Gawker: Relax Everyone, Google Didn’t Rat Out That Hysterical Woman to The Government. It Was Her Husband’s Boss.

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.

Chen concludes:

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.

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8 Responses to Gawker: Relax Everyone, Google Didn’t Rat Out That Hysterical Woman to The Government. It Was Her Husband’s Boss.

  1. Adrian Chen is a piece of shit that writes sensational bullshit for page views. Bullshit, Sensational Bullshit!

    In the face of the NSA revelations over the last two months, that shows that this type of surveillance is massive and in effect, Chen is playing an absurd whack-a-mole game.

    The husbands boss and company were desperately looking for something to see, for something to say. Chen don’t want to see. And he does not want us to see, that he is a fucking Government troll and worthless at his piece of shit lackey job.

  2. Daniel says:

    Adrian Chen went out to find a couple already terrorized by an imposing police force and put THEM in the position of having to rhetorically cower for not including facts the Suffolk Police did not make them aware of at the time. It was the Suffolk Police who failed to adequately identify themselves, it was they who failed to inform the couple it was because of a workplace google search. Facts that still in no way contradict the original blogpost. It’d sort of be like reporting a robbery and finding out later you had been talking about cashing your paycheck within earshot of the mugger. And this asshole comes along to shame the victim for not providing the exact right context.

    • Tarzie says:

      Well said. I’d say it was audacious of Chen to concoct a smear out of thin air, if it didn’t just follow from his own skewed priorities. He really thinks he’s caught Catalano at something. On top of being a little prick, he’s a dumbass.

  3. thedoctorisindahouse says:

    An issue remains as to how this employer monitors its employees on its network. Does it screen for keywords, sites. If so, did it come up with its own forbidden content or does DHS release a set of evil data to plug into a filter. Is this standard software? No way they pay staff to monitor and decide. How do you find “pr*es*sher kookr” without a software filter? It’s anti-terror software, no?

    The way the fallout reads, you get the impression that some old southern Sam who sells lemonade at Church on Sunday is her nosy boss and he spent the night trawling her google searches on his great grandfather’s mahogany computer, the old fashioned way. Then poof there’s a kirmicheny search and it’s a ring to the deputy sheriff to go mosey over and check on her.
    There are those who can think so dumb right at this moment in prism news?

    Can we all look forward to DHS approved software and filters being used by businesses that are run by lazy crime fans or will laws be passed to require DHS filters that conveniently feed back to DHS itself, for the most up to date crime prevention filtering and constant monitoring?
    What is a ‘suspicious search’? Who decides/budgets for this, in the corporate world? If there’s a standard, this is common practice.

    With the news of the prism partners suddenly upping their privacy technologies, absolutely nothing is said of backdoors being erased. Though backdoors in some form are TEH prism story.
    Prism has 9 partners. Standard filter software like this may have thousands of companies.

    Are these companies all so incompetently credulous as to trust DHS/NSA software with total access to their network? Doesn’t ANYONE want to protect their secret business plans anymore? For a capitalism obsessed country, this one sure is the dumb-fart version of it.

    • Tarzie says:

      Yeah, I wonder about this myself. It’s truly bizarre that everyone heard this detail — that the search information was disclosed by a former employer — and concluded that Catalano was a nutjob and all was really well with the world. I had similar thoughts to yours: ok so where does this employer fit? Is it part of some other partnership? There is this assumption that this is vastly less organized and nefarious than the PRISM partnerships, but what is that assumption based on? How dare Chen mock Catalano for fears of ‘panopticon powers’ when this all suggests a very highly developed panopticon. It’s crazy. I can’t deal with all this compulsory stupidity at the moment. I honestly don’t know how to process it. Is Chen really super dumb? Is he pretending to be? I’m confused.

      • thedoctorisindahouse says:

        Gonna bet on incompetence/resentement here.

        Does he think computers are as interesting as his grandmother does? Or is he good at this stuff?

        The burial of the prism stories and the total obliviousness to stories like these, which would really interest everyone (your boss & you? but for real this time not some “how to dress sharp for the interview” crap? c’mon it’s a perfect sell!) is either overt censorship or might be explained by the technical ignorance on the part of reporters. This is all just too fancy for them to focus.

        Could be that these reporters absolutely are worst rate quality with absolutely no useful sources and no tech knowledge and no money to pay for tech consulting. Hence, just resentful of the whole thing and want to ignore it on some level. Chen has a really infantile tone towards this which is unusual for media that doesn’t want to kill a story.

        Could be censorship too, I don’t know where gawker gets its funding.

        Is gawker’s model to just have some new shit every day or hour, never a big scoop? Like Drudge but with pseudo-original content? That could encourage a culture of stupid shallow reporting since nothing lasts.

        I find it troubling that Catalano has so easily seemed to quiet down. Is she just a spineless nobody wimp who can be cowed by other reporters or does she have real cause for concern? But how to know if she really feels threatened by police state or just doesn’t want to get fired by a company that wants privacy, despite being dumb enough to accept monitoring of their network.

  4. thedoctorisindahouse says:

    There is this, yesterday,

    The amazing thing with prism is that it puts huge media companies in an inferior position. As with the telco internal tapping. A lot of independence to give up and put your business at the mercy of government surveillance. People are afraid to let cops search their home for fear they’ll find illegal prescription advil. The billion dollar entities don’t mind giving up their diaries?

    It’s a cultural movement now, this prism story. Fact is, we HAVE known publicly all this stuff because we’ve assumed it when there are laws for taps and data retention and the only impediment is a warrant. We’ve just assumed that it’s all operating and we don’t like that the law gives permission.
    So, why all our fake outrage, now? It’s not like it’s on people’s minds unless they’re reading/watching about it. Everywhere, nobody talks about the NSA.

  5. diane says:

    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.

    Indeed, and I notice that Nick’s Den has been quite silent regarding this two day old ‘item’:

    Google patents ‘pay-per-gaze’ eye-tracking that could measure emotional response to real-world ads

    Where is the outrage how could we have let things get to this point …in order to fucking what? …… (oh never mind) would be quite the understatement, so I’ll make no further comment about why I’m highlighting that ‘datoid’.

    Nick Denton does let Sam unwittingly steam vent for the outraged (and there is a reason why Nick does not include those more experienced folk as old as him and older (who are now committing suicide in droves, after having been shoved thoroughly under the bus (along with their offspring and elderly parents), by their BiPartisan CorpGov Reps) in his quite profitable stable). Sam, who unfortunately does not appear to realize the true extent of the damage done and that San Francisco is on the quite outer (not near as deadly, superfund site concentrated) periphery of Sly Con Valley – not in the center of it (in terms of Geography) – discuss the most frivolous excesses and investment hobbies of the Monsters who preside over Sly Con Valley, yet on the most ultimately life destroying endeavors of those Monsters, Nick’s Den is quite silent, until it’s after the fact, and way too late.

    And if anyone (say Spats Stre_ _ _ _, for just one instance) wants to claim that their beloved Gawker is too busy covering the David Miranda Sadism … well ……. , have a look (on 08/20/13 ….i.e.: perishable link …..) . Nick’s Den would much rather highlight easy targets which won’t harm him (such as poverty ridden ‘fat people’ with very unfortunate physical issues, and stale news about The Powers That Unrelentingly Punish (those with their heads barely above the water) that’s already been exposed by an entity other than his).

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