Posted on | October 27, 2013 | 64 Comments
Portrait of a Kook: Roger Shuler
“Shuler has not shown that any clearly established right has been violated. His only alleged evidence is a recorded phone call that he says supports the notion that he was terminated because of the political content of his blog. However, Shuler’s own transcript of the phone call shows only that his time spent researching content for his blog during working hours was a factor — and an ‘insignificant’ one, at that — in his termination. There is no evidence to suggest that the political content of his blog was a factor at all. Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the UAB defendants on this claim.”
– 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, July 3, 2012
“There is not a grain of truth to warrant the horrible defamation published by you regarding our client. Each has no factual basis. Your outrageous, despicable conduct will be addressed in another forum: the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama.”
– Bill Baxley to Roger Shuler, Aug. 16, 2013
Before I get around to explaining what kind of lunatic Roger Shuler is, let’s stipulate a few hypothetical possibilities: Maybe Rob Riley had an affair with Liberty Duke, maybe Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange had an affair with Jessica Medeiros Garrison, maybe U.S. Circuit Court Judge William Pryor once posed nude back in the 1980s.
Any one or all of those accusations made by Roger Shuler might be true, without changing the conclusion that Roger Shuler is a kook.
That headline bothers me, and not merely because there are too many disgruntled kooks like Roger Shuler filling up the Internet with terabytes of lunacy, harassing and smearing innocent people.
The fact that Ali Akbar was one of the subjects of Shuler’s smears is certainly highly relevant to my interest, but maybe you don’t like Ali and maybe you don’t give a damn about me, either. My job is to explain to you why this particular kook — a demented inhabitant of the paranoid fringe — is typical of a general problem that affects you, even if you’re not a Republican who has been smeared by this kook.
In 2008, Shuler got “dooced,” i.e., fired from his job because of his unauthorized blogging. This happens to people. Maybe it’s wrong that it happens, but it is not social injustice, and it’s certainly not grounds to claim that you’re the victim of a corrupt political conspiracy, even if your plight gains sympathetic coverage from your allies.
Alabama US Attorney denies any involvement
in university editor’s termination
– Raw Story, July 11, 2008
U. of Alabama at Birmingham Editor Says
He Was Fired Over His Political Blog
– Chronicle of Higher Education, July 14, 2008
OK, so you got fired for blogging, and you’ve got allies celebrating you as a martyr for First Amendment rights. But when push comes to shove — when you sue your former employer and are required to show actual evidence of your victimhood — you lose.
Because you are a loser.
Then you decide to double down on losing.
See, here’s the thing: Winners take responsibility for their failures.
This is not pleasant or agreeable. Nobody likes to admit to themselves that they screwed up, nor does anyone relish the moment when they look at their latest screw-up and recognize that it bears a strong resemblance to their previous screw-ups, so that there is an actual pattern to their failures, indicative of an intrinsic personality flaw from which they can never really hope to escape.
“Wherever you go, there you are,” as the old saying has it, and yet we all know people who never learn that lesson. They go through life repeating the same pattern of failure, and always externalize the blame, in order to protect their damaged egos from shame.
But why bring up Bill Schmalfeldt at this point? Well, it seems that (a) Schmalfeldt helped peddle the ridiculous Ali Akbar-Karl Rove gay affair libel that Roger Shuler promoted last year, (b) that Schmalfeldt is now promoting the “First Amendment martyr” narrative about Shuler’s arrest on contempt charges last week, and (c) there is a striking resemblance between the modus operandi of Schmalfeldt and Shuler.
Shuler is not a journalist, he’s an ax-grinder, a guy who has a personal grievance that he disguises as a political crusade which, however sane it might have seemed when he began it, has turned into the ideé fixe of an obsessed fanatic. Roger Shuler has become a kook.
“Corrupt + Republican + Karl + Rove” — let the reader count how many posts by Shuler’s Legal Schnauzer blog have contained that particular combination of words. It’s a lot, including one on Sept. 14, 2008, with this provocative headline:
Scarcely two weeks had passed since Sarah Palin was announced as John McCain’s running mate, and Shuler denounced Palin as the epitome of corrupt evil of which he himself claimed to be a victim:
So there you have it, the Palin Doctrine: Lie, Steal, Cheat, Threaten. It’s a fascinating and evolving story on the national stage. But as I sit here in Shelby County, Alabama, and ponder what I’ve witnessed for the past eight years, I can’t help but think, “Despite what the pundits say, there is nothing fresh and new about Sarah Palin. If you have lived in Karl Rove’s Alabama, this kind of chicanery is old news.”
Perhaps the pattern is self-evident without my having to elaborate too much: Choose some pre-demonized political scapegoat, attribute to them malevolent action and malicious motive, compare them to those whom you allege have victimized you, and then use your own accusations as a pretext to justify further accusations against them.
Now, all you need to do is to add the magic ingredient: Describe what you are doing as “investigative journalism,” include a lot of noise about “corruption” that your more gullible readers can accept as an explanation of why these doers of foul deeds are getting away with it, and dismiss as irrelevant any facts or logic to the contrary.
You have now succumbed to Investigative Blogger Syndrome.
The most famous example of this paranoid kook motif is Barrett Brown, the former Anonymous spokesman who flipped out in September 2012, uploaded a bizarre YouTube rant about his plans to “destroy” an FBI agent, and is now in federal custody in Texas.
Like the rituals of certain South Pacific islanders, the Cargo Cult Journalist hopes that his simulacrum of what he ignorantly imitates will magically bring the same result as the real thing. Cargo Cult Journalism is the kind of stuff we once encountered in smudgy mimeographed newsletters, “underground” newspaper tabloids, cheaply printed pamphlets and self-published books by crackpots who warn about conspiracies involving the Bavarian Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission and/or the Military-Industrial Complex. In the digital age, however, many people have trouble distinguishing between this kook-fringe imitation of “reporting” and genuine journalism, a distinction blurred by the increasingly shabby quality of product issued by respectable organs of the mainstream media.
There are reputable people who want you to believe Barrett Brown is a First Amendment hero and a political prisoner. Democrat Underground claims Shuler is a “political prisoner,” too. Did any of these people say a word of complaint when Brett Kimberlin had Aaron Worthing arrested last year? No, of course, they did not. And, in point of fact, Roger Shuler celebrated Kimberlin as a hero:
In a delicious example of “turnabout is fair play,” Kimberlin has used right wingers’ tactics against them — causing the recent arrest of one thug, the outing of another as a criminal, and the transmission of a notice to others that they face possible legal action…
Key bloggers have written anonymously, but Kimberlin was able to determine their identities and bring legal action against them.
The man whom Shuler called a “thug,” Yale Law alumnus Aaron Walker, offers an erudite discussion of Shuler’s legal predicament:
No, Mr. Shuler, you were plainly playing cheerleader to an anti-freedom-of-expression thug. The most charitable interpretation is that you were such a partisan hack on this that you refused to see how you were cheerleading a clear violation of my First Amendment rights, that you were engaged in willful ignorance and cheering on a precedent that might be used against you in the future.
So part of me feels it is just deserts when I learned that recently you were ordered not to blog about something, that you were found to be in contempt of that order, that you were arrested as a result and when you allegedly resisted arrest, you were beaten to some degree because of it. I admit that part of me chuckled, reading back over your old post praising what Kimberlin had done to me.
But even Brett Kimberlin’s bootlickers have rights.
Roger Shuler, Shelby County Jail inmate No. 288928
Let’s pause to ask: Is there a moral equivalence between the reporting that I and others have done about Brett Kimberlin and the kind of Investigative Blogger Syndrome act that has landed Roger Shuler in the Shelby County Jail as Inmate No. 288928?
It’s a fair question, and there have been many times in the past 17 months that I’ve stopped, stepped back and asked myself whether I’ve gone down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. But the list of people who’ve endured the same pattern of harassment is long enough that, even if I were not a defendant in the federal RICO suit Kimberlin v. the Universe, et al., the story would still be newsworthy.
Like Kimberlin’s past acts of anti-free-speech thuggery, his tactics serve to remind people of the very facts he seeks to bury.
With the filing of this lawsuit, more people will learn that Brett Kimberlin was convicted for setting off numerous bombs, one of which blew off a man’s leg. More people will learn of his dishonest machinations to avoid paying a wrongful death judgment to the widow of the man whose leg Kimberlin blew off — a Vietnam veteran who survived the war, but could not survive the pain of the wounds Kimberlin inflicted. More people will learn that, when he set off those bombs in Speedway, police suspected him of complicity in the murder of a grandmother of a young preteen girl, with whom Kimberlin had had a relationship that many people (including the grandmother) considered inappropriate. . . .
Kimberlin’s actions are not rational — but then, “rational” is not a word you would typically use to describe a violent criminal sentenced to 50 years in prison for maiming a man with a bomb. . . .
And here’s the key difference: I didn’t pick a pre-demonized scapegoat. I didn’t claim that the story I’m covering proves corruption by Eric Holder or President Obama or some other conspiratorial combination of Democrats. Trust me when I say that there are plenty of people who can’t figure out why Kimberlin’s associate Neal Rauhauser hasn’t been arrested yet. And well do I recall some people last year telling me, “Stacy, you’ve got to show how this is connected to Obama.”
Except I can’t, and don’t pretend I can. To this day, most people have never heard of Brett Kimberlin and, even if it were demonstrated that there was a secret deal whereby the Justice Department agreed to look the other way while Kimberlin funded an elaborate scheme to destroy Andrew Breitbart and cripple conservative New Media, I seriously doubt this would ever be noticed by the New York Times.
No, I have no delusions of grandeur or fantasies of heroic vindication, which is what motivates ax-grinding kooks like Roger Shuler.
Maybe these differences are rather nuanced. Maybe this whole thing is too “meta” for most people to care about. But I’m not in the Shelby County Jail, and Roger Shuler is — because he’s a kook.
Quod erat demonstrandum.