November 20, 2007

Home-Grown Terrorists: "Hate Bloggers"

It may seem passé to speak of Islamo-Fascism Awareness week, held on our campuses in October. It may seem silly to harp on the likes of David Horowitz, Ann Coulter, and flustered Joe Kauffman--who could have used his hackneyed gig at UCLA to land a show on Comedy Central. It may seem counterproductive to mention these well-known bigots who make their millions preaching to the FOX News choir.

So let’s not waste more time or space rehashing the misguided babble of these nationally recognized pawns who somehow wind up on the bestseller list. We already know them for what they are.

Of more concern are certain bloggers, aspiring to join the ranks of Daniel Pipes and the ilk, dreaming of that name recognition that has thus far eluded them. These folks work at the local level to launch personalized attacks against private citizens, posting half-truths, rumors and malicious lies in cyberspace without all those pesky libel laws that constrain print media.

Several of my friends and colleagues have fallen victim to this type of intimidation in the past: one college professor, a Palestinian-American, found his name, work address and telephone number--along with thinly veiled threats--posted on the Fresno-based Free Republic website.

Most recently, an activist friend, also a Palestinian-American and a 20-year veteran of the armed forces, has found himself on the receiving end of a flagrant character assassination initiated by Patrick Poole.

Poole, a self-proclaimed “terrorism expert” and founder of Central Ohioans Against Terrorism (COAT) has posted the rough drafts of every letter to the editor my friend has written (how he obtained the originals is still a mystery), along with accusations that he supports suicide bombings and attacks on Americans. He even went so far to post my friend’s home address and phone number on the blog.

Curious, I decided to follow the links to Poole’s accounts on YouTube and MySpace. I was shocked when I played one of his “favorite” videos called “Open Season.” The song calls for the murder of Muslims. I clicked on another of Poole’s favorite videos and was treated to images of screaming fighter jets hitting soft targets in Afghanistan and Iraq to the repeated lyric, “Die, (expletive), die.”

Yet Arabs and Muslims are not the only ones considered “fair game” in the domain of these keyboard warriors.

In my former life, I was a staff writer and opinion columnist for the Daily Advocate, a small newspaper published in Greenville, Ohio. With a circulation of only 7,000 readers, I was quite surprised when one of my articles popped up in a smear on run by one Tom Blumer. Blumer is a Certified Public Accountant out of Mason, Ohio.

My short article focused on how county agencies were being impacted by a data theft scandal in the Statehouse. I was informed no action was being taken because state officials told the agencies that the data was encrypted.

Several weeks later, Blumer posted my name all over his blog, attacking my credibility and citing a source claiming the data was not encrypted.

For those unfamiliar with Ohio geography, Greenville and Mason are not that close. Scratching my head and musing how a small article from a small newspaper could have incurred such wrath from a CPA located 70 miles away, I took a closer look at this self-proclaimed source of financial news.

What I found was much more than financial news: the bulk of BizzyBlog is devoted to attacking government social programs, peppered with virulent anti-Muslim articles and cross-posts to the blog of none other than Patrick Poole.

At that point, it all made sense. Blumer was evidently incensed by one of my opinion columns (which had been picked up by several newspapers in southwestern Ohio) and had been waiting for his angle. The attack on my credibility as a reporter, rather than as an opinion columnist, was a cheap attempt to do more professional damage.

Blumer even admitted to contacting my former editor, still obsessed with creating some kind of trouble for me in real life.

Why should we care happens in Ohio? Because the problem isn’t unique to Ohio. The aforementioned Free Republic is based right here in California, and hate-blogs are in existence all over the country. The real problem is that these bullies are rarely content to stay on their cyber-pulpits.

They attempt to interfere with your real world job. They post your real world address and look the other way when one of their faithful subscribers starts harassing you in real life. They post video of your real world kids on YouTube.

Any one of us could become the next target. Until legislation is passed to afford victims of cyberspace libel the same protections as those that are wronged in print media, we must stand together to face this enemy head-on.