I swear, I don't know whether to pay attention to this story or not.
A couple of readers have chided me for writing about the Breitbart-linked right-wingers who have mounted a bizarre media campaign against relative nonentity Brett Kimberlin. In their feverish scenario, Kimberlin is the kingpin of a massive conspiracy to stifle free speech by SWATting conservative writers.
("SWATting" refers to the quaint practice of making a false distress call to the cops, who are told to show up at the address of someone the caller does not like. The goal is to insure that a twitchy, loaded-for-bear police response team storms your enemy's home.)
Let it slide
, some readers have advised me. Don't feed the trolls
That's usually good advice. But.
The meme has found its way into Congress. And now Fox News is making a big deal out of it: "Conservative bloggers taking precautions over ‘SWAT-ing’ attacks."
The Fox piece does not mention Kimberlin by name, but it does portray right-wing bloggers as the victims of an evil lefty conspiracy:
The growing trend, which some say could one day prove deadly, had conservatives on edge at the annual RightOnline conference of right-wing bloggers and activists in Las Vegas this weekend.
"What they're clearly trying to do is dampen down free speech, but it goes beyond that -- it's putting people's physical safety in jeopardy," said Ali Akbar, who heads a group called the National Bloggers Club made up of conservative online writers.
"Growing trend." "Some say." There you have it -- the whole Fox act in a nutshell.
SWATting is hardly a "growing trend." Yes, the tactic is real; people have harassed enemies in this fashion for some years. Parmy Olson refers to SWATting in her remarkable new book We Are Anonymous
-- about which, I hope to say more soon.
Basically, this form of attack was born in the obnoxious prankster subculture permeating the 4chan site, which also gave birth to the underground hacker groups Anonymous and LulzSec. After reading Olson's book, I began to suspect that the "underground war" that grew out of Weinergate is, to a large degree, a war between the left and right wings of the 4chan community.
How do we know that Kimberlin had any connection to the SWAT calls?
We don't have any evidence pointing in that direction. The fact that there was a coordinated media campaign designed to convince us that Kimberlin is guilty leads me to consider the possibility that someone on the right SWATted his compatriots.
Note that "Patterico," the first alleged victim, made no noteworthy reference to his 2011 SWAT experience for months and months. He spoke up only after the right had decided to mount a coordinated attack on Kimberlin on May 25 of this year. Just a few days later, the next SWAT occurred; this time, the target was right-wing radio host/CNN contributor Erick Erickson. The timing of the Erickson event was just too damned convenient; it occurred at exactly the right time to keep the Frey furor from dying. The benefit to anyone on the left was nil; the benefit to the right was enormous. (There have been other claimed SWATs, but the Frey and Erickson incidents have received the most publicity.)
I don't agree with everything said by Hart Williams at The Moderate Voice
, but this run-on sentence may bear quotation...
I suppose that it’s inevitable now that this “story” will now appear in the MSM, fully developed, its language honed to a fine “victimology” sheen — complete with Luntzian focus-grouped slogans and terms — and that we will now see sober talking heads discussing how three prank phone calls are a clear and present danger, and NOT about how this phony story has been being worked (now with Bloviating Congressional Action®!) since Memorial Day Weekend, now, to prove the phony assertion that “liberals” and ‘leftists” and “the fringe left” are the CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER to freedom of speech, and NOT the Right Wing Echo Machine, which is clearly coordinating this between congress and the bloggers (who appeared in Las Vegas this weekend, along with slanderer-for-hire Sarah Palin, paid for by Americans for (Koch) Prosperity at Sheldon Adelson’s pointedly NON-UNION casino/resort.
An anti-Breitbart site called Breitbart Unmasked
has come to my notice. Memeorandum never links to it. Most people on the left ignore it. Yet in the rightist imagination, B.U. is terribly important -- in fact, it is the nefarious hub of the Great Left Wing Conspiracy Against All That is Good and Holy. The grandmaster, in their view, must be none other than Evil Kimberlin himself.
I doubt that he actually runs the site, although I don't know who does.
B.U. publishes a lot of petty crap about Breitbart-linked bloggers. For example, B.U. has revealed that one right-wing writer has used hookers. My response: Big deal. Inane, small-minded personal attacks are reprehensible when right-wingers launch them, and such attacks are no less reprehensible when a putative enemy of the right descends into the same morass of insipidity.
Nevertheless, some interesting nuggets of information do appear on B.U. from time to time. For example, this post
offers some further details on the initial SWAT attack on John Frey, the Assistant D.A. in Los Angeles who blogs under the name of Patterico. Although parts of the picture remain unclear, it appears that -- directly after the initial SWAT -- Frey told another right-wing blogger "that he has not reported the matter to his local PD because “They’re not interested in this.”
How can the cops not
SWATting is, in essence, the filing of a false police report. The cops should want to learn every detail, especially when the victim belongs to the Los Angeles D.A.'s office. I can't imagine a scenario in which the authorities make no attempt to determine who did what.
At any rate, it seems clear that whatever the hell happened on that night was of no great importance to Frey until someone decided to use SWAT claims as the foundation for a propaganda barrage.
A final note:
The right-wing blogs give the impression that Brad Friedman (a writer/radio personality they don't like) is the conspiratorial partner of Neal Rauhauser (another person the righties don't like.) For examples, see here
I had a brief, semi-acrimonious email exchange with Brad earlier today. Turns out he doesn't even know who Rauhauser is -- couldn't place the guy politically, and couldn't even spell his name. Yet the conservatives have hallucinations in which Brad and Neal get together for secret meetings at Conspiracy Central -- where, after sacrificing a goat or two to Baal, they get their orders from Evil Soros himself.
Do the Breitbarters actually believe
the crap they're writing?