Stark Raving Mad

The We Are Change folks, and people like Gypsy Taub, are super-heroes*.

But we can all be super-heroes.

Here's an example, from Charlottesville weekly C-Ville, of someone else doing the same thing. Its not about 9/11, but we can apply the same attitude to 9/11 activism.

Stark raving mad

While the national media can sometimes be a lamb, Mike Stark, local left-wing blogger, is always a lion


For all the hand-wringing in the establishment media about the supposedly insidious influence of bloggers on the national political scene, little is known about who these people are outside of their online world.

Charlottesville's Mike Stark is a case in point. The proprietor of the blog "Calling All Wingnuts," Stark is fairly well known in the "blogosphere," and he has a more significant impact, thanks to an online "butterfly-effect," on national politics than one might think.

Unlike most bloggers, who tend to be observers of and commentors on the political scene, Stark is an activist/videographer in the tradition of Michael Moore, as I learned when I witnessed Stark take on John Edwards after a campaign speech, and an active participant in many of the stories he covers. "I'm kind of an odd component in this new blogosphere," he says, "in that when I blog it's because I've done something, whereas most people blog because they've thought about something."

Stark's most well-known "something" occurred when, as he puts it, he "managed to get tackled to the ground" at a George Allen campaign appearance last October at the Omni Hotel. The videotaped incident shows Stark attempting to ask Allen about rumors that had been floating around that sealed court documents from Allen's divorce detailed his abuse of his first wife. Several angry Allen aides and supporters pushed him into a glass wall and wrestled him to the floor. Stark was unhurt, but the videotape brought unwelcome attention to Allen's campaign, and moved the rumors, whether true or not, into the mainstream media just a week before the election, and just as Allen was hoping to regain his footing in the wake of several self-inflicted wounds, most conspicuously the seminal "Macaca" incident.

The video was prominently featured on Yahoo and replayed on TV. Stark appeared as a guest on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show, "Countdown," and the story got good play in the print press, including The Washington Post. Allen, of course, lost a very close election.

Even an ideological opponent of Stark's, Byron York of the National Review Online, grudgingly conceded Stark's effectiveness. "The incident shows what a dedicated activist...can do, with a little brazenness and a willing press," he wrote.

The name of Stark's blog, "Calling All Wingnuts," encapsulates his approach. "Wingnuts" is a pejorative term used to describe the rabid, doctrinaire, ideologically driven segment of the conservative movement. Stark's stock-in-trade is calling conservative talk radio shows, such as Rush Limbaugh's and Sean Hannity's, and aggressively challenging the hosts, typically on their factual distortions. He then posts recordings of the calls on his blog.

In addition to the Allen incident, Stark has had more success than many bloggers in breaking through the electronic curtain to reach audiences of print and broadcast media. It doesn't hurt that, like Moore, Stark makes his points with a healthy dose of humor. For instance, Stark once positioned himself behind Alan Colmes, one of the eponymous moderators of the Fox News show "Hannity and Colmes," during a live broadcast, while holding a large sign reading, "Hannity Sucks Ass." The moment got wide exposure, including on "The Daily Show."

Although Hannity himself laughed it off, Stark's many conservative critics in the blogosphere don't find him so funny. Dan Riehl of "Riehl World View," for instance, wrote a post about Stark earlier this year as he was preparing to appear opposite Stark on a TV show. Riehl called Stark, among other names, a "clown," a "political hack," a "moonbat" and a "bug."

And then there is Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly is a sort of Moby Dick-like presence in Stark's life, the personification of evil, a representation of the worst of the American political media. "He cannot stand accountability," Stark says of O'Reilly. "When you're an asshole, you can't stand accountability, and Bill O'Reilly is an asshole." Stark seems to particularly relish annoying the famously thin-skinned O'Reilly, like the time, Stark recalls, when he got O'Reilly so steamed merely by mentioning a website O'Reilly hated that O'Reilly threatened, on air, to form a mob and take it to Stark's house.

To the extent, however, that Stark's brand of activism leaves the impression that he is a heckler, obnoxious or rude, as critics like Riehl have claimed, he is anything but. About to enter his second year of law school at UVA, the former U.S. Marine is fairly low key. He is completely dedicated to his wife and two children. He doesn't have enough time to play as much golf as he would like.

But when it comes to politics and what he believes in, Stark is passionate, even dogmatic. That said, he sees himself not as a crusader, but a citizen rightfully demanding accountability from his leaders and the media that report on them. He has to, he says, because traditional journalists have fallen down on the job. Take, for example, Stark's efforts last fall to ask Allen whether he ever uttered the N-word, another Stark-inspired story that eventually found its way into the mainstream media. "He called a brown-skinned person 'Macaca,'" Stark explains. "Asking him if he used the N-word was not disrespectful. I'm sorry, man. If you've used one racial slur, what other racial slurs have you used? If the rest of the media doesn't have the balls to ask the question, and I do, I'm not disrespectful for that."

I recently attended a conference in Washington, D.C., with Stark in which John Edwards, as well as the other Democratic presidential candidates, spoke. I got to see Stark's passion and dogmatism first hand. Following Edwards' speech, Stark was determined to speak with him, and small obstacles like security and an army of aides around the candidate weren't going to stop him. He high-stepped a rope line and blew past a stunned hotel guard to a back hallway at the Washington Hilton in pursuit of the former senator, where he was intercepted by an Edwards staffer—whom Stark later explained was a friend of his—concerned about what Stark might do. (It probably didn't help that, at Stark's request, I was videotaping all this for him.) Stark talked his way passed her, though, caught Edwards on a hotel escalator and enjoyed several minutes of his undivided attention, which Stark used to, among other things, pitch his idea for a centralized, umbrella government agency to investigate illegal and unethical corporate behavior.

Later, as we were discussing the chase, specifically the concern of the Edwards aide, I noted, "You and Senator Edwards had a respectful conversation." I meant it as a compliment, in the sense that Stark had defied the aide's fears.

"No," Stark snapped, in a tone anything but low key. "Respectful conversation is phrasing it entirely wrong. It was a concerned citizen, two concerned citizens, talking to each other. When you say 'respectful conversation' as a member of the media, it almost implies that conversations that I'm going to have are automatically going to be disrespectful. Well, you know what? All I am doing is the job the media should have been doing all along."

* Someone wrote that Gypsy Taub is disruptive in the 9/11 movement. I don't know anything about her other than her confronting unsavory characters in the one clip I linked to.

Uhm . . .

Actually Gypsy Taub was extremely disruptive at a number of the NorthernCA911 group events, and did things like filming people at talks while calling them disinfo and agents, then running out the door with the film.

I'm not assuming you'll post this, but wanted to let you know.

Blowing a whistle at the commissioners isn't much when you call people names like "backstabbing bitch" like she called me in front of a crowd of people because I dared to hand out a flyer at an event which she disagreed with. Even the people she was defending were shocked and embarrassed.

- V

ps (later edit) - thanks for posting, despite the negativity of the comment. People need to be made aware whenever activists do stuff like this, no matter how much other work they do.