One of my ongoing concerns with Democrats is that too many of them are timid, distracted, disorganized, and generally wussy.
Liberal activist Brett Kimberlin is none of those things, and that apparently is why the radical right has launched an extraordinary online jihad against him. In a delicious example of "turnabout is fair play," Kimberlin has used right wingers' tactics against them--causing the recent arrest of one thug, the outing of another as a criminal, and the transmission of a notice to others that they face possible legal action.
According to press reports, Kimberlin has some troubling incidents in his past. But by all accounts that I can find, he has served his punishment for any misdeed. And as a target of right-wing thugs myself, I can't help but admire Kimberlin's spunk--and his effectiveness.
Kimberlin actually has right wingers whining that he is using the court process against them. As a resident of Alabama who has held a front-row seat for the Bush-era political prosecution of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman, I can only marvel at the hypocrisy of conservatives claiming that the justice system is not working in their favor.
Right-wing bloggers have become so exorcised about Kimberlin that about 150 of them recently launched an "Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day." They even got Fox News and ABC News to cover the story and enlisted the help of such conservative luminaries as U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), author Michelle Malkin, and attorney Jay Sekulow in battling Kimberlin.
Anybody who can cause that many conservative panties to get into a bunch must be doing something right. So we decided to take a closer look at Brett Kimberlin and how he managed to rile the far right into a state of mass hysteria.
Who is Brett Kimberlin? He is the driving force behind the nonprofit Justice Through Music Project (JTMP) and the political activist organization Velvet Revolution (VR). Conservatives claim Kimberlin is funded by billionaire financier George Soros and singer/actress Barbra Streisand. (See video at the end of this post.) JTMP and VR have helped shine light on election fraud and possible misconduct involving such conservative heavyweights as Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers.
Those efforts apparently struck nerves because right-wing forces have launched a frenzied assault against Kimberlin, focusing mostly on his checkered past. Published reports indicate Kimberlin was convicted on charges related to drug trafficking and a series of bombings in the Midwest, dating to the 1970s.
Did Kimberlin actually commit the crimes? It's hard to say, but the appellate-court record shows that the testimony of hypnotized witnesses was allowed at one trial, so the convictions did not rest on the sturdiest ground. Records show that Kimberlin served 17 years in federal prison, so he appears to have paid any debt he owed to society.
Conservative bloggers, writing mostly in a network founded by Andrew Breitbart, have every right to report on Kimberlin's criminal history. But court documents indicate they have gone beyond that, to stalking, harassing, and even inciting death threats against him.
Key bloggers have written anonymously, but Kimberlin was able to determine their identities and bring legal action against them. That led to the eventual arrest of a blogger/lawyer who posts as Aaron Worthing (real name: Aaron Walker). And that sparked the right-wing blogapalooza against Kimberlin.
What's at the heart of the controversy? A FireDogLake blogger called DonkeyTale has been writing about it for some time and says the complex saga is "as densely peopled and subplotted as a 19th century Russian novel." That description is on target, but DonkeyTale still has managed to provide the best summary I've seen so far, at a post titled "Troll Wars 6.66."
The cast of characters on the right includes bloggers Socrates (Seth Allen), Goatsred (Mike Stack), and Patterico (Patrick Frey). Joining Kimberlin on the left are Brad Friedman (of BradBlog); Ron Brynaert (former editor of Raw Story); and, in a roundabout way, former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who was the target of a Breitbart-led attack. From DonkeyTale:
The story has its origins in Socrates’s blogging from 2008-2009, investigating connections between Kimberlin, Brad Friedman, election integrity, the death of alleged election rigger Michael Connell and the seemingly very intensive focus on gathering donations at the websites sponsored by Friedman and Kimberlin. Socrates’s court case, which occurred during and after the Weinergate saga was picked up and publicised and politicised by the Andrew Breitbart Empire as a way to fight back against their adversaries. Indeed, Kimberlin announced the lawsuit against Socrates on Patterico’s blog.
In reaction to Weinergate, the hoaxing of ACORN and Shirley Sherrod by dirty tricksters affiliated with Breitbart, Kimberlin and/or his associates began a site called indictbreitbart.org which linked a donation button to Velvet Revolution, another site affiliated with Kimberlin and Brad Friedman. This move, along with the co-optation of the Socrates v Kimberlin court case by both sides, formed the battle lines of the Troll Wars, with the combatants colloquially named by Socrates “Team Numbnuts” and “Team Breitbart."
As an interesting and tragic side note, Breitbart dropped dead of an apparent heart attack a few months ago just after his burgeoning rightwing media empire had received a reported $10 million private equity investment, from a pair of unidentified investors. This money no doubt invested to grow the media maven’s profit-making activities, which included funding ever more creative hoaxings and media manipulations targeting progressives.
In the latest chapter, conservative blogger/lawyer Aaron Worthing (Aaron Walker), representing himself, was arrested in court last week for “incitement,” while arguing against a second degree assault charge pressed by Kimberlin from an earlier court incident when Walker was brought into the Socrates case by Kimberlin.
What's the very latest? Well, that's complicated.
First, we have charges from the right that Kimberlin and his associates are behind a couple of alleged "SWATting" incidents. Kimberlin has denied involvement, but Saxby Chambliss is calling for a Justice Department investigation.
Second, a left-leaning Web site called breitbartunmasked.com (BU) is unearthing unflattering information about the National Bloggers Club (NBC), an umbrella organization that is headed by a fellow named Ali A. Akbar. While conservatives have tried to portray Kimberlin as a mad man with a criminal history, they apparently neglected to check into the past of their own Mr. Akbar. BU revealed that Akbar has a criminal record of his own, with felony convictions for credit-card fraud and theft.
BU also revealed that Akbar runs his operation from a nondescript house in Fort Worth, Texas, and receives funding from a Wyoming billionaire named Foster Friess. Velvet Revolution has posted a document that notifies Akbar and Friess that they are to preserve boatloads of data for an upcoming lawsuit.
The Liberal Grouch, one of the few left-leaning Web sites that is covering the story, hints that Akbar's network might face trouble with the IRS.
Finally, we have today's National Day of Blogger Silence, which conservatives say is an effort to draw attention to Kimberlin's attacks on their freedom of expression.
Where is all of this headed? I have no idea, but Brett Kimberlin, whatever his past failings might be, knows how to fight--and how to throw conservatives into a tizzy. That's apparent from the video below.
Perhaps Kimberlin has Republicans so unnerved because they are used to Democrats who won't fight back, at least not effectively. The general maxim in politics long has been: "You can push around a Democrat; if you punch him, he won't punch back." That clearly is not how Brett Kimberlin operates. If you connect with one or two jabs, he will respond by landing three or four haymakers.
Maybe it's time Democrats took a few lessons from Mr. Kimberlin.