Will my son be safe from the online mob?

My oldest son has a unique way of saying “hello” to people.  Upon meeting him you may notice him staring at you for a moment, then rocking back and forth a little, gradually getting closer to you.  Once he knows you’re friendly, he may get right in your face, until your noses touch.

Thankfully, people have never been more aware of autism spectrum disorders, and almost everyone my son meets is understanding and kind.  But I do fear that someone may interpret his behavior the wrong way, especially as he gets older.

That’s why this story, from Australia, drew my attention:

Last week a Facebook user posted a photo of a man on a Melbourne tram and detailed her encounter with him as she saw it. The man was accused of being intimidating and threatening towards young women and more specifically young women of Asian decent. He was accused of being a drug user and called predatory. The post attracted in excess of 80,000 likes and was shared more than 10,000 times.  Immediately comments appeared under the post that called for various violent acts to be perpetrated against the man in retaliation. Among the frenzy of people tutting and mindlessly sharing the story was a prominent feminist activist and author, Clementine Ford, someone who does not shy away from publicly revealing the faces and names of alleged perpetrators. Hastags such as #silentnomore and #fightlikeagirl were added to the story and assisted in its circulation. The story was also picked up by the mainstream media and was published by online news outlets. Several hours after the story broke people who knew the man contacted the original poster, privately and publicly, and advised her that the man had Autism and often asks for high-fives on the tram (this has not been verified). It was suggested that he was not a violent person and was well known to at least some tram users. The post was not removed by the poster until she began to receive threats via private message. The threats against the poster were not necessary however it was also not necessary for her to post an identifying image of the man on a public forum with inflammatory remarks attached.


The Daily Mail published a follow up article on the 10th October 2016 which reveals that the man on the tram has Autism. Doing a search of Facebook hash tags for the original posters name reveals a handful of admissions from those who shared the original article expressing regret that they hadn’t looked into it more thoroughly before sharing. What is absent though is commentary from the original poster and high profile sharers like Clementine Ford.

If her twitter account is any indication, Ford is completely unrepentant:

The likes of Ford make me kind of understand how Donald Trump happened.

Many people have been disproportionately punished by online mobs, whether it’s Spike Lee posting address information for the wrong George Zimmerman or a snarky joke ruining Justine Sacco’s life.  That’s bad enough.

But it’s even worse when it happens to someone who is misunderstood and can’t conventionally defend himself.  And in an age where people are intoxicated by hunting down dissenters on the internet, I fear the most vulnerable people are going to be targeted.

As a parent of someone on the autism spectrum, that’s a terrifying thought.

My favorite Trumpster

One of the sad things about the rise of Trump is how I’ve lost respect for so many people I once admired, because they decided to throw their weight behind a person hopelessly unqualified to be President of the United States. In some cases, it’s like they’ve turned into completely different people.

Take John Nolte of Breitbart, for example. I often disagreed with him, but thought he seemed like a pretty decent guy – with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of classic film to boot. After a year on the Trump train, it’s hard to tell John Nolte from the Rifftrax parody of Nick Nolte.

But there is one Trump supporter for whom I’ve actually developed legitimate affection since Trump became the Republican nominee for President.  And here’s what he tweeted after unscientific online polls showed Trump “winning” a televised debate in which he was absolutely humiliated:

I majored in political science, so I know this is hopelessly, insanely wrong.  But Mitchell doubled down and has continued to rail against scientific polling – and common sense – ever since:



Why am I saying nice things about Bill Mitchell?  First of all, the unintentional comedy value of his twitter feed is off the charts.  Even Yoko Ono doesn’t come close.

More importantly, I’ll at least give Mitchell some credit for at least believing what he writes about his hero Trump.  I wondered if he was running some kind of parody account, but now I’m sure no one could stay committed to a bit for this long.

In my mind, that puts him a step above Republican politicians and conservative  commentators who know Donald Trump is erratic, uninformed, nasty and downright dangerous, but nonetheless back him for the most powerful job in the world.

Look at Ted Cruz, who bravely stood up to Trump at the convention only to sheepishly endorse him – in a Facebook post – when it momentarily looked like Trump could win.  Look at Paul Ryan, who has spent the last few years trying to expand the Republican base only to line up behind this white-nationalist thug.  Look at Hugh Hewitt, who backs Trump because of the Supreme Court, as though Trump could be trusted to live up to his word about Supreme Court nominations any more than he lives up to contracts with small business owners.

Heck, look at Trump himself, who has registered as a Democrat in the past, donated to Democratic candidates and once plugged gun control and single-payer health care.  Does he really believe what he’s been ranting and raving about in his campaign speeches?  Who knows?

If you must be an extremist, I’d at least prefer that you be a real extremist, not someone cynically play-acting at it for political gain.  If nothing else, Bill Mitchell seems to be honest about the insane things he says.  You can’t even give Trump or most of his high-profile supporters that much.

Red Ink

Hey, as long as we’re on the subject of once-great political parties who’ve collectively lost their friggin’ minds, let’s cross the Atlantic and see what Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is up to:

There must be a “socialist” solution to media ownership in the UK, Unite’s chief of staff insisted last night.

Speaking at a Momentum meeting on “Jeremy Corbyn and media bias,” Andrew Murray said there had to be a “change in ownership” away from the “tax exiles and ne’er-do-wells” who currently own most newspapers and broadcast media.

“In the end when we address media power, we have to address the question of ownership,” he said.

“People say we need better regulation, but the problem is ownership and control. That is the heart of it. And socialism applies to the media just as much as any other industry.”


One woman compared the British media to the spoon that Keanu Reeves’ character holds in The Matrix.

“In the Matrix Neo goes to see the Oracle and he sees a child bending a spoon and he wants to know how can I bend the spoon, and she says it’s not the spoon that bends, it’s you that bends and I really feel that it’s the media that needs to bend towards this newer type of politics that Jeremy Corbyn is trying to create.”

Paranoid people love their Matrix analogies, don’t they?  (And, yes, like most ridiculous, unworkable and vaguely totalitarian ideas, this was plugged in Salon not long ago.)

Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn couldn’t be more different in style, but the similarities between them and their political parties – conspiratorial, cultish, antisemitic and financially tied to hostile foreign powers – is truly striking.

It’s Alex Jones’ party now

The Florida Republican Party promotes a conspiracy theory spread by InfoWars:

Yes, some Democratic partisans – most notably at Salon, the website where the stuff too kooky for university student newspapers ends up – believed that George W. Bush was wearing an earpiece during the 2004 Presidential debates.  But to the best of my knowledge, the Democratic Party never signed off on such nonsense.

By legitimizing InfoWars, the Florida GOP has legitimized a “news” organization which accuses a GOP President of complicity in the most devastating terror attacks in American history.  That probably doesn’t matter to the neo-Nazis and other fringe characters who’ve jumped on the Trump Train – in fact, it’s probably a selling point – but it does illustrate the degree to which the old Republican establishment have debased themselves.

With a few honourable exceptions like Ben Sasse and Mitt Romney, most Republicans have gone all-in on their barely coherent, conspiracy-addled, deadbeat nominee for President.  Even Ted Cruz, after taking that “heroic” stand against him in Cleveland, had to kiss the ring.  Trump may not be a “conservative” in the traditional sense, but you can’t say he’s not a “real” Republican.  He has redefined Republicanism to mean whatever he says it means – and whatever Alex Jones and the rest of the kook brigade report.

If you had told me in 1994 – or 2004, or even 2014 –  I’d someday support Hillary Clinton for President,  I would have laughed in your face.  But here we are.

The anti-Trump closet

Buzzfeed quotes several Republican strategists who are secretly terrified that their Presidential nominee actually has a shot at winning:

For months, the prevailing wisdom within GOP political circles has been that Donald Trump stands little chance to win in November — and a large number of the party’s consultants, fundraisers, and operatives privately preferred it that way. Though many of them are reluctant to say so in public, they argue that a Trump presidency would fracture their party, decimate the conservative movement, and wreak havoc on the global economy (not to mention their own industry).

But now, with polls tightening and Hillary Clinton’s illness temporarily sidelining her from the campaign trail, those Republicans are expressing alarm at Trump’s sudden electoral viability.

“It’s terrifying,” said one GOP consultant, who like others spoke to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity. “He’s not qualified … and it’s a massive problem. I’m not a fan of Hillary Clinton, but at least I feel like some of those jobs that are required for president, she could do them.”

“It would be terrible for America, and for the world,” said another Republican strategist, referring to a prospective Trump victory. “I can’t think of one good thing that would come of it.”

A third Republican said that after watching the Clinton campaign’s missteps in recent days, “I’m curled up in the fetal position watching The West Wing and drinking a basketful of deplorable liquor.”

If Trump is a threat not just to American but to the entire world, why won’t they go public with their warnings?

Asked why they wouldn’t go on record criticizing Trump, several Republicans said they were worried about professional repercussions from conservative clients. In the meantime, many of them are preparing to do something they once considered unthinkable: pulling the lever for Hillary.

“I live in a swing state,” said one consultant. “If it’s close, I’ll vote for Hillary Clinton. I’ll regret doing it. It’ll be the first time on a presidential level that I’ll be voting for a Democrat. But I feel like it’s my obligation as an American to do it.”

After Ted Cruz, bless him, struck at King Donald in the most public forum imaginable, I thought we might see more Republicans follow his lead.  Sadly, it looks like most GOP partisans decided their consultant jobs are worth more than their souls.

The blue sunglasses conspiracy

Behold the latest conspiracy theory burning up the pro-Trump twittersphere:


As it turns out, I also have access to the medical encyclopedia known as google, and this is what I found out about blue-tinted sunglasses:

Blue-tinted lenses are endorsed by the USPTA for tennis professionals and were provided to linepersons in the 2000 French Open. Blue is a contrast lens and reduces glare from visible white light (such as light reflected from mist, fog, snow, water).

Team Hillary has handled this past weekend very poorly – in retrospect, her pneumonia diagnosis should have been revealed once she received it. But there’s no more evidence that she suffers from “seizures” than there is that she’s a professional tennis player.

Meanwhile, Trump’s doctor wrote his “medical report” in five minutes, as the candidate’s limo waited outside his office, and admits that he “picked up his kind of language and then just interpreted it to my own.”

Mainstreaming Holocaust deniers

Just a few months after the University of Toronto hosted frothing Jew-hater Ken O’Keefe, the Commons – a “movement building space” in Brooklyn – was the setting for a 9/11 conspiracy presentation by Chris Bollyn:

At a trendy community space in Brooklyn, a controversial 9/11 conspiracy theorist spoke Wednesday to a group of around two dozen listeners about the “Zionist war agenda” that he says was behind the attack 15 years ago that killed 3,000.

The crowd filed past a sleek bar serving drinks, some carrying Palestinian flags and flyers that read, “9-11: Do You Believe? Or Do You Question?” Some said they had come to the author Christopher Bollyn for answers.

“The Zionist war agenda waged by the U.S. was the primary reason for 9/11,” Bollyn told the crowd at the Brooklyn Commons, a “movement building space” in the gentrifying Boerum Hill neighborhood. Bollyn led the audience through a plodding, footnoted slide show which lasted more than two hours.


Inside, Bollyn made his way through his talk, showing what he believes are patterns showing that Israelis and Zionist Jews have been key people at every point in the 9/11 story.

“When you look at the 9/11 crime, the creation and promotion of the war on terror and the cover up — the key people are Zionist or Israelis,” he said earlier. “Why are these high-level American Zionist and Israelis covering up the crime?”

To be clear, Chris Bollyn isn’t just a conspiracy theorist or even just a Holocaust revisionist.  He’s an actual neo-Nazi:

Bollyn has also written numerous other articles on his website that accuse Jews of controlling the media and government. Bollyn has attended Holocaust denial conferences in the U.S. and one in Russia in 2002.  He is a former writer for the anti-Semitic conspiracy-oriented newspaper American Free Press and its predecessor, The Spotlight, both published by anti-Semite and Holocaust denier Willis Carto.  American Free Press fired Bollyn in 2006, after accusing him of submitting false stories and of disloyalty to the paper.

Chris Bollyn was too crazy for Willis Carto, but he’s acceptable for the Brooklyn Commons.  Several progressive activists protested his appearance, but the founder doesn’t see what the big deal is all about:

Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow each issued individual statements calling on the Commons to pull the speaker. But Melissa Ennen, who founded the space in 2010, stuck by the decision to host Bollyn, saying the Commons was never meant to be a “cozy space” only for progressives.

Let’s see the Young Republicans try to book space at the Commons, then.  Mind you, in 2016, Bollyn might have received a warm reception from them, too.