(This is a long one, gang. Say I warned you not, do not.)
A few weeks ago, I said that Steven Cohen's claims of intimidation were completely frivolous and fanciful. I said he was only making those claims in order to engender sympathy from the misinformed and/or gullible. I said if there really were this kind of threats, anything resembling this kind of horrible behavior, it would be a matter for law enforcement. And I challenged those allegedly on the receiving end of those threats to show that they did, in fact, contact the authorities.
Today, I learned I was wrong. It turns out that there is an organized campaign of intimidation arising out of the boycott of Steven Cohen. I was completely wrong to say what I did, and I am frankly amazed that anyone would stoop to these low, despicable tactics. I made a very wrong assumption, and I apologize.
...sure, the intimidation is coming from Cohen, but wrong is wrong.
It wasn't immediately obvious from Ginge's post, but there was no way Cohen would have known the name of Tony in New Mexico's wife without actively researching that information. Which does make this like a mobster saying "Best of luck to you, your flammable business, and your tiny children as they play on those deathtrap swings on the playground at the corner of Elm and Pine Street at 2:30 this afternoon."
Well, I for one have gotten the message. You have convinced me, Steven. I will stop the boycott of Fox Football Fone-in as of two weeks ago. Har har har har har.
Relive with me some of the highlights from the Early Years of the Steven Cohen Boycott.
Forty-five minutes! into this interview with Steven Cohen on April 24 by Kartik Krishnaiyer:
The amusing thing about this? Kartik runs a sister site to Harris' EPL Talk. Proving Harris has the patience of a ********ing saint - if I read a site that publishes forty-five paragraphs of slander towards me, I de-link the ********er. I sure as hell don't give him the DLSIA Seal of Approval.
Cohen kept up the offensive, taking it to the mainstream. In this unfortunate interview with the LA Daily News on May 11, Cohen warmed to the terrorist theme.
If I can jump in again here.
Since when is hating Liverpool a job?
I mean, forget that Cohen said his life was at stake - he was at best drama queening, at worst and most likely drama lying. Dude was in the Army, presumably he can take care of himself against guys hiding behind a keyboard. (Or against figments of his imagination. But that's a different story.)
"What do you do for a living, Steven?"
"Well, I think Liverpool fans did Hillsborough. So I ask businesses to give me money so I can say it on satellite radio."
Now, I'm well aware that as we speak, professional radio employs people who believed that Bill Clinton or George W. Bush (or both) would cancel elections and declare martial law. Which is the point - it's a line of work that isn't about the strength or weakness of opinion. It's about the strength or weakness of sponsors and listeners. If a corporation or two thought that he could sell radios or foot powder, the guy in Berkeley who thought Stephen King killed John Lennon would be in two hundred AM markets.
Since it's been that way from about twenty seconds after Marconi, it's a tad silly for Cohen to claim his livelihood is at stake. It's at stake every time he sat down behind a microphone. It's a free market issue, not a First Amendment issue.
And there's not a damn thing preventing Cohen from going the PBS/Pacifica/televangelist route - well, we'll get to that, actually.
Anyway, we've now established that the boycotters are terrorists, and that they don't have the eggs to go on Cohen's show and defend his views.
Jack Bell gave Cohen a credulous chance to expand on this theme in his New York Times Goal! blog interview, May 14:
I think we need to update that Macbeth line, or at least have a modified Godwin's Law for it. Because since about 1947 or so, anyone who has quoted the "methinks" line as an accusation has invariably, always, in every case been proven wrong, and the protesting lady turns out to be protesting for very good reason.
But that's not what really struck me. Christopher Harris was a coward for not going on World Soccer Daily. Meanwhile, Steven Cohen was prudent for not going on radio shows in the UK, because he wouldn't have gotten a fair shake. As if Harris was going to get the kind of loving attention Krishnaiyer gave to Cohen. And as if Cohen himself didn't have a platform to advance his views without worry of unfair shaking.
However, you had to have a certain admiration for Cohen, holding out against terrorists and conspiracy no matter what the price...at least, for another four days or so, untilMay 18:
It never fails to amuse me that Cohen apologized to terrorists.
"To an event from April 1989." You know what, forget the putting the crap to bed line, and the scrunching up the paper bit. "An event from 1989" just showed how insincere and weaselly the whole exercise was. Hm, did he mean Tiananmen Square?
The whole statement was well publicized, and the vast majority of it was self-promotion. It's no longer on the World Soccer Daily site, in favor of its sequel...but we'll get to that.*
Cohen and his loathsome remora, Kenny Hassan, immediately followed up with some tedious comedy at the expense of the boycott's organizers. They've done so now and again since this first apology.**
Which is odd, considering that if you believe Cohen, the boycott didn't even work. Here was a wacky interview from June, where, among other things, Steven blamed LFC itself for the boycott:
Ironically, in this interview, Cohen quoted the Taylor Report for his purpose:
This was a vaguely accurate restatement of Paragraph 269 of the Final Report***:
The Interim Taylor Report addressed this in slightly more specific detail, and it doesn't help Cohen's case, or even his claim to have read the report. These excerpts are lengthy, all the more amazing that Cohen missed them.
But loyal supporters of Cohen rallied to his defense. Through the tireless efforts of Nick Iannone, they made it over 7% of the way to their goal on an online petition site.
A fundraising site set up by Iannone hit its target and then some - over $6,000 raised for a show that wasn't in financial trouble.
Still not entirely sure "credit" was the word Iannone was groping for. Largely because one of the corrected drafts promised a portion of the funds raised would go to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.
That would be the Hillsborough Justice Campaign:
One hesitates to throw around terms like "fraud" and "crime," but there are very few polite terms for raising money under false pretenses. At least the promise in this case was so wonderfully implausible that I doubt anyone was fooled.
Nevertheless, thanks to this outpouring of support in reaction to Cohen's media offensive, Cohen went from success to success, turning a small boycott into public censure from Four Four Two, Heineken, Liverpool FC and Chelsea, and permanently burying the theory that there's no such thing as bad publicity.
Naturally, by the time July rolled around, in an attempt to bring an end to a boycott that was having no effect on him, he put out another statement on July 16th.
You might have missed it - I certainly did. I don't know if he read it on the air. The first paragraph was promoting his show. The second paragraph called the boycotters racist. The third paragraph compared his scrunching up the apology as comedy in the style of Keith Olbermann and David Letterman. The fourth paragraph tried to claim his earlier Hillsborough statements were made in good faith. The fifth paragraph tries the "ticketless fans were not helpful" trope again, but says that Cohen did make a closer reading of the Taylor Report and decided, well, reasonable minds could differ. The sixth paragraph tried once again to make people think he wasn't just talking about Liverpool, despite the "milking the tragedy joke." The seventh paragraph claims the boycott is harming innocents, and apparently is no longer of "minimal effect," despite the fundraiser. The eighth paragraph calls the boycott organizers enablers of racism. The ninth paragraph applauds Cohen for being able to rise above hate, and invites Liverpool to do the same. The tenth paragraph promises never to mention the subject again, and promotes the show's fearless discussion of any topic.
Amazingly enough, this second statement didn't end the boycott. Go figure.
If we take Cohen at his word, he has twice apologized to racist terrorists. To Cohen's credit, they weren't particularly believeable apologies. But still.
So some might ask, why continue the boycott? Well, they're racist terrorists, aren't they? In all seriousness, once that card has been played, there really is no turning back. And if I'm calling out, by name, the people involved in the boycott, I shouldn't be astounded that those people take it personally.
I think it's fair to say that Cohen is trying to make the bare minimum required to end the boycott, short of actually apologizing. It's fair to say that the boycotters won't be satisfied until Cohen is no longer on the air, or at least no longer sponsored by anyone. We can agree or disagree with who is right, but I don't think there's much room to dispute the two views, given their premises. Cohen thinks (or at least, is saying out loud) he's standing up to racist terrorists. (Never mind the apologies.) The Liverpool supporters think they're dealing with a serial liar. Why would either one trust the other at this point? You'd have to be deluded.
So, being deluded, Cohen enlisted the help of a professor of political science at UCLA named Mark Sawyer, in hopes of bringing an end to our long national nightmare.
The one tiny problem with this approach is that Sawyer may have been the single least suitable person for this purpose in the entire English--speaking world. Read
this, and marvel at who they give tenure to these days. Might as well use my degree as a paper airplane.
Anyhoo, Sawyer's mediation ended up about as effectively as a block of sodium in a high school toilet, thanks perhaps partially to Cohen reading some hate mail on his show on July 19:
Thank goodness Professor Sawyer was there to smooth over ruffled feathers.
Is now a good time to recall that Tony in New Mexico managed to get an FBI file number?
"You're a bunch of racists. Can we work this out?"
For those of you keeping track, the number of nefarious racist terrorists targeting Steven Cohen keeps growing. It's almost as if it wasn't all Christopher Harris at EPL Talk after all.
The story is still ongoing, which means there might be yet more comedy to unfold. By Cohen's own measure, he doesn't have enough supporters or listeners willing to stand by him. His apologies don't approach the sincerity of his accusations, for what should be obvious reasons. And now, he's adopting the tactics he condemns in others.
If Cohen survives this, it will be despite his very best efforts at self-destruction. If you can't handle the heat, don't set yourself on fire.
*Anyone else remember "Norm," starring Norm Macdonald? Unappreciated masterpiece. Anyway, there's a bit where Norm tries to apologize for having bet on hockey games. Problem was, years earlier, he had made this statement (I apologize for the paraphrase):
"I'm not sorry. I'm glad I did it. I'd do it again. I'll never apologize. If I ever do apologize, I'm lying. And if I ever say that I've seen the error of my ways, I'm lying about that too. And if I ever try to say that I am sincere about my apology and I was lying to you now? I'm lying."
**Kenny Hassan, of whose existence I had been blissfully unaware before all this, deserves an order of magnitude more scorn than he has gotten. Suffice to say that American soccer has finally found the Alan Colmes it has been desperately not looking for.
***"Interim Report" and "Final Report" are misnomers; the first was about Hillsborough specifically, the final was about the state of football in England.