Y’know, Adrian Chen, like all the other cutting/pasting professionals at Nick Denton Inc is all about the cutter/paster integrity and we know this because when the NYPD tried to connect Occupy Wall Street to an 8-year old murder case, Chen was very diligent and thorough in his cutting and pasting efforts, such that there is very little separating the New York Times article on the same subject — essentially an uncritical transcription of NYPD allegations — and what ended up on Chen’s Gawker page.
Now, a less serious cutting and pasting professional might have sought to personalize his cut-and-paste material by perhaps wondering aloud if the story he was cutting and pasting might have simply been an attempt by the NYPD to smear OWS; or he might have attempted to embellish his cutting and pasting efforts with at least a tad more fashionable skepticism than one gleans from the ‘unexpected break’ of Chen’s enthusiastic lede. When later in the day, with his customary diligence, Chen cut and pasted from the New York Times follow-up that reported the original NYPD claim was likely based on contaminated evidence, he explained:
Honestly, I believed that even the NYPD would not be so eager to smear Occupy Wall Street as to come out with a story this outlandish without getting their facts straight.
Who can blame him, really? If a smug asshole whose brand is a uniquely repellant sort of conformist knowingness can’t put his faith in an ‘outlandish’ story from a corrupt, OWS-loathing police force, who can he trust?
Why, The Suffolk County Police, that’s who!
As my regular readers already know, freelance writer and Medium blogger Michele Catalano wrote yesterday about a visit to her Long Island home from what she described as members of the ‘Joint Terrorism Task Force.’ According to Catalano, they searched her house and interrogated her husband about a possible family interest in pressure cooker bombs, apparently expressed through some family member’s Google searches. Catalano speculated that this must have been the result of government monitoring of her family’s online activity. She had searched on ‘pressure cookers’ pursuant to cooking quinoa, her husband had searched on ‘backpacks’ so, she thought, that must have been why three black SUVs arrived at her house two mornings ago.
But then Chen at Gawker wrote later in the day:
The Suffolk County Police Department…now says in a statement that they visited Catalano’s home yesterday because of an old-fashioned tip. A computer company discovered that one of their employees—presumably either Catalano’s husband or son—had been conducting suspicious searches on their work computer, and contacted the police.
Now for any thoughtful person not inclined to stupidly trivialize the invasion of someone’s home by six gun-wielding anti-terrorists or to reflexively belittle anyone who doubts the essential benevolence of Google and the government, the takeaway is that the Suffolk County Police Department confirmed every factual claim Catalano made. Indeed, the only thing Catalano apparently got wrong was her theory about how authorities knew the family’s search habits, which she freely admitted was speculative:
That’s how I imagine it played out, anyhow. Lots of bells and whistles and a crowd of task force workers huddled around a computer screen looking at our Google history.
But for an asshole like Chen who, as we know, is the kind of dick that uncritically transcribes NYPD press releases linking activists to eight-year-old murder cases, the fact that the family internet searches were reviewed and reported not by NSA software but by her husband’s employer, inexplicably changes everything. It renders Catalano ‘paranoid’ and the swarming of her house by armed anti-terrorists no big deal at all:
The actually scary part of Catalano’s story—the creepy correlation of Google history in some distant control room—started, and ended, in her imagination.
Really, asshole? That’s the scary part? How very interesting. See, I think everything about this is scary: the boss/snitch, the black SUVs, the cops swarming the yard before even introducing themselves, the interrogation of Catalano’s husband, the fact that a cowed, passive Catalano is ‘anxious’ instead of enraged. I think it’s all very disquieting. The attempted smearing of Catalano by a sneering, careerist lickspittle would be scary too, if such smears hadn’t by now become so sickeningly routine.
Were I the kind of social-climbing, feminist-ally show-off that brave Reddit troll slayer Chen is, I might dwell at length on the potential misogyny that credits a woman’s entirely reasonable, and largely correct, suspicions about the sudden appearance of national security thugs at her house to ‘paranoia’ and an overheated ‘imagination’. I might speculate on the likelihood of Chen taking a different approach had he tasked himself with ridiculing Catalano’s husband. But instead let’s move along to Chen’s cringe-makingly stupid fixation on state goon taxonomy and the meaning he finds in it:
At first [Catalano] tweeted that the FBI had visited her home, but she later walked that back in her blog post to the vague “joint terrorism task force”.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) brings together the anti-terrorism efforts of many different federal, state and local agencies, which meant anyone from the FBI down to the local police could have visited her. Catalano’s post led journalists down a rabbit warren of different agencies, searching for her uninvited houseguests with their panoptic powers.
‘Their panoptic powers.’ How droll. She IS a silly woman isn’t she, with all her hysterical speculating over a little Google-induced house search? And how thoughtless of her – dishonest maybe? – to lead journalists down that ‘rabbit warren’, by not immediately recognizing, as Chen obviously does, the vast chasm between cute and cuddly Suffolk County cops emerging from black, DHS-funded SUVs and, say, FBI thugs whose witnesses get inexplicably murdered under interrogation. It was Catalano’s inability to precisely guess which arm of the security octopus had encircled her family that made her story ‘fishy from the beginning.’ Panoptic powers indeed! It’s not like this ‘vague’ Joint Terrorism Task Force is an actual thing that makes local cops Federal agents, with a dotted line to a giant, unaccountable agency that maintains huge repositories of internet user data.
Catalano’s story doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know: Never trust someone who loves Quinoa.
It’s hard to despise a grotesque, self-satisfied creep when he’s this witty, isn’t it?
How unfortunate that such a stupid, hamfisted hit job has produced its intended effect. Following publication of Chen’s piece, Catalano swore off all interviews, stopped tweeting and half-heartedly defended herself, via an update to her original piece and a Tumblr post:
We found out through the Suffolk Police Department that the searches involved also things my husband looked up at his old job. We were not made aware of this at the time of questioning and were led to believe it was solely from searches from within our house.
I did not lie or make it up. I wrote the piece with the information that was given. What was withheld from us obviously could not be a part of a story I wrote based on what happened yesterday.
The piece I wrote was the story as we knew it with the information we were told. None of it was fabricated. If you know me, you know I would never do that.
The saddest thing about this is that there is still a story here. Certainly the employer snitch is as interesting as Google’s potential complicity and as worrying, as is the way Chen and others reflexively write it off as inconsequential. I want to know more details about the family’s web searches and what the cops said that led Catalano to believe they were concerned ‘solely with searches made from within [the] house’. I want some evidence that the Suffolk Police account is entirely true. If indeed it was the husband’s work searches that elicited the questions about pressure cooker bombs, were Catalano’s searches about pressure cookers just coincidental? We’ll likely not learn any of this, because Catalano seems content to accede to Chen’s gaslight-y insistence that there is no story here, and with riff-raff like him setting the tone for our increasingly awful discourse, I can’t really blame her.