in Burn Notices

William Hoge’s Downfall

William J. J. Hoge has a gigantic ego, so he couldn’t understand why his little Hogewash blog wasn’t getting any traffic. Even though he blogged about Brett Kimberlin, the bugaboo of the right wing Breitbart universe, Hoge just didn’t have the audience he felt he deserved. But then Hoge got into a pissing match with Bill Schmalfeldt, a liberal blogger who had earned the wrath of East Blogistan for writing about pretenders to the throne of Andrew Breitbart — who were all suing, and screaming about, Brett Kimberlin. This has earned Hoge the undying affection and link-love of a nasty, trollish clique.

Hoge tends to microblog. He writes astronomy posts, which is admirable, but they are short and uninformative. Every day, he uses the same joke borrowed from Pinky and the Brain, a 1990s Warner Brothers cartoon about two mice that repeatedly attempt to seize world power. These non sequitur posts are seldom as funny as the show which inspires them.

But Hoge has put his greatest energy into the war against Brett Kimberlin, the bugaboo of right wing imagination. He fights this war by proxy against a journalist named Bill Schmalfeldt. Hoge’s ammunition is criminal charges, and he fires another round every time Mr. Schmalfeldt tweets “@” him. Mr. Hoge considers this direct contact and a violation of the peace order he won against Schmalfeldt thanks to a judge who doesn’t understand Twitter.

It was the only “win” Hoge has managed to win in his “lawfare” against Schmalfeldt; he has had dozens of failures. In the last year, Hoge has tried to sue Schmalfeldt, pursued nearly two dozen peace orders against him, and sworn to hundreds of criminal harassment charges in Carroll County, Maryland. Altogether, Mr. Hoge has likely put thousands of dollars into his strange hobby.

“Lawfare,” a form of vexatious litigancy characterized by political speech, is expensive. Hoge blogs about his hobby with a dismissive air, as if he knows so much more than he is saying but chooses to play his cards close to his vest. In fact, Hoge knows far less than he supposes, and the notion that Schmalfeldt is realistically threatening to Hoge should give the reader pause to comprehend just how stupid Hoge’s conspiracy theories about Schmalfeldt really are.

Hoge’s problem is that he simply cannot stand to be talked to by unapproved persons, especially the ones who don’t take him seriously. Such people deserve to be destroyed.

I have developed a friendship with Bill Schmalfeldt by way of blogging on the same topics. We have become friends, so when on Monday he asked me to convey a legal communication to Mr. Hoge, I copied his text verbatim and forwarded it. Hoge replied by posting the entire email in his blog. Needless to say, his friends instantly determined that I had made some sort of subliminal threat with Schmalfeldt’s words.

Yesterday, I wrote Mr. Hoge a second email of my own — one which he found “alarming” enough to reply with a demand that I never contact him again, even by using the @ sign function on Twitter, on pain of criminal charges, citing Alabama law. But Hoge’s “alarm” is at being mocked, not threatened.

Which brings me to the most unintentionally hilarious website email policy I have ever read:

1. In consideration of the payments which are outlined herein and which you and we mutually agree are good and sufficient, we offer to receive unsolicited commercial email from you on the terms set out below. By “we” we mean the owners and users of the domain. By “you” we mean any person or entity who might send commercial email to an address at our domain. If you send any solicitation by email to any address at our domain without the express prior written consent of the Webwrangler of the domain, this will be taken as your acceptance of this offer. 

2. For the purposes of points 3, 4, and 5, you will be taken to have sent any spam email sent by any person or entity apparently associated with you for the purpose of sending email solicitations. By “spam” we mean any commercial email sent by you to us without prior express written permission from the Webwrangler of the domain. 

3. You must pay the owner of the domain ten US dollars for each such item of spam email that you send to an address at our domain. 

4. If you or any associated entity are on our email blacklist, you must pay the owner of the domain fifty US dollars for each such item of spam email that you send to an address at our domain. Our email blacklist is posted on our web site. 

5. If you or any associated entity use a false or misleading reply-to address on any spam email sent to an address at our domain, you must pay the owner of the domain five-hundred US dollars for each such item of spam email. This is the statutory rate per section 14-2901 et. seq. of the Annotated Code of Maryland. 

6. Your payment must arrive at our business address within ten business days of your transmission of each spam email. Your spam may be archived on our system until all fees are paid. An additional fee of one US dollar per day per message will be due for messages archived longer than ten days. 

That’s not all of it, but it’s enough for you to get an idea of just how much thought Hoge puts into ways to vex people who cross him. It is fair to say that Mr. Hoge is a vexatious litigant, and this leads him to systematically dehumanize the objects of his wrath. Hoge is especially dismissive of Schmalfeldt’s deteriorating Parkinson’s, which has been aggravated by all the “lawfare”-induced stress, because he thinks Schmalfeldt is exaggerating his condition for sympathy.

Hoge considers himself a Christian, by the way.

Schmalfeldt has in fact reached Stage IV of Parkinson’s Disease, which is characterized by humiliations that no person wants to suffer in public. Hoge will presumably attend next Monday’s hearing where Schmalfeldt must appear to answer the 366 charges that Hoge has filed against him over the last three weeks. Maryland law has a peculiar quirk that lets anyone file a criminal charge against any other state resident, and poor Bill Schmalfeldt lives just 75 miles away, trapped inside a brain that is dying, close enough and immobile enough for Hoge to use him as a punching bag.

Hoge refuses to simply block Schmalfeldt using Twitter’s basic functions. But he does not want to ignore Schmalfeldt. In fact, he blogs about him all the time. Hoge argues that Schmalfeldt sometimes changes Twitter accounts, and that he’s too busy and serious to keep blocking his nemesis, so he must waste time and money suing and indicting Schmalfeldt rather than just clicking “block” a few times. See how that works?

Indeed, when Schmalfeldt creates new accounts, Hoge attempts to follow them. When Schmalfeldt joins a professional society, Hoge joins it too. Hoge calls Schmalfeldt a cyberstalker, but it is simply psychological projection, because Hoge is fascinated by everything Schmalfeldt does and says. He just doesn’t want Schmalfeldt to say it to him. He wants to observe Schmalfeldt in detail, but safely, at a distance, where he can mock him without shame and denounce him without objection. Nobody had better talk back to the Great William Hoge!

Hoge’s lawfare has gathered quite a following of highly-activated right wing cranks, steadily increasing his traffic. Many of them follow Hoge on Twitter and used the service to taunt, defame, harass, threaten, and otherwise stress Schmalfeldt, who has changed accounts more than once in a vain effort to escape this attention. So now you know how that works.

I refuse to take Hoge seriously. The worst he can do is become a nuisance to me, as no sane judge is going to take him seriously. His fellow right wing bloggers on the “Kimberlin beat” can do their worst, but they can never make me take them seriously, either. Even if Hoge actually follows through on his ridiculous threat to charge me with crimes over my use of an @ sign in tweets, it will simply prove that everything I say about him is true.

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