There is a strong and growing Progressive presence on Twitter. I am aware of two other leaders besides myself who are subject to harassment and intimidation from the right. The timing of this makes it appear that this is another centrally initiated effort similar to the flood of female conservatives who arrived concurrent with Sarah Palin's "grizzly mom" prattle.
My response to the threatening conduct has been to basically dare the person behind it to actually step up and do something. I am far more aggressive than most and would not expect the rest to follow my lead. An organized community response will be the best approach to beheading this nuisance before it gets any momentum.
StrandedWind :: Organized Intimidation? Ambush Time. The names of the others who are subject to this are not for public release just yet, but it's typical stalker behavior, made noticeable only by the apparent coordination. Using public information the stalker conducts a cursory investigation using Google, and then initiates contact with the target. They insinuate that they have more than just the public information, and that they'll be contacting employers, romantic partners, and involving children or grandchildren is not beneath them.
The direct actors in this case seem to be your typical garden variety wingnut - older, perhaps on disability, Tea Party online activist, and not terribly bright. Playing whack a mole with these characters is a time sink of the sort we don't need, but getting at the instigators is a worthy goal.
I've personally taken an aggressive stance with my stalker and I've simultaneously put him under a bit of surveillance. I've openly declared that I'm hunting his handlers and I won't engage in anything more than trading insults until I explore his connections and determine that hauling him into court is a gateway to identifying the source of the strategy.
I'm collecting tidbits from the others who are receiving this treatment and I've engaged the Progressives I know who are moving undercover as low key right wing supporters. My own experience tells me the Progressive and right wing leadership bodies are about the same size - four or five dozen top level strategists and technicians, then perhaps twenty times that number of fairly busy supporters. Being able to get at one or more of the right's leadership due to their minions crossing certain lines, and revealing a portion of the rest of the network via discovery, would do much to tamp down the crazy incitement we see.
I carefully considered publishing the particulars of how I am handling this and I feel openness has merit. The right has a core of calculating leadership but their most vocal supporters are quite often prey to all sorts of conspiracy theory. Planting the idea (quite true) that some of their not so crazy sounding second and third tier players may be Progressive agents will amp up the paranoia and drive the entire community further to the fringe as they seek to weed out our people.
People engaged in provocative online conduct feel insulated; they're in the comfort of their own home, if they've engaged in a little bit of caution they may feel completely anonymous, and this emboldens them. Specifying the strategy we'll use to break their anonymity won't permit any mitigation on their part without adjusting their behavior, which counts as a win for us. We're dealing with people who have likely had no interaction with the court system beyond a traffic ticket; the potential for a pro se litigant to force them into expensive, long distance, lengthy, discovery laden litigation doesn't seem to cross their minds. The reality of travel, or frightful expenses, or summary judgments needs to be made real. We probably need to make a very visible example of at least one of them before the rest understand.
There is a small, but non-zero chance that the response to such activities might be violent. The recent interdiction of a mentally ill man, incited by Glenn Beck and on his way to shoot up the Tides Foundation, was a warning as to what our worst case might be.
Here again, a little openness ought to dispel some of this potential. We've already developed a good working relationship with law enforcement thanks to various problems we've noticed and reported. We would very much like to see such people rooted out and committed before they cause any harm, or if warranted, a quick, accurate report leading to their arrest ahead of any attack.
Some personal discipline in this area is of great benefit. I appear to be quite accessible - easily found real name, phone number attached to my Twitter profile, and the like. Anyone actually trying to dig will rapidly run into a brick wall. I keep my name from leases and public utility bills. The best address that might be found for me dead ends in a Mailboxes Etc. in another county. My methods are a trifle extreme, but after fifteen years of off and on security consulting duties including a brush with the need for witness protection some years ago I find it easier to maintain such things as opposed to developing them quickly when a need arises.
The less wary individual probably already has a digital shadow that grows uncomfortably close to their real world presence. It isn't unreasonable for one of our number, feeling that they have a genuine threat, to withdraw. We would of course promptly begin tracking their stalker, seeking an opportunity to engage them with a synthetic presence or otherwise penetrate their anonymity. One lesson, well taught, would do much to put a stop to such antics.
It's unfortunate that our nation has descended from rational discourse to demagoguery and incitement to violence, but we didn't start this. And that means we can end it using whatever means we find convenient, so long as we remain within the bounds the law provides. There are several remedies available and we need only the wit and will to apply them to the problem.
Monday, July 2, 2012
Open Left:: Organized Intimidation? Ambush Time.