Saturday, June 09, 2007

Should Message Boards Stomp Out Anti-Semitism?

There's an interesting exchange of messages on the Yahoo Overstock message board initiated by Howard Sirota, a prominent attorney. The subject is a disturbing one -- the tendency of the Baloney Brigade anti-short-selling lunatics to use anti-Semitic stereotypes and imagery. Sam Antar's blog has a post on the same subject.

Sirota wrote a post, entitled "No More Anti-Semitism on this Board!," in which he noted, among other things, that he did a search for "Jew" on the Overstock message board and found "428 posts containing the word 'Jew.'"

Sirota expressed disgust concerning that and anti-Semitism on's corporate smear site:

This is supposed to be a forum to discuss

I strongly suggest you stick to and make no further anti-semitic remarks. It's easy to trace your IP address to a physical location, see it on Google, and get directions from Mapquest, and turn it all over to the feds and the B'Nai Brith Anti-Defamation League.
Interestingly, the reaction was one of hostility from both fans of Overstock and detractors, who apparently cling to the notion that anti-Semites should be given free reign to express their swill -- if for no other reason than to demonstrate the bankruptcy of their cause. (They were also off-put by the threatening tone of Sirota's message.)

Sam's blog focuses on the threats and bigotry in's antisocialmedia corporate smear site, in an open letter to the Overstock board audit committee.

I personally am not in favor of censoring the anti-Semites of the Baloney Brigade. If they've got it-- in this case, bigotry -- I say "flaunt it!" They sure have. However, I won't weep if Yahoo decides that such messages are unsuitable for a family message board.

The broader issue is why bigotry and fanaticism exists among the baloneys. It certainly is a matter of record that fans of the Baloney Brigade and its leader, Patrick Byrne, include conspiracy theorist Bo Gritz and ultra-right kook Daryl Bradford Smith (as I noted in an item a few weeks ago).

One aggressive anti-Semite -- he used to send me anti-Semitic emails -- is a leading "stock counterfeiting" conspiracy theorist who has testified for the cause, as I described in a blog item a while back.

Jew-baiting is actually a pretty old and much-noted phenomenon among the Baloney Brigadiers, and was first observed in 2005 by Jeff Matthews (see this post and this). Byrne himself went on a rampage on a pro-Israel message board about a year ago, after the board posted about anti-Semitism on the Yahoo board.

Byrne went berserk, posting entire an entire off-topic article, insulting the board members and generally making a damn fool of himself. It seemed at the time, and now, to be a particularly nutty way of interacting with potential customers.

Note too that in a one-week exchange of messages, Byrne never denounced the anti-Semites among his followers, or apologize for their rhetoric. Instead he maintained they were agents of the opposition, and devoted his energies instead to attacking the people who had brought the anti-Semitism to his attention.

That tells you something, don't you think? Something pretty darn ugly, I would say.

One investor, after noting how Byrne had gone out of his way to alienate readers of the pro-Israel blog, made the following good point on the Yahoo message board:
The bigger problem isn't that the CEO is running smear campaigns, making threats, or wearing a dunce cap and all but that he's doing it in a way that hides it from investors. He should be linking back all of his rants at various blogs and message boards to a single site at OSTK investors can easily check to see how many potential customers Patrick has offended. And he should 8-k that so everyone is on notice.
© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.


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