(Update II: It's pretty clear now that Buzzfeed fucked me over royally. Buzzfeed poses as a hip, vaguely left-friendly site that appeals to the young. But as my follow-up story proves, Buzzfeed is really part of the Breitbart propaganda machine.)
(Update: Some people are coming here from Rosie Gray's piece on Buzzfeed. Alas, Gray didn't quite understand my point. Twice now, I've tried to submit a (polite) correction, but Buzzfeed either won't or can't publish it. If anyone's interested, I can display it in this space tomorrow.)
I didn't want to write about the latest Big Meme sweeping across rightwingerland, but a few words are necessary. Maybe more than a few.
In a couple of previous posts, I made fairly oblique reference to a weird subculture of bloggers -- on both the right and the left, though most of them are hyper-conservatives -- which arose out of Weinergate. Their obsession with that scandal soon went way beyond Weiner, and perhaps even beyond conventional left-right politics. A very personal twilight war broke out.
Frankly, I never could understand what this war was all about. But a few facts became clear:
1. These twilight warriors are obsessed with hacking and related matters. Some of them claim to have worked with Anonymous and LulzSec and allied organizations.
2. They use obvious sockpuppets. If you visit their microblogs, the self-astroturfing is evident.
3. They are forever claiming that the FBI and/or the cops are going to arrest their opponents very soon. (On what charge? God knows.) Both the left-wingers and the right-wingers make this claim.
4. The rage level runs white hot. This war goes beyond politics. It's personal.
5. Most of the right-wingers inhabit BreitbartWorld, where everyone reveres the underhanded tactics of James O'Keefe.
6. The most prominent of the left-wingers is a bizarre IT specialist named Neal Rauhauser, whom I believe to be the latest online incarnation of a fellow named John Dean, a.k.a. SluggoJD and a few other things. (Assumed identities play a huge role in these realms. In an earlier post
, I discussed the reasons why I think the two are one and the same.) Dean, who claims to be a cyber-detective, is a fairly well-known -- though rarely well-liked -- figure throughout blogistan left. He used to be an occasional presence on this blog, although I always kept him at arm's length. Whatever the name or nick, he is not
a man I trust. Or they are not men I trust. Whatever.
7. The twilight warriors often lose the ability to write comprehensibly. For example: I tried very hard to get a straight story out of Rauhauser, but he kept presuming that I was familiar with people and events about which I knew nothing.
It was best, I decided, to let these unhappy personages fight among themselves. Still, their rage-games threatened, one day, to take a more serious turn.
One of the Breitbarters calls himself "Patterico." His real name is no secret: He's John Frey, a prosecutor for the L.A. D.A.'s office. Frey initiated a multi-blog day of fury when he published a post alleging that he was set up by a phone hacker
. If I understand the story correctly, the hacker called the police from what seemed to be Frey's number and claimed to be a man who had just shot his wife.
Serious business, that. Frey, quoting the late Breitbart, insists that this is a common left-wing tactic called "SWATting." (If it's a left
-wing tactic, then why don't any lefties mention it?)
Although proof is lacking, Frey seems to think that the hacker is someone named Brett Kimberlin.
If you just now said "Brett who?" -- you are probably a liberal. Kimberlin is a huge
effing deal on the right. After Barack Obama, he's the man conservatives love to hate -- so much so, they even have an entire blog devoted to Brett
. Pretty soon, they'll be selling Brett merchandise.
The Breitbarters claim that Kimberlin is funded by Evil Soros
and the Even More Evil Barbra Streisand. They also claim that Brett Kimberlin started Raw Story
. (I doubt that.) Word has it that Glenn Beck is going to be on the Kimberlin case.
If you look at Memeorandum right now
, it's all Kimberlin, all the time. (Update:
It is no longer Kimberlin Day on Memeorandum, a news aggregation site which updates feed continually.)
Basically, Kimberlin is the new Saul Alinski: In right-wing mythology, liberals consider him il capo di tutti capi
. Kimberlin is the alpha dog, the leader of the pack, the bomb-tossing Messiah of the Progs.
Or so the Breitbarters would have people believe.
liberals have little or no idea as to who the guy is.
I first got a whiff of the right's Brett-mania maybe four or five years ago, when I received a flurry of crankish emails accusing me of being involved in some sort of conspiracy with That Bastard Brett. (Why were these accusations directed at me
? I had, and have, no idea.)
The name "Kimberlin" was puzzling, but it did ring a very distant bell. Then I recalled that, back in the late 1980s or early 1990s, a prisoner named Kimberlin made weird claims about Dan Quayle which became the basis for a series of Doonesbury comics. Something about selling pot. It was all very droll.
If you want a fuller story on Kimberlin, convicted for several bombings back in the '70s, you may want to go here.
Author David Weigel seems to think that the conservative pile-up on Kimberlin is a manufactured mania, and I must agree that Kimberlin Hate Day does seem rather ginned-up and astroturfy.
Today, the right side of the blogosphere is trying out a fascinating crowd-source experiment. For months, a few conservative writers -- most of them using pen names -- have been in a pitched battle with a convicted felon-turned-activist named Brett Kimberlin. By any reasonable definition, Kimberlin is a public figure. Mark Singer, who was snookered by Kimberlin into writing a bogus New Yorker story, eventually turned on his source and made him the subject of a book.
When Kimberlin resurfaced in the world of "black box voting" activism,
conservative bloggers started to ask questions about him. Skip to May
2012. Blogger Patterico says he was the victim of a hoax that brought
armed police officers to his home. The blogger "Aaron Worthing,"
identity exposed by a frivolous lawsuit, is counter-suing.
The goal of "Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day," as far as I can see it, is to make Kimberlin famous again.
Weigel was soon contacted by one Ron Brynaert, of whom we must now speak, although I had hoped not to. Brynaert also figures heavily in Frey's conspiracy theory. Although "Patterico" is not the clearest of writers, he seems to think that Evil Brett and Evil Ron are working together on some evil scheme funded by Evil Soros.
Before proceeding, please understand this: I don't know exactly what happened to Frey, and right now I have bigger fish to fry than to scrutinize every jot and tittle of his claims. (A couple of those fishes are downright Moby-sized.) In fact, I would have preferred to ignore this whole business.
But a couple of weeks ago, I had my own unsettling run-in with this Ron Brynaert character, who fancies himself to be the
expert on Weinergate. He also loves to make wild, paranoid claims about everyone who ever had more than ten words to say about the matter. Brynaert has gone beyond left and right; he's off the map and zooming through the fourth dimension.
When Brynaert contacted me, I had forgotten that he had been an editor at Raw Story. He seemed miffed that I had temporarily misfiled his name in my memory.
He wanted to know why I thought Neal Rauhauser and "John Dean" were one and the same. I told him. Then he asked me again. I told him again. Then he asked me again
, implying that I was hiding something...
Ron was defining himself as a truly strange person.
He sent me long, snarling, venom filled letters that didn't make much sense. (His surreal missive to Weigel
gives a flavor of what to expect when Ron Brynaert puts you on his pen pal list.) I tried to be uncharacteristically nice, even when he insinuated that I was up to no good.
Brynaert's obvious psychological pain helped me to keep my composure. I politely told him that I couldn't really follow what he was going on about, but that he might do better if he stepped back and took some time off. The message was simple: "Time to chill, dude." Sweartagod, that was all
That was enough.
Ron Brynaert became convinced that I was part of the Great Conspiracy Against Ron Brynaert. This, despite the fact that he
originally wrote me;
I had wanted nothing to do with the guy or with any of the "twilight warriors." According to Brynaert, other members of the Great Conspiracy Against Ron include the Breitbart crew, Neal Rauhauser, blogger Brad Friedman, Brett Kimberlin, maybe Glinda the Good Witch -- and, oh, hell, just everyone
You're definitely going to be contacted by NYPD detectives and lawyers from one of my sources who is prosecuting Rauhauser for harassment.
I am a crime victim. I was extorted for $20,000.
Do not write me again unless you want to help me.
I do not need to be menaced anymore. Because of your bullshit blog post I have JDSluggo sending me nasty emails and smearing me just like he did years ago.
This is for real. Not a blog war. Not an ARG.
You should be ashamed of your self for the letters you sent me.
I'm so tired of you cowardly conspiracy theorists spreading fake news, smearing people and pretending you are sane.
You are a horrible man. Like I need this when right wing smearers are threatening me and accusing me of crimes?
I warn you that this is not a joke...and you better never email me anything menacing or nasty again....nor allude to me on your blogs.
I'll be reporting the blackmail threat to the NYPD in the next few weeks and I will make sure detectives contact you...because this is a really shameful thing to write a scared crime victim.
Let me stress again: I had had absolutely no
desire hear from this guy. Arguably, he harassed me
. Maybe "harassed" is too strong a verb; "pester" gets closer to the mark. At any rate, readers know that my attention had switched ages ago from Weiner to very different matters; although I gave the twilight warriors the occasional wary glance, I wasn't really keeping track of their antics. (By the way, can anyone tell me what an ARG is?)
Of course, no detectives or lawyers have ever contacted me. Won't happen.
Still, this man's bizarre outburst was unnerving. So I asked around: Who IS Ron Brynaert?
The response was quick and clear: Ron Brynaert was once a promising writer and investigator, but he became completely unglued after he lost his job at Raw Story.
It is a sad but simple fact of life that one out of ten people go stark raving bonkers. After reading the letter above, you may come to your own conclusion as to whether Ron Brynaert is Dude #10.
Let's get back to Patterico/Frey. He rather scurrilously tries to tie Brynaert in with Brad Friedman. (I used to be on good terms with Brad, but I got peeved at him back in 2008. That was a bad year for a lot of people.) It's true that Brad allowed Brynaert to write one (1) post on his blog -- at a time before the man's psychological state had become clear. I'm sure Brad now regrets the whole thing.
Frey accuses Brynaert of working with Kimberlin, and so do many of the other twilight warriors. (He's called a Kimberlin "sycophant" here
. I would apply only the first syllable of that word to Brynaert.) Oddly, in his ranting letters to me, Brynaert seemed to agree with the Breitbarters that Brett Kimberlin was the font of all evil.
Bottom line: It's ridiculous for Frey to scry conspiracy in the ravings of an individual who has so thoroughly lost sight of reality that he alienates everyone he bumps into.
Frey has accused Brad of stalking him, although Frey presents no evidence
(It is true that Brad used to work with Kimberlin on something called the Velvet Revolution. I never pressed Brad about that business back when he and I were talking. In more general terms, I've let Brad know that some of his associates were very
iffy, particularly the "controlled demolition" whackadoodles who would occasionally contribute to his otherwise fine blog. Also speaking in general terms, I should note that Kimberlin has been portrayed as a very persuasive con artist
Frey/Patterico's blog post includes a recording of the call that inaugurated the right's Let's Make Kimberlin Famous Day. I don't recognize the voice of the guy who called the police, but it's definitely not Rauhauser. (Yes, I've spoken with Neal/John/whomever on the phone, although I now regret doing so.)
Clearly, though, the impersonator is a very troubled individual. To my mind, the "schizy" quality of the guy's voice narrows down the list of chief suspects. You may be able to hazard a guess as to whom I consider a likely candidate.
There's one other possibility, of course.
This whole business -- the phone call, the SWAT meme, the inauguration of Let's Make Kimberlin Famous Day -- might be an O'Keefe-esque deception operation. Everyone knows that the Breitbarters love to pull crap like that. Who knows? Perhaps the fellow who called the cops on that night is the same guy who engineered the "Betty and Veronica" mind-screw directed against Tommy Christopher of Mediaite.
(As noted above, I'll be moderating comments very heavily, as per the posted rules. Go ahead and accuse me of censorship. I giveth not a rodent's buttocks.)