Friday, June 29, 2012

The Smoking Gun's Carelessness Leads to SWAT Team Raids on Individual

The Smoking Gun's Carelessness Leads to SWAT Team Raids on Individual

by Douglas Stewart,
January 10th 2012

COMMENTARY | "...what did the pepper spray feel like?" Bill Bastone of The Smoking Gun to Mike Stack

Mike Stack is not married. Yet somehow he shot his wife. At least that is what police were responding to on June 23, 2011 when a 911 call was made and someone who posed as Mike Stack had told the dispatcher he had shot his wife approximately 2 1/2 hours prior to the call. And it gets even stranger. Apparently Mike Stack also did not know where he even lived. Three different police departments were contacted, with the same story, and dispatched to old addresses of Stack. One of those addresses was current and Stack was taken out of his house out gunpoint by local police. It was the cruelest of pranks, or so it seemed. But what initially seemed to be nothing more than a menacing crank call was revealed to be much more. It was the final act of intimidation and revenge on Stack for his involvement in a political scandal.

Skip back a few weeks and we find the initial foundation for this attack. On June 3, 2011 The Smoking Gun had reported that Mike Stack was "not your typical GOP agitator" in a piece they titled "The Dark Past of the Weinergate Co-Pilot". He had done the unthinkable; he was one of the first people to retweet the underwear picture of former Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY). The tone set in the piece rings of a conspiracy against the former Congressman when nothing could be farther from the truth. Even the touch of sarcasm when Stack "happened to discover the tweet" is blatant when contrasted to the cabal TSG suggests existed. Another smear that is entirely inaccurate was that Stack moderated a pornographic site and had chosen to "describe himself" as a "Pervert" on his profile. The site in question gives users ranks according to the number of blog posts. It just so happened that the number of posts made by Stack automatically ranked his profile under the level on the forum as "Pervert". It was not something that Stack had chosen to amend to his profile. Yet this error still exists inside of the Smoking Gun story after being made aware of this detail. And finally Mike Stack was not the first or only person to see the pictures, he was not even the first to "retweet" the picture either. Former Raw Story editor Ron Brynaert knew this from very early on and eventually wrote about it on his personal blog just two weeks after the Smoking Gun story.

The now famous Weinergate picture itself was sent out publicly by Rep. Anthony Weiner accidentally. But that isn't really exciting. So The Smoking Gun instead decided to create their own scandal by smearing Stack. The end result was a whooping-up of emotion in the political realm that lead to the phony 911 call; a situation, that if there was any hiccup, could have resulted in Stack either being injured or killed. But that was the intention. Even if all went well the bare intimidation would suffice. And this is also where it appears that The Smoking Gun's involvement ends. But it doesn't. In fact it gets deeper. Emails between Mike Stack and The Smoking Gun's Bill Bastone not only reveal the eagerness to continue to smear Stack but also shows just how conveniently he "happened to discover" the newest attempts to smear Stack.

It was shortly after the Weinergate scandal when Stack became a target once again. Bill Bastone, just "happened" to find a new post on the Democratic Underground (now removed but screen capped for posterity and legal reasons) which included pictures of a D.C. protest. (Pictures and comments preserved here , here , and here ) The goal of posting them was to identify a man leading the rabble rousers; someone who was pepper-sprayed by police. Bastone contacted Stack to see if this was him in the photos. How the Smoking Gun editor stumbled upon the post so quickly is still a mystery. Either he was given the post as a tip, or his obsession with Stack continued on to, and through, October. Stack confirmed that we was not at the protest or even anywhere near the area. But Bastone seems to be eager to continue the Smoking Gun's smearing of Stack by asking him "what did the pepper spray feel like" in his response, as emails show.

The same photographs in question were taken and copyrighted by Cheryl Biren. Once they were posted to the Democratic Underground the talk started that the person leading the group was Stack. After it was made clear that the pepper-sprayed protester was not Stack the same pictures were then taken and reposted on the Democratic Underground by a user named "vets74" against the wishes of Biren. Furthermore, the user "vets74" continued the deleted thread and responded in the context that they had identified the person as Mike Stack. This was, in fact, a lie. The same user name appears on the Daily Kos website and has long been believed the user is Democrat operative Neal Rauhauser. Multiple phone calls and emails to Rauhauser on this topic have gone unanswered. Those following social media and politics might remember Neal Rauhauser as the left-wing operative at the center of the Twittergate Tea Party scandal as reported by Gawker. Rauhauser is allied with Progressive Congress and Progressive PST ; a social media consulting site geared towards providing assistance to liberal Democrat candidates in their social media ventures. Rauhauser's only response to date regarding this issue to a rapid deletion of blogs, online files, and social media accounts.

The question now becomes not who Mike Stack is or what he has done in his past; which he has never denied. But how is that relevant enough to the tweeting of Weiner's inappropriate picture to be part of the story. The answer is that there is no relevance. There was a clash of ideologies present and The Smoking Gun and Bill Bastone had already chosen sides. Or maybe Bastone had already chosen sides on their behalf. The left-leaning event Netroots Nation (also attended by Rauhauser) was where Bastone introduced PACER , an online legal resource for finding and obtaining public records for eight cents per page. Bastone himself cautioned the audience by telling them never to disclose that they are a journalist as it may set off alarms to the clerk tending to your requests. Did Bastone in fact use this resource to dig up Stack's records? If so, did he follow his own advice and pretend to not be a journalist when obtaining these records. Bastone himself said of the hard copies of the files "There are gems in there" adding "If you are willing to look". So Bastone is well aware of the impact of finding and revealing public records.

It seems that they carefully operated on the borders of journalistic integrity by only printing public records of Stack and leaving it to the rest of the world to do with it as they please. The result was months of harassment and intimidation that took place online and in real life. Turner Broadcasting, the parent company of CNN and The Smoking Gun, should be investigating Bastone and his questionable practices. In doing so they owe it to Mike Stack and others who were harassed, due to their presentation of the events and shifting the scandal from Representative Anthony Weiner's actions, to putting responsibility on those who had "just happened" to find the picture in his own public timeline. Bastone understands the power of digging up legal records. He intentionally misleads his audience by smearing Mike Stack rather than investigate Representative Anthony Weiner, and it is entirely possible that he received his tips from Democrat operative Neal Rauhauser; who has been well documented as an online predator. The end result is the personal destruction of someone who did nothing more than participate in social media in the political sphere. Turner Broadcast needs to internally investigate Bastone and reassess the process in which The Smoking Gun presents their stories.

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