This is remarkable, for so very many reasons…

First, some background. A front-page poster here at Plunderbund posted a short entry asking for volunteers for an “undercover operation”. Shortly after that, BSB posted a similar story.

And then, all hell broke loose. It was discussed (at length!) on FreeRepublic (more later). It was picked up by the Ohio Conservative Blogosphere, most notably BizzyBlog. It was picked up by national bloggers Michelle Malkin and Mary Katherine Ham at TownHall. And the claims being made – at least at Free Republic, and picked up at least slightly on several other sites – were astounding:

  • This was an organized attempt by the ODP (and maybe higher) to steal the election
  • The guy who owns the now-defunct hosting company (who hosts BSB) was indicted as the “mastermind” – simply because BSB is hosted there
  • Other candidates who share the hosting company are claimed to be a part of the “conspiracy”
  • Other non-affiliated persons were indicted (and used to “bolster” the first claim) because of former associations with Plunderbund and the ODP.
  • Some are claiming that election law has actually been materially violated.
  • There are claims that this is funded by the Saudis (!!)

Of course, what’s really astounding is the fact that had one of the brilliant net-detectives decided to “infiltrate the infiltration” by emailing one of the contact emails, they would have immediately discovered that absolutely nothing was going on. Here are the aspects that I find especially amazing.

  • Two informationless web postings were deemed “proof” of a vast left-wing conspiracy, without any additional evidence
  • Nobody – well, almost nobody, as BizzyBlog apparently isn’t run by an idiot – stopped to think that it’d be the height of idiocy to advertise any actual effort to subvert the election in a public forum.
  • Nobody stopped to think that if it were real – and “super-secret” – that the original posts would have been redacted upon the response. Instead, BSB egged you on, and then proceeded to underline the (admittedly fuzzy) point.
  • Nobody bothered to even briefly peruse the rest of the sites, as both have long track records of stumping for transparency in elections, as well as frequently being critical of Democrats. Seriously – this would have taken no more than 5 minutes to figure out.

So, now the truth has been sussed out, mostly because the wingnuts have been applying pressure to parties that aren’t even remotely involved: this is not real. Some are calling it a hoax, but the word “hoax” implies some kind of elaborate effort to deceive. In reality, this was simply two relatively satirical, relatively unsophisticated blog posts. Ill-informed? Maybe. Immature? Maybe. But not real. And while I was not involved with this at all, I can absolutely, positively, unequivocally assure you that there is no behind the scenes effort to subvert this election by progressives.

Frankly, I’m astonished at the sheer number of tin-foil hats in the right-wing blogosphere. Seriously. And despite the protestations of several of those drawn in that they have no association with the “hoax”, the belief persists, absent any actual evidence of election fraud, that this is not a “hoax”. Some comments are that those involved should have to prove that the effort doesn’t exist (how the hell do you prove something doesn’t exist?).

We do appreciate the pageviews, tho. Stick around for the conversation.

Update: “Staff” at BSB weighs in. It turns out that some people did send emails. However, it never occurred to them that since they got no reply it must have been fake (I mean, that would be *my* reaction). I never would have expected a reaction this unhinged given the complete lack of any kind of evidence at all. I do think it unfortunate that some unwilling and unrelated persons were wrapped up in the insane right-wing response.

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  • I think it’s more than unfortunate that some innocent people got harrassed as well as had to deal with a hell of a lot more than they should have too. Reminds me of that saying “with friends like this…..”

  • Brian

    Unfortunate is perhaps too soft a word, but let us be honest – there is zero evidence linking any of the innocent parties to this “plot”.

    You might be able to argue that those responsible for the plot bear some responsibility for the result, and you might be able to convince me. But I also don’t think it unreasonable to claim that the response is a) unreasonable in scope, and b) unexpected in magnitude. I mean, to be honest, I never would have expected this kind of response to a pair of blog posts about an “infiltration” with absolutely no evidence of any kind of conspiracy. And to be frank, there are lots of other things they could have gotten their dander up about that could have ended the same way.

    I’ve been emailing at least one of the “collaterally damaged”, and I won’t speak for him here (tho I have extended an invitation), I will repeat what I told him – he has a right to be upset. His family and business have no ties to any hoax or conspiracy. I think that right to be upset extends to those who posted the original blog entries. But I also think most of the anger should be directed at the wingnuts who went completely off the deep end.

    As near as I can tell, there was only one blogger or commentator who spotted one of the million “red flags” that should have indicated that this was all a bunch of misdirection. One. Maybe I’m naive, but that is shocking to me. I know there are a lot of wingnuts out there, I just didn’t realize how many. A heck of a lot more on the “right” than the “left”, as near as I can tell.

  • Ever wonder why we conservatives don’t trust the left’s integrity?

  • Brian

    I don’t disagree that this was a bit foolish, but at least when the left accuses the right of shenanigans, there is actually some evidence.

    This response is, frankly, on the level of “The End Is Neigh”/”Aliens Walk Amongst Us”. I mean seriously – indicting the ODP and every other website on the BSB server? Whispers of Pakistani and Saudi money? I’m actually a little surprised in hindsight that Clinton wasn’t blamed. And all this in response to two blog posts that should have been spotted as bogus out-of-hand. Hell, here on Plunderbund there were two other posts Friday – after the “secret mission” post – about election transparency and election tampering.

    In other words, it’s all in your heads.

  • Bob

    Um, Pirate, b/c you are easily manipulated morons?

  • Be serious, now. If you saw a similar post on two right-wing blogs in a battleground state, you wouldn’t deem it worthy of some question-asking? I daresay you would.

    I fail to understand how the posts were “satirical.” That’s some pretty counterproductive satire. It doesn’t seem at all out-of-bounds to me to assume that people writing that they’re looking for volunteers for “undercover” and “infiltration” projects within the GOP GOTV are, in fact, looking to go undercover and infiltrate.

    And, it seems to me, it’s incumbent upon the “satirical infiltrators” to explain that they’re not being shady when people assume, based on pretty straight-forward blog posts, that they are.

  • I’d say it was more than a bit foolish, I’d also say I agree that there are people who are angry and have the right to be angry. I also don’t think you can justify bad behavior by bad behavior. If you are supposed to be wanting things to be better and to actually change something like this just demonstrates the never ending “it’s different when we do it”. It’s not…

  • Brian

    Now I’m in the somewhat awkward position of seeming to defend something I had nothing to do with. Which certainly was not my intent with this post. This post was designed to (a) lay out everything I knew about the “plot” in the open, and (b) allow me to weigh in on the entire mess, and throw out my interpretation.

    Mary Katherine, I’m not surprised that you linked it, nor do I “blame” you. By the time it got that far, it was quite the rolling stone. I’m more surprised by the Ohio conservative blogosphere, who should have some level of familiarity with both blogs in question to know that these kinds of posts are out-of-character.

    And let’s be honest – if you were actually looking to throw a monkey wrench in the GOP GOTV efforts (and potentially break the law doing so), you’d have to be a complete idiot to “recruit” in a public forum. Had two conservative blogs I didn’t know anything about posted something similar, I probably would have taken note – and I probably would have said something like “look at the idiots!”.

    Instead, lacking any real evidence, Freeperville has gone completely nuclear. I mean, read the thread there – it’s claiming that people with less affiliation to the offending posts than I have (none, other than posting here) are some kind of criminal masterminds, that every other site on BSB’s server is somehow involved, that since the former ODP press guy and a former blogger here have both moved on to new jobs where they work together, that the ODP sanctioned this, that there are Saudi and Pakistani funds involved (because someone *not related* to this mess sells pens made in Saudi Arabia on another one of his websites – is WalMart some evil Red conspiracy because 70% of their products are made in China?). And despite a post from one of the original “perps” verifying that he’s yanking everyone’s chain, it seems that most commentators on the FR thread still think it’s real. It’s patently insane. Lacking any evidence to the contrary, I think there is no alternative but to take “staff” by his word.

    Maybe “satirical” isn’t the right word to describe the original posts. “Mocking”, maybe? I think the intent is clear, if poorly executed. Then again, I thought it perfectly obvious that Kerry’s intent was to dump on Bush, not the troops, he just botched the delivery (as is the norm for him).

    Frankly, this response is even crazier than the people who state, unequivocally, that Ken Blackwell stole the 2004 election for George Bush. At least in that claim there is some actual smoke (election irregularities that seem to favor the GOP). But there is no actual evidence that I’ve seen that can prove Ken Blackwell’s office actually stole the election. All we can do is to try to address the irregularities to ensure that it *can’t* actually happen.

    Lisa Renee – I’m not attempting to “justify bad behavior by bad behavior”. I won’t – can’t – dispute that the original posts were intended to provoke a response. “Staff” said as much. I’m just stating that I feel the response has been disproportionate. Which I think is what “staff” wanted, but it’s clearly not wanted (nor deserved) by some of the “unrelateds” who have been rolled up in this. I think Freepers deserve a large helping of blame on that front.

    Call the original posts stupid, immature, pointless, whatever – I’m not going to defend them. I’m just trying to bring some sanity back to the discussion.

  • Pingback: The Volokh Conspiracy()

  • I just wanted to clarify that my pens are handmade by me here in the great state of Ohio. How they got to a Saudi connection is really a study in delusion that I’ll leave to you to trace. Now that these elections are over maybe I can get back to doing some shakbloggin’ and making some of those pens again!

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