I have tweeted the picture above at least twice before, but today it has special resonance. That’s because Brooks Bayne, pseudonymous right wing blogger, has been trying to “out” a pseudonymous Twitter user with a black cat avatar for months. (I use a rabbit avatar.) Lately, Bayne wants to “out” me, or people close to me who have nothing to do with #stoprush, as well as several other completely random people on Twitter, as co-conspirators with the cat. And all of us are connected to recent right wing blogging obsessions. It’s a perfect storm of paranoia.
The “conspiracy” is called free speech. All we have done is cause Brooks Bayne butthurt, and he cannot get over it. Furthermore, I am hardly beholden to the Twitter cat. He’s my friend, not my boss. That rabbit in the masthead represents fierce independence. As John Reed says in the movie Reds, “nobody ‘writes’ what I write.”
A pretender to the Breitbart throne, Bayne (that’s one of his many looks on the right) is a character right out of Encyclopedia Dramatica. His blog is a junior high school playground where he bullies the random social media users who attract his wrath. And in the wake of revelations published here at Osborne Ink, he has developed a special affection for yours truly. By continuing to focus on me and my social media friends, he has drawn and enlarged my attention. He should probably stop before he hurts himself.
All of my Twitter followers already know about @Shoq, the cat who regularly makes fools out of right wing trolls. He has been doing it for years, and like the gunfighter played by Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles, he has seen them line up to earn their martyr cred. Watching @Shoq toy with them like confused, aggressive mice, you can see why right wing bloggers would be eager to link him to the nefarious shadows of their fevered imaginations.
In fact, Bayne has been among the foremost in trying to do that. My question is just how far he has gone to pursue that end.
The linchpin of Bayne’s story is a convicted criminal who tried to perpetrate a hoax on #stoprush volunteers. In Bayne’s warped, paranoid universe, #stoprush is illegal, or at best immoral, because we use an adapted version of the same advertiser boycott tactics that right wing “family values” organizations have used for generations. Bayne thinks Rush Limbaugh is entitled to corporate sponsorship, and that the First Amendment does not allow American citizens to organize or contact his advertisers. He has some funny notions about how free speech works.
He also keeps sticking up for Taylor, the #stoprush hoaxer. By late April, Taylor had agreed to, and then reneged on, more than one personal meeting. Then he failed under my stress-test — and still did not realize he was burned for half of May as #stoprush members interrogated him. Upon realizing that he was “made,” Taylor notified Bayne, who spent several days accusing @Shoq of criminally recording a conversation with Taylor.
The “proof” of this story consists of screen captures of emails from the #stoprush mail list that dealt with the Taylor hoax. They appear to have been hacked or stolen. They aren’t emails from the activist side, flagging advertisements and identifying sponsors, either. They aren’t even real emails with full headers — just incomplete pictures of emails, and therefore inadmissible in court. But Bayne has never stopped pretending that we face a threat of legal action on the basis of this “proof.”
As Taylor’s burn notice gained traction (it was the number one Google result for “Randy Taylor-Hahn” over the last several weeks), Bayne posted clips of the supposedly-illegal recording. Listeners heard someone interrogating Taylor about his sinister Twitter sockpuppets, false bio, false CV, and false alibis. At no point did it occur to Bayne that he looked like an idiot, and perhaps even a guilty idiot, by confirming everything I had said about Taylor.
Bayne has never shirked from compounding and enlarging this error. He maintains his purloined exhibits are “proof” of a conspiracy against Taylor. I say they are proof of Bayne’s collusion with Taylor. Those recordings are best understood as evidence of scambaiting, which is hardly illegal. Suppose the Twitter cat helped burn a Nigerian fraud operator: what would you call him? Bayne wants to call other people crooks, but the only confirmed criminal in this story is Taylor.
Taylor was not a very good con man, nor a very successful one. His transparent ignorance about the world of progressive organizing alerted me to the hollowness of his claims. Bayne, too, thinks he knows more about progressives than the progressives themselves. In their ignorance, they consistently project a mental caricature upon us — one that actually resembles their own behavior.
For example, Bayne accuses @Shoq of having hundreds of Twitter accounts all pretending to be different people. (This particular story has been told for so long, I actually started a #ShoqTroupes hashtag game years ago to satirize it.) But this caricature really fits Taylor, who has claimed to control as many as five hundred sockpuppets. His @farleftofright account was in fact connected to dozens of accounts repeating his tweets verbatim, without any attempt to dress them up as manual retweets.
Most of these tweets have been aimed at the #stoprush volunteers who are holding the bonfire for Taylor’s credibility. We have lately seen a new account, @InForaFight (image), which claims to be “Randy’s” sister. Taylor even used an ostensible visit with this sister to duck questions as “Randy”. But this account is just another sockpuppet: Taylor is enacting a fantasy. He was born to an unmarried woman. After her death, he had no father figure or siblings — so he left electronic traces in search of anyone to call family.
The “sister” account’s avatar is just a marketing image from Tumblr (see here, here, here, here, and here). It was retweeting @farleftofright in exactly the same manner as the other sockpuppets. And since she is “pro-life” in her bio, this notional sister will probably help Taylor disown his (fake) ties to Planned Parenthood any day now. That way, “Randy” can become the (fake) ex-Democrat he was always intended to be.
Many of these sockpuppet accounts have inflated follower counts, just like @farleftofright did. Perhaps not coincidentally, Bayne has been obsessed with inflated social media statistics for years. His own @brooksbayne follower count is quite obviously inflated through purchased batch follows.
He doesn’t get much traffic at either of his first two blogs, thegraph.com and BrooksBayne.com. “The Graph” averaged less than 1000 hits per month for a long time, spiking to 20,000 in March 2012. By April, it was down to 5000 hits again. Since publication, Taylor’s burn notice has seen more traffic than any of his blogs. For a Twitter user with 100k+ followers, that would seem kind of strange — unless, of course, his followers are mostly not real. Given that his Facebook page has only 54 subscribers, that’s a fair bet.
When I tweeted about this on Saturday, Bayne responded through the @TheTrenchesHQ account associated with his current blog, “TheTrenches.us.” But instead of citing a hit counter, he referred to the website’s Alexa and Compete.com rankings. This speaks of further inflation: Alexa rankings come from Alexa toolbar users, not page loads, so they are notoriously easy to fake. All one needs is a few computers and some programming skills. Compete.com rankings are also easily gamed this way, as they come from consumers who agree to have their web traffic tracked. I would rather trust Rush Limbaugh’s Arbitron ratings.
Along with inflation, Bayne has a habit of conflation. He was called out for anti-Semitic remarks after he denounced Sandra Fluke’s boyfriend as a dirty leftist because…well, y’know, Jews! Yes, follow his tweets long enough and you’ll learn all about the Jewy Jew-Jews and their Jewishness. The children of Abraham and Isaac are a sinister leftist conspiracy — just like #stoprush.
Bayne also conflated the spiking follower counts of Guardian newsfeeds into a vast media conspiracy, drawing the ire of a staff reporter there. Lately, he keeps threatening to form a commando team and bust down the gates of “#TwitterGulag,” which is possibly the most conflated and idiotic conspiracy theory in the short history of social media.
Regular readers know that I bust fakes all the time. Ask the Alpharetta High School class of 2012, or Taylor Sappington, or Bradley Manning — and those are just some of the ones on the left, much less the right. Because I burned the centerpiece of Taylor’s sockpuppet chorus-line, Brooks Bayne has spent the last few weeks trying to pry personal information from me on Twitter. Through surrogates, he has already made laughable attempts to fish for information on my military service record. Last Monday, he was trolling for information on my mental health (image). For reasons I will explain shortly, I had expected these questions.
But if Brooks Bayne wants to keep obsessing about my life, let him step forward right now as Brooks Anthony Martin to ask his questions. Yes, the “bad boy” of the right wing blogosphere is yet another fake, just like his blogs and his follower counts and his web stats. He used to live in Franklin, Tennessee, where he discharged a bankruptcy in 2004. Somehow, this Randian superman was able to keep his house all through Chapter 7 proceedings — and then sold it just six weeks after discharge for a tidy $100k profit.
At the time, he already went by the pseudonyms Brooks Bayne, Brooks Anthony Bayne, and Brooks Martin. An early adopter of John Bircher-style tea party tinfoil hattery, he moved to the Left Coast to be closer to his idol, infamous news fabricator Andrew Breitbart. Since Breitbart’s death, Brooks Anthony Martin has opened his new Trenches blog and assumed his hero’s mantle as right wing Twitter-troll-in-chief.
He makes bizarre sexual jokes about progressive activists who endure harassment, cyberstalks dozens of people, and apparently runs the ongoing “Randy” hoax through hundreds of Twitter sockpuppets. How does he support himself this way? As it turns out, “Brooks Bayne” was named CEO of LibertyLinked.com in March of 2011. The press release is interesting:
Dallas, TX – March 11, 2010 – Brooks Bayne brings over 20 years of experience in the areas of tech, content and social web. Bayne is recognized as one of the driving forces that initiated the Tea Party movement, and former CTO of Withoutabox.com, the world’s largest independent film services community, which sold to Amazon.com in 2008. LibertyLinked.com, headquartered in Dallas, TX, provides the tools to mobilize conservatives, hold politicians accountable, and take back the presidency in 2012.
LibertyLinked.com is a low-activity site, but behold: under the “groups” tab, we find a forest of the usual suspects. The Heritage Foundation, Americans For Prosperity, and True the Vote, an “election fraud monitoring” crusade that has been cooking up vote suppression schemes since at least 2010, are all “groups” in this conservative network. But again, it might all be a misleading exercise in fakery.
For the address in the domain registration for TheTrenches.us, 9220 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, is a very prestigious building containing prominent talent agencies. Brooks Anthony Martin does not have an office there under any of his names.
Also, the press release says that “Brooks Bayne” was the CTO of Withoutabox.com, which was founded by David Straus and Joe and Charles Neulight, yet he has never been listed as a principal in the company.
He claims to be a successful web entrepreneur, but ActivateSC, the company he claims he founded and serves as “director” for, is not registered in the state of California. It has no website. There is no evidence of its existence.
If “Brooks Bayne” was an ACORN office, Michelle Malkin would call him a criminal organization.
Which brings me to Lee Stranahan, a fringe hack with the craven soul of a self-promoter (that’s really not a dig; I actually respect Lee a little for it). Stranahan worked for Andrew Breitbart, who apparently saw something he liked. After the great fabricator’s recent death, Stranahan got a new gig with the Bayne Trenches blog.
But he only worked a short stint there, leaving in a huff soon after Taylor’s burn notice. Now, Stranahan says he was never paid for his work. (That is a familiar story, for Taylor also offered paid work and then failed to settle the tab.) Since leaving The Trenches, Stranahan has hinted that Martin is responsible for all of Taylor’s sockpuppets.
Of course, Martin has had to explain at least some of this to his colleagues on the right. I am curious to know how many of them realize the extent of his fakery. As William Jacobson, Esq., aka Legal Insurrection, acknowledged days after the burn notice, @farleftofright
was one of the most active accounts sending out anti-Limbaugh tweets to advertisers, apparently controlling several accounts to send out identical tweets simultaneously…
Of course, Jacobson was still trying to frame “Randy” as an aggrieved progressive, and the burn notice as “#stoprush eating its own.” Jacobson is an Ivy League law professor who has already tried (and miserably failed) to accuse #stoprush of being a criminal conspiracy (specifically, he seems to think #stoprush is a labor union). Martin thinks he is an even smarter lawyer than Jacobson, though I have no evidence he ever attended law school.
In a flurry of tweets from his @TheTrenchesHQ account last Monday evening, he used the word “lawfare” as though to insinuate that I am vulnerable to legal action. Once again, I am unimpressed by a self-important right wing hack with credibility issues.
For example, the blog Taylor used in his hoax consisted of 100% plagiarized material. It is now password-protected from curious eyes, but he has a new blog called “Texas Progressive Press,” and there is still plagiarism in it. The domain registration hides behind a GoDaddy firewall…go figure. Like the continuing stream of sockpuppet tweets that link to it, the blog seems mainly aimed at defaming the Twitter users who publicize his burn notice and tweet the link, or who Taylor supposes have played important roles in #stoprush.
For example, take the latest post on Taylor’s new blog, in which he insinuates only within the title that everyone he dislikes (including me, of course) is a sociopath. At least 95% of the post (image) is copy-and-paste articles from WikiAnswers, most of them cited but some of them included without attribution. He has stitched together, and sometimes rephrased, Google-search text items to fabricate the appearance of original work. The post actually neglects to establish a prima facie case for its incendiary thesis: his title is all the “proof” we get.
His own few contributions are identifiable by grammatical errors that infect the rest of the entire blog, wherein he also claims to be working for Opus Dei. Taylor offers more screencapped emails, “connecting” them into a smear campaign with false characterizations. None of it ever quite reaches a state of coherence: one cannot be “a real progressive” and a Blue Dog at the same time. Taylor seems particularly angry with a Twitter user named @HighDungeon, about whom his incorrect biography and mischaracterizations may even stoop to slander and libel.
These emails appear to have come from more than one account, which suggests widespread computer hacking — and in fact, several members of the #stoprush team have reported system intrusions since June. Just who is the criminal again?
Taylor is particularly nasty towards women, echoing what I have learned of his mother in my research, and now rationalizes away the entire Sandra Fluke story in one paragraph. If using Twitter is the mark of a sociopath, as Taylor seems to suggest, and if multiple social media profiles are proof of criminality, then what are we to make of people with five hundred Twitter sockpuppets and a clear pattern of misogyny?
In their artificially-amplified tweets, both Taylor and Martin are thin-skinned and eager to bluff about legal actions. Neither demonstrates empathy so much as they demand it. To me, they seem the very model of mental pathology. Just look at what Martin tweeted at me last Monday night:
Of course, rabbits are a constant theme here at the Ink, so maybe Martin thinks he is cleverly signalling that he ‘has my number.’ The tweet also reminds me of a mysterious, loathesome @hangingbunnies sockpuppet account that appeared shortly after the burn notice (and was suspended when friends reported it for harassment). Why does he pay so much attention to me when I have just 4,100 mostly-real Twitter followers?
The above tweet also includes the “handle” of yet another Taylor/Martin victim. During his hoax, Taylor tried to recruit this person to his employ, but like a supermajority of #stoprush participants, @RJSt3rl1ng already has a job. Since the burn notice was published, he has doggedly monitored “Randy” to warn people away from him.
As a result, he has been singled out for harassment. Not only did someone call his workplace on July 2nd, they bragged about doing so via two sockpuppet accounts, naming @RJSt3rl1ng’s manager (image) and giving the restaurant’s phone number with two digits redacted (image). For his part, Martin also felt obliged to write an entire post about @RJSt3rl1ng. It is not the only post in his trenchfoot blog written about a completely random Twitter user.
There is nothing inherently wrong with sockpuppeting — in some online communities, such as Reddit, it is practically mandatory — but Taylor and Martin are eager to project what may be criminal sockpuppetry of their own on @RJSt3rl1ng, who enjoys creating novelty accounts. They don’t like it when his novelty accounts rawrr at them. They make much of the fact that @RJSt3rl1ng is single, has a restaurant job instead of heading a nonexistent technology firm, and likes comic books. Indeed, one of their sockpuppet accounts (image) seems entirely dedicated to satirizing this unassuming private citizen.
And his story is not the worst I have heard. Indeed, lately I am struggling to keep up with all the Twitter users who have reported offline harassment to me, and the “sister” account claims that “Randy” is keeping a list of enemies. I believe her, even though I don’t believe in her.
As a result of all this, Twitter has become a less fun social media environment for everyone involved. In the age of social media-driven organizing, perhaps that is the point: if I can’t rule this playground, then no one else can use it, either. But Twitter is not too big to fail, and it will fail before we do. Look at what happened to Digg in the wake of revelations about the Bury Brigade. Twitter will have a battle, however. They finally responded to multiple harassment claims this weekend by suspending @farleftofright and many of the sockpuppets, but “Randy” has started over with another account. Having just claimed to be a “Navel Academy” (sic) graduate and former CIA agent, his new profile uses a PSYOPS graphic in its background.
How far does this surreal witch hunt have to go before it becomes actual news? Will it take a mass hegira to some other social network? That may already be happening. One prominent liberal blogger is already moving her social media presence. When @subculturestuff found herself actually being stalked in person, she burned her old social media accounts — and became a victim all over again in “Taylor’s” perjured blog. Must all those tweet tickers disappear from cable news shows before “real” journalists take notice? I ask because right wing bloggers have spent the better part of two years fabricating their endangerment and harassment by liberals while talking about open “warfare” on Twitter. The truth needs to get its shoes on sometime: it was all psychological projection.
Using one of his purloined email images, Martin has also tried to “link” #stoprush with Neal Rauhauser, a former Democratic activist who has pranked right wing bloggers for two years by feeding them disinformation about himself. Rauhauser became a target after trying to defend other Twitter users from hate speech, harassment, pranking, and “outing” in 2010.
After “#Twittergate,” many right wing bloggers focused on Rauhauser. Rauhauser fever spiked with the “SWAT call” nontroversy. Rauhauser has seen his life torn open, his family located and publicized, and his name dragged through the mud. Meanwhile, he was trying to call attention to an organized smear committed on one of the “Beandog” avatar users that had taken part in Rauhauser’s prank. He has a messy personal life, but has been willing to play pincushion for a very long time. He inflated his own importance in progressive politics, slowly stepping backwards so that right wing blogs would highlight the absurdity of their attacks by repeating his claims. Not that they needed much fuel for their fallacious fires.
The Trenches.us is an Orwellian two-minutes’ hate, with Rauhauser as Emmanuel Goldstein. Like the sillier media products produced by authoritarian regimes, it has produced moments of comedy gold for outside observers. When Martin tried to link @Shoq and Rauhauser as co-conspirators via his purloined emails, the result was hysterical laughter from everyone who actually knows both people. That is like trying to conflate The Beatles with The Rolling Stones: they might play the same benefit stage, but they’re not even in the same band. (Protip: one of the purposes of disinformation is to see where it emerges; copying Rauhauser to an email is a great way to find out if your progressive mailing list is compromised.)
Recently, Martin published a hyperbolic post accusing Rauhauser of treason. His sole evidentiary exhibit was Rauhauser’s own ridiculous assertion, made to one of Bayne’s new “employees,” that he had access to classified information through some open-source, volunteer newsfeeds he had helped set up. It was classic Rauhauser bait, and Martin bit hard. His post was so transparently stupid that even Jay Batman, an original Rauhauser obsessive and an outspoken libertarian, debunked it in his parody blog of The Trenches, “da Benches.”
Martin also made a great deal of noise about Rauhauser’s past experience as a private investigator. I, too, have held a private investigator’s license. Maybe I’m the real Evil Overlord, and all these people work for me? My theory makes as much sense as Martin’s. Oh, and look who’s actually hiring private investigators:
There has been a complete personnel turnover in the trenches recently. Martin has reportedly hired Patrick Swift Read and Michelle Lessick, both of whom were part of the Twittergate nontroversy and launched Neal Rauhauser’s name into the maelstrom of right wing blogs. Martin also hired Jen Emick, who reputedly likes to “expose” people, and Mike Stack, who is certifiably demented.
Trench warriors Luke Londo, Stevie J. West, and Lee Stranahan have all left the Western Front rather than share bylines with Read, Lessick, and Emick. That’s a little like the staff at the Washington Times leaving so the World Net Daily.com staff can move in. Personally, I wonder if any “employee” of Brooks Anthony Martin has ever actually gotten a paycheck.
Which raises another point: ever since his burn notice became the number one Google result for “Randy Taylor-Hahn” and ended Taylor’s career as a fake progressive, right wing bloggers have formed a circular firing squad to determine who is true heir to the Breitbart throne. TheTrenches.us is ground zero for much of that, so I am unsurprised by Martin’s utter lack of veracity. And until he shuts up, I will not stop calling attention to what he has apparently abetted. Here is how he described Taylor seven days after I told the world his real name:
We still don’t know the identity of the infiltrator, but he claims to be a “Blue Dog” Democrat who doesn’t like leftist extremists like [@Shoq] and his neo-Marxist proletarians.
Martin’s critics on the right are correct: he really isn’t a very good writer, especially when he uses words like “proletarians” in self-evident ignorance of what they actually mean. He has been foremost in tweeting the Breitbot hashtags “#war” and “#wreckingcrew,” which I believe to be a codename for all this sockpuppet activity. The reader will forgive me for finding all of this extremely pretentious: of all the characters in this drama, I am the one who has actually been able to attend a PSYOPS training brief and work with false emitters.
In fact, during my interviews with Taylor, I followed counterintelligence protocol and fed him disinformation. I don’t trust people who call me “buddy” five times in the first two minutes, and try to talk like an old friend, when they are supposedly interviewing me for a job. By the end of our first phone call, Taylor was already misinformed. By the end of our third, I was taking notes to keep track of the lies I told him. Keep talking, guys, you’re doing great: the entire “Texas Progressive” blog represents an idea I planted in Taylor’s mind about the term “Blue Dog.” It’s a rabbit-hole of a meme. Have fun!
There were already suspicions about “Randy” before we spoke, and Taylor was as easy to spot as the sound of his cigarette lighter. Rich Texans do not smoke on the phone while hiring proletarian writers from Alabama. Maybe Martin has realized that Taylor has less than nothing, because the smear is mainly going on in “someone else’s” blog. Is he perhaps wondering whether his con man “source” lied on the job application?
Martin seems desperate to glean something, anything, he can use to smear me in the trenches or the (fake) progressive “Texas Press.” On Tuesday, he was asking about my personal relationships (image). He did it again on Saturday (image). If I were Robert Stacy McCain, I suppose I should now declare a threat to my personal security, open a PayPal legal defense fundraiser, and go blog from a secure and undisclosed location. But that is not about to happen.
If I ain’t skeered of @Shoq, why would I be afraid of puffed-up clowns like Martin and Taylor?
By intention, Martin is that scheming character in a saccharine teen soap opera who spends an inordinate amount of time and effort erecting complicated entrapments for the people who give him butthurt. By character, he is the popular kid making fun of the nerds, except perhaps for the ones he pays to do his homework. (Does he actually pay them?) By execution, however, Martin is more like Wile E. Coyote, Super-Genius.
If Taylor and Martin think they can make me sad by waiting until I sign off of Twitter at the end of the day to leave vaguely-sinister questions and vile suggestions in my reply stream, they are sorely mistaken. If they think that continuing this disgusting rumor-mill is a great plan, let them keep it up. For what it’s worth, one of @farleftofright’s earliest follows was the verified @Citizens_United account, which followed back. Yes, keep telling me “who you work for.” Your sockpuppets will be identified by unit and destroyed in detail at this rate. Any actual sponsors should reconsider their support.
If he was behind Taylor’s absurd hoax, then Martin deserves to spend the rest of his blogging career in a closed-circuit conversation with Taylor and their sockpuppets. They can all tell him what a fabulous rock god he is; Martin will be the only person who believes them.
UPDATE: In the last few hours, Brooks Anthony Martin has denied being himself and denied being a Breitbart groupie. Which is interesting, because in this three-year old post he wrote about his tea party organizing, he calls Franklin, Tennessee an “adopted home.” Oh, and there’s a lovely picture of him struggling to get his face in a picture with Victoria “you can’t touch freedom, but you can feel it” Jackson, a prominent member of Breitbart’s Big Hollywood circle.
Martin seems very curious about me, and hinted that I may face consequences for writing this post. So I decided to yank his chain a little bit. Here, he “thanks” me for telling him where he can send his “lawfare” discovery documents:
That’s the address of the Conservative Citizens Council, a white power organization I’ve written about once or twice. (CCC=KKK, get it?). To his credit, Martin was at least smart enough to use Google and figure out the Rauhauserian prank. Of course, since he suffers from terminal irony deficiency, it became evidence that I am the real racist. And furthermore, all Southern Democrats are racists. See what I mean by conflation?
So I tweeted that I was kidding, and gave him my “real” address: the headquarters of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He hasn’t taken the bait yet, but if he does I will probably try again with the address for Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. In the meantime, I think we have a conclusive diagnosis of terminal irony deficiency.
Also: Martin doesn’t like Maynard Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer). I responded to most of his questions with music links, which apparently annoys him because even Chad Kroeger (Nickelback) rocks harder than he does. As a result, he tells me that my music sucks. If he wants to make this about rock and roll, that’s actually fine with me. Conflate away, “Bayne.” And he can keep making fun of how people look, too, because that’s a sure-fire way to make sure nobody likes you.
Why do I feel like I am punching down?