Posted on | November 24, 2012 | 86 Comments
Bill Schmalfeldt of Elk Ridge, Maryland, a.k.a. “Liberal Grouch”
Well, how’s your Thanksgiving weekend going, huh? Yesterday, Bill Schmalfeldt harassed me all day long on Twitter, at one point sending me 20 messages in less than an hour. Schmalfeldt was inordinately proud of merging his former site (which he used to smear Aaron Walker, Lee Stranahan, Ali Akbar and others) with the “Breitbart Unmasked” site that has been smearing various enemies of Brett Kimberlin and Neal Rauhauser for the past nine months.
When people are targeted by this kind of online harassment, their friends tell them, “Just ignore it.” But until it happens to you, it’s very difficult to understand how serious it really is. It’s online terrorism, and the people who engage in it do so habitually.
Even if you ignore it, and your harasser eventually gets bored with you and moves on, this doesn’t mean they’ll stop. They’ll just find a new focus of their hateful sociopathic behavior.
It’s not about you. It’s about them.
That’s what I told Aaron Walker on the morning of May 17, just after I saw his epic 28,000-word account of how he said Brett Kimberlin tried to “frame” him for a bogus assault charge. I called Aaron and he started telling me details of his situation and I interrupted him.
“No, wait a minute. This story isn’t about you. It’s about them.”
Understand that I was saying this to a guy who had overcome a learning disability and gone on to earn a law degree, only to be fired from his job because of politically motivated cyberstalking and workplace harassment from what I’ve come to think of as the Kimberlin-Rauhauser Axis.
There can be no doubt, you see, that Aaron Walker is deserving of sympathy and support. (You can and should go hit his tip jar.) But hard-working people lose their jobs every day and their misfortune is merely a statistic — ask the 18,000 folks who got laid off at Hostess. What made Aaron’s story newsworthy was two-fold:
- He was targeted for political motives, in an attempt to inhibit his First Amendment rights; and
- The fact that he was targeted by a notorious felon, Brett Kimberlin, who had joined forces with a partisan political operative, Neal Rauhauser, who is somehat notorious himself, in a bizarre vendetta against their various enemies.
No Hollywood screenwriter could have scripted a more twisted tale: Kimberlin once was a sort of liberal cause célèbre who, as a federal prisoner serving time for a string of 1978 terror-bombings, stirred the 1988 presidential campaign by claiming to have sold drugs to Dan Quayle. Indiana’s infamous “Speedway Bomber” had been the subject of a 1996 book by liberal journalist Mark Singer, Citizen K: The Deeply Weird American Journey of Brett Kimberlin. Initially sympathetic to Kimberlin, Singer discovered that the subject of his book was, in fact, “a top-flight con man,” to quote the Publisher’s Weekly review.
Collateral Damage and Righteous Indignation
What had happened in the years after Kimberlin’s 2001 release from prison — after serving only 17 years — was a sequel no one could have imagined on the day in 1981 when he was convicted of crimes that carried a maximum term of 230 years. Somehow, Kimberlin was able to establish two non-profit 501(c) organizations that have since collected a combined total of some $2 million in tax-exempt donations, including more than a half-million dollars in 2008 alone.
How it was that Kimberlin teamed up with Rauhauser, and how they eventually focused their wrath on Aaron Walker, is a story that has been told at length here in the past six months (under the heading of “The Kimberlin Files“), but to repeat what I told Aaron on the very first day I ever talked to him, “It’s not about you.”
What did Brett Kimberlin care about Aaron Walker? Nothing.
It just so happened that Aaron had been CC’d on an e-mail that became part of a police report involving Seth Allen, the liberal blogger who first started blowing the whistle on Kimberlin’s non-profit groups. Kimberlin got hold of the police report and, probably with the assistance of Rauhauser, figured out that “Aaron Worthing” (the name under which Walker had been blogging) was a pseudonym.
Next, as the hackers say, Walker was “patched” — his pseudonym was connected with his real identity. Then he was “dooced,” which is to say, fired because of his online activities. Walker was “doxed” (distributing his personal information, e.g., home address, for the purpose of exposing him to harasssment) and, eventually, he was “SWATted,” a potentially deadly 911 hoax that dispatches police to the scene of what they expect will be an armed confrontation with a criminal.
All of this evil happened to a mild-mannered Virginia lawyer, a guy nobody ever heard of before, because he was blogging about politics and he had been CC’d on an e-mail.
And you know who else was CC’d on that e-mail? Andrew Breitbart.
No, this wasn’t about Aaron Walker. He was collateral damage, a target of opportunity in a much larger political war. Yet here he was, dead center in the crosshairs — and on the phone to me, that morning of May 17, explaining the details of a courthouse encounter in which he took away a tablet computer with which Brett Kimberlin seemed to be trying to take his photo in violation of court policy.
Monsters of the Information Age
What happened to Aaron Walker could have happened to anybody and, in fact, it happens every day. Cyberstalking, online harassment, hacking, identity theft — it goes on all the time, and it’s wrong to blame Internet crime on the Internet. The problem is the criminals and the bullying viciousness that emerges from depraved souls who imagine they will never suffer real-life consequences for their online evil.
Look at Michael “Violentacrez” Brutsch, the notorious Reddit troll who thought he could engage in all manner of wickedness online from behind a pseudonym, until somebody helped Adrian Chen of Gawker “patch” him, and Violentacrez got “dooced.”
That’s what I was trying to explain to Aaron Walker when I told him, more than six months ago, that the story wasn’t about him, any more so than Friday the 13th is about the stupid teenagers who get hacked to death — no, the horror movie is always about the monster.
How many people recognize the name Bernard Crowe? Doesn’t ring a bell. How about Gary Hinman? Nope. Steven Parent? Nope.
I just named the first three victims of the Manson Family.
Maybe you heard of them.
Charles Manson did not know Sharon Tate or any of the other people who died the night of Aug. 8, 1969, at 10050 Cielo Drive. Manson only knew that music producer Terry Melcher had once lived in the mansion, and sent his gang to kill everybody in it, because of an insane scheme to start “Helter Skelter,” a bloody race war.
It wasn’t about the victims. It wasn’t even about their killers — Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkle — it was about the hideous evil in the heart of Charles Manson.
By analogy, the story of what happened to Aaron Walker is not a story about Aaron Walker. According to his lawsuit in Prince William County, Virginia, this is a story about Brett Kimberlin, Neal Rauhauser and Ron Brynaert. There will be a key hearing in that case Dec. 4, and it is probably therefore not entirely a coincidence that Bill Schmalfeldt’s cyberstalking of me has become increasingly desperate.
Desperate enough that he decided to “dox” my wife Friday and is threatening to call her, in an effort to figure out where we live.
Neal Rauhaser has expressed interest in knowing my family’s location, for some reason, and — what a coincidence! — so does Bill Schmalfeldt.
But this is not a story about me. It’s about them, the monsters.
Who Is Bill Schmalfeldt?
Having blogged variously as “Turning Over Rocks,” “Liberal Grouch,” “Patriot Ombudsman” and now “Breibart Unmasked,” Bill Schmalfeldt used to be an online columnist for the Examiner. He was the “Liberal in Baltimore” columnist until, in December 2011, a controversy arose over his reporting about a Wisconsin-based Facebook group (“Operation Burn Notice”) that opposed the union-backed effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker. Schmalfeldt, angry that the Examiner took down some of his columns, published a scathing denunciation of the company at Daily Kos:
The “suits” at the Denver office of Examiner.com folded faster than Superman on laundry day. Never in my professional life has an organization I either wrote or broadcast for been so quick to sell my credibility down the river, and I will not miss writing for this organization. Not one bit.
After burning that bridge behind him, Schmalfeldt issued a press release Dec. 16: “Facebook reacts to disabled man’s complaint of copyright theft by canceling his account.” The phrase “disabled” refers to the fact that Schmalfeldt has Parkinson’s disease, although it’s not clear how his illness was relevant to his dispute with Facebook.
Strange as it may seem — and good luck to anyone who wants to explain it — Schmalfeldt returned to the Examiner in February as the “Liberal in Baltimore.” That lasted until May when, I’m told, he was accused of violating the terms of his contract by personally derogating a conservative Examiner columnist, and he disappeared from the Examiner again.
You might think Schmalfeldt (or management of the Examiner) would have gotten a clue but, as they say, third time’s the charm, and the Examiner hired this obnoxious troll once more: This time, Schmalfeldt re-emerged in June as Bill Matthews, the “Liberal in Green Bay,” until someone compared the profiles and realized it was the same guy, and Matthews/Schmalfeldt departed the Examiner again in August.
We can learn from this two important lessons:
- Management at the Examiner is completely incompetent; and
- Bill Schmalfeldt is an overbearing egomaniac.
Egomaniacs are a dime a dozen in the news businesss and I’m not exactly famous for my humility. However, the key to staying both sane and employed in journalism is to be task-oriented and mission-focused. Concentrate on the product, and the personalities don’t matter. Newsroom shouting matches, angry resignations, permanent hatred between co-workers — just shut up and do your work: “We’re publishing a paper here, not organizing a Sunday School picnic.”
Bill Schmalfeldt evidently never learned that lesson and it’s interesting to compare his two Examiner profiles. Schmalfeldt:
He has been a liberal radio talk show host, an award-winning newspaper and radio columnist, and was one of the original broadcasters at XM Satellite Radio before they merged with Sirius. After a lucrative career in private industry, Bill used his status as a disabled Vietnam era veteran to land a job with the Federal Government as a writer/editor for the National Institutes of Health.
Now, as “Bill Matthews” in Wisconsin:
Bill Matthews has spent many a long year in the trenches, as a broadcaster (formerly at WHBL in Sheboygan), as a journalist (edited the East Troy News, the Arcadia News-Leader and the Clark County Press in Neillsville), and as a government employee in Washington, DC.
It would seem that Schmalfeldt worked for three newspapers and one radio station in Wisconsin (“a lucrative career in private industry”) before becoming a writer/editor at NIH. Then, in 2000, at age 45, Schmalfeldt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and subsequently retired.
Maybe it’s unfair to draw conclusions from this limited bio, so I won’t. However, I’ll point out that between September 1987 and January 2008, I changed employers exactly once, when I left Georgia in November 1997 to become an assistant national editor at the Washington Times.
The Cyberstalker Troll
Schmalfeldt began attacking me in June, after the end of his “Baltimore” tenure at the Examiner and then, following his brief tenure as “Bill Matthews,” came after me again in late August while I was covering the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Ignore him. Who cares? I was busy. And after nearly three months of Schmalfeldt’s trolling, it wasn’t until Sept. 4 — the day I left for the Democrat convention in Charlotte — that I mentioned Schmalfeldt at the tail end of my post replying to Barrett Brown’s threats:
Arrogant sociopathic punks think they can go around threatening people and if you dare say a word back to them, you’re the bad guy.
Speaking of punks, an obscure talentless assclown named Bill Schmalfeldt is threatening to sue Aaron Walker.
What is it with these people who are always threatening, threatening, threatening? If you’re going to sue somebody, sue them and have at it. And who are these obscure talentless assclowns who decide they can appoint themselves Investigative Journalists, but instead of investigating “high crimes and misdemeanors” by corrupt public officials, they decide to investigate, for example, Facebook groups?
Really, think about this: The pinnacle of Bill Schmalfeldt’s career as a columnist for the Examiner was to “expose” the shocking scandal that (a) Wisconsin Republicans are on Facebook and (b) some of them are obnoxious assholes.
Stop the presses! And, while you’re at it, call the Pulitzer Prize committee, because we have a winner, ladies and gentlemen.
Perhaps you see my point.
Now, after his groundbreaking revelation that Republican assholes in Wisconsin are rude on the Internet — say, Bill, ever hear of Troglopundit? never mind — now the Pulitzer-worthy Schmalfeldt is hot on the trail of WalkerGate, StranahanGate, AkbarGate and my WifeGate.
What did my wife know and when did she know it?
There is a startling lack of perspective here.
In May, I began reporting a story about Brett Kimberlin — who had already been the subject of one book — and Neal Rauhauser, who was a speaker at the 2010 NetRoots Nation conference, the founding partner of a consulting firm whose clients included important Democrats, and whose role in the “TwitterGate” scandal made headlines in October 2010. This story involved, in one way or another, such well-known figures as Anthony Weiner and Andrew Breitbart. Kimberlin’s non-profits got grants from the Barbra Streisand Foundation, the George Soros-connected Tides Foundation, and another foundation funded by the family of Sen. John Kerry’s wife.
So now, 10 days before the important Dec. 4 hearing in the case of Walker v. Kimberlin, et al., Bill Schmalfeldt is threatening to call my wife because I won’t tell him where we live, or tell him anything at all, except to tell him he’s a sociopathic monster:
Once you know their motives and methods, these monsters aren’t nearly so scary at they’d like to be, and the real horror of their behavior is the soul-chilling realization of what sick pleasure they derive from it. Healthy minds do not delight in plotting evil against others, and wholesome spirits do not endlessly threaten others with harm they intend to inflict.
That was written on Sunday, Nov. 4, when I was in Ohio, two days before Election Day, when Schmalfeldt was alternating between smears and threats, sounding very much like Barrett Brown sounded before he went nuts and got himself arrested.
My wife saw your Tweet, Schmalfeldt.
She didn’t marry a quitter.
Brave? No, just too crazy to be afraid — the Professor’s got a point, you know — and too damned stubborn to turn loose of a good story.
So I’m praying to God, who could command ten thousand angels to protect my wife and children. Whom God would preserve, no man can destroy. Whom God would destroy, no man can save.
Either way, it ain’t up to me. This isn’t a story about me. I’m “just a blogger.” But never doubt that God answers prayer. Selah.
UPDATE: Linked by John Hoge, who has patiently followed events in the case of Walker v. Kimberlin, et al.