Guilty by search

by Eszter Hargittai on September 16, 2004

Here is another tidbit in the CBS memo saga, but with a different twist: a case of mistaken identity.

My name is Robert Strong, and I am indeed a college professor. I am not, however, the Robert Strong who spoke to CBS. I never met Killian, I never lived in Texas, and I never served in that state’s Air National Guard. But on the Internet none of this matters.

Ever since the 60 Minutes broadcast, I have been getting angry e-mails from Bush supporters who are sure that I am a key player in a vast left-wing conspiracy bent on diminishing the president’s not extraordinary record of military service.

How did I become the enemy du jour of all those spiteful Republicans? I guess it has something to do with Google. Last week, if you typed the words Professor Robert Strong in the popular search engine, a webpage that happens to be about me appeared at the top of the list. For those who have been filling my e-mail inbox with vicious vitriol, that was apparently evidence enough. CBS says that its Bush-bashing documents have been authenticated by Strong; Google tells everyone on the Internet that I am Professor Strong. That’s it. I am guilty as Googled.

At first, I found all of this a bit funny. Here I was in the midst of my 15 minutes of fame, and it was just a case of mistaken identity. But the more e-mails I read, the less amused I became. The meat they contain is more raw and distasteful than any spam I have ever encountered.

Read the full article for more. (Access to the article does require registration, I’m afraid.)



Not Guilty 09.16.04 at 5:52 pm

“Guilty until Googled innocent.”


Giles 09.16.04 at 6:55 pm

“The meat they contain is more raw and distasteful than any spam I have ever encountered.”

can we see those emails then?


abb1 09.16.04 at 7:03 pm

Found guilty as googled and sentenced to LGFing by the neck ’til dead.


BenA 09.16.04 at 7:25 pm

I knew an undergrad at Harvard in the ’80s named Rob Bork. During Judge Robert Bork’s confirmation hearings, Rob began to receive a steady stream of hate and fan mail. Even though Judge Bork had no connection whatsoever to Harvard, a bunch of folks just figured he must, and mailed things to “Robert Bork, Harvard University” Naturally they landed in Rob’s mailbox. The internet in this case (as in many others) just adds a new twist to an old phenomenon.


PG 09.16.04 at 7:28 pm

Most astonishingly, one can hardly see this bit of scandal as being about Bush’s service record, the poverty of which already had been exhaustively discussed in 2000. This is a scandal about CBS News, and possibly whoever passed them the memos.

Who is the pathetic segment of the American population that is more worried about a 30 year old war than the ones happening right now?


bob mcmanus 09.16.04 at 7:31 pm

These are today

Emerson Somebody named Emerson summarizes Memogate intimidation

Laura Rozen
Neocon intimidation of foreign policy reporters

Of course there the policies about protesters at Pres speaking events;the treatment of the soldier who leaked the Abu Gharaib photos;and the recent stories about the Secret Service being turned into Bush’s Praetorian Guard or brownshirts, intimidating the press at events (cites on request).

Godwin’s law long been repealed. The Republican Party has turned wholly fascist. To a man, it appears.


bob mcmanus 09.16.04 at 7:40 pm

The Dallas Morning News gave a cred in its lead editorial Tuesday to “Charles Johnson of” I can only assumed they did their job, researched the history and tone of LGF before mentioning it, and approved.

Tacitus and Obsidian Wings, who last I checked despised Johnson and LGF, need to get back into line.


alkali 09.16.04 at 8:39 pm

Following up the Robert Bork story: a friend of mine used to work for a DC law firm, and had the same name as one of those think-tank people who are always quoted on general political issues (think Norman Ornstein, but that wasn’t his name). Reporters would call him asking for his opinion on political issues and he would have to explain to them that he wasn’t that guy. Finally, he gave up and just started saying whatever was on his mind. That went on for a few months until the calls suddenly stopped.


ruralsaturday 09.16.04 at 9:11 pm

Some of us would have no place, in a world egregious hounding parasites like those had no place in, and so are tempted to put tolerance above anything.
Others of us long for a world and a time in which the removal of the unfit is an individual choice.
The common denominator falls without selection. This is the result.
Great power given to the vapid, and it ferments, and the more noble the character the more vulnerable to that power. Or, as in Strong’s case, anonymous passersby become collateral damage.
Ecclesiastes is cold, but more honest, and accurate, than not: “To everything, there is a season.”
They would kill us, if they could safely. Vicious cowards predominate in the national discourse.
It is the rise of the infirm, and the subsidence of the fit.
Is the world upside down, or just this country?


Ikram 09.16.04 at 9:18 pm

Bob — Rod Dreher, who used to write for the National Review, joined the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News a while ago. He used to be an LGF type, and I remember he pushed the “Muslim med students stopped in Florida” story hard a few years ago. He’s probably brought his LGF friendly views to the DMN.


Observer 09.16.04 at 9:47 pm

At one level, this is nothing new. People have sent letters, often hate letters and death threats, to people in the news seemingly forever.

In recent years, though, this tactic has become much more organized and ugly. The primary offender is The power of that web site came into public view in early 2001 when one of the Bush daughters got arrested for use of a fake ID to get drinks. The waitress who reported the fake ID was subjected to a barrage of hate from the freepers. Not just letters and phone calls, but every tactic they could think of.


bob mcmanus 09.16.04 at 10:00 pm

Thanks, ikram, my daily paper and a great newspaper. Sports, business, Pulitzer winning religion section, very little fluff, entertainment section almost an afterthought.

But the front page and national news section is showing a little bias, and the editorial section gone all to hell. This explains why James Lileks is almost a regular. Arggh


Shelby 09.17.04 at 12:49 am

“This explains why James Lileks is almost a regular.”

Lucky bastard. Here in San Francisco we’re stuck with the likes of Molly Ivins (who once upon a time was pretty good) and, god help us, Pat Buchanan.


boo 09.19.04 at 2:32 am

I’ve got a student this semester named Pat Buchanan. I wonder how much inadverdante hate mail he gets.

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