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Sunday, September 16, 2007

OH-05 GOP: JMZ Creates Timeline Of Gay Candidate 'Outing' Via Ohio Blogs

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Was it the politics of personal destruction? Or merely an open -- but not widely known -- lifestyle fact spread like a prairie wildfire across the Ohio blogosphere? And the biggest unanswered question of all: Who wrote the "anonymous" comment about Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown's sexual orientation? Who unleashed the Furies? Any half-wit can surmise the motivation: Anonymous intended to destroy Brown's OH-05 candidacy some 24 hours after his initial public comment about running for the vacant NW Ohio congressional district. And anonymous was incredibly successful. The poison pen comment led Brown to say he was a gay man holding elected office as an Ohio Republican, an office he still hopes to keep. Brown won't be running for OH-05.

Jill Miller Zimon has constructed a timeline that traces some of the more significant twists in the episode from its start to the place where it is now currently stalled in the Ohio blogosphere. She says the outing of Tim Brown of Bowling Green shows the powerful influence that blogs can exercise in Ohio politics. Others might be thinking toxic influence. Still others might be thinking his candidacy for Congress and his personal privacy were swallowed whole by the vast storage space now available on computer chips and the explosion of information tossed hither and yon by search engines. She does not speak of the responsibility that comes with yoking influence to search engines --or used to come with influence before the age of search engines.

And she does not attempt to answer the uber question -- who started the rumor? (People are working on that, and Jill at Writes Like She Talks is probably tapping into her political sources, too.) Soon, she and others must address the current status of the Ohio political universe, an edgy universe where anonymous rumor has the gravity of fact. This is not criticism of Jill, nor of any blogger, including yours truly. It is simply meant to note that events unfolded so quickly amid the hyperlinks, so damn quickly amid the hyperlinks, that nobody has yet been able to comprehend their roles or the greater meaning of the episode.

According to JMZ, lawyer Scott Pullins who publishes The Pullins Report first noticed the comment some two hours after it was posted Friday morning. There is no suggestion Pullins is "anonymous" -- he was observant and picked up on the Tim Brown comment first. From there it metastasized. It was a drama, a mystery, a whodunit. Now it needs a super sleuth, a Sherlock Holmes to find who unleashed the hounds.


  1. Anatomy of a Comment. :)

    Yeah, you know - I won't be sleuthing who was the commenter. I can only tell you, now that I've switched to Wordpress, you can get IP addresses really easily. As it turns out, Jeff Coryell is out of town, since late Thursday so it's very unlikely that the IP of that comment could be known very quickly or easily. But for sure, if people want to trace such stuff, there are ways.

    I have a very difficult time understanding why people do stuff like the anonymous commenter did. I've written this a zillion times: if you feel so strongly about something, why on earth wouldn't you WANT to be identified with that ideology? Why would you go into hiding - surely you shouldn't be embarrassed by it, right?

    So - I don't get it.

    I actually wish that Tom Brown would run because of that comment. And that people would vote for him because of that comment.

    As I think I wrote or should have, we will never know if the anonymous person would have found another venue for the outing. But I think we know that there are people who, if they really want to destroy someone, they will find a way.

    So - I think the interesting note here is that a blog comment was used, on a blog that is well-read by people in the know, but not so much by people in general, I think (Jeff could say more about that), as the vehicle for this outing.

    Given how people say, "No one reads blogs," it is curious, don't you think, that the impact has been as strong as it has?

  2. Ohio Daily blog is the only one who would be able to see his site meter stats and see where the person who left the anonymous comment came from, it's doubtful whoever it was would come forward anyway.

    Even if someone stated they were the one that would be the only way to confirm or deny.

  3. Hi Jill --

    Yes, Jeff has been unavailable for the last several hours over this weekened. I am anxious to see and read how he analyzes what has happened. Should comments be moderated before they appear on a political blog? That is one of the issues I'd like to see addressed. Or, perhaps, this should not have been an issue at all., What difference does gender, race, religion, national origin really make when one seeks political office? Doesn't ideology trump all that . . .

  4. Hi Lisa Renee --

    Yes, I agree the anonymous commenter won't come forward voluntarilty. that's why the comment was posted under "anonmymous."

    And yes, I imagine that it can be traced back somehow, assuming there was not an effort to cover tracks or an agreement to keep the poster's identity undisclosed. I don't know what Jeff Coryell knows, or has agreed to keep between himself and his commenters. He has been out of town this weekend, as Jill has noted and I have heard from others on Friday. I do think he holds the key to what more we wil learn -- and if there is no confidentiality agreement I hope he spills alls. I am queasy about what happened to Tim Brown and don't think it was quite fair he was targeted for anonymous character assassinatio, even though his character was honest and interested in public service. Why, and how, could sexual orientation outweigh any of that?

  5. Hi Jill --

    I just reread your comment. I'm curious. Why aren't you interested in knowing who spread the rumor about Tim Brown? Isn't the source as important as the information? (Think Cheney saying that Al Qaeda met with Saddam's guys in Pragu, a shaky story we now know.) You often speak about the role bloggers play as information sources (I avoided saying journalists). Is not not discovering the source of this information really important? I mean that saying who did it should shed light on why it was done.

    Again, no criticism, just trying to start a conversation. Why don't you care who posted this anonymously -- or if that is too strong -- why aren't you trying to find out who did it? I assume you are interested in the answers.

    Anyhow, not critical, emphasize not critical. But I wonder why you expressed so little interest in trying to determine the source.
    Wish, like you, Tim Brown had run and said to hell with the jerks.

  6. Thankfully it didn't happen on my blog, but I do keep the identity of those who post anonymousily...anonymous.

    There have been a few times when a person or persons have tried to post in agreement with themselves on the blog and I've let them nicely know that it's not a smart thing to do since ip information is so easily available with the way I have my blog set up.

    I'm not a fan of moderated comments, I think they cut down on discussion because if people are visiting while you are not there to be able to monitor the discussion, they have to wait until you approve the comment. I realize others disagree with that, but that's my own personal opinion.

    It was more than just the anonymous comment that created the controversy, it was the blogs blogging about it that gave it more attention than what it probably would have garnered on it's own. So I guess for me the real question is should we as a blogosphere help promote anonymous comments that could very well have been posted with the ulterior motive of trying to stop someone from running and should a person not run just because of an anonymous comment...

    I think this situation was good to blog about because the majority of those who have discussed this on my blog and other blogs out there have been more in support of Tim Brown and his right to not have his sexual orientation be the issue. Of course there have been exceptions and it appears the media would prefer to make it appear that the big bad blogs were mean rather than point out the reality.

  7. ok - I'm told that my long comment that I left last night got eaten so here's a reconstruction:

    What I wrote was, "I won't be sleuthing who was the commenter."

    What I meant was:

    1. Practically speaking, since it didn't happen on my blog, I have almost no ability to find out who left the comment.

    2. The fact that someone left that info, and left it anonymously seems to be the salient issue and most connected to the impact that the info has had on the present and possibly the future.

    3. I'm interested in how it is that the info, left on a communication tool that is so often maligned, affected a change in a politician's decision to run for office so incredibly quickly. Would it have been the same if the info was revealed in a different medium?

    And if the person who left the info chose to be anonymous, why didn't he or she trust any other communications medium to do the same - people can call papers and be anonymous.

    No offense taken at all - very reasonable question, Bill.

  8. I think you are oddly fixated on this subject.