Update: Mary, Mary, Where Are You Going?
CNSNews.com defends John Lott again and makes a curious claim about Mary Rosh. Plus: The ConWeb on an executed anti-abortion extremist, Joseph Farah's people-who-need-to-be-killed list grows, a then-and-now starring WND and Dennis Miller, and more.
By Terry Krepel
CNSNews.com spent a few days in August rushing to the defense of pro-gun researcher John Lott after a Web site called "AskJohnLott.org" popped up in an ad on Google.
Well, rushing once more is a more accurate term. And "defense" is actually too mild of one. "Gun Statistics Expert John Lott Victim of Identity Theft" was how the headline on an Aug. 4 story read. The final quarter of the story is mostly devoted to reciting federal fraud laws (an Aug. 8 story recounting a "denial of service" attack against CNS' own web site doesn't detail any laws that were potentially broken). Much of the (quite unintentionally funny) rest of it recounts attempts to contact the people behind the site via phone and e-mail.
The story gets odder. A CNS story two days later notes that the site added a disclaimer claiming the site was a parody (along with recounting federal laws against fraud and "cyberpiracy"). The same day, another story reports that the parody site "was allegedly the target of illegal hacking Tuesday night by an unidentified person or group supportive of the Second Amendment" as well as Lott himself questioning the claim. (As of this writing, AskJohnLott.org was still in operation.)
The most intriguing part of this little tempest in a teapot, though, is the whole Mary Rosh angle.
Mary Rosh, of course, is an Internet pseudonym Lott has used in the past. The owner of the AskJohnLott.org domain claims to be Mary Rosh, and the parody site's author dares Lott to sue "Rosh" for identity theft.
Here's how Jeff Johnson, the CNS reporter on the fake-Lott-Web-site beat, described the Rosh question in his first story: "... an apparently sarcastic reference to the pseudonym 'Mary Rosh,' which Lott began using in Internet chat rooms discussing his work after receiving harassing and even threatening telephone calls from participants in the chats." Rosh was described similarly in Johnson's second story, but an Aug. 12 story by Johnson that attempts to nail down the parody culprit further adds this: "Critics say Lott used the fake persona to bolster his image and shore up his reputation. Lott has admitted that adopting the alter ego was a mistake."
Johnson offers no attribution for his description of Lott's usage of Rosh as a response to threats, but the harassing-phone-calls angle has never come up in any previous reporting on the issue. Not by Slate's Timothy Noah, who quotes Lott as saying he used it "so that, if he fails to answer a response, it won't be interpreted as 'me conceding things.'" Not by the Washington Post, who quotes Lott as saying he used to use his own name in online chats, "but you just get into really emotional things with people. You also run into other problems," but he doesn't say harassing phone calls was one of them. Not even the weblogger who received missives from "Rosh" and made the connection between Rosh and Lott.
Either Lott is changing his story, or CNS' Johnson is pulling something out of thin air -- not unlike an accusation against Lott himself that he lacks the supporting data for a claim in one of his books that "98 percent of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack." (See the Slate article for details.)
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The ConWeb was rather quiet last year when anti-abortion extremist James Kopp admitted that he murdered an abortion doctor, but they had a little more to say about another extremist, Paul Hill, as he neared execution in Florida for the same offense.
CNSNews.com started somewhat inauspiciously on Aug. 26 (a search of the CNS archives shows no mention of Hill before this) with an article whose point was to criticize Florida's Catholic bishops for issuing a statement opposing Hill's execution while not saying anything about Terri Schiavo, a severely disabled woman (and current ConWeb cause celebre) whose husband is battling her relatives over removing her feeding tube; the bishops issued a statement on Schiavo three days later. CNS also had a couple of articles on Hill's religious links and how his acts affect the anti-abortion movement; one main point was to beat up on a group called the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice "for identifying itself as a religious organization at the same time it advocates for abortion," and the other is more or less balanced but seems to be designed to make the point of condemning Hill's behavior.
If that point was only hinted at previously, it was unavoidable in one final Hill story on CNS, about an "Internet survey" in which 66 percent of the respondents thought Hill's actions "hurt the pro-life movement," while eight percent said they think it helped the movement. Problem is, that "survey" was an opt-in poll on the CNS Web site; at least the story admits that the numbers "represent the opinions of those reading the Internet newswire and the survey is not considered scientific." Nor, the story written by CNS executive editor Scott Hogenson should have added, is an opt-in poll necessarily reflective of actual reality given the ease by which they can be manipulated.
* * *
WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah has quite an enemies list going.
He wants to kill adulterers and muzzle any entertainer to the left of Charlton Heston. He also wants to impeach the "Sodomy 6" -- the members of the U.S. Supreme Court who voted in favor of overturning a Texas law making homosexual sex illegal.
And it just keeps getting longer. The latest entry in Farah's must-be-killed category: Yasser Arafat.
"I say don't expel him ... shoot him," he writes in his Sept. 12 column. "If he lives, others die. It's time to take out Arafat permanently."
No wonder he defended (and publishes the books of) Michael Savage after he told a caller to "get AIDS and die." Perhaps Farah should be reminded what a bad thing killing one's perceived political opponents was when Stalin was doing it.
* * *
Scoop of the month at WorldNetDaily: Joseph Farah himself penned an article on how Michael Moore's film "Bowling for Columbine" allegedly violated a technical rule on screenings and should therefore be stripped of its Academy Award for best documentary.
This dovetails nicely with a conservative campaign to revoke Moore's Oscar for alleged fabrications in the movie.
So, should this be considered a new addition to Farah's enemies list, or does he merely fall under the "entertainer to the left of Charlton Heston who must be muzzled" category?
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"Dennis Miller is a foul-mouthed, profane, unfunny jerk. His constituency, as ABC will soon find out, is extremely narrow. More to the point, as a so-called comedian, he is every bit as political as Rush Limbaugh just not so nearly well-informed."
-- Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily, June 26, 2000
"During an appearance on last night's 'Tonight Show with Jay Leno,' comedian Dennis Miller unleashed a torrent of political humor aimed at Democrats who he says 'are going to hell in a handbasket.'"
-- WorldNetDaily story, Sept. 10