Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Homophobic Nazi Suicide Bomber

Below is my letter to the editor published in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News about Chris Lupke mistakenly identifying me as an anonymous commenter on Dnews.com and accusing me of making "homophobic jokes" and being "fascinated" with Nazis.

I know several of you here disagree with my philosophy. But for those of you that endorse anonymous/unmoderated comments at Dnews.com as a way of instantly responding to news stories/opinion, protecting "whistleblowers," or making arguments based on merit not the person, I ask you two simple questions: Is it your name and reputation being affected by these online comments? Does your family have to answer questions about things you did not say?

At what point does the First Amendment become a letter of marque to go after your enemies with no consequences? A newspaper is not a blog. Everyone in the community reads it. They don't go there expecting to read personal attacks, lies, and unsubstantiated claims (or maybe they do, possibly explaining why Nathan Alford insists on keeping the comments turned on.) People go to a newspaper website expecting the truth, in the form of news.

If Chris Lupke hates me so much, as he obviously does, then why doesn't he start his own blog? www.tomforbesistheantichrist.com. The answer is that he won't. He's getting a free ride without putting in any work other than thinking up some pithy putdown. It's much more effective to lob grenades at me at a website he knows gets thousands of hits a day to inflict maximum damage on me. And I pay money every month for this privilege.

Rather than "encouraging a constructive community dialogue," these comments chill it considerably. Most people do not have the thick skin that I do. And what can I do to get my good name back? The onus is all on me to go after Lupke by putting down thousands on a retainer for an attorney. The Daily News provides this platform for Lupke and then just says "sucks to be you buddy." It doesn't matter to them how untrue or damaging any of his garbage is.

Let me give you some examples of this "constructive dialogue" that Lupke and his toadie Matthew Root have indulged in, all in response to a story that did not concern me in response to a commenter who is not me:

  • tj -- calling yourself "reasonable and responsible" should elicit guffaws from even the most dotrinaire of observants. Your "reason" reminds me more of that employed by the nazis for whom you hold such a prurient fascination, as illustrated by your obsessive discussion of them on these pages.

  • Yes, Tom, we all know about your habitual resorting to name calling when you've run out of cogent responses (which is pretty quick). I think the only one "raging" is you. Even your sidekick Lobo seems embarrassed by you at times, though not enough in my opinion. When people disagree with you, you panic, call them names, threaten their tenured status. You're not much of a neighbor and you really seem to hate collegetowns. If you're unhappy here, consider moving. Just a suggestion. I won't resort to calling for you to be run out of town, as you have us -- in a fit of rage.

    Yes, you always claim to speak for "the rest of us" (another fallacy), but your pathetic attempt at garnering a pro-Wal-Mart petition resulted in fewer signatories than we gathered in any one hour of gathering signatures locally. You may have forgotten, but we gathered OVER TEN THOUSAND asking Wal-Mart not to build. All locally. [This comment appears to have been deleted from the Daily News website, making Alford's claim to me that Dnews.com is an "unmoderated forum" de facto (and likely de jure) untrue. But any reasonably intelligent onlooker can tell from Lupke's non-deleted comments that he is referring specifically to me.]

  • Hi Chris, yes he resorts to name calling again; its all he’s got. I suggest we just let him ride the bomb to his own self-destruction, like his fake namesake. I find it funny that the fictional T J Kong was a suicide bomber.

  • I also basically agree with you about tj. I knew he would be a waste of time the first time I heard of him trying to claim I'm related to some guy named Chad Lupke and that therefore I'm not a permanent resident of Pullman. He has a small palette of rhetorical techniques that consist mainly of blathering his point of view (fine, who cares); if that doesn't work, insulting his interlocutors with vicious, slanderous names; lies about other people in the community; threats such as running people out of town; and rather pathetic attempts at self-arrogation mixed with a real envy of the academic life. I'm not sure what trauma occurred in his academic life, but it clearly left him scarred. In all his blather, I have never once gotten the impression that he wanted to persuade his adversaries of anything and am confident he never has.

    It is remarkable, though, that in his frustration his only recourse is a homophobic joke. What was it last week -- nooses? Disgusting. Never ends.

  • tj -- your lies never end. I never said I hated you and, as a Christian, I don't. That doesn't mean I approve of your unsavory tactics. But there is hope for everyone. Even Lee Atwater, for example, who is the modern inventor of the style of character assasination and dirty tricks methods you employ, repented on his death bed, writing many apologies to those whom he verbally assaulted. I therefore hold out hope that anyone can reflect on the rotten things they inflict on others and change. I would hope they would come sooner than they did for Atwater.

  • My wife's friends and co-workers read this bullshit and she has to deal with it. Think about if you would want your family to be subjected to that.

    Here is my letter:

    Daily News publisher Nathan Alford insists on running an anonymous, unmoderated online forum, despite the legal and moral risks this poses.

    Authors of letters to the editor and opinion page columnists are required to divulge their identities before being published. Why should online commenters be held to a different standard? Libel laws apply equally to online editions as to print ones.

    Even though there are numerous blogs and message boards not owned by newspapers that allow anonymous, unmoderated comments, that doesn't mean our community newspaper should. Newspapers, especially in small towns, have a special responsibility to their readers to encourage constructive discussion and debate. MIT Professor of Sociology of Science Dr. Sherry Turkle has conducted research into "identity and multiplicity" online and postulated that the quality of online forums is inversely proportional to the anonymity of its participants.

    Several months ago, the Daily News took steps to eliminate "sock puppet" accounts. While a good first step, the anonymity and unmoderated nature of the online comments still allows for reprehensible, irresponsible, and destructive comments. For example, in responding to recent posts from a regular commenter known as "tjkong," Chris Lupke mistakenly assumed that it was me and leveled accusations that I made a "homophobic joke" and showed a "prurient fascination" with Nazis. It is Lupke's constitutional right to have an opinion about my public stance on various issues (as I do about him). However, he is not entitled to associate me with controversial comments that I did not make without prior and incontrovertible evidence concerning my identity. The Daily News refused to delete those comments.

    I encourage you to contact Nathan Alford (alford@dnews.com) and urge him to restore decency to our community newspaper and hold it to a higher standard by eliminating the anonymous unmoderated online comments.

    Tom Forbes, Pullman
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