Just when I was starting to enjoy my little blogging vacation, I have gotten sucked back into the ugly vortex that is the political blogosphere. This time it is about a subject near and dear to my heart: internet anonymity. Everything worth saying about the subject has already been said here, at the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A much-cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:
Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.
The reason the subject of internet anonymity has come up now, is that a blog called Hillbuzz (I made some comments about them here in December) is claiming their anonymity has been compromised by Obama supporters at a website called Rumproast. In turn the Obama supporters claim they are being harassed, but oddly enough, at the same time, they have freaked out and closed down their main forum. The main subject of discussion involves the identity of Rumproast blogger JohnD, who started a website called “stupidpumas” on WordPress, and later at stupidpumas.com and pumafail.com, and whether he has published real names and photos of anonymous persons.
At one point, “JohnD” invited me to “dialog” and brought all the Rumpsters along. I have since removed all the Rumproast threads and aired out my blog, but the four letter words I had to put in my filter are still there. After the “dialog”, they also stalked me for ages at various blogs, discussing comments I had posted on non-political blogs at length on their forum and linking to a photograph they said was of me. One of them impersonated me at Pandagon; the Pandagon admin deleted the account of my stalker, but would not provide me with the IP of the person who did it.
I am not happy about the Rumproast visit to my clean and quiet blog.
While I don’t publish either real names or IP’s, I do link bloggers with their sock puppets. Here are the names JohnD has used on this website, commenting:
- as “theWatcher”: Rumproast Leftovers
- as “JohnD”: Rumproast Wonkette Lurker Thread
- as “johnd12009” and “JohnD”: Rumproast Flame War (just kidding)
- as “theWatcher”: Rumproast: the Eightfold Path
and on his own blog:
- as “johnd” and “obotinchief”: Hanging it up (on this thread you also see johnd consumed in flames at the same time as TheBigotBasher rises from the ashes like a Phoenix, with nearly identical links given to stupidpumas.com and pumafail.com respectively.)
- and the thread about outing economics professor Dakinikat.
UPDATE: Part of Rumproast proprietor Kevin’s narrative is that the excesses of the misogynist bullies that take refuge at his blog are outliers, not condoned or encouraged by him in any way. He lays out this position on his Hillbuzz FAQ post where he states, “…but I deleted the comment the minute I saw it and basically told TheBigotBasher to bugger off. I do not support, nor have I ever supported, the outing of people who blog or comment under aliases, regardless of what I personally think about them.”
Going back to “The Dialog” let’s take a look at another Rumproast regular, “Strangeappar8tus”, who has control of enough editing keys at the Rumproast to author his own posts. “Strange”, as he is nicknamed:
- wrote the full name of a private citizen, a troubled individual, in this comment.
- And in this thread, he uses the name Robert Ching and pretends he has never seen my blog before: (“I found this site through Stumble, quite by accident.”)
For diehard Rumproast sniffers I have also resurrected, hopefully for a very short time, some posts I wrote some time ago on a private, non-unsearchable test blog when it became clear members of Rumproast were stalking and impersonating me and posting photographs they said were of me. For those with the time to search defunct blogs with the Wayback Machine, some of the posts contain old links and screenshots of now-disappeared forum discussions. I have also restored the Rumproast members’ all time search favorite, Farewell Strangelove, my tribute to the Strangeappar8us courtship which I found both so touching and so repugnant. We still have Paris, eh, Strange?
So is the current bru-ha-ha just about one rogue blogger, or is Rumproast an astroturf machine that regurgitates predigested talking points while spying on and trying to disrupt progressive non-misogynist bloggers? Is the Rumproasters’ real goal to “cut away from the herd” in their “neutralize and release” program, or was that just talk? Has Rumproast achieved “plausible deniability”? I sort of hope the Hillbuzz people can get to the bottom of it.
It just occurred to me, when PumaPAC founder Murphy did a radio broadcast on the line with Jennihillary, the Rumproast regulars showed up en masse to comment on the radio stations blog. Some of the comments were pretty over the top. And unlike their Rumper Room forum, Rumproast doesn’t have the capability to scrub these blogs…yet.
Interview between Jenniforhillary and Darragh Murphy of Puma PAC on KPFT November 13, 2008: