Two Essays: Anonymity and Assholery


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Many of you know of the album by Frank Zappa’s “Mothers of Invention” called “Weasels Ripped My Flesh,” with an illustration of a guy using a weasel as a shaver (with bloody results.) This is the magazine cover — Man’s Life magazine, Sept. 1956 — that inspired those words. Now you may wonder: why is it the illustration for this post?

1. Anonymity

If there’s one thing that you should have learned over the past couple of years, especially since the Snowden leaks, it’s that you are not reliably anonymous.  You may be anonymous a good deal of the time, from at least most people, but you can generally be found out — most likely from either the government or from the people who are economically or ideologically motivated to do it.

We — and by that I mean at least Vern and I — try to protect your anonymity here, but please understand: there are limits to what we can do while at the same time producing a working blog open to many contributors from all over (and off) the political spectrum.  Part of that has involved allowing those who post more stories greater freedom to the “back rooms” of the site.  It was a good system so long as it wasn’t abused — but opportunity leads to temptation and bad judgment.  So Vern will rework the permissions.

Here’s one tip in the meantime: if you’re writing under a pseudonym and you really want a chance of preserving your anonymity — then you can use a fake e-mail address.  The “pros” — the ones who show up with a new and unused IP address, like an untraceable gun that can be dropped at a murder scene — do it that way.  We prefer if you choose something benign, like charleysaunt@excite.com, but if you want to put down your address as suckmy@balls.info (and we know that some of you do), you can do that and we’ll brush it off.  It’s part of the cost of doing business.

One problem with anonymity or pseudonymity is that it is disinhibiting.  You may feel free to say things that you wouldn’t — aggressive insults, not merely controversial statements — if you wrote under your own name.  Later on, when your identity becomes known (say, by some former friend or associate), you may regret that someone finally knows that that was you.

One other problem with anonymity in a political context is that it can be used to trick and to terrorize.  Ten anonymous commenters may in fact be only one, using various IP addresses, to make it seem like lots of people agree with a position.  (When I, writing under my own name, was routinely getting my teeth kicked in over at Bushala’s blog for most of 2012, I was often comforted by people telling me that it was really no more than ten people.  Ironically, some of these are now my political partners in Anaheim politics.  Shadoosh!)

I can’t prove it — well, I could hire people who could prove it but I have neither the money or the inclination — but I strongly suspect that the posts and consonant comments in Matt Cunningham’s blog are fueled by as few people as … one.  If you want to assess the worth of a blog’s comments section, one good way is to see what proportion of it comments are nasty and insulting ones from anonymous users.  I’m proud that we here tend to be more witty than viciously insulting, and that few of our vicious insults come from anonymous posters.  (Short-termers, that’s a different story — but we generally choose not to edit them out.)

So, we’re really sorry that things unfolded as they did over the past day or so.  We’re taking steps and we hope that it does not leave the blog in too-great disrepair.  I believe that if you want your identity-revealing e-mail address changed even retroactively, we can do so in bulk.

2. Assholery

This section of the post gets deep into the weeks of OC blogosphere meta-talk, but some of you may enjoy it.  The rest of you — get out while you can!

As an attorney, I’m supposed to refuse to acknowledge anything to be true if the other side can’t prove, no matter how obviously true it is.  So are my opponents in cases.  Being un hombre sincero, as the song says, this is one of my least favorite parts of the profession.  (By the way, in the civil law system of much of the world where the judge is an investigator, this wouldn’t be true.)  I love pointing out that someone is pulling this sort of maneuver, with regard to blog posts, because to me it’s more likely to be a sign of guilt than of sincere concern for one’s privacy.  (Sometimes it’s the latter; my sense is that one can usually tell.  Could be wrong.)

Matt Cunningham, rightly or not, is famed for using anonymity as a tool of assholery.  So we had a discussion today that I decided belongs in a post of its own, because I believe in public shaming and anyway we can all use a pick-me-up during a contentious weekend.

Matt writes some, or all, of the Anaheim Blog.  I can’t tell which it is.  He implies that a second writer’s name (and maybe more names beyond that) represents writing from someone else, but he could just mean that it’s another persona of his — one that he demands be addressed separately, like an imaginary friend.  (My guess is that this is what he uses to reprocess possibly baseless tips from other people in the Pringle Ring into stories, thus pretending that they’re important inside scoops.  It hardly matters, except as an irritant.)

Now, when you go to individual stories on the Anaheim Blog, which you generally shouldn’t bother doing, you will see “Anaheim Insider” credited sometimes — but usually you see no one credited, not even the classic “Admin.”  For example”, this:

cunningham blog tait-fitz story

Do you see an author listed there?  No, you do not.  On the few occasions that I go to Matt’s blog, generally following a link sent by some helpful e-mailer, that’s what I see.  The only name I ever see is Anaheim Insider — and when I don’t see it I don’t notice its absence, because to me it all sounds like Matt.

Turns out that those uncredited stories — seven out of the last nine, for example — are actually from Matt Cunningham under his own name — which you’d never know unless you went to the front page and ready the very small type:

cunningham blog stories

So that’s your background for understanding the following exchange, which I pound into the ground here because it is so indicative of how this bumbling paid hitman operates.  From a comments section elsewhere on this site, starting yesterday — which I’ve edited down for space (really!):
Posted October 4, 2013 at 1:34 PM

“So, to the mysterious “Anaheim Insider”: I think that you’re wrong about what happens at the meetings.

Anaheim Insider didn’t write that post, Greg. I did. it says so right there on Anaheim Blog. Get with program. Attention to detail, Perry Mason.

Greg Diamond
Posted October 4, 2013 at 1:53 PM

My understanding is that you are the mysterious “Anaheim Insider,” and no matter who or what wrote that post — you’re still wrong about what happens at the meetings.

Since your here: has anyone in the majority, or Pringle, or Ament, or Nocella, or whoever you’re in touch with talked to Michael Houston about what is and isn’t permissible speech during public comments, what the governing law is, and what consequences ensue if you are wrong?

Let me guess: you don’t know.

Posted October 4, 2013 at 2:48 PM

“It was my understanding….”

Whenever Greg Diamond writes that, it is generally followed by some misstatement of fact or fairy tale conspiracy theory.

Incidentally, it was “my understanding” because someone who seems to know Matt’s writing well told me this.  And you’ll note (Perry Mason!) that Matt offers a non-denial denial — potentially consistent with “I didn’t write that under my name; I wrote it under my pseudonym.”  (Or more likely, again: “I wrote it based on others’ tips, for which posts I use a separate persona.”)  But (1) who (that can be trusted) knows and (2) who cares?  Now see what he does with it.
Greg Diamond
Posted October 4, 2013 at 5:24 PM

Whenever Matt Cunningham writes anything at all, it is generally a lie. (Hey, this making unfalsifiable general assertions rather than arguing over specific factual allegations is more fun than I thought!)

Matt hid his financing for the blog and routinely hides its authors. I make no apology for trying to figure it out as best I can from context and others’ suggestions.

If Matt wants to hide his political saboteurs under masks, it’s not because — like Occupiers or various political revolutionaries, including our own Founding Fathers — he fears political or economic reprisals. He’s on the side of the rich and powerful; the worst he faces from others are rickly earned sneers. Maybe it’s sadism; maybe it’s just a nod to the grand political tradition of attacks by people with their features concealed.

He’s really good at one thing, though: not answering questions posed to him. See above.

Posted October 4, 2013 at 5:49 PM

Blah, blah, blah. Useless as ever.

Or should I say: bloviate, bloviate, bloviate.

Greg Diamond
Posted October 4, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Wow — Matt quotes Gustavo! Hey, Matt — what does Gustavo say about your outing sex abuse victims?

(For the record: Matt. Cannot. Answer. Legitimate. Questions.)

This was a cheap shot on my part — as was the comment to which I replied.  It’s a rough and tumble world out there.
Matthew Cunningham
Posted October 5, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Gustavo twists the truth about that incident, you pipsqueak.

Posted October 5, 2013 at 2:54 PM

“Gustavo twists the truth about that incident, you pipsqueak.”

Pipsqueak???

Call us a “venomous, grandiose and self-imporant gaggle of ankle-biters” and you may get immortalized on our masthead … but call my associate a pipsqueak, and brace for blowback!

What does Gustavo twist? He (and the whole damn county) says that you “outed sex-abuse victims.” Is this true, or not?

Apparently, in your eagerness to defend Monsignor Urell, a protector of pedophile priests whom practically everyone here now finds loathsome, you uploaded, onto your blog, a document that included the identities and contact info of the victims in the suit.

You claimed you did this mistakenly, and quickly took it down. Charitable people like myself grant that maybe that was so. Less charitable people like Gustavo and Nipsey think you did it on purpose. Maybe only God and you know. But long story short, it wouldn’t-a happened if you weren’t so fired up to defend a pedophile-priest protector.

NOW you hide under the definition of the neologism-verb “out” which – I checked the dictionaries – means “to INTENTIONALLY expose.” So you got the dictionary on your side, and Gustavo has occasionally been modifying his charge. Still i think that’s a half-assed definition, and purposefully or not, you outed the identities of sex-abuse victims in your zeal for defending the perpetrators.

It feels, to many of us, to be “all of a piece” with what you’re doing nowadays…

Matthew Cunningham
Posted October 5, 2013 at 10:46 AM

As I’ve already told you and Vern: you can’t crap on people and then expect they’ll answer your questions.

  • Greg Diamond
    Posted October 4, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    Hated to visit your site again, but I checked: no author is credited at all. It’s your blog, so in the absence of a byline I credit you with it.

    I’ll also credit you with the other one posted today about Tait’s response.

Posted October 4, 2013 at 5:17 PM

His dopey blog …. what it is is he hasn’t figured out how to include a writer’s name on the story itself… but if you are there on the home page, the author’s name is written.

He never fails to make fun of any of us critics for us not knowing who wrote the story … as though he hadn’t created the space for these pro-Chamber voices to have their devious say.

And as though us not being sure whether it’s Matt or Anonymous Friend of Matt writing somehow throws our own arguments into the crapper.

Kinda lame for the undisputed godfather of the OC Blogosphere.

Matthew Cunningham
Posted October 5, 2013 at 10:41 AM

The author byline is there on the blog. The bylines disappear when one clicks on the headlines. It’s a design function of the template that I can’t fix, even though I’d like to.

This is pretty impressively stupid, given that he could create a separate account named “Matt C.” (if he liked to), or just sign his posts at the end, as I sometimes do when posting as “Admin” to show that it wasn’t Vern.  My guess is that he prefers it way — because then, when people link to the story, they don’t see an author and it’s not as readily discredited.  (That’s just a guess.)
Greg Diamond
Posted October 5, 2013 at 11:23 AM

You could, of course, put “by Matt’s Sockpuppet” or whatever right in the text of the story — if you wanted to. Is the ACoC really to badly out of money that they can’t afford a better template?

Matthew Cunningham
Posted October 5, 2013 at 1:01 PM
That’s why the Anaheim Insider begins posts with an identifier. Dude, learn to pay attention. I am continually amazed at your sloppiness and the abandon with which you hold forth on things you know nothing about. For the sake of your clients, I hope you don’t bring the same I attention to detail to bear on their cases.
I try to be the shepherd, as Samuel L. Jackson said in Pulp Fiction, but this sort of criticism from a rental writer with the ethics of a hyena just pissed me off.  So, big finish — big enough to make a post out of it for your enjoyment rather than leaving it in comments:
Greg Diamond
Posted October 5, 2013 at 4:19 PM

I have no idea whether this is what you actually think. In fact, I doubt that you have any idea of what it is you actually think. What you present as your thoughts is determined by what you consider useful to you and your clients.

If you say you think that I’m “sloppy” — and your lack of examples for me to slam back over the net hard enough to lodge in your face suggests that you’re just bullshitting as usual — then all we know from that is that you think it’s useful to plant a seed in people’s minds that I’m “sloppy” so as to serve yourself and your clients. That’s all we know because that’s the only “analysis” you had to do before deciding to write it. “Is it true” plays no evident role in your decision over what to write; “is it useful” — largely involving “can I get people to believe it” is all.

The sad thing is that someone with your take on life, as an opportunity to make money off of “marks,” tends to think that this is how other people operate as well. Outside of your circle, it’s generally not. I have my disagreements with people here, but few of them strike me as stating facts and expressing opinions simply for personal gain — such as that they’re getting paid to do it. It’s sad; it leads to soul-sickness. But it’s a choice you apparently made long ago; it’s the skill that you can market to a depressing clientele.

So, you contemptible smudge of a semi-man, you want to talk about sloppiness and abandon, you had better come armed with specifics. I’m sure that I make some mistakes, but most of them are small and what we in the legal trade call “immaterial” — ones to which one can answer “yeah, but so what?”

I don’t have the time to check every last detail because unlike you I am NOT paid to blog; I do it in my spare time (and too often lately in time I shouldn’t spare.) I wish that I had your resources to fund my writing, but people who want justice in the world don’t have the same reason to spend money on writers as do those who hope that their investment in the likes of you will pay off in hundreds of million dollars that rightly belong to the public. No wonder they try to cover up that they pay you, but association with you is just a cost of doing business.

What really bothers you about my writing is that my analysis often pins you and your wealthy patrons to the wall — and that’s what you can’t stand. What you patrons don’t get is that the more they send your contemptible lying ass onto the trail, the more people come out of the peanut gallery to wonder why this guy is on the case and start to fight back. And the beautiful thing is that everything stupid thing that they say, and that you say on their behalf, leaves a record that can ultimately be used to tell the story of the siphoning of public assets for personal gain.

Thank God that you’re so transparent. Thank God that you’re so clumsy. Thank God that you’re so arrogant as to excuse your lack of ability and that your patrons are stupid enough to trust in you. All of this will come in useful someday. (Your patrons won’t be able to say that no one tried to warn them about you.)

So, back to the topic at hand: you identify what you want to complain about and prepare for your answer — or man up and admit that you basically have nothing except a desire to convince people, once again, of something that would be nice for you if it were true, but isn’t.

And people of Anaheim — are you really HAPPY that your tax money is being funneled from the Council majority through the deeply indebted Anaheim Chamber of Commerce to pay for this weasel?

That was fun. Oh, well, back to work. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, folks!


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)