Government & Politics
 

Hey, all you bloggers out there: Any word from Perricone lately?

Ouroboros: the beast that devours its tail. Wikipedia

To “Jack,” an open letter:

Many thanks for your comment on my Dec. 11 column about U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s resignation. Your overarching message seems to be that Letten’s disgraced former assistant Sal Perricone really did nothing wrong in commenting publicly on federal cases the office was handling.

Informed feedback from readers is always welcome. I tried replying to the email address associated with your username, Jack, but it was a dud. On a wild whim, I even tried an alternate address—that of Sal Perricone, himself. I thought he might have a forwarding address for you. No reply.  Bummer.

I’m hopeful you’ll see this post, because I have so many follow-up questions.

First, I agree with you about the First Amendment. Let a million thought-flowers bloom—even if some aren’t so pretty. I’d wager Perricone, who commented online as HenryL.Mencken1951, would agree.

And look! A user named Jack also wrote a comment about free speech at the Slabbed blog, whose publisher Doug Handshoe recently won an “historic SPEECH Act” victory in court.  That comment appeared on Dec. 17, just as yours did at The Lens. It appears that you get around, doesn’t it, Jack?

Those internet sites are fun, freewheeling places. Or at least they used to be. Did you see what Jason Berry at the American Zombie wrote? Here’s a bit of it:

I said back in March when this [U.S. Attorney] commenting scandal first broke … I smell a rat.  I am now choking on that stench.  I’m not even suggesting that the stench is coming from the T-P newsroom, especially considering the disdain the T-P staff had for their online presence before the reboot, but I am suggesting there is something rotten in the brave Newhouse world.

Whatever the source of the smell, longtime nola.com commenters tell me that “the rumor that nola.com gave up commenters’ info to Heebe has become endemic.” I’ve disagreed with Berry about whether River Birch Landfill owner Fred Heebe needed inside information to identify the nola.com handles of federal prosecutors like Perricone. (He didn’t. Perricone’s style stands out like Mt. McKinley in a cornfield.) But that’s an argument about logical form rather than a dispute over Berry’s conclusions. The larger issues involve identity, anonymity, free speech, and, yes,  journalism. If the upheaval in the U.S. Attorney’s office was the top local political story of 2012, the emerging nola.com commenter story—disclosures about who said what and when—might well become the talk of 2013.

Hey, Jack, what did you make of Berry’s thoughts about using wi-fi internet provider addresses and security cameras to identify “users of interest” in, say, hotel lobbies? A pretty Orwellian scenario, to be sure. Do you think Berry, a documentary filmmaker, pulled that example out of the blue? Either way, the nexus of virtual surveillance (of internet providers) and actual physical surveillance (via security cams) is a rather chilling intersection. But I’m sure it will all be integrated soon, for our “convenience” and “safety.”

Jack, in your Lens comment you defended Perricone and disparaged “innuendo-laden” reporting about the U.S. Attorney’s office. But you also wrote something—it might even be called an innuendo—I haven’t seen asserted anywhere else:

Yes, I have sources too—and very good ones. Perricone did the right thing from day one. He fessed up and didn’t dissemble one bit. Letten is a different story and his actions deserve scrutiny, which probably did him in.

Well, I’ll try to help out with your request for more scrutiny of Letten, but I’m afraid I’ll look a bit obsessed about the topic. Then you wrote:

If anyone lied, it had to be the coverup and not the initial revelation back in March. What I hear, Letten protect (sic) a few people, while disgarding (sic) others. DOJ couldn’t stomach that and that is why he was removed.

Jack, are you saying that Perricone resigned, even though he believed he had done nothing wrong, while colleagues like former First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann (among others) stayed silent and engaged in a coverup? The popular (and still sympathetic) interpretation of events is that former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten made false statements because he was misled by his aides. But you seem to be claiming Letten dissembled too, and participated in the cover up to protect favored members of his staff—i.e. Jan Mann—who didn’t “fess up” and quickly resign, like the noble Perricone. (Drats. And here I was ready to push for Letten to become the next NOPD superintendent. However lucrative his new law firm job is, you know it doesn’t motivate him like public service.)

To me, it seems as if Perricone delights in innuendo. In our next conversation, Jack, we’ll have to review statements Perricone made about the Landrieu family, outside of nola.com. Those were richly suggestive in all kinds of ways. Perhaps Perricone abides by the wisdom of former New Orleans Mayor Vic Schiro who, in advance of Hurricane Betsy, said, “Don’t believe any false rumors unless you hear them from me.”

For example, nola.com published a story about Perricone on Dec. 19—only two days after “jack” commented at The Lens, Slabbed and perhaps other blogs. The piece, written by Gordon Russell of the Nola Media Group, said that Perricone denied authoring the legal brief that Heebe used to identify him. He acted like writing style doesn’t exist, and that signature Latinate usages, such as “dubiety,” weren’t literary thumbprints. Ludicrous!

But here’s the innuendo part. Surely Perricone enjoyed Russell’s decision to publish this quote:

[Perricone’s] conclusion: “… it appears that someone employed some other ratiocinations to determine who scribed as Mencken 1951. I wonder who … “

Again, I’ve read a metric ton of Perricone’s posts in recent months, and could recognize one anywhere. That’s how an amateur investigator—me—concluded that Perricone wrote as nola.com user “martyfed,” and engaged in sockpuppetry. That doesn’t mean that there is no element of truth to the rumors, though. As Perricone might say, the “truth will emerge” this year. But I doubt it will do so in orderly fashion. As Mann herself has hinted, there might be all kinds of people involved in the criminal justice system commenting anonymously. Rumors may force leaks, and leaks may lead to disclosures, at an ever-more-furious pace. Lawsuits requesting user information will be met with countersuits in defense of privacy and speech.

You may have given thought to even more absurd scenarios—like this one, about nola.com usernames listed in a federal subpoena. There, you have a news story about commenter usernames; then the commenters listed in the news story comment on it, and the whole thing takes on a confusing Ouroboros effect when the news story about comments is updated with comments from the news story comment thread, and immediately more comments are made about the update … and on and on.

There will be backlash, too, perhaps manufactured by targets of investigative online comment threads.. (Heck, I’m surprised I haven’t yet become a target of wild… oops, too late.)  A recent Lens comment alerted me to “a new blog taking on who’s who at Slabbed. http://real-malice.blogspot.fr/ ”

Thus far, the first post at Real Malice contends that Jefferson Parish political watchdog Ann Marie Vandenweghe “takes on several anonymous personae on Slabbed, repeatedly pursuing “sock puppet” exercises to get her point across and make it appear there is greater support for Slabbed in the blog’s comments section than is truly the case, much like in the recent blogging scandal in the New Orleans U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

OK, so what’s the lone bit of proof that the blog uses to accuse Vandenweghe of juicing the (already quite vital and diverse) Slabbed comment section with artificial sockpuppetry (a la Perricone)? Innuendo from Perricone!

It’s notable that on August 28, 2011, on nola.com, commenter “Mencken1951” (then Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone) posted a comment on a story about Anne-Marie Vandenweghe’s federal civil lawsuit against Jefferson Parish: Could it be that SLABBED is the alter ego of the Plaintiff?

In his August interview with New Orleans Magazine, Perricone said he “no longer blogs or comments online.”

I’m not going to pursue a dumb idea,” Perricone says, deadpanning: “I’m not a recidivist.”

That’s a shame. Seems like Perricone had to take himself out of the online reindeer games just before things were getting most interesting. I’ll miss his “glib but venomous” online voice in the important weeks and months ahead.

Don’t you agree, Jack?

Cura ut valeas,

Mark Moseley
Lens opinion writer
aka “oyster” at Your Right Hand Thief blog

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  • Eli

    This has been an amazing run. Keep up the good work.

  • JPchirper

    You’re kidding me right Jack, you think Whitmergate is AMV? Personally I doubt she would ever use such language and has always exhibited better self control? You know at first I felt Perricone like others had the right to anonymous free political speech, gee what was any different than what others were posting? Well the truth is, and that word seems to be at the basis of most all the issues here, the truth is he and Mann should have had bigger fish to cook and not jeopardized their office integrity. Another is people are misusing the blogs to play cloak a dagger games, blogging content under multiple regardless of the consequences and yes the truth is there are consequences ! Just ask those who recently received calls from FBI agents and among others like Sandy Rosenthal who had PR firms target them. The biggest truth of all is that Nola.com has failed to provide security of its content through its monitor and of its software misuses. So I do agree and have suspected for quite some time there is a stench in the Newhouse brand one that goes beyond the blog’s pronounced political misuse of censorship. Which raises the question to me of why a blog allegedly written by Perricone inviting those with guns to park Island ,which clearly violated site rules , was allowed by the monitor to remain without deletion or any other of the now known venomous blogs that escaped the notoriously known censorship deletion widely complained about ?

  • Randall Cajun

    “the lone bit of proof” of “artificial sockpuppetry”? real-malice.blogspot.com has a bit more. A series should be allowed to develop before passing judgement, no Mr. Moseley. “Jefferson Parish political watchdog Ann Marie Vandenweghe”–is that the reputation she truly has? Or is that just from the blogasphere gang over at nola? I thought we were trying to “educate, engage and empower readers with information and analysis necessary for them to advocate for a more transparent and just governance that is accountable to the public.” How does AMV’s history comport with that goal? Interested in your response . . . There’s all kinds of free speech. Criticize the blogasphere establishment and somehow that’s speech of secondary value?

  • JPchirper

    To: Randell,
    Your unmasking on Zombie and Slabbed was either one of the biggest jackassery stunts someone using SLAPP suits for censorship could ever make or one of the most brilliant IP misdirects that has even been perpetrated of “artificial sockpuppetry” . Thank you though for reminding us all never believe everything you read because there are those posing as something or someone or in some cases numerous personas spreading venomous innuendos for there own personal gain and enjoyment on the internet.

    The shaft of the arrow had been feathered with one of the eagle’s own plumes. We often give our enemies the means of our own destruction. ~ Aesop (620 BC), The Eagle and the Arrow~

  • Mark Moseley

    I’ll allow the series to develop before drawing further (or rethinking former) conclusions, RC.

    The jackassery JPchirper refers can be reviewed here: http://www.theamericanzombie.com/2013/01/seethis-is-how-it-works.html

  • Tim

    Free speech is ugly. Always was and always will be. The Internet is a free speech zone. So guesss how pretty it is?

    I think the only issue here is, was confidential information made public? The fact that anyone anywhere is blogging under real or assumed names is an amusing topic, but IMHO completely irrelevant. Do we believe in freedom of speech or not? Do we believe in the right to publish anonymously or not?

    I have seen how this works first hand. As a blogger and a government employee I’ve had to walk the line we’re discussing here. And I’ve had people who didn’t like what I was writing and saying “blow the whistle” on me and call my employer to “report” me. I came through that unscathed for very specific reasons. I was not divulging confidential information, and I made it clear I was speaking as a private citizen and not a representative of my agency.

    So again, freedom of speech is always ugly in someone’s eyes. Get over it. EVERYONE who blogs has an agenda. If you don’t believe that you’re a fool. The Internet is a great place to read, share and learn, but you must always keep your eyes open.

    Peace,

    Tim

  • jeffrey

    What Tim said. I’ll never see why this is so difficult for people to understand.

  • whitmergate

    I’m not sure what blogosphere gang this crazy cajun thinks I control, but I’m flattered by his imagination. He’ll learn soon enough that Ms. Vandenweghe is not me, Whitmergate, when he gets some papers handed to him at the Federal Courthouse in Gulfport while he and his Parrot are marshaled to a contempt hearing.

  • whitmergate

    As to Perricone’s belief that Slabbed is Ms. Vandenweghe, that assumption is on the same level of stupidity of those corrupt jackasses he was allegedly investigating in Jefferson Parish.

    These very same people all think they live in a tight lid bunker when in fact it’s a glass house that leaks like a sieve. And they are all surrounded by people who,just don’t like them … so much for loyalty.

  • Randall Cajun

    The series continues to develop. Plus there’s a collection of Doug’s posts about The Wino and leaks. http://real-malice.blogspot.fr/2013/01/the-slabbed-nation-part-1c-unslabbed.html