games; and who initially put up the money for Bill and Hillary Clinton’s postpresidential home in Chappaqua, New York.

As Terry worked the room at the Bartiromo book party, he popped into a back room for a minute to take a call from U.S. commerce secretary Gary Locke (or “MR. SECRETARY!” as he boomed into the phone). It concerned a trade mission to Hong Kong they would soon be taking together. After finishing his phone call, McAuliffe came back to where I was standing and, wouldn’t you know it, the conversation moved to the off-message topic of how unpleasant it is for Terry to receive his prostate exam. “I once said to the doctor, ‘Doc, I may be the chairman of the Democratic Party,'” he shared, “‘but I still hate having a finger stuck up my ass.'”

141 The following is taken from Eric Schlosser’s Reefer Madness, a book whose marijuana section expands on earlier journalism by Schlosser. These consist of two lengthy, very good articles, “Reefer Madness” and “Marijuana and the Law”; the material dealing with the legal mercy afforded a politico’s children, is exclusive to the book:

In 1981, Congressman Newt Gingrich introduced a bill to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana. Fifteen years later, as Speaker of the House, Gingrich sponsored legislation demanding a life sentence or the death penalty for anyone who brought more than two ounces of marijuana into the United States. Although the Clinton Administration opposed that bill, it accepted the basic premises of marijuana prohibition, allowing the heirs of the Reagan revolution to set America’s policy on the drug. Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman Bob Barr emerged as two of pot’s fiercest and most outspoken critics. McConnell tried without success to make federal penalties for selling or possessing marijuana equivalent to those for selling or possessing cocaine and heroin. Barr fought hard to prevent any research into the “so-called medicinal use of marijuana” and claimed such attempts were part of a vast conspiracy. “All civilized countries in the world,” he said, “are under assault by drug proponents seeking to enslave citizens.” He called the effort to reform the nation’s marijuana laws a “subversive criminal movement.” McConnell and Barr were deply concerned about the potential harms caused by smoking marijuana; but smoking cigarettes was a different story. Barr opposed lawsuits against tobacco companies, arguing that such efforts were reminiscent of “Soviet rule” and that the product in question was “legal, widely used, profitable, disfavored by the ruling intelligentsia…and subject to some colorable claim that it harmed someone, somehow, somewhere.” In 2002 McConnell accepted more money from tobacco lobbyists than any other member of Congress. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, responsible for an estimated 440,000 deaths every year.

The offspring of important government officials, however, tend to avoid severe punishments for their marijuana crimes. In 1982, the year that President Reagan launched the war on drugs, his chief of staff’s son was arrested for selling pot. John C. Baker, the son of future Secretary of State James Baker, sold a small amount of marijuana – around a quarter of an ounce – to an undercover agent near the family’s ranch in Texas. Under state law John Baker faced a possible felony charge and a prison term of between two and twenty years. Instead, he was charged with a misdemeanor, pleaded guilty, and was fined $2,000. In 1990 Congressman Dan Burton introduced legislation requiring the death penalty for drug dealers. “We must educate our children about drugs,” Burton said, “and impose tough new penalties on dealers.” Four years later his son was arrested while transporting nearly eight pounds of marijuana from Texas to Indiana. Burton hired an attorney for his son. While awaiting trial in that case, Danny Burton II was arrested again, only five months later, for growing thirty marijuana plants in his Indianapolis apartment. Police also found a shotgun in the apartment. Under federal law Danny Burton faced a possible mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison just for the gun, plus up to three years in prison under state law for the pot. Federal charges were never filed against Burton, who wound up receiving a milder sanction: a term of community service, probation, and house arrest. When the son of Richard W. Riley (the former South Carolina governor who became Clinton’s secretary of education) was indicted on federal charges of conspiring to sell cocaine and marijuana, he face ten years to life in prison and a fine of $4 million. Instead, Richard Riley, Jr., received six months of house arrest.

In September, 1996, Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham attacked President Clinton for being “cavalier” toward illegal drug use and for appointing too many “soft on crime” liberal judges. “We must get tough on drug dealers.” Cunningham argued. “Those who peddle destruction on our children must pay dearly.” Four months later, his son Randall Todd Cunningham was arrested by the DEA after helping to transport 400 pounds of marijuana from California to Massachusetts. Although Todd Cunningham confessed to having been part of a smuggling ring that had shipped as much as 30,000 pounds of marijuana throughout the United States – a crime that can lead to a life sentence without parole – he was charged with distributing only 400 pounds of pot. The prosecutor in his case recommended a sentence of fourteen months at a boot camp and a halfway house. Congressman Cunningham begged the judge for mercy. “My son has a good heart,” he said, fighting back tears. “He’s never been in trouble before.” Todd Cunningham was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. He might have received an even shorter sentence had he not tested positive for cocaine three times while out on bail.

Cunningham père would be sentenced in 2006 to eight years in prison for accepting bribes in exchange for government contracts. “From Ex-Calif. Rep. Cunningham finishes prison term” by Elliot Spagat:

SAN DIEGO (AP) – Randy “Duke” Cunningham, whose feats as a Navy flying ace during the Vietnam War catapulted him to a U.S. House career that ended in disgrace when he was convicted of accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors, on Tuesday completed one of the longest prison sentence ever given to a member of Congress.

Cunningham, an eight-term Republican congressman from San Diego, was sentenced to eight years, four months in prison in March 2006 after pleading guilty to accepting bribes from companies in exchange for steering government contracts their way. The bribes included a luxury house, yacht, Rolls-Royce, travel, lavish meals, $40,000 Persian rugs and antique furniture.

The bribes – the largest known to be accepted by a member of Congress – were one of several scandals afflicting Republicans at the time, allowing Democrats to portray a culture of corruption in midterm elections that made San Francisco Rep. Nancy Pelosi the first female Speaker of the House. Cunningham’s downfall also fed controversy over congressional earmarks that allow lawmakers to direct money to pet projects.

A list of the items Cunningham took as bribes can be found at “The things Cunningham took as bribes” by U-T San Diego, found via “Former Rep. ‘Duke’ Cunningham Freed After Bribery Sentence” by Bill Chappell.

142 From This Town:

In the vein of too-little-too-late, it was ironic that Rice would show up at The Last Party. It was also precisely the kind of shindig Richard Holbrooke would never have missed. He had so many great friends here, starting with Ben and Sally [Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn], and his name had also been invoked a fair amount of late-two years after his death-for an incident that took place during the Clinton years in which Rice gave him the finger during a senior staff meeting at the State Department. Not classy! Less remarked upon was the condescending diatribe from Richard that allegedly incited Rice.

From This Town:

As it turned out, the president’s involvement was nearly messed up anyway by the U.S. raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. A few days before the mission, on April 28, the tiny group of high-level national security principals who knew about the operation was discussing the timing of it in the White House Situation Room. While the raid ultimately happened on Sunday night, Saturday night was first raised as a possibility. But someone pointed out that Obama was scheduled to be at the Correspondents’ Association dinner that night and his absence (and that of other top administration officials) could tip off the journalist-filled room that something was up.

At which point, Hillary Clinton looked up and said simply, “Fuck the White House Correspondents’ dinner.”

143 Three Harry Reid passages, from This Town. The author has his first introduction to the Senator:

I first met Reid in 2005, not long after he had become the Democratic leader. When Jim Manley walked me into his office and introduced me, Reid barely looked up and said to Manley, “Is this the sleazeball you told me about?” He had me at “sleazeball.”

Reid randomly called my desk a few years later to wish me a “happy Jewish holiday.” I don’t remember what Jewish holiday it was, or if I even knew it was a Jewish holiday. Reid then bragged to me that he was a “hero” to the then nine Jews in the Senate because he had adjourned the chamber in time for them to get home for whatever Jewish holiday it was. He reeled off the names of all the Senate Jews: Lieberman, Schumer, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California, etc. He concluded with Ron Wyden of Oregon, and when I expressed surprise that Wyden was Jewish-and mock surprise they even had Jews in Oregon-Reid deadpanned, “Yes, there are two of them in Oregon, and we have one of them.” And he hung up without saying good-bye, or shalom.

When wandering alone, Reid will sometimes break into a slight grin, as if he has just told himself a joke. Reid reminds me sometimes of a child-a peculiar child who has an imaginary friend who he speaks to unfiltered when he is alone, or not alone. Reid was once being wired up for a television interview in Las Vegas and was overcome by the need to tell the technician fastening his microphone that he had “terrible breath.” When an aide asked Reid later why he would possibly say such a thing, Reid calmly explained that it was true.

A moment when Leibovich asks about one of his enemies, Senator Tom Coburn:

In an interview in his office, I asked Reid what he really thought of Tom Coburn. He paused for several seconds, and I imagined a little self-editing gerbil inside his skull hurling itself in the unimpeded pathway that typically connects his brain directly to his mouth. A look of slight agony fell over Reid’s sober countenance, the look of someone whose self-editing gerbil is not well-trained.

“Here’s what I think of Tom Coburn,” Reid said finally, and then there was another long pause. “I am going to have to go off the record for this, otherwise you won’t get a good idea of what I think of him.” This was Reid being cordial to Tom Coburn.

The happy brief moment when Reid returns to the book during the 2012 election:

At a certain point in the summer, Obama and his top brass became convinced that Romney was hitting the “too much of a douche bag to be elected” threshold. This seemed to coincide, conveniently, with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid hitting a new “I REALLY don’t give a damn what I say” threshold, much of which was directed at his fellow Mormon, Romney. Reid, whose wife had just completed a brutal course of chemotherapy to treat an advanced case of breast cancer, seized on Romney’s refusal to release his past tax returns, which he kept mentioning over and over. Reid noted that if Romney were up for a cabinet position, the tax-return issue would make it impossible for him to win Senate confirmation. “He not only couldn’t be confirmed as a Cabinet secretary,” Reid said, “he couldn’t be confirmed as a dog catcher, because a dog catcher-you’re at least going to want to look at his income tax returns.” (It’s unclear exactly when the Senate started confirming dog catchers.) The majority leader also noted that George Romney had been happy to release twelve years of tax returns in 1967 when he was running for president. “His poor father must be so embarrassed about his son,” Reid told the Huffington Post of George Romney, who, embarrassed or not, had been dead for seventeen years. And, citing a friend at Bain Capital, Reid claimed that “the word is out” that Mitt had not paid taxes for ten years.

I later asked Reid if he had something personal against Romney, which very much seemed to be the case. “He and I come from different worlds,” Reid said after a long pause. “So at the very beginning, there was kind of a friction there, no matter how hard I try. I have a hard time thinking someone like that understands what I’ve been through in my life.” Reid said he kept giving his “information” about Romney’s not paying taxes to people in the White House and campaign, but no one ever did anything with it. “So I said the heck with it, I’ll do it,” Reid said. “If I hadn’t done it, it probably never would have been done.” When I asked Reid if anyone at the White House or the campaign ever asked him to tone it down a little, he just smiled.

144 The story involved the 47% tape is so well-known that I feel no need to cite it. I give only a link to an article published the day after the then anonymous taper revealed his identity; from “Scott Prouty, ’47 Percent’ Filmmaker, Reveals Identity On ‘The Ed Show'” by Jason Cherkis and Ryan Grim:

NEW YORK — The man who changed the 2012 election is named Scott Prouty. The 38-year-old bartender at the Boca Raton, Fla., fundraiser that doomed Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign came forward Wednesday in an interview with MSNBC’s Ed Schultz.

Prouty, a Midwest native, took his Canon camera to the fundraiser, thinking Romney might pose for photos with the event staff. Instead, he captured Romney speaking about “the 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing.”

The bartender said in a series of embargoed phone and in-person interviews with The Huffington Post that he decided to make the video public and posted clips online, hoping they would go viral.

145 The opening salvo was Dylan Byers’ “Nate Silver: One-term celebrity?”:

Nate Silver could be a one-term celebrity.

The New York Times’s resident political predictor says President Barack Obama currently has a 74.6 percent chance of winning reelection. It’s a prediction that liberals, whose heart rates continue to fluctuate with the release of every new poll, want to take solace in but somehow can’t. Sure, this is the guy who correctly predicted the outcome of the 2008 election in 49 of 50 states, but this year’s polls suggest a nailbiter.

Prediction is the name of Silver’s game, the basis for his celebrity. So should Mitt Romney win on Nov. 6, it’s difficult to see how people can continue to put faith in the predictions of someone who has never given that candidate anything higher than a 41 percent chance of winning (way back on June 2) and – one week from the election – gives him a one-in-four chance, even as the polls have him almost neck-and-neck with the incumbent.

For all the confidence Silver puts in his predictions, he often gives the impression of hedging. Which, given all the variables involved in a presidential election, isn’t surprising. For this reason and others – and this may shock the coffee-drinking NPR types of Seattle, San Francisco and Madison, Wis. – more than a few political pundits and reporters, including some of his own colleagues, believe Silver is highly overrated.

Silver would give a polite reply in “Nate Silver: Person of the Year” by Aaron Hicklin, (via “NYT’s Nate Silver Body Slams Politico Reporter” by Betsy Rothstein):

And too often we let pundits reinforce our convictions with a noisy blend of spin and hokum, whether on climate change or Romney vs. Obama. “Peggy Noonan is someone who is very, very skilled at making bullshit look like some elegant soufflé,” Silver says. “She’s very good at rhetoric and argument, but it’s still not grounded in the truth-it all falls apart every four years, but I don’t think she’ll be out of a job any time soon.”

It wasn’t just conservatives who spun the election as a close thing. Even Frank Rich, writing in New York magazine, described it as a “down-to-the-wire presidential contest,” though at almost no point was Romney in the lead. Among Silver’s critics, even on the left, there was palpable anticipation of seeing him exposed as a quack, perhaps because his brand of analysis undermines their buffoonish grandstanding.

Under the headline “One-Term Celebrity,” Politico’s Dylan Byers scoffed at Silver’s analysis, adding tartly, “this may shock the coffeedrinking NPR types of Seattle, San Francisco, and Madison, Wis., [but] more than a few political pundits and reporters, including some of his own colleagues, believe Silver is highly overrated.”

The hackneyed characterization of liberals aside, Byers epitomizes, for Silver, the kind of mission creep that is infecting the media. “I think he’s a terrible journalist,” he says bluntly, referring to an article in which Byers chastised BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings for his antagonistic approach to interviewing politicians. “Isn’t that the job of a journalist, to speak truth to power? The fact that this Dylan Byers guy saw that as problematic is a problem. We work in a world now where all these connections are so massaged; if you talk to someone in the State Department or the Obama campaign, you have to write three unquestioning fluff pieces for every real piece of information you get.” (Byers did not respond to requests for comment.)

146 From This Town:

When David Gregory was named as Russert’s full-time replacement as the host of Meet the Press, many people at NBC guessed that Tim would have been displeased given the internal belief that Gregory was overly ambitious, excessively full of himself, and unworthy of “the chair.” While the TV news business is rife with jealousy and backbiting, Gregory was a target of particular distrust. After a Democratic debate in Ohio a few months earlier, a lot of national media types were boarding a D.C.-bound flight that included several NBC talking heads-Chris Matthews, Russert, and Mitchell. When someone noted that if the plane crashed, it would devastate the network’s talent pool, Matthews quipped that Gregory was at that moment sabotaging the engine. Gregory’s true ambition was to host the Today show, it was assumed inside the network-assumed widely enough for Matt Lauer, the current host, to joke to an NBC colleague, “If I end up floating dead in the Hudson River, there will be two suspects: my wife and David Gregory.”

The show suffered a ratings slump through much of 2012, and rumors were flying about Gregory’s being removed. In fairness, it took years for Russert to become Russert, and Gregory-despite sometimes seeming as full of himself as many say he is-also has a reputation for wanting to improve, as a host and a person. Still, “the show’s in trouble and nobody likes Gregory,” one person identified as an “insider” told the iPad news service The Daily in an item that circulated fast through This Town after the Huffington Post played it big and linked to the story. Another insider provided the requisite “Tim Russert would be spinning in his grave” quote. (NBC slammed the story as “recklessly reported” and “categorically untrue,” and Gregory would eventually re-up as host of Meet the Press in early 2013.)

147 From “”Total Noise,” Only Louder: #Manhunt.” by James Gleick:

It starts to feel as though we’re Pavlov’s dogs-subjects in a vast experiment in operant conditioning. The craving for information leads to behaviors that are alternately rewarded and punished. If instantaneity is what we want, television cannot compete with cyberspace. Nor does the hive mind wait for officialdom. While the FBI watched and tagged and coded thousands of images from surveillance cameras and cell phones, users on Reddit and 4chan went to work, too, marking up photos with yellow arrows and red circles: “1: ALONE 2: BROWN 3: Black backpack 4: Not watching.”

Then, if you were really hooked, you joined the manhunt in cyberspace. Reporters tweeted as they ran. ­@Boston_Police tweeted warnings and at least one license plate. Cambridge residents tweeted the sound of sirens, the chatter on the police scanner, and photos of bullet holes. Outsiders tweeted their love of crowd-sourcing and their disdain for the old media.

“A dozen officer going into our yard …”

“@msnbc says brothers had bomb, @FoxNews says only a trigger @CNN is clueless …”

“SWAT is out on Laurel St.…”

“Boston Police to Twitter: ‘Stop making up fake Twitter accounts, stop tweeting our scanner, stop telling people where we’re going.’ ”

We’re starting to sense what may happen when everything is seen and everyone is connected. Bits of intelligence amid the din; and new forms of banality. Within hours of his death, the world could examine the videos Tamerlan Tsarnaev watched in his YouTube account and, on his Amazon wish list, some books he wanted.

148 From “Rage Machine” by Rebecca Mead:

He checked the latest news, through Breitbart.com. “One of the first revelations I had where I was, like, ‘I think I’ve figured it all out,’ was realizing that the Associated Press was driving the news cycle-whether you are watching Fox News or CNN or MSNBC,” he said. “I had been watching the news wires like Rain Man, like a savant. The first five years I did it, it was embarrassing. It was like a private problem that I wouldn’t really want to share. But then when ‘news aggregation’ and ‘new media’ started to become buzzwords, and people who knew something about it started to seem important, some of the shame went away.” He clicked on another link. “There is just something about knowing information when it happens,” he said. “There is something about telling somebody, ‘Did you know that Michael Jackson just died?’ It’s just weirdly powerful. It’s fun.”

Mike Silver, a businessman who is Breitbart’s neighbor, remembers being at Breitbart’s house for the 2004 Super Bowl, when Janet Jackson had what her co-performer, Justin Timberlake, characterized as a “wardrobe malfunction.” Silver recalls, “He immediately grabs his laptop-he has all these disciples who send him things-and the phone starts ringing off the hook. He wrote the story, calling what Jackson was wearing a ‘solar nipple medallion,’ and then for the next couple of hours you could see that phrase popping up on all the broadcasts. I couldn’t believe how quickly they could influence the Zeitgeist of the world.”

149 The clip is “Lee Stranahan on CNN’s Out In The Open”:

A far wittier dismissal of Sanchez can be found in This Town:

Obama viewed his Correspondents’ Association dinner duties as something of a chore but also enjoyed a good comedy routine and delivered it deftly. He also viewed his act as a humorous outlet to say how he really felt, and one of his favorite peeves-on this and other occasions-was the idiocy of the media. In his speech at the 2010 dinner, the president played a clip of CNN anchor Rick Sanchez discussing a volcano in Iceland whose eruption wreaked havoc on transatlantic flight schedules. Sanchez laughed while expressing surprise that Iceland was not “too cold to have a volcano.” After the video played and Obama remained silent through the crowd’s laughter, he added dryly of CNN: “I guess that’s why they’re the most trusted name in news.”

Sanchez’s firing is described in “Rick Sanchez FIRED From CNN” (no credited writer).

150 From Occupy Unmasked:

BREITBART
Community organizing is not the american people getting together to help your next door neighbour…uh, put food into the cupboard. Community organizing are [sic] radicals, anarchists, socialists, communists, public sector unions who are hell-bent on a nihilistic destruction of everything people in America care for. These people hate this country, they hate the constitution, they hate freedom, they hate liberty.

Andrew Breitbart Psychosis in a Political Mask

Why he wears sunglasses here, whether it’s the sun in his eyes, or the coke in his brain, I have no idea.

A screenshot, from Muck Rack:

muckrack screenshot

151 This is a question which I answer with a possible hypothesis in “The Invisible World: Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo, Chet Uber, Timothy Douglas Webster”.

152 Ann Curry’s interview with Traci Nobles can be found at “Weiner sexting partner: I didn’t think about his wife” by Scott Stump.

From “Long Night at Today by Joe Hogan, detailing the split of Curry from the morning show:

The irony of the current situation is that almost no one with an eye for live television thought that Curry, all things being equal, was a natural for Today’s couch. Curry was a television pro—her emotionally charged reporting on Darfur and Haiti won awards and performed well in the ratings—but that’s a very different skill than making small talk about salad dressing and bantering with Matt Lauer. Wide-eyed and breathless with empathy while interviewing people touched by tragedy, Curry could be awkward and mercurial in the morning happy-talk milieu, her real feelings bursting forth at odd moments. She was considered intensely earnest and somewhat fragile, despite her hard-news chops. In the past, Couric would sometimes tease her about her clothes, remarks that Curry took badly.

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Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales: The Beach House Scenes

Some of the opening scenes of a strange and memorable movie. A recent profile of the writer and director, Richard Kelly is “The World Ends with a Handshake: Unraveling the Apocalypse of ‘Southland Tales'” by Abraham Riesman.

FORTUNIO is watching TV in the beach house.

ANNOUNCER
Operation CUE, the Atomic Test Program of the Federal Civil Defense Initiative, as seen by Joan Collin, reporter.

JOAN COLLIN
I had to see Operation CUE through many eyes, not only my own. But as a reporter through eyes of the average American man and woman.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

FORTUNIO changes the channel to a talk show hosted on a beach by an attractive woman.

KRYSTA NOW
I’m Krysta. Krysta Now. And we are live in Malibu with my guests today. Shoshana Cox. Sheena Gee. And Deena Storm.

The camera pans to each woman as they’re introduced, and they give a small, smiling wave. KRYSTA speaks to the camera.

KRYSTA NOW
Join us for an in-depth discussion of the penetrating issues facing society today. Issues like: [as each issue is announced, it scrolls past, left to right, on the chyron below. Each issue is announced with a weighty, portentous pause.] Abortion. Terrorism. Crime. Poverty. Social reform. Quantum teleportation. Teen horniness. And war.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

KRYSTA turns from the camera and now speaks to her guests.

KRYSTA NOW
Now we all made decisions in our youth to start doing porn, I think that it’s time we turned the mirror on ourselves…

We are now off the TV, and looking at some stairs, the kind you expect in an expensive California beach house: spare and elegant, a fitting part to a house that’s like a combination buddhist temple and art exhibit you won’t understand. KRYSTA NOW does a languid walk up the stairs. Some police and spies cannot help but look about a room in the manner of their profession, searching for points of interest even when they’re off-duty or retired, and KRYSTA cannot help but walk up the stairs with a bored, languid horniness, as if she’s on-camera and on her way to an orgy, even when no one’s watching. Except us.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

Back to KRYSTA’s program on TV.

SHOSHANA COX
And once you get on the bang bus…you never get off.

DEENA STORM
You know what? The bang bus should be banned. It’s totally unethical. Even within the parameters of porn. Do you like to get slapped to the ground and fucked?

SHOSHANA COX
Ugh. Too violent. Violence and porn should not mix.

KRYSTA NOW (on TV)
You know what? I like to get fucked. I like to get fucked hard. [COX, GEE and STORM concur with uh-uhs, yeahs, and a charge of champagne glasses]

KRYSTA is still at the top of the stairs, exasperated that not FORTUNIO, no one, is looking at her right now.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

KRYSTA NOW (on TV)
But you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Violence is a big problem in our society today. And I will not support it. That is the primary reason I won’t do anal.

SHOSHANA COX
I didn’t know that.

FORTUNIO has known for a while that KRYSTA’s behind him. He talks to her with his eyes in her direction, but without turning around.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

FORTUNIO
Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible…without feminine upheaval.

KRYSTA
Go ahead and make fun of my prophecies all you want, Fortunio.

KRYSTA walks from the stairs, past him, looks out a window, then does a dramatic swivel.

KRYSTA
But deep down inside…every one wishes they were a porn star.

FORTUNIO gives a sarcastic “Sure” with his lips.

FORTUNIO
Really.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

KRYSTA
We’re a bisexual nation…living in denial. All because of a bunch of nerds. A bunch. Of nerds. Who got off a boat in the 15th century and decided that sex…was something to be ashamed of. All the pilgrims did was ruin the American orgy of freedom.

FORTUNIO has a funny reply to this, but he doesn’t get to say it…BOXER SANTAROS ascends the stairs, a determined, slow announcing clop, as if he’s ascending a rope by hand that he climbs with certainty. FORTUNIO’s thoughts turn to what seem like secrets, but what they are, we can only guess. Perhaps: when will KRYSTA and BOXER figure it all out?

BOXER
You’ve been lying to me.

KRYSTA places her hand gently on BOXER’s face.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

KRYSTA
You have to trust me. [in a whisper] I’m here to protect you.

BOXER
From who?

KRYSTA
There are people out there…who want to destroy you.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

Another scene, a little later:

ROLAND TAVERNER knocks on the door. FORTUNIO gets the door and gives the wave in, as if he’s been expecting this guest.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

ROLAND
Officer Roland Taverner.

Extends hand. FORTUNIO gives it a warm, assured clasp.

FORTUNIO
Of course you are. How you doing man? When’d you get back from the desert?

ROLAND
Uh…don’t exactly remember.

FORTUNIO
[in a whisper] That’s okay. [low, but not a whisper] That’s okay. You’re okay. [gives friendly slap to ROLAND’s arm.] Let’s go upstairs.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

ROLAND is now upstairs in the room with the TV we saw in the last scene, with BOXER, FORTUNIO, and KRYSTA. BOXER says his lines now as if he’s unfamilar and uncomfortable, as if he’s being fed them via earpiece while saying them. There’s no sign of an earpiece.

BOXER
This is…an epic…Los Angeles crime saga.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

ROLAND is more certain in his lines, but it feels he’s also playing a role. We have the uncanny sense of both men playing roles, both worried about being found out, and yet neither sees the other obviously playing a part.

ROLAND
And you’re researching your role…to play a cop? You want to do a ride along?

BOXER
Yes. Exactly. But I’m also directing. It takes place in the near future.

ROLAND
Right.

KRYSTA
Scientists are saying the future’s going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted.

ROLAND gives a nervous hmmm. FORTUNIO knows something that is making him want to crack up, but he doesn’t reveal it.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

BOXER continues the strange delivery of his exposition, again as if he’s being fed these lines from somewhere else, with the empahsis falling at random.

BOXER
The basic CONCEPT…is this. I play an LAPD cop…who isn’t…who he seems. He’s a paranoid schizophrenic…who has a supernatural gift. He sees things. And he senses a change [now a whisper] in the city.

KRYSTA
Crime suddenly skyrockets for no apparent reason. The world…is coming to an end. [KRYSTA turns to BOXER] And he’s the only one who can see the truth.

ROLAND says the next line with sincere feeling – he actually wants the answer to this question.

ROLAND
What’s the truth?

BOXER gives a smile that starts out nervous, then breaks into something wide, as if he’s been asked to do this for the cameras for the first time.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

BOXER
My character? He realizes. That the apocalyptic crime rate…is because of the global deceleration…THE ROTATION…of the earth…is slowing down…at a rate…of…point zero…zero zero…[KRYSTA now mouths each zero in time with BOXER]…zero zero zero…zero. SIX. MILES PER HOUR each day. DISRUPTING the chemical equilibrium in the human brain. Causing. Very. Irrational. Criminal behavior.

ROLAND, again, says the next line fully. He again actually wants an answer to this.

ROLAND
How does he…stop the global deceleration?

FORTUNIO still knows something that is making him want to crack up.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

BOXER
Oh he can’t stop it. THERE IS NO STOPPING WHAT CAN’T BE STOPPED. ONLY GOD…can stop it.

KRYSTA
But the New York Times…said God is dead!

FORTUNIO tries to pretend to look interested in all this.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

BOXER
So, in the end: I die. In a very tragic downtown shootout. While whispering my theory to doctor Muriel Fox. The oceanography. Disaster specialist.

KRYSTA
ASTROPHYSICIST!

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

BOXER
The oceanography disaster…specialist. [whisper] Sweetheart.

KRYSTA slumps back, not satisfied.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

BOXER
My character…his name…is Jericho Kane.

ROLAND manages to slip into character. Anything is easier than trying to understand what’s going on.

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales

ROLAND
You’re gonna have to wear a bullet-proof vest.

This blog would re-visit this strange and memorable movie for a much longer and in-depth look in a later post, “Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales: A Maze of Death”.

(Stills and dialogue from Southland Tales Copyright The Samuel Goldwyn Company and associated producers.)

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Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers: The Future of Advertising

(Spoilers, obviously. Some stills contain nudity that’s been blurred.)

A sensual movie without any sensuality. It is something like a babushka doll or puzzle box, in that it is most definitely not the thing that it first appears to be, certainly not the movie it was promoted as, and yet what movie it is underneath is an even more contentious issue. Even if you see it as this more complicated thing, you may still reject it (I think I have), because it lacks some crucial essence. For me, this is the lack of any actual characters – they are not types, but something even more abstract, something around which your attention cannot give any focus. This is not a failure of competence or ability, but very deliberate design – and I just don’t think this design can possibly work. It’s the sort of movie that sometimes gives intellectuals a bad name – because though there might be something to think about here, and something to talk about at length, many of the obvious, easiest pleasures are missing – not the obvious, easy pleasures of a leering sense, but those of some character’s expression of feeling or some dialogue that acutely conveys a man or woman in that moment 1.

There are two things that I found helpful in thinking about this movie, and I think both are obvious, though neither has been given mention in the reviews I’ve read – though so much is now written about some movies, that I may well have missed such mentions somewhere. The first is the man who is now an all-purpose concept used a little too often, like the nettlesome concept of meta, applied to anything that works unconventionally, or as an excuse when something simply does not work, and that man is Andy Kaufman. Spring Breakers is not a comedy, but the same tension that is central to Kaufman’s work is in this movie, and the tension is this: am I joking now, or aren’t I? This dynamic is essential for Kaufman’s best bits to work – the foreign man who does one horrible celebrity imitation after another, who creates a sense of incredible discomfort in the audience at how terrible he is, the audience hoping somehow that this might be a joke yet certain that it isn’t, but: somehow, yes, it turns out it is – Kaufman does his Elvis Presley, a flawless one. When the bit became known and people were aware that that they were being set up, the tension was gone, and Kaufman had to stop doing it. That tension is there in his most extreme bits where he wrestled women – is he really going to do this? It is there in his appearances on “David Letterman” where he would get into an argument with wrestler Jerry Lawler (the argument was fake) while wearing a neck brace from a wrestling injury (the injury was fake as well). It is not as simple as acting crazy – there should be the genuine question, always, even knowing that he has put you on in the past, about whether he is putting you on again. Central to this is how far you’re willing to go for the joke, and for Kaufman, the answer was: as far as necessary for the effect.

An excerpt from Lost in the Funhouse by Bill Zehme, might convey this well. It’s an episode from Kaufman’s wrestling career:

[Kaufman] wrestled/rubbed a woman from the audience, pinning her one second before the three-minute bell, whereupon a bald-headed mammoth goon bounded onto the stage screaming, “Why don’t you pick on a man, you skinny little geek!” And this was professional Hollywood stuntman Jay York and he crushed Andy’s larynx in a headlock and twisted Andy’s fingers and lifted Andy by the neck and threw him all over the stage and Andy screamed, “George! George! [George Shapiro, Kaufman’s agent] Help!” and they had been rehearsing this all week, but Andy had neglected to mention such to his family, and suddenly Janice [Kaufman’s mother] started screaming from her seat, “George! George! Help him! George!” And Judd Hirsch [an actor who co-starred with Kaufman in Taxi], who was sitting with Janice and Stanley [Kaufman’s father] and Carol [Kaufman’s sister], would recall, “I’m looking at his mother and his father, who are clawing the arms of their chairs, thinking that their son is going to be injured. His mother grabs my wrist-she doesn’t even know me-and says, ‘Oh my God, he’s gonna get killed!‘ I’m now truly fooled because I thought she was part of the act. I’m thinking I’m in a room with another act sitting beside me playing his family. I thought, How did he find these people who look like him? He created the illusion that anything could happen in that auditorium. And, in truth, he was even fooling them!”

This might be considered a high minded, intellectual concept – towards the end of his life, Kaufman offered to lecture at universities2 – but this concept of staying in character absolutely, for keeping the pretense of the bit going and going so the audience doesn’t know whether you’re joking or not, is something Kaufman probably got from wrestling. You play the villain in the ring, but you stay the villain outside the ring as well. We assume that the person playing the villain is very different from the persona, but we’re never given this moment of release, as we are when an actor gives an interview to talk about the character he played. There was tension in Kaufman’s appearances on Letterman, and there is that same tension in the appearances by the creator of Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine3. He is a hyperactive put-on artist, but we’re not sure where the put-on stops – we’re certain he never directed Snoop Dogg in a theatrical adaptation of Ulysses, but we stop being sure of who he is after that. Were he simply a crazy person, a drug addled hermit, the tension is gone, and he’s simply pathetic. At the other pole, if it’s obvious he’s just doing an act, he stops being interesting. The audience laughs hard throughout his appearances, because of the very uncertainty of whether they’re being kidded or not. You can understand why Letterman wanted to have him back several times – until Korine supposedly rifled through Meryl Streep’s purse4. Was this a joke, or wasn’t it?

It is this uncertainty that gives Spring Breakers some of its power – we know there’s a joke, that we are not to take these images entirely straight, the question is how far the joke goes and what the punchline is. There is the possibility that there’s no joke at all, the opinion of Heather Long in “Spring Breakers isn’t just a terrible movie, it reinforces rape culture” – this is a film that simply puts forth the idea that women are there to be used and thrown away. It might be that this is simple guilt-free trash, and if you see anything else, the joke is on you, the perspective of a favorable review by Will Leitch, “The Kind Of Trash You Love”, and an unfriendly one by David Edelstein, “Is Spring Breakers One of the Perviest Movies Ever Made?” There is the possibility that the irony is simply a cheap cover for the simple pleasure of looking at women with bikinis on and off, “The Gross Hipster Sexism Of ‘Spring Breakers'” by Kate Aurthur. Is this movie a send-up of brutal culture, or is it just junk5, asks Dana Stevens in her review, “Spring Breakers: Dead-on satire of our sexed-up culture or dull piece of exploitative garbage?”. Is Korine’s leering camera held by a guy who’s into young girls, or a parody of how young girls are shown?6 asks Rich Juzwiak in his, “Girls Gone Stylized: Spring Breakers Is Gorgeous Hedonism” [archive link]. I genuinely think the movie is playing games with the audience, but they’re not the games that Arthur and Long accuse it of playing – but I also think the movie has very deliberately been made as something against which these charges can be made. Just as with a wrestling villain, there is no simple moment when it steps out of character.

There is the second thing that I found an even more useful compass for this movie, a non-surprise given away by this post’s title: this is a movie that can be said to embrace wholely, and at the same time is deeply critical of, what might be called the advertising aesthetic. It is the use of this aesthetic which is the reason for the utter lack of actual characters, lack of much of a plot, and frequent movement back and forth in time. A lot of successful advertising conveys an experience that we might want, and rather than establishing a particular product as essential for having that experience, instead associates the product with the coveted experience presented7.

A good example of this might be one of the most well-known and best-made ads ever, from around the turn of the century, the VW ad featuring Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”:

There is roughly a narrative here: those in the car experience some ineffable moment of youth and want to continue experiencing it, and so they put off going to a party. There are no characters, as there never are in such ads, allowing a broad range of viewers in the target demographic to place themselves in any of the roles.

Another ad, closer to the themes of Spring Breakers is Coca-Cola’s Open Happiness / Bottle Blast:

This has less of a narrative, and even less in actual characters. What is established again is a mood, a really great youthful summer. There is the experience of people floating in the air, but the experience is inessential, all that is necessary is that it create the sense of some place you want to be, some place you want to go. As said already, the ad does nothing so crude as insist Coke is necessary for such an experience, it only associates itself with this coveted moment of happiness.

We may easily conceive of a variation on such an ad, one which pays no attention to anything like character or narrative, whose sole purpose is to establish this sense of a coveted place. Some ads are more sexually explicit than others, and this one would be very obvious: at this coveted place, there’s going to be hardcore fucking. It is not difficult to imagine such an ad, we have seen something like them already somewhere, and we’ve already seen it in at least in one place: we’ve just described the opening montage of Spring Breakers. We see several variations on this footage until, finally, the four women join this world – and even this is a trope of advertising, the person in a dull existence who needs to get out, and somehow does, finding new happiness in a new life. The various methods of advertising are so ingrained that they pass unnoticed when they are used here – one in particular makes no sense in the context of these images, as documented experience, rather than as images designed for a consumer. The people on the beach in the opening montage are often looking at us, as if we exist, to be interacted with – there are plenty of moments in the film where we have the perspective of a bystander filming something on their phone, but in this beginning we have what we think of as an objective camera, held by no one, carrying no perspective. The idea of looking at the viewer as if they’re there is another way of bringing them closer to the coveted experience, the coveted place. These people are looking at us as if we’re there, we’re almost at spring break with them. This also explains the footage of women sucking on popsicles, an oh so obvious reference to something else, looking directly at the camera, an ostentatious gesture for us, the viewer. We expect to see some men who are the actual perspective of this camera, who these women are flirting with, but this never takes place – they’re somehow flirting with us. This makes no sense in narrative film – if a woman looks longingly into the camera, we expect to see the object of her longing at some point; but it is a common technique in advertising, where women are constantly looking out with erotic hunger at the viewer.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers and an Adidas ad - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/OddHonestIndianjackal

The advertising-like methods of Spring Breakers contrasted with actual advertising, “Adidas House Party”, through a split screen juxtaposition of excerpts of both.

This technique is part of the film’s advertising as well. The actresses are in the ads, but not presented to be seen as their characters, and they do not keep their gazes to themselves, but rather look out at us in a beguiling fashion. What is being conveyed with such sensual looks is perhaps best captured by Jeb Lund, when he discusses a piece of casting entirely designed to appeal to comic book fanboys, in “‘Dollhouse’ Update: Still Misogynistic, Fanboyist, Shitty”:

“I love anal, obesity and watching men play video games. I also love taking care of people. Doing laundry, chores, running errands. I could do all this in a maid costume. Without panties. So, you know, it’d be easier for me to do anal. With you. The fat one.”

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Advertising is one of three forms I can think of where function entirely overwhelms any other story elements – the mood conveyed must be such to sell the product. The story is dictated by this function, not the other way around. The other two are both referenced when people write about Breakers: one is pornography, the other is the morality play. Pornography only requires the people to have sex; whatever brings the woman in the latex nurse’s outfit and the woman in the dog leash together is of secondary or no importance. The morality play requires that people act in a manner that makes an explicit lesson. The most well-known and hysterical such treatises of our age are those concerning drug use – they allow no possibility for a character study of someone who is a functional drug user, or someone who has a mild addiction rather than any crisis. The protagonist must become addicted, then sell everything they own and become a prostitute to support their habit so that a lesson might be imparted. That there are plenty of people who have lived such a downward spiral does not prevent such a movie from being a morality play – if you tell the story of such a person’s life for the purpose of telling of that life, it is one thing. If the life only serves for the moral lesson it imparts, with all details bent into the direction of that lesson, it is a morality play. As said, when you write of Breakers, you can reference all three8.

The women, as said by many, do not exist as characters. I, along with many others, get mixed up among the blondes, Cotty, Brit, and Candy. Faith has one attribute, and it is there in her name: her religious piety. The dialogue of the women remaines almost entirely generic; Candy says of the robbery, “Pretend it’s a video game”, but someone her age would speak in terms of a specific game – “Pretend it’s Call of Duty”, “Pretend it’s GTA.” They are so generic that certain traits have not even been filled in. These are women in their late teens, living now, and yet there’s a striking omission: they almost never use their phones, except to call their parents – I wasn’t even sure they had phones until they made these calls9. The closest to anything a character comes to expressing their inner thoughts is Faith’s monologue of being bored with her life, and it too is something generic, something that could be said by any of these women, or by almost anyone:

I’m so tired of seeing the same things every single day…everybody’s miserable here because everybody sees the same things, they wake up in the same bed, same houses, depressing street lights…one gas station…grass…no sign of green, it’s brown…everything’s the same, and everyone’s just sad. I don’t want to end up like them, I really want to get out of here. It’s more than just spring break, it’s our chance to see something different.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

The lack of character is something we associate with advertising, with pornography, where the only important trait is erotic hunger or the feigning of it, and the morality play, where character is overwhelmed by the lesson to be taught. The four women are something like characters in a very safe pornography, in that the situation is designed only for arousal, or the camera is placed in such a way that conveys no information, it only highlights their bodies. One of the first scenes of them together has them in their underwear, where they sing “Hot in Herre”, mime oral sex on each other, and do a joking imitation of bodies seized with sexual excitement. The girls smoke up and get an inhale by kissing each other. In class, Candy mimes oral sex, again, and Brit writes “I want penis”.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

There’s nothing in their character that suggests why they do these things, and all these actions feel unspontaneous, something wanted by an outside viewer, as natural as if we saw them suddenly have a topless pillow fight. When the women reach Florida, they are dressed almost always in bikinis. The three girls talk while in a pool, and the camera keeps dropping under the water, as if distracted, to gawk at their bodies, before returning upwards again. Candy and Brit march along the bridge, right before the massacre, and the camera cuts to their behinds. Why does it do this, what purpose does it serve, except the most obvious one?

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

After the robbery, when the women go to Florida, we have an example of the way the movie uses the advertising aesthetic’s use of time – there is often no time in an ad, no sense of a linear before and after. We move back and forth through images that establish a good time, a place you want to be, each moment independent of each other, no moment before or after another. As the women travel on this bus, we hear a voiceover of them talking to their parents – it’s a splice of two later conversations in the movie Faith and Candy separately have. Candy’s part of the conversation is from the very end of the film, the phone call she makes to her mother after the massacre and after Alien has been killed.

This is the voiceover:

Hi grandma. Having so much fun here. This place is…special. I’m starting to think this is the most spiritual place I’ve ever been. I think we found ourselves here. We finally got to see some other parts of the world. We saw some beautiful things here. God, I can’t believe how many new friends we made. Friends from all over the place. I mean, everyone was so sweet here. So warm, and friendly. It’s way more than just having a good time. God, it was so nice to get a break from reality for a little while. We’ll always remember this trip. I want to come back next year with you. Something so amazing…magical! Something, so beautiful. Feels as if the world is perfect! Like it’s never gonna end!

That we get this voiceover before the trip has barely begun, ties in with the idea that they are part of the world of advertising where things are pre-packaged, things are pre-experienced. A trip portrayed in an ad for Mastercard or a cruise line implies that all trips must be good, must fit into the contours of a pre-imagined experience, no matter what. The trips that are offered us become more organized, more confined to cruise ships, or resorts, or itineraries, so that there’s less possibility of them falling outside the expected experience. The trip of the women has already begun and it becomes very clear that it is not at all what’s described, and yet it must become this, some generic variation of the best thing ever, “Something so amazing…magical! Something, so beautiful.”

This leads into what I think is one of the strangest things about this movie, one seemingly unnoted by many – though, again, my caveat that so many people write about some movies these days that there may well be, probably are, others who’ve seen this same thing. Though these women travel to spring break, though it is made clear that this is a rabidly sexual bacchanal, the usual hormonal festival, there’s no hint that in this section of the movie any of the women actually have sex. You expect them to message furiously some boys they meet, or to get all moony about the possibility of somebody calling, but there’s nothing of the kind. There is no footage of any long caress, or a regretted hook-up.

Faith is presented as a woman of religious seriousness, and in another movie there would be the tension of her finding an attractive boy and whether she will have sex with him. There’s no hint of her finding any conflict between piety and lust; the surroundings are simply surroundings. These women are part of a world without actual experience, just as there is no actual experience in many ads, only the creation of a mood – and the only necessary element in that mood is for them to look gorgeous, to be part of a beautiful, enticing tapestry. An ad conveys that there is this coveted place, and if you’re simply there, you’ll share in the fun, without it being connected with any activity – just like looking, but better. Other detours into tangible female biology that might make such a trip more fun than usual, that four women together would talk about – menstrual cramps or the wonderful side effects from your birth control, are obviously left out, as they would unquestionably make “Something so amazing…magical!” a little less magical. The only brief byway into this area is, again, something for the voyeurs, when the women crouch down by the side of the road and take a piss.

Though the women don’t have any of the adventures, sexual and romantic, that we expect, they have reached an ideal place, they are in paradise. Faith makes a phone call to her grandmother and describes where they are as something like an eden, and we might mis-read this as a girl casually lying to a relative about what’s actually taking place on her vacation, but there’s no hint that the view she shares with her friends is any different. Faith’s phone call to her grandmother comes in the middle of a sequence at the pool where her friends talk about where they are as the ideal place. During the conversation, we cut to this phone call, but also to a moment where Cotty is drunk and surrounded by drunk boys, and it feels as if she’s about to be raped.

FAITH
It’s like paradise here…

COTTY
I know, I love it.

FAITH
Wish we could all buy a house here together.

COTTY
I never want to leave.

CANDY
Ugh…fuck school. Just fuck it.

COTTY sprays water on CANDY.

FAITH
Know what would be cool? If we could freeze life. We could just click it, and freeze it, and say: [COTTY gives a “you believe this shit?” to CANDY] this is the way it’s gonna be forever. Like have this moment together, forever.

COTTY
That would be real cool, Faith.

FAITH goes underwater. FAITH comes up again.

FAITH
You making fun of me?

COTTY
No…we just think you’re cute!

CANDY
We just want to click things and freeze them…

COTTY
…and freeze them and buy houses together, and go to church services. And pray.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

FAITH
I’m serious, y’all. It’s different here.

Spring Breakers: "It's different here."

A post shared by Goto Tengo (@gototengo) on

UNKNOWN BOY
Take it. Like. A stripper.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

UNKNOWN BOY CONT’D
Goddamnit you look sexy, I want that pussy, baby.

COTTY
You’re never gonna get this pussy. *singsongs the line* You’re never gonna get…this pussy…never gonna get this pus-sy

She lifts up her bikini top on the last syllable, and starts cracking up. We then jump cut to her slapping the UNKNOWN BOY playfully, and then she laughs.

FAITH
Hi grandma, I’m having so much fun here. It’s so cool lookin’. The people here are so much fun. They’re all really sweet. The food. The guys. You would love it here. I wanna come back again next year, with you. [cracks up while she says this] That would be cool. Nah, I miss you too. But I really like it here. I know, mom, I should have told you that I came. You’d never let me go. I’m fine. Mom, I’m sorry. I should have told you, I just wanted to go. I know. Well, we had enough money, so…we wanted to get away and…we’re fine, we’re safe…I’m not drinking, I’m just…we got scooters, we’re just driving around, we’re meeting people…I’m having fun. Well, great. [gives a heavy sigh] Well, alright. I love you too. Bye.

FAITH
I never want to go home. Never want to go back.

COTTY
Me neither.

CANDY
Same.

FAITH
Just finally feel like I can be who I was supposed to be here. I know we did a really bad thing, but I’m really glad we did it. I feel better here.

What anyone will focus in on is the unsettling contrast created in this sequence, where Faith is in a church, then we cut to her in the pool saying emphatically, “I’m serious, this place is different”, and we’re in the room where it feels as if Cotty is almost assaulted – it makes it seem as if Faith has made a rape kingdom into a holy site. Though Cotty would no doubt share with her friends what took place, it does not change Faith’s attitude – this place isn’t a hunting ground for predators, it’s paradise. This is not used solely in the secular context, but the religious one as well – they have returned to Eden. We have no sense either that Faith is a fallen angel, that she has abandoned her christianity in this Gomorrah. We have the paradoxical situation described earlier, where she remains a sincere, virignal, committed christian, surrounded by an orgy, but where the orgy is only a surrounding, where life is like advertising, just like looking but better. That Faith looks upon this place as paradise makes the viewer think she’s a lunatic, but it also makes full sense – these women are now in a world, the unending happy celebration of advertising, that is always presented as an ideal place that you should want to be part of. The desire to stop time is simply what advertising which conveys a particular mood does, a series of images unconnected with each other, where it becomes impossible to tell which is before or after, and where the images, being unconnected to each other, like the opening sequence of this movie, could theoretically roll on and on, without end, spring break, forever.

This movie’s approach is often suggestive of advertising’s aesthetic, and yet it undercuts it, suggesting that what we are seeing is a denial of this eden’s most degenerate elements, the montage of people on the beach moving into Faith speaking of a blessed place while we see footage of Cotty, on the verge of something terrible almost taking place. I say that this movie is the future of advertising because I can see an ad campaign incorporating all the elements of this movie, a Spring Breakers tribute that we might see a year or five years from now, because advertising, like the market, can absorb almost anything without being subverted. The only goal in advertising is to sell a product, and everything else is of no consequence. That an ad carries elements which suggest advertising itself is corrupt, that looking at an attractive model is a form of dirty voyeurism are not things antithetical to an effective ad – these things may even be helpful in a campaign as these are things acknowledged and admitted by the ad viewer. That the ad acknowledges them as well only helps create a connection with the potential buyer, rather than to cause the buyer to further question the entire process.

We may see some of the approach in the ads for Diesel jeans, which proudly take a famously unconventional approach. In one series they deride the association of a particular ethos with a product, in this case, “Be Stupid”, and it’s also a ridiculing of the lazy celebration of the idiotic. The ad creates a connection with the potential buyer on these terms – you and I, the I being the very brand embodied by the ad – are able to discern this nascent idiocracy. Another features beautiful models in the midst of a world overwhelmed by global warming – the potential consumer knows that buying clothes and looking at ads is a foolish superficial thing in the context of these overwhelming problems, and the ad creates a connection by acknowledging this. Advertising can even contain elements like the near sexual assault of Cotty – a few years ago, a Calvin Klein ad carried the theme of a possible gang rape. I stress this to eliminate the possibility that the advertising aesthetic can ever be refuted within the aesthetic itself. There is something in us that wants illusion, that wants partialities, and advertising sates this. It is only outside the advertising aesthetic that we see what it cannot do, and Spring Breakers never leaves the aesthetic, which is what provokes its passionately divided reaction, and what makes it so similar to controversial ads of the past and future – which may well contain elements that admit to the shallowness of consumerism, the cruelty of sex, and yet: advertising survives10.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers is like advertising, but also like celebrity, which is supposed to be an unending series of great times, without any actual work, and why being famous is something you should want, why being famous is your fated place: “I can be who I was supposed to be here”. This is one of the points of casting teen stars who’ve won this brass ring, for this is Faith talking about finally being where she aspired to be, but it might also be seen as Selena Gomez talking about where she is, a place of fame where we all want to be. Because being a celebrity is usually presented as entirely a series of happy events, as the parties of Breakers are presented as events, but without any consequential activity. There is no focus in stories about successful actors and singers on mic checks, or rehearsals rehearsals rehearsals, getting the lighting right – only red carpets and crazy times at St. Bart’s. Faith says that they are in paradise, and she is correct – the state of life that they are in now is presented again and again as paradise.

It is only after the women are bailed out and they are in the pool hall, that Faith has a sudden change of perspective on their trip. Here, Korine again plays a game of: where does this joke end? Because the images in the pool hall are filled with racial menace. The cornrowed Alien holds Faith in his grip, and then we cut to a black man who looks on as if he’s inspecting her in a market, and as if this point has not already been made emphatically enough, we cut to the perspective of a dog looking at Faith; the man is something like an animal, something like this animal staring up at this fragile girl. I do think the menace here is real and intended, but also to create a contrast. Faith feels no such fear when her friend is nearly raped; instead, when her friend is nearly raped, it is spliced together with her in the church, her eyes closing, as if in regret that this predators’ ball is suffused with a holy magic that her church lacks.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

“Life Lessons”, by Richard Brody, perhaps the best review of this movie, acutely sees many of these racial undercurrents. Aisha Harris’s “In Spring Breakers, Black Lives Matter Less Than White Ones” is equally insightful, though I think I am in minor disagreement with both. There is the idea that somehow the women cross a racial line when they meet Alien – they become true gangsters, killing Archie and all of his associates at the end. Faith serves as a compass of how certain situations are always seen, images viewed unskeptically – spring break is mostly harmless fun, a paradise, while the men in the pool hall can only be a source of menace. That both places might be seen as equally menacing – though in only one is one of the women almost raped – does not keep the movie’s own images from presenting them as heaven and hell, though we are also given the possibility of questioning those same images. It is a racial difference, and not just a racial difference – there’s a black man in the room where Cotty is almost raped, and Dangeruss, the rapper who would coach Franco on his character, would point out that the neighborhood where they filmed the pool hall scene was a genuinely scary place11. The difference, again, is advertising – spring break can be transformed into a happy, painless bachannal, but no one will do anything like that to the pool hall – a political ad, a GOP attack ad, might, like a morality play, capture only the menace, and eliminate anything like underlying characters, which is exactly how things are presented in the movie.

The menace is racial, but not just racial – the pool hall is in a deeply poor area. If advertising presents the illusion of infinite possibilities, the pool hall is a world of no possibilities. For there to be the illusion of infinite possibilities, there can be no memory of what has taken place before, and there can be no characters – for you to be anyone, whatever the situation, requires that you be no one. This is very much the world of Spring Breakers – a woman is nearly raped, and it is as if it never happened. Those who are at spring break can engage in this orgy, and then forget about it afterwards. They will move from this role to the next12. The men in the pool hall have only one role, and will not have the possibility of playing any other.

This playing of parts, of switching into one and then out, is there in the scene in the parking lot, where the women sing Britney Spears, then re-enact the robbery where they are suddenly very brutal, very cruel, and suddenly they are back to a picture of happy innocence.

COTTY
I was in the car…I was sitting there, looking out for all the muthafuckin po-leec.

CANDY
We in the back, we just open the door and we go, “FREEZE MOTHERFUCKERS! HANDS IN THE MOTHERFUCKIN AIR!”

BRIT
GET YOUR MOTHERFUCKIN KNEES ON THE MOTHERFUCKIN GROUND, you piece of shit. DOWN, MOTHERFUCKERS. DOWN. [smacks FAITH in the arm.] Get down on your motherfuckin knees, Faith. Get on your fuckin knees. GET YOUR MOTHERFUCKING KNEES ON THE FUCKING GROUND.

FAITH
What’d did they do?

BRIT
They fucking got on the ground. [laughs]

CANDY
I get up to this bitch, and I was going: yo. Fuckin get on your goddamn knees before I shoot your motherfuckin face out. Give me your motherfuckin money, I won’t kill you.

BRIT
You wanna fuckin die tonight? You wanna fuckin die tonight? GIVE ME ALL YOUR GODDAMN MONEY. GIVE IT TO ME, NOW!

CANDY
GET ON YOUR KNEES.

CANDY (to COTTY)
Get on your knees. GET ON YOUR MOTHERFUCKIN KNEES, BITCH!

BRIT
Get on your knees. Do you wanna die tonight? You fuckin scared?

COTTY is now lying on the ground.

CANDY
You like that, you piece of shit?

COTTY
Don’t kill me.

CANDY
Give us your motherfuckin money, NOW. Now, bitch.

BRIT
GIVE ME ALL YOUR MOTHERFUCKIN MONEY, NOW.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Faith is a compass to how these two separate situations are presented, and correspondingly she is also happily, willfully blind. Spring break is a paradise, so something like an attempted rape does not take place. She really wanted to go on spring break, so the brutality of the robbery is blocked out, avoided: “I know we did a really bad thing, but I’m really glad we did it.” She is there to be an external moral conscience, though her placement feels deliberately false, a placement required by the situation – how did this goodygoody end up friends with these naughtynaughtys? The answer doesn’t matter – a situation might require these girls to dance around in their underwear, or it might require a good christian girl to be friends with this coven, and no character or memories prevent this, just like in advertising. She leaves the movie, and though she is supposed to be someone closer to our moral conscience, we don’t want to go with her. That her conscience itself is false, not seeing a potential rape, not acknowledging the brutality of the robbery, is important, because her leaving is supposed to signal a sort of downward spiral for the remaining women, when I don’t think they change at all. They are brutal during the robbery and they are brutal at the end. It is they who initiate the killings in the finale – Alien is at first too scared to go through with it.

With the appearance of Alien, the movie becomes both like a morality play and a critique of one. He is the perennial bad influence under whom these women will fall sway, and though the movie has some of these contours, the joke is that they are already depraved and cruel without his help. He does not teach them to be cruel, for they have already been joyfully sadistic in the robbery. Candy and Brit have three way sex with him, the nadir of their descent, but this moment is as ludicrous as a symptom in their moral decay as Faith describing spring break as paradise – though they seemingly did not participate in any of it, we assume sex like this was happening all around them in the earlier scenes. The movie ends with Candy speaking of their how she’s changed, but what’s more obvious is this: these women do not change at all. Alien’s name is, I think, supposed to be part of the joke – his values are supposed to be alien to them, but they’re not alien at all, Alien’s values are theirs already. There is perhaps the implied criticism that the modern day morality play’s purpose is not to teach anything, but to provide possibilities for the voyeur, that the morality play and pornography are closer than you’d think. A movie exposé into the seamy world of strip clubs or drug dealing is not intended to be an exposé at all, but to allow one to look in on strip clubs, to fantasize about being a drug dealer, while providing the viewer a pious remove – to allow us to deny our voyeurism. You can see the similarity of this attitude to Faith’s. Are the last few scenes about the corruption of Candy, or about seeing Vanessa Hudgens naked? The perspective of the movie is that the true purpose is always the second, with the first always a fig leaf, which the viewer is grateful for its figurativeness.

It is after they meet Alien that we have the most memorable scene of the movie, one that is in some ways so very simply designed, but devastatingly effective13. The women are by a piano in their masks and bikinis when Alien starts to play “Everytime” by Britney Spears, which segues into the original itself, playing over a montage of the crew robbing various people. There is nothing ironic or fun about this scene – when Alien smashes a man into a cake there’s nothing funny to it at all. It’s very powerful, very disturbing, intentionally disturbing. The women may be beautiful, but in their ski masks they are monstrous. The song adds a power because it is so well known, a song known by the victims and the persecutors, one of the benefits of a global music distribution system where everyone can know the same music, and be supposedly bound together by love or knowledge of the same music – “We met people who are just like us. People just the same as us”, says Candy in her end conversation with her mom – yet nothing of the kind happens here. This crew looks at their victims as subhuman – “You like that, you piece of shit?” says Candy when re-enacting the diner robbery. The sequence is a continuation of what is done in the spring break footage and which culminates in the massacre, the idea that anything, whatever its cruelties, can be aestheticized, everything can be made beautiful. That truly ugly things are made into sequences in movies where the suffering is blanked out is something this moment explicitly references, movies where music is used in an ironic fashion, where our reaction lies in the contrast between a sentimental song and some act of great brutality. Here, we may perceive this contrast, but our focus is on the way we have been distanced from the violence, and yet we haven’t been distanced at all – that we are able to perceive the victims’ fear over the song and the slo-mo only makes us feel this fear more deeply. The sequence has the bullying quality of the most vile commercial movies and propaganda: you will find our cruelty gorgeous. The nadir of this idea is the movie’s ending, a mass killing that’s made up of beautiful elegant light, like a dark ocean aswarm with phosphorescent fish.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers and GTA - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/DelayedAliveAiredaleterrier

“Pretend it’s a video game,” says Candy, and this is not just about how the women see their violence, but how we the audience see it, and how ostensibly realistic violence in movies is so often shown. Above, a comparison between the hyper colored shoottings of Breakers and GTA IV and V. GTA footage excerpts are taken from the following, in order of appearance: “GTA 4 Bloody Shootout & Car Chase “Massacre”” by xturkishdelight and “GTA V: Strip Club Massacre” by calloftreyarch.

The ridiculous shooting at the end conforms to the structure of many morality plays. The hero ends up under the sway of some malevolent force, and for a brief period as an outlaw, they live vicariously a fantasy of the audience, something that involves violence maybe, or obscene amounts of wealth. There are many examples, and I casually list among the possibilities, Wall Street, The Devil’s Advocate, Point Break, The Fast and the Furious, Training Day, etc. This, the movie declares, is not to sate any fantasy, but to make clear how wrong such conduct is. Sure it is, chief. The hero then demonstrates their true heroic virtue, again by sating the audience’s fantasy that violence is simple or clean, either by destroying the malevolent influence or some other, even greater evil. Some equilibrium has been restored, and the hero is able to return to society after his passage through the dark side. Everything else is secondary or of no consequence to this arc. Breakers has this same structure, and turns it into a joke. The women are already callous thieves before they meet Alien. He somehow corrupts them in sex, though they robbed people to go to spring break, whose advertised essence is depraved sex. The shooting at the end defies anything like the outward bounds of realism, its absurdities well enumerated, again, by Dangeruss14. The women, who do not appear to have ever fired weapons like this before, are able to kill every gang member without difficulty, firing out in the open, with sniper precision and fearlessness, the bullets of their opponents always missing. The women are not deafened by their gunshots. The police should surround the house after the amount of noise from such a massacre, but the women are able to get away with ease. This is an exaggeration, but only a mild one, of gunfights as constantly illustrated in movies, gunfights that have nothing of the qualities of actual gun violence, which is chaotic, loud, and frightening.

Both Brody and Harris insightfully point out an effect that too many critics missed, that the skin of these two women goes dark as they enter the house. They are now in blackface, killing their opponents as if they were fully black gangsters15. I think these two writers are absolutely correct in identifying the effect, but I think they are incorrect in identifying the intent. If the men of the pool hall are brutal, if the pool hall area is so frightening because of the bruality of the men, a place where people will die and be killed for little or nothing, then these women are also brutal. And I think this change in skin color asks the question, are these women less brutal than the pool hall men because there is something inherently different in their deeds, or because of their skin color? Either their brutality, and their brutality alone, ends a white audience’s sympathy with these women, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then that audience is willfully blind, like Faith. There is the ambiguity described already, of what is the joke and what isn’t, but I think there’s a clear hint that the joke goes further than Brody and Harris grant it: a movie that is as indifferent to the victims of a heroic massacre as such a movie usually is, would not grant each victim a close-up in death.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

That the dark skin of these killers disappears again after the massacre is what makes these killers women of infinite possibility, characters who have no character at all, no memories. The event has taken place, but they are now different. Not different in the sense of maturity or their being transformed by the experience, but in the sense of being someone else, in terms of: this didn’t take place, and there will be no accountability. The movie required that they dance around in their underwear, that they be able to kill people with marksman precision, and now the movie requires a return to moral equilibrium, that they now be better people. This vacation has already been pre-remembered, the memories we hear before the women even arrive, these are the memories the women speak of now, and in these memories, the massacre never happened.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

BRIT
Hey mom. I’m good. Yeah, I’ve actually been thinking a lot lately. I just want to do better. Better at school, better at life…I just feel different, for some reason. I feel changed. I just want to be a good girl now. I want to be happy, and have fun…yeah, mommy, I think that’s the secret to life. Being a good person.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

CANDY
Hey mom. It’s Candy. I’m sorry I haven’t called in so long. No, I know, I know. No, I apologize. Yeah. Look: we went on spring break. Yeah. It was so much fun. You have no idea. We had such an amazing time. It was a blast. Yeah. Listen, I just wanted to let you know that I’m coming home…back to school and everything, and I just love you, so much, mom. I’m gonna do better, now. I’m gonna be the best I can be.

CANDY
Yeah mom, it was really great. I think we found ourselves here. We finally got to see some other parts of the world. We saw some beautiful things here. Things we’ll never forget. We got to let loose. God, I can’t believe how many friends we made. Friends from all over the world, friends from all over the place. I mean, everyone was so sweet here. So warm, and friendly, and…I know we made friends that will last us a lifetime. We met people who are just like us. People just the same as us. Everyone was just…trying to find themselves. It was way more than just having a good time. We’re different people now. We see things differently. More colors, more love, more understanding. God, it was so nice to get a break from reality for a little while. I know we’ll have to go back to school, but we’ll always remember this trip. Something so amazing…magical! Something, so beautiful. Feels as if the world is perfect! Like it’s never gonna end! At night here, we can see way past the stars…we can see into the light, it’s just…ugh [pleasured exhale]…beautiful. I never want it to end. Spring break forever! Spring break forever, bitches! Spring break, forever. Spring break forever, bitches.

That this movie did connect with people, that people did want to talk about it, is not simply an intellectuals in raincoats thing, people wanting to talk about a movie whose appeal was entirely base – but because, I think, of the way it captured a contemporary corruption, though this corruption is not sexual. If you look at something that is close to a national newspaper now, the Huffington Post, you’ll see two divisions of life very clearly, what might be called the real and the fantastic. The real would be a story on the vast number of people living paycheck to paycheck (“Living Paycheck To Paycheck Is Reality For Two In Five Households: Report”), or students buried in loan debt (“Class Of 2013 Student Debt Reaches New Heights”, “Francisco Reynoso, Grieving Dad, Files For Bankruptcy To Resolve Dead Son’s Student Loans”), and the other world, the fantastic one, would be of obscene wealth or what some actress wore to a movie premiere (“Rihanna Attends Chanel Show, Poses With Karl Lagerfeld, Is Generally Fabulous (PHOTOS)”, “Katy Perry Instagrams Mystery Shot, Possibly Of Herself Hugging John Mayer (VIDEO, PHOTO)”, “$53 Million California Mansion Has Five Underground Floors Of Wonder (PHOTOS)”, “Sean Parker’s Wedding: Internet Billionaire Rails Against Media In 9,500-Word Defense Of Wedding”). This division is not occasional, but there every day, and it is economic – but not simply economic, but the difference between the illusory and the actual, the advertised and the tangible. The women of this movie are never quite of our world, but they move from something closer to our world of actual consequences to this world of illusion and euphoria. That they have to rob a diner in order to enter this place of illusion makes intuitive sense, because this world, as we read about it or catch glimpses of it, feels impenetrable and unassailable, a world that is ever present, yet impossibly distant. Though this place is depicted as something like an inferno, the two women who do leave it, Faith and Cotty, don’t want to. The film emphasizes the departure of each to make clear that what’s felt is not specific to one character, but something connected to this place that they feel to be paradise. We see them on the bus ride home, and they are like people detoxing, experiencing withdrawal, but also like people on their way to prison. They touch the bus window like they’re about to leave free space. This makes intuitive sense, as this world of illusion is the one that is tended to now, where everyone outside it is left to struggle in the dirt. No one doubts that this world of illusion will continue to survive, sustained simply through the power of wealth, but whether a woman of Faith’s age has something to look forward to, outside of this world of illusory promise, buried in debt and with terrible job prospects, a world that feels entirely a con, rigged against her, is doubtful. It is why these women do not want to leave this Gomorrah, and it is why Faith finds here a true eden, something stronger than her own church – because this world that she briefly visits, is believed in, whereas the possibilities of her life are not.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Skeptics might question whether Harmony Korine would constuct a movie that has what might be called these complex political implications, but I don’t think the film was drawn up by any schematic, just intuitively, and that it is entirely intuitive only makes it more keenly felt – the same way that the vision of thousands of civilians killed off so callously in a superhero epic is a more devastating statement, a greater indictment, though unintended, than a more explicit examination in a so-called serious movie of how little value is placed on the lives of the powerless by the powerful16. The world of wealth the women eventually enter is one fueled by drugs, and this makes intuitive sense, makes sense because looking at the elusive fortunes we see made now, they so often seem corrupt, and it makes sense because this illusory life is a narcotic both in its creation of a solipsistic, hyper-sensational world, and its addictiveness.

The movie almost throughout uses hyperbright colors – though not always, not, notably, when Faith and Cotty return home – and the ending is the apotheosis of this, saturated brightness in a dark night, and this is something like the divisions of the hardened addict, the beautiful euphorias surrounded by depressive lows. It makes sense intuitively as well, that our world becomes diminished, while this world of illusion grows brighter and brighter. And it makes sense in the context of a series of highs, where after sex and drugs, there is only death. The flick of the lighter is enhanced and made louder on the soundtrack, this click becoming the click of the cocking of a gun, this ominous sound heard over and over, the two highs connected, but also connected to a third – this hard metallic flick also sounds like a camera taking a picture.

This high of death is not just death, actually experienced, but death seen by a voyeur, which makes sense for a movie so often built for the voyeur, and built to tweak the voyeur as well. One might imagine the stages of tabloid life for a young actress, where there is first the young actress looking beautiful, then the young actress accidentally exposing herself, the young actress posing naked, the young actress caught committing crimes, the young actress finally dying young. The women of the movie trace through almost all these steps, and one can see here another reason why former Disney stars have been cast. The movie doesn’t quite give us these women dying young, but it comes close, it implies that the nihilism has this possible end – some in the audience might even be surprised that the women don’t die in the shoot-out. What I think of as this inevitable, end state of voyeurism comes close to being described by David Thompson, in “Don Simpson: Hollywood Death”:

These are big themes as the millennium draws close. Death now is the trip and the turn-on. Look at the kind of photography we’re getting in pictures. You can say it’s the influence of MTV or the result of special effects edging out classical photography. Whatever it is, we are into a style now where the imagery is increasingly non-naturalistic, more and more fantasy-driven, ghostly–no longer just a record of appearance. Once upon a time, movies were a sensation because they let us share the sight of real things–even if in fantastic or fictional circumstances. But now we are seeing the unreal, the impossible, the electronic. It can be dinosaurs, morphins or James Dean and Marilyn Monroe dancing together at Rick’s Cafe– which they never did or could have done. I can’t stand most of what Oliver Stone does, but I will give him some credit: In films like JFK. he has found a way of showing the real and the merely possible on screen at the same time–so you’re not sure which is which. It’s the weird feeling you get in Pulp Fiction when you know John Travolta is dead already, but there he is still walking out of the diner. I tell you, movies are going to do this more and more. Why? Us, sweetheart. We are fascinated with the big D.

This is Norman Mailer:

“Film is a phenomenon whose resemblance to death has been ignored for too long. An emotion produced from the chum of the flesh is delivered to a machine, and that machine and its connections manage to produce a flow of images which will arouse some related sentiment in those who watch. The living emotion has passed through a burial ground–and has been resurrected. The living emotion survives as a psychological reality: it continues to exist as a set of images in our memory which are not too different, as the years go by, from the images we keep of a relative who is dead.”

Intertwined with this idea of voyeurism is that of domination, of control. The guiding ethos of the women is this, the dominating of others, and this is what we see when they re-enact the robbery, and Cotty lies on the ground, the women gleeful over her submission. There is domination, but also the idea that you can get what you want through submission, or feigning submission. The women demand that Alien suck their pistols, and he submits. This submission is part of why Candy and Brit have sex with him later – he has submitted to them, and they will submit in turn. This is the dynamic created between the voyeur and the viewed: I want to see you naked, you take off your clothes, and do you have the power, or do I? Because this is very much part of the dynamic in the advertising for the movie, the casting, and the movie itself.

We are teased with the idea that this movie will be something soft-core, and it is – but the drink is spiked. Cotty finally lifts her top, the moment we’ve been teased with, but it’s in the scene where she’s almost raped; she is surrounded by predators and because of what we want, we feel as if we’re one of her predators as well. Later, she’s fully naked in a shower, sobbing, recovering from a bullet wound. It is both what the voyeur wants and doesn’t want at all – she is nude, but there is nothing erotic in this setting. We are not part of the crowd as we are in the early spring break scenes where the topless women turn toward the camera as if they’re meeting eyes with another friend, but instead, we are an intruder. She is vulnerable, in pain, and naked – we are predators, again. Candy and Brit are in the pool with Alien, yet the angles are always artful, so we never quite see what might be called their most important parts. The man closest to them, the man we envy, who we wish to be, is the designated villain of the piece – yet somehow in that moment, the viewer might wish to be this man, and the scene is designed for you to want to be this man. What good is a moral life if it keeps us from this? And perhaps whatever would make us part of that moment we would look at with the same glibness with which Faith views the robbery: “I know we did a really bad thing, but I’m really glad we did it.”

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

That the actresses are being exploited for their wholesome image in scenes like this was raised during the publicity junket17. Again, we have the question of who has the power, you or me? The actresses view this in purely practical terms: they are applying business methods to being young18. John Podhoertz sneers that the actresses have gotten a raw deal out of this, taking off their clothes for a movie he thinks is terrible, and I don’t think I would associate his attitude with empathy or compassion19. I can’t imagine him showing the same contempt for Michael Fassbinder, whatever he thought of the quality of Shame. The women are gleeful at the submission of the robbery victims; Podhoertz is gleeful at the submission of these actresses before Hollywood power. The attitude feels like something inevitable when a woman takes off her clothes. You take them off, and you’re laughed at because your body is too old. Or because you’re so stupid to think it’s beautiful enough. If it’s gorgeous, then you’re laughed at because you must have been conned into this moment. These actresses are, arguably, part of a long, nasty game where they are eroticized, though no one admits this, and where this eroticization has somehow led them to being naked, though no one can give away the game and say that the eroticization was designed to lead up to this moment. The audience to all this plays the part like Faith. She is a good christian, but somehow she’s ended up at this summer orgy. She’s a good christian, but her trip was paid for by a brutal robbery. We are good, decent people, yet somehow this Disney star is now half naked on the cover of a magazine or a movie – how exactly did that come about?

We have a very good discussion of making these teen stars as sexual as possible, though no one can admit that this is what is taking place, in a very good profile of Gregory Dark, ex-pornographer and director of videos for Britney Spears and Mandy Moore, “The Devil in Greg Dark” by Tom Junod, from the turn of the century20:

But that’s the thing with all the video work he’s been getting. It, like, comes to him. He was a pornographer, sure, maybe even the worst pornographer … but it’s not like he sits around plotting to direct Britney Spears, Mandy Moore, and Leslie Carter so that he can corrupt them and the little girls who idolize them. And it’s not like he has to worry about making them pornographic, either–about straying over the boundaries of taste, about eroticizing them, about fetishizing them, about doing all the things he used to do as a pornographer. They’ve already been eroticized and fetishized by the culture itself. In 1985, he directed Traci Lords and he was very nearly a criminal … but now the entire culture is besotted with the erotic promise of teenage girls, and so by the time they come to Gregory Dark, the girls have already been, well, pornographied. Britney Spears? That’s a porn name if there ever was one, no matter if it’s her real name or not. That Rolling Stone cover of Christina Aguilera with her shorts unzipped and her athletic tongue licking her lascivious lips? That’s a porn box cover, though without the usual accoutrement of bodily fluids. The lure of jailbait now supplies the erotic energy to a popular culture desperate for what’s new, what’s young, what’s alive; and the pornographication of the American girl has proceeded at such a pace that, as curious as the phenomenon of Gregory Dark directing a girl like Leslie Carter [the sister of Nick and Aaron Carter, who, at the time, was hoped to repeat the success of her brothers] in a music video seems even to Gregory Dark himself, it also makes perfect sense.

We have perhaps the best expression of the denial of the process by Britney Spears, who briefly discusses her erotic appeal, an appeal she is supposedly entirely unconscious of – and where I think it was absolutely necessary for her to act as if she were unconscious of it. That it was one thing for there to be this lust for her, but it would be dirty to actually acknowledge that lust. Again, another piece from the turn of the century, not long after her career began, “Bending Spoons with Britney Spears” (not quite SFW), by Chuck Klosterman:

Over the next ninety minutes, I will sit next to a purportedly fully clothed Britney and ask her questions. She will not really answer any of them. Interviewing Britney Spears is like deposing Bill Clinton: Regardless of the evidence, she does not waver. “Why do you dress so provocatively?” I ask. She says she doesn’t dress provocatively. “But look what you’re wearing right now,” I say, while looking at three inches of her inner thigh, her entire abdomen, and enough cleavage to choke a musk ox. “This is just a skirt and a top,” she responds. It is not that Britney Spears denies that she is a sexual icon, or that she disputes that American men are fascinated with the concept of the wet-hot virgin, or that she feels her success says nothing about what our society fantasizes about. She doesn’t disagree with any of that stuff, because she swears she has never even thought about it. Not even once.

“That’s just a weird question,” she says. “I don’t even want to think about that. That’s strange, and I don’t think about things like that, and I don’t want to think about things like that. Why should I? I don’t have to deal with those people. I’m concerned with the kids out there. I’m concerned with the next generation of people. I’m not worried about some guy who’s a perv and wants to meet a freaking virgin.”

And suddenly, something becomes painfully clear: Either Britney Spears is the least self-aware person I’ve ever met, or she’s way, way savvier than any of us realize.

Or maybe both.

It is this relationship between the film and the audience which limits it, and why I think I ultimately reject it. With another movie, with well-drawn characters, it is within us to decide how close we get. With Spring Breakers, we are dealing with a movie that plays with forms, advertising, pornography, the morality play, where the audience is required to remain passive, almost an object of contempt, to be, respectively, tantalized, aroused, and lectured to. This film plays with these forms, and maintains its distance, ultimately something of a con man where the only choice we have is deciding how far the con goes. Is the wrestling for real? Is the reaction of Andy Kaufman’s family fake or real? Is that actually Kaufman’s family, or a group of actors?

We may connect this lack of character to another moment in Kaufman’s work, when he appeared on the Letterman show with his three adopted sons, grown men who were black and cast to give off a vague air of menace21. They were not there to be anything other than an effect, the very sense of racial tension part of the bit. The images of the men in the pool hall and Archie’s crew exist only as images of menace as well. There is no possibility of looking at anything like a surrounding character, of placing the moment in context – all you have is the image of the man in sunglasses inspecting Faith. You can accept that there’s a larger, deliberate critique that requires such images, and requires them to be without character, you can disbelieve that there’s anything like a surrounding intent, or you might think that the racial imagery in this movie and Kaufman’s bit are so toxic as to overwhelm anything so flimsy that tries to hold it; these images cannot be briefly touched anymore than you can briefly touch a third rail. And we might find a similar distance between ourselves and the characters in an episode where Kaufman again appeared on Letterman’s show (this time his morning program) where he started out with snot dripping from his nose, telling the host that he wasn’t working, then explaining how he was desperate for money, before going about the audience begging for change, until being asked to leave by one of the ushers22. We do not find ourselves laughing at any point in sympathy with what Kaufman says, we never feel close to him as we might some of Charlie Chaplin’s pathetic characters. We laugh at him because there must be a release to this pathos, it must be fake because we need this release. We laugh, but our laughter indicts us. There is a similar connection between Spring Breakers and a viewer; the relationship is one of contempt for what the viewer might have wanted from this film. The only refuge the audience can have in either case is to say that they’re in on the joke.

The movie’s characters are specifically designed as flat, so that Spring Breakers is as close to the played with forms as possible. We cannot have empathy or connection with the women of the movie, though we might be fearful for Cotty or the robbery victims. Alien is a distinct and striking creature, animated by an actor who has gotten so much success early on that in other work he sometimes seems bored by how little he’s asked to do, Alien’s very outsize quality causing him to stand out; there are no false notes in the performance, yet Alien is no more a character than the women. An inner life cannot be imagined for this man, in fact, such an inner life would be an obstacle, requiring us to reconcile a hardened gangster who suddenly takes on a group of women as his crew. Only without such a life, without an actual character, does this impossibility become something not quite plausible, but not something we constantly question. Without characters, we are left untethered from the film, the only relief the occasional flourish applied to a line or gesture. You have such a moment when Archie and Alien meet in the strip club: Archie shows he’s strapped, and Alien casually lifts up his shirt to show that he’s brought something to the party as well. There’s a moment with the women where they are mercilessly cruel and funny in a way entirely expected of characters their age, when they play at being deaf if someone they don’t like tries to pick them up. It feels so natural that the dialogue must be ad libbed, and you wish for more like this, but that’s all you get. The respite has nothing to do with a sudden burst of humanity – their jokes are mean, after all – but with them suddenly inhabited with random, vital life, however briefly.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

FAITH
He was so weird.

COTTY
Next time, with those people we don’t like, we’ll talk deaf. We’ll pretend like we’re deaf.

(everyone does imitations of this)

FAITH
That is so mean.

CANDY (doing deaf)
DO YOU WANNA FUCK ME?

In his review, “The Life Lessons of Spring Breakers”, Richard Brody makes the case that what the women experience on their spring break is their true education, that they’ve just learned how the world, especially the world of business, truly works23. I think the argument is convincing, but I am not entirely convinced. The movie makes a joke about the usual morality play arc, with the heroes already corrupt, falling under the sway of an agent of malevolent influence whose influence they do not need and never reject (they give him an affectionate kiss at the end), and who now emerge from this darkness as changed, better people to return to the world. So, we have them suddenly declaring on their phonecalls that they are different, though we see no evidence of that. If the movie makes fun of the various perfunctory nods of the morality play which disguise its true appeal, to live vicariously through the outlaw life of the hero, the end of the movie is another joke on the last of the morality play’s tropes – the hero returns from their exciting criminal life to a normal one, though truly, we in the audience don’t want to actually leave this outlaw life, and in Spring Breakers, maybe the heroes don’t.

We see the women on their phones, we see them driving at night, now they are driving in ordinary light again, not the heightned colors of the massacre, it feels like we’re returning to normal life – and then suddenly they’re on the bridge again. This is after the massacre – we clearly see what took place immediately after Alien was shot, with the women first firing back at Alien’s killer, then moving on, mowing everyone down. This is after the killings, and so when we see Candy and Brit bend down to kiss Alien, we expect them to move along the bridge back to the boat, but instead they go the other way, back to the mansion. This movie might be a morality play upside down, and this last moment is shot upside down, too. The end credits music comes on, it’s Ellie Goulding’s “Lights”, and the lyrics are apt24, though they have a slightly different meaning in this context from their original intent. The bright lights of this movie get brighter and brighter till its very end, and they’ve drawn these last two women close. They aren’t going home, they’ve found home, and they’ll never leave.

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

I had a way then losing it all on my own
I had a heart then but the queen has been overthrown
And I’m not sleeping now, the dark is too hard to beat
And I’m not keeping now, the strength I need to push me

You show the lights that stop me turn to stone
You shine it when I’m alone
And so I tell myself that I’ll be strong
And dreaming when they’re gone

‘Cause they’re calling, calling, calling me home
Calling, calling, calling home
You show the lights that stop me turn to stone
You shine it when I’m alone

(Originally this piece stated that the cutting suggests that Faith looks out from inside the church as if witnessing Cotty about to be raped – there’s a shot in between these two, and this was corrected on July 6th. On April 19, 2015, this post underwent a copy edit – some very long paragraphs were broken up in the process. On May 15th, 2015, the supplementary gif contrasting the violence of this movie and that of the Grand Theft Auto videogame was added. On May 16th, 2015, the gif contrasting the movie’s party montages with an Adidas ad was put in.)

(All Spring Breakers images copyright A24 Productions, Anna Purna Pictures, Hero Entertainment, Muse Productions, and all associated producers.)

FOOTNOTES

1 A crack about intellectuals and Spring Breakers is here, in “Are We Ever Going To See ‘Spring Breakers’ This Weekend” by Stuart Ross.

Another dis can be found in David Edelstein’s review, “Is Spring Breakers One of the Perviest Movies Ever Made?”:

But wait: Korine is the festival darling who wrote Kids (they do drugs, they get AIDS) and directed Julien Donkey-Boy, featuring arthouse cinema’s answer to Jar Jar Binks. Is Spring Breakers deliberately stupid and asinine, a transgressive parody of Where the Boys Are that brazenly acknowledges what Korine’s admirers in the academy call the “commodification of the female body”? Does he mean to have his cheesecake and deconstruct it, too? Either way, I think the movie is swill – but I wouldn’t be shocked if a whole crop of cinema studies papers affirms the case for its genius.

Either to the satisfaction or frustration of Edelstein, The New Inquiry, upon the film’s release, brought out a supplement devoted to the movie and related themes: “Spring Break Forever”.

2 From Lost in the Funhouse by Bill Zehme:

In search of new credibility, he decided that he wanted to go out on the college lecture circuit. That fall, George set him up with a Pasadena lecturing agency called Stofan/Blancarte and postcards were printed and later mailed out to universities everywhere. The postcards featured photographs of him playing Elvis and Latka; of him snarling as a wrestler; of him eating ice cream; of him wearing a straitjacket.

The words on the back of the postcard read:

On Creating Reality:

The Physics of Human Response

Andy Kaufman’s career of the past 10 years has been a series of experiments which form the groundwork for a thesis. Using film clips and telling stories, Andy will set you straight once and for all about his controversial career and how it relates to the dynamics of human behavior.

For the first time, Andy tells the TRUTH!!

3 Of varying video quality, here are three:

The throwaway detail about Snoop Dogg in a stage version of Ulysses is here:

4 From “Last Night on Late Night: The Real Reason David Letterman Banned Harmony Korine” by Caroline Shin:

Last night on The Late Show, James Franco was out touting Spring Breakers and the “revolutionary” work of its maker, Harmony Korine, whom David Letterman had banned in 1998, for reasons only speculated until yesterday. “I went upstairs [to the green room] to greet Meryl Streep,” recounted Letterman. “I looked around and found your friend, Harmony, going through her purse.”

5 From “Spring Breakers: Dead-on satire of our sexed-up culture or dull piece of exploitative garbage?” by Dana Stevens:

There seem to be two critical perspectives on Spring Breakers. Is the veteran provocateur Harmony Korine’s most mainstream movie yet—the story of four college girls who go a little too wild on a party trip to Florida—a dead-on formalist send-up of our of culture’s sick obsession with guns, drugs, and the sexual exploitation of young women? Or is it a stultifyingly dull piece of exploitative garbage?

This false binary misapprehends the central Harmony Korine stratagem, which is to ensure that the viewer can have it both ways. The director of Gummo, Mister Lonely, Julien Donkey-Boy, and Trash Humpers creates objects that are somewhere between movies and performance-art projects. Often deliberately crude in their construction, Korine’s affectless spectacles comment on debauchery, alienation, and sexism by unironically, even lecherously, wallowing in them. You could attend a matinee screening of Spring Breakers with an eye toward either writing your master’s thesis or masturbating. I’m fairly sure there were attendees at the daytime showing I caught with both aims in mind. One guy actually brought a raincoat.

6 From “Girls Gone Stylized: Spring Breakers Is Gorgeous Hedonism” [archive link] by Rich Juzwiak:

Are these characters designed to titillate or satirize? Is Korine’s leering camera, which dips under the water while they relax in a parking-lot pool and lunges randomly at their asses as they stand lined up on a pavilion, being held by a creep who’s into young girls or a guy who’s out to parody the way spring break has been depicted on film for the past few decades? Certainly, his slow shots of beach—and pool—based hedonism (replete with beer bongs and Mardi Gras beads nestled between exposed, jiggling tits) envision what MTV Spring Break programming would look like if shot by someone who believed in art. Even when his girls look like shit, dirty and unkempt under fluorescent jail lights, they’re still achingly gorgeous, as young people are. It’s unreal and so real.

Korine has it both ways, but he’s uncommonly empathic with his characters. I was on edge the entire movie, waiting for something bad to happen to one of the four girls and not much does. One drunken partying scene feels like a setup for rape, but that goes unrealized. As the girls’ stay in St. Petersburg stretches on and their spiral widens, some need to check out and they do. Those who stay end up winning; they get exactly what they want.

7 Almost the exact point is made in a passage I came across by chance, in Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity & the Women Who Made America Modern, by Joshua Zeitz:

In this new era, the apostles of good living were no longer ministers and schoolmasters, but advertising executives and public relations professionals who saturated American newspapers, magazines, movie theaters, and radio stations with a new gospel of indulgence. As an adman coolly explained, “The happiness of the [consumer] should be the real topic of every advertisement.”

“Sell them their dreams,” urged an advertising professional. “Sell them what they longed for and hoped for and almost despaired of having. Sell them hats by splashing sunlight across them. Sell them dreams—dreams of country clubs and proms and visions of what might happen if only. After all, people don’t buy things to have them.… They buy hope—hope of what your merchandise might do for them.”

8 As an example, Scott Tobias makes reference to Breakers as both morality tale and soft-core exploitation in his review at the AV Club. We may also think of Scarface as another example of the double quality of morality tales, a tale that is actually treated by almost everyone as a happy fantasy through which they live vicariously.

The diabolical genius of Harmony Korine is that his films are so cloistered by self-consciousness and movie-movie artifice that all criticisms leveled against them are subject to the Pee-wee Herman Effect: “I meant to do that.” Think Gummo is an unseemly mix of poetry and exploitation? “I meant to do that.” Balk at Trash Humpers‘ total disregard for composition, depth, and meaningful connection between one scene and the next? “I meant to do that.” Find Korine’s new film, Spring Breakers, a vacuous, repetitive, hyperbolically stupid fusion of Girls Gone Wild, Scarface, and that lesson-filled after-school special where Helen Hunt snorts crank and jumps out a window? Of course! That’s what so great about it!

The overlap between exploitation and morality play is also made by John Podhoretz in his review, “Trip to Nowhere”, a rave where he declares the movie his favorite of the year:

The defenders of Spring Breakers say the movie has an incantatory quality to it, that its repetitions are purposeful because they highlight the banality of its characters. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, a decent prose stylist but easily the most ludicrous critic ever to write for a major newspaper, wrote with a straight face of Spring Breakers that Korine’s “transgressive laughter carries corrosive truth,” and that his movie is actually a study of “the pursuit of happiness taken to nihilistic extremes.” How utterly absurd. All exploitation movies, from Reefer Madness (1936) onward, purport to criticize the ways of life over which they are simultaneously salivating. A well-made exploitation movie succeeds in finding ways of working around this; a bad one makes you aware of its hypocrisy at every moment.

9 This strange lack of phones is noted in “The most ridiculous depictions of the Internet in movies and TV” by Daniel D’Addario:

“Spring Breakers” and “Frances Ha”

Aside from an early scene in which the Spring Breakers, still at school, sit on computers in a darkened lecture hall as a PowerPoint plays, there’s next-to-no internet use at all in either the millennials-gone-wild dark fantasy or the millennials-adrift saga. Do these films’ respective directors really think that a group of materialistic teens on a crime spree, or an aspiring dancer in New York with nothing but free time, wouldn’t be haunting Instagram? Then again, given how easy it is for one false note to stick out, maybe it’s for the best that these movies stayed offline.

10 Diesel ads taken from Design Your Way, “Diesel Jeans Advertising Campaigns – 45 prints”; Calvin Klein ad taken from Fashionising, “Lara Stone for Calvin Klein 2010”.

11 From “What Did the Rapper Who Inspired James Franco’s Character in “Spring Breakers” Think of the Movie?” by David Drake, an interview with Dangeruss:

Do you feel like the film was trying to be authentic? Did it succeed?
I feel like it was trying to be authentic to an extent. It did touch that authentic feel. It still wasn’t like where-I-come-from authentic. The way he looked, the way he acted was a little different. But the way he was living was more authentic. It seemed like… where I come from, man-you see me in the movie, I wasn’t in there majorly, but when you seen us in the game room, shooting pool and all that, that’s me. That’s where I’m from.

The character Faith, played by Selena Gomez, freaks out when she’s in that pool hall. A friend said to me, “that’s racist,” because she freaks out in the pool hall, but not when she’s surrounded by white guys in jock straps drinking.
I don’t think it had anything to do with anything racial at all. If you put somebody in a house with a puppy, they’re going to feel comfortable because the puppy’s not a threat. You put them in the house with a fuckin’ tiger, they’ll be like, ‘Shit, I don’t wanna be here. The tiger might attack me.’ These motherfuckers is dangerous, you know what I’m saying? That’s how I look at it.

The area we was in was a threatening area. They touched on that and brought that to life. The hood is a scary place when you’re not from there. When you go to an area like that and there’s motherfuckers getting killed over $15, $20. Actually getting their life taken. It puts fear in people that’s not from there, that don’t understand it. As opposed to if you go to the suburbs, a motherfucker might give you $20. I like how they touched on that. It wasn’t no race thing with Selena, I think that’s how any white girl from a suburban area would be if they were thrown into a scenery like that in real life.

12 This is expressed by an anonymous participant of spring break, describing what goes down, in Spring Broke, a collaboration by writer Steve Appleford and photographer Nathaniel Welch:

“When I first saw the pictures from my older brother’s spring break, and seen his videos, I went, ‘Damn, that’s sweet. I gotta go down there.’ And I get down there and that’s what it’s like: girls flashing you for beads or whatever. If a girl doesn’t like the taste of beer, they do a beer bong, and they drink the whole beer in two or three seconds. They know there’s not going to be any consequences, nobody’s going to find out about it. They’re more likely to cheat on their boyfriends, or just hook up with whoever. You don’t even see them the next day. It’s pretty much an understanding. Nobody’s down there for a relationship.”

From the Spring Broke section of Nathaniel Welch’s website:

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers

13 Calum Marsh devotes a good deal of space to this scene in his analysis, “‘Spring Breakers’ is Not as Ironic as You Think”, though it’s an analysis that I disagree with. He makes one major mistake – Alien and the women are not raiding stash houses (places where you might store drugs, guns, or cash), they’re robbing college kids and other civilians.

14 From “What Did the Rapper Who Inspired James Franco’s Character in “Spring Breakers” Think of the Movie?” by David Drake, an interview with Dangeruss:

Was there a part you were most uncomfortable with? Other than him sucking on the silencer.
Yeah, he did that a little too well, on top of doing it at all. That’s my nigga though. But I would have left that out.

The part I liked the least was, by far, the ending. The ending, to me, was terrible. I don’t know if they were trying to make it kind of funny or what. But that was the most unrealistic ending I could ever have imagined to see. These fuckin’ two girls walk up with max ammo, like Call of Duty, like a never-ending clip, you know what I’m saying? They got like a thousand rounds and they’re just shooting motherfuckers. There’s niggas running up, 25 dudes with guns, but they don’t get shot once. They’re not even running or ducking; they’re just walking through, just shooting everybody like crazy. I didn’t like that part. It was very unrealistic.

They should have at least had one of them get shot in the hand or something. I mean, these guys are running up with guns, but they’re not pulling the trigger until the girl gets to them. They just walk in, shoot the guy. The other guy’s standing there with a gun, but it’s like he’s waiting there to get shot. I didn’t like that part. That part to me was very unrealistic.

Do you think he was trying to say something with that?
I don’t know what the fuck he was thinking. On top of that, c’mon, man, they’re riding up on a speedboat glowing in the dark. You don’t think these motherfuckers can hear the speedboat or see them coming? You know what I’m saying? Like, yeah, let’s go rob these motherfuckers in the brightest shit we can find. But it’s a movie, a movie is a perception of what your reality is. That’s what Harmony saw, that’s why it’s a movie. That shit would never happen in real life. Just the fact that they walked up killing everybody at the end, it was a little cheesy. That’s the only thing I didn’t like, that and him sucking on them guns. Other than that I thought it was a good movie.

15 From “The Life Lessons of “Spring Breakers”” by Brody:

Above all, Korine emphasizes the story’s racial aspect with a strange twist of visual invention that occurs at the story’s climax. When the two women-wearing bikinis and pink ski masks-arrive, armed and ready, with Alien for their raid on Archie’s compound, they cross a narrow bridge through a field of blacklight that turns their bathing suits fluorescent, makes their masks glow blue, and-most remarkably-greatly darkens their skin, in a cinematographic version of blackface, with light bulbs (or digital effects) taking the place of minstrels’ cork. Because the women are wearing masks, only their torsos and limbs are darkened-and I think that, if they hadn’t been wearing masks and if their faces had been darkened, the effect would have been far more apparent and widely debated. In the event, their masks don’t merely conceal their faces from their enemies or from the law-they hide the most drastic effects of the visual blackening to which Korine submits them. The director’s ultimate spring-break fantasy is a vision of murder camp-and of “black camp”-and he doesn’t make any effort to distinguish the two. The very mainspring of the movie is his stereotypical and reductive view of black life as one of drug dealing and gang violence.

From “In Spring Breakers, Black Lives Matter Less Than White Ones” by Harris:

So should we understand this aspect of the movie as a “hyper-poetic” version of “the real world”? What, if anything, is Korine trying to say by showing dangerous white girls as anomalies among their peers but natural allies to a black “gangsta” lifestyle?

My sense? Not much. Korine may intend the obviousness of the racial divide to be provocative, but he fails to comment in any interesting way on this so-called “hyper-reality,” instead merely reproducing a racist vision of the world in which black lives matter less than white ones. This is most egregious in the final scene, in which, as Richard Brody points out, Brit and Candy don quasi-blackface thanks to a blacklight. Korine shoots the scene as if it were a video game with zero consequence: As Brit and Candy dodge in slow motion around the compound of Alien’s nemesis Archie (played by rapper Gucci Mane), toting guns to seek revenge for an earlier incident, the black characters fall instantly and with little fanfare. The bikini-wearing duo emerges unscathed.

Yet the moment that inspires this retaliation is presented much more realistically. One night, Archie and a gun-wielding female companion pull up next to Alien and the girls at a stop light. After a brief threatening exchange with Alien, who is uncharacteristically scared-proving he’s still not as “hard” as his black former ally-Archie drives off as the woman shoots at their car and hits Cotty in the arm. If only for a moment, the violence is utterly palpable and unfiltered by fantastical camera tricks. Later we watch Alien remove the bullet from her arm as she cries.

In this way, Spring Breakers is a mirror image of Django Unchained, in which the deaths of white slave holders in the Old South are treated with frivolity, while the deaths of their slaves are brutal and difficult to watch. Of course, the whole point of that movie is that slave owners deserved to die. What is the point of Spring Breakers?

I’m still not sure.

16 This issue is discussed well in Richard Lawson’s “The Mega-Death of Summer Movies”.

17 From “Vanessa Hudgens on Spring Breakers, Shotgun Ballets, and Sharks” by Amanda Dobbins:

What would you say to critics who feel you’re being exploited by the movie?
It’s a movie. This is such a special film, and I know it’s a project I’m so proud of. And I think that’s what’s so special about this, is that it’s shaking people up. It’s forcing people to have an experience. It’s not something you can easily brush off. So whether they love it or they hate it, at least I got to make them feel something.

18 The phrase is not my own. From “Eulogy on a Flapper” by Zelda Fitzgerald (via Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity & the Women Who Made America Modern by Joshua Zeitz):

Older people, except a few geniuses, artistic and financial, simply throw up their hands, have a great many heart-rending sighs and moan to themselves something about what a hard thing life is — and then, of course, turn to their children and wonder why they don’t believe in Santa Claus and the kindness of their fellow men and the tale that they will be happy if they are good and obedient. And yet the strongest cry against Flapperdom is that it is making the youth of the country cynical. It is making them intelligent and teaching them to capitalized their natural resources and get their money’s worth. They are merely applying business methods to being young.

19 From “Trip to Nowhere” by John Podhoretz:

Spring Breakers is soft-core porn without a core, a look into the dark heart of shiftless American youth that primarily reveals its own dark heart; it is a portrait of white-trash racists that proves to be more racist than most white trash. Most interesting, perhaps, is how it has positioned itself in the motion-picture marketplace. Spring Breakers is a story of corruption whose marketing strategy depended on seducing squeaky-clean Disney Channel and ABC Family starlets (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Benson) with the promise of big-screen stardom into ludicrous amounts of wildly gratuitous nudity and on-screen drug use.

Rather than using their nubility as a lever to lift them into A-list pictures, as Anne Hathaway did when she went from the inanities of The Princess Diaries to a nude scene in the Oscar-bait Brokeback Mountain, the girls of Spring Breakers have earned themselves a ticket to midnight-movie notoriety-just as Elizabeth Berkley did when she segued from the brain-dead kid sitcom Saved by the Bell to the brain-melting fiasco called Showgirls. Elizabeth who? you ask. To which I reply: Exactly.

20 Another moment from the profile:

HE WAS GOOD AT IT. That’s what always seems to surprise and excite him, even now. He was a good pornographer. He was good at pornography the way he’s good at making music videos. You see, at first he didn’t know that it was his calling–“I just had to make a living! I just needed a job!” He had gone to Stanford; he had gone to film school. It was the mid-eighties, and he was doing some work on a documentary about the pornography business called Fallen Angels. He met a guy named Walter Gernert, a businessman, a guy who was making money off of porn. He started asking Gregory some questions. Like, Do you have a car? Like, Can you pay your rent? Like, Do you have milk in your refrigerator? He offered Gregory a deal: my money, your talent. … And so were born the Dark Brothers. Their first hit was called New Wave Hookers. It came out in 1985, and it was a big success, not only because it featured sixteen-year-old Traci Lords rutting like a hog–of course, um, back then no one knew she wasn’t legal–but also because Gregory Dark asked people to do things … curious things … and they did them. And do you know why? “Because I was good at it!” he says now. “I was good at getting people to behave like animals! I was good at tearing away all their socialization, everything their parents had taught them. It was weird. I never even had to raise my voice. I just appealed to their egos, to the sin of pride. People will do anything for the sin of pride, even become beasts! And that’s what I was good at getting on film–that moment when human beings become something else, other than human.”

He liked weird shit, no doubt. He was interested not only in turning people on but in making them feel uncomfortable about it, just as he was interested in indicting his performers for the act of performing, for the sin of pride. His oeuvre includes various installments in the New Wave Hookers series and the Devil in Miss Jones series and Sex Freaks and is, from top to bottom, absolutely freaking filthy, dedicated to the task of making human sexual congress look inherently unwholesome and unnatural. No sentimentality here, and certainly no story–just dwarfs and clowns and people sniffing each other like dogs and snorting like pigs and screwing in cages or on top of mounds of dead fish. Once he filmed a girl getting gang-banged, and when it was over–the second it was over, when she was still lathered in sweat and spunk, when she was still breathing heavily, with a dazed look in her eyes–he asked her, on camera, if her stepfather had sexually abused her. And he made her answer. Creepy? Sure. But his audiences knew they were seeing something; they knew that this was for real … and you know what? There were people who loved it! They lapped it up, especially the kids.

21 Andy Kaufman on Letterman September 22nd, 1983:

A brief discussion is given of the casting of this bit in Bill Zehme’s Lost in the Funhouse:

He reported that he had been doing some hitchhiking and also that he was in the process of adopting three underprivileged sons whom he invited out onstage and they were three fairly menacing-looking black fellows in their early twenties named George, Herb, and Tony-also-known-as-Tino. Tony explained how Andy came into their lives-“One night I was walking on Broadway, and I was desperate-didn’t have no money. And I see this guy walking down the street. And I said, Well, I’ve been out here all night, and this is the guy that I’m gonna mug.”

Andy beamed proudly and said, “It’s true!”

He had shared the premise with the Letterman producers a week earlier and then cased city parks near Upper West Side housing projects for days until he could find them. He was always meticulous in his planning for the Letterman appearances-since Late Night was the only forum he had left. Letterman himself could only marvel at Andy’s dedication to comic conceit – “He was the best for us. No one was as careful and thoughtful as was Andy about his appearances and performances. Each one was something that he had orchestrated, rehearsed, and figured out to achieve maximum impact. He would always tell us, almost beat for beat, what was going to happen. And whatever the impact, good or bad, he would just savor it. Nobody could blow the place apart like him.”

22 Andy Kaufman on Letterman, June 24th, 1980:

23 From “The Life Lessons of “Spring Breakers”” by Brody:

The spring-break setting is only a backdrop for a crime drama of shooting sprees and body counts-yet, in a way, that’s the point. “Spring Breakers” isn’t about spring break but about the reductio ad absurdum of spring break-a sort of week-long murder camp at the end of which, having snuffed out a sufficient number of lives (and if not snuffed out oneself), a student returns to college refreshed, reënergized, and reëducated or, rather (here’s Korine’s satirical point), finally educated in real competition and rendered all the readier for a career in business. Ultimately, the movie is a manual of competitive ruthlessness that offers the repeated banal definition of the drug dealer’s life as “the American dream.” (A definition given by the gangster himself, Alien-his real name, he says, is Al.) The movie suggests that its spring breakers-especially its two most audacious-are getting, guns ablaze, the education of their life, and that college itself is, rather, the permanent vacation where privileged young people stay clear of the raw realities of America.

24 Lyrics obtained from metrolyrics.

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Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Three

Andrew Breitbart Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Three

ANDREW BREITBART:

PSYCHOSIS IN A POLITICAL MASK

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR

(This is the third, and, hopefully, last part in a series on Andrew Breitbart. It was originally intended to be the length of a single post, an analysis of his memoir, Righteous Indignation, before metastasizing into something larger and messier. This is part one. This is part two. As part of a look at the press that existed now, I ended up giving over a post to one of Breitbart’s devotees in BuzzFeed’s Benny Johnson: Gorgeous Animus, and because of the overlap of some of Breitbart’s followers and Anonymous, I ended up with the byway, “The Invisible World: Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo, Chet Uber, Timothy Douglas Webster

I write extensively of the Breitbart-Kimberlin feud; as a guide to this fight, I found no better guide than the site Osborne Ink, run by Matt Osborne. I did not choose Osborne’s site as a lodestar because of kindred ideology; I found his site most helpful because of all the participants, extras, and rubberneckers in this stupid fight, he struck me as the sanest.

As said, this piece keeps metastasizing, and even at its great length, this post remains incomplete. A remaining part so intertwined with what took place with the on-line feuds described, and involving the overlap between Breitbart’s followers and Anonymous, will be edited in later this week: “Mayhem And Hawhaw / Angels And Insects / I Am The Mob”.)

Part two of this series ended with the Anthony Weiner scandal, and though this series is devoted to one specific man, that man was rightly given almost no mention in discussing the scandal – rightly, because he played only a tangential role. The Anthony Weiner scandal looks as if it were an act of political obsession, a deliberate putsch whose motive was, I believe, petty vengeance, and at the end of part two I put forth who I thought was behind it. Though Breitbart played a part in promoting the scandal, his role was not crucial – the most vital part was that played by a press that is broken and in decay, having the wherewithal to cover such a scandal, and for that matter, happily exaggerate and fan the flames of such a controversy, for quick and easy content, without the resources for extended research into who was behind it and why it took place.

Those who read this series may think that it is an attack on what might be called the institutional, traditional, or print-based press, when it is nothing of the kind – it is instead an attempt to stress the importance of such a press, the function it performs, and the lack of anything equivalent in investigative resources in the abeyance of such an institution, which may be privately held, and very much a set of private companies, but which performs an extraordinary public service. That it devolves into something that is more and more opinion based, more and more built around quick, simple content based on the now, is not a sign of its inherent weakness but a malignant symptom of a weakening bulwark that is badly needed. The best timeline of the Anthony Weiner scandal may well be Greg Beato’s Weinerology at his soundbitten website, a resource that was created freely and on the initiative of one individual, but the best piece of reporting on the phantom identities involved in the scandal is Jennifer Preston’s “Fake Identities Were Used on Twitter in Effort to Get Information on Weiner”, and it is Preston’s work that may well not have been possible outside of an institution with the resources of the New York Times. Once Preston’s investigation ends, the professional inquiry into one of the strangest aspects of this affair ceases1.

This episode was a fitting end to Breitbart’s career, because his work directed revolutionary energies without the possibility of revolution, and this was a sex scandal without any sex. This scandal, and his role in it, as with so many other events in his life, was misrepresented and misunderstood. He had been in utter disgrace before the scandal broke because he’d doctored a speech to make it look as if Shirley Sherrod had made some racially inflammatory comments2, and the Anthony Weiner scandal had landed in his lap without much work on his part. The figure who’d passed off the photos to him, the pseudonymous Dan Wolfe, remained pseudonymous, then vanished. Breitbart tries, in Indignation, to give himself greater importance in every episode than he actually had. He works a low level job in Hollywood, but he says he was a supervising producer on a movie. He did low level work on the Huffington Post, but he claims to have co-created it and to have done so as a double agent, a liberal bastion created for the purpose of exposing the radical qualities of liberal thought. Now, he was given his greatest and most visible triumph and he knew that it was not his own, either, but the product of an invisible power. His paranoid mind weaved together the idea of a Democratic Media Complex with which he was in incessant struggle against, that manipulated all things in American political life, and yet here he was the pawn of a greater power again, perhaps a rival power to this Complex (Breitbart had no way of knowing), but still only a meagre pawn. This was his greatest victory so far, but it was not his own, and what he kept promising would top this, a videotape of Barack Obama embracing a black professor3, he knew was a wet firecracker. This was his greatest triumph, but it was not his own, he might never equal it, and he didn’t.

That this was a sex scandal without actual sex did not prevent it from being scandal material for the press. Sex itself was unnecessary, and a possible inconvenience for discussion of a sex scandal, just as some aspects of sex are happily left out, as inconveniencing details, in pornography. It was a scandal where the women were interviewed, where fun was made, and the details were dissected, for which a purpose was somehow found. The problem, according to David Weigel, was that Weiner’s sexual forays on the internet were so pathetic – yet if this is enough for an indictment, then the best part of the earth is damned4. The serial lying was not the problem, Jack Shafer insisted – serial lying was something politicians did when they were caught in such a situation. Only politicians?, a reader thought. That Weiner lied copiously, then apologized copiously, was a sign of a sociopath, alleged Shafer – though it seemed to this reader that this was the usual cycle for a man caught in such dalliances. Not that that was a problem, Shafer was adult enough, he assured us, to know that. Well, who knew? The reason the congressman resigned, according to Elspeth Reeve, was that he looked like an idiot – and yet somehow Louis Gohmert has retained his seat5.

The most interesting post facto justification was “Anthony Weiner’s Cardinal Sin: Rank Hypocrisy, Not Creepy Sexting”, a rebuke to the congressman’s entry into the mayoral race, by an old nemesis, Stuart Stevens6. The problem, according to Stevens, was not the scandal but an incident of race baiting during an election from twenty years ago, an incident for which the congressman apologized afterwards, and for which the congressman apologized again, now. I am grateful for Stevens’ watchfulness over these moral transgressions, though I find this one a little strange. It was Stuart Stevens, after all, who had no problem praising the work of the man who’d produced that classic piece of race baiting, the presidential attack ad that featured Willie Horton7. It was Stevens who worked with Karl Rove in the 2000 presidential election, where a really nasty piece of race baiting was used during the South Carolina primary, where it was alleged that John McCain’s adopted Pakistani daughter was actually the illegitimate offspring from a liaison between the senator and a black prostitute. This attack was widely believed to have come from the campaign mastermind Karl Rove, a man for whom Stevens has only the highest of praise8. It was Stevens who wrote a novel, Scorched Earth which featured a character that bore an uncanny resemblance to the segregationist governors George Wallace and Ross Barnett. Barnett is best known for his involvement in a riot that took place during attempts to desegregate Ole Miss, and for hugging the assassin of Medgar Evers. In Stevens’ novel, this man is a secret hero, a man who is secretly in on attempts to desegregate the university, and who is also, easily, the most sympathetic character in the book9. Anthony Weiner has apologized for his past – I wonder if Stuart Stevens will ever apologize or explain any of these things – or if he has any sense at all of having done wrong in any of them.

Though perhaps this is the improper way to look at these things, to look at this essay as anything like a moral essay, and not a simple tactical gambit. What happened twenty years ago is a cudgel to be used against an opponent, and nothing else, without any other moral significance or connection. It is the same with Stevens now constant stressing that Mitt Romney lost the election because they didn’t have sufficient funds, because Barack Obama opted out of public financing, effectively destroying the system of public financing. Again, this is strange: Stevens devotes great space in his book on the 2000 presidential campaign, The Big Enchilada, to the reasons why George W. Bush opted out of public financing during the presidential primary – for the very same reasons why Obama opted out in 2008 and 2012. In 2000, the Bush team feared the deep pockets of their far richer opponent, Steve Forbes, and in both ’08 and ’12, Obama’s team were rightly fearful of the deep pockets of the combined donors behind the republican candidates, not to mention the very deep pockets of their billionaire opponent in 201210. The reference to creepy sexting on Weiner’s part must be acknowledged without rebuke, because Stevens observes us from a moral aerie we can only aspire to. He is, after all, the author of a memoir where he, a happily married man, traveled around Europe, while in the company of a former model named Rachel Kelly, and their relations remained entirely chaste, with no mention of sex or even sexual tension throughout the book11. Since part of the book takes place in France, I will allow myself to lapse into french, and say that if I were re-made into a man with Stevens’ handsome looks, in the company for a month with some model with whom I had great chemistry, one of your Chantal Delevignes or Chanel Imans, forced to remain entirely chaste, I do think my dick would explode. However, the reason for this is perhaps simple: I clearly lack the moral fiber of this political consultant.

There was simple opportunism which allowed this scandal to take place, that the lying and then the apologies exposed some political pathology, as Shafer alleged, rather than exposing something we could well find in our own lives. I quote now from a photographer of erotica, and had the press shared anything of the like opinion, there would be no coverage of the scandal, because there would be the belief that this was entirely a private matter, of no political consequence whatsoever:

I’m a father of four kids – and I was a pretty widely respected, published erotic photographer. There’s no contradiction there, especially if you know where babies come from. I don’t think sex is a bad thing, and I think society is way too hung on it. That’s why I have never, ever published my work under anything other than my name. My erotica has been posted for over eight years, too. About half my fan mail came from women, which is something of an accomplishment.

I do not choose this quote entirely arbitrarily; it’s from Lee Stranahan12, a writer who would go on to work for Andrew Breitbart, who currently writes for Breitbart.com13, and who was part of the Breitbart team that covered the Weiner scandal. From “Lies Upon Lies: How Anthony Weiner Went Down”, Breitbart’s own account of the unfolding of the scandal, we have Stranahan as part of the group trying to figure out who Dan Wolfe was:

But Weiner very nearly got away with it. Without further evidence except his own self-destructive interviews, the story could not move forward. For the next few days, the media began asking about PatriotUSA76 and the sources of the original story. Even though Weiner was clearly in implosion mode, the mystery of what really happened on Friday night, May 27, was still a hot topic in the blogosphere, and even in my own camp. While Lee Stranahan, Patterico (Patrick Frey), and LibertyChick (Mandy Nagy) tried to figure out who PatriotUSA76 was, I was more focused on a much bigger fish: Megan Broussard, the woman in Texas whose friend tipped us eight days before the congressman’s now-infamous tweet.

Stranahan’s quote is taken from an on-line exchange when he was trying to sell internet domains he owned. These domains included, among others, StonedGirls.com, DirtyFilthySex.com, and JustBDSM.com14. Someone might be able to try to square his attitude during the Weiner scandal with his past life, but there was no need – it was entirely consistent with the approach he would show now at Breitbart.com. He would accuse Anonymous (specifically a self-declared branch of the group, KYAnonymous) of terrorizing the town of Steubenville during the infamous rape case, by making unfounded accusations about town residents, and inserting themselves into the case entirely for the purpose of their own self-aggrandizement15. He would condemn members of 4chan for outing the name of the rape victim16. He would, however, do similar things himself. “Two photos of Sunil Tripathi need to become viral tonight. Here’s one. Share them everywhere.”, he would post Friday morning of the Boston bombing, tweeting out the pictures of the missing man who would briefly considered a suspect, and be found dead days later17. During the Steubenville trial, Stranahan (@Stranahan) would tweet of the sexual assault, “Did the girl say it was brutal? No. Anonymous did.”, to which twitter user @EveVawter would reply, “I think it’s safe to say that all nonconsensual sex is brutal.” @Stranahan: “No, it isn’t.” @EveVawter: “So you are saying there is nonconsensual sex that isn’t brutal?” @Stranahan: “what does brutal even mean?”18 During a pre-trial hearing of George Zimmerman, a woman would allege that Zimmerman had molested her while they were children. Many media organizations would keep the woman’s name veiled out of deference to her privacy and because she played such a tertiary role in the case, but Stranahan did not. “The mainstream media will likely keep referring to ‘Witness 9? for a few days but her real name is already out there and I’ve made the decision not to pretend it isn’t.” He would allege in the same post that a conservative christian website had not only revealed the woman’s name, but had also published her personal information. Where KYAnonymous was burdened with the onus of their own actions, in this case the blame for the revelation of this private information lay not with Stranahan or the christian conservative website, but with others19:

Information wants to be free. The info is out there and if blame for that needs to be placed for the people lives that are about to be turned upside down and examined, let’s at least blame the right people. No, don’t blame the late Andrew Breitbart, obviously. Don’t even blame The Conservative Treehouse; if they weren’t first with the rapid research, someone else would have been. Don’t blame the prosecutors for releasing the info about Witness 9, even though it’s pretty clear they did it for no other reason than to taint the jury pool.

Place the blame where it should be placed.

The entire Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman story was amped up into a national story on purpose by President Obama with the help of his surrogate Al Sharpton in order to help win the 2012 election.

The discussion of racism as it applies to [woman’s name redacted]’s statements to the police is only relevant because attorney Crump, Rev. Sharpton and ultimately President Obama created a false narrative that the Martin shooting is metaphor for a racist America where black teens live in constant fear of being gunned down by white people; a narrative that is completely, factually false.

Stranahan was formerly a liberal, a man who once blogged at DailyKos and the Huffington Post20, who now worked, according to his bio, to expose the institutional left21. When Breitbart died, he and the remaining band would pledge to fight on, the group collapsing like a dark star because of the same malevolent traits that had built it. And the aftermath of the ridiculous Anthony Weiner scandal would haunt them like radioactive dust.

ANARCHY ONLINE / THE AFTERLIVES / FEUD STATE

It is a misunderstanding to think of Breitbart and his followers as a political group, in the sense that they have specific political aims that they wish to achieve. They had political effects, managing to shut down a service, ACORN, used to register marginalized voters, and to force a politician to resign, but their raison d’etre was not any political goal. They were something like a smaller scale, less streetwise mafia or criminal gang in the occasional employ of a big city boss – they hated their enemies and they could help out their political bosses through fear and intimidation, but the reward was the result of the fear and intimidation itself, not any political outcome arising from it. That much activity in the political sphere results from this primal feeling, and the importance of channeling this same feeling, is often misunderstood and underestimated. Conor Friedersdorf would counsel the Breitbart crew following their leader’s death, “Breitbart.com Struggles With the Contradictions of Its Namesake”, giving them directives on how to more effectively achieve political aims through muckraking journalism22, as if Breitbart and his followers wanted to do any of this.

Friedersdorf is an industrious writer and a strange contrast to Breitbart – he writes as if he lacked a spleen. He thinks only in terms of political objectives, with race baiting or pillaging of someone like Shirley Sherrod as an inefficiency, when it is the specific intent of the project. In the parlance of our times, the era of the engineer: not a bug, but a feature. He lacks the simple canniness that Sarah Palin has warehouses full, where her resentment over being too slow to get certain jokes, or to know the simplest facts of geography and history, can stand in for the resentment of others for so many things, that her ignorance and her accompanying resentment about this ignorance mocked, does not diminish her appeal but makes it more intense23 – and her gift at channeling this resentment is a more useful one for a politician than knowledge of some historical facts. I often think of Friedersdorf as a little red riding hood who has never met a wolf, or a child in a school play in the part of an angel, hoisted high in the rafters and wearing foil wings, giving gentle directives to the mortal characters on stage, instructing them on their impious flaws. Though just as the mild mannered country vicar might have bookshelves full of grisly murder mysteries, this churchman has his own twist – he’s an enthusiastic fan of the work of Ayn Rand, which is the root of the occult and unpious text, The Satanic Bible24. Reading his short essays on politics is a little like reading a catholic priest write reviews about pornography, every one complaining about their lack of celebration of transcendent love and the virtue of marriage – this priest doesn’t quite get the point of the project. So, Friedersdorf is a strange contrast, but not entirely an incongruous member of the political analyst class, who overemphasize the rational motives of political actors, when the actions of many political actors are not for any rational, productive reason, but are for reasons that are very pragmatic, very sound, in satisfying the irrational impulses of an electorate, but are often unproductive and inconsistent. One is never sure if this overemphasis is genuine myopia or willful blindness – Friedersdorf writes that a hypothetical follower of Breitbart “could cite Breitbart’s life as evidence that race-baiting is especially immoral, or that it is an effective tactic for attacking the left to avenge similar attacks on conservatives. The contradiction in Breitbart’s behavior means neither claim is entirely right or wrong.”25 That hedge about neither claim being entirely right or wrong does not suggest an ambivalence the situation requires, but a shirk from the poisonous whorls that have driven many conservative victories.

Because Andrew Breitbart’s sensibility was poisonous: it was that of the lunatic conspiracist, in a struggle with an all-powerful Democratic Media Complex, which had the power to shift the way the very world was perceived, where his opponent was more evil, more brutal than Al-Qaeda. This attitude would devolve into nasty, sectarian paranoia among his followers, unrooted in any specific political goals, as they retreated their attacks to the pettiest of opponents, and towards each other.

Bretibart’s followers were a real island of misfit toys. They included the aforementioned former liberal and former pornographer Lee Stranahan, a journalist and film-maker who wrote for Breitbart.com, as well as his own blog. There was Patrick Frey, a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who helped Breitbart with legal work during the ACORN scandal26, wrote for Breitbart.com and his own blog, Patterico’s Pontifications. Dana Loesch, a sunny brunette with a passing resemblance to Sandra Bullock, who had landed an on-air gig on CNN when the network made an attempt to appeal to the Tea Party audience27. There was James O’Keefe, the film-maker who first gave Breitbart his big break in publicity, whose latest video ambushes had fizzled and, after one of these attempts, was on three year probation for entering federal property on false pretenses28. There was Joel Pollak, a former liberal who became critical of majority rule after a few years in South Africa, and was now one of the top people at Breitbart.com29. The other top man was Ben Shapiro, whose two greatest achievements were starting at UCLA when he was only sixteen, and still being a virgin at twenty one30.

There was the most interesting of all of them, Brandon Darby, a columnist at Breitbart.com (a listing of his work there), who had been involved with the relief organization Common Ground while in the abandoned wasteland that was New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, a liberal activist until he had his Damascene conversion. Breitbart had the delusional fantasy that he was a double agent while working on the Huffington Post; Darby became an actual double agent, an FBI informant in two prominent cases31. Riad Hamad, from Lebanon, then living in Austin, Texas, was a teacher with several degrees and an activist, who headed the charity the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund (PCWF). When Darby met Hamad about the possibility of a new charity that would send medics into war zones, Darby alleged that Hamid proposed that booby trapped motorcycles and ambulances be deployed under the cover of a medical mission to kill Israelis. Darby would also allege that Hamid put forth a plan to divert PCWF funds to Hezbollah and Hamas. Darby would go to the FBI about these allegations, and on February 28th, 2008, they would confiscate forty boxes of records from the charity, as part of an investigation into “wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering”. No charges would be brought. On April 14th, 2008, Hamad’s family would report him missing, and two days later his body was found in nearby Lady Bird Lake. His mouth was duct taped, his legs were bound with duct tape and his arms were duct taped in front of him; though the police department would say that the bindings on his hands and legs, the place of the tape pointed to Hamad having done this to himself, that various acquaintances said that he had been experiencing suicidal thoughts, the mysterious circumstances leading up to his death would result in the growth of various conspiracy theories. Alex Jones would devote some time to the case, and offer his usual imaginative outlook on the events32.

Darby would then join a group of activists who would protest the Republican convention in St. Paul’s, Minnesota. The protesters brought home-made shields to protect themselves against the police; Darby tipped off the FBI, who would confiscate the shields. Afterwards, two activists, David McKay and Brandon Crowder, would then make molotov cocktails to have something, anything at the protest. The other protesters in the group were entirely against this, and thought bringing the molotovs to a protest was ridiculous, stupid, and dangerous. The molotovs were left behind and not used during the protest. Darby would ask McKay what he was going to do with them – McKay either jokingly or seriously, depending on whose version of events is taken, told Darby that they would meet later to throw them at cop cars. According to Darby he then did his best to dissuade McKay from doing this. They were supposed to meet at 2AM, but McKay didn’t bother to show up. Darby called several times, but McKay didn’t bother responding. But it didn’t matter: at 4AM, the police showed up at McKay’s, McKay and Crowder were indicted for possession of unlicensed firearms, the molotovs, Crowder got two years, and McKay got four. It was after this that Darby came out as an FBI informant. “Congratulations on your brilliant career of whoring your soul. I’m kind of envious. Does it pay well to be a whore?” read one email to Darby. Breitbart called him an american hero33.

The first thing to go wrong, the first sign that the Anthony Weiner scandal was a poisoned chalice, was the SWATting of Mike Stack. Stack was the man on whom the focus fell over the tweeting of the Weiner photo when the actual tweeter, the mysterious Dan Wolfe, retreated from the public eye. A previous DUI, an assault charge, that he was a moderator at a porn forum, along with other personal information, including his home address, all became public. On the night of June 23, 2011, a call was made to 911, the caller saying that he was Mike Stack and he had just shot and killed his wife. A SWAT team was sent to the house, culminating in a SWAT team member pointing a rifle inches away from the head of a man lying asleep in Mike Stack’s bed. This sleeping man was Mike Stack, and he denied having made any such call. He was not married and there was no one else in the house. He did not own a gun, and had never owned a gun, though he now slept with a baseball bat under his bed out of fear after his personal information and house address had been published on the web34.

From the police report on the incident:

Stack said that he doesn’t have a gun and that he had never owned a gun. Stack stated that he was being set over the internet and believed that patrol responded to his house as prank. Stack said that he has a twitter account where his twitter ID name is Twitter.com/goatsred. He said that he is constantly “blogging” comments and opinions of political views that take place in the country. He said that approximately 6 weeks ago, he tweeted to a comment made by a male, whose tweet id was PatriotUSA76. That person indicated that his name was Dan Wolfe. Stack did not know if Wolfe was using his real name. Stack said he and Wolfe started “tweeting” around the first week in May 2011.

Stack stated that he believed Wolfe was the original person who discovered that former congressman Anthony Weiner was involved in a sex scandal and obtained the information before the news went public. [REDACTED] The news of Anthony Weiners. Stack said that after the information went public to the news media, [REDACTED] was the original person who obtained the information about Weiners. Stack said that shortly after Wolfe made the comments about [REDACTED], he (Wolfe) could no longer be located on line and the twitter name that Wolfe used as PatriotUSA76 was no longer a recognized ID from Twitter.

Stack said that he has no idea as to why [REDACTED] about Anthony Weiner’s sex scandal. Stack said that ever since the news went public he observed his personal information, i.e. his former D.W.I. arrest, a picture of his arrest for a previous domestic violence incident that was later dropped, a picture of his current residence, a picture of his current vehicle, and his financial history was posted all over the internet, via the web site smokingun and twitter. He said ever since the postings indicated him as the person who discovered the sex scandal of Anthony Weiner, he has been harassed on-line and through his cell phone. Stack said that ever since the news he has had to sleep with a baseball bat next to his bed in fear that someone may try to retaliate against him because of the rumors of him breaking the news of the sex scandal dealing with former congressman Anthony Weiner.

It looked like this was a SWATting, a tactic that had started out in the hacker community, where an emergency was reported at the address of your nemesis, causing a heavily armed SWAT team to descend on the house expecting a murder in progress and finding only frightened and unaware residents. The call is made through various methods so that the source cannot not be traced35.

A recording of the 911 call that brought the SWAT team to Mike Stack’s house:

Stack would start a blog trying to investigate who was behind the SWATting and the phantom accounts of the Anthony Weiner scandal. The mysterious account that he’d interacted with, that had retweeted the infamous photo that incited the scandal, the account that had then mysteriously vanished, was @patriotUSA76 / Dan Wolfe. Stack’s blog was called “Crying Wolfe”, and its logo was a hand casting a wolf shape shadow on a wall.

It was the first SWATting, but it wouldn’t be the last. It would be followed by a SWATting on the night of July 1st against Patrick Frey. The attorney would be taken out of his house in handcuffs and at gunpoint. It appeared part of a series – Stack had been SWATted, Frey had been SWATted, and so had Erick Erickson, in May. Each time, a caller with a similar nasal voice had claimed that he had just shot his wife. No national press had covered Stack’s SWATting, but Frey and Erickson were sufficiently prominent that theirs were given greater attention. “This Is Insane: The Intimidation Game Against Conservative Bloggers” by Conor Friedersdorf would write of the incident as part of a persecution campaign, and CNN, where Erickson was a contributor, would devote a segment to the incidents36.

The following is a recording of the call to 911 that triggered the Frey SWATting:

A year later, on May 28, 2012, Frey would be a guest on Stranahan’s live podcast, where he would discuss the details of the SWATting, including the whys on the difficulty of tracking down whoever made the original 911 call37.

From 28:00-29:05:

FREY
But I can tell you that, typically, if you look at SWATting cases, cause this is not completely new phenomenon, this has happened dozens of times at least, in places all over the country, historically, what happens is that someone typically places a call using a computer, like a Skype type service? And then they mask the origin by spoofing the phone number, and then if you can trace it down to his voiceover IP, Skype type service, and trace it to an IP, it’s typically hackers who are clever enough to have used VPN services, which are basically proxies that mask your IP. And if they pick the right VPN service, it’s a service that doesn’t keep logs. So, you know, your investigators go and they issue a subpoena for the company and the company says, “Sorry, we don’t have any logs.”

Frey believed there was a possibility that a man he’d been on the phone with at the time of the SWATting, Ron Brynaert, a journalist who’d been heavily involved in looking into the phantom identities of the Anthony Weiner scandal, was somehow involved in the SWATting itself.

It was in the middle of discussing this possibility with Stranahan and another conservative blogger, the pseudonymous Big Fur Hat, that someone called into the podcast.

From 49:40-51:35:

STRANAHAN
He’s snuggled up to you and tried to become-

FREY
Well, the way he got me on the phone the night that I was SWATted, was, he claimed that he had important information that I needed to know about. I’ll give you that.

STRANAHAN
That’s what I’m suggesting, is that he’s tried to form alliances and you see he’s attacking Joe Brooks [another conservative blogger] tonight, who he tried to snuggle up with. Not…I mean that metaphorically, I’m not trying to gross anyone out with the image of Joe Brooks and Ron Brynaert snuggling up. But a, I’m just saying he’s tried to ingratiate himself to people…hey Pat, we have a Skype caller on the line, and I’m always fascinated when I see all these ones. Here’s an untraceable call. Hey there, who’s on the line?

CALLER
It’s me. Hey Pat, you remember me, buddy? It’s me that SWATted you, buddy. How bout I punk you one more time for old time’s sake, huh? Heh heh heh. You still there, buddy?

STRANAHAN
Yeah, we’re here. Now why are you saying you’re the person…give us some proof that you’re the person who SWATted Pat. (long pause) And they’ve gone.

BIG FUR HAT
Wow. I feel like I’ve been part of some sort of history here. What was that?

STRANAHAN
Pat?

FREY
Yeah?

STRANAHAN
Any comments?

FREY
No. Not really.

STRANAHAN
Okay.

BIG FUR HAT
I’m gonna bow out, guys. I’m gonna…in case you got another caller or something. And you can discuss, I’ll be listening. [STRANAHAN: Alright.] You can disconnect me. Thank you for having me, gentlemen.

STRANAHAN
Thank you, Big Fur Hat. [BFH: Thank you] I just like saying that. Thanks for calling in.

BIG FUR HAT
Do you have to cut me off so I can still listen, or do I just hang up?

STRANAHAN
Yeah yeah yeah, no, I’ll cut you off. So, that was strange, huh? Just made some news, I think.

FREY
That was pretty spooky, yup.

Ten minutes later, there was another call, during a discussion between Frey, Stranahan, conservative bloggers and Breitbart.com contributors, Yid With a Lid (Jeff Dunetz) and Mandy Nagy.

From 1:04:42-1:07:05:

FREY
I first heard about Brett Kimberlin from Andrew Breitbart. He called me up, I still remember kinda pacing in front of my house, listening to him talk about how they were coming out with this story about this convicted bomber and, uh, what we found interesting about it to begin with, frankly, was that Brad Friedman was this blogger who’d been blogging about ACORN and about James O’Keefe, and the point that he kept making, all the time, was that, uh, this was a guy who was just uh, dishonest, O’Keefe, and he was constantly lying and doing that, and was such a bad person, and I’m trying to remember if the whole New Orleans thing-

STRANAHAN
Hey.

FREY
-with O’Keefe had already happened.

STRANAHAN
Wait, Pat. Pat. We have a Skype caller back. I just want to jump on that.

YID WITH A LID
I’m gonna get off guys and listen.

STRANAHAN
Hi Skype caller.

CALLER
(pause) Heeey Pat. Buddy. What is this, Lee? Alright. You idiots make me laugh. It’s all so funny. I mean, Michelle, with her cousin still missing, for what…her cousin offed herself38? That’s so funny, I still laugh about that. Hey Pat. How’d it feel when you got SWATted that night? I was watching from outside, buddy. And it was kinda funny, watching your ass go out in handcuffs.

MANDY NAGY
Your voice sounds kinda funny.

STRANAHAN
Your voice sound funny. You’re talking a little too fast.

CALLER
Oh. I’m sorry. And I’m speaking too fast for you, buddy?

STRANAHAN
Try it slow. Do the whole “I shot your-” Do what you said in the call. Repeat what you said in the call.

CALLER
I don’t know what you’re talking about, buddy. I thought you invited me to talk some serious things here.

STRANAHAN
You sound like Sean Penn as Spiccoli. That’s what you sound like. But if you could slow it down a little bit. What did you sound like on the call?

CALLER
I don’t know, buddy.

FREY
Well, tell us why you did it. If you’re the guy, tell us why you did it.

STRANAHAN
And they hung up.

(These podcast excerpts on youtube.)

That November, “SWATting, a Deadly Political Game” by Simone Wilson, would give coverage to this incident and previous SWATtings, as well as attempts by Frey to get the Dallas FBI, experts in the area, involved in his case. Various celebrities would be SWATted that year, including Russell Brand, Miley Cyrus, Ashton Kutcher, and Justin Bieber39. In March 2013, Brian Krebs, a cybersecurity expert, would be SWATted after he reported on a russian site that was a repository of stolen social security numbers and credit reports. The 911 call was made via instant messages, using a service designed for the hearing impaired. The SWATting took place after a heavy denial of service attack on Krebs’ site. At the time of this last attack, a security company which protects web sites, including Krebs’, from such denial of service attacks received a letter from the FBI stating that Krebs’ cite hosted illegal content and should be shut down immediately. The letter was a hoax; the agency had sent no such letter40. At the end of April 2013, the authorities were called to Congressman Mike Rogers’ house in Howell, Michigan, after he had gave support to the CISPA bill and called its opponents a bunch of basement dwelling teenagers. It was not, technically a SWATting, as no SWAT team was called, just the regular police41. At the end of 2012, five days before Christmas, a twelve year old boy confessed to the SWATtings of Bieber and Kutcher42. No one has yet been identified by the authorities for the other incidents, including those involving Frey, Erickson, and Stack.

However, during the podcast with Stranahan, Frey named the man he thought was behind it all: Brett Kimberlin. This Brett Kimberlin, and a dailykos blogger named Neal Rauhauser, would be the names repeated again and again in conservative circles as the prime movers of this, only one part of their larger campaign of harassment against conservative activists. Though it was considered an axiomatic fact that the two men were behind the SWATtings, no evidence was ever shown to support this belief. Kimberlin was a former drug dealer who’d also set off bombs to distract an investigation into his dealing; one of the bomb victims had lost his leg and afterwards killed himself in despair. Kimberlin would serve time in jail, and gain prominence after he told reporter James Singer that he’d sold cocaine to Dan Quayle. Singer would question this claim, and thoroughly document Kimberlin’s life in the excellent Citizen K: The Deeply Weird American Journey of Brett Kimberlin . After getting out of jail, Kimberlin would try for a career in music and become heavily involved in attempts to document fraud involving Diebold machines in the 2004 election43. Seth Allen, whose attitude was progressive and occasionally paranoid, who wrote for the blog Dave From Queens and oversaw a forum devoted to chemtrail conspiracies (All Aircraft Are Not Involved – Chemtrails Are Not Kooky!), would share the details of Kimberlin’s past with Andrew Breitbart’s group. Their focus was on Kimberlin’s association with a progressive lawyer named Brad Friedman, which was not just an association, but an example of the infinite interweaving of liberals with radical terrorists, one more sign that the American left were more brutal than Al-Qaeda44. The conservative group the National Bloggers Club would declare May 25, 2012, “Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day”, with everyone devoting that day to writing about the crimes of this one man. “The goal of “Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day,” as far as I can see it, is to make Kimberlin famous again” David Weigel wrote, as if Breitbart’s followers were anything like a political activist group attempting to achieve specific political goals, and not something closer to a mob whose eyes settled on easy and nearby targets45.

Kimberlin’s supposed associate, Neal Rauhauser, was a network architect and liberal activist who had allegedly taunted Stack over his role in the Weiner scandal46, and had been one of the major players in one of the dumber moments in social networking. This was Twittergate, and never before have so many people been so upset by something that was stupid, pointless, and offensive, but also involved beans wearing wizard hats. Twittergate began when a group of twitter users called the Beandogs, who ragged on any number of people just for laughs, went after Greg W. Howard. The fight started when Howard successfully got twitter to take down a troll account, which provoked the Beandogs into outing the fact that Howard’s financial planning business was a wreck and that he was behind on his child support payments. They would tweet such jibes as “Who knew that @gregwhoward has sexy fuckable children???”, that one courtesy of “Obamagician”. Howard then formed a rival gang on twitter, called the Wrecking Crew, which outed personal information of the Beanbags. At that point, the Beandogs joined up with Neal Rauhauser, who may have controlled a large number of sock puppet twitter accounts, and the harassment continued. “I’m going to light up with a $100 bill that some gay ass taxpayer worked to earn.”, wrote “Burt Banana”. “@pschlenker annoyed me so much I bought an abortion in his name.”, wrote “Guerilla Logic”, before contributing $400 in the name of pro-life couple Paul and Barbara Schlenker to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Guerilla Logic, again: “Fuck ass shit piss cunt dick cock tits motherfucker…Is that better you old anal-leaking fucking hag? Go read the bible @grammy620”. When Rauhauser joined, it no longer became the trolling of a bunch of obnoxious baiters, but a political conspiracy of progressive democrats, trying to provoke the Tea Party into acting their image of racist morons. Glenn Beck’s site, The Blaze, asked “Did Democrats Hire A ‘Twitter-Thug’ To Smear The Tea Party?” A video was made documenting the scandal, featuring a man in a Confederate wrestling mask, a monocled bean with a top hat, and topless Sarah Palin on a crucifix, all accompanied by the music of Daft Punk. This short movie felt less like a scathing exposé, and more like a false flag operation directed by Tim and Eric47.

Brett Kimberlin and Neal Rauhauser, who may never have known each other, became interlocked associates, the prime enemies of some in the Breitbart circle, with even the Kenyan socialist usurper in the White House fading from view. Anyone who worked against a Breitbart associate must be an associate in some way of Kimberlin and Rauhauser. A website whose content editor went unnamed, Breitbart Unmasked was set up listing the misdeeds of anyone in the Breitbart group. A rival website, Kimberlin Unmasked, went up afterwards, documenting the foul crimes of Kimberlin, Rauhauser, and anyone it thought part of the Kimberlin-Rauhauser axis.

One of the first to fall under suspicion, paradoxically, was Mike Stack. The accusation came out in part through attempts by Lee Stranahan to sort out all the enemies and phantom identities involved in the Weiner scandal. Like many of those who pored relentlessly over the details of that scandal, Stranahan became obsessed with who was behind the various sock puppet accounts on twitter – Nikki Reid, her family, as well as the ghost at the center, Dan Wolfe48. Patrick Frey published messages from @JohnReid9, the father, and Stranahan took issue with it. Stranahan occasionally guest blogged at Frey’s site, Patterico, and on July 2, 2011, Frey closed his account after the argument.

A part of Frey’s response provides some sense of the depth of the labyrinth49:

Lee Stranahan may be completely right about his theory that a woman with the initials “JG” is behind everything that has happened. He really may. But I have been reading his posts, and listening to his radio show with the yowling cat, and I know he has been saying and implying things about me that are simply not accurate. I have tried to remain silent about this, but I am listening to his radio show from last night and hearing how he misrepresents my position on all of this, and I can remain silent no longer.

The two would eventually reconcile.

The accusation against Stack also had its roots in the conflict with another of Stranahan’s enemies, Brooks Bayne. Bayne was a rival Breitbart acolyte, who, according to Stranahan, expected to lead the Breitbart movement after the great man’s death50. Bayne had the notable distinction of bipartisan loathing, “The Entire Internet Hates Brooks Bayne’s guts” by “TBogg” (Tom Boggioni51) capturing this feeling well. Bayne’s own site was The Trenches whose content tended towards the inflammatory, such as “27 Asians Attack 3 Whites…Or Why Americans Need Weapons With More Than 10 Round Magazines”, “Gay Mafia Intimidates Christian Bakery Owner And Her Family Over Wedding Cake”, “Did FDR And His Cronies Steer America Into World War II? The Evidence Suggests That’s The Case”, “May Day DC 2013 Protesters Assault Cops And Attack Peaceful White Culturists” about May Day protesters and members of a White Student Union52; one of the last sentences of “The Summer of 1976: From the Ashes of White Detroit, Black-Ruled Detroit Blossomed” is “Detroit has been sucking the blood of the American taxpayer just to stay alive since blacks took over in 1974.” He would taunt Stranahan mercilessly, setting up Lee Stranahan Watch, a site devoted to the humiliation of Stranahan, documenting his every mis-step, and hosting the evidence of Stranahan’s past involvement in pornography53.

A detailed chart would be made by Stranahan listing who Bayne was attacking and who was associated with the attack, and he listed Stack’s name as among those associated with Bayne’s attacks. Stack would reply with a letter, threatening to sue Stranahan for associating him with Kimberlin and Rauhauser. Stranahan denied he did any such thing, and pointed to the lawsuit as a triumphant vindication: “Mike Stack Threatens To Sue Me, Thereby Proving My Chart Right” 54. Stranahan would also end up in a fight with the previously mentioned christian accountant and Twittergate victim, Greg W. Howard, after Howard promoted the idea that the killing spree of James Holmes was part of a liberal conspiracy55.

In an unusual move, Stranahan would commission a shirt for sale listing the names of his enemies: “Brett & Neal & Mike & Brooks & Greg.” Whether Stranahan was a well-known and beloved enough public figure that people would want to buy such a shirt was one question. The other was why someone in sympathy with Stranahan would want to buy a shirt listing his enemies’ names, which might give the mistaken notion that you were actually a fan of those enemies, as it would be assumed that you were a fan of the Ramones, rather than utterly hating the band, if you wore a shirt with their name on it. Though it was more likely that people would never have heard of the people on the shirt, and would get the mistaken idea that you were a big fan of that band with the song in Death Proof56.

Brett & Neal & Mike & Brooks & Greg.

The reason for the intensity of these disputes was explained by Stranahan when he wrote of the fight between himself and Howard. There was the belief on Howard’s part that their enemies were evil, that this was a war, and this justified any tactic. This is a surprise to Stranahan when it should not be; it is simply Breitbart’s mindset, of a Manichean conflict, where your opponent is more brutal, more evil than Al-Qaeda, brought to bear on conservative rivals.

From “Twittergate Reality Check Part 4: Dangerous Paranoia”, where Stranahan deals with accusations by Bayne, Howard, as well as another Twittergate victim who is referred to sometimes as Michelle and sometimes by her twitter handle @ZAPEM57, that he, Brandon Darby, and fellow Breitbart writer Mandy Nagy (@LibertyChick) are informing on conservatives for the FBI:

Honestly, I have no idea how crazy they are. They seem pretty crazy. Let’s recap : Brooks has told people that Brandon, Mandy and I were planted by the FBI to spy on conservatives like Brooks. Greg, Brooks and Michelle have all contacted my employer to try and get me fired. They are obsessed.

If you think this is some Twitter battle, understand that they do not. They see this as a literal war against literal traitors and they see me, Brandon, Mandy, Patterico, Malkin, Erickson, Breitbart and many many others as part of that treason. That’s not metaphor for them They mean it.

This next part is frightening in its clear implications – Greg, who claims to be a Christian, rejects any notion of Christian ethics applying to this situation because it’s ‘war’. In Greg’s mind people disagreeing on Twitter is WAR. He and Brooks and their small group of Twitter-gaters believes that. And it’s the kind of war that allows the suspension of ethics.

Again – they literally believe Brandon, Mandy and I are FBI plants.

Therefore, anything they do – any tactic – is okay because in their minds, it’s just self defense. They are defending themselves against a greater threat and they are the ‘real conservatives’ – and apparently, they are the arbiters of who those real conservatives are.

So, maybe to you reading this it’s a Twitter fight. To them, it’s not. And to the people being targeted here, it’s definitely not.

It was part of this attitude where your enemies must have been behind any action, and where any casual association must be someone in league with your enemies, that a clip of the SWAT call to Patrick Frey was put along with a clip of the journalist Ron Brynaert, implying that Brynaert was the man behind the SWAT calls to Stack, Frey, and Erickson. Brynaert was an eccentric journalist who had been looking into the mysteries surrounding the Weiner scandal, and at some point he was placed in the Kimberlin-Rauhauser axis. He was on Stranahan’s chart and he was listed in Kimberlin Unmasked.

A progressive blogger, Matt Osborne (his blog: Osborne Ink) would put together his own compilation of the clips of the Stack call, the Frey call, and the prank caller onto Stranahan’s podcast along with clips of Brandon Darby, implying that it was Darby who had made the SWAT calls: “Could SWAT-gate Be Another Right Wing Prank?”. Osborne was soon added to the Kimberlin-Rauhauser axis and listed on Kimberlin Unmasked.

To my ears, Brynaert sounds nothing like the SWAT caller. Rauhauser does not sound anything like the SWAT caller either. For those who wish to hear either man speak at length, Brynaert was a guest on the podcast “Disorderly Conduct” on April 29th, 2013, while Rauhauser called into the same program on November 20, 2012. As for the other comparison, the voice of Darby and the Stack SWAT caller sound so similar that I get mixed up between them – this does not mean that Darby is Stack’s SWAT caller. I hear less resemblance between Darby and the caller to the Stranahan podcast, and there is one fact that goes unmentioned in the youtube clip that makes it difficult for me to believe the podcast caller and Darby are the same: Darby was Stranahan’s podcast co-host58, and I cannot imagine Stranahan being unable to recognize the voice of his co-host, even if it were disguised.

Amidst these internecine struggles, other Breitbart followers had their own issues. In January, 2012, Dana Loesch would applaud on her radio show those U.S. soldiers who had pissed on Taliban corpses, saying she would not only happily join in, but reward them one million cool points59. Her husband would accuse CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien of being an anti-semite60. At some point after this, Loesch stopped appearing on CNN, though the network denied she had been blackballed61. After the death of Andrew Breitbart, she would sue Breitbart.com to get out of her contract, which she claimed had placed her into indentured servitude limbo. The contract required her to continue working at the site, yet the company itself prevented her from accessing the site itself, thereby keeping her bound to Breitbart.com while preventing her from writing for Breitbart.com. Loesch would allege in a lawsuit that the site’s workplace environment had become increasingly hostile and that her relationship to the site had gone tragically awry62.

Those were the allegations of Dana Loesch, and then there were the allegations of Nadia Naffe. In 2010, James O’Keefe had just had his huge, and perhaps only, success with a video depicting employees of ACORN, an advocacy group for the poor and disenfranchised, offering advice on how to launder money and manage O’Keefe’s underage hookers. The videos were deceptively edited, and O’Keefe would end up owing six figures from successful lawsuits by the employees, but at the time it didn’t matter – there was no in-depth look at how the videos had been edited because the press gave no damns about the people ACORN helped, so the organization shut down and O’Keefe, a man with a face like jagged flint and the squinty eyes of Lee Harvey Oswald, got famous63. With his newfound prominence, he set up an organization devoted to documenting liberal corruption, Project Veritas. Their first sting target would be Congresswoman Maxine Waters, whose husband sat on the board of OneUnited, a bank with a history of mismanagement which had received $12 million in TARP funds. You had to wonder at the choice of target – was this because of the $12 million in TARP funds, which were a fraction compared to what was given to larger banks that had engaged in corrupt practices in mortgage securities, or was it because Waters, whatever her flaws, did fight for poor people and did fight for the causes of the Congressional Black Caucus? 64 O’Keefe hired Naffe, a woman of African, Malaysian, and Native descent who’d sued the GOP over racial discrimination (they settled) for the operation. Naffe posed as a constituent of Waters’ South Central district, got in to see her, and explained that her problem was issues with her bank – OneUnited. A hidden camera caught Waters’ expression souring, and this was enough for O’Keefe to get money for his next project65.

John Fund, a contributor to Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page, was worried about voter fraud. He was sure the Massachusetts Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a fraternity of janitors, health-care workers, and other mostly low wage earners, would try to steal the 2010 special election for Ted Kennedy’s seat. The SEIU, according to Fund, would charter special buses to bring minorities in from Rhode Island and New Hampshire for easy democratic votes. “If you’re black or brown,” wrote Fund, “they’ll rope you in and take you to the polls66. Billionaire Foster Freiss and his son, Steve, wanted to investigate this, and were looking for black/latina conservatives who could go undercover and record being picked up by one of these buses. Naffe would be their black/latina conservative, and though she followed and questioned various SEIU members in her guise of an inquisitive black/latina voter, no one knew anything of any secret bus operation. Though O’Keefe was involved in the operation, he wasn’t on the ground in Massachusetts, as he was busy in New Orleans getting arrested for gaining entry to Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu’s office under false pretenses67. He followed up this achievement with an invite to CNN reporter Abby Boudreau for an interview, whereby he hoped he could lure the reporter to a docked boat filled with sex toys. O’Keefe’s plan was to film himself trying to seduce Boudreau, but the reporter got advance warning from a nervous O’Keefe associate, and Boudreau backed out of the meeting, gave a detailed account of the plan for the sting – listing the fuzzy handcuffs, dildos, blindfold, that were to be used as props – and managed to destroy whatever was left of O’Keefe’s reputation. Andrew Breitbart, who considered the liberal press more brutal, more evil than Al-Qaeda, this time sided with the terrorists: “I believe James owes them a candid and public explanation.” Breitbart, blushed: “From what I’ve read about this script, though not executed, it is patently gross and offensive.”68

In September 2011, Naffe was brought in on an operation that might return O’Keefe to glory. The operation was To Catch A Journalist, a project to show the world that liberal communications professors were racist partisans who hated the Tea Party. Naffe would pose as a student, infiltrate NYU (an elitist institution, said O’Keefe) and meet with professor Charles Seife (a racist, said O’Keefe), who she would record saying some unsavory something. Naffe managed to find Seife and the meeting went swimmingly: he dropped a previous appointment to give her a tour of the campus and arranged to set her up with an African American mentor69. O’Keefe and Naffe would need another appointment to get this guy. Two weeks later, O’Keefe picked up Naffe and drove her to where she would stay the night, his family’s barn, or: Project Veritas HQ. The barn was filled with high quality computers and surveillance equipment, paid for by donors like Foster Friess. There was one incongruous detail in this production studio: lit candles everywhere. According to Naffe, she settled down to drink one of the beers they’d bought on the way over, and started feeling woozy, as if she’d been drugged. She tried to escape the barn, but ended up crawling around on the floor, nauseous, finally smashing a glass jar that held a candle to make clear to O’Keefe that she was serious about wanting to leave, now. She would be driven back to the train station that night70. Naffe’s part in Operation To Catch A Journalist was over, but it didn’t matter; based on its reception, maybe it should have been called Operation Dismissive Laughter71.

She would share what had happened that night with O’Keefe’s mentor, Andrew Breitbart. According to Naffe, he would tell her that O’Keefe lacked sense and that he had no control over his protégé’s behavior. When Naffe had returned home from the barn, allegedly she had found her panties missing. When she told Breitbart about this, she claims he made a joke about it: “Nadia, he stole my panties too.” The accusations would be a part of the last weeks of Breitbart’s life. On February 24, 2012, David Shuster would mis-state that O’Keefe was facing rape allegations – Naffe’s harassment complaint against O’Keefe had been dismissed in December, and she was threatening a civil suit against O’Keefe for false imprisonment72. Breitbart would reply in his usual calm, collected manner: “There is no ‘rape plot’, you slanderous, libelous wannabe Media Matters smear junkie”. Five days later, he would have a conference call and an email exchange with Vested Protection Systems, a New Jersey security company, about dealing with various adversaries, including Neal Rauhauser and Nadia Naffe: [REDACTED, see footnote]73 Later that night, Breitbart would mockingly re-tweet from a restaurant bar a jibe predicting his downfall: “Follow @nadianaffe to find out about her story of assault. This is going to take down @JamesOKeefeIII and possibly @AndrewBreitbart.” The message would be his last to the twitterverse. A while later, a few blocks from the bar, he would fall to the concrete and die74.

The next month, Patrick Frey would go after Naffe and her claims with a hammer and tongs. He would tweet: “Do they have taxicabs in New Jersey? Is the “barn” in a taxicab-free zone?”; “I’d be very interested to see how far you’d have to walk from the “barn” to meet a taxicab. Miles? Yards? Feet? Inches?”; “@ElectMarcoRubio Hahahahahaha! Even you are calling it the “rape barn”! I Love it. Yes: I ask: WHY NOT CALL A FREAKING CAB?!?!”; “@ElectMarcoRubio It’s hardly false imprisonment if the “rape barn” is feet from the street and you could easily catch a cab. Am I right?”75

Frey would look up her deposition from her lawsuit against the GOP, then he and his blog commenters would discuss in-depth the medical history revealed in the testimony76.

Comments by Frey:

Interesting points in comments about the medications she was taking, and how those medications don’t mix well with alcohol. One of the medications, Seroquil, is commonly prescribed for schizophrenia, mania, or bipolar disorder – all afflictions that may well not be temporary. If she was still taking the medications in late 2011, it could explain why she allegedly had such a strong reaction to alcohol.

She was taking Seroquel, as indicated in the third deposition. It is used to treat schizophrenia, mania, and bipolar disorder. The attorney says in that deposition that “she survives with that medication,” and it’s a reasonable question to ask whether she still takes the drug. Taking it with alcohol is not recommended and can increase Seroquel’s side effects, which can include drowsiness, agitation, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, lethargy, irritability, nausea, and shakiness.

Apparently the Prozac and Ambien was what she was taking on the first day of the deposition, but then she became distraught after the first day, and her psychiatrist then prescribed more serious medicine, including the ones described in my previous comment.

A commenter at his blog, SarahW:

Holy heck. Well, that kind of illness would explain her jumbled interpretations of language that would not confuse others, and her mental insertion of serious threats into generally benign remarks/situations.

If her condition has worsened, perhaps it might explain why her own friends do not quite recognize her at the moment. It might even account for some of her peculiar difficulties with spelling and syntax (far less present in her earlier tweet history and blogging.)

Of course just plain old malice and stupidity might account for it. Though in my own case I usually just blame mypopia/presbyopia [sic] and floaters.

Commenter Sammon:

Why is that after reading this I get the feeling Nancy Pelosi is going to call another meeting and we are going to have to listen to Nadia giving Congressional Testimony telling us how America needs to provide all young Republican Women, Seroquel, Prozac, and Ambien free of charge.

Commenter builderD:

and free taxi-fare if drunk, company or school computers , legal advice, rape-barn kits, twitter accounts. . . wait . . . i think all/ or most of that was/is available to her.

Commenter Icy:

Damn! And it would have been a big comeback hit for Whitney, too:

The bitch, the bitch, the bitch … the bitch is whack!

Commenter Sarahw:

I’m wondering if Patrick’s pondered follow up will relate to Seroquel’s use as a “date rape” drug?

I’m also wondering what proportion of cunning and malice is in theer [sic] with the crazy. Could she have meant to set up o’keefe, or did she just go ’round the bend?

Commenter daleyrocks:

“She discusses bouts of depression (explains it as a cause for leaving employment), and she discusses anxiety in parts 2 and 3 above.”

Sarahw – I wasn’t trying to be critical. I haven’t made it through 2&3 yet. I see the anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and sleep meds combo commonly in this area, not necessarily an indicator of serious serious probs.

OT – In an example of great thinking, some women like to drop the booze for the pills cuz the pills don’t have calories. Preserve girlish figures by getting hooked on benzos!

Naffe would threaten to report Frey to the State Bar and the county attorney’s office for writing posts critical of her and her case77. She would file suit against Frey over invasion of privacy and defamation. Naffe’s complaint would be dismissed with prejudice on April 19, 2013. She would allege that Frey was acting in the capacity of a state attorney when he wrote his blog or dismissed her claims on twitter; the judge, George Wu, would note that Naffe had “not cited any case which comes close to suggesting that what Frey allegedly did here would amount to such state action.”78 Naffe would allege that she suffered financial damages, lost work, and incurred medical bills because of health problems suffered because of what Frey said about her case, but she could provide no evidence of any of this79. Were you to take a Manichean perspective, you would be forced to choose between Naffe and Frey, but you needn’t. You could find Naffe’s lawsuit a ridiculous waste of everybody’s time, and also find something repellent in the dissection by Frey and his commenters of a possible sexual assault. Chris Faraone would write the definitive account of the Nadia Naffe saga, in addition to detailing many of the players in the Kimberlin-Breitbart war, with “The Trials of Nadia Naffe”, and I have happily relied on much of Faraone’s work for this post. Faraone’s piece was sympathetic in its portrayal of Naffe, so Faraone was added to the list of collaborators at the Kimberlin Unmasked website80.

If the dismissal of the Naffe case might be considered a sort of terminus for the rivalries between the Kimberlin and Breitbart clans, another crescendo could be found in the month before Breitbart died, in the court hearing over Seth Allen’s contempt complaint against Brett Kimberlin. Seth Allen, the radical left blogger who also ran a chemtrails conspiracy forum, was the one who had supposedly related the bombshell of Kimberlin’s past to the Breitbart tribe. During his time in jail, Kimberlin had acquired a detailed knowledge of the legal system, and he was able to put it to effective use against adversaries. Kimberlin sued Allen for defamation, as well as a protective order and an injunction against Allen, who he claimed was stalking him81. Allen in an email to Andrew Breitbart, Mandy Nagy, and Patrick Frey, would suggest that he murder Kimberlin. At the defamation hearing, Allen would be arrested by police over the threat, but would be let go without being charged. Kimberlin was, however, granted an injunction against Allen, which restricted Allen from writing anything about Kimberlin. Allen ignored this injunction, which led to Kimberlin filing the contempt charge, which led to a hearing on January 9th, 201282.

A lawyer who went by the pseudonym “Aaron Worthing”, who guest blogged occasionally at Patrick Frey’s Patterico site, and who also ran the controversial blog Everybody Draw Mohammad, in which people celebrated free speech by drawing images of the prophet, offered to help Seth Allen in his legal disputes with Kimberlin. Worthing didn’t disclose his name to the court, instead working anonymously. Kimberlin would get the court to disclose Worthing’s real name: Aaron Walker. After the hearing, Kimberlin would record an image of Walker with his iPad, and Walker would react by grabbing the iPad from him, and giving it to a courthouse deputy. Kimberlin would claim grievous injury: “He took my iPad away from me, hit me in the eye, sent me to the emergency room,” Kimberlin would tell Alex Pareene. Kimberlin filed a peace order, which would prevent Walker from threatening, harassing, or contacting him. Walker would charge Kimberlin with perjury over claims of injury when he grabbed his iPad83.

Walker would write to his employers at PHRI (the Population Health Research Institute), a health care staffing firm, about what was taking place84:

I write to you today to let you know that I believe I am about to be the subject of a campaign of harassment. Indeed the persons behind this might have already made an attempt to contact one or more of you. I regret that any of this has happened, but as I think you will see by the end of this I did nothing to deserve this.

The ringleader of this group is Brett Kimberlin. Mr. Kimberlin is a convicted terrorist known as the Speedway Bomber.

He is also associated with Neal Rauhauser, and Ron Brynaert. Both men have served as a pipeline for information that Mr. Kimberlin wants to put out into the public, including court documents and they have both served to gather information and to harass people for him.

So why are they interested in me? Because I helped a man that they hated.

You see, despite his checkered past, Mr. Kimberlin has been accepted back into polite society. He is a minor political mover and has been known even to meet with congressmen to discuss policy. He founded a organization called Velvet Revolution and is deeply involved in the Occupy Wallstreet protest movement.

But a man named Seth Allen learned of his past and made it his personal crusade to make sure the whole world knew who Brett Kimberlin really was. And for that, Kimberlin sued him, for defamation, in Maryland. Bear in mind, as far as I can tell Seth never defamed him – he simply told the truth about him. In the middle of this I learned of Seth’s difficulty and provided just a little legal help. I am not a Maryland lawyer, so there wasn’t much I could do for him, but I gave him some very general tips and discussed how he might find a Maryland lawyer, pro bono. I felt a Christian duty to help this man in need, and I fear I am about to pay for that act of kindness.

I did all of this under an alias, Aaron Worthing. I took what I considered to be reasonable steps to keep this from affecting me in real life, but these men went on a crusade after me.

Brett Kimberlin contacted me threatening to subpoena information from Google to determine my real name (he had a pair of private gmail addresses connected to me) and eventually carried through on that threat.

Over the Christmas holiday, I had to prepare to file a motion to defeat this. Despite being very sick with the flu, I had to force myself to obtain local counsel pro bono and then file a response designed to prevent him from obtaining my true identity.

But this morning I have learned that he has obtained my true identity. I am uncertain how he has done so. He apparently filed a motion with the court mooting his subpoenas because he had my true identity. I am attaching a copy of it, because if you just look at it you will realize the man is a stalker. All he had to do was to tell the court that he had my true identity – he didn’t even have to name me. Instead he not only put out my name in this document, but also where I went to high school, the fact I dropped out of high school, the fact I had to sue the LSAC (the company that runs the Law School Admission Test), my home address, and my current job.

[More darkly,] one night last summer someone called the police and falsely claimed that Mr. Frey had murdered his wife at around one in the morning. The caller asserted that he was in the house and Mr. Frey was armed and dangerous. The police came out en masse and treated him, pretty much as if they thought he killed his wife. They came with their guns pointed toward him and it was a situation where one wrong move might have gotten an innocent man shot.

So knowing their patterns, I fully expect these men to call one or all of you to complain about me. I have virtually no doubt this will occur, which is why I am writing to you today, so you know the character of these men. They will spin a series of lies and half-truths about me.

One of Mr. Kimberlin’s many convictions in the past is for perjury and I have caught him red-handed committing perjury again. I am frankly going to try to get him incarcerated for this conduct. I want him off the streets.

I regret that this is even necessary, but I hope that when all your questions are answered you will realize that I did nothing wrong to get into this unfortunate position. I provided a little bit of help to a man who was in a lot of trouble and this is my punishment for my good deed. I feel that all of this is equivalent to riding a subway and making the mistake of making eye contact with the wrong person. And I hope you will be understanding and sensitive to this situation.

On January 16, 2012, Walker would be terminated as a result of his various blogs and his lack of productivity in the office. An email sent out upon his dismissal85 by counsel for his employer, PHRI:

Aaron,

Thank you for agreeing to have the laptop and other company property picked up by a courier today. I will have someone from Laser Courier out there later this afternoon. As for your property, we will take all of the property identified in your email out of your office and delivered to your address by courier no later than Wednesday. To that end, we have confirmed that you were not reimbursed for any expenses related to legal publications, other than the health care publications, so all of those books will be included in the package that we deliver to your home. We note, however, that the fact that you might need any of your personal reference materials, which you have kept in PHRI’s office, to draft a complaint in private litigation is not the responsibility of PHRI. Also, unless you have a deadline for filing your complaint this week, which is almost certainly not true, then you will be able to make use of those materials in plenty of time to draft your complaint.

It is unfortunate that you still do not grasp the gravity of what you have done, and the risk that you have created for your co-workers at PHRI. If the situation is serious enough for you to alert no less than two local police departments, then it is serious enough for PHRI to protect its employees and prohibit you from returning to its offices. If you have any ability to empathize with the concerns of PHRI’s personnel, you would not even attempt to return, even after hours. Apparently, you chose to start a blog for the express purpose of showing disrespect to the adherents of a major religion, which could be calculated to incite violent reprisals on the part of the most extreme elements of a major religion, which could be calculated to incite violent reprisals on the part of the most extreme elements of that religion. You also wrote disparagingly, even if accurately, about at least one person that you have described as a “terrorist.” Perhaps that is the reason that you did so under a pseudonym – and understandably so given the threats leveled against others who published material that is considered offensive to such people. Now that your identity has been revealed, however, anyone with whom you associate can be considered a potential target. Thus, PHRI has a duty to act in ways that keep you from further exposing its employees to such risks. Finally, you write that whatever you fear you have created is “beyond all rationality.” If that is true, then why did you call the police, and why do you possess firearms? You cleverly denied possessing “handguns” in your email, but you did not deny possessing firearms of any kind. Whatever second amendment rights you exercise, it can be assumed that self-protection under the current circumstances is one of the primary reasons that you do so.

As for the reasons for your termination, while PHRI would have been justified in terminating you for your grossly irresponsible actions related to your blogging, especially on company time (many of your posts bear time stamps during normal working hours) the actual reason for your termination is the incredibly irresponsible way that you performed legal services for PHRI (or failed to) over the past four years, both as an outside attorney and, since July of 2011, as an employee of PHRI. As I mentioned to you on Friday, the state of your office is almost beyond description. Most of the legal documents in your office are piled haphazardly in no less than five legal sized paper boxes, without regard to any kind of organization, filing, chronology, etc. The few files that were actually stored in your file cabinet are not filed alphabetically or by subject matter. Even those appear to be incomplete and provide no basis for determining what actions were taken or remain to be taken to conclude the matter. It is also obvious that most of the work that you did in that office, as revealed by the stacks of documents on top of your desk, relate to personal business, including your various blog activities. In fact, it is difficult to determine what you were working on for PHRI over the last few weeks, if anything.

If you are willing to agree to the terms set forth in general above, I will draft an agreement for your review. We would like to get it done by Wednesday, along with the return of your property. If you are not willing to enter into such an agreement, please let me know immediately.

Jim Hodges

p.s. To respond to your personal question to me, no, I was not afraid of you when I met you in the lobby of my building (although I did not know that you possess firearms at that time). But I met you in the lobby to avoid the appearance of you having any association with the company that provides me with office space. You chose to poke at a group that is known for violent reprisals, apparently in the name of asserting first amendment rights (even though the U.S. Government is not involved in suppressing cartoons about Mohammed). And you were fearful enough of your adversaries to alert the police in two counties. So it would be unreasonable for you to condemn common sense efforts to protect those who have nothing to do with your activities as “beyond all rationality.” In hindsight, do you still consider you “Everyone draw Mohammad” blog to be rational? If so, I would not consider you to be a credible appraiser of rationality.

A later email would demand that Walker make explicit that he no longer had any association with PHRI86:

Aaron,

Apparently your chickens are beginning to come home to roost. We have been informed that PHRI will be a target of protests and formal diplomatic actions if the groups behind those actions are not informed immediately that you are no longer employed by PHRI. Under the circumstances, we believe that you have a duty to prevent any involvement of PHRI in the situation that you have created. To that end, we demand that you immediately and continuously post prominent notices in every publication to which you contribute, including blogs, online magazine, newspapers, etc. that your employment with PHRI was terminated effective January 13, 2012. If you fail to do so, you will be liable for any damage incurred by PHRI and/or its personnel arising out of your activities and publications. Please copy me on all announcements that you publish in accordance with this demand.

Jim Hodges

A later email reply from Walker:

Jim,

This is the last time I am going to let you interrupt my evening with my wife.

If you want me to share your concern or your sense of urgency, or if you want me to convince anyone else to share it, you have to provide me with information. If you would like me to promise as a condition of sharing that information, that I will not publicize what you tell me, I am amenable to that. I will want to share the information with law enforcement if that becomes necessary, but I will not publicize it. But you are asking me to do a favor for a company that has treated me and my wife very shabbily based on blind faith and I am not prepared to do that.

Also please inform Eileen [one of the employers at PHRI] that she is not to contact my mother-in-law any more. If she has concerns for our safety, she can communicate them to us – through you, I suppose.

Aaron

A reply:

Aaron,

I apologize for interrupting your evening with your wife. I was not aware that sending email to your account could be so disruptive.

As to the issues at hand, you have not addressed our demand that you publish an announcement concerning the termination of your employment. We can only take from your refusal to respond that you will refuse to do so. As you are well aware, that refusal to confirm your dissociation with your former colleagues will tend to put them in harm’s way. If the publication of your name, address, and place of employment in court filing constitutes an overt threat on your life, as you have asserted in writing, your refusal to announce that your employment at PHRi has ended is no less threatening to the people who still work at your former place of employment. So we ask you one more time to locate your conscience, put the well-being of others ahead of your curious concept of your self-interest and let your enemies, real and/or imagined, know that you do not work at PHRI any longer. Your former colleagues and those that care about them may have good reason in the future to thank you for it.

Jim Hodges

This, I think, is an appropriate terminal point for the Kimberlin-Breitbart feud, though it took place a month before Breitbart died, in that it captures the squalor at the heart of it. I quote extensively from the letters between Walker and the counsel for Walker’s employer because they capture the perspective of those bystanders outside the fever dream. Those inside are part of a heroic Manichean struggle, while from without a bystander sees only collective lunacy.

When you read the deposition given by Seth Allen during one of the court hearings in his legal battle with Brett Kimberlin, you are given a picture of frail human detail, details entirely absent from hard, exclusively political conceptions of an individual, someone who is either left or right, for or against me, but details of people that have almost entirely disappeared in the news. The underemployed, the unemployed, the struggling, are ever present, and yet they are vanished away from most political discussions, and this vanishing allows for the cruelest, most devastating policies to take effect. I do not quote from this deposition out of any attempt at sadism or attempt to humiliate Allen, but to give some sense not just of Allen as a man, and not simply a player in a feud, but also to give some sense of what might be called the invisible life of the United States87:

THE COURT: What kind of disability are you talking about? Do you have, is somebody a guardian, a legal guardian of your person as opposed to —

MR. ALLEN: That —

THE COURT: — your property

MR. ALLEN: That, yes. They, the person on that, on that cover letter, he has control of my funds. There is, and I have contact with a social worker who, who also has, covers, does the people with the disability trust. And, I mean, I, I’m kind of, I’m not, I’m not, I’m at a loss for words, but I’m, I’m not, I’m going to have, it’s called an adjuster. And they’re going to, I guess, I, they, I’m going to meet with, with him or her four times a year. And I’m going to try to find a better place to live, get some counseling, things like that.

THE COURT: Are you living on your own now?

MR. ALLEN: Yes, I am.

THE COURT: Okay.

MR. ALLEN: I, I asked, I guess, it’s hearsay. I, I’m not sure, but it, it appears that no one, no one can get a disability trust unless they’re disabled.

THE COURT: Okay. Are you —

MR. ALLEN: I —

THE COURT: — living in an apartment, home? What’s, what is your home setting?

MR. ALLEN: I have an apartment. I mean, I mean, I’m functioning. I don’t have a job. I haven’t, my resume is kind of full of cheese, Swiss cheese. And I’ve been blogging the last years. I was a high school teacher and I finally went into the job, and, but then the World Trade Center, right after that happened, they let me go and they never explained why. And it’s a Massachusetts law that they don’t have to explain within, like a month, when they let a new teacher go. And the year before, I had been the house substitute teacher and I just had no explanation. And it, it kind of, my teach, it was very difficult to get a high school social studies job. It is just the toughest, most competitive discipline. I worked at, at a mortgage company for a bit. My mom got diagnosed with cancer in 2001, and that’s where I picked up Internet skills, searching. And I know I’m kind of rambling, but, I don’t know. I think I need, I think I never got bereavement counseling, because my mom held on for about six weeks. She had ovarian cancer, but she didn’t die from that. She actually died from starvation. So actually, and I was visiting her a lot. So I should have — I’m not sure. I’m not an expert. I can’t diagnose myself. But, but I’m under the impression that someone in Massachusetts cannot have a disability trust unless they are disabled.

THE COURT: Do you see a psychiatrist or mental health care provider on a regular basis?

MR. ALLEN: No. I’ve been kind of wallowing, and that’s why I apologize for never taking this more seriously.

THE COURT: Okay. Do you have a lease where you live?

MR. ALLEN: Yes, I do. The, the trust covers it. They’re trying to make the, the money last so, for, for as many years as possible.

THE COURT: Did you sign that lease or did the trustee sign the lease?

MR. ALLEN: I, I don’t remember. They, they do pay it, they directly pay that, my electricity. They pay all my bills. They give me a $200 a month allowance, and I’m collecting food stamps. I mean, I’d like to get a job. I’d like to be a, I’d like to be functioning better.

A reader might think this is a thorough, exhaustive, or even too exhaustive (in all senses) detailing of these petty fights, when it is only a fraction of the battlefield, where a battle took place, is taking place, now. Reading about these feuds, trying to make sense of what happened and the reason for someone’s upset, makes one feel as if one were in the midst of the worst of worlds, high school with all the drama and none of the hot sex. Alex Pareene captures it well in his valuable piece, “Brett Kimberlin versus right-wing bloggers”: “This is how deeply vexing it is to try to write about any of this: It just keeps getting stupider.” You read one angry subplot which connects with some past grievance, and has to do with some mysterious figure or fight known to everyone involved but that you’ve never heard of. It feels like a Baby Geniuses sequel that’s also a nine hour adaptation of The Mahabharata.

These feuds continue on, even now. This past February, Bill Schmalfeldt, a liberal blogger and military veteran who suffers from Parkinson’s, was charged with harassment by Aaron Walker, Patrick Frey, and a third plaintiff, conservative blogger William John Joseph Hoge. The application for a peace order was filed in Westminster, Maryland. On February 28th, the order was denied. Hoge would suggest they should have a “Everybody Blog About the Howard County MD State’s Attorney Day”88.

In the year since Breitbart’s death, his news site would try to break several scandals, and all of them were ignored if not outright laughed at. There was the revelatory video of Barack Obama hugging a Harvard Law professor. “The Obama college tape – wasn’t that a major letdown?”, asked the usually overexcitable Glenn Beck, “This thing came out and it was like, ‘The. Last. Story. Andrew. Breitbart. Did: Very. Important. Video.’ And you’re like…’Not so much.'” There was the breaking news that Paul Krugman had filed for bankruptcy, sourced from an Onion-esque parody site. Ben Shapiro tried to destroy Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense by accusing Hagel of taking money from the group Friends of Hamas – a group that does not exist, the story a throwaway joke by another reporter which Shapiro heard about, took very seriously, and attributed to unnamed “Senate sources”; there was an irony in this last one, since Breitbart appears to have plagiarized what he writes about the Frankfurt school in his memoir Righteous Indignation from an essay in an old publication by the ardently anti-Israel Lyndon LaRouche89.

James O’Keefe was supposed to be the vanguard of a new young conservative movement; he’s now six figures in debt from various ACORN related lawsuits and his conferences on citizen journalism bring out the angry sixty year olds whose major ideological battle is that they have ice on their driveway90. Greg Gutfeld, another of Breitbart’s proud discoveries, was supposed to draw youth to the GOP. Major stops on this forty-nine year old’s promotional tour for his book, The Joy of Hate, were the Reagan Library and the Villages, a conservative retirement community91.

The only victory the Breitbart tribe could point to with triumph was The New York Times doing a major investigation into the Pigford v. Glickman case, on which Breitbart.com had done several stories, and which they accused the mainstream media of ignoring. May 1st, 2013, was declared “Everybody Blog About Pigford Day”. It was a case that involved settlements given to farmers who had faced discrimination based on race and gender over the awarding of farm loans, and whether some who claimed discrimination had even been farmers, as the settlements were often given out without paperwork proof that the farmers had applied for loans. I think questions raised about some of the problems in Breitbart.com’s reporting can be raised with the Times story as well, but this is incidental to what anyone can notice of Breitbart’s causes, which is that they so often focus on the marginal and least well off of society as their targets, that what might have been spoken of in another time as “ethnic peoples” are always the villains92. Their successes were closing ACORN, an advocacy group for the poor, making Van Jones lose his job, making Shirley Sherrod lose her job, forcing a jewish congressman to resign, and an investigation into fradulent settlements for black farmers. Nothing about bank fraud, the worsening condition of the middle class, neglect of veterans, or the gaming of the political system by a few very wealthy players. Their targets almost always had a racial edge to them, a resentful sense that someone out there was getting special favors or favored treatment while you were falling further behind – no journalism was undertaken with the specific attempt to keep people, even the very people who were the intended audience for this race baiting, middle class white people, from falling further behind.

This was explicit and obvious in the life of someone like Lee Stranahan, a reporter for Breitbart.com who had serious problems with his teeth and could not afford the dentistry to fix them. He would make the following post to his site, “Announcing: The Dental Fund”:

I have a really awful mouth.

If you’ve never met me in real life, I’m being serious here. If you have, you know. Huge dental problems. Tons of missing teeth. I started to have work done a few years ago but I lost my dental insurance halfway through the process so they did the extractions and not much else, leaving me with a mouth full of nothing but shame.

There are lots of things that are borderline acceptable in American society but missing teeth ain’t one of ’em. You can be bald and look cool. You can be fat and presentable. Missing teeth make you a hillbilly or a hockey player or a hillbilly hockey player.

Fixing my teeth hasn’t been a financial priority because other stuff always seemed to be more important than me looking socially acceptable. Feeding and clothing my children, for example. However, I’m at a point where I feel like my inability to smile openly is holding me back – so I’m starting a specific dental fund; money that’s going to finishing extractions and getting dentures or something.

There are two ways you can help…

1) Just give money out of the goodness of your heart. I don’t expect anyone to do this, really. No hard feelings if I don’t raise a dime this way.

2) The REAL thing you can do is hire me or buy something from me. You name the price and you just donate it straight to the dental fund using the PayPal button below. Again – you name the price because it’s a donation.

It was also there in the life of Wayne Mann. Breitbart would name two people for why he was first drawn to political writing on the internet. Mann is the one that is almost never mentioned:

The Clinton alt group was my favorite, and it really exemplified what the early Internet was all about.

There were two regulars who were really vocal on the alt.Clinton group. One was some guy named Wayne Mann, who hailed from a place called Arroyo Grande. I signed up for his e-mail list. Every day, he would send out these massive e-mail files of articles that compiled all the data that was available about Clinton, whether related to Whitewater or Casa Grande or any of the other myriad scandals cropping up around Bill and Hillary at the time.

The other regular, the well-known name that would have such an influence on Breitbart, was Matt Drudge. Mann would be almost entirely forgotten, and his life will not be looked into here, except for this excerpt from his mailing list, The Political Digest, that was still going in 2004, where he asks his subscribers for help to pay for his medical bills. From TPD Vol 10-L040315 (Tue, 16 Mar 2004 15:27:55 -0800):

Folks, here’s where we are. I am going to try to restart the e-mail version of TPDL. However, let me be very frank about the entire situation. Over the last couple years the subscriber base which had been fairly stable at slightly over 1000 subscribers had gradually gone down to slightly less than 500. MOST of the loses have been because the address becoming unusable, not because of people unsubscribing, although there were a very few of those. I am wondering whether there are enough subscribers to continue the e-mail version? — Or if the subscriber base can be increased greatly in a short time. If the current subscribers will help increase the subscriber base, I would appreciate it. Also many of you may know some of the subscribers that their address went bad because of moving or whatever, and if you would remind them, they may wish to re-subscribe?

As most know in the last couple years after having an abdominal aneurysm burst and having my Aorta and both Iliac arteries replaced, I had the large riding lawn mower flip over backwards and pinned me down after breaking five vertebras, then it flipped again, pinned me down and caught fire, melted the three gallon talk of gas, I had just filled and burned me from the waist down, requiring almost a month in the Burn Center. (I still have one wound about the size of a half a dollar, right where I set, that won’t heal.) — Next I had an freak accident with a ladder, falling and braking four ribs and collapsing a Lung. However, that might have been lucky, since in doing the Cat Scan for that they found I had Cancer in one Lung, which they removed half of that Lung. The problem with that is, about 20 years ago, I developed a Heart problem that reduced the blood pumped to the Lungs by about 50%. The combination of the two, reduces the ability to breathe by over 60%, so now I use Oxygen at night as well as other medications.

The point is I have ran up enormous medical bills that Medicare only pays part, leaving me with far more than I can pay, even in payment, since my only income is Social Security. As you will recall I used to charge for TPD, but stopped and used to get some donations frequently. However, that has virtually stopped completely. Which brings me to a question. what would everyone opinion be about charging for the e-mail version, say $49.00 per year? — Or do you have a better idea. I would be interested in as many opinions as I can solicit from you. I just don’t know what to do, and would very much appreciate your help.

He was still very much a hard-right conservative at this time. One newsletter item carries the editorial note that the “Black Caucus are Socialists at a minimum”. One piece brings up the possibility that islamic terrorists were behind the Oklahoma City bombing. Many of the items are by Joseph Farrah from World Net Daily. What relief, if any, arrived for Mann is unknown. The link for background and free subscription information on the mailing list has the following note:

Note of 2005-Jun-11: as far as I can tell, Wayne Mann has been completely incapacitated or deceased since April 25th 2005. In the year preceding that, Wayne’s medical problems had worsened, and TPDL [The Political Digest Lite, Mann’s newsletter] had become sporadic.

The note is presumably by David Pouzzner, who hosts the mailing list along with the contents of his on-line book, The Architecture of Modern Political Power: The New Feudalism. Though the book is about the powerlessness of the American citizen before the octopus of power, it is a right-wing text. Whatever the truth of what took place, it is not difficult to believe an older man in the United States being unable to pay his medical bills after an accident, then incapicitated or dead for want of treatment.

For all the aggressive energy directed at so many targets, all for the enjoyment of an angry white middle class, it gave no material benefit to Lee Stranahan, Wayne Mann, or anyone else in this group. Others lost, others were humiliated, and yet even the winners in these fights kept losing. They were perhaps looking to have a heroic life in diminished circumstances that conferred nothing heroic or noble. You turned to Blood Feud by Lisa Alther, a very good account of the senseless fight between the Hatfields and McCoys, to find some answers that would also be answers now. This feud may have taken place after the civil war, but the intensity of the fight could not be rooted in the war. It was a violent senseless fight, but only one of many feuds of the time. Alther struggles to find some answer for what took place, in the history, the culture, even the genetics of those who fought so viciously and purposelessly. There is one part of her analysis that struck me as relevant to this fight now, though I don’t consider it or present it as anything like a final answer. It has to do with the rapid change in the cultural life of the families in the region, as they slowly ceased to be able to claim the surrounding land as their own, but instead had to cease to act as if this land was everyone’s as large companies began buying it up for development:

But beneath all this seemingly incomprehensible violence lay anxiety. Their culture of freedom and autonomy was becoming extinct-and they knew it. When you have no land of your own, you have no domain over which you are sole ruler. You are no longer the master of your own fate. The world as they knew it was crashing to an end.

Outsiders were building a railroad up the valley. If the young men were to have a role in the emerging economy of large-scale lumbering and coal mining, they had to change their entire way of life, morphing into wage laborers who went to work at a certain time every day, all year round, always performing the same tedious and often dangerous tasks. Such a life was unthinkable for young men accustomed to relaxing when they wanted and to working at a variety of jobs, according to the weather, the season, and their own whims.

Feuding gave them a chance to do something heroic. They could ride out in gangs and right what their leaders told them were wrongs. They could showcase their courage and their skills with weapons and horses. They became a generation of hillbullies-and they were proud of it.

You are told that Tao Lin’s Taipei is a striking depiction of the way we live now93, and yet it seems entirely the inverse of what took place here, is taking place now. The tone of Lin’s book suggest a protagonist who has already died, and finds himself in a purgatory that is exactly like the life he was passing through, only he and those around him have had some essential anima removed. The book ends with the explicit possibility that the protagonist has died, and yet his ongoing life remains ongoing – he is so enervated that we have no clue whether this is life or death. Much has been made of the book’s autobiographical quality, and the writer’s languid style has given rise to a “Tao Lin is autistic” meme, so if I had any meme generating powers, I suppose this would be the start of the meme, “Tao Lin is dead”. The book’s most memorable passage, for me, is when the protagonist has a sudden revelation that virtual computer life has become autonomous, and humanity exists now only to be transformed into the abstract life of this new realm, the dead material for a phosphor screen mausoleum94. It is a striking passage, but one that I think is clearly false, felt to be false the moment your mind leaves the book, false the moment you read anything by those raging at each other in the Breitbart-Kimberlin feud. Taipei wasn’t how we lived now, this was how we lived now: helpless anger at whatever man or woman made a suitable victim, anger as our lives spun out of control, an angry energy that perhaps could not make a better life, but could at least fight back at what felt like an overwhelming force, felt by almost everyone now, that treated you like someone already dead. This anger declared simply: no, I am alive.

POSTSCRIPT (26/04/2015):

David Weigel, who shows up at various points of this four part epic, would write about the on-going shenanigans of this clump of misfits, in “The Weirdest Story About a Conservative Obsession, a Convicted Bomber, and Taylor Swift You Have Ever Read” for The Daily Beast. The opening: “Considering that he was being sued, and considering that this court date was the culmination of two and a half years of legal warfare, Aaron Walker seemed to be enjoying himself.” One of the last lines belongs to Robert Stacy McCain, one more member of what might be called the Breitbart collective: “It’s going to be endless lawsuits for the rest of their lives. And that’s what it ends up being. I sue them. They sue me. They come into court. I sue them. They come into court. That’s the way it is.”

(This very lengthy post was intended to be the last part of the series, but no, there will be a fourth. It was published July 3rd in slightly rough draft form, and will receive a few edits on the 4th – the essential ideas and details will not change. The details on Wayne Mann were added on July 18th, 2013. On April 12, 2015, this post underwent a copy edit.)

ANDREW BREITBART:

PSYCHOSIS IN A POLITICAL MASK

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR

FOOTNOTES

1 It was Preston’s investigation that would turn up the striking fact that two teenage girls who followed Anthony Weiner did not exist, and that a copy of a fake driver’s license and letters supposedly written by the girls were manufactured in order to convince some reporters, briefly, that they existed.

From “Fake Identities Were Used on Twitter in Effort to Get Information on Weiner” by Preston:

At least three months before the revelation that former Representative Anthony D. Weiner was sending lewd messages and photos to women online, a small group of self-described conservatives was monitoring his exchanges with women on Twitter. Now there is evidence that one or more people created two false identities on Twitter in order to collect information to use against him.

A Twitter user employing a fake name posed as a 16-year-old California high school girl in May and tried to get Mr. Weiner to be her prom date, according to people with knowledge of the communications and a review of documents. The person behind another Twitter account created under a fake name claimed to be her classmate and offered to provide the group with incriminating evidence about Mr. Weiner.

One Twitter user the group observed seeking to interact with Mr. Weiner was called “Nikki Reid.” She started an online campaign to get Mr. Weiner to be her prom date at Hollywood High School in May, using the account @starchild111. Within days after Mr. Weiner started following her, a Twitter user, also using a fake name, Marianela Alicea, and pretending to be Nikki Reid’s classmate, contacted a member of the #bornfreecrew and said she had information about Mr. Weiner, but never provided any.

But there is no evidence that either girl exists. There is no Nikki Reid or Marianela Alicea enrolled at Hollywood High School. In response to requests from a reporter from the blog Mediaite, a woman claiming to be Nikki Reid’s mother provided documentation to substantiate her identity and her daughter’s identity. But records show the street address the woman provided does not list anyone named Reid as an occupant. State officials in California have confirmed that the driver’s license this woman provided to Mediaite was false, as well.

The @starchild111 Twitter account, which was deleted two weeks ago, was created in September. There were very few posts on the account until March, when the fictional Nikki Reid began posting comments about admiring Mr. Weiner, including:

“Tweeps my progressive idol @RepWeiner is following me. Today is the best day ever!”

“Today also marks day one of my campaign to get @RepWeiner to be my prom date.”

“Will you be my prom date @RepWeiner.”

“Everyone please please follow @RepWeiner and tell him to be my prom date.”

Then, in what seems to be an elaborate ruse, the Twitter user claiming to be Nikki Reid and then a woman claiming to be her mother contacted Tommy Christopher, a correspondent for Mediaite, the media blog. After first communicating online, Mr. Christopher said, the woman dismissed claims of incriminating evidence against Mr. Weiner and accused members of the #bornfreecrew of harassing her daughter and her daughter’s friend. The woman also made a statement, which offered a forceful defense of Mr. Weiner.

She repeated this by phone to Mr. Christopher, who insisted the woman provide documentation confirming her identity. The woman faxed over a copy of a California driver’s license with her name, Patricia Reid, at a Los Angeles address, as well as school identification for the girls. But it turns out that the driver’s license and the school identification were fake, according to California state officials and school district officials.

2 One of the better dismissals of the Sherrod case is “Breitbart lied about Shirley Sherrod. Now he’s lying about the NAACP.” by William Saletan.

3 Two dismissals of this tape: “Breitbart’s Obama Tape: That’s All You Got?” by Julian Brookes, and “Obama Hugs Black Guy” by Jim Newell.

4 From “Weiner press conference: The New York congressmen apologizes for his Twitter scandal.” by David Weigel:

Weiner’s disclosure went further than anything he’d been accused of so far. Even so, he insisted that this was a sex scandal with no sex. There’s no reason to disbelieve him, apart from the fact that he spent 10 days lying. The picture of Weiner that emerged this week was of a publicity hound who was more concerned with celebrity and status than with actual sex.

“I’ve engaged in several inappropriate communications with women I have met online,” Weiner said. “I’ve exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with these women over the past few years. For the most part, these communications took place before my marriage.”

The details of Weiner’s online life, as they trickle out, are absolutely pathetic. Based purely on what he’s admitted, and what ABC News has confirmed, Weiner spent some real time flirting with female fans, taking photos of his body, and passing them on. We know that Clinton talked on the phone while receiving blow jobs at least three times. Weiner isn’t accused of any behavior that interesting, but now everyone who’s dealt with him can ruminate: What the hell was he doing as we talked, or after we talked? It’s pure humiliation.

5 From “Anthony Weiner’s press conference substitutes copious apologies for copious lies.” by Jack Shafer:

Weiner owes me no apology for his serial lies because I understand that that’s what politicians do when they’re cornered by their fibs or unseemly behavior. I’m not even sore with him for scapegoating the press over a problem of his own making. That, too, goes with the territory. Nor am I outraged that he went onto national television to attempt to cover up his lies, telling Rachel Maddow that he wasn’t “trying to be evasive” and he just didn’t “know” whether the tweeted drawers photo was of him. For me, when the mass of lies equals the mass of apologies, the whole package congeals into some new sociopathic form for which there is yet no name. (Weinerite, perhaps?) That he was caught lying about his personal life, and not about public policy, doesn’t really matter to me. By demonstrating that he’s as good a liar as he is an apologizer, Weiner tells us everything we need to know about him.

From “Andrew Breitbart’s Unfinished Quest for a Punk Rock Republican” by Elspeth Reeve:

It’s sort of fitting that his biggest accomplishment — at least by his terms — was taking down Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner not for some government scandal, but for sexting. Weiner didn’t resign for breaking laws or even his marriage vows, but simply for looking like an idiot. He had, at least for one Congressman in New York, reversed the hardfast cultural dynamic that the Frankfurt School had deviously orchestrated.

6 I’ve written a number of posts on this consultant; a good introduction might be “He Hates You: A Profile Of Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s Media Assassin”.

7 From “Anthony Weiner’s Cardinal Sin: Rank Hypocrisy, Not Creepy Sexting” by Stuart Stevens:

He narrowly won his first race, for a seat on the New York City Council, after anonymously sending voters race-baiting fliers. That’s never a pretty sight, but considering he did it immediately after the Crown Heights riots, it puts him in the same slime bucket where anti-Semitic tax cheat Al Sharpton wallows.

The race baiting that Weiner was involved in was described by Steve Kornacki in “The dirty trick that launched Anthony Weiner’s career”:

It was at this point that Weiner’s campaign decided to blanket the district with leaflets attacking his opponents. But these were no ordinary campaign attacks: They played the race card, and at a very sensitive time. They were also anonymous.

Just weeks earlier, the Crown Heights riot – a deadly, days-long affair that brought to the surface long-standing tension between the area’s black and Jewish populations – had played out a few miles away from the 48th District. The episode had gripped all of New York and had been national news. It was just days after order had been restored that Weiner’s campaign distributed its anonymous leaflets, which linked Cohen – whose voters he was targeting in particular – to Jesse Jackson and David Dinkins, who was then New York’s mayor. It is hard to imagine two more-hated political figures in the 48th District at that moment. Jackson just a few years earlier had called New York “Hymie town,” and it was an article of faith among white voters in Weiner’s part of Brooklyn that Dinkins had protected the black rioters in Crown Heights – and thus endangered the white population – by refusing to order a harsh police crackdown. (Two years later, Dinkins would lose to Rudy Giuliani by an 80-20 percent margin in the 48th District.) The leaflets urged voters to “just say no” to the “Jackson-Dinkins agenda” that Cohen supposedly represented. At City Hall, Dinkins held up the flier and branded it “hateful.”

It’s impossible to say what precise effect this all had on the election, but it clearly didn’t hurt Weiner. In a surprise result, he finished in first place – 125 votes ahead of Garson, and 195 ahead of Cohen. Only after the ballots were counted did he admit that he’d been behind the leaflets, claiming that “We didn’t want the source to be confused with the message.” This prompted an editorial rebuke from the New York Times, which noted that “Mr. Weiner’s hit-and-run tactics tarnish his come-from-behind campaign.”

Weiner’s apology for this is brought up in “Anthony Weiner Apology Letter To Adele Cohen From 1991 Race Revealed” by Paige Lavender:

Long before former Rep. Anthony Weiner ran for Congress, he launched a campaign that made him the then-youngest New York City Council member in history at age 27.

But his big 1991 city council win didn’t come smoothly. Weiner’s upset victory came days after he sent out a race-baiting flier depicting rival Adele Cohen as being a puppet of Jesse Jackson and David Dinkins.

Cohen recently told the New York Post the flier was a “real smear” and “there was no way to answer it.” Weiner apologized to Cohen in a hand-written letter one day after his win.

The quote from Stevens about the Willie Horton ad is from an interview with Jules Witcover, from a site, The Buying of the President, that is currently down, and may never be up again. Below are the screenshots from the page of Stevens’ interview.

The segment dealing with the Willie Horton ad:

How do you feel about both the independent-expenditure committees and 527s, in terms of losing control of your own campaign?

I hate it.

Talk a little about that.

Like the Swift Boats. I remember when the whole Swift Boat thing, everybody in the [George W.] Bush world was furious, and sort of stunned. People don’t believe this, but it’s true.

So it’s not enough to be able to say, “Hey, that wasn’t ours, and we had nothing to do with it – we didn’t talk to anybody.” You are getting nailed with it anyway? Is that the problem?

Oh, yeah. People do nail you with it. And most of the time they screw it up, in the sense that they don’t do what you want to do. And I remember in the Swift Boat thing, I had been working on this ad, just kind of noodling on my own, where it was very straightforward. “John Kerry came back from Vietnam and he said this.” And then I had just a clip of it. It said, “What do you think?” That was it. And then the Swift Boat people came in.

But it didn’t go after the element of his service in Vietnam?

No. And they entered the argument on the medals issue, which I always felt was the worst way to argue that. Like should he have gotten two medals instead of three? It’s just insane. And so I felt that by entering the argument at that point, they had discredited the argument. And the one thing you could say about someone like Karl [Rove], Karl likes to control things. Not in a bad way, but in a “we don’t like stuff just to happen.” And all of us, I think, were like, “What?” I certainly didn’t know anything. I don’t think anybody knew anything about it. It’s just kind of you wake up one morning, and it’s like, “What?” I remember the phone ringing, one of the 6 a.m. phone calls, you know whatever it’s going to be it’s not going to be good. It’s like, “Have you seen this?” And so, I mean, people say the Swift Boat thing hurt Kerry. Maybe. Maybe the way they handled it hurt him. But I thought the “Ashley” ad that was done mainly in Ohio by the 527s, you see that where Bush is embracing this girl whose mother had died in 9/11. He did the Willie Horton ads, Larry [McCarthy]; he did it. I thought it was a very good ad, fabulous ad.

buying of the president part one buying of the president part two

8 This episode is discussed in the post “Ralph Reed: Venal Rex”, as well as “The Trashing of John McCain” by Richard Gooding.

9 I discuss this in-depth on my post on this novel, “Scorched Earth by Mitt Romney’s Chief Strategist Stuart Stevens”, under the section “Ross Barnett And George Wallace”.

10 That Barack Obama’s decision to opt out of public financing in 2008 and 2012 both led to the Romney defeat and destroyed the system of public financing for federal elections is made in many places by Stevens.

From “Stuart Stevens, Romney Adviser, Says 2012 Was Not A Fair Fight” by Jeb Ward:

Stevens, however, had a ready list of reasons why the 2012 result was out of his — as well as Romney’s and the campaign’s — control.

He talked at length about President Barack Obama’s money advantage: “Obama raised $1.2 billion. So you think about it, the next incumbent president will raise, what, $2 billion?” Stevens said. He argued the next incumbent candidate will “face a challenger … who will probably come out of the [primary] process broke.”

“We’ve abolished the four-year term,” he concluded.

From “A Bad Relationship: How the Press Came To Love Obama More Than Itself” by Stevens:

But like Obama destroying the public financing system for elections, once you let the genie out of that bottle, good luck in getting it back inside.

From The Center Holds: Obama and his Enemies by Jonathan Alter:

Stuart Stevens wasn’t buying it. While he took public responsibility for what went wrong (“Blame me for everything,” he said repeatedly), he never regretted his basic strategy. He called the decision in early summer on whether to defend and humanize Romney or to stick with the economic theme “a kind of Sophie’s choice.” He recalled that when focus groups were shown warm and fuzzy ads about Romney, their reaction was, “That’s nice, but I’m not looking for a friend. What’s he going to do as president?” Stevens would have liked to stress both themes but said that after the bruising primaries, the Romney campaign had only $4.2 million in the bank on May 1, not enough to repel the Obama onslaught. He argued persuasively that Obama had not taken enough grief for opting out of public financing of his fall campaigns in both 2008 and 2012, breaking a limitation on money in politics that had been observed through the previous eight presidential elections. “When public financing was passed [in 1974], it was said that without it, no incumbent president would ever be beaten,” Stevens concluded. “There was a lot of truth to that.”

Stevens is explicit that he wanted the Bush campaign to opt out of public financing for the 2000 presidential primary. From The Big Enchilada. The scans of the book from which these sections are taken follow the excerpts:

Nobody knew how much the Bush campaign could raise. But the campaign faced a key decision – whether or not to reject public financing for the primary. The law went like this: Under a complicated formula, the feds would match individual primary contributions up to $250, provided a campaign agreed to limit their spending to an overall figure of #37 million.

There was one other catch. The FEC – the Federal Election Commission – required that if you took public financing, you had to limit the amount you spent in each state based on a convoluted scheme that no one really understood, including the FEC. This was a monumental headache and, if enforced, potentially fatal. The danger was that if somebody else had a ton of money and rejected public financing, it freed them up to spend as much as they wanted in a given state and left you vulnerable. In our case, that somebody was Steve Forbes.

In 1996, as media consultant to Bob Dole in the primary, I’d been forced to watch Steve Forbes pummel us with millions of dollars of television we couldn’t answer. Forbes, who chose his parents well, was spending his inheritance at a furious rate. And having rejected public financing, he had the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money in any state. Forbes transformed himself from a quirky editorial writer with a goofy smile and a rich dad into some kind of political death star, slaughtering all in his path. At one time in Iowa, he had ads attacking Dole, Lamar Alexander and Phil Gramm, who was already dead (Forbes was the only guy who didn’t realize it). Forbes could have established himself as an interesting intellectual gadfly raising the level of debate, much as he had tried to do as an editorial writer. Instead, for reasons only his shrink could answer, he decided that for once in his life, he would be the toughest kid in the schoolyard.

Eventually, he flamed out, but in 1999 he was back. And once again he had rejected public financing, setting the stage for him to spend his seemingly unlimited family fortune whenever and however he desired. The word was that Forbes actually thought he could win this time, a testament to the powers of human self-delusion.

public financing

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Then there was the small matter of money, in part because of the fact that we were ahead in every poll, the campaign was raising unbelievable amounts of money – $33 million for the first reporting period. The number was so big, reporters literally gasped when Don Evans, the campaign finance chairman, announced the total. The campaign had decided – thank God – not to take public money. This freed us up to do battle with what we figured would be a forty-million-plus assault from Forbes.

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11 This strange travel memoir, including the relationship between Stevens and former model Rachel “Rat” Kelly, is discussed in the post “Feeding Frenzy, A Book By Stuart Stevens, Chief Strategist For Mitt Romney”.

12 Via Lee Stranahan Watch:

Screen shot 2012 09 20 at 10 30 03 AM

13 Stranahan gives his account of how he started working for Breitbart in the post “Sell Out: How I Started Working With Breitbart”. This is a list of his work at the site. Recent pieces include “Greenwald Defenders Distract from Real Story: There Is No NSA Scandal”, “Timeline: Snowden’s Collaboration with Left-Wing Reporters”, “Fast Food Workers Strike for $15/Hour Wages” (“The entitlement culture has hit the local fast food joint, as strikes and protests are popping up all over the country”), “CNN Launches Dishonest Attack On Clarence Thomas–To Protect Voter Fraud”, “Black Conservatives Speak out on Illegal Immigration”, “Pre Memorial Day, Obama Made Political, Manipulative Speech To Military”, “Rep. Steve King: ‘I Have No Moral Obligation’ To Help Illegal Aliens Stay In USA” (“In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, straight talking Rep. Steve King (R-IA) makes a seldom heard argument that cuts to the heart of the immigration problem.”), etc.

14 Via Lee Stranahan Watch:

Screen shot 2012 09 20 at 9 59 23 AM

Screen shot 2012 09 20 at 10 04 01 AM

Screen shot 2012 09 20 at 10 12 58 AM

15 The best piece on KYAnonymous and Steubenville is “‘Weaponize the Media’: An Anonymous Rapper’s War on Steubenville” [archive link] by Adrian Chen. Lee Stranahan makes an appearance in “Weaponize”, and though I think there could have been fuller mention of his strange idea that non-consensual sex can be anything but brutal, and his outing of the identity of a tangential sex abuse victim in the George Zimmerman trial, I make the perhaps unnecessarily full disclosure that I submitted this story to the valuable site Longform.

From “Guilty Verdict in Steubenville Rape Case that Saw Anonymous Terrorize a Town” by Lee Stranahan:

Breitbart News spoke exclusively to Frank Bruzzese, an assistant prosecutor for Jefferson County, Ohio who assisted in the early stage of the investigation. Bruzzese says that when Anonymous became involved in the story in they created an vigilante atmosphere that had dire consequences for both the case and the people of Steubenville.

“The internet lynch mob did damage to their own stated goal of helping the victim by putting her in an international spotlight that only served to humiliate her. Anonymous claimed to want justice but their threats had the opposite effect; by calling for the scalps of eyewitnesses and other completely innocent people, the result was a hampered prosecution where people were afraid to testify and where the judge was forced to grant three witnesses immunity.”

Anonymous promoted a pack of rumors that spread like wildfire on the internet, involving complex conspiracies involving what they termed ‘a brutal gang rape’ in Steubenville. Bruzzese says “For months now, I’ve watched the internet lynch mob spin a tale from nothing. They sold the media a story where an girl was drugged, carried from party to party in the trunk of a car, photographed by dozens of party goers as she was raped at series of parties, urinated on and finally dumped on the front lawn of her parent’s house. The trial showed that none of that was true.”

The actual story, disturbing enough on its own was far less salacious than the Anonymous embellishments. Why did a sexual assault that involved three drunken sixteen-year old in a small Ohio town became major news? The narrative that the media pushed is a mixture of an easy to explain premise: Friday Night Lights with rapists meets cultural Marxism, taking cues from academic radical feminism and just good old Red blooded hatred of the United States. Steubenville became a way to belittle middle-American values like ‘football culture’ and to promote the idea that America, distinct from the rest of the world, foments ‘rape culture.’

16 From “Anonymous Sensationalizes Steubenville Rape Case” by Lee Stranahan:

Now, Breitbart Bews [sic] has confirmed that users of another Anonymous-related Internet board, 4Chan.com, have released the full name of the alleged accuser, along with photos of her, and have argued that she “deserved it.”

17 A screenshot, from Muck Rack:

muckrack screenshot

18 Screenshots, via “Breitbart Unmasked: The Most Blatant, Baldfaced Liar I’ve Ever Known”, by “LiberalGrouch”.

19 From “Trayvon, George, Witness 9 & Other Obama Political Casualties” by Stranahan.

20 Stranahan’s list of articles at the Huffington Post is here. He would often write for Huffington from a conservative, pro-Breitbart perspective. Some articles include “The Odd Timing of Shirley Sherrod’s Lawsuit Against Andrew Breitbart “, “The Congressional Black Caucus vs. Black Farmers”, “The Media’s Failure to Report on Pigford Hurts Black Farmers”, etc. His list at Daily Kos is here. His time at Kos may have ended controversially, as he says he was banned by the site for making too mentions of the John Edwards scandal. This got him some mainstream notice, with a mention by Mickey Kaus when he was still at Slate, “MSM Rebels on Edwards”: “The Daily Kos has banned longtime blogger Lee Stranahan for writing calm, clear-headed posts assessing the evidence in the John Edwards scandal”.

21 From Stranahan’s bio on leestranahan.com:

I’m a writer, teacher, filmmaker, photographer, tech geek. My wife Lauren and I have lot of kids that we unschool. I worked on the left and wrote for The Huffington Post until I met Andrew Breitbart and my life changed. I worked with Andrew exposing Pigford, Occupy Wall Street and the institutional left. After his loss, I’m trying to carry on his legacy and change the culture. I write about news and politics for Breitbart News.

22 From “Breitbart.com Struggles With the Contradictions of Its Namesake”:

Shortly after Breitbart’s untimely and unfortunate death, I wrote something that still holds up. It would have been great, I wrote, if Breitbart’s sites had aimed for higher-quality journalism. Wrote libertarian press critic Jack Shafer in his obituary, “I liked the idea of Andrew Breitbart better than I liked any of his work at Big Government, Big Hollywood, Big Journalism, Big Peace, Breitbart or Breitbart.tv.” And no wonder. What are the best 10 pieces published in the history of those sites? You’ll find more quality work in a single issue of City Journal than the sum total of everything Breitbart wrote, commissioned, and published in his whole career. That magazine laid the intellectual foundation for a renaissance of conservative ideas, policy successes, and cultural transformation in New York City — as hostile a territory as there ever has been for the right.

23 Perhaps the best profile of Sarah Palin ever written is “Barracuda” by Noam Scheiber, and it describes well her resentment over small slights:

[Nick Carney, a Wasilla City council colleague of Palin’s] had a wry sense of humor. He was fond of joking that he’d graduated from Wasilla High School in the “top 20 percent”–by which he meant he was valedictorian of his five-person class. Sometimes Palin was the only colleague who didn’t get his jokes. “I don’t think he had too much patience for her lack of understanding,” says John Stein, then the town’s mayor. In internal discussions, Carney would be relentlessly logical while Palin was vague and intuitive. “Nick had a way of being direct and to the point, something that Sarah was uncomfortable with,” recalls Chase. Which is to say, when it came to garbage removal, what Palin seemed to have chafed against was less the substance of Carney’s position than what she felt was his elitist, Ivy League bearing. And, over the next few years, she found ways to get him back.

These days, Palin is engaged in this same fight against elites, though on a considerably larger stage. “I’m not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go off and travel the world,” she recently told Katie Couric. “No, I’ve worked all my life.” That hardly makes her the first politician to run on class resentments–nearly every conservative from George W. Bush to Mitt Romney has sought a bond with voters by attacking the over-educated and entitled. But more often than not these conservatives are elites themselves; hence the spectacle of Yale legacies and Harvard millionaires (and most of the Fox News executive suite) railing against wine-swilling sophisticates.

Palin, by contrast, may be the first conservative politician since Nixon to experience resentment so authentically. For her, it’s not so much a political tool as a motivating principle. A trip through Palin’s past reveals that almost every step of her career can be understood as a reaction to elitist condescension–much of it in her own mind.

24 This is not the first post where I’ve had critical things to say about Friedersdorf; “Conor Friedersdorf: An Almost Irrelevant Man” was written in the wake of the Newtown shooting, and it is me at my angriest and least sympathetic.

“Is Ayn Rand a Better Philosopher or Novelist?”, an exchange between Friedersdorf and Garance Franke-Ruta.

The post “The Satanic Bible and Ayn Rand” covers the connection between these two.

25 From “Breitbart.com Struggles With the Contradictions of Its Namesake”:

Along with many conservatives, Breitbart frequently complained that the mainstream media and academia are race-obsessed, and that leftists behave abominably when they accuse their political opponents of being racist, one of the most discrediting charges in American life. Yet the Drudge Report, where Breitbart got his start, frequently exploits America’s racial anxieties in its content, and Breitbart himself famously accused the NAACP of racism based on a misleadingly edited video of Shirley Sherrod speaking to a gathering of its members about her experience with white farmers (to whom she initially felt antagonism, but eventually chose to help).

The Breitbart.com staffer of today could cite Breitbart’s life as evidence that race-baiting is especially immoral, or that it is an effective tactic for attacking the left to avenge similar attacks on conservatives. The contradiction in Breitbart’s behavior means neither claim is entirely right or wrong.

26 From Indignation:

While the crux of a story can be weaponized and launched on one of my websites, there are often peripheral angles that can be developed elsewhere with a separate but related media life of their own. For instance, the acorn story was unbelievably complex. A key component of exposing the scandal was a detailed analysis of ACORN’s structure and its past scandals. I knew legal minds were needed to weigh in on these aspects. Patrick Frey, who runs the indispensable Patterico website, created a parallel line of attack, not just against ACORN, but against its myriad defenders, who lied and misdirected to try to kill the story.

27 “CNN Adds Three Political Contributors” by Alex Weprin:

CNN is adding three new people to its “Best Political Team on Television,” in advance of the 2012 elections season.

Cornell Belcher (pictured right), Dana Loesch and Will Cain will join the network as political contributors, and will appear on the network’s primetime and dayside programming, as well as on other platforms.

28 From “James O’Keefe’s plans derailed by infighting, lack of funding” by Ken Vogel:

After pulling off the brazen hidden camera sting credited with bringing down the liberal organizing group ACORN, James O’Keefe dreamt up an even bolder plan: to build a permanent undercover video operation that would expose institutions of the American left.

But things have not gone according to plan.

The mounting turmoil comes as O’Keefe’s recent efforts – including an apparently ongoing media bias exposé called “To Catch a Journalist” and an effort to highlight the hypocrisy of Occupy Wall Street protesters – have mostly fallen flat.

From “First They Came for James O’Keefe” by Caitlin Dickson:

Fresh off of three years probation for entering federal property under false pretenses (the office of Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu), O’Keefe can’t help but be a little excited that a member of the so-called mainstream media is on his side of the firing squad.

29 From “Inside the Collapsing Media Empire of Deceased GOP Sleaze-Peddler Andrew Breitbart” by Mark Ames and Max Blumenthal:

In every way Joel Pollak of the 1990s was a different creature, conforming to the politics and mood of the Clinton era: Photographs of Pollak as an undergrad show him proudly sporting an expansive “Jewfro” – he looks much happier and almost likeable, if not human, in his Jewfro. Pollak was a Democrat student activist in his undergrad years. Another photograph shows young Joel Pollak, with his Jewfro cropped, smiling as he screams in unison with other pro-Clinton activists protesting against the Clinton impeachment hearings.

Before falling under the sway of Tony Leon’s [a South African politician] race-baiting neocon politics, Pollak was a Clinton Democrat. When he left South Africa in 2006, Pollak says, he had become an opponent of the concept of majority rule – which in the context of South Africa means opposing black rule.

30 From “Inside the Collapsing Media Empire of Deceased GOP Sleaze-Peddler Andrew Breitbart” by Mark Ames and Max Blumenthal:

Ben Shapiro – known variously as “Virgin Ben,” “Tali-Ben,” or simply “Genocide Ben” – has constructed for himself a biography that makes him look like some sort of prodigy wunderkind. One thing Ben wants to stress is that he was 16 years old when he started college at UCLA.

“I’m twenty-one years old, a heterosexual red-blooded American male, a graduate of University of California at Los Angeles, a student at Harvard Law School, a nationally syndicated columnist, a bestselling author…and a virgin. And I’m proud of it.” -Ben Shapiro, “Porn Generation”

31 This very strange moment in Breitbart’s memoir is described in “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Two” and “Noxious Irritation: Andrew Breitbart’s True Hollywood Horror Story” by Mark Howard.

32 The strange case of Riad Hamad has remained obscure. Brandon Darby’s point of view is given in his essay for Breitbart.com, “Thoughts from a Former Leftist Revolutionary: A Day at the National Holocaust Museum and Memorial”, published January 12, 2012:

At one point in my past I helped a group named the Palestinian Children’s Welfare Fund raise money and find individuals to travel to the Palestinian territories to be human shields against the “evil” Israeli Defense Forces. The group’s then-leader, Riad Hamad, even slated me to go there on multiple occasions. Thankfully, I never went.

My perspectives began to change over the years, and I began backing away from the groups I had been close to. That backing away was even more prevalent with Palestinian/anti-Israeli groups. At one point, Hamad had approached me and shared that he had been able to skim off money that he intended sneak to Palestinian comrades in Israel. I asked him why he needed to sneak anything when he was able to send funds legally. He responded with a detailed analysis of all the ways suicide bombers could get through checkpoints and achieve their goals. I declined and he told me that I had fallen back into my white privilege, but would come back to the revolution soon.

I was torn. I no longer saw Israel as the clear aggressor as my sources of knowledge broadened. Even in the worst days of my revolutionary fervor, the killing of civilians would not have been okay with me. I couldn’t sleep. and I debated within myself if I should go to the FBI. Anything involving the FBI was taboo in the world I had been so devoted to for so many years.

Then two things happened that made my mind up for me. Another activist who knew Hamad came to see me and told me that he had been approached about setting up a fake business to help Hamad funnel money for Palestinians. That told me clearly that Hamad was going about his plans with or without me. I called Hamad and asked him to meet me for coffee. He agreed and we met. I told him that it wasn’t okay for him to ask someone else to do what he had asked of me, especially considering he hadn’t told the other activist why he was doing it and what the possible consequences would be. Hamad responded by saying it would be good for white people to get caught in the war on terror and that people would limit what the government could do if the war on terror had whites in Guantanamo instead of just Arabs.

I ended up meeting with the FBI. They were kind and gracious. Hamad and the Palestinian Children’s Welfare Fund were raided. I heard from Hamad one last time. He called me and said it was “just a matter of time.” I asked what he meant. He told me of the raids and said they had taken all of his documents, and that I would know soon. He said he had to go and he did.

His body was found in Austin, TX in Lady Bird Lake a few days later. He apparently chose not to face the consequences of his actions. There’s a lot more to it all and in how it all went down, but I spent the next two years working undercover with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in the International Terrorism Division. I did so because I owed it to our country and our allies. It cost me a bit, but I was and am proud to have done what I could to pay back those I might never know how much I’ve wronged.

From the few accounts of the Riad Hamad case, the best is “The Uneasy Death of Riad Hamad” by Michael King:

According to Austin Police Department Sgt. Joe Chacon, the death of Austin schoolteacher and peace activist Riad Hamad remains under investigation. Chacon says homicide investigators are “open to all possibilities” but that the initial investigation reflects that Hamad appears to have committed suicide. Hamad had been reported missing by his family on Monday night, April 14, and (partly by means of a cell-phone GPS search authorized by his wife) his car was found Tuesday afternoon in a parking lot off South Lakeshore Boulevard, on the south side of Lady Bird Lake. A land and water search turned up nothing more, but a little after 2pm on Wednesday, passersby on the hike-and-bike trail on the opposite (north) side of the lake, just east of the I-35 bridge, spotted a body floating near the shore. Hamad’s eyes were covered in duct tape, his legs and his hands also bound – fueling Internet-amplified rumors that he had been murdered. According to a report that day by KXAN-TV news, “Park-goers who saw the body said the death did not look accidental. They said the man’s face was wrapped with duct tape, and his arms appeared to be tied in front of his body.”

On Thursday, April 17, APD [Austin Police Department] released a statement saying, “The bindings of his hands and legs and placement of the tape were consistent with Hamad having done this to himself.” Chacon told the Chronicle that additional evidence – including a security videotape of the parking area where Hamad’s car was found and statements from persons who knew him that “he had been experiencing suicidal thoughts” – also support a finding of suicide but that police are waiting for completion of the entire investigation, including the full autopsy and toxicology report, which will take several weeks. “For all intents and purposes, as far as we know right now,” Chacon said this week, “this was a suicide.”

Hamad, who was originally from Lebanon but had lived in Austin for more than 30 years, taught business education and keyboarding at Small Middle School, was a graduate student at UT (already with several degrees), and was very active in Austin-based charity work aimed at easing living conditions in the occupied territories of Palestine – most specifically via the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund, through which he sold Palestinian crafts to raise funds for destitute Palestinian families. He was also very outspoken about international politics, objecting strongly to Israeli and U.S. policy in the Middle East. Partly as a consequence, he had been investigated by federal authorities, who asked questions of some of his neighbors, and in February, the FBI and Internal Revenue Service raided his South Austin home and seized 40 boxes of materials related to his charity work, reportedly pursuant to an investigation of alleged “wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering.” Although no charges had been brought, the raid greatly disrupted Hamad’s charity work.

Because of this background and the circumstances of his death, there was immediate but unsubstantiated Internet speculation that Hamad had been assassinated, perhaps by U.S. or Israeli authorities. Imam Dremali also rejected outright the tentative APD finding of suicide. “I don’t believe it,” he told me. “Islam expressly forbids it, and this man had two wonderful children and everything to live for.” Beyond this general suspicion, Dremali declined to speculate who might have murdered Hamad. (In an April 22 radio interview with Austin conspiracy-monger Alex Jones, Dremali declined to join in Jones’ ghoulish fantasies of Hamad’s possible torture, beating, gunshot or stab wounds, and instead confined himself only to describing the visible condition of Hamad’s body.)

Other accounts include “Teacher’s death stuns Clint Small campus” by Ann Fowler, from the Oak Hill Gazette and re-posted at the Texas Civil Rights Review blog, a very critical perspective by Daniel Pipes, “A Palestinian in Texas”, and a more sympathetic one from Greg Moses, “Salamat, Riad Hamad”. A case where a suicide had the possibility of homicide is William Sparkman Jr.’s and this case is related in Rich Shapiro’s “The Hanging”.

33 From the transcript of “This American Life: Turncoat”; the episode segment on Darby is by Michael May:

Michael May In August 2008, on the eve of the Republican National Convention, Brandon traveled to Minneapolis with David, Brad and a few others in a van dragging a trailer full of homemade shields and other protest equipment. Brandon tipped off the FBI. And as soon as the group parked the U-Haul, the cops raided it and took the shields and everyone else’s stuff. David and Brad were angry about the shields. And they didn’t want to show up at the protest empty-handed. So David McKay says they made eight molotov cocktails in about 15 minutes with supplies they bought from a Minneapolis Walmart.

Michael May What follows is a depressing series of events, no matter whom you believe. David and Brad never used the molotov cocktails. They left them stuffed in bags in a basement while they went out to protest. But Brandon, on behalf of the FBI, asked David what he planned to do with the molotov cocktails.

David now says he didn’t want to lose face with Brandon, so he made up a plan. He suggested that he and Brandon use the molotovs that night on a parking lot filled with cop cars next to a checkpoint. If David wasn’t serious about doing it, as he testified, he made a terrible mistake by telling an FBI informer that’s what he was planning.

Michael May David and Brandon agreed to meet at 2:00 AM. But when the time rolled around, David blew it off. And then he stopped responding to Brandon’s calls. At 4:30 AM, David was awoken by a police officer pointing a rifle at him. He was asleep next to a girl he’d met in Saint Paul. It was around an hour before he was going to the airport to fly back to Austin.

Michael May Since then, both Brad and David have pled guilty to the possession of unregistered firearms, which is what the law calls molotov cocktails.

Brandon Darby Here’s a good one. You’re a whore.

Michael May A few months later, Brandon is sitting at his desk reading emails.

Brandon Darby Brandon, was curious how much money the FBI compensated you for being a sewer rat. Why didn’t you advise and guide your friends towards nonviolence? Why not? Because you must be a brainless, heartless FBI whore. Congratulations on your brilliant career of whoring your soul. I’m kind of envious. Does it pay well to be a whore?

Ira Glass Michael May in Austin Texas. Brad Crowder was sentenced to two years in prison for making and possessing molotov cocktails at the Republican National Convention. David McKay was just sentenced this week. Four years.

From Andrew Breitbart at CPAC 2011, 5:55-6:55:

Recently, I went down with an american hero by the name of Brandon Darby…Brandon Darby was a hardcore left-wing activist who called the FBI and informed on two guys who worked for the radical activist group Common Cause, or Common Ground, and they were planning on bombing the Republican National Convention. Yes, we’re the violent ones in the protest. And the left, including Wade Rathkey…formerly of ACORN…called Brandon Darby a snitch…for saving American lives. I reached out to Brandon Darby and I said, I don’t care what your politics are, you’re an American hero, and I am forever indebted for what you’ve done for this country. And we’ve become great friends, and I flew him out to Los Angeles, and I said, “Do you want to go to a rally with me? They’re really fun.”

Common Ground was the group Darby began with, and Common Ground was not the group that McKay and Crowder were part of, which protested the 2008 Republican Convention.

Other insightful pieces on Brandon Darby and the 2008 convention are “The Informant” by Diana Welch and “How a Radical Leftist Became the FBI’s BFF” by Jack Harkinson. A piece from the time of the St. Paul’s arrests is “GOP convention protesters seek to exclude evidence from upcoming trial” by David Hammers.

34 A transcript of the police report of the SWAT raid on Mike Stack’s home, transcribed from an upload of a copy of the report uploaded by Mike Stack, at slideshow.net via the post “Questioning Proven “SWATTING’s” While Using Rauhauser Tactics To Blame Others “:

SCC requested that the west car contact them. When I called in, SCC advised that Hunderton County communications received a 911 call indicating that Stack, [REDACTED], dialed 911 indicating that he just killed his wife. SCC did not have any other information and advised that they were still obtaining the information that was reported to them by Hunterdon county communications. I contacted [REDACTED] [REDACTED] via phone and advised him of my conversation that I had with SCC. Sgt. [REDACTED] requested that all patrol officers meet up with him at the skillman post office to discuss a course of action at the residence.

Upon my arrival to the post office, I met up with Sgt. [REDACTED] and called into SCC for an update. They informed me that this alleged incident took place with the use of a firearm. SCC also advised that Readington TWP police were also responding to an address in their jurisdiction for the same incident, 30 Mallard CT in the three bridges section of Readington TWP.

Officers [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] arrived at the post office. Sgt. [REDACTED] gave assignments out to all of us. Officer [REDACTED] was to shut down [REDACTED] just north of the residence and then take cover on the north side of the residence. Officer [REDACTED] shut down rte [REDACTED] I was to shut down [REDACTED] just east of Stacks residence and cover the rear portion of the residence. Stacks residence is located on the corner [REDACTED]. While patrol was responding to the residence. SCC advised patrol that Readington TWP did not locate Stack or a victim at the Mallard CT home that they responded too. Sgt. [REDACTED] requested that Montgomery TWP EMS squad be placed on stand by in the event that they were needed.

All patrol officers took positions and Sgt. [REDACTED] positioned his car on [REDACTED] in front of the residence where he (sgt [REDACTED]) and offficer [REDACTED] took cover. Sgt. gave orders to Stack using the P.A. system of the patrol car for Stack to exit the residence. Stack complied to the orders and was placed into handcuffs. Officer remained with Stack while Sgt. [REDACTED] and officer [REDACTED] cleared the residence. No one else was inside of the residence and there were no signs that a shooting took place. Sgt. [REDACTED] informed SCC of our findings and requested that they (SCC) update Readington TWP of our results.

Patrols opened up the roadways. Sgt. Gill and I then conducted the investigation. Sgt. Gill informed Stack of the call Hunterdon County communications received. Stack said that he doesn’t have a gun and that he had never owned a gun. Stack stated that he was being set over the internet and believed that patrol responded to his house as prank. Stack said that he has a twitter account where his twitter ID name is Twitter.com/goatdred. He said that he is constantly “blogging” comments and opinions of political views that take place in the country. He said that approximately 6 weeks ago, he tweeted to a comment made by a male, whose tweet id was PatriotUSA76. That person indicated that his name was Dan Wolfe. Stack did not know if Wolfe was using his real name. Stack said he and Wolfe started “tweeting” around the first week in May 2011.

Stack stated that he believed Wolfe was the original person who discovered that former congressman Anthony Weiner was involved in a sex scandal and obtained the information before the news went public. [REDACTED] The news of Anthony Weiners. Stack said that after the information went public to the news media, [REDACTED] was the original person who obtained the information about Weiners. Stack said that shortly after Wolfe made the comments about [REDACTED], he (Wolfe) could no longer be located on line and the twitter name that Wolfe used as PatriotUSA76 was no longer a recognized ID from Twitter.

Stack said that he has no idea as to why [REDACTED] about Anthony Weiner’s sex scandal. Stack said that ever since the news went public he observed his personal information, i.e. his former D.W.I. arrest, a picture of his arrest for a previous domestic violence incident that was later dropped, a picture of his current residence, a picture of his current vehicle, and his financial history was posted all over the internet, via the web site smokingun and twitter. He said ever since the postings indicated him as the person who discovered the sex scandal of Anthony Weiner, he has been harassed on-line and through his cell phone. Stack said that ever since the news he has had to sleep with a baseball bat next to his bed in fear that someone may try to retaliate against him because of the rumors of him breaking the news of the sex scandal dealing with former congressman Anthony Weiner.

Stack said that he downloaded information to a USB flash drive documenting all of the accusations and e-mails that were sent to him from representatives of smoking gun. When I asked to see the e-mails and some of the articles he was speaking of, Stack stated that his flash drive was at his friend’s house, [REDACTED] Stack said that he would deliver a copy of the flash drive to headquarters within the next 24 hours.

During the entire encounter, Stack was cooperative. When asked about possible suspects, Stack believed that a daily kos magazine writer by the name [REDACTED] (SP) may be responsible for publishing his (Stacks) personal information over the [REDATCED] web-site. Stack said that [REDACTED] is a reporter for the [REDACTED] site and would also tweet about the comments that he (Stack) would make.

Upon my arrival to police headquarters, I followed up with Readington TWP police regarding this incident. I made contact with officer Chris Dewire. Officer Dewire said that his agency responded to Malard CT in their jurisdiction, for a man who had shot his wife in the head. He said they investigated this matter and believed it to be made up. Dewire said that he listened to the original call and described the caller as being a male with an accent, possibly being british. Officer Dewire said that his agency believed that the call originated from an AT&T international line. He said by using an international line the call either originated in another country or that the caller used a broadband connection from this country that made the call appear as if it originated from another country. Officer Dewire said that his agency is still investigating the matter and would contact this agency with any further details.

SCC provided copies of some of the articles posted on the smoking gun website, as well as, a copy of the domestic violence report from Readington TWP dated 07/13/2004. See attached copies.

35 One of the first high profile mentions of the SWATting tactic in the hacker community is in “The Boy Who Heard Too Much” by David Kushner, a profile of the blind phone phreak Matthew Weigman.

“John Defanno” was actually a 15-year-old boy named Matthew Weigman – a fat, lonely blind kid who lived with his mom in a working-class neighborhood of East Boston. In person, Weigman was a shy and awkward teenager with a shaved head who spent his days holed up in his room, often talking for up to 20 hours a day on free telephone chat lines. On the phone, he became “Lil’ Hacker,” the most skilled member of a small band of telephone pranksters known as “phreaks.” To punish Danielle, who had pissed him off on a chat line, Weigman had phoned 911 and posed as a psycho, rigging his caller ID to make it look like the emergency call was coming from inside Danielle’s home. It’s a trick known as “swatting” – mobilizing SWAT teams to exact revenge on your enemies – and phreakers like Weigman have used it to trigger some 200 false raids in dozens of cities nationwide.

36 From “Ashton Kutcher, Miley Cyrus & Others Terrorized in Dangerous ‘Swatting’ Prank” by Maria Elena Fernandez:

Deputy District Attorney Patrick Frey, who blogs about his conservative political views, believes he was targeted last summer because of posts he wrote about a convicted bomber. A week after Frey received an email threat, a man who spoofed his telephone called 911 pretending to be him and claiming to have just killed his wife. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office dispatched a SWAT team to Frey’s Lomita home just south of Los Angeles—which is exactly what the caller had intended. By the end of the incident, Frey was in handcuffs in a patrol car and his wife was dragged out of bed by deputies while their children slept.

The same thing had happened eight days earlier to New Jersey blogger, Mike Stack. Someone posing as Stack called three different police departments to say he had just shot his wife. Two of the addresses were old, but one was current, and Stack, like Frey, was led out of his house at gunpoint.

“It’s a very dangerous situation, and I think it’s a miracle that nobody’s been killed yet,” Frey told The Daily Beast in an interview Thursday. “I had police officers pointing guns at me; my cellphone was in my hand. If they had thought I was armed and dangerous, I was one finger-pull of the trigger of losing my life that night. It was very scary. It seemed like it was designed to cause us the potential for being shot and killed.”

“CNN’s Don Lemon Questions Erick Erickson About ‘Swatting’ Attacks On Conservative Bloggers” by Alex Alvarez:

On Friday, CNN’s Don Lemon spoke with conservative blogger Erick Erickson about “swatting,” or making it appear as if another, targeted person is making fraudulent 911 calls. And, as Lemon warned viewers, the results could be fatal.

37 “Patterico Discusses Swatting & Kimberlin 05/28 by Darby Stranahan | Blog Talk Radio”.

38 This is a reference to Malkin’s cousin, Marizela Perez, who disappeared on March 5, 2011, and remains missing.

“Where is Marizela Perez? Families frustrated when loved ones vanish” by Christine Clarridge:

Perhaps Marizela Perez is hiding out somewhere, gathering the courage to tell her parents she dropped out of chemistry, switched her major to art and got a tattoo.

At least that’s what her parents hope. The alternatives, say Jasmin and Edgar Perez, are too horrible to accept.

Marizela, an 18-year-old University of Washington freshman, was seen leaving a Safeway store on
Brooklyn Avenue Northeast on March 5. She has not been seen since.

Police and her relatives say there was no evidence of an abduction, no note left by Marizela, no indication of what may have happened to the only child, whom her father called “the center of our family.”

39 “OVER IT: Celebrity Swatting Needs To Stop” by Erin Clements and “Celebrity Swatting: A-List Stars Now Fashionable Targets In Hoax 911 Calls” by Anthony McCartney.

40 From “The World Has No Room For Cowards” by Brian Krebs:

Things began to get interesting early Thursday afternoon, when a technician from Prolexic, a company which protects Web sites (including KrebsOnSecurity.com) from denial-of-service attacks, forwarded a strange letter they’d received earlier in the day that appeared to have been sent from the FBI. The letter, a copy of which is reprinted in its entirety here, falsely stated that my site was hosting illegal content, profiting from cybercriminal activity, and that it should be shut down. Prolexic considered it a hoax, but forwarded it anyway. I similarly had no doubt it was a fake, and a short phone call to the FBI confirmed that fact.

Around the same time, my site came under a series of denial-of-service attacks, briefly knocking it offline. While Prolexic technicians worked to filter the attack traffic, I got busy tidying up the house (since we were expecting company for dinner). I heard the phone ring up in the office while I was downstairs vacuuming the living room and made a mental note to check my voicemail later. Vacuuming the rug near the front door, I noticed that some clear plastic tape I’d used to secure an extension cord for some outdoor lights was still straddling the threshold of the front door.

When I opened the door to peel the rest of the tape off, I heard someone yell, “Don’t move! Put your hands in the air.” Glancing up from my squat, I saw a Fairfax County Police officer leaning over the trunk of a squad car, both arms extended and pointing a handgun at me. As I very slowly turned my head to the left, I observed about a half-dozen other squad cars, lights flashing, and more officers pointing firearms in my direction, including a shotgun and a semi-automatic rifle. I was instructed to face the house, back down my front steps and walk backwards into the adjoining parking area, after which point I was handcuffed and walked up to the top of the street.

Brian Krebs’ piece on the cyber-market that may have triggered the SWATting is: “Credit Reports Sold for Cheap in the Underweb”.

41 From “Mike Rogers: CISPA Cybersecurity Bill Opponents Are Teens In Their Basements” by Sabrina Siddiqui:

“People on the Internet — if you’re, you know, a 14-year-old tweeter in your basement … I took my nephew, I had to work with him a lot on this bill because he didn’t understand the mechanics of it,” he continued. “I hear that a lot. Once you understand the threat and you understand the mechanics of how it works and you understand that people are not monitoring your content of your emails, most people go, ‘got it.'”

“Rogers: Police at home after ‘prank'”:

Rogers released a statement Sunday —

“Last night police investigated a threat to our home in Howell. I appreciate the quick and professional response of the Howell Police Department and the Livingston County Sheriff. While this turned out to be an unfortunate prank, it is a reminder of the the real threats faced by our law enforcement community every day.”

Despite contrary reports, a SWAT team was never called to the scene.

42 “Justin Bieber, Swatting Incident: Details Of Prank Caller Emerge”

The person behind the swatting incidents at Justin Bieber’s and Ashton Kutcher’s homes is a 12-year-old boy. TMZ reports that the boy who was arrested for pranking 911 authorities into thinking there was an emergency at Bieber’s and Kutcher’s residences comes from an “incredibly dysfunctional” family and that the child “sits at his computer day and night, communicating with other hackers.”

The Los Angeles County district attorney has not officially charged him with the crime. “It’s currently still under investigation; our detectives are in contact with the LAPD detectives in regard to their arrest,” Beverly Hills Police Lt. Lincoln Hoshino said Tuesday.

Bieber and Kutcher weren’t the only famous people who were victims of swatting incidents this year, of course. Miley Cyrus, Charlie Sheen and Simon Cowell were all targeted in 2012 for similar prank calls.

43 Kimberlin’s fight over the Diebold machines is described in “The Wizard of Odd” by Massimo Calabresi (behind a paywall).

From “Brett Kimberlin versus right-wing bloggers” by Alex Pareene, on the lack of evidence supporting any connection between Kimberlin and Kimberlin “associates”, such as Rauhauser, with the SWATtings:

The SWAT-ing accusations seem particularly irresponsible, as their connection to Kimberlin is incredibly flimsy. The first victim, Mike Stack, had not, as far as I can tell, written about Kimberlin at all. When Patterico was SWAT-ed, it had been months since he’d written about Kimberlin. Kimblerin claims he’d never heard of Erick Erickson and had no clue where he lived.

But most importantly, even if you don’t believe a single word Kimberlin says, no one has ever presented any evidence, at all, that Kimberlin is behind the “SWAT-ing” — at this point, they mainly insinuate it really hard. Or they claim that one of his allies is responsible. Or something. (Erick Erickson said he suspected it was a member of Kimberlin’s “fan club.”) Patterico accused two Kimberlin “associates” of being responsible, though he doesn’t even have evidence that they’re “associates.”

44 Seth Allen’s site, “Dave from Queens” is named in tribute to another activist, Dave Weintraub who died in his late thirties from a heart attack. He is memorialized by representative Mark Cohen in two dailyKos posts, “Dave Exemplifies Passions Nurtured In Queens” and “More Thoughts On Political Passion In Memory Of Dave From Queens”. Weintraub’s most visible moment was probably when he questioned whether ESPN sweetened audience sounds to drown out boos at sports events where former president George H. W. Bush was a guest: “Does ESPN Cheer Republicans?” by Carl Bialik:

There are more insidious things about ESPN than “boo-yah” and an unhealthy obsession with Terrell Owens, according to David Weintraub, a 35-year-old blogger on Daily Kos. A part-time teacher and part-time law student, Weintraub became an instigator of controversy last week with a post about ESPN’s broadcast of a Monday Night Football game between the Falcons and Saints-the first NFL game played in New Orleans’s Superdome since Katrina. Weintraub’s charge: ESPN piped in fake cheers for former President George H.W. Bush as he took the field for the pregame coin toss, even as the crowd booed him heartily.

From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

In August 2011, Kimberlin had expanded his counter-attack by filing suit for defamation against an obscure blogger from Massachusetts
named Seth Allen, who claimed to have fed the Speedway “bombshell” to Nagy a year earlier.

From “Progressives Embrace Convicted Terrorist” by Liberty Chick / Mandy Nagy. I would recommend reading this, especially on the links between Friedman and Kimberlin, with some skepticism.

The story behind Velvet Revolution begins with musician-activist turned immigrants’ rights defender turned voting rights activist, Brett Kimberlin, who also runs the “Justice Through Music Project (JTMP).” According to journalist Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog, he and Kimberlin co-founded Velvet Revolution together, a detail Friedman has specifically noted in a number of posts such as this one from 5/31/2007.

Once dubbed “The Wizard of Odd” by Time Magazine, you may recognize the name Brett Kimberlin for much more than Justice Through Music or Velvet Revolution, especially if you’re from Indiana. That’s because in 1981, Kimberlin, then the owner of vegetarian restaurant Good Earth, was finally convicted of a week-long bombing spree in Indianapolis, IN in which eight separate bombs caused extensive property damage, destroyed a police cruiser, and severely maimed a man, which eventually led to the man’s suicide. Kimberlin’s story has so often been overlooked or understated by the national media, which unfortunately all but failed to follow up on what were later proven by the same journalist who first reported on his story to be mistruths. But locals to IN know exactly what happened and have never forgotten it since. It’s time the public got the full story.

Infamously known as “The Speedway Bomber,” Brett Kimberlin exploded his eighth and final bomb on September 6, 1978, which nearly blew off the right leg of his victim, Carl DeLong, and seriously injured the man’s left leg and right hand, causing his leg to be amputated. DeLong committed suicide two years later, unable to cope with the pain and devastation of his injuries. The victim’s wife Sandra later won a civil judgment against Kimberlin for $1.6 million.

While police continued to strengthen their case against him for the bombings, Kimberlin got arrested on drug charges in 1979 in Texas after a plane delivery of 10,000 pounds of Colombian marijuana went awry. He and several others had been building a makeshift landing strip in the middle of the desert and rented a small airplane to collect their cargo, which had been abandoned by its scheduled pilot due to bad weather. When caught during the drug arrest, police confiscated an arsenal of weapons that included a TASAR (brand new technology at that time), pistols with silencers, AR15 rifles, poison tipped bullets, and makeshift security guard uniforms.

Eventually, in three separate trials, Kimberlin was convicted of the bombings and sentenced to a fifty-year term of imprisonment for manufacturing and possessing a destructive device, and malicious damage by explosives with personal injury. He received a concurrent twelve-year sentence for impersonating a federal officer, illegal use of a Department of Defense insignia, and illegal use of the Presidential Seal, and a five-year term for receipt of explosives by a convicted felon. He was also given a four-year sentence by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas on an earlier, unrelated conviction for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Kimberlin’s sentences were aggregated by the Bureau of Prisons and treated by the Commission as a single aggregate sentence of 51 years, six months, and nineteen days.

A contemporary newspaper account of the case, reached via the above piece by Nagy, is “Kimberlin case a maze of murder, deceit” (PDF) by Joseph Gelarden.

45 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

Brett Kimberlin remains a lightning rod for right-wing activists. In February 2012, conservatives announced a startup alliance backed by Foster Friess, the billionaire whose son helped finance Naffe’s search for SEIU buses in Boston. Named the National Bloggers Club, the new nonprofit was described by one Texas columnist as a counterweight to left-wing blog battalions. As its first order of business, the National Bloggers Club declared May 25, 2012, to be “Everyone Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day.” The campaign was a rousing success. Michelle Malkin warned: “Kimberlin is a radical, violent, lying, dangerous felon. This is literally a matter of life and death.” Glenn Beck dedicated most of his radio show to the controversy, welcoming both Frey and Aaron Walker (see “Beyond Description”) to introduce “the Soros-funded domestic terrorist Brett Kimberlin.”

Lee Stranahan would announce “Friday, May 25th Is “Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day”” and would post “Welcome To Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day!” on the 25th.

From “Opening Act: Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day” by David Weigel:

Today, the right side of the blogosphere is trying out a fascinating crowd-source experiment. For months, a few conservative writers — most of them using pen names — have been in a pitched battle with a convicted felon-turned-activist named Brett Kimberlin. By any reasonable definition, Kimberlin is a public figure. After he claimed to have sold marijuana to Dan Quayle, New Yorker writer Mark Singer investigated him and made him the subject of a book. When Kimberlin resurfaced in the world of “black box voting” activism, conservative bloggers started to ask questions about him. Skip to May 2012. Blogger Patterico says he was the victim of a hoax that brought armed police officers to his home. The blogger “Aaron Worthing,” identity exposed by a frivolous lawsuit, is counter-suing.

The goal of “Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day,” as far as I can see it, is to make Kimblerlin [sic] famous again. Certainly, it’s enough to spook some people.

46 From “Advice: Beware the networking counterfeiters” by Rauhauser:

Cisco hardware — in Cisco’s ideal world — is always acquired from a Cisco partner. Partners range from a small shop that is merely officially authorized to sell common parts all the way to a Gold Certified Partner with at least eight Cisco Certified Internetwork Experts, other staff members who are climbing the Cisco certification ladder and a sales volume commitment to Cisco that they must meet.

But reality is a good deal different from what Cisco would like to see. Cisco holds a huge share of the routing and switching market, and its products retain value for many years in the thriving telecommunications aftermarket business. Handling refurbished Cisco equipment has been fun and profitable for many years, but counterfeiters are an increasing problem.

As a network architect, I see it all the time. Yesterday evening, for example, during some troubleshooting with a customer, we determined that the company’s 2004-vintage Cisco 2650 router just wasn’t up to doing all the work we were throwing at it, so the decision was made to replace the unit with a new Cisco 2821.

Rauhauser would also write for Spero News, such as the piece “Criminals and identity assumption on the Internet”.

The following is from a full transcript of when Stack guested on Dana Loesch’s radio program. The full transcript is at “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Two”. This is the relevant segment where Stack speaks of past harassment by Rauhauser:

STACK
I mean…Mediaite…[LOESCH: Yeah.] turned me into a…I was harassing young girls, [LOESCH: Oh god.] you know, young women. I was harassing them…the girls turned around and said the stuff they told me were lies. DailyKos, of course, I mean you should see…basically they said, even if this person, me, is found innocent, f him anyway. He deserves it. They printed…Neal Raushauser [Neal Rauhauser], whatever his name is…had a nice screenshot of the “package” aka he was going to send to the FBI about me. He had the FBI information. But yesterday he closed up his twitter. After someone else, finally, had some information they posted…they said, “oh, why don’t you do this or do that, stop harassing Mike Stack”, put up a note, anyone want to check out Neal’s twitter page, he’s taking some time away from twitter with this Weinergate. And if anybody wants to know, they can tweet me, and I can tell you why. [LOESCH: Wow.] I wonder if Neal has some stuff for the FBI and he’s going underground.

47 The only mainstream piece on Twittergate is “Twittergate: How Internet Jerks Pranked the Tea Party” [archive link] by Adrian Chen.

The Twittergate movie is this:

Screenshots:

Breitbart Psychosis

Breitbart Psychosis

Breitbart Psychosis

Breitbart Psychosis

Breitbart Psychosis

Breitbart Psychosis

Breitbart Psychosis

I include one comment to the Chen story, by user nalgape, which I enjoyed:

A specter is haunting America. That specter is a small army of beandogs. Their subversive activities sustained by the misappropriated tax dollars of hard working Americans, they prey on confused, middle-age conservatives who somehow found their way onto social networking websites like twitter.

I am one of these beandogs. I write this as I sit in a luxury apartment in northern California, the heart of backwardness and progressivism in America. The apartment, the drugs, my small library of Communist works, all paid for by stupid American taxpayers. When I’m not busy reading Marx, Engels or Mao, I donate tax dollars to pro-choice organizations and progressive causes.

Useful idiots like Greg W. Howard cannot stop our cause, for two reasons. Firstly, we are highly organized, and backed by powerful men like George Soros and Neal Rauhauser. Secondly, many of the people who oppose us, like Greg Howard, are bankrupt, emotionally unbalanced Christian financial planners who can’t even keep up with their child support payments, much less fight a revolution.

By the time these self-proclaimed “top conservatives on twitter” grasp the true nature of our plot, it will already be far too late.

In reality, we are not the adorable Mameshibas our avatars suggest. We are Illuminati-backed Reptilian aliens, secretly taking over America by gentrifying urban areas with government subsidies. Some of the more insightful conservatives have begun to comprehend the depth of our social media and real estate based takeover, which is as inefficient and convoluted as it is unstoppable. The question I would pose to our would-be adversaries is this: How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?

48 These mysterious accounts are discussed in “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Two”, under the “The Anthony Weiner Scandal, or: The Phantom Menace / Teenage FBI” heading.

49 The quoted section is from “Patterico’s Pontifications ” On Not Making Assumptions; UPDATE: Stranahan Account Disabled at Patterico.com” by Patrick Frey. It was a reaction to Stranahan’s post, “#Weinergate: Why Publish Lies From “John Reid”?”. Stranahan in turn posted a reaction to his account being disabled, “My Statement On Being Banned From Patterico”, though he wasn’t banned, he simply couldn’t post as a blogger.

50 “The @BrooksBayne Meltdown Explained In Three Tweets” by Stranahan.

A lot of people have asked me to explain what happened with self-proclaimed relevant person @BrooksBayne to cause the massive public meltdown that you can read about here and here or just by watching live on Twitter for a week or so, assuming Brooks hasn’t blocked you already. He’s been attacking EVERYONE but much of his wrath has been aimed at people who write for Breitbart.com.

So, why?

The motivation is pretty clear – Brooks wanted to run Breitbart.com.

I know this sounds absurd because – why? It’s not like Breitbart knew Brooks well or trusted him. It seems very strange to think that Brooks had an ego large enough to presume such a thing.

But presume he did.

51 Though I’ve often questioned its reliability, I get TBogg’s name from the Firedoglake entry in Wikipedia.

52 An excellent and funny piece about this same white student union is “Here Comes the White-Power Safety Patrol” by Wes Enzinna .

53 leestranahanwatch.com features such posts as “Porn Unworkers Of The World Unite: Lee Stranahan Begins His Life Of Begging / Unworking” and “Lee Stranahan Wants People To Know That His Porn Image Gallery “Contains 30% More Pussy!””.

54 From “Mike Stack Threatens To Sue Me, Thereby Proving My Chart Right”:

Earlier today, I went on Twitter and I posted a chart I’d put together showing who Brooks Bayne has been attacking, who has been associated with those attacks, the tactics that have been used and what reasons were given for the attacks.

Now Mike Stack is threatening to sue me. I’m going to respond to his threat with the one weapon I have; free speech.

Mike just sent me the following letter. Mr. Stack also CCd a person who Stack claims is his own attorney, Ned Cohn of Cohn, Bracaglia, and Gropper, PC. The letter reads in full:

You are defaming me and making it appear as though I agree with or am acting in concert with Brett Kimberlin and Neal Rauhauser by putting me in your little graph next to them. Regardless of the outcome, I have pressed charges against Neal and been face to face with Brett in court. I am not on their side and each time you write that to get back at me for disagreeing with your methods and actions, you are sending the message that I agree with them.

Tomorrow, the first two of my tormentors get their bad news. You’ll probably laugh at this, and I hope you do, but I intend to seek legal recourse against all those who have smeared me and by inferring that I am endorsing their tactics, you are accusing me of working with them.

My lawyer is cc’d above and he has been filled in on the whole Neal-Weinergate-Swatting-Montgomery PD saga.

Here’s the chart. I’m planning to do a newer one but this is the one that Mr. Stack is referring to.

I view this threat as another example of Lawfare. I assert that I have a First Amendment right to make a chart that attempts to explain this whole mess. Stack has, in my opinion, been clearly ‘associated with’ the attacks by Brooks Bayne.

I have seen Mr. Stack change in the course of the year or so I’ve known him from someone actively working with the Breitbart team on aspects of the Weinergate story to someone who befriended people like Ron Brynaert, Michelle / @ZAPEM and then went on to attack Breitbart, his company and its employees. I don’t know what happened to Mr. Stack, but the change has been jarring.

Now, he’s planning to sue me and others? Puzzling.

The chart:

Brooks Bayne Attacks

55 From “Greg W. Howard: Aurora Shooting Conspiracy Theorist” by Stranahan. The tweets that Stranahan cites for his criticism of Howard appear to have disappeared in the post.

56 “Hold Tight” by Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich:

Shirt design via Lee Stranahan Watch, “St. Stranahan’s Bad Day”. The names on the shirt are Brett (Kimberlin) & Neal (Rauhauser) & Mike (Stack) & Brooks (Bayne) & Greg (Howard).

57 Michelle / @ZAPEM shows up over and over again, another figure of mystery. She contacted Breitbart the day he died about dealing with various figures such as Nadia Naffe and Neal Rauhauser.

Lee Stranahan writes about her in the post, “Who Is @ZAPEM & Why Is She Talking About My Employer?”:

This has all gotten so weird that I feel like I should go on the record about it. If you aren’t following the Kimberlin / Weinergate story, some of it won’t make sense but here goes.

There’s a person named Michelle with the Twitter handle @ZAPEM and she’s something of a mystery. She is associated with the Twitter-Gaters that I discuss in this post but I haven’t paid too much attention to her until recently, really.

Michelle / @ZAPEM was in contact with Andrew Breitbart the week he passed away. Andrew told both me and Brandon Darby that she has contacted him and said that she had been trying to get him information for months by going through Mandy Nagy aka Liberty Chick but that Mandy hadn’t been passing along that information so Michelle / @ZAPEM decided to reach out to Andrew herself. I have no reason to believe that this story is true. Andrew expressed concerns about @ZAPEM to a number of people, myself included.

@ZAPEM would also be involved in the idiotic Twittergate scandal. From the short conservative documentary produced about this episode:

Breitbart Psychosis

The identity of @ZAPEM was also an obsession of Rauhauser. From the site of Robert Stacey McCain, an occasional ally of the Breitbart group, there is “‘Scrubbed’ Writings Show Kimberlin Associate Neal Rauhauser’s Obsessions”

FROM AN UNDISCLOSED LOCATION
Earlier this year, Neal Rauhauser “scrubbed” from the Internet several of his online writings in an apparent attempt to conceal evidence that he has been cyberstalking and harassing his enemies, including the late Andrew Breitbart, Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe and the group of Tea Party activists who exposed Rauhauser’s role in the 2010 “TwitterGate” scandal.

Cached versions of Rauhauser’s deleted posts were preserved by some of the conservatives he targeted, and show Rauhauser’s fetish for secrecy and his obsession with his various enemies. For example, on March 14, Rauhauser published a post on his blog (nealrauhauser.wordpress.com) entitled “Playing Detective,” in which he described his attempt to find the real identity of a Tea Party activist who uses the Twitter handle @ZapEm. She produced on online video documenting evidence that Rauhauser organized the “beandogs” who harassed conservative Twitter users in 2010.

McCain had supposedly gone into exile due to a threat from Kimberlin – a tangent described in “Brett Kimberlin versus right-wing bloggers” by Alex Pareene:

Then, charming neo-Confederate blogger Robert Stacy McCain wrote that … well, he just publicly announced that he feared for his and his family’s safety due to vague “security concerns” (he claims Kimberlin somehow contacted his wife at her unnamed workplace). So, for going on a month now, he’s been publishing (extensively) from an “undisclosed location” (while fundraising for himself).

Kimberlin does, in a way, accept responsibility for McCain’s flight, but he says Robert Stacy McCain is blogging from an “undisclosed location” not because he fears for his family’s safety, but because he was living on a compound owned by his church, which was alarmed to learn of his extremist beliefs and writings.

McCain is also a man of somewhat infamous racial views, as described in “He’s Back: Robert Stacy McCain and the Washington Times” by Heidi Beirich:

Robert Stacy McCain, a former key Washington Times editor who has suggested that “perfectly rational people” react with “altogether natural revulsion” to interracial marriage, apparently has returned as a free-lancer to the newspaper he left in January 2008.

What follows is one of the rescued Rauhauser posts on @ZAPEM, from McCain’s site:

Playing Detective

March 14, 2012

I have a bit of quite time the next few weeks as some other stuff gets sorted out, so I am free to set aside my poor Google intelligence collection skills and actually do some genuine detective work.

First, for background, we’re talking about An Inconvenient Kook, a woman I’ve tentatively identified as Michelle Lessick aka ZAPEM. All I had to start was:

  • The Twitter username @ZAPEM (now @Repository1) and a now defunct WordPress blog
  • Records of various streams of tweets and writings, which are a fairly distinct personality showing delusions of persecution
  • An email from Patrick Read aka @SwiftRead naming her as Michelle
  • A tip that her last name was Reilly, perhaps Nagy-Riley, which I believe to be incorrect
  • A tip that her name might be Lessick
  • Assertions that she was a police dispatcher and her husband a police officer
  • Many indications she lived in northern New Jersey

I did quite a lot of digging with Google and finally did locate the connection to the name Lessick, which can be seen in the link containing her name. I chased various permutations of this name and the Jascawow alias using a variety of search tools and came up empty.
Someone with some paid services I don’t have gave me the name of a couple in New Jersey with the last name of Lessick, Republicans in their mid fifties. For various subtle reasons I was fairly sure the wife was not the woman I was seeking, but I thought that perhaps Michelle was a daughter in her late twenties to early thirties who had developed schizophrenia, or another relative in the area who is on disability and not visible to typical search methods. I spent a few minutes on the phone with her last night and I’m sure that she is not the one, nor does she seem to be covering for someone she knows.

I wrote a nice note to the Morristown Tea Party leadership, hoping that they may have had their fill of her antics. My source for much of the information I do have is someone on the right who feels her conduct is weird, dangerous, and embarrassing to the rest of them. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find someone local who holds similar views of her.

I went through the Morristown Democrats I could find online, sending email and making calls. I signed up for Topix and posted a request there looking for an activist in the area who can help me make connections. Then I called the chief of police in Morristown and we spent a few minutes on the phone. They don’t have their own dispatchers and he gave me the number to call at the county dispatch center.

Due to Donald Payne’s death I’ve felt it was inappropriate to bother the folks on Capitol Hill, but I will probably go down and make a few inquiries next week.I’ve got fifteen more days to do such things until Aaron Walker’s assault trial. Maybe I will get a break on this, maybe I am going to have to grind through a civil suit, we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.

58 An Archive of Darby Stranahan can be found here.

59 From “CNN’s Dana Loesch Cheers Soldiers Who Urinated On Corpses” by Charles Johnson:

CNN “political analyst” Dana Loesch, on the other hand, apparently doesn’t care if these actions were directly working against the mission of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; instead, she cheered for it in order to fuel the unhinged Muslim hatred that has become a staple of modern day right-wing media. On her show, she gave the marines in question “one million cool points” and said that she would “drop trou” and “do it too.” She ended by saying: “Do I have a problem with that as a citizen of the United States? No, I don’t.”

60 “Husband of CNN Contributor Dana Loesch Calls CNN Host Soledad O’Brien ‘Anti-Semitic'” by Charles Johnson:

Here’s something you don’t see every day: the husband of a CNN contributor (Chris Loesch, Dana Loesch’s spouse) calling the host of a CNN show (Soledad O’Brien) “anti-Semitic.”

61 “Kudos To CNN For Dana Loesch’s Mysterious Three Month Absence” by Matt Gertz:

Loesch’s three-month absence from CNN follows what a CNN executive described as her effective but unannounced suspension earlier this year. The suspension came after Loesch responded to news that U.S. Marines had allegedly urinated on the dead bodies of Taliban forces by saying of the incident, “I’d drop trou and do it too.”

The Breitbart.com contributor has a long history of inflammatory comments, both preceding and following her February 2011 hiring by CNN. At the time, the network announced her hiring as part of their effort to “gear up for the election season with the addition of political contributors from across the ideological spectrum,” and said she would “appear across the network’s prime time programs, as well as other dayparts and platforms.”

CNN has not responded to repeated requests from Media Matters regarding Loesch’s absence from their airwaves and whether or not she remains employed by the network.

62 From “Dana Loesch v. Breitbart.com LLC”:

This case concerns a poorly managed but well meaning relationship gone tragically awry, resulting in the attempt by one vindictive party to sabotage the reputation and career of another. That relationship is between Breitbart.com, LLC, the owner and operator of the conservative news and opinion aggregator at Breitbart.com, and Dana Loesch, a St. Louis writer, speaker, and commentator whose profile has risen nationwide.

63 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

His big score came in the fall of 2009 – O’Keefe’s decisive blow against ACORN, which at the time was among the nation’s leading advocates for poor and disadvantaged people. ACORN had also been historically integral in getting out the minority vote; after the rise of Obama, this made them the object of widespread conservative consternation.

For this jaunt O’Keefe teamed up with a new actress, Hannah Giles, who would later introduce him to Naffe in Tampa. Clad scantily in skin-tight tube tops and miniskirts, Giles played a prostitute while O’Keefe tailed her with a hidden camera into ACORN offices in Washington, Baltimore, and other major cities. O’Keefe played her pimp. To their delight, they captured footage of what could appear to be ACORN employees offering advice on how the pair could launder money and manage the underage hookers they claimed to be trafficking from El Salvador.

The videos O’Keefe released were later found to be heavily – and deceptively – edited. One target of O’Keefe’s video sting would even win a settlement from Giles in a civil suit. But the ramifications were still devastating. Several ACORN employees were fired as a direct result. Fundraising slowed to a virtual halt. Already under scrutiny, the group was dealt a death blow in September 2009, when Congress severed all federal subsidies. That led to walking papers for three-quarters of their national staff. ACORN went bankrupt a year later.

Business boomed for O’Keefe in the wake of his ACORN stunt. He was suddenly in high demand on the Obama-bashing lecture circuit. All this came in addition to the funding he received from patrons: Even before Breitbart’s media conglomerate retained rights to the ACORN clips, O’Keefe had already been underwritten by Peter Thiel, an early Facebook investor and California hedge-fund manager who’d bankrolled O’Keefe to the tune of $30,000 earlier that year. Giles, his sidekick, was also a hot ticket, being feted at fundraisers like the one in Ybor City where she met Naffe.

From “Wonket Sexclusive: Totally Blameless Crime-Stopper James O’Keefe To Pay $100,000 To ACORN Criminal” by Matthew Phelan and Liz Farkas:

James O’Keefe—the blonde bombshell who set the conservative world of hidden-camera YouTube movies ablaze—has just agreed to a $100,000 settlement to calm down the unjustly fired (and weirdly litigious about it) ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera. According to a copy of the deal, obtained late last night by your wonkettes and viewable after the jump, O’Keefe has also agreed to ink an 11-word non-apology apology, that sources close to reality are calling “insincere” and “suuuuuuuch bullshit.”

According to the final 5-page agreement, signed by O’Keefe and his legal counsel Mike Madigan this past Tuesday, the boy detective now publicly “regrets any pain suffered by Mr. Vera or his family.” O’Keefe and his counsel have also consented to fork over the $100,000 within 30 business days of the settlement agreement’s being signed.

64 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

By the start of 2010, conservative multi-millionaires and media provocateurs were bombarding O’Keefe with proposals to rattle various liberal cages. He established Project Veritas – a 501(c)(3) nonprofit through which O’Keefe could raise funding to investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions. One idea that piqued O’Keefe’s interest involved California congresswoman Maxine Waters.

At the time, the House Ethics Committee was attempting to determine whether Waters had improperly steered millions of dollars to a bank in which her husband had a financial interest. In 2008, Waters had facilitated a meeting between treasury officials and the Boston-based OneUnited, where Waters’s husband was a board member and stockholder. The Washington Post described the bank as having a “history of mismanagement.” Yet OneUnited had gone on to receive more than $12 million from the federal Troubled Assets Relief Program. O’Keefe saw a ripe opportunity to disgrace Waters, an outspoken member of the Congressional Black Caucus with a reputation as an advocate for poor people.

65 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

Born in 1978 to parents of African, Malaysian, and Native American heritage, Naffe is a fourth-generation Floridian, raised in the Pensacola Beach area, mostly in the surrounding white suburbs. Growing up she listened to rock and R&B, attended parochial school, and enjoyed an ordinary adolescence. Naffe says her mother, a hospital administrator, and stepfather, a deacon and retired police captain, raised her with watchful eyes and kept her on the path to college.

The two-story commercial building where Waters has her district office is far from luxurious, but despite the cloudy windows and sun-dried shrubbery, it is one of the neighborhood’s brighter attractions. Up and down the busy thoroughfare are rows of blighted apartments protected by iron bars, with scattered liquor stores and churches offering salvation.

Naffe says she talked her way behind the bulletproof receptionist’s window by posing as “Nadia Jones,” a first-time home buyer who couldn’t get a loan despite being a model candidate, and now wanted to air her grievance to the congresswoman. Once inside, Naffe gave Waters a harrowing surprise – she noted that her problem was with OneUnited. “I literally saw her face just turn,” she remembers.

66 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

The idea for the next Project Veritas mission originated with John Fund, a Fox News contributor and author of the 2008 book Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy. In January 2010, Fund emailed the Republican National Lawyers Association and other hard-right affiliates about an incriminating tip he received about the Massachusetts Service Employees International Union (SEIU) – Greater Boston’s brotherhood of janitors, health-care workers, and other mostly low wage earners. Fund’s “normally reliable” source, he wrote in an email that has since been made public, claimed the SEIU planned to help Democrats steal the special Senate election between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley. According to Fund, the union would accomplish this by chartering buses in the liberal and minority-rich neighborhoods of Roxbury, Mattapan, Roslindale, and Jamaica Plain. “If you’re black or brown,” he wrote, “they’ll rope you in and take you to the polls. Registration can be worked out.”

67 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

To plug conservative causes, Freiss has a whole foundation that’s run by his son Steve, who relished the prospect of causing “image problems for SEIU.” With their support in place, O’Keefe jumped on board, and he brought Naffe along with him. Not only did she have her star turn in the Waters series to recommend her, but she also matched the request from Freiss for “black/Latina conservatives [who] could be wired for video, and get picked up on one of these busses.” Less than a week later, Naffe flew into Logan airport. Her first task was to snoop on an election-eve rally for Coakley at a Dorchester union hall.

O’Keefe didn’t join Naffe in Boston. Instead, he and other Project Veritas chaps were in New Orleans “causing trouble.” As everyone would soon find out, O’Keefe was casing the district office of Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu. Her offense: the congresswoman was accused of ignoring constituents who called to complain about Obamacare. After crashing in the Big Easy for a week, contriving schemes to shame the NOLA Democrat, on January 26 O’Keefe was arrested in Landrieu’s field office – along with two sidekicks disguised as telephone workers – and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses. Such felonies are punishable by up to a decade in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In Massachusetts, Naffe also struck out. On the day of the special election, she says she shadowed SEIU workers and volunteers, asking every organizer she met if they knew of any buses. But after hours of spelunking – following organizers from door to door to door – Naffe found no evidence of pay-for-vote schemes or caravans transporting repeat voters between polls. Nor were there suspicious busloads of Democrats arriving from Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

68 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

Trying to reverse his luck, next O’Keefe turned his firepower on CNN. More specifically, he went after Abbie Boudreau, a CNN reporter who was researching a feature about Project Veritas and other gonzo conservative enterprises. O’Keefe agreed to an interview with Boudreau on August 17, 2010, to be conducted at a private home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. But when Boudreau arrived at the meeting place, she was intercepted by a female Project Veritas assistant named Izzy Santa. Trembling, Santa warned Boudreau of what her boss O’Keefe had in store. It wasn’t an interview.

As Boudreau would later tell hundreds of thousands of viewers, Santa was alerting her to O’Keefe’s “palace of pleasure” plot, in which,
(as documents obtained by CNN show) he’d hoped to lure the reporter onto a docked boat stocked with champagne, strawberries . . .and sex toys. A list of props included: “lube,” “dildos,” “Viagra,” “fuzzy handcuffs,” “blindfold,” and “ceiling mirror.” A cigarette-smoking O’Keefe was to be “wearing gold chains,” and would “have a more sleazy persona than normal, with slicked back hair and exposing his chest.” The resulting video of him seducing Boudreau, he fancied, would embarrass CNN. Instead, the reporter balked on the meeting, and O’Keefe’s plan came to light. The backlash against Project Veritas was ugly – even from some conservative allies.

The most painful rebuke came from O’Keefe’s mentor, Andrew Brietbart himself – the man who made O’Keefe a household name now pilloried him publicly and demanded an apology. As Breitbart told CNN:

“I proudly stood behind James O’Keefe on his groundbreaking ACORN investigation. . . . However, in my dealings with Ms. Boudreau, she and her producer, Scott Zamost, conducted themselves professionally, and I believe James owes them a candid and public explanation. . . . From what I’ve read about this script, though not executed, it is patently gross and offensive. It’s not his detractors to whom he also owes this public airing. It’s to his legion of supporters.”

69 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

On the strength of their conversation in New Hampshire, Naffe agreed to take the Amtrak into Penn Station on September 21. As they cruised through Manhattan in O’Keefe’s classic Triumph convertible, they hashed out the final details of their latest pursuit, “To Catch A Journalist,” in which they’d set out to expose liberal communications professors as racist partisans who hate the Tea Party. The duo headed downtown, and parked by New York University’s Carter Journalism Institute. Like a DEA agent readying a narc for a drug buy, O’Keefe wired Naffe as they rehearsed her cover story.

Posing as a prospective student named Ashley, Naffe placed O’Keefe’s iPhone – set to record audio – in her bust, and headed into the journalism building. Her task: to find Carter professor and award-winning science writer Charles Seife, and to catch him saying something unsavory that could be used to nail NYU. Seife couldn’t be cracked though; the more Naffe tried to egg him on, she says he only became friendlier, and even dropped a previous appointment to give her a full tour.

“James was telling me that he’s a racist, and that [NYU] is an elitist institution,” says Naffe. “But Seife wasn’t anything close to a racist – the guy couldn’t have been nicer. He didn’t just tell me about the program – he walked me around the whole J-school and tried to set me up with an African-American mentor. He spent a whole hour with me and showed me all of their equipment. He even introduced me to an assistant to follow up with.”

70 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

Naffe also pledged to return in less than two weeks and complete the NYU mission in person. But as she would later allege, on Naffe’s second visit, there was no nice hotel room, as there had been on the first run. O’Keefe picked up Naffe at the Amtrak station in Newark, and began to drive around suburban New Jersey. Along the way, she says they stopped for dinner at Chipotle, and then again for a six-pack of beer. The whole time, they discussed ways to screw NYU the next morning.

After a long cruise through wooded Westwood, O’Keefe pulled up to Naffe’s accommodations for the night: a two-story barn on the property of an upscale suburban home. Naffe says details of their destination were not made clear on the ride, but it didn’t take long once they arrived for her to realize that she was inside Project Veritas headquarters.

O’Keefe sat in his editing cockpit and began to play the NYU recordings. Strangely, Naffe says, there were also candles lit around the room. She sipped a beer, and asked again about O’Keefe’s grudge against Seife. She also asked when he planned to leave so she could have privacy. After the long train ride, she was eager to shower and get to bed early. But Naffe says O’Keefe made several excuses for why he needed to stay – to watch a football game, to use his “stuff.” Then she turned her attention to a phone call with another guy, and the conversation flipped completely. O’Keefe stormed out, and peeled off. That’s when Naffe says that she began feeling woozy, as if she’d been drugged.

According to Naffe, O’Keefe only returned when she threatened to call the police and trash his equipment. Utterly confused, she remembers crawling around on the floor, nauseous, and calling Breitbart for help. When he didn’t answer, she says she phoned O’Keefe’s assistant, and smashed a glass jar holding a candle against the wall to prove that she meant business. Only then, she says, did O’Keefe return, this time with a middle-aged man whose presence sent her into a panic. Naffe says the last thing she remembers is getting helped into the back seat of the nameless associate’s Chevy Malibu, and drifting in and out of consciousness before arriving at Penn Station for a late train back to Massachusetts.

71 From “James O’Keefe’s plans derailed by infighting, lack of funding” by Ken Vogel:

The mounting turmoil comes as O’Keefe’s recent efforts – including an apparently ongoing media bias exposé called “To Catch a Journalist” and an effort to highlight the hypocrisy of Occupy Wall Street protesters – have mostly fallen flat.

“To Catch a Journalist” has targeted journalism professors at Columbia and New York University and reporters at The Huffington Post and Newark’s Star-Ledger.

One professor featured in the series, Columbia Journalism School’s Sree Sreenivasan, last week laughed off O’Keefe’s questions about a Star-Ledger reporter secretly filmed disparaging Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and another who sent Project Veritas a profane email after being spotlighted in a previous installment in the series.

72 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

Upon returning to Boston, Naffe noticed some things missing from her luggage – namely a pair of panties and her wireless computer mouse. She emailed O’Keefe’s assistant, demanding that her items be returned, but was told that no undergarments could be found. After a week, someone at Project Veritas finally sent her the mouse – only she says that it had been taken apart and crudely reassembled, as if they’d inspected the device for bugs. Naffe says it all came as a saddening surprise, though there’d been prior indications that O’Keefe wanted more than just a work relationship.

Less than two weeks after the barn incident, the rumor of her missing undies leaked to DC political writer Ken Vogel, who was soliciting details for a looming Politico piece. That’s when Naffe says she decided to play defense.

Word of Vogel’s interest in the story travelled fast. Two weeks after her scrape with O’Keefe at the barn, Naffe says Breitbart rang and asked her to avoid the reporter. Rather than humoring Breitbart, Naffe says that she asked why he’d ignored her calls from the barn. According to her account, Breitbart claimed to have no control over his protege’s behavior, and said that O’Keefe lacked “common sense.” Instead of supporting her, Naffe says he turned it into a joke. “Nadia,” she says Breitbart quipped, “he stole my panties too.”

On December 21, 2011, a criminal court in New Jersey dismissed Naffe’s harassment complaint against O’Keefe. A judge at the hearing ruled that there was insufficient cause to proceed in that venue, as there was no proof that the alleged crime originated in the Westwood jurisdiction. But Naffe was also threatening a civil suit for false imprisonment, and she says O’Keefe backed off in the months that followed.

That tentative détente imploded on February 24, when the Emmy-winning correspondent David Shuster, reporting for Breitbart nemesis Keith Olbermann’s Current TV broadcast, inaccurately claimed that O’Keefe was facing rape allegations – evidently referring to the Naffe case.

73 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

On February 25, Shuster doubled down by tweeting about an O’Keefe “rape plot,” adding that Breitbart’s silence on said plot made Breitbart a “hypocrite.” The right-wing blogosphere went berserk. “There is no ‘rape plot’, you slanderous, libelous wannabe Media Matters smear junkie,” Breitbart replied to Shuster on Twitter. O’Keefe followed up by suing Shuster and Current TV for defamation.

The split between Naffe and Breitbart was permanent. On February 29, leaked emails show, Breitbart held a teleconference call with a New Jersey investigative firm called Vested Protection Systems to discuss conducting recon on his enemies. He spoke to a consultant named Michelle who followed up with an email noting the targets they’d talked about and drafting potential methods to deal with them. Suggestions included: infiltrating the faceless collective Anonymous “to cause a rift between the left and the hackers”; further eviscerating Kimberlin’s reputation; ratting out Twitter rivals to Stephen Blair, a Boston Police Special Investigation Detective with whom Michelle claimed to have a professional relationship; and making a “fool” out of Nadia Naffe.

Originally, this post included text from an email that was supposedly part of an exchange between Vested Protection Systems and Andrew Breitbart. This email corresponds in all details to the above mentioned email of the Chris Faraone piece.

On Semptember 8th, 2013, I received the following email, subject line, “[DMCA #1636809]: DMCA Takedown Notice”. It is quoted below, leaving out the cited email that has been redacted, as well as company information:

Hi there,

We have received the following DMCA Takedown Notice (http://chillingeffects.org/dmca512/faq.cgi#QID130) for material published on your WordPress.com site:

— BEGIN NOTICE —
Email Address: vestedprotection@gmail.com
Location of copyrighted work (where your original material is located): It’s a private email written on our company computer that was hacked out of the email account of the deceased Andrew Breitbart. The contents have even been revised and attrituted falsely to my company.

Please describe the copyrighted work so that it may be easily identified: In the first part, a direct private email they stole and put up on this website, naming my company, defaming my company, with a story that’s completely ridiculous.

Copyright holder you represent (if other than yourself): VESTED PROTECTION SYSTEMS, LLC
Please describe the copyrighted work so that it may be easily identified: In the first part, a direct private email they stole and put up on this website, naming my company, defaming my company, with a story that’s completely ridiculous.

[what follows then are the portions of the now redacted email excerpt]

The email then goes on to cite the actual email that originally appeared in this footnote. I have removed the email, but kept the excerpt from Chris Faraone’s piece, and the details from the email which appear in that excerpt. All sourcing in the original text now comes from The Boston Phoenix piece.

In the second part, again quoting a copyrighted email which was stolen and attributes the contents to me personally, alleging I had a conversation with Andrew Breitbart about a topic that never happened. I would also like the name of the person(s) who owns this blog as we’re now looking to institute suit against these people for maliciously interfering in my business.

Location (URL) of the unauthorized material on a WordPress.com site (NOT simply the primary URL of the site – example.wordpress.com; you must provide the full and exact permalink of the post, page, or image where the content appears, one per line) : https://italkyoubored.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/andrew-breitbart-psychosis-in-a-political-mask-part-three/

I print the remainder of the letter:

— END NOTICE —

As per the DMCA’s requirements, we have disabled public access to the material. Republishing this material without permission of its copyright holder or the submission of a valid DMCA counter-notice – or continuing to publish material that results in DMCA Takedown Notices – will result in a permanent suspension of your WordPress.com site and account. Publishing such material is a direct violation of the WordPress.com Terms of Service (http://wordpress.com/tos/), which you agreed to upon registration.

Repeated receipt of DMCA takedown notices for your WordPress.com site will also lead to its suspension. If you believe that this notice was received in error, it is important that you formally challenge this notice to ensure that your WordPress.com site remains operational.

If you wish to formally challenge this notice, we have provided a form that you may use to construct a properly-formatted counter-notice. You may find this form here:
Digital Millenium Copyright Act – Counter Notice

Thank you.
Phil

Trust & Safety Engineer

WordPress.com | Automattic Inc.

I will, as they say, be reviewing my options.

74 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

Later on that evening, Breitbart stopped for a nightcap at the Brentwood. A quaint haunt with a 10-page drink list, the restaurant is close to his multi-million-dollar home in Westwood. Breitbart hugged the wood-grain bar, sipped red wine, and fiddled on his BlackBerry. After a terse but friendly political exchange with a stranger drinking next to him, Breitbart settled up and left. He made it just a few blocks before collapsing on the concrete. Paramedics rushed him to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead of natural causes. Breitbart’s final bark was a tongue-in-cheek retweet of a message from an Anonymous operative: “Follow @nadianaffe to find out about her story of assault. This is going to take down @JamesOKeefeIII and possibly @AndrewBreitbart.”

75 These tweets were an exhibit in the civil suit filed by Naffe against Frey, “Case 2:12-cv-08443-GW-MRW Document 20-3 Filed 11/19/12” via “Updated: Sex, Lies and Wiretaps: James O’Keefe’s Slimy Underworld” by “Karoli”.

76 These site comments were presented as evidence in the suit, “Case 2:12-cv-08443-GW-MRW Document 20-2 Filed 11/19/12” They are from the Patterico site post, “Documents from Nadia Naffe’s Race Discrimination Case Against the RNC: The Computer That Was Never Returned”.

77 From “2:12-cv-08443-GW-MRW Document 53 Filed 02/20/13”, Naffe’s opposition to Frey’s motion to dismiss her suit:

Frey’s threats against Ms. Naffe must be viewed within this context. Patterico has a long running history and visible web presence as the work product of a Deputy District Attorney. Frey simultaneously disclaims his position as a Deputy District Attorney to avoid liability and invokes it to seek credibility and issue threats of criminal investigation. Against this backdrop, Defendant Frey issued statements to Ms. Naffe, which a reasonable person could infer were threats to investigate and prosecute or to influence others prosecutors (including federal prosecutors) to do so. Frey only uttered such threats to Ms. Naffe after she informed Frey that she would report him to the District Attorney’s Office and the State Bar.

78 From “Naffe v. Frey, ct al., Case No. CV-l2-8443- GW (MRWX)”:

Quite simply, nothing Plaintiff has alleged plausibly suggests that Frey acted, or purported or pretended to act, in the performance of his official duties.

The Court was on the verge of dismissing Plaintiffs Section 1983 claim against Frey without leave to amend in connection with the original Complaint. Nevertheless, it gave Plaintiff a chance to bolster her state action allegations. As set forth above, she failed to do so sufficiently. The Court would now dismiss that claim with prejudice.

79 From “Naffe v. Frey, ct al., Case No. CV-l2-8443- GW (MRWX)”:

First, in terms of harm to her credit, Plaintiff cites no examples of any actual damages, i.e. any purchases or commercial activity not conducted by her that she has been forced to cover.

Second, while Plaintiff unquestionably asserts that she has suffered various ailments since Frey began “attacking” her on the Internet, her assertions are, at this point in time, fairly vague and not supported by any corroborating evidence or reference to any medical treatment she has undergone or medical bills she has incurred because of her conditions. Third, Plaintiffs complaints about “death threats” forcing her to twice move that are attributable to Frey’s “unstable fans and followers” are, again, relatively vague; moreover, the Court might question why Frey (and/or the County) should be chargeable for such conduct. Finally, although Plaintiff asserts it is difficult for her to find employment (because of Frey’s “attacks” on her credibility and honesty), she also admits that she is a full time student. She does not identify any particular employment she claims to have lost.

80 “Chris Faraone Joins Kimberlin’s Campaign of Character Assassination At the Boston Phoenix | Kimberlin Unmasked”

81 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

Kimberlin had learned his way around case law as a jailhouse barrister, and he knew how to counter-attack foes through the court
system.

In August 2011, Kimberlin had expanded his counter-attack by filing suit for defamation against an obscure blogger from Massachusetts
named Seth Allen, who claimed to have fed the Speedway “bombshell” to Nagy a year earlier. Kimberlin also sought a protective order
and an injunction against Allen, who he alleged was stalking him.

82 From “The Trials of Nadia Naffe” by Chris Faraone:

Kimberlin’s concern was bolstered when, on August 23, in an email to Breitbart, Nagy, and Frey, Allen suggested that he “murder” Kimberlin. “Maybe that will finally get me some justice,” wrote Allen. “This life sucks anyway.” Nagy contacted the police. Weeks later, at a hearing for Kimberlin’s defamation case against him, Allen was arrested at the Montgomery County courthouse in Maryland. Ultimately authorities did not charge Allen. But on November 16, Kimberlin was granted an injunction to prevent Allen from further smearing. Allen ignored the injunction, and on November 21 – the same day that Naffe officially accused O’Keefe of criminal harassment in New Jersey – Kimberlin filed a motion against Allen for contempt.

83 From “Brett Kimberlin versus right-wing bloggers” by Alex Pareene:

So, after the hearing, Walker and Kimberlin had a confrontation outside the court. They argued, and, according to Walker (his account is in the massive post linked above), Kimberlin raised his iPad and Walker snatched it away from him. Then he gave it to a deputy. Kimberlin soon filed criminal charges against Walker, alleging assault, claiming to have been rather badly beaten up. “He took my iPad away from me, hit me in the eye, sent me to the emergency room,” Kimberlin told me. Criminal charges were filed, then dropped by the state. Walker claims Kimberlin forged or falsified his hospital records.

From “‘Beyond description’: Aaron Worthing unmasked” by Chris Faraone:

Seth Allen, the Massachusetts blogger who threatened to murder Brett Kimberlin and got legal aid from “Aaron Worthing.”

Of everyone who answered the rallying cries of Frey and Breitbart, one of the loudest was a character who wrote under the pseudonym Aaron Worthing. A contributor to Frey’s blog – plus a publisher of his own sites, like the anti-Muslim hate-fest Everyone Draw Mohammed – Worthing offered legal advice to Seth Allen, the Bay State blogger who had threatened to “murder” Brett Kimberlin. A lawyer in neighboring Virginia, Worthing also attempted to defend Allen in his contempt case against Kimberlin. Worthing didn’t give his legal name, instead telling the court that he wished to represent Allen anonymously. That’s when Kimberlin hit back with a motion to disclose the identity of “Aaron Worthing.”

On January 9, 2012, Worthing showed up at the Maryland contempt hearing for Allen. By then, Kimberlin had leveraged the Virginia attorney’s butting into the case to reveal Worthing’s real identity: Aaron Walker. This incensed Walker. When Kimberlin attempted to capture video of him, Walker snatched the plaintiff’s iPad, initiating a minor scuffle that the fringe blogosphere would interpret as Pearl Harbor.

In the dust-up, Walker lost his job as an attorney for a health-care staffing firm. His wife, who worked for the same Virginia company, was also terminated.

84 Aaron Worthing Termination page 1

85 Aaron Worthing Termination, page 11

86 Aaron Worthing Termination, page 9

87 Seth Allen’s statements are from a courtroom transcript “Brett Kimberlin v. Seth Allen 11/14/11”, starting at page three.

88 From Hoge’s website, Hogewash!, “Everyone Blog About the Howard County State’s Attorney Day”:

The State’s Attorney dropped both Stranahan’s and Walker’s charges against Schmalfeldt. That was done without providing the notice of the change of hearing date to either complainant. They only found out when Hogewash! alerted them, and this blog only found out because of a tip from a commenter. This doesn’t seem to be within the spirit of Maryland’s victims’ rights procedures.

On Monday, 8 April, 2013, I suggest that those bloggers who have contacted the Howard County State’s Attorney post the answers they have received along with any comments they feel would be appropriate-8 April should be Everyone Blog About the Howard County State’s Attorney Day.

89 From “Inside the Collapsing Media Empire of Deceased GOP Sleaze-Peddler Andrew Breitbart” by Mark Ames and Max Blumenthal:

By now, it has become clear that in the months before his death, Breitbart had constructed a journalistic Doomsday Machine and programmed it for an apocalyptic episode of self-destruction. Perhaps it was convenient that Breitbart’s heart exploded when it did; as a martyr, he did not have to witness the implosion of his media empire or bear the responsibility he deserved for its rapid demise.

In the year after Breitbart’s death, his heirs and associates produced a string of grotesque episodes that have embarrassed even their own impossible-to-shame allies on the right, including:

  • Spreading the lie that Chuck Hagel took money from a non-existent group called “Friends of Hamas.” What began as a New York Daily News reporter’s burlesque joke-hypothetical question to a Senate staffer was recycled by Breitbart.com editor-at-large Ben Shapiro [see below] and reported as fact from “Senate sources.” From Breitbart, the reporter’s joke traveled onto the Senate floor and nearly sank Hagel’s confirmation as Obama’s new Defense Secretary. Even after the story was completely debunked and disavowed even by fellow right-wingers, Breitbart.com remains the only media outlet in the world that continues to stick by its debunked story;
  • In mid-March, Breitbart published a straight news story claiming that Paul Krugman had filed for bankruptcy. The story was sourced from an online news parody site, The Daily Currant [13];
  • Also in March, Breitbart’s most famous protege, video smear-artist and convicted criminal James O’Keefe, was forced [14] to pay a six-figure settlement to one of the victims of his heavily-edited ACORN videos, which was deceptively re-edited to give the impression that ACORN employees were willing to participate in sex trafficking. ACORN was once a powerful community activist organization working in mostly poor minority communities. O’Keefe’s video, which was heavily promoted by Breitbart, helped destroy ACORN and ruin the careers of many of its employees. Other lawsuits against Breitbart associates continue, including one filed by Shirley Sherrod, an African-American employee of the Department of Agriculture who was fired after Breitbart pushed a heavily-edited video manipulated to make Sherrod appear as if she was anti-white.
  • O’Keefe’s work has been underwritten by everyone from billionaire libertarian Peter Thiel [15] to the billionaire Koch brothers [16] and the billionaire Foster Friess [17];
  • At the most recent CPAC conference in 2013, Breitbart.com’s sponsored panel bashing Muslims was considered too hateful and extremist by CPAC’s organizers and banned from the official CPAC agenda – despite the fact that Breitbart News Network is a major sponsor of CPAC.

90 From “How James O’Keefe Seeks to Rally the Troops” by Alex Morris:

The agents of truth are massing. They wear pleated slacks and wire-frame glasses, button-downs and blazers, sensible shoes. They congregate over muffins and oatmeal in a beigeish room on the twelfth floor of a Hilton in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. There are two people of color, but otherwise the agents appear blissfully Anglo-Saxon; some wear tea-party pins. The average age looks to be roughly 63, though that figure would be a few digits higher were it not for the eventual arrival of 28-year-old keynote speaker James O’Keefe, most famous for secretly filming a video that seems to show workers from the liberal community group acorn advising him on how to conceal income from an imaginary brothel

An older woman in a flowered turtleneck shirt raises her hand.

“Yes?”

“My husband and I are fighting with our local township,” she says, her voice brimming with indignation. “What they came and did was end the curb so all the road’s storm water runs down our driveway, and in the winter it makes our driveway one solid sheet of ice. And thank you for the YouTube. We have photographs of the icy driveway, and we’ll be working on publishing.”

91 From “Greg Gutfeld’s Laugh Track To Electoral Failure” by Alexander Zaitchik:

The right is delusional if it thinks it can replicate the success of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert with Gutfeldian rightwing “irreverence.” One of the reasons people are drawn to the Comedy Central shows aside from the jokes is they don’t trust other news sources, and Fox News especially. Whatever tweaks Gutfeld may make to his formula in the future, he seems constitutionally (and institutionally) incapable of the basic fact checking, let alone the kind of serious research that goes into the best bits on the Daily Show.

Leaving aside the content of his politics and the question of whether he’s actually funny, this explains why Gutfeld will forever struggle with the demo, and will remain just another target for more popular comedic pundits.

At least Gutfeld’s publisher understands this. Crown put together a book tour that takes Gutfeld mostly through the deep red states of Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. The only California stop is at the Reagan library. The biggest signing in Florida will take place at the Villages, an ultraconservative retirement community north of Orlando where the elderly members get around on golf carts.

92 The Times investigation was: “U.S. Opens Spigot After Farmers Claim Discrimination” by Sharon LaFraniere. A skeptical piece during the Breitbart investigation was Pigford: A Tragedy and a Non-Troversy” by Mark Thompson.

I list three of Thompson’s points over the fact that the difference in number of claimants and number of farmers indicates fraud:

Third, the settlement quite appropriately covers not only actual farmers but also people who sought to acquire or start a farm and applied for a loan from the USDA. These persons would never appear in statistics of “black farmers” since, by definition, they needed the loans to become farmers.

Fourth, until 2002, no statistical distinction was made between “black farmers” and “black-owned farms,” which is important in light of the fact that any farmer would have been eligible to apply for one of these loans. We do know that when this distinction started to be made, in 2002, there were at least 50% more “black farmers” than “black-0wned farms.” Assuming these statistics would have been similar in 1982, then the number of “black farmers” in 1983 would have been at least 50,000.

Fifth, these claims ignore the possibility of farms changing ownership during that 15 year period, thus creating multiple possible claimants.

From “Farmers Claim Discrimination”:

The true dimensions of the problem are impossible to gauge. The Agriculture Department insists that the names and addresses of claimants are protected under privacy provisions. But department data released in response to a Freedom of Information request by The Times are telling. The data cover 15,601 African-Americans who filed successful claims and were paid before 2009.

In 16 ZIP codes in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and North Carolina, the number of successful claimants exceeded the total number of farms operated by people of any race in 1997, the year the lawsuit was filed. Those applicants received nearly $100 million.

In Maple Hill, a struggling town in southeastern North Carolina, the number of people paid was nearly four times the total number of farms. More than one in nine African-American adults there received checks. In Little Rock, Ark., a confidential list of payments shows, 10 members of one extended family collected a total of $500,000, and dozens of other successful claimants shared addresses, phone numbers or close family connections.

Thirty percent of all payments, totaling $290 million, went to predominantly urban counties – a phenomenon that supporters of the settlement say reflects black farmers’ migration during the 15 years covered by the lawsuit. Only 11 percent, or $107 million, went to what the Agriculture Department classifies as “completely rural” counties.

The questions that Thompson raises – that the number of farms the year the suit was filed does not reflect the number of those applying to farm fifteen years beforehand – remain unacknowledged and unanswered in this investigative piece. “The number of successful claimants exceeded the total number of farms operated by people of any race in 1997” is supposed to be an example of the fraud. This is not to suggest that Thompson is right, and LaFraniere is wrong. Andrew Breitbart may have believed in a Manichean world, but I do not, and I don’t think the writer of “Farmers Claim Discrimination” is pushing a hidden agenda. My demand is a simpler one – why are questions about the rather shoddy work of Breitbart’s investigations still extant in the professional attempt by the Times? That these questions are answered does not mean that they are answered to one side’s favor or another, it is simply a desire for a clearer sense of what took place.

93 From Taipei‘s book jacket, the book’s Amazon description as well:

From one of this generation’s most talked about and enigmatic writers comes a deeply personal, powerful, and moving novel about family, relationships, accelerating drug use, and the lingering possibility of death.

Taipei by Tao Lin is an ode–or lament–to the way we live now. Following Paul from New York, where he comically navigates Manhattan’s art and literary scenes, to Taipei, Taiwan, where he confronts his family’s roots, we see one relationship fail, while another is born on the internet and blooms into an unexpected wedding in Las Vegas. Along the way-whether on all night drives up the East Coast, shoplifting excursions in the South, book readings on the West Coast, or ill advised grocery runs in Ohio-movies are made with laptop cameras, massive amounts of drugs are ingested, and two young lovers come to learn what it means to share themselves completely. The result is a suspenseful meditation on memory, love, and what it means to be alive, young, and on the fringe in America, or anywhere else for that matter.

94 From “‘Go to bed, Tao Lin.'” by Cole Stryker:

During our interview, I fielded some questions from /lit/ and asked Lin to respond.

“Ask him how he has overcome his autism.”

I really like the autism meme. It’s really funny.

From Taipei by Tao Lin:

At some point, Paul vaguely realized, technology had begun for him to mostly only indicate the inevitability and vicinity of nothingness. Instead of postponing death by releasing nanobots into the bloodstream to fix things faster than they deteriorated, implanting little computers into people’s brains, or other methods Paul had probably read about on Wikipedia, until it became the distant, shrinking, nearly nonexistent somethingness that was currently life-and life, for immortal humans, became the predominate distraction that was currently death-technology seemed more likely to permanently eliminate life by uncontrollably fulfilling its only function: to indiscriminately convert matter, animate or inanimate, into computerized matter, for the sole purpose, it seemed, of increased functioning, until the universe was one computer. Technology, an abstraction, undetectable in concrete reality, was accomplishing its concrete task, Paul dimly intuited while idly petting Erin’s hair, by way of an increasingly committed and multiplying workforce of humans, who receive, over hundreds of generations, a certain kind of advancement (from feet to bicycles to cars, faces to bulletin boards to the internet) in exchange for converting a sufficient amount of matter into computerized matter for computers to be able to build themselves.

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