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October 11, 2004

Time To Get A New Number, Steve

Daniel Okrent, the New York Times Public Editor, on the level of political debate this year. (lvk)

But before I turn over the podium, I do want you to know just how debased the level of discourse has become. When a reporter receives an e-mail message that says, "I hope your kid gets his head blown off in a Republican war," a limit has been passed.

That's what a coward named Steve Schwenk, from San Francisco, wrote to national political correspondent Adam Nagourney several days ago because Nagourney wrote something Schwenk considered (if such a person is capable of consideration) pro-Bush. Some women reporters regularly receive sexual insults and threats. As nasty as critics on the right can get (plenty nasty), the left seems to be winning the vileness derby this year. Maybe the bloggers who encourage their readers to send this sort of thing to The Times might want to ask them instead to say it in public. I don't think they'd dare.

I don't know if this is the right Steve Schwenk or not, but I suspect he's about to get a quick--and harsh--education in Internet privacy issues, as Google has indexed his email, work phone # and steet address.

Everyone should have a blog, if only for the education one gets in privacy issues. I once outed the identity of the Fusilier Pundit entirely by accident, and a blogger of the Left once devoted a fair amount of time to an attempt at digging up information on me. As I'm only a pseudonymous blogger, rather than an anonymous one, this should have been easy, but she was (and remains), kind of a dumbass.

No I shan't tell you who, though the Hraka old timers will be able to guess easily enough. It's like invoking the name of the Prince of Darkness--probably nothing will happen, but you never know.

Since then I've gotten somewhat more proactive about keeping personal info off the web--not such much out of fear that people will call up and start cursing at me as out of the fear of what the Sainted Wife will say to me if someone calls up and starts cursing at her.

What I've done is to set Google to trawl through its list of indexed pages once a day, and to email me if my name pops up on a search. I've done the same for the wife's name, our social security numbers, home address and all of the family's phone numbers. I almost never get an email, but when I do, it's usually something I can live with, or get rid of.

I'm not so foolish to think that a truly dedicated person couldn't track me down--but I'm fairly sure I'm beyond the reach of the average user.

No, that's not a challenge.

Postscript: Surely Daniel Okrent is as savvy on Internet privacy issues as I am--not to mention he has to possess an intimate knowledge of the power and popularity of the Times. It's hard to see the publication of Mr. Schwenk's name as any more than a tidbit thrown to the mob in the full knowledge and expectation that they will tear him to shreds. Isn't that the type of behavior the media is always accusing us unedited and overly biased bloggers of exhibiting?

Other takes on the Okrent column; Powerline, The OmbudsGod, and Beldarblog

Update: Steve Schwenk responds to Okrent, over at the Buzz Machine (lvi) and in the NYT forums

Posted by Bigwig at October 11, 2004 11:27 AM | TrackBack
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.

Actually, given Mr. Okrent's knowledge and experience, a case could be made that throwing that tidbit to the mob was exactly his intent. If if anything ill were to happen to Steve, I wouldn't be suprised at an Endangerment lawsuit. Or at least reckless / irresponsible behavior.

Posted by: _Jon at October 11, 2004 04:00 PM

Thanks for the note about Google Alerts. I didn't realize it existed, so now I'm down for three free searches a day. Can't be too careful.

Posted by: Bill Peschel at October 11, 2004 04:36 PM

Actually, as aware as Mr Okrent is supposed to be, I presume he knows which side is more likley to engage in politically motivated violence. He probably figures Mr Schwenk is safe enough.

Posted by: veng at October 11, 2004 04:52 PM

"Actually, as aware as Mr Okrent is supposed to be, I presume he knows which side is more likley to engage in politically motivated violence. He probably figures Mr Schwenk is safe enough."

Oh, really? Hmm.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at October 11, 2004 05:13 PM

(Better link for that last one.)

Posted by: Jim Treacher at October 11, 2004 05:18 PM

Uh, Jim? Yes, Mr. Schwenk is probably safe. He's going after Nagourney because Schwenk thinks Nagourney is too *conservative.* Which means Schwenk is way way wayyy to the left.

Since the left is executing this years Crystalnacht, Mr. Schwenk isn't their target.

I had hopes for Mr. Okrent. 'Scuse me while I give them a courtesy flush.

Posted by: Richard R at October 11, 2004 05:43 PM

Okrent did the right thing. If more cowards who send messages like this are exposed in like manner, there will be fewer of them.

Posted by: Dexter Westbrook at October 11, 2004 07:00 PM

Uh... wait, which one is left?

Posted by: Jim Treacher at October 11, 2004 09:44 PM

They both are. Steve's just farther down the spectrum--so much so that Adam looks like a conservative to him.

Posted by: Bigwig at October 11, 2004 09:57 PM

Doesn't the Google search for yourself in a way deposit the information you want out of the public sphere, uh, into the public sphere?
Not a rhetorical question.

Posted by: Fûz at October 11, 2004 10:27 PM

I don't think so, Fuz. The only way would be if Google cached all the search requests they got--which I suppose is theoretically possible, but seems like way too much trouble. I think it would also be hideously expensive in terms of storage

Posted by: Bigwig at October 12, 2004 10:10 AM

No, I mean which hand? [looks from one to the other and back again] Me like candy.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at October 12, 2004 01:13 PM

Actually, I suspect Nagourney is a democrat and a metrosexual liberal type. My big beef with him is his sloppiness in reporting really important stuff. And how he approaches it as well. My e-mail to him concerned his reporting on the "Mission Accomplished" fiasco. He reported in that story that Bush never said "Mission Accomplished." He most certainly did, and I sent the flim clip and quote to Adam and explained his reporting was sloppy and misleading.

Why is this important. Because that moment captures so much symbolically. Bush is either a bold war time presidnet or he is a fraud whose image is all fakery and stage set bull s. His presidency rises or falls on how one interperts that "Mission Accomplished" symbolism. And Nagourney, through sloppiness or otherwise, was effecting an orwellian re-write of that historic moment. Sloppiness matters. It was sloppy reporting by the Times that permitted us to go to war for no reason. They admit theire pre-war stories were defective and wrong and based on lies and fabrications they never should have fallen for, but did. When they screw up big time like that, young kids die for it.

Posted by: Steve Schwenk at October 13, 2004 12:52 PM

P.S. I am not a coward. Cowards don't put themselves at risk fighting for things they believe in. Or take big, devastating hits and continue fighting on.

Posted by: Steve Schwenk at October 13, 2004 12:57 PM
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