Category Archives: Religion

Irving Wallace’s The Fan Club: The Fappening Part One

IRVING WALLACE’S THE FAN CLUB: THE FAPPENING

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE

Irving Wallace's The Fan Club

This post, like many others, was intended as a short book review and grew into an epic that will end up touching at least two continents. It is currently unfinished, and ends abruptly. It is my ardent hope that it will be completed by Monday, March 9th. The empty subheads will eventually have content. Though it is does not appear so at the moment, it will eventually return to the material of “The Last Magazine by Michael Hastings: Gawking at the Wreckage”, with this post serving as a kind of sequel to that one.

“Love is merely a madness; and, I tell you, deserves a dark house and a whip as madmen do: and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love, too.”

As You Like It, William Shakespeare

“Charisma dazzles, and flashbulbs woo the lightning bolt.”
The Kennedy Imprisonment, Garry Wills

“This is the game that moves as you play”
“The Have Nots”, X

THE ART OF INTRUSION / BARELY LEGAL

“I had removed you from the frame of your special existence. I had forgotten who you were and where you belonged. I had demeaned you by treating you as an ordinary woman,” says Adam Malone to Sharon Fields. “Then, seeing you in the movie, seeing you where you belonged, seeing you in your proper frame again, well, it shocked me. Yes, it shocked me, made me realize you were something special, a work of art, a temple, an object meant to be worshipped from afar, a rare embodiment of Eve held aloft to inspire all men.” In Irving Wallace’s The Fan Club, Sharon Fields is the biggest star in the world, and Adam Malone is one of a group of four men who kidnap the actress so they can have sex with her.

Wallace’s book teaches us yet again how popular art, a pulpy sensational novel, can touch a subject with a razor where others use soft down. The Fan Club takes the idea of celebrity worship to its shocking, obvious end. I was lucky enough to hear about the book in The Projection Booth‘s excellent podcat about Caligula (“Episode 178: Caligula”)1, and when I looked up the synopsis, I couldn’t believe it was real; but it’s very, very real. The men are enraptured by this woman but they also have contempt for her, and here we have the two obvious poles of celebrity culture. This book, however, goes beyond abstract polite ideas to brutal reality. They see her as an idol, but also wish to reduce her to something less. “The greatest leveller on earth, the greatest equality maker in the world, was a man’s cock,” are the thoughts of Kyle Shiveley, the most brutal of the four. “A good stiff eight inches did more to promote social justice than all the big brains in the world.”

Malone is a writer, Shiveley is a mechanic and ex-soldier, Leo Brunner a tweedy accountant, and Howard Yost an ex-football player who now sells insurance. Together they form The Fan Club, a group whose objective is to kidnap Fields, and afterwards persuade her to have sex with them. They implement the kidnapping as if it were a heist or an assault on a castle. “I was an assistant to our platoon leader, infantry, in Vietnam,” says Shiveley during a discussion of the plan. “Every assault or raid our task force ever made was figured out in advance…What we’re talking about now is ten times easier.” In the diary of Malone which records the pinpointing of security gaps and the mapping out of the logistics of the abduction, Sharon Fields is always refered to as The Object.

Sharon Fields carries the mark of the divine in her extraodinary beauty, a beauty so great that it permeates their dreams, like those of Kyle Shiveley: “his mind was filled with a full-length image of a naked Sharon Fields, the sexiest broad in the world, whom he’d seen on television last night and in a thousand magazines and newspapers so many times before. There she was, stretched out, lying across his mind, and not a goddam stitch on.” There is something magical, something holy to her beauty. The bed in the cabin where they hope for their great conjoining is refered to by Adam Malone as “The Celestial Bed”. “I have never believed in Heaven,” are the thoughts of Malone. “I think that bed will convert me.” She is a divine whose presence is a worldwide abstraction which supercedes all physical existence. These men are failures who feel themselves invisible men. The thoughts of Leo Brunner while at the strip club for which he does accounting work: “Those girls, that good life out there, all that was for real people, visible people with identities, the achievers, the some bodies. He was the total nobody. The zero.” When the men finally kidnap Fields, they are joyful in their discovery that she is tangible, she is real, she is mortal. “I can’t get over the way she felt in my arms when I slapped the chloroform on her,” says Shiveley. “She just caved in, and me trying to hold her, my one hand got a grab on one of her tits. I tell you, it was for real, no falsies, and you know, I bet my palm didn’t cover even half of her boob.”

That this scheme might actually work, that Sharon Fields could be persuaded into having sex with these men after being kidnapped, is pollen from the hothouse brain of Adam Malone, a man possessed by a hermetic madness where the obsessiveness of the writer crisscrosses with that of the fanatic. This isn’t a brutal act, but a romantic quest2. Malone’s knowledge of her is encyclopedic, yet entirely severed from reality. He is convinced that this knowledge itself will be the sufficient secret key to give them access. “If you had my knowledge of her, it would be quite clear to you,” he tells Howard Yost during a meeting of the group:

Picking her up is incidental, a minor means to an end. Once it were done, and we had rapport with her, she’d go along with it. You must believe me. And once she went along with it that would make the whole aftermath voluntary on her part. Whatever followed would be because she wanted it. You could sleep with her. I could. We probably all could. Knowing her, I know she’d be happy to cooperate. She has a different, freer attitude about such things than most women. Believe me, Mr. Yost, there would be no crime involved once it was done. She’d be flattered. She’d like it.

The Object, also known as Sharon Fields, gets handed the narrative baton shortly before the abduction, and her perspective then interweaves with that of her abductors for the rest of the book. She is a woman of great cunning and drive, hidden behind a mask, who sometimes is only a mask, and this mask is all that people ever want. “Trying to listen, to respond, to the endless superficial nonsense from these jet-set sillies…she was wilting,” are her thoughts in her first scene, a party at her mansion where she’s utterly bored while perfectly imitating interest. “She wondered whether it showed. But then she knew, from past experience, it never showed on her. What was inside her was never revealed or reflected on the outside. The theatrical mask, so long worn, had become her outer skin, and it let nothing out, it never betrayed.” Like a camera that travels beneath a gorgeous landscape to subterranean machinery beneath, we move past her sensual beauty and kindly eyes to the sharp stiletto mind within, as it records each partygoer like an actuary at a rest home:

Her green eyes still betrayed nothing of her inner feelings, revealed only gracious interest, as they scanned the dramatis personae readying to exit from the stage. Her gaze froze each in a frame for an instant, while her mind added a caption, then photographed and categorized the next.

Hank Lenhardt, the most successful publicist in town, with his boring and stupid anecdotes and endless pitch and slick gossip. Justin Rhodes, the producer of her current film, a gentleman from the legitimate theatre, but another phony on the make, not for her (he was surely a fag or a neuter) but on the make for her dependence upon him and for her name to use as another steppingstone on his non-stop power trip. Tina Alpert, the widely syndicated movie columnist, a smiler with a knife, a twenty four hour bitch you never turned your back on or ignored or ever forgot to woo with expensive birthday or Christmas presents.

Sy Yaeger, the hot new filmmaker, euphemism for director, who rewrote writers on the set and had the arrogance to make a cult of the kitsch peddlers of the past like Busby Berkeley, Preston Sturges, Raoul Walsh. Sky Hubbard, the radio and television network news commentator, a dumb lip reader and foghorn, a face out of a shirt ad, whom that idiot Lenhardt had insisted that she invite as an investment in goodwill. Nadine Robertson, whose only claim to fame was that she had once played opposite Charles Chaplin (no small thing) and who was now a silicone smooth old socialite and giver of charity balls, a grand dame who whined clichés and somehow had escaped interment in the Movie land Wax Museum.

And the rest of them they were going out of focus now all Xeroxes of some earlier true original, all the same, the same shrill brightness, the low-keyed come-on, the wits with their warmed-over Wilson Miznerisms, the insiders with their Luis Bunuel, Sergei Eisenstein, Satyajit Ray talk, the put oners and put downers, the casual withit dressers, the practiced amusers, users, freeloaders, name in the papers people of an evening, so chic, so predictable, so exhausting, so utterly unreal and nothing.

Bodies milling. Bodies leaving.

Though these men are outside the fantastic world of the movies – “people like us, plain people, we don’t get the chance to meet someone like you” – they are suddenly in the heightened kinetic world we associate with the cinema when they pull off their carefully planned abduction: Shiveley presses open the mansion’s gate when Fields goes for her routine stroll with her dog, where she meets the men posing as part of an insect extermination company, after which they chloroform her and pull Fields into a delivery van. The perfect woman of the fantastic movie world is suddenly astonished to find herself in a suspense movie that’s not a movie at all. She keenly sees reality, while the men are high on the ether of fantasy. “Through reading about you, studying you, meditating on your psyche,” Malone tells Fields when she gains consciousness in The Fan Club’s hideaway, “I’m acquainted with your whole psychological makeup as a woman, your deepest inner feelings as a human being, your hidden spiritual values.” She’ll no doubt be able to see this all as a romantic parley, once she sees them as reasonable, well-intentioned men, Malone says:

And since we never had any intent to hurt or harm you, we were sure that once you realized our good intentions and appreciated our motives, well, you’d be sympathetic in the end. I mean, even if our means of introducing ourselves to you was unconventional, we figured you might admire us for being adventurous and romantic enough to take such a risk just to see you and have an opportunity to talk to you and become acquainted.

Her reaction is simple, an anguished exasperation that these men have taken the fantasy to be real. “Oh, God, oh, God, God no,” she says. “I can’t believe it. Oh, God help us. That-that some one that you could possibly believe it believe all that drivel, that garbage and do this. The world is insane, and you’re the most insane.” The sexually avaricious woman that these men know so well, isn’t her at all, but a phantom creature conceived in an ad department. “It’s all a pack of lies, every word of it, lies,” she tells them, “I’ve never once spoken any of the things you were reading to me. Those interviews were all made up by imaginative publicists, canned interviews put out in my name.”

When Adam Malone records the progress of the abduction plan, he refers to each man by a protective name defined by their profession: The Accountant, The Insurance Person, The Mechanic. When we shift to Sharon Fields’ perspective after the kidnapping, she gives each man, whose names are unknown to her, a descriptive label that conveys their essence: The Salesman, for the false suffocating gladhandedness of Yost; The Milquetoast, for the pathetically weak and self-pitying Leo Brunner; The Dreamer, for the delusional fantasist Malone; and The Evil One, for the cold-eyed sociopath Kyle Shiveley. It’s The Evil One who shifts the narrative into its next phase. “Well, honey, have you changed your mind?” he asks the captive woman. “No. Not now and not tomorrow and not ever,” she answers, and Shiveley then goes after her with a squire’s wrath3. He puts a gag in her mouth and rapes her. “So that was Sharon Fields,” he says afterwards.

The other men fear the cruelty and instability of Shiveley4, but they are also enthralled by his bullying strength. He becomes the clear leader of the group, supplanting Adam Malone. This world in which they live after the abduction is one where they might do what they wish, and make whatever rules serve their purpose. “The worst is behind us. The most dangerous part is done,” Shiveley instructs them. “Now we’re safe. It’s our world. We’re running it. Like God himself, we can do whatever we want, make new rules, laws, whatever you want to call them.” After Shiveley rapes Fields, the other man rape her as well, each finding some excuse for their despicable action. “With the temptation at hand, and the first rape committed,” reflects Malone, “civilization in the traditional sense had been swept aside. Since they had to answer to no one, they could redefine decency and had done so. A wrong had been revised, by a majority, to be viewed in the guise of right.” After Leo Brunner rapes her, we are given his half apologies and excuses, and her silent reply, poisoned with loathing for this weakling that dominated her:

Hurriedly dressing, he babbled on and on pedantically about the thin line that distinguished seduction and rape, finally satisfying himself (that old, old male ego trip) that there could be no such thing as rape once there was consummation. Real rape would be as impossible as threading a swinging needle, right? Once you threaded the needle, it meant there had been cooperation, right? Therefore, it could not be forcible rape, right?

Wrong, you silly bastard.

“Of them all, he, Adam Malone, was the human being who deserved Sharon most,” are the thoughts of The Dreamer before he rapes The Object, “He, and only he, had made what had happened happen. Of them all, he, and only he, respected and cared for her as a person.” This isn’t a rape, but an act of consideration on the part of Adam Malone: “It was not right that she should suffer only those stupid, unfeeling, uncaring animals, and never know that under this very roof there was one who truly loved her for herself, loved her with a tenderness, a giving, a warmth that she would surely welcome at this time.” If nothing else, this act can be justified by this being the natural order of the world, whether the anthropology of Margaret Mead or a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson: “The Mayfly is torn by the swallow, the sparrow speared by the shrike, / And the whole little wood where I sit is a world of plunder and prey.” But Sharon Fields doesn’t want him at all. “Go away,” she says. “Don’t do any more. I’m so weak, sick please.” The Dreamer: “In a little while, darling. In a little while you will sleep. We’ve known each other too well to stop now.”

The Fan Club was described as sordid in one Wallace obituary5, and the sordidness does not arise simply from the situation or the vileness of the men, but that we are sunk eyebrow deep in this swamp without fresh oxygen, as these men are essentially static. They are nothing beyond the essences of the labels bestowed by Fields, each one a separate and distinct contemptible attribute of man, whether it be brutality (Shiveley), insincerity (Yost), weakness (Brunner), or delusion (Malone). Their victim remains static as well, a very resourceful woman whose gifts as an actress she also employs in life, either to acquire wealth and power in Hollywood or to get out of this scrape alive. She pretends that she actually enjoys being with these men, to put them at ease, that they trust her, talk with greater ease around her, so she can get their names and find out where she’s being held. “She must become the hot, acrobatic, erotic sexpot and nymphomaniac that each of these yahoos fancied and desired,” she tells herself. “Could she do it?” In one brilliant moment, Fields imagines a dutiful interviewer asking her questions about the terrifying place she finds herself in and the task before her. The binding contract of the studio intertwines with the binding ropes of the bed, the unending appetite of the movie audience melds with the demands of The Fan Club:

Miss Fields, at twenty-eight, are you pleased with your present situation?

No one is ever pleased, all things considered. I would say my situation today is better than it was before. But that’s not good enough for me. Essentially, I’m a free soul. I cherish freedom. But I’m still under contract, you know. It is binding, you know. I won’t be happy until I’ve cut free.

Miss Fields, do you find anything else standing between you and total freedom?

Yes. The Fan Club gambit. Catering to The Fan Club, that’s the most dangerous pitfall of all. You find yourself doing what they want, to survive, but you know, in the end they can tire of you, turn on you, kill you.

Not really, Miss Fields?

You bet your ass really, I’m really afraid.

Thank you, Miss Fields.

You’re welcome.

The men themselves start to tire of her. “What do you get from a superstar that’s any different from any of the others?” asks Shiveley. “You’re getting the same tits, same bouncing ass, same snapping pussy, same hand jobs and Frenching, same squealing nothing different from a couple hundred other broads I’ve banged from secretaries and waitresses to finishing school birds.” Leo Brunner agrees: “once the mystery and novelty are over with, and you’ve been back to the well enough times, you have to tell yourself that she’s no better or more unusual than at least a dozen good lookers you’ve had before.” For Malone, sex with Fields makes her an ordinary woman, and when he watches one of her old movies, he realizes that her power exists in not being physical, not being intimate. “You were something special, a work of art, a temple,” he tells her, “an object meant to be worshipped from afar, a rare embodiment of Eve held aloft to inspire all men.” Instead of wasting more time on sex, the men decide to ransom her, except for Malone, the persistent dreamer: “If we’d done this for money, we’d be common criminals, which we aren’t. We did what we did because we were decent human beings who wanted to achieve something romantic.”

While the ravaging of The Fan Club takes place, the police move in to try to find the missing woman, and here we have one of the book’s many flashes of brilliance. There is a lengthy section given over to the police computer database, the California Law Enforcement Teletype System (CLETS), described as a “magical machine” attended by Marion Owen, “an introvert with superior mechanical skills”. Owen is just about the only other female character in the book other than Fields and her assistant, and though in some future she would be a successful engineer, here she is supposed to be a figure of pity, a wallflower with poor complexion “doomed” to be a spinster until a man “rescues” her. Her marginality is a tragedy (and one unnoticed by this book), but which serves the purpose of making her as a kind of attendant for the CLETS machine which will help to locate Sharon Fields. The screen goddess and her attendant are mirrored in the magical machine and its attendant, a mechanical colossus whose divining power approaches that of Merlin’s tools. The California police speak in a clipped, precise language with almost no reference to personal life, a kind of nest of drones that share the machine qualities of the CLETS. We have a juxtaposition of chiming and discordant notes which we struggle to fully hear, of an organization which derives its power from being more machine like, which is in alliance with a magical machine in a search for a missing woman on whom society has directed the vestiges of religious belief, briefly making her a creature of divine substance.

Fields puts The Fan Club at sufficient ease that they buy her supplies, including distinctive french perfume and breath mints. “She had given off a beep from an unknown planet,” Fields hopes, “trying to tell someone somewhere in the universe that there was life on another planet.” She writes a ransom note in her own hand as proof of life, and manages to insert a code in it, one known to her and her assistant from one of her past movies. The police are slowly able to isolate her location via the drugstore where the supplies were bought and the code in the ransom note. Howard Yost goes to pick up the ransom and he’s confronted by a police chopper, killing himself before he can be captured. The other men at the hideaway soon realize that their scheme has fallen apart. Brunner tries to flee, but Shiveley kills him first. Shiveley moves on to kill Sharon Fields as well, but Malone stabs him in the back. Yet Malone is unable to kill Shiveley, overcome instead by a vomiting attack, a physical revulsion at this violence. Sharon Fields picks up Shiveley’s gun. “Lemme-lemme-lemme live,” Shiveley begs. “Tell me again, you pig. Beg for your life. Beg the way I did. Beg the way I begged,” Fields demands, but this is just to see the man beg some more, before she kills him by shooting him in his privates. She then moves out to meet the descending police chopper with the regal elegance of a living statue. We are now in the sharp lines of the action movie, and Fields is very much the star again. “Well, what do you say?” she asks Malone, as she nods towards the helicopter. “The marines always come, don’t they, sonny boy?” Malone: “You-you led them here, somehow, didn’t you, Sharon?” Fields: “You’re sharper than I thought.” They have one final moment before Malone flees the hideaway, and she meets the detectives.

“You lied about caring for me, didn’t you?” He hesitated. “You-you care only for yourself, for yourself and nobody else, and you always have, isn’t that right?”

The smile was colder than ever. “You’re about ready to graduate, I see. I’ll tell you something. I’ve known lots of men, buster, lots. I’ve never known one, not one, who wasn’t a pig. Including you. You were just one more that happened along.” She paused. “I learned one thing long, long ago. This. Who’s going to care for me more than me, myself, and I?”

This bizarre, forgotten book ends in an appropriately strange note, with Malone returning to his house, as if none of the tumultuous events have even taken place. And we, the reader, realize that the experience is very much like going to a movie, where we are engulfed by vivid, violent experience, yet which then disappears, and we go back to ordinary life. Sharon Fields cannot be brought into this ordinary life without destroying the mask that is the coveted fantasy, the eternally sensual pliant gaze, and we are left to wonder if she ever did pass into ordinary life, or whether we’ve briefly fallen into the imagination of a fevered obsessive.

Now, walking alone on the deserted street to his pad, he had finally ceased wondering why she had spared him.

He had ceased wondering because he had the answer, at last. As a movie buff, he knew, just as Sharon Fields knew, that if she was to fulfil her role as a heroine, and transform this dark interlude in her life into a credibly romantic and plausible story that she could live with, the story must have a hero, even an antihero.

He understood.

He and she, they had not been so different, after all.

Nearing his destination, he knew he had to resolve something else, face up to it, admit it. His experiment in alchemy had not worked. The gold dust of fantasy could not be transmuted into the gold brick required by reality. It was too fragile; the stuff of dreams, and it evaporated and was no more.

We see in The Fan Club the ways in which a popular novel might clasp a crucial subject with both hands, a subject which more “serious” books might consider beneath them as being too squalid or sordid. Were this novel written by a more “serious” writer, some prestigious bold face name, it would no doubt find some praise as a daring piece of horror dealing with modern idolatry – though it might also work up a little too much flop sweat condescending to the low brow material, and be encrusted with a little too much pretension to protect its dignity during the wallow. The Fan Club, by talking about what everyone wants to talk about without constraint or protection, gives us a necessary view of the world that often eludes more highbrow literature. At the same time, it has faults that would not be found (or should not be found) in the work of a more gifted high brow writer. The dialogue is often wretchedly functional, the characters expressing ideas and intent unshaped by anything like intricate character. More crucially, the men who abduct Sharon Fields each embody only the qualities we find most wretched in others and…ourselves, yet nothing in ourselves passes into these men. Women as well as men will be aligned entirely with Fields, and thereby the reader is allowed the pleasure of a sordid novel, but also of superiority over these wretches: I am nothing like these men. There is no possibility, I think, for any man to have any uncomfortable sense that their lust for someone like Scarlett Johansson or Rihanna crosses over with the lust of The Fan Club, and the book avoids the way celebrity culture toys with the feelings of women, where you are roused to despise some delicate creature impossibly more beautiful than you, how you are driven to take joy in seeing her humiliated, and how you become something contemptible in wanting this. We might imagine a book where Sharon Fields is a typical villain celebrity – rich, pretentious, cruel, beautiful – where we want her to suffer, and where our sympathies suddenly shift, and we see our own vile feelings reflected in the four men. The transformation which great literature performs with pulp subjects, not simply re-telling the stories with a larger vocabulary, but giving archetypes unknown depths and twisting the reader’s certainties, is absent in this novel.

“I was all alone in the club car, and then we stopped at this junction and some railroad men got aboard. There was a newspaper, and they saw a headline about Burton buying Taylor the world’s biggest diamond,” Irving Wallace would tell Roger Ebert about the beginnings of the book. “That started them talking about Elizabeth Taylor, and one guy said he’d trade his house, his wife, big car, everything, for one night with her.”6 This kind of stuff is a commonplace, and Wallace knows so: “I’d heard that kind of talk all my life. I didn’t make a note about it in my journal as a possible story idea; I thought I’d forgotten it.” Yet the complicity of the majority in celebrity culture is not the subject of The Fan Club; it’s made into a problem of a few sociopath miscreants. Perhaps because Wallace knew women like Marilyn Monroe and Lana Turner first-hand, Sharon Fields is more real to us than the men, and this a necessary element in the book’s engine, the human female versus the four monsters. The issue of larger complicity is not, I think, an idle or abstract one, because even though her roles and her persona don’t mesh with those of Fields, I could only cast one woman in my mind for Sharon Fields, and that was Jennifer Lawrence, because I read The Fan Club last September, a few weeks after #TheFappening.

We might think of that event as something like a colossal storm, containing two phenomena, a subterranean roar which quaked through the earth far from the storm center as if from a multi-megaton blast, and a counterpoint to the noise in a smaller burst of pious blue light. The quake was loud and distant, yet without a visible gleam: these images never appeared on mainstream sites. The pious lightning were the various think pieces which flashed out during this storm, and of those I read, even “The Great 2014 Celebrity Nude Photos Leak is only the beginning” by the gifted writer Roxane Gay, I found to be frustratingly banal for being so unrooted in the event itself. A look at this very specific context, I think, is necessary for why people felt no compunction in hacking these photos and linking to them, and it is not answered by the fact that every woman expects misogyny on-line, that every woman on-line (or any woman on-line who presents herself as female), can expect to deal at least once with a rape threat.

Despite the extraordinary flurry of interest about this story, and despite the fact that the fear that your nude photos might be leaked out of vengeance is a fear almost everyone knows, the focus on the story soon dissipated, to re-form around some other point of noise. Six months later, the perpetrators are still uncaught and unknown. Only one major piece was published after the cloud of attention had atomised, and that was “What Kind Of Creep Sells A Celebrity’s Naked Photos On The Internet?” by Charlie Warzel. It centered on the one actual name affiliated with the Fappening ring, Bryan Hamade, who, under the name of BluntMastermind, may well have been the one who first leaked the nude pictures of Lawrence, Kate Upton and others to the image board AnonIB and 4chan on Labor Day 20147, and therefore the only tangible individual who might be a link to the phantom ring. “Creep” is a good piece of journalism, though its subject is as frustratingly ephemeral as any other part of the story. Warzel speaks to Hamade only once, in a phone call where Hamade insists he only re-posted the photos from somewhere else. Warzel travels to Hamade’s hometown of Lawrenceville, Georgia, where he finds the leftover remains of an isolated, anti-social life. The most indelible details of this life don’t come from the main piece, but in the comments, from someone who claims to have known him: “We both worked as servers at The Local Jam, a now closed restaurant in Athens GA…He’d say things like “I bet you can’t touch your elbows behind your back”. None of this surprises me in the least. He just used to piss me off because he’d always crop dust everybody (plus the perv stuff, but mainly the crop dusting).”8 Warzel has a single meeting with Bryan’s brother, Andrew, who denies Bryan had anything to do with the leak, after which Andrew is arrested for trespass and assault. Andrew’s girlfriend describes Bryan in a Facebook message: “creep, weird, very childish, and immature.” And: “The only reason I’ve even come In contact with Brian[sic] is because I have a child with his deadbeat egotistical brother Andrew.” And: “Yeah he bought them,” meaning the pictures, but refused any comment beyond that.

“I am just an idiot who tried to pull one over on 4chan and lost big time and stupidly left this identifying information,” insisted Hamade in an earlier interview with BuzzFeed, but Warzel speaks to several people, including two anonymous sources close to the Hamade family, that give a picture of someone whose computer skills may have been quite formidable. “He is downplaying his knowledge. He can’t claim to not know how to guess a password and also be a systems administrator and a developer, says one anonymous source. A screenshot put up by BluntMastermind shows a folder full of McKayla Maroney pictures that appeared nowhere else. Nearby neighbor: “My general impression is that he’s very, very intelligent. He built a PC for my husband and helped my son build computers.” Anonymous source: “[H]is knowledge of computers is unfathomable. He was like the Banksy of the cyber world.” Anonymour source #2: “I can tell you this for a fact, Bryan personally did not hack the iCloud but he has a bunch of other friends who did. Bryan is nothing short of a computer genius but he didn’t hack it,” however: “Bryan didn’t hack it but he did make money from the majority of the pictures.” Though Warzel does greater shoe leather investigative work than just about anyone who reported on the story, everything solid appears to dissolve into air. The most tangible evidence are some bitcoin donations that might be traced to Hamade, but other than that:

Much of the other circumstantial evidence aimed against Bryan came from anonymous tipsters with burner email accounts claiming to have new screenshots of Bryan’s desktop. Compelling, but seemingly unreliable, like nearly all the evidence of Bryan Hamade’s involvement and possible connection to the original hackers, which is tenuous at best and conspiratorial at the very least.

We appear to be surrounded by certainties, of ever present mechanical genius in our phones that make the abilities of the 1974 CLETS network laughable, and yet this attention getting crime remains unresolved. “Filth, bullshit, and fluff aside, the internet is uniquely built for solving mysteries,” writes Warzel. But: “I’ve convinced myself of Bryan’s guilt and innocence time and time again, and yet the answer to my initial question – is Bryan Hamade responsible for the biggest celebrity photo hack in recent history? – is as unclear now as it was on the morning of Sept. 1.”

It is perhaps impossible at this time for us to deduce the identities of those in this ring, but what can be done – and which, for whatever reason, does not seem to have been done before – is look at the larger background of similar hacks and the psychology behind them. With regard to Warzel’s question, “Is Bryan Hamade responsible for the biggest celebrity photo hack in recent history?”, I think precedent tells us the answer can be emphatically said that it must be a multitude of hackers, rather than a single individual. Again, by precedent, we know there is some psychological necessity, some male desire to share such photos and in a restricted group. The initial purpose of this ring was not to share these pictures with the wider world, but to keep them within this small circle: to have the pleasure of seeing what few others had seen, and yet to be part of a group which shared in this knowledge that you had glimpsed this rare vision. In the occasional cases of a solo hacker, they are compelled to experience this phenomenon by sharing these pictures with someone, and it’s this act, which often leads them to ultimately being exposed and caught.

“Why Kids Sext” by Hanna Rosin looks at the wake of an investigation into a ring in Louisa County, Virginia, which traded pictures of girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, and girls who’d sent pics to flirt or impress, which would lead to a larger paradoxical child porn investigation9; since those who’d taken the pics were under eighteen, they were considered child porn and so those who took the pics and their recipients could be indicted for creation and distribution of child pornography. Though the focus of the article is on this issue, on how the law should deal with nude pictures of the underaged when such pictures are now an indisputable part of relationships, we are also given some details into how this ring which traded in non-celebrity nudes operated and the psychology of the group.

A related insight here, though unverified, involves the fappening ring which came from an anonymous 4chan account at the time of the scandal10:

>there’s been a small, underground celeb n00d-trading ring that’s existed for years
>why wasn’t it revealed earlier? the only way to join the ring is by ‘buying in’ with original pics(“wins”, as they call them) you, acquired by yourself
>(also, these guys are greedy fuckers: if you were the only person in the world in possession of jlaw nudes, would you really give them out? for free??)

We have a similar structure in the Louisa County ring, of a closed circle where pictures get you entry. In that ring, suspicion centered on two brothers who solicited pictures from boys in the Louisa County high school (along with some girls) which would be put up on an Instagram account, “LC [Louisa County] Hos & THOTs”. “The organizers had apparently spent weeks gathering photos,” writes Rosin. “They said they would open the accounts only when they had a lot of pictures in hand, and that anyone who sent one in would be guaranteed access.” Nor was such a ring an aberration or an exceptional phenomenon: “Several boys, in an effort to convince Lowe that they hadn’t been doing anything rare or deviant, showed him that he could type the hashtag symbol (#) into Instagram followed by the name of pretty much any nearby county and then thots, and find a similar account.” As with #TheFappening ring, investigations into the Louisa County ring are unfinished, with the IP address for the Instagram uploader never successfully determined. The process, and the people at its center, are all known, but cannot be proven definitely, as Rosin related in an interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air”11:

TERRY GROSS [FRESH AIR HOST]: Do you know, do the authorities know, exactly how these photos ended up in this Instagram page?

ROSIN: They know, but they can’t prove it. So, basically, they know that there’s a couple of guys who solicited photos, there may have been a middle man or not. We’re talking about teenagers here. I don’t know if they’re all under eighteen, but teenagers. And they got the guys in the school, and again, some girls, just send me pictures…and by the way, this is common, this is not a freak occurence…the guys say this happens in lots of towns. And they say, “Okay, when we reach about a hundred pictures, we’ll open the page…which again, is a common dynamic. So they collect all the pictures, and once they have enough to create what they consider a good page, they open up the page, and everybody looks at the page really quickly, although if someone is on it, a parent or law enforcement, it also gets shut down real quickly.

What should be emphasized is that the primary purpose of these pictures was not erotic, nor humiliation, though the eventual outcome was that many of the girls did feel humiliated about the pictures and the focus from the investigation. “Guess who ??? wht do u think?” writes one boy to another, when he sends him a close-up of the bare breasts of a fellow student, a picture that was part of the Instagram collection. The recipient can’t stop thinking about the actual girl, and that here is a photo of her, so intimate, so he finally looks. “He suddenly felt guilty,” writes Rosin, “and also – because he’d heard about some boys collecting photos for an Instagram account – a little afraid. He hesitated, and then deleted the picture and got up to retrieve his laptop.” He then looks up MILF pics, though he’s unsure later (or too embarrassed) to tell Rosin specifically what: somebody with long brown hair and big boobs. And though the girl in the sent pic had these qualities, this was not what he wanted. Rosin writes that “the high-school boys I spoke with barely glance at the sexts they receive. They gloat inwardly or brag to friends; they store them in special apps or count them. But actual fantasies come from porn, freely and widely available on the Internet.” On “Fresh Air”, Rosin emphasizes an earlier point, that the importance of these pictures was the ideal of seeing what others had not seen, and doing so in a community – it’s not enough to see this, but you wish others to witness that you are one of the elect, and a community gives a shared sense of the elect12:

GROSS: One of the things you learned is that these sexts that the boys received from girls, um, they weren’t using those pictures for their fantasy lives, they were turning to porn for their fantasy. So, what are the implications of that for you?

ROSIN: The sexts are just their currency, like, the girls describe it to me, “Oh, it’s [like] the guys are collecting baseball cards or Pokemon cards.” They don’t actually take them that seriously. They’re not a huge part of their sex life. They’re just something you collect, and you tell your boys that you have it, and you know, it’s like it’s cool to have one that nobody else has…it’s kindof a social currency, more than it is, you know, a springboard for fantasy, which is kindof surprising. There’s so much free porn out there that these pictures serve a different role. I mean, these guys look at these pictures for five seconds, you know? (laughs) They’re just not that big a deal to them, and so, sending them along is kindof fun…it’s like, oh yeah, that’s what’s going on in school today, we’re all sending our pictures to x person, it seems like a prank.

That the Louisa County pictures leaked out and became a larger scandal was unintended, just as the leak of #TheFappening pictures was supposedly unintended as well. Again, from the anonymous 4chan comment:

>circle hardly ever widens to include more people – wry few people even find out about this ring. and fewer still have nOOds to buy in with (bitcoin purchases probably rare)
>… except for self-styled “rich kid” in original /b/ thread
>it appears he bought a few sample pix and blew the lid on this whole operation by sharing them with outsiders for the first time

The necessity of such hacking events becoming a wider story required the complicity of the press, and this was a point seemingly avoided by every thought piece, and which rendered them so toothless. We see the convergence of the two in what was probably the first celebrity hacking scandal, that of Paris Hilton’s T-Mobile in 2005. The psychology on display here is very different from that of either #TheFappening or Louisa County rings, where the rings wish to remain small and exclusive, that to look on the photos means you belong to the elect; here, the hackers wanted these photos to be published widely, so they themselves would achieve recognition and fame.

In 2005, a group of six hackers discovered a glitch in the T-Mobile phone service which allowed them to reset the password of any account for which they knew the phone number. Though they were able to prank friends whose numbers they knew, they soon grew bored, and wanted to try to access celebrity accounts13. How would they get a celebrity’s phone number? Well, there was the Accurint database (owned by LexisNexus) which allowed one to look up personal data, including social security numbers and phone numbers, by inputing a name. The database was used by police stations around the country, including one in Port Orange, Florida. The six man crew sent an email with an explicit image and a message urging the recipient to click a link to see pornographic images of children. The link activitated a virus program which allowed for remote key capture, letting the team create new accounts for themselves at Port Orange to access the Accurint database14. The names of those accessed are hidden behind initials in the criminal complaint: “On or about January 21, 2005, TIMOTHY C. McKEAGE fraudulently obtained an Accurint report of an individual, J.P., containing J.P.’s name, address, date of birth, social security number, and other identification information.”, “…an individual, D.G., containing D.G.’s name, address, date ofbirth, social security number…”, “…an individual, J.B., containing J.B.’s name, address, date of birth, social security number…”, etc. There is, however, one set of initials we can guess at: “On or about January 23, 2005, JEFFREY ROBERT WEINBERG fraudulently obtained an Accurint report of an individual, P.H., containing P.H.’s name, address, date of birth, social security number, and other identification information.”15

Irving Wallace's The Fan Club

Cameron LaCroix on “NBC Today”, image is from “Ex-teen hacker tells Paris Hilton he’s sorry [WARNING: autoplay video]” by Tom Winter, Jeff Rossen and Jovanna Billington.

They were now able to reset Paris Hilton’s password, shutting her out of her account, and allowing them to download all files from her storage space. We might note the reaction of Cameron “cam0” LaCroix to what he saw there. “As soon as I went into her camera and saw nudes my head went JACKPOT,” LaCroix would relate, about now forgotten pictures of a nude Hilton kissing another woman. “I was like, HOLY [expletive] DUDE … SHES GOT NUDES. THIS [expletive]’s GONNA HIT THE PRESS SO [expletive] QUICK.”16 LaCroix did not expect to keep this picture to himself, but instead that he would share these nude pics with the press, and the press would certainly publish them. “We see hacking a computer as a crime but viewing the hacked image as a misdemeanor rather as an act of sexual violence. We absolve ourselves of the crime,” wrote Reut Amit in “That Type of Girl Deserves It”. Knowingly or unknowingly, she absolved the very platform on which that essay was published, Gawker, of the very sin that it had committed in the past. “Every young woman I know was violated when the nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence and other successful women were posted on the internet for public consumption against their will,” Amit’s essay began, and presumably every young woman she knew was violated when Gawker published the nude photos hacked from Paris Hilton’s T-Mobile in the post “Paris Hilton: Hacked” by “Mark” (Mark Lisanti), and though pictures from old Gawker pages are now gone, they are very much there in the archived version of the site, “Paris Hilton: Hacked (archive link)”, with follow-up posts combing through the data of the hack, “The Collected Works Of Paris Hilton’s Hacked Sidekick” (by “Jessica”, Jessica Coen) and “Paris Hilton Hacked: Decoding The Celebutante Rosetta Stone” (by Lisanti), which lets us know the other girl in the kissing photo was Eglantina Zingg, MTV VJ.

Irving Wallace's The Fan Club

Irving Wallace's The Fan Club

Irving Wallace's The Fan Club

Irving Wallace's The Fan Club

(Screenshots from, respectively, “Paris Hilton: Hacked”, “The Collected Works Of Paris Hilton’s Hacked Sidekick”, “Paris Hilton Hacked: Decoding The Celebutante Rosetta Stone”, and “That Type of Girl Deserves It”.)

The society of our time values fame above all else, even infamy, yet even though #TheFappening ring is connected to one of the most notable events of last year, not a single member has made claim to their work, avoiding any attempt at recognition, and thereby remaining safe. “I wanted to be a celebrity,” said LaCroix a decade after the event, about why he dumped Hilton’s pics and info on-line. When the stolen pile pulled a buzz of attention, a small scale #Fappening, “it was mind-blowing for me…I felt famous.”17 LaCroix liked the high of fame, he liked the high of drugs, and he liked the high of hacking, which was a lot like the high of drugs. He’d gotten eleven months of juvenile detention after he was caught for the Hilton hack, then was sent back for more after he violated the terms of his release by using an electronic device, cellphone, or computer. When he got out after that, he bought gift cards with stolen credit card numbers, got into more local police databases, briefly managed to take over Burger King’s twitter account, and did more credit card thefts18. Two months after #TheFappening, nearly a decade after the Hilton hack, he got four years for credit card theft19.

Irving Wallace's The Fan Club

Screenshot of the hacked Burger King twitter account, image taken from “Burger King Twitter Account Hacked” by Annie Colbert.

The teenager involved in the next celebrity hack was, if possible, even more reckless. From an interview by JPhilla and Joeyboy with Josh “Trainreq” Holly on KKFR Power 98.3 FM in mid 200820:

JPhilla: Tell us what you did.

TrainReq: Basically, I was the guy that ended up getting access to Miley Cyrus’s email…and ended up placing the pictures on my hard drive, and later leaking them.

JPhilla: So, those pictures of Miley Cyrus in the shower, and with her shirt lifted…all those pictures you’re responsible for?

TrainReq: Pretty much, yeah.

Joeyboy: So, are you basically a hacker?

TrainReq: Uh…yeah, I guess…I guess I’d be considered a hack, yes.

Holly had obtained a list of instant message buddies for a MySpace worker, after which he contacted another MySpace employee on this list, posing as a MySpace administrator. He told the employee that he was having trouble accessing the MySpace administrative panel. Could he maybe use his fellow administrator’s username and password? Yes, he could. Holly found the passwords for MySpace pages stored in clear text, including one for Cyrus’s page: “Loco92”, her dog’s name plus her year of birth. Holly then tried to see if Cyrus used the same password for her gmail account, messagemebaby@gmail.com, and yes, she did21. From a second interview with KKFR Power 98.3 FM, on August 6, 2008, with JPhilla and Lady La22:

JPhilla: How long did you hold onto this Miley Cyrus hack?

TrainReq: For about a few months. ‘Cause the reason I got these…she wasn’t that famous, but then I saw a bunch of her photo scandals, you know, and I’m like, woah, they’re saying those photos are bad…wait until you see the ones I have a hold of.

JPhilla: How come people still don’t believe you, TrainReq?

TrainReq: I really don’t know…because there’s rumors saying I photoshopped them…

Lady La: We had someone tell us that that picture that you gave us…”Oh, I had that picture a long time ago, look at my photo reel,” and this and the other.

TrainReq: Yeah, I don’t know…I think it might have been released, because that picture wasn’t that bad, I didn’t look who it was sent to. So I probably downloaded it…it was probably sent to her publicist or something…as I say, that photo was from her email…I like, leaked those, I don’t know how people think those are fake, because the photos that I leaked had never been seen anywhere else.

The pictures had been obtained illegally through a hack, and therefore they couldn’t be published, but people sure wanted to publish them. Holly would try to sell the pictures to TMZ and other outlets, but nobody bought them for legal reasons. Holly would then publish the pictures on rogue site digitalgangster.com, after which the various outlets re-published the pics for free23. We have here something analogous to what takes place with many tabloid stories, where the mainstream press is unwilling or unable to print toxic or controversial material, but once a tabloid does so, they can report the story or the controversy surrounding the story. The phenomenon is described in “Taming the hydra-headed carnivorous beast” by Ann Louise Bardach, specific page is “Taming the hydra-headed carnivorous beast (page 93)”, about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful attempt to constrain the tabloids during his run for governor:

The tabloids posed another problem. One of the less ennobling secrets of the mainstream media is its reliance on the tabs to launder seedy but irresistible stories about celebrities and politicians. Once the story appears in the tabloids, it’s not long before it’s fodder for TV talking heads and late-night comics. Then, more often than not, it’s regarded as fair game for the mainstream media. In the last 15 years, the tabs have earned a reputation for nailing down hard-to-get stories for the simple reason that, unlike the mainstream media, they often pay sources and hire private investigators. The meshing of the tabs and the mainstream media went into high gear during the O.J. Simpson trial and was standard practice by the time of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.

That such photos fell into a grey market of “not quite legal, but somehow permissible”, is clear in the next part of the KKFR Power 98.3 FM session:

JPhilla: Well, let us issue you another celebrity hack challenge.

Lady La: Uh oh.

TrainReq: Okay.

JPhilla: I was thinking, like, [redacted from audio]24.

TrainReq: I have [redacted from audio]’s screen name, so…

JPhilla: You have her screen name, like…?

TrainReq: Yeah, her AIM…

JPhilla: I wonder if it still works.

TrainReq: Yeah, I’ve actually added it to my buddy list, see it sign on, sign off.

JPhilla: She on?

TrainReq: I don’t think she’s on right now…

JPhilla: Okay. So how long do you think it would take you to hack [redacted from audio] and what kind of information do you think you can get?

TrainReq: It’d probably take me, I could probably have it done by the end of this week, earliest. That just depends on how smart she is on the internet.

Lady La: You could hack Nick Jonas too, you know. That’d be a cool one.

TrainReq: I didn’t really find anything interesting on Nick Jonas. I got his screen name and his email, though.

Holly didn’t express any feelings toward Cyrus one way or another, did not show any sensual excitement when talking about these pictures she’d sent a boyfriend (even a hint of excitement, that would have to be repressed out of legal necessity, given that she was fifteen), only seemed to look at her pictures the way a tabloid publisher might: a Disney icon in a wet shirt will sell a million papers. The only problem is that though a media outlet would have no problem publishing illegally obtained materials, or even buying illegally obtained materials, it was another thing to buy illegally obtained materials knowing that they had been illegally obtained. On October 20, 2008, he wrote on a message board that he might be a known hacker, but the FBI would never find him. A few hours later, they raided his apartment. Holly had “been acting like an attention starved 8-year-old,” wrote one hacker to Wired. “The problem is that TrainReq truly believed he was untouchable, and unfortunately for him, in 2008, it’s that type of reckless thinking that gets people raided.”25. Holly had been using hacked MySpace celebrity accounts for spamming campaigns, since people are more likely to click on an email sent by a celebrity, and had also ended up with over 200 stolen credit card numbers. He was arrested, and in late 2011 he got three years probation, with no charge against him for the Cyrus hack26.

Four years later after the Cyrus hack, we would have the closest precedent to #TheFappening, a large scale hack of private pictures, including many nudes, of multiple celebrities. Chris Chaney was another marginal figure, though older than either LaCroix or Holly when they did their hacks, a loner in his early thirties. “Two years unemployed,” writes David Kushner in, “The Man Who Hacked Hollywood”, his superb profile of Chaney, “he lived in a rundown brick house in a middle-class neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida, where the streets are named for fairy tales: Cinderella Road, Peter Pan Place.” He wasn’t a hacker, hadn’t owned a computer till his late twenties, and couldn’t code. In 2008, he ran into the ubiquitous wave of coverage about the Miley Cyrus photos which TrainReq had leaked, and thought: how hard could it be? He used no social engineering, only hours of monotonous diligence. First, you found an actual celebrity email account. Then it was a case of figuring out the answers for the challenge questions when your password was lost. For his first account, he needed to give their pet’s name as an answer, and he found it on IMDb. There was a flood of email in this first celebrity’s inbox from other celebrities, and the new email addresses which he got from each inbox were the fuel which sustained his cycle of break-ins. He always made sure to change the settings on the victim’s account so that every email would be forwarded to him as insurance in case he lost access to the mail account. His strategy was always the same: answering the lost password challenge questions, whether it be favorite colors, hometown school, best friends, etc. All of which could be researched on-line27.

The pictures that especially beguiled him weren’t the nudes, but those of possible filming locations sent by location scouts to directors. It was part of the whole hidden world of film-making no one usually sees. He got access to the email account of one of the producers of In Time, and saw the entire edifice built up, inch by inch. There was script draft after script draft, there were lengthy negotiations about how much skin one of the stars, Amanda Seyfried, would show. “It seemed a fairly convoluted process just to show a butt crack,” said Chaney. He had no interest in gossip, but it was impossible not to be inundated with it. “Everyone dated everyone eventually,” he said. And not always who you’d expect: he came across explicit emails that leading men sent their secret male partners. “I’m trying to figure out how to say it without names,” he said to Kushner. “There were some that, you know, their public persona is they’re kind of a player, and their private persona is they’re batting for the other team…. They may have been batting for both teams, I don’t know.” And there were of course, hundreds of nude and explicit images, many of which would never leak out. Chaney would express the very sentiment that’s been mentioned before, of feeling that one is of the elect, seeing a rare vision. “You feel like you’ve seen something that the rest of the world wanted to see,” he says. “But you’re the only one that’s seen it.”28 It was accompanied by a second feeling, also mentioned here: that it is not enough to see, but you wish to have witnesses that you are part of the rare select that have seen this. “The farther Chaney plunged into the Hollywood rabbit hole,” writes Kushner, “the more he wanted to tell someone, anyone, what he was finding.” A small group of trusted associates like #TheFappening ring allows for both feelings without the necessity of relying on the honor of strangers, but this wasn’t possible in the case of loner Chris Chaney, and what he did next may have helped doom him.

Going through the inbox of a Hollywood stylist, Chaney found semi-nude pictures of Christina Aguilera. He sent an email to a random someone on a message board: there was “someone” he knew, who’d gotten a hold of hacked pictures of Aguilera. Did he want to look at them? Reply: Sure. A month later, TMZ had the headline: “Christina Aguilera: My Private Sexy Pics Were Hacked”. When Chaney saw the Aguilera photos everywhere on-line, “it was like a gut punch,” but he now felt the exhilaration of recognition, of fame, which Holly and LaCroix actively pursued29. “We find the actions of the hackers and the press who purchased and/or obtained these photos to be irresponsible and actionable,” Aguilera’s rep made clear, and they were “attempting to determine the identity of the hackers and will pursue them aggressively.” Chaney was a man who lived alone with his grandmother until his grandmother died, and then lived entirely alone, a man who lived an insect speck of a life, who had now broken through the ether. “Those girls, that good life out there, all that was for real people, visible people with identities, the achievers, the some bodies. He was the total nobody. The zero,” says Leo Brunner in The Fan Club. Chaney was a zero who’d suddenly intruded in the world of the visible people.

Christina Aguilera TMZ Headline

Chaney may not have been a social engineer, but another hacker, TrainReqSucks (a play on Josh Holly’s nom de guerre), most certainly was. He praised Chaney’s abilities, but he wanted to be sure that he actually had the skills: did he have anything else to show? Chris Chaney did. Chris Chaney had the Inverted Jenny of hacked pics: Scarlett Johansson nudes. He sent over a picture of Johansson showing off her behind. It ended up a little while later on-line with some protective squiggles added by TrainReqSucks, but no one paid any attention to it: everyone knew it had to be fake30.

There are several points in the Chris Chaney story that were mere footnotes then, but assume far greater prominence now with #TheFappening ring still extant. At this juncture, TrainReqSucks, a hacker whose actual name remains unknown, was able to give a warning to Chaney: “You really need to cover your ass better, ’cause they’re all over you,” he wrote. “There’s heat on you.” When I read this, I wonder: was this just a social engineer playing more head games, or did this hacker actually have inside information, and, if so, how did he get it? Notable footnote number two comes after Chaney sends explicit Renee Olstead pics to the anonymous blogger Deep at Sea. The blogger had a thing for Olstead, and Chaney craved more recognition. At 6 A.M. the next morning, February 11, 2011, Federal agents rammed down his door and drew their guns, but didn’t arrest him – not yet. “I’m glad you did this,” Chaney said, “because I wasn’t going to be able to stop this on my own.” They confiscated his computer, but they wanted his help to find the others. “They constantly repeated, ‘We’re after the big fish; you’re just the little fish’,” Chaney said, and I italicize the next part for its importance, “They were after a ring of celebrity hackers.” They asked: “Would you be willing to work with us to bring other hackers down?” Chaney: “Yeah, whatever you want.”31 There may have been others, either #TheFappening ring, a variation, or a predecessor, but: Chaney didn’t know them. Footnote three comes months after the confiscation of Chaney’s computer, after Chaney had gotten a data entry job at a trucking company, in September, when someone sent Nik Richie, proprietor of gossip website TheDirty, three nudes of Johansson. Fake, Richie thought. No, his Photoshop people told him: these are real. A five-timer, according to Ritchie, are those exceptional celebrity pictures that amp your site traffic five times. These pics were a ten-timer, Richie said, “it meant a million people coming to the site.” The footnote is here: these were three nudes of Johansson, and Chaney claims to have sent only one, to TrainReqSucks32. The only people who’d seen these pics were Chaney, Johansson, the original recipient of the pics, Ryan Reynolds, and the FBI. So maybe Chaney is lying. Or maybe someone in the FBI leaked them. Or maybe there was a hacker ring, that might also have been #TheFappening ring, that also hacked the pics. Again, an excerpt from the helpful anonymous 4chan comment, my bolds: “>there’s been a small, underground celeb n00d-trading ring that’s existed for years“. The actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whose photos were among those leaked by #TheFappening ring would confirm that this had been going on for years:

Chaney would be sentenced to ten years in prison, and one account included a detail absent from David Kushner’s profile that suggested a malice that wasn’t just incidental, but deliberate: the prosecutors alleged that he hacked the accounts of two women he knew, and sent the pictures of one woman to her father. Chaney denied this. “I have been truly humiliated and embarrassed,” said Johansson in a videotaped statement. “I find Christopher Chaney’s actions to be perverted and reprehensible.” Renee Olstead said that she attempted to kill herself after Chaney leaked her pictures. “I just really hope this doesn’t happen to someone else,” Olstead said. During her testimony, Olstead spoke through tears; Johansson had broken down in tears as well. “You can lose everything because of the actions of a stranger,” Olstead said. “That feeling of security can never be given back and there is no compensation that can restore the feeling one has from such a large invasion of privacy,” said Christina Aguilera, in a statement before the sentencing. “I don’t know what else to say other than I’m sorry,” said Chaney. “I could be sentenced to never use a computer again and I wouldn’t care.” Chaney got some advice from a predecessor. “I personally think what he did was pretty idiotic,” said Josh Holly, the man who went on the radio after his high profile hack. “Hacking celebrities is for the kids, and 35? I mean, I personally think he was too old for that.”33

An earlier post on this site explored the intersection of celebrity and primitive ideas of sacredness34, and I think these same connections naturally recur here, and are crucial for understanding this sense of a coveted vision that surrounds these photos and documents that is not there for similar files outside Hollywood life. There is inherent importance in Snowden’s leaked NSA documents, and there is none in Paris Hilton’s agenda for a banal day in 2005 – yet her celebrity imbued it with a magnetism separate from its content. This same investment of the sacred, at the very same time that you treat the possessor of sacredness with indifference or callousness, is also found in the thefts described in The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales, about the eponymous gang of Rachel Lee, Nick Prugo, Courtney Ames, and Alexis Neiers. The book serves as a useful mirror, as #TheFappening ring was often spoken of in the context of crimes by men against women, yet here we have many of the same attitudes surface where the perpetrators were almost entirely young women, as were their victims.

There is the addiction to the break-in itself, described by LaCroix: “[You get] the same pleasure. The same reward,” LaCroix says of drugs and hacking in “Ex-teen hacker [WARNING: autoplay video]”. “That challenge of getting in. It’s just like, ‘Wow.'” The Bling Ring, on Nick Prugo and Rachel Lee: “They went back and back, he [Prugo] said, becoming addicted in a way that mirrored their addiction to cocaine and to each other. He said that Rachel’s boldness grew despite the fact that once they were almost discovered.” The very fact that a piece of clothing was associated with a celebrity was enough: “Sometimes the things they took were intimately mundane, like a pair of sneakers that belonged to Benji Madden, Paris’ boyfriend. Nick wore them around.” There is even the unspoken complicity of the press, that yes, they would buy stolen nudes. Hilton had a “safe room and in her safe it was completely unlocked she had a thing of, like, maybe eighteen pictures of herself topless and rubbed with, like, some tanning color all over her body.” They wanted to sell the pics, but they couldn’t. “We thought we might be able to sell them to a tabloid,” said Prugo. “We thought it would be profitable at the time, but after looking into it we were told everyone has seen Paris Hilton naked so it didn’t really matter.” There is the disconnect in the act itself and the lives it affects. Sales: “Robbing Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan hardly registered on the same horror level as those acts of violence. In fact, I was surprised, as I started talking to people about this story by how many seemed to find what the Bling Ring did amusing or even kind of marvelous.” That the victims might feel genuine fear afterwards, the sense of violation we all do after we’ve been robbed, is outside the imagination. Rachel Bilson, one of the victims: “It took me a while to feel comfortable staying there [in the house that was robbed]. I wouldn’t sleep in my bedroom for about a month. I would stay in…a downstairs room. And I was convinced [for a time] that I needed to sell my house and get out of there, because I was very scared.” Another robbery victim: “You are suddenly second-guessing everything,” says Orlando Bloom, “You are like, ‘Who has been in my house?’ The value of things kind of fades away. It’s really about who is it? Who am I starting to question? You wind up looking around at people who are [your] friends [and asking]…who it is that could have been involved in this?”

The Bling Ring: Paris Hilton's closet.

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There was also the subconscious or conscious desire to profane the sacred. Only when there is a belief in the sacred is this profanation possible: pornography which features nuns and priests has a frisson only in a sincerely Catholic society, otherwise they’re just fetish costumes. In the middle of robbing Rachel Bilson’s house, Rachel Lee took a shit in Bilson’s toilet. “We were in Rachel [Bilson’s] bathroom and Rachel just had to go, so she just…yeah. I remember the incident so well. I can recall the smell, which is really nasty, disgusting. I know I would never, like…When you’re in there,” said Prugo, “you have a rush, like I’ve had to pee when I’ve been in there, but I would never use their bathroom, just in fear of that maybe some type of evidence would be left there. I think that’s weird, personally. But yeah, she did.” Though press like Gawker had solicited stolen pics and videos in the past, they now adopted a pious stance of refusing to even acknowledge the content of a single one of the pictures. So none of their think pieces could mention the fascinating tumult over one of the photos, a close-up of a woman with her eyes closed, her face covered in semen. There was a great deal of back-and-forth conversation about whether this woman was Jennifer Lawrence. When it became obvious that, despite some similarities, this was another woman – “The girl with cum on her face IS NOT Jennifer Lawrence. To the blind morons here you have a proof [sic]” etc. – all interest was lost. A picture of a girl with cum on her face is a commonplace on the internet; this was something different, a violation of something that had been invested with holy magic.

The various elements that constituted #TheFappening ring we can already find in precedents. A closed circle where entry is gained through coveted pics was part of the Louisa County ring. Though “The Police Tool That Pervs Use to Steal Nude Pics From Apple’s iCloud” (by Andy Greenberg) argued that the password breaking tool, iBrute, was used to gain access to accounts, the best in-depth analysis of the hack, “Notes on the Celebrity Data Theft” by Nik Cubrilovic, argued more convincingly, to my mind, that access was gained through methods similar to Chaney’s, of using personal information to answer password reset and recovery questions, as well as some phishing techniques, like the email sent to the Port Orange police department which allowed LaCroix’s gang access to Accurint35. An example of the instructions scanned from AnonIB on how to crack an iCloud account where answering security questions and victim’s birthday is mentioned, but without any reference to a password cracker36:

To rip an Icloud you first need the email and password for the acct. How do you get the email/pass? well thats pretty easy actually. You just need some very basic info that can usually be found on FB, Twitter, Instagram, Myspace, etc. and follow these 7 steps.

Step 1: you need an email address (preferably a hot girl or guy with a hot gf) choose anyone you want to see naked or know their business
Tip: If you sync FB with your cell phone or email it will add all of your friends email address to your contacts.
Step 2: go to https://iforgot.apple.com/password/verify/appleid
Step 3: enter the email address in the box that says apple id
Step 4: click enter and it will take you to a new page that has 2 options.
First option: is to send an email to that acct to get a new password (Dont do this unless you have access to that email address)
2nd option: is to go to thier [sic] Security questions. (Click this one) it will refresh and take you to a new page.

Step 5: Verify the birthday of the girl/guy’s acct you are trying to access (Remember Facebook is your Friend) If you can get a message in red that says it can’t verify the information you provided. (You either entered it wrong or they have no Apple acct. You have 3 attempts to get the Birthday correct)
Tip: if you know the month an day are correct try a different yr.
Tip: if you have an email address like Princess88 @ whatever. Well their [sic] is a good chance that she was born in 88 lol
Step 6: If enter [sic] the correct birthday you will be redirected to a page with 2 security questions (you need to answer both correctly) You have 3 attempts [b]efore you need to start the process over again (Warning [t]he 3rd time you start the process over, if you answer again incorrectly Apple will lock the acct for 8 hrs)
Step 7: If you answer the questions correctly, it will ask you to create a new password.

Password must be at least eight characters long.
It must contain at least one number and two letters, one upper case and one lower case.
It cannot include more than two consecutive and identical characters.

Tip: This reset process is best done at night. [S]o you have all night to rip and go thru it without them knowing. If done during the day there is a higher chance of them being reset by the owner while ripping.

#TheFappening ring weren’t able to download the account contents as easily as LaCroix did with the T-Mobile hack; as Greenberg’s “Police Tool” describes, they used EPPB (Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker), since “EPPB lets anyone impersonate a victim’s iPhone and download its full backup rather than the more limited data accessible on iCloud.com.” Though the image board on which they posted pics and traded tips, AnonIB, almost immediately erased all traces of the gang from their site, we have very visible evidence of the vestiges of another pic trading ring, which, like #TheFappening ring, managed to simultaneously have a large public impact and remain entirely in the shadows. #TheFappening ring stored their images on the /stol/ board of AnonIB (/stol/ is short for stolen, of course) and this ring used AnonIB for photo storage as well.

It’s been mentioned previously the recurring sense of seeing coveted photos and feeling oneself part of the elect and wishing to have someone witness that you are part of the elect. On the assumption that someone out there had passing knowledge of the history of this gang and wanted to be seen as part of the elect who possessed secret knowledge – that gang nobody knows about, that everyone’s trying to catch, I saw them at work for years – would want to be seen as such, and make some comment somewhere. The best instance of this I found at the DeadSpin post, “This Guy Was Sharing The Hacked Celeb Nudes Weeks Before They Leaked” by Timothy Burke & Tim Marchman, about either a ring member or someone who’d gotten their hands on photos posted by the gang on AnonIB, trying to trade them with someone for pics of their girlfriend. This was the only comment for the account “VetAnon”, and it passed unnoticed, unreplied to, and grayed out (unapproved by post writers and select commenters), but the tone is precise, confidently knowledgeable, and correct in what I’ve looked into so far (direct link to comment on page):

Dead Spin comment: look at the Daily Capper

Hackers were offering to hack iClouds via Anonib in exchange for money for at least a year. Your information that it isn’t an iCloud hack is incorrect. In addition, research the shady history of Anonib. It’s always been about blackmail and money. Former owner had to shut it down when he was hacked and it was proved he was blackmailing in exchange for getting stolen pits and video uploads pulled from site. Finally, for a glimpse into the twisted logic of that site and others, and insight into how hacker rings work, track the Daily Capper youtube videos. Hackers, cappers, stalkers, blackmailers didn’t just go after celebrities. It was all about any pretty face that could be found. then all content was shared internally through the hacker circle rather than posted to public boards. It is simply first meeting that happened on boards.

The Daily Capper refered to here, was a program that was uploaded every few weeks to youtube which covered the exploits of a ring which traded photos of girls who were on cam sites such as Stickam and Tinychat. The girls were all underage, and The Daily Capper made this explicit many times. For example, from “TheDailyCapper.com – Week of June 20,2010” (0:11-0:57):

NEWSCASTER (DORA SAMMY)
We are halfway through the year and what better way to spend 365 days then on your computer screen, looking for camera whores. The week of June 14 to 20 has been an incredible week for capping. It is summertime. Despite what others think, summer is not the time to go outdoors, swimming, being with friends. Rather it is a time for girls and boys to turn their computers on and get dirty. School is out, and stripping is in. What has this week had to deliver to the capping world? Here is what. Let’s start with this past Thursday. Epic win was delivered in the form of four thirteen year old girls from blogTV Jr. “candybitchez” a cutie age bitch came to tinychat and stripped it all for a room of 300.

These girls were simply talking to the wider world, or singing, or joking, a more interactive version of someone’s vlog on youtube. The cappers would flatter the girl on her looks, on her talent, and slowly persuade her into lifting her shirt or taking off her clothes. They would then “cap” (take a screenshot) of this, which they could then use to extort the girl into further acts, threatening to send the picture to their friends and family. The pictures were then stored on AnonIB to be shared with others in the ring. Just as #TheFappening ring referred to scoring celeb pics as a “win”, so did this capping ring. The Daily Capper would report on the various events related to the community, on who had extorted who, how long it took Stickam to close a room after underage girls started flashing, whether AnonIB was cracking down on underage pics, and who had been arrested. Each program is made using animation taken from the Crashbox segment “Distracting News”, with newscaster Dora Sammy’s voice dubbed over with an electronically generated one37. The episode almost always opens with the portentous “NBC Nightly News” theme, the newscaster’s intro of “Welcome cappers and camwhores…”, and ends with the newscaster’s chilling sign-off: “Happy hunting.”

The chilling closing to The Daily Capper: "Happy hunting."

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“Happy Hunting”, the sign off of almost all Daily Capper broadcasts.

From the episode “The Daily Capper – Week of July 11,2010” on Metacafe, which reports that AnonIB now allows underage pictures.

Possible blackmail for some win - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/SpectacularDisastrousBluemorphobutterfly

“Possible blackmail for some win,” recreation of extortion strategies on a message board. Taken from “Stalking Amanda Todd : The Man in the Shadows” by The Fifth Estate, between
17:04 and 17:11.

Several cappers would achieve a kind of infamous prominence on the program for their ruthless persuasion and extortion techniques, almost all of whom would end up as nominees for the Daily Capper‘s “Blackmailer of the Year” award, part of a set of awards which also included “Capper of the Year”, “Camwhore of the Year”, “Cam Site of the Year”, and “Shocker of the Year”. There was “Aussie”, whose voice was heard in a call gleefully telling someone that he was about to drop a girl’s pics on-line and you heard the girl call out in agony as she realized what was happening, “Wait…WHAT. WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO!”

The Capper would relate that Aussie himself would end up being extorted by a hacker with the alias of “XXXTreme” who forced Aussie to appear on camera and say that he’d been the one extorting various underage girls after denying it, with XXXTreme’s extortion itself nominated for the Capper‘s “2010 Lulz Moment of the Year” award.

There was also “Perso”, who was supposedly merciless in his extortions: “Meanwhile, Perso is continuing with the blackmail on blogTV. By the way, we recently found out from sources that he used a website like Chatzppl, to bring girls to himself…[and] blackmailed the girl to drink her own pee on this site.”38. There was the over-forty “Viper2323”, where the running joke was his obsession with getting caps of a girl named “Verica”39. The Daily Capper of September 5, 2010, would mention again, that “apparently, Perso finds it natural to blackmail girls to drink out of the toilet. Then call her his sex slave,” and then asked, “So, for our poll of the week: who do you think is a bigger sociopath? Out of Aussie, Perso, and Viper, who’s a bigger sociopath?”40 Other cappers included “m0d”, who used photos of young swains for his profile pic to put his victims at ease41, “r0r44” or “r0ra”, winner of the 2010 “Capper of the Year” award42, “Coke”, so named because he always seemed to be drinking a can of it. There was also “Swan”, who stole Coke’s girlfriend43, and “Klanackle”, supposedly one of the earliest and most influential members of the cappers, the man who Dora Sammy says, “changed capping as we know it”44.

Photo of the capper known as Perso

Photo of the capper known as “Perso”.

Photos of the capper known as Viper2323

Photos of the capper known as “Viper2323”.

Aussie on The Daily Capper

A still of “Aussie”, from a gif made from an extended clip of him on The Daily Capper. The full gif can be found here.

Coke and Aussie on cam

Cappers known as “Coke” and “Aussie” on cam.

In 2009, AnonIB would win by a very large vote margin the Daily Capper award for “Public Site of the Year”. From “Public Site of the Year – 2009 Capper Awards”:

AnonIB Top Voted Public Site at Daily Capper Awards

The Daily Capper broadcast had an erratic schedule, broadcasting at sometimes frequent, sometimes infrequent intervals through 2010 and a single show in early January 2011, before disappearing, then re-appearing for a broadcast on Halloween 2011, after which it stopped entirely – except for a single episode of great importance. The Capper ring would probably have remained in the shadows, entirely forgotten and unnoticed, if it hadn’t been for the death of a Canadian teenager named Amanda Todd on October 10, 2012, nearly a year after the penultimate broadcast of The Daily Capper. Easily the best account of the case was on a Canadian national affairs program, The Fifth Estate, and their episode “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”. Todd was a teenager with ADD who also had difficulty fitting in at school. “Kids would laugh at her, so she’d compensate in other ways,” said her mother, Carol Todd. “By making jokes, or…she would just compensate. But it wasn’t always to her benefit, ’cause kids would laugh at what she said.” She would try for more of a social life on blogTV and other cam sites, often singing songs for the audience. At one point during one of those sessions, she lifted up her top and flashed the audience in her cam room. There are various places where one can find an explanation for why she did this, including a video Amanda Todd made before she died, “Amanda Todd’s Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, Self Harm”. From a transcript of the video at the blog Piglet’s Hut: “In 7th grade I would go with friends on webcam, meet and talk to new people. Then got called stunning, beautiful, perfect, etc…Then wanted me to flash…So I did…”

Mark Kelley of The Fifth Estate would interview two of Amanda Todd’s friends, Shyla and Tessa45:

KELLEY: Was she happy on-line?

SHYLA: Yeah.

TESSA: People would watch her and she’d get a lot of views.

KELLEY: But that is part of the appeal, isn’t it? People watching, and…it’s like a new group of friends?

SHYLA: Yeah, and not…them only knowing what you’re telling them.

KELLEY: You can sortof give a different version of yourself?

TESSA: Yeah.

SHYLA: You can edit yourself.

Shyla and Tessa on why some girls flash46:

TESSA: For most girls, it’s like, the attention. And wanting to feel important. In a way, I guess.

KELLEY: And how does the flattery work? Where is that coming from?

SHYLA: Well, probably, like, he’s encouraging you to flash though he’s being nice. And like…talking to you.

KELLEY: But at the time…does it seem like flattery, or does it seem like someone who’s really trying to trick you into doing something?

SHYLA: I think, at the time, it feels like flattery.

TESSA: Yeah.

Another explanation can be found in Rosin’s “Why Kids Sext”, on the difference between teen girls who sext and “pressured sexters”:

Most girls (70 percent) reported feeling some pressure to sext, but Englander singles out a distinct minority (12 percent) she calls the pressured sexters, who say they sexted only because they felt pressure. These girls are more vulnerable. They tend to start sexting at a younger age, and to sext because they think they can get a boyfriend, as opposed to because they already have one. They have a fantasy that if they sext, the popular people will see them as daring and self-confident, and they could get a boyfriend they wouldn’t otherwise have gotten, Englander says. But generally that doesn’t work out. Pressured sexters are much more apt to feel worse after sexting than other teens are her interviews reveal them to be less self-confident about their bodies and less assured about their place in the social hierarchy after sending a sext.

Rosin would describe a mother with two very different daughters in her Fresh Air interview about the story47:

She has two daughters, around the same age, and she treated them both completely differently. She said, “Look, if one of my daughters ended up on an Instagram page, or sent a sext, it’s because she wanted to. She’s really stubborn and hardheaded, and no boy can convince her that she can do anything that she doesn’t want to do, and if some boy tried, he’d really get it. But my other daughter’s a total pushover.” She’s the one who did end up on the Instagram page [of the Louisa County picture sharing ring]. “You ask her to do anything, even fold my laundry and it’s my turn to fold the laundry, and she’ll say yes.” That daughter’s the one she gave the lecture to. You know, don’t do what the guys tell you to do, just because they ask you to. Nothing’s going to happen if you say no. Be strong enough to say no. So, it was an interesting example in know your child, don’t just look at the sext and be alarmed, know what that sext means in the context of your child, who they are, what their life is like, and who the person on the other end receiving it is.

After Amanda lifted her shirt, “someone captured a freeze frame of her topless,” Mark Kelley would report in “Sextortion”, “and posted a picture on a porn site. Then a link to that picture was sent to all of her Facebook friends, including her mother.”48 Carol Todd, Amanda Todd’s mother, would receive an unsettling anonymous Facebook message after this all took place, on Christmas Eve 2010, which warned her that Amanda was being extorted: “She needs to be stopped [her blogTV sessions], because most of them are old guys who record her and blackmail her into doing more.” Carol Todd would reply: “Who are you? Also, where did you get your information from? This is now a police matter.”49 Amanda Todd would describe what happened next on Christmas eve in her video “Amanda Todd’s Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, Self Harm”; from a transcript of the video at the blog Piglet’s Hut: “Knock at my door at 4am…It was the police… my photo was sent to everyone. I then got really sick and got… anxiety, major depression and panic disorder.”

Carol Todd remembered what happened to Amanda when she went back to school after everyone was sent the picture: “Embarrassment…anxiety…depression. She got, uh, I guess the name is slut-shamed. So…nicknames like “camwhore” and questions like, uh, “So are you doing this on a regular basis?” And porn star, and it just…for a child that’s in grade seven…it was very, um, it killed her.” Amanda herself would relate what it was like in a chat found on her laptop after her death: “There are people out there that can’t talk to me. Or they will be hated. I never got the chance to go out of my house, and be a real normal person, instead, now all I do is hide, I’m always scared of what’s going to happen.”50

Amanda Todd would change schools, but her blackmailer would follow her there, too: the staff at the new school had been sent her nude picture. From “Struggling, Bullying, Suicide”: “I then moved and got into drugs + alcohol.” Though her parents had twice contacted Canada’s federal police, the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), there was nothing they could do for the moment. Her isolation at school led to her spending more time on-line and on cam, where she continued to receive reactions that frightened her. From the chat logs retrieved from her computer after her death51:

OMG I'm scared - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/OblongHeavyChinchilla

Taken from The Fifth Estate program, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, fragment runs from 28:49 to 29:04.

Amanda Todd’s nude had already been sent to the teachers at her new school; in November of 2011, a Facebook account was created under the name “Tyler Boo”, which sent a message to Amanda Todd: “lol, u already forgot who I am? the guy who last year made you change school, got your door kicked in by the cops?” Then: “give me three shows, and I will disappear forever. you know I won’t stop until you give me those three shows. if u go to a new school, new bf, new friends, new whatever, I will be there again, I am crazy, yes, xD” Then: “so your answer?” Carol Todd would bring the Facebook message to the RCMP, asking them for help. The RCMP recommended that Amanda Todd stay off the internet: “if Amanda does not stay off the internet and/or take steps to protect herself online, there is only so much we as the police can do.” Norm Todd, Amanda’s father: “As a parent, you absolutely feel helpless. And when the police can’t accomplish anything, what does that tell you? It’s very difficult because how can you comfort your daughter or anybody when you’ve got something you can’t control yourself, and they can see that you can’t stop it or control it.” On November 12, 2011, a new Facebook account was created under the name “Austin Collins” posing as a new student at Amanda Todd’s school, who then made their profile picture the cap of Amanda Todd lifting her shirt. He posts this message, accompanied by the picture: “sent to about 280 peeps, enjoy the shitfest”52.

Tyler Boo Facebook Screenshot #1

Tyler Boo Facebook Screenshot #2

Taken from The Fifth Estate program, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, fragment runs from 29:36 to 29:59.

The year of continued harassment was taking its toll on Amanda Todd. “It was creating anxiety, knowing that everyone has seen your photo,” said Shya. “No one can let go, so she was feeling sick and she didn’t want to be around people, because…she just stayed inside a lot. And like…she just wasn’t herself…” From a message sent by Amanda Todd to her friends, retrieved after her death: “You know how many times I’ve head, ‘Nobody likes you’ or wants you here, go back to where you came from, or if you died, I would throw a party? Ever since all this happened, I just cry myself to sleep, because it hurts no matter what. Please please just help me.”53

Please please just help me. - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/GregariousHollowIndianhare

Taken from The Fifth Estate program, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, fragment runs from 34:59 to 35:20.

In the video which would eventually get over ten million plays that she recorded shortly before her death, “Amanda Todd’s Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, Self Harm”, she describes an intense beating and a suicide attempt. Again, from a transcript of the video at the blog Piglet’s Hut, with slight alterations to make it a set of paragraphs:

Everything was better even though I sat still alone at lunch in the library everyday. After a month later I started talking to an old guy friend. We back and forth texted and he started to say he liked me…[he led] me on. He had a girlfriend. Then he said come over my girlfriend’s on vacation. So I did…huge mistake. He hooked up with me. I thought he liked me. One week later I get a text, “Get out of your school…” [He and his] girlfriend and 15 others came. [His girlfriend] and two others just said, “look around nobody likes you” in front of my new school, [in front of] fifty people. A guy then yelled “just punch her already.” So she did… She threw me to the ground and punched me several times. Kids filmed it. I was all alone and left on the ground. I felt like a joke in this world…I thought nobody deserve this :/ [uneasy emoticon] I was alone. I lied and said it was my fault and my idea.

I didn’t want him getting hurt. I thought he really liked me but he just wanted the sex. Someone yelled “punch her already.” Teachers ran over but I just went and laid in a ditch and my dad found me. I wanted to die so bad. When [my father] brought me home I drank bleach. It killed me inside and I thought I was gonna actually die. [The] ambulance came and brought me to the hospital and flushed [the bleach out]. After I got home all I saw was an facebook: “She deserved it, did you wash the mud out of your hair? – I hope she’s dead.”

A month after she made this video, Todd couldn’t take it anymore, and killed herself at the age of fifteen.

Amanda Todd

Amanda Todd, taken from the program The Fifth Estate, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”.

Amanda Todd's room, after her death

Amanda Todd’s room, two years after her death. Still is taken from an animated gif, which can be found here. Gif is made from a clip taken from “Stalking Amanda Todd : The Man in the Shadows” by The Fifth Estate, between 36:21 and 36:36.

The capper who harassed Todd until her death would remain an unresolved mystery for years. Suspicion originally would fall on someone named Kody Maxson, who would be outed by a New Jersey branch of Anonymous, giving out the man’s name, age, and address, along with the identifying details of other cappers. Maxson’s age would turn out to be wrong – he was nineteen, not thirty two – and the address would turn out to be wrong as well. Five days after Amanda Todd took her life, Maxson was at a Surrey, B.C.54 courthouse where he faced charges of sexual assault and sexual interference with a minor in a case unrelated to Todd. Maxson would admit that he knew Amanda Todd on-line, but insisted that he helped identify the man who did harass her and gave the information to the RCMP. The RCMP would emphatically declare him “a person of no interest” in the case55. The best account of the court appearance, with quotes from Maxson, came from the Vancouver Sun‘s “B.C. man denies harassing Amanda Todd; RCMP say allegations are ‘unfounded'” by Gillian Shaw and Kelly Sinoski. I boldface one point which stands out:

The Lower Mainland man, who appeared in court in a black hoodie emblazoned with the words ‘Stompdown Killaz,’ said he got some sketchy information about the blackmailer, who he says was 26, lived in New York and goes by an alias of Viper. The man said he passed this information to the RCMP and NYPD, but he couldn’t remember whom he spoke with.

I tried to help, to do everything I could, he told The Sun.

He said he only knew Amanda in a sense, but denied he was one of her cyber-bullies.

If I was a tormentor I’d be in police custody, he said, adding he’s really pissed off and annoyed that people are pointing the finger at him. None of it’s true. I’m feeling betrayed.

He told The Sun that he has received more than 50 death threats via email and thousands over Facebook.

The man’s mother said Tuesday her family has been subjected to a lynch mob mentality and urged the public to let the police do their investigation.

It’s really dangerous to throw out names when you don’t know, she told Postmedia News. This is doing more harm than good.

The background for Maxson blaming the suicide of Amanda Todd on Viper (or Viper2323) was perhaps explained by the very last broadcast of The Daily Capper, which suddenly re-emerged after a year of hiatus for a single episode devoted entirely to the Amanda Todd suicide, an episode which did its best to afix blame on Maxson. Where the tone of The Daily Capper was previously one of casual contempt for everybody – cappers, their victims, everybody – the tone of “The Daily Capper – Information on Amanda Todd, Kody Maxson, & Viper” is without humor or mockery, instead taking up a risibly earnest manner. The program opens with a criticism of press coverage of the case and the on-going investigation:

Welcome to another edition of The Daily Capper. We just wanted to help provide a few more details to the recent Amanda Todd tragedy. The majority of people seem misinformed. The media tends to miss out on a lot of key information. Others have no idea what they’re talking about. And police investigators have no understanding of the internet at all. While people have made Amanda Todd’s case into an example of bullying, what they tend to overlook is the capping and blackmail aspect of the story. Contrary to what the media believes, this wasn’t just a case of cyberbullying. For them to continue to get the capping community mixed up with cases such as sexting, is just insulting.

Yet somehow, despite this newfound commitment to truth and justice, The Daily Capper still holds onto its chilling sign-off: “Happy hunting.”

After spending some time placing suspicison on Maxson, the program would bring up Maxson’s statements to the police that he was just trying to help Amanda Todd and Viper was to blame (5:37-7:28):

One thing is for sure: whether Kody was the blackmailer, or the good guy he claims to be, he was involved in some way. In his defense, Kody says he was only trying to help Amanda, and that the real blackmailer was fellow capper, Viper2323. Those who lack knowledge of the capping world will instantly buy into this claim. Since we knew both these individuals personally, allow us to share more insights into this story and why this adds to evidence of Kody being the bad guy. For one, he put the blame on a man who he was good friends with at the time. Viper and Kody worked alongside each other in groups. They trawled rooms together and even shared videos with each other. You are looking at a conversation we had with Viper in December 2010. Viper states here that he did in fact receive a video from Kody.

Daily Capper in a chat with Kody

They continued working with each other until mid-2011 when Viper revealed in an Omegle chat room that he had gotten into an argument with Kody and they’ve hated each other ever since. But, once again, Kody was directly connected to Amanda in December [screenshot of a friend request from one of Amanda Todd’s alleged screen names] while he and Viper were still friends that shared videos with each other. Even if what Kody said were true, that would mean he knew Viper was blackmailing her the whole time, and he did nothing to stop him. Because they continued to share videos with each other for another six months after. Which would mean…if Viper really was the culprit, Kody wa obviously still involved. And more than likely, assisting him. That’s assuming what Kody said was true; however, we don’t buy into his story. While Viper may have been a pedophile, a troll, a psycho, among many other things, one thing Viper was not, was a blackmailer.

The brief, strange revival of The Daily Capper was discussed by Patrick McGuire in “The Suspicious Return of The Daily Capper”, and McGuire was one of the best reporters on the Amanda Todd story, diligently looking at the connections between Kody Maxson and The Daily Capper in a series of articles for Vice: “A Jailbait Loving Perv Destroyed Amanda Todd’s Life” (October 15 2012), “Tracing Kody Maxson, the Online Blackmailer Alleged to Have Tormented Amanda Todd” (October 17, 2012), “The Disgusting Rivalries of Webcam Extortionists: Kody Maxson, Viper, and r0 [AKA r0ra or r0r44]” (October 19, 2012), “The Suspicious Return of The Daily Capper” (November 12 2012), “Cowards Are Blackmailing Young Women to Death on the Internet” (December 21 2012), and “Kody Maxson, Amanda Todd’s Alleged Tormenter, Has Reemerged Online” (January 11, 2013). My feelings about Vice are, at best, ambivalent; but perhaps because Vice was still not yet considered “mainstream” in 2012, it was able to delve into the world of The Daily Capper. It was through McGuire’s articles that I first learned about the Capper, and I consider his work on the Amanda Todd case an invaluable resource. “Cowards Are Blackmailing Young Women to Death on the Internet”, for instance, would detail the information sharing involved in manipulating a girl to take off her clothes on cam so you could cap her, and the connection between The Daily Capper and AnonIB, both of which parallel the information sharing and reliance on AnonIB of #TheFappening ring:

The predatory scumbags who monitor these mainstream sites [cam sites like blogTV and Stickam] share the links with fellow pedophiles in chat rooms on smaller sites like Chateen and Vichatter. There are dozens of users who lurk in these chat rooms, waiting for someone to link to a girl streaming live via webcam. I have seen several screen captures that show users describing these girls as targets.

Once these lurkers identify a target on blogTV or a similar site, they all jump into the chat room in hopes that one of them can persuade her to get naked. If they can persuade her to show some skin, it’s referred to as a win, and images of the girl are screen-captured or recorded without her consent or awareness. Those who log these images call themselves cappers.

As mentioned above, this operation is a group effort, and a huge part of it revolves around sharing screencaps taken during these public webcam sessions. At the moment, the most popular medium for distributing these images is a message board called AnonIB, or Anonymous Image Board.

On these forums, predators post their personal screencaps and ask the community whether any other images of the girl in question exist. Usually if they don’t already possess nude screencaps of the girl they will also ask whether anyone has been successful in obtaining some from a previous webcam session. Often, they discuss or argue over whether a specific girl is likely to masturbate on camera. It’s a public market where images of naked minors are swapped like trading cards.

There is even a subforum for blackmail on AnonIB. It has been hidden since Amanda’s suicide, only accessible to those who knew its URL beforehand. Judging by the limited number of posts on the blackmail board, it’s fair to say that the majority of cappers are not outspoken blackmailers. Those who are, however, use the board like a grotesque Craigslist. When a user acquires an image of a girl he’d like to see more of, he will post this picture and then scout the forum for the blackmailer best suited for the job. In one post, a desperate user vented his displeasure: Why are all blackmailers so fucking unreliable? I’ve used at least 6 different blackmailers now And every fucking single one has ended up standing me up Ignoring my mails, and not giving me my share of the deal I have at least 10 fresh girls ready for blackmail, with facebook, pictures, etc. But I can’t find a reliable blackmailer.

McGuire refers to the blackmail subforum as a kind of grotesque Craigslist where users would give leads on women for whom they wanted more pics, and this is how the /stol/ subforum worked as well, as reported in “Inside The Internet’s Secret Marketplace For Hacked Photos Of Naked Celebrities” by James Cook, with users giving up email accounts to others that they wanted ripped. Here is one user offering up ripping services from Cook’s piece:

AnonIB stol user offering services

Hack or Rip Icloud Account Perfectrioper 09/01/14 (Mon) 21:36:33 No. 8396 (Reply)

Guess who’s back? PERFECTRIPPER! I know nombers [numbers] [sic] of you know who I am…
I was offline for a time and now I’m back and ready to rip all icloud accounts you want!
-Send me email + pass
-Send me just email (if you want me to hack the account for you) 100% safe and noone except you will see what I got!

Maxson was not a person of interest in the Amanda Todd suicide, but he was most definitely part of the Daily Capper world. He was in a relationship with a girl named “Peyton”. Peyton was nominated for Daily Capper‘s “2010 Camwhore of the Year”, Kody was nominated under the alias Kody1206 for Capper‘s “2010 Blackmailer of the Year”, and together they were nominated as “2010 Couple of the Year”, along with the couple of capper Coke and “Kristen”, and the couple of capper Swan and Coke’s then ex-girlfriend, “Kristen”. Kody and Peyton would win the category. “It is truly shocking,” the newscaster would say afterwards, “that all these relationships seem to be over.”56. In two videos, “Peyton 1” (transcript on pastebin: “Peyton Video #1 Transcript”) and “Peyton Admits It All” (transcript on pastebin: “Peyton Video #2 Transcript”), Peyton would talk about her relationship with Kody1206 and make clear that Kody1206 was Kody Maxson. These videos make obvious (if such an emphasis were necessary) why men were able to manipulate girls in their early teens so easily, that they had a vulnerability and a pliancy which an older girl would lack. “There’s a video of me…showing…leaning over the bed,” Peyton would say in the second video, “and I was in a dress…and my friend lifted up my dress…and showed the whole world my…panties. Yup. Not the whole world. Everybody on blog tv. Just makes me like…sad, like, once you recorded, it’s on the internet forever.” Then she spoke of wanting to forgive Maxson for this betryal while knowing she shouldn’t, wanting to be able to continue to feel affection for him, impressed with the small gestures of affection that an older girl would consider inconsequential, unable to move on from a paltry affair the way an older girl might, and Peyton here reflects all of us at that age:

I found out, like, a month ago he recorded me for the first time, and then I was stupid enough to keep doing it…’cause he said he was never going to do it again. And that he was stupid, and he didn’t want to ruin our relationship. And they just used me, and he stopped calling me, and he stopped talking to me…and he just used me, and then he stopped calling me, and he stopped talking to me, and he just wanted me out of his life…because I gave him what he got. I gave him what he wanted. Yup. And what’s sad is, I would still talk to him now if he tried to talk to me…because I’m stupid. Because…he like sweet talks me, like…you know how you can like…songs to listen to…that are sweet. He’d give me…he’d make a website for me, that said “I love Peyton,” and then at the end it said, “Just the way you are,” and there was a link to the Bruno Mars song, and then he would um, call me beautiful and he’d talk to me on the phone every night. Yeah, he pretended to love me. And I was like…not living a fairy talke, but I was in love with the fact that…I never had a guy treat me like that before…so it was different. I fell in love with the fact of being in love with him.

Peyton on blogTV

Peyton on blogTV, in the session recorded in the youtube clip, “Peyton Admits It All”. Note a viewer’s mention of AnonIB as the place where her capped video can be found.

In her first, shorter video, Peyton would repeat the point. “I want to talk to him, I want to be with Kody, the one that he used to be before he was a…pedophile. I don’t want to be with Kody, I want to be with someone that treated me like Kody did. At the beginning. Life sucks big gorilla…pickles.” Sephanie Morgan, part of Ontario’s57 Integrated Child Exploitation Unit, would be asked on “Sextortion” of another predator, “What do you think he was getting out of this?” Morgan: “My impression was, that he was getting a sense of power, that he maybe didn’t experience in his own personal life, and power over other people. And some sexual satisfaction.”58 We can see here the attraction of these men toward these very young girls was not simply physical, but the asymmetry of power. That humiliation and powerlessness is an integral part of capping, of humiliating the victim and making the victim feel as if they had no choice except to follow the blackmailer’s commands, is made throughout the episodes of The Daily Capper, including a cartoon which re-creates the tactics of Perso, nominated for the “2010 Blackmailer of the Year”, with Perso played, incongruously, by an animation of John McCain: “Blocking Perso”.

Perso makes all the girls cry - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/CoordinatedDarkGecko

A clip from “Blocking Perso”.

The only interview with Kody Maxson is a very brief one, conducted by a figure on Youtube known as “EngimaHood”, whose videos often feature him speaking to the camera, always wearing a hood that conceals his identity. “Amanda Todd’s Bully Kody Maxson FULL UNCUT INTERVIEW” (transcript on pastebin: “Transcript of Enigma Hood Interview W/ Kody Maxson and Gei”), would be an interview with Maxson and Geissell “Gei” Morall, a teenage girl who was at the time Maxson’s close friend. The interview was conducted over Skype. From “Amanda Todd’s Bully Kody Maxson FULL UNCUT INTERVIEW”59:

Enigma Hood: Okay. So, you said you wanted to tell me your side of the story?

Kody Maxson: Not really. More pissed off at the fact that you talking all this shit and you don’t know anything, just listening to the media.

EH: Okay, I mean…if you want to tell me anything I don’t know, then…tell me. I mean, all I know right now is what the media says. So, if you have something…

KM: What I’m saying, what the cops are saying is, I’m not even been a suspect. Yet people are stilllllllllllllll…jumping on the giant bandwagon, so to speak. On the whooooooooole “let’s all kill Kody Maxson” and yadda yadda yadda, and shit like that, you know what I mean?

EH: Did you know Amanda Todd?

KM: (Unintelligible.)

EH: Did you know Amanda Todd?

KM: I knew her, for a bit.

EH: What was your relationship?

KM: Just a friend.

EH: So you knew Amanda Todd, she was a friend…and what did you guys talk about?

KM: Just her Youtube videos and shit.

Enigma Hood would ask about Maxson’s pending charges and whether he’d ever received nude pictures from Todd. Maxson would deny having such pictures60:

EH: Did the prosecutor choose to press charges against you?

KM: For what?

EH: For revealing Amanda Todd’s pictures. Did you have pictures of Amanda Todd topless?

KM: One, I wasn’t charged in the first place, I wasn’t even a suspect…cops gave a public…

EH: I missed the last part.

KM: Oooooooooh, about a month ago, saying I’m not a suspect, not a person of interest. I’m not facing any charges.

EH: Okay. Do you have, or did you have photos of Amanda Todd topless?

KM: Uh…never did, never wanted them, ever really knew about them, to be honest with you.

There was some question of where Maxson was when the chat was conducted (no date is given during the chat)61:

EH: What, like, where are you right now? Are you in Florida?

KM: Nope.

EH: Are you in Canada?

KM: No.

EH: Where are you?

KM: I’m in Cuba.

Maxson would leave the interview early on, and Enigma Hood would continue the interview with Morall alone, with Morall occasionally relaying Kody’s answers62.

EH: Uh…his behavior is very suspicious. He admitted that he at least knows Amanda Todd. He knew her. I mean…

GEISSELL: Yeah. He did know her. But he didn’t know her personally.

EH: Well, the allegation wasn’t even that. It was, the allegation was, the guy who only knew her through the internet, and through…he somehow got her photos.

G: Here we go.

EH: Mmmmhmmm.

G: Kody’s saying that he knew her for a while, about for a year…he started helping her on-line. Because she was getting blackmailed by other people that aren’t Kody. That were on Youtube, and et cetera.

EH: So she knew these guys through Youtube?

G: Yeah. She knew them through Youtube.

EH: Okay. So he’s not coming back, I mean, are you just talking to him over the phone?

G: Yeah, yes. He’s not…Kody, are you coming back? To the call? He said, “I don’t know.” (laughs) I don’t think he is, though.

EH: I mean, tell him to come back, you know, I mean, if he’s innocent, let’s get this squared away. I mean, I want to understand.

G: He wants you to come back, to declare your innocence or whatever. (pause) Kody, I’m not telling him that. (pause) No. (pause) He says he doesn’t have to prove his innocence to anyone.

A little later, Morall would give a curious answer, that with regard to the Amanda Todd case, “Kody would blackmail, but not to that extent.”63

EH: Yeah, absolutely, I mean, he contacted me, he said I was saying things that weren’t true, I’m actually more suspicious than I was before, and I…

G: Because you actually got to speak to Kody, and, you know…Kody is actually like I said before, when you spoke to me…I said he was a caring, nice person…but he does have his moments where he is…it could turn sour, but it wouldn’t be like that, and like I said before, if Kody were to do something like this…he wouldn’t do it, for someone to commit harm. At the same time, he wouldn’t do something like that. It’s very complicated. Kody would blackmail, but not to that extent.

A year later, Enigma Hood would conduct another interview with Morall alone, “Amanda Todd: Interview with Kody Maxson’s Ex Gf 1 Year Later” (transcript on pastebin: “Transcript of Enigma Hood Interview W/ Gei”). They would speak about why they had stopped talking, her stalking by someone named “Phillip Rose”, FBI involvement in the case, and when their on-line relationship had started64.

EH: When was the last time that you talked to him?

G: Uh…a few months ago. He deleted me on Facebook, and I was like, “What’s up with that?” Uh…he was like…I dunno, we just didn’t talk anymore, so what’s the point of having me on, so at that point, I was like, “Oh, well, okay.” I see where that is going. So, it’s like we don’t really care for each other, so…the relationship isn’t there. There’s no friendship or anything.

EH: But I guess after, um, after the interview that we did…uh, you guys were still friends for a few months?

G: Yeah, yeah. We were, we talked here and there. But nothing else really. I dunno, it was mostly…when we talked, we talked just about that subject. And ended up going back to that subject.

EH: About Amanda Todd or the interview?

G: In general. We were talking about how he was getting threats and messages…and how a lot of things happened to me afterwards. After that interview, a whole bunch of things happened. And…we just started engaging kindof like our experience with the whole, after the interview and what…

EH: So what kind of things happened after?

G: Well…soon after the video and…I guess about, less than a week later, there was a guy named Philip Rose, whom I’m sure you know…

EH: Yeah.

G: He came along and he started to legitimately start to stalk me under multiple accounts on Facebook, on Youtube, and multiple people started commenting on my Youtube. Which my email blew up. I was at school and I was checking my email, and all I saw was comment after comment after comment after comment, saying really bad things. That’s what ended up for me to delete my Youtube account…the FBI, the FBI was involved during the whole process, and they found out about that…my Youtube got out and they were harrassing me on Youtube. So they were either going to a) take, like confiscate it, like change my password, but keep it up, or b) I decided to delete it before they could get the password. And, I was…I really didn’t like them in my business, but I had no choice. They took away my computer, they took away a bunch of things, that were personal to me…

EH: So, the FBI actually took away all of your stuff…why did they do that?

G: Because they wanted to know if there was more. They thought that I wasn’t telling the absolute truth, in my…when they interviewed me. And I said, “I am telling the truth,” and they wanted to know if I had exchanged any uh…pictures, intimate pictures of myself…and I said, “No, I didn’t,” and I don’t think it was the FBI at that point, it was another woman who spoke to me…I think it was something with Child Protective Services, or something, she…in my face, told me she didn’t believe me, that there was more going on, that I was lying her, telling her that I didn’t send pictures when in fact I did…well, you guys took my computer, my phone, my facebook, my youtube…I’m sure if something like that happened, you’d know.

EH: So…the one thing that I probably wasn’t clear about when we first talked…how old were you…back then when we first talked?

G: I’m actually going to be sixteen in a month…

EH: Okay. So, even back then…you were…

G: When we first started [she and Kody started talking a lot on-line], I was late fourteen.

With regard to the Philip Rose mentioned here, Glenn Canning in the blog post “Philip Rose is Christopher Rowe” would allege that this “Philip Rose”, who trolled various capper victims including Carol Todd, was also known as perso365, or the capper known as “Perso”. Canning was the father of Rehtaeh Parsons, another Canadian teenager who committed suicide after on-line bullying.

Later in the interview, Enigma Hood and Morall discuss how sexual the relationship was, and how old she was when the relationship started. In the earlier part of the interview, she stated their relationship started when she was late fourteen, but now she said it started when she was mid-thirteen, though they first knew each other when he was sixteen and she was late twelve65.

EH: Did Kody initiate any sexual conversation?

G: Not like…how do I put it…it was very, it was very…teasing, in a joking way. It was never too serious, or something that made me uncomfortable. If I ever told Kody, “I don’t feel comfortable,” he would be fine with that. He would respect that I wasn’t comfortable with whatever you were talking about. (Unintelligible.)

EH: Did he ever ask for any nude photos or anything like that?

G: Ummmm…I barely, I…I don’t remember for nude photos, but I do remember for…compromising photos.

EH: Like photos of you in a bikini or something like that?

G: Something like that. But…I don’t remember any nude photos being requested. Never.

EH: So you guys never met, right?

G: No.

EH: Okay. So he was still in high school when you first met…and how old were you, okay, so he was sixteen and then how old would you be, at that time?

G: Uuuuuuh, I was about thirteen, twelve, late twelve.

EH: Okay.

G: Yeah. But we knew each other when I was that age…we didn’t have any sort of relationship until it was sortof, late, or mid-thirteen, about that age.

EH: Mmmhmm. I see. So…you had a relationship of some kind at some point, then it just turned into a friendship, and…

G: It was really on and off. Kody is a very…he’s…he goes on and off on things. Really. One minute Kody will be the nicest, sweetest, kindest person, he’ll give all your attention to you, and the next minute he’ll disappear like he was never there, and then he’ll come back at other times saying, well, this and this happened…or I’m sorry, or something like that. But we’d always…I’d either run back to him, or he’d run back to me, it was very…toxic, it was. Like, we’d fight and it would be just really horrible.

EH: Right. So, uh, did you guys have a fight about what was going on with the, you know, the interview and then the FBI stuff…

G: Uuuuuuh, we never fought about that, we never had fights after that. What happened was that Kody, Kody needed…why I kept talking to Kody at that time, was Kody needed someone.

EH: Right.

G: He was in desperate need of someone. And that’s why a lot of people, they continue to follow the whole story after the interview, they were well, she’s being, she’s obviously being blackmailed blahblahblah…no (laughs). I wasn’t, it’s just…I felt like he really needed someone, because…he was being pushed away by so many people.

EH: Right.

G: And nobody knows whether he did it or not.

Morall on how Kody Maxson first met Amanda Todd, and whether he had her nude photos66:

EH: Okay, so you’re prepared now, so…how would you like, answer some of those questions, like…like how did Kody Maxson first meet Amanda Todd? That’s what I wanna know.

G: He met her…from what I know…off of some kind of on-line chat room. From what I know. And they didn’t talk very much, apparently she…had some issue, and he tried to help her, and they spoke. That’s when they started talking.

EH: So Kody had an issue…

G: Nonono, Amanda had an issue.

EH: Amanda had an issue, and Kody tried to help.

G: From what I know…I can’t remember where I know this from (laughs) but I just know…

EH: Sure sure.

G: …I forgot. But, then she…I don’t know, he didn’t ask for the pictures, she sent it on her own, which I…I have difficulties believing that. But…

EH: Oh wait a minute, wait a minute. So she did send nude photographs of herself to Kody?

G: From what I know. I don’t remember exactly where…I can’t remember who told me, I have a problem with really that. Not meaning to sound sketchy, but, from what I hear, there were nudes or something sent. But…Kody didn’t send them. To anyone.

EH: Okay, so you’re saying that Kody got some nude Amanda Todd photos, but he didn’t disseminate them on the internet.

G: I don’t remember if it was sent to someone else. Like someone else that was involved in the case, or if it was to Kody. I can’t remember that part.

EH: Well…how many other guys would be involved in this, though?

G: Well, then there was a rumor saying that Viper was Kody, Kody was [Viper]…it’s a mix-up, so that’s where it really gets confusing. You don’t know who’s who, and who sent what.

EH: Okay.

G: I don’t know if Kody sent it or not. In reality, I don’t know. There is no proof that he didn’t, and there’s no proof that he did.

EH: But the real revelation here is that he had those photos. That means he lied to me. He told me that he met her on youtube, and then I asked him if he had nude photographs of Amanda Todd, and he said no.

G: See, that’s where I don’t know. That’s where I really don’t know, because…I was…I was told differently, so…

EH: Did Kody tell you that?

G: That’s the part…I don’t remember I read it, or if I heard it, or if I saw it…it was a…it was…when I ask Kody, “Did you do it? Did you have them? Did you…”, uh, because believe me I was just on him as anybody else would be.

Enigma Hood would ask about Kody’s relationship with Peyton. Morall did not like Peyton at all67:

EH: Okay, okay. What about Peyton? You know who Peyton [is]…right?

G: (laughs) Yeah, I know Peyton.

EH: Okay.

G: I know about her, I don’t know her personally.

EH: So what’s the deal with her?

G: (laughs) Oh god, I do not like her. She…she…is trying so hard…to get Kody in trouble. She…her and Kody had a…relationship. And she tried to paint Kody as this guy who was…monstrous. Like, he was horrible, he would make her do things…that she didn’t want to do. Peyton, Peyton is a liar…she was just looking for attention…I did it for Kody. Everything I did wasn’t for attention…and it’s still not for attention. It’s because I don’t want people to think…the second…the first interview I did for Kody…the second one I’m doing it for myself. Because I don’t want people to think I was blackmailed by Kody to do the interview or anything like that. But, the reason why she wanted to get attention, was all about her…and it was for the wrong reasons. And…I just don’t like her. She didn’t try to save Kody. She tried to put him down, make him look worse. And lie about it. She had no proof that he did any of that.

EH: But then…why would she…okay, so she just did it for attention? But Peyton and Kody were they a couple, or anything like that?

G: I believe so.

EH: Okay.

G: I believe so. From what I know Kody didn’t want…Kody didn’t want anything to do with her anymore, and out of spite, she did that.

EH: Do you know the circumstance under which they broke up?

G: No.

EH: Okay.

G: I don’t…I think it’s because she was messing around with too many other people.

EH: Was this before or after Amanda Todd?

G: This was before.

EH: Okay.

G: And um…I don’t know Peyton and I would never want to speak to her…I just…when I read the things…and I saw a little clip of her interview, or whatever…with whomever…I was pissed. I was so mad. Because all the things she was saying about Kody…I mean, sure, he has his really bad moments. But…the way she was making him sound…was, it just wasn’t Kody.

Finally, Enigma Hood would ask her about the death of Amanda Todd68:

EH: So how do you feel about her suicide?

G: Um…

EH: Like now. Or at least now. When you first heard about it, that’s different. How do you feel about it now. Because no one was arrested and punished in connection to that. To this day.

G: I feel like…Amanda Todd did a lot of actions prior to meeting Kody. From articles, I don’t know if they’re true or not…that were wrong. And that isn’t to justify the way people treated the way they treated her, but…her actions that led to…her wanting to kill herself…were wrong. And I think if…let’s just look at it this way. If she didn’t kill herself, if she was still alive today…and this was just a girl on the internet…posting about all the things she did…and talking about them, in explicit detail…what would people on the internet call that girl?

EH: Are you asking me?

G: Yeah. What would you think that people would call her?

EH: If she did what?

G: If she told…if she put herself out there, made a video or even if she didn’t make a video…if you just knew Amanda Todd personally, and you knew all the actions that she’s done…what would people call her?

EH: Well…what actions did she do?

G: Well, from what I know, she would send, she would send pictures to multiple people, she would uh, she would be with other people’s boyfriends and blahblahblah, and there’s even pictures, a picture of her on the internet, I saw one time with a bra and underwear. And she was sending that picture, someone let that out. So, I mean, people would of course call her, you know, a whore, slut, blahblahblah. But since she killed herself over someone who sent the pictures…all of a sudden she’s not that. She’s…she’s…she was a normal girl. She was this and that. And it’s like, I don’t like it when people do that because…you know, damn well, if she didn’t kill herself, the people would be like, that’s what you get for sending pictures of yourself. You can’t send nudes, blahblahblah. But since she killed herself over it, and made a video on youtube, all of a sudden, she’s an angel for someone like that. It’s…you can’t forget what she did. It was still wrongful actions, just because you kill yourself over it doesn’t justify it. And that’s how people treated the situation. And that made me kind of upset, because it’s like people forgot the reason she committed suicide.

EH: But the reason she committed suicide…was because she was bullied.

G: But why was she bullied?

EH: Does it matter? I mean, it’s…

G: It does matter! It does matter. Why was she bullied? She was bullied because of that picture. And who sent the picture?

EH: But…I mean, you…okay. I get what you’re saying. I’ve heard it before. Do you think that bullying is ever justified?

G: No, I don’t think bullying is justified. But, I just want to say…if she was being bullied, as bad as it says she was, as the internet says she was, she could have a) deleted her facebook, b) started going to school far elsewhere, or she could have been homeschooled if she was bullied really that bad. And see, she could have done, she could have set herself away from all these people. But she didn’t.

We see a similar division between the women in Hanna Rosin’s “Why Kids Sext” on how other girls saw those on the Louisa County Instagram account:

To the elite girls, the girls on Instagram were sluts not necessarily because they were sleeping around but because of what they looked like or how they acted. Let’s just say people have different body types, one girl told me. Others, speaking about girls in the photos, said, “You obviously have a little too much confidence”, or just “Butter face” (as in: nice body, but her face…). In their college study, Armstrong and her team identify this brand of sniping as a way girls police one another and establish a sort of moral superiority without denying themselves actual sex, and something similar seemed to be happening here. Well-off, popular girls were most certainly in the Instagram photos, but none would admit as much unless I knew otherwise.

Though both Amanda Todd and Geissell Morall were part of the cam community and both were interacting with older men, Morall looked down on Todd, and I don’t see the divison having anything to do with class or status lines, but something like the division between the two daughters discussed in Rosin’s article. Morall has contempt for Amanda Todd because of what she perceives as her insecurity, her weakness, her ability to be manipulated by these men. It’s a source of strength and pride for Morall that she is part of the same milieu as Todd, yet she would never lose control like Amanda Todd did.

On December 28, 2014, Morall would comment again, with a far sharper, more critical take of Maxson on her Google+ blog, Thoughts By Gei, “Almost three years later….” (archive.today link). “I stand behind everything I’ve said thus far,” she wrote about his involvement with the Amanda Todd suicide, but she also now openly accused Maxson of pedophilic tendencies. “I realized how much of a pig he was.”

It’s been three years since the suicide of Amanda Todd, and every year I do something stupid huh? Either participate in interviews, or talk openly about my views. Even though the topic has still died, no one really understands how this has impacted my life. I want to update anyone who Googles this eventually one day, on what I think to this day.

Since I last spoke openly about my experience with the whole “internet scandal” or whatnot, and my relationship with Kody a year ago, I realized something. I realized that he truly disgusts me. No, not because he had anything to do with Amanda Todd (I stand behind everything I’ve said thus far, regarding his involvement.) Just simply because I realized how much of a pig he was. I found him once again, behind girls on the internet after he found someone in person. Although that isn’t any of my concern, you’d think someone who went through this wouldn’t once again pursue any involvement with a GIRL (not a woman, a GIRL.) I am truly disgusted and appalled that I ever stood that closely by his side. Although I am disgusted by Kody Maxson, I cannot say I change my opinions on his involvement in the case. We don’t know what happened, we can only judge by the evidence we have and quite frankly, there isn’t anything against Kody. I just wanted to share that, not for anyone else, but for myself. I wanted to be at peace with the fact I released my thoughts and opinions.

I’ll end it here, and this will be the last update I ever make on this case but lets all remember… We can’t always trust what the eye can see, because that’d make us blind to justice.

This was the only post for Thoughts By Gei and it featured only a single comment, by a “Philip Rose”: “Ha ha! Isn’t it time for you to move on?”

Philip Rose comment

In January 2014, an entirely different suspect would be arrested for the harassment of Amanda Todd, a Dutch citizen named Aydin Coban. “On the trail of Amanda Todd’s alleged tormentor” by Patrick White would outline the lengthy investigative process, which would eventually benefit greatly from the co-operation of Facebook, and would link Coban with the “Tyler Boo” Facebook profile which harassed Amanda Todd. The length and difficulty of the case gave some sense of why an investigation into #TheFappening ring would be even more difficult. Where Chris Chaney traveled openly about on-line without a proxy and Josh Holly appeared on the radio to brag about his achievements, Coban was very discrete, knowing the severe penalties for his acts, and made sure to use proxies to hide his identity. “The suspect [Coban] is highly skilled in identity obfuscation and consistently uses proxy IP addresses, clean session cookies, and disposable email addresses and online handles to make contact with his victims and their friends,” was the observation of the Dutch report on the investigation69. “Dutch police used controversial software in Amanda Todd case”, another piece on the case by Patrick White, would note that the Dutch ultimately had to enter Coban’s residence surreptitiously and install a keystroke logger on his computer in order to gather evidence for their arrest.

The Fifth Estate would produce a follow-up episode to “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, about the capture of Aydin Coban, “Stalking Amanda Todd : The Man in the Shadows”. At one point they would list the massive number of aliases and IPs used by Coban, and there among them was one that definitely stood out: “Kody Maxson”.

The Sextortion of Amanda Todd: aliases.

A post shared by Goto Tengo (@gototengo) on

Alleged alternative accounts of Aydin Coban, Amanda Todd’s persecutor. The first alias is “Kody Maxson”. Taken from “Stalking Amanda Todd : The Man in the Shadows” by The Fifth Estate, between 30:48 and 30:54.

We might return to this moment in The Fifth Estate‘s previous episode, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd” (segment runs from 13:44 to 14:09):

It was Christmas Eve 2010, and Carol received an eerie anonymous Facebook message, warning her that Amanda was being extorted. [The message read:] “She needs to be stopped [her blogTV sessions], because most of them are old guys who record her and blackmail her into doing more.” Carol replied, “Who are you? Also, where did you get your information from? This is now a police matter.”

This might be placed in juxtaposition with something in the last episode of The Daily Capper. From “The Daily Capper – Information on Amanda Todd, Kody Maxson, & Viper” (4:06-5:34). I bold a particularly important detail:

Is Kody really as innocent as he claims? Well, it is difficult to imagine how he went from streaming Peyton’s videos to suddenly being a white knight next week. On top of that, he has openly expressed his hatred for internet heroes. But aside from the obvious assumptions, we’ve been able to find informationt that directly ties Kody to Amanda during the time of her blackmail. Allow us to share with you a message we received on December 23, 2010, just five days after Amanda’s blog show. This user shares with us Kody’s personal information. The same information that was leaked by Anonymous two years later. He mentions the names of Kody’s victims. One of whom is Amanda. This email was sent to us a week before Amanda confirmed the blackmail herself [in a comment on a Daily Capper video]. Unless this guy had a time machine, this information more than confirms Kody’s ties to Amanda. The screnshot he [the unknown informant] sent us is very similar to the one posted by Anonymous. Only with a bit more information. It includes Amanda Michelle Todd’s full name, along with detailed information including her Skype names, and the video that Kody used to blackmail her, and Kody’s email, which was given to this user by Amanda herself. Even more confirmation that Amanda was connected to Kody in December of 2010. Is it still all just one big coincidence?

It does not take, I think, much imagination to consider the possibility that the same person who sent Carol Todd the warning message on December 24, 2010, was also the same person who sent The Daily Capper Maxson’s information on December 23, 2010. That this person may well have been Amanda’s persecutor, and may well have been Coban, and that’s why they had so much information on Amanda. That her persecutor would have access to Carol Todd’s email, but would also be familiar with the capping community, and be able to contact the Capper. This person may have gotten into conflict with Maxson, and that’s why they singled him out to be blamed for this. Finally, there is one moment in the Enigma Hood interview, “Amanda Todd: Interview with Kody Maxson’s Ex Gf 1 Year Later”, that might be of significance (14:00-14:55), when Morall speaks of Maxson being accused of provoking Amanda Todd’s suicide:

G: When everyone else was talking to him, I would ask him “Did you do it, did you do it, did you do it,” and he denied it every single time…I said, “Kody, if you’re lying to me…please let me know, no one’s going to know.” And he said “No, of course I didn’t do it.” And he’s like, no I didn’t. And he’s being very…I felt he was being very sincere with me…but you could tell something else was bothering Kody. Kody’s not the one to get really humble and quiet…and uh, when we spoke in private, he’s very timid, and…it was, it was, it wasn’t odd, but it was something that Kody wouldn’t be.

EH: So you think he was probably lying?

G: No, I think he was hiding something from me. I don’t think Kody…

EH: What do you think he was hiding?

G: I don’t know…I don’t know if he knows who did it, or…

The most disturbing aspect of The Daily Capper, of course, was that here was a program which tracked the news of a community where older men exploited and abused underage girls. That it was all transmitted through a retrofitted children’s show only made it ickier, much as the insistent buoyancy of a clown’s make-up only accentuates menace. Easily the second most disturbing aspect, for me, however, was that they were far superior at information collection and distribution about this community than any news source I’ve come across. When it came to researching others who had perpetrated extortion and harassment similar to what Aydin Coban had allegedly perpetrated, The Daily Capper was an unparalelled resource. The community of perpetrators was far better organized and informed than any news organization or resource group, just as the best insights on #TheFappening ring came not from outside analysts, but from those deep within or very familiar with such underground rings, whether it was the anonymous 4chan poster or the anonymous commenter on DeadSpin.

“Welcome cappers and camwhores, to The Daily Capper, the one and only entertainment source for everything capping,” went the Capper‘s standard opening for their August 15, 2010 program, “The Daily Capper – Week of August 15,2010”. “Let’s kick things off with a segment I like to call: “Ride the Party Van”.” And then there was an image of flashing police lights. “It was reported yesterday that this fag was arrested yesterday for blackmail.”

Trevor Shea on The Daily Capper

Trevor Shea Close-up

Trevor Shea on The Daily Capper and a close-up.

Though no name was given, it was easy to find out through an image search that this was Maryland resident Trevor Shea. “Teen ‘sextortion’ victim regrets not seeking immediate help” by Emily Longnecker, an article published a year after Shea’s arrest would relate the story of one victim that was eerily similar to that of Todd’s. The victim was then fifteen and on cam with her friends, talking to a group of strangers on-line when “they all chimed in and were like, ‘Just flash us once,'” and the victim flashed, after which Shea capped her pic, and used it to exploit her. Shea threatened to send the picture to her family and friends, unless she did as told. “He just kept messaging me and the threats got worse and worse and he just said, ‘If you do this and this for me then it will all go away,'” she said. Just like Amanda Todd’s persecutor, he was able to track down who her family was and where she lived. “I was really scared. For my life, I was scared,” she said. The victim would finally tell her mother and the police, regretting that she didn’t tell them sooner. “Don’t be driven by fear and don’t let that person control you. You need to go and tell any adult, tell a parent so it doesn’t go on,” she said. Shea had been charged with the sexual extortion of ten women, including this victim, and in 2012 he pleaded guilty to seven counts of production of child pornography, of producing “images and videos of themselves engaging in sadistic and masochistic abuse and other sexually explicit conduct.” He got thirty three years in prison70.

A week before the broadcast referencing the Trevor Shea arrest, “The Daily Capper – Week of August 8,2010” opened with this story:

So much action this past week and so little time. How’s this to start off the show? What happens when a thirteen-year-old babysitter goes on blogTV Junior with an eleven-year-old girl? They go to Ustream and end up having oral sex while three hundred people watch. Because Tinychat mods have cracked down so much in the last couple of weeks, it was hard to find a place where these kids could have sex where they wouldn’t get banned. They got banned on UStream and soon were blackmailed by Perso Pete into deleting their account. If you want to know where you can get the video, just message the person who blackmailed them: Luvyashawty [love ya, shawty or shortie] on youtube.

Luvyashawty mention on Daily Capper

Luvyashawty mentioned on The Daily Capper as a place where you can get a video of a thirteen year old having sex.

Then a month and a half later, on “TheDailyCapper.com – Week of September 26,2010”, they had another announcement with regard to “Luvyashawty”. “We were planning on taking a break, but when news like this comes up, we just have to talk about it,” announced the newscaster. And then they went to a local newscast. “A man is behind bars after three states worked to stop him. The investigation began back in August. That’s when a police officer in Indiana got a tip that a man by the name of Jimmy Cook had gone on-line and had asked a girl to make sexually explicit videos and post them on youtube.”

Luvyashawty arrest mentioned on The Daily Capper

Luvyashawty arrest mentioned on The Daily Capper.

The Capper newscaster then returned: “That’s right. Luvyashawty from youtube has been arrested.” Then they went back to the local newscast: “Court records claim it all started on youtube, when Cook convinced a fourteen-year-old girl to post videos of herself undressing. A police department in New Jersey also joined the investigation with a potential victim there.” From “Jimmy Cook aka Luvyashawty justaguyk hotguyplays luvyababy1oo GoOrDieTroll” (transcript on pastebin: “WDBJ-7 Clip of Jimmy Lee Cook’s Arrest”), a clip of Virginia’s WDBJ-7 broadcast of Cook’s arrest:

KEITH HUMPHRY
The search for one of the nation’s most wanted child predators ended in the woods behind a Campbell County church. Jimmy Lee Cook is in jail, facing federal charges of sexually exploiting minors. Cook is homeless, but authorities say that did not keep him from using the internet to entice minors. News-7’s Tim Saunders in our Lynchburg newsroom with the details.

TIM SAUNDERS
Keith and Natasha [Ryan], Cook is accused of using a resource that’s now available in many public places. Free wireless internet. Down a short path, just behind a church on Timberlake Road, sits a campsite. Investigators say this was home to Jimmy Lee Cook.

ROBERT NEW (INVESTIGATOR CAMPBELL COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE)
I can say this is the first time I ever searched a tent, in the woods, for child pornography.

SAUNDERS
Robert New and the Central Virginia Computer Crimes Task Force got a tip from federal authorities. They heard Cook was contacting young girls in chat rooms designed for children, like Tiny Chat. New says investigators found more than thirty explicit videos in Cook’s campsite, stored in a Cheerio’s box.

NEW
He had a lot of child porn. He had a very detailed process on how he collected it.

SAUNDERS
Investigators say Cook’s location played a big part in his crime. His campsite was just feet away from a library and three restaurants that offer free wireless internet.

CHRIS SMITH (INVESTIGATOR CENTRAL VIRGINA COMPUTER CRIME TASK FORCE)
All you got to do is pull up, in his case on his bicycle, open his laptop, and hook up to the internet.

SAUNDERS
Smith believes Cook used free wi-fi to contact more than twenty-five victims in the US, Canada, and possibly Europe. In court documents, a twelve year old girl reports that Cook asked her, repeatedly, to upload pornographic videos of herself on youtube.

Jimmy Cook aka Luvyashawty from a WDBJ-7 newscast - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/BronzeHideousCopepod

The part in the forest where Jimmy Cook aka “Luvyashawty” was found and arrested, along with Cook’s mugshot, from the youtube clip “Jimmy Cook aka Luvyashawty justaguyk hotguyplays luvyababy1oo GoOrDieTroll”, between 0:36-0:43. Clips is taken from a WDBJ-7 newscast, clip is not on their site.

The arrest of “Luvyashawty” was the nominee for the 2010 “Shocker of the Year” at The Daily Capper awards, while the arrest of Lawrence Joseph Silipigni Jr. was a nominee for “Shocker of the Year” for 2009. Silipigni was an over forty man who took pictures from a seventeen year old boy’s MySpace account, posed as the boy, then befriended girls on-line and recorded them when they would dance and strip naked on cam. Eventually, one thirteen year old who’d fallen for the scam contacted another girl who’d also been tricked, a fourteen year old, and they in turn would come across a third victim. This victim confronted Silipigni over what he’d done. “I’m the same person, just older,” Silipigni wrote back. “I’m not as hot and I’m chubby. I’m lonely and hate being old.” Silipigni had managed to collect over a hundred videos of various girls. This is all taken from The Register article by Dan Goodin, “Feds: bald man posing as 17-year-old secretly taped teens”, which contains this allegation, about what took place after months of soliciting the thirteen year old to get naked on cam: “Silipigni then used a program called Camtasia to record the session. He later posted the video to a section of Stickam called “Anonib-Teens No Rules.”” A Stickam representative would deny the allegation, saying “Silipigni’s video of the victim was never posted on Stickam.com, contrary to what an FBI agent wrote in a criminal complaint.” From our comfortable pose in the far future, we know what perhaps was the mistake: Silipigni didn’t post it to Stickam, but to a section of the image sharing board AnonIB.

Lawrence Joseph Silipigni Jr

A frame from the Fox News-11 report, “Internet Heroes”, fragment devoted to Silipigni runs from 2:31 to 2:54.

There was “The Daily Capper – Week of November 7,2010”, which flipped over to clips of local stations dealing with the arrest of another extortionist in Auburn, Alabama, a man named Jonathan Vance. He was an Auburn University graduate and member of the church choir, who was charged with coercing over fifty girls and young women between 2006 and 2008 to send him nude photos. Vance would contact the women and pretend to be a friend or relative who’d gotten locked out of their Facebook or email account. Could he have their pass and use theirs? Or he did what Chris Chaney did, and reset the passwords to their accounts by answering the challenge questions, whose answers he knew by researching the victims. Vance threatened to expose embarrassing details he learned about the victims if he didn’t get nude photos. He told them he’d relinquish the accounts once he got what he wanted. Almost no one agreed to this, but one adult and two minors did. He plead guilty to his charges and got eighteen years.71

Jonathan Vance on a newscast featured on The Daily Capper

There were the Fox News reports dealing with sextortion, “Sextortion: What You Need to Know”, “Internet Heroes” (“heroes” were those who tried to warn girls against flashing), and “Fox 11 news reports on online predators”, all of which dealt with people and incidents well known in the capping world, and they got frequent mention on The Daily Capper. “The Daily Capper – Week of July 11,2010” and “The Daily Capper – Week of July 25,2010” would feature an opening montage of clips from these reports, over which the song “We Are One” by 12 Stones played, whose lyrics could be heard as a kind of capper anthem: “We walk alone / In the unknown / We live to win another victory…We live to change the face of history so be afraid/It’s the price we pay”72.

In the context of the Amanda Todd case there was one other incident, one more victim, that made your jaw drop at the coincidence, the kind of coincidence that was laughable melodrama in fiction, but which were oodled out casually in every day life. Yet it had been forgotten, completely unnoticed in the brief frenzy of coverage of the Amanda Todd case. It was toward the end of the Daily Capper‘s penultimate broadcast, “The Daily Capper – Week of October 31,2010” (no longer on-line) that they had a big announcement: “…and perhaps the biggest shocker of all of them: enjoyflirtplay AKA Aurora Eller made a special appearance on an episode of The View to talk about the one and only guy she ever showed for in her life. I’m talking, of course, about Coke.” It was a skeptical, nasty take on what Eller had said on The View, a program where she talked about an encounter not unlike what Amanda Todd had dealt with as well. From “The View – June 6th 2011 – Aurora Eller” (transcript is on pastebin: “Aurora Eller on The View Transcript”):

ELISABETH HASSELBECK
Aurora, thank you for being here. I know this is a difficult time for you. At thirteen, I want you to take us back. You are sixteen now…at thirteen, you were on a social network of sorts, where you began talking and streaming video on-line. Correct me if I’m wrong, a man entered the chat room and started asking you to start doing…sexual, having sexual activity of some sort with your friends…and then started threatening you if you didn’t continue. Correct?

AURORA ELLER
Yeah.

HASSELBECK
What was happening?

AURORA
Um…it was just a chat room where…it seems like you’re just talking to regular people, but…um, like…there’s creepers on-line, and then…they started asking us to do things, and um…after the first time, they used it to threaten me. And if I didn’t do it, they would tell my parents, or tell…my school. And I was afraid.

BARBARA WALTERS
You must be afraid now, aren’t you?

AURORA
Yeah.

WALTERS
When you did these sexual things with your friends…did you just think it was fun, to do the kinds of things you were doing?

AURORA
Um…I don’t really know.

WALTERS
You were thirteen, and they said do it, and you did it.

HASSELBECK
You felt pressure, this person was pressuring you to perform or have these acts, and then using the one time you said yes, to do this and did it, as a threat to get more from you?

AURORA
Yeah.

HASSELBECK
Okay.

WALTERS
You know, as a father you must be frightened yourself and obviously heartbroken. Did you know any of this, did you monitor what she was doing? Did you have any idea of what was going on, Simon?

SIMON ELLER
I always monitored what they were doing on-line, using different softwares, and they…I had no idea. Mainly because of Aurora…she had cystic fibrosis, and…

WALTERS
She has cystic fibrosis?

SIMON
She does. Yeah. She’s homebound, so she has to do all of her schoolwork from home. She’s always on the computer. I had no idea.

HASSELBECK
And schools require work on the computer, so it’s very difficult and challenging for a parent to say “You can’t be on it.” That’s almost a non-reality at this point. Uh, Aurora were you drinking at the time?

AURORA
Yes.

HASSELBECK
Okay. So…under the influence, being persuaded by this man who is yet to be identified, correct?

WALTERS
Nobody’s found him.

HASSELBECK
Nobody’s found him.

PARRY AFTAB [found of Wiredsafety, child protection group]
No one’s even looking, and that’s the problem. No one’s looking. She’s the one that’s being blamed for all of this.

The segment would then move on to the police involvement of the case, and the fact that Aurora Eller might have to register as a sex offender:

HASSELBECK
I want to…they need more protection than ever, I’d say. But it doesn’t seem as if you’re getting the kind of protection you deserve at this point. I want to go back even more. Erica, you’re Aurora’s stepmom, three years from the time she was thirteen, and till just recently, nothing had happened, okay. Someone anonymously tipped off the police just recently. And they then show up at your home…

ERICA MCLEAN [stepmom]
Yes.

HASSELBECK
…and begin to question Aurora. And your brother.

WALTERS
If the charges are brought, does she go to trial?

AFTAB
The charges have been brought. And she’s now being charged with two counts of child pornography.

WALTERS
And she could go to prison?

AFTAB
She could go to prison, but in all likelihood, if she’s found guilty, she will become a registered sex offender.

WALTERS
For the rest of her life, there is this mark.

AFTAB
She will not be able to live near a school, she won’t be able to take certain jobs, she has to notify everybody as to what’s she doing. They’re going to treat her the way they would treat some creep who’s molesting two-year-olds.

WALTERS
What do you think should happen? What is the status of the case, what do you think should happen?

AFTAB
Well, what I’m hoping to do, and I’ll reach out to the proescutor, is to offer WiredSafety’s help. She can do community service with us, we’re happy to do public service announcements with her so she warns other kids that sexting is just a dead end, and that you might actually be on the wrong side of the law. And end up being a registered sex offender.

HASSELBECK
Can you explain sextortion? This is a new term that’s coming out. There’s sexting, which is what we’re hearing about, and sextortion is indeed what this unidentified male, possibly did do? He’s trying to get-

AFTAB
And sextortion is very complicated. And what it is, is blackmail using the images. So this guy, or there’s several men, we understand, saw the sexual images, and they said “If you don’t do more, or engage in sex with us, we are going to make it public.” So a lot of the kids now are being sextorted. We’ve seen so many cases around the country.

WALTERS
I want to talk to Aurora. So, when this has happened, you’re home, alone, because you’re home schooled…you’re drinking, which…you shouldn’t have been doing at thirteen, okay…and you’re going to whatever, for whatever reasons at that time…now, you’re older. And there are other kids who are also talking on chat rooms. In chat rooms and so forth. Talk to these other kids and tell them what you think they should do.

AURORA
I think they should be careful who they talk to on-line, um, because you never know who you’re really talking to. And that they should watch what they do. Watch what they say. Um…just be careful.

Aurora Eller on The View

The issue of teens being charged as sex offenders for taking pictures of their own bodies is, of course, a central theme of Hanna Rosin’s “Why Kids Sext”. “If a girl sends a photo to a boy that she likes…has the girl done something wrong?” asked Terri Gross of Rosin on Fresh Air. “But if the boy then sends the photo to other people without the girl’s permission, that seems to be where you really draw the line, right?” Rosin: “Terri, everything you just described is a crime in most states.” Rosin, elsewhere in the interview: “A picture of a minor, wherever it is, is a dangerous thing. It’s considered child pornography, even if the kid made the picture themselves. And so, on the one hand, you’re dealing with one of the most heinous crimes, and on the other hand, you have common sense.” 73 We see here a central paradox of the law. “Don’t be driven by fear and don’t let that person control you,” said one of the victims in the Trevor Shea case. “You need to go and tell any adult, tell a parent so it doesn’t go on,”74 and yet when you tell the police, there’s the possibility you’ll be charged as a sex offender. In August 2011, Aurora Eller was found not guilty of producing child pornography, reported Virginia’s Daily Press. Matt Sabo would write in “Gloucester teen cleared of child pornography charge” that “Eller’s father, Simon Eller, and stepmother, Erika McLean, said on The View that Aurora Eller was taken advantage of by an online predator who coerced her to produce more images by threatening to make public her previous ones,” after which he would add: “But none of that came out at trial.”

The Daily Capper would cite a message from the iChan message board allegedly left by Aurora Eller as a refutation of what was said on The View, but it only made obvious the complicated feelings of most of these women on cam, and how easily they could be exploited. Amanda Todd and Aurora Eller were isolated, Todd because of social ostracism and Eller because of cystic fibrosis, they were lonely, and camming was their only social byway. They were younger, often much younger than the men they were interacting with, and the extent of the control they had, and the lack of awareness of a thirteen-year-old’s implications of their consent are there in the message board post. So too is the fact that their consent in some cases appears to have made others think they had license to extort, blackmail, or use them however they might wish. This post may not be by Aurora Eller, but there’s nothing to suggest that it’s by a stooge or dupe, but very much the voice of a girl talking about her difficult experiences.

“The story in the view is not the complete truth” this “Aurora” writes. “As you all know, but I mentioned the word blackmail and bam that’s what it turned into.” The post would continue:

Everyone should agree that sometimes we can all become ‘attention whores’ and that’s what happened. I thought by having the room be my own and control how and when the recordings happened that it made me in control but it did not. I [continued] to do it because I thought it’s happened once, what harm could more times do? But that is where I was young and naive. I got drunk everytime because I really did not like doing those things, but being drunk made it easier, what I liked was the attention and doing those things got me attention. As far as asking who I was blackmailed by, well I have been blackmailed by m0d and Aussie. He contacted me just last month actually. Trying to threaten me. The difference between my story of blackmail and the truth is I wasn’t stupid enough to fall for their (almost) empty threats. My guess is that a blackmailer or somebody that I pissed off, decided to go to the cops. Neither I nor anyone that I have spoken to know who it was, probably never But they were accusing the wrong people of this crime. Yes, those who cap, and watch are guilty. But those who blackmail are the worst. And young girls are targeted because you all know they are naive and [if] they’re getting attention, they do feel special. My life is not ruined because of this, it was not great, but by going on The View and hopefully other shows/PSAs I can spread the word to somebody. and that somebody will spread it to a young girl, and that young girl will not make the mistake I did.

iChan post allegedly by Aurora Eller

Posting on iChan by “Aurora”.

There are the obvious similarities to Amanda Todd’s story, such as the isolation and the extortion threats. There’s also the anonymous call to the police, which “Aurora” on the message board alleges was made by someone who wasn’t looking out for her, but trying to use the law in revenge: “My guess is that a blackmailer or somebody that I pissed off, decided to go to the cops.” The police also arrive at Amanda Todd’s house, and though no piece I’ve seen explains exactly what spurs them on, we have the unusual note in the threats made by Tyler Boo, the identity traced to Aydin Coban. I bold the relevant part: “You already forgot who I am? the guy who last year made you change school, got your door kicked in by the cops.”

Amanda Todd on The Daily Capper

Aurora Eller on The Daily Capper

Amanda Todd and Aurora Eller on The Daily Capper.

There is the final eerie coincidence of these two girls who did not know each other, who may never have even heard of each other. Todd’s video, where she tells her story through text written on a series of cards, was not something sui generis, but part of a tradition of videos on youtube where you relate something difficult, that you migh lack the strength to speak about, but which you want to say to the world. Examples would include “My Index card Confessions”, “Tumblr Confession Video.”, “My Tumblr Confessions Video”, all of which were recorded a year before Todd’s, in 2011. There was another such video from that year, and it was by Aurora Eller: “My Confessions” (transcript on pastebin: “My Confessions by x65Rosesx”). It told of her anguish and difficulties dealing with Cystic Fibrosis: “All the time I struggle with my CF (cystic fibrosis). I HATE my treatment and rarely do it. It’s hard to think about my future when I may die young. My mother’s cousin with CF had a lung transplant at sixteen. I get sick often because I hate doing my treatment. I hate doing it because it reminds me that I have CF. Being sick means I miss A LOT of school.” And it dealt with the same things Amanda Todd dealt with, over her capped nudes:

I have been diagnosed with depression. I have cut, but it didn’t help much. I feel as though I acted like a whore to help my insecurities. EVERY DAY, I regret what I have done. I wonder who/what made me think it was okay. I’ve been to therapists and will probably take anti-depressants for the rest of my life. Depression almost NEVER goes away. Sometimes I am strong, sometimes I cry like a baby. My family isn’t exactly perfect. But I love them all to DEATH.

When she turned to the everyday plights of teenage girls, it was a relief. “I REALLY wish I had boobs. I hate to admit it but I wear push-up bras every day…I just want to be any size but XS [extra small],” but right after, there was again that echo of the past: “As far as guys go…I have been used. And I think I’ve started to use guys now. I feel like a whore.” Your choices and actions were so quick and fleeting when you were thirteen, but the pictures remained, like Polonium, and their influence remained as well. “I did not do this for you to feel sorry for me so please don’t say that I did. Thank you for watching :D” You could feel a pang of sympathy, without pity, a regret that this story somehow had vanished only a year later, without being able to offer consolation or warning to others, and the necessity to see the savagery that engulfed Eller not as something separate or alien, but part of a vaster world, interconnected with your own, like fangs from a dragon’s mouth.

Aurora Eller - Diagnosed with depression

Amanda Todd - Anxiety Major Depression

Amanda Todd - anxiety is horrible

Amanda Todd - cried every night

Aurora Eller - ill take anti-depressants rest of my life

Amanda Todd - I'm on anti-depressants now

Aurora Eller - I have cut

Amanda Todd - depressed, cutting

Amanda Todd - started cutting

Aurora Eller - Every day I regret what I've done

Aurora Eller - I feel as if I acted like a whore

Aurora Eller - still feel as if it's my fault

Amanda Todd - All from my past

never get that photo back

Amanda Todd and Aurora Eller - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/SandyOblongKakarikis

That we are able to illuminate such points of connection, that the alleged tormentor of Amanda Todd is now in custody might give us the illusion of a majority of mysterious space rendered visible when we have nothing of the kind. Despite our magicians’ tools, the great mass of this landscape remains in shadow, and will most likely remain so until the girls involved tell their stories, many years after these incidents took place. We ended up at this path because of a mysterious message of unknown provenance, and we might leave it with an equally mysterious creation I came across on my research. For whatever reason, someone created twitter profiles of most of the major players in this capping ring. Whoever did this was also very familiar with the ring, with the profiles often accompanied by photos of the actual individual and what one presumes to be their names in actual life. There is @Viper_2323 (archive today link), @Coke_Caps (archive today link), @i_r_m0d (archive today link) (m0d), @StickamSwan (archive today link) (Swan), @r0r44 (archive today link), @PersoPete (archive today link) (Perso). There are lesser known cappers like @BruceWhiskey (archive today link) and @DocHoliday151 (archive today link), who carries the description, “Head blackmailer of Tinychat”. There’s the @WHITER00MLEGION (archive today link), a supposedly legendrary group of troublemakers founded by Klanackle, before falling apart due to in-fighting75.

Neither Kody Maxson, nor Amanda Todd, nor “Aussie” were there, but Aurora Eller was, under her old chat name, @Enjoy_FlirtPlay, as were various other girls mentioned in The Daily Capper. Most of the cappers included the places where they did their work among those they followed: @tinychat, @blogTV, @Stickam, @icanhazchat. Someone had gone through a great deal of trouble to set up these interconnected profiles, each part of the others’ followers. Yet they were perfunctory as well, with almost none of them tweeting anything, and each profile including the same artists over and over among those they followed: Pink (@pink), Jaden Smith (@officialjaden), Demi Lovato (@ddlovato), Justin Bieber (@justinbieber), Emma Watson (@EmWatson), etc. And every single one followed @mtomareviews, a twitter feed devoted to wrestling.

What purpose someone had to create this elaborate network at some unknown past date, a network which would have no significance whatsoever to anyone unfamiliar to this group, I have no idea, and I offer no answers or guesses.

Perso Pete twitter

White Room Legion twitter

m0d twitter

Aurora Eller twitter

From @PersoPete‘s following page:

Perso Pete following

With the exception of two episodes in 2011, and a final broadcast devoted to Amanda Todd, the remainder of Daily Capper episodes that I’ve found on-line have all come from 2010, a particularly fertile period for dysfunctional feeling on the internet. There was Jessi Slaughter, who would be nominated at the “2010 Capper Awards Results” for the Daily Capper‘s 2010 Attention Whore award (the roll call of nominees accompanied by DeadMau5’s “Attention Whore”), getting enough votes to finish behind Peyton, the underage girlfriend of Kody Maxson76. Slaughter was the nom de guerre of Jessica Leonhardt, and another example of how intensely the press lights would burn before the filament shattered and the shine fell somewhere else. She is entirely forgotten now, yet briefly she once held the attention of millions. When she was ten someone on an internet board would allege that Dahvie Vanity, the lead singer of her beloved band, Blood on the Dance Floor, had had a sexual relationship with the ten year old, which Leonhardt would deny, and which would trigger a broad and nasty reaction77. Slaughter would reply with a video where she tauntingly declared, “I’m just a normal girl, who’s absolutely perfect in every way, and you’re just jealous,” which would provoke another reaction, after which the infamous “You dun goofed” video (“Jessi slaughter You dun goofed REAL ORIGINAL”) was recorded, which featured her weeping while her father, Gene Leonhardt, screamed at the camera. “Who said you could beat my daughter up? You are going to have to deal with the police. Because you done goofed,” he started out relatively quietly before launching into a screaming attack. “YOU BUNCH OF LYING NO-GOOD PUNKS! I KNOW WHERE THIS IS COMING FROM BECAUSE I’VE BACKTRACED IT!”

On an episode of Good Morning, America made in the wake of the incident (“Jessi Slaughter (kerligirl13) on Good Morning America”), Gene Leonhardt would say, “As a father I was just trying to support my daughter, and try to get the people to stop hating.”78 Her family would receive multiple death threats after the videos. The police would be called in numerous times in the aftermath; when a large cardboard box was delivered to her school and it was thought to be a bomb (it just had more postal boxes inside); when two thousand dollars worth of pizzas were ordered to the Leonhardts’ house79; when nude pictures of ten-year-old Jessi Slaughter supposedly showed up on-line. The following is a police report from that visit; blank spaces represent redactions and I bold the most noteworthy moment80:

On 071610 [Auugust 16, 2010], writer was working at the         and made contact with the department of children and families (DCF) investigator Tarliece Chavers, who was responding to a residence in         in reference to an         year old girl posting inappropriate things on the internet. Writer assisted the investigator at the residence and made contact with         and her parents,         writer stood by as the investigator conducted her interviews, and at one point, the juvenile subject threw a temper tantrum after both the investigator and writer requested the computer be unplugged and the juvenile not to have access to the internet, which the juvenile became irate and advised she will lose her fame, and that she will get to the internet one way or another. Writer observed the juvenile state that if she does not get on the internet, she has nothing else to live for, at which time, she got up from the dining room table, stormed out of the room, stating she does not “give a fuck”, and that she will stick a butcher knife in the DCF worker’s “ass”. Writer observed the juvenile state she does not wish to live anymore, and made other statements in that aspect.

The parents of the juvenile subject were catering to the juvenile as if she had done nothing wrong. It did come out that the juvenile was posing herself in provocative positions and posting the pictures on the internet. The juvenile did state that the most important thing in her life at this time is to make number one on some list on which she is currently 67 out of 100, and that her main goal is to be famous on the internet, and for her name to be a household name throughout the country. Writer did advise the juvenile and reminded her she is only         years old, which the juvenile stated she did not “give a fuck” and that age is not important. The juvenile did show writer her internet page, which writer did observe postings from other people stating what the juvenile was doing was wrong, and just to the left side of the screen, writer observed in plain view pornography, pictures of oral sex, which the parents stated they were unaware their daughter was on such a page.

The DCF investigator did take photographs of the screen, which she stated will contribute to the decision making in this case. The father did become combative when writer told him his daughter was under a Baker act [The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, allowing for involuntary institutionalization, see the Wikipedia entry], at which time, he stepped in front of writer to block his path to get to the juvenile, which writer explained to the father that he will be arrested for obstruction if he obstructs writer’s investigation in any way.

This concludes writer’s involvement in this case.

Case remains pending active.

In October, Blood on the Dance Floor would release their album Epic, which featured “You Done Goofed”, a reply to Jessica Leonhardt: “You’re just a pawn of stupidity / You’re a living mistake / I’m the king of the chessboard, so mother fucker / Checkmate”81. The police would return to the Leonhardt house on February 9th, 2011, when Jessica Leonhardt posted to her Facebook that she’d overdosed and wanted to die. From the incident report82:

Writer arrived at the incident location and was met by the subject’s father at the front door. Writer asked if the subject lived at the location when         began screaming and yelling at writer stating “I was told by your supervisors you guys would not be out here anymore investigating anonymous complaints.”

Writer asked dispatch for an additional deputy when         opened the front door and stated “You have no right being here and you have an attitude. My daughter is fine and I don’t know why you’re here.” Writer again tried to explain to her that the subject posted comments on her facebook page and writer was trying to check on her. Then came back to the door yelling. The subject came to the door and stated 1 put on there that I wanted to overdose, but then I went back on and deleted it. I put two comments that everyone can disregard my last comments. I was feeling suicidal at the time and depressed but I’m not now.”         stated “See it was a mistake and you’re out here for no reason.” They again shut the door.

A week later, Gene Leonhardt would be arrested for striking Jessica hard enough that it caused her mouth to swell and her lips to bleed. A few months later, August 14, 2011, her father would die of a heart attack83. That same day, Jessica Leonhardt would upload a video (“Jessi Slaughter Lied To A Nation”) in which she apologized to the band whose lead singer she’d accused of rape.

Hi Dahvie, hi Jay [Von Monroe, other member of BOTDF], hi Sally [Sally Stitches, Dahvie’s girlfriend], hi little BOTDF spectrum…it’s Jessica Rose AKA Jessie Slaughter here, saying sorry for everything I’ve ever done. I feel really bad about it now, I’m in foster care…I have been locked up in mental institutions…and just like “You Done Goofed” said, I do have to go to counseling now, but it’s not because of you. So…I’m really sorry for everything I’ve done, I’m sorry for accusing you of rape and everything, I know all that happened. Aaaaaand I’m having this recorded by Gloria, not because I…have no computer privileges now because of the foster care. And…why am I talking with my hands? I’m truly sorry for everything that I’ve done, and I love BOTDF, basically all the CDs that I have are BOTDF now, so…I’m saying I’m sorry and everything, and I love you guys, yeah…Jay’s my idol, Dahvie’s my idol, and Sally inspired this [strokes side of head]…I shaved it off my head. So. Yeah. [makes heart symbol with hands] Love you guys. [blows kiss] Sorry.

Nearly a year later, “Controversial cyberbully victim Jessica Leonhardt returns to YouTube” by Fruzsina Eördögh on The Daily Dot would announce that Leonhardt was back on youtube making videos. The piece “Leonhardt returns to YouTube” would describe the videos as follows: “Leonhardt laughs with her mother on camera, attends her school’s 8th grade dance, and professes her love for the band AFI.” They would get an overwhelming amount of dislikes, with a video of her playing with her dog receiving five likes and thirty eight dislikes. At the time of this writing, all videos mentioned in the article “Leonhardt returns to YouTube” have been deleted. In 2013, a New Media Rockstars piece on youtube, “Jessi Slaughter Interview”, would make clear that Leonhardt was transitioning from female to male, from the identity of “Jessi” to that of “Damien”. From that interview with Jeff Klima84:

KLIMA
Your life has had some crazy drama in it…and so, I was kindof like, checking into you…and I see now that you are Damien now…you used to be, your on-line handle was “Jessi Slaughter” and now you’re Damien. So, kindof, what’s that about?

DAMIEN
Well…after I got out of foster care, last year, I started dating a guy, who I’d known during the “Jessi Slaughter” drama…and, what happened was I started noticing, not noticing, but figuring out more that I didn’t really feel like a girl. You know, it just…it didn’t really feel like that. So, I…after me and him broke up, last February, I ended up getting more into it, and finding out…well, not finding out, but, somehow, really noticing in myself that I am, I don’t know the correct term for it, but I am female to male. So. It’s just …it’s not, most people notice a thing…it’s kindof a gradual process. Which…a lot of people tend to say, “Oh, you’re not really a guy cuz you didn’t just all of a sudden say this, it just happened.” I’m not going to tell you guys before things happened.

KLIMA
Are you planning on going, like are you going to do a full surgery, or…are you just…?

DAMIEN
Um…I’m probably going to do the top surgery, the bottom surgery is still questionable.

KLIMA
Okay, and the top surgery would be just, they remove breasts and that…?

DAMIEN
Yeah. You know, making sure I don’t have tits anymore, which…they don’t look good on me anyways. My body was not made for it.

KLIMA
Oh, really? Okay.

DAMIEN
I look like a guy, just with tits. And it’s weird.

KLIMA
Why not the bottom part, what’s uh…is it, having a penis would be too full-bore, or too weird, or…

DAMIEN
It’s probably because I couldn’t afford it.

KLIMA
Okay.

DAMIEN
Yeah. Aaaaaand, I don’t want to directly say I am doing a bottom surgery, and not be able to do it. So, that’s why I am saying that’s still an if for me. Because I don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m going to do this,” and then end up not doing it. So. That’s still iffy on that. Cuz I’m not well off. So…I have to kindof, work around with the money situation, and transitioning is kindof expensive…you know, I’ll work with it.

KLIMA
Okay, so as money comes in, then you maybe will be able to do a little more?

DAMIEN
Yes.

KLIMA
So, you still pretty well get harassed by the internet?

DAMIEN
I wouldn’t call it harassment, per se, or call it, just…you see, I’m a convenient pit stop for the internet to come and attempt to be smart, and clever, and troll…but it ends up just being a major fail whenever I get raided by people on 4chan. I don’t know. They don’t know what to do with me now, apparently.

KLIMA
Yeah, what’s been the reaction from the public about you becoming Damien, a boy, essentially?

DAMIEN
Um…a lot of people have been supportive, and a lot of people, it isn’t that they haven’t been supportive, but they’ve been doubtful of it. Especially…I’ve been getting a lot of hate within the trans community, because you know, they say “Oh, you’re not, you can’t, you know? It’s disgraceful.” Because of who I was. Back when I was eleven. They say I can’t transition, or that I can’t identify as female-to-male, because that was who I am, and I’d bring disgrace onto the community.

KLIMA
Okay, now that’s kindof an interesting…an oxymoron, that they would sit there, and be pining for acceptance, and not accepting you for who you are, yeah?

DAMIEN
Yeah. I tended to see that a lot. Especially in the tumblr trans community. Just a lot of people say, “Yeah, I wanna be accepted, I want to be able to go to the boys’ bathroom, and be able to do this, and do that, but…” Yet, you know, they’ll send me a message saying, “Oh, you can’t be a boy, because…you wear eyeliner, and that’s not something a boy does, so…you can’t do this,” and it’s like, weren’t you just arguing for being accepted as you are? Like, two posts ago? And then you’re coming to my outbox, and telling me I can’t be accepted? There’s a lot of transphobia within the trans community on Tumblr, and it’s not just directed towards me, it’s directed towards a lot of other people. Which, it’s kindof sad, it’s like, “Why can’t everybody just do their own thing?”

KLIMA
Now you seem pretty grounded and like, smart, but there’s also, I kindof heard, or seen stories, like, you had a couple of suicide attempts in your past? Is that true?

DAMIEN
Yeah, I’ve had a few…it was just a really bad time in my life…it was around this time last year, actually, that I had a lot of rough patches, and it didn’t…my life wasn’t going the way I wanted it too, and I got just really, really upset. And I ended up attempting suicide a few times. But…after a long recovery…I’m still recovering, but after a very long period of time, I’ve made a lot of progress. Hopefully.

KLIMA
So, you’re kindof over the suicide thing for now?

DAMIEN
Yes.

KLIMA
Good, good. I’m glad to hear that. So, how close did you come, do you think?

DAMIEN
I dunno. I can’t really judge that. I mean, most of the times that I did, I can’t really remember that much. I just know that I did. I dunno. I have a horrible memory of things like that. Sometimes, somebody will ask, “What was it like being on Good Morning, America?” and it’s like, “I don’t remember.” I remember getting sunburned. I remember eating sushi.

KLIMA
That’s good, so…you seem to remember some other aspects of it, which is good. Now you, uh…like, you said you were kindof depressed around this time last year…is this, are we talking about your dad passing away and all that?

DAMIEN
It wasn’t really that. Cuz, since when my dad died, I was in foster care…I guess I wasn’t as close to him…of course I wasn’t as close to him. And it didn’t really affect me as much. It still doesn’t register to me. That I even had a father. I know I did, for the first twelve years of my life, but…you know, now, that I’m here, it doesn’t feel like that. Certain things don’t feel like they existed before. But they did. It’s that weird feeling of distance, from the…my past, that I’m…I don’t know if anybody else feels it, but I feel extremely distant from it. To the point where I can’t remember really feelings or thoughts…around what happened with certain situations. I can only remember “Yeah, I got sunburn,” or “Yeah, I went to the mall.” That’s like the only things I can really remember, out of those…

KLIMA
Do you feel like you kindof blocked it out just because it was such bad stuff that happened around that time?

DAMIEN
Uh…I didn’t purposely block it out if I did. It just kinda happened that way.

KLIMA
Now your dad…I know like you said, you had one of those crazy tragic lives. Like, I don’t envy you all the things you’ve had to go through.

DAMIEN
It’s not crazy tragic. It’s…normal.

KLIMA
Okay.

DAMIEN
I see it as normal. Um, a lot of people are like, “Oh, you’re such a big inspiration, you’ve gone through so much,” and it’s like, no, it doesn’t feel like I’ve gone through a lot. The biggest thing it feels like I’ve went through is…when Adam Carson [the drummer for the band AFI] got engaged, and I threw a hissy fit. That was like a big thing to me, but that’s the only big thing that I feel like was big. Other than that, it’s just, you know, everybody seems to make a big deal out of things happening…things happen in everybody’s life. You know, you can’t really compare two lives next to each other, because, you know, it’s kinda all different.

Monica Lewinsky would write the following in “Shame and Survival”:

Yes, we’re all connected now. We can tweet a revolution in the streets or chronicle achievements large and small. But we’re also caught in a feedback loop of defame and shame, one in which we have become both perps and victims. We may not have become a crueler society although it sure feels as if we have but the Internet has seismically shifted the tone of our interactions. The ease, the speed, and the distance that our electronic devices afford us can also make us colder, more glib, and less concerned about the consequences of our pranks and prejudice. Having lived humiliation in the most intimate possible way, I marvel at how willingly we have all signed on to this new way of being

“I am, for better or for worse,” she would continue, “presumed to be a known quantity.”

Jessica Leonhardt

Images taken respectively from “Jessi Slaughter (kerligirl13) on Good Morning America” and “Jessi Slaughter Apologizes [2011]”.

The place where the allegation was made that Jessi Slaughter had hooked up with Dahvie Vanity was Sticy Drama, a site which also had a devastating effect on another briefly well known teenager, Kiki Ostrenga, who was better known by her alias as Kiki Kannibal. Easily the best account of this episode was “Kiki Kannibal: The Girl Who Played With Fire” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which told the story of a thirteen year old willowy white girl isolated and bullied by her latino and black classmates in a Florida high school who sought to reach out to the world through her Myspace site. We see again the theme of loneliness in actual life experienced by Amanda Todd and Aurora Eller, and the second half of her story repeats the themes of theirs as well. She would meet Danny Cespedes on-line, known as “Mr. Myspace” when, I guess, that meant something, an eighteen year old who said he was seventeen years old. He would charm her family, insist that he just wanted to be friends, accepted that she didn’t want to sleep with him, and then raped her. If your mom finds out, he’d tell her, we can’t be together. “If you don’t do this, you don’t love me,” Kiki says he told her. “I kind of pretend like it never happened.” Years later, in the video “Sexual Assault – Red Flags, Advice & My Experience”, Ostrenga would articulate well how predators are so effective at manipulating young, vulnerable and isolated girls85:

Those guys won’t save you from your situation, but they’ll use your situation…to make you feel like…that they will save you and they will be there for you. Whether the situation is low self-esteem, having problems with your family, bullying at school…these type of guys will pick up on that. And they’re really good at it. And then, they’ll make you feel safe and like, that someone understands you, and…that you can always go to them, and that they’re the only ones that get you, and when you’re a teenager, you often feel misunderstood…so, anyone that says “I understand you, I get you, I know…”, you automatically have an attachment to, or feel safe. And a lot of teenagers like to feel safe.

I know when I was first on-line, back in the MySpace days [Ostrenga would start on MySpace in 2006, according to “The Girl Who Played With Fire”], a lot of people didn’t know about…the internet dangers. And this was in regards to social networking. That was the first social networking site, that was out there and that people were joining, and no one talked about internet dangers, because it was so new. Sooooo…when it happened to me, n one, there was no guide, there was nothing in the news, no one was writing blogs about it, it was totally new. And so…I know a lot of people from the MySpace times, a lot of people were abused…a lot of underage girls were abused in that time, because there were a lot of older men, in that style, that were legal adults, that would go after, that were notorious for going after minors, within thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen.

Kiki Kannibal

Kiki Kannibal AKA Kiki Ostrenga from her video, “Easy & Quick Floral Hair Style – Roses For Summer!”.

She would soon discover that Cespedes actively pursued underage girls on-line, some as young as twelve. Cespedes’ father had engaged in sexual abuse as well, deported back to Peru after being convicted of sexual battery of a twelve year old. Again, from “Sexual Assault – Red Flags, Advice & My Experience” (14:21-15:03):

The guy who sexually assaulted me, it ran in his family. And no helped him or his father. Being a pedophile ran in his family, so he violated all these girls in South Florida. And each girl came to me…there were eighteen other underage girls and they all came to me with their stories. And that was painful enough after being violated by him, having to hear what he did to other girls…after he got arrested for violating eighteenother underage girls, under the age of fifteen, he passed away, trying to run away from the police, and all the hate sites blamed me for his death, and blamed me for my own rape.

Ostrenga would break up with Cespedes after his increasingly eccentric behavior, after which authorities would go after Ostreanga for multiple counts of statutory rape. They found him in a Florida mall, arrested and handcuffed him, after which he tried to escape while they crossed a pedestrian bridge in the mall’s parking garage. Cespedes was probably trying to jump from the bridge onto the roof of a construction van below, but his foot caught on the bridge, and he ended up hitting the ground head first. He spent two months in a coma and then died.

Kiki Ostrenga was then on Stickam, the same cam site which was featured so often in The Daily Capper, and like Amanda Todd, she spent more time on-line as the turmoil in her real life got worse, turmoil that spun out of her on-line life. It was her popular presence on Stickam which made her the subject of stories on Sticky Drama (sticky as in Stickam), which would eventually culminate in the story, “MySpace Murder Mystery” headed by a photo of the coffin of Danny Cespedes, along with the allegation that Ostrenga had “cooperated or plotted with the police” as payback for Cespedes breaking up with her, and that Ostrenga was “responsible for his death.” This, of course, provoked a furious reaction against Ostrenga, not unlike what Jessica Leonhardt had faced, with people threatening to kill her and posting fake Craigslist ads offering up the then fifteen year old as a prostitute. A Sticky Drama article promised Ostrenga, “we really are going to destroy your reputation,” but Christopher Stone, the man who ran Sticky Drama, also saw this as just a game: he wanted to bring “Kiki Kannibal” on to Sticky House, his on-line reality series filmed in his own condo, where teens were invited in and would engage in drama, the more depraved the better. Stone would pay an ex of Ostrenga a grand to take a dump on a photo of her at the same time he was sending her sympathetic emails telling her what a terrible mother she had, and that she was better off living in his house. “I don’t understand what his obsession is,” Ostrenga said. “but he has this sick, twisted love-hate relationship with me.” All this took place in 2010, the same year that Amanda Todd lifted her shirt and was screencapped.

Christopher Stone, real name: Christopher Watermeier

Christopher Stone, real name: Christopher Watermeier.

The Daily Capper would often discuss heroes and “heroing”, which were people who interfered with underage girls taking their clothes off on-cam, either by warning them not to or interfering with those who were urging them on. But there were others who played at being such heroes only to take advantage of the girls themselves, getting them into a position of trust after which they would cap them. Christopher Stone, the man who ran Sticky Drama was that kind of hero. He was given a heroic mention in Fox 11’s “Sextortion: What You Need to Know”, a man looking out for the best interests of young girls on-line, but he was actually a manipulator, an opportunist, a bully, and a bottom feeding creep. A full transcript of “Sextortion”, featuring references to many cappers already mentioned here:

FOX-11 KTTV ANCHOR
A new kind of on-line blackmail is trapping teenagers, especially those who send provocative pictures of themselves to friends. Hackers are stealing those photos and threatening the senders. It’s called “sextortion”. And now the police are beginning to crack down. Phil Shuman says they have some catching up to do.

PHIL SHUMAN
For many teens, sending boyfriends sexy pictures has become an internet dating ritual.

CHRISTOPHER STONE
It’s how people flirt. It’s the new…how people flirt in the digital age, in a way.

SHUMAN
Christopher Stone runs the website Sticky Drama.com. Users of this and other sites say blackmailers are now getting a hold of these photos, getting them from men who trade photos on-line. From vengeful ex-lovers who post them, even hacking into the woman’s computer. The blackmailer then uses the embarrassing photos to extort the person, demanding that they perform sex acts on a webcam.

STONE
From one nude photograph, it goes from that to you have to [deleted] on camera.

SHUMAN
If they refuse, he threatens to send the photo to their friends and family. The scheme even has a brand new name: it’s called “sextortion”.

VOICE FROM VIDEO
Beware of m0d.

SHUMAN
Concerned web users have begun posting videos identifying active blackmailers. It names m0d, Sean Savvy, Coke, and Swan. Shadowy figures who often use multiple photos, possibly of innocent people, to try and hide their identity. Police have begun to crack down, arresting this high school student last year on charges of extorting sex from classmates.

JUDGE IN CASE V.O.
He knew the destructive power of what he was doing.

SHUMAN
Just last month, another big sextortion case, this one in Orange County where prosecutors allege that a thirty-one year old paraplegic hacked into the computers of literally hundreds of people [this is Luis Mijangos, profiled in another excellent piece by David Kushner, “The Hacker is Watching”]. Almost fifty of them juveniles. A good example of the fact that prosecutors don’t really know how big sextortion has become.

STONE
It’s the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of these people out there.

SHUMAN
The alleged blackmailer seemed to treat it like a joke. Here getting awards [from The Daily Capper‘s 2009 awards presentation, which can be found on youtube, “2009 Capper Awards Full Results”] like the 2009 “Blackmailer of the Year”.

VOICE FROM WARNING VIDEO
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.

SHUMAN
This internet post says Aussie is amng the most brazen blackmailers…

STONE
Aussie. Known as Leasky or David.

SHUMAN
Internet posts say Aussie sweet talks girls into exposing themselves. Extorts sex, then posts it.

VOICE FROM WARNING VIDEO
It actually shows himself, on cam, while he’s having cybersex…

STONE
If it makes them laugh…to crush someone, they have no problem doing that.

SHUMAN
A man Stone identifies as Router throws another twist on the sextortion scheme.

STONE
And Router is the only gay cyberstalker that I know of.

SHUMAN
Stone says Router gets nude images of underage boys, then threatens to get them arrested for child porn. Unless they go on cam for him.

STONE
He forces them to do more and more and more, until they refuse, and then you take your massive collection and throw it out for everyone to see anyway.

SHUMAN
Despite all the complaints, the men behind these possibly fake profile pictures – Router, Aussie, Sean Savvy, m0d, and Swan – all deny any wrongdoing.

UNIDENTIFED CONVICTED BLACKMAILER
I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain and suffering I have caused you, and your family.

SHUMAN
This sextortionist got fifteen years in prison for his crimes, but Stone and others doubt it will stop others.

STONE
They can’t resist.

SHUMAN
Unfortunately, there are always other innocent web users who haven’t heard the warnings. Or simply refused to listen.

VOICE ON VIDEO
All I can do is warn you about him. Whatever you want to do after watching this video, that’s up to you.

SHUMAN
Phil Shuman, Fox-11 News.

Swan on Fox-11

Sean Savvy on Fox-11

m0d on Fox-11

Christopher Stone on Fox-11

Aussie blurred out on Fox-11

Footage and mentions of Swan, Sean Savvy, m0d, Christopher Stone, and Aussie (blurred out) on Fox-11’s “Sextortion: What You Need to Know”.

It would surprise a viewer of such a program that a hero like Christopher Stone, the man behind Sticky Drama, was also the man behind Stickynoodz, which compiled nudes of very young men and women from social network sites. There was another detail that might surprise someone who thought of Stone as a hero. A steady resident of the Sticky House was Amor Hilton, and part of the reason why there was such eagerness about Kiki Kannibal being a guest there was over the expectation of juicy conflict between the two women when they were stuck in the same space together. Hilton also cultivated an exotic and flamboyant look, and was another Stickam regular. In 2007, she would experience an episode of the kind already described here, to which David Kushner’s “Identity Crisis” is devoted. She lived in Los Angeles, and her boyfriend at the time was visiting his mother in Phoenix. He was going back to L.A. by bus when he received a message from Hilton’s MySpace account: she was coming to pick him up, she just needed his mother’s phone number and address. He was suspicious, but he sent the information over anyway, and then he got a call at his mom’s, a man telling him not to get on the bus. Hilton was at a mall with a friend when her boyfriend managed to reach her: “Where are you?” he said. “Your phone’s not working.” Someone with the alias of “VIP” had managed to hack her MySpace and Stickam accounts, then shut her out. He’d gained control by knowing the answer to challenge questions, which were the phone number and address of her boyfriend’s mother. He contacted Hilton and told her he knew Hilton’s home address and social security number. All he wanted was nude pictures of her. But Hilton instead filed a report with the police. When “VIP” called back the next day making the same deal, Hilton warned him: “You better watch what you say…because my detective is right here on the line.” VIP would reply: “Hey detective, catch me if you can, I’m a ghost.” A little while later, “VIP” was caught, and it turned out he was Jeffrey Robert Weinberg, a member of Cameron LaCroix’s crew that had hacked into Accurint and accessed Paris Hilton’s Sidekick phone. He was on three years probation from the earlier hack when he pulled this one, and he’d gotten into Amor Hilton’s MySpace account through some variety of the same method they’d gotten to Paris Hilton, by accessing the administrators page of MySpace86. This, however, was not the detail that conflicted with the idea of Stone as hero, but something to do with Amor Hilton’s then boyfriend, the one contacted in Phoenix at his mom’s, someone by the name of John Hock.

Amor Hilton

Amor Hilton, from “Personal With Amor Hilton: John Hock”.

John Hock

John Hock, from the short “Stickam: To Hell and Back”.

At one point in “TheDailyCapper.com – Week of September 12,2010”, “The New John Hock?” was the question posed on-screen, a name likely unknown to most at the time and entirely forgotten now. “We all know Perso is a sick freak by now,” the newscaster would say. “Perhaps this turns him on. We nearly had a new John Hock this week on Stickam. This man went on cam with his iPhone and played with this girl while she was asleep. I’m sure many were disappointed when they came back and it turned out she was awake. Sorry, Perso. Maybe next time.”87

the new John Hock

“The New John Hock?”, The Daily Capper asked about a story that it expected would meet the approval of “Perso”, a capper and extortionist who enjoyed forcing girls to drink their pee out of a toilet.

“Sticky Drama’s Owner Recorded a Live-Streamed Rape and Blogged About It But Didn’t Report It” by Adrian Chen was one of the only mentions in the mainstream press of the incident, a year after it took place (a contemporary account is by CBS News, “Gone Too Far: Did Internet Star Johnathan Hock Rape Woman Live On Web?”, written by Ryan Smith). It came out on July 22, 2010, part of a series of articles by Chen devoted to Christopher Stone, Sticky Drama, and Jessi Slaughter, “Sticky Drama: The Teen Gossip Blog Run By a 31-Year-Old Pornographer”, published a day before “Live-Streamed Rape” and “How the Internet Beat Up an 11-Year-Old Girl”, devoted to Slaughter, published July 15, 2010. “Sticky Drama’s Owner Recorded a Live-Streamed Rape” would give the crux of the case:

On February 26, 2009, 20-year-old John Hock, a popular member of the webcam community Stickam, filmed himself sexually assaulting his 20-year-old girlfriend while she was passed out drunk. He was indicted last June and charged with two counts of sexual assault. (His case is still apparently pending.)

Stone would record the assault, stream it, and post a Sticky Drama article about it, “Here We Go Again: Another Hock Sexual Assault.”:

It’s well-established that John Hock can sexually assault girls and no one cares enough to arrest or prosecute him. And the victim, who is Hock’s girlfriend of 2 weeks, probably won’t even think it’s a big deal, although she might not appreciate being forwarded a bajillion screencaps of her pussy for the rest of her life.

He would not turn over evidence to the police until police got a warrant three months later to search his web server – though others in the Sticky Drama community did so immediately after the incident took place, according to one source in “Live-Streamed Rape”:

I saw that he was bragging on his website and twitter and formspring about how he was responsible for getting John Hock arrested, and talking about it as if he volunteered the evidence out of the kindness of his heart.

The truth was that when he found out about the rape, and obtained a recording of it, he just posted about it on his website. He didn’t report it to the police and even allowed other posts exposing the victim’s identity and calling her a slut.

Meanwhile, myself, and a few other members of the community I’m involved with alerted the pheonix [sic] police station immediately. We gave them all the information we could possibly find, and told them about Sticky Drama because Chris had mentioned having a video of what happened.

The police would have e-mailed him asking for the video, but at that time he didn’t have any contact information on his website. They wound up leaving a comment asking him to contact them, which he never did.

Three months later, after they had taken may witness statements, and spoken to the victim, they issued a search warrant for his server, thinking that he may have uploaded the video somewhere on the website. Once that happened, and he found out the reason why they were looking there, he then sent in the video.

Screenshot of the rape streamed on Sticky Drama

Screenshot of the rape streamed on Sticky Drama, from “Sticky Drama’s Owner Recorded a Live-Streamed Rape and Blogged About It But Didn’t Report It”.

Kiki Ostrenga screencap

Kiki Ostrenga’s printout of the Sticky Drama post that night, with her notes. Taken from “Christopher Stone AKA Christopher Watermeier posts rape video on his website” by Kiki Ostrenga.

I excerpt one of Stone’s comments after this woman was raped on cam: “And the victim, who is Hock’s girlfriend of 2 weeks, probably won’t even think it’s a big deal, although she might not appreciate being forwarded a bajillion screencaps of her pussy for the rest of her life.” I excerpt Stone’s quote from Fox-11’s “Sextortion”: “If it makes them laugh…to crush someone, they have no problem doing that.” In “The Girl Who Played With Fire”, we’re told that those who stay at the Sticky House do so for free, and that Stone, who is openly gay, will flagrantly exert his droit de seigneur: “I’m buttfucking a legit str8 boy tonight, or he’s homeless, lol.” He would tweet out a picture of himself lying next to another tenant: “I have seen paradise and [name witheld] gets to stay here another month.” Again: “If it makes them laugh…to crush someone, they have no problem doing that.” In November 2009, Stone would post a picture of a woman he said was Alyssa Backlund, saying that it “appears to depict Alyssa Marie Robertson [Backlund] masturbating next to an infant. Such an act, in addition to being morally repugnant, probably violates several statutes pertaining to exposing children to obscenity.” Backlund was not the person in the picture. Stone would also publish Backlund’s name, address, and a map to her home alongside the picture that was allegedly of Backlund, but wasn’t Backlund. Stone removed the post and offered to put up an apology with the headline, “Alyssa Marie Buckland [sic] is Not the Most Vile Camwhore Alive.” After Stone found out that Backlund was in communication with a Sticky House guest, Parker Tammen, he tweeted out a threat that he would post a topless picture of Backlund: “Message him again, and your floppy titties are spammed all over the place. Last warning.” Again, Chris Stone, sextortion expert: “If it makes them laugh…to crush someone, they have no problem doing that.” Backlund would sue Stone for this behavior, would lose, and eventually would win on appeal. All quotes with regard to her case in this paragraph are taken from Alyssa Backlund v. Christopher Stone.

Message him again Christopher Stone threatening tweet

The tweet Christopher Stone sent to Alyssa Backlund, taken from “StickyDrama’s Christopher Stone Is a ‘Sextortion’ Expert in More Ways Than One” by Adrian Chen.

Amor Hilton would say the following in “Personal With Amor Hilton: John Hock”, uploaded April 13, 2010 (2:39-4:47):

People are always asking me, “So you think that it’s okay what he did to that girl?” and blahblahblah, and no, I don’t necessarily think that it’s okay what he did to that girl. But it was his girlfriend at the time. And as his ex-fiancee, I know that he’s done, you know, other things that are…very John like. That was very John-like, for instance. And people who don’t know him, in person, and don’t know who the true person he is…like I do, seem to just let that fly over their head, you know. John is John. He kindof just is how he is, because that’s how he is. And that’s the only way you can kinda explain him. See, you know, he told me, “I fucked up, I fucked up,” he knows he fucked up. But he didn’t know that his girlfriend was going to be so offended by that. Like, no, it wasn’t right for him to have, you know…I don’t know how to say it, you know, I loved him very much, and we’re still friends and I will be there for him no matter what happens. I have yet to be in contact with him since June of…last year. Yeah. And he told me, he was turning himself and he said, “I’m gonna make it right,” and he said, “I’m gonna prove to you I’m a different person,” and I said, “Prove to me what you want, John.” And that’s what happened. So. *sighs* Mrs. Hock, the original Mrs. Hock, Jenna Hock, John’s mother, I would like to tell you that I had nothing to do with trying to put John in jail. I want him out of there just as much as you do, I really do, I want him out.

Comments were disabled on the video.

In October, 2010, Hock’s conviction would be reported by CBS News in “Johnathan Hock Pleads Guilty to Live-Streaming Sexual Assault of Girlfriend”. Years later, on December 12, 2014, after Stone, Hock, and the incident had been forgotten, Ostrenga would post on her site about the aftermath, now that Stone, whose actual name was Christopher Watermeier, was revealed to be the merciless opportunist that he was. From “Christopher Stone AKA Christopher Watermeier posts rape video on his website”:

Christopher Stone AKA Christopher Watermeier witnessed a live rape broadcasted on Stickam.com, recorded video, then posted the screen caps to his teen gossip website instead of reporting it to police.

He was also sued for harassment by a teen. He lost and had a judgement against him [this outcome is discussed in the appeal, Alyssa Backlund v. Christopher Stone]. After the judgement he went into hiding and sold off his L.A. condo for cash. He relocated out of California and is now hiding his assets so that he does not have to pay his judgement. These are print outs of his actual website that was shut down and he attempted to auction off for $25k after he received too much heat for harassing an 11 year old that was then placed into police custody. The victim discovered she was assaulted and her video was online after people sent her his website.

The wretchedness of those on The Daily Capper and the wretchedness of Christopher Stone give us the false comfort of distance, that whatever our sins, we are certainly not these people. It is the same reassurance that the men in The Fan Club give us; the book suffers as fiction by making each man an embodiment of one vile trait, yet this impairment of fictional achievement serves a commercial purpose: the reader always relates to the goddess ideal of Sharon Fields, and never sees themselves among the common rabble. The book is about the delusion of thinking oneself proximate to your idols, as Adam Malone does, and wishing to deny one’s insignificance, as Leo Brunner wishes, and the book is not a counterpoint to these fantasies, but their fulfillment. The reader, the insignifcant near nothing reader, is briefly Sharon Fields, superstar, one woman against the vile millions.

This is the same narrative which came to the forefront during #TheFappening. There were responsible, moral institutions like Gawker and BuzzFeed who would never violate the rights of women as Jennifer Lawrence’s had been violated, and then there were these creeps, these cowardly scum who thrived on 4chan and Reddit, who were primitive, half-human slime that were so amoral as to commit such misdeeds. This very long look into #TheFappening ring began with a question about Bryan Hamade, “What Kind Of Creep Sells A Celebrity’s Naked Photos On The Internet?” by Charlie Warzel. Given that we’ve now agreed that this act was utterly inhumane, unconscionably vile, we can agree that it’s not simply the sale of pictures that was an amoral act, but the purchase and distribution as well. Here is a germane fragment from the well praised essay “Say hello to men who hate NSA spying but blame women for being spied on” by T.C. Sottek:

Over the weekend someone released hundreds of revealing photos of celebrities that appear to have been stolen from private storage. In response to this, a bunch of anonymous guys on the internet copied them and posted them all over the town square, because the internet is written in ink and if you are ever a victim once in your life the internet will remind you of it forever.

These men are the detritus of human society for whom the internet provides a warm blanket, so let’s remove the warm blanket for a minute.

Sottek would then add: “It’s still not clear how the private photos were obtained, but there’s a good chance the victims were hacked – it’s happened before.” The essay would then go on to reveal the identities of some of the men on reddit who shared these photos and argued that it was the fault of the women for taking these nude photos that they got distributed everywhere. There was a pleasure that Sottek had in doing this, that, yes, the photos were permanent, they were never going away, but: neither would the association between these men and this vile act. “Fortunately, the internet is written in ink.” Yes, it is. There’s the old line that a loaded gun seen on the mantel in the first act has to go off by the third act, yet somehow a great many people who wrote about #TheFappening, far more educated and far more intelligent than this humble writer, seem to have ignored this fact. Given Sottek’s statements, “a bunch of anonymous guys on the internet copied them and posted them all over the town square” and “these men are the detritus of human society”, it would seem that anyone involved in the distribution of such photos is equally guilty, and that buying and publishing such photos are equal crimes. We might then ask with equal urgency, “What Kind Of Creep Buys A Celebrity’s Naked Photos On The Internet?” and “What Kind Of Creep Publishes A Celebrity’s Naked Photos On The Internet?” And were Charlie Warzel to ask such a question, “What Kind Of Creep Publishes A Celebrity’s Naked Photos On The Internet?”, I think the answer is simple and easily available: you would, Mr. Warzel.

We might return to what Scarlett Johansson said in a taped statement at Chris Chaney’s sentencing. “I have been truly humiliated and embarrassed,” she said. “I find Christopher Chaney’s actions to be perverted and reprehensible.” Who published Johansson’s nude photos in 2011? BuzzFeed did: “Scarlett Johansson Nude Photos Leaked”. They had to take the photos down, because Johansson “copyrighted the pictures so that she could go after sites that displayed them,” according to the profile “A Study in Scarlett” by Peter Biskind and Jessica Diehl. That the photos were removed is something mentioned with regret in the BuzzFeed subhed: “Alas, at her lawyer’s request, we had to take them down.” It’s really astonishing that Warzel and BuzzFeed forgot entirely about this event; this post scored over five million views, making it easily one of the most popular things ever published on that site. Given how much of BuzzFeed‘s success is built on cats, one can only imagine what kind of views this post would have gotten if they’d shown a little pussy. I apologize for that: a sadistic glee, as we all know, always brings out the worst jokes.

BuzzFeed What kind of creep

Scarlett Johansson Leak at BuzzFeed

I have another question. What kind of creep hacks the phone of a missing girl, a missing dead girl, hacks their phone so her parents mistakenly hold out hope that their daughter is still alive? What kind of scumbag piece of shit creep would pay off a network of hackers to do such vile acts, to pay ex-police officers to cover up this hacking ring, and be utterly unapologetic about such a thing? I think all of us news consumers know the short answer to that question. The longer answer is: the kind of scumbag creep that Charlie Warzel’s boss enjoys hanging out with.

A day after the Sottek piece was published, Jezebel would publish “Behind Every Bullied Woman Is a Man Yelling About Free Speech” by Erin Gloria Ryan, which again dealt with the hypocrisy of reddit protecting the identiites of users who distributed the nudes and the blatant violation of the privacy of the women in the pictures:

And so, after naked images of female (and some collateral males who happened to be in the same shot as a naked female) celebrities began being distributed online by thirsty bitcoin whores, one would think that if Reddit had any moral consistency in its leadership, it would, as vanguards of privacy and brave soldiers against doxxing, instruct its moderators to scrub links to the images from its servers and ban users that continually broke the rules.

Nope! For awhile on Sunday, all of the top 10 stories on Reddit were links to images of naked female celebrities obtained without their consent. Today, subscribers to r/TheFappening are gleefully screenshotting news coverage of the leak, linking to the image gallery with abandon.

To distribute such pictures is something Ryan emphatically views as a punishable crime, in a sentence on the contrast between Jennifer Lawrence’s rights and those of the anonymous user: “A user’s right to remain unidentified and unpunished after they post an illegally obtained picture of Jennifer Lawrence’s nude body trumps Jennifer Lawrence’s right to not have illegally obtained photos of her nude body distributed to millions of strangers.” You would think that given how passionately Ryan feels about hypocrisy, blatant vile hypocrisy, and the unauthorized and illegal distribution of such private pictures, she would bring up all the times that Gawker Media did the very same thing. Nope!

There was the publication of Johansson’s nudes on Fleshbot which had to be withdrawn because of the actress’s copyright claims. “Are These Nude Photos Of Scarlett Johansson The Real Deal? [UPDATED 9/16/11]” (archive today link): “For years we’ve dreamed nay, prayed that one day we might be lucky enough to see the gorgeous Scarlett Johansson in the nude. And now our dreams may just have come true.” You see by that question in the title that they weren’t trying to violate Johansson’s privacy like those lowbrows at reddit; they were performing journalism. They were asking questions. But there were plenty of others. There was “First Cassie, Now Rihanna: It’s Naked R&B Star Week” (archive today link) on Fleshbot featuring leaked Rihanna nudes. “Ashley Greene: Naked on the Internet?”, again on Fleshbot (archive today link), featuring leaked pics of the Twilight star. There was “This Week’s Naked Celebrity Phone Pics: Glee’s Heather Morris” (archive today link) by Leah Buckman, over at Gawker. “After a drought of leaked celebrity nudity, we now have (alleged!) pictures of both Jessica Alba and Kat Dennings,” was the introduction for “Double Whammy Celebrity Nudity: Kat Dennings and Jessica Alba Topless!” (archive today link) on Fleshbot. Back on Gawker, Christina Hendricks Says These Giant Naked Boobs Aren’t Hers, But Everything Else Is” (archive today link) by Maureen O’Coonor. There was “Olivia Munn’s Super Dirty Alleged Naked Pics: ‘Lick My Tight Asshole and Choke Me'” (archive today link) and “New Super Dirty Olivia Munn Pics: ‘I Want Your Big Dick Right Here'” (archive link today), both again by O’Connor at Gawker, which involved leaked pics of the actress that had dirty writing, presumably by her, scrawled over them. It really is astonishing that Gawker forgot about “Olivia Munn’s Super Dirty Alleged Naked Pics: ‘Lick My Tight Asshole and Choke Me'” since it got over 2.6 million views.

That they got such traffic from Munn’s hot body is especially interesting in the context of other posts about Munn, which ragged her for getting a job at The Daily Show based mostly on her looks (“According to Nielsen, the Daily Show’s audience does lean male about 60 percent,” wrote Irin Carmon in The Daily Show‘s Woman Problem”, “That’s who producers seemed to have in mind when they hired Olivia Munn.”), and for the fact that she ultimately served men’s desires more than women’s. From “Olivia Munn’s Geek Goddess Schtick” by Carmon, quoting an anonymous commenter: “I’ve always felt like she’s basically like a girl who tells horribly sexist jokes around guys to make them like her because she’s totally like them, not like all those other women that they have troubles with! Entertainment world, please stop trying to convince me that Olivia Munn is funny/awesome/Queen of the Nerds.” Gawker Media hated Munn for this, but they were more than happy to squeeze a few million clicks out of that hot body if they could. Why? To quote the title of the thinkpiece Gawker published about #TheFappening: “That Type of Girl Deserves It”. It was astonishing that Ryan couldn’t cite any of this in her essay, because not only was “Olivia Munn’s Super Dirty Alleged Naked Pics” incredibly popular, but Ryan was commenting on Jezebel articles back in 2010, before Gawker‘s 2012 Olivia Munn celeb leak posts, making sure to make a point in “The Daily Show‘s Woman Problem” that I think should be taken to heart (direct link): “This is ridiculous. Anyone who has ever hung around liberal guys who think they’re funny knows that it’s impossible for them to be racist or sexist.” Absolutely. Just as the world knows that it’s impossible for anyone at Gawker Media to be a hypocritical, mendacious, self-righteous lowlife.

That type of girl

Olivia Munn Pics pt1

Olivia Munn Pics pt2

Christina Hendricks on Gawker

Heather Morris on Gawker

Johansson on Fleshbot

Rihanna on Fleshbot

Ashley Greene at Fleshbot

Alba and Dennings on Fleshbot

In order, excerpts from screenshots of “That Type of Girl Deserves It”, “Olivia Munn’s Super Dirty Alleged Naked Pics: ‘Lick My Tight Asshole and Choke Me'” (archive today link), “New Super Dirty Olivia Munn Pics: ‘I Want Your Big Dick Right Here'” (archive link today), “Christina Hendricks Says These Giant Naked Boobs Aren’t Hers, But Everything Else Is” (archive today link), “This Week’s Naked Celebrity Phone Pics: Glee’s Heather Morris” (archive today link), “Are These Nude Photos Of Scarlett Johansson The Real Deal? [UPDATED 9/16/11]” (archive today link), “First Cassie, Now Rihanna: It’s Naked R&B Star Week” (archive today link), “Ashley Greene: Naked on the Internet?” (archive today link), and “Double Whammy Celebrity Nudity: Kat Dennings and Jessica Alba Topless!” (archive today link).

In “Search and Destroy”, a profile of Nick Denton by Ben McGrath, we are told that “Hypocrisy is the only modern sin” is one of Denton’s favorite sayings. This is confirmed in “The Playboy Interview: A Candid Conversation with Gawker’s Nick Denton”:

PLAYBOY: Do you ever have misgivings about exposing people’s private lives, their sex lives?

DENTON: If there’s a gap between your private behavior and your public status, that’s what makes the story for us. To my mind, the only real modern sin is hypocrisy.

You hate hypocrisy, Mr. Denton? What a coincidence. So do I.

Perhaps the best analysis I came across of the press’s reaction to #TheFappening pics was Ryan Holiday’s “Spare Us The Sanctimony: The Gross Hypocrisy of Online Media in the Nude Photo Leak”:

There’s no question that these photos constitute a flagrant violation of these women’s (and men’s) privacy. What’s less certain is where blogs like Gawker and Perez Hilton and others get off pretending to be shocked and appalled by it.

These sites which generally will publish anything for an extra thousand pageviews are suddenly leading the charge that these hackers are criminals, that the online horde who clicks the photos are perverts, and that justice must be done for the victims. It all may be true but guess who lost the ability to claim the moral high ground a long time ago?

The reality is that these sites just got scooped and disrupted by the photo-hosting sites that originally posted the images. Being pissed, being outraged is just the cleanest and most lucrative angle the reporters could take, particularly in the case of a beloved celebrity like Jennifer Lawrence. In a different news cycle, a different day, a different source, even different women, the same blogs would have gladly published these photos.

If anything Holiday gives Gawker too much credit here; they profited from their piety a little, but mainly they profited from Jennifer Lawrence as they had profited from Olivia Munn and Scarlett Johansson in the past. Gawker‘s top post of 2014 in terms of page views was “J-Law, Kate Upton Nudes Leak: Web Explodes Over Hacked Celeb Pics” by Dayna Evans, which pulled in close to 5.3 million clicks88, and that carried a helpful – just so you could see the crime you were supposed to be disgusted about – to the vile, wretched, inhumane 4chan thread which had all these pics. In contrast their piety was far less popular, with “Behind Every Bullied Woman Is a Man Yelling About Free Speech” pulling in over 140K clicks, “That Kind of Girl Deserves It” getting a little over 102K clicks, and Michelle Dean’s “What Was Celebrity-Nude-Gate? Or, An Adventure in Reddit Philosophy” getting a little over 23K clicks.

Gawker's Fappening page

Reddit Philosophy

Behind every woman

We also know that the nasty little trick of pulling in clicks from the 4chan link while condemning the vile scum who’d perpetrated this outrage was something they had been very critical of before – not when it came to themselves, though; only when it came to others. You could find this nasty skepticism in their posts on the Erin Andrews footage, video of the sportcaster nude in a hotel bathroom taken without her knowledge in 2009, in such posts as New York Post Outraged By These Hot Nude Pixxx” by Hamilton Nolan: “Words are simply not sufficient to express the New York Post‘s fury at this perverted, unnatural desecration, which was first reported by our jocky sibling Deadspin. No, it will take a slide show of images from the nude video for the Post to properly communicate how livid it is at this breakdown of all that is good and moral.” There were two critical pieces which took down TMZ for presenting itself as a kind of hero in the Erin Andrews affair after they held onto the footage for months without looking into who sent it to them: “TMZ’s Bamboozling Erin Andrews Coverage” and “The Continued Dissemination Of TMZ’s Erin Andrews Heroism”, both by A.J. Daulerio, with “The Continued Dissemination” featuring a long quote from a highly placed source questioning TMZ’s public stance. “Okay, if this was such an outrageous and invasive (and likely criminal) act on the part of the person trying to sell the videos,” asked the source, “why the fuck didn’t TMZ do a story back in January about the attempted sale of the videos?” Something similar could be asked of Gawker: if publishing such private nudes is such a reprenhensible act, then why the fuck did Gawker Media happily do so for most of its history?

Gawker on NY Post

From New York Post Outraged By These Hot Nude Pixxx” by Hamilton Nolan.

It’s unfortunate that a piece like Michelle Dean’s “What Was Celebrity-Nude-Gate? Or, An Adventure in Reddit Philosophy” didn’t turn to self-examination, didn’t link back to Gawker‘s earlier work in celeb nudes, because there was some valuable infomration back there. Dean has done some good journalism elsewhere (see “The boy who didn’t come back from heaven: inside a bestseller’s ‘deception'”) but this piece is a kind of platonic ideal of Gawker writing: self-important, self-righteous, self-serving, and yet still empty of much vital information. “You do not have to possess technical knowledge to figure out what is happening here,” she wrote in an essay which chastised others for their shallowness, lack of insight, and inability to search Google as ably as Dean did. “It’s all I had to look into this story when it broke last week and I quickly figured things out.” Though what exactly she figured out, compared to in-depth investigations like “Notes on the Celebrity Data Theft” by Nik Cubrilovic, I’m not sure. Had a single Gawker writer bothered to link back to their earlier coverage of the 2011 hacks, there would have been some insights – but of course, they couldn’t do that, because then there would be the links to the photos of Olivia Munn, Christina Hendricks, and Scarlett Johansson, that were a result of those leaks, and their shallow hypocrisy would be obvious.

A 2011 post from the time of this first major celeb leak, “A Peek Into the Celebrity Nude Pic Hacking Ring “ by Adrian Chen, focused on a blogger named DeepAtSea, the same blogger mentioned in the Chris Chaney story, and how he acquired some of the celeb nudes published on his site:

The infamous Parisian celebrity nude pic blogger DeepAtSea, who recently posted some of these pictures, tells us the person behind the spree is a hacker named “Gook.” DeepAtSea was browsing the message board 4chan when he came across Gook boasting about the celebrity hacks. He sent an email to Gook out of “stupid curiosity.” “I wanted to know what his motivation [was] and if he knew my blog,” DeepAtSea told us in an email. Gook “responded that he didn’t know my blog. I asked him if he was afraid to go to jail he said no.”

DeepAtSea says he wants to shoot down speculation that he’s in cahoots with the celebrity hacker, stirred up when The Daily wrote about [The Daily was Murdoch’s failed attempt at an electronic newspaper designed for the iPad, and it is now off-line, the link is broken, and the story does not seem archived anywhere] how he had posted the pictures, bragged about being in touch with the hacker, then mysteriously deleted his blog. “I’m just a blogger who loves celebrities who reposts pictures, mag scans and videos that i find on the net,” DeepatSea wrote in a blog post [his blog is now almost entirely deleted, with only a single post saying goodbye]. He told us that he found the nude pictures he posted of The Secret Life of the American Teenager actress Renee Olstead on 4chan, and the pictures of Disney star Vanessa Hudgens on a now-deleted Flickr account named “Sweetmelodies.” It seems the hacker is gradually distributing his pictures via the grass roots, rather than selling them to blogs.

As for why DeepatSea disappeared: “if someone like you, is accuse of being a criminal, what would you do?” (DeepatSea is back at a new address [again, it’s a blog that’s almost entirely deleted, with a single post saying goodbye].) Anyone know anything about Gook?

A link to this post might have let the reader know that such a hacking ring was not something new, but had existed before – to Gawker‘s benefit. That this was the ring which the FBI thought Chris Chaney was involved in when they came to arrest him. “They constantly repeated, ‘We’re after the big fish; you’re just the little fish,” says Chaney in David Kushner’s “The Man Who Hacked Hollywood”. “They were after a ring of celebrity hackers.” We also know why #TheFappening ring thought they could get away with it – because this ring had gotten away with it. Chaney, who lacked technical expertise, hadn’t even bothered to set up anything like proxies, but perhaps this ring had. Whether DeepAtSea is telling anything close to the truth in this interview with Chen is open to question, identifying only a single hacker whereas past examples cited here seem to require a ring, not just for resource sharing but out of psychological need. We have seen in the wake of the Amanda Todd suicide how Kody Maxson was first identified as Todd’s blackmailer, after which Maxson identified Viper as the culprit, and we may have something of a diversionary tactic here as well. DeepAtSea protects one or more people by identifying a single (possibly fictional) hacker, and perhaps even taking pleasure that this Asian American writer has to write “gook” repeatedly in a news story.

There are two points on which Chris Chaney might be lying in the GQ story which intersect with this account. The first has to do with the number of Johansson pics he says he acquired: “Chaney was stunned. He claims to have sent out only one shot. So how did the others get online?” There were three pics in the leak; either Chaney is lying or maybe this hacker ring was hitting the same inboxes Chaney was, and they got their hands on the other two. There is also this line in the DeepAtSea piece, “He told us that he found the nude pictures he posted of The Secret Life of the American Teenager actress Renee Olstead on 4chan” and this contradicts what Chaney says in GQ: “He reached out to the infamous blogger Deep at Sea. Deep was more of a fanboy than a hacker, posting photos he found across the Web. Chaney knew the guy had a thing for Renee Olstead, the redheaded star of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and Chaney had recently stumbled on a trove of her private pictures showering in a tight white shirt, using a baby blue vibrator. He decided to share them with Deep.” Chaney had already plead guilty at this point and was awaiting sentencing, so why would he take credit for an act he didn’t commit? “A Peek Into the Celebrity Nude Pic Hacking Ring” was published March 21, 2011, a month after police had entered Chaney’s house and said they were after the big fish – but they hadn’t arrested him yet. They only did so in October of that year, after the Johansson pictures were published – the Fleshbot post has a publication date of September 14, 2011. So, when DeepatSea says he found the Olstead pictures on 4chan, he might have been protecting Chaney as well.

Just as The Fan Club requires monsters, men who embody the traits we find so contemptible in ourselves, yet who are clearly not us, #TheFappening ring needed a monster as well, someone who was not ourselves. In the absence of catching the actual members of the ring, they got the next best thing, the reddit user “Johnsmcjohn” AKA John Menese, the man who set up and ran the subreddit “The Fappening” which contained the celeb nudes. “Meet the unashamed 33-year-old who brought the stolen celebrity nudes to the masses” by Caitlin Dewey gave us all the details which would allow us to properly despise him. It was a profile which made sure to make him someone who was not us, not a competent functional member of middle class life – or he was not, at least, the person we could ever admit to being. Manese worked briefly at a series of jobs, was now at a Las Vegas call center, had applied to be an Apple Genius (and failed! Aren’t you grateful that he failed?) He used cocaine, he was asexual, he might have Asperger’s, he was desperate for money. “$100 needed to keep utilities on,” he would post in the week before Dewey’s piece. “Thank you for any help you can give me.” That Menese had difficulty getting work, that he was a failure, was a central point of Dewey’s piece:

In 2011, after getting laid off from a YouTube tech video series for which he was working, John lost his car, his laptop, and his phone. He applied for a trade license and failed the background check over unspecified incidents in Colorado. Undeterred, John registered a new Web site and claimed to be working on a startup to monetize the common web. Whatever that means, it doesn’t seem to have worked out.

A day later, Manese would participate in a casualiama (AMAs are for celebrities and notable people, while casual ones are for ordinary folk), “On Sunday, I created /r/TheFappening, the fastest growing subreddit in history. Tonight, it was banned.” Given that reddit was portrayed as a cesspool of mysoginist cruelty, most emphatically by places like Gawker (though it also had no problem publishing hacked nudes in the past), there are two notable points in the AMA. “How do you feel about the washington post basically trying to dox you?” asks “immorta1” about the Post article. “CydeWeys” replies: “Small world … I went out on a date with the author of that blog post once.” “fourpac”: “Details, girlfriend!” CydeWeys would continue, and it’s the second paragraph that’s obviously the most notable89:

She was normal enough in person. The date did go terribly south though, and it wasn’t really anyone’s fault. I received a call from my mother during the date, which I immediately picked up because my mom was with my grandmother who was dying of senile dementia. My grandmother had returned to a lucid state after not being mentally “there” at all for at least a week, and so the last time I talked with her before she died was right in the middle of the date, outside the bar. As you can imagine, it completely wrecked the mood (I explained what the call was about to her), and neither of us tried to contact the other afterwards.

So you got a good story out of me about it, but it’s probably not the kind of saucy details about her you were looking for. But even if there were any I wouldn’t divulge them; it’s not nice to be mean about someone on the Internet like that, especially when they can’t defend themselves. I’ve been a target of that kind of stuff enough myself, and wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Again, given the idea that reddit exists in a permanent state of misogynist frenzy, this reply in turn from “FlatulentDirigible” is notable: “You sound like a good person. Keep being awesome.” Though this reply from “IBlessTheRainsInIowa” to “Details, girlfriend!” I thought cut to the quick like a hot knife: “Yeah, feel free to mention any financial difficulties she might have had so we can judge her off that. After all, it is the easiest way.” And the answer by Manese to the original question showed more wit than any of the monsters in The Fan Club had, and more wit than you’d find on any day of Gawker: “I don’t like it, but so be it. The Nixon Administration couldn’t stop the [Washington Post], so I didn’t try to stop them.”

Here was the other notable point in the AMA, with the answers from “wordedgewise” and “bublz” among the most upvoted in the session90:

rickbrody95 (112 points):
Where do you stand on the “Was this leaking event and our viewing of the pictures moral?” debate?

johnsmcjohn (96 points):
These pics would be posted regardless. Me and the mod team tried to ensure the content posted was in line with reddit’s rules.

wordedgewise (194 points):
You didn’t actually answer your question. It wasn’t whether you “followed the rules”, nor whether “someone else would have done it”.

The question is where you stand on whether leaking/viewing (and sharing by logical extension) the photos moral in your opinion?

Personally I have not looked at the photos because I think it’s incredibly fucked up to invade anyone’s privacy this way, even though I personally don’t think nudity is a big deal. I personally also don’t think “someone else would have done it” is a good reason to do something wrong.

bublz (154 points):

This is a copy/paste from a comment I made on the day after the photos were leaked:

I find it fascinating that people aren’t a bit pissed off by this. Sure, we get to see naked pics of people we see on TV, but this was a planned “attack” on these people. Someone coordinated the hacks and has been selling these pictures to people online. Isn’t that a little bit fucked up?

The world is outraged by the NSA and its actions, but nobody gives a shit when someone steals naked pictures and sells them to strangers on the Internet. Seriously? You want your own privacy to be secured, but if someone else’s privacy is invaded so you can jerk off, that’s okay, right?

I know, most of these actresses have shown skin in their movies, but this is totally different. When someone agrees to be shown naked in a movie, they do it of their own will for the sake of the movie (and money, I suppose). You can’t just say “Well, they’ve already shown us most of it. Might as well see the rest”. Most actors/actresses draw a line and this crosses that line. And now, they have to live with the fact that millions of people have seen those images. They will have to keep their head held high for PR reasons, but I’m sure that some of them feel incredibly violated. I know that I would feel violated if someone hacked into my Dropbox account and downloaded my schoolwork, which doesn’t even compare to what has happened to these people.

And don’t even give me that bullshit “She should have protected her data better”. I keep my TV in my living room. If someone breaks my window and takes my TV, should I have protected my TV better? Was I at fault for putting my TV in a place that is easy for me to get to? I locked my windows and doors but someone got to it anyway. Obviously, things like naked pictures should be kept more secure than a TV. I’m a tech-savvy guy and I know this. But to the standard individual, a password is like putting something into a lockbox. Don’t blame the victim when the perp is the one who committed the crime…I’m a 20 year old guy…and honestly I would have liked to see some revealing images of JLaw or Kate Upton. It’s human nature. But I honestly can’t be a part of this. The damage is done and it doesn’t help anything, but I find it sickening that people are okay with what happened.

What Manese did was to organize the subreddit, to make sure no underage content (like some McKayla Maroney pics) ended up there and no redundant threads were started. He was sortof like a web publisher, sortof like Nick Denton, the publisher of Gawker. Except, of course, Nick Denton was worth over $70 million dollars and Manese had trouble paying his utilities. Denton could publish hacked celeb nudes and he could also publish screeds attacking others for publishing hacked celeb nudes, attacks which never mentioned Gawker‘s own crimes. Seventy million dollars could do things like that: it could buy you journalism which might illuminate the world, and it could also buy you blindness. What Gawker had done in the past was not something like what Manese had done, but worse: they not only published hacked celeb nudes, but they welcomed and negotiated such submissions. We know this because they openly admit as much in two places.

“Did This Person Make a Michelle Trachtenberg Soft-Core Porno Or Did I?” (archive today link) by Maureen O’Connor, is about the writer’s failed attempts to acquire footage of Trachtenberg nude on her balcony. “Welcome the virtual glory hole of online gossip,” writes O’Connor. “Here is my correspondence with Michelle Trachtenberg’s mysterious creeper.” The first email and O’Connor’s reply give an idea of Gawker‘s welcome attitude to such footage.

Trachtenberg header

Michelle Trachtenberg Leak

I give what might seem an elaborate prelude to the second example of Gawker not only welcoming such celeb nudes, but soliciting them, starting with some tweets by Adrian Chen, the very good reporter whose work has been cited several times here. That “very good” is sincere and without irony; I do not belive in simple villains. A reader might be mistaken that I wish less loathing for someone like John Manese but more loathing for someone like Maureen O’Connor, when I want nothing of the kind. O’Connor is a gifted journalist who writes about the messiness of sex amidst the messinesss of technology with an insight and openness that I envy91. She was ruthlessly honest about her role and what she did in “Trachtenberg Soft-Core Porno” in ways that the later celeb nude essays on Gawker weren’t: “Even as my skin began to crawl, I kept up the correspondence…Was there some secret ring of private celebrity smut peddlers I didn’t know about? (As opposed to public celebrity smut peddlers like Rupert Murdoch and me.)” The world O’Connor gives us in “Trachtenberg Soft-Core Porno” isn’t a laugh filled romp where a celebrity’s body and a celebrity’s life are just incidental objects of pleasure, but a horror movie; we are back again in The Fan Club, with a delusional obsessive like Adam Malone. “I found myself wondering more about the anonymous emailer than the contents of the purported video,” writes O’Connor, and she makes clear the dangerous fires that our fingers touch. “Rogue paparazzo? Maybe. Sexual predator? Possibly.” Whatever crime we observe, we are complicit. Like any horror film, there is an inevitable, unstoppable momentum, though the horror of it makes us wish to stop whatever our desires have set in motion. O’Connor: “Even as my skin began to crawl, I kept up the correspondence.” The promised videotape remains elusive, never delivered, while the image of the sender becomes more and more disturbing, a psychopath who follows an actress obsessively enough that he might have footage of her nude on a facing balcony. The post “Trachtenberg Soft-Core Porno” is like a Michael Haneke movie, if Haneke had anything like an empathy to equal his gift for cruelty, and if Haneke ever considered himself as culpable as his viewers and his subjects.

The need to view those involved in #TheFappening as a contemptible, inhuman other came from publications like BuzzFeed and Gawker who perhaps felt the need to emphatically separate themselves from this animal rabble because their hands were very dirty from past leaks. “Celebrities began being distributed online by thirsty bitcoin whores,” writes Erin Gloria Ryan in “Behind Every Bullied Woman”. Well then, Nick Denton and staff like Maureen O’Connor, Leah Beckmann (author of “This Week’s Naked Celebrity Phone Pics: Glee‘s Heather Morris”) (archive today link), and Fleshbot editor Lux Alptraum are whores in whatever currency you choose. T.C. Sottek would describe those involved in distributing pictures of #TheFappening ring on reddit as the “detritus of human society”. Well then, Gawker’s publisher and its staff are detritus as well. “What Kind Of Creep Sells A Celebrity’s Naked Photos On The Internet?” asks Charlie Warzel. I dunno, Mr. Warzel. But if you asked me, “What Kind Of Creep Publishes A Celebrity’s Naked Photos On The Internet?” Well, then: you did. Anyway, so here are the tweets from Adrian Chen:

The first deals with Gabriel Snyder, a former colleague of Chen’s at Gawker, on becoming the new editor of The New Republic. This followed the mass departure of that magazine’s staff after the resignation of Franklin Foer, the magazine’s editor, in reaction to some of the decisions of the new owner, Chris Hughes. This post is already overly long without that subplot, and those curious can read the definitive piece on the controversy, “Inside the Collapse of The New Republic” by Ryan Lizza. The second tweet of importance is a sneering dismissal of Anonymous because of their supposed plans to humiliate Iggy Azalea for some transgression by releasing a sex tape. The release of this sex tape demonstrated to Chen the inherent, undeniable misogyny of the group, a point he emphasized in “The Truth About Anonymous’s Activism” a review of Gabriella Coleman’s Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous, and the thesis of the review was that the group was just a bunch of woman hating racist trolls, a fact about which there was much supposed denial on the part of Coleman and others. You could be unsentimental about Anonymous (I think I am) and still be appalled by the sloppiness of Chen’s work here. In effect, any action by an anonymous mob on the internet that Chen disapproves of is attributed to “Anonymous” while anything that might complicate this perception is left out.

“I first encountered the lulz,” Chen writes of what he calls the evil laugh at someone’s expense, “when I wrote a story for Gawker about how Anonymous had harassed an 11-year-old girl into police protection for the lulz after she had recorded a YouTube video that annoyed them.” Though he never gives her name, I assume this is Jessi Slaughter (Jessica Leonhardt), who was attacked on 4chan and other places, and the story is “How the Internet Beat Up an 11-Year-Old Girl”. Why he speaks of this as taking place under the rubric of “Anonymous”, what we think of as the later political group which would put out videos and manifestos under that name, I have no idea (the original “How the Internet” article makes no mention of Anonymous)92. The de facto leader of LulzSec, the group at the forefront of the hacks that gave the name “Anonymous” such prominence, was Hector “Sabu” Monsegur, a Puerto Rican American who grew up in the Bronx ghetto, and whose first major hack was spurred on by a desire to protest the bombing tests on Vieques93. Other members included Jeremy Hammond, possibly the most skilled hacker in the group, a man who had gone to jail for protesting a white supremacist rally and was a deeply committed socialist94; their informal press liaison Barrett Brown, who wrote numerous essays lampooning Confederate sympathizer Robert Stacey McCain95; and “Kayla”, a british infantryman whose persona on-line was always female, yet who was always treated as a full and equal partner by the other LulzSec members. Chen would shrug that Anonymous hadn’t really done much in the fight against Scientology, and longtime Scientology journalist Tony Ortega would disagree in his piece, “What Adrian Chen got wrong about Anonymous and Scientology”. Chen also leaves out Anonymous allying with Charlotte Laws when she went after revenge porn kingpin Hunter Moore, a story Laws relates in “I’ve Been Called the “Erin Brockovich” of Revenge Porn, and For the First Time Ever, Here is My Entire Uncensored Story of Death Threats, Anonymous and the FBI”, or the involvement of Anonymous in the Amanda Todd case. None of this requires you to see Anonymous in a sentimental light or to even look upon them, or their various chapters, as necessarily competent. But it is one thing to be harshly critical of the group; it is another to erase their political identities (and in the case of Sabu, his racial identity) so that you might impose your thesis. The review is as shallow and lazy indictment as any Gawker thinkpiece about #TheFappening, especially as there is one key point which Chen leaves out, one that had to be brought up by others.

It would be left to Andrew Blake and Daniel Stuckey to point out in The Daily Dot‘s “Gawker, Anonymous, an FBI informant, and the stolen emails that never existed” the negotiations by Chen with representatives of Anonymous to pay for NATO emails and other documents supposedly acquired by the group after they hacked News of the World. There were good reasons for why Blake and Stuckey wanted to reveal this; The Daily Dot would add a rather tardy post-script that the two had sometimes managed the Anonymous twitter account, @YourAnonNews, though not during the time of those events.

From “Gawker, Anonymous”:

Eager to expose further corruption at the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World (NoW)after a Guardian report revealing it for phone-hacking had recently caused the paper to fold—Chen pitched an offer to one of the most vocal and public proponents of the hacktivist movement Anonymous: “[W]hat if Gawker made a substantial donation to the topiary fund in exchange for the emails[?]”

Chen was referring to a legal defense trust launched days earlier for Jake Davis, a U.K. teen accused by authorities of being behind the alias Topiary, a member of the Anonymous offshoot LulzSec.

“[T]hat would be cool,” replied Monsegur, known by Chen and others at the time by his alias, Sabu. “I think we’re at 5btc right now,” he told Chen, referring to an amount of Bitcoin at the time worth only $60.25.

Chen would propose an information sharing arrangement something like what took place between Wikileaks and the Times; handing over the documents and letting Gawker go through them, so they might sort out the wheat, which Gawker would publish, giving Anonymous/LulzSec a higher profile, after which they could publish their entire cache of docs.

Again, from “Gawker, Anonymous”:

Adrian Chen and Sabu in chat

However, Sabu was just trolling. Sabu on chat a few hours earlier, again from “Gawker, Anonymous”:

Sabu Let's troll him

I don’t take any issue with Chen having to rely on Anonymous for such leaked information, as just about any journalist ends up obtaining some information from unsavoury, criminal, despicable sources. I take issue with the lack of any such reference in his review, because I do think such reference is crucial for understanding the momentary ascension of Anonymous. Chen blames the fetishization of technology for the unearned hosannas of Anonymous, technology as a magical tool which emancipates us from the strictures of reality, where real world hierarchy is destroyed through the creation of a virtual world on-line, the same snake oil panacea sold by every tech start-up. This avoids the fact that Anonymous did not earn many kudos from the Valley community, but got them mostly from journalists. Barrett Brown was championed by Glenn Greenwald and Michael Hastings. More importantly, at a place like Gawker where the budget for investigative reporting was close to zero, they had to rely almost entirely on hacker groups like Anonymous for any advantage in clicks. It was in their interest that Anonymous be anti-establishment warriors. We see something like the same process take place now, with their handling of their material from the Sony leaks. The information they got out of these leaks they could never have managed through traditional reporting, given that they have no presence in L.A. and a near zero investigative reporting budget. How would they deal with the fact that the group which hacked Sony may well have been backed by the regime of North Korea, infamous for the starvation of its people and utterly inhumane treatment of its citizens? Well, they would emphatically deny that the hacker group had anything to do with North Korea: “A Lot of Smart People Think North Korea Didn’t Hack Sony” by Sam Biddle. That it was in Gawker‘s interest that North Korea wasn’t behind the Sony hack wasn’t mentioned; nor was the fact that smart people like Brian Krebs made a very strong case for North Korean involvement, in “The Case for N. Korea’s Role in Sony Hack”.

For years, Gawker had happily posted hacked celeb nudes without compunction, and made no effort to depict those through whom they got the stolen pics as criminals, misogynists, or creeps. When #TheFappening took place, they make a sudden and astonishing swerve; these stolen photos, which they’d been publishing for years, were something akin to rape, and those who stole and distributed the photos were vile predators, which is the steady drumbeat of “What Was Celebrity-Nude-Gate? Or, An Adventure in Reddit Philosophy”, “Behind Every Bullied Woman Is a Man Yelling About Free Speech”, and “That Type of Girl Deserves It”. Ryan Holiday’s perceptive “Spare us the Sanctimony” argued that Gawker‘s sudden shift was due to social media reaction – “the people on Twitter seem to be against this–so we are too.” I think it had more to do with a small note in Holiday’s essay: “Gawker no longer owns Fleshbot, but did when the blog posted the Scarlett Johansson nudes.” It was Fleshbot, Gawker‘s porn division, where Gawker Media published much of their “barely legal” or plain illegal material, whether it be the Johansson nudes, the Rihanna nudes, the Ashley Greene nudes, and many others. It allowed them to collect clicks without tainting their parent brand with the vileness of their behavior. If they still owned Fleshbot, that’s where the J-Law nudes would have been put. This, in fact, is exactly what happened at the now independent Fleshbot, which ran multiple posts promoting the nudes from the hack: “(Alleged) Nude Photos Of Jennifer Lawrence and Other Celebrities Leaked” (archive today link) (this initial post linking to the leaked nudes was the most popular Fleshbot post of 2014), “The Fappening Round 2: Nude Celebrity Cell Phone Photos Leaked AGAIN” (archive today link), and “More Information On Those Leaked Celeb Pics” (archive today link). The text from “The Fappening Round 2” outlined their modus operandi:

There aren’t many people who will condone hacking. It’s an invasion of privacy, it leads to all kinds of legal issues, and the majority of us are very careful to take the right measures to avoid it at all costs. However, when hacking comes in the form of a plethora of leaked photos of some of the hottest celebs in Hollywood, it’s hard to hacker bash. Shh! That doesn’t mean that we condone hacking by any means. It just means that instead of speaking up about how wrong it is, we’re just going to sit back with our mouthss shut and watch as the debauchery unfolds!

Many of you know about “The Fappening” round one which involved the leak of several celebrity nude photo’s [sic] and occurred a couple of weeks ago. Well, the celebrity photo hackers that we hate to love are back at it again, and this time around they’ve given us even hotter nudes than before! We aren’t too sure how long they’ll stay up, so go get your fix now before it’s too late!

Again, the Reddit philosophy that “What Was Celebrity-Nude-Gate? Or, An Adventure in Reddit Philosophy” sneered at was from the company’s CEO Yishan Wong: “We uphold the ideal of free speech on reddit as much as possible not because we are legally bound to, but because we believe that you—the user—has the right to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, and that it is your responsibility to do so.” I see little or no difference between that and the philosophy espoused by Fleshbot: “[W]hen hacking comes in the form of a plethora of leaked photos of some of the hottest celebs in Hollywood, it’s hard to hacker bash. Shh! That doesn’t mean that we condone hacking by any means. It just means that instead of speaking up about how wrong it is, we’re just going to sit back with our mouthss shut and watch as the debauchery unfolds!”

The Fappening Fleshbot Header

The Fappening Fleshbot links

The Fappening 2nd Round Header

Fappening 2nd Round Fleshbot Philosophy

I don’t see this as any kind of abrupt break from the approach of Gawker, or Fleshbot from when it was still under the aegis of Gawker Media. The Fleshbot posts on #TheFappening, complete with improvised justification for why they were permissible, are entirely consistent with past posts dealing with celeb nude hacks that appeared on both sites. The only change is on the side of the parent company; since they no longer owned Fleshbot, they really had nowhere on their sites to publish the pics. And when a source, whether it be Anonymous or a hacker of celeb nudes, ceased to have a purpose, Gawker Media would segregate themselves from the leaker, and make that leaker the judas goat. There was no symbiosis, there was no relationship, there was suddenly only the infidel, outside.

A reader may wonder what Gabriel Snyder, current editor of The New Republic, has to do with all this. Well, T.C. Sottek has bluntly stated that those involved in the illegal distribution of private material like this are the detrius of society, Amanda Hess has emphatically said in ““Don’t Take Nude Selfies,” Shrug It Off, and Other Gross Advice for Hacked Celebs” that the hack “is both a criminal act and a widespread attack on female sexual agency,” and no doubt Adrian Chen agrees with this assessment (at least now he does), judging a leaked sex tape as a culmination of the misogyny of Anonymous. It would turn out that Anonymous, in fact, had nothing to do with any such leaked sex tape; whether you read it at the Huffington Post‘s “Anonymous Account Suspended From Twitter After Threatening Iggy Azalea (UPDATE)” by Stephanie Marcus or Hack Read‘s “Don’t listen to Bullshit, Anonymous is NOT Leaking Iggy Azalea’s Sex Tape.”:

A news went viral yesterday claiming online hacktivists Anonymous have threatened to leak sex tape of Australian model Iggy Azalea unless she apologizes to American rapper, singer, and songwriter Azealia Banks on some racial issue.

Well based on our personal investigation and conversation with some of the most reliable Anonymous handles on Twitter, we found out that Anonymous has not made any such threat.

The Twitter account @TheAnonMessage, who was making these threat (has been deleted by Twitter) is nothing but a troll and home to lies and fake Tweets. (Probably a wannabe and an attention seeker).

The connection this has to Gabriel Snyder is that though Anonymous had never published someone’s sex tape against their wishes, Gabriel Snyder most certainly had. It was when he was at Gawker‘s Hollywood blog, Defamer, and it was a sex tape of Grey’s Anatomy star Eric Dane, his wife Rebecca Gayheart, and former Miss Teen USA Kari Ann Peniche. The original post has been deleted for reasons we’ll get to, but there is an archived version: “Dane’s Anatomy: McSteamy, His Wife and a Fallen Beauty Queen’s Naked Threesome” (archive.today link). There is a link to the video on Gawker‘s main site, carrying Snyder’s name: “All Your McSteamy Dreams Come True”. It’s astonishing that Gawker‘s staff have forgotten this post, because like their Olivia Munn post, it was one of their most popular, pulling in over 2.8 million views. We might excerpt what Gabriel Snyder wrote at “Dane’s Anatomy”, several paragraphs of jeering contempt for all three participants in the tape:

“How did these people end up here?” is the implied question of every sex tape. Especially with the druggy romp Eric Dane (Grey’s Anatomy’s “Dr. McSteamy”) and his wife Rebecca Gayheart filmed with beauty-queen-turned-Hollywood-madam Kari Ann Peniche.

In the video (which we edited down from a 12-minute original), we see the apparently inebriated threesome — at one point Gayheart says she needs to lay down because she’s so high — lounging au naturel in the fallen beauty queen’s Studio City apartment, passing around the camera and, for giggles, discussing what their porn names should be. Dane settles on “Tuff Hedemen” (his favorite champion bull rider). Soon the threesome move to the bathroom where the two ladies disrobe and get into a jacuzzi tub while Dane takes over the camera duties.

The line between Hollywood success and failure is razor thin. The acting couple (the married in 2004) may not be at the pinnacle of the Hollywood talent heap, but they’re about as successful as they could have hoped in their teenage years. Oh, and they’re hoping to start a family! Dane, 36, moved to L.A. in his teens, landing bit parts in early 1990s TV shows like Saved by the Bell and The Wonder Years, palling around the Hollywood club scene (once dated Lara Flynn Boyle!) before winning stardom in Grey’s Anatomy. Gayheart, 38, had her first big break in 1992 as the Noxzema Girl, and aside from accidentally killing a teenager crossing the street, she’s made a career of film and TV roles here and there.

Peniche, 25, probably had a similar future in mind when she was crowned Miss Teen USA in 2002, but it wasn’t to be. She was stripped of her crown for posing in Playboy (NSFW link). Peniche tried to leverage the controversy into a career, and knocked around on the Hollywood Z-list for a while. She got engaged to Backstreet Boy Nick Aaron Carter for a minute. There were a handful of TV and film roles, but lately, a source in Hollywood tells us, she’s ended up working as a madam, working the Hollywood club scene as “Tristan Bailey.” Her m.o.: When horny club dudes would hit on her, she’d tell them she was seeing someone…but, she could hook them up with someone who knew some smokin’ hotties-for-hire. The dudes would then be redirected back to her service, and she’d occasionally turn a trick herself.

Update: Dane and Gayheart’s adorable lawyer Marty Singer hasn’t sent us any legal threats yet, but he did get on the phone with TMZ to issue a threat against, well, us because the tape is “private, confidential.” I haven’t heard from him but you do have to chuckle when a man speaks of what he knows:

“From what I’ve seen it’s a naked tape, not a sex tape.” Singer added, “At most it’s 3 people maybe wanting to have sex.”

Oh, and look, his take-down request just arrived. Let me go read it.

Gawker made sure to squeeze as much juice as possible out of this tape, with several follow-up articles in Defamer (again: the blog run by Snyder): “Who’s Calling McSteamy Trio Participant Kari Ann Peniche A Hooker?” by Foster Kamer (archive.today link), “McSteamy Sex Tape Stimulates Economies: The Mystery Smoking Product, Revealed?” by Kamer (archive.today link), “More People Know Kari Ann Peniche’s Boobs Than Her Face” by Brian Moylan (archive.today link), and “One Week Later, Where Are McSteamy, the Noxema Girl and the Fallen Beauty Queen Now?” by Moylan (archive.today link). “Weblogs are way less alien if you come from a British journalism background,” says Nick Denton in Tom Scocca’s profile, “The Gawker King”. The echoes of that background, writes Scocca, “are most noticeable now at Sploid, his news site, which strips down all the world’s events to screaming tabloid-beyond-tabloid headlines.” If we were to boil down the Gabriel Snyder story into one nasty, pungent Sploid headline, I guess it might be: “‘PRESTIGE’ MAG RUN BY SEX CRIMINAL“.

Dane Gayheart Sex Tape Gabriel Snyder on Defamer

Dane Gayheart Sex Tape on Gawker

Who's Calling Kari Ann Peniche a Hooker?

More People Know Kari Ann Peniche's Boobs Than Her Face

Mystery Smoking Product Revealed

One week later

Dane and Gayheart most certainly did not want the tape to be published, and they filed suit against Gawker to take the video down, which became the subject of the post by John Cook, “McSteamy v. Gawker Media, LLC”.

John Cook, by the way, also was a champion of Snyder becoming the editor of The New Republic:

In the legal papers, Gawker concedes they had no permission from the plaintiffs to show the video: “the Gawker Defendants admit that Plaintiffs did not authorize the reproduction, adaptation, distribution, performance or other use of the short clip from the Video on gawker.com or fleshbot.com,” Furthermore, they needed no such permission: “the Gawker Defendants specifically deny that Plaintiffs’ authorization was needed to reproduce, adapt, distribute, perform or otherwise use the short clip from the Video.”96 There is a straight line that runs through this sex tape incident, and the later one involving Scarlett Johansson, and the last one, #TheFappening. In all three episodes, the lawyer filing claims against those who published any images was Hollywood superlawyer Marty Singer. In all three cases, the basis for his takedown notice was over copyright, the issue which successfully forced both BuzzFeed and Fleshbot to remove their Johansson images97. In this case, however, Singer was a little late with his copyright registration and it was on this basis that Gawker fought him: “Because Plaintiffs’ own allegations and information from the face of their Copyright Registration Certificate establishes that Gawker’s alleged infringement of the tape commenced before they registered the tape with the Copyright Office, Plaintiffs are not entitled to recover either statutory damages or attorneys’ fees in this action.”98 Dane and Gayheart would eventually settle with Gawker out of court, and Gawker, after pulling in millions of views, would remove the tape from their site99.

We know what Gawker’s attitude was toward the plaintiffs at that time, from a profile of Gaby Darbyshire, “Nick Denton’s Secret Weapon: Gaby Darbyshire Is Gawker’s Chief Enforcer” by John Koblin100. Darbyshire was Gawker Media’s counsel, chief of operations, longtime friend of Nick Denton, and arguably the secondmost important figure at the company until her resignation in 2012101. Here is an excerpt of Darbyshire’s reaction to one person asking Gawker Media to take something down from their site. I bold a particularly striking section:

A couple of years ago, one spurned subject took a trip to Ms. Darbyshire’s office, broke into tears and collapsed on the floor while begging and pleading for a post to be removed.

She didn’t flinch. “Do I feel terrible for her?” said Ms. Darbyshire. “Yeah, of course I do. I have absolute sympathy for these people. Am I going to do what they want? No.”

She has very little tolerance for people who get angry at what Gawker writes, particularly when it has the right to do so. “It’s just dumb,” she continued. “People don’t want to take responsibility for their actions. I’m a moralist in that respect. Fucking take responsibility for your actions! I have plenty of sympathy, but this is the world you chose to live in.

This, presumably, would have been the fate of a woman who got her nude pics up on the site who lacked Marty Singer as a lawyer and the popular appeal of Jennifer Lawrence. Fucking take responsibility for your actions!

Now, I excerpt now two tweets which T.C. Sottek singled out in “Say hello to men who hate NSA spying but blame women for being spied on”:

This was the same attitude which Amanda Hess attacked in ““Don’t Take Nude Selfies,” Shrug It Off, and Other Gross Advice for Hacked Celebs”, that the onus was being placed on the victims, that if you ended up nude in a photo or video, fucking take responsibility for your actions!:

New York Times tech columnist Nick Bilton tweeted Monday, “Put together a list of tips for celebs after latest leaks: 1. Don’t take nude selfies 2. Don’t take nude selfies 3. Don’t take nude selfies.” (He later apologized.) Ricky Gervais made a similar joke before deleting it from Twitter: “Celebrities, make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on your computer.” These messages instruct women that they are to blame for being sexually exploited because they dared to express themselves sexually in private and in consensual contexts. (When hackers steal credit card information, the public isn’t blamed for daring to shop.) As Lena Dunham succinctly put it, “The ‘don’t take naked pics if you don’t want them online’ argument is the ‘she was wearing a short skirt’ of the web.”

Where would they actually get the vile idea to tweet out that it was the fault of the victim for appearing nude in the first place? Well, there are many things that I am grateful to David Carr for, and one of them is his piece, “Gawking at a Lawsuit”, which highlighted what Denton tweeted out in the aftermath of the suit by Dane and Gayheart (on tweetsave):

I wrote that Gawker did not simply welcome such videotapes, but solicited them, and this is exactly what Gabriel Snyder did in a piece on the aftereffect of the sex tape, “Who At Gawker Is Cashing In On The McSteamy Sex Video?” by Glynnis MacNicol. This sex tape post, according to “Who At Gawker”, was Gawker‘s most popular post of 2009 in August of that year, as well as their second most popular post of all time. Under the bonus system mentioned in “Who at Gawker” of five to seven dollars per thousand views, Snyder would have gotten over fourteen grand for this work, if he hadn’t been section editor. You can understand the incentive for writers to publish sex tapes and compromising photos. As part of the brief interview for “Who At Gawker”, Snyder would explicitly say he wanted to solicit sex tapes and other such coveted private materials:

I keep meaning to post a bounty list of the information, documents and videos we’d love to pay for. Sex tapes are certainly on it. As for this case, I worked with Mark Ebner [a solid reporter, despite his involvement in this], a writer and reporter who knows Hollywood seedy underworld about as well as anyone. He had a great story and we paid him. He’s got a reporting credit on the original post.

A recurring question in justice is the extent to which we are able to judge a crime independently of the man who committed it. Do we sentence the drug use or robbery of a poor man or a rich man equally? Do we weigh the same evidence equally in terms of wrongdoing when judging a black man or a white man? Amanda Hess has described these violations as crimes, and when they’re committed by Anonymous, Adrian Chen regards them as an expression of their deeply felt misogyny. I ask: is something a crime, is something a vile, infamous act only when 4chan does it, when Reddit does it, when Anonymous does it, but not when Gabriel Snyder commits the same act? This appears to be the case: we live in an era of inequality, and here we have an inequality of judgement, where some are condemned as pariahs, others are granted license to do what they wish, and millions buy amnesia. Now, John Manese can finally know what he did wrong: he did all that work on Reddit for free, instead of being in the pay of Nick Denton. Otherwise, maybe he’d now be editor of The New Republic.

Even the slender promise of Gawker, the very true axiom that serves as their fig leaf justification for every act of sadism and opportunism which they perpetuate, that “today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news”, was not fulfilled here. There was a massive iceberg of a story connected with this sex tape which they had barely skimmed across, before moving on to other distractions. This epic post is already overstuffed and overlong, however, and that fascinating story will wait till part two.

IRVING WALLACE’S THE FAN CLUB: THE FAPPENING

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE

(On March 7, 2015, footnotes were added which linked to the specific points in the Enigma Hood interviews for the transcript excerpts; discussion of the last episode of The Daily Capper dealing with the Amanda Todd case was added. On March 8th, all the material after “The most disturbing aspect of The Daily Capper…” was added. On March 9th, 2015, various copy edits were made – spelling, link, and grammar corrections. On March 10, 2015, the section on the mysterious Daily Capper twitter profiles was added. On March 12, 2015, the material about Jessica Leonhardt was added. On March 13, 2015, the material dealing with Kiki Ostrenga and Sticky Drama was added. On March 14, 2015, the material on the past involvement of Gawker and BuzzFeed with hacked celeb nudes was added. On March 15, 2015, the material dealing with Gabriel Snyder and the Dane-Gayheart sex tape was added. On March 16, 2015, the excerpt from Kiki Kannibal’ “Sexual Assault – Red Flags, Advice & My Experience” dealing with Danny Cespedes’ eighteen other victims was added, as were the lengthy excerpts with “Damien” AKA Jessi Slaughter with New Media Rockstars. On March 17, 2015, the material excerpted from Gabriel Snyder’s post, “Dane’s Anatomy: McSteamy, His Wife and a Fallen Beauty Queen’s Naked Threesome – Eric Dane – Gawker”, was added. On that same date, additional material was added to the paragraph devoted to Maureen O’Connor’s “Did This Person Make a Michelle Trachtenberg Soft-Core Porno Or Did I?” As with too many sites, we are lacking a copy editor, and copy editing on the text from the Jessi Slaughter section to the post’s end was only done on March 17, 2015. On that same day, additional material was added to the interview of “Damien” AKA Jessi Slaughter with New Media Rockstars. Again, on that same day, the material dealing with Fleshbot’s posts on #TheFappening was added. On March 19, 2015, the material about Lawrence Joseph Silipigni Jr. and AnonIB winning The Daily Capper’s Best Public Site of 2009 was added. The material on Amor Hilton was added on that day as well. On April 6th and 7th 2015, this post underwent another badly needed copy editing session. On April 10, 2015, additional links were added to the list of Barrett Brown’s work on Robert Stacy McCain. On April 14, 2015, the material on the way tabloids pre-vet material for the mainstream press, something like how leaked celeb nudes end up in the mainstream press, was added. On June 2, 2015, the split screen gif of Amanda Todd and Aurora Eller was added, and a shorter gif excerpt of Jimmy Cook on the WDBJ-7 newscast was substituted for the original. On June 11, 2015, a vine of The Daily Capper with a mention of Anon-IB was added.)

FOOTNOTES

1 The book was brought up because Nicolas Roeg was given the offer to direct Caligula, but instead decided to direct The Fan Club, though the project ended up never being made. The detail comes up in “Episode 178: Caligula”, from 1:20:25 to 1:21:17, during an involved answer from Ranjit Sandhu on the attempt to find a director for Caligula, which at the time had a script by Gore Vidal, Paul Morrissey as a possible director, and Franco Rossellini as a producer, with Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione soon taking over as a superceding force:

ROB ST. MARY: So, Guccione comes in and he’s the one who ends up hiring Tinto Brass, right, or had there been other directors who’d been interested?

SANDHU: They approached a number of directors. Guccione did not want Paul Morrissey, because he did not like the Andy Warhol crowd…which is rather unusual because Franco Rossellini by that time was part of the Andy Warhol crowd. Guccione did not want Rossellini to have anything to do with the movie, he wanted Gore [Vidal] to come over, and just do the film with Gore. But of course that was illegal, because by then Franco Rosselini owned the project. They approached Nicolas Roeg, who was busy with other things, he was on a promotional tour for The Man Who Fell To Earth, and he was also in the midst of planning production for a movie version of The Fan Club, an Irving Wallace novel, which never happened.

2 From The Fan Club:

That they had rejected him, after a first hearing, was understandable. They were men, like most men, who were not used to believing an impossible dream could become a possible reality by direct action. On the other hand, if their desires to change their lives were strong enough, if their growing frustrations were at the bursting point, they might be ready to reconsider, to call on him at the bar tonight, to enlist in his cause and to undertake the adventurous mission side by side with him.

And if not, Malone told himself, no loss. He would still have his dream. He would wait, he would watch, and someday, somewhere, he would find another Byron romantic enough to join him in his quest for Sharon Fields.

3 I am indebted to the late Norman Mailer for the beautiful phrase “squire’s wrath”, which he used in his account of the 1992 Republican convention, “By Heaven Inspired”.

4 That this cruel sociopath has the name of Shiveley is no doubt a deliberate reference to a prison knife.

5 From “Irving Wallace; Prolific Writer Reached Billion Readers (page 3)” by Burt A. Folkart:

Wallace combined lust and Hollywood luminaries in “The Fan Club,” a sordid suspense novel in which a movie star is kidnaped by a group of working men who have made her the object of their sexual fantasies. They justify the action by saying only “fat cats” ever get what they want in life, a theme he began to expand upon after hearing some railroad workers discussing what they would give to spend a single evening with Elizabeth Taylor.

6 From “Irving Wallace: “The Fan Club”” by Roger Ebert:

He remembers precisely where the idea for The Fan Club came from, “and that’s unusual, because most of the time an idea will germinate over a period of months and years and you won’t know quite where it came from.

“But with this one, the inspiration came exactly five years ago last month, while I was on a train from Boston to New York. I was all alone in the club car, and then we stopped at this junction and some railroad men got aboard. There was a newspaper, and they saw a headline about Burton buying Taylor the world’s biggest diamond.

“That started them talking about Elizabeth Taylor, and one guy said he’d trade his house, his wife, big car, everything, for one night with her.

“I’d heard that kind of talk all my life. I didn’t make a note about it in my journal as a possible story idea; I thought I’d forgotten it. Then, a few days later in Los Angeles, I heard an item on the radio about Taylor flying in for the Oscars. That somehow started me thinking about an evening I’d spent at a party for Marilyn Monroe, and about another party where Lana Turner was my dinner partner and how she’d talked about men she’d known, and how she’d handled them.

“The moment I got home, I sat down at the typewriter and typed out a one page outline of The Fan Club. I had four different endings on that one page and I didn’t know if any of them would work. I knew I had a story. I’ve known a lot of these women, the so called sex symbols, and what they’re like, and how they think, and I thought it would be fascinating to create a character who tried to save her own life through manipulating the fantasies that her kidnappers had about her.”

7 From “Inside The Internet’s Secret Marketplace For Hacked Photos Of Naked Celebrities” by James Cook:

Some dealers say the celebrity photo trading industry died on the afternoon of Labor Day 2014. An anonymous pornography collector, “OriginalGuy,” did the unthinkable and set about uploading his entire collection of stolen photographs to notorious porn forum AnonIB – hundreds of images of 101 different actresses and singers. When users discovered what was happening, they swarmed the site. Eventually he was unable to load the forum to post any more images, so he took to 4chan, the anarchic discussion forum read by thousands.

That’s when people really started to notice what was going on.

8 The quotes are collated from two facebook comments to the original article, and though they’ve been re-ordered, I do not think this affects interpretation or context. A screenshot:

Irving Wallace's The Fan Club

9 Rosin was spurred on to write the story after spotting the piece “Deputies Bust Massive Teen Sexting Ring in Louisa County”, author credit: WRIC Newsroom staff.

10 The original comment on postimage:

Anonymous 4chan user talks about Fappening

This posting was re-circulated to many places, including “Everything We Know About the Alleged Celeb Nude “Trading Ring” and Leak” by Gabrielle Bluestone, where I most likely found it.

11 From “‘Why Kids Sext’ Describes Nude Photos As ‘Social Currency’ Among Teens” (October 15, 2014), excerpt is taken from 19:35 to 20:23 in the Rosin interview.

12 From “‘Why Kids Sext’ Describes Nude Photos As ‘Social Currency’ Among Teens” (October 15, 2014), excerpt is taken from 20:38 to 21:38 in the Rosin interview.

13 From “Paris Hilton Hack Started With Old-Fashioned Con” by Brian Krebs:

In the months leading up to the Hilton incident, the hacker group freely exploited a security glitch in the Web site of wireless phone giant T-Mobile, according to the hacker, who described himself as the youngest member of the group. The group had found that a tool on the T-Mobile site that allowed users to reset their account passwords contained a key programming flaw.

By exploiting the flaw, the group’s members were able to gain access to the account of any T-Mobile subscriber who used a “Sidekick,” a pricey phone-organizer-camera combination device that stores videos, photos and other data on T-Mobile’s central computer servers.

The hackers could only exploit the Web site vulnerability if they actually knew a Sidekick user’s phone number. The loose-knit group had grown bored of using the flaw to toy with friends and acquaintances who owned Sidekicks and decided to find a high-profile target, one that would ensure their exploits were reported in the press, the young hacker said. They ultimately settled on Hilton, in part because they knew she owned a Sidekick; Hilton had previously starred in a commercial advertising the device.

14 From the indictment, “United States of America vs. Timothy C. Mckeage, Justin A. Perras, Jason Daniel Hawks, Zachary Wiley Mann, And Jeffrey Robert Weinberg”, specific page 2:

2. Seisint, Inc. was a Florida corporation in Boca Raton, Florida that was purchased in or around September 2004 by LexisNexis. Seisint, Inc. was the original owner of the Accurint database. The Accurint database allows organizations to quickly and easily extract information from tens of billions of data records on individuals and businesses, using proprietary data-linking methods. Customers who have an Accurint account may access the database by visiting a web site and entering a username and password. Once they have obtained access, Accurint customers can run computerized searches of the database for specific terms (including the names of debtors or criminal defendants). The Accurint database was located on servers at a facility in Boca Raton in the Southern District of Florida.

From the indictment, “United States of America vs. Timothy C. Mckeage, Justin A. Perras, Jason Daniel Hawks, Zachary Wiley Mann, And Jeffrey Robert Weinberg”, specific page 6:

1 . Between on or about January 21, 2005, and on or about March 12, 2005, TIMOTHY C. McKEAGE used a Trojan Horse program to access the Port Orange Police Department’s computer system. The Trojan Horse program infected a computer of the Port Orange Police Department, which was used in interstate commerce and communication, thereby allowing TIMOTHY C. McKEAGE unauthorized access to the computer.

2. Between on or about January 21, 2005, and on or about March 12, 2005, TIMOTHY C. McKEAGE utilized this unauthorized access to fraudulently obtain usernames, passwords, and other information, which he subsequently used to create additional usernames and passwords to access the Accurint database.

From “Teen Pleads Guilty to Hacking Paris Hilton’s Phone” by Brian Krebs:

An adult member of the hacker group acknowledged in phone conversations with a washingtonpost.com reporter that he collaborated with the teen in sending hundreds of e-mails with an explicit image and a message urging recipients to open an attached file to view additional pornographic images of children. According to both hackers, a police officer in Florida was among those who opened the e-mail attachment, which harbored a virus-like program that allowed the hackers to record anything a victim typed on his or her computer keyboard. Not long after his computer was infected with the keystroke-capturing program, the officer logged on to his police department’s account at Accurint, a LexisNexis service provided by Florida-based subsidiary Seisint Inc., which sells access to consumer data.

15 A large section of the indictment is given over to a list of names, aliased with their initials, of those persons whose records were accessed. Hilton shows up on page 9; “United States of America vs. Timothy C. Mckeage, Justin A. Perras, Jason Daniel Hawks, Zachary Wiley Mann, And Jeffrey Robert Weinberg”, specific page 9:

17. On or about January 23, 2005, JEFFREY ROBERT WEINBERG fraudulently obtained an Accurint report of an individual, P .H., containing P.H.’s name, address, date of birth, social security number, and other identification information.

Although I have made no attempt to decipher the various other initials in the set, we can guess that the “A.S.” is Arnold Schwarzenegger, “D.M.” is Demi Moore, and “L.F.” is Laurence Fishburne. We know this from “Arrests Made in ’05 LexisNexis Data Breach” by Brian Krebs:

The government charges that the five men used the stolen Accurint accounts to look up sensitive data on a number of individuals. The victims are named only by their initials in the indictment.

But according to interviews washingtonpost.com had with at least three of the accused, the group accessed information on Hilton, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), and actors Laurence Fishburne and Demi Moore.

It should be said that the theory that this gang got the phone numbers from the Accurint database is not the one given in “Paris Hilton Hack Started With Old-Fashioned Con” by Krebs, where the gang gave their account of the hack and make no mention of the Accurint datatbase, and this I attribute to the gang not wanting to admit to other crimes unnecessarily. Instead, we’re told they obtained the phone numbers through social engineering at T-Mobile:

According to the young hacker’s account, the Hilton caper started the afternoon of Feb. 19, when a group member rang a T-Mobile sales store in a Southern California coastal town posing as a supervisor from T-Mobile inquiring about reports of slowness on the company’s internal networks.

The conversation — which represents the recollection of the hacker interviewed by washingtonpost.com — began with the 16-year-old caller saying, “This is [an invented name] from T-Mobile headquarters in Washington. We heard you’ve been having problems with your customer account tools?”

The sales representative answered, “No, we haven’t had any problems really, just a couple slowdowns. That’s about it.”

Prepared for this response, the hacker pressed on: “Yes, that’s what is described here in the report. We’re going to have to look into this for a quick second.”

The sales rep acquiesced: “All right, what do you need?”

When prompted, the employee then offered the Internet address of the Web site used to manage T-Mobile’s customer accounts — a password-protected site not normally accessible to the general public — as well as a user name and password that employees at the store used to log on to the system.

To support his story, the hacker provided washingtonpost.com with an image of a page he said was from the protected site. T-Mobile declined to comment on the screenshot, and washingtonpost.com has no way to verify its authenticity.

The hackers accessed the internal T-Mobile site shortly thereafter and began looking up famous names and their phone numbers. At one point, the youth said, the group harassed Laurence Fishburne, the actor perhaps best known for his role in the “Matrix” movies as Morpheus, captain of the futuristic ship Nebuchadnezzar.

“We called him up a few times and said, ‘GIVE US THE SHIP!'” the youth typed in one of his online chats with a reporter. “He picked up a couple times and kept saying stuff like YOUR ILLEGALLY CALLING ME.”

Later, using their own Sidekick phone, the hackers pulled up the secure T-Mobile customer records site, looked up Hilton’s phone number and reset the password for her account, locking her out of it. Typical wireless devices can only be hacked into by someone physically nearby, but a Sidekick’s data storage can be accessed from anywhere in T-Mobile’s service area by someone with control of the account. That means the hackers were at that point able to download all of her stored video, text and data files to their phone.

16 From “Paris Hilton Hack Started With Old-Fashioned Con” by Brian Krebs:

Later, using their own Sidekick phone, the hackers pulled up the secure T-Mobile customer records site, looked up Hilton’s phone number and reset the password for her account, locking her out of it. Typical wireless devices can only be hacked into by someone physically nearby, but a Sidekick’s data storage can be accessed from anywhere in T-Mobile’s service area by someone with control of the account. That means the hackers were at that point able to download all of her stored video, text and data files to their phone.

“As soon as I went into her camera and saw nudes my head went JACKPOT,” the young hacker recalled of his reaction to first seeing the now-public photos of a topless Hilton locked in an intimate embrace with a female friend. “I was like, HOLY [expletive] DUDE … SHES GOT NUDES. THIS [expletive]’s GONNA HIT THE PRESS SO [expletive] QUICK.”

Though the “young hacker” remains nameless in this article and in contemporary accounts after the gang’s capture is either unnamed or omitted due to him being a juvenile, he’s identified as Cameron LaCroix in numerous other accounts, such as “They’ll Always Have Paris” by Krebs and the later profile of LaCroix, “Ex-teen hacker tells Paris Hilton he’s sorry [WARNING: autoplay video]” by Tom Winter, Jeff Rossen and Jovanna Billington.

17 From “Ex-teen hacker tells Paris Hilton he’s sorry [WARNING: autoplay video]” by Tom Winter, Jeff Rossen and Jovanna Billington:

Hacking gave him a high and a sense of recognition. I wanted to be a celebrity, he said. When the Hilton photos went viral online, it was mind-blowing for me. I felt famous.

18 On his parole violation, from “They’ll Always Have Paris” by Brian Krebs:

No public information was available about 18 year old Cameron “cam0” LaCroix, who was a juvenile when the crime occurred. The teen pleaded guilty in September 2005 and spent 11 months in a Massachusetts juvenile detention facility. He was released last summer. Federal prosecutors declined to comment on his case, and the teen’s records are under seal because they are connected to the juvenile conviction.

Two sources close to the case who asked not to be named say LaCroix recently was sent back to detention. He apparently violated the terms of his supervised release, which barred him from possessing or using any computer, cell phone or other electronic equipment capable of accessing the Internet.

From “Ex-teen hacker tells Paris Hilton he’s sorry [WARNING: autoplay video]” by Tom Winter, Jeff Rossen and Jovanna Billington:

Before he was 21, he was sent to prison again after pleading guilty to racking up thousands in phony gift card purchases. The gift cards were purchased with stolen credit card numbers, but cashiers wouldn’t challenge them an easy end-run around corporate security.

[The cards] had no name on [them], he explains. The cashier would say,’Jeez, you know, it’s $600, $700 worth of stuff. Then they’d see the gift card and relax.

You don’t [need] an ID. Nothing. All that matters is that someone else’s information is on that magnetic strip.

And he kept hacking. Armed with little more than a $300 Toshiba laptop from Best Buy, he went back to stealing money with his skills, and used some of the funds to underwrite his growing dependence on opiates.

He still sounds excited when he talks about hacking, and with the help of a social worker he’s trying to understand the allure it holds for him. Both he and the social worker think there’s a clear link to his drug use.

[You get] the same pleasure. The same reward, Lacroix said. That challenge of getting in. It’s just like, ‘Wow.’

Lacroix stole 14,000 credit card numbers from online retailers, adding to what he thinks is a lifetime total of $500,000 or more in thefts from consumers. Other feats of hacking, however, just seemed to feed his need for a rush.

He hacked into state and local police databases, looking for warrants and arrest records and learning the identities of confidential informants, and through those databases gained access to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. He changed his grades and his friends’ grades at the community college.

Then, on Feb. 18, 2013, Lacroix took over Burger King’s Twitter account. He replaced the fast-food chain’s logo with McDonald’s golden arches and said that Burger King had been sold to its competitor because the Whopper flopped.

19 From “Massachusetts Man Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Computer Hacking Involving Stolen Credit Card Numbers and Altered Academic Records” by Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs:

Massachusetts Man Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Computer Hacking Involving Stolen Credit Card Numbers and Altered Academic Records

A Massachusetts man was sentenced to serve four years in prison today for hacking into computer networks around the country including networks belonging to law enforcement agencies and a local college to obtain highly sensitive law enforcement data and to alter academic records, as well as for possessing stolen credit and debit card numbers.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz of the District of Massachusetts, Special Agent in Charge Vincent Lisi of the FBI’s Boston Division and Colonel Timothy P. Alben of the Massachusetts State Police made the announcement.

Cameron Lacroix, 25, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty on June 25, 2014, to two counts of computer intrusion and one count of access device fraud. Lacroix was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf of the District of Massachusetts.

20 Audio is taken from “MILEY’S STOLEN SHOWER PICS + HACKER SPEAKS!”. Full transcript is on pastebin, “Josh Holly aka TrainReq 1st Radio Interview Transcript”.

21 Audio is taken from “Miley Cyrus HACKER speaks!”. Full transcript is on pastebin, “Josh Holly aka TrainReq 2nd Radio Interview Transcript”.

22 How Josh Holly did the Cyrus hack, from “Miley Cyrus Hacker Raided by FBI” by Kim Zetter:

Holly told Threat Level he stole about a dozen Cyrus pictures but only published the most provocative ones. He said he got access to Cyrus’s Gmail account after obtaining unauthorized access to a MySpace administrative panel where he found passwords for MySpace accounts stored in cleartext. He found the password Cyrus used for her MySpace account Loco92 and tried it on a Gmail account Cyrus was known to use. The password worked on that account as well, but only for a couple of weeks before it was changed.

Holly said he obtained access to the MySpace administrative panel by social engineering a MySpace worker. He was able to obtain a list of instant message buddies for one of the employees (he didn’t adequately explain to Threat Level how he’d done that before he ended our conversation) and sent an instant message to an employee named C. Cho, using the screen name of another MySpace administrator.

Posing as the other administrator, he told Cho he was having trouble logging in to the MySpace administrative panel and asked if he could use Cho’s username and password. Cho said yes, and Holly had access to the panel for about 16 hours, from about 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. one day, before MySpace discovered its security had been breached and changed or canceled Cho’s log-in credentials. Holly said he was resetting account passwords for MySpace users, which likely tipped off MySpace.

That Cyrus’s password was her dog’s name and birthdate, from “Alleged Miley Cyrus Hacker Arrested” by Robert McMillan:

Cyrus apparently used the same password — loco92 (her dog’s name plus her year of birth) — for several accounts, Holly said in a radio interview after the hack. After obtaining the password, “I tried it out on her e-mail and it let me in,” he said.

23 From “Confessed Miley Cyrus Hacker Sentenced to Three Years Probation” by Kim Zetter:

He claimed that he tried to sell the pictures to TMZ.com and other celebrity outlets, but no one would buy them, given the illegal manner by which he’d obtained them. He then posted some of them online at digitalgangster.com, after which numerous gossip and celebrity websites published them for free. More photos followed thereafter.

24 Selena Gomez, I think.

25 From “Miley Cyrus Hacker Raided by FBI” by Kim Zetter:

Hours before the FBI arrived at his doorstep, Holly posted a message online bragging that even though he was a known hacker, federal agents would never find him.

A hacker by the name of Padillac wrote Threat Level that he had little sympathy for Holly who, he said, had “been acting like an attention starved 8-year-old.”

“The problem is that TrainReq truly believed he was untouchable, and unfortunately for him, in 2008, it’s that type of reckless thinking that gets people raided,” Padillac wrote. “While most of us have smartened up and left ‘hacking’ behind, there are always newcomers like TrainReq who learn how to do something destructive and then execute their newfound abilities carelessly without fear of repercussion…[B]ut whatever here comes his big day, i just hope he doesn’t expect to touch a computer for a few years.”

26 From “Confessed Miley Cyrus Hacker Sentenced to Three Years Probation” by Kim Zetter:

Self-proclaimed Miley Cyrus hacker Josh Holly was sentenced on Monday to three years probation for computer crimes though not for the Cyrus hack that was his claim to fame.

Holly, 22, pleaded guilty last April to possessing about 200 stolen credit card numbers, and to breaching celebrity MySpace pages in a spamming scheme that earned him at least $100,000.

According to an affidavit, Holly admitted to the FBI that beginning in 2005 he had hijacked numerous celebrity internet accounts to conduct spamming. An investigation of his bank records showed that between November 2007 and July 2008, he received more than $110,000 from companies for spamming on their behalf. Holly told Threat Level that half of his illicit income went to an accomplice in Israel who used the online nickname elul21 (Elul is the Hebrew name of a month on the Jewish calendar).

Holly also said that the celebrity MySpace accounts he accessed to conduct his spamming activity belonged mainly to recording artists and groups Chris Brown, Rihanna, Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy. He accessed about 20 accounts. Once he had passwords to the accounts, he used the accounts to send bulletins to all of the friends on the MySpace accounts advertising a ringtone or call service for the recording artist. For example, he’d send out a bulletin from Fall Out Boy’s MySpace account telling fans that the band would call their phone and send them a ringtone if they clicked on a link and entered their details.

Holly said the advertising affiliates he worked for paid him between $5 and $12 per person who responded to the ad. The affiliates didn’t know he was spamming customers, he said, and, when they found out, they terminated their work with him and refused to pay him outstanding earnings.

27 From “The Man Who Hacked Hollywood” by David Kushner:

One night in early 2008, while his grandma slept, the balding, 290-pound Chaney was idly surfing movie sites like Ain’t It Cool News when he stumbled on the latest celebrity scandal. Stolen pictures had leaked online of Miley Cyrus posing half-dressed, her midriff exposed. Chaney sparked a clove cigarette and considered the story. He couldn’t have cared less about the Miley shots themselves. What intrigued him was the guy who stole them. How’d he do it? Chaney wasn’t a hacker; he didn’t even own a computer until his late twenties and couldn’t write a lick of code. But he’d always loved solving puzzles completing crosswords, shouting out answers to Jeopardy! This was a tantalizing new riddle: “I was like, ‘How hard could this be if it’s happening all the time?'”

What Chaney lacked in technical skills, he made up for in effort. Finding a working e-mail address was a simple process of trial and error. In a Word document, he made a list of random celebrities and, one by one, entered them into Gmail first name followed by last until, days later, an address was finally accepted. (In the blur of celebs to follow, he wouldn’t be able to recall his first.) Unlocking the account, he knew, would be more difficult. To retrieve a lost password, sites often ask subscribers so-called challenge questions: What’s your mother’s maiden name? What’s your place of birth? Or, in the case of this celebrity, what’s your pet’s name? It was widely known that the hacker who broke into Paris Hilton’s phone had done it with her Chihuahua’s name, Tinkerbell. If her dog’s name was easily available online, so too, Chaney figured, were other clues.

Chaney found what he was looking for on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). After punching in the pet’s name, he watched in awe as the star’s private e-mails poured down his smudgy PC screen. “I don’t want to compare it to throwing a touchdown pass,” he says, “but it was a rush.” He quickly scrolled through the contact list, cutting and pasting the e-mails of anyone he recognized into a separate file: actresses, actors, athletes “It was pretty much anyone with a name,” he says. He then set the victim’s account to forward a copy of every e-mail to him, so even if the celeb reset the password, the e-mails would keep coming in.

Chaney eyed his in-box. He’d get to reading the messages in good time, but for now he wanted to crack more addresses. “You find the right pieces,” he says, “and then it unlocks.” There were favorite colors to ascertain. Elementary-school names. Social Security numbers. Chaney became an expert. He found old school names on Classmates.com, friends on Facebook, and hometowns on free directories like Intelius. “If they’ve had their names removed, their parents are probably still on there,” he says.

The one minor error in Kushner’s piece is the point on how Cameron LaCroix’s gang hacked Hilton’s T-Mobile: “It was widely known that the hacker who broke into Paris Hilton’s phone had done it with her Chihuahua’s name, Tinkerbell.” This, as we have seen, was not how they accessed the account: T-Mobile passwords can be reset when you know the phone number and the gang acquired the phone number through the Accurint database. That the hackers gained access by guessing that Hilton’s password was “Tinkerbell” was only part of early speculation, such as “Paris Hilton: Hacked or Not?” by Staci D. Kramer:

How did the phone numbers, notes and saucy pictures Paris Hilton stored on her Sidekick II handset from T-Mobile get into the hands of someone else and onto the screens of computers around the world this weekend? Was it simply a case of a consumer who failed to be careful enough with her own privacy and that of others? Or could T-Mobile — still dealing with the detritus of a previous security breach — have prevented it?

Despite the tossing around of the term “hack,” no one knows whether the data was hacked or if it was obtained with a password.

T-Mobile subscribers can access their e-mail, contacts and photos through a website protected by a user name and password. Given Hilton’s less-than-savvy reputation, the favorite candidate for her secret password is “tinkerbell” — as in one of her pet pooches.

28 From “The Man Who Hacked Hollywood” by David Kushner:

The hacker’s eyes widened as the image filled his screen. There, without her makeup, stood Scarlett Johansson, her famous face unmistakable in the foreground, her naked backside reflected in the bathroom mirror behind her, a cell phone poised in her hand snapping the shot. Holy shit, he thought. This was a find even for him. For years, he had stealthily broken into the e-mail accounts of the biggest players in Hollywood. He had daily access to hundreds of messages between his victims and their managers, lawyers, friends, doctors, family, agents, nutritionists, publicists, etc. By now he knew more dirt than almost anyone in L.A. the secret romances, the hidden identities, films in all stages of development. Still, this photo, a private self-portrait of one of our biggest stars, was something new, something larger than life, especially his. “You feel like you’ve seen something that the rest of the world wanted to see,” he says. “But you’re the only one that’s seen it.”

Hacking didn’t just take Chaney into the secret world of sex photos. It gave him access to the hidden world of Hollywood itself the behind-the-scenes deals and day-to-day workings of the business. And Chaney, a die-hard film buff since he was a kid, says that’s what drove him deeper. His ideal victim, at least at first, wasn’t a starlet but a location scout. “I thought that was one of the awesomest [jobs],” he says. “They go around, find these places, take pictures of them, and send them to the directors. It was cool seeing a part of the process that nobody ever sees.”

After hacking the account of one producer, Chaney saw the entire filmmaking process, from start to finish. The producer was working on In Time, a film starring Justin Timberlake, Olivia Wilde, and Amanda Seyfried. Chaney breezed through copies of the script, set in a dystopian future where people die at age 26 unless they can afford to buy another day. He marveled over production photos of arms imprinted with numbers that count down the actors’ hours. He read in astonishment as one producer discussed visiting strip clubs to find a body double for an actress, perhaps Seyfried. Another had to negotiate a deal with Seyfried’s agent over how much flesh she’d show. “It seemed a fairly convoluted process just to show a butt crack,” Chaney says.

There were plenty of other juicy affairs, however. “Everyone dated everyone eventually,” he says. “It always reminded me of [Beverly Hills] 90210.” He once followed an exchange between a famous actor and actress who tried to keep their relationship private, opting to see each other at, say, Canter’s Deli at 3 a.m. instead of dodging paparazzi at the Ivy. He later read about Johansson’s separation from Ryan Reynolds long before the tabloids caught on. “They were discussing, I guess, aspects of who gets what,” he recalls: what furniture, what photos, what souvenirs. “It was weird to read stuff like that,” he went on. “It was almost too personal.”

But Chaney wasn’t just reading about celebrity sex lives; he was following them in real time. Among the more surprising revelations he discovered were a handful of explicit e-mails that leading men sent to their secret male partners. “I’m trying to figure out how to say it without names,” he says. “There were some that, you know, their public persona is they’re kind of a player, and their private persona is they’re batting for the other team…. They may have been batting for both teams, I don’t know.”

29 From “The Man Who Hacked Hollywood” by David Kushner:

While perusing the e-mail of celebrity stylist Simone Harouche in early November 2010, he stumbled across photos of her client Christina Agui-lera trying on outfits in a dressing room, wearing little more than silver pasties. Chaney found a random guy on a celebrity message board and sent him an e-mail telling him he knew “someone” who had hacked pictures of Aguilera. Did he want to check them out?

Chaney freaked the moment he sent it. What the hell am I doing? he thought. He was using a phony e-mail address, but he didn’t know how to effectively cover his tracks. On December 8, a headline appeared on TMZ: “Christina Aguilera: My Private Sexy Pics Were Hacked.” Aguilera’s rep told TMZ they were “attempting to determine the identity of the hackers and will pursue them aggressively.”

When Chaney saw his Aguilera photos online, “it was like a gut punch,” he says. But it was also a little exhilarating. After that initial wave of anxiety, he was left with a rare feeling of accomplishment.

30 From “The Man Who Hacked Hollywood” by David Kushner:

He soon got an unsolicited e-mail from a mysterious hacker named TrainReqSucks, a play on TrainReq, the Tennessee teen who’d released the Miley shots. The stranger wanted photos and was eager to connect Chaney to buyers. Chaney rejected his offer, but the stranger was good. He pressed all of Chaney’s buttons, effusively praising his hijacking prowess, and when he asked for proof that he had the goods, Chaney couldn’t resist. In fact, Chaney had something everyone in the industry wanted: pictures of Johansson a shot in bed, another topless, and more. “I don’t know why I responded,” Chaney told me. “It was part bragging and part proving who I was to someone.”

Chaney picked what he thought was the tamest image: the “butt shot,” as he put it. The nerves kicked in again the moment he hit send, and twisted his stomach in knots when he later saw the shot online covered in Photoshopped squiggles. “Yeah, I squiggled over that,” TrainReqSucks told him, adding that he offered to remove the lines for TMZ if they met his price. To Chaney’s shock and relief, the photo was discounted as a fake. No one paid any attention to it.

31 From “The Man Who Hacked Hollywood” by David Kushner:

TrainReqSucks wasn’t done. He e-mailed Chaney a fake topless shot of Selena Gomez, the perky Disney star, and said he was going to sell it as real. In it, Gomez was standing in front of a door, her hand resting on a bureau, an exotic medallion hanging between her too-ample breasts. Chaney found it “creepy” and told the guy off. This only raised TrainReqSucks’s ire. “You really need to cover your ass better, ’cause they’re all over you,” TrainReqSucks replied. “There’s heat on you.”

He reached out to the infamous blogger Deep at Sea. Deep was more of a fanboy than a hacker, posting photos he found across the Web. Chaney knew the guy had a thing for Renee Olstead, the redheaded star of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and Chaney had recently stumbled on a trove of her private pictures showering in a tight white shirt, using a baby blue vibrator. He decided to share them with Deep.

Chaney was sound asleep when he heard the knocking at his front door. It was around 6 a.m. on February 11, 2011, and he could barely make out the sun rising. He ambled down the hall, but before he’d reached the door, federal agents barreled through with a battering ram, stampeding into the room past his wide-screen TV and towering stacks of DVDs. They drew their guns, freckling Chaney’s body with red laser pointers. Chaney immediately spun around and put his hands behind his back for the handcuffs. “I’m glad you did this,” he said calmly, “because I wasn’t going to be able to stop this on my own.”

To Chaney’s surprise, the feds told him he wasn’t under arrest not yet. They were confiscating his computer, and they strongly suggested that he help them get to others. Others? “They constantly repeated, ‘We’re after the big fish; you’re just the little fish,'” Chaney says. “They were after a ring of celebrity hackers.” They asked him, “Would you be willing to work with us to bring other hackers down?”

“Yeah, whatever you want.”

32 From “The Man Who Hacked Hollywood” by David Kushner:

Websites like TMZ and Perez Hilton cash in by luring people to click on advertising banners. Nik Richie, owner of the popular gossip site The Dirty, calls a celebrity nude a “five-timer,” because it generates five times the usual traffic as many as 500,000 visitors in a day.

Chaney had recently landed a data-entry job at a trucking company when, one day in September, he read online that fully nude photos of Johansson had been leaked this time without the squiggles. “My stomach dropped,” he recalls, “because I knew I’d be the first person they came to.”

At 2:50 p.m. on September 14, a user nicknamed Mr. Green sent two nude shots of Johansson to Richie at The Dirty along with a message. “I love [the] fact that she probably sent some of these out to some Hollywood actor or producer and she never figured they would do her like that,” Mr. Green wrote. “Well, you might be a movie star and be famous, but doesn’t mean no one will fuck you over.”

Richie took one look at the photos and figured they’d been faked. There were three in all: one from behind, another topless, and another from the crotch up. To his surprise, his Photoshop experts deemed the pictures legit. Richie saw dollar signs. This went way beyond a “five-timer,” as he put it. “This, in Scarlett’s case, was times ten; it meant a million people coming to the site,” he said.

Chaney was stunned. He claims to have sent out only one shot. So how did the others get online? The only people who had seen them, he says, besides himself were the FBI, Scarlett, and her husband. Had someone hacked Chaney or Reynolds, or had someone else hacked her? Chaney’s mind was spinning. “Every night after that was very little sleep, hot and cold flashes. I knew that they were coming for me,” he says.

33 From by “Hollywood Hacker Christopher Chaney Honed His Skills For Years” by Anthony McCartney:

A federal judge sentenced a hacker to 10 years in prison on Monday after he broke into the personal online accounts of Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera and other women and posted revealing photos and other material on the Internet.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero sentenced Christopher Chaney after hearing from a tearful Johansson in a videotaped statement.

The case included the revelation that nude photos taken by Johansson of herself and meant for her then-husband Ryan Reynolds were leaked online.

“I have been truly humiliated and embarrassed,” Johansson said. “I find Christopher Chaney’s actions to be perverted and reprehensible.”

Prosecutors said Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Fla., also targeted two women he knew, sending nude pictures of one former co-worker to her father. The judge noted the damage to the women was in some ways worse than what Chaney’s celebrity victims endured.

Chaney, who could have faced a maximum sentence of 60 years under the law, apologized in court but denied that he had sent naked photos of women he knew to their relatives.

“I don’t know what else to say other than I’m sorry,” Chaney said. “I could be sentenced to never use a computer again and I wouldn’t care.”

Actress and singer Renee Olstead said in court Monday that she attempted to kill herself after Chaney leaked nude photos of her. She said she had never before considered suicide.

“I just really hope this doesn’t happen to someone else,” she said, crying. “You can lose everything because of the actions of a stranger.”

Aguilera said in a statement issued days before the sentencing that although she knows that she’s often in the limelight, Chaney took from her some of the private moments she shares with friends.

“That feeling of security can never be given back and there is no compensation that can restore the feeling one has from such a large invasion of privacy,” Aguilera said.

From “The Man Who Hacked Hollywood” by David Kushner:

To his peers, Chaney has become a cautionary tale. “I personally think what he did was pretty idiotic,” Josh “TrainReq” Holly told me. “Hacking celebrities is for the kids, and 35? I mean, I personally think he was too old for that.”

34 That would be “David Cronenberg’s Videodrome: Bad Religion”.

35 From “The Police Tool That Pervs Use to Steal Nude Pics From Apple’s iCloud” by Andy Greenberg:

Use the script to hack her passwd use eppb to download the backup, wrote one anonymous user on Anon-IB explaining the process to a less-experienced hacker. Post your wins here 😉

Apple’s security nightmare began over the weekend, when hackers began leaking nude photos that included shots of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Kirsten Dunst. The security community quickly pointed fingers at the iBrute software, a tool released by security researcher Alexey Troshichev designed to take advantage of a flaw in Apple’s Find My iPhone feature to brute-force users’ iCloud passwords, cycling through thousands of guesses to crack the account.

If a hacker can obtain a user’s iCloud username and password with iBrute, he or she can log in to the victim’s iCloud.com account to steal photos. But if attackers instead impersonate the user’s device with Elcomsoft’s tool, the desktop application allows them to download the entire iPhone or iPad backup as a single folder, says Jonathan Zdziarski, a forensics consult and security researcher. That gives the intruders access to far more data, he says, including videos, application data, contacts, and text messages.

From “Notes on the Celebrity Data Theft” by Nik Cubrilovic:

5. In reviewing months worth of forum posts, image board posts, private emails, replies for requests for services, etc. nowhere was the FindMyPhone API brute force technique (revealed publicly and exploited in iBrute) mentioned. This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t used privately by the hackers but judging by the skill levels involved, the mentions and tutorials around other techniques and some of the bragged about success rates with social engineering, recovery, resets, rats and phishing it appears that such techniques were not necessary or never discovered.

7. a) edit To reiterate what the main bugs are that are being exploited here, roughly in order of popularity / effectiveness:

  • Password reset (secret questions / answers)
  • Phishing email
  • Password recovery (email account hacked)
  • Social engineering / RAT install / authentication keys

36 This scan is taken from by “Everything We Know About the Alleged Celeb Nude “Trading Ring” and Leak” by Gabrielle Bluestone, and can be found on postimage:

gy5swtw7cuohnrxqoqes

37 Several examples of “Distraction News”, Dora Sammy unaltered, are on youtube. For example: “CrashBox Episode One Distraction News Tornados”.

38 From “TheDailyCapper.com – Week of July 4,2010”, fragment runs from 3:43-3:58.

39 One animation segment by The Daily Capper devoted to this: “Viper’s Road to Verica”.

40 From “The Daily Capper – Week of September 5,2010”, fragment runs from 2:24-2:42.

41 The use of fake profiles and other people’s pictures by m0d is mentioned in his intro as nominee for The Daily Capper‘s 2010 “Blackmailer of the Year” award, in “2010 Capper Awards Results”, from 13:25 to 14:01.

42 From “2010 Capper Awards Results”, nominations and win for “Capper of the Year 2010” take place between 18:18 and 19:28.

43 Covered in “2010 Capper Awards Results”, when Coke and “Kristen”, the girlfriend are nominated for “Couple of the Year”, with Swan and Kristen nominated as well. Fragment runs between 8:11 and 8:38.

44 The importance of Klanhackle is mentioned in “The Daily Capper – Week of July 25,2010”, which mentions that his birthday is July 29 and list his influence on capping; fragment runs from 2:00 to 2:10. The notable achievements of Klanackle, screen shot and text:

Klanackle's impact on capping

1. Promoted tinychat when no one knew what it was in May 2009
2. Started the first tinych roon for capping which began the rise of tinychat and the start of new groups
3. Introduced Coke to tinychat
4. Began the first 6nychat room for blogtv in July 2009 and introduced the concept everyone uses today
5. Came up with a strategy to get mayathepervkiller banned from blogtv
6. Created the White Room Legion and gave everyone the ideas they use today such as perso and nitefeed and bruce lee
7. Revolutionized heroing and forced others to work to get win

45 From The Fifth Estate program, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, 11:44 to 11:58.

46 From The Fifth Estate program, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, 18:49 to 19:18.

47 From “‘Why Kids Sext’ Describes Nude Photos As ‘Social Currency’ Among Teens” (October 15, 2014), excerpt is taken from 27:16 to 28:09.

48 From The Fifth Estate program, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, 12:24 to 12:35.

49 From The Fifth Estate program, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, 13:46 to 14:10.

50 From The Fifth Estate program, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, 14:29 to 15:17.

51 From The Fifth Estate program, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, 28:25 to 29:04.

52 From The Fifth Estate program, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, from 29:17 to 29:19.

53 From The Fifth Estate program, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, from 32:52 to 33:15.

54 Canada is divided into provinces, rather than states like the U.S., and the westernmost province is British Columbia (B.C.), which shares a border with Washington state. Vancouver is its largest city. Both Amanda Todd and Kody Maxson lived there.

55 From “Alleged Amanda Todd cyberstalker has a warrant out for his arrest” by Cooper Fleishman:

Two days after what would have been Amanda Todd’s 16th birthday, Kody Maxson the man who Anonymous claims is behind the harassment and sexual exploitation that led her to take her own life skipped out on two Surrey Provincial Court hearings in British Columbia.

Now there’s a warrant issued for the 19-year-old, who was due to appear in court twice Thursday for charges of theft under $5,000, sexual assault, and sexual interference (touching with “sexual purpose“) of a person under the age of 16.

The charges are unrelated to Amanda Todd’s death. In fact, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, investigating Todd’s suicide, had deemed Maxson a “person of no interest.” But Maxson as I detail here and Kevin Morris discusses here happened to be deeply involved in an online ring of pedophiles who were notorious for stalking, recording, extorting, blackmailing, and harassing teenage and preteenage girls.

56 From “2010 Capper Awards Results”, the “Couple of the Year” nominations run from to 7:43 to 9:54.

57 Another Canadian province, this one located in the center of the country.

58 From The Fifth Estate program, “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, 23:37 to 23:51.

59 From “Amanda Todd’s Bully Kody Maxson FULL UNCUT INTERVIEW”, this interview fragment runs from 0:33 to 1:45.

60 From “Amanda Todd’s Bully Kody Maxson FULL UNCUT INTERVIEW”, this interview fragment runs from 1:56 to 2:41.

61 From “Amanda Todd’s Bully Kody Maxson FULL UNCUT INTERVIEW”, this interview fragment runs from 3:17 to 3:30.

62 From “Amanda Todd’s Bully Kody Maxson FULL UNCUT INTERVIEW”, this interview fragment runs from 13:10 to 14:42.

63 From “Amanda Todd’s Bully Kody Maxson FULL UNCUT INTERVIEW”, this interview fragment runs from 20:02 to 20:50.

64 From “Amanda Todd: Interview with Kody Maxson’s Ex Gf 1 Year Later”, fragment runs from 1:24 to 5:34.

65 From “Amanda Todd: Interview with Kody Maxson’s Ex Gf 1 Year Later”, first fragment runs from 6:28 to 7:22, second fragment runs from 7:42 to 10:04.

66 From “Amanda Todd: Interview with Kody Maxson’s Ex Gf 1 Year Later”, fragment runs from 10:52 to 13:58.

67 From “Amanda Todd: Interview with Kody Maxson’s Ex Gf 1 Year Later”, fragment runs from 17:11 to 19:44.

68 From “Amanda Todd: Interview with Kody Maxson’s Ex Gf 1 Year Later”, fragment runs from 28:55 to 33:17.

69 From “Amanda Todd’s alleged tormentor may have had more Canadian victims: report”, credited to Globe and Mail staff.

70 From “Maryland man sentenced in Brownsburg online ‘sextortion’ case” by NBC affiliate WTHR:

INDIANAPOLIS – A Maryland man was sentenced to 33 years in prison after pleading guilty to seven counts of production of child pornography. Trevor J. Shea, 21, also faces lifetime supervised release after his time is served. One of his victims was a teenage girl from Brownsburg.

US attorney Joseph Hogsett announced the plea and sentencing Friday. Hogsett called it a landmark case.

Shea admitted to blackmailing ten teenage girls to produce “images and videos of themselves engaging in sadistic and masochistic abuse and other sexually explicit conduct.”

71 The material from this paragraph is all taken from “Alabama predator sentenced to 18 years for Facebook extortion attempts: How he got access” by Patrick Hickerson.

72 Lyrics taken from AZLyrics, “12 Stone Lyrics – “We Are One””.

73 From “‘Why Kids Sext’ Describes Nude Photos As ‘Social Currency’ Among Teens” (October 15, 2014), first excerpt is taken from 8:57 to 9:22, second excerpt is from 7:23-7:37.

74 From “Teen ‘sextortion’ victim regrets not seeking immediate help” by Emily Longnecker.

75 A brief history of The White Room Legion can be found in “The Daily Capper – Week of September 5,2010”, from 3:03 to 4:09.

76 From “2010 Capper Awards Results”, “Attention Whore of the Year” segment runs from 5:26 to 7:27.

77 From the entry “Jessi Slaughter” at KnowYourMeme.

78 From “Jessi Slaughter (kerligirl13) on Good Morning America”, fragment runs from 1:35 to 1:40.

79 From “The Real-Life Tumult Of An Online Meme” by The Smoking Gun, the pizza is “Jessi Slaughter Docs (page 4)” and the school bomb threat is “Jessi Slaughter Docs (page 6)”.

80 From “The Real-Life Tumult Of An Online Meme” by The Smoking Gun, “Jessi Slaughter Docs (page 5)”

81 Lyrics taken from karoake-lyrics.net, “You Done Goofed”.

82 From “The Real-Life Tumult Of An Online Meme” by The Smoking Gun, “Jessi Slaughter Docs (page 7)”

83 From “Gene Leonhardt (“You Dun Goofed” dad) dead at 53″ by :”Gene Leonhardt, who became an instant internet legend after angrily defending his daughter from online critics, died this week of a heart attack. He was 53.”

84 From “Jessi Slaughter Interview”, first excerpt runs from 0:00-2:33, second runs from 2:50-3:49, third runs from 5:17-7:52, fourth is 8:07-12:13.

85 Transcript is taken from “Sexual Assault – Red Flags, Advice & My Experience”, first excerpt is from beginning of video to 0:49, and second excerpt is from 1:22 to 2:26.

86 Beyond the definitive account of this episode “Identity Crisis” by David Kushner, other helpful pieces include “Convicted Hacker Charged With Extortion After Attack On Model’s MySpace Account” and “Hacker Sentenced to 2 Years for MySpace Cyberstalking”, both by Kevin Poulsen.

87 From “TheDailyCapper.com – Week of September 12,2010”, this fragment runs from 3:55 to 4:19.

88 Figure for “J-Law, Kate Upton Nudes Leak: Web Explodes Over Hacked Celeb Pics” was taken approximately around February 12, 2015, and given that majority of their clicks came in the immediate aftermath of the leak, this should hold steady.

89 A screenshot, in case the thread disappears:

Reddit John Manese CasualIAMA Excerpt Pt1

90 A screenshot, in case the thread disappears:

Reddit John Manese CasualIAMA Excerpt Pt2

91 For example, “All My Exes Live in Texts: Why the Social Media Generation Never Really Breaks Up” and “Sexting’s Strange Paradox: It’s Just No Fun”.

92 Why Chen refers to this incident in the most general terms, “how Anonymous had harassed an 11-year-old girl into police protection”, rather than to “Jessi Slaughter” or Jessica Leonhardt, since her name was out and in public in such places as an interview segment on “Good Morning, America”, I have no idea either.

93 From We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olsen:

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. As a child, he listened to tales of the El Grito de Lares revolt and told his family that one day, he would launch his own revolution.

Born in New York City in 1983, Monsegur grew up in relative poverty. His father, also named Hector, and his aunt Iris sold heroin on the streets. When Monsegur was fourteen, they were both arrested for drug dealing and sentenced to seven years in prison. Monsegur went to live with his grandmother Irma in a sixth-floor apartment in the Jacob Riis housing project on New York’s Lower East Side.

Online, he could live out his ambitions and avoid the disrespect he felt from figures of authority. By now he was learning how to break into the web servers of big organizations, from Japanese universities to third-world governments. Monsegur liked the buzz of subjugating a computer system, and soon he was veering from protecting them on his internships, to breaking into them in his spare time.

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. In the TV broadcasts, soldiers pushed against protesters, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, a community leader in New York that Monsegur had become aware of through his growing interest in left-wing activism. Something snapped inside him.

He went to his computer and drew up a network map of the entire IP space for Puerto Rico, and he found that a company called EduPro was running the government sites. He hacked into the servers, discovered the root password, and got administrative access. In the heat of the moment, he also typed up an angry missive in Microsoft Word, ignoring his own typos: Give us the Respect that we deserve, he wrote. Or shall we take it by force? Cabron. He brought down the Puerto Rican government’s websites and replaced them all with his message, which stayed up for several days. Smiling at his work, Monsegur considered this his first act of hacktivism. When the U.S. military gave control of the Vieques base back to the locals two weeks later, he felt it was partly thanks to him.

94 From “Jeremy Hammond: Rise and Fall of the Legendary Hacker” by Janet Reitman, an excerpt that gives some sense of Hammond’s political background:

Even before the arrest broadcast his name worldwide, Hammond was well-known in extreme-left circles. An early champion of “cyber-liberation,” he had been described by Chicago magazine at the age of 22 as an “electronic Robin Hood” after he was sentenced to two years in federal prison for hacking a conservative website and making off with 5,000 credit-card numbers, intending to charge donations to progressive causes. But unique within the hacking subculture, Hammond was also a real-life revolutionary: a “modern-day Abbie Hoffman,” in the words of his friend Matt Muchowski. He possessed a shrewd intelligence as well as a certain impulsivity a fellow hacker referred to it as “urgency” that had led to a long string of civil-disobedience arrests dating back 10 years, for offenses ranging from defacing a wall with anti-war slogans to banging a drum during a “noise demo” at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. (He later called his brief stint in the Tombs his “best prison experience.”) Hammond was even busted once, in 2005, for trying to join a protest, against a group of white supremacists in Toledo, Ohio. “They hadn’t even gotten out of the car when they were arrested,” says Muchowski, a Chicago union organizer who bailed Hammond out.

95 For example, “Robert McCain Fine With Teen Pregnancy Among Religious, But Not Minorities” (September 17, 2009), “A Wild McCain Appears!” (October 7, 2009), “Stacy McCain Demands Retraction Over ‘White Supremacist’ Charge, Predicts Doom for Smartass” (October 8, 2009), “Robert Stacy McCain, White Supremacist Weirdo” (October 13, 2009), “My Offer to White Supremacist R.S. McCain Re: My Upcoming Book” (December 20, 2009), “Stacy McCain Finally Acknowledges, Declines My Offer to Debate” (December 21, 2009), “Seven Questions for Donald Douglas on the Question of R.S. McCain’s Racism” (January 8 2010), “Robert Stacy McCain and the Fall of the Conservative Movement” (March 18, 2010), “Palin biographer accuses me of planning anti-government violence
(December 3, 2010), “R.S. McCain accuses me of being a violent militant” (December 3, 2010), “My Final Response to Robert Stacy McCain Regarding His Racism updated” (May 25, 2011), all by Barrett Brown.

96 From “Gawker Answer”, on Digital Media Law Project, specific page 4.

97 From “Celebrities Threaten Google With $100 Million Lawsuit for “Facilitating” Hacked Nude Photos” by Eriq Gardner: “Marty Singer, representing over a dozen celebrities whose iCloud accounts were hacked and whose nude photos were stolen in late August, is excoriating Google in a letter that threatens a $100 million lawsuit.” From “Scarlett Johansson — Legal THREATS Over Nude Pics” by TMZ staff:

Scarlett Johansson’s lawyer is on the attack — warning a bunch of websites that Scarlett owns the copyright to her HACKED nude pics and anyone who doesn’t take ’em down will FACE HIS WRATH!!!!

TMZ has learned … Scarlett’s attorney — legal pit bull Marty Singer — has fired off threatening letters to various sites including TheDirty.com [Nick Ritchie’s site]… demanding that the sites remove the “stolen copyright protected private photographs” immediately … or face legal action.

Singer claims, “The highly personal and private photographs at issue capture our client self-posing in her own home in a state of undress and/or topless.”

98 From “Gawker Motion”, on Digital Media Law Project, specific page 3.

99 From “Rebecca Gayheart, “McSteamy” Eric Dane, Get Gawker Settlement Over Threesome Video” by Edecio Martinez:

NEW YORK (CBS) The legal battle between Gawker and actors Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart has been settled after the website agreed to take down the couple’s homemade sex tape in return for them not suing the bejeezuz out of the gossip blog.

The Grey’s Anatomy star and his wife had sued Gawker in September for copyright infringement, after their threesome web video leaked to the internet, showing Dane, Gayheart and former beauty queen Kari Ann Peniche romping around naked and at times barely coherent.

The lawsuit claimed that Gawker “maliciously” distributed an uncensored version of the sex tape and refused to comply with a cease and desist order.

According to Reuters, Gawker and the couple agreed to private mediation, which facilitated a settlement that was filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court last week. Sources close to the case valued the settlement in the low-six figures.

100 Koblin, the author of the profile, would end up working at Gawker media: “Young, veteran media reporter John Koblin ditches all that to write about sports for Denton’s Deadspin” by Joe Pompeo.

101 One piece on her resignation: “The Most Important Person at Gawker Media Not Named Nick Denton Is Leaving” by Peter Kafka:

Gaby Darbyshire, Gawker Media’s longtime chief operating officer, is leaving the company.

Or maybe she has already left. Ask different people at Nick Denton’s blog network about Darbyshire’s departure date and you’ll get different results. Some think she left last summer; others say last fall, and others insist that she’s still doing a few last things for Denton.

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Ralph Reed: Venal Rex

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

(There is a great deal I want to write about now; this post, seemingly unconnected to immediate events, is the result of a gestation that was prolonged due to work. I say “seemingly” because it might be considered part of an informal, on-going series on the less than savory elite that is part of the networks of power (past posts would be “Maureen Otis: A Mystery Inside A Mystery” and “Angola, Namibia, South Africa, and a Tea Party Leader”), and Reed, even in the possible twilight of his career, still holds influence. This perhaps makes this target seem a little less arbitrary, and a few future subjects will have such immediate relevance that they will obviously be not arbitrary at all.

I first became interested in doing a piece like this after coming across the film “The Resurrection of Ralph Reed” on “Moyers and Company”, and the accompanying article “Ralph Reed in the Marianas Trenches”; to Bill Moyers and the makers of the film, I am indebted. Though I happened upon it only after reading other material, People for the American Way’s “Ralph Reed: The Crash of the Choir-Boy Wonder” was extraordinarily helpful in finding and organizing research by providing a through timeline of Reed’s career. I add a final thank you, giving kudos to Doug Monroe and Josh Latta for “The Book of Ralph Reed”, a short comic that gave me a good summary of Reed’s career while making me very aware of one specific detail unknown to me, his spokeswoman, Lisa Baron.)

The detail that everyone mentions is his eternal boyishness, birthing in you the image of this Christian activist as a street corner child evangelist. Imagining, perhaps, that his parents met in a small Baptist church where his father was an occasional pastor, that he led his church’s Bible Quiz team to the state championships, that during a period of brief delinquency his father might have believed his son were literally possessed by Satan, and held the boy down and tried to cast the devil out. That image, like many guesses you might make, or let’s be modest and not give every reader my flaws, which I made, would be very wrong. Those details are not from Ralph Reed’s life, but from that of the fascinating and incredibly accomplished Apollo Robbins, in the deservedly well-known profile by Adam Green, “A Pickpocket’s Tale” 1.

His boyish features and short stature, the physical qualities always remarked on, are the result of his being born six weeks premature2. Just as the obvious result of dyslexia is the movement towards the visual, and blindness incites a heightened auditory awareness, this physical limit may well have provoked a migration to guile and intellectual game-playing. Though he was born in Portsmouth, Georgia, he spent most of his childhood in Miami, a not very devout member of a Methodist family3, only moving back to Georgia, to the small town of Toccoa, in his fifteenth year. Just as great height and bulk require no greater assertion, they are assertion enough, a smaller stature perhaps requires the opposite, a constant statement of confidence. In small town Georgia, Reed was an abrasive, fast-talking Miami smart aleck. Where a northern outsider might think of Reed as just another tree in a southern evangelical forest, within this habitat he was instead looked on as very much an alien plant4.

Though he would later reflexively chastise the north eastern elites5, he was very much a part of the top tier of intellectual life, receiving a Ph.D in history at Emory University. His dissertation, over five hundred pages long, dealt with the history of religious higher education in the South6. This, however, was an inconsequential moment in his academic life and biography – most writers give no mention of this scholarly achievement, and perhaps to better affect the pose of the aw-shucks rustic, Reed gives little or mention of it either.

No, there were far more important things which happened to Ralph Reed at university. First, he became involved in conservative political activism, joining the college republicans. Among his mediagenic public demonstrations, Reed organized a mock Sandinista prison camp and a celebration of the U.S. invasion of Grenada. He also made his conservative bones through the usual blooding, by trashing some sacred liberal figure, in this case Mahatma Gandhi. Reed had a regular column in The Red & Black, the University of Georgia’s newspaper, one of which was “Gandhi: Ninny of the 20th century”, wherein he condemned this formidable man as a quack, a fake, a manifestly colossal boob “whose basic teachings posed a threat to the survival of the human race.”7 It was a nasty, loud thunderclap from a young firebrand which had an unsettling quality to some hearers – they had heard this very sound of thunder, note for note, before.

A month before Reed’s piece had appeared, “The Gandhi Nobody Knows” by Richard Grenier, had been published in Commentary. “Every assertion of, every quote and several seemingly original Reed phrases may be found directly or in slightly modified form in Richard Grenier’s long review,” wrote a student who noticed the striking similarities, though there were a few small differences – only in Reed’s piece was Gandhi called a ninny, a boob, a quack8. Reed wrote a brief apology for not citing his sources, then attacked his accuser for making such thinly veiled personal attacks, which he considered shocking and profane. His editor thought this was disingenuous at best, and banned the iconoclast from ever writing for the paper again. Reed did, however, gain something from borrowing another’s words to indict Gandhi as a colossal fraud: “It was a valuable learning experience,” he would say two decades later, “I became a better person because of it.”9

Second: Ralph Reed became a devout Christian. This happened after joining the young Republicans, and this life-changing event is something whose sincerity supposedly cannot be questioned10, and yet whose context cannot help but provoke questions as to its sincerity. His conversion was very abrupt, taking place on a 1983 Saturday night in a D.C. bar, when he suddenly felt his conscience hinting that he should go to church more often. Where others find divinity in stained glass or a lover’s eyes, Reed found god in a D.C. bar’s phone booth: he picked a church at random out of its yellow pages. The next morning, he attended services at Evangel Assembly of God church in Camp Springs, Maryland, going up to the altar to be saved. This absent-minded, slightly bored approach to a major shift in religious outlook was related in his memoir and manifesto combo, Politically Incorrect. He would later add other causes for his Damascene path: he had gotten tired of drinking; he had made the shocking discovery of a congressman cheating on his wife11. The editor of the student newspaper which published Reed’s column, the one that ended with borrowed words to beat a martyred saint, had many enjoyable, energetic political arguments with Reed during the time he worked at the paper, the very year of his conversion – but never a single one dealing with religion12.

A skeptic might look at this absence of an explicit spiritual quest, and see only a possible political context. Here was a man interested in politics, a successful activist, a savvy operator who had already rigged a student election13, a man knowledgeable enough of politic history to know that a man alone is nothing, he must draw on some kind of network, some kind of base. There are the usual old school ethnic sects on which a big city pol might rely, and there is the well-known constituency an Old South politician might pull in. But Reed is a man seen as a Miami hustler by the very southern constituency he would have to attract – only a Yankee might mistake him as a man of the South. There is another possibility, and that is to make himself part of a constituency that has just played a major role in the ’76 election and an even bigger one in the ’80 race. All he needs to do is pledge himself to god. Pledge himself to god, and maybe, talk a little different.

When Frank Abnagale writes of impersonating an airline pilot in his memoir, Catch Me If You Can, he stresses the importance of getting the verbal codes of a profession properly. Once you get the verbal shibboleths right, you will be accepted as a member of that profession, both by outsiders and its own members. The anecdote which best illustrates this is where Abnagale gives himself away, before mastering the pose and blending in seamlessly as a captain:

“What’s Pan Am doing here at La Guardia?” he asked casually. Apparently, Pan Am did not fly out of La Guardia.

“Oh, I just deadheaded in from Frisco on the first flight I could catch,” I replied. “I’ll catch a chopper to Kennedy.”

“What kind of equipment you on?” he asked, biting into his roll.

My brains turned to ice cubes. I nearly freaked out. Equipment? What did he mean, equipment? Engines? Cockpit instruments? What? I couldn’t recall having heard the word before in connection with commercial airlines. I frantically searched for an answer for it was obviously a normal question for him to ask. I mentally reread the reminiscences of the veteran Pan Am captain, a little book I’d really liked and which I’d virtually adopted as a manual. I couldn’t recall his ever using the word “equipment.”

It had to have some significance, however. The TWA airman was looking at me, awaiting my reply. “General Electric,” I said hopefully. It was definitely not the right answer. His eyes went frosty and a guarded look crossed his features. “Oh,” he said, the friendliness gone from his voice. He busied himself with his coffee and roll.

Whatever, I knew I wasn’t sufficiently prepared to attempt a deadheading venture, despite all my prior work and research. It was evident that I needed a better command of airline terminology, among other things. As I was leaving the terminal, I noticed a TWA stewardess struggling with a heavy bag. “Can I help you?” I asked, reaching for the luggage.

She relinquished it readily. “Thanks,” she said with a grin. “That’s our crew bus just outside there.”

“Just get in?” I asked as we walked toward the bus.

She grimaced. “Yes, and I’m pooped. About half the people in our load were whiskey salesmen who’d been to a convention in Scotland, and you can imagine what that scene was like.”

I could, and laughed. “What kind of equipment are you on?” I asked on impulse.

“Seven-o-sevens, and I love ’em,” she said as I heaved her suitcase aboard the bus. She paused at the bus door and stuck out her hand. “Thanks much, friend. I needed your muscles.”

Airline people manifestly loved to talk shop, and at the moment I obviously wasn’t ready to punch in at the factory. So equipment was an airplane, I mused, walking to my own bus. I felt a little stupid, but halfway back to Manhattan I burst out laughing as a thought came to mind. The TWA first officer was probably back in the pilot’s lounge by now, telling other TWA crewmen he’d just met a Pan Am jerk who flew washing machines.

That being Christian involves a mastery of a Christian pose, talking Christian, just as you might have to talk airline pilot in order to pass yourself off as an airline pilot, is conveyed in this interview on “Conversations With David Lewis” with Reed’s former communications director, a saucy party girl named Lisa Baron. Baron is Jewish, and often had to speak to devout Christians as part of her work as Reed’s spokeswoman, employing phrases of great significance to the evangelical community that had no personal significance to her. Here she speaks of using these phrases in the context of assuring other Christian leaders after Reed suffered a major political scandal:

DAVID LEWIS
You mentioned “talking christian”. Here you are, a nice Jewish girl, you’re out there working for Ralph Reed, politically, with his clients, and Christianity is obviously part of that…give me an example of having to talk Christian.

LISA BARON
I would say…I feel bad, because I’m not mocking…just repeating what I was hearing. I would have to go to meetings on behalf of Ralph, I would say “this is very unfortunate, but I know what’s in his heart, his heart is good, he may have strayed a little bit, but he’s come back to…I never said the Lord, or Jesus, but I would say he’s come back and wronged his ways, and he’s been humbled.

LEWIS
Well, I actually did a documentary for the Gospel Music Channel on Christian and gospel singers, and I did have to ask people, when were you saved by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the first time it was really hard to say, but then I realized this is like saying “hello”.

BARON
Right.

LEWIS
In that world, it’s a completely…it’s not a remarkable thing at all. But yes, talking Christian, I’ve been there. Uncomfortable?

BARON
But it’s a bit disingenuous. I wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was a bit disingenuous. But I wanted to relate to people in a way that was relatable to them. I didn’t want to speak in my own voice. Cuz what would I say? “Oh, who cares! He’s [Ralph Reed] just a tangential figure! He’s gonna be fine!”

This reference to later political turmoil brings us to the third, and final, important effect of Reed’s academic career. It was at the University of Georgia, while involved in political activism, that he would connect with three other Republicans, two of whom would go on to great achievement and infamy. One was Grover Norquist. Another was Jack Abramoff. The last was already well-established as a subject of love and loathing: the giggling fanatic, Pat Robertson.

In January 1989, Robertson met Reed at a dinner for conservative students. Robertson had tried to run for president the year before, and though his campaign had lost badly, he saw the possibility of a great political force of devoted christian voters that, properly harnessed, could wield great influence. Robertson may not have won, but he had finished second in the Iowa primary, and he had scared the good Jesus out of the party chiefs – the first of many times when the Republican generals would go goggle eyed over the unelectable presidential candidate christian voters might be handing them, but whose christian votes they badly needed, nonetheless. There must have been something very impressive about this young man who’d just finished his history doctorate, because Robertson almost immediately asked him to head this political group of religious voters. Reed turned him down. Again, there must have been something very impressive about this young man; when, in September, Reed changed his mind, the offer was still outstanding. Reed would lead the Christians, in an organization called the Christian Coalition14.

The next few years were the lintel stone on which all of Reed’s later achievements would rest. The Coalition was founded as a tax-exempt non-partisan organization, but it was started with Republican money, and always ended up favoring Republican candidates. This boy wonder who was an emissary of the Prince of Peace wore knuckle dusters; “I want to be invisible,” he told Norfolk’s Virginian-Pilot, “I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag.”15 Gandhi, after all, was a ninny. He had soon built the Coalition into an organization of over three million members with twelve million dollars to throw around, back when twelve million dollars in politics was – I apologize for the incongruous profanity in this piece on a man of god – back when twelve million dollars in politics was worth a damn16. The Coalition would hijack the 1992 Republican convention, so that its central point was the one made by Pat Buchanan, its most prominent speaker – we are engaged in a cultural war. The Republicans lost the presidential race, but the Coalition was considered vital for their mobilization of voters. When victory did arrive, two years later, when both congressional houses surrendered to Republican control, they were seen as essential17. Reed was given the imprimatur of a Time magazine cover, which, like twelve million dollars in politics, actually meant something then. Next to the lightning bolt yellow rubric, “THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD”, was a picture in Manichean tones of a boy squinting out, unsmilingly, from abyssinal darkness18. The Lord picked out his emissaries, all the way back to the Nazarene, from the shabbiest and most wretched of the earth, but even this portrait might have prompted some to ask: why does this divine messenger look like someone who might offer me dirty pictures of the Virgin Mary?

There is always something of illusion in politics, and there might have been something very illusory in Reed’s greatest political triumph. The coalition’s power may have lain in perception, rather than actual substance. It did not have three million members, as it claimed, but only a fifth of that. Voter guides printed up to harness this mighty fist were often found still bundled, thrown in the garbage19. Soon, there was something else. Benjamin Hart, a co-founder of the conservative campus paper Dartmouth Review and a former executive of Oliver North’s lobbying group, Freedom Alliance, had joined the coalition in 1992. Hart’s work put him in good stead with Reed, and though technically an outside contractor, he became a trusted confidante and his de facto lieutenant. “Any conflict that came up with Hart was going to go Hart’s way,” said one former associate. Hart’s ascension was due to the fact that, even in god’s work, you need to bring in the dollars, and Hart brought in the dollars: through his efforts, donations went from five million in 1991, to four times that in 1994. The key to the coalition’s expansion, and its influx of donations, was direct mail, and Hart was given full sway over this: he handled direct mail, telemarketing, the voter guides, and the bidding on the million-piece direct mail packages20. This last item was where the problem started.

The coalition’s marketing director noticed that the two firms used to handle the coalition’s mailings, Universal Lists (which rented mailing lists to the coalition) and Federal Printing & Mailing (which handled the group’s direct mail solicitations), were both owned by Hart Conover, Benjamin Hart’s own company. The man responsible for overseeing bids to the mailing list contract was awarding them to his own firm. The marketing director sent the coalition CFO, Judy Liebert, a warning memo: “This ‘closed circle’ of business provides Hart Conover with an extraordinary income stream. It doesn’t give us the benefit of a competitive bidding environment. Consequently, our ‘above the line’ cost for direct mail fundraising is astronomical (somewhere in the 50 to 70 percent bracket).”21 Liebert approached Reed with this accusation, but Reed dismissed it: he knew already about Hart’s ownership of the firms, and he assured her that Hart had sought out competitive bids from other firms. Liebert asked to see invoices of these competitive bids from other firms. Reed refused to show them22.

The coalition then underwent a scheduled internal audit. The auditor contacted Hart about auditing his firm, but was told such an audit was unnecessary, as he would be resigning his position. Hart then changed his mind and stayed on. Around the time of his possible resignation, Hart also tried to obtain the coalition donor database, a mailing list worth close to a million dollars. Hart’s request of the database was refused. Liebert, the coalition CFO, then made an additional charge at a specially convened meeting: Federal Printing & Mailing, which handled the coalition’s direct mail solicitations, only existed on paper. Hart’s company, Hart Conover, for all intents and purposes, wasFederal Printing & Mailing. Federal Printing & Mailing did no actual printing, and was located in the same set of offices as Hart Conover. Liebert believed that Hart had bagged the coalition for a million dollars or more, and she had contacted an attorney to determine if Hart’s actions were illegal. The Christian Coalition board took immediate action: Liebert was reprimanded for contacting outside authorities, suspended with pay, ordered to hand over all coalition property, and then six months later, officially fired23.

Yet something in Liebert’s accusations must have struck home. The coalition hired the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand to do a specific audit of Hart Conover, whose results were kept secret. They found some “keypunch and arithmetic errors in billing”, said Hart’s lawyer. Hart Conover agreed to a payment adjustment. A minor adjustment, said Hart’s lawyer24. In the April after Liebert’s termination, Reed left the coalition. After this, the organization went into a steep decline and political eclipse. A decade after the Hart billing scandal, the coalition was buried in debt and lawsuits over unpaid bills, to landlords, direct-mail companies, lawyers and an employee seeking back pay. At the turn of the new century, it was sued by a group of African American employees who charged that they had to enter their offices by a back door and eat in a segregated area. That same year, Robertson resigned from the coalition25. Reed, however, would survive.

In 1997, the same year he left the Christian Coalition, Reed would start Century Strategies. This was a firm whose stated business was strategic business assistance, direct mail, fundraising management, public and media relations. It was “one of the nation’s leading public affairs and public relations firms”. It was not a lobbying shop. A lobbying firm has to, by law, disclose its clients and fees. A media relations firm does not26. He almost immediately pulled in a number of high profile clients for whom he was able to do very effective work.

He worked hard on behalf of Boeing and the Business Roundtable to persuade Congress to normalize trade relations with China. “We believe that human and civil rights and religious freedom and liberty should be at the center of our foreign policy,” he declared a year earlier, at a Christian Coalition press conference. This was, however, before Boeing was a client, and Boeing had $120 billion worth of planes to sell to China. A year, after all, is a lifetime in politics. A former Reed associate believes that Reed was critical in persuading conservative members of Congress of the importance of trade normalization, and recalls that he helped write ads arguing that trade normalization would bring about improved human rights. Reed also attempted to deal with China’s past human rights record through the efforts of the Alliance of Christian Ministries in China, a group of ministry organizations arguing for trade normalization in order to better spread the gospel in the ancient kingdom. The Alliance of Christian Ministries in China, however, did not exist, never existed, but were simply a paper group constructed by Reed for the purposes of this lobbying effort. At the same Christian Coalition press conference: “We believe that if the United States makes the center of its foreign policy profits rather than people, and money rather than human rights, then we will have lost our soul as a nation.”27 Profits: one, national soul: zero.

If he was able to look past Chinese human rights to lobby for Boeing, he could look past the smaller gomorrah of children’s commercials for another client. These ads were what conservatives hated about Channel One, the well-known in-school TV network which doles out ten minutes of news to schools in return for two minutes of advertisements which target pre-teens and teens. Channel One is the sort of frigid vacuity that makes you understand the appeal of heroin to those in high school – if this is all the world offers, why not? The opposition of the religious centered on the carnality of its movie trailers, and its rancid fast food ads. A few calls were made, where Reed stressed Channel One’s abstinence and anti-alcohol advertising; the Texas Board of Education halted its attempts to stop the barbarian invasion28.

It was a greater crime he had to look away from in the Marianas islands, but Reed had the resolution to look away. The Marianas were an island cluster north of Guam, which held warehouses that were something like prison factories, where Chinese women were brought in to do garment work, six days a week, sometimes twenty hours a day. Women started work in debt seven thousand dollars, plus up to twenty percent interest, to whatever recruiter brought them to the island, and had to work that off before they saw a cent. Every day had a quota, and a worker who did not finish their quota by the end of the paid work day had to work for free until her quota was finally completed. They were expensed for food and housing, and sometimes their employer decided to not pay them. The Marianas voted in 1975 to become a commonwealth of the United States, so clothing made there sported a “Made in the USA” label. With its commonwealth status, the Marianas became subject to most U.S. laws with two notable exceptions. It had no legal minimum wage in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, so its hourly wage was three dollars five cents, with the possibility of lengthy unpaid overtime. It had no need to comply with the Immigration and Nationality Act, so those who worked at the Marianas were always guest workers, and they could be terminated at will, then deported back to China, without possibility of legal recourse. Guest workers on the island who got pregnant often got illegal abortions so they could continue to work, or were deported back to China where they were forced to have abortions there. Garment workers in need of money, as well as other women who’d been falsely lured to the island for waitress and hotel jobs, were forced to work as prostitutes in the local sex tourism industry – the islands’ second largest business after clothing – until they’d paid back the debt to their recruiter29.

It was for these women, these brave souls, Ralph Reed now fought for. Wait – did I just say he fought for these women? No, my mistake: he fought on behalf of the islands’ local officials, against a minimum wage and improvement of the inhumane conditions. At least 29 different bills were put forth to raise the Marianas minimum wage, to close the immigration exemption, to abolish use of a “Made in the USA” label on Saipan-made clothing, by, among others, Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), George Miller (D-Calif.) and David Bonier (D-Mich.)30 Every one failed, and Reed could take credit for the failure of some. It was a Reed owned mail order firm, Millenium Marketing, which instructed conservative Christians of Alabama to write their congressperson to vote against any such bills. To fight against bills that might ameliorate the inhumane squalor was a fight against liberalism, and a fight for Christian values. “The radical left, the Big Labor Union Bosses, and Bill Clinton want to pass a law preventing Chinese from coming to work on the Marianas Islands,” the mailer argued. Chinese workers who came to the Marianas, “are exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.” Chinese workers who came to the Marianas, “are converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand.”31

The 2000 presidential election was close by, and it was owing to it that Reed picked up two other clients. One was famous, one of the largest American companies at the time, and that was Microsoft. One was soon to be infamous, and that was Enron. The software giant hired Century Strategies in the wake of their unfavorable anti-trust ruling, with the specific mission of recruiting letters from around the country of influential Bush supporters, specifically those working at a high level inside the Bush campaign, to write the then presidential candidate that the government case against Microsoft was misguided, and the American people opposed it – without ever revealing they were doing so at the instigation of Microsoft or a firm in their employ. The ultimate goal, of course, was to have the Republican nominee speak out against the case, and, as it went through multiple appeals, abandon it if he were elected president. Regional contractors were to be paid $300 a letter that could be of use, a high price for such work32. When this lobbying strategy was revealed by an anonymous letter recipient who did not agree with the goals of the campaign, Bush spokesman Scott McClelland made clear that it was an unpleasant surprise. However, the matter was now closed and Reed would remain with the campaign. Veteran political columnist Mark Shields saw the stomaching of this misdeed as an example of the moral numbness of a money-besotted political culture33. Given all that would take place in the eight years of the administration Reed helped elect, it really was nothing at all.

Enron was another election season gift, awarded in the pre-season to Ralph Reed in order to hold him to the side of the Bush campaign during the main event. Reed was granted a lucrative consulting contract on the recommendation of Karl Rove, with a twofold intent. First, it would keep Reed loyal to the Bush team, warding off other suitor candidates who were seeking the endorsement of this Christian emissary. Second, by giving Reed this substantial plum, a consulting gig that awarded him ten to twenty thousand a month from September 1997 until the company’s collapse, rather than a paid position within the campaign, the Bush team was able to put forward a moderate compassionate conservative message, untainted by any close association with Reed or his hardline evangelism34. Both Rove and Reed denied that the consulting position was in any way a quid pro quo for Reed’s support of the Bush campaign; numerous Rove associates, however, affirm that the consultant position was granted for this very reason35. A quid pro quo where Reed was compensated in a roundabout way for work done on behalf of the Bush campaign, argues Trevor Potter, a Republican and former chairman of the Federal Elections Commission, may have been a violation of federal election law36. Again, given all that would take place in the eight years of the administration Reed helped elect, it really was nothing at all.

Officially, during the 2000 election, Reed was an unpaid consultant for the Bush campaign – the only open question, of course, is how you define “unpaid”. Reed’s firm, on the other hand, was openly paid for by the campaign for its direct mail and phone bank service37, and it is the use of this service in the Republican primaries which is part of one of the greater, unresolved mysteries of that pivotal election. In that year, George W. Bush was the presumptive front-runner, the man favored by the party elite, the expected nominee, before a surprise took place: Bush lost New Hampshire by twenty points to John McCain. The two men entered the next primary, South Carolina, with the expected nominee having lost a fifty point lead. Bush was now in desperate straits, but they would win this. They would play dirty, and South Carolina was the state to play dirty, because South Carolina was a dirty playing state. Lee Atwater, the cruel weasel adman whose signature achievement was the race-baiting Willie Horton ad of 1988, had been birthed here and honed his craft here, before the universe finally had enough of his happy-go-lucky callousness, and buried him down here again. The Bush team would win back this race, and they would do it by destroying John McCain, the decorated Navy pilot and former prisoner of war, any which way they could38.

Their allies were the local Campbell machine, a group of state bosses headed up by former state governor Carroll Campbell, along with other former Atwater associates and clients: Strom Thurmond, the segregationist who owed a re-election to the cruel weasel; local strategist Warren Tompkins, the cruel weasel’s boyhood friend; and Tucker Eskew, communications czar and cruel weasel apprentice39. There was another man, of course, along for the ride, a boyish smallish man, who aspired to be the Christian Lee Atwater. Years later, a respected Washington figure with solid ties to the religious right would say that he’d been told that the strategy in South Carolina would be an underground campaign involving all the heavyweights of the Republican and Christian right. They had picked their nasty back alley fight in the right nasty back alley: South Carolina was where the Christian Coalition was strongest. A rumor campaign could be done without difficulty through the network of the evangelical community, a network that a certain boyish smallish man could tap into with ease. They’d be able to disseminate any nasty, filthy stories through Christian whispering, and by the time the secular media would pick up on it and cry foul, it would be too late. Reed pledged to Rove that he could deliver, said the respected Washington figure, and by delivering, he would demonstrate his political power40.

There were the emails suggesting that McCain had had children out of wedlock. The whispers that McCain had slept with prostitutes in Viet Nam. That his wife, Cindy McCain, was addicted to painkillers. During a candidates debate, every parked car of the audience got a flyer in its windshield. The flyers had a McCain family picture, with a dark skinned girl in their midst, and a caption that suggested McCain had an out of wedlock child who was part African American. McCain’s deputy campaign manager would say of this: “I always figured that would sort of be the underground thing there. But, man, the child thing…I’ve seen the worst form of racist sons of bitches in the world in David Duke, but this was unbelievable.”41 The dark skinned girl in the picture was not part African American. She was Bangladeshi. She was John McCain’s daughter. When Cindy McCain was in Bangladesh as part of a relief mission, she had helped fly a girl with a cleft palate to the United States for surgery. She grew so attached to the girl in the flight over, that the family had adopted her42. There is a nasty phrase about good deeds never going unpunished, and I think we all know it too well.

All these rumors were further propagated by push polls, telephone polls that ostensibly were to ask a voter what would make them more or less likely to vote for a candidate, but were actually intended to further a rumor about your opponent, that their wife was hooked on pills or they had a child out of wedlock. An example can be made of the push poll used by then senator Caroll Campbell against his opponent Max Heller, a man who’d escaped the holocaust in Europe which killed off ninety relatives of him and his wife. In this 1978 senatorial race, voters were called up and asked if they were more likely to vote for “a native South Carolinian”, or a “Jewish immigrant”? They were also asked which characteristics best described the two candidates, and listed a series of traits, among which were “honest”, “A hard worker”, and “Jewish”. During one of Heller’s meets, a man came up and said, “Gee, Max, I didn’t know you didn’t believe in Jesus.” That was the tip-off of what was going on43. Heller lost the senator’s race. McCain lost the South Carolina primary. Ralph Reed’s firm, as said before, was hired to provide phone bank services.

You would think, given this extraordinary turnaround by the Bush campaign in this state, there would be no shortage of claimants of who was behind these lowdown tactics. Yet this success, which revolved around rumors of illegitimate paternity, defies the proverb and claims no fathers at all. Somehow this victory was both just politics as usual, yet something so toxic and vile that it cannot be touched. Lisa Baron, Ralph Reed’s spokeswoman, was often asked about her boss’s involvement, and alibied with a less disreputable activity: she would say that she had no idea, as she was too busy sucking Ari Fleischer’s cock44. Fleischer, a future Bush White House spokesman, recently complained that he would have to contribute a little less to charity because of hikes in the top tax rates45. It seems he was in a more giving mood that year.

Almost all others involved in this primary incident, even its victims, have kept a discrete silence. There is one other notable exception, and that is Meghan McCain. In her Dirty Sexy Politics, she speaks of this incident in detail, and describes the hurt that it caused her, her sister, and her family. Though it is her book and her perspective, I do not think she would write of a family matter such as this without her family’s consent.

I give lengthy excerpt, and bold the most striking and relevant parts.

This is where things become ugly and sad. What happened in South Carolina in 2000 is what caused me to reconsider everything, and draw away from politics. My father lost in South Carolina, but he didn’t lose fair and square. He lost as a result of one of the dirtiest political tricks ever played. A hate campaign was waged against him and our family-a campaign that spread lies and fear.

E-mails went around, and became viral, saying that my dad had “sired children out of wedlock.” There was mention of a “Negro child.” Pamphlets-thousands of them-were stuck under car windshields showing a photograph of all of us, my mom and dad; me; my brothers, Jack and Jimmy; and my sweet sister, Bridget, who was adopted by my parents from a Bangladesh orphanage when she was a baby. The pamphlets led people to believe that Bridget was the “Negro child” my father had sired out of wedlock.

Something called “push polls” were conducted. Republican voters were called at home and informed that my father was mentally unstable from his years in prison as a POW or a Manchurian candidate secretly planning to spread communism. There were mentions of the “Negro child” during the push polls, and my mother, who had struggled with a prescription drug addiction after back surgery six years before-and had talked publicly about it-was smeared as a drug addict.

It was sick, disgusting-and everything it will go down in history for being. And it was so dirty and secret that it became impossible to trace who was responsible, directly or indirectly, except to know the man who won that primary: George W. Bush.

For my family, it was devastating. My whole world, the people whom I loved most, my parents, and brothers, and baby sister, were suddenly at the center of ugliness and unwanted attention. To lose a race is hard enough. But to lose unfairly is brutal and haunting. I blocked out the pain, and tried to forget, but at the same time, it stayed with me-the way feelings do when you try to ignore them. Someday I’d want to know what happened, I figured, but not yet.

Three or four years later, when I was in college, I came across an article in Vanity Fair that went into explicit detail about the South Carolina primary, and I remember feeling really uncomfortable reading it. I wanted to know the details, but at the same time, I didn’t. My mom had explained a few things-but not too much.

She had been waiting until we asked questions, and were old enough to understand, except I don’t think there is a way to understand.

People in politics, and those of us raised in political families, are told not to take politics personally. But, of course, we do. We must. Otherwise the world of politics will become even more dehumanizing and impersonal. If we don’t take politics personally, we aren’t honoring what it means to be human-and risk winding up as cruel and unfeeling, as inhuman, as the ones who spread lies and win unfairly.

The trick, I think, is to remain human and just forgive.

My father moved on-that’s how he is, he moves forward, doesn’t look back, doesn’t get burdened by hate or the wrong actions of others. He leaves things for history to judge. But for my mom, and the rest of us who love him so much, it was impossible. Eventually, when I was in college, I asked my mother about South Carolina. And I guess my brothers, Jack and Jimmy, eventually did too.

But my little sister, Bridget, the youngest in our family, didn’t know anything about it until she was sixteen years old and, just for kicks, she happened to google her own name and found herself linked, in almost every item, to the South Carolina primary of 2000.

She called me immediately, extremely upset, crying, and-not understanding what had happened-she feared that somehow she, and the color of her beautiful skin, had affected the outcome of that election, and caused our father to lose the race. It was heartbreaking, so heartbreaking.

I told her a few things that I knew, mostly that it was sick, and screwed-up people did things like that. I told her that I believed in karma-and that what goes around comes around, and those events will live with President Bush and Karl Rove, his creepy campaign “mastermind,” and with the individuals from the Christian Coalition who had helped to orchestrate it and did the push polls.

I told her that I loved her and that it was our job to make sure that things like this didn’t happen in politics again, because it was wrong and terrible for our country.

“Does President Bush hate me?” she asked.

This was the saddest of all.

“No,” I said. “He can’t hate you. He doesn’t even know you.”

“Why did he do it?”

“He just wanted to win.”

For Reed, the presidential election was just a break from other action; he was pulling in dollars from corporate clients and becoming more involved in the state politics of Georgia. The rungs of the ladder could easily be discerned: become state GOP chairman, then win one of the smaller offices, like representative or lieutenant governor, then senator or governor, and then finally go for the holiest of holys. His mother once said that her son would end up either as president of the United States or Al Capone46. If a man like Reed has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes you don’t have to choose. It’s a little of column A, a little of column B. Maybe a lot of column B.

He was both very successful and very unsuccessful in the place he’d designated over Florida as his home state. Following his defeat of decorated veteran John McCain, he helped defeat another decorated veteran, Max Cleland. Cleland, a triple amputee, was attacked in campaign ads which interspersed his picture with that of Osama Bin Laden, declaring him soft on defense for having voted against various domestic security bills. This was accompanied by the election of Georgia’s first Republican governor in forty elections. This dual triumph in 2002 was either because it was the best election year for Republicans since Reconstruction, multiple visits to the state by then president George W. Bush, the use of a new state of the art voter targeting and mobilization system, or the strategic work of the boyish smallish man who was the new chairman of the state GOP47. It was a happy, or unhappy, contrast with Reed’s last major involvement at political consulting, in 1998.

That year, Reed attempted to put in power a phalanx of Christian candidates – congressmen, governors, senators, state representatives, lieutenant governors, even a labor commissioner, with Century Strategies acting as consultant to each – and almost every one lost. Reed lost every big ticket race, except for Georgia senator Paul Coverdell and Alabama senator Richard Shelby, and those two were expected to win anyway. He lost Governor Fob James’ re-election bid in Alabama, he lost Gex “Jay” Williams try for a House seat in Kentucky, he lost Gary Hofmeister’s bid to be an Indiana rep48. In Georgia, Reed’s campaign for Mitch Skandalakis, candidate for lieutenant governor, depicted his opponent as an inmate in a psychiatric and drug-treatment facility. Another Skandalakis ad played what might be discreetly called the “D.W. Griffith” card, charging Atlanta’s predominantly black political leadership with gross incompetence. Skandalakis was one more notch in Reed’s losing streak, defeated by Mark Taylor, and the incendiary ads may have been one more reason for the high black voter turnout, bringing victory to democratic candidates statewide. Because of the boy wonder’s political ads for one lieutenant governor, Republican operatives grumbled, Reed had managed to defeat their entire slate49.

In 2006, Ralph Reed took to another rung of the ladder, running for this same measly post of lieutenant governor, and it was around then that the devils of Gehenna – or perhaps an angel, with a capricious mercy for humanity – wrenched his hands from this celestial ladder and let him fall, to the humbling ground below. His hard descent was because of that massive defeat in 1998, and because of an old college friend, Jack Abramoff.

Since meeting as fellow college Republicans, Abramoff had had a varied, colorful, and even more financially successful career than Reed. After graduating from Brandeis, he would make the movie Red Scorpion, possibly with the assistance of the apartheid government of South Africa50, as well as found the International Freedom Foundation, a think tank which was covertly funded by the South African intelligence service to disseminate their propaganda, whether to defame Nelson Mandela or stop one of their protectorates, Namibia, from declaring independence, by putting out the false story that it had chemical weapons51. After the 1994 Republican congressional takeover by Congress, Abramoff was hired by lobbying shop Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds. “Can you smell the money?” wrote Abramoff in a later email; through his work at Preston Gates, and at later rival lobby shop Greenberg Taurig, the air from now on would reek of money. He charged seven fifty for an hour of his time, owned one of the most popular restaurants in D.C., and skybox tickets were as common in his pockets as lint in another man’s – though, of course, this dream life ended badly52. The name of Abramoff is now immutably bound to scandal, a scandal of which there are two plot points: both involve gambling. Plot A concludes in imprisonment and disgrace, Plot B finishes in imprisonment, disgrace, and murder.

Following the rout of Reed’s candidates in 1998, he needed to find another way to make money than giving election advice – who wants to be told how to win from a horse trainer with a stable filled with losing horses? The email where Reed asked Abramoff for client work is now reasonably well-known, as it became a piece of evidence in a congressional inquiry. The note from this man of god to his old friend was enthusiastic and to the point: “Hey, now that I’m done with the electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts! I’m counting on you to help me with some contacts.”53

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

It was through Abramoff that Reed was brought in to help out a longtime client, the Marianas islands. Channel One was another Abramoff client, and, of course, Reed helped out with that too54. Then he was brought in to help out with the larger, lucrative game that would destroy them all. Jack Abramoff worked with a series of Indian tribes, mainly related to the issues of casino ownership, and would promote the services of a company, Capitol Campaign Services (CCS), whether it be mailing lists, grass roots organizing, or a voter database. This company was presented as one owned by an Abramoff associate, Michael Scanlon, but one entirely independent and unaffiliated with Abramoff. In actual fact, as part of a pre-arranged deal, all fees paid to CCS were split evenly between Scanlon and Abramoff55. The prices of the services were always wildly inflated; the biggest ticket item was a voter database. This was sold as a tool that would allow tribes to co-ordinate their own casino campaigns through detailed knowledge of relevant voters. Scanlon would say these databases were valued at a million and a half dollars, when they actually cost about a hundred grand. Scanlon would brag to the tribes that their customized database was built by top quality people who spent day and night to set it up, working with a stable of graphic artists. In reality, the database was never customizable, and Scanlon just got it ready-made from a vendor, or had another vendor make a cheaper, less functional front end for this existing product. The databases were incredibly expensive, and usually they ended up going unused56. It was through these and other services that a group of five tribes ended up paying out close to $66 million to Capitol Campaign Services. Abramoff, a man who infamously referred to various tribesmen as troglodytes, morons, and idiots, received half57.

The Mississippi Choctaw were worried about competition to their reservation casino if next door Alabama legalized slot machines, so they recruited Abramoff to defeat the bill. Ambramoff, in turn, brought in his college friend Ralph Reed to rally the Christian troops against the bill, through mail, radio ads, and top name religious warriors like James Dobson. Reed guaranteed his fellow College Republican that “he would open the bomb bay doors and hold nothing back.” When a tribal spokesman brought up the fact that Reed was a hard-right ideologue, Abramoff answered (my emphasizing italics): “as far as the cash goes.”58 Of course, Reed could not be paid directly by the Choctaw to defeat the gambling bill, as this would look like what it was, a gambling interest manipulating sincere Christian sentiment in order to destroy their competition. At first, the payments went to Reed via Preston Gates, Abramoff’s lobbying shop. This was later changed, perhaps because the path was too obvious, and instead the money went through Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and then onto Reed. Americans for Tax Reform was the political organization founded by Ralph Reed’s other prominent college friend, Grover Norquist59.

Here is Reed relaying to Abramoff the script of the ad they’ll be deploying:

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

This is Reed and Abramoff actively discussing the deployment of ads, and the use of an intermediary party, in this case, ATR, to get the money to Reed.

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

The Senate Indian Affairs Report, the result of the subsequent investigation into Abramoff’s dealings, relates the perspective of Nell Rogers, planner for the Mississippi Choctaw and a liaison between Abramoff and the tribe, on the reasons for the use of such in-between parties to pay Reed; from the Report, starting on page 45:

[Nell] Rogers did not speak with anyone at ATR about using ATR as a conduit. As far as Rogers knew, ATR was not involved and was not considering getting involved in any of the efforts the Choctaw ultimately paid Reed and others to oppose. Based on everything Rogers knew, ATR simply served as a conduit to disguise the source of the Choctaw money ultimately paid to grassroots groups and Reed. Rogers told Committee staff that she understood from Abramoff that ATR was willing to serve as a conduit, provided it received a fee.

The Choctaw’s intent and understanding was that the money would pass through ATR and ultimately reach either Reed or a grassroots organization engaging in anti-gaming activities. It was never intended as a contribution to support ATR’s general anti-tax work. As far as Rogers was concerned, ATR was serving as a conduit on a project that had nothing to do with taxes and that was designed to oppose gaming.

The question arises why the Choctaw paid money to Reed through various conduits, such as Preston Gates and ATR, rather than directly. Rogers told Committee staff, “I always assumed it’s because Ralph was more comfortable with that.” Rogers understood from Abramoff that “Ralph Reed did not want to be paid directly by a tribe with gaming interests. It was our understanding that the structure was recommended by Jack Abramoff to accommodate Mr. Reed’s political concerns.” Nevertheless, the work Reed and his company Century Strategies performed and for which they were paid through Preston Gates and ATR was on the Tribe’s behalf and for its benefit. The Tribe has no complaints about the quality of work Reed undertook on its behalf.

After Norquist got nervous about the use of ATR as a conduit, Arbamoff instead moved the cash to Reed via the AIC. The AIC, or American International Center, was a think tank that listed as its directors David Grosh, a lifeguard, and Brian Mann, a yoga instructor. The headquarters of AIC was a beach house. Mann could not remember Grosh doing anything during the time they were directors, except help him put a desk together. “If AIC was a think tank, I sure don’t know what we were thinking about,” said Grosh. AIC’s mission “was the global minded purpose of enhancing the methods of empowerment for territories, commonwealths, and sovereign nations in possession of and within the United States.” Grosh and Mann had no idea what that meant. It was a Potemkin think tank, with the usual portentous objective that sounded like dialogue from a wet dream of Thomas Friedman, but entirely non-existent, just a shell to funnel money to Reed and others60.

When a tribe refused to do business with Abramoff and Scanlon, the two men would have a new tribal council elected. We have here, in microcosm, the politics of the United States, now: politicians elected not to serve their constituents, but elected by lobbyists to serve them. After the Saginaw Chippewa decided to drop Abramoff and go with another lobbyist, Abramoff ousted the existing tribal leadership. He and Scanlon put together a slate of eight rival candidates, devised candidate strategy, paid all campaign expenses, and put out mailers and fliers, warning that “[t]he upcoming election may be the only chance for the disenfranchised, [sic] and beaten down members of this tribe to voice their disapproval.”61 Seven of Abramoff’s eight candidates won. Following their electoral victory, a mailer prepared by CCS was sent out, announcing that this was “the day the people of this tribe swept away the politics of the past, and started a new era of positive and responsible government.” Abramoff had emailed Scanlon shortly before the triumph: “Looks like you have it well in hand. I smell victory! I smell gimme five!!!” “Gimme five” was code for the under the table money Scanlon would pass on to Abramoff62.

Abramoff, Scanlon, and Reed happily fought on behalf of one tribe to close the casinos of another, then turned around and helped out the rival tribe, without ever disclosing that they were the ones who had shut down their casinos in the first place. The Louisiana Coushatta had a casino which drew most of its revenue from Texas gamblers. When another tribe, the Alabama Coushatta, planned to open a casino in Texas, Abramoff and Scanlon convinced the Louisiana tribe that if Texas allowed a local tribe, the Tigua, to keep their casino open, it would mean that gambling would become legal throughout Texas; the Alabama Coushatta would be able to build their casino, and Texans would gamble at home, rather than travel to another state. Abramoff and Scanlon were given the nod to do what was necessary, so they went down to Texas, and got the anti-gambling bill passed with the help of Ralph Reed’s Christian soldiers. When Reed told him that he’d heard the Tigua place would be closed by the next week, Abramoff emailed Scanlon, “Whining idiot. Close the f’ing thing already!!” When the Tigua tried to put forth a legislative solution, Abramoff and Scanlon had the lieutenant governor block it63.

The revenue generated by the Tigua casino had helped provide education to tribal children and health care to tribal elders. In desperation, the Tigua turned to two men who might do something, anything, to help them: Abramoff and Scanlon64. The tribe would pay the men millions, even pay for a junket that allowed Abramoff, Ralph Reed, and Congressman Bob Ney to go to Scotland and play golf, and all for naught65. Congressman Bob Ney was willing to put a provision in an election reform bill so that the casino would re-open, but Senator Chris Dodd, would be needed to support it – and Dodd wanted nothing to do with it. After this failure, Abramoff had one last idea for squeezing money from the tribe: he decided to try to set up life insurance for the oldest of the Tigua. Reed would try to introduce an equivalent program in some African American churches. Jack, summarized a former Reed associate, approached Ralph about mortgaging old black people. Reed may have had no compunction about this, but even for a desperate people this was too much; the Tigua tribal council turned the offer down. When it was all finally over, the principals in disgrace or in jail, the duplicities revealed, the Lieutenant Governor of the Tigua, Carlos Hisa, was asked how he felt about Abramoff and Scanlon: “A rattlesnake will warn you before it strikes. We had no warning.”66

Abramoff and Scanlon not only used Reed’s christian network for the benefit of tribal casinos, they used this same network to benefit one prominent non-native gambling venture: eLottery Inc., an internet company whose business revolved around helping states and other groups set up lotteries on-line. In 2000, it was facing two major problems, the collapse of the dot-com boom and the Senate passage of the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which would make it easier for states to stop online gambling sites. The company, in desperate straits, sold assets in order to raise the cash to pay for the work of Jack Abramoff. Abramoff brought in Reed, as well as another christian group, Lou Sheldon’s Traditional Value Coalition, who would rally the religious right to petition their congressmen to fight against the anti-gambling bill. Hold on: how would they get christian voters to fight against an anti-gambling bill? Easy. Abramoff found exemptions in the bill for jai alai and horse racing, and so the bill was presented as one that was actually pro-gambling. To further help out, Shandwick Worldwide, a company working alongside Abramoff’s team, hired an operative to get Florida’s then governor, Jeb Bush, to come out and say such a bill infringed on state’s rights. A letter saying the very thing, signed by the governor, was soon circulating Capitol Hill. The letter was a forgery, but it didn’t matter. Abramoff won again; the Senate may have passed the bill, but his efforts persuaded enough members to keep the House from voting on it67.

Reed would insist that he had no idea he was working on behalf of gambling interests, but he mentioned eLottery by name in several emails. In one, he sends a jokey warning to Abramoff about his place in the in-coming White House: “Tell your elottery friends that the next [technology] czar will be an anti-gambling [Pentecostal] Christian”. As usual, Abramoff paid Reed through intermediaries, the money going first to Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, which then sent it on to a group based out of Virginia Beach, the Faith and Family Alliance, who passed it on to Reed. This latter group was run by Robin Vandervall, a political operative who would later serve seven years for soliciting minors. It would also play a supporting role in a Republican congressional primary in Virginia. The Family Alliance was paid $100K to distribute pamphlets and make robo-calls saying that a certain primary candidate did not represent Virginia values, and that his opponent was the “only Christian in the contest.” The primary candidate that supposedly did not represent Virginia values, the non-Christian in the contest, was future Majority Whip Eric Cantor, a Jewish man. “Politics,” Cantor would say of the incident, “is a very interesting business.”68

Before things finally collapsed, Scanlon and Abramoff would first turn against Reed. Though he constantly bragged of the incredible results he was getting, they had a feeling that players were getting played. Just as the Christian Coalition had far fewer members than actually claimed, Reed’s claims of the extraordinary efforts he was making to organize Christians to lobby against a competing gambling venture were soon met with skepticism by Abramoff and Scanlon. A good chunk of the money that he was supposed to be spending on radio ads and mail campaigns, they believed, were actually just being kept by Reed. The natives of the continent had been granted gambling palaces in exchange for stolen land, and layer upon layer of thieves, an onion of pickpockets, grifted that, while casually sliding their hands into each other’s wallets. When Abramoff had passed three hundred thousand to Reed via Norquist’s ATR, he was surprised that Norquist first took a slice of twenty five thousand before passing on the rest69. One is surprised that this worldly man would even be surprised.

In perhaps the most famous email exchange of the affair, Scanlon wonders if Reed will return any unused funds from his last grassroots efforts. Would we? asks Abramoff, one con to another. He cuts off the only oxygen breathed by Reed, no more money for him, and damns him with the ultimate compliment: he is a bad version of us!

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

When they stopped using Reed, Scanlon handled the grass roots activism himself, doing activism without activists. The Saginaw Chippewa paid money to be passed on so that a number of secular and christian grassroots networks – Concerned Citizens Against Gaming Expansion (CCAGE), Global Christian Outreach Network (GCON), and the Michigan Environmental Group – would fight the legalization of gambling that would compete with the Chippewa casino. These were organizations that existed in name alone, created by Scanlon. Most strikingly, the Indian Affairs Abramoff Report acknowledges that such ersatz grass roots organizations, created solely for a political purpose, are to be expected. An example might be the “60 Plus Association”: ostensibly a seniors advocacy group, it is one which gets no money from individual seniors. Instead, its funding comes entirely from pharmaceutical companies and other industries. The “60 Plus Association” is a seniors association that fought against legislation to reduce drug prices. It also fought against Obamacare, against regulation of greenhouse gases, and in favor of using Yucca mountain as a storage site for nuclear waste. These last ones might seem out of the purview of a seniors association, but were most likely motivated by funding the “60 Plus Association” received from the American Petroleum Institute70. Again, the problem the Indian Affairs Committee found was not that Concerned Citizens Against Gaming Expansion or the Global Christian Outreach Network was ersatz, the problem is that it did not conduct the ersatz activism you would expect when you contract for such an organization.

From the Indian Affairs Abramoff Report, page 268:

While using bogus groups in furtherance of grassroots strategies may be common, Scanlon and Abramoff’s use of them is distinguishable in that they were employed as part of Abramoff and Scanlon’s “gimme five” scheme. In an interview with Committee staff, former CCS associate Brian Mann said that he thought that, for example, the letter-writing and signature-gathering campaigns, many of which he helped lead or otherwise conduct in the name of such bogus organizations, were “fraudulent.” He described them as “flashes in the pan [that were designed] to appease [CCS’] clients.” He regarded them as exercises that “created face time” and “scuttlebutt” by “send[ing] a few people out there to show them that we exist.” With CCS associates collecting signatures “on K-Mart or Walmart parking lots,” Mann felt that those activities “didn’t amount to very much.”

This was the main plot of the Abramoff scandal, but there was also a subplot. In the late nineties, the owner of some casino ships that operated out of Florida was ordered to divest himself of the vessels. Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis was a son of a Greek fisherman, a sailor on the Merchant Marine, and a hard-working, incredibly successful businessman. He first moved to Canada where he started a submarine sandwich franchise that made him a multimillionaire before he was twenty-five; then he moved to Florida to retire, but ended up starting SunCruz Casinos, a fleet of eleven ships that docked in Florida and travelled into international waters so the passengers on-board could gamble without violating U.S. laws. The U.S. shipping code, however, doesn’t allow foreign nationals – Gus Boulis was a Canadian citizen – to own American commercial vessels. To avoid jail, Boulis would have to pay a fine and sell his boats. Boulis’s lawyer worked at Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas, and one of his co-workers, Jack Abramoff, knew someone who would be interested in buying SunCruz. The someone Jack Abramoff knew was Jack Abramoff. But, wait: Jack Abramoff was forbidden by company rules from entering into business deals with those represented by the firm. So, instead of Abramoff buying SunCruz, Adam Kidan would buy SunCruz for him. Gus Boulis’s life story was interesting, but Kidan’s story was even better71.

Kidan was from New York and had gone to D.C.’s George Washington University, where he joined the College Republicans, and through them, met and became friends with Abramoff. There was a law degree from Brooklyn Law School, and then he got to be president of the Four Freedoms Foundation, which appeared to be a think tank devoted to post-communist nations that was little more than a tax shelter. He then started a Long Island bagel franchise with a partner, Michael Cavallo, who in turn was an associate of Anthony Moscatiello, owner of a catering company and an associate of the Gambino crime family. He’d been indicted with John Gotti’s brother, Gene, for heroin trafficking, and accompanied him to court. Kidan would occasionally go to Anthony Moscatiello for business advice: this is someone, he would say, “who has experience in feeding large groups of people.”72

Despite the advice, the bagel franchise fell apart, so Kidan started a Dial-a-Mattress franchise in D.C. He made and announced the radio ads himself, so the Brooklyn nasal of “Leave off the last `S,’ that’s the `S’ for savings!” became briefly, and perhaps unmercifully, ubiquitous in the Capitol. Kidan said he’d sold a queen size sleeper to the Clintons in 1993. He’d also founded the New York based Dial-A-Mattress franchiser. He also was general counsel to the St. Maarten Hotel Beach Club and Casino. He was a former partner of Duncan, Fish, Bergen & Kidan. However: the Dial-a-Mattress franchise opened in D.C. in 1994. He was not a founder of the franchiser. There is no St. Maarten Hotel Beach Club and Casino. There’s no evidence that a law firm called Duncan, Fish, Bergen & Kidan ever existed. Soon, Kidan would declare bankruptcy, sell his franchise, get sued for theft, and be disbarred. When Gus Boulis resisted selling SunCruz, congressman Bob Ney, Abramoff friend and associate, entered remarks into the congressional record taking issue with card cheating and corruption on the ships. When Kidan was put in charge, Bob Ney entered remarks in the congressional record praising Kidan as a solid individual and a respected member of the community, with a reputation for honesty and integrity. What better man to run a casino?73

Abramoff and Kidan got the money to buy SunCruz from Foothill Capital. Kidan said he was worth over twenty six million, but was only able to account for 800K. The rest, he said, was in closely held corporations. Foothill agreed to loan them $60 million to buy the boats, if the two would invest $23 million of their own money in the venture. Kidan faxed Foothill a document showing a wire transfer of $23 million to SunCruz. Foothill gave them the loan. The wire transfer was discovered only later to be a forgery74. The only connection this subplot has to Reed is here, small and incidental. Kidan, in the movie based on these events, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, is shown as the kind of guy who tosses two hookers out of his condo, then throws a few bills at them afterwards.

Casino Jack: Adam Kidan and friends.

A post shared by Goto Tengo (@gototengo) on

From Casino Jack: The United States of Money.

“Know what I majored in in high school?”, the movie’s Kidan (Jon Lovitz, in maybe the best performance in the movie) asks the movie’s Abramoff (Kevin Spacey). Abramoff: “Pool?” Kidan: “No. Fucking.” Abramoff: “Really…how does it feel to get a C in that class?” Reed decided to set up his spokeswoman, Lisa Baron, on a blind date with this man. During the evening, Kidan told her he needed to go back to his hotel room to make a phone call. After they got there, Kidan stripped naked and lunged for her75.

Casino Jack: "How does it feel to get a C in that class?"

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From Casino Jack: The United States of Money.

Kidan would buy a thirty foot boat, a Mercedes S500, and rent a four thousand a month condo in the expectation of future success, but things were soon falling apart. In order to make the deal, Kidan and Abramoff had given Boulis IOUs for $20 million in exchange for Boulis remaining a silent partner – a violation of the very shipping codes that had required Boulis to sell the boat. Boulis now asked for the money, and got nothing. Boulis had brought in family members to work on the boat. Kidan fired many of them. Boulis and Kidan soon stopped speaking to each other. When a meet was set up to try to resolve things, it ended in a 911 call and Kidan filing a police report alleging that Boulis had stabbed him in the neck76.

Gus Boulis goes nuts on Adam Kidan - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/FreeLivelyGermanshorthairedpointer

From Casino Jack: The United States of Money.

Kidan suggested to Abramoff a “concerted press effort” to paint Boulis as a criminal. Abramoff agreed, completely. Kidan bought an armor plated Mercedes, hired bodyguards, got a restraining order, and spoke to a reporter of how scared he was of Boulis. He also put Anthony Moscatiello on the SunCruz payroll, authorizing over $160K in cheques to Moscatiello and his immediate family. He sent over $130K in cheques to Moon Over Miami, a company incorporated by Anthony “Little Tony” Ferrari, a man who liked to brag that he was John Gotti’s cousin. Kidan said the cheques to Moscatiello were for food and beverage services. The cheques to Moon Over Miami, said Kidan, were for security operations77.

On February 6, 2001, 9:15pm, Gus Boulis drove away from a late meeting, when a car suddenly pulled in front, and blocked his path. The night was cool, so Boulis had rolled down his window. A black mustang drove past, and fired multiple times into Boulis’s vehicle. The car in front was now gone. The former owner of SunCruz casinos, a man who had built two fortunes through fierce will, managed to drive his car a few blocks before crashing it into a tree. Boulis was in cardiac arrest in the ambulance that picked him up, and a little over an hour after he left his meeting, he died on the operating table. None of this kept Kidan from losing SunCruz anyway. The Boulis estate sued Kidan for ownership of SunCruz and for conspiring to kill Gus Boulis. SunCruz declared bankruptcy, and Kidan sold his stake in exchange for an end to the civil suit78.

No one was arrested in the murder of Gus Boulis for years. Only when the other, main Abramoff plot had come to a close was anybody indicted. After Abramoff and Scanlon overthrew the Saginaw Chippewa leadership, these tribal leaders in turn were ousted from power. Abramoff’s contract was terminated, and the new sub-chief, Bernie Sprague, contacted another lobbyist, Tom Rogers. “Tom, we’re being threatened by our lobbyist,” Sprague told Rogers. He said Abramoff would sue them if his invoices were questioned, or if he was asked what he’d done to justify his huge fees. Rogers, a man of mixed Irish and Blackfoot ancestry, believed that the national media didn’t care a thing about native stories. He told Sprague and David Sickey, a member of the Louisiana Coushatta tribe, to collect the internal invoices and necessary documents, then first relate what happened to their local papers. Sprague then passed on these news stories, along with the relevant documents, to Susan Schmidt, a Washington Post reporter he chose to contact because of her past work on Native American clients being overbilled by Democratic lobbyists. When the Indian Affairs Committee would have their hearings, Rogers contacted them with the archive of invoices and documents he’d amassed79.

If we were to give this story the texture of melodrama, then Ralph Reed might have a moment here where his mask fell and he took a sudden fearful intake of breath. Because the head of the Indian Affairs Committee was, of course, John McCain. An ancient and warlike people once said that revenge is a dish best served cold; it is sometimes very, very cold in Washington, D.C.

Maybe the most notable testimony of the hearings was its most ridiculous, when David Grosh testified on being a director of AIC. It is listed on youtube as “Greatest Congressional Testimony Ever”:

A brief excerpt (runs from 6:20-6:33):

CHAIRMAN MCCAIN: [Michael Scanlon] approached you in some way?

MR.GROSH: A phone call.

CHAIRMAN MCCAIN: And said?

MR.GROSH: Do you want to be head of an international corporation. [Laughter] It is a hard one to turn down.

Reed was never called to testify, but it didn’t matter. Everyone fell like dominos. Scanlon co-operated in the case against Abramoff and got twenty months. Bob Ney served seventeen months in jail, sharing a prison with former “Survivor” contest-winner Richard Hatch, who’d failed to pay taxes on his TV prize. Abramoff served forty three months, and now owes over twenty million dollars in restitution to his victims. Kidan served three years for fraud related to the SunCruz purchase80. In 2005, the year of Abramoff’s fraud trial, James “Pudgy” Fiorillo, Anthony “Big Tony” Moscatiello, and Anthony “Little Tony” Ferrari were arrested for the killing of Gus Boulis. Fiorillo pled guilty to conspiracy, and will testify against Moscatiello and Ferrari in a trial now scheduled for August, 2013. No one has accused Kidan or Abramoff of any involvement in the Boulis murder81.

Reed heard about the Abramoff investigation during his run for lieutenant governor, and he warned his spokeswoman, Lisa Baron, that things might get a little rough. He had no inkling of how bad things would get, but she did, and started a back-up career as a sex and lifestyle columnist, describing the maneuver with her own inimitable metaphor.

From an interview on “Conversations With David Lewis”:

LISA BARON
Jack and Ralph were best friends. I don’t know if guys do that BFF thing, but they were as close to BFFs as you can get. He said, you know Jack’s under investigation for taking money from Indian tribes and funneling it around, all this kind of stuff…I’m a tangential figure in this. My name’s come up because they – they being the FBI and a United States Senate committee – have requested all of Jack’s emails from all over the years, and Jack and Ralph have a lot of emails together. I heard that, I heard: Ralph Reed. Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Indian tribes, which equals gambling. And I thought to myself: oh, Ralph. This is not going away in four months.

So, I had to make a different plan. I had to take responsibility for my own career. I made a decision to keep working with Ralph. And be loyal, and give back, because he had given so much to me, but sort of get myself into a lifeboat. As I say, my vagina was my liferaft.

Her column had the expected tone. Rather than looking at sex with the calm eye you might observe the aches and pleasures of athletics or food, its perspective was that of a giggly fourteen year old. She wrote, in a way that was a little too wide-eyed, about her fantasy of having sex with someone non-white before she got married, or the shame of having oversize ladyparts82. As for Jack and Ralph, if they used to be BFF-y, after the scandal they weren’t BFF-y no more. When Grover Norquist got married, Reed didn’t go near Abramoff’s table. The then head of the RNC, Ken Mehlman, said of Abramoff that he wasn’t someone he knew much about. The Bush White House would insist that Karl Rove barely knew the man. Mehlman had eaten Sabbath dinner at Abramoff’s house. Rove had been a guest in Abramoff’s box at an NCAA game83.

The lieutenant governor’s race was supposed to be an easy step towards a destined appointment in an oval office, but the Abramoff scandal broke the campaign. When Reed spoke to the Georgia College Republicans, the place was only half full. He had to offer twenty dollars and a free overnight room to fill up an event at the Georgia Christian Coaliton84. About Reed’s disreputable dealings and disreputable clients, a Georgia republican voter would say, “He’s either an awfully cheap whore, or he’s diabolical.”85 Reed lost the Republican primary.

There are always second acts in American lives, and Reed has had one as well. He was even a member of John McCain’s Victory 2008 Team, helping to raise money, and a guest at a fundraising dinner – until the Obama campaign pointed out Reed’s still radioactive ties to Abramoff and McCain disinvited him86. Reed’s Century Strategies helped put out a video calling for the repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, and Century Strategies was paid millions by cable companies to possibly set up ersatz grass roots groups to oppose net neutrality87. In 2009, Reed would create the Faith and Freedom Coalition (FFC), a sequel to the earlier Christian Coaliton. “Even though I’ve been doing other things, this is kind of like Steve Jobs returning to Apple,” he said88. Despite the past scandals, Reed and the FFC were brought in for the 2012 election to organize evangelicals to vote for Mitt Romney. Perhaps coincidentally, the Republican convention that year had a plank calling for the abolishment of the minimum wage in the Marianas islands. During the election, it was just like old times again, like that race against Max Heller, like that race against John McCain, as the Faith and Freedom Coalition put out a survey which push polled: “How much danger do you think liberty is in right now as a result of President Obama’s policies?” More serious than Nazi Germany, more serious than the Soviet Union, were the first two choices89.

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

We may live in forgetful times, but not as forgetful as that. A National Review cruise in 2012, guested by Reed and other stars of the right-wing firmament, was pre-scheduled as a post-election victory romp, but ended up a salve for the losers. It was a fin-de-siècle metaphor that would be ridiculously obvious in a book, but strikingly elegant in the clutter of the real; a wandering ship full of the dead who vainly argue that they’re still alive. A conservative luminary on board opined, “I like Ralph Reed, but he’s done.”90 Though perhaps not yet; the Faith and Freedom Coalition would be holding a convention in July, where it would convey the Nazarene’s message of humility and charity through guest speaker Donald Trump91. Ralph Reed would be around for a little while longer, and maybe if you’re one of the blessed, you’ll one day meet him, this man of god in ostrich skin boots, and gaze on his face. A friend of Reed’s has said that he thinks only two questions pass through the man’s mind when he meets someone, questions that are primeval and essential, irrespective of color, creed, or ethnic division. The questions that go through Ralph Reed’s head are: 1) Am I hungry? and, 2) Are you of a size that I can consume you?92.

(Small edits for clarity and aesthetics have been made since initial publication; the material on eLottery and Eric Cantor was added on May 5th, 2013.)

FOOTNOTES

1 From “A Pickpocket’s Tale” by Adam Green:

Robbins was born in 1974, in Plainview, Texas, but grew up mostly in Springfield, Missouri. His parents, Larry and Betty, met at a small Baptist church in Enid, Oklahoma, where Larry was a sometime pastor. Betty, a widowed nursing student with three children, attended services. Larry and Betty describe the birth of their son as “a miracle of the Lord.” As they tell it, Betty’s doctors discovered tumors in her uterus and warned that she would probably die giving birth, and that the child, if it survived, would likely be crippled and brain damaged. The doctors urged an abortion, but Larry and Betty refused. Larry told me, “I realized that God had a special purpose for my son.”

Robbins likes to say that he grew up in an oxymoron, with his pious father on one side and two larcenous half brothers on the other. His half brothers, who were in their teens by the time Robbins was born, learned the basics of shoplifting and picking pockets from an uncle and later graduated to more serious crimes. They passed their knowledge and their world view on to Robbins, who began shoplifting when he was in junior high (while also leading his church’s Bible Quiz team to the state championships). Once, after stealing a pack of cigarettes from a convenience store, he was confronted by the manager. Feigning innocence, he hid the pack under his arm while the manager searched him. Then he let the pack drop into his hand and, while the manager’s attention was distracted, slipped it into the pocket of the man’s apron. Around this time, he started running away from home and skipping school. Robbins recalls that his father, convinced that his son was possessed by Satan, held him down and tried to cast the Devil out.

2 From “A Decade of Reed”, by Matthew Continetti:

He was born six weeks premature in 1961, in Portsmouth, Virginia, and to this day his frame is slight, his face preternaturally boyish.

3 From “The Sins of Ralph Reed” by Sean Flynn:

Reed had been raised a Methodist, but he wasn’t particularly devout.

4 From “A Decade of Reed”, by Matthew Continetti:

Although Reed has spent most of his adult life in Georgia, he did not move there until 1976, when his family settled in the small town of Toccoa, in the northeastern part of the state. Reed was in high school at the time. Georgia was the fifth state, and Toccoa the seventh town, he had called home.

From “The Devil Inside” by Bob Moser:

Reed also has to make himself look just as authentically Georgian as his opponent, which might be the toughest trick of all. At every campaign stop, in every piece of campaign literature, Reed repeats the new mantra of his embattled campaign: “Growing up in the North Georgia mountains, I learned the values that matter most–faith, family, freedom and hard work.”

But Reed did not grow up in the North Georgia mountains. As he writes in Active Faith, “It all began in Miami, where I grew up. My childhood was hardly spent in the Bible Belt.” Reed’s family didn’t move to Georgia until he was in his mid-teens. And when they did, as Nina Easton reports in Gang of Five, Reed was considered a “fast-talking Miami smart aleck” in Toccoa, the tiny mountain town where they settled. Even his best friend there, Donald Singer, remembered Reed showing “no demeanor of civility,” his abrasive personality constantly clashing with the native Southerners around him.

5 From “The Sins of Ralph Reed” by Sean Flynn:

I finish introducing myself, mutter something about how I thought I should dress appropriately, this being an official Republican debate and all.

“Well,” Reed says, grinning for real now, because he’s just been lobbed a fat, slow pitch, “you just don’t know Republicans.”

He keeps smiling for a beat.

“And that’s because you’re part of that liberal elite New York media.”

6 From “A Decade of Reed”, by Matthew Continetti:

Reed loved political organizing. He loved political theater. But in the fall of 1985 he gave it all up to pursue a doctorate in history at Emory University. His dissertation, finished in 1991, weighs in at 515 pages and is entitled “Fortresses of Faith: Design and Experience at Southern Evangelical Colleges, 1830-1900.” As the title indicates, Reed’s study examined the history of religious higher education in the South. Besides the fact that it was written at all, the dissertation is notable for the way in which Reed chastises the institutions of higher learning he writes about for their racism.

7 From “The Baby Jesus vs. Gandhi” by Doug Monroe:

No, it wasn’t an American Indian that Reed chose to ridicule. Instead, on April 14, 1983, Reed attacked an Indian from India, Mohandas K. Gandhi.

Reed’s column carried an unforgettable headline: “Gandhi: Ninny of the 20th century.”

Reed was reacting to the Best Picture Oscar awarded the movie Gandhi. He started off by saying Gandhi, among other things, had urged the Jewish race to commit collective suicide and had rolled around in bed with naked teenage girls to test his celibacy.

Reed asked readers what they would say about such a man and then answered: “You’d probably say that such a man was a quack, a fake, an eccentric and an immoral and manifestly colossal boob whose basic teachings posed a threat to the survival of the human race.”

He said the Indian government helped finance the movie, which he contended should have had the disclaimer, “The following is a paid political announcement by the Indian government.”

8 From “The Baby Jesus vs. Gandhi” by Doug Monroe:

William Reid Jr., a graduate student in political science, wrote a letter to the Red & Black pointing out the similarities between Reed’s column and “The Gandhi Nobody Knows” by Richard Grenier in the March 1983 issue of Commentary, a conservative Jewish intellectual magazine. “Every assertion of, every quote and several seemingly original Reed phrases may be found directly or in slightly modified form in Richard Grenier’s long review,” Reid wrote.

The claims about Gandhi urging Jews to kill themselves and about rolling around in bed with teenagers came from Grenier’s piece, Reid charged, as did the phrase about “a paid political announcement.”

The grad student compared a Reed statement about Jewish collective suicide with Grenier’s words.

Ralph Reed wrote, “By cutting their own throats or hurling themselves from cliffs, Gandhi asserted, millions of dead Jews would ‘arouse public opinion’ against Hitler.” On the same subject, Grenier wrote, “If only the Jews of Germany had the good sense to offer their throats willingly to the Nazi butchers’ knives and throw themselves into the sea from cliffs would they arouse world public opinion.”

Reid’s letter landed on the desk of the Red & Black‘s editor, a student named Chuck Reece.

“I looked it up and, sure enough, it was distressingly similar,” Reece says. “It was clearly, in my view and in the view of other people who held positions of responsibility on the Red & Black staff, enough to be considered plagiarism. Ralph argued that. We printed Ralph’s response. We had to discontinue his column. We never ran another one by him.”

Not all of the piece was plagiarized, however. The words “ninny,” “quack” and “boob” were Reed’s.

9 From “The Baby Jesus vs. Gandhi” by Doug Monroe:

Reed’s response in the Red & Black was a harbinger of things to come from a new generation of Republicans. He attacked the student who exposed his plagiarism.”I sincerely apologize for not citing my sources, including the article in Commentary mentioned by Mr. Reid, in my column of April 14. However, my failure to cite fully each and every source was merely an oversight, not a deliberate attempt to deceive, as Mr. Reid implies,” Reed wrote in his response. “Mr. William Reid’s thinly veiled personal attacks on my character are a poor substitute for the truth.” To imply that he committed plagiarism, Reed wrote, “is the most shocking, profane form of personal attack I can imagine.”

Looking back at Reed’s response, Reece says, “I thought it was disingenuous at best. Honestly, I didn’t understand why Ralph wouldn’t admit that he was wrong. I didn’t think he would actually plagiarize somebody. I was surprised. I was absolutely surprised. I just wanted him to fess up. I never understood why he wouldn’t and that said something about his character.”

UGA is a much more conservative place today. The Red & Black interviewed Reed two months ago and didn’t mention the plagiarism scandal until the next to last paragraph, which said Reed “was banned from writing after not citing his sources in a column about the movie Gandhi.”

“It was a valuable learning experience,” Reed told the paper. “I became a better person because of it.”

10 From “The Sins of Ralph Reed” by Sean Flynn:

The one thing everyone says about Ralph Reed is “You can’t question his faith.” People who like him say it, people who dislike him say it, and people who respect his political skills but otherwise don’t have an opinion one way or the other say it, too. It’s not exclusive to him, of course, but rather more of a general rule, a commandment by which polite (and even impolite) society has agreed to abide.

Fair enough. Private faith is a mysterious thing-much like marriage-and the republic would be better served if reporters kept their snouts out of both. A person’s true faith is impossible to know, anyway. If, to use a convenient example, a man repeatedly calls gambling immoral and then takes millions of dollars to work surreptitiously for the benefit of casinos, those are merely two conflicting actions that evidence hypocrisy. They prove nothing about what he believes. (Though they do suggest he suspects the Almighty is a forgiving deity.)

11 From “The Sins of Ralph Reed” by Sean Flynn:

Reed had been raised a Methodist, but he wasn’t particularly devout. Then, one Saturday night, he was sitting in a bar on Capitol Hill called Bullfeathers when, as he wrote in his 1994 book, Politically Incorrect, he “felt a gentle tugging in my conscience that I should start attending a local church.” He went to a phone booth, opened the Yellow Pages, and picked a church at random. (That’s the sum total of pre-church introspection revealed in Politically Incorrect. In later interviews, the story would expand to include Reed’s being tired of partying and, even later, his witnessing a married congressman stepping out on his wife.)

The next morning, Reed attended services at Evangel Assembly of God church in Camp Springs, Maryland. As a random choice, it made sense: Randy Miller, who was an associate pastor at the time, remembers that Evangel had placed a display ad in the phone book, and Assembly of God would have been in one of the first church subcategories. After the sermon, pastor Jack Cain gave a call from the altar “for people I described as not walking with Christ” to come up and be saved.

From “The Devil Inside” by Bob Moser:

Reed’s bellicose comments and shady tactics stirred whispers about the sincerity of his Christian conversion. (Like Tom DeLay, he told a sketchy story of being “born again” in the mid-1980s, just in time for the rise of Christian right politics.)

12 From “The Baby Jesus vs. Gandhi” by Doug Monroe:

At the Red & Black, [editor Chuck Reece] enjoyed arguing with Reed about the columns the young conservative contributed. This was at a time when most students were liberal.

“It was always entertaining to have Ralph writing for us,” Reece says. “Even though I didn’t agree with Ralph’s politics or his political views generally, I did not believe he would do something like this.”

Reed was born again in 1983, according to Time magazine. But Reece never had a discussion with Reed that involved religion – “To my recollection, his politics were not at the time driven by religion.”

13 From “The Devil Inside” by Bob Moser, during a speech for Congressional Republicans at the University of Georgia, made in his failed run in 2006 to be the state lieutenant governor:

This is vintage Reed, the incorrigibly boastful, smooth-talking operator who long dazzled–and blinded–evangelical Christians, big-money Republicans and mainstream journalists. Now 44, he still looks like a million bucks, his elfin face perma-tanned to a brick red, his pencil-thin body subtly bulked out by a well-tailored suit. Only one thing is missing: applause. Maybe some CRs [Congressional Republicans] know the real history of that 1980 mock election from Nina Easton’s book Gang of Five, in which Reed’s first big political triumph is revealed to have been rigged–his first notable act of mass deception. Maybe they’re just waiting for Reed to finally offer a satisfying explanation of his star turn in the Abramoff scandal. But his mea culpa smacks more of false piety than genuine gut-spilling.

14 From “A Decade of Reed”, by Matthew Continetti:

In January 1989, at a Students for America dinner in Washington, D.C., Reed met Christian broadcasting magnate Pat Robertson, who had just run a failed presidential campaign the year before.

Robertson’s campaign wasn’t a total failure, actually–he came in second to Bob Dole in the 1988 Iowa caucuses, scaring the bejeezus out of the Republican establishment–and he wanted to start an organization devoted to bringing social conservatives into Republican politics. After dinner Robertson asked Reed if he wanted to run the group. At first Reed demurred; he returned to Georgia and his schoolwork, but soon found he couldn’t support a wife and child on a doctoral candidate’s income. In September he accepted Robertson’s offer and moved to southeastern Virginia, home of Robertson’s television evangelism empire.

15 From “A Decade of Reed”, by Matthew Continetti:

The Christian Coalition was incorporated as a nonpartisan, tax-exempt nonprofit. But its political allegiance was always clear. In October 1990 the National Republican Senatorial Committee gave the Coalition $64,000 in what Reed would later call “seed money.” The seeds sprouted and grew like crazy.

Read press accounts from the Coalition’s early history, and you find that, when he spoke to the press, Reed would use the same language he had used a decade earlier at College Republicans. In 1991, in a quote that has been hung around his neck ever since, he bragged to Norfolk’s Virginian-Pilot: “I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag.” In 1992 he told the Los Angeles Times: “It’s like guerrilla warfare. If you reveal your location, all it does is allow your opponent to improve his artillery bearings. It’s better to move quietly, with stealth, under cover of night.”

16 From “A Decade of Reed”, by Matthew Continetti:

Within a few years under Reed’s leadership the Coalition became, as Nina Easton describes in her book Gang of Five, “a $12 million-plus lobbying machine” that boasted “250,000 dues-paying members” and “1.6 million potential allies.”

17 From “The Sins of Ralph Reed” by Sean Flynn:

And it was effective. After starting with a scant $3,000 and a mailing list of 134,325 names from Robertson’s failed presidential bid, Reed built the Coalition into a dominant force for conservative politics. It was never as large as he boasted-according to Nina J. Easton’s book Gang of Five, he once claimed the Coalition had up to 3 million followers, about five times the dues-paying members-but that was Reed’s gift, his magic: Through stagecraft and bluster, he made the Christian right appear to be the ascendant and inevitable future of American politics. In 1992 the Coalition, along with other religious and culturally conservative groups, shape-shifted the GOP convention, which was both impressive (they hijacked a convention, after all) and inept: The resulting circus scared the bejesus out of half of America. The 1994 Republican takeover of Congress was in part credited to Reed and the Coalition as well. By 1995, Reed was powerful enough, or perceived to be, to get his mug on the cover of Time.

18 This cover:

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

19 From “The Sins of Ralph Reed” by Sean Flynn:

It was never as large as he boasted-according to Nina J. Easton’s book Gang of Five, he once claimed the Coalition had up to 3 million followers, about five times the dues-paying members-but that was Reed’s gift, his magic: Through stagecraft and bluster, he made the Christian right appear to be the ascendant and inevitable future of American politics.

From “The Devil Inside” by Bob Moser:

It was widely suspected that Reed grossly exaggerated both the coalition’s membership numbers (apparently closer to 600,000 at its peak, rather than the 1.7 million he claimed) and the distribution of its voter guides (often found discarded in bundles).

20 From “Hart Ache: Did Ralph Reed’s friend try to rip off the Christian Coalition?” by Sheryl Henderson:

When Benjamin Hart arrived at the Christian Coalition in 1992, he seemed an ideal fit for the upstart religious group, which was just beginning to flex its political muscle. With an almost perfect conservative background (co-founder of the Dartmouth Review, director of lectures and seminars at the Heritage Foundation, and executive director of Oliver North’s Freedom Alliance), Hart became Reed’s close confidant in the expansion of the coalition. And donations rose from $5.3 million in 1991 to $21.2 million in 1994.

Although technically an outside contractor, Hart quickly became known as Reed’s No. 2 man. “Any conflict that came up with Hart was going to go Hart’s way,” says one person who worked closely with Reed, “so we had to bend over backwards to make him happy.” Not only did Reed defer direct mail decisions to Hart, he also allowed Hart to coordinate the group’s telemarketing projects, print its voter guides, and oversee the bidding on its million-piece direct mail packages. “Things were handled loosely from the beginning,” says a coalition employee. “[But] Hart was always bringing money in. As long as he was bringing money in, everyone was happy.”

21 From “Hart Ache: Did Ralph Reed’s friend try to rip off the Christian Coalition?” by Sheryl Henderson:

Hart’s problems at the coalition began in the fall of 1995, when the coalition’s marketing director, Donald Black, discovered that Hart’s firm, Hart Conover, actually owned two of the vendors it was using to handle the coalition’s mailings: Universal Lists (which rented mailing lists to the coalition) and Federal Printing & Mailing (which handled the group’s direct mail solicitations). In a memo to coalition CFO Judy Liebert, Black wrote, “This ‘closed circle’ of business provides Hart Conover with an extraordinary income stream. It doesn’t give us the benefit of a competitive bidding environment. Consequently, our ‘above the line’ cost for direct mail fundraising is astronomical (somewhere in the 50 to 70 percent bracket). Even if this relationship is legally justifiable, it reflects an appearance of impropriety.”

22 From “Hart Ache: Did Ralph Reed’s friend try to rip off the Christian Coalition?” by Sheryl Henderson:

According to a memo Liebert wrote to the Christian Coalition board, when she approached Reed with this information in the fall of 1995, he said he knew Hart owned the firms and assured her that Hart had sought out competitive bids. However, when Liebert asked Hart for copies of the bids, he refused to supply them.

23 From “Hart Ache: Did Ralph Reed’s friend try to rip off the Christian Coalition?” by Sheryl Henderson:

Then in late May, Liebert approached a coalition board member with her concerns about Hart and informed him that she had spoken with a U.S. attorney in order to determine whether the apparent markups might be unethical or even criminal. A special board meeting was called, at which Liebert presented evidence suggesting Hart had been ripping off the coalition. Liebert’s case, fleshed out in her memo, was that Federal Printing “appeared to be, for all practical purposes, a ‘paper’ company that Hart Conover used for contracting out our printing and through which we were billed for printing and mailing services. Federal Printing apparently did no actual printing and was co-located with Hart Conover and Universal Lists in the same small suite of offices.” Overall, Liebert estimated, Hart may have bagged the coalition for a total of “a million or more dollars” since 1994.

The coalition’s leadership sprang into action — but not against Hart. On May 30, two days after the board meeting, a coalition security guard showed up at Liebert’s house with a sharply worded letter from board member Richard Weinhold. The letter stated that Liebert’s documents were “insufficient” to support her claim of improper billing, reprimanded her for contacting outside authorities, and informed her that she was suspended with pay “effective immediately.” She was asked to turn over any coalition property — including “files, documents, and all building keys” — immediately. After a six-month “vacation,” Liebert was officially fired in December.

24 From “Hart Ache: Did Ralph Reed’s friend try to rip off the Christian Coalition?” by Sheryl Henderson:

Hart’s fate has been less clear. Following Liebert’s accusations, the coalition hired the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand to undertake a specific audit of Hart’s operation — but both he and the coalition have insisted on keeping its results secret. Hart’s lawyer, Steven Chameides, would only say that “the audit found nothing more serious than some keypunch and arithmetic errors in billing.” As a result, Hart Conover agreed on a “payment adjustment” with the coalition in December, the specific terms of which Chameides and the coalition have also refused to disclose — except to describe the payment as “minor.”

In April, Reed announced he would leave the coalition to open a political consulting firm. Hart, meanwhile, faces allegations of unethical billing practices and of marking up the coalition’s invoices. As a result, he has been targeted by federal investigators for possible mail fraud.

25 From “Sinking Ship” by Bill Sizemore:

Widely regarded as instrumental in the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and the White House in 2000-and a vehement backer of anti-choice legislation-the conservative lobby group founded in 1989 by televangelist Pat Robertson is but a shadow of its former self. According to its 2004 tax return, the most recent available, the group’s annual revenue has shrunk twentyfold, from a peak of $26 million in 1996 to 1.3 million. It reported a negative net worth of $2.3 million, and has faced at least a dozen lawsuits since 2001 from landlords, lawyers and other creditors trying to collect unpaid bills.

Now its state chapters are starting to abandon the sinking mother ship. The Iowa chapter disassociated itself from the national organization in March and the Maryland chapter followed suit in April. The Iowa chapter described the Coalition’s national leadership as “mired with dissent and distrust,” “riddled with lawsuits and unpaid bills” and “more interested in ‘looking good’ than ‘being good.'”

After Reed’s departure, the coalition became enmeshed in a whole new series of legal problems. In 2001, 10 African American employees filed a racial-discrimination lawsuit alleging that they were forced to enter the office by the back door and at lunch in a segregated area. The suit was settled for about $300,000, according to several published reports.

That same year, Pat Robertson resigned from the Coalition, saying he had decided to get out of politics. He was succeeded as president by Roberta Combs, head of Robertson’s South Carolina campaign, who closed the Washington office and now runs the organization from a small office in Charleston.

“Once Powerful Christian Coalition Teeters on Insolvency” by Bill Sizemore:

The Christian Coalition, the onetime powerhouse of the religious right founded by Pat Robertson, is struggling to stay afloat.

The group’s annual revenue has shrunk to one- twentieth of what it was a decade ago – from a peak of $26 million in 1996 to $1.3 million in 2004 – and it has left a trail of unpaid bills from Texas to Virginia. Among the creditors who have sued the coalition for nonpayment are landlords, direct-mail companies, lawyers and at least one former employee seeking back pay.

26 From “A Decade of Reed”, by Matthew Continetti:

According to its website, http://www.censtrat.com, Century Strategies is “a full-service firm providing Strategic Business Development Assistance, Organizational Development, Direct Mail and Voter Contact Services, Fundraising Management, Research and Analysis, Creative Media Planning, Public and Media Relations, and List Management and Procurement.” The firm has two offices–one in Atlanta and another in Washington–it has 10 employees, and it has, according to a spokeswoman, “around” two dozen clients. As “one of the nation’s leading public affairs and public relations firms,” i.e., not a lobbying firm, Century Strategies does not have to disclose its clients or its fees. But the names of some of those clients have surfaced over the years.

27 From “The Devil Inside” by Bob Moser:

While the Abramoff scandals are plenty damning on their own, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has uncovered a pattern of similar instances in which Reed “tapped into his vast network of conservative religious activists” to do the bidding of big-money clients. In one example from 1998 Reed concocted the Alliance of Christian Ministries in China, a group of missionary organizations supporting favorable trade status for China purportedly to benefit efforts to spread the Gospel there. But the alliance turned out to be an empty shell, serving the interests of Reed clients, including Boeing, which hoped to sell $120 billion worth of airplanes to China. Like his efforts on behalf of the Indian casinos, Reed’s pro-China lobbying was not just dishonest but hypocritical to boot. Just as he often preached against the “nationwide scourge” of gambling, Reed had spoken out consistently against favorable trade status for China. “We believe that human and civil rights and religious freedom and liberty should be at the center of our foreign policy,” he piously declared at a 1997 Christian Coalition press conference, just one year before setting up the phony alliance. “We believe that if the United States makes the center of its foreign policy profits rather than people, and money rather than human rights, then we will have lost our soul as a nation.”

From “Ralph Reed’s Other Cheek” by Peter Stone:

Reed also helped a powerful coalition of business groups, including Boeing and the Business Roundtable, to convince Congress to normalize trade relations with China — over the objections of many conservatives, who criticize China’s dismal record on religious freedom. Brian Lunde, a public relations executive who worked with Reed on the China issue in 2000, recalls that Reed was instrumental in persuading conservative members of Congress to support permanent normal trade relations with China, and that he helped write ads aimed at conservatives arguing that a closer economic relationship with China could improve human rights

28 From “Ralph Reed’s Other Cheek” by Peter Stone:

Among Reed’s clients is Channel One, a company that provides television equipment to schools in exchange for airing 10 minutes of news and 2 minutes of commercials daily. Prominent conservatives have blasted the company for exposing children to junk-food ads and explicit movie promos. In response, Channel One turned to Reed, who in 2002 helped the company deflect a proposed Texas Board of Education resolution that would have urged schools to jettison Channel One. Reed, who points out that Channel One also runs ads promoting abstinence and anti-alcohol messages, phoned several board members and dissuaded them from voting for the resolution, much to the dismay of conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly, a longtime critic of Channel One. “I’m surprised that any conservative would work for it,” Schlafly said. “They’re all advertising things that I wouldn’t want my children to buy.”

29 From “Paradise Lost: Greed, Sex Slavery, Forced Abortions and Right-Wing Moralists” by Rebecca Clarren:

The whir of hundreds of sewing machines reverberates in the thick, dusty air at the RIFU garment factory. Inside this large warehouse, behind a guarded metal fence, 300 employees-most of them Chinese women-cut, sew, iron and fold blouses with such efficiency and focus that they seem like machinery themselves. From piles of orange and pink fabric, the workers will produce over 15,000 garments today for J. Jill, Elie Tahari and Ann Taylor. These name brand companies don’t own the factory; like Liz Claiborne, The Gap, Ralph Lauren and others, they subcontract production to factories like this, scattered around the tiny Micronesian island of Saipan.

Counters above the sewing machines indicate how many pieces the women have completed. According to workers, if they can’t finish a set quota of garments in a day, they may have to stay later and work for free, or they won’t be eligible for future overtime opportunities-which they desperately need.

Coming from rural villages and the big city slums of poor Asian countries, these garment workers began their sojourn in the Marianas with a huge financial deficit, having paid recruiters as much as $7,000 to obtain a one-year contract job (renewable at the employer’s discretion). Many of them borrow the money-a small fortune in China, where most are recruited-from lenders who charge as much as 20 percent interest.

In a situation akin to indentured servitude, workers cannot earn back their recruitment fee and pay annual company supplied housing and food expenses of about $2,100 without working tremendous hours of overtime. Before being able to save her first dollar, a worker who owes, say, $5,000 to her recruiter has to work nearly 2,500 hours at Saipan’s current minimum wage-which equals six more 40-hour workweeks than exist in a year.

And that’s assuming she gets paid. Increasingly, workers are filing formal complaints that they have not received their wages, with some women going without paychecks for over five months. Still, workers at RIFU and other Saipan garment factories labor six days a week, sometimes up to 20 hours a day.

The American consumers who wear the clothes these women produce probably have never heard of Saipan or the 13 other islands that comprise the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Located just north of the U.S. territory of Guam, the islands were seized from the Japanese by U.S. military forces during World War II and served as the base for sending atomic bombs to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, the islands became a United Nations territory, administered by the United States.

Then, in 1975, the islands’ indigenous population of subsistence farmers and fishermen voted to become a commonwealth of the United States-a legal designation that made them U.S. citizens and subject to most U.S. laws. There were two critical exceptions, however: The U.S. agreed to exempt the islands from the minimum wage requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (allowing the islands to set their own lower minimum wage, currently $3.05, compared to $5.15 in the U.S.) and from most provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This has allowed garment manufacturers to import thousands of foreign contract guest workers who, ironically, stitch onto the garments they make the labels “Made in Saipan (USA),” Made in Northern Marianas (USA)” or simply “Made in USA.”

Despite the squalid living conditions, the young guest workers want to stay at their jobs long enough to make their sacrifices worthwhile. But if they happen to get pregnant while working in Saipan, they’re faced with a new nightmare. According to a 1998 investigation by the Department of Interior Office of Insular Affairs, a number of Chinese garment workers reported that if they became pregnant, they were “forced to return to China to have an abortion or forced to have an illegal abortion” in the Marianas.

These days, pregnancy is still highly problematic for guest workers. Many believe that if they get pregnant their employers will not renew their contracts for another year. That’s essentially what happened to Chen Xiaoyan, the former RIFU worker. Two years ago, she became pregnant while visiting her boyfriend back in China. RIFU, although ostensibly responsible for workers’ medical care, told her they would not renew her contract unless she provided them an affidavit saying she would pay for all pregnancy-related medical expenses. When she refused, Chen was fired.

With few economic options, pregnant workers often feel they have no choice but to visit one of Saipan’s underground abortion providers. At least four acupuncture clinics offer pills to induce abortions, according to a local translator and former garment worker.

“I’ve driven four Chinese women to get abortions here,” he says, pointing to an inconspicuous cement building with red Chinese lettering and an English sign that reads “Acupuncture, Herbs, Massage Oils.” “I see girls whose bleeding did not stop, and on two incidents I had to take the girls to the hospital.”

Teeming with strip clubs and massage parlors, the red-light district of Saipan has a magnetic draw for Asian businessmen, and for U.S. Navy sailors on three-day furloughs from duty stations in the Pacific and beyond. “Every time a ship arrives, they want women,” says a local taxi driver. “They say, ‘I want a nice fuck tonight. Give me a nice lady.'”

There are no reliable statistics, but an estimated 90 percent of the island’s prostitutes are former Chinese garment workers, who sell sexual favors for about $50 a night. Women recruited to work in Saipan as waitresses, or in other legitimate jobs, often end up being forced to become strippers or prostitutes, according to Timothy Riera, director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Honolulu office.

“I thought I was coming to work as a dancer,” says a young Filipina woman, her voice barely a whisper as she speaks behind a curtain of her hair. “I was so surprised on the first night in the club when they told me I had to strip. The only way to get tips was by picking up the money with your breasts and your vagina. And there was a VIP room in the back where people could have sex.”

The guest worker system inherently denies rights to foreign employees, and this, paired with a lack of government intervention, creates a “breeding ground for slavery,” says Jolene Smith, executive director of Free the Slaves and an expert on human trafficking.

30 From “Paradise Lost: Greed, Sex Slavery, Forced Abortions and Right-Wing Moralists” by Rebecca Clarren:

Beginning in 1995 and continuing to the present day, at least 29 different bills-some to raise the minimum wage, some to close off the immigration exemption, and some to deny use of the “Made in USA” label on products of the CNMI-were introduced by Sens. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and by Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and David Bonier (D-Mich.). Twice-in 1995 and again in 2000-the U.S. Senate voted unanimously for Murkowski’s wage and immigration reforms only to have the bills die in the House Resources Committee.

31 From “Another Stumble for Ralph Reed’s Beleaguered Campaign” by Thomas B. Edsall:

In August 1999, political organizer Ralph Reed’s firm sent out a mailer to Alabama conservative Christians asking them to call then-Rep. Bob Riley (R-Ala.) and tell him to vote against legislation that would have made the U.S. commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands subject to federal wage and worker safety laws.

Now those seven-year-old words are coming back to haunt Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition and a candidate for the Republican nomination to be Georgia’s lieutenant governor.

“The radical left, the Big Labor Union Bosses, and Bill Clinton want to pass a law preventing Chinese from coming to work on the Marianas Islands,” the mailer from Reed’s firm said. The Chinese workers, it added, “are exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ” while on the islands, and many “are converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand.”

From “Ralph Reed in the Marianas Trenches” by Bill Moyers:

Corrupt local officials hired the firm of infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff — for more than four million dollars — to try to stop the reforms proposed back in Washington. Abramoff, in turn, hired Ralph Reed and his political direct mail company, Millennium Marketing, to conduct a phony grass roots campaign urging Alabama Christians to write their local congressman to oppose the reforms.

Of course, Reed didn’t tell those Christians he was being paid to help keep running sweatshops that exploited women. Instead, he told them the reforms were a trick orchestrated by the left and organized labor. Limits on Chinese workers would keep them from being “exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.” His company explained it was just trying to encourage “grass roots citizens to promote the propagation of the Gospel” and that many of the workers were “converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand.”

32 From “Microsoft Hires Bush Adviser Ralph Reed To Lobby Bush” by Joel Brinkley:

The Microsoft Corporation has quietly hired Ralph Reed, a senior consultant to Gov. George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, to lobby Mr. Bush in opposition to the government’s antitrust case against the software giant.

Microsoft’s aim, the company says, is to curry favor with the apparent Republican presidential nominee, hoping he will speak out against the government’s case — and, perhaps, take a softer approach toward the company if he is elected president.

Today, Mr. Reed declined to talk about his company’s contract with Microsoft, saying, “We have a policy of not discussing our clients.” Another executive of his company, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Microsoft had hired Century Strategies to lobby other political candidates as well.

One obvious goal, while the antitrust case drags through a year or more of appeals, is to convince the next president, Congress and the public that the case should be abandoned. But the current campaign by Mr. Reed’s company is much more closely aimed at the Bush campaign.

A series of e-mail messages from John Pudner, senior project manager for Century Strategies, laid out a detailed plan by Mr. Reed’s staff and his contractors to recruit senior Bush supporters from around the country in an effort to undermine the government’s suit.

The Bush supporters — and the e-mail showed that Mr. Pudner is screening them carefully to make sure they are influential within the campaign — are being asked to write letters to Mr. Bush saying they believe the government’s case is misguided, and that the American people oppose it.

Mr. Pudner’s e-mail messages instruct “state operatives” of the firm to send him biographical information about Bush supporters who could help influence the Bush campaign.

Only after he has verified that the supporters are sufficiently influential are the regional lobbyists, working on contract for Century Strategies, authorized to solicit more letters.

He said that the company intended to gather the letters through the end of this month. “We will reject letters that are not from someone” the company counts as influential, he wrote.

33 From “Microsoft Hires Bush Adviser Ralph Reed To Lobby Bush” by Joel Brinkley:

The e-mails were made available to The New York Times by a recipient who did not agree with the goals of the campaign. One lobbyist said Century Strategies was offering the regional contractors $300 a letter — a high price for this sort of work.

From “Microsoft Consultant Ralph Reed Hands Embarrassment To Client Bush” by Mark Shields:

According to the Reed company’s internal documents, the mission was to identify and recruit prominent Bush supporters to personally write and lobby Bush to back Microsoft, the losing defendant in an antitrust suit brought by the Justice Department. It’s not a bad deal if you’re Reed. First, you get paid to develop the no-holds-barred — and winning — South Carolina primary campaign strategy for Bush against Sen. John McCain, which included phone banks branding McCain as untrustworthy on abortion and for being a little too cozy with gays. And second, Microsoft compensates you handsomely for conducting a secret lobbying campaign with your own candidate. Double dipping for a double agent.

When this conflict of interest was exposed and Reed was embarrassed by The New York Times, the former Christian Coalition director’s consulting company said in a statement, “We should have been more sensitive to possible misperceptions, and it is an error that we regret.”

Bush campaign spokesman Scott McClelland reported that neither Bush nor anyone else in his campaign had been lobbied on Microsoft by Reed or any of his company employees (which, of course, was not the company’s stated mission) and that Reed would remain with the campaign, adding, “The matter is closed.” McClelland told me: Reed’s Microsoft contract “was an unpleasant surprise for us.”

That Ralph Reed was not immediately dropped like a bad habit for compromising the campaign of the presidential candidate by whom he was paid is further evidence of the moral numbness that has polluted our money-besotted politics. Can anyone seriously imagine a Robert Kennedy showing mercy to a “fifth columnist” on his campaign who was being overcompensated to lobby RFK’s position on an issue? Not for a New York minute would such an individual have been stomached. Where is the moral outrage of the Reformer with Results?

Eventually, in 2006, Microsoft would drop Reed’s firm as a lobbyist.

From “Microsoft Cuts Ties to Lobbyist” by the Associated Press:

The Microsoft Corporation said on Friday that it had severed ties with Ralph Reed, a Republican lobbyist and former leader of the Christian Coalition who is running for lieutenant governor of Georgia.

“Ralph Reed is no longer on retainer with Microsoft,” said a company spokeswoman, Ginny Terzano.

The move came a month after liberals, upset that Microsoft had withdrawn its support for a gay rights bill here, urged the company to stop using Mr. Reed as a political consultant.

34 From “Associates of Bush Aide Say He Helped Win Contract” by Richard L. Berke:

Karl Rove, President Bush’s top political adviser, recommended the Republican strategist Ralph Reed to the Enron Corporation for a lucrative consulting contract as Mr. Bush was weighing whether to run for president, close associates of Mr. Rove say.

The Rove associates say the recommendation, which Enron accepted, was intended to keep Mr. Reed’s allegiance to the Bush campaign without putting him on the Bush payroll. Mr. Bush, they say, was then developing his “compassionate conservativism” message and did not want to be linked too closely to Mr. Reed, who had just stepped down as executive director of the Christian Coalition, an organization of committed religious conservatives.

At the same time, they say, the contract discouraged Mr. Reed, a prominent operative who was being courted by several other campaigns, from backing anyone other than Mr. Bush.

Enron paid Mr. Reed $10,000 to $20,000 a month, the amount varying by year and the particular work, people familiar with the arrangement say. He was hired in September 1997 and worked intermittently for Enron until the company collapsed.

35 From “Associates of Bush Aide Say He Helped Win Contract” by Richard L. Berke:

In interviews today, both Mr. Rove and Mr. Reed said the contract with Enron had had nothing to do with the Bush campaign. But Mr. Rove said he had praised Mr. Reed’s qualifications in a conversation about the job with an Enron lobbyist in Texas.

“I think I talked to someone before Ralph got hired,” Mr. Rove said. “But I may have talked to him afterward.”

“I’m a big fan of Ralph’s,” Mr. Rove said, “so I’m constantly saying positive things.”

Mr. Reed said he had been hired mostly to help with an Enron campaign in Pennsylvania to win a central role in the state’s electricity market, which was being restructured. He said he had had no idea that Mr. Rove or anyone else had spoken on his behalf.

Karl Rove, President Bush’s top political adviser, recommended the Republican strategist Ralph Reed to the Enron
Corporation for a lucrative consulting contract as Mr. Bush was weighing whether to run for president, close associates of Mr. Rove say.

But a friend of Mr. Bush recalled a discussion in July 1997 in which Mr. Rove took credit for arranging an Enron job for Mr. Reed. “Karl told me explicitly of his concerns to take care of Ralph,” this person said. “It was important for Karl’s power position to be the guy who put this together for Ralph. And Bush wanted Ralph available to him during the presidential campaign.”

Mr. Rove was concerned, this person also said, that Mr. Reed not have a prominent public role in the campaign because “Ralph was so
evangelical and hard right, and Karl thought it sent the wrong signal.” Another Republican said: “It was basically accepted that Enron took care of Ralph. It’s a smart way to cut campaign costs and tie people up” so they do not work for other candidates.

36 From “Associates of Bush Aide Say He Helped Win Contract” by Richard L. Berke:

“If Karl Rove was partly responsible for him getting the job at Enron, it illustrates the close relations between the Bush political world and Enron,” said Trevor Potter, a Republican who is a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “If it was done for the avowed reason to keep Reed satisfied and out of someone else’s political camp, it illustrates what everyone in the Republican world has known for years: Enron has been an important source of political power in the party.”

Mr. Potter said Mr. Reed’s hiring could have been a violation of federal election law if it turned out that “it was a backdoor way of getting him extra compensation for the time he was spending on Bush activity.”

37 From “Associates of Bush Aide Say He Helped Win Contract” by Richard L. Berke:

Around the time that Mr. Reed worked out his deal with Enron, he made clear to the Bush team that he was supporting Mr. Bush for president. Mr. Reed once recalled that at a meeting in 1997, he told Mr. Bush, then the governor of Texas: “I hope you go. I hope you run. And if you run, I’ll do everything I can to help get you elected.”

From then on, Mr. Reed was an unpaid consultant to the Bush organization, though after the race was well under way his firm was paid by the campaign for direct mail and phone banks.

38 From “The Trashing of John McCain” by Richard Gooding:

On February 2, 2000, John McCain arrived in South Carolina red-hot, a 19-point-upset victor in New Hampshire over George Bush. In the final days there, some of Bush’s aides had pressed him to turn aggressively negative. Bush had resisted. His political guru, Karl Rove, overconfident for too long, had agreed.

Now, in South Carolina, Bush had lost close to a 50-point lead. With just 17 days before the vote, his back was firmly against the wall.

“Desperate people do desperate things,” Warren Rudman, the 74-year-old former New Hampshire senator and one of McCain’s national chairmen, told me. “When you look at a lot of campaigns, not just that one, when front-runners suddenly fall behind, their campaign consultants just go off the deep end…People going down for the third time, they grab on for anything they can get ahold of, and if it happens to be something nasty, rotten, and false, that doesn’t make much difference.”

At a meeting of Bush’s top staff that first day, the signal went out “to take the gloves off,” Time magazine reported at the time.

39 From “The Trashing of John McCain” by Richard Gooding:

In 2000, George W. Bush was the clear choice of the state’s bosses-known as “the Campbell machine,” after Carroll Campbell, governor from 1987 to ’95 and still popular. It could as easily have been “the Atwater mafia,” since Atwater and Campbell, as a team and starting virtually from scratch, had all but achieved one-party rule for the G.O.P. in South Carolina.

Besides Campbell himself, the Bush team was chockablock with Atwater debtors: Senator Strom Thurmond, who owed him his tough 1978 re-election; local strategist Warren Tompkins, who had been friends with him since the fourth grade; and communications czar Tucker Eskew, who’d apprenticed under him. From the religious right there was Robertson, who’d gone to Atwater’s hospital bedside shortly before his death in 1991 to try to clear up any bitterness left by the ’88 race. (He believed Atwater had been behind the leak of the sex scandal involving fellow TV preacher Jimmy Swaggart; it broke days before the South Carolina vote and damaged Robertson by association.) And there was Coalition executive vice president Roberta Combs, an old South Carolina pal, and Reed, who used to say that all he ever really wanted to be was a “Christian Lee Atwater.” In 1997, Reed left the Coalition for Enron. (It’s been alleged that Rove arranged it, to keep him loyal to Bush; both Reed and Rove deny this.) He then set up his own political-and-corporate-consulting firm in Atlanta, which in 2000 had a multi-million-dollar contract to mobilize voters for the G.O.P. (Reed declined repeated requests to be interviewed.)

40 From “The Trashing of John McCain” by Richard Gooding:

“I always knew that if Bush got in trouble he’d push the doomsday button,” a respected Washington figure with solid ties to the religious right told me, asking that his name not be used. He said he’d been told the strategy called for an “underground campaign” by all the heavyweight groups of the Republican and Christian right, a campaign that would be modeled on Ralph Reed’s infamous, Atwater-like boast about his Christian Coalition work: “I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag. You don’t know until Election Night.” Luckily for Bush, the source said, the showdown was in South Carolina, where the Christian Coalition had its greatest strength. They’d work through word of mouth in the evangelical community, and it’d never be picked up by the media. “Reed had pledged to Rove that he could deliver. Ultimately, it was all about power. They were all attaching their fates to Bush.”

41 From “The Trashing of John McCain” by Richard Gooding:

Nancy Snow drove all night from New Hampshire to volunteer in McCain’s office in her old hometown of Greenville. Then an assistant professor of political science at New England College (she’s now at Cal State Fullerton), Snow had invited John and Cindy McCain to speak at her school and was sold.

“We were starting to get wind that this was going to be a very different campaign,” she said from her parents’ home in Birmingham, Alabama. “There was this sense that everything was turning negative. People were walking into the office with copies of this particular e-mail and asking us about it…It was so revolting.”

The “revolting” e-mail-alleging that “McCain chose to sire children without marriage”-was from Richard Hand, a professor of the Bible at Greenville’s Christian-fundamentalist Bob Jones University, Bush’s very first campaign stop, on February 2.

“This whole thing, it was orchestrated by Rove, it was all Bush’s deal.… It was pretty rank,” said Fletcher, “and they had an institution that was peddling all that shit, and it was a university, Bob Jones University. I’m telling you, if there was a campaign headquarters in South Carolina, there it was. Hand was part of it, but Hand wasn’t the only one.”

Mark Carman, who owns the Capitol City News & Maps store, told me of going to a candidates’ debate in Columbia, “and when we got back to our car, there was a flyer under the windshield wiper saying something about McCain having a Negro child. My wife is African-American-she just tore it up.”

Kevin Geddings, a prominent South Carolina Democratic consultant now based in North Carolina, told me someone had faxed him “a kind of cheesy Kinko’s pamphlet” with a photograph of the McCain family. “It was just so obvious,” he said. “It was one of the few shots you’ve ever seen of the McCains that so prominently featured that particular girl.”

McCain’s closest aides were so stunned by the angle of the attack that at first they tried to shield him from it. “We expected one thing, and it was quite the opposite,” said [deputy campaign manager Roy Fletcher], who personally saw the “Negro child” flyers “all over every car” at the debate. “We figured they would go after him on some sort of philandering issue. McCain had pretty well knocked all that down [by admitting in his 1999 autobiography that, at some point after his five and a half years in a North Vietnamese prison, he’d been unfaithful to his first wife], but I always figured that would sort of be the underground thing there. But, man, the child thing…I’ve seen the worst form of racist sons of bitches in the world in David Duke, but this was unbelievable.”

42 From “The Trashing of John McCain” by Richard Gooding:

The girl in question is Bridget. In 1991, when Cindy McCain was on a relief mission to Bangladesh, she was asked by one of Mother Teresa’s nuns to help a young orphan with a cleft palate. Flying her to the U.S. for surgery, Cindy realized she couldn’t give her up. At the Phoenix airport, she broke it to her husband, and they eventually adopted the child. But few people knew that story. In the words of McCain’s national campaign manager, Rick Davis, a smear doesn’t have “to be true to be effective.”

43 From “The Trashing of John McCain” by Richard Gooding:

[Max] Heller was about to turn 85 when I met him. Stately and gracious, he told me how he had fled Austria in 1938 and that he and his wife had lost 90 relatives in the Holocaust. By 1946, he had started his own clothing business in Greenville.

“Here’s a guy,” [Mark Shields, Heller’s campaign manager] told me, “who had been enormously popular, enormously successful as mayor, but beyond that he had just been the ultimate employer. When he sold his factory, he spent all his time making sure that all his employees were placed…I was doing several other races that year, [but] there was nothing that engaged both my heart and my spirit as much as Max.”

His opponent was Carroll Campbell, a young state senator who’d earlier led an anti-busing march but whose blow-dried looks reminded Atwater of Robert Redford in The Candidate. Although his main task that year was getting Strom Thurmond re-elected, Atwater was there as an informal adviser; an ex-partner, Sam Dawson (who in the 90s served as executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee), was the campaign manager. Tompkins was also involved.

Early on, Campbell commissioned a poll (one that remained secret for years): Are you more or less likely to vote for, among other choices, “a native South Carolinian” or “a Jewish immigrant”? And which characteristics best describe the two candidates: “a. Honest; b. A Christian man; c. Concern for the people; d. A hard worker; e. Experienced in Government; f. Jewish.”

“Max started to pick it up at plant gates as he was campaigning,” Shields recalled. “?’Gee, Max, I didn’t know you didn’t believe in Jesus.’ That was the tip-off. The best we could reconstruct, it was push-polling.”

44 From “Lisa Baron Reads From Life of the Party”:

LISA BARON
When people find out that I worked for Ralph Reed, during the 2000 Republican presidential primary in South Carolina, they always ask the same thing: was it true that Ralph told voters that Senator John McCain fathered a black child? My answer is always the same thing: “How would I know? I was in a Greenville hotel room giving Ari Fleischer a blow job. Now, oral sex with anyone, particularly the aforementioned former George W. Bush White House press secretary is typically not the sort of physical activity one brags about. Or broadcasts. Or, for that matter, inserts into the opening pages of her first book. In fact, some girls are loathe to admit to hovering over a man’s shaft for any extended period of time. An activity, from an aerial view, looks like you’re bobbing for apples…and losing.

So, why then would I accept one-eyed flesh monster in my mouth during a road trip through the 2000 South Carolina presidential primary, with the former director of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed? Because back in those days I was a fearless, frisky, and tenacious twenty-six year old press tart with starry eyes, a short skirt, and a passion for civics. To be able to say “I’m with the such-and-such campaign,” or “I worked with Senator so-and-so” is to us political junkies what I’m With The Band is to Pamela Des Barres.

My remarkable encounter with Ari, in that unremarkable hotel room perfectly summed up my groupie like relationship to politics at that time. I wanted it, I worshipped it, and I went for it.

The 2000 South Carolina Republican primary would provide the backdrop for my third meeting with Ari. Tensions were running high in the two horse race between Bush and United States Senator John McCain. The primary war in the South had become civil. And when you pit brother against brother, things can get downright ugly. Rumors had begun to circulate about McCain’s adopted child, suggesting that the kid was conceived a la Strom Thrumond style, with a black woman. No one is sure where the rumors came from, and more than once I’ve had to remind people that no, I don’t know if it was Ralph who had planted the seed, because at the time I was too busy helping Ari Fleischer spread his seed.

When he wasn’t smiling and shaking hands, Ralph was taking emails and calls from Karl Rove. And I’d be taking calls from Ari. Turns out we were all staying at the same hotel. By further coincidence, Ari’s room was right next to Ralph’s. Come knock on my door when you get back, said Ari. As soon as I was sure that Ralph and his wife were in their room for the night, I tapped on Ari’s door. I had had a cocktail, or maybe three? Sometimes it’s the only way to wind down after a long day on the campaign trail. Ari and I started kissing, and I think I felt giddy. Giddy about the primary race, and high on the inappropriateness of the moment. I will say this: I was not keen on getting that room-a-rockin’ as I did not want Ralph or his wife to come-a-knockin’.

As much as I knew politics could be a rough and tumble business, Ralph and his wife were right next door, and, well, Ralph had always been so good to me. Even though I didn’t share his beliefs, I respected him, as an upholder of family values, as a brilliant speaker and academic, and as a boss I trusted to take my career where it needed to go. Since audible sex was clearly out of the question, I immediately headed south and took care of business. With each bob of my head, I considered my future options. I won’t sleep over, I said to myself, as my head descended. Okay, I will sleep over, but I’ll leave before Ari wakes up, I said on the ascent. But I will leave, while Ari is asleep , I promised, on a more rapid decline. When it was clear that my job was done, if you know what I mean, and I think you know what I mean, I fell asleep and awoke as early as I’ve ever gotten up, around 5:30 am, only to find Ari already up out of bed scanning the day’s newspapers to prepare himself and his candidate, the future president of the United States, for the day.

45 From January 1st of this year:

46 From “Reed said to see Georgia as path to White House” by The Washington Times:

Word that Ralph Reed plans to seek the lieutenant governorship of Georgia signals what friends say is the former Christian Coalition executive director’s ultimate ambition — 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

A Bush White House favorite, Mr. Reed would have to give up his lucrative campaign-consulting business in order to run for a relatively minor office in his home state.

Associates say Mr. Reed, 43, whose picture first appeared on the cover of Time magazine nearly 10 years ago, hopes to use the lieutenant governor’s job to position himself to run for Georgia governor. Friends also say the Atlanta-based consultant’s long-held ambition is ultimately to win for himself the Republican presidential nomination that, as a campaign adviser, he has helped others to seek.

“First, he’s got to get his foot in the door” of electoral politics, a Republican friend of Mr. Reed’s confided, adding that the political calendar in Georgia dictates that “his move has to be next year.”

If Mr. Reed can win the No. 2 spot next year, by 2010 he would already have a campaign organization, a donors list, a campaign kitty and four years of statewide elected office experience.

From “The Sins of Ralph Reed” by Sean Flynn:

His own mother – his mother! – once told USA Today, “I used to tell people he was going to be either President of the United States or Al Capone.”

47 From “THE 2002 ELECTIONS: GEORGIA; Senator Cleland Loses in an Upset To Republican Emphasizing Defense” by Jeffrey Gettleman:

As in many other races, national security was a central issue. Mr. [Saxby] Chambliss, 58, went straight for the jugular, accusing his opponent — who lost two legs and his right arm during a mission in Khe Sanh, Vietnam — as soft on defense.

One of the most provocative commercials flashed pictures of Osama bin Laden and then blasted Mr. [Max] Cleland, 60, for voting against the president 11 times on domestic security.

Democrats called the bin Laden advertisements shameless. A Republican strategist, Ralph Reed, said the issue ”was not Max’s war record but his voting record.”

From “Deviously Ineffective” by Ed Kilgore:

Reed’s next move was to get himself elected Republican chairman in Georgia, just in time to get the keys to test-drive a high-tech, state-of-the-art GOP voter-targeting and mobilization system–piloted in Georgia in 2002 and deployed to marvelous effect nationally two years later–and to preside over the best Republican election year since Reconstruction.

From “Second Coming” by Joshua Green:

Nevertheless, over the next four years Reed helped do for the Georgia Republican Party something much like what he’d done for the Coalition-organizing and rebuilding it from the ground up. He was elected state party chairman in 2001, and in 2002 the Georgia Republicans won a historic upset. Sonny Perdue became the first Republican in thirty-nine gubernatorial elections to win, and a Republican congressman, Saxby Chambliss, defeated the Democratic senator Max Cleland. Georgia’s other senator, Zell Miller, is a Democrat in name only, who has already endorsed George W. Bush-so in practical terms Georgia was fully Republican. “What happened in Georgia in 2002 was a once-in-a-decade performance,” says the political analyst Charlie Cook.

Even if it had many causes (not least the tremendous appeal of the President, whose visits in behalf of Republican candidates Reed leveraged to maximum effect), this startling success testified to Reed’s enduring skill as a political strategist.

48 From “The Sins of Ralph Reed” by Sean Flynn:

In June 1997, Ralph Reed left the Christian Coalition to open his own consulting shop, Century Strategies, just outside Atlanta. His plan was to get “pro-family” candidates elected across the country-congressmen, governors, senators, state representatives, lieutenant governors, even Georgia’s labor commissioner-and he started rounding up clients. Former associates say he was “a fantastic salesman,” promising neophyte candidates that he’d raise three times more money for them than he’d charge in fees, that he’d leverage his celebrity contacts, that he’d rake the grass roots for votes. That was the appeal, Reed’s political juice. But those same associates say he didn’t provide much beyond the salesmanship part. “He’d say, ‘We’re gonna sign up 10,000 people and make 25,000 phone calls,’ “says one, “but he knew nobody’s going to go back and count how many phone calls we actually made. That was Ralph all the way.”

Three of Century’s candidates lost their primaries (though one had dismissed the firm before voting day), and a fourth dropped out of a California race. In November, Century lost at least six more races. In an e-mail to Abramoff six days after the election, Reed noted that he’d lost Governor Fob James’s reelection bid in Alabama, Kentuckian Gex “Jay” Williams’s run for a U.S. House seat, and Gary Hofmeister’s campaign in Indiana’s Tenth Congressional District. Given the national tide, those were probably not in the cards, he wrote, but we fought like dogs.

Hofmeister, who still considers Reed a friend, doesn’t quite remember it that way. Four months before the general election, he wrote a letter to Tim Phillips, Reed’s partner at the time, wondering when the cavalry would be coming. “Even apart from my friendship with Ralph, I was rather amazed that I received no congratulatory call from Ralph after the primary nor on anything else,” he wrote. “My point is definitely not that I want to change horses…but only that as the president of the firm, I would think he should have at least a bit of contact with his clients.” After the letter, Hofmeister says now, “I pretty much got back zero.”

That was a pattern, former associates say. “We lost nearly every big-ticket race,” one says, “except for [Georgia senator Paul] Coverdell and [Alabama senator] Richard Shelby, who weren’t going to lose anyway, but we claimed them as victories. The fact is, across the board, if the races weren’t premier, Ralph simply wasn’t there.”

49 From “Deviously Ineffective” by Ed Kilgore:

In the autumn of 1998, Georgians were jolted from their armchairs by television ads run by a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor with the nicely onomatopoeic name of Mitch Skandalakis. One commercial played what political writer Josh Marshall later described as “the D.W. Griffith card,” charging gross incompetence on the part of Atlanta’s predominantly black political leadership. Another featured an actor who resembled Skandalakis’s opponent, state senator Mark Taylor, shuffling down a hallway at a well-known psychiatric and drug treatment facility near Atlanta. The ads were arresting, but they backfired. Skandalakis got stomped by Taylor, while a surprisingly high turnout among African Americans helped produce a victory for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes and other Democrats running statewide.

The Skandalakis campaign’s top consultant was one of Georgia’s most famous living sons–Ralph Reed. The former executive director of the Christian Coalition had left the financially troubled organization the previous year and launched a much-ballyhooed political consulting firm based in Atlanta called Century Strategies. The 1998 election cycle was supposed to be Reed’s chance to prove that his political skills could stand on their own. But the reputation he developed wasn’t the one he had hoped for. Republicans grumbled that his dirty tactics in the Skandalakis campaign were responsible for bringing down the party’s entire state ticket. What’s more, that campaign didn’t seem to be the exception to Reed’s modus operandi, but the rule. “Most [of Reed’s clients] started out strong,” wrote Marshall after the election, “with heavy appeals on moral issues (something Reed strongly advocated), faltered in the stretch, and, finally, resorted to a blizzard of low-ball (sometimes racially tinged) tactics before stumbling toward defeat.”

50 From “The tale of “Red Scorpion” “ by James Verini:

With Citizens for America disbanded, and law school done, Abramoff moved to Los Angeles. He came up with the premise for “Red Scorpion” and hired Arne Olsen, a young screenwriter with no credits to his name, to write it. The Abramoffs told Olson they wanted to base the fictional African country in the film, Mombaka, directly on Angola, and the rebel leader on [ostensibly anti-communist Angolan warlord Jonas Savimbi]. Olsen said he churned out a baldly propagandistic script.

Initially, the movie was set to shoot in Swaziland, but at the last minute Abramoff moved the production to Namibia, which was occupied by South Africa’s apartheid government. Congress had passed (over Reagan’s veto) the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act in 1986, making it very frowned-upon, when not illegal, to do business with South Africa or its proxies. This did not seem to bother Abramoff, who planned to use South African Defense Force vehicles and equipment on the set and soldiers as extras. By 1988, when shooting started on the film, Abramoff likely had connections in the South African government.

The movie seemed like an opportunity to turn a buck – if not win any awards. “There’s some fish for eating and some fish for buying and selling,” Glickenhaus said. “This was a fish for buying and selling.” In typical Hollywood tradition, Glickenhaus threw a party for the film at Cannes, his feelings about its quality notwithstanding. The Abramoff brothers came, but, he said, they “looked totally out of place.”

The actor Carmen Argenziano, who played the villainous Cuban colonel, said he knew that many of the men playing Russian and Cuban soldiers were actual SADF soldiers. There were also rumors going around the set that some of the funding for the film, not just props and extras, was coming from South Africa.

51 From “The tale of “Red Scorpion” “ by James Verini:

In the late 1980s, some conservatives in Washington saw P.W. Botha’s apartheid government in Pretoria as the last bulwark against communism in Africa. Certain Reagan domestiques had even gone to work for it. “The South African government was the only one that was, shall we say, anti-communist,” said Stuart Spencer, who’d help run Reagan’s 1980 and ’84 campaigns and later became a lobbyist for Pretoria.

Abramoff seems to have shared the sentiment. In 1986, he founded the International Freedom Foundation, whose stated goal was “to foster individual freedom throughout the world by engaging in activities which promote the development of free and open societies based on the principles of free enterprise.” More specifically, among the IFF’s aims were to oppose the Anti-Apartheid Act and other sanctions and to urge greater support in Washington for Pretoria and less support for the African National Congress, the party that would come to power in 1994 under Nelson Mandela. At its height, around the time “Red Scorpion” was released, the IFF employed about 30 young ideologues in offices on G Street in Washington, Johannesburg, London and Brussels. Churning out reports and presentations (for one such presentation on the Contras, it borrowed the slide show that North had used to raise money for his arms-deal network, according to Pandin), the IFF attracted notable members such as Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.

The IFF, however, could not claim impartiality on the subject. It was, in fact, clandestinely funded by the SADF’s military intelligence arm, according to former U.S. officials, ANC documents, and reports published in U.S. and U.K. According to a 1995 Newsday report, the IFF received up to $1.5 million a year from the SADF from 1986 through 1992, as a part of Operation Babushka, a smear campaign meant to discredit Mandela and the ANC by portraying them as allied with communist regimes. An SADF intelligence chief also told the Newsday reporters that the SADF helped fund “Red Scorpion.”

“We knew that the IFF was funded by the South African government,” Herman Cohen, who ran Africa operations for the National Security Council, told Salon. “It was one of a number of front organizations.”

The attempt to block Namibian independence through a false chemical weapons scare was given an excellent investigation by David Aronson and David Kamp in “Fooled on the Hill: How some die-hard Cold Warriors and a Belgian con artist tried to change U.S. policy in Africa”; I go through some of the threads of the IFF and Jack Abramoff in “Angola, Namibia, South Africa, and a Tea Party Leader”.

52 From “A Lobbyist in Full” by Michael Crowley:

“Can you smell money?!?!?!” Jack Abramoff wrote.

It was December 2001, and he was a kingpin of Republican Washington, one of the city’s richest and best-connected lobbyists. His former personal assistant had gone to work for Karl Rove, the new president’s top political adviser; he was close friends with the powerful Republican congressman from Texas, Tom DeLay, a relationship most of his competitors would kill to boast of. He was making millions on fees of up to $750 per hour; he was the proprietor of two city restaurants; and he was even a man of good works — a charitable giver and the founder of a private religious school in the Maryland suburbs. Dressed in expensive suits, he moved around the capital in a BMW outfitted with a computer screen, often headed to one of the countless fund-raisers he gave for Republican congressmen and senators at Redskins and Orioles and Wizards games in his private sky boxes. Jack Abramoff was a man in full.

53 From Indian Affairs Exhibits Part One, page 15.

54 From “A Decade of Reed”, by Matthew Continetti:

In Beltway lobbying, as elsewhere, diversification is the key to success. It is essential for a lobbyist like Abramoff–who boasts of his passion for ideology–to stretch his conservative arguments over as wide a variety of clients as possible. Channel One, the for-profit TV channel that pumps commercial-laden programming into public school classrooms, hired both Reed and Abramoff in the late 1990s to defend it against conservative criticism. Abramoff dismissed the channel’s right-wing opponents for pursuing “an anti-free-market, anticommercial agenda.” The textile industry in the Marianas islands, a U.S. protectorate, hired Abramoff when congressional Democrats tried to impose U.S. labor regulations on its sweatshops, where low-wage workers imported from China and the Philippines produced garments marked “Made in the USA.” Abramoff arranged trips to the islands, where there was also a nice golf course. Among other congressional Republicans and Democrats, DeLay toured the sweatshops and pronounced the islands “a perfect Petri dish of capitalism.” Before 9/11, Abramoff lobbied for the dictatorships in Pakistan and Malaysia. After 9/11, according to National Journal, he signed up as lobbyist for the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions, a consortium of banks that operate according to sharia, or Islamic law.

From “Washington’s Invisible Man” by David Margolick:

Abramoff quickly brought in clients such as the government of Pakistan and, most important, the Northern Mariana Islands, an American territory in the Pacific whose exemption from certain American labor laws-factories there could pay their workers a pittance but still label their products “Made in the U.S.A.”-was for Abramoff a classic case of free enterprise at work.

55 From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 25:

After (or at the same time when) several Tribes hired Abramoff as their federal lobbyist, Abramoff urged some of them to hire Scanlon to provide grassroots support. Abramoff, however, failed to disclose that he and Scanlon were partners. Evidence obtained over the course of a two-year investigation indicates that Abramoff and Scanlon had agreed to secretly split, between themselves, fees that the Tribes paid Scanlon from 2001 through 2003. Abramoff and Scanlon referred to this arrangement as “gimme five.”

As a general proposition, the scheme involved the following: getting each of the Tribes to hire Scanlon as their grassroots specialist; dramatically overcharging them for grassroots and related activities; setting aside for themselves an unconscionable percentage of what the Tribes paid at a grossly inflated rate-a rate wholly unrelated to the actual cost of services provided; and using the remaining fraction to reimburse scores of vendors that could help them maintain vis-a-vis the Tribes a continuing appearance of competence. One example of this fee-splitting arrangement arises from a payment of $1,900,000 from the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan. On or about July 9, 2002, Scanlon assured Abramoff, “800 for you[,] 800 for me[,] 250 for the effort the other 50 went to the plane and misc expenses. We both have an additional 500 coming when they pay the next phasem [sic].” Indeed, on July 12, 2002, after that payment arrived, Scanlon made three payments to Abramoff, including a payment of $800,000.

56 From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 22:

Typically, the most expensive element of Scanlon’s proposals to the Tribes related to a purportedly elaborate political database. But, in all cases, it appears that the degree to which Scanlon marked-up his actual costs was unconscionable. For example, while Scanlon told the
Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana that their “political” database would cost $1,345,000, he ended up paying the vendor that actually developed, operated and maintained that database about $104,560. The dramatic mark-ups were intended to accommodate Scanlon’s secret 50/50 split with Abramoff.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 254:

Scanlon’s proposed use of elaborate databases was also prominent in political programs that he proposed to the Saginaw Chippewa, called “Operation Redwing.” According to drafts of this proposal that he likely presented to the Tribe, “Our first step [to developing a successful political strategy] is to tap into your natural political resources and integrate them into a custombuilt political database.” The proposal went on to describe a “grassroots database”: [CCS] will gather lists of your vendors, employees, tribal members etc. (if you approve, customer lists), and we will import those lists into your new database. Our computer program will match the individuals or businesses with addresses, phone numbers, political registrations and e-mail addresses, and then sort them by election districts. The districts run from U.S. Senator down to school board and once completed, you can tap into this database and mobilize your supporters in ANY election, or on any issue of your choosing. Regarding a “Qualitative [that is, opposition] Research Database,” the proposal stated the following:

This custom built database acts as the information center of Operation Red Wing. [sic] Over the next six weeks, our team will gather
qualitative information on any entity who can be classified as opposition and enter it into this database. The research will include
nearly every piece of information on the opposition as you can imagine. Once gathered, it is then sorted by subject matter and made
retrievable by a phrase search. The information can then be instantly disseminated to any audience we choose such as our universe of
supporters, the press, third party [sic] interest groups or other interested parties.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 257:

Scanlon apparently designated his “right-hand man,” Christopher Cathcart to serve as his point of contract with the Tribe. Working with Cathcart on the Tribe’s [Saginaw Chippewa] behalf was Tribal spokesperson Marc Schwartz. Schwartz believed that he may have had as many as 20 to 25 conversations with Cathcart. In his interview with Committee staff, Schwartz recalled Cathcart had described the database as “very customized.” He also recalled that Cathcart had said that Scanlon had “six people working day-and-night to get the system up-and-running” and a “stable” of graphics artists. Schwartz also remembered asking Cathcart how many people were working for Scanlon’s company. In response, Schwartz recalled, Cathcart said “dozens” and described Scanlon’s company to Schwartz as “absolute studs.”

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 259:

After having seen the database subsequently, Schwartz considered it “extremely unremarkable.” In his view, there was “no way” that the database required “six people working day-and-night” or that “the database was worth millions.” But, the Tribe had already paid CCS $4,200,000.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 260:

In truth, Scanlon’s company neither built nor designed these databases. In fact, Scanlon merely licensed a database actually created by a vendor named Democracy Data & Communications (“DDC”). In instances where CCS charged Tribes for DDC’s databases, DDC developed them to help CCS conduct grassroots campaigns on the Tribes’ behalf. In these cases, CCS supplied DDC with information, such as membership rosters and vendor information, that CCS obtained from its Tribal clients.268 Then, using its own proprietary software and network design, DDC helped CCS use that information for grassroots purposes-to create mass emails, letters, faxes, etc.

In other words, DDC, rather than CCS, built, updated and maintained those databases, for which CCS charged its tribal clients millions of dollars. Typically, Scanlon charged each of the Tribes at least $1,000,000 just for putting the database together; this was called the
“organizational phase.” But, in truth, all the work that DDC did on each of the databases it developed, cost Scanlon a fraction of that amount. For example, all the work that DDC did for the Louisiana Coushatta’s database (from May 2001 through December 2003) cost CCS only $104,000. Notably, in his interview with Committee staff on the Tigua, Scanlon’s right-hand man, Christopher Cathcart, admitted that the Tribe “got nowhere near [the] $1.8 million [it paid] for the organizational phase.” He also conceded that the Tigua’s database was not customized.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 261:

DDC President B.R. McConnon testified that, when compared with DDC’s other clients paying similar prices and using similar services, there was actually “a very low level of activity” on the CCS account that were maintained for CCS’ tribal clients. Generally, McConnon observed, customers who have such a low level of usage tend to shut off the account. McConnon recalled that CCS used DDC’s services so sparingly, “it got to be a running joke in the office.”

In cases not involving DDC databases, it appears that CCS took DDC’s proprietary network design; provided that design to another vendor, Visual Impact Productions (“VIP”); and directed VIP to develop databases designed to mimic DDC’s product. And, in those cases, it
appears that CCS charged those Tribes millions of dollars for the development, maintenance, and use of those databases.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 263:

Having examined VIP’s database, McConnon opined that it was far less capable than his company’s. In particular, McConnon noted that the quality of the data contained in the VIP system seemed inferior to DDC’s; its searching capability was far less extensive than DDC’s; its
presentation of information was very limited; it seemed not to contain as much information as DDC’s, which is important to implement a more targeted, efficient grassroots program; and the quality of the keypunching seemed very inferior. McConnon agreed that someone at CCS apparently showed the other vendor the “access page” of his company’s database. McConnon confirmed that this would be a violation of the licensing agreement that Scanlon executed with DDC.

For a version of this database, the Pueblo of Sandia paid Scanlon $1,857,000. That amount corresponds to elements of a proposal drafted by Scanlon for the Tribe relating to “acquisition and design of hardware and software, data matching, grassroots development, online applications and political modifications.” However, in actuality, Scanlon never provided those services. In the ordinary course of business, those services would have been provided-at a far lesser cost-by one of Scanlon’s vendors. In this case, McConnon opined that this database, apparently produced by VIP, was worth nothing near $1,857,000; it was probably worth, at the very most, about $20,000. Whether the database came from DDC or VIP, it appears that the representation that CCS “constructed” a database was false.

57 From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 25:

After an intensive two-year investigation-consisting of five hearings, 70 formal requests for documents, including subpoenas, resulting in the production of about 750,000 pages; and about 60 depositions and witness interviews, the Committee found that, as Scanlon’s secret partner, Abramoff received about half of the profit that Scanlon collected from the $66 million in fees he obtained from six of his Tribal clients from 2001 through 2003.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 110:

When the new Council failed to vote on the project, Abramoff was unreserved in his contempt: “The f’ing troglodytes didn’t vote on you today. Dammit.” Scanlon asked, “What’s a troglodyte?”

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 111:

Continuing their exchange, Abramoff explained the Saginaw Chippewa’s failure to vote on one of Scanlon’s proposals: “They spent the whole time discussing the firings of late. I like these guys, and truly believe they are going to do the program, but they are plain stupid. They should have had you on board first and then done the firings. Morons.”

Furthermore, in an e-mail bearing the subject line “SagChip idiots”, Abramoff wrote:

“Someone leaked out the Operation Red Wing memo to the enemy up there. Petras told me this tonight. The PR guy, Joe?, is the enemy and – I did not know this – is a Sagchip, and is now going to run for council!! These mofos are the stupidest idiots in the land for sure.”

58 From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, pages 164-165:

To [Saginaw Chippewa spokesman Marc Schwartz], Abramoff appeared to have the right credentials. Abramoff claimed to be a close friend of Congressman Tom DeLay. He also discussed his friendship with Reed, recounting some of their history together at College Republicans. When Schwartz observed that Reed was an ideologue, Schwartz recalled that Abramoff laughingly replied “as far as the cash goes.” Abramoff also mentioned his representation of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (“Choctaw”) and his ability to get appropriations for them.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 42:

By mid-April, things were moving. In an e-mail entitled “Disbursement on behalf of Choctaw Indians,” Abramoff assured Reed that the money was on its way. Using the Choctaw’s money, Reed paid for grassroots activities including, telemarketing (patch-through, tape-recorded messages and call-to-action phone calls), targeted mail, legislative counsel and local management, rallies, petitions, “voter contact, television and radio production, the remainder of phones, the statewide fly-around, the pastor’s and activist rally, the church bulletin
inserts, and other items.”

Reed also claimed that he was leveraging his contacts within the Christian community for the Choctaw’s benefit. Reed reported to Abramoff that there would be “a saturation statewide radio buy with a new ad by Jim Dobson that he will record tomorrow.” Reed assured
Abramoff, “We are opening the bomb bay doors and holding nothing back. If victory is possible, we will achieve it,” and, one day later, again promised, “All systems are go on our end and nothing is being held back.”

59 From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 36:

According to one document in the Committee’s possession, Abramoff described ATR as “an effective conduit of support for other groups which have provided assistance to Indian gaming’s efforts to fight the tax proposal.” There were a number of anti-tax grassroots groups in various states, and “it was ATR’s job to make contacts with those groups, to assist them in making contacts with members of the Ways and Means Committee or other committee members.”

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, pages 42-43:

By May 10, 1999, the Choctaw had paid Reed $1,300,000 through Preston Gates, with another $50,000 outstanding. For reasons unclear to the Committee, in late 1999 the Tribe discontinued paying Reed through Preston Gates. Rogers recalled that there came a time when either Reed or Preston Gates (or both) became uneasy about money being passed through Preston Gates to Reed. Abramoff thus searched for another conduit.

Abramoff turned to his long-time friend Norquist to have his group ATR serve as a conduit for the Choctaw money. Earlier, on May 20, 1999, Norquist had asked Abramoff, “What is the status of the Choctaw stuff. I have a $75K hole in my budget from last year. ouch [sic].” Thus, in the fall of 1999, Abramoff reminded himself to “call Ralph re Grover doing pass through.” When Abramoff suggested the Choctaw start using ATR as a conduit, the Tribe agreed.

60 From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 273:

Early in 2001, Scanlon called his long-time friend and fellow lifeguard David Grosh and asked him whether he wanted to serve as a director of an “international corporation.”

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 274:

Between February and July 2001, “AIC had no office; AIC’s business address was the beach house that [Grosh] and [yoga instructor Brian Mann] rented” in Rehoboth Beach. In response to a question posed during a Committee hearing about what AIC did, Grosh responded
that during the four or five months when he was “involved” with AIC, “we only rented the first floor of a house and installed some computers”.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 276:

Referring to AIC’s being held out as an international think tank, Grosh quipped, “If AIC was a think tank, I sure don’t know what we were thinking about.” Mann could only recall discussing Scanlon’s acquiring, and his own cleaning, office space for AIC, and Grosh’s departure from the organization.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 277:

After Grosh left AIC, Mann was, as far as he knew, its only employee. In fact, according to Mann, no one other than Grosh and himself was ever paid by AIC as an employee. Moreover, the only time Mann recalled Grosh “ever doing anything was helping me literally put a desk together.” Otherwise, he had “no idea” what Grosh did.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 280:

In its final form, the website set forth AIC’s mission statement. It described AIC as “a Delaware-based corporation with the global minded purpose of enhancing the methods of empowerment for territories, commonwealths, and sovereign nations in possession of and within the United States.” In each of their depositions and interviews with Committee staff, Grosh, Mann and Cathcart said they had no idea what this meant.

The website also touted AIC as (1) “a premiere international think tank”; (2) “determined to influence global paradigms in an increasingly complex world.”; (3) a “public policy foundation”; (4) founded “under the high powered directorship of David A. Grosh and Brian J. Mann”; (5 )”[w]hile only recently incorporated … striving to advance the cause of greater international empowerment for many years”; (6) “using 21st century technology and decades of experience to make the world a smaller place”; (7) “bringing great minds together from all over the globe”; (8) “seek[ing] to expand the parameters of international discourse in an effort to leverage the combined power of world intellect:”; and (9) comprised of an “expert team.”

61 From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 80:

With that, the Tribe discontinued using Abramoff as its lobbyist. Likely having realized that the only way he could resume representing the Tribe (and getting the Tribe to hire Scanlon) was through a change in Tribal leadership, Abramoff came up with an idea.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 81:

Abramoff laid out his plan: “They have their primary for tribal council on Tuesday, which should determine if they are going to take over (general elections in November). I told him that you are the greatest campaign expert since . . . (actually, I told him that there was no one like you in history!). He is going to come in after the primary with the guy who will be chief if they win (a big fan of ours already) and we are going to help him win.”

Using a phrase the two coined to describe their financial relationship, Abramoff concluded, “If he wins, they take over in January, and we have millions. I told him that you are already in national demand and we need to secure you for them. He is very excited. GIMME FIVE lives.”

Scanlon replied enthusiastically, “THE PRICE HAS JUST GONE UP TO 10 MIL! Sounds good on the strategy – We should be wrapped up with the other camapigns [sic] soon, so I could run his general election to make sure we get or [sic] give me five!”

Apparently resolved to help Abramoff and Scanlon oust the incumbent tribal council, Petras recommended to a group (comprised of, among others, Maynard Kahgegab and Robert Pego) that they meet with Scanlon about their election campaign. That group became known as the “Slate of Eight.”

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 84:

At least two batches of mailings were sent out on behalf of the Slate of Eight.61 Among the documents obtained by the Committee from Scanlon’s company, Capitol Campaign Strategies (CCS), is an undated draft mailer, apparently drafted for the Slate of Eight. It notes
that “[t]he upcoming election may be the only chance for the disenfranchised, [sic] and beaten down members of this tribe to voice their disapproval with the way people on the council like XXXX [sic] Jackson have run our tribal government.” Likewise, an October 26, 2001, press release, also apparently drafted by CCS, announced that the “Slate of 8 Will Run on Platform of Reform.” According to that release, “The Slate of 8 represents honesty, integrity and vision-something that the Committee for Responsible Government unfortunately completely lacks.” It also stated falsely that “[w]e organized the Slate of 8 ourselves and are asking the tribal members to vote for us so that we can put the scandal plagued [sic] politics of this tribe [sic] in the past.” In laying the groundwork for the Tribe to ultimately hire Abramoff and Scanlon, the release also described, as an issue on the Slate of Eight’s platform, “developing stronger ties in Washington D.C. [sic] and at the state and local level to advance tribal concerns.”

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 85:

Not only did CCS draft mailers and fliers, it put together a call list; devised a campaign strategy, calendars, and time-lines; helped organize at least one event-a “candidates night”; and apparently recorded a radio ad. Other than $200 that some members of the Slate of Eight paid for a “candidates night,” CCS paid for all out-of-pocket expenses. While the value of those expenses is unclear, the Tribe has seen some estimates as high as $100,000. Responding to the Tribe for Scanlon, Scanlon’s lawyer, Stephen Braga, explained that “[t]his $100,000 number was a value reflected estimate that included the time value of individuals working on the campaign” and that “actual dollars would be less.” He however agreed that, while “there is no way to tell exactly how much was spent,” CCS was never reimbursed for its costs.

62 From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 86:

Seemingly pleased, Abramoff replied: “Looks like you have it well in hand. I smell victory! I smell gimme five!!!”

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 88:

On November 6, 2001, all but one member of the Slate of Eight prevailed. A draft mailer, apparently prepared by CCS, dated November 15, 2001, announced the victory: “The election on November 6 was an historic event for the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe. It was the day the people of this tribe swept away the politics of the past, and started a new era of positive and responsible government.”

63 From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, pages 159-160:

Abramoff and Scanlon’s mutual client the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana (“Louisiana Coushatta”) long understood that legalized gaming in Texas would erode its casino’s customer base and revenue. The majority of the Louisiana Coushatta casino’s customers are from Texas, particularly the Houston area.

While the State of Texas was pursuing its case to close the Tigua’s Speaking Rock Casino, press reports indicated that another tribe, the Alabama-Coushatta, was considering opening its own casino in eastern Texas. Abramoff and Scanlon were insistent with the Louisiana Coushatta Tribal Council that Texas was on the verge of legalizing gaming. Abramoff and Scanlon said that if the Tigua succeeded in its efforts to keep open its casino, the State of Texas would have no choice but to allow the Alabama Coushatta to have a casino. The Tribe therefore authorized Abramoff and Scanlon to pursue anti-gaming efforts in Texas against the Tigua and the Alabama Coushatta.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, pages 162-163:

While the trio worked to support the State’s legal efforts, evidence also suggests that Abramoff, Scanlon, and Reed worked behind the scenes in Texas to quash the Tigua’s attempts at a legislative solution. In 2003, Abramoff boasted to a colleague: A bill is moving (HB809) in the Texas state house which will enable the Indians in Texas to have totally unregulated casinos. It passed out of the house Criminal Jurisprudence Committee by a 6-2 vote. The current Republican Speaker Tom Craddick is a strong supporter. Last year we stopped this bill after it passed the house using the Lt. Governor (Bill ratcliff) [sic] to prevent it from being scheduled in the state senate.

In fact, former Texas Lt. Governor Ratliff did refuse to schedule the legislation for a floor vote in the previous session, the state’s legal efforts succeeded, and the Tigua officially closed its casino on February 12, 2002.

64 From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 163:

It was a low point for the Tigua. According to Tribal representatives, the revenue generated by the Speaking Rock Casino had helped the Tribe lift its members out of poverty, had enabled the Tribe to provide education for its children and health care for its elders. It created hope where there was none. Into their desperation and despair entered Abramoff and Scanlon.

65 From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 188:

Although Abramoff and Scanlon’s efforts on the Tigua’s behalf were failing, it apparently did not stop Abramoff from soliciting funds from Tigua for a golfing junket to Scotland. On May 15, 2002, Abramoff advised his close friend Ralph Reed that “[t]he package on the ground is $4K per person. that [sic] covers rooms, tee times and ground transportation. One idea is that we could use one of my foundations for the trip-Capital Athletic Foundation-and get and make contributions so this is easier. OK?”

Reed responded, “OK but we need to discuss. It is an election year.”

About a week later, Rudy informed Abramoff that “Ney may want to do Scotland.”

Almost two weeks later, as details of the trip were coming together, Abramoff told Rudy, “We need to lock. Try to nail 2 stars to go with us: ney [sic] for sure!”

66 The overview of the failed back and forth to get the casino provision into the Election Reform bill is in-depth and complicated in the Indian Affairs Report; I direct interested readers to pages 178-196 of the report.

An excerpt from “The Sins of Ralph Reed” by Sean Flynn gives cogent summary:

The Tiguas, who are more formally known as the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Tribe of El Paso, had basically one source of income: the Speaking Rock casino. The state, through then attorney general John Cornyn, had been trying to close it down on general principles since 1999, arguing that casino gambling was illegal in Texas, and by late 2000 the matter was still crawling through the courts. The Louisiana Coushattas-clients of Abramoff and, by extension, Reed-also wanted Speaking Rock closed to eliminate the competition.

Reed’s job was to monitor Cornyn’s office, keep tabs on the legal timeline, and whip up support for the attorney general and opposition to the casino. Which he did for more than a year, both through contacts in Cornyn’s office and with the help of a megachurch preacher named Ed Young (incredibly engaged and excited, Reed wrote in one e-mail). The monitoring was important because Abramoff’s timing had to be perfect: When Reed e-mailed Abramoff that a judge would order Speaking Rock closed on February 11, Abramoff and Scanlon made sure they were in El Paso on February 12…promising the panicked Tiguas they could get their casino reopened for a fee of $4.2 million.

In layman’s terms, this is called a con. The idea was to buy off a congressman (Bob Ney) and a senator (Christopher Dodd), who would sneak language allowing Speaking Rock to reopen into a totally unrelated bill. No one would even notice.

Only Senator Dodd didn’t go along with the plan. In fact, he was mightily pissed his good name had gotten dragged into such a scam, a point he made quite clear during an Indian Affairs Committee hearing.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 196-197:

After the failed effort on Election Reform, Abramoff continued hounding the Tigua for more money. He proposed that the Tribe take out life insurance policies on its elders, with the proceeds to be paid to the Eshkol Academy, the all boys Jewish school that Abramoff had established. Abramoff intended the program, which he called the Elder Legacy Program, to generate lobbying funds to pay for Abramoff’s continued representation of the Tribe and provide funding for Eshkol. When Duane Gibson, an Abramoff associate at Greenberg Traurig
working on the Project, reminded Abramoff that he could not use the insurance proceeds to lobby, Abramoff’s solution was to have the school use other funds to pay the lobbying fees. Gibson told the Committee that the Elder Legacy Program was trying to leverage funds for Indian tribes, but mostly charities, by acquiring life insurance policies for the tribe or charity. The original pool of insureds were Indian tribes, Alaskan Natives, and black church elders.

Abramoff told Gibson that Ralph Reed was going to be the entree for the black churches, because Reed “knows the Southern Black Christian community.” Apparently, Abramoff pitched the idea to Reed, who thought it was viable.

According to Gibson, Abramoff said that the Tigua were “indebted to him because I [Abramoff] saved their asses and they want to do this for me.” Gibson believed “the whole Tigua thing was a perversion of the original purpose.”304 Although he was scheduled to meet with [tribal spokesman Marc Schwartz] in El Paso about the program, the meeting never took place. The reason: after initially, internally approving the idea, the Tribal Council decided not to move forward on it. [Tigua Lt. Governor Carlos Hisa] met with the Tribal elders, who rejected it.

From “The Sins of Ralph Reed” by Sean Flynn:

The failed con took more than a year to play out, by which time the Tiguas were pretty much broke. So Abramoff came up with a way for his marks to continue paying him: the Tigua Elder Legacy Project. Abramoff would arrange, at no cost to the tribe, a life-insurance policy for every Tigua 75 or older. When those elders died, the death benefits would be paid to Eshkol Academy, a private school Abramoff had founded near Washington. Eshkol, in turn, would then pay Abramoff’s fee to continue lobbying on behalf of the surviving Tiguas. Morbid opportunism disguised as charity: Each dead Tigua would be cash in the lobbyist’s pocket.

The Tiguas declined the offer. “It felt uncomfortable,” a Tigua official told the Senate committee last November.

The Tigua-death-fund offer had been made in March 2003. Four months later, Abramoff was pitching Reed-his connection to Christians-the Black Churches Insurance Program. There was only one difference: It would be huge, to use Abramoff’s word.

“Yeah,” a former associate of Reed’s says, “it sounds like Jack approached Reed about mortgaging old black people.”

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 198:

During the Committee’s November 17, 2004, hearing, when asked how he felt upon learning that the Tribe had paid for a golf outing for the man who had worked to shut down the Tigua casino, Lt. Governor Hisa replied, “A rattlesnake will warn you before it strikes. We had no warning. They did everything behind our back.”

67 From “How a Lobbyist Stacked the Deck” by Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi:

Like many Internet companies emerging from the overheated 1990s, eLottery’s money was drying up in the spring of 2000.

The company was founded in 1993 on the gamble that even a small fraction of the market for helping states and others put lotteries online could be worth a billion dollars a year. But the company faced many obstacles.

In 1998, the Justice Department had used existing gambling laws to force eLottery to shut down its first online lottery venture, with an Idaho Indian tribe. ELottery had not earned a dime since.

The Senate had passed the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act in late 1999, aiming to make it easier for authorities to stop online gambling sites. With a companion bill by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.) advancing in the House in the spring of 2000, eLottery was desperate to ramp up its Washington lobbying. It had to sell off assets to stay afloat and raise cash.

In May, eLottery hired Abramoff’s firm, Preston Gates & Ellis LLP, for $100,000 a month, according to lobbying reports. In the following months, Abramoff directed the company to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to various organizations, faxes, e-mails and court records show. The groups included Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform; Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition; companies affiliated with Reed; and a Seattle Orthodox Jewish foundation, Toward Tradition.

Arrayed against eLottery were many leading groups on the religious right who were pushing to ban Internet gambling, including the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition. James Dobson, influential leader of Focus on the Family, praised the bill in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

Still, according to his strategy e-mails, Abramoff thought he could turn conservatives in the House against the bill. He seized on some compromise language in the bill making exceptions for jai alai and horse racing.

Abramoff’s plan: argue that the legislation and its exemptions would actually expand legalized gambling.

Still, the Abramoff team was worried about the vote. So the eLottery forces pressed the argument that the Internet bill was an unfair infringement of the right of individual states to sell lottery tickets online. Amid the frenzied lobbying, a potentially influential letter making that case began circulating on Capitol Hill. It was purportedly signed by Jeb Bush.

“While I am no fan of gambling, I see this bill as a violation of states’ rights and I am looking to prevent this encroachment,” the letter said.

A surprised Hill staffer called the Florida governor’s office, and the letter was exposed as a forgery.

Months later, a little-noted investigation by Florida authorities resulted in a confession from a Tampa man hired by a division of Shandwick Worldwide, a public affairs company. Shandwick was working on the eLottery account with Abramoff’s team. The Florida man, Matthew Blair, told authorities in a plea bargain agreement that he was hired to get letters opposing the bill from the governor and others. He said he created the forged letter on his own after he was unable to obtain one from Bush’s office.

Brian Berger, then a Shandwick official, said his firm had been hired to produce the letters by Abramoff associate Michael Scanlon, a former DeLay press aide. Berger said in a recent interview that although he and Scanlon knew Blair, they did not sanction the forgery. “Essentially, we had a bad operative,” Berger said.

On July 17, the House debated for about 40 minutes. Rumors continued to fly about the Bush letter. Some members remained confused about the bill’s contents. About 30 did not vote. “There was a lot of misinformation,” said a congressional staff member who worked on the bill.

Still, Goodlatte had reason to be optimistic because nine out of 10 bills on the suspension calendar pass.

But Abramoff’s efforts had eroded just enough votes. The roll call — 245 in favor, 159 against — left Goodlatte 25 members short. The bill failed.

But Sheldon’s campaign in conservative districts had the desired chilling effect on GOP leaders. That became clear on Oct. 24, when House Republicans met to discuss their year-end strategy.

What happened at the meeting was relayed to Abramoff by a former associate, David H. Safavian, who was then a lobbyist for a coalition of online gambling companies and who this month was indicted for allegedly lying to federal investigators in the Abramoff probe.

DeLay, Safavian wrote in an e-mail, “spoke up and noted that the bill could cost as many as four House seats. At that point, there was silence. Not even Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) — our previous opponent — said a word.”

When Congress prepared to adjourn in 2000 without revisiting the gambling bill, Safavian was ecstatic. He sent his clients an e-mail, which was posted on the Web site of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

“Relax a bit,” Safavian wrote. “Policy beat politics once again. (Maybe the American system isn’t really that bad.) The good guys won.”

Louis Sheldon and his Traditional Values Coalition also make an appearance in my post, “Maureen Otis: A Mystery Inside A Mystery”.

68 From “How a Lobbyist Stacked the Deck” by Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi:

Abramoff asked eLottery to write a check in June 2000 to Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition (TVC). He also routed eLottery money to a Reed company, using two intermediaries, which had the effect of obscuring the source.

The eLottery money went first to Norquist’s foundation, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and then through a second group in Virginia Beach called the Faith and Family Alliance, before it reached Reed’s company, Century Strategies. Norquist’s group retained a share of the money as it passed through.

According to the e-mails, Reed provided the name and address where Norquist was supposed to send the money: to Robin Vanderwall at a location in Virginia Beach.

Vanderwall was director of the Faith and Family Alliance, a political advocacy group that was founded by two of Reed’s colleagues and then turned over to Vanderwall, Vanderwall said and records show.

Vanderwall, a former Regent University Law School student and Republican operative, was later convicted of soliciting sex with minors via the Internet and is serving a seven-year term in Virginia state prison.

In a telephone interview, Vanderwall said that in July 2000 he was called by Reed’s firm, Century Strategies, alerting him that he would be receiving a package. When it came, it contained a check payable to Vanderwall’s group for $150,000 from Americans for Tax Reform, signed by Norquist. Vanderwall said he followed the instructions from Reed’s firm — depositing the money and then writing a check to Reed’s firm for an identical amount.

“I was operating as a shell,” Vanderwall said, adding that he was never told how the money was spent. He said: “I regret having had anything to do with it.”

From “E-mails undermine Reed claim” by Jim Galloway:

Ralph Reed has said he didn’t know it until last year, but emails suggest he was informed that eLot – a firm then in the online lottery business – was behind his effort to fend off a ban against internet gambling in 2000.

The e-mails passed between Reed and Jack Abramoff, the now disgraced Washington lobbyist. Abramoff was lobbying for eLot Inc. of Connecticut, parent company of eLottery Inc., against a bill in Congress that would have banned most online betting. ELottery opposed the bill because it wanted to help states sell tickets online.

Reed, a lifelong opponent of gambling, said last year that he did not know in 2000 he was actually working on behalf of eLottery.

But e-mails obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show Reed was offered the name of the company at the beginning of his involvement in the campaign, in May 2000. The e-mails emerged as dozens of federal investigators have increased their focus on events surrounding the defeat of the Internet gaming ban.

Abramoff included the company’s name – referring to “the elot project” – in an e-mail he forwarded to Reed, as the two worked out details of Reed’s contract for the campaign.

In the Jan. 30, 2001, e-mail, Reed teased Abramoff when the lobbyist asked about the White House’s choice for a new “technology czar.”

“Tell your elottery friends that the next czar will be an anti-gambling [Pentecostal] Christian whose main interest in life is banning smut from the Internet,” Reed wrote.

From “Cantor Survived Abramoff, Reed, Norquist” by John Batchelor:

The facts from the investigation by both the Washington Post and Hotline point to Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist as the major figures behind the scenes manipulating a shadow 527 named the Faith and Family Alliance of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Faith and Family Values used up to $100,000 to distribute pamphlets and make robo-calls to constituents to say that Eric Cantor did not represent “Virginia values” and that his opponent was the “only Christian in the contest.”

Cantor won by a few hundred votes in June 2000.

Cantor knew nothing of the generation of Faith and Family Values at the time. He especially did not know that Jack Abramoff used Faith and Family Values to launder internet gambling money (eLottery) to finance a cynical and successful lobbying effort to defeat a Congressional ban on internet gambling, and that the laundering process not only involved Reed and associates but also another major Republican op, Grover Norquist. The Black Hundreds character at Faith and Family Values who actually handled the checks in and out of the shell, Robin Vanderwall, is now serving a seven-year sentence for internet sex crime.

Cantor’s unnecessarily humble response when prompted how he felt about the smear at the time, how he feels now to learn that Abramoff , Reed, Norquist were responsible in a labyrinthine fashion for maintaining (and probably funding) the Faith and Family Alliance, was to say, “Politics is a very interesting business.”

69 From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 43:

Out of the Choctaw’s $325,000, ATR apparently kept $25,000 for its services. According to [Choctaw planner Nell Rogers], Norquist demanded that he receive a management fee for letting ATR be used as a conduit:

But I remember when we discussed needing a vehicle for doing the pass-through to Century Strategies that Jack had told me that Grover
would want a management fee. And we agreed to that, frankly didn’t know any other way to do it at that time.

From the Committee on Indian Affairs Report, page 45:

On February 17, 2000, Abramoff advised Reed that “ATR will be sending a second $300K today.” This money, too, came from the Choctaw. Norquist kept another $25,000 from the second transfer, which apparently surprised Abramoff.

From “Moyers on America: Capitols Crimes Transcript”

BILL MOYERS: Reed’s e-mails to Abramoff were insistent – he needed money and he needed it now. At one point, Abramoff responded:

JACK ABRAMOFF: Give me a number.

E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF: Give me a number. RALPH REED: $225K a week for TV; $450K for two weeks of TV.

E-mail from RALPH REED: $225K a week for TV; $450K for two weeks of TV.

E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF: Ralph, they are going to faint when they see these numbers.

BILL MOYERS: But Reed claimed he was worth it:

E-mail from RALPH REED: We have over 50 pastors mobilized, with a total membership in those churches of over 40,000…

MARVIN OLASKY: We have one of our reporters based in Dallas who did a lot of calling around and just asking pastors, “Well, were you involved in this?” And lo and behold, no one was.

BILL MOYERS: Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of WORLD, the leading national journal of the evangelical right. The magazine spent seven months investigating Reed’s involvement with Abramoff.

MARVIN OLASKY: There was a lot of fooling going on — that Abramoff, in a way, was manipulating Ralph Reed, Ralph Reed was manipulating others, but perhaps Ralph Reed was manipulating Abramoff and saying, “I’m accomplishing these things,” whereas he wasn’t. So, you know, there were millions of dollars changing hands, there were actually hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in this whole thing.

LOU DUBOSE: You know, there’s something ironic and amusing in all that, is that while Abramoff was shaking down these Indians, it’s quite possible that Ralph Reed was shaking down Jack Abramoff.

From “Houses of Cards” by Jamie Dean:

Mr. Abramoff wrote to his business partner, Michael Scanlon, saying: “He [Reed] wants a budget for radio in the state. I’m inclined to say yes, so we can get this Dobson ad up. He asked for $150K. . . .” Six days later, Mr. Abramoff asked Mr. Reed: “where are we with Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, etc.? we need to see some action in D.C. That’s what I sold them for $100K.”

Tom Minnery, a senior vice president at Focus on the Family, told WORLD it’s possible Mr. Reed asked Mr. Dobson to write a letter to Gale Norton, but he said Mr. Reed did not ask Focus on the Family to produce a radio ad in Louisiana. He added that he was “98 percent sure” Focus never produced a radio ad on the issue, though he was still searching his records at press time. He said Focus did produce radio “drop-ins” on the subject-non-commercial, short spots incorporated into Mr. Dobson’s daily show. Mr. Minnery said Focus had never taken money from Mr. Reed or Mr. Abramoff.

Mr. Minnery responded to the e-mails about Mr. Dobson by speculating that “it sounds like these guys were trying to take credit” for work Focus was already doing. He said Focus on the Family works on dozens of similar issues across the country each year, and that the organization had not become “an unwilling dupe of Jack Abramoff.” Though Mr. Minnery said Mr. Reed “did the wrong thing by taking gambling money to fight gambling,” he declined to comment specifically on Mr. Reed’s participation in the e-mails about Mr. Dobson.

70 The site Open Secrets lists the various donors to the 60 Plus Association, Top Organizations Disclosing Donations to 60 Plus Assn, 2012, as does Open Secrets, Top Organizations Disclosing Donations to 60 Plus Assn, 2012.

From “‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ for Monday, August 10, 2009”:

60 Plus is well-known in Republican and conservative circles. And like other corporate-funded P.R. operations, it often takes on causes that you wouldn’t logically connect to their stated purpose. The 60 Plus Association, which again, bills itself as a seniors advocacy group, they took on a subject they want us to believe is near and dear to the hearts of seniors.

Back in 2003, it was the issue of nuclear waste, urging Congress to, quote, “move forward and approve the safe storage of nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain.” Because seniors love nuclear waste being stored in Nevada. Old people love that.

From “High drug prices return as issue that stirs voters” by Thomas Edsall, originally published in the Washington Post:

In addition to lobbying, the drug industry spent more than $100 million in 1999 and 2000 to create a supposed grass-roots group called Citizens for Better Medicare. Led by PhRMA’s former marketing director, Tim Ryan, CBM flooded the airwaves with commercials accusing congressional Democrats of “playing politics” by backing legislation to reduce drug prices.

Also, the industry awarded unrestricted “educational grants” — declining to disclose the exact amounts — to two supportive groups, United Seniors and 60-Plus. In this election cycle, United Seniors has bought $12 million worth of ads, according to consultants working for the Democratic Party, while 60-Plus has spent $595,000 on radio ads in seven battleground congressional districts.

The 60 Plus Association is also discussed in an in-depth post on a woman involved in registering many such groups, “Maureen Otis: A Mystery Inside A Mystery”

71 From “Money, Mobsters, Murder” by Matthew Continetti:

Konstantinos Boulis was born in Kavala, Greece, in 1949. His father was a fisherman, and his family was poor. In 1968 the young Boulis joined the Merchant Marine. It was an escape route. Boulis jumped ship in Nova Scotia that year. He settled in Toronto, where he took a job as a dishwasher at a Mr. Submarine sandwich shop. Within five years he had bought the shop and had become Mr. Submarine’s CEO. Eventually, under Boulis’s leadership, the chain grew to over 200 stores. The sale of the company in the mid 1970s made Boulis a multimillionaire. He was 25.

In 1978 Boulis moved to Florida. At first he thought he was moving south to retire; but by 1983 he had started to put his fortune to work, buying another sandwich franchise, Miami Subs, and also buying property throughout south Florida, including apartment buildings and hotels and restaurants. Boulis started SunCruz in 1994, and sold Miami Subs–which had grown to over 150 franchises throughout the United States–to Nathan’s fast-food company in 1998. The price: $4.2 million. That sum probably seemed like small fry to Boulis, whose net worth then hovered around $40 million. His was, needless to say, a success story, an example of the plasticity of American life–Boulis could reinvent himself at will, from Greek to Canadian to American, from restaurateur to Ft. Lauderdale Donald Trump to casino impresario, rising from dishwasher to powerbroker in a few decades.

But there was a problem. Boulis was not a U.S. citizen. On August 3, 1998, he was indicted on charges of violating the U.S. shipping code, which forbids foreign nationals from owning American commercial vessels. Boulis had clashed with the authorities before. SunCruz boats had been raided by police, who argued that gambling had occurred in Florida waters. And community activists in Hollywood Beach, Florida–midway between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, where Boulis had a home–had fought the basing of a SunCruz boat in their community. Boulis had won those battles.

Not this time. It took over a year to reach settlement with the government, but Boulis was able to work out a deal in which he would pay a fine, sell his interest in SunCruz, and thereby escape a jail sentence. So that Boulis’s selling position would remain uncompromised, the deal with the feds would be kept a secret. It was January 2000. Boulis needed a buyer.

He discussed possibilities with his attorney, Art Dimopoulos. Dimopoulos worked at Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, a megafirm in Washington, D.C. One day in the winter of 2000, Dimopoulos discussed his client’s plight with the firm’s star lobbyist, the vice president for government affairs, Jack Abramoff. Abramoff mentioned to Dimopoulos that he might know someone who would be interested in purchasing the casino line.

That person was him. Abramoff had represented Indian gaming interests for some time; why not get in on both ends of the action? After all, casinos held a lot of profit for little work, and Abramoff had many contacts in the industry. Besides, his most recent venture, Potomac Outdoor Advertising, a small company that placed ads on Potomac River water taxis, had sunk like a rock. The casino line seemed much more promising.

But there was a catch. Preston Gates ethics rules prevented employees from entering into business deals with entities represented by the firm. SunCruz Casinos was such an entity. Abramoff’s solution was to not tell his employer about the deal. Instead he floated the idea to his partners on the water taxi scheme, Adam Kidan and Ben Waldman. Both had known Abramoff since his days as national chairman of the College Republicans, and both were enthusiastic.

72 From “Money, Mobsters, Murder” by Matthew Continetti:

[Adam Kidan] grew up in New York, and went to college at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He was a young conservative. At GW he joined the College Republicans, and got to know the group’s national chairman, Jack Abramoff, who was studying law at Georgetown. The two became friends.

After graduation, Kidan returned to New York, and began taking classes at Brooklyn Law School. He seems to have known exactly what he wanted to do in life: go to school, get good grades, work in politics, make a whole lot of money. He volunteered on George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign, got his law degree in 1989, and took a job as president of the Four Freedoms Foundation, a New York City-based nonprofit or “private sector initiative” meant to “assist Eastern Europe and other democratically emerging nations around the world.” The foundation appears to have been a tax shelter disguised as an exercise in conservative benevolence. “Government cannot be expected to bear the financial burden of assisting countries that have chosen to adopt democratic principles,” Kidan said in the February 14, 1990, press release announcing the venture. “The private sector must assume some responsibility if these countries are expected to compete in today’s world market.”

Kidan’s association with the foundation was short-lived. In the early 1990s he went into business for himself, starting a chain of bagel joints in ritzy neighborhoods on Long Island. Kidan’s partner in the bagel business was one Michael Cavallo, now deceased. In October 2005, NYPD officials told the Miami Herald that Cavallo was “an associate” of known gangsters. In all probability one of those known gangsters was Anthony Moscatiello, aka Big Tony, who began to frequent Kidan’s bagel shops. “I had advice from him occasionally because I was in the food business,” Kidan told lawyers for the Boulis estate in a 2001 deposition. Moscatiello owned a catering company, Gran-Sons Inc., in Queens.

“This is someone I know who has experience in feeding large groups of people,” Kidan has said of Moscatiello. In fact some of the large groups of people that Moscatiello had experience feeding were members of the Gambino crime family, including legendary mob boss John Gotti, who would often hire Big Tony to cater family weddings. Moscatiello has a relationship with the Gambinos going back at least two decades. On August 23, 1983, he was indicted on charges of heroin trafficking, along with several others, including Gotti’s brother Gene. Gene went to jail. The charges against Moscatiello were dropped.

It was a stormy friendship. But the two persevered. In 1991 Moscatiello was photographed accompanying [Gene] Gotti into court.

73 From “Money, Mobsters, Murder” by Matthew Continetti:

On February 14, 1994, a few months before the Republicans took over Congress, Dial-a-Mattress announced the opening of its first Washington, D.C., franchise–Adam R. Kidan, proprietor. The press release marking the occasion is notable mainly for Kidan’s use of exclamation points and lame puns. “I went to school at the George Washington University and always dreamed of coming back to D.C. to work. Now, I’m actually helping other people dream a little easier with a good night’s sleep!” Kidan said. “We knew the D.C. area was a great choice. This was a decision we didn’t have to sleep on!”

Kidan did his best to become a local celebrity. He cut his own radio advertisements, 30-second-long exercises in commercial sadism in which Kidan would holler at potential customers and repeat, mantra-like, the Dial-a-Mattress slogan: “Leave off the last ‘S’–that’s for ‘Savings’!

That this story was in all likelihood apocryphal was beside the point. It satisfied a dual need: Kidan’s need for press, and the press’s need for stories that made the Clintons look cheap. He reappeared in McCaslin’s column on March 14, 1997, peddling another fiction:

Adam Kidan, the chairman and chief executive officer of Dial-A-Mattress, tells us that the queen-size Serta Perfect Sleeper his company sold to the White House in January 1993 for $549 is obviously holding up well for all the wear and tear.

“When the White House called our 800-number, they told us it was for the Lincoln Bedroom and Mr. Clinton’s mom would be sleeping on it,” Mr. Kidan reveals.

He quips: Dial-A-Mattress’ slogan “has always been ‘Leave off the last S, that’s for savings,’ but maybe it should be changed to ‘Leave off the last S, that’s for solicitations.”

Note the date. There was no Dial-a-Mattress franchise in Washington when the Clintons moved into the White House in 1993.

What may seem like a small error or a little white lie is in fact indicative of a broader truth: Kidan’s public demeanor was increasingly at odds with private reality. Behind the press mentions and charity drives, behind the appointments to the Greater Washington Urban League and the D.C. Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee, behind the radio commercials and the speeches to undergraduates at George Washington and the rose-tinted business projections, by the end of the ’90s Kidan was mired in litigation, and his business was at risk.

In 1995 Kidan had filed a 29-count lawsuit against the Dial-a-Mattress franchiser in New York. He lost. In 1995 Kidan had declared personal bankruptcy. In 1999 he was forced to sell his Dial-a-Mattress franchise, and his online mattress company, eMattress.com, collapsed. The same year, Sami Shemtov sued Kidan for stealing $250,000 from a business deal as well as the $15,000 Shemtov had put up as reward money after Judy Shemtov was murdered. Kidan was forced to repay him. In 2000 New York state had Kidan disbarred.

Kidan told people that he had founded Dial-a-Mattress. He had not. Kidan told people that he had been a “principal” in and “general counsel” to the St. Maarten Hotel Beach Club and Casino. No such establishment exists. Kidan told people that he was a “former partner” at the law firm “Duncan, Fish, Bergen & Kidan.” I have found no evidence that there was ever such a firm. Kidan told people that his friend Anthony Moscatiello was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Moscatiello was not. Adam Kidan is a bold and unapologetic liar.

ONE DAY IN MARCH 2000, Michael Scanlon, who had moved on from his job in DeLay’s office to a job with Abramoff at Preston Gates, approached Ohio congressman Bob Ney. Would Ney mind inserting some comments into the Congressional Record, Scanlon asked? Ney agreed. This is what Ney entered into the Congressional Record on March 30, 2000:

One such example is the case of Suncruz casinos based out of Florida. Florida authorities, particularly Attorney General Butterworth, have repeatedly reprimanded Suncruz casinos and its owner Gus Boulis for taking illegal bets, not paying out their customers properly and has had to take steps to prevent Suncruz from conducting operations all together. In fact, a few years ago the Broward County Sheriffs Office, under the supervision of Mr. Butterworth, raided Suncruz ships, seizing their equipment.

There was more:

Mr. Speaker, how Suncruz Casinos and Gus Boulis conduct themselves with regard to Florida laws is very unnerving. But the consumer rights issue is even more disheartening. On December 1, 1998, the Broward County Sheriffs department announced that they had uncovered evidence that dealers on SunCruz ships were “cheating passengers by using incomplete decks of cards.” This type of conduct gives the gaming industry a black eye and should not be tolerated.

But he did see, a few days later, the following statement, which Rep. Bob Ney entered into the Congressional Record on October 26:

Since my previous statement, I have come to learn that SunCruz Casino now finds itself under new ownership and, more importantly, that its new owner has a renowned reputation for honesty and integrity. The new owner, Mr. Adam Kidan, is most well known for his successful enterprise, Dial-a-Mattress, but he is also well known as a solid individual and a respected member of his community.

74 From “Money, Mobsters, Murder” by Matthew Continetti:

Kidan said that he was worth $26 million. But Kidan specifically accounted for only about $874,000, and said the rest of his money was in “closely held corporations.”

Such errors seem to have been intentional. The indictment alleges that Abramoff and Kidan repeatedly misled representatives from Foothill Capital and Citadel Equity. The indictment specifically mentions an August 8, 2000, meeting in New York City at which Abramoff told the bankers that he was a partner at Preston Gates (he was not) and Kidan claimed to have had experience in running a casino (he had none).

But none of the money lenders knew that. On September 18 there was another meeting in New York. There, Foothill Capital and Citadel Equity agreed to extend a $60 million loan if Abramoff and Kidan put up $23 million of their own money.

On September 26 Kidan drew up another “closing statement” that read, in part, “CASH FROM BUYERS in the amount of $23,000,000 . . . has been received by the Sellers,” which “closing statement” Kidan then faxed to New York City. And which “closing statement,” it now appears, was only one part of an elaborate fraud. The next day, according to the indictment of Abramoff and Kidan, “the defendants” forged a document purporting to show evidence of a $23 million wire transfer from an account at Chevy Chase Savings bank in suburban Maryland to Boulis’s account at Ocean Bank in Miami Beach, and faxed that forgery to Foothill representatives in Boston. The forgery was titled, clumsily, “Funds Transfer Notification.”

But no such transfer occurred. No such funds existed. Nothing had happened–nothing, that is, except the transmission of forgeries and two flimsy IOUs.

Upon receipt of the forged documents, Foothill Capital and Citadel Equity released a $60 million line of credit towards the purchase of SunCruz Casinos. Jack Abramoff was in the casino business.

75 From “Lisa Baron’s Salacious Memoir” by Michelle Goldberg:

Given this opening, one might expect that Baron’s book, which comes out later this month, will be a gossipy tell-all packed with Republican secrets. It’s timing seems perfect, given that the pace of sex scandals has lately picked up faster than that of natural disasters. In fact, though, there’s not all that much dirt here. We do learn that Ralph Reed set Baron up with Jack Abramoff crony Adam Kidan-here called Jason, but very thinly disguised-and that, under the pretext of having to make a business call, he lured her to his hotel room on the first date, then stripped naked and lunged at her. More significantly, there are hints that it really was Reed who spread miscegenation rumors about McCain-at one point, he fumes, “If John McCain thinks I did a number of him in South Carolina, he hasn’t seen anything yet!”

76 From “Money, Mobsters, Murder” by Matthew Continetti:

On September 22, in secret, Abramoff and Kidan convinced Boulis to accept IOUs for $20 million in exchange for a 10 percent interest in the newly reorganized SunCruz Casinos. The deal was doubly illegal: Abramoff and Kidan were violating the terms of their purchase agreement with their financiers, and Boulis was violating the terms of his settlement with the government, which required that he separate himself entirely from his company.

It is hard to say how much involvement Abramoff had in the day-to-day operations of SunCruz Casinos. We know that he remained in Washington while Kidan moved to Florida. We know that Abramoff and Kidan began to pay themselves salaries of $500,000 a year, that Kidan bought a 30-foot boat and a Mercedes S 500 and moved into a condo for which he paid $4,300 a month. We know that SunCruz quickly hired Michael Scanlon as its “public affairs specialist” and spokesman, and that the company began to pay for Abramoff’s $230,000-a-year skybox at FedEx Field. We know that Kidan soon fired many of Boulis’s hires, members of the Boulis family and the larger South Florida Greek community who depended on their benefactor’s largesse. “We fired his friends, we fired his family, and he wasn’t happy with it,” Kidan would later tell the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

We know that Boulis and Kidan did not get along. Boulis loudly voiced his opposition to his new partners’ way of managing the business, and on October 24, 2000, Boulis wrote a letter demanding those partners pay him the $20 million they had promised. The letter was a flop. Boulis never saw any money.

The SunCruz deal collapsed in the space of a few months. The company was fraught with infighting. By December 2000 Kidan and Boulis were no longer speaking. On December 5 Joan Wagner, Boulis’s lieutenant, called a meeting. All the principals attended except Abramoff, who was traveling overseas.

The meeting was a disaster. Witnesses later told police that Kidan began to scream, threatening and insulting Boulis and Wagner. Furious, Boulis assaulted Kidan. Someone called 911. Kidan filed a police report in which he accused Boulis of stabbing him in the neck with a pen.

From the movie Casino Jack:

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

Ralph Reed Venal Rex

77 From “Money, Mobsters, Murder” by Matthew Continetti:

After the December 5, 2000, meeting Kidan and Abramoff exchanged a flurry of emails. Kidan suggested a “concerted press effort” targeted at Boulis. “I was the victim of family violence before,” Kidan wrote. “Let’s use that in our favor (my mother wouldn’t mind) to show how we can’t tolerate violence and the likes of criminals. Let’s get the protective order. By painting the picture we box him. The negative is that his profile shows that he will retaliate against me.”

Abramoff replied: “I agree with this completely.”

Then Abramoff sent an email to Boulis’s attorney Anthony Damianakis: “It is my belief that Gus and Adam need to resolve the issue of what Gus is owed and Gus needs to move on out of the company.”

Kidan began to behave as though his life were in danger. He obtained the restraining order against Boulis that he had mentioned to Abramoff. He hired bodyguards. He purchased a $180,000 lease on an armor-plated Mercedes. And in his emails to Abramoff, Kidan began to refer to a “friend in NY,” who he said was “acting out of concern for my safety.” “By sending security I am afraid it will make things worse,” Kidan wrote Abramoff, somewhat cryptically. “And I will ask him today to remove them. I appreciate his efforts, but the situation is at a critical point.”

Meanwhile, Kidan’s media strategy took shape. When he obtained the restraining order against Boulis in January 2001, Kidan made sure to contact Jeff Shields, a reporter at the Sun Sentinel covering SunCruz. “This guy is violent–he’s sleazy,” Kidan said. Later, describing his December 5 fight with Boulis, Kidan would tell Shields, “If someone’s going to jump across at me in a business meeting, that’s when someone shows they’re violent–they don’t care. That’s when what happened with my mother hits home with me.”

Around this time Kidan put Anthony Moscatiello–presumably his “friend in NY”–on the SunCruz payroll. In December 2000 he sent $20,000 in checks to Jennifer Moscatiello, Big Tony’s daughter. Between December 13, 2000, and June 8, 2001, Kidan authorized $145,000 in checks to Anthony Moscatiello’s daughter and his company Gran-Sons Inc. Also in December 2000 Kidan sent $40,000 in checks to Moon Over Miami Beach, a mysterious company incorporated by one Anthony “Little Tony” Ferrari, who was known around town for bragging that he was John Gotti’s “cousin.” Ferrari had been arrested several times, most recently in 1999 for attacking a lawyer who had brought suit against his business partners, Frank J. and Thomas L. Pepper. Between December 7, 2000, and March 29, 2001, Kidan authorized $95,000 in checks to Moon Over Miami Beach, which amount does not include the $10,000 in free poker chips Kidan provided Thomas Pepper and three associates on July 5, 2001.

Asked about the checks to Moscatiello in 2001, Kidan said they were for catering and “food and beverage” services that Moscatiello had provided. There is no evidence any such services were provided. Asked about the checks to Anthony Ferrari in 2001, Kidan said they were for security operations. There is no evidence that Kidan’s life was ever in danger.

78 From “Money, Mobsters, Murder” by Matthew Continetti:

The night it happened, February 6, 2001, Boulis had two meetings, one at 5 p.m., the other a few hours later. The first was in Hollywood Beach, where Boulis had a few business properties. This meeting was about acquiring one more. In Hollywood he sat and talked with Joe LaBarca inside LaBarca’s restaurant, Ruffy’s Restaurant and Marina. LaBarca wanted a buyer; Boulis wanted to bulldoze the restaurant and use the land as a parking lot for a hotel he was hoping to build. Noncommital, Boulis left Ruffy’s, right along the water, and drove to Ft. Lauderdale, to an office building he had purchased some time before. There he had his second meeting. It lasted a few hours.

By the time that meeting was over, around 9:15 p.m., night had fallen, and Boulis was ready to go home. He said goodbye to his business associate, left the office, and walked outside to where his BMW was parked. He took out his keys, unlocked the door, and got behind the wheel. He pulled out of the lot and turned south, heading home. It was a cool night, and there was a breeze off Lake Mabel, and Boulis rolled down his window.

A few blocks later, at the corner of Miami and 20th, a car pulled in front of Boulis, so he had to slow down, then stop. The car in front of Boulis didn’t budge.

He waited. And as he waited, another car–a black Mustang in the oncoming, northbound traffic–pulled alongside him without stopping or even slowing. The Mustang’s driver had opened his window, too. Boulis turned to look at the driver. Whereupon he made the grim discovery that the man in the Mustang was pointing a gun at him, and that raising your hand in front of you is not enough to stop three hollow-tip bullets–the man in the Mustang fired many more, forensic evidence shows–from burrowing deep into your chest.

Suddenly the car in front of Boulis sped away. The black Mustang was gone into the night. Bleeding and barely conscious, Boulis pressed the accelerator, headed south a few blocks, then turned a corner . . . and then, mid-blackout, lost control of his car–spinning across the median into oncoming traffic, and finally crashing into a tree next to a Burger King.

The first ambulances arrived in minutes. They took Boulis–who, the paramedics determined, was in cardiac arrest–to nearby Broward General Medical Center, where he died on an operating table. It was 10:20 p.m.

Boulis’s death did nothing to slow SunCruz’s unraveling. Lawsuits continued to multiply, with the Boulis estate first suing Kidan for ownership of SunCruz, then suing him for conspiring to kill Boulis. On June 22, 2001, SunCruz filed for bankruptcy. Abramoff and Waldman signed over their stake to the Boulis estate, making Boulis’s heirs the majority shareholders. Kidan was left with 20 percent. But not for long. On July 9, Kidan cut a deal in which he would give up his stake in exchange for $200,000 and an end to the civil suit against him. Almost as quickly as they had entered the casino industry, Abramoff and Kidan made their exit.

79 From “The man who blew the whistle on Jack Abramoff tells the story of how he did it” by Susan Crabtree:

In early January 2003 Rodgers was up past midnight, watching a recap of his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers playoff win when he got a fateful call that both startled and intrigued him.

“Tom, I was told I could trust you,” the voice on the phone said.

Rodgers listened intently as Bernie Sprague, the subchief of the Saginaw Chippewa of Mount Pleasant, Mich., told him about his tribe’s disturbing interactions with Abramoff.

“Tom, we’re being threatened by our lobbyist,” Rodgers was told.

Rodgers responded, “What do you mean, threatened?”

Sprague informed Rodgers that Abramoff was going to sue him because he was questioning the invoices and what he was doing to justify the millions of dollars in fees.

Sprague needed to know if Rodgers could help him.

In the months and years that followed these exchanges, Rodgers worked with members of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe, the Alabama Coushatta and their cousins the Coushatta tribe of Louisiana to gather internal invoices and documents and slowly and strategically leak them to the media after first contacting the BIA.

“We were told [by the BIA] that it was an internal affair,” Rodgers recalled. “I turned to [Vice Chairman of the Louisiana Coushatta tribe David Sickey and Sprague] on a conference call one night and said, ‘Now we need to go another way. We’ve accumulated the data; we have all the information we need. We need to leak it.’ ”

Aware that the national media tended to give scant attention to Native American issues, Rodgers first advised Sprague and Sickey to contact their local press, the Mt. Pleasant Morning News, the Lake Charles American Press and the Alexandria Town Talk.

After these initial local articles appeared, Rodgers said he sent 14 manila folders with a one-inch packet of the articles, invoices and other documents to several good-government groups, as well as the National Journal and The Washington Post’s Susan Schmidt, who would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for her series on the Abramoff scandal.

His ability to keep his identity secret for so many years is a testament to the insular world of Native Americans; Rodgers isn’t afraid to stand out in a crowd.

Usually clad in an all-black matching shirt and sport coat, his unusual combination of high cheekbones and deep-set green eyes illustrates his mixed Blackfoot Indian and Irish heritage.

80 From “Michael Scanlon sentenced to 20 months” by John Bresnahan:

Michael Scanlon, a business partner of disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, was sentenced today to 20 months in federal prison for his role in the scandal that helped bring down former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

The prison sentence handed out by District Judge Ellen Huvelle marked the end of long fall from grace for Scanlon, a one-time DeLay aide who made enormous sums working with Abramoff, only to see it all fall apart.

From “Ney’s Sentence Ends Saturday” by Joselyn King:

This weekend former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney will be a free man after serving 17 months of a 30-month federal sentence.

WHAT ABOUT HIS FELLOW INMATE?

When Bob Ney arrived at the Federal Correction Institution in Morgantown, W.Va. on March 1, 2007, “Survivor” television game show winner Richard Hatch had already served seven months of a 51-month sentence in the Morgantown facility for failing to pay income tax on his $1 million prize.

Ney, who was sentenced to 30 months on federal corruption charges, served nearly a year in prison and was released in February into the custody of a halfway house.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Hatch is due to be released on Oct. 7, 2009.

“Jack Abramoff on His New Talk Radio Show, Lobbying Reform & More” by Lloyd Grove:

“People ask me, ‘How can we believe you?’ And my answer to you is, first of all, I am a changed man,” says Abramoff, who served 43 months in the federal pen as the central figure in last decade’s Washington corruption scandal involving Indian tribal gaming establishments and influence peddling. “But I am not going to be able to convince you I am changed any more than somebody can convince you that they love you. You have to look at people’s actions.”

And, let’s not forget, also to make some money. Abramoff-who has little hope of paying the $23 million in court-ordered restitution to his victims, especially the Indian tribes that were his ill-treated clients-wants to generate income by giving paid speeches.

81 Key dates in the Gus Boulis murder case:

August 2005: Federal grand jury indicts Kidan and Abramoff for fraud related to the SunCruz purchase; they eventually plead guilty.

October 2006: Kidan begins serving a five-year prison sentence; he cooperates with prosecutors and is released in May 2009.

From “More delays expected in Gus Boulis murder trial” by Rafael A. Olmeda:

Anthony “Big Tony” Moscatiello, Anthony “Little Tony” Ferrari and James Fiorillo, all of whom have been connected to the Gambino crime family, were arrested six years ago and face the death penalty if convicted. For now, Moscatiello is out on $500,000 bail. Bail was set for the other two defendants as well, but they were unable to post the amount and remain in the Broward Main Jail.

Neither Kidan nor Abramoff has been accused of involvement in Boulis’ murder. Kidan has maintained for years that he hired Moscatiello, now 71, for protection because of his mob connections and because Kidan feared Boulis would become violent. But Kidan says he never wanted his business rival killed.

From “James “Pudgy” Fiorillo Describes Role In ’01 Murder Of Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis, Miami Subs Founder” by Curt Anderson:

An admitted conspirator in the 2001 slaying of a prominent South Florida businessman described Tuesday how he conducted surveillance before the mob-style hit and later helped dispose of a handgun and car used in the crime.

James “Pudgy” Fiorillo, 34, did not witness the Feb. 6, 2001 killing of Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis, founder of the Miami Subs restaurant chain and onetime owner of the SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet. But Fiorillo said he was deeply involved in the plot and its aftermath, including a phone call made the night of the killing by suspect Anthony “Little Tony” Ferrari after the two watched a television newscast.

“Trial off until August in Florida businessman killing” by Associated Press:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Trial is off until late summer in the 2001 mob-style slaying of the former owner of the Miami Subs restaurant chain and SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet.

A defense attorney’s required knee surgery led a Broward County judge on Monday to delay the trial of two men until Aug. 12. The trial had been scheduled to start next week.

Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis was killed by a gunman who pulled alongside his car on a Fort Lauderdale street. Facing the death penalty if convicted are Anthony “Big Tony” Moscatiello and Anthony “Little Tony” Ferrari. Both have pleaded not guilty.

82 The Sunday Paper which used to host Baron’s column has gone south, if you know what I mean and I think you know what I mean: it’s defunct, like Buffalo Bill, so it can only be found on the wayback machine web archive (a grateful hat tip to the blog, Chamblee54).

My big cavernous pit of love

By Lisa Baron

I swear I don’t have a big vagina, but over the Thanksgiving holiday, I told my father-in-law I did.

That’s right, I told him right to his face that his daughter-in-law, the woman his beloved first born son chose for a wife comes with a big cavernous pit of love.

I’m not frickin’ kidding either. And I committed this transgression against myself without even saying a word, I signed it. I held up my hands, connected the fleshy base of my palms together and separated them to form the letter V. Then I turned, smiled and showed it to my father-in-law. I wish it weren’t true, oh do I wish it weren’t true.

And it’s not like I go around talking about my vagina either. The only people I talk about my whoo-ha with are my best friends and Debbie, the bikini waxer. And as far as Debbie goes, we only discussed it once-to decide on what was to be eliminated. And I’ve only ever mentioned my netherworld to my own dad-and mom-once.

The princess and the prostitute

By Lisa Baron

I’m downloading gangsta rap into my iPod-a gift from Jimmy’s boss. Strange gift from the general manager of a radio station. Sort of. He gave one to me, Fred’s wife, Fat Kid’s wife and Wally’s wife. He wants us to listen to our iPods instead of the station’s morning show. If we’re not listening to the morning show, then we don’t hear our husbands clamoring on about the desperate state of affairs in their homes. And if we don’t hear them whining, they are spared the shrill squawks of done-wrong housewives. So now I have an iPod and Jimmy gets to complain without retaliation and everyone is happy. Sort of.

“My inner slut was snuffed out well before her time.”
Anyway, I’m shoving Eazy-E and the 2 Live Crew into the spores of my iPod and somewhere between “Eazy-Duz-It” and “Me So Horny,” a prickly heat rises through my body, finally breaking into a cool, mellow mourn over the lost chance of ever being with a black man. Or a yellow man, for that matter, or the golden hue of the honey-brown Italian or his first cousin, the dreamy Spaniard. In my monomaniacal pursuit of finding “the one,” I selflessly worried about keeping my numbers low before marriage; totally screwing myself in the process. This insane logic (everyone lies about their numbers, anyway) has left me mentally and numerically low.

83 From “Washington’s Invisible Man” by David Margolick:

Ralph Reed’s race for lieutenant governor of Georgia has foundered since it was disclosed that Reed, who says he opposes gambling, accepted gambling money from Abramoff on a lobbying job, then insisted he hadn’t known about it. The two are now estranged; when Norquist got married last year, Reed steered clumsily clear of Abramoff’s table.

Just to cite one typical example, the head of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman, said in an interview, “Abramoff is someone who we don’t know a lot about. We know what we read in the paper,” even though, according to documents obtained by Vanity Fair, Mehlman exchanged e-mail with Abramoff, did him political favors (such as blocking Clinton-administration alumnus Allen Stayman from keeping a State Department job), had Sabbath dinner at his house, and offered to pick up his tab at Signatures. (According to a spokesperson, Mehlman does not recall the e-mail exchange, “because he was often contacted by political supporters with suggestions and ideas,” or the Sabbath dinner.)

Then there’s presidential adviser Karl Rove. He has not spoken of his relationship with Abramoff, but the White House insists Rove, too, barely knew him, acknowledging only that they met at a political event in the 1990s. “He would describe him as a casual acquaintance,” a White House spokesman said. But Abramoff was Rove’s spiritual heir at the College Republicans in the 1980s; both men headed the group, and the two met from time to time in connection with it. After George W. Bush took office, Susan Ralston, Abramoff’s administrative assistant, took the same position with Rove at the White House, where Abramoff met with Rove at least once. (An eyewitness also recalls seeing Abramoff emerge from a car near the White House and have what looked like a pre-arranged, street-corner meeting with Rove; Abramoff says he can’t recall that.) Rove dined several times at Signatures and was Abramoff’s guest in the owner’s box at the N.C.A.A. basketball playoffs a few years ago, sitting for much of the game by Abramoff’s side. Recently, three former associates of Abramoff’s have told how he frequently mentioned his strong ties to Rove, and one described being present when Abramoff took a phone call from Rove’s office.

84 From “The Devil Inside” by Bob Mosher:

Ralph Reed is going to own this room. Granted, it’s only a standard-issue campus auditorium at Emory University, half filled at best for the annual Georgia College Republicans convention. But to the former boy wonder of evangelical politics, it looks like heavenly shelter on this drizzly February morning. The Christian Coalition co-founder’s first campaign for public office–lieutenant governor of Georgia, a position Reed and his fans envision as a stepping stone to bigger things–has turned into a waking nightmare. Every week brings a new revelation about the millions in dirty money Reed earned by duping his fellow evangelicals into putting their political muscle behind “Casino Jack” Abramoff’s gambling clients. Reed’s huge leads in both popularity polls and fundraising have almost disappeared. Instead of making his triumphant debut as a politician, the man Time magazine called “The Right Hand of God” is fast becoming the new poster boy for Christian-right corruption.

The Georgia CRs finally give Reed a polite hand for his creative stab at self-redemption. A few awkward minutes later, Reed is climbing the steps toward the exit, wearing an iron-willed smile while making an elaborate show of “gripping and grinning,” even though only a few hands reach out to him. It’s one more sign of his mounting desperation to project the air of a winner–a desperation that led to embarrassment in January, when Reed’s campaign offered $20 and a free hotel stay to supporters who would attend the Georgia Christian Coalition’s annual convention and cheer for the man who invented the coalition.

85 From “The Sins of Ralph Reed” by Sean Flynn:

Maurice Atkinson says he will not question Reed’s faith, because Atkinson is a Christian, and Christians don’t do that. He believes in grace, believes that all men fall short of the glory of God, believes he shouldn’t be picking specks from another man’s eye when he surely has a timber in his own.

Reed could have worked for anyone he wanted to, could have lent his considerable talents to any number of Christian organizations, real ones, too, the kind that existed before Reed needed some preachers to front for his corporate clients. But Enron? Indian casinos? “He’s either an awfully cheap whore,” Atkinson says, “or he’s diabolical.”

86 “Ralph Reed a no-show at McCain fundraiser.” by Amanda Terkel:

Last week, news broke that Ralph Reed, former Christian Coalition director and crony of Jack Abramoff, would be helping to raise money for Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) fundraiser in Atlanta. Reed “touted himself as a member of McCain’s ‘Victory 2008 Team’ in an e-mail that solicited donations on McCain’s behalf,” and public watchdog organizations called on McCain to denounce Reed. The Wall Street Journal now reports that Reed was a no-show at tonight’s Atlanta fundraiser.

“Obama Camp: Ralph Reed Uninvited to McCain’s Fundraiser” by Amanda Parker:

ABC News’ Ron Claiborne reports: The Obama campaign is continuing to hammer Republican Sen. John McCain for former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed’s involvement in a McCain fundraising event in Atlanta.

Reed – who didn’t show up to McCain’s fundraiser tonight – was implicated, but not charged, in lobbying deals involving Indian casinos with disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. McCain participated in the congressional probe of Abramoff’s lobbying. Abramoff is now serving time at a minimum security federal prison in Maryland.

87 From “Exclusive: The Astroturf Lobbyists Behind The New ‘Tea Party’ Group Pushing To Repeal Wall Street Reform” by Lee Fang:

On a television set up at the booth, a video played on loop claiming Wall Street reform is an “unconstitutional takeover of the U.S. economy.” The video, set to scary attack ad music, argued that Tea Party activists should be as angry at financial reform as they were against President Obama’s health reforms:

NARRATOR: From the same people who brought you Obamacare comes a controversial sequel: Dodd Frank. Last year, President Obama and the Democrat-run Congress rushed through the sweeping overhaul of healthcare amounting to the unconstitutional power grab followed quickly by Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform And Consumer Protection Act. Just like Obamacare it created a massive, unconstitutional regulatory bureaucracy. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a runaway regulatory machine completely unaccountable to the president, the Congress, and the courts.

Who is behind Dodd Frank Exposed? Although the organization is ostensibly hosted by the “Judicial Crisis Network” – a group that has no actual registration or office – Dodd Frank Exposed is actually run by two veteran astroturf lobbyists, Gary Marx and Robert Bork Jr. Marx is a vice president at Ralph Reed’s lobbying firm Century Strategies. Bork runs his own public relations company called the Bork Communication Group.

Marx, on the other hand, did not return any of our calls. His firm, Century Strategies, has a similar history as Bork. Century Strategies created Christian-themed front groups for Enron to lobby for energy deregulation, launched a religion-based direct mail campaign to maintain sweatshops in the Mariana Islands, and was caught up in a money laundering scheme with Jack Abramoff for his casino clients. Although Marx lists companies like Walmart among his clients, it is not clear who is paying him for his new Tea Party group pushing to repeal financial reform. Notably, the Dodd Frank Exposed website applauds litigation sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is funded by banks like Citigroup and Bank of America, for challenging the constitutionality of Wall Street reform.

From “Did The Cable Industry Pay Ralph Reed Millions Of Dollars To Orchestrate Tea Party Opposition To Net Neutrality?” by Lee Fang:

According to documents obtained by ThinkProgress, the National Cable and Telecom Association (NCTA), a trade association that represents cable providers like Comcast and Qwest Communications, has provided Reed’s lobbying firm with at least $3,462,117 worth of contracts in the last three years alone. Century Strategies, the firm founded by Reed and fellow astroturf lobbyist Tim Phillips in 1997, received the contracts for what NCTA deemed “legal and advertising” services. View a screenshot of the relevant documents here and here.

Around the same time the cable industry paid Reed over $3 million, cable companies across the country were battling a regulation known as “net neutrality” – a rule that allows Internet freedom by ensuring that Internet providers, like cable companies, do not discriminate based on content or bandwidth speeds. The NCTA, Reed’s cable trade association benefactor, lobbied aggressively to prevent Congress or the FCC from enacting net neutrality rules. The trade association, along with member companies like Comcast, ran ads and hired many lobbyists.

Mysteriously, around the time of the NCTA million-dollar contracts to Century Strategies, Reed’s old business partner Tim Phillips took up the charge of defeating net neutrality. His group, Americans for Prosperity, pushed conspiracies that net neutrality has something to do with communism. As the FCC continued its deliberations over the rule, AFP launched a $1.4 million ad campaign with Tea Party-themes against net neutrality.

88 “Reed to refashion coalition” by Aaron Gould Sheinin:

Ralph Reed believes conservative voters of faith need a Christian Coalition 2.0.

And the man once dubbed the “right hand of God” by Time magazine is returning to the arena where he had his greatest success to try and make it so.

“This is not going to be your daddy’s Christian Coalition,” Reed said in an interview to describe his new venture, the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “It has to be younger, hipper, less strident, more inclusive and it has to harness the 21st century that will enable us to win in the future.”

“Even though I’ve been doing other things, this is kind of like Steve Jobs returning to Apple,” Reed said.

89 From “An Evangelical Is Back From Exile, Lifting Romney” by Jo Becker:

Three years ago, Mr. Reed formed the Faith and Freedom Coalition and began assembling what he calls the largest-ever database of reliably conservative religious voters. In the coming weeks, he says, each of those 17.1 million registered voters in 15 key states will receive three phone calls and at least three pieces of mail. Seven million of them will get e-mail and text messages. Two million will be visited by one of more than 5,000 volunteers. Over 25 million voter guides will be distributed in 117,000 churches.

White evangelicals are a crucial voting constituency, 26 percent of the 2008 electorate and overwhelmingly Republican in recent presidential cycles, exit polls show. With so few truly undecided voters left, bumping up evangelical turnout in swing states like Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio would almost certainly help Mr. Romney.

From “Ralph Reed in the Marianas Trenches “ by Bill Moyers:

As the sun slowly sets over the Republican National Convention in Tampa, we settle back in the chairs that nice Mr. Eastwood just gave us and ponder some of the other oddities of the week. Like this item in the official GOP platform pointed out by Brad Plumer of the Washington Post:

No minimum wage for the Mariana Islands. “The Pacific territories should have flexibility to determine the minimum wage, which has seriously restricted progress in the private sector.”

“Conservative Group Claims Obama Has ‘Communist Beliefs,’ Compares His Policies To Hitler’s” by Annie Rose-Strasser:

A conservative religious group is sending its members a ‘survey’ that compares President Obama’s policies to those of Nazi Germany, and asserts that the President has “communist beliefs.”

The mailer, a product of the Faith and Freedom coalition, is titled the “Voter Registration Confirmation Survey.” But its questions have little to do with registering to vote. Rather, the survey asks a host of leading inquiries into how its members view the President’s record.

As Mother Jones, who obtained the survey, points out, the Faith and Freedom coalition and particularly its head Ralph Reed are leading the effort to turn out Evangelical voters for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. The group plans to spend over $10 million for this purpose.

90 From “Blues Cruise” by Joe Hagan:

Under the shade of some palm trees, Ralph Reed took off his shirt and fed an orange to a giant iguana.

Day five, Friday afternoon, and we were on a white-sand beach in Honduras, biding our time until a boat would take us offshore to snorkel over the shipwreck. Even Reed, among the youngest people on the cruise, was in a way a figure from an earlier time. Rob Long, the right-wing Hollywood writer, told me the night before, over cocktails on the midship deck, “I like Ralph Reed, but he’s done.”

91 “Thanks to Donald Trump, “Christian Evangelical” Is Now an Empty Phrase” [archive link] by Adam Weinstein:

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” What a crock of shit.

Not the New Testament verse, mind you-which the ostensibly evangelical Faith and Freedom Coalition posted on its Facebook page Wednesday. It’s a sublime notion that neither earthly wealth nor stodgy tradition can save the believer-that humans of all economic and social castes are essentially equal in damnation, and in their potential for salvation. What a beautiful universe that is: no sin is too big to overcome, no pile of money is big enough to save you. This is the cornerstone of Christianity, of its highest expressions through voluntary charity and acts of love for all.

But that verse’s Facebook posters, who in recent decades have secured a vertical monopoly on Christianity in the American public sphere, are the farthest, awfulest thing from this Christian ideal. They are a money-sucking, dogma-spouting, people-hating puddle of inane defecate, stacked up and sculpted into a Jesus on a cross. And they proved it Thursday by inviting Donald Trump to come speak at their June shindig. If this is what “Christian evangelism” means nowadays, Christian evangelism has no meaning.

92 From “An Evangelical Is Back From Exile, Lifting Romney” by Jo Becker:

The other day, sitting in an office lined with framed photographs from back in the heyday – here with President George W. Bush at a White House Christmas party, there with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican – the preternaturally youthful evangelical operative, 51, propped his black ostrich cowboy boots on a coffee table and made what he admits seems an audacious prediction: that record numbers of socially conservative evangelical Protestants will turn out for the first presidential election in history without a Protestant on the Republican ticket.

From “The Sins of Ralph Reed” by Sean Flynn:

A few days earlier, a fellow Republican, someone who actually likes him, had told me that Reed “would be the quintessential reptilian character. With Ralph, it’s not a question of ‘Do I like you?’ It’s a question of ‘Am I hungry? And if I am, are you of a size that I can eat you?'”

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Bruce Wagner’s Wild Palms

(Spoilers, obviously)

A TV mini-series about a milquetoast lawyer who becomes engulfed in mystery: now twenty years old, it was set, at the time, in the near future of 2007, which is now our past. It is a show that has almost entirely vanished from the collective cultural memory1, and though this is not damning in itself, I do think the show is a failure – but it has one notable aspect, which is jaw dropping. This aspect, however, went seemingly undetected when it was written about upon its release. This key aspect proves that one can write about anything, even the most litigious of subjects, as long as one changes the setting a little, placing characters which can easily be linked to their real counterparts in a slightly different setting, a science-fiction dystopia rather than their native habitat. I leave this notable aspect to last, and write briefly on why I think this series does not work.

Though it perhaps could not have been made without the rubric of Oliver Stone (he serves as executive producer), this production is ultimately novelist Bruce Wagner’s, who executive produced, wrote every episode, and on whose comic strip, a series that ran on the back of Details magazine, the show was based. The comic, illustrated by the late, talented artist Julian Allen2, has an entirely different tone from the later series, and this, I think, is a major change for the worse. Wild Palms3, both comic and movie, are about a man who deals with increasingly absurd incidents. The series deals with these in the baroque tones of a soap opera or a religious story (it can be seen as both), everything in exclamation marks: I’m falling in love with another woman! I’ve been asked to kill my best friend! My son isn’t my son!

The comic’s attitude, on the other hand, is as cold as frost, the indifference of The Stranger, by Albert Camus: mother died today, and I wish I cared, but I don’t. I am handicapped by not having read the whole comic, but what I describe as its tone is ever present in every panel, the narrator Harry Wycoff giving precise, cold narration: “I had a nightmare recently where I was yelling at someone. I don’t know why that was so frightening.” “Beth and I made love that morning. It was the first time since a cyst on her ovary ruptured.”

Wild Palms

The first time he describes his son, Coty: “Coty is already five. It’s practically a miracle to get to five without being molested.”

Wild Palms

His friend since adolescence, Tommy: “Tommy sells thousand-dollar vintage eyeglasses on Melrose. We went to Beverly High together. He has more money than me.”

Wild Palms

He meets with an old friend, Paige Katz, who wears a shirt, “Life’s a bitch…than you kill someone.”: “Paige asked me if I wanted to go somewhere as an ‘observer.’ I thought it was some faddish, thirtysomething joke like a hazing.” Then, for reasons unknown to him, he sees his friend beaten. He experiences something visceral to this, yet his voice retains its frost-like calm, unmoved: “Then I saw the blood. And it made my stomach hurt. It was Tommy.”

Wild Palms Wild Palms

This voice, for me, comes across not as affect, that of a desensitized class, but something close to our own thoughts so often, as we see the extraordinary or the horrific, which we observe without any tremor of great feeling. We have become reconciled to the idea that these things take place in our world, and we can no longer even remember when we become reconciled. Whether for the need of appearances, the appearance of a moral compass – television at the time might tolerate wanton violence, but it could not conceive an ordinary man unmoved by such violence – or dramatic momentum, rather than existentialist drama, we are given instead overexcited melodrama, where everyone acts louder than real life.

This Wild Palms is an unreal, plot heavy work dealing with virtual reality technology. It opens with Harry Wycoff, patent attorney, having a nightmare: he comes across a rhino in his empty pool, then hears his son call out for him. His son, we later learn, has the very same dream, the dream a prescient one for both. This vision marks both as members of a spiritual elect: the rhino, we are told, is all that is left of that significant creature the unicorn4. In the dream, Harry runs toward his son’s door, marked by a cross, the door opens, and his son’s room is filled with ominous red light: his son will be seen as a saviour, a successor to a church, but he is also utterly demonic.

Wild Palms

Wild Palms

An old girlfriend, Paige Katz, hires him to find her missing son, and Harry soon ends up working for Paige’s employer, Tony (Anton) Kreutzer, the media tycoon behind TV network Channel Three, founder of a new religion and developer of a technology that will transmit interactive holograms via television. Harry’s wife, Grace, thinks he’s having an affair and tries to commit suicide. Harry becomes aware of a resistance group, the Friends, acting in opposition to Kreutzer and his associates, the Fathers; the Friends include both his father-in-law and his close friend Tommy. His son, Coty, is recruited first to play a part on a channel three sitcom, and then to kill one of the Friends, a co-worker of Harry’s. Where the comic has Harry passively watching his friend Tommy get beaten, here, Paige Katz brings in Harry to chase down the man she believes has kidnapped her son, and when it is revealed to be Tommy, his capture ends with Tommy’s portentous line: “This…is the beginning.” Both acts feel like a blooding, an initiation ritual to be performed before inductment into Kreutzer’s organization.

The Friends and the Fathers race to acquire various elements of virtual reality technology, both sides suffering losses. Paige and Harry end up defecting from Kreutzer’s group and joining the Friends, while his son stays on. In a series of revelations, we learn that Harry’s son, Coty, is in fact not his son at all, but has been switched at birth with his real son, Peter; Harry and Coty are actually brothers, born to the same father, Kreutzer. Harry’s wife, in turn, is daughter to a merciless woman named Josie Ito, who is Kreutzer’s sister: Harry and his wife, Grace, are actually first cousins. Early on, Harry compliments one of his aides on a dress, the aide thanks him and replies that it’s from his wife’s store, and Harry replies, in turn, that things are getting just a little too incestuous. If he only knew. The series ends with almost all the major characters dead, with Grace killed by her own mother, the destruction of Kreutzer and his organization, Harry re-united with his biological son, and with Paige now Harry’s girlfriend.

Though it might be considered a political series, it provides neither specific insights, nor does it provide any eerie sense of familiarity with the world we live in. The oppressive Fathers chant the poems of Auden, the resistant Friends chant from Whitman; a screechy hippie woman celebrates the victory of the Friends – these aren’t images that suggest some difference of virtue between the groups, but that any political activity is a fool’s game, tainting everyone equally, and drawing its energy, whatever the cause, from blindly obedient riffraff. We are told there has been a nuclear accident in Florida, and a massive depression in the early twenty-first century, both instigated, for its own purpose, by the state itself – though we never intuit why the state might do so. It’s politics designed for a credulous militia member – the state is a killing machine, politics is a fool’s game, so the only response is to retreat from political life altogether into a cabin or a bunker. More crucially, these great events don’t feel as if they’ve touched the unfolding world of the series at all – and this is crucial if this world is to feel like it’s some self-contained life, as all great fictional worlds do. “I’m a survivor of the disaster of Boca Raton,” says a disheveled figure at one point, and my first thought is, how bad can things go with a timeshare?

It is this sense that this future world is clumped together of various discrete elements, rather than a living possibility, which is the show’s other crucial flaw. That this future world is in visual stasis, almost entirely the same city as it is now, is not a problem – 9/11 and the housing crisis may have had a huge impact on the United States, but they have not produced anything visually novel or unprecedented, just the same old, same old: suburbs that became ghost communities, or veterans living on the street. Kurt Anderson’s too little known, incredibly insightful essay, “You Say You Want a Devolution?” notes a startling phenomenon: that our visual landscape, in architecture, clothes, and advertising, has reached a stasis point in the past fifteen or twenty years. Where before we see a distinct and astonishing difference in the visual look of the fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties, when we reach the nineties, the aughts, and our decade now, an equilibrium seems to have been reached, an unchanging look that does not change because it encompasses all things. This may well be because in an internet age there are no longer any subterranean cultures, and one cannot “discover” hiphop fashion, or brazilian music, as an intrepid few might have done – almost all obscurities are now accessible to all.

So, that the series contains little of a futuristic look is unimportant, but rather prescient. What is important is that such a future world should hold together, should be unlike our own, yet feel as if it is entirely its own world, with not a single inch directed by an outside force, but every part organic, a growth of its own. One should be able to intuit why every feature of the world is there, and not find any part to be out of place. The very opposite effect is most obvious in the show’s use of virtual reality and holograms, given a solid mocking by the AV club, “The future won’t look like this: 11 unintentionally ridiculous depictions of virtual reality”. We see a virtual reality in which cyberspace consists of people dressing up as eighteenth century nobles, and holographic versions of sitcoms and advertising. Both are ridiculous, conceived as something different or new, rather than in the terms by which a product gets to market: does anybody actually want this?

Wild Palms

Wild Palms

Even if we have the possibility of talking or seeing someone via Skype, we prefer to communicate in text on facebook or twitter; never mind dressing up in fancy outfits for a simple meeting – the only thing that approaches this model of the internet is Second Life, and it’s a virtual ghost town. A three-dimensional holographic sitcom is untenable because a sitcom, with its rigid structure and laugh track is specifically unreal, the steady laughter (whether taped or from an audience) not simply telling the audience that something is funny but reinforcing the artifice of the program, a necessity for the jokes to work. Comedy programs that do not adhere to this format, Parks and Recreation and The Office among the best known, have an entirely different rhythm to their jokes, and must have an entirely different rhythm – without the laugh track we are in a different setting, a setting we take to be more real than that of the sitcom. Palms, in fact, does cross paths with the future of television, with a program whose power lay not in the fact of its vivid proximity to life, but its very artifice. This future appears in the brief character Mortie, because this man is played by Dan Castellaneta, who of course provides the voice of a character so well-known that he does not even need be named.

Wild Palms

The issue of a makeshift world also troubles one of the more fascinating ideas of the program, with Japan, at the time of the series an economic powerhouse expected to equal or eclipse the United States in national influence, showing a heavy sway in the furniture and clothes throughout.

Wild Palms

Wild Palms

Wild Palms

Wild Palms

Wild Palms

The only problem is that, again, it doesn’t feel intuitively right – were Japan to have become the dominant force of the series, changes would no doubt be there, but in many ways unsettlingly invisible. Artwork would be the same mishmash of the world selected by style curators, but the characters would be far more knowledgeable about the intricacies of Japanese politics, and far more of them would be fluent in Japanese, just as today there are many western news outlets that provide in-depth coverage of Chinese political life, and there are a growing number of Chinese speakers in the world – these details signal the growing importance of China, not any dramatic changes in fashion or interior design. The dramatic shifts of the future are near invisible, and this works to the show’s advantage with a largely unchanged Los Angeles, and to the disadvantage when it tries to give us fantastic changes in visual communications systems and Japanese decor. The astonishing impact of the past fifteen years of technology can be seen not in what has appeared but disappeared – the bankruptcy of book and record shops, the extinction of newspapers, the end of watches, the absence of payphones – a visitor from the near past might be able to infer that there’s now a combination of microtechnology and an information network that has caused the disappearance of these things, but it would be a difficult, tenuous hypothesis.

The most memorable and unsettling images of this series – there are several, and there well should be several given that the series directors included Kathryn Bigelow, Phil Joanou, and Keith Gordon – have nothing to do with the visual elements of the future world, but could be placed in any contemporary drama, their allure derived from making the ordinary exotic. Whether because of my own preferences, or their own inherent power, I find the best of these come from Gordon’s work.

For example, two children watching TV, but shot from the TV’s perspective, so they stare, rapt, out at us:

Wild Palms

Wild Palms

A waiter attends on two diners, Harry and his friend Tommy, but he is not a passive servant. He asks them if they are ready to order, impatiently – it is they who are guests at his place of business, and he is not dependent on them, but the other way around. This high-end restaurant has plenty of customers and has no need of their business, but were these men unable to gain entrance to this restaurant, it would reflect poorly on their status. The haughty demeanour of the waiter is an intentional pose to reinforce this relationship. We then cut to a scene with almost the exact same composition, but now the relationship is very much reversed, the Wykoffs’ domestic attending on their children, and she is very much dependent on them, rather than the other around.

Wild Palms

Wild Palms

The resistance group The Friends use networks underneath swimming pools to meet surreptitiously and travel about the city. Here, as Beethoven’s Seventh swells in the background, Coty Wycoff, Harry’s son, stares intently at the pool, almost as if he sees through the concrete, through to the meeting taking place underneath – but this context is unnecessary for the image’s power. The only elements necessary are an intelligent boy staring with focused intensity at nothing at all, the empty water.

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As Harry tends to his wife, Grace, after her suicide attempt, the characters are shot at a distance that is almost never used in a TV show, their faces obscured behind a veil. It all fits with the sense of someone who has just tried to kill herself, who has reached the very edge of death before being brought back that she is in this small place of light in a vast dark room. As we might imagine Grace moving steadily closer and closer back to life, we move nearer to this lighted section. Her husband has become increasingly unknowable to her, so his face is a blur behind the veil, or falls into a shadow. I offer this explanation, but it is unnecessary; the scene is the most visually powerful in the entire show, and like all great images, requires no words to justify or explain it.

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The future world that feels like something organic, its every element in vitro, has been created most successfully in two movies, two obvious choices, by the same director: Blade Runner and Alien. In the first, the earth has been abandoned for better worlds, and the planet has the mood of a depressive turning inward and backward to past memories, as it falls into a decay it is entirely indifferent to. Deckard is obsessed with a past, a past that might be entirely false, but so is all of the Los Angeles he lives in, holding onto its memories as a noir landscape. Alien features a ship that isn’t a streamlined beauty, but a crude utilitarian piece of technology, like an oil derrick or a supertanker. The crew find the outpost of a civilization which, literally, dwarfs them, but whoever was here is already long dead; rather than a dream fulfilled of intergalactic contact, it is only an exhausted society breaching a tomb. Great technology has not brought the space crew happiness or enlightenment – the future is ugly, and it is cheap. The long dead civilization has itself been destroyed not for any moral transgression, or by a creature of greater intelligence, but a simple armor plated, acid blooded thing which is designed solely to host, reproduce, and kill. There have been attempts at explanations and extensions of this movie’s story, but they are unnecessary, and in fact diminish it. The spaceflight of this movie is not some lyrical dream, but just one more industrial expedition. Humanity, whatever its past dreams, is here concerned only with functionality, getting the work done as cheaply and effectively as possible; the alien of the title is a sick joke on all this, a creature that has no beauty or elegance, but one that, just like the ship, is a piece of ugly metalwork designed solely for efficiency – and far more efficient at survival than we are.

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Though both movies have a distinct and overwhelming mood, they are not designed to create such a mood, but rather, it arises out of the clutter of elements that are there – and I do not use clutter disparagingly, but something necessary for the effect. For our lives are not planned, even in the most planned societies, but a pile of details playing off each other, a jazz group of a million musicians, rather than a small orchestra conducted by a martinet. The overall tone of both these movies is fatigue, which another writer might label as fin-de-siècle; great technology has arrived and it doesn’t matter, anymore than the wonderful toys of our time have given us the excitement and happiness embodied by the spokespeople of an electronics show5. We take these toys for granted, and they hold no magic for us. We trudge through our work with these devices as Deckard navigates through the photos with the Esper machine (a device that, unlike the virtual reality machines of Palms we immediately see the practical use for), exhausted, needing a bottle of scotch to finish the work. Here, again, we acutely note the loss in the change in tone from the Palms comic to the Palms series – an ice-cold narration entirely apt for the supposed wonders and magic of a future, the apt tone of exhaustion that imbues Alien and Blade Runner, and our world now as well.

THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELLA JOKE, A BITCH

I have focussed on the flaws of this series, and now I move to its one astonishing feature, and it is a striking one. I state it bluntly without suspense: it is the most scathing depiction of scientology I’ve ever seen, making “South Park”‘s “Trapped in the Closet” episode look like a piker’s game. Where “Park” ridiculed the movement as a con game, this series appears to take key figures from the movement – L. Ron Hubbard, his wife, Mary Sue, and scientology’s current head, David Miscavige – and transplants them into this story, only slightly veiled by a fictional scrim, portraying all three as amoral homicidal sociopaths. What is astonishing is that this show was produced, not at a time of weakness for the church, but at the height of its powers, when it had just received tax-exempt status as a religion. Equally astonishing, given that the target is clear and the fired arrows are soaked in venom, is that it seems to have eluded the critics of the time: John J. O’Connor of the Times, in “The Sunshiny Menace of ‘Wild Palms'” gives a one sentence tip of the hat to the movement’s appearance, “any resemblance of the “Synthiotics” movement depicted in this series to L. Ron Hubbard’s “science” of Dianetics may not be entirely accidental”; Entertainment Weekly‘s Ken Tucker in his review gives another single sentence mention, “Kreutzer would seem to be Wagner’s wicked caricature of the late author and Church of Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard”; David Gates, reviewing the show in the late Newsweek, writes in “Invasion Of The Soul Snatchers” that Anton Kreutzer is “a neo-psychedelic demagogue resembling L. Ron Hubbard, Pat Robertson, Timothy Leary and Ross Perot”; that is the only mention of anyone associated with the movement, let alone the movement itself, in the review. This misinterprets the satire here as a glancing blow, when it’s a repeated punch to the kidneys.

This is the dialogue between Harry and his ex-girlfriend, Paige Katz, that introduces Tony Kreutzer, after a demonstration he gives on his pioneering hologram technology:

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HARRY
That’s the guy you work for? The guy who founded that freaky religion in the sixties?

PAIGE
Synthiotics. It’s helped a lot of people.

HARRY
New realism is very hip right now. I read about it in People.

PAIGE
Don’t be so cynical. You should read some of his books.

HARRY
Nah, I don’t dig bad science fiction.

After a ceremony in which Harry is inducted into the church,

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we see the outside of the building, “The Church of Synthiotics”:

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Synthiotics is, I believe, a variation on dianetics, the Hubbard philosophy which preceded scientology. Hubbard developed scientology around a similar set of ideas after he lost control of dianetics in a rights dispute with former business associate Don Purcell. One of the only critical histories of the movement and its founder available at the time of this series, Bare Faced Messiah by Russell Miller, describes what took place:

At the beginning of April 1952, Hubbard packed his belongings into the back of his yellow Pontiac convertible and headed out of Wichita on the Kansas Turnpike with his teenage bride of four weeks beside him on the front seat. Their destination, one thousand miles to the west, was Phoenix, Arizona, where loyal aides had already put up a sign outside a small office at 1405 North Central Street, announcing it as the headquarters of the Hubbard Association of Scientologists.

Phoenix was so named because it was built on the ruins of an ancient Indian settlement on the Salt River, which had risen like the legendary phoenix. Hubbard, who had had more than enough of Wichita, could not think of a more appropriate location for the rise of his astounding new science from the still-smoking ruins of Dianetics.

Hubbard would introduce Scientology as a logical extension of Dianetics, but it was a development of undeniable expedience, since it ensured he would be able to stay in business even if the courts eventually awarded control of Dianetics and its valuable copyrights to ‘that little flatulence’, the hated Don Purcell. The difference between Dianetics and Scientology was that Dianetics addressed the body, whereas Scientology addressed the soul. With his accustomed bombast, Hubbard claimed that he had ‘come across incontrovertible, scientifically-validated evidence of the existence of the human soul’.

So, a church of synthiotics might be seen as the same as a church of dianetics, or, a church of scientology.

Just as scientology has been very successful at recruiting celebrities to enhance their image and evangelize on their behalf, the synthiotics church of Palms has two notables on hand to help them out.

There is the singer Chap Starfall:

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As well as the actress Tabba Schwartzkopf, who belongs to the high echelons of the church:

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Throughout the series, black vans full of organization thugs show up to chase down or take away dissidents. This may be an expansion of at least one incident that took place along these lines, described in Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology. It involved two top members of the church, Gale Irwin and Pat Broeker, who were pushed out when the current head, David Miscavige, took over:

Now genuinely afraid of [David] Miscavige, [Gale] Irwin slipped off the base at Gilman Hot Springs to call Pat Broeker, using his special callback system. Waiting at a gas-station pay phone for Broeker to return her call, Irwin suddenly saw Miscavige roll up with a number of his aides in a black van. As she’d later recall, he got out, walked to the back of the van, took out a tire iron, and as she watched, proceeded to smash the pay phone so it wouldn’t work. Then he grabbed a terrified Irwin, ordered her into the van, and accused her of mutiny.

A key product developed by Memocom, a branch of the synthiotics church, is Mimezine, a drug which makes holograms appear as vivid as real life. The name of this drug seems to echo one that Hubbard attempted to market, Dianazene, on the basis that it was an antidote to radiation sickness. A lengthy excerpt from Miller:

By April it seemed that Hubbard had given up his heroic, single-handed attempt to rid the world of nuclear weapons by ‘as-ising’ [a scientology term meaning to make disappear] the atomic bomb, for in that month he hired the Royal Empire Society Hall in London in order to preside over the ‘London Congress on Nuclear Radiation and Health’. The various lectures delivered at this extraordinary event were later condensed into an even more extraordinary book titled All About Radiation and written by ‘a nuclear physicist’ and ‘a medical doctor’.

The doctor was anonymous, but the ‘nuclear physicist’ was none other than L. Ron Hubbard offering the benefit of his advice with customary scant recourse to the laws of science. He asserted, for example, that a sixteen-foot wall could not stop a gamma ray whereas a human body could, an assertion later described by an eminent radiologist as ‘showing complete and utter ignorance of physics, nuclear science and medicine’. In line with his philosophy that most illnesses were caused by the mind, Hubbard avowed, ‘The danger in the world today in my opinion is not the atomic radiation which may or may not be floating through the atmosphere but the hysteria occasioned by that question.’ Radiation, he added, was ‘more of a mental than a physical problem’.

Fortunately, however, no one needed to worry about radiation, since Hubbard had devised a vitamin compound called ‘Dianazene’ (after his first child by Mary Sue [Hubbard’s last wife]?) which provided protection: ‘Dianazene runs out radiation – or what appears to be radiation. It also proofs a person against radiation to some degree. It also turns on and runs out incipient cancer. I have seen it run out skin cancer. A man who didn’t have much liability to skin cancer (only had a few moles) took Dianazene. His whole jaw turned into a raw mass of cancer. He kept on taking Dianazene and it disappeared after a while. I was looking at a case of cancer that might have happened.’

The doctor, writing under the pseudonym Medicus, confirmed in his section of the book that ‘some very recent work by L. Ron Hubbard and the Hubbard Scientology Organization has indicated that a simple combination of vitamins in unusual doses can be of value. Alleviation of the remote effects and increased tolerance of radiation have been the apparent results . . .’

The Food and Drugs Administration in the United States was inclined, after studying a copy of All About Radiation, to disagree. FDA agents swooped on the Distribution Center Inc, a Scientology company in Washington, seized 21,000 Dianazene tablets and destroyed them, alleging that they were falsely labelled as a preventative treatment for ‘radiation sickness’.

Hubbard was an energetic, engaging man, as seen in this brief description, again from Miller:

Ron [Hubbard], ebullient as always, was not in any way intimidated by the egregious company and surroundings [a rambling mansion filled with bohemians, intellectuals, and exotic ne’er-do-wells]; on the contrary, he felt instantly at home. Most evenings he could be found dominating the conversation at the big table in the kitchen, where the roomers tended to gather, telling outrageous stories about his adventures. One night he unbuttoned his shirt to display the scars left by arrows hurled at him when he encountered a band of hostile aborigines in the South American jungle.

This vitality and charisma is captured well in the show’s best performance, Robert Loggia as Kreutzer6. Some sense of this can be found in the speech Kreutzer gives when introducing his hologram technology:

KREUTZER
You know, I was in Tokyo just last week. And in Japan, they call me Fuji, because I am white on top. (laughter) To paraphrase Aristophanes, I have all the traits of a popular politico. Bad breeding…vulgar manners…and one hell of a tan.

A samurai suddenly appears, pulls out his sword, and attacks the senator, but when the sword slices through Kreutzer, it passes through him as if he were a ghost. The samurai retreats, the disappears in a flash.

KREUTZER
I’m not here, children. I’m a synthetic hologram. Talking to you, real time. From the penthouse of this hotel. One day, very soon, this is what it’s going to look like in the living room. You will co-star in weekly sitcoms. You will fight the samurai battles, and experience the heartbreak of first love. All between commercials, and if you own a TV, any old TV…and an adapter from Mimecom that you can get for under a $1000 dollars, then you have bought a ticket. I have seen the future…and it is channel three.

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The practices and principles of synthiotics are never discussed, except in one brief exchange between Harry and Paige, after Kreutzer’s presentation:

HARRY
What the hell was that all about?

PAIGE
He’s bigger than life, huh?

HARRY
Scary, like a roman emperor with the fingers. (makes gesture)

PAIGE
All he’s saying is that there’s more than one reality. That doesn’t make synthiotics any different than, say…buddhism.

Here we find a fit with one of Hubbard’s favorite ideas, truth is what is true for you. Miller describes a moment in a lecture of Hubbard’s at the Academy of Scientology:

Perhaps the most revealing thing Hubbard said about himself during the lecture was a comment on one of Commander Thompson’s [“Snake” Thompson, a supposed associate of Freud and mentor of Hubbard, who may not have ever existed] favourite little aphorisms. It appeared that the Commander used to tell Ron, ‘If it’s not true for you, it’s not true.’ It aligned with his own personal philosophy, Hubbard explained, ‘because if there is anyone in the world calculated to believe what he wants to believe it is I’. Never did L. Ron Hubbard speak a truer word.

In the series, Kreutzer’s past is always murky, but before we find out that Kreutzer is Harry’s father, we hear of a past association between the man Harry still thinks of as his father and Kreutzer, revealed by his father-in-law, Eli Levitt:

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ELI
There was a famous chemist back in the sixties, who was playing around with the fugu, puffer fish, ever hear of it? A delicacy in Japan? Dose of a single fish could kill, lesser amount gets you high. Mimecom grabbed it, tweaked it, came up with something of their own. They called it mimezine. Allows you to interact with holograms, is it real or is it mimecom? Impossible to tell.

ELI
That famous chemist I was telling you about, the one who pioneered it all…his name was Dex Wycoff, your daddy.

HARRY
You knew my father?

ELI
No, but the senator did. They were partners.

Harry tells Kreutzer of this meeting, and the senator adds a few details:

HARRY
I saw Eli Levitt last week. He said you knew my father.

KREUTZER
Indeed I did. He was the real thing. The Chicky [Eli’s son, and a brilliant inventor in his own right] of his day. Old Dex was legendary for two things. The purity of his LSD, and the fact that he was never seen in public without a tie. Your father wanted to use computers to free the brain from the body, and this was the seventies, there wasn’t even video. Critics dismissed him as an acid casualty, which he was.

HARRY
What happened?

KREUTZER
Blew his face off with a shotgun. Because of the recoil, the coroner determined that the first shot was not fatal. Ten minutes later, Dex finished the job. And I have always wondered what went through his mind in those last ten minutes.

The association between Kreutzer and this man maps with the connection between Hubbard and a brilliant scientist named Jack Parsons – not a chemist, but an engineer – who was also heavily involved with the occult. Miller gives a detailed description of this fascinating character:

John Whiteside Parsons, known to his friend as Jack, was an urbane, darkly handsome man, not unlike Errol Flynn in looks, and the scion of a well-connected Los Angeles family. Then thirty-one years old, he was a brilliant scientist and chemist and one of America’s foremost explosives experts. He had spent much of the war at the California Institute of Technology working with a team developing jet engines and experimental rocket fuels and was, perhaps, the last man anyone would have suspected of worshipping the Devil.

For Jack Parsons led an extraordinary double life: respected scientist by day, dedicated occultist by night. He believed, passionately, in the power of black magic, the existence of Satan, demons and evil spirits, and the efficacy of spells to deal with his enemies.

While still a student at the University of Southern California, he had become interested in the writings of Aleister Crowley, the English sorcerer and Satanist known as ‘The Beast 666’, whose dabblings in black magic had also earned him the title ‘The Wickedest Man In The World’. Crowley’s The Book of the Law expounded a doctrine enshrined in a single sentence – ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’ – and Parsons was intrigued by the heady concept of a creed that encouraged indulgence in forbidden pleasures.

Jack Parsons was in a serious relationship with a Sara Northrup, who played an active role in his occult ceremonies – until she met Hubbard, fell in love, and married him.

Miller, on the intersection of Hubbard, Parsons, and Sara “Betty” Northrup:

One afternoon in August 1945, Lou Goldstone, a well-known science-fiction illustrator and a frequent visitor to South Orange Grove Avenue [Parsons’ house, where he rented out rooms to a large group of eccentrics], turned up with L. Ron Hubbard, who was then on leave from the Navy. Jack Parsons liked Ron immediately, perhaps recognized in him a kindred spirit, and invited him to move in for the duration of his leave.

He considered that Ron had great magical potential and took the risk of breaking his solemn oath of secrecy to acquaint Ron with some of the OTO [Ordo Templi Orientis, an organization set up by the satanist Alistair Crowley that focused on sexual magic] rituals. Betty, too, was much enamoured with the voluble naval officer, so much so that she soon began sleeping with him. True to his creed, Parsons tried to pretend he was not concerned by this development, but others in the house thought they detected tension between the two men.

Alva Rogers [one of the many residents of Parsons’ house], too, sensed that Parsons was suffering. ‘Jack had never boggled at any of Betty’s previous amorous adventurings, but this time it seemed somehow different…although the three of them continued to maintain a surface show of unchanged amicability, it was obvious that Jack was feeling the pangs of a hitherto unfelt passion, jealousy. As events progressed, Jack found it increasingly difficult to keep his mind on anything but the torrid affair going on between Ron and Betty and the atmosphere around the house became supercharged with tension.’

Nevertheless, Parsons clearly remained convinced that Ron possessed exceptional powers. After Ron had left to report back to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, Parsons wrote to his ‘Most Beloved Father’ to acquaint him with events: ‘About three months ago I met Captain L. Ron Hubbard, a writer and explorer of whom I had known for some time…He is a gentleman; he has red hair, green eyes, is honest and intelligent, and we have become great friends. He moved in with me about two months ago, and although Betty and I are still friendly, she has transferred her sexual affection to Ron.

The anecdote of the painful suicide of Dex Wycoff appears to be a comingling of two events: the death of Parsons in a massive explosion when he dropped some nitro-glycerine, an event which was often suspected to be a suicide, and the suicide of Parsons’ mother on hearing of her son’s death, her suicide a prolonged moment as the sleeping pills took a half hour for their lethal effect, while a friend, too crippled to stop or save her, looked on helplessly as she died. Again, Miller:

On the afternoon of Friday 20 June 1952, Parsons was working alone in the garage of the coachhouse, which he had converted into a laboratory. At eight minutes past five there was an enormous explosion. The heavy stable doors were blasted from their hinges, the walls blew out and a huge hole was torn in the floor timbers. When the dust had cleared, a partially dismembered body could be seen still bleeding in the rubble.

Further horror was to follow. Police traced Parsons’s mother, Mrs Ruth Virginia Parsons, to the home of a crippled woman friend in West Glenarm Street. Informed of the accident and her son’s death, Mrs Parsons returned to the room where her friend was sitting in an armchair. She sat down in another chair out of reach, unscrewed a bottle of sleeping tablets and, watched by her helpless and appalled friend, rapidly swallowed the entire contents. Unable to move from her chair, the terrified cripple watched her friend slowly die.

The inquest found that the explosion had been caused by Parsons accidentally dropping a phial of nitro-glycerine. But because of his known interest in the occult, there were inevitably rumours of suicide or even murder; none of his friends could believe that a man so experienced in handling explosives would have dropped nitro-glycerine accidentally.

Whatever the truth, no black magician could have wished for a blacker departure from the world.

Kreutzer’s revelation in one of the last scenes that Harry is his son touches on a similar romantic triangle, and hints that Dex didn’t commit suicide, but was killed by the senator.

HARRY
How well did you know my mother?

KREUTZER
We enjoyed each other’s company, Berniece and I. Dex wasn’t too thrilled. We had a child together. Did you know that? Dex thought it was his. Named the boy Harry. He found out, Dex did. He tried to kill me. I had to defend myself.

Harry’s plotline, a son rebelling a father, a son joining this formidable figure late in life, might be taken, I believe, from the story of Hubbard’s own first son, L. Ron Hubbard Jr. – though referred to by everyone by his nickname, Nibs. Just like Harry, he lives apart from his father and joins the church late in life. From Miller:

While Hubbard was writing and lecturing in Phoenix in the summer of 1952, a somewhat unexpected event occurred – his son, L. Ron Hubbard Junior, turned up in town apparently intent on becoming a Scientologist. Nibs was then eighteen years old, a plump young man with a shining, cherubic countenance topped by wispy curls of pale orange hair. He had been living with his grandparents in Bremerton for the previous two years, but had been unable to settle down in high school and had decided to join his father in Phoenix.

Nibs enrolled at a correspondence school in an attempt to complete his high school education and his father gave him a job at the Hubbard Association of Scientologists, at the same time arranging for him to be audited intensively. As the son and namesake of the founder, Nibs was treated with some deference by other Scientologists and made rapid progress in the organization – he was soon designated as ‘professor’ of the ‘Advanced Clinical Course’, one of a number of courses on offer to ambitious Scientologists in Phoenix. He also acquired a number of initials after his name to support his professorial status.

Just like Harry, he ends up an adversary of the father and his church, the highest ranking defector at the time:

While he was still in Melbourne, Hubbard received an urgent telephone call from Washington with bad news. Nibs, he was told, had ‘blown’. To Scientologists, ‘blowing the org’ (leaving the church) was one of the worst crimes in the book: it was almost unbelievable that the highly-placed son and namesake of the founder would take such a step.

After ‘blowing the org’ in 1959, fortune had not smiled on Nibs. He had drifted from job to job, finding it ever more difficult to support his wife and six children, and as the realization dawned that he would never be allowed back into Scientology, he became an even more prominent critic of his father and his father’s ‘church’. When the church was locked in litigation with the Internal Revenue Service, Nibs testified on behalf of the IRS.

In July, Nibs gave an interview to the Santa Rosa News-Herald in which he portrayed his father as a wife-beater who had experimented in black magic and fed him and his sister bubble gum spiked with phenobarbitol. ‘He had one of those insane things, especially during the ’30s, of trying to invoke the devil for power and practices. My mother told me about him trying out all kinds of various incantations, drugs and hypnosis…He used to beat her up quite often. He had a violent, volcano-type temper, and he smacked her around quite a bit. I remember in 1946 or 1947 when he was beating up my mother one night, I had a .22 rifle and I sat on the stairway with him in my sights and I almost blew his head off.’

[Nibs] surfaced again in the June 1983 issue of Penthouse magazine, making even more sensational allegations – that Hubbard had been involved in black magic since the age of sixteen, believed himself to be Satan, wanted to become the most powerful being in the universe, smuggled gold and drugs, was a sadist and a KGB agent. He had bought Saint Hill Manor, Nibs claimed, with money obtained from the Russians. ‘Black magic is the inner core of Scientology,’ Nibs stressed, ‘and it is probably the only part of Scientology that really works. Also, you’ve got to realize that my father did not worship Satan. He thought he was Satan.’

Some of these claims could be substantiated by others – that Hubbard had beaten this boy’s mother and he had been involved in occult rituals conducted by Parsons – while others, such as the length of his involvement in the occult, and his connections with the russians most likely had no basis.

Miller:

It was wild stuff, perhaps a little too wild. Just like his father, Nibs lacked subtlety. Had he been more restrained, the interview might have made an impact. Instead, it simply strained the reader’s credulity to such an extent that it was hard to decide who was the most deranged – L. Ron Hubbard Senior or L. Ron Hubbard Junior.

The show ends with Kreutzer attempting to evade death and become a virtual hologram, something of a god, who will rule the thoughts and dreams of the world. Again, Hubbard’s own end is mysterious as well: he lived as a recluse at the end of his life, his last public appearance taking place six years before his death, a death without a public funeral, only a cremation conducted quickly in the midst of the night, the identity of the dead never mentioned to those performing the cremation, and only discovered by the chapel owner after she read the death certificate. The cause of death was listed as a cerebral hemmorage [sic]. No autopsy was ever performed.

The telephone was already ringing when Irene Reis, co-owner of the Reis Chapel in San Luis Obispo, arrived for work on the morning of Saturday 25 January. A voice at the other end of the line identified himself as Earle Cooley, an attorney, and asked if they did cremations. Mrs Reis replied that they did, although the crematory was usually closed at weekends. Special arrangements could be made if necessary. Cooley then asked if a body could be collected from the Whispering Winds Ranch on the O’Donovan Road in Creston. Irene’s husband, Gene, drove the hearse out to Creston, not imagining it was anything but a routine job.

Cooley accompanied the body back to San Luis Obispo. At the Reis Chapel, a tasteful white adobe building with a red pantile roof on Nipomo Street, he asked Mrs Reis if arrangements could be made for an ‘immediate cremation’. He presented a death certificate signed by a Gene Denk of Los Angeles certifying the cause of death as cerebral haemorrhage and a certificate of religious belief forbidding an autopsy. It was not until Mrs Reis looked at the documents that she realized the body lying in her chapel was that of L. Ron Hubbard.

Mrs Reis knew enough about Hubbard to insist on informing the San Luis Obispo Country sheriffcoroner. Deputy coroner Don Hines arrived at the Reis Chapel within a few minutes. No one had had any idea that Hubbard was in the vicinity and Hines wanted to make sure that everything was done by the book – it was not every day that a ‘notorious recluse’ turned up in San Luis Obispo. Hines said that no cremation could take place until an independent pathologist had examined the body. He also ordered the body to be photographed and fingerprinted to ensure positive identifications. (Later the fingerprints were revealed to match those on file at the FBI and the Department of Justice.) It was three-thirty in the afternoon before Hines was satisfied and agreed to release the body for cremation. On the following day, the ashes of L. Ron Hubbard were scattered on the Pacific from a small boat.

This is not announced as a death by the church of scientology. Just as Kreutzer abandons his decaying body to become a virtual ghost, this is but a leave-taking of a physical state.

The news of the death of the founder of Scientology was broken to 1800 of his followers hastily gathered in the Hollywood Palladium on the afternoon of Monday, 27 January. David Miscavige made the announcement that Ron had moved on to his next level of research, a level beyond the imagination and in a state exterior to the body: ‘Thus, at 2000 hours, Friday 24 January 1986, L. Ron Hubbard discarded the body he had used in this lifetime for seventy-four years, ten months and eleven days. The body he had used to facilitate his existence in this universe had ceased to be useful and in fact had become an impediment to the work he now must do outside its confines. The being we knew as L. Ron Hubbard still exists. Although you may feel grief, understand that he did not, and does not now. He has simply moved on to his next step.’

Probably the most malevolent character in Palms is Josie Ito: she has the eyes of one her enemies torn out, drowns another, and chokes her own daughter to death with her bare hands7. One character says of her, “the friends have a nickname for Josie…Hannya…female demon”.

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She is portrayed throughout as a close confidante of Kreutzer, but whose relation we can only guess at, until it is revealed that they are sister and brother. This is a slight shuffling of details of her real-life counter-part, a determined, ruthless woman who was L. Ron Hubbard’s last wife, Mary Sue.

From an interview about The Master conducted by Brent Bambury, with a former high-ranking scientologist, Kate Bornstein, on this figure:

BAMBURY
The leader’s wife in this film, portrayed by Amy Adams, is a forceful character, and maybe even the real power behind the movement…

AMY ADAMS as PEGGY DODD
We do what we have to do to grow. The only way to defend ourselves is to attack. If we don’t do that, we will lose every battle we are engaged in. We will never dominate our environment the way we should unless we attack.

BAMBURY
Did you know Mary Sue Hubbard, who was L. Ron Hubbard’s wife, and the number two figure in the church for many years?

BORNSTEIN
I knew Mary Sue Hubbard well. And it was a brilliant performance. Amy Adams captured her, completely. And yes, Mary Sue was posted as L. Ron Hubbard’s guardian. That was the post, the guardian. It was her job to protect scientology from bad people. I was scared of Mary Sue. Everyone was.

Miller gives this description of the relationship between the two Hubbards:

Hubbard would never allow anyone to criticize Mary Sue and although he rarely showed much affection for her in public, it seemed, after two failed marriages and innumerable affairs, that he had at last formed a stable relationship, improbable as it had first appeared. They were indeed an unlikely couple – a flamboyant, fast-talking extrovert entrepreneur in his forties and a quiet, intense young woman twenty years his junior from a small town in Texas. But anyone who underestimated Mary Sue made a big mistake. Although she was not yet twenty-four years old, she exercized [sic] considerable power within the Scientology movement and people around Hubbard quickly learned to be wary of her. Fiercely loyal to her husband, brusque and autocratic, she could be a dangerous enemy.

Here is former member Cyril Vosper, from Miller’s Messiah on the implementation of the social control system of “ethics”; I bold his opinion on Mary Sue’s influence of this behavior code:

‘Conditions’ were an essential part of the new ‘ethics technology’ devised by Hubbard in the midsixties, effectively as a form of social control. It was his first, tentative step towards the creation of a society within Scientology which would ultimately resemble the totalitarian state envisaged by George Orwell in his novel 1984 . Anyone thought to be disloyal, or slacking, or breaking the rules of Scientology, was reported to an ‘ethics officer’ and assigned a ‘condition’ according to the gravity of the offence. Various penalties were attached to each condition. In a ‘condition of liability’ for example, the offender was required to wear a dirty grey rag tied around his or her left arm. The worst that could happen was to be declared an ‘SP’ (suppressive person), which was tantamount to excommunication from the church. SPs were defined by Hubbard as ‘fair game’ to be pursued, sued and harassed at every possible opportunity.

‘What happened with the development of ethics,’ said Cyril Vosper, who worked on the staff at Saint Hill, ‘was that zeal expanded at the expense of tolerance and sanity. My feeling was that Mary Sue devised a lot of the really degrading aspects of ethics. I always had great warmth and admiration for Ron [Hubbard] – he was a remarkable individual, a constant source of new information and ideas – but I thought Mary Sue was an exceedingly nasty person. She was a bitch.

An incident on one of scientology’s ships, from Miller, I bold Mary Sue’s part:

Arthur’s [a son of Hubbard’s] special responsibility on board ship was to look after his father’s motor-cycles, in particular a huge Harley Davidson that had been given to Hubbard by the Toronto org. One afternoon, the Commodore told Doreen [a scientology member] to make sure Arthur had cleaned the Harley Davidson properly by wiping a tissue over the mudguards and petrol tank and bringing it back to show him. She returned with a black smudge on the tissue. Hubbard was incensed. ‘You go and assign Arthur liability,’ he roared at Doreen, ‘he’s not doing his duty.’

Doreen was relieved that Arthur didn’t seem to be too worried by his father’s reaction, or by the need to tie a grey rag round his arm, but it was not the end of the matter. Mary Sue, who was fiercely protective of her children, felt it was Doreen’s fault that Arthur had been assigned liability. Later that afternoon, she grabbed her by the arm and starting shaking her. ‘You little fiend,’ she hissed, sinking her nails into the girl’s arm, ‘you’re destroying my family.’

Another:

A few months later, Diana [a daughter of Hubbard’s] upset her father in some way. Hubbard reeled off a long reprimand to the messenger on duty, adding at the end of it: ‘OK, go and spit in Diana’s face.’ The messenger was a little dark-eyed girl called Jill Goodman, thirteen years old. She ran along the deck to Diana’s office, burst in, spat in her face with unerring accuracy and began shouting her message as Diana let out a scream of fury. Mary Sue, who was in an adjoining office, burst in as her daughter was wiping the spittle from her face. She grabbed Jill round the throat as if she was going to strangle her and also began screeching. Jill started crying and when Mary Sue let her go, she immediately rushed off to tell the Commodore. Another acrimonious husband and wife row followed, which ended with Mary Sue throwing her shoes at the luckless messenger Hubbard despatched to chastise her further.

It is Mary Sue, following L. Ron Hubbard’s orders, who heads up the infamous Operation Snow White, an attempt by the church to eliminate any government account that might harm the church’s reputation by having scientologists take positions in government agencies, steal documents from various agencies, and destroy them.

Miller gives a good description of this project:

Now sixty-two, Hubbard was also beginning to ponder his place in posterity. The Church of Scientology had been swift to make use of the recently enacted Freedom of Information Act, which had revealed that government agencies held a daunting amount of material about Scientology and its founder in their files, much of it less than flattering. Hubbard, who had never been fettered by convention or strict observance of the law, conceived a simple, but startlingly audacious, plan to improve his own image and that of his church for the benefit of future generations of Scientologists. All that needed to be done, he decided, was to infiltrate the agencies concerned, steal the relevant files and either destroy or launder any damaging information they contained. To a man who had founded both a church and a private navy this was a perfectly feasible scheme. The operation was given the code name Snow White – two words that would figure ever more prominently over the next few months in the communications between the Guardian’s Office in Los Angeles and the Commodore’s hiding place in Queens, New York.

Operation Snow White, the impudent plan to launder public records that he had dreamed up three years earlier, was progressing rapidly and with a degree of success that few would have believed possible. By the beginning of 1975, the Guardian’s Office had infiltrated agents into the Internal Revenue Service, the US Coast Guard and the Drug Enforcement Agency. By May, Gerald Wolfe, a Scientologist working at the IRS in Washington as a clerk-typist, had stolen more than thirty thousand pages of documents relating to the Church of Scientology and the Hubbards. He was known to the Guardian’s Office by the code-name, ‘Silver’.

Within the hierarchy of the Church of Scientology, ultimate responsibility for the activities of Operation Snow White rested with Mary Sue Hubbard, the controller, but it was inconceivable that she was acting on her own initiative or not discussing progress with her husband. And although the amateur agents had discovered it was ridiculously easy to infiltrate, bug and burgle US government offices, the risks were considerable, both to the agents themselves and their church superiors. Hubbard was not too worried about who would take the rap if Operation Snow White was exposed, as long as it was not him.

Things eventually go wrong, with a number of these infiltrators arrested, and one of them, Michael Meisner, revealing the details of the operation, leading to an FBI raid on church offices, as well as the indictment and conviction of top church figures, including Mary Sue.

At six o’clock on the morning of 8 July 1977, 134 FBI agents armed with search warrants and sledgehammers, simultaneously broke into the offices of the Church of Scientology in Washington and Los Angeles and carted away 48,149 documents. They would reveal an astonishing espionage system which spanned the United States and penetrated some of the highest offices in the land.

On 15 August 1978, a federal grand jury in Washington indicted nine Scientologists on twenty-eight counts of conspiring to steam government documents, theft of government documents, burglarizing government offices, intercepting government communications, harbouring a fugitive, making false declarations before a grand jury and conspiring to obstruct justice. Heading the list of those indicted was Mary Sue Hubbard. She faced a maximum penalty, if convicted, of 175 years in prison and a fine of $40,000. On 29 August, all nine defendants were arraigned in the federal courthouse at the foot of Capitol Hill and pleaded not guilty.

Mary Sue never betrayed her husband, but then she had never intended to. The trial was scheduled for 24 September in Washington, but the government prosecutors and defence attorneys were still bargaining at that date and a stay was granted. On 8 October, in an unusual legal manoeuvre, an agreement was reached that the nine defendants would plead guilty to one count each if the government presented a written statement of its case, thereby avoiding a lengthy trial.

On 26 October, US District Judge Charles R. Richey accordingly found the nine Scientologists guilty on one count each of the indictment. Mary Sue and two others were fined the maximum of $10,000 and jailed for five years. The remaining defendants received similar fines and prison sentences of between one and four years.

Mary Sue would end up exiled from control of the church by its current head, a young upstart dynamo named David Miscavige, who is portrayed in Palms with equal vitriol as the Hubbards. Like Harry, he is Kreutzer’s son, but where Harry is an apostate, this boy is the true heir to the church. Palms does not give the current church leader the status of a man, but makes him into a petulant, sociopathic child. In his most disturbing scene, we see him in the moments before he kills a co-worker of Harry’s8:

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COTY
I just wanted to talk to you. You know, I made up all the stuff about Peter [another boy, working with the resistance group The Friends, who’s Harry’s real son] being here. This is a hard time for us. Exciting, but hard. I’m sure you know about, mom being in the hospital [Grace’s suicide attempt]. There’s lots of pressure on dad, too. “Windows”, [“Church Windows”, a program produced by the church of synthiotics] the new job. Everyone thinks he’s doing a great job, though. Just extra hard when the Friends tell him a bunch of stuff that isn’t true. You know what’s funny to think about? You love food so much! (COTY reaches for bag, and takes out a set of surgical tools.) But you’re never going to eat again. Not an egg, or a strawberry. Even a little baby pea. They’re gonna come in soon, talk to you about Peter. It won’t be so bad. They showed me how, but I’m a little nervous. I’m gonna do some cutting now, okay?

The Sea Org, the top tier of Scientology is well-known for dressing in naval uniforms, and this entity started out staffing the various ships of Hubbard’s which traveled the oceans. In the last two episodes, for no given reason, Coty and others suddenly start showing up in naval outfits, with Coty’s father witnessing a ceremony where his son is inducted into a position of high rank on one of Kreutzer’s yachts, The Floating World.

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We see Coty prominently filming the wedding of Kreutzer to Paige Katz; Miscavige started out in the scientology organization as a cameraman.

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From Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology:

[David] Miscavige was one of the many young disciples who formed a protective shield around Hubbard at his desert hideaway, “W.” Assigned first as a “traffic Messenger,” managing the flow of communications to and from Hubbard, he showed an interest in cinematography and ultimately became a member of the camera crew, working with the Commodore on his technical films.

Retiman’s book describes many of the details of the Miscavige character that show up in Coty; making this man’s fictional counterpart a child is a reference to his precociousness and intemperateness, but something else: his short stature.

[Daivd] Miscavige was born in Philadelphia in 1960 and grew up in a modest suburban home in Willingboro, New Jersey. His parents, Ronald Sr. and Loretta, a professional trumpet player and a nurse, were Catholics who raised their four children-Ronnie Jr., the oldest, followed by the twins David and Denise, and the younger sister, Laurie-to believe in Jesus and attend Mass at least somewhat regularly. Despite his Catholic faith, Ronald Sr. was drawn to Scientology, which he’d heard about from a business contact, and began to read some of Hubbard’s books, hoping it might help his younger son. A pint-sized, headstrong little boy, David was sickly, suffering from severe asthma and allergies.

Hubbard, who encouraged parents to look at their children as men and women whose bodies simply hadn’t attained full growth-“big thetans in little bodies,” as some parents said-had never established rules about when a child could or couldn’t be audited, go to work, or audit others. A precocious overachiever, David Miscavige learned to audit when he was twelve. By thirteen, he was counseling people two or three times his age and, some recalled, giving security checks to senior Scientology executives.

Now the self-appointed head of the All Clear Unit, Miscavige was twenty-one years old and, a highly aggressive and frequently belligerent young man, had come into his own. Though he could be supportive of those upon whose approval he depended, Miscavige was mistrustful of many others, with an “almost pathological” certainty, according to one former colleague, that he, of all the Messengers, was right. To some he seemed like a reflection of L. Ron Hubbard on his very worst days, cursing and barking orders at other Sea Org members, including some staffers much older than he, or screaming at those who disagreed with him. He chewed tobacco and in meetings would frequently make a show of spitting the juice into a cup. Brennan was appalled. “As I saw him, DM was like a highly impressionable spoiled child.”

After Hubbard’s death, Miscavige would be ruthlessly efficient at consolidating his power, exiling the rival force of Mary Sue Hubbard from the church.

In May 1981, [David] Miscavige visited Mary Sue in her Los Angeles office and told her that, as a convicted criminal, she could no longer be officially connected to the Church of Scientology. It would be “for the good of the church,” as well as for the good of her husband, if she resigned, he said. Furious, Mary Sue refused and, in one often-told account, became so enraged that she threw an ashtray at Miscavige’s head. But the twenty-one-year-old was intractable.

Numerous Scientology officials, particularly those loyal to David Miscavige, applauded his initiative. It was felt that Mary Sue Hubbard had blackened the name of the church; now it was only right that she be ostracized.

This conflict is reproduced in Palms with Coty worried that he will somehow be taken from power; the public revelation that Josie killed her own daughter, making her a liability for the church; and Coty giving one of Josie’s victims the opportunity to kill her.

JOSIE
Ahoy, captain! Well, don’t you look grand.

COTY
Deidre [Coty’s sister] been cooped up too long. It isn’t healthy.

JOSIE
Has she complained? I haven’t heard a word.

COTY
Grandma, what’s gonna happen after “Church Windows”? [the sitcom on which he’s been selected to star] You know when people get tired of watching?

JOSIE
They’ll never get tired.

COTY
Don’t lie to me. In a year, I could be history.

JOSIE
What’s gotten into you?

COTY
Are there other shows being developed?

JOSIE
Well, of course there are.

COTY
For me?

JOSIE
Yes! Don’t be silly!

COTY
Well, what are they?

JOSIE (flustered)
I don’t know darling, that’s the programmer’s domain.

COTY
I want the details. Now.

JOSIE
You’re acting like a child.

COTY grabs tanning mirror, then slaps JOSIE with mirror.

COTY
Don’t you ever say that to me. Don’t underestimate me. When you killed your daughter, your pulse never rose above normal. We’re alike in that way. But my crimes will be grander. I assure you. One day, I’ll put out the sun, and make bare every womb there ever was.

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COTY
There is a way to pay back the woman who did this to you. You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Tully?

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The series ends with Coty screeching as the church headquarters falls about him in flames. In 1993, such an ending might have seemed a little premature. Now, finally: maybe not.

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FOOTNOTES

1 To give an idea of how much this series has fallen out of consciousness, even when a reference is made to the show, it goes unnoticed. For instance, when researching this, I came across the summary of a “How I Met You Mother” episode titled “Everything Must Go”. This is also the name of the first episode of Wild Palms, and it is a recurrent and important phrase in the show. This episode of “Mother” involves a plot detail of someone buying a painting with a frame by Anton Kreutzer, the same name of the senator of Palms, who is involved in framing, manipulating, media. One would think the possibility might be raised here that this is a small, elegant in-joke, but the compiler of the summary makes no mention of it – instead, mis-hearing the name as Anton Kreitzer (I am not a Mother aficionado, have not seen a single episode, but a transcript of this episode is definite that it is Kreutzer), and writing of a reference to an old Cheers episode.

2 Samples of his other work can be found at his web site. The frames of the comic used here I took from a sample of the first Palms strip, found at the William Gibson Message Board, in the thread focused on “Gibsonian” material.

3 The show’s title is shared with that of a well-known and reputable Faulkner novel (I have not read it – I sometimes fall into his work with ease, and sometimes I find his endless sentences brutal as triathalons). Wagner hints at his appreciation of the novel’s title in a brief moment in his Force Majeure, a book so scathing and cruel in its portrayal of Hollywood and Los Angeles life, where everyone is a thief, an opportunist, a plagiarist – all the gold rings are bronze, all the bronze is tarnished, all the rings are stolen off the fingers of the dead – that in a better world, it would disillusion a far wider audience. It was this book that Oliver Stone originally wanted to make into a TV series and, unsurprisingly, the television industrial complex demurred, prefering something a little less corrosive.

The moment is this, when Perry Bravo, a former convict who briefly becomes a cause célèbre, discovers the Faulkner on the shelves of the Force protagonist, Bud Wiggins:

He fingered The Wild Palms and said it was a title so beautiful he was going to use it himself.

4 I touch on it only briefly in the main text, to avoid getting bogged down, but the symbolism of the rhino is specific, explicit, and recurrent throughout the series. It is an important symbol, important to both factions, the Fathers and the Friends, but not an ambiguous one – both view it the same way, as an image of totemic significance. Both factions, however, see the rhino as marking themselves, and not the other as the saved. Harry has the dream of the rhino, but so does his son; this is significant to members of both factions, and marks both as figures of crucial importance to each. Each, however, views itself as something like the true church.

Kreutzer states what the rhino means to the series, in bold type, in the first episode, “Everything Must Go”:

KREUTZER
Harry do you know what the rhino is? It’s all that’s left of the unicorn. A magnificent atavism. The remnant of ecstatic myth, rough, nearly blind, utterly exquisite. I bet you think I’m a twee old bastard, don’t you?

Kreutzer’s other son, Coty, also has the dream of the rhino and this is of importance to Josie. Coty cannot reveal his dream, because this might reveal to others his great importance as an heir to the church:

COTY
I had the dream again last night…with the rhinoceros.

JOSIE
Tell anyone? (COTY nods no) Not even your dad? (COTY nods no again)

JOSIE
You’re not afraid, are you, darling monkey? If you’re afraid of the rhino, then the dream goes away. Then you’ll be like everybody else. And that’s the most terrible thing in the world.

Harry has a second dream, where he goes down to the kitchen for some milk, then sees a rhino. He runs back up to his bedroom, to wake his wife, but instead he finds Page Katz in his bed, marked with a Wild Palms tattoo. He turns her over, but she’s suddenly transformed into Kreutzer, who makes rhino noises. The dream is an omen: Harry will have an affair with Paige, he will join the Wild Palms group, and he will discover that Kreutzer is closer to him than he could possibly imagine – he is Paige’s lover, the father of his son, Coty, and his own father as well. Since the rhino marks one as someone of spiritual significance, he makes the noise of a rhino since he’s the leader of his church.

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When Harry first meets the Friends, he hears that the Friend leadership have all had the dream of the rhino as well.

TULLY
Still having the visions, Harry?

GAVIN
The rhino’s key, Harry. We all saw the rhino.

STITCH
Not everyone sees the rhino.

When members of the Friends are killed, their bodies are marked with a rhino – a mocking note: if they are members of an elect, why weren’t they saved from death? Coty leaves his toy rhino on Gavin after he kills him, and a rhino is left with the body of the Friend doctor who extracts the Go chip from Harry’s hand.

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When Eileen, Gavin’s wife, visits Grace, to tell her of the circumstances of the death of her husband, Gavin:

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EILEEN
Oh, hey I almost forgot. I brought you something. Here. (hands over toy rhinoceros)

GRACE
Where’d you find this?

EILEEN
Gavin had it in his pocket when they found him. I thought it belonged to one of the kids, and then I remembered the night we had dinner here, and Coty showed us his collection of sweet rhinoceri.

Tommy gives Harry a knife with a hilt made from rhino tusk. He’ll use it to perform his first heroic act, forcing a technician to broadcast his wife’s murder by her mother, the heroic act making clear that he is member of the elect.

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The series began with Kreutzer explaining that the rhino is the last earthly vestige of the unicorn, and as the series ends, Kreutzer speaks in his death scene of the unicorn again, as he gives his reason for transforming himself into a hologram. There is no place for the mystic, the mythic, in the world of crude substance, and so it must leave for another plane entirely.

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KREUTZER
Do you know what the unicorn does when it is surrounded by hunters? It sommersaults into the nearest abyss, breaking the fall with its horn!

5 It’s easy to find an example of this, I find one at “Baudrillard and Babes at the Consumer Electronics Show”, by Lydia DePillis:

A few feet away, a tall, slim guy named Jason Silva-a self-described “epiphany addict” and “techno-philosopher” – paced a stage freestyling on the amazingness of evolution and the Internet. Then he turned on a video of himself doing it even faster against a galactic backdrop, tossing out quotes from famous futurists as he built towards a climax. “Radical openness is huge!” Silva rhapsodized. “It’s a universe of possibility, it’s gray infused by color, it’s the invisible revealed, it’s the mundane blown away by awe! We need to cultivate radical openness as a way of participating in and celebrating evolution!”

6 There are many excellent actors in the cast, which includes Angie Dickinson, Ben Savage, David Warner, Brad Dourif, Dana Delaney, Ernie Hudson, Charles Hallahan, Rondi Reed, François Chau, and Kim Cattrall. The stand-out, for me, apart from Loggia, is Nick Mancuso who does a great job despite the crippling hindrance of not being able to show emotion through his eyes – they are veiled for much of the program by the dark glasses that provide him with artificial sight. Bebe Neuwirth, as always, is given neither enough screen-time or enough to do. Robert Morse gives off a strange, beautiful menace when he sings “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” that verges on greatness – he seems able to do so much, was asked to do too little, and now, he is no longer of this earth. James Belushi, who was beleaguered with slight notices for his work, is physically, the right choice, for he is Kreutzer’s son, and should carry the same traits of bulk and belligerence, of his father, but overshadowed by a passiveness, a disinterest, that he ultimately must overcome in order to attain the role of hero. What makes the work of Belushi and the others more difficult is that the writing is designed for momentum and exposition, so it feels as if the characters are seized by the plot, rather than animating it through their own initiative.

That Loggia gives the best performance here is not simply by virtue of his qualities as an actor, which are formidable, but that there is a complexity to this character that is lacking in the others. I have emphasised the strong similarities to the character of Hubbard, but there are two speeches that Kreutzer makes which distinguish him from this real-life figure, and make him more complicated, more sympathetic than a simple villain – however contemptible his actions might be.

The first, is a speech made right after he makes his hologram presentation where a samurai attacks him, and he meets Harry for the first time. He launches into the following speech, without prompting:

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KREUTZER
My father owned a little clothing store, downtown L.A. Did you know that, Harry? He started out a tailor. Oh yes, the jews were the only tailors. My father was murdered by the Friends. They broke into the shop, they stole his things. They defecated in his shop, and they beat this old man, this maker of…suits. They didn’t kill him. That came…months later. He stayed alive, long enough to have a fire sale. A fire sale. In an inferno. Can you imagine it, Harry? And I’ll never forget the sight of him: death, already in his eyes, slumped on a chair. Beneath a great, colorful banner: Everything must go.

A second insightful moment happens in the second to last episode of the series, “Hungry Ghosts”, during a conversation with Harry, the only other time Kreutzer speaks of his parents. There are many references to movies, music, and novels in this series, and this garden meeting between a father and son (though the son doesn’t know it yet), calls to mind the garden meeting of another father and son, Vito and Michael, in The Godfather:

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KREUTZER
Everybody’s hungry. Everybody’s a hungry ghost.

HARRY
What’d ya mean?

KREUTZER
It’s a buddhist thing. Like our hell. Hungry ghosts are souls. Doomed to wander the earth, tormented by an insatiable desire.

HARRY
Should I have that developed? Sounds like a channel three sitcom.

KREUTZER
(laughs) Play the ponies, Harry?

HARRY
Once in a while. I like the exactas.

KREUTZER
Santa Anita. Lovely track. They used it during the second world war. Called it an assembly center.

HARRY
For the camps?

KREUTZER
They moved them out from there. Heart Mountain. Manzanar. The people have forgotten all about that. Pearl Harbor changed everything. Oh, mama.

HARRY
Your mother was Japanese?

KREUTZER
Just a drop. But enough to satisfy executive order 9066. They sent her to Manzanar.

HARRY
I’m sorry.

KREUTZER
And he never took us to see her, once. Crazy drunk. All the time. “Mama was in the desert”, he said, “helping government agents bury children who were bad. So we’d better stay away.” She died a few weeks before the camps were liberated.

HARRY
And your father?

KREUTZER
Cirrhosis, thank god. I still think of him, wandering the earth, speaking in tongues. The original hungry ghost.

This is a man who is the son of persecuted americans, though they are not simple victims – his father neglected his mother at her time of greatest need, and Kreutzer, rightly or wrongly, damns him for this. Here we see a hint that Kreutzer does not wish power simply for power itself, but stemming from an early sense of vulnerability, of wanting the protection of great power. His mother was persecuted by the state, and his solution is not to reform the state to make it more just, but to simply take it over, and have it serve his ends. As said before, that these complexities exist does not make his actions any less contemptible; L. Ron Hubbard was a complex man as well, and that he felt want, that he suffered, does not prevent one from judging his deeds. For the curious, Hubbard’s father was an officer in the navy, often absent from the home, and his profession may have caused his son to equal this distant idol by inventing various seafaring heroics he was supposedly involved in, as well as the idea of the Sea Org. His mother worked as a clerk. His father was not jewish and did not die of cirrhosis. His mother was not part Japanese.

A final note: In this series that is peculiarly averse to difficult issues of race and ethnicity – though it was made a year after the L.A. riots, no reference is made to those things which provoked that historical moment, and not a single character ever breaks into spanish – Kreutzer’s heritage provides one small insight. As so many of the characters end up being related to him, by the close of the series it becomes clear that a great chunk of the cast that we’ve been watching is both part Jewish, and part Japanese; the mongrel nation that has been feared for so long has already arrived. A suitable epigraph of this point is the line said by a Japanese american character of the series, Hiro, before he commits suicide to avoid falling into enemy hands: “I come from a long line of tough bastards; my grandfather raided Dachau.”

7 There is an unexpected gender asymmetry in the quality of the villains; a defining trait of many soap operas is a great villainess, and even though I don’t watch soap operas, the names of the great ones are well known to all – Melrose Place‘s Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear), Dynasty‘s Alexis Carrington (Joan Collins), All My Children‘s Erica Kane (Susan Lucci), etc. – they are women who act however they wish to achieve their own ends. One can understand the appeal of these characters in a world where so often women are shamed into restricted forms of behavior through social codes; these women have no shame, so they’ll act according to their own code to get what they want. Josie Ito should belong to this tradition, but she doesn’t. Because she has been conceived (in part, I think, because of the real-life figure she is based on) as acting solely in the service of her brother’s agenda, she lacks the appeal of being her own woman, acting for her own ends. Since neither her devotion to her brother, nor her faith are fully explored, she is simply, vividly, violently cruel – and the great female villains of this genre are more than simple sadists. Their appeal does not lie with their callousness, but because they are some of the few women characters to act according to their id, as so many men do, without restraint.

There is a separate and strange problem with the other major female character, Josie’s daughter, Grace. Her existence on the show is an unending nightmare, a series of the worst possibilities that can burden a woman: her husband starts cheating on her – despite the fact that she’s much better looking than her mate, she’s unable to keep him; her child turns out not to be her child; she commits herself to love him anyway, then she finds out that he’s a sociopathic murderer; her mother hates her; finally, her mother kills her. It is a life without salvation or relief, and what the intent here is, I’m uncertain. Perhaps an acerbic depiction of how nasty the lives of women on contemporary TV can be, in contrast to their TV husbands – Harry ends the series a hero with the girlfriend he cheated on Grace with. That there can be no possibility for anything like happiness for a good woman such as this in a soap opera, and that her best choice is to leave it, might be hinted at in an event that takes place after Grace’s death. An old lover, Hiro, who is much better looking than her husband, commits suicide, and pledges to join Grace in the afterlife; a woman like Grace can have a happiness and the companionship of a kind, good-looking man, but she needs to exit television life to have it.

8 Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear goes in detail into David Miscavige’s own strange and violent behavior that might have inspired this character. The Ron and Loretta in this section are David Miscavige’s parents:

The following year, in June, Ron and Loretta had to return to the United States for a couple of weeks. They needed someone to take care of David while they and the other children were gone. There was another American studying at Saint Hill, Ervin Scott, whose wife was also afflicted with asthma. His memory is that he agreed to let the boy stay with him. He recalls that in the first encounter David’s parents, along with his twin sister, met with him before they left. Scott immediately liked the family. The father was “wonderful and bright,” the mother was “very beautiful, with high affinity,” and the daughter was “the cutest thing.” David, however, sat at the end of the couch, unsmiling, with his arms crossed. The family wanted to make sure that Scott knew what to do in case of an intense asthma attack. “They said, ‘We have to warn you about Dave,’ ” Scott recalled. “ ‘David has episodes, very unusual episodes.’ ” The parents explained that Dave became extremely angry when he was suffering an asthma seizure. “Then they said, starting with the husband, ‘When these episodes occur, do not touch him!’ The mother reiterated, ‘Yes, please don’t touch him!’ I said, ‘What happens?’ They said, ‘David gets very, very violent, and he beats the hell out of you if you touch him.’ And the sister says, ‘Oh my God, he does beat you, really hard!’ ” Again and again, the family members emphasized that David had beaten them during an attack.

An anecdote about Miscavige’s brutal treatment of another church member during an auditing session:

In August, Scott was sitting out in the yard across from the castle and the auditing rooms on the Saint Hill grounds. He was talking to a friend of his, a Norwegian nurse. Suddenly they heard a young woman wailing. Scott remembers looking up and seeing David, his face red and the veins visible in his forehead. He had a preclear folder under his arm. Behind him was the crying girl, who was holding her side in apparent pain. According to Scott the nurse exclaimed, “He beat up his PC!”

Karen de la Carriere was also a young intern at Saint Hill, and she was directed to join the others in the internship room. “They told us that David Miscavige had struck his PC,” she recalled. “He had been removed from his internship, and we were not to rumor-monger or gossip about it. We were supposed to just bury it.”

The Brennan who relates this anecdote of violence is Larry Brennan, who was at the time on the church’s watchdog committee:

Gold Base was the only place deemed secure enough for Brennan to send his dispatches. Brennan says that in late 1982 he witnessed Miscavige abusing three Scientology executives who had made some small error. The three offenders were lined up before their leader. According to Brennan, he punched the first one in the mouth. The next he slapped hard in the face. He choked the third executive so hard that Brennan thought the man would black out. No explanation was offered.

(A few aesthetic changes have been made since publication, and some material has been added. No part of the essence of the analysis made, however, has been altered in any way. Footnote 8 was added on November 28th, 2013.)

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