I really don’t want this website to be simply an anti-Turtleboy Sports blog. I set it up so that I could have space, now that I’ve changed careers and am longer an official journalist, to write about what I find interesting. I’ve been meaning to sit down and write a review of the second volume of Francis Fukuyama’s Origins of Political Order, which I think offers some valuable insights into the problem of creating democracy in developing countries, as well as maintaining it here. I’d also like to write some positive stories about my city, Worcester.
But, alas, I have to delve back into Turtleboy Sports territory, if only to ensure that no one thinks I’ve gone crazy and become some fanatical racist, or cop hater, or anything else. I want to assure you that, if you see something that doesn’t seem like me written in my name, it wasn’t. After explaining what I’m talking about, I want to give a moral to the story.
First, why you should be careful of what you see written in my name: Yesterday, a couple of friends forwarded to me screenshots of some things “I” had posted as a comment on a Worcester Telegram and Gazette (which, along with Worcester Magazine, is what you should be reading if you want to know what’s going on in this city) story on Facebook. One of the shots showed “me” saying “I hate the police,” and the other showed “me” saying that kids should not work, and live off he system, “like I do.”
Had someone hacked my account? I wondered. No, instead someone had created a Facebook page – not account – named “Dan Margolis,” and used both my profile picture and background picture, which made it possible for the imposter to create comments that, to the casual observer, looked as if I’d written them.
I wrote to the page’s owner, and he said he’s neither Aidan Kearney nor Michael Gaffney, but whose writing style bears a very strong resemblance to Aidan Kearney’s – but we all also know that the cowardly Kearney never signs his name to anything. I believe Kearney’s behind it, but, of course, I have no proof of that. Nonetheless, the language and the insults used made it quite obvious that if the page wasn’t created by Kearney, it was created by a “Turtlerider.”
I engaged the page in conversation publicly, trying to make it obvious to anyone who clicked on it that there were certainly two different people under the “Dan Margolis” name. The writer became increasingly unhinged, and gave me several names he claimed to be his (besides my own). He seemed to think that I’d reported his Facebook profile for something that caused him to get a 30-day ban (he apparently doesn’t know that’s not how things work on Facebook), and he told me to come and meet him at a bar in Auburn, a suburb of Worcester. Of course, I refused, and he seemed to think that made me a “pussy.” I disagreed; I’ve seen enough Lifetime movies and Afterschool Specials to know that it’s a bad idea to arrange to meet a stranger off the Internet at a bar, especially a shadowy one who goes by several aliases and appears to be unhinged. Still, he disagreed and changed the page’s name to “Dan Pussgolis.” Clever guy.
I pointed out several times that, while he thinks I’m a “pussy,” he was the one writing from behind a fake profile,
which made him the coward. He became increasingly agitated, and said that he would soon be starting with “Word Press blog play and Photoshop.” Basically, he’s saying he’s about to make a fake Dan Margolis site and doctor images, to make his impersonations of me even more believable. What will “Dan Margolis” say? Something anti-police or pro-laziness? Maybe. Something worse? Who knows? These people are capable of anything (aside from being productive, it seems). Perhaps you’ll see a counterfeit of this whole site (maybe www.dan-margolis.org, or www.dan-pussgolis.org?).
How will you know if it’s me you’re reading? Many of you know me well enough to be able to detect what’s real and what’s not, and I expect you’ll do that. Also, just compare whatever’s written with what’s on my legitimate site, or drop me a line. I also trust that you’ll let me know of anything written in my name that seems “off”.
Obviously, the reason that I, as well as others, have been targeted for this is because we’ve spoken out against certain elements in and (more often) around the city. These elements have changed Worcester politics and brought them down to the gutter level. Those of us who stand up against bullying or who fight for Worcester either in big ways (the way most of our elected officials and activists do) or small (the way I do, writing my little blog) have been targets: Mayor Petty was called a murder accessory for standing up for all Worcester residents; Sarai Rivera’s dignity as a reverend and upstanding leader was impugned because she stands up to Michael Gaffney’s antics; Rep. Jim McGovern is accused of running a crime family because he fights for his district and supports progressive Democratic leaders; city manager Augustus is accused of writing a plan to ‘rip off the taxpayers’ because he’s actually been successfully working to get the city moving forward; and activist after activist is smeared with lies and twisted truths on the Turtleboy Sports blog, as well as their zombie army of troll “Turtleriders.” (If you think I’m being uncharitable with this description, just read the comments on their Facebook page. You’ll see.) This list could go on, but you get the picture.
These elements are all united in a faction of the local Republican Party. Like Stalinists, they’re purging their organization of people who disagree with them and smearing their names (for example, teenage activist Cotey Collins, who was a moderate Republican: they pushed him out of the party and created a fake Instagram account to tarnish his reputation, as I understand the situation). The faction is led by Michael Gaffney, the party’s city committee leader, and its mouthpiece is Turtleboy Sports. The Gaffney faction operates like a Stalinist or fascistic organization, in that it doesn’t argue points with people. Instead, it has its online goons attack and bully, and spreads lies as far and wide as the eye can see. Instead of entering the battle of ideas, they try to silence their opponents.
Part of the problem is that there is a national trend in politics of demonization of enemies and smear tactics, especially from the Gaffney/Trump faction of the GOP. Another part is that the anonymity possible on the Internet allows people to unleash their most base and crass instincts onto the world. This combination gave us Donald Trump, and it is what Michael Gaffney and his Turtleboy allies ride on.
Worcester deserves better than this, and, frankly, so does the Republican Party. I’m a liberal Democrat, of course, and my hope is that my party can retake the American political scene. Still, no one wants a one-party state, and a healthy opposition is always a good thing for democracy. The GOP right now is currently far from healthy, at least in Worcester. (Outside the city limits, though, Massachusetts has many respectable Republican leaders – could anyone compare Charlie Baker or Hannah Kane to Michael Gaffney?).
In the city, look at one of Gaffney’s colleagues, who is close to him politically, but miles apart in terms of class – in that she has some. I would not vote or Konnie Lukes, the long-serving city council member, because her opinions are far different from my own (for the most part, though she does sometimes surprise me, and I do have to admit to enjoying Coffee with Konnie). Still, while we have different values, or at least see different ways of enacting our values, Lukes does represent what the Republican Party could and should be: respectable and conservative. She doesn’t demonize her enemies, nor does she support a blog that fancies itself a movement – “revolution” – that uses Putin-style tactics against its opponents. That’s what Michael Gaffney does, though.
The problem isn’t the conservatives: we can vote for or against them, and discuss the issues out. (It could be argued that, in some ways, people like me and other Democrats, who are calling for a return to a more civil discourse, are the real conservatives, even when we’re extremely liberal or left!) The real problem is the Internet trolls, those who will attack you or “dox” you for voicing a dissenting opinion. The problem is those who, because they can’t win an argument, try to tar the other side. That’s what Gaffney does to his opponents, and that is what the unnamed Aidan Kearney-like troll is threatening to do to me.
Watch out for the fake Dan Margolis, let me know if you see anything, and remember in November: we deserve better.
Image via the Department of Defense’s anti-cyber bullying page.