Two months ago, #stoprush volunteers discovered that a con man named Jason Wade Taylor had infiltrated our online communications under the pseudonym “Randy Taylor-Hahn.” Since then, a continuing series of discoveries has made it apparent that Taylor’s objective from the beginning was to deploy multiple, ominous-appearing Twitter accounts that would cast doubt on the legitimacy of our grassroots effort.
When he was confronted, Taylor launched a series of attacks to discredit #stoprush leadership. He engaged in character assassination and disparagement, using what appears to be illegally intercepted and manipulated correspondence of various kinds. Then Taylor got direct assistance and support from well-known operatives associated with Breitbart.com. While it is not clear yet whether he had their help from the beginning, these people are infamous for similar kinds of operations and tactics.
The latest example can be seen at the website of one Brooks Bayne, a pseudonymous blogger who wants to be the Ted Nugent of WordPress. His recent hits include calling Sandra Fluke a socialist, offering a $10,000 “bounty” for President Obama’s college transcripts, and proclaiming himself the king of guitar rock. Speaking as a metalhead who has heard samples of Mr. Bayne’s thrashing, I advise the reader not to learn his true skill level for themselves — at least not without earplugs. And no, I am not linking to his website, “The Trenches.us,” either. Bayne, who considers himself an airborne ranger of the hashtag wars, enjoys the enthusiastic approval of white supremacists at Stormfront.org — but I’m not linking there either, and for the same reason.
Fringe is fringe.
In typical James O’Keefe selective editing style, Bayne has taken clips of a recorded phone call with “Randy” and presented them completely divorced from their contiguous context, without an original unabridged recording available for comparison. He is clearly relying on uncritical readers’ willingness to assume that the spoken words and his interpretation of them are sufficient to tell a complete story.
But when we strip away his editorializing, what are we really hearing? Snippets of a prominent progressive and #stoprush volunteer (hereinafter referred to as “Blue Hero”) stridently and aggressively confronting Taylor about his many ominous Twitter sockpuppets and the falsehoods in his alleged biography. Naturally, Team Breitbart is only willing to talk about these sockpuppets, not their origin. Even with this misleading presentation, you can clearly hear Taylor blaming them on his “staff.” (No one has been able to find his “staff” anywhere.)
Our Blue Hero is clearly preoccupied with maintaining the integrity of a grassroots movement. Bayne, on the other hand, is clearly preoccupied with making strained connections and relationships to suggest #stoprush is a conspiracy by liberal groups. But as usual with Team Breitbart, the accusation is a projection from people who are often engaged in dubious activity themselves. They know of what they speak.
With great contortions, Mr. Guitar Zero (Bayne) has labored to pin some recording on our Blue Hero, claiming it was made under illegal circumstances, relying on nothing but images of intercepted emails (not even real emails with headers!) discussing what might have been a voicemail recording left for someone, somewhere, at some other time. We can’t know, as we lack unambiguous or unaltered evidence. Typically, Bayne makes no effort to consider any other explanations for anything when he tries to insinuate a prefabricated conclusion.
An original unabridged recording remains unseen, as does who made it and when. It seems self-evident to me that Taylor or some confederate provided Bayne with pre-selected snippets of recordings, probably after removing what were likely to be misrepresentations and incriminating remarks by Taylor. We hear enough of his defensiveness to know there is much more that has been redacted at key moments in the conversation.
The residual snippets, whatever their original context, are being used to further various Breitbart conspiracy theories with a long and tortured history. Just like the sockpuppet fiction, this doesn’t stop their confederates from hounding people for statements, trying to win arguments through intimidation and insinuation rather than evidence or fact.
That’s how Team Breitbart always seems to work.
This entire three-ring Twitter circus is just an attempt to make people look bad for using social media for legitimate First Amendment activity. They try to disrupt and divide, hoping some will run for cover, distance themselves, or make self-serving statements out of fear. The resulting chaos collectively contributes to an appearance of disruption and disunity. It’s manipulative and insidious, and it suggests once again that everything people like Lee Stranahan, Brandon Darby, and other Breitbart proteges say about progressives is actually true of themselves.
Like most Breitbart “exposés,” this entire affair looks less like a bad detective novel than it does a good comic book plot. A hero and his friends unmask an infiltrator and expose his plans, but the villain responds by trying to unmask the hero’s secret identity and stir up discord among the Justice Team. Indeed, even if questionable tactics were used (which I doubt), our friend’s efforts to expose Jason Wade Taylor can be seen as rather heroic.
And unintended consequences being what they often are, making him the target of this vicious abuse and inflammatory propaganda is a very risky strategy for Team Breitbart. It will inevitably elevate and ennoble the Blue Hero to those who are disgusted by these relentless, radical conservative fabrications. The Blue Hero clearly understands their tactics, and how they will use truth and lies interchangeably, so he wisely stays silent to deny them more fuel for their fallacious fires.
But all of us comic book readers know who is the hero and who is the zero.
As I keep saying, “real” journalists need to give my suspicions about Breitbart’s circle of blogging fabricators and instigators half the credulity and twice the fact checking of any story those jokers have ever covered. This latest development should be considered proof of hypothesis. Again I ask: is the National Bloggers Club a criminal organization?