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.