Media People

Roseanne Barr vs. Joy Reid: When the Media Dumpster Dives

I hadn’t planned on writing another piece on the Joy Reid old weblog posts. I made the point that the Wayback Machine doesn’t guarantee authenticity, which too many people mistook to mean that I was undermining the Wayback Machine’s integrity. Then I made others unhappy when I agreed with the Daily Beast’s take that it was *unlikely Joy Reid’s posts were hacked.

Discussing the topic is just a lose/lose, and frankly, I felt it was much ado about nothing. Yes, nothing. Twelve year old weblog posts, published back in a time when we were all much more casual about our weblog writing  pales as a subject compared to, say, discovering that Hurricane Maria killed over 4,600 people in Puerto Rico.

But in the wake of the Roseanne Barr Twitter implosion, publications feel they have to find some form of ‘balanced’ news coverage, so they dumpster dived, yet again, into Reid’s weblog, which is back online at the Wayback Machine.

Media People

The Daily Beast Investigation of Joy Reid’s Claims

The Daily Beast investigated the claims of Joy Reid’s ‘cyber expert’ and found that most could not be substantiated. I, myself, am less than enamored with Jonathan Nichol’s claims. For being an expert, he doesn’t seem to know very much.

And therein lies, I suspect, the seeds of this whole event: lots of writing over the years, memory, and bad tech advice.

At the end of the Daily Beast writeup, Kevin Poulson wrote:

If she wasn’t hacked, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Reid is lying. Her decision to hire a security consultant to investigate the posts, and a lawyer to demand the access logs for her blog account, suggests she genuinely believes at least some of the posts were planted. After 12 years and tens of thousands of written words, Reid simply may not remember.

It’s possible that in the end Reid will discover her adversary isn’t a determined hacker, but a far more dogged foe: The Joy-Ann Reid of years past, writing in a voice she can no longer recognize as her own.

I’ll have more to say in a later piece on what it means to be a writer putting yourself online, especially over the years. For now, I think that the Daily Beast has an accurate read on what’s happened.

I’ve had considerable pushback on Twitter related to my writing about Reid, the Wayback Machine, and authenticity. What I find ironic is that so many who condemn Reid the loudest post anonymously on Twitter. They want to hold Reid accountable for her past writing, while they, themselves, hide behind a bush.

In the meantime, Library of Congress has a backup of some (not all) of Reid’s past posts. BernieBros and the far right gleefully pick and choose snippets they can post in the most damning light, but if you want to know the Reid of long ago, you need to read all of her writing. Then maybe you’ll drop that stone you hold so easily in your hand.


History Media People

The Joy Reid Saga: The Wayback Machine cannot guarantee authenticity

Recently, Mediaite posted screen shots captured by a Twitter user who goes by the name of Not a Bot that seemingly showed several homophobic comments made on a now defunct weblog by MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid. Reid replied that her weblog had been hacked and several articles modified by unknown parties. The media has responded by digging up an apology Reid made late last year about homophobic comments she had made in the past, which seemingly contradicts her claim of being hacked.

People Political

From the tragedy of a mass shooting to a new hope for the future

“Shooting reported at school”

You read the words in Twitter and feel your shoulders drop, your head lower, and you don’t want to hear any more, but you want to hear everything.

The scenarios run through your head. “A teacher accidentally shot themselves in the foot.” “One kid was showing another a gun he found at home and it accidentally discharged.” “Troubled teen kills himself.”

“A shooter entered the school and killed several people using an AR-15 and a high capacity magazine.”

It’s almost overwhelming when you realize that you’re hoping you’ll read about some troubled kid killing him or herself, because you don’t want to read the alternative.  But it was not to be on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.



I was disappointed to see Kathy Sierra leave Twitter, but respect her decision to do so. I read her writing about why she left, but I also dug through past Twitter postings with the individual she references, Rob Graham. Twitter is not the best of places for thoughtful discussion when parties agree, but it is especially bad when two people have views that are diametrically opposed.

I knew the people involved with Kathy’s original leaving years ago. Or I should say, I knew a group of people who got conflated with others in a case of rotten timing.

Three different events happened in the same period.

1. A group of people wanted to start a site where people could speak freely, even critically. Abusive, childish photos were posted related to Kathy, as well as racist comments made about another well known woman in the tech community. The site was immediately shut down by the originators. Rogers Cadenhead wrote a good summary of this event.

2. In comments to a weblog post Kathy posted, a man suggested the worst, most violent act be committed on Kathy. Later, we discovered he was a British ex-pat who lived in Spain.

3. Another individual posted personal information about Kathy, including her Social Security Number and address. He did so in a highly fabricated context, making the act that much worse. In a 2008 New York Times article, a man who goes by the name “weev” took credit for the posting. Weev’s real name is Andrew Auernheimer. Auernheimer also took credit for the posting in an article for Esquire.

Individually, these three acts would be enough to stress any individual, but coming at the same time, it could feel like a conspiracy to the impacted person. But it was not a conspiracy. Each was an individual act, not some form of black internet ops of the unknowns against the famous. It is important to understand that the acts were independent of each other.

Andrew “weev” Auernheimer was arrested and convicted for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) for an unrelated incident, but was exonerated and released earlier this year. He was somewhat of a cause célèbre in tech and transparency circles, where the CFAA is universally loathed. Understandably, Kathy was less than happy about the celebration of a man who claimed responsibility for a posting that caused her so much pain.

Fast forward to recent events. October 4, Rob Graham, who tweets as ErrataRob got into a Twitter discussion with Kathy Sierra (@seriouspony) and other individuals. I managed to capture a PDF of the tweets and replies, though by this time Kathy’s tweets are gone. You’ll have to dig through the recent postings until you get to the right day (October 4). The links to conversations work, so you can expand the discussions if you wish.

Graham believes, strongly, that weev was incorrectly prosecuted for violations of the CFAA. Evidently, one or more individuals expressed an opinion to Graham that weev should be jailed for what happened to Kathy. He disagrees with this because, as he later wrote. “there is no evidence supporting such a conviction”.

As I pointed out on Twitter, we can’t believe Weev either way. He is notoriously unreliable. We can’t trust his denials today, but at the same time, we can’t trust his statements from 2008. As I pointed out on Twitter, Weev has claimed credit for trolls that he was at best only peripherally involved in. Yet, Kathy Sierra insultingly claims this means I somehow believe Weev.

Kathy wrote of her reaction:

But a few days ago, in the middle of one of those “discussions”, this time with @erratarob, I realized it wasn’t worth it. He concluded that I was just trolling so people would troll me back. I asked him what he thought I should have done. And his answer was “don’t feed the trolls.” “Ignore it and move on.” Perhaps Rob didn’t know that I’d already tried that for six years, but that it was weev who kept that damn thing alive no matter how gone I was. He managed to tweet to my social security number not long before he went to prison, and well before I resurfaced. No, I didn’t troll him into that. I didn’t “engage”.

But Rob didn’t do anything wrong. He was saying what he truly believes. What, sadly, a whole lot of people in tech believe. Rob just happened to be the last “you asked for it” message I wanted to hear. So I just stopped.

What Graham had said was:

@seriouspony you are a passive-aggressive troll, a different kind of troll than weev’s naked aggression, but a troll nonetheless.

Graham stated he politely responded to Kathy’s Twitter posts; I can’t quite see the politeness in this response. Regardless, it’s important to understand the context of Kathy’s “you asked for it”.

Rob Graham and Kathy Sierra approached this Twitter discussion from positions that are black and white. Graham doesn’t believe weev’s claims, and definitely doesn’t believe that weev should be prosecuted for something without proof. Kathy believes the claims weev made in the past, and while she isn’t advocating jail time for him, she is not happy with the acclaim weev is receiving in tech circles. There is no middle ground, no gray area where they can meet and find some commonality.

This really is the end of the story. Rob Graham did not drive Kathy off of Twitter, the web, or the internet. Kathy decided Twitter was not a healthy place for her, and she left. They disagree on whether weev is the man responsible for the posting of her personal information. They disagree in how trolls should be handled.

There is no need of a posse. Nothing needs to be done about this specific event. No change needs to be made, and no larger story needs to be told.

That tech women have been the recipients of harassment is a larger story, and continues to be written. The never ending flow of naughty boys and girls who infest our online lives is another larger story, and I don’t see an ending for this one. But the exchange between Kathy and Rob is not a chapter in either story. It’s just two people who don’t know each other and who profoundly disagree discovering no number of 140 character or less posts will change these circumstances.

If you respect and/or care for the individuals, you should support them whatever the cause of pain and discomfort, but that doesn’t mean you have to find someone to hang over the nearest branch. Not every difficult event that happens to people we care about requires a posse.