Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Postscript to the Death of the Patriot's Voice Forum

Having received word from Bravenet that the Patriot's Voice was indeed ordered to remove the slanderous posts from their forum, it now seems clear that this was the motive for Robert Runyon's decision to shut down the libel-factory. No doubt they'll scream that their first amendment rights have been violated, but just as you oughtn't to yell fire in a crowded theater, you oughtn't to make false and vicious accusations of your fellows. Freedom of expression is indeed a right--and so it is a responsibillity. Will they have learned this? Probably not. The last few forum posts were devoted to their martyrdom and victimhood (I learned to keep copies of the whole shootin' match a long time ago). How smarmy.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Death of the Patriot's Voice' Anything-but-Open Forum, and the Moral to be Drawn

On November 10th, Robert Runyon, self-declared CEO of the far-right wing Christian Identity wannabe group, the Patriot's Voice (PV), decided to call it quits on the PV-Forum. Although touted as an "open" forum for discussion of timely political topics, the actual forum was anything but. From its inception, it was clearly intended to be used as a rhetorical weapon to counter, and hopefully silence, any possible opposition to the patently anti-Semitic, gay-bashing, monumentally sexist and racist ideology they not only promoted, but insisted was what God intended for human life. Although I know of virtually no Christians who subscribe to the profoundly violent hell-fire and brimstone Christianity the PV espoused, they seemed to be certain that they had the inside track to God's mind--and perhaps they did. Trouble is, their God was nothing more than a projected invention that they aspired to impose on the struggling communities of rural Pennsylvania--prime recruiting ground for hate groups.

What Patriot's Voice members did not comprehend was that the opposition came equipped with an arsenal that they simply were not prepared to deal with, and, turns out, could not compete with, namely reason, respect for evidence, tenacity, and an investment in what education can accomplish. Indeed, I have never encountered people who--although they sought to gain community power by running for school board seats--trashed education, educators, literature, and science with such ferocity.

At first, and for several years, local folks looking for scapegoats for the depressed economies of their towns, suspicious of intellectuals, and always ready for another round of religious confirmation, bought into the PV stump speech of "property tax reform." People just didn't see that all it took was a casual trip to their website--with its celebration of Joseph McCarthy, and its page for vigillantes ready to lynch people accused of child molestation without benefit of a trial conviction--and the property tax front evaporated into the fear-mongering rhetoric of a bonafide hate group.

But then--as folks like myself and others began to challenge the PV on their facts, their assumptions, and their always ad hominem strategies--their assaults on their critics began to become more vicious, more shrill, more slanderous, and more personal. Indeed, one day an anonymous poster calling him/herself "BU (Bloomsburg University) Conservative" posted an attack on me that crossed the line from slanderous to libelous. PV-Members, predictably, alighted on this like vultures on fresh carrion--thinking that because they could access one document from my long-ago divorce on-line that they somehow magically understood the entire case. Needless to say, they didn't, but this didn't stop them from repeating the libelous claims over and over--adding their own embelished flourishes, employing loaded words like "charges," calling me all the names that have called me for years with renewed vigor. Some posters even began to level thinly veiled threats, claiming that the PV had been civil to me for long enough (ha!), but that now the "party's over " and "gloves are off."

Trouble was that at this same time they were running their most attack-dog members as school board candidates for the November 6th elections. So people were checking out their website, and my hunch is that they saw how truly malignant their "open forum" was-- a cyberspace assault rifle used against anyone who dared oppose them. They lost the elections.

Even this set-back, however, did not slow down their relentless--not to mention false--attack on my personal life. Finally I had had enough, and I sent literally hundreds of their assault posts--including the libelous ones--to their server, Bravenet. After all, their webmaster, Robert Runyon, had posted a clear set of rules in the forum's cyber-foyer which unambiguously forbade personal assault. He didn't mean a word of it, of course, and the forum ran from beginning to end on a track built of battery. Within days of my report Runyon called the forum quits. Was it just uncanny coincedence? Unlikely. Dollars to donuts, he was instructed to either enforce the rules or shut down the infamous killing grounds, and because Runyon was not likely to be able to coral his minions and cohorts into anything even resembling civil behavior, he didn't have much choice.

So, chalk one up for the first amendment. Not even the most vile of personal assault was effective in silencing me--and this is not because I'm uber-brave, or even uber-sure of myself; it's because the arguments and evidence I consistently offered to counter their bigotry were the arguments that anyone willing to use their heads instead of appealing to their fears can come up with.

Wendy Lynne Lee

Some relevant contributions to the Press Enterprise's (the regional newspaper) "30 Seconds":

11.12. Is it coincidence that within days of reporting the PV-Forum to Bravenet for possible libel, Runyon posts: “in a few short days this forum comes up for renewal and I am declining the continuance just so you pinheads will have to use other means for reason to unjustly attacking people who were and are about saving public education”? Unlikely. Or take Lysk’s “The forum was fun and we decided to end it, but we're not going away, because it's so much fun to play with bleeding heart socialist and watch them have a melt down”? More likely, they were told to follow their own rules and saw that the jig—using the Internet as a weapon to silence critics—was up. Lesson: Libel and false accusation are not “discussion.”

11.13. What do you bet that once the PV-server, Bravenet, was informed that the forum functions almost solely as a vehicle for character assassination, they told PV-Runyon to either enforce the rules, or shut it down? Runyon can’t enforce the rules without muzzling and hence alienating his fellows, especially PV-Lysk and the Hellers. So, despite a futile attempt at disclaiming responsibility and blaming others, that notorious cyberspace trashing-machine known as “the PV-forum” is no more. A first amendment victory, the message is clear: neither reason nor evidence can be trampled by slander and verbal brutality. In the end reason does always win—and with it, the only freedom that matters, that is, freedom in justice

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Islamofascism Awareness Week: Expensive, But Still the Same Old David Horowitz

Having glossed countless FrontPageMag promotional accounts of Islamofascism Awareness Week, having read David Horowitz’ War Blog on each of its wearisome days, having absorbed the big fat hype about how it was the largest conservative student demonstration ever, the unmistakable impression I have finally come away with is that the whole thing was a set-up.

Yep, Islamofascism Week is a big fat ploy to accomplish the same old Horowitz & Co. mission, namely, to assault and discredit Women’s Studies programs, humanities academics, feminists, and so-called “Leftists” in the interest of transforming academia according to a worldview shared by luminaries like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and the late, but omni-present, Joseph McCarthy.

All classic Horowitz, all very theatrical, all rather predictable—except that he deployed an armory of particularly lethal weapons this time, thereby escalating the tension in a public discourse already made shrill by an unpopular and immoral war, an energy crisis, the status of undocumented workers, looming global climate change, the failure of U.S. healthcare, the upcoming presidential elections—and the recent return of the noose.

In a way “Islamofascism Awareness Week” was a masterful work of double-speak: Deploy religious bigotry against Muslims in order to promote and legitimize a Coulter-style Christian nationalism, excoriate Women’s Studies programs for not doing a better job of unilaterally condemning the treatment of women in Islam in order to attack Women’s Studies for daring to exist at all, and last but not least, provoke a vicious anti-intellectualism in order to agitate for the surveillance and ultimate replacement of the so-called indoctrinating leftist academics with fascist ideologues masquerading as merely conservative scholars.

This was a week made for Horowitz—and all he had to do was ignore a few critical facts, for example, Coulter’s rabid anti-Semitism, or the wealth of feminist scholarship concerning the status of women in religious fundamentalisms, or the plain and simple fact—pointed out to him many times and proven beyond doubt in the Pennsylvania Hearings—that a professor’s real-life politics are not her/his classroom pedagogy.

But ignoring facts appears to be one of the things Horowitz does best, and in this he joins in spirit if not in financing the company of many smaller organizations whose modus operandi is to fear-monger, lie, and bully their way into the effective obsolescence of the Constitution. One such group, the Patriot’s Voice (www.the-patriot-s-voice.com), torments my small neck of the woods, Northeast Central Pennsylvania by running their members for school board, often exploiting voter apathy to win posts by write-in campaign on the vague promise to “bring accountability” back to public education.

Much like Horowitz’ appeals to “common sense,” “accountability” turns out to be code for the conversion of public education into a form of religious and nationalist indoctrination that rivals any of the theocracies of our terrorist-producing enemies. Amidst their attempts to ban books, keep students from attending Model U.N., slander their critics, and make martyrs for God of themselves, Patriot’s Voice members spout the words of their heroes—Horowitz, O’Reilly, Coulter, and McCarthy among them.

Strange it is, however, that one must strain to hear any whisper of, say, the compassion or respect for justice of a Jesus.

So Islamofascism week came and went. Some folks protesting Horowitz at Emory behaved badly, and that is indeed unfortunate because I, for one, want to hear what he has to say. How else can I formulate a response to the kind of danger his view of the world represents? How else can I come to understand the intimate relationship between organizations like Horowitz’ grotesquely misnamed Freedom Center and the Oxymoronic Patriot’s Voice? Horowitz’ strategies are, no doubt, far more media savvy—as Islamofascism week demonstrates—but his motives are no less those of thugs despite their apparent sophistication.

Like the Patriot’s Voice, Horowitz claims to represent the voiceless—oppressed college students in his case, taxpayers and the alleged victims of unionized teachers in the Patriot’s Voice case—but both in fact represent not people at all but ideologies so anathema to the very first amendment rights that protect them that I begin to wonder if, like Stephen Colbert, their intent is to satire.

I wish.

Wendy Lynne Lee