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 firstname.lastname@example.org. “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.