This is a story about my personal experience living an the neighborhood of Oakhurst, in the town of Decatur, Georgia, and being stalked and abused online by David Rotenstein. The stalking consisted of Rotenstein secretly following me online, digging into my personal life and posting the details, and sending me emails. He has not, as of this writing, made any specific threat or visited my home or place of work. Still, it has had a chilling effect on my comfort speaking freely, knowing I may be insulted and/or legally threatened for anything I say on any topic. It is no exaggeration to say that Rotenstein has become obsessed with me, writing about in a half dozen forums (that I am aware of) and continuing to write about me months after I broke off contact. This blog will not attempt to discuss all of Rotenstein's writings about me, but will cover the highlights.
David Rotenstein is a prolific local blogger and writer. I can't remember where I first read his stuff; perhaps in my local Oakhurst Leaflet or maybe in a link from the excellent DecaturMetro (www.decaturmetro.com) blog. His main interest is in preserving old buildings, which is something that he is passionate about.
David Rotenstein is an outspoken critic of anonymity, going so far as to "out" the DecaturMetro blogger's identity against his express wishes. Although DecaturMetro has supported some of David Rotenstein's positions and his Historian For Hire, they had a falling out. Circumstances are not exactly clear to me, but I believe that David Rotenstein got in an argument with people in the DM blog comments and DM did not take his side to a sufficient degree. David Rotenstein followed up by posting more of DM's personal info and a nasty open letter (which I can no longer find posted publicly).
David Rotenstein also had arguments on Twitter, e.g. with @OakhurtGossip. Frequently the issue at hand involved the word 'McMansion'. Rotenstein is an active preservationist, and he draws his definition of McMansion from the National Trust for Historic Preservation which is "bulky, out-of-scale new homes on small parcels where they do not fit the existing character of the community". Decatur, Georgia actually has an anti-McMansion provision in its zoning code that limits the allowed size on a given lot, so arguably that prevents McMansions of this definition from being built in neighborhoods like my Oakhurst. But the terms "bulky" and "small" are subjective, so Rotenstein allows himself to freely call any (perhaps all) new construction a "McMansion" even if only handful of like-minded activist would agree with the assessment.
I am reminded of another group of combative activists - hardcore vegans* who define meat as murder (nutrition is another of my interests). You might agree that murder is bad, but when a vegan activist calls you a murderer, you will mostly likely be offended and protest. But the protest will have no effect, because after all, meat is by definition murder, even if only a small group of activists use the definition. Similarly, you might agree that McMansions are bad, but when a preservationist activist tells you the house you live in is one, you're not going to be too happy. Saying that Oakhurst is full of McMansions is similar to saying that Oakhurst is full of murderers; it may not be technically lying, but it's going to be misleading to most folks and offensive to quite a few others.
Despite being a vocal critic of anonymity on Twitter, David Rotenstein later admitted that he himself used anonymous accounts to make mischief on Twitter. This is one small example of his his hypocrisy. There will be more.
*No offense intended to vegans out there. For the record I never met a vegan as unpleasant as DSR (unless he happens to be vegan, in which case, I guess I have).
II. Food Deserts
In August of 2012, David Rotenstein found a new negative term to apply to Oakhurst - "food desert". The USDA released a map of areas that may be considered "food deserts" and Oakhurst was on that map. I couldn't imagine a lush and vibrant community like Oakhurst could be described as a food desert, which is a term coined to describe blighted neighborhoods served mainly by convenience stores and fast food restaurants. So I decided to challenge David Rotenstein on that characterization.
I knew he can be combative, but I thought I would be safe because I post only under my own name, never anonymously, and that seemed to be the biggest issue he had with his critics. I also thought I would be able to stick to the facts and avoid matters of opinion. In retrospect, I shouldn't have posted, at least without doing a bit more research. But as it turns out, I was right; Oakhurst does *not* fit the USDA criteria (the one Rotenstein insisted on using) for "food desert". The map appeared to be using very old outdated data.
After I crunched the numbers on the census data and presented the proof to Mr. Rotenstein, he responded with this message:
You don't have to agree with me, but keep your insulting and ill-informed comments to yourself unless you are willing to back them up with solid and credible data, not personal feelings
I have no idea to this day what "insulting" and "ill-informed" comments he is referring to, but I'm pretty sure the US Census data is credible. Rotenstein followed with a new posting in which he maintained you can still consider Oakhurst a food desert, if you adopt a broad enough definition. I liken this to his view that can call any non-bungalow a "McMansion" using a broad enough definition of that term. Fair enough. Since our discussion started, Oakhurst's first non-local chain, Family Dollar, opened up in Oakhurst and since they sell some essential food at reasonable prices, I don't think even Rotenstein would argue that Oakhurt is still a food desert.
We had a few other private exchanges that day:
Can I ask why insulting my neighborhood is a hobby of yours?
I'm not "insulting" your neighborhood.
It's a reoccurring theme in your blog to write attack pieces on Oakhurst and its residents. "McMansion", "Deliverence", "food desert", "swamp" are all meant to be derogatory are they not? Not to mention the Oakhurst Klan picture.
"Swamp" may have been referring to DecaturMetro blog, not Oakhurst itself. And he superimposed Oakhurst residents names over images of the Klan, supposedly in protest of anonymity, but the title isn't "Anonymity", it's "Oakhurst".
And this one:
Ida stated that she sold her home because she lost her job, and that she would have kept it otherwise. Are you blaming that on builders and gentrification?
Builders were constantly harassing her to sell. Taxes made Decatur unaffordable; the easiest way out was to sell even though she and her kids didn't want to sell.
This is the key to a lot of arguments that people have with David Rotenstein.
We have access to the interview Rotenstein conducted with Ms Fudge in a anti-gentrification video series he conducted. He asked the questions and edited the result, so he had quite a bit of control over what she said. Here is the relevant excerpt:
"If I were still working my regular job, I would not consider moving…the taxes are enormous for me, and the house is need of repair."
She seems to be saying that the primary reason she sold her house is that she lost her job. Gentrification had at best a tertiary role and harassment by builders was not mentioned at all. If she was harassed by builders, why was that not in the interview?
Either Rotenstein is being a sloppy writer, leaving his reader to wonder, or she never said such things and he is misquoting her for his own purposes. Despite my multiple requests for clarification, he's never provided support for his version of events. I think that using the elderly as a puppet to further ones agenda is a bad thing and that appears to be what is happening here.
So if I have to choose between what a elderly african american lady says happened to her and what an activist white guy claims, I'm going to take the former. According to Rotenstein, that makes me a racist… but I am getting ahead of myself.
III. Let's talk research
Let's suppose that Mr. Rotenstein did find an example of someone in Oakhurst who was harassed in the past decade or so. And I mean really harassed, not the junk mail and phone calls that are ubiquitous in this modern world. Would that mean that gentrification was to blame? The answer is, of course, not necessarily. A key question in any research is "Compared to what?". Finding a case of harassment doesn't mean that there is more harassment in Oakhurst, it just means there is some. Luckily, there are two other neighborhoods adjacent to Oakhurst which could serve as excellent comparisons - Kirkwood and East Lake. The three neighborhoods were very similar demographically 10 years ago, and all have gentrified to some degree, but Oakhurst has changed much more dramatically. Comparing those neighborhoods should give you some idea of what the effects of gentrification are, both good and bad. And yes, it has good and bad effects; this is not a controversial statement.
Are people in Oakhurst more harassed than in Kirkwood and East Lake? Given that the crime rates are much higher in those neighborhoods, I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that gentrification *prevents* harassment. But I don't know for sure. It would take effort by unbiased researcher to uncover the truth. I do not believe that Mr. Rotenstein is unbiased, nor am I aware of him making any effort to compare Oakhurst to other neighborhoods. I'd be very interested to read research on the subject if anyone does it, even if it the results are not flattering.
Focusing on the negative while ignoring the positive, not being concerned whether or not the statements are even true, that's not research, that's marketing (specifically, attack advertising).
So at this point I've raised two criticisms - that Rotenstein appears to be misquoting his subject, and appears to be looking at an issue so one-sidely it can't possibly be called research. I think those are valid criticisms, and I took them directly to Mr. Rotenstein. He published some of them, but has never answered them adequately as far as I know.
And if they are wrong, they would be very easy to answer. e.g. Rotenstein could just play the unedited portion of the tape where Ida Fudge talks about the harassment she received. And he could post the interview he did with grandmothers in Kirkwood and East Lake who say they are free of harassment and are thankful that they don't like live in Oakhurst. He could easily show us those things, unless of course they don't exist.
So that was the private discussion that Rotenstein and I had. He ended up publishing most of it, with my permission, of course.
IV. I fucking hate Twitter.
I really don't like Twitter. The 140 char limit makes it impossible to talk about important things, at least with any nuance. I can never say just what I want to say, educate and entertain in such a little space. However, if you don't have a blog and you need to say something publicly without spamming a group, Twitter does provide a method.
This is the first tweet I ever received, from someone calling themselves @ScottBoulevard:
Welcome to da club! Saw u were Historian's latest target cause u called his lie a lie!
@ScottBoulevard also sent me this warning:
Listen 2 advice! It knows where u live & will take pix of ur house & family 2 post on websites! Then call cops on YOU!
This turned out to be extremely prophetic. He never posted a picture of my house, as far as I know. But he did find my address, and yes, David Rotenstein did call the cops on me (but again, I get ahead of the story).
I was new to Twitter and didn't know that the Reply option was public and would be read by David Rotenstein. Of course I try to never say anything I wouldn't want repeated publicly (that's just a good rule to live by). I also didn't know David Rotenstein keeps list of his enemies, and that @ScottBoulevard was on that list. If successfully criticizing David Rotenstein in an area of his alleged expertise wasn't enough to get me on the list, being friendly to @ScottBoulevard definitely was.
I made three (unintentionally) public tweets about the experience of debating David Rotenstein. That was enough for him to start to stalk me.
@ScottBoulevard Thanks! I figured there was a support for this. To be fair, he represented my argument pretty well. Settled? We'll see.
Of course I meant, " a support group for this". Debating David Rotenstein was not a pleasant experience and not one I want to repeat.
It should have been @DMetro, the proprietor of the blog that David Rotenstein had a very public fight with. The public part came entirely from Rotenstein. @OakhurstGossip is the person Rotenstein falsely accused of falsely accusing him.
@OakhurstVillain It's as useful a concept as "McMansion", at least how he uses it, i.e. primarily derogatory.
My main criticism of Rotenstein at that point is that instead of using the description that would be understood by the most people, he uses the most negative term he can justify, without qualifications.
I don't know which of those he objected to so strongly - he's never said. Perhaps it was who I was talking to, not what I was talking about that he objected to.
V. David Rotenstein attacks me personally
A couple of days later I got an anonymous message that Rotenstein had started a new blog, just about me. This was his infamous "Oakhurst storify" blog, an enemy list of sorts, which he used to track my tweets. I wasn't too concerned about it; I stand by everything I said. But I was confused about he was able to follow me stealthily on Twitter, without actually "following" me (I may be a technology expect, but Twitter is not in my area of expertise).
Over the months to come I would get many more messages, always anonymous, telling me that Rotenstein had written about me again, often in a new blog.
When Rotenstein changed the caption on his "storify" blog about me to say I was "irresponsible", I knew that the time for rational argument was at an end. If he wanted to respond to me, he could have done so. By attacking me instead, he has conceded my arguments. He piled on more attacks by calling me "repulsive" and "offensive" and continued to track and post all of my Twitter activity.
VI. A flurry of twitter fighting
Since Rotenstein was actively promoting all of my tweets, I decided that they should say things he disagreed with.
Like this one:
Taking a stroll through beautiful #Oakhurst. Love the trees, the wildlife, and all the nice folks you meet.
And this one:
I asked DSR to stop writing attack pieces on #Oakhurst. He refused, saying he gets paid for them. If so, who is his employer? Lex Luthor?
He did say he got paid for writing these often inaccurate, always negative pieces about my home neighborhood. I do wonder if he was lying about that, or if I misunderstood him. Maybe he was employed by a super-villain attempting to reduce property values? My joke wasn't well-received, but I thought it was funny.
I also sent him one tweet:
@DavidRotenstein If you want the criticism to stop, you need to stop your attacks on people and the #Oakhurst community. It's that simple.
VII. Troll trouble
For decades, the internet has been plauged by trolls. A troll is:
An individual who regularly posts specious arguments, flames or personal attacks to a newsgroup, discussion list, or in email for no other purpose than to annoy someone or disrupt a discussion.
i.e. a pos can be mean, inaccurate, or simply off-topic - the goal is get someone to object to the post, to get someone to fight with.
Rotenstein claims that he is not a troll. This is, of course, false. Rotenstein is a classic troll,and he is in his way to becoming a famous troll.
Rotenstein posted a number of messages to my Oakhurst neighbor association message board, a site for neighbors to share info and ask questions.
Let's look at David Rotenstein's last few posts on that site:
1) A link to the storify blog in which Rotenstein cyber-stalks and insults Oakhurst residents.
On topic? No.
The response from the group was unanimous - off topic and inappropriate, go away.
2) A link to an inappropriate tweet about him by an anonymous poster "BarryRotenstein". Also, called me an "imbecile" and my Oakhurst neighbors "sick".
Way off. The correct way to handle inappropriate tweets is to simply block the the offending user. The tweet wasn't even targeted at David, it was tagged with my name. I was offended and I blocked the user. David could had done the same. If David hadn't been stalking me, he never would have seen the tweet. If he hadn't sent it to my neighbors, they wouldn't have seen it either.
The response from the group was unanimous - off topic and inappropriate, go away.
3) A famous post in which David Rotenstein compared Oakhurst gentrification to the Federal relocation programs. He later claimed that he hand't meant that at all (that it was one paragraph long typo perhaps?). What he did say was that Oakhurst gentrification is a precursor to forced removal by the Federal government, which is, I think, much more insane.
On topic? No.
Ken Seefried composed an elegant reply that ended Rotenstein's tolling, at least on that forum.
I had never head of Ken before this, but I sent him an email thanking him and warning him that David Rotenstein would now consider him an enemy and would blog about him. I was correct; Rotenstein posted a blog entry on Ken on Oct 31st of 2012.
I had stopped reading Rotenstein's blog, but those rants kept showing up in my inbox.
He also posted to the Oakhurst neighbor Facebook page, claiming that he was submitting a paper accusing all of Oakhurst of racism. Now if he wants to conduct some research, and share that with neighborhood, I'd be interested. Instead he seemed to be calling people racist, based on speculation that if he conducted a (biased) investigation he would find some. That's just trolling. He's shown no interest in real investigation that I've seen. He also claimed that the responses he's gotten on Twitter had something to do with racism, not due to the many insults he's slung at Decatur residents (that he conveniently neglects to mention in the article). I am not aware of Rotenstein engaging in anything that could be called research, and his trolling is the farthest thing from real scholarship.
Anyone who thinks David Rotenstein isn't a huge troll hasn't been paying attention.
Table 1. List of insults, by person, as of 11/15/2012
Things David Rotenstein has called me:
Things I have called David Rotenstein:
I wonder who the aggressor is here?
VIII. A plea for peace and a shocking response
I really didn't like being stalked, though I have had ample time to get used to it now. I've always preferred honest communication, and I was willing to overlook Rotenstein's insults. It's impossible to really discuss anything over Twitter, as anything you say is by definition short, simplified, and likely to be misinterptreted. Maybe we've just misunderstood each other? Maybe we can't agree, but perhaps we can at least stop childish name calling?
I sent David Rotenstein an email proposing a truce.
He responded by lying to police and trying to get me arrested, which I am pretty sure is illegal. Here are the relevant lines of his email response:
Unlike your pseudonymous pals, your name and address are known.
Great, now my stalker knows my address. I'm honestly scared this point. It was enough to prompt me to warn my neighbors and beef up some security measures around the house.
You like using Google to make yourself seem like such a legal expert as you've noted in your tweets, try this one out for size: "defamation per se." Under Georgia law, accusing someone of a crime that has not been committed and publishing it is a violation of civil code. The plaintiff is not required to show damages; all he needs is the act with malice.
I'm no legal expert, but yes the law is an interest of mine, esp. freedom of speech issues. I didn't just google the phrase "defamation" when Rotenstein started throwing the term around and I do actually know what the term means.
The stalking comment just bought you time in the funhouse. BTW, to save you any trouble checking this out, I'm copying a DeKalb Prosecutor investigator on this email. In case you're interested and want to have a chat with the investigator, his name is Steve Barresi.
If David Rotenstein knew anything about the law, he would know that "defamation per se" is the definition of a tort, i.e. a "civil wrong". It means that you can put your money where your mouth is, hire a lawyer and sue someone in civil court over it. It is not a crime and is not something you should trouble police over. David Rotenstein, you are a bad citizen for wasting the time of our police force. This is not the only time he has brought a bogus claim to Decatur PD - he made an equally invalid compliant about anonymous twitterer @OakhurstGossip. He's also bragged about contacting the FBI and the Atlanta PD but I doubt his complaints to them were legitimate either. It would be possible for Rotenstein to hire a lawyer and bring a defamation suit against myself, @Oakhurst gossip and many others - he's bragged many times that he intends to do just that. To the best of knowledge, he has not, probably because he has no case and can't find a lawyer willing to associate himself with a frivolous SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation).
Here was @OakhurstGossip's tweet that David Rotenstein seemed to object to:
@DavidRotenstein Yes, I'm going to out myself to an obvious nut-job who will slander and stalk me, photo my home, harass my family. Right.
@OakhurstGossip predicted that if he/she posted non-anonymously, they would be the victim of harassment and stalking. Based on my own experiences, I believe @OakhurstGossip was completely correct. Many of Rotenstein's critics have chosen to remain anonymous and, while I am not in general in favor of anonymity, I think they have made the right choice. Being non-anonymous, I've been subjected to many attacks, with at least one real world threat, and I have had the real safety of my family to worry about. @OakhurstGossip was wise to remain anonymous, and no force on earth could compel me to expose his/her identity.
And, just in case she's interested Decatur PD sergeant Jennifer Ross is also copied on this note.
Mr. Barresi, the tweet URL is: https://twitter.com/LeifTerry/status/235763283225899009
He's still calling me irresponsible,offensive,repulsive and reposts all my tweets regardless of subject. Feeling stalked and harassed.
Rotenstein is claiming that this statement is defamatory. There are two main criteria of a defamatory statement - it must be a statement of fact (not opinion), and it must be false. True statements are never defamatory. Of course, that tweet quite accurately describes what Rotenstein was doing and how I felt about it.
Have a good day and please find something better with which to occupy your time than harassing me.
Harassment means repeated, undesired contact without a purpose. I sent him one friendly email which would not appear to to qualify. I guess I also sent him one tweet. In the meantime I had plenty of his hateful stuff in my inbox (sent to Oakhurst neighbor group), much of it insulting me personally, which he kept sending despite multiple pleas for him to stop. In other words, I was definitely not harassing him, but he was harassing me. This particular hypocrisy is called "projection of guilt" and is something that Rotenstein is guilty of frequently.
I have not mentioned you online since posting the food desert post.
For my statement to be defamatory, it must be false, which means he has to tell police that he has *not* done those things; he has to lie to police about his own activities. Surprisingly, that's exactly what he did. My statements were completely accurate - he had called me those things in his storify blog which he sent to me and all of my Oakhurst neighbors just a couple days before. My advice to David Rotenstein - next time you commit a crime don't email the evidence to 900+ people.
You, on the other hand, as your inbox should show by now, are in a boatload of trouble.
When a man that is stalking me says I'm in trouble, that does not make me feel warm and fuzzy. I'm not going to give in to bullying though.
Now go away and do not contact me again.
I will never contact him again. Unless he apologizes, at the very least.
David Rotenstein's writings are sometimes so bizarre, that I have been convinced that he is a performance artist of some sort, like Sascha Baron Cohen or Anne Coulter, someone who says ridiculous things to get a reaction, and somehow thinks they profit in the endeavor. If not for the several conversations I had with various police officers, nothing could convince me that Rotenstein was not engaging in some elaborate prank on an entire neighborhood. However, I don't think a performance artist would go so far as to commit a criminal act such as filing a false police report. Which leaves me with the disturbing reality that Rotenstein is both crazy, and serious.
Nothing came of his false claims against me, much to my disappointment. The police kindly informed me that they are in the business of protecting people from real harm. Since Rotenstein had not visited me or even threatened me physically, they were not going to investigate his stalking of me and because his lie did not interfere with an investigation, they were unlikely to prosecute him for it. As a rule, they simply stay out of online disputes. Though they must try to remain neutral, one of the officers laughed at the idea that the guy writing the "truce" letter was doing anything harmful. Police can tell the difference between a perpetrator and a victim and I clearly fall in the latter category.
IX. David Rotenstein ruins date night
As it happened, I had planned a date with my wife the day that Rotenstain made his false accusation, told me knew my address and told me that I was in trouble. The date went on as scheduled, but the romance was out the air for me. I would have to explain that I, and possibly our family, was being stalked. I remember clearly what we said at the sushi bar that night:
"Sweetie, I did something stupid, something that may have effects on our family. I got in a fight with a crazy person."
"Oh my god! You lost your job!?"
"No, no, the job is going great. I have a stalker…"
"We're getting a bigger dog."
At this point, Rotenstein has crossed a line. Lying to police in an attempt to hurt me is not something I will easily forgive or forget. He's made my family genuinely fearful of what line he might cross next. We've taken precautions at home and and work
X. What is an "amateur economist" anyways?
I made a Twitter profile a long time ago, long before I ever tweeted, before I ever heard the name David Rotenstein. In my profile I listed my interests thinking that I might meet people who shared them (hasn't worked). I described myself as an "amateur economist" because mathematics is a talent of mine, and human beings are my species and economics is a broad topic that describes the intersection of the two. My main economic interest is in consumer affairs, fraud and false and misleading advertising, which may be why David Rotenstein caught my attention. I'm also a member of the Skeptics Society, a group devoted to exposing frauds, hoaxes and pseudo science. I've read many stories of honest scientists being threatened and (unsuccessfully) sued by the charlatans they've exposed, and I suppose I now have my own story to add.
XI. Rotenstein's next attack
Rotenstein falsely accusing me of a crime dashed any hopes I had of renewing rational discussion. We had really nothing left to say to each other at this point, I still made a tweet here and there, to let him know that I wasn't being bullied into silence. I didn't address any messages to him, I knew he would seek out anything I said. I was a little less careful about name-calling; my own patience was being pushed. I said that he was sometimes a good writer, but that when his zealotry takes over, he becomes a very poor writer, shouting down criticism instead of embracing it. He responded by providing an example of some very poor writing.
David Rotenstein wrote a criticism of tweet I had made some time previously:
Note that this tweet was not addressed to him nor was in response to anything in particular he had said. Oakhurst is my neighborhood and Decatur is my city, I'd like to think that I could talk about it without fear of reprisals, but David Rotenstein does not grant me that right. The statement is true of course, the code I mention limits maximum house size for a given lot size. In other cities I've heard such codes as anti-McMansion laws but here in Decatur, I think that's just the way we do things. We're not big fans of large houses here.
Out of the millions of tweets out there not addressed to David Rotenstein, he could pick any he likes to criticize. And with a full size blog entry, he should have no trouble finding fault in a 140 character tweet. Let's see how he did.
He compares my tweet with a letter from Joy Provost, in which she advocates that the law I cited should be enforced on Mead Rd. Normally when an author presents two perspectives they differ in some way. Joy is famous for advocating Oakhurst be designated Historic District, she is a friend and neighbor, and I am unaware of any disagreement between us on this issue. She is obviously a fan of the same zoning code that I am.
Mr. Terry apparently is unaware of Decatur’s Board of Appeals and its history of rubber-stamping zoning code variances for builders. In the year between September 1, 2011 and August 31, 2012, more than 40 "oversized" homes were built or planned in Decatur’s Oakhurst neighborhood.
Apparently the author considers is a shocking negligence that I did not discuss the nuances of the code appeal process in 140 characters. I wonder if the author even knows what Twitter is.
I did know that there is an appeals process, though I don't know how often it happens. 40 rubber stamps in a 12 month period in Oakhurst alone? That is a shocking amount, and if that's true then Rotensetin was right to criticize me, and right in saying that Oakhurst is being filled by McMansions.
But it's not true. The Zoning Board of Appeals has the decisions posted for the past 20 months and there were only five appeals to allow excess housing size in Oakhurst in all of that time, and only two of those were approved. The variance for the Mead Road house that Rotenstein gave as an example, was not approved.
For showing ignorance of what he was critiquing, attempting to contrast matching viewpoints, citing statistics that are radically incorrect, citing an example that undermines his own point, am going to label this piece of Rotenstein's "poor writing".
If Rotenstein wants to claim that Oakhurst is being overrun by McMansions, he would have to explain how that's possible. His claim that massive amounts of variances are handed out does not stand up to scrutiny.
I raised no objection to the post, even though he said I was "ill-informed". I think it's a great example of Rotenstein's writing and why so many people object to it - it's rude, inaccurate, poorly written. I'm not saying that Oakhurst has no problems, but here he exaggerates Oakhurst's problems by over 1000%.
In fact, I don't completely agree with the statement I made. There *are* houses that I think appear over-sized, and there are houses that I think are ugly. Rotenstein and I might even find some common ground on this, if he wanted to discuss it, which he doesn't. So why did I say there might not be any? Because people live in those houses, and probably love them. And those people are my neighbors, and I am not going to insult them.
XII. David Rotenstein admits mass stalking
In October, David Rotenstein asked:
How many cyberstalker aliases are harassing you?
Just one, and he goes by the name of David S. Rotenstein.
He then went on to explain how he was able to stalk more than a dozen of people. He uses software called HootSuite to stealthily monitor the Twitter accounts of people he perceives as enemies and if they say something he doesn't like, he can save it or repost it in retaliation.
I've know for a long time that Rotsenstein was monitoring me, now I know how.
He calls his victims "cyberstalkers" which is a bizarre - they are obviously "cyberstalkees". And he claims that anyone he monitors engaging in any Twitter activity he doesn't like is harassing him. Harassment is when someone contacts you, when you secretly listen in on other people that's called "eavesdropping" or simply "stalking". It's almost impossible to be harassed on Twitter because of the convenient "block" button. If someone says something you don't like, you can block that person and you will not hear from them again. Likewise, they will not hear from you. It's not a perfect system but it allows people who do no agree to continue to use Twitter in peace. If someone made an anonymous account to attack you, you can, as I have, just press the block button. The attacker might continue, but you will not be bothered, and they will soon grow bored without an audience. The moment you decide you do not desire to hear from someone, you no longer will. And since harassment is defined as "repeated undesired contact", it is easily prevented.
David Rotenstein has not been harassed by people on Twitter; David Rotenstein is stalking people on Twitter.
XIII. The stalking continues
I continued to be something of an obsession of Rotenstein's over the next couple of months. He wrote about me on several occasions in several different places. The most disturbing one was in his "Oakhurst" blog devoted to saying hateful things about my neighborhood.
Corporations are not people… Neither are cities. Nor neighborhoods. So I can’t figure out why Decatur’s cocktail party bigots equate negative — but inconveniently true — comments about their community with libeling a person. Or, how writing about the exploitation of elderly African American homeowners by builders and gentrifiers qualifies as “hate speech.” You cannot defame a city, no matter what these fucking morons write or think.
It definitely is possible to defame a group (nation, government, race etc) and there is no special exception for cities and neighborhoods; I can't imagine why he thinks there would be. I have never accused Rotenstein of speaking "hate speech" but I would think calling people "fucking morons" might at least qualify as "hateful speech".
But you can defame individuals and that’s precisely what Leif Terry, et al., have done.
Here is the statement I made that he apparently claims is defamatory:
I asked DSR to stop writing attack pieces on #Oakhurst. He refused, saying he gets paid for them.
To be defamatory, that statement has to be false. But that statement is an accurate paraphrase of a conversation Rotenstein and I had this summer. I had less than 140 characters to work but I think I made a reasonable summary. Here is the exact text of our conversation:
I'll be writing about gentrification and its impacts on Oakhurst for years
Please don't. Meet your new neighbors. Don't insult them. Make friends. Move on.
As for dropping Oakhurst -- not a chance. There's a remarkable story there of white privilege and a type of gentrification (may I suggest you look that up beyond the Web, too) that is only recently getting some analysis. Oakhurst, for many historical reasons, can teach lots of lessons about gentrification and its social costs (as an amateur economist, surely you've read Ronald Coase). That, Mr. Terry, is what I get paid to do.
I did ask him to stop, he did refuse, and he gave his livelihood as his reason, all of which I said in the Tweet. I have no idea who his employer is, or if he even has one. I don't know what he could possibly be objecting to.
Terry too may be described as a cyberstalker: a person using electronic media like emails and tweets, “often on a systematic basis, to annoy, embarrass, intimidate, or threaten a person or to make the person fearful that she or a member of her family or household will be harmed“.
David Rotestein has put me and dozens of other people under surveillance, has called me a wide variety of bad names, falsely accused me of crimes, lied to police in an attempt to get me arrested, has uncovered my place of work (not public knowledge as far as I know) and claims to know my address. I have done none of those things to David Rotenstein.
What kind of mentally addled imbecile, who tries to marginalize someone who writes about the lack of local affordable and nutritious groceries in a blog post written as a counterpoint celebrating the community as a “pub shed,” is Mr. Terry to use such juvenile concepts as “flame war” and “truce” when he and his cohorts are spewing thousands of defamatory tweets? Terry thinks he’s doing a community service.
I don't know what he means by "marginalize", I corrected a factual error he made, so I guess that's what he's referring to. I don't think "truce" is a juvenile concept. I happen to be a fan of peace. I do not believe I have made any defamatory tweets; he hasn't provided a single example of one. I can't comment on the behavior of Rotenstein's other critics and I can't be responsible for them. Most of Rotenstein's critics are anonymous, for their own protection, and I have never, as far as I know, met any of them.
Terry even exchanged some opinions about my wife in tweets among his cohorts:
I don't know why he tried to so obviously deliberately mischaracterize my statement. I have never tweeted about his wife; I don't see how I could have since I didn't even know he had one (I don't consider @BarryRotenstein a reliable source). Clearly, I tweeted about my own wife:
If I spent my day trolling, stalking, lying to police, writing angry rants in blogs instead of earning a living, as I do, my wife would be very unhappy with me.
Back in 2000, Terry tried to bully an online puzzle poster in a brainteaser that contained what appeared to be an interesting and eerily close description of what appears to be Terry’s personality.
I'm a little unnerved that David Rotenstein has gone so far in digging up information on me. Of course I did not "bully" anyone; that is yet another lie. I used to be something of a math whiz and I was confused when I analyzed the puzzle and could prove that it was unsolvable. My math was correct, yet the puzzle makers assured me that it could in fact be solved. Eventually we figured out that we both correct and that were looking at two very similar but critically different problems. We managed to resolve this disagreement like adults, without any name-calling, stalking, or angry blog entries.
Who knows how many of the trolls Terry is actually behind.
Unlike David Rotsentein, I do not use false identities. Ever.
David Rotenstein imagines a vast conspiracy against him but the truth is really quite simple. He has gone out of his way to insult hundreds if not thousands of people. It's not surprising that a few of those people are willing to stand up from themselves, their neighborhood, their city. The silent majority will wisely stay out of it, but many of those who do respond to will be singled out for a series of increasingly vicious personal attacks. In this way he creates a sizable pool of victims to fight with though for what purpose, I do not know.
XIV. Closing arguments
I stand by what I have written and would probably do (most of) it again if I had the chance. I have not lied, stalked or harassed in my defense of my home neighborhood and city. My criticisms are well-intentioned, and I believe to this day that Rotenstein's writings would be improved if he answered them instead of attaching me. Indeed, in the cases where he has answered them I am happy to have been of service.
At this point, believe Rotenstein has done all the harm he can do to me without getting arrested. I am of course hoping he does not do any more. I had mistakenly believed that Rotenstein was a professional writer. Such a person relies on their reputation to earn their living and would not damage it by lying trolling, stalking and committing criminal acts. I had thought that Rotenstein would have some interest in protecting his reputation, and that would offer protection to me as well. Alas, I was wrong.
I gave him the chance to apologize for lying to police, but so far he has declined.
And then I dismissed him. I haven't read any of his works in months*, nor will I be reading any more, so I couldn't generate more criticism if I wanted to and I most certainly don't. I care not if he thinks of some new ways to insult me, I think he's come up with a pretty long list. I don't think he can damage his reputation and career any more than he has.
* I'm referring of course to his "professional" works, not his writings about me. I did read one article in the shop while waiting for my car to be fixed. In my defense, I was quite bored.
XV. Rotenstein says he's done as well
The only reason I maintained over the past few months a Hootsuite window open with their feeds is because Mr. Terry and the hooded trolls were writing things that could have real-world consequences — i.e., my wife and I were concerned for our safety.
Perhaps Rotenstein will explain which of my three tweets, none of them aimed at him, he considered threatening to his family. Or maybe this is another one of his lies?
I'll grant that Rotenstein has a point here. If someone were to say, tweet his address, which allegedly happened, that could be perceived as a threat to him and his family. I don't condone such behavior, of course. He is lying about that being his "only" reason though. If that were his only reason, he wouldn't keep blogs containing everything his victim's wrote, he would just keep a private record if he actually was threatened. He keeps an extensive public record in order to intimidate, and to use in his online attacks. Twitter requires its user to block users they find objectionable, in order to allow conflict to die down. Rotenstein has done the opposite in order to fan the flames as much as possible. I don't know why he does this, but I dare say he has been successful.
If Mr. Terry and his troll crew don’t like or disagree with what I write, they don’t have to read it. Period.
I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't read David Rotenstein's writings. In light of recent experiences, the very sight of his name turns my stomach and I don't read his stuff voluntarily (with one exception). In the past months I have read his writings under one of four circumstances: he sends them to me in one of his trolling endeavors, he writes about me and someone sends me the link, I google my own name and find him writing about me, or my car breaks down. I wish I could stop reading all of David Rotenstein's writings - that will happen when he stops writing about me. He can continue his research or architectural criticism or whatever knowing he will get no further critique from me. I have said what I have to say I am entirely happy to let his employer and publisher, whomever they may be, be a judge of what is good scholarship and what is not. Of course if he continues to write about me, he will continue to have my attention.
Terry, @Dulcinaea, et al. created a corpus of more than 2,000 tweets, videos, and other media all in response to what they described as an irrelevant and inaccurate blog that no one ever reads. If that were the case, then Mr. Terry, et al. would not have invested the resources in their efforts over the past seven months.
Rotenstein would love to frame this as a battle of ideas, where his inconvenient truths are being shouted down by a mob of detractors, but that it not at all the case. While Rotenstein's ideas have generated some discussion, most of the content is about his attacks, his insults, stalking and false legal claims. My own discussions with Rotenstein lasted only a couple days before he turned to personally attacking me, which he has continued to do more several months. Rotenstein has written about me in at least four different blogs (no, not blog entries, Rotenstein has made at least four blogs with at least one entry about me in each), and on a few newsgroups, and that's just the writings that I happen know of - I don't seek this stuff out. So no, it is not, his one irrelevant inaccurate blog that is getting the attention. Here is a man that is obsessed with me, one that wishes me harm and it is that which creates my concern.
This is the final post about Decatur’s privileged trolls.
I wish we were so lucky.
Table 2. List of insults, by person, to date
Things David Rotenstein has called me
Things I have called David Rotenstein
Poor writer (sometimes)
XVI. Rotenstein writes about his reputation as a stalker
Despite Rotenstein's claims that he was done writing about me, he mentioned me again just a couple weeks later.
David Rotenstein's local reputation as a stalker may have started when he wrote this about a local architect:
Rawlings is a familiar sight in Oakhurst. He frequently walks several times a day from his home across from the new 4/5 Academy at Fifth Avenue to Kavarna, a nearby coffee shop. The architect fills his travel mug with coffee and returns home
According to Rotenstein, Rawlings responded with this:
My wife just read your blog and was very disturbed by how far you’re willing to go with your obsession with me. What are you stalking me now? What business is it of your’s to describe my day to day personal events and where I live in your blog? Will I need to file a restraining order?
Sounds familiar. Here is Rotenstein's take on that response:
That March 20, 2012 comment was the first time anyone, anywhere had accused me of breaking the law. Stalking is a crime in Georgia
Clearly Rawlings is asking a question, not making an accusation. As Rotenstein will point out, a number of other people (myself included) got the impression that Rotenstein had followed Rawlings around from home to work which is a bit creepy.
Again he falsely accused @OakhurstGossip and @ScottBoulevard of making "false and malicious accusations" when in both cases they had, quite accurately, merely speculated as to how he might behave if a critic of his was not anonymous.
I do not think Rotenstein is a stalker based on the words of Rawlings or anonymous twitterers. I think Rotenstein is a stalker because he has been following me online for months, has dug up a great deal of information on me, and has sent me threatening emails.
A person commits the offense of stalking when he or she follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person. (O.C.G.A. §16-5-90)
Fortunately for Rotenstein, law enforcement takes a very narrow view of this statute and apparently does not enforce it unless it is accompanied by physical stalking or specific threats of physical harm.
Rotenstein wants to blame a vast conspiracy for him having a reputation of a stalker but the truth is he has that reputation because he has stalked a large number of people and even bragged about it.
It's been a few weeks since David Rotenstein has written about me. Does that mean he's finally done stalking and insulting me? Or does it simply mean I'm due for some more abuse. Watch this space to find out...
This is my personal log of events. Everything stated here is, to the best of my knowledge, true. However some matters are inevitably opinion and speculation, and those are mine alone.
Anyone who has any additions or corrections is welcome to contact me.
I would like to hear from any of David Rotenstein's other victims. It feels good to be able to talk about it.
I would also like to hear from any of Rotenstein's friends, family, employers, publishers, colleagues or anyone else who would justify or explain Rotenstein's actions against me.