Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Advice to Journalists: Don't Email Naked Shorting Nuts

"Give him some grief!!!": Seattle reporter's private email publicized

The SEC extended its widely ridiculed naked shorting order yesterday, as expected, so the anti-shorting publicity campaign, funded by CEO Patrick Byrne, is going into overdrive. While Overstock's highly-paid lobbyists hammer at the SEC, his minions, including a bunch on his personal payroll, are working on the media, mainly by email. My advice to journalists: be careful not to write back to naked shorting conspiracists.

You can't reason with these nuts, and you risk you'll make yourself a target of a Byrne-funded smear campaign. (Ask Herb Greenberg, Joe Nocera, Susan Antilla, Roddy Boyd, Bethany McLean or moi.) Or you'll find your servers snowed under by protest emails, much as happens when reporters take on religious cults.

SOP is for journalists to respond to readers' emails, but if you do that you risk what happened to a reporter for the Seattle Times named Drew DeSilver. Note this post yesterday on the stock message board for Overstock, which mainly serves as a kind of organizing center for stock promoters, hatchet men on Byrne's personal payroll and deranged stock market conspiracy theorists.

DeSilver, who tells me that has never actually written on the subject, made the mistake of responding to an email from a seemingly rational naked shorting conspiracist who gave his name as "Shawn Brandom." DeSilver made the mistake of disagreeing with Brandom, who retaliated by posting his email and his email address with this message to his fellow loons: "GIVE HIM SOME GRIEF!!!!!!"

"Grief" could mean bombarded with loony emails, or it could mean being vilified by Byrne's nauseating paid cyberstalker Judd Bagley, who used to target unfriendly reporters for Florida Republicans, or Byrne's latest hire, the delusional ex-journalist Mark Mitchell, known mainly for running CJR's Audit column into the ground.

Note the subject heading: "this guy refuses to accept it." That's the kind of religious fervor you find among cults or political extremists, not among people rationally expounding on market issues. There is no middle ground, no possible counter-argument. You either "accept" their stock market conspiracy theories or you are the "enemy."

These are weird people, so again my advice: keep your distance.

© 2008 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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