New Orleans I ran home for a minute yesterday to pick up a sweater after the rain brought a cool front into New Orleans. The phone rang. I picked it up, there was silence and then the caller disconnected. I figured it was a bad robo-dial. A minute later there was another call. The caller asked if this was Wade Rathke, I asked who wanted to know, and the man said he was Mark Sutherland, a “big supporter” of mine and admirer of my work and what ACORN had accomplished, but he wanted me to know that “Mark Sinclair” from Fox News, was broadcasting my home address, my home phone number, and the phone number of the Fair Grinds Coffeehouse that we began managing in mid-October. I thanked him, and hung up.
The next half-hour of messing with this was interesting. First, there were not a huge number of callers, which at least proves that some Fox News viewers have some good sense or a modicum of manners. Secondly, most callers hung up as soon as I picked up the phone on the old principle I suppose that if a man answers, hang up! I think they were taken aback to have gotten lucky and had me on the phone. One engaged me a bit and wanted to make sure I was “Wade S. Rathke, the ACORN thug who was organizing the Occupy movement.” I told him my middle name was Wade and that he had his “S” was in the wrong place, and I hung up. The calls were from Allentown, PA, and central Jersey, and that neck of the woods. Fox News and these losers probably don’t realize that you can immediately dial back after a call and get the number of the caller on modern phones, so we could collect their numbers to turn into the police.
It was funny to me that they used the Fair Grinds number, rather than calling my office at ACORN International or Local 100 United Labor Unions or Social Policy magazine, all of which would have normally given them a better shot at talking to me. Do the Fox News crazies not only think – preposterously – that I’m somehow “organizing the Occupy movement,” but also working as a barista at our great new Fair Grinds Coffeehouse? Even funnier is that we are still in the death throes of trying to get Cox and Verizon to port the cellphone numbers that were used since Katrina at the coffeehouse over to a land line we installed two weeks ago, so bully-boy callers would have gone right to voice mail over there.
Frankly, it’s not cool to see that Fox News is back up to these kinds of shenanigans even with Glenn Beck long lost and gone. This is the kind of thing that brings out the whack jobs as we all saw in the Oakland incident and gunfight about a year ago with a deranged dude looking to wreck mayhem on the Tides Foundation because of its connections with me, progressives, and others. On Facebook a number of my friends’ advice was to lawyer up, but as much as I appreciated the sentiment, we have freedom of speech here, and once you have morphed into being a “public figure” because of the work you do, there’s not much that lawyers can do but send you a bill. As for calling the police in New Orleans, read the papers, Google New Orleans police, and you will understand why I would feel safer NOT calling, thank you! I’m glad I got a shotgun for my birthday and am in the process of getting myself a new dog for the yard since Cheyenne passed away, but these things only mark the boundary line of the property.
The real boundaries have to be marked by a civility of discourse and dissent, which allows us to vigorously debate our differences including organizing aggressively and protesting loudly, but still respects basic democratic principles and fundamental societal norms that do not deliberately attempt to silence and intimidate. It won’t work with me, but, frankly, it should be tried with anyone.