TC Speaks: Take One

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This is not going to be a particularly warm and fuzzy post about the Too Conservative stealth-commenting mess, but I'll do my best to be humane, and hopefully no one will end up in a lawsuit or hiding out in a shack in Baja California as a result. The only reason I'm dwelling on it is because I have kids who have gone though this phase (though none so publicly) and I believe taking your medicine and moving on is the best way to get ahead in life.

First, please, read this post and this post and all corresponding links.

To summarize: As best as I can understand it, someone had access to the log files at the Too Conservative blog - which is a pretty basic and commonplace administrative privilege - and these logs showed that the owner of the blog, Vince, had been writing comments under different names. Some have said these comments were controversial: I have no opinion on this aspect of the matter. The person then posted the IP log information on the Velvet Elvis blog, strongly incriminating Vince. I picked up the news from Black Velvet Bruce Lee.

It appears that the blogging software, which I believe was WordPress, maintained a log of comments and corresponding IP addresses which could be viewed en masse (Movable Type does not allow this, as far as I can tell). Thus the person who got the information probably opened a report within the WordPress administrative interface and saved a file which included all the data.

Velvet Elvis' goal appeared to be only to show that many of the commenters' comments had come from the same IP address that Vince posted from. Our own Sophrosyne said a few months ago that former bloggers at Too Conservative hinted they had proof that Vince had been commenting under different names.

So far, not so bad. Too Conservative (TC) is a very popular blog, and "TC" himself - aka Vince - is very plugged in to local politics. On the surface, one might just say a popular blogger got nabbed for playing games to increase activity within his comments. I and others have opined this could be justified. Others have opined the harsh nature of some of the pseudonymous comments raised questions about the writer, and still others have suggested the whole enterprise of writing fake comments was disreputable. An underlying accusation was that TC had set himself up for this fall by things he had said and done.

Bottom line: This appeared to be an embarrassing episode for TC but one he would learn from. He appeared to have gotten caught doing something disingenuous. Recognizing TC's youth, many of us said he should simply 'fess up and move on. Even though he had a reputation for being a bit brutal to Republicans who didn't share his political philosophy (he termed NOVA TownHall the "Worst Blog" on the Internet) - particularly those of us on the "hard right" - TC was cut a lot of slack. Several of us said: He's growing up, so let's let him learn from this and no use rubbing his nose in it. Mistakes build character.

I told him humility was a valuable lesson, and issuing a mea culpa, would put this behind him.

UPDATE:TC has a new post...

Anonymous commenting is done by all sides of the spectrum.

This does not make my comments right, and for that I apologize.

I hope we all can move past this issue, and continue on. I have changed this one

Well done, Vince.

UPDATE: Whoops. I am behind the curve as usual. BVBL has the story.

Vince probably owes his audience an apology, which we should readily accept. He understands the value of confession and redemption, and we should as well. In the end, he’s not the only one learning from this experience — every other blogger in Virginia is as well.

And I don’t know what is funnier — having Vincent posting as “ChapmanWants[name here]Dead” or the idea of hundreds of viewers busily reloading Shaun Kenney’s website for hours and trashing it while waiting for this story to get posted. I’ll bet his server statistics went through the roof tonight. Congrats to Shaun for getting this interview.

Here is an excerpt from Shaun Kenney's interview with Velvet Elvis:

My main problem is when he misrepresents himself in those posts, such as claiming to be a constituent in a particular House district in which he does not actually live. I also have a problem with him posting as elected officials such as Bill Bolling and Marty Nohe. The Bolling post was obviously not him, but the Nohe post even fooled me and I've been friends with Marty for a long time. Someone who doesn't know Marty might not take it in the humorous way it comes across to the people who do know him. And if Marty decides to run for PWC Chairman, some op-researcher might dig that post up and use it out of context. I don't want that to happen...

Go read all of that.

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charles said:

You wouldn't have happened to save a copy of TC's entire post, did you? He either deleted it, or it got inadvertently misplaced in their site re-organization.

From what Vince wrote that you excerpted above, it sounds like he allowed anonymous posts from elected officials who would be embarrased if their comments were linked to their names, and he was afraid Riley might use that information against the politicians.

Of course, a politician that would do something that would put an 18-year-old in posession of information that could be used against them have shown bad judgment, and the idea that one of those politicians might now run a federal administration is scary.

I will note that when I asked Sean directly if public elected officials should post anonymously to blogs, he suggested that was a nobel concept, equating it to "Gorky Park", where speakers would just get up and say stuff without identifying themselves.

(Of course, elected officials would be identified at Gorky Park because they didn't wear disguises or pretend to be other people).

charles said:

Joe, doesn't that apology sound like what you get from your kids if they do something bad and you grab them by the arm and drag them kicking and screaming to "apologize"?

Almost as if an older, wiser friend is trying to do some damage control and needed something that at least looked like an apology before launching a counter attack?

So, what was wrong here, anyway? Was the issue WHAT TC said in the anonymous comments, or was the issue that he used anonymous comments to launch personal attacks on people? He seems to have apologized only for WHAT he said, not the tactic, which he says is done by "all sides of the spectrum", whatever that means.

I don't, either in my blog or in comments. And I bet there are a LOT of other bloggers who don't use anonymity or pseudonyms to hide their identity so they can attack people.

Some politicians say of the Abramoff scandal that taking bribes was done by people all over the spectrum, but that doesn't make it right.

There's one more thing I think Vincent has to answer for. He of course knew that he made these comment anonymously at the time he made them. And while the honorable thing would be to reveal that information yourself without prodding, it takes a person of strong moral conviction to be able to apologize when they think they have gotten away with something.

But as Riley notes, TC was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, so to speak, back in March. But instead of coming clean, he removed his contributers and made up a story about how he was taking a "new direction", a story that is now known to be clearly false.

And when it was made clear to him that there was evidence against him, he still saw no need to come clean and apologize, instead threatening retribution.

And when the information was actually revealed, an act TC knew could happen at any time and therefore was not a surprise at all to him, his reaction was again to deflect attention and accuse the accuser.

Even his first "reply" on his blog acknowledged no error, and that came days after the incident -- you yourself noted the ommission.

But since that time, NLS came to TC's defense and promised new information, and chided you for your post here, and suddenly TC's "reply" is gone, and replaced by this decidedly non-apology apology. (Any apology that starts with a justification is suspect).

Charles wrote:

And when it was made clear to him that there was evidence against him, he still saw no need to come clean and apologize, instead threatening retribution.

And when the information was actually revealed, an act TC knew could happen at any time and therefore was not a surprise at all to him, his reaction was again to deflect attention and accuse the accuser.

Even his first "reply" on his blog acknowledged no error, and that came days after the incident -- you yourself noted the ommission.

One word for this. Clintonian.

I only copied the portion of Vince's original post that was reprinted here. I still have it and, after reading NLS' crazy post from last night I am tempted to reprint it here in the comments with my remarks (which, incidentally, I removed not because of what NLS said, but because the boy finally apologized and I don't have a major dog in the fight.)

Yes, the apology only came as a result of pressure, probably from NLS, and Vince's awareness his back was totally against the wall. But the acknowledgement and apology was the right thing to do, so I'm not going to keep hammering on it.

I think NLS' post was pretty bad. Riley explained how Vince had done a very low, snakey thing in betraying some peoples' trust, and NLS basically slammed Riley and said he didn't deserve to expect trust.

"Bloggers will have no credibility if they attempt to use IP addresses to push their own political agendas. Vincent was exactly correct to frame this issue in that manner."

"As far as I am concerned, Riley has broken the trust that is key to our survival. I'm proud to stand with Vincent on this, and I hope the rest of the blogosphere will as well."

Yeah, now THAT'S Clintonian.

We've all learned some things from this episode.

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