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The other birther motive

I rarely look at Twitter, but I glanced at the Twitter app on my phone as I made a rare personal tweet supporting the waffle I was eating at Waffle House. There I saw a post directed @DrConspiracy from none other than Ron Polland, the person behind one of the first two birther document examiner Internet characters who concluded that Obama’s short form was a forgery back in 2008.

Polland, who has a doctorate in instructional media, made a couple of YouTube videos claiming all sorts of criminality at the Hawaii Department of Health, but I have not really noticed him in years. The tweet that came my way wasn’t interesting, and I think I must have gotten it by being added earlier in the conversation (which I have not been able to decipher). Of more note was a comment from Polland, not directed to me:

Obama committed SABOTAGE & ESPIONAGE against Israel & Democrats bitched over Bibi’s talk?

Polland is an ardent supporter of Israel and comments by him over the years suggest that he also believes Obama is bad for Israel. Did this combination lead Polland to become a birther? The historical record doesn’t answer that question, but we can see similar birtherism in others who believe Obama is bad for Israel, such as Orly Taitz who daily attacks all things Muslim, and claims Obama is one of them. Here we have the “chicken and egg” question. Did Polland’s belief lead him to become a birther?  Did Orly Taitz hatred of Muslims lead her to become a birther? I think the answer is yes, at least for Polland.

The early publication of birth certificate forgery claims came via the Israel Insider web site (the site is no longer active). Here is a sample of their friendly reporting of anti-Obama claims:

Meanwhile, yet another front as opened up as a strong attack video shows Obama in 2006 mocking the Bible — Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and the Sermon on the Mount — and argues that Obama himself is an alien to the Judeo-Christian tradition — that his speech reveals him, not just the Reverend Wright, as anti-Jewish and anti-Christ. Islam, not surprisingly, is spared his mockery.

 The Israel Science and Technology web site carried claims that Obama’s long form was a forgery, along with expressing a views antithetical to Obama’s more balanced approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, for example:

Is improving economic conditions for Palestinian Arabs conducive to peace?

No, the opposite is true! A landmark study on the subject indicates that the prerequisite for Peace-seeking is not better economic conditions but rather democratic forms of government. Since most Arab countries are far removed from multi-party democracy (see table above), the conditions are not ripe for overall peace in the Middle East. The study concludes that "making  inherently aggressive dictatorships of the region more prosperous will not make them more pacific only more powerful" and more willing to pursue armed violence (see article). This is true not only for conflict with Israel but for Intra-Arab conflicts as well (see most recent examples of Iran-Iraq war, Gulf War, etc.).

I confess that I am not expert enough to spot subtle spin on this issue, but I get the impression that the site is trying to sound balanced, while not being so.

I think someone needs a little push to start believing in nonsense, some sort of bias. A person who is strongly pro-Israel and believes Obama is bad for Israel, might just have that push.

Soon

A commenter pointed me to a message from Carl Gallups on Facebook, posted just a few hours ago:

We spoke with Carl Gallups. Here is what he told us concerning this matter:

"I have spoken at length with Mike Zullo. He says that he and the sheriff are still proceeding with the investigation and their plans to release the information. They believe it will be soon. HOWEVER, as reported before – they have been involved in jumping some huge legal hurdles that will enable them to bring this info forward. They are still involved in one big legal hurdle now. They hope to have it resolved soon. Any major movement in the case coming forward will be announced on Freedom Friday with Carl Gallups (carlgallups.com) and on the PNN internet network."

Gallups later posted at 5 PM that Zullo would be on the show at 5 PM. You COULD have given a little advance notice, Carl. So that will be something to listen to.1

What Gallups said about legal hurdles is a reprise of what he’d said half a year ago (except for the “s” word):

Carl Gallups: Been talking to Mike Zullo. Both the birth certificate and criminal investigations are still ongoing. Sheriff Arpaio is getting close to holding the press conference. They are in the process of getting over two legal hurdles so they can release some of the information. All sources and information must be extensively vetted.

For the boy who cried “wolf!” one too many times, the word lost its meaning through misuse. The same might be said of the word “soon” coming from Mike Zullo and Carl Gallups. My favorite example comes from February 7, 2014:

Gallups: You’re guys are confirming that you are very, very sure, very sure you know who several of these people are. …

Zullo: Yada, Yada, Yada. … This is going to be their play: deny, deny, deny.

Gallups: Right, but, but, they’re lying, lying, lying because you’ve got the goods, right?

Zullo: I’ve got the proof, proof, proof.

Gallups: OK, good. And the whole world is gonna see it, see it, see it, real soon.

In a video posted in May 2014 (and subsequently deleted) Gallups said:

So, we’ll know soon exactly what’s going to happen. In the mean time, from time to time Mike Zullo and I will give updates so that you will know that it’s still in the works, and still going to happen. God bless you.

We all remember the expectations of a “March reveal” in 2014, but even then birthers, like Mark Gillar, were prepared to give the Cold Case Posse a little breathing room:

… Don’t focus on a timeline. As far as I’m concerned as long as it breaks by summer and impacts the 2014 midterms, I’ll be happy.

Was 2014 the year of “soon”?

No, it started way before that. This is from Gallups January 2013:

PPS has been in direct contact with the Sheriff Arpaio investigation. We have just again been assured by Lt. Mike Zullo lead investigator that the investigation and potential angles of prosecution are still going full steam ahead. Just because it’s not in the news right now does not mean they are not feverishly working on the matter. There could be some big announcements in the case soon and forthcoming.


1We would be better able to track the delays if we had transcripts of the Gallups/Zullo segments. I made a few partial transcripts of them for articles, and I will continue to do that. Zullo has been on many times.

Staying anonymous online

If you’re concerned about staying anonymous online, check out the links at the end of this article. Here are just some tips from my personal experience.

1. Don’t share information unnecessarily

With powerful search engines, it becomes easy for information shared in one context to be connected with your identity in another. This is particularly dangerous with social media where you connect to friends and family. Does Facebook know your date of birth, the names of your parents, spouse or kids? A birth date and mother’s maiden name might be enough to compromise one of your online accounts. I personally don’t share information on Facebook outside my friends (after birthers started using Facebook information about me for harassment), but I still have Facebook friends that I don’t really know! 😳

You have to be aware, mindful and intentional to maintain an anonymous identity online. You have to be careful what you say, and where you say it. Take this snippet from the BirtherReport Google+ profile:

image

It seems harmless enough, but it is a powerful hint. Orly Taitz named Thomas Washington in 2012 as the person behind Birther Report (assisted by Bob Nelson, unless Thomas Washington is just an alias). For several reasons, I agree with that identification. As of today one can view the 60 persons in Washington’s Google+ circle and see his video feed tests for Birther Report videos of Mike Zullo at the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association meeting. I haven’t researched mollesjohn except to note that he is a birther based on several YouTube video comments (just a click away) such as:

I see rosemarie443 is back doing what she’s paid to do: play the role of bigoted birther, in order to protect Obama and scroll off all relevant discussion.

2. Email addresses

If you’re trying to maintain an anonymous persona online, it will need an email address, one that you use for nothing else. You have to be intentional about keeping these separate. I recently sent out by accident a set of financial reports to our church council from my Dr. Conspiracy account. That was interesting.

One should take seriously the incident in Sweden of email addresses harvested from an online discussion platform, even though they were supposed to be hidden. The Obama Conspiracy Theories blog does NOT require you to provide a valid email address—just say "none@obamaconspiracy.org".

Don’t put your real name in your email address at all. You should assume that any time you use an email address, it will go somewhere you didn’t intend. One option for using an email address solely for the purpose of registering for some service, is to get a disposable email address from a service like Ten Minute Mail. I have found the Fake Name Generator page a lot of fun, where in addition to a full set of fake information, they will provide you with a working email address (not tried).

imageYou might think that when you send a private email message to someone, it stays private, but look at this screen shot from a brief filed by Christopher Strunk. I won’t show it full size, but what we see here is a list of persons, many with email addresses. I recognize one name on the list as one of the particularly nasty anonymous (but not really because they were careless) posters at BirtherReport.

Another source of email disclosure is online newsletters. I was going through my own email collection today and I found several right-wing newsletters that contained long lists of email addresses of those who also got the same mailing.

Newsletter Header

 

3. Domain registration

I was originally outed by one of Orly’s readers through the domain registration of this blog. When the blog started, it was intended to be a short-lived enterprise, and that no “Dr. Conspiracy” online persona would evolve. That changed slowly, but I didn’t think to change the domain registration. Some domain registrars offer anonymous registrations for a fee and some offer the service for free, such as DreamHost.

4. IP Addresses

Generally, someone cannot look up your name using an IP address without a court order, but you can be identified if you use the same IP address for your anonymous persona as you use for a public persona—and someone gets both. I can use, for example, an IP address to see when someone is trying to evade a ban here by changing their name. There are proxy services that obscure your IP address if this is a concern. I’ve never used one–I just wait until I am traveling to post some new persona at Orly’s blog.

See also:

References:

Troll hunter

imageThere is an interesting-sounding Swedish TV series called “Toll Hunter.” The show tracks down Internet trolls and confronts them on camera. Now that’s my kind of reality TV.

A new story in the MIT Technology Review by Adrian Chen talks about the show and also journalistic efforts to expose racists in high places through their anonymous Internet comments. It talks about the tension this creates between free speech and privacy.

It is generally no longer acceptable in public life to hurl slurs at women or minorities, to rally around the idea that some humans are inherently worth less than others, or to terrorize vulnerable people. But old-school hate is having a sort of renaissance online, and in the countries thought to be furthest beyond it. The anonymity provided by the Internet fosters communities where people can feed on each other’s hate without consequence. They can easily form into mobs and terrify victims. Individual trolls can hide behind dozens of screen names to multiply their effect.

The story of how the Discus commenting system was reverse-engineered to disclose real email addresses was particularly interesting.1

I’m interested in what readers here think about the ethics of private citizens or journalists using legal technical means to determine the identities of anonymous posters on the Internet, and then publishing the results. What if we were talking about birthers at Birther Report, or commenters here?

I recommend the article.


1Disqus was including an MD5 hash of the real email address a part of the information provided by its public API (intended for use by Gravatar). All one had to do was to take a known email address (and lots of email addresses are known), and compare their MD5 hash to the one reported by Disqus. According to Disqus, the MD5 hash is no longer provided by the API.

Birthers factor in Maryland election

Just two days ago tweets from Donald Trump, tied by a USA Today reporter to the fake Barry Soetoro Columbia University student ID, found their way into the news. Now another tweet, this time republished by Republican candidate for Maryland state comptroller, William Campbell, has become an issue in his campaign.

The Delmarva Daily Times reports this 2013 entry from Campbell’s Facebook page:

635497650883002463-campbell-obama-screenshot

Note Campbell’s comment, “He does look like Travon (sic), doesn’t he?”

The newspaper is quick to note that the ID image is faked: the digital barcode wasn’t used in 1981, and the Obama photo was from Harvard.

When questioned, Campbell said that he didn’t remember the post, and:

I have other issues with his governance, but I don’t believe in that birther stuff.

This is not the only injection of birtherism into Maryland Politics. Democratic candidate for Maryland’s governor, Anthony Brown, has sent out a mailer raising the issue. This image was reported by The Daily Record in Baltimore:

Collage including image of Donald Trump and "Where's the Birth Certificate?" billboard

Brown is a strong favorite to win.

Update:

Brown lost.

Tweet spam

You may have noticed something like this in my site’s Twitter feed (right sidebar):

image

It’s there because a spammer used the #birther hash tag. What I do when I see one of those is to click on the time link (“about 2 hours ago” in the sample) and then click the “… More” link on the page that appears. I select “Block or Report” and mark it as spam. I suppose you have to have a Twitter account to do that.

Behaviors that constitute "spamming" on Twitter will continue to evolve.

— Twitter Help Center

Also, I’ve started getting a wave of spam user registrations. As far as I can tell, they are just trying to get me to click on the links of these folks from the registration, because they never actually try to post any messages. Spam is such a royal pain.