(Originally published as my final story on Examiner.com)
The progressive web site "AlterNet", which gets 3 million visitors a month, published a story Sunday that takes Operation Burn Notice and other phony websites dedicated to interfering in the legal gathering of petitions in the Wisconsin effort to recall Scott Walker and exposes them to the glaring light of day.
The story, Bullies, Liars and Impostors: How Facebook and Go Daddy Shield Scott Walker's Online Guerillas pays particular attention to the activities of the Facebook page known as Operation Burn Notice and takes Facebook to task for allowing them to call for illegal activities in violation of the Facebook Terms of Service (TOS).
Where the fake Occupy Madison site was insidious in its aims, the Facebook page for Operation Burn Notice boldly calls for the burning of recall petitions in snarky posts peppered with photos of giant fires and abusive comments for any who dares to challenge them. The profile picture for the site is a hand formed of fire, flipping the bird.
The destruction of petitions is a Class I felony in Wisconsin, punishable by 3-1/2 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Moreover, in Wisconsin, inciting a crime or being a co-conspirator, is also against the law. But despite numerous complaints, Facebook has allowed the page to post each day for at least 10 days.
Tom Parent, never mentioned as an administrator or anything more than just an admitted participant in the OBN postings, threatened to sue me and Examiner.com when I posted a picture of Parent with the caption, "Tom Parent, who at least has the intestinal fortitutde to use his own name on the site, is seen here in a tender moment, holding a baby."
Parent wrote to the legal department of Examiner.com (owned by the conservative Anschultz/Clarity group) and threatened legal action for being "defamed" by this photograph. Instead of checking with me, the author of the story, to determine whether or not Parent had actually BEEN defamed, the Examiner sent a written apology to the Operation Burn Notice folks, who immediately posted a picture of it on their site as proof of their might and power at controlling the situation. The "suits" at the Denver office of Examiner.com folded faster than Superman on laundry day. Never in my professional life has an organization I either wrote or broadcast for been so quick to sell my credibility down the river, and I will not miss writing for this organization. Not one bit.
After the OBN posted the Examiner cave-in notice, OBN turned their atttention and hatred on to me, personally.
I was interviewed by one of the writers of the story, Adele M. Stan.
Schmalfeldt himself, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, found himself on the receiving end of merciless taunting by the OBN crowd, who derided everything from his weight to the scars on his head (the result of experimental surgery he had to address his illness). A hole was added to an artist's rendering of what an X-Ray of Homer Simpson's skull might look like, and posted to the page with the caption, "Inspector Jiggly after his last procedure." A more recent post shows a man putting a gun to his own head, with the caption: "This hour is brought to you by the CURE FOR PARKINSON'S DISEASE."
"It's a bunch of middle-aged Republicans who think they're doing their party a favor by pretending to, or actually, gathering petitions and burning them," Schmalfeldt told AlterNet in a telephone interview. He said he initially "thought it was just a bunch of kids...until I determined that one of these guys (Tom Parent) [owns] a trucking company in New Richmond, Wisconsin."
The story on AlterNet concludes with this call to action.
In Wisconsin, a request by a district attorney to Facebook to investigate sites that appear to be in violation of the state's election code would likely, in the case of Operation Burn Notice, spell the end of the page and perhaps unmask the administrators. In the case of the fake Occupy Madison site, Go Daddy's Ben Butler told us that if a law enforcement entity asserted that a site appeared to violate election code, that would amount to a terms-of-service violation, ending Go Daddy's identity shield for the site administrators.
With Wisconsin's government watchdogs not yet making such requests, the responsibility falls to citizens to inundate Facebook and Go Daddy with complaints, which may or may not be answered.
"The bottom line," (Graeme Zielinski, communications director for the Wisconsin Democratic Party) said, "is that this is a curtain of hysteria that Scott Walker Republicans are trying to throw over the process and waste energy from people in the movement, and also serve their long-term ends...This is the playbook."
As for me?
I... am... OUTTA HERE!
(Thank you for your support. I continue to blog at my home site and for Hub Pages.)
Edited to change my signature. And this is NOT a GBCW diary! The OUTTA HERE reference refers to the fact that I published this piece as my final work for Examiner.com.