PSYCHOSIS IN A POLITICAL MASK
(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:
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.
You have a lot of hackers who have teamed up with the institutional left to help push the Occupy movement forward.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
A sample, from the second chat, where Brown tries to help Frey find what he’s looking for on their archive:
Think Progress says they were gathering info on Friedman
the one done by federal contractors
does this info come from our heist?
who do these people work for, one of the firms?
These people? Friedman?
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?
Okay, thanks for considering
now, regarding Friedman
you want us to look through e-mails for that?
I don’t know, why’d you come to me on this again?
Actually, pretty much to ask what you told me: is
there some place on the Web where all this shit is?
as I said
Because I figure they looked into Kimberlin if they looked
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
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
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
When I put in “bradley louis friedman los angeles” I get
e-mails that do not have those terms
or Aaron Barr himself, as we got all his e-mails
I’d just search Friedman
I put that in because Think Progress listed that as his name
were trying to break into Greenwald’s financial records71
ah, did you?
Kimberlin is mentioned in the same fucking e-mail
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
it’s fun as shit
and now you’ve got your story
Thanks for that link
Give me the stuff about what they have been doing
oh, happy to give it out, I assure you
So I can do my homework
but they’re not the most interesting ones
just the most high-profile
what you want to look at
I only want links to things that are out there on the Internet
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:
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…
OH MY GOD! You’re a joke. You are. A joke. You’re a joke. And I hope it pays off.
I hope this makes you feel better.
If this is what you need, if it makes you feel better.
Actually, it really does. I wish I could actually slap (inaudible), but I can’t.
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?
Do you care about that at all?
You have no empathy for her, whatsoever?
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?”
“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.)
PSYCHOSIS IN A POLITICAL MASK
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:
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.
The interview is below:
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:
March 2012 – Present (1 year 5 months)
Editor in Chief
2009 – March 2012 (3 years)
Director of Government Affairs
March 2007 – April 2009 (2 years 2 months)
Director of Government Affairs
Berman and Company
2005 – 2007 (2 years)
Director of Legislation and Policy
1997 – 2004 (7 years)
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.
David H. Koch
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
Reason Public Policy Institute: $25,000 for “General Operating Support”
Reason Foundation: $30,309 for “Educational Programs”
Contributions of the David H. Koch Foundation
Reason Foundation: $100,000 for “General Operating Support”
Reason Foundation: $100,000 for “General Operating Support”
Reason Foundation: $100,000 for “General Operating Support”, $150,000 for “Air Traffic Control Project”.
Contributions of the Claude R. Lambe Foundation
Reason Public Policy Institute: $76,500 for “Educational Programs”
Reason Public Policy Institute: $191,000 for “General Operating Support”
Reason Foundation: $10,000 for “General Operating Support”
Reason Foundation: $65,000 for “General Operating Support”
Reason Foundation: $90,000 for “General Operating Support”
Reason Foundation: $50,000 for “General Operating Support”
Reason Foundation: $50,000 for “Educational Programs”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Wouldn’t you apply that standard to Rush Limbaugh when he made fun of Michael J. Fox?
No, I wouldn’t. Rush was making a political point.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
On Behalf Of David Greenberg
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 5:11 PM
Subject: [JournoList] Re: Rise of Republican multiculturalism
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.”
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.”
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:
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.”
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.
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.)
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:
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”
Brandon Darby in Occupy Unmasked:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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 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.
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:
77 From “Internet Trolls Vote to Send Taylor Swift to Perform at School for the Deaf” [archive link] by Neetzan Zimmerman:
78 From “4chan Rigs Contest So Creepy Man Can Smell Taylor Swift’s Hair” [archive link] by Neetzan Zimmerman:
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:
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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”:
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the meantime, have you ever heard of a woman named Jennifer Emick?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.