The @Shoq Twitter Brigade Burn Notice

SKIP TO UPDATE 1UPDATE 2UPDATE 3

The cast of characters (will update):
Jessica @vdaze
Darshann Padilla @HoneyBadgerLA
Imani Gandy @AngryBlackLady
Heather Chase @HeatherEChase

Introduction

I have said for years that personal drama spilling into cyberspace is the single greatest danger to progressive “netroots” organizing. This post will untangle a story of old social media smears finding new participants with new agendas. It has many characters, and will require several updates to tell. But it must be told, because the latest iteration of this smear has unduly impacted progressive Twitter politics at exactly the wrong time.

A strange convergence of interests would like the progressive Twittersphere to keep discussing Twitter user Matt Edelstein (aka @Shoq) and his ex-girlfriend Jessica (@vdaze), who has triggered and fed an unprecedented campaign of character assassination now entering its eighth week.

Two of the characters in this story — who are actively trying to make names and careers in women’s rights circles — have leveraged progressive sisterhood, ripped imaginary duct tape from their mouths, and shouted “abuse!” The “victim” @vdaze has every right to complain about a loud voicemail, which even @Shoq admits is clearly a “instance of abusive behavior.” But @vdaze, with her associates, is exercising ordinary romantic payback and craftily characterizing it as a crusade for victim rights: “abuse! Abuse! ABUSE!”

On August 29th, @vdaze posted an angry voicemail that @Shoq left for her more than eight months beforehand. He has already apologized for it — several times, actually, and in public. She might have shared the voicemail when it happened and gotten some support for discussing @Shoq’s behavior in that message. Even his closest friends might have engaged in that constructive dialogue. But the people who have known him best and longest were never approached about an “intervention” for any problem he (or they) might have.

The timing of her release was most likely determined by her anger over an entirely different matter (another woman) in August, not his voicemail in January. Her post was calculating. She never mentioned that she had never met him in person, or that the voicemail was eight months old. (She only updated her post after @Shoq had answered her at his blog.)

As their friends know, @vdaze and @Shoq have broken up and made up on a semi-monthly basis before he left her that voicemail and since then. Their cyber-romance has been stormy for a rather long season. Matt’s voicemail not-so-eloquently reflects a mutual problem in his relationship with @vdaze that they never managed to solve. Quite simply, it is frustrating to argue with a married cyber-girlfriend from a thousand miles away.

Let’s start taking a closer look at the players in this social media melodrama:

About Jessica

This cyber-relationship was complicated by the fact that @vdaze was married. From the beginning, she told @Shoq it would end in divorce, and that she needed to be separated from her husband for a full year before she could be with anyone else. But when he inquired after her progress in the eleventh month of this virtual, long-distance relationship, @vdaze admitted that she had not even initiated a divorce yet. This news left @Shoq in, well, shock.

A long distance cyber-relationship with someone who refuses to ever meet you or spend time with you in person, and who makes little forward progress in following through on their promises, would be too much for most people to bear. Given such circumstances, no one’s life or character could possibly be captured in a single phone call. Yet we are expected to believe that is exactly what has happened.

You can hear their relationship tensions in the rest of the voicemails, which @vdaze only added in later edits (perhaps out of guilt?). Those messages are much calmer, and still reflect their mutual relationship impasse. The people closest to @Shoq had been aware of his dissatisfaction with this romance for a long time. By posting the angry voicemail in the way she did, @vdaze has obscured that more complicated story in favor of her own sensational abuse narrative.

The ramifications of a smear do not end with its principal target. For example, @vdaze works for a large metro school system, and given the workday timing of some tweets, she has apparently tweeted in furtherance of her vendetta on taxpayer time. Point this out, however, and you will be accused of harassing her. As we shall see, this is a pattern with @Shoq’s accusers, who turn his every apology and remark into another harassment claim. They demand no consequences in return, despite broadcasting “in a volume never seen before against a private citizen on Twitter,” to quote one media observer.

Not one of the people at the center of this scandal has been fully candid or forthright about their own actions or interests. Many have enjoyed access to @Shoq’s connections, contacts, projects, businesses, and ideas; now they pretend those extenuating conditions never existed. The core group of this “Twitter brigade” speaks to a ready-made Twitter audience with a long history of @Shoq-hate.  In this environment, his every tweet becomes “evidence” of abuse, or abusive attitudes, or intent to harass his “victims.”

All the subtexts, petty dramas, and conflated conflicts here require a lot of unpacking. But as long as the smearing continues, I will gladly take them apart one by one — because enough is enough. One side tweeting for weeks, but demanding that everyone else shut up, is not justice. Simply put, it is a virtual lynching.

About Darshann

Darshann (@HoneybadgerLA) is a focal player in this drama. Indeed, she may be responsible for initiating it. She stands at the center of this storm alongside @vdaze, and has even made a ludicrous and unsustainable accusation that @Shoq has threatened her and her child. The Twitter Brigade supporting her is merciless in repeating it.

This child-endangerment charge is ironic, given that Darshann took her three year old daughter to Florida to stay with @Shoq for six intimate days after knowing him online for just a few weeks. Her allegations only appeared recently, long after her romantic stay in a bungalow she rented half a mile from his apartment.

Darshann “met” @Shoq through Imani Gandy (aka @AngryBlacklady), her friend and associate of eight years. In fact, Darshann appears to have been Imani’s employer and co-counsel at various times, but any disclosure of this fact is conveniently impossible to locate in their Twitter streams. Darshann joined in @vdaze’s accusations weeks after her Twitter rants began in August. By then, Imani had already amplified and exaggerated @vdaze’s allegations of “abuse” in several barrages of tweets.

Darshann pursued her romance with @Shoq during one of his many breakup periods with @vdaze. She was taken with him, and knowing he’d never met Jessica, was willing to “prove she knew how to make a decision.” She asked whether he would turn her away if she showed up, and he replied that he was fine with her coming to visit if she felt emotionally stable enough (she claims that her husband had physically abused her). Meanwhile, @Shoq had his mother’s birthday party to arrange, a heavy workload, and even an impending visit with “Randy Hahn” coming up.

But even more importantly, he was still very confused about his feelings for Jessica, unready to let go of their 1.5 year relationship without a struggle.  Despite all of these caveats, she sent him an itinerary and airline ticket after an entire day of teasing, saying “I have a surprise for you. Guess what it is?”

They spent some good days together in Florida, but also some very bad days.  Her need for constant attention was a recurring theme (as is evident in emails to follow). When she returned home to Colorado, they had many discussions about their personal situation and possible future. They both agreed that with Darshann facing an imminent, ugly divorce, and Shoq still feeling ambivalent about both her and Jessica, it was probably a bad idea to consider any relationship, let alone one that was 1,800 miles wide.

Despite all the problems they had freely and candidly discussed,  upon her arrival, Darshann seemed far more interested in having an immediate “honeymoon phase,” and seemed to forget that his mother’s party and his work would cut into the amount of time they could spend together. Darshann’s “constant need for attention” (her words) proved to an ongoing problem, and ultimately a deal-breaker.

Darshann candidly documents almost all of this complexity, and her own state of mind about @Shoq and her feelings, in emails she sent him. She ostensibly ended the relationship with the message shown below on May 7th.  Notice that despite typical relationship language, there is no mention of abuse, or even major dramas of any kind at any prior point in time. The email is also archived here:

As @Shoq’s relationship with @vdaze continued to convulse, Darshann kept trying to ingratiate herself into his life. She taught him the intricacies of cooking with coconut oil (a subject he often tweeted about as a result). Despite her earlier “goodbye,” Shoq’s continuing ambivalence about her triggered another goodbye letter. This one, he thought, showed a “squirmy” neediness. Darshann had still never mentioned any history, pattern, or incidence of any kind of abuse:

True to her words, Darshann appeared to remain friendly with @Shoq, often communicating to offer “advice” in managing his deteriorating relationship with @vdaze. @Shoq followed Darshann’s counsel by sending @vdaze a thoughtful, caring, and historically-interesting email to bring their dysfunctional relationship to a close; Darshann’s hand was on the smoking gun that she thought had blown away their relationship for good. It is also interesting to note that despite @Shoq’s effusive and candid eloquence, @vdaze responded in a brief, curt, and dismissive manner, focusing suspiciously on a single fragment of a long email into which @Shoq had visibly put great time and effort.

Darshann maintained the appearance of being @Shoq’s friendly correspondent into early August. It is important to know here that Shoq had told @vdaze he’d “been dating,” and by late spring, @vdaze was well aware of Darshann and vice versa. There was no secrecy. Given Darshann’s friendship with Imani, and everyone’s close relationships on Twitter, he would have been insane to presume any kind of secrecy. Accusations of “man-whoring” and “playing” incorrectly describe a standard romantic triangle: @vdaze did not seem to really want him, while Darshann did.

Imani was never a neutral or disinterested party at any time. She was actively engaged in conversations with all of these people — and not just about their relationships, but the multidirectional disagreements, conflicts, and outright emotional combat over entangled romantic and professional interests. Attributing this much drama to an “abusive voice mail” alone is exactly like blaming World War I on a Serbian assassin without mentioning the secret alliances and Balkan rivalries which fueled the conflict.

It is hard to overstate how key Darshann is in these “Guns of August.” As @Shoq prepared for a much-needed family vacation on July 20th, she called him to complain about her divorce hassles. According to @Shoq, he talked to Darshann from the parking lot of a Fort Lauderdale bar at midnight. Though he had made it clear that he was in love with @vdaze and only wanted to remain friends with Darshann, he offered her a cheap rent on his family’s extra cabin in Canada if she needed a getaway. He never offered to fly her to Canada at any time. Darshann claims otherwise in her tweets, but they are just embellished, self-serving revisionist history:

Once she joined in @vdaze’s chorus, Darshann initially denied ever having any relationship whatsoever with @Shoq, as you can see below. You will also note her denial of having ever pursued a relationship with him. It would be hilarious if the consequences of her actions weren’t so destructive:

Darshann has deleted that tweet, along with dozens of others. Twitter is a discoverable platform, however, so there will be no escaping accountability if things go that far. Collected by many observers, these images speak for themselves. In recent tweets, she retroactively allows for just a few weeks of courtship.

Note that she makes this assertion to right wing extremist Randy Hahn and his ally Brooks Bayne, who have gladly helped promote this smear from the moment Jessica began (and seem to have enjoyed a curiously prompt notification of every new @vdaze post, which they tweet furiously from multiple sock puppet accounts appearing across the political spectrum of Twitter).

As @vdaze has never publicly clarified what exactly set off her sudden and sustained outburst on August 6th, @Shoq was left with something of a mystery to solve. The first indication he had about her feelings was a private message on Twitter: “YOU LYING SACK OF SHIT. DON’T EVER CONTACT ME AGAIN,” after which she blocked him. This came the same day as a cordial, if less than warm, email exchange in which he tried to discuss whether their moribund relationship could ever be repaired.

It is only from Darshann and @vdaze’s tweets about Canada that @Shoq finally got a clue what might have been going on. He realized Darshann, or some other intermediary — their mutual friend @AngryBlackLady? — had perhaps told @vdaze about his invitation to Darshann in a completely different spirit than how it was offered.

Even after @vdaze’s “dysfunctional c**t” meltdown began on August 6th, @Shoq assumed (incorrectly) that Darshann was still trying to “help” him with @vdaze. The first he knew of her change of mind was when she unfollowed him in the wake of @vdaze’s now-famous August 29 blog post, after he had made repeated efforts to contact her before he even understood she was angry at him. She, too, has left him to figure out why.

Can We See the Alternative Stories Now?

Of all of the tall tales being tweeted about @Shoq, the charge of “womanizer” is the most comical. @Shoq was faithful whenever he was not in cyber-breakup mode with @vdaze, while she remained legally-bound to her real-life husband all of this time. How many “players” tell their girlfriends about one another, or rely on one of them for advice about the other?

Even if the charge of girlfriend-juggling is valid, how does an exercise in manslut-shaming deserve to trend on Twitter, with tens of thousands of tweets, streams, hashtags, flame wars, charges and countercharges, and vicious attacks on anyone who dares to speak up for @Shoq — or even suggest the rational need to keep all this personal drama to a minimum during such a crucial election cycle?

One might surmise that @Shoq’s popularity makes him a target. Yet @Stranahan has almost 10,000 more followers than @Shoq, and I have spent the last several weeks trying to draw attention to Lee Stranahan’s record as a Breitbarting fabricator, his harassment of disabled blogger Bill Schmalfeldt, and his possible production of kiddie porn only to have “progressives” say that Stranahan is not worth talking about. (But please, let’s all tweet about @Shoq some more!)

Of course, no Twitter drama of this magnitude would be complete without partisan alliances and obvious concern trolls — some of whom have been players on multiple levels of this drama who now want to distance themselves from the disruptive climate they created (oops, too late!):

It should be patently obvious by this point that, while it may have been a perfectly valid pretext for discussion in January, a single instance of “verbal abuse” has been blown out of proportion by orders of magnitude. While a catalyst for explosive drama, that voicemail was not, and never has been, the driving force behind this fiasco — or the people propagating it the most.

The true purpose of @vdaze’s (and/or Darshann’s) crusade was, and is, the destruction of an ex-romantic partner’s character, reputation, and business interests in social media. One important proof of that is how they never actually make the slightest effort to dial back or move on from the drama. Indeed, they do the exact opposite with amazing regularity.

Any remark or comment becomes fodder to resurrect their controversy — inciting friends, associates, current and former @Shoq enemies, and countless other players with mixed agendas. He can’t even tweet about @ParisHilton without seeing a wave of manufactured outrage in his Twitter stream from the same people who have been manufacturing outrage and promoting that product for weeks (the full thread, showing @Shoq’s actual context rather than an implied context, can be seen here).

Enter the All-Important Whisper Campaign

Manufactured outrage is only one part of this social media scandal. Online community meltdowns always involve a whisper campaign. The sheer volume of self-propagating DMs (Direct Messages), tweet-trolling, threats to block/ignore people over who is or isn’t with Team @Shoq or Team @vdaze, has been explosive. The reader will forgive me for calling such malignant activity by its technical name: “high school bullshit.

From the beginning, @vdaze has kept her tweets protected, making them invisible to anyone she doesn’t allow to follow her stream. Of course, she knows full well that a sizable percentage of them become visible as retweets. This is a common and transparent tactic designed to avoid being asked to back up statements with, say, factual and documented sources. It also ensures that the incendiary high points of a smear are distributed without context.

But some of those to whom @vdaze talks have shared their conversations with her. Here, she privately tries to work over one of @Shoq’s business partners. He refers to an “email” when he obviously means the voicemail she had posted, and that everyone is talking about. Naturally, she is happy to provide him a link to the blog post:

While this is only a partial record of the conversation, clearly she does not extend @Shoq any of the courtesies she demands of him or others. One can only imagine how many such DMs exchanges took place over the eight weeks of this campaign. Did they all exhibit the same tenacity @vdaze exhibits here? She once defended @Shoq; now she says that was a horrible mistake.

Recently, one of many @Shoq supporters disgusted by this manipulative ordeal supplied me with a thick and growing folder of information on all the principals at the heart of this social media character assassination. A small portion of it can be seen here. None of his most vocal attackers have been honest about their actions, motivations, or engagements with one another.

Meanwhile, the old church of @Shoq-bashing has some new saints. As Karoli elaborated last week, more than one former associate of @Shoq has made similar unfounded allegations against him. They are all convenient heroes to a band of disaffected and dissonant Twitter users. These include FireDogLakers, Bradley Manning fans, Occupy Wall Street advocates, and Glenn Greenwald cultists — many of whom have claimed that @Shoq is a DNC insider Obama-bot holding back ‘the REAL progressive Twitter revolution.’

Every Smear has a Big Lie. This One has Many

The most ludicrous lie to date is Darshann’s allegation, widely tweeted and retweeted (see image above, where she tweets to Karoli), that @Shoq has threatened herself and her child. Her “proof” is a seemingly-innocuous mention in “the 1st sentence of the 6th paragraph” of @Shoq’s “Dear Jane” (@vdaze) blog post on August 30th. Note his restraint in calling her only “D” at this early point:

None of that made it into your blog narratives. Nor did the 125 lb gorilla in the room, D, “that $%^@*&%  whore as you called her” whom I had started dating “too soon” to suit your sense of propriety after we’d broken up (again).

Shall we now drag her and her daughter into this, too? What about her family? Her co-workers? And what about that husband you promised to divorce soon after we met, but whom you remain married to to this day? And what of your family, or your so very sensitive personal past? How many people, lives and private narratives should be impacted by this unfortunate romantic misfire that we could choose to just walk away from? One where you were no more a victim of me than I was of you.

Many people have tried and failed to find the threat in that paragraph. @Shoq’s rhetorical question (“shall we now…?”) had nothing to do with threats or harassment. It was a decent appeal to @vdaze that she not drag other people into the drama she had created by deliberately making private matters public on the thinnest of pretenses. Darshann’s inevitable, and probably ugly, divorce proceedings made a great example of the potential for collateral damage. Marital implosion and custody battles can be brutal. All of this should be self-evident to any reasonable reader.

But the Twitter Brigade is not reasonable. @AngryBlackLady, @vdaze, Darshann, and their core group have promoted this reckless, flimsy, and contrived allegation too many times to count — as was intended. The evidence I have provided here, including full emails with headers, images, and a plane ticket, directly refutes the basis of Darshann’s story on each and every key point. Any good attorney, as she claims to be, would fear a judge’s wrath at such a frivolous and baseless argument.

It is @Shoq’s theory that this entire conflagration was the result of a quasi-romantic triangle that exploded over his trip to Canada — either coincidentally or by design. As @vdaze has never felt it necessary to explain what caused her public emotional implosion, @Shoq freely admits that this rationale is just a logical reconstruction based on a series of puzzle pieces that align all too well.

However, other explanations are much less appealing to him. In his August 5th email exchange, @vdaze may have already decided she was done with him, and was setting him up for her “dysfunctional c**t” Twitter performance. Her final email to him was a self-serving recap of their earlier correspondence that day where she used an uncharacteristic emphasis on her key points, as though documenting her case for future observers (all of Twitter, perhaps?).

So What Have We Learned?

The public presentation and perception of this affair has no relation to its true nature. Neither @vdaze or Darshann ever said they felt abused, violated, or victimized in any way before this manipulative farce began. There was no history of @Shoq exhibiting extreme behavior beyond raising his voice in single, private moment. @vdaze has labored to suggest that this eight-month old voicemail demonstrates why she never met him, but in reality, her hesitation on that score was a constant from the beginning of their relationship.

If her issue was to illustrate that loud voices can intimidate, she might have done that without referring to a real person with real feelings and real relationships. Thousands of abuse victims and advocates discuss far more serious forms of abuse every day without publishing names or private voicemails. Don’t take my word for it — ask some of them. Rather than discuss what angry men can sound and feel like, @vdaze wanted everyone to know what an angry @Shoq can sound and feel like.

Such a thin pretext, as well as Darshann’s trumped-up and unsupported harassment allegations, cannot morally or ethically justify what has transpired in the last eight weeks. Their cyber-romantic misfires with @Shoq have sparked the largest Twitter flame war of 2012 — if not all time. Their mission was not to illuminate or educate, but to castigate and assassinate. My own honest appraisal is that they are not being altruistic, but annihilistic. So far, every fair observer I ask about this agrees with me.

Although no single post can ever capture the entire cast-of-hundreds shouting about this affair on Twitter, this post will keep updating until the true motives and agendas of primary participants, subtexts, connections, and relationships have been illuminated and placed in their proper context.

In the meantime, it has been heartening for me to see that @Shoq has many intelligent followers, most of whom never needed this burn notice in the first place. Their earlier fear of being harassed and bullied is giving way to contempt and even anger, and some are finally starting to speak up. Here are just two examples from last night: @DkChoco @hapkidogal.

Most people I have spoken to agree that @Shoq has been extraordinarily patient, given these circumstances. He has still not revealed Jessica’s full name, profession, employer, or any intimate details of her life. In fact, he has only revealed enough information to debunk some of her and Darshann and their supporters’ fact-free assertions. His objective in telling me this story was to set the record straight and restore his reputation with a few good people that he feared had been misled. But he was emphatic that it be done without violating his own ethical principles, or harming people he has cared about — and even loved.

As an investigator, I found Darshann’s behavior the most disturbing and inexplicable part of this story. So I requested that @Shoq reveal many details to me that have already been published, and more that may still be published. He objected to many of my requests. It took him weeks to agree to some of them, and he still declines others.

In the meantime, he agonized that Twitter was becoming a less effective place for progressives at a crucial time, and certainly a less fun and productive place for him. It was only after reaching an emotional tipping point, and exiting the stage for a few days, that he came to grips with what I and others had been telling him all along: someone needed to write a burn notice like this one and let the facts speak for themselves.

If all of @Shoq’s considerations, and the compassion he has expressed for his accusers are the definition of a “serial abuser” and a “harasser,” I have no idea what to call his accusers.

UPDATE 1 – Breaking: FBI to Investigate @Shoq for Breaking Up With @vdaze?

Jessica (@vdaze) has “answered” this burn notice without arguing any factual point in it. Instead, her blog post “Response to the Burn Notice” simply says “Shoq, I’ve sent everything I have about your little problem to the FBI” and links to an image of an instant message chat she had with @Shoq on June 24th. While I was prepared to post several updates to further debunk her still-viral “@Shoq the abuser” narrative, I never thought she would assist me quite so effectively as she has. Her post raises several questions:

  • What happened to that eight-week long “@Shoq the abuser” narrative?
  • Why would she send the FBI something completely unrelated to her story?
  • How is this even tangentially related to “victims speaking out”?
  • Why is this modestly-progressive woman suddenly pivoting to a right wing meme about a recorded phone call, playing right into the hands of Breitbart.com, Lee @Stranahan, @BrooksBayne, @FarRightofLeft,  and others?

Our @vdaze has suddenly and gratuitously crafted a new and clearly vindictive chapter in this increasingly-bizarre and incredible storyline. Her claim that she disclosed personal correspondence to a federal law enforcement agency — information completely divorced from her widely-promoted abuse narrative — suggests one of several motives, none of them very pretty. The most obvious one is that she lacks any new abuse-related material and has instead grabbed anything in her possession that could propel her romantic vengeance to another stage.

But the less obvious and more likely explanation is that she was providing initial evidence for an entirely new parallel or replacement narrative that supports other people’s agendas towards @Shoq, which I have only begun to hint at thus far. Those overlapping motives may account for the ferocity and longevity of this phenomenal campaign better than any simple “abuse” narrative ever did.

How many condemnations I have witnessed more criminal than the crime! – Michel de Montaigne

Most rational people who have seen the evidence now realize that the eight-week punishment rained down on @Shoq’s character and reputation was always irrationally disproportionate to the original offense presented. There was not just more to the story, but there were subplots large enough to stand as stories by themselves.

Where Will This Sudden Fork in the Story Lead Us?

It should be clear to a critical observer that @vdaze’s chat record is completely disconnected to any of the abuse drama that @vdaze and her friends have used to rile up half of Twitter for so long. So why is she releasing it? If it was merely act of romantic payback, it’s easy to understand: having failed to kill him by unleashing a pack of wolverines, she is now trying a silver bullet. But that obliterates her repeated claims that vengeance has not been one of her motives.

The chat conversation @vdaze has allegedly reported to federal authorities involves Imani aka @AngryBlackLady (ABL), her fiercest advocate on Twitter in this deliberately-overblown melodrama, as evidenced by hundreds of tweets and thousands of retweets by her followers. All of that dedication to @vdaze over a simple angry voice mail message never has passed my  smell test. It appealed to victim’s rights advocates always eager for a new cause, but was hardly worthy of all this time and attention, especially during a crucial presidential election.

As I have said, there was always a much deeper set of subtexts below the surface of this drama. Whether intentionally or not, @vdaze has now validated that. She has shown that she and her friend ABL were deeply concerned about potentially being connected to an alleged illegal recording associated with the StopRush campaign.

In the chat, @Shoq was trying to make @vdaze understand that ABL was not necessarily guilty of anything, and no one believed she was. But he felt ABL was being poorly advised by her project partner and mysterious webmaster Heather Chase (formerly @FemmeNet, now @HeatherEChase). To his mind, ABL’s frantic efforts at damage control for a crisis that didn’t really exist would create far more problems for everyone.

@vdaze, an adherent to ABL’s oft-stated belief (since discredited) that Randy Hahn was no threat to anyone, was exercised that her friend ABL might be in any jeopardy. You can see that in the first 45 minutes of the chat, as shown below.

I wanted to present the entire IM conversation, but @Shoq pointed out that it contained a number of extraneous details that would need too much explanation and distract from the important issues in this update. He doesn’t care if anyone publishes the full text, and assumes “the FBI” already has it anyway. I’m assuming that @vdaze has not posted the entire chat because it would expose far more details about that affair than she or ABL would want to see in a public discussion.

But I shall illuminate some of those issues for them!

So Who is This Heather They’re Talking About?

An anonymous source has told @Shoq that ABL’s technical partner Heather Chase is the person who erroneously told Jessica (@vdaze) that he had invited Darshann Simon to Canada for romantic purposes. While on the surface, that alone might seem enough to send @vdaze into a rage, there is much more to the story. The source also said that there had been a plan on the table for weeks or months to attack @Shoq if he released any personal information about any of “the women” (the source did not name any of them). Before getting into the weeds, a timeline will help introduce the high points of Heather and her relationships to the parties in this drama.

  • When she first contacted @Shoq, Heather claimed to be an associate of Nicole Sandler and a friend of @GottaLaff,  both avowed @Shoq antagonists.
  • In their very first phone conversation, Heather mentioned that she was a big fan of a blogger named @MiltShook.
  • @Shoq and Heather  spent their first week of phone contact discussing his ten-year effort to construct a public information repository and sharing system using his proprietary technology under development, and how it could impact progressive causes. This is the same Traqq technology he has discussed with ABL for over a year, many concepts of which Heather embedded in their Team Uterati project.
  • Heather expressed intense interest in becoming a marketing and public relations strategist as well as a documentation writer for Traqq.
  • In the early weeks, Heather worked hard to gain @Shoq’s trust and confidence, often by volunteering her own research information about key antagonists, including Jason Leopold, @nostromosil, @RatboyLives, @GottaLaff, and others. Curiously, while claiming she had found some, she never actually delivered information on @GottaLaff. Just as oddly, this crack researcher also failed to find or report information about “Randy Hahn” that I and other volunteers discovered with ease, such as arrest records.
  • Heather had increasingly intimate conversations with @Shoq, even sending him unsolicited erotic photos while he was in distress with @vdaze (again). They had a few innocent flirtations wherein they discussed how working together in physical proximity could cause trouble if they were both single (Heather was married).
  • On February 29, within days of their flirtation, Heather told @vdaze about it. Heather later admitted she was a liar, gave a bizarre and incomprehensible explanation for her actions, and tried to exit the stage after admitting to purposely blowing up his relationship with @vdaze.
  • In a phone call with @Shoq after hearing of his contempt for her actions, Heather thanked him for introducing her to ABL, saying “I’ve wanted to link up with someone like her for years.” Hmm!
  • Just four days earlier, ABL had registered TeamUterati.com and asked Heather to host it, cc’ing @Shoq, who had discussed ideas with ABL but was unaware of any official project until then.
  • Heather continued to weave in and out of this story line. After many conversations, @Shoq said he would “trust but verify” her because he wanted to help ABL with her new project, which Heather acknowledged was inspired by their discussions about his Traqq venture.
  • On May 7, Heather assisted in a miraculous repair of a feud between Nicole Sandler and ABL, raging for weeks, which was suddenly fixed with one email. A short time later, Heather told @Shoq she was turning Sandler’s site over to a different webmaster to distance herself from Sandler.
  • A few days after Darshann Simon had sent her breakup email in May, Heather called @Shoq with a proposition: if @Shoq promised not to tell ABL at all, she would “do him a solid” and help him to investigate “Randy Hahn” in the Houston area, where they both claim to live.
  • On July 24, Heather sent a hostile email to @Shoq, apparently because of his discussion with ABL of why I (Osborne) had asked people whether they had ever actually met Heather. This despite the fact I had told ABL that I was no longer interested in Heather in an email dated the day before. By all appearances, a collaboration to smear @Shoq began on this day.
  • On July 26, @Shoq asked @vdaze if she knew why @MiltShook and ABL were tweeting something untrue that “Randy” had told them. Curiously, given previous vicious fights about ABL, Heather, and “Randy” et al, @vdaze responded only by wishing @Shoq a good vacation. She later rudely interrupted that vacation with her epic “dysfunctional c**t” rant on August 6.
  • At various times, “Randy Hahn” (@FarRightofLeft) has claimed that ABL was his source for the leaked emails and that he knows Heather Chase.
  • .

    In the chat conversation @vdaze has sampled, @Shoq felt that Heather’s influence was probably responsible ABL’s complaints about a post that I (Osborne) had written two days before about the “@Shoq illegal recording” nontroversy. I might not have needed to write that post if ABL had simply done what lawyers are trained to do: not volunteer information that no one had asked for.

    The information concerned alleged recordings of “Randy Hahn,” the hoax personality known then as @FarLeftofRight (now known as @FarRightofLeft). Then and now, he also operated through countless Twitter sockpuppet accounts, including @idesOfSimon, @StopRushTexas, and @OpusDei.

    Since May of 2012, “Randy” has badgered, harassed and bullied @Shoq, me, and countless other progressives 24 hours a day on Twitter. During the investigation of “Randy Hahn,” ABL had continually maintained that core volunteers of StopRush.net were “paranoid” to suspect he was a “right wing operative.”  As most Twitter users know by now, he has long since admitted to being precisely that. “Randy” (real name believed to be Jason Wade Taylor) is not only a conservative who bills himself as a “professional political operative,” he is also a friend and associate of the anti-Semitic @brooksbayne of The Trenches.us. And he has a new podcast on BlogTalkRadio.

    Prior to my burn notice for his “Randy Hahn” hoax personality, many people in the StopRush movement were discussing whether ABL had impulsively made a mostly self-serving statement about an alleged illegal phone recording of “Randy.” The perception of some was that she appeared to be throwing @Shoq and several members of his StopRush team under the bus without even the courtesy of a consultation with anyone else so she could indemnify herself and Heather against any appearance of impropriety.

    Had she consulted with the other volunteers, @Shoq tells me, they would have pointed out that she had done nothing wrong, and that responding to a lot of nutty right wing bloggers waving a few leaked emails was a bad idea. She was simply named as a recipient of an email. But acting on Heather’s typically impulsive and poor advice (or perhaps manipulative advice), ABL responded to the group. Acknowledging she had received an email, ABL even offered them informal legal advice that they should incorporate. This email was quickly leaked by someone who, for various reasons, the StopRush team believed was almost certainly Heather.

    There was precedent for this belief. On February 12th, around the time of the “solicitous affair,” @Shoq had sent @vdaze and Heather some whimsical pictures of himself at the gym. Those pictures were being tweeted by “Randy Hahn” and right wing bloggers very quickly. At the time, Heather received the benefit of the doubt and everyone assumed that her email was compromised. She suggested @vdaze was the leak.

    By the first week of June, the leaked emails had started a feeding frenzy among right wing bloggers (and Randy). @Shoq tried to contact ABL, but she would not respond via any medium. He finally reached Heather, who assured him that ABL was not going to respond. The next day, they did just that, issuing her now famous “STATEMENT FOR IMANI GANDY IN RESPONSE TO THE SHOQ & STOPRUSH CONTROVERSY” as a very unprofessional Twitlonger document. First Heather said that ABL had written it; later, she admitted writing it herself to protect ABL, who was raising money for Team Uterati and wanted to avoid embarrassment on the issue.

    In an example of the Streisand Effect, her statement fed rather than extinguished the fire. It was immediately picked up by Brooks Bayne at The Trenches.us and tweeted furiously by right wing bloggers. It caught everyone off guard. Many among the StopRush project, and @Shoq’s friends, were irritated that ABL had rushed to protect herself (read: cover her ass) by offering up so much information that no credible party was requesting.

    ABL might have just said something like: “I got an email. I didn’t read it. I didn’t click anything in it.” Instead, she went into great detail, even admitting she had given the group some unofficial legal advice. In so doing, she appeared to validate much of what @brooksbayne and other right wing bloggers were implying, sparking a new explosion of conspiracy theories. The entire nontroversy distracted the StopRush movement and complicated matters for everyone.

    Whether or not Heather advised her on this strategy (as @Shoq suspects), ABL had put a shining spotlight on herself. Relations with @Shoq completely devolved from that point forward. She has worried ever since that this matter would come back to haunt her, adversely affecting the advocacy and fundraising which ABL hopes will provide a steady income.

    That view is the subject of the chat log that @vdaze says she has provided to the FBI.

    In fact, almost no one on her side of the Twittersphere cared except ABL, nor thought much about it, after the first week. But the entire episode redoubled @Shoq’s suspicions about Heather, so he reminded everyone that she could not be trusted. From that day forward, trust and candor among all parties was gone. ABL and @Shoq seemed to be communicating again for a while until he told her I was working on a post related to Randy. ABL threw a Direct Message hissy fit, insisting to @Shoq that I should “stop this nonsense” (which she had fueled) and once again maintaining that Randy was not a right wing operation and “you all are crazy.”

    Due to all the factors mentioned here, relations between ABL, Heather Chase, Darhsann, and @vdaze, @Miltshook and other players not yet named were melting down faster than the polar icecaps. Misinformation and gossip were rampant. ABL would tell @Shoq to stop talking about Randy, while @Shoq would hear of ABL talking about nothing but @Shoq and @Randy. Because of her friendship with ABL, @Shoq’s relationship with @vdaze had still additional pressure, made all the worse by Darshann’s visit to Florida. A highly combustible mixture was primed to detonate from early May. It was just a matter of time before it did.

    Through it all, @Shoq assumed he and @vdaze might still, in good faith, repair their moribund relationship. Lately, given the circumstantial evidence of a more than casual cooperation among these women for propelling her “abuse narrative,” he is no longer sure that good faith was mutual, nor when @vdaze stopped sharing in it.

    So What Have We Learned… Now?

    Jessica’s bizarre reaction to this burn notice has shined a new light on a dead issue while obliterating her abuse narrative to replace it with a simpler, and probably more accurate, revenge narrative. At least on the surface. Below the surface it would seem quite likely that Heather and/or ABL encouraged her to loose this “FBI disclosure” as part of an agreed-upon strategy whereby this cluster of women would keep releasing new information to discredit @Shoq — until there was nothing left of his reputation, if that was required.

    This would satisfy @vdaze’s desire for revenge (triggered by Heather informing her about Darshann?) while helping to insulate Heather and ABL from any embarrassing disclosures or connections that might surface from the plasma of their interconnected dramas and relationships with @Shoq. They created drama where there was none, thinking it would be a quick in-and-out hit on @Shoq’s reputation. They underestimated his determination to pushback and the extensive nature of his support network.

    In the unlikely event any federal agent cared to investigate such an inconsequential report from @vdaze, they would probably waste time and taxpayer money. The worst thing that could happen is embarrassment for ABL and many of her associates, friends, and funders.

    As I’ve been saying, from the beginning there was nothing rational about the “abuse narrative” unleashed upon @Shoq. There are too many stories in this naked city, most of them the kinds of things that rational people would rather not have to consider. It is important to recognize that @Shoq’s reputation has been damaged by antagonists who were never neutral or without multiple overlapping agendas. Together and separately, they all had their own reasons to inflict reputational damage on @Shoq, and in so doing, set years of built-up goodwill in the progressive Twitter community on fire. This has made the right wing very happy.

    This bonfire of vanities will update.

    How TeamUterati Founders Fell for a Right Wing Con Artist

    Contrary to popular misconception, this story is not about defending a “Twitter cat.” Many people have been harassed, bullied, intimidated, and lost income since May. Using new information, this update will at last disclose answers to some of the bigger mysteries behind the “Shoq Twitter Brigade” as well as the smearing of StopRush.

    • Imani Gandy (ABL) and Heather Chase tried to cut a side deal with Jason Wade Taylor (JWT), aka “Randy Hahn,” while StopRush was investigating and vetting him.
    • Believing JWT was a real progressive philanthropist, between May 16 and 23 ABL and Chase curried his favor by supplying him with internal StopRush emails and a recording that later showed up in right wing blogs.
    • Acting on ABL’s behalf, Chase was also a source for Breitbart.com blogger Lee Stranahan.
    • When “Randy Hahn” was exposed as a fake, ABL and Chase engaged in a character assassination campaign against @Shoq and StopRush rather than admit to their embarrassing roles in the fraud and their release of documents.
    • During the Summer, ABL escalated this harassment through surrogates and a whispering campaign.

    Progressive philanthropists are notoriously tight-fisted. Because progressive social movements are challenged for funding, they are vulnerable to dirty tricks by right wing operators. The anti-abortion activist group Live Action recently tried this trick on Planned Parenthood. In 2012, a right wing con artist named Jason Wade Taylor aka “Randy Hahn” distracted and damaged two progressive social action movements by playing one against the other with false promises of future patronage.

    In April, JWT approached @Shoq and asked him to direct a funding campaign that included StopRush and was expanded to include TeamU. After @Shoq and the StopRush team decided in May that “Randy Hahn” was a fake, ABL and Heather Chase continued to believe he was a genuine progressive philanthropist and pursued their own deal with him. In order to win his trust, they provided him with internal StopRush emails and a recorded phone conversation. As Chase told one source, “greed got the best of me.”

    When they finally understood that “Randy” was a con man who didn’t have any money, they decided to discredit @Shoq and StopRush defenders rather than deal with the embarrassment of their complicity in a fraud. Charges of “abuser” and “misogynist” were leveled so as to paint any such revelation as retribution.

    Con Artists Rely on the Shame and Silence of their Victims

    Sources within TeamUterati have cast new light on a confusing phone conversation I had with ABL prior to May. She wanted her own deal with “Randy” for TeamU funding, but at the time she only told me that she wanted to have Chase meet the mysterious benefactor. Both ABL and Chase were fully aware that StopRush was actively investigating whether this person was anything he pretended to be. She did not tell me she had discussed going directly to “Randy” with @Shoq, who didn’t want her to “go rogue” while StopRush was still trying to vet him.

    It was no secret that ABL had a $300,000 fundraising goal for her projects. She decided to negotiate financial contributions from Jason Taylor, aka “Randy Hahn,” separate from anything @Shoq and StopRush might be doing. Had StopRush known that Chase and ABL were dealing with “Randy” separately, both would have been cut out of all communications. This side deal has been confirmed by internal sources at TeamU who wish to remain anonymous:


    TeamU had already secured highly-visible board members and/or advisers whose reputations were put at risk in this scheme. In fact, ABL overrode her board on May 23 to insist on pursuing a relationship with “Randy,” declaring that she would not turn away a potential source of funding over a “conspiracy theory.” ABL has also explained her participation in the StopRush smears as a matter of duress, with “Randy” learning that he was recorded during the StopRush investigation and pressing ABL to help him defend himself against possible extortion. As far as I can determine, the details of this “extortion” scheme have never been revealed to anyone, and the charge is just another preposterous element of his larger confidence scam.

    Since early June, ABL and Chase have systematically tried to cover up their own participation in that fraud. They minimized discussion of his ongoing harassment of StopRush volunteers while increasing their backchannel hostility toward @Shoq, who knew many key details of what they had been up to.

    Breitbloggers Confirm Heather Chase Forwarded Stoprush & @Shoq Emails

    To see the results of what ABL and Chase did to StopRush in pursuit of their own deal with “Randy Hahn,” just read his disgusting and defamatory “Texas Progressive Press” blog — if you can stomach it.

    When the emails and recording she provided through Chase became public, ABL had to distance herself from @Shoq, StopRush, and her role in helping a right wing con artist smear the 1,500 volunteers of a successful netroots movement. JWT has claimed for months that Chase and ABL were his sources of information on StopRush, and that Chase has continued serving as his source. Furthermore, Chase has also been an informant for Breitbart.com blogger Lee Stranahan:

    My Summer of discussing Stranahan makes more sense now, doesn’t it? The conversation above refers to an email I had sent ABL in September. You can read that email at Pastebin, where it was posted anonymously after Stranahan had the second DM conversation below. He revealed that Chase, not ABL, had forwarded the email to him:

    Stranahan has played point man in the “@Shoq illegally recorded Randy” nontroversy since its inception at The Trenches.us. It is an extension of the ridiculous “extortion” tale Randy told ABL and Chase. StopRush internal emails were used in a fabricated narrative to embarrass movement volunteers, including MSNBC personality Krystal Ball. TeamU volunteers and contributors might now ask ABL and Chase why they were so willing to sell out the reputations and private information of prominent progressives and their causes.


    There Was Never Any Money — or Solidarity

    As should be clear by now, “Randy Hahn” is not a rich benefactor of any causes, least of all progressive ones. Chase and ABL appear to have maintained faith in him until June, when I told the world his real name. This was a neat trick in his long con, given that ABL had to ignore the StopRush emails cataloging his plagiarized blog, his fake credentials, his lies about ownership of a law firm in Houston, and clues to his real identity.

    ABL chose to believe Chase, who met Randy at a Mexican restaurant on May 22 and called that “vetting.” TeamU sources indicate that ABL ignored staff objections to all this behavior, and that Chase cut them out of the loop in response, leading to staff departures in late May. Their escalating character assassination campaign against @Shoq since June has been a smokescreen to prevent any embarrassing revelation of the assistance they gave Randy.

    Which brings us back to ABL’s good friend @vdaze, who brought this all to a climax in August, and the IM chat she sampled in her “response” to the first posting of this burn notice. As you can see in another selection from that chat included below, @vdaze is quite capable of pushing @Shoq around when she wants to. She uses ALL CAPS while trying to talk him into affirming the ABL-friendly right wing blog narrative about an “illegal recording” (the “me” here is @Shoq):

    The narrative of this story now coheres in a number of friendships. Heather Chase has consistently interfered in @Shoq’s friendships and relationships (remember, just weeks after meeting him, Chase told @vdaze about flirtations she had encouraged). Meanwhile, Chase has given ABL terrible advice, especially in regards to Randy Hahn, while turning ABL’s friendship with @Shoq into a public hatred. (To see how ABL and @Shoq could still engage in friendly banter as he lent a hand in setting up TeamU, click here.)

    JWT wanted to break up progressive alliances and friendships. Through Chase and ABL, he succeeded.

    Imani’s Friends Rally to Her Flag

    Because her role in the StopRush smear was suspected in May, ABL has been under a very quiet cloud of suspicion ever since. Her TeamU fundraising has reportedly been disappointing. How very convenient that ABL’s friend @vdaze, who had been pushing @Shoq to help the right wing blog narrative for months, should suddenly declare in August that he had “abused” her without ever explaining her incitement or why an 8 month old voice mail message was newsworthy. And how odd that she should respond to this burn notice by doubling down on that right wing blog narrative, “sending Shoq’s problem to the FBI.”

    That story can only help one “progressive” on Earth: her friend ABL.

    The timing of @vdaze’s outburst — two weeks after the IM chat discussing how ABL had seemingly had enough of me blogging on matters related to “Randy Hahn” — seems no accident now. In championing her friend’s outspoken denunciations of @Shoq, ABL damaged the reputation of the person most likely to reveal her complicity in the smearing of StopRush volunteers.

    Darshann Padilla, ABL’s friend, former employer, and now a TeamU participant of some standing, suddenly reversed her opinion of @Shoq at the same time. All of them wanted to help their friend ABL escape accountability. All of them wanted TeamU to succeed, no matter the cost to anyone or anything else.

    The highest art of the abuser is that victims become invested in defending them. Despite all the tweets and noise, one eight-month old recording is not a prima facie case for abuse. People screaming “abuse abuse abuse” are not proof of abuse. But there has indeed been actual, real, not-imaginary abuse happening all Summer.

    The Continuing Harassment of StopRush Volunteers

    Ironically, people in the outer circles of TeamU privately tell me they have already known about all this for some time, but don’t wish to speak up for fear of harassment. My sources also wish to avoid harassment by remaining anonymous. I have seen tweets that say ‘@Shoq is a big boy, he can take care of himself’ — as if his reputation was disposable, and as if he was the only person harmed by this campaign. Rest assured he is not. On Sunday night, “Randy” was helping his co-blogger incite violence against a StopRush volunteer. You can see the full picture of that event here; sample below:

    Luckily, the address and phone number above are out of date, but you can see why StopRush has been very interested in finding out who helped JWT, an admirer of James O’Keefe, to smear and harass them. In fact, ABL has engaged in a Summer-long whispering campaign with various StopRush and @Shoq harassers. One of them is @FeminaziSlut, who took umbrage that they asked her to replace her “respect the cunt” avatar while they were clearing the #stoprush hashtag of JWT’s sock puppet accounts:

    On Stranahan:

    On @Shoq:

    Contrary to what ABL has been telling everyone privately, until now neither I nor @Shoq had ever accused her of complicity in the smearing and harassment of StopRush, or cooperation with Breitbloggers. The fact that she was inoculating people to these charges by the first week of July speaks to her own guilty state of mind. As an officer of the court, ABL should know better.

    There are in fact many parties who may be interested in legal discovery in this matter, and I plan to assist that process as much as possible if anyone does decide to move forward. My testimony will include the fact that during our strange conversation, ABL spoke of separating her affairs with @Shoq from her interests in TeamU, but was bizarrely cryptic about it. She wanted to have Heather meet “Randy” regardless of what @Shoq decided, and asked me not to tell him.

    At the time, I did not understand she was trying to end-run StopRush for a side deal. All Summer, I have not understood that ABL was trying to cover up her embarrassing role in the “Randy Hahn” fiasco. The puzzle now fits together neatly, but the picture makes me sad. Chase and ABL simply don’t want to admit they fell for a con artist. Instead, they have whipped up hate against the people who didn’t fall for a stranger on the internet waving imaginary money at them.

    This bonfire of Twitter vanities will update.

    UPDATE 3

    Rather than start with an apology to the many progressive men and women she has thrown under the bus, Heather Chase opens her respondent epistle (.PDF) to this burn notice with an accusation. And it’s a silly one, which is why she later deleted the document:

    Matt Edelstein (@Shoq) and Matt Osborne (@Osborneink) have been attempting to portray me as a right-wing plant who was working with Jason Wade Taylor (a.k.a. “Randy Taylor-Hahn”) in order to sabotage the StopRush project.

    I have never asserted Heather Chase was a right-wing plant, though I considered the possibility and eventually discarded it. Clearly, she leaked internal StopRush emails and a recording to self-described “right wing operative” Jason Wade Taylor — a fact she does eventually get around to admitting — and I have been very interested to learn her motives for causing such a tremendous shitstorm that hit so many people.

    But according to Chase, the harm she did is actually Matt Edelstein (@Shoq)’s fault. Look what he made her do!

    Edelstein’s email is an invitation to download the file. He clearly intended the recipients to do so, and I was among the recipients. Therefore it is not reasonable for him to suggest that I took this file without his permission. I have spoken to several attorneys about this (including a criminal defense attorney), and was informed that it is not illegal to give a recording made of someone to the person who was recorded. I did not redistribute the file to other parties who were not recipients of those emails. Taylor redistributed the file; I’m not responsible for his actions. (Emphasis mine)

    Facepalm: Heather Chase shared this file without permission, and shared it with someone that StopRush plainly no longer wished to talk to after May 12th. That is quite like sharing a victim’s emails with their stalker. In fact, @Shoq and his mother have both been “doxed” since May by having their addresses and phone numbers published to the delight of his cyberstalking obsessives, of whom Taylor is but one.

    When Chase shared material she had no right or obligation to share, Taylor had already extracted personal information under false pretenses and failed to pay for work performed. Yes, says Chase, but we wouldn’t have been raped if we hadn’t been dressed like such sluts. It’s our fault Taylor was a con artist, see? And it was also our fault that she didn’t believe us when we said he was a con artist.

    Much of Chase’s passive-aggressive confessional centers on the infamous recording of Taylor posing as “Randy.” Nothing would please me more than someone taking action on this recording, which is why I resisted mention of it for so long. If Jason Wade Taylor feels inclined to press charges or sue, then I am all in favor.

    Yes, let the pseudonymous con artist present himself before the bar immediately. Of course, he will have to use his real name and address of record. As I keep asking, how long would a Nigerian con artist last in an American courtroom if they tried to continue their con artist persona in court?

    Curiously, despite her protests that no “quid pro quo” existed, Chase admits that she reached out to Taylor, not the other way around. She then offered him the emails and recordings, she says, to avoid being sued. This matches what we already knew about the ridiculous “extortion” narrative, but why would she reach out to Taylor in the first place?

    As Chase explains it, she wanted to separate her girlfriends from the madness of the Matts. Besides, she was recovering from surgery and taking painkillers, and she got confused. Yeah, the drugs made her do it:

    It was with that wrong read of the email in mind that I later listened to approximately 30 minutes of different parts of the recording (I still haven’t listened to the whole thing, which is over an hour long), and I was extremely confused and alarmed by what I was hearing. What I heard was Edelstein badgering Taylor to give him money, interrogating him about his family, and Taylor reacting with what seemed to me to be understandable astonishment, anger, and confusion.

    When I re-read the email, I realized that I was looking at a recording he had made without consent and an email where he was volunteering me to go basically spy on this guy in his office, and I started to panic. I checked with Imani and she came to a similar conclusion. I talked to my non-political friends and my family about it to get an outside perspective, and they agreed it appeared Edelstein had gone over the line and may have opened me up to a lot of trouble. I was very worried. (Emphasis mine)

    Chase eventually did check out Taylor’s bogus claims of an Ivy League relative, one of the two “family members” Chase was asked to investigate. But she doesn’t make this connection for the reader, nor does she draw a dozen other connections that don’t form the picture she wants readers to see.

    Rather than reach out to me, or StopRush, or Matt Edelstein — rather than read the very StopRush emails she gave to Taylor! — and find out that “Randy” had repeatedly blown real-world meetings and failed to pay for work performed, or that his story about owning a firm had not checked out, or that his blog was entirely plagiarized, Chase decided that @Shoq’s request for her to visit the downtown building where Taylor claimed to house his firm was a bridge too far.

    She made a mistake, but it’s not her fault — it’s ours:

    The role greed played in this was in keeping me from being willing to accept the fact that “Randy” was misrepresenting himself even when it ought to have been obvious to me that his stories were ludicrously inconsistent with a legitimate funder. I am not proud of this at all, but I believe I am being judged rather harshly for a human weakness Edelstein seems to have shared with me. (Emphasis mine)

    In other words, she thought he really was rich, which made him a better and more trustworthy person than @Shoq. Not her fault!

    It is true that Chase is also a victim of Taylor. We might have commiserated as fellow victims once; there was a moment in February when I felt like we might all be friends. But that was before she blew up @Shoq’s relationship with his girlfriend, a matter which caused him to get loud on the phone with Chase. Yes, the “abuser” story gets more play in Chase’s narrative framework, because getting mad at someone who keeps abusing your trust is itself a form of abuse. See how that works?

    Readers may recall that in the more unpleasant passages of this burn notice, I included some racy material from the enormous file folder I had assembled with my friends. Muckraking is often a dirty job, and the potential ramifications of Heather Chase’s role in the release of StopRush correspondence were extremely concerning to those she had let down.

    So when I learned that Chase had told @Shoq a story about being a globetrotting “escort,” I became even more alarmed — but not because I believed her. I was actually worried that it might not be true, and I even shared this hypothesis with others.

    Mind you, I have an established history of nonjudgmental blogging in regards to sex workers. Nor was it my intention to dress Chase up as a “duplicitous whore” (her words, definitely not mine). Rather, I was alarmed over the possibility of a honey-trap — one in which @Shoq’s “white knight” tendencies may have been used against him. After all, if Chase was so turned off by @Shoq’s flirtations (as she now maintains), why would she tell him this very personal information about herself? Her story doesn’t add up. Her stories never did add up.

    And there was so much else. For instance, this mysterious anonymous email about @Shoq that started circulating on May 21st:

    Let me begin by telling you who we are, and what we do. The group, Wistful Women is a social media watchdog comprised of women who have suffered abuse at the hands of men on the internet that have taken advantage of our standing in the world of business and media.

    It has come to our attention that you are personally involved with Matthew Edelstein, aka ‘Shoq’ as he is known in all areas of social media. It has been brought to our attention that he has blackmailed many women in the past, and is currently doing so again.

    During our investigation, which is still ongoing; we have found out from very reliable sources that he has been recording phones conversations with various women who are in high profile positions. What he intends to do with the countless emails, and phone recordings one can only speculate; what we do know is what he has done to women in the past. [REDACTED] is a perfect example of what he is capable of, and we don’t want to see that happen to you or anyone for that matter.

    We have also found out that Matthew and his brother have two pending lawsuits against them, along with that we have countless emails where you were included in the group discussing an illegal recording that he has already made, and has distributed to many people including yourself. He has put many good people in jeopardy for the simple reason that many state and federal laws have been broken.

    We have emails as early as yesterday 5.20.12 and we will attach one along with this letter. We don’t want to see any more women hurt, or taken advantage of. There are a number of both men, and women that are currently pursing cease and desist orders against Mr. Edelstein in the hope that he will stop his abuse of innocent people.

    Thank you for your time, if there is anything we can do to help please feel free to email us anytime.

    Sincerely,
    Hanna Roberts

    (Emphasis mine)

    That is not “Randy,” who Chase met the next day. The lack of grammatical errors is proof enough of that. Who is it, then? The choice of “wistful women” seems strange; abused women are not wistful, which is a euphemism for turned on. So who is writing this smear? The answer is that after a years-long whispering campaign on the left, this email is simply another riff the same old theme — but informed by events that were still not public at the time. 

    Given Chase’s habit of blowing up @Shoq, was it possible that she was responsible, or knows who is responsible? I needed to ask her many questions, but by the time I was ready to approach Chase, she had already blocked me on Facebook. Many of her friends who orbit around ABL were already blocking me on Twitter and spreading rumors about me. My emails to ABL were showing up in anonymous Pastebins, and Heather Chase was already supplying information to Lee Stranahan.

    The war was already underway, and no one was interested in talking to me at that point — because I was “creepy:”

    I remind the reader that I had been dealing with any number of fake people for several weeks when this exchange occurred. Yes, just as it was “creepy” to contact the “relatives” that “Randy” named as references, or to visit the place where he supposedly employed dozens of people, or to pressure him for evidence that he was actually a rich benefactor of liberal causes, it was “creepy” to make sure that Heather Chase is her real name before I talked to her.

    Apparently, what I am supposed to do is be trusting and not do thorough background research on anyone who calls themselves “progressive.” Because that worked out so well with Taylor, right?

    Chase’s source for the above DM exchange is @dvnix, to whom I attempted to explain the problem I faced. The exchange took place before the Democratic National Convention, where ABL finally met Chase in the flesh. More than anything else, I believe, this DM exchange is responsible for the now-widespread notion that I have been calling Chase a “right-wing plant” — which I did not. I merely speculated on the possibility when I told @dvnix that Chase had assisted “Randy,” and that I needed to know why.

    The mention of @dvnix also gives me an opportunity to close an important cognitive loop for some readers:

    That’s Darshann (@HoneyBadgerLA), who is @dvnix’s girlfriend and one of @Shoq’s accusers. They look happy; I hope they do well. They used to be my friends, but then someone came along looking to blow up those friendships — and Chase helped them do it. She has managed to ensure that many of those same former friends are now invested in the ridiculous premise that @Shoq “abused” a con artist and cyberstalker, and that this somehow proves that @Shoq abused Chase, and that her solid record of blowing him up is his own fault. See what he made her do?

    Chase minimizes the role greed played in all this. I suspect there was also a tremendous reserve of butthurt involved, but she has not admitted to it. I agree with Chase that she lives much closer to Jason Wade Taylor than I do, and has much more to actually fear from him. But rather than appear apologetic for her actions, she seems happy that @Shoq’s real name was outed. Because abuse!

    He does not seem to be capable of regarding women as full human beings. It has not yet seemed to occur to him to think that with so many women willing to speak out in public about his behavior, perhaps it is worth considering whether it is at least possible that the problem might be his, and that this problem has contributed to and complicated other problems he has had.

    I find this a curious construct, because @Shoq was treating Julie (a woman, and Taylor’s first victim) as a full human being when he scambaited and recorded “Randy.” He was also trying to protect the many progressive men and women with whom Taylor had formed contacts in the course of his scam — because he considered them full human beings. And Chase’s former female coworkers at TeamU tell me that her possession of their personal information is a frightening thing:


    I was eventually able to gain access to Chase through an intermediary, and she confirmed many of the details that I presented in the previous update. Some mysteries were simply insoluble without her direct input, however, which is why I am actually grateful to her for finally speaking up. She now denies assisting Taylor after June, which is probably true; she denies doxing StopRush participants, which is probably true as well.

    But I remind the reader that ABL was inoculating everyone to my “conspiracy theories” while Heather was still communicating with Breitbart.com blogger Lee Stranahan. And the phrase “conspiracy theory” shows up in the oddest places:

    That is part of the email in which ABL overrode the TeamU board to formalize their organization’s relations with “Randy.” At the bottom of the email chain, we find a glorious example of his writing style:

    Both ABL and Chase have explained away this episode as a “conspiracy theory” since the moment they learned StopRush considered “Randy” a fake. It was still a conspiracy theory even when they finally figured out for themselves that “Randy” really was a fake and not “you’re friend.” It was a conspiracy theory when ABL decided that my writing about Brooks Bayne was really an attack on her, and of course it is still a conspiracy theory today.

    Any hypothesis or factual narrative that does not begin and end with Heather Chase being pure as the driven snow is a conspiracy theory. Because abuse!

    While Chase’s Google document contains a passive-aggressive confession of sorts, most of her 10,660 words strike me as further evidence that she was never acting in good faith. Furthermore, I have yet to see ABL — who claims that Heather never does anything without her knowledge! — apologize to anyone, or take responsibility for what Chase did in her name.

    Episodes like this one almost always involve the cover-up of matters that would diminish with honesty. So here is some honesty: rather than wait to set Jason Wade Taylor on fire in my blog on June 12, I should have done it on May 13. It was only at the request of Taylor’s embarrassed victims in StopRush that I waited so long, as burning him didn’t become “necessary” until the recording story emerged in The Trenches.us.

    I will also own what I wrote about Chase in pursuit of the truth: I didn’t have a photograph to look at when I wrote about the “erotic picture” she sent @Shoq, just an IM chat log in which he called it erotic — and his distinct impression, with the benefit of hindsight, that she never really had good intentions when they flirted.

    But if she wants me to explain why I told so much about her, the answer is that she told me nothing at all until I told everything I knew. That non-communication explains a lot about the investigation of Heather Chase. For instance, Taylor’s “Seth Plate” Facebook personality is friends with several gaming profiles. Given that gaming is one of Chase’s favorite things in life, she shouldn’t be surprised that this drew the attention of Anonymous diggers interested in Taylor.

    Without her input, how are people to know it’s a false lead unless we check it out? Yet to Chase, this is evidence that we don’t know what we are doing. It’s what information-gathering looks like when you find that the other side is too busy manslut-shaming a Twitter cat to talk to you.

    I would love to move on to lessons learned for netroots, and have this ridiculous blogwar finished. That is hard to do when the only communication I have is an “apology” that somehow makes Chase’s actions the fault of everyone and everything else. Thankfully, I have garnered lots of new material in the days since Chase posted and then deleted her response, so this bonfire of Twitter vanities WILL update.

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    About Matt Osborne

    Veteran blogging the culture wars from Alabama. Video journalist, mash-up artist, aspiring novelist, and metalhead. Expect bunnies, geekery, dark humor, and snarky empirical analysis to annoy idealists of all stripes. You can follow me on Twitter, but be ready 'cause it might get loud.
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