Aug
18

Goodbye Screwy Hoolie

By

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Hello. My name is Gordon Smith.


For over three years I’ve written here and elsewhere under the eponymous nickname, Screwy Hoolie. In June of 2004, you’ll remember, Democrats had chosen the candidate most likely to lose to George W. Bush. The NC-11 Democratic establishment expended a minimum of effort for an amazing candidate, Patsy Keever, and she was on her way to a resounding defeat.

2004 was the year that Rush Limbaugh said of the torture at Abu Ghraib, ” “I’m talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?”

It was the year that George W. Bush said, “They hate our freedom.”

It was dark times for a country wrapped in post-traumatic fog and assaulted by Karl Rove, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and the War on Terror. Democrats were running for cover, surrendering as quickly as they could to avoid being called traitors by the likes of Bill Frist. Iraq was failing fast, but the corporate media continued to report as though questioning the President’s strategy was unamerican. The corporate media and the government establishment were playing the worst kind of politics while the right wing noise machine spewed the worst sorts of rhetoric.

We Hooligans got together and created a blog, a place to put our thoughts, to share news, and to spew venom to match the poison coming out of Frank Luntz’ Mighty Wurlitzer. As Markos Moulitsas put it recently, “Like any movement, we are maturing. We threw stones, got people’s attention, and perhaps a bit surprisingly, they listened.”

They didn’t listen right away, mind you, and there’s still a great number who haven’t grasped the fact that the political winds are changing. Here at Scrutiny Hooligans we created and sustained a months-long attack on the abominable record of Congressman Charles Taylor. We threw stones, and they listened. Sean Dalton, Taylor’s Chief of Staff and campaign staffer became a regular reader. We had drinks together. We emailed and talked. Taylor’s press secretary, a fine woman who has now lifted the yoke of Taylor’s hypocrisy from her well-meaning shoulders, obsessed over our WNCNN videos. The Shuler campaign invited us in to interview the candidate, seeking to boost his credibility in progressive circles. If you Googled Charles Taylor, you found Scrutiny Hooligans. If you Googled Heath Shuler, you found us too. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington contacted us when they needed a local ally to help go after Taylor.

WNCNN became a staple for online NC-11 Democrats. Our passion didn’t always make up for our inexperience, but we had a ton of fun. Asheville’s URTV continues to run WNCNN clips as they have since October, 2006. Even my very Republican Silver Dollar waitress gave me a sly wink when she told me she’d seen me on TV.

WNCNN also covered very real news that had big impact:

– When the Asheville Citizen-Times was blasting Shuler for not appearing at a debate he’d never agreed to because it fell on his sacrosanct Sundays while withholding ink on the six community forums Taylor skipped, WNCNN covered Shuler’s appearance at a debate that Charles Taylor no-showed. The “Every Day But Sunday” video was viewed over two thousand times.
– More than four thousand people watched John Edwards deliver an impassioned speech about the future of our nation.
– County Commissioner Carol Peterson denied secret meetings with Progress Energy and demonstrated a general lack of knowledge with the issues surrounding the power plant. It shocked most who watched it and nearly made pariahs of us. Repeat: Carol Peterson willingly interviewed with Drama Queen and refused the option to correct any inaccuracies in the final version.
– Nearly five thousand people watched our video of Karl Rove’s appearance at the NC-11 Republican Convention.
– We provided the only coverage of the election for the Eleventh District Democratic Party Chair, and we got Chairman Hyde’s statement of support for Paul Donohue and his ideas.
– We broke the story of Jeff Hunt’s plans to run for the Republican nomination for Congress against Heath Shuler. On video.
– My friends and family played Peanut Butter Charlie Time again and again, much to the delight of their employees and their children.

Johnny Joe Rockslide, Sally Love, Mad Miss Mattie, and the rest of the WNCNN satire cast (including Brainshrub, syntax, photoshop guru, and Drama King) busied ourselves helping Shuler get elected and helping Democrats do the right thing. We threw stones, and, surprisingly, they listened.

Mountain Xpress picked up on our growing involvement, some quotes from the Oct. 11-17, 2006 edition help to illustrate my journey:

“By his own admissions, the political response to 9/11 left hard-core Democrat Gordon Smith feeling angry and powerless, “It was just fear and loathing before then, but then it became utter depression ’04, and I just felt paralyzed” after the re-election of George W. Bush, he says.

Somewhere along the way, however, “I decided to stop being angry,” says Smith, a therapist by profession. “It was eating me up. I found that action was the best antidote to that pessimism and disenfranchisement.”

Our readership grew from a disgruntled few dozen to thousands every month. Community leaders, Party officers, and notorious rabble-rousers have become regular commenters on these pages. We’re entirely surprised and grateful for all of the attention they’ve given Scrutiny Hooligans, even as I’ve lobbed rhetorical molotov cocktails into their living rooms.

Now it’s August, 2007, and there is a sea change in the country and in the Democratic Party. While we’re still miles off course, the Party’s navigators have gotten wise to the fact that you can no longer ignore progressives and expect to win. When 7 Presidential candidates show up to get poked and prodded by 1,500 bloggers at Yearly Kos, you know that you’re doing something right.

To quote Markos Moulitas once more, “None of us in this new coalition – the netroots activists, the issue groups, the party officials – None of us can win on our own. And we don’t need to. We have each other.”

As I’ve striven to help oust corrupt Republicans, help elect Democrats, and help move the Democratic Party out of George Bush’s shadow, I’ve been keenly aware of the power of language to make people sit up and take notice. Now that they’ve noticed, I reckon it’s time I altered the way I communicate with them.

I blogged pseudonymously and liked the mystery of it, though I certainly never tried to keep my identity a secret, as you can learn from that fancy Googlin’ machine. Being Screwy meant never having to say I was sorry and never pulling my punches at someone else’s behest. A few months ago I realized that I had effectively completed a transformation, and this past weekend at Yearly Kos I made my decision.

After years of honing a blogging persona, I’ve come to embody much of what I’ve advocated. I’ve become willing to speak truth to power and gotten involved in the politics of my city, county, and district. I’ve volunteered on campaigns, written opinion pieces for the Citizen-Times, appeared on the radio and television. I’ve helped to found the excellent BlogAsheville community and helped to make Drinking Liberally an Asheville institution. I’m no longer intimidated by those who feel entitled to the power they’re given by the people, be they politicians or journalists. I’m no longer cynical about what one person can do to make the world a better place. I’m hopeful and ready to move forward.

I’m Gordon Smith, and I’m here to retire Screwy Hoolie’s number.

Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean an end to the snark or to the scrutiny. It simply means that I’m coming out from behind the pseudonym and owning my words. Scrutiny Hooligans has been an important catalyst in my life, leading me from frustration and anger to empowerment and hope.

This is likely the longest post I’ve ever written and certainly the most personal. I write it to let you all know what has been accomplished and what is yet to come. Thanks to everyone who has helped me along this political journey, especially my friends at BlogAsheville. You’ve empowered me to step into arenas I wouldn’t have attempted on my own. I’m supporting Elaine Lite and Brownie Newman in their candidacies for City Council. There’s a referendum on partisan elections I’d like to see go a certain direction. There’s a District 11 Democratic Party that will need a lot of massaging before they see the light and invite progressives to the table in a meaningful way. The 2008 election cycle is just around the corner as well, and there will be a lot of work to do.

Comments

  1. Susan says:

    Wowser! What a great post, Gordon. Your enthusiasm is infectious.

  2. petulant says:

    Is that a thorny halo above your head Screwy? Ugh.. cough cough.. meow… Gordon!

  3. Kim says:

    Welcome to the Scrutiny world, Gordon Smith. Long may you wave!

  4. randallt says:

    You scared me for a minute Sruti….er Gordon. I was afraid it was a GBCW diary…whew!

    There was an interesting poll on Kos awhile back that asked how many people posted anonymously. Well over 50% did. I was curious about this and read the responses. Many, like you, simply enjoyed the mystery and the ability to blog while not looking over their shoulder. Remember Armando? Got outed as a lawyer for a big corp.

    That being said, I’ve always liked posting up front. And though randallt is certainly not “randallthompson”, I think it’s close enough.

    Welcome to an open society Gordon Smith! Gee, what a great name!

  5. Arratik says:

    Not that there’s anything wrong with posting anonymously. It’s just that when everyone knows who you are anyway, maintaining a facade just takes more time and energy that can be spent more productively on other things.

    All I can say is “better you than me, pal!” 😀

  6. DM says:

    Good on you man! Glad to see the face and name behind the pseudonym.

    DM

  7. rip says:

    You’ll always be Screwy to me.

  8. Uptown Ruler says:

    Coming out of the blog closet, eh?

    Good on ya!

    /slams blog door hurriedly

  9. Thomas Brock says:

    Screwy Hoolie’s gone. Long Live Screwy!

    Gordon Smith is here. Long Live Gordon!

    I’ve long been a proponent of using a real identity, as long as there are no other conflicts.

    It simply means that I’m coming out from behind the pseudonym and owning my words.

  10. Ashevillein says:

    Whew.
    For a second I thought you were going to say you were changing your name to Not Thomas Wolfe.

  11. Great little piece of scribbling, Gordon! When I saw your title, I thought, “Uh oh. Somebody’s quitting the blog racket!” Glad that isn’t the case. And as someone who’s been doing this under my own name since 2003, I can tell you the death threats on my answering machine have pretty much leveled out to one every six months or so.

  12. Jenanne says:

    🙂

    Great post – so glad it wasn’t the “I’m done” post it appeared to be from my feed’s summary.

  13. ZombieBirdhouse says:

    I heard about Scrutiny Hooligans while having a conversation with Anonymous in NC on an Eschaton comment thread years ago. I was in much the same state that you’ve described and was searching for a way to make a difference. I was hooked after my first visit here. I’ve read this blog pretty much every day since.

    I remember the first time that I met Gordon Smith. It was at a fund raiser for Patsy Keever at the country club on Reems Creek Road. My partner and I were so impressed with your passion and drive.

    Then despite my non-blogger status, y’all invited me to attend the first BlogAsheville gathering. It was great to meet Uptown & Syntax and watch the birth of a local community.

    I’ll never forget the WNCNN shoots! What a blast. Plus I got to know (and love) the beautiful and talented Drama Queen.

    Thank you Gordon for all that you have done, are doing and will do in the future to advocate for change. I love you my friend.

  14. Asheman says:

    Wonderful post Gordon. Someday I’ll come out of the blog closet when my own conflict is gone (remember our conversation at downtown after five a couple of months ago…its me). Looking forward to that day. Keep up the great work.

  15. Tim Peck says:

    I abandoned fake screen names 10+ years ago and have never looked back. It keeps you honest.

    The human personality, frail as it is, is made up of many facets and the worst ones tend to emerge in anonymity. It’s a law of cyberspace.

  16. Drama Queen says:

    My name is Leslie Bland. But I AM a drama queen so it’s not really a pseudonym. I blogged pseudonymously (is that a word?) mainly because Mr. DQ, Mark Hufford, worked for the party. You see, he didn’t want people to think that I was speaking for him or from “insider” information. (and, even though I never posted anything that didn’t have an outside source, the minute anyone in power didn’t like what I had to say, they went after him!)

    I also used a pseudonym because I didn’t know what Charles Taylor would do. And I did get some weird emails . . .

    Gordon, I remember sitting on my porch just last summer talking about wanting to do something with Mad Miss Mattie and you wanted a fake news show and soon enough we were filming and it just rolled along so quickly! Should we post that first video of you and the football comments????

    Remember the day we filmed outside Taylor’s office and they kept sending spies out to walk by? One intern-type kept speaking Spanish into his cell phone. No, that wasn’t obvious . . .

    Then we were interviewing Heath and there was Andrew kind of trying to look in my viewfinder (sure that we were going to do something snarky!)

    Then the debate came and, all of a sudden, I was editing. And that was our first “viral” video. I posted it at 3 a.m. and emailed the link and in a half hour it had 30 hits. Hmmmm Wonder who was up so late that night?

    And then people were calling me to say that we were being promoed for the nightly news. But I didn’t get WLOS in Jonas Ridge so I had to sit and listen while Zombie described it all over the phone. Huff was sure he’d lost his job that night! “I think I’m going to vomit” were his exact words!

    It happened in only a few months. What a ride. What fun.

    So, Gordon, my life has been screwy since I met you but you were never Screwy. Well, only a little . . . What you are is the bravest person I know.

    Congratulations, Gordon! Woooo Hooooo!

  17. Tim Peck says:

    I’m supporting Elaine Lite and Brownie Newman in their candidacies for City Council.

    I see that Elaine and Brownie have not filed to run for city council.

    I believe they have until noon Monday — NOON!

  18. Sometimes it’s easier to keep track of two people than one person with different names. I use a semi-pseudonym that is more an accurate representation of myself. Good to meet you on Thursday too, Screwdon.

  19. rip says:

    ….and all this time I had him pictured with dreads….Mon.

  20. Gordon Smith says:

    Thanks everybody, I’m definitely feeling the love. I don’t really have anything to add to my post, but I just wanted to thank you for saying so many nice things in this comment thread.

  21. Edgy Mama says:

    Nice work, Gordon.

    I think you’re right on!

    My “real” name has always been on my bloggie, although people notice it less than I would think.

    However, on Monday, look for both names on the MtX blog!

  22. writ of summons says:

    Excellent wrap-up on Screwy’s career. Keep the accomplishments coming Gord-o!

  23. Somewhere along the way, however, “I decided to stop being angry,” says Smith, a therapist by profession. “It was eating me up. I found that action was the best antidote to that pessimism and disenfranchisement.”

    Amen to that. “The Man” should have let sleeping Hooligans lie.

    Too late!

  24. Lab Kat says:

    *sniffles*

    Oh, Screwy… we hardly knew ya.

  25. Gordon,

    I salute you!

    Jude [Iddybud]

  26. delirious says:

    I cringe as I type the words “role model”. They have been too often abused over the years. I fear that they have lost their power. But those words apply here.

    Gordon Smith, you are truly a role model.
    You have challenged us to rethink our role as citizens.
    You are an example of the power of the individual.
    You have connected us to others in ways that demonstrate the power of community.
    You are a model for how each of us can use our talents and our voices to effect change.

    People…..this is how a Patriot Act(s)
    (two other words that have been abused lately)

  27. anonymoses says:

    It has been inspiring watching you evolve as a blogger over the years. You have become an important voice, particularly here in North Carolina, and often is the time when I think, “I wish I would have said that.” But I am just glad somebody is. You are in good company…both in Asheville and North Carolina, but also throughout the netroots and blogosphere. I think you should be our next governor.

    Cheers,
    Dave

  28. Mama Smith (previously known as Mama Hoolie) says:

    That’s my boy! You have ever been the one to step out and say what you think. Even as a highschooler, you were taking on management for mistreating employees in your part-time job. You are a wonder! Love ya!

  29. Gordon Smith says:

    Hi Mom!

    This is, without any reservations, my favorite comment thread ever.