Greetings! You are reading an article from The Mudville Gazette. To reach the front page, with all the latest news and views, click the logo above or "main" below. Thanks for stopping by!
March 29, 2010
The Lone Gunmen?By Greyhawk
Anyone recognize these guys?
Read on, you'll see why I ask...
This sign sums up everything many people fear about the Tea Party movement:
If you're having a hard time reading it, here's a clearer version of it, along with a "sister sign."
Those pictures were posted online on March 20, the day of the Tea Party protests against the health care bill (now law) in Washington, D.C., and made their way from blogs, message boards, and virtually every other type of web page to the mainstream media. Here's the New York Times' coverage from March 26:
Unfortunately for New York Times readers, the editors didn't provide the full story on the "racist and homophobic taunts and jeers" - many such accounts of the day had already been proven to be incorrect, or based on half truths and exaggerations well before the Times editors hit the publish button. (They could benefit from the old military adage that first reports are always wrong.) As yet unclaimed rewards have subsequently been offered for proof of other allegations - I mention this by way of acknowledging awareness of related facts before moving along.
So that aside, the signs are very real, and they promise very real violence. Theirs is not a simple statement that Americans have a right to keep and bear arms. Given location and context there's no other reasonable interpretation of their message than this: if Senator Scott Brown can't stop the House of Representatives from passing the health care bill, we're going to start shooting. Yes, reasonable people will see the message is absurd, but combined with the second sign depicting a donkey "giving birth" to a Hitler-mustached (and presumably socialist) Obama, it's not unreasonable to be concerned that the promised shooting could be aimed at the President of the United States.
And there's good reason to take that threat seriously. While a true "gun nut" might speculate why a weapon other than a Browning (or at least a clearly identifiable model Browning) was chosen to illustrate the point, the finished product displays a dedication and commitment beyond that of the average Tea Party protestor (whose typically crude, hastily hand written posters are cited alternately as proof of "grass roots" activism or shadowy "astroturfing").
But whether you're a Tea Party sympathizer or not, whether you support the health care bill, Scott Brown, your political representatives, or your neighbor's right to a different opinion or not, you should want to know (as should the Secret Service) who made those posters, and who proudly displayed them at a raucous and emotional public demonstration. Whatever their political views may be, the vast majority of Americans should (at the least) not only denounce any call for political violence but demand that the identities of those who would make such a threat be exposed. Subsequent reports of increasing hostility in American political discourse have demonstrated that concerns for escalation are not unfounded, and shouldn't be dismissed.
In short: who are these people? Set aside your own political views and read on - perhaps you can help provide the answer.
The first picture above offers no clue - all we see is a sign against the backdrop of the US Capitol building. It first appeared on the Think Progress blog ("ThinkProgress attended today's rally and spotted a sign threatening violence...") at 4PM (Eastern) the day of the protest, and quickly "went viral" on internet sites frequented by those predisposed to disagree with the protesters. The lack of any protestors (or anything else, for that matter) in the image might lead those who require a bit more context/evidence before drawing conclusions to raise questions - but fortunately Think Progress was able to add another image - "Update, Cameron Brenchley caught another shot of the signs: "
And there we get our first glimpse of our potential shooters - along with a link to Cameron's flickr page, where (unfortunately) there are no additional images of our "heroes" to be found.
He could have more photos than what he's uploaded to his flickr page, of course. But other than what's above Think Progress doesn't reveal who Cameron Brenchley is. Fortunately, Cameron isn't as mysterious as the subjects of his photos. A quick Google search reveals he's a New Media Specialist for the U.S. House of Representatives, meaning that - among other things - he conducts blog outreach on behalf of the good folks who were inside the Capitol debating that bill. That's excellent news - even though he declared via his Twitter Feed that a different sign was the "Best tea-bag sign of day," any employee of the House of Representatives (and former US Air Force Staff Sergeant) will certainly recognize their responsibility to expose (and neutralize) the threat conveyed in those signs beyond the blogosphere - so that's no doubt been taken care of.
But while we can all certainly agree that this is something that requires an official investigation, and that no one is calling for any sort of vigilante justice here, as the good folks at Jawa Report have recently demonstrated in another high-profile case, we in the blogosphere can help. There are hundreds of photos and videos of the March 20 protests on line. See here, here, here, here, and here for some "starter sets." I've been looking through them for additional photos of these particular "patriots" in the crowd, but so far with little luck. It's worth noting that most of the larger galleries of photos are on sites inclined to be sympathetic to - if not part of - the Tea Party movement, so they might not want to include pictures of that nature. (I found one exception - more on that shortly.)
First, it's also worth noting that even in Cameron's photo the guys with the sign are fenced off from the other protestors. Here's a close up, click it for a full version.
It's unfortunate that the Huffington Post version linked here by the Washington Post cropped so much out of the bottom of that photo - between the two internet giants their many readers could have helped ID these guys rather than leaving everyone at the protest as a suspect. But besides seeing the fence and the faces under those signs, on examining the full version one can also note the smirking big shots are standing behind the crowd, with their signs pointing away from their fellow protestors and towards the camera. That's suspicious but not conclusive - perhaps they're simply on their way in. Or they're on the inside and the rest of the crowd isn't - who knows? I point it out only by way of saying it's already noted, and while the significance is open to interpretation it doesn't answer the central question of who these guys are.
And now on to the other pictures I've been able to find. One might truly be suspicious if the only photos captured of these potential killers were provided by a House "new media guy," but these examples are from a second shooter - I found them on the flickr page of someone who blogs as the Pittsford Patriot, and who appears to be (and almost certainly is) a Tea Party supporter.
That blog has several more videos of the protests, by the way - any of which could contain additional images of our suspects. But even with dozens more photos in the flikr page, these are the only images I found of these guys. In fact, they're the only other images I've found anywhere of these guys, though once again they aren't in the crowd. (And note that two are also in Cameron's picture, with a third possible, while a fourth - guy in black hat - is perhaps just an innocent bystander, there are no images of him holding one of the signs.)
So what do we have so far? Three (or maybe four, or five) guys on the fringes of a crowd toting signs that clearly advocate violence as a means to a political end. (Please spare me any argument that they're merely exercising their Constitutional rights.)
Here they are again, the best images I could find, enhanced as best as I could.
Repeat: that guy in the lower right corner might not be part of the group, and was perhaps just caught in the background of their photo.
Not much to go on, to be sure. So, are they "Tea Partiers"? Let me answer that one up front: I don't care. (Disclaimer: I don't even know what makes someone a "Tea Partier.") I wouldn't be shocked or surprised if these guys could make that claim - though it's worth noting that these guys' signage - in message or quality - absolutely isn't "typical" of the hundreds of others I've seen online. Likewise if I wanted to discredit the Tea Partiers (or foment violence against them) I would have to invent these guys if they didn't exist. Since either possibility leads to violence - which I absolutely oppose - I can honestly state that's why I don't care if they're Tea Partiers or "plants". These guys advocate violence, and I've spent my adult life helping to ensure domestic tranquility.
The question is who are they? The internet is a big place, and somewhere out there in the wide, wide world someone knows the answer. Besides the Browning Boys themselves I can't think of anyone - regardless of political affiliation and whether they are in, out, for, opposed, or indifferent to the Tea Party - who wouldn't rather know exactly who these fellows are. That's especially obvious given that they've helped touch off an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, and insecurity throughout the country - if that New York Times editorial quoted above isn't example enough, (or the Washington Post coverage, or this AP report) do a web search for "If Brown can't stop it a Browning can" or "Tea Party signs gun violence" to see just how extensive their reach has been. But curiously enough, in spite of widespread attention (and "wariness" among House members) no one anywhere seems to be concerned over who exactly is calling for violence - even though their images have been captured. For many, "Tea Partiers" seems to be answer enough.
So, you know what I know. I now call for an assist. Does anyone know who these guys are? Say so - expose them. Got a link to more photos of these guys? Want to send me more photos of our suspects? Please do. Leave a comment below (refresh the page immediately before commenting so the damn captcha isn't timed out - sorry) or email me at greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com. (Speaking of comments, don't bother turning this thread into a discussion of the rightness or wrongness of health care, the President, Congress, or the Tea Party - that's OFF TOPIC and I'll delete as soon as I can, as I will any posted addresses or phone numbers of "suspects".) If you can't contribute more intel, do what you can to spread the word - maybe you'll reach someone who can. Click the share button below, spread the word via Twitter Facebook, email, or whatever. Write your own blog post, I'll link it. Steal mine and re-post it.
Who knows, maybe together we can solve a great mystery here. Can't hurt to try, right?
And... update: here's one better photo (via email from Marooned in Marin) already:
Marooned in Marin attended the protest (more photos/video here), and has been following the multiple reports of threats and violence since.
And good information coming in via email from folks who were there. Many thanks!.
Posted by Greyhawk / March 29, 2010 3:39 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com