This post has been rewritten for the simple reason that I made an assumption that turned out to be both hasty and naïve. The basis of the current disturbance is that Kendrick Johnson’s family sued the Bells (among others) for causing the wrongful death of their son, and covering it up. The Bells sued the Johnsons for defamation. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has for a couple of years been collecting information to eventually make up its mind whether anybody can or should be charged with murder.
In mid-October, news came out that the Atlanta office of Twitter was ordered (for the benefit of the Bell family’s lawyers) to hand over identifying information about 23 Twitter accounts, and also, all of their tweets starting on January 11, 2013, the day Kendrick Johnson’s dead body was discovered.
The assumption I made was that these accounts belonged to Lowndes High School students (or perhaps faculty members or workers). It is to be hoped that U.S. Attorney Michael Moore’s investigation started to scrutinize tweets a long time ago. So if Moore’s team knew who said what on social media, the Bell lawyers would naturally be interested in knowing just as much. Maybe some of the people called to the Grand Jury had been asked to testify because of what their tweets said.
Maybe the Bell lawyers also collected tweets, and wanted to speak with these people and find out what they told the Grand Jury, or just find out more about them, in general. So it would make sense for them to go after the same slice of Twitter’s database, to identify any kids/faculty/employees and find out what they may have said about the Bell boys. Any lawyer wants to know what witnesses have already told the other side. It would have added up.
As it turns out, the people behind the 23 Twitter accounts are not Lowndes students, or anyone else with an actual, real-world connection to the case, but individuals out there in cyberspace who have taken an interest in what looks like a probable homicide followed by a badly mishandled investigation.
Across the aisle, the murder deniers, who happen to be white supremacists, want personal information so they can mete out punishment to anyone who dares to disagree with them online. They brag about having the power to destroy from a distance, and apparently they do have skilz to find information and make destructive use of it, and a certain amount of malicious hacking has already been performed. Given all that, it’s tempting to wonder why they would bother to force Twitter to disgorge the information. But that’s just a side issue.
The prime mover behind all this Twitter exposure-seeking seems to be an individual I will call DiPi, who wields quite an assortment of Twitter handles and alternate identities in various Internet venues. He and the other white supremacists are against what they call the Black Grievance Industry (BGI), and they harbor particular resentment against a handful of black attorneys. Reading the whole story of what this guy has been up to can give you a head cramp. The deep history of what’s going on here is covered by Xena, who knows an amazing lot about it. This quotation is from her website:
On one blog, the person posted a three-step plan to destroy what they believe to be and have labeled “BGI social justice warriors.” Trying to place a definition on their conspiracy theory is difficult but might be summarized as saying that anyone, regardless of their race, who is on social media and supports justice for minorities, is a “BGI social justice warrior.” The three-step plan to destroy them/us starts with taking their money and silencing them. After posting his step-by-step instructions on how to destroy the lives of BGI social justice warriors, he has now deleted that blog.
DiPi is very enmeshed in the Kendrick Johnson controversy, and feels protective toward the Bell family. He seems willing to do just about anything to harm people whose esteem for the Bells does not match his. (There is also a rumor that he’s related to someone who works at Lowndes High School, but at the time when I read that, I didn’t realize what a pivotal character DiPi is in all this, and don’t even remember where it came from.)
Recently, DiPi took time out of his busy schedule of harassment to contact several Twitter users who have frequently and emphatically voiced their opinions about the Kendrick Johnson case. He told them that Twitter was going to receive a subpoena asking for their account information. Furthermore, he predicted that these people would soon be the objects of lawsuits – presumably, instituted by the Bell family. (Whether the Bells are on board with this is not known.)
The first part came true, and Twitter notified several people that their information had indeed been subpoenaed. Anybody with a brain in their head wonders, how did DiPi know, ahead of anyone else, about the subpoena, and how did he know which Twitter users would be affected by it? Strangely, as Xena reported, information about some of these same accounts had been sought in a (my word:) frivolous lawsuit against an individual.
Do the Bells really want or need a loose cannon like this in their corner? He gives the impression that having him on your side could turn out to be a huge liability. One of those “With friends like this, you don’t need enemies” situations.
Meanwhile, the Johnsons’ and Bells’ attorneys were collecting evidence and deposing witnesses for their civil suits. The Justice Deptartment thought these activities might interfere with the criminal investigation aspect, and submitted motions to Judge Porter of Lowndes County, asking him to make everything stop for 180 days (6 months). This would also apply to the demand that was made to Twitter. About a week later, Judge Porter said no, he would not put the civil cases on hold.
So, 23 people have been officially warned that Twitter has been asked for their identifying information, and according to DiPi, 6 more identities will be demanded by another subpoena, for a total of 29 people the murder deniers would like to silence. Xena explains,
In essence, what is happening is that if Twitter is forced to turn over account information for non-parties to a cause of action, then anyone can file anything with the court and conduct “discovery” into the personal information of non-parties…
If Twitter begins giving out account information on persons who are not named parties in a case, then no one on Twitter is safe.
The anti-Black Grievance Industry people believe that many of the 29 Twitter users are “authorized agents” of the Johnson family. Supposedly, they get paid for tweets, and also for posting in Valdosta Topix and other online forums where Kendrick Johnson’s death is discussed. The KJ justice seekers who have been at it for a while speak of “credible threats.” They receive hints about missing pets and arm-breaking, and specific street intersections, to ramp up the “we know where you live” paranoia.
The murder deniers trash-talk with the bravado of MMA fighters and sling around challenges like “My attorney can mop the floor with your attorney.” They make reference to “the mob beating you’re about to get when your identity is known.” That particular rant continues with a quaint combination of backpedaling and aggression:
The beating is of course going to be in court where the judge will order you to pay the Bells, etc, every cent you make for the rest of your life.
I in no way suggest anyone to take the info gotten from the subpoena and use it to locate you and then inflict serious injury to you and the rest of these azzhats that didn’t know when to quit.
They say the Bells are being libeled and defamed, but as one commentator points out, if there really are grounds for defamation suits, why not simply pursue that route and skip all the nonsense about blog posts and Facebook comments and Tweets being written by authorized Johnson Family “agents.” It makes the Johnsons sound like the Borgias or something. Whereas the family that is actually more likely to be Machiavellian would be the one with the FBI agent in it. Just sayin’.
The Bells have already filed defamation lawsuits against Ebony magazine and one of its writers. The white supremacists claim that the KJ justice people have also done a share of digging and doxing. The whole thing is a big ugly mess.