Saturday, June 09, 2007

The strange case of General Patriotboy and his lynch mob

Lately the dovecotes of liberal Blogistan have been fluttered by the Nashville Is Talking incident. I was alerted to this by Chris Clarke's blog, Creek Running North. A local blogger in Nashville (, Brittney Gilbert, well known for her stalwart liberal views, posted, under the heading Teaching Libs a Lesson, a particularly vicious piece of work from a right-wing, racially ante-bellum blogger called Smantix, which exulted in Steve Gilliard's death.

It was in fact so nasty that one would either assume that Ms Gilbert was herself an insane racist who agreed with this, or else that she was holding up to her readers a particularly dreadful piece of trash, illustrating what kind of person this Smantix character was. And in fact, regular readers of Nashville is Talking knew that the latter was the case, because Ms Gilbert was well known to detest Smantix, who is apparently notorious in Nashville for such beyond-the-pale stuff.

Her blog actually posts a lot of stuff without much comment, relying on the readers to either have common sense, or the initiative to find out context and meaning for themselves. Her paid gig as a blogger, under the auspices of a Nashville TV station, according to a video she posted in February, prior to the uproar, is in fact to function as an aggregator of other Nashville blogs, with some comment or opinion from her. Apparently she had in fact commented on Smantix and his views in the past. She neglected to do so this time.

Problem is, you have to spell stuff out for fundamentalists. Trouble is on the horizon.

Soon a liberal blogger called Patriotboy who usually posts under his other pseudonym of "General J. C. Christian, Patriot" (who is moderately well known, and who considers himself--in his own Haloscan comments, at least--an "A-list" blogger,) happens upon the Smantix screed.

Oh, my. He goes nuts. He denounces Ms Gilbert. He writes her employer, and the blog's advertisers, trying to get her fired. Not only that, his devoted what-he-said following apparently did likewise, and filled the comments to her blog with, well, poorly considered remarks.

General Patriotboy himself, who was soon informed that Ms Gilbert was a liberal and that she was well-known to dislike Smantix and everything he stands for, is now in a quandary. Shall he back down? Well, he does, in the sense that he removed the contact information for writing her employer. Evidently he regarded this as a retraction of his request that she be fired. But he redoubles his vituperation, as do his troops.

He adds an update to his original post. In it, he asks her to apologize. His request was phrased as "Apparently, Brittney is just plain fucking stupid." That kind of request for apology generally is not perceived as such.

This is probably what set off the firestorm. Now people were going to the General's blog and accusing him of being a sexist bastard. The general denied this, and I am willing to take him at his word, but unlike Ms Gilbert's clear statement that she finds Smantix's words abhorrent, the General refused to retract his remarks about "Brittney," but continued to maintain stoutly that he was not a misogynist.

You can draw your own conclusion about that.

And the troops continued to accuse Gilbert of stupidity as well as racism, in her blog's comments, as well as in the General's.

One of them asks, "Is she at the local Klan meeting or is she dropping the kids off at Nazi Youth Camp?”

Another asks, “Brittney, Brittney, Brittney: What are we going to do with you kitten?”

Another lets her know of her perils if she travels to Canada. “In Canada, Brittney and her colleagues could be considered criminals under the Criminal Code of Canada as it states that ‘anyone who incites hatred of an identifiable group or promotes hatred is guilty of a criminal offense and will be imprisoned for two to five years.’"

Another says, “Brittney, what a monster you are.”

Another: “You’re a bigot, there are millions like you, everybody knows it, case closed.”

Another: “Either Brittany is an idiot or she’s got a serious racism jones. Well, actually the two are not mutually exclusive. There are far too many people with Brittney’s skill set currently working in media and government, perhaps she should consider a different career path.”

There was a lot more like that.

Ms Gilbert quit. She said essentially that this was the last straw; she had been thinking of leaving anyway, she wasn't thick-skinned enough for this kind of abuse, and goodbye.

Well, you can imagine what happened then. I checked in at General Patriotboy's place, and the comments were far from universally favorable, though the General's faithful did step up to the plate. And more. One of them, indeed, goes so far as to write the dean and the student newspaper and the supervising professor of a UC Irvine PhD student who had disagreed with the General and his throng, accusing the student of being a white supremacist, which was self-evidently the opposite of the case. This tattling had the intent of--well, it's unclear to me. Getting the student thrown out of school? I don't know.

At last count there were 265 comments in the General's blog on the whole business, including a few of my own, which I regret. There are also a great many other blogs, including Creek Running North, and now this one, expressing some opinions on the matter.

I guess what I find appalling in this is being forced to a renewed awareness that there are a lot of people nominally on my side, that I don't want on my side. I cringe.

In fairness to the General--although it's hard to be fair to him, because he has carried it out to a degree where that's difficult for me to do--I can understand his outrage at the offending Smantix filth. I guess at that point we part company, because if I ran across something that vile, I know I would have tried to find out if it was being held up as something awful, or if the blogger agreed with the quoted material.

In Brittney Gilbert's case, that would not have been very hard.

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