Local blogger targeted, harassed for commenting on a conservative blog

If you’re familiar with Wisconsin’s blogosphere (or Cheddarsphere, as we like to call it), you may be familiar with John Foust, the proprietor of Boots and Kittens, a fine satire blog if I do say so myself. What you might not be familiar with is the harassment John faced because he dared comment on Badger Blogger, a conservative blog known for its cadre of commenters who are quite fond of personal insults and childish attacks. Here’s John’s account of what happened to him because he dared to disagree with the conservatives at Badger Blogger:

Back in May, I was participating in the comments on BadgerBlogger.com. Yes, I was slumming. BB has no intellectual bent like the better right-wing blogs. I enjoyed using a few zingers and fact-checking to enlighten the discussions. BB is chock-full of anonymous commenters. Personal insults are common, even from the blog’s hosts and partners. For example, here you can find BB host Bruce and partner Glenn cheerfully insulting people (and me) by calling them limp-wrists, in both hilarious meanings known to them. Here’s Glenn, a retired cop who believes he should’ve been Chief, calling me a “Master Baiter”.

The most egregious personal insults came from a fellow who posted anonymously as Gus. In the past, seemingly the same person has called himself Mickey. Apparently Gus/Mickey’s true identity and personality was well-known to Bruce, Glenn and Patrick. Let’s just say that Gus/Mickey learned his debating skills at the SCHOOL OF CAPITAL LETTERS AND PERSONAL INSULTS. He ridiculed the size of my forehead due my thinning hair, my taste in pastry, suggested that my wife was sleeping with the UPS man, that he’s “owned me”, that I was a clown, a freak, and that I deserved a kick in the balls.

He’s done this sort of thing before. Mind you, Patrick had banned Gus/Mickey a year before because of his personal insults and misbehavior unrelated to me. I can’t tell you how or when, but he was allowed to come back. Had he changed his ways? In Patrick’s words, he likes Gus more than he likes me.

A year later on May 14, after a new continuous stream of personal insults from Gus/Mickey toward me that I did not return in kind, Bruce declared a policy that Gus/Mickey and I were not to comment to each other. I cheerfully complied, but Gus did not. Gus quickly went out of his way (here and here, for example) to test Bruce’s rule.

Meanwhile, the BB insults shifted from the blog world to my business telephone. On May 12, my office number received four “private caller” items on the caller ID, 10-20 minutes apart. The last one left a message that said “I heard that you’re bald. Bald.” On June 3, there was a message that said “Hi John, do you have Tourette’s Syndrome? Ha ha ha!” perhaps in reference to this comment.

I asked ATT about tracking the crank calls. There’s a process to follow. They start logging calls, you report the crank calls, then you file a report with your local police to get the info. The wheels of justice turn slowly, and thanks to ATT and my local police, the traps managed to catch just one crank caller. On the morning of June 5, he’d left a message that said “Hey bald man, your time is running out, bald man.” Later that same day, I was IP-blocked from commenting at BadgerBlogger.

I googled the phone number given to me by the police. It seems to belong to a Michael O’Leary, the parade director of the Shamrock Club’s St. Patrick Day Parade. Look at his email address, which happens to be mickeyoleary@yahoo.com. “Mickey.” Now where have I heard that before? Anyone know Mike? Of course, googling alone can be somewhat circumstantial, but the references to this number and this name are quite contemporary. I’ve verified the phone number by independent non-invasive methods. (This seems like a positive ID, right, Chief?)

Telling me my time is running out seems vaguely threatening and downright thuggish. I’m surprised such a prominent citizen would be the person behind the insulting “Gus” persona. My local police said they’d give him a call and encourage him to behave in a more civil fashion. I’m happy to leave it at that, even though it’s a clear Class B misdemeanor (punishable by “a fine up to $1,000, or imprisonment for up to 90 days, or both; however, for a repeat offender, the term of imprisonment increase up to 2 years”).

I prefer to engage in civil discussions, best supported by facts and avoiding unjustified speculation. As anyone who knows me knows, I do think humor has its place. There’s a difference between a sharp barb about a policy and an insult at a person, and between good-spirited and mean-spirited parody. I encourage blog hosts and commenters to follow Owen’s lead. Stick to civil discussion. Shun the poor behavior.

Would you like to hear the three calls I recorded? Maybe these are three different people. It’s sad to think there’s more than one Mickey out there who thinks crank calls are an appropriate response to not liking what someone has to say. Heaven knows that it’s impolite to insult the bald-headed.

Apparently, the Badger Blogger comment policy, which states, “Constructive criticism is welcome. Name calling, especially of the profane sort, is not welcome and will get you ignored, banned or worse” doesn’t apply to that blog’s conservative commenters, who seem to be free to say whatever they want, so long as they’re in the good graces of Patrick Dorwin and Bruce Redenz.

However, more disturbing than the hypocrisy that runs rampant at Badger Blogger is the fact that it certainly appears at least one commenter on that blog took his nastiness and vitriol offline, turning his hostility into harassing and threatening (and possibly criminal) telephone calls.


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49 thoughts on “Local blogger targeted, harassed for commenting on a conservative blog

  1. There’s never been a better time to walk away from the Cheddarsphere.

    I will say if you’re writing about Foust, you must have run out of real material.

    1. Cindy, I haven’t run out of real material; I simply think this is a story that’s worth mentioning. I don’t there’s anything John’s said that warrants him being called and harassed, but perhaps you disagree.

  2. You’re assigning BB the responsibility for a commenter’s actions. Don’t you see that as unreasonable?

    I think it was a very legitimate decision to block both. Sure wouldn’t want that on my blog. Oh, wait, I’ve IP blocked Foust, too.

    Interesting who you’ll choose to crawl into bed with on this one.

    1. I’m assigning blame to BB for allowing their commenters to continue to violate BB’s stated comment policy. I think it’s interesting that you’d rather defend BB and attack Foust’s character than talk about the fact that someone clearly took things beyond words on a screen.

      But hey, if you’re okay with folks from the internet calling you on the telephone to harass you, then so be it; I just think that crosses a line.

  3. Whoops, Zach, you did it again. Of course it’s wrong for two people to go at each other. But wouldn’t you say blocking the IPs to stop it from happening was a good move for a blog administrator to take? You seem more upset with the idea that Foust his chance to perpetuate the situation.

    1. Zach’s description and assessment is accurate and even-handed, I think. His point is the hypocrisy, no? Mickey/Gus was banned a year ago due to poor behavior that had nothing to do with me, was allowed back, began to do it again, was asked to stop, didn’t, he’s still behaving the same way now, and he’s still allowed to comment today. Me, the guy who pointed out the inconsistency in their policy, was the one who was IP-banned, not Mickey/Gus.

      Please show me where on BB I engaged in “name calling, especially of the profane sort”. I think you’ll only find examples of “constructive criticism” which is explicitly welcomed there.

  4. Cindy…it doesn’t matter that it was John Foust (who I actually began to like over the last year) or someone else you find more likable. What this person did was inexcusable. And…I’m not talking about Dorwin blocking of the IP address…that’s not the issue. I’m talking about the psychotic phone calls left at John’s business. I’m absolutely disgusted.

    I have to digest this…and comment more after I have had time to think about it…because I don’t know about you guys…but this really makes me sick to my stomach for more reasons than one.

  5. I’m blocked at Cindy’s blog? Who knew? What did I do to deserve that?

    Why not lead us in a civil discussion about how people should behave as commenters, and what blog owners should do when they don’t? You don’t like my suggestion to “stick to civil discussion and shun the poor behavior”?

    If you don’t want to support your discussion with the facts about the way O’Leary or I behaved in particular, that’s fine with me. Maybe you can tell us what Cindy would do if she received crank calls like this.

    And here I thought I was taking a calm, reasoned approach. It’s not like I’ve sued someone. Or been sued.

  6. All the vitriol – typical for the right wingers. When analyzing the greatest difference between progressives and conservatives I find it to be just how mean spirited they are. Angry, belligerent and acid tongued. It’s what they do best.

  7. Line up the arguments, guys.

    I don’t know John, so I can’t say if I like him or not. I don’t care for the way he comments, though, and thought nothing of calling it quits. I am not perpetuating anything but a discussion of how difficult comments should be handled by a blog administrator.

    There’s no reason to know the details of how these two behaved. My issue is that Zach called Badger Blogger out on curbing the damage and also assigned Badger Blogger the responsibility for one person harassing another. My argument is that a blog owner has a right to manage comments in any way that administrator chooses and that two individuals slugging it out in public aren’t a blog owner’s responsibility. Neither is a comment owner’s behavior outside of the blog environment.

    Twist and flap that argument all you want. Your blog. Your fun.

    1. I think you’re inventing. I don’t see where Zach “assigned responsibility” to BB.

      Of course a blog owner can run their place however they like. I’m in complete agreement about that. It doesn’t mean we can’t discuss their hypocrisy, failure or success in how they do it. Discussing the topic in general, perhaps considering today’s specifics, would be a great way to improve the Cheddarsphere, don’t you think?

      Maybe you can tell us what Cindy would do if she received crank calls like this.

    2. Cindy…you are arguing a point that is really moot. I don’t know why you are down playing the real issue of the harassment outside of the blog…which is a crime. And…I’m not lining up any arguments for you…honestly aside from the criminal behavior I couldn’t care less about the rest of the story…but the rest of the story seems to be the only thing you care about.

      John…are you certain about the identity of who left those phone messages for you? To me it sounds like more than one person.

      1. Only the third call was caught by the trap. The number maps to O’Leary’s phone. Whether that’s actually him on the message, I can’t reassure you.

        1. Well…let me say…in the third call the man had a very deep voice. In the prior two calls the man had a higher whiney sounding voice. It would be easy enough to find out if the man you identified has a lower or higher voice. Call him. LOL…just kidding. Seriously though…it wouldn’t be hard to find out. All of the assholes who called you should be arrested. If you took legal action maybe you would be able to subpoena telephone records and maybe find the other one or two callers.

    3. Cindy, if the folks at Badger Blogger were really interested in curbing the behavior of both parties, why was only one banned?

      Further, I’d love to hear if you’d be okay with someone who commented on your blog decided to take things offline and call and harass you. From your comments here, it’s hard to tell whether you’d welcome the kinds of calls John received or not.

  8. If the harassment is real, it seems logical Mr. Foust would better spend his time working with law enforcement. There is absolutely nothing those reading a blog can do to alleviate the situation. Why discuss it?

    That’s leaves the only issue that of managing a blog.

    And John, I think I would hang up. But I’ve never had that problem, so I can’t say for sure.

    1. As my explanation stated, law enforcement and I agree we’d made a positive ID. I did not press for them to charge him. I was content with the police giving him a verbal warning that they knew he’d done it.

      You don’t seem like the sort of person who’d back down about receiving crank calls. What would you have done?

        1. I don’t think it’s worth the effort for the cops and DA. I think it’s far more useful to document O’Leary’s actions here… or that matter, if you think is more than one voice on the messages, that there are others out there just like him.

          1. “….or that matter, if you think is more than one voice on the messages, that there are others out there just like him.”

            Exactly…which is why you should have taken it further. How do you know they will stop at you??

            1. The messages stopped after I was no longer able to comment at BB. I agree it sounds like different voices.

              I would suspect they won’t stop at me. Anyone could be next. Shouldn’t there be consensus among all bloggers and commenters that O’Leary’s behavior is inappropriate?

  9. Cindy – John didn’t answer the crank calls, hence the voice mail messages. He’s asking what you’d do if you came home and found similar messages on your VM/machine.

    We can discuss the illegality of the phone messages, which I think is obvious to everyone, but I don’t think Cindy’s wrong in wanting to discuss the managing of a blog as well. I do think she’s wrong when she alleged that Zach was assigning responsibility for Gus/Micky’s comments to the BB administrators.

    Zach specifically wrote, “However, more disturbing than the hypocrisy that runs rampant at Badger Blogger is the fact that it certainly appears at least one commenter on that blog took his nastiness and vitriol offline, turning his hostility into harassing and threatening (and possibly criminal) telephone calls.”

    I think it’s pretty clear that we was 1) calling out the hypocrisy of the comments policy at BB and 2) saying that the phone calls were a far more disturbing event. They are two separate things, and both entirely fair assessments, in my opinion.

  10. John, as I explained, I think I would have hung up. But I’ve not had the problem so I don’t now for sure.

    Zach, you aren’t running and apples to apples comparative argument. This isn’t about someone harassing Badger Blogger, it’s about one person leaving comments going after another.

    I’ll give you two answers to straighten it out for you.

    If someone from the blog decided to call my home and harass me, I think I would hang up. (I’ve mentioned that three times now. Maybe it will stick!) I am prone to argument, though, so anything could happen.

    If someone from the blog were being harassed with phone calls by another leaving comments, I probably wouldn’t know about it. If I were contacted, I would help in any way I could to make an identification, but as I explained with all the IP info the other day, those tools are limited. I will say calling someone bald or asking if they have Tourette’s is exactly life threatening. The last call would probably be more of a rally cry than the first two.

    As far as only one party being banned, it is Badger Blogger’s blog. His rules are his own decision. Life isn’t fair. I feel certain Mr. Foust will survive his ousting. After all, he has you to lean on.

    This has been a fun way to spend a snowy morning, but I kind of have to get stuff done. Like the first round on the driveway. 🙁

    1. Nowhere in my explanation does it suggest that they’d made these harassing calls when I actually answered the phone. It should be clear that these messages only appeared on the answering machine when I wasn’t there. Perhaps I wasn’t clear about the fact that I have Caller ID and that the callers had deliberately masked their ID.

      You’re inventing again. Nowhere did anyone suggest that BB had an obligation assist my investigation.

      You said you’d like to have a “discussion of how difficult comments should be handled by a blog administrator.” I assumed you’d want that discussion to be a bit more nuanced beyond “they can do whatever they want”? I gave examples of the sorts of things Mickey/Gus said to me in comments. What would you have done?

      If we were talking about terrrrism, someone might suggest you love the terrrrists.

      1. “Unknown name/Unknown number” comes up when calls come from places like a police department…etc. “Private number” comes up calles made from homes of police officers…etc. They are allowed to block their numbers through ATT.

      2. Got it. So when you asked me what I’d do if I got a call like that, you really meant what would I do if something like that had landed on my answering machine.

        If I’d had a nasty message on my answering machine, I probably would look at caller id, then deleted it. I might have said something like “asshole” as I pressed the erase key. I’ll mention I haven’t had a situation like that, so I don’t know for sure.

        Zach asked what I’d do, so I put my Zach boots on and gave that answer. I wasn’t wearing my John boots, so I probably wasn’t inventing anything.

        As to the last paragraph, how does the discussion of what a blog administrator can do tangle up with your phone calls from another who leaves comments on that blog?

        John, that closing sentence really does nothing but confirm your reputation.

        The snow’s pretty light in weight so far. Wasn’t a tough first round at all.

        1. Cindy…you are stuck on John. It’s not even about John.

          The blog administrators (more than one) know Mickey/Gus personally. They have contact with him away from the blog. I have read more than once on BB Bruce saying Mickey/Gus is a great guy and he’s his friend…etc. So….to say they are blameless is not true. You do not know if they knew about the harassment…nor do I know they did know about it. But…you are jumping the gun when you say they have no responsibility. One thing is for sure…they did refuse to censor Mickey/Gus on BB…and by their inaction they basically condoned what he was saying. And BTW…it doesn’t stop there…Paul, PCD, and a few others are just as nuts.

    1. Most phone companies have a special code you can dial before dialing the phone number you wish to call that will block your number from showing up on that person’s caller ID. Like *67, etc. I think it just tacks a small fee onto your phone bill when you use it.

  11. Wow, I missed this one. Busy day at BB (thats Blogging Blue) today. I’m just glad no one is fake posting as me anywhere, at the moment.

  12. Well, I don’t believe it and I cal bs on it.
    First, what is the motive? There isn’t any. I mean,no respect to John, but why him? He is a light weight when it comes to liberals- his web site is dormant and he really doesn’t make too many waves in the conservative blogs- so why Foust? Why not Zach, Capper, Mathias, Keith and others?
    Second, did Foust ever hear of *69. That’ll give you his phone number.
    John, what is the case number with the police department and which law enforcement agency did you go to?
    Like I said, I don’t believe it unless you have proof or documentation, which you have not provided. Just a bunch of heresay. Liberals have been known to make things up and then trash a conservative.
    I don’t know Mickey/Gus/O’leary, though it is possible I went to school with him in elementary school, but we live in seperate states now and I wouldn’t have seen him for over 30 years.
    If he did do it, then shame on him and I apologize. But you have offered no evidence. I can also add since you don’t like Mickey/Gus/O’Leary, you certainly can be making this up so you can get back at him and bring him down. Won’t be a first time a liberal has done this.
    So, until you offer some real evidence, like a case number from a law enforcement agency so we can verify this, I call bs.

    1. Dan, you’re quite the cynic. As for your question regarding why Foust was the target, perhaps it’s because while his site is largely dormant, he’s been an active commenter (far more so than I) at Badger Blogger and other conservative sites. Personally, I try to stay out of those cesspools as much as possible.

      Oh, and just so we’re clear, star 69 doesn’t work on numbers that have been blocked.

    2. Wow, dan asking for proof of something? I guess the “I know it to be true” statement only applies to you dan? But then I don’t call you a hypocrite for nothing.

    3. Dan, feel free to send me an email and I’ll respond with the case number. I doubt they can do more than confirm the depersonalized details of the initial complaint. It’s an investigation that didn’t result in charges. I wasn’t given any paperwork, but if I had, I bet that scanned proof would look suspiciously like Obama’s birth certificate. I did ask for a copy of the faxed report from ATT, but the officer wasn’t sure if he could give it to me. However, he read the hits to me over the phone. He’s since confirmed that he warned O’Leary.

      You’ve got plenty of evidence of Gus/Mickey’s poor behavior. Read BB. You’re worried about me trashing his reputation, when he talks like that behind an alias?

      I gave you a recording. Prove me wrong. Please, investigate whether that’s O’Leary voice. I’ve given you independent means of verification: his email address and his phone number. Contact him. Ask him if he did it. Drill down into his motive. Ask him who the other two voices are. You think they didn’t coordinate this? And I will graciously accept your apologies when you’re done.

      “A lightweight when it comes to liberals.” Wow, what a world view. Can’t imagine anything other than Coulter on one end, Maddow on the other, nothing in the middle, no nuance. Stuffing viewpoints into boxes is much more efficient and saves on thinking. Don’t you think that if I wanted to be a pot-smoking patchouli-scented Marxist, I would’ve had the chance to accomplish that by now?

      As for who went to school with who, I’m Oconomowoc class of ’81. You were a few years ahead of me, no?

      1. John…you could request a copy of the telephone call between the cop and the person who he spoke to…it should have been made on a taped line at the PD. It would be interesting to hear what the harasser had to say for himself.

    1. Yes, exactly. Even with the routine misbehavior of Gus/Mickey, even with it leaking from the online to the tangible world, where’s the opprobrium?

  13. It’s remarkable to me how people take political opinions so personally. One wouldn’t deride or degrade or harrass someone for a difference of opinion in movies, or restaurants, or (usually) even religious beliefs.

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