The anony bloggers behind the Not Thomas Wolfe blog have suddenly called it quits. The blog, which had started to create a stir among local political bloggers and politicos in general, had a sharp wit and a sharp tongue for a few Scrutiny Hooligans. In the end, though, it was all a joke. And a big pain, apparently, if we’re reading the closing post correctly.

Here’s a snippet:

Not Thomas Wolfe began one month ago as a joke played on a close friend. As many people in this provincial southern town often do, she had grown despairing that there would ever be the kind of intelligent, rough and tumble political debate and analysis she knew from larger cities.

It was not so much one particularly embarrassing "high school government drama pagaent at City Hall" (as NTW called it in one of the first posts) that sent my friend’s morale into the French Broad River. It was the terrible realization the next day that no one was going to report, comment, critique, lampoon or even utter one word in acknowledgement about it. Ever.

So, a character called Not Thomas Wolfe mysteriously appeared a few days later, proving that she was not alone. The joke lasted less than a week before she figured it out. But oh, we had fun.

But like a puppy for Christmas, Not Thomas Wolfe was more than fun, it was a mouth to feed. I was the one who had to feed it, and house-train it, and take it out for walks. And I’m not a real dog person. I set my sights on election day 2007 as our last hurrah, and decided in the meantime I could justify devoting an hour or two a night, learn about "blogging" and see what happened.

In the short life of Not Thomas Wolfe, there were some highlights. The flaming Ellington and the flaming arguments with neighbohood interests… torturing Brownie Newman and Robin Cape a little bit… pro-development liberals finally having a place to vent their pent-up frustration at the dominant pro-neighborhood liberals…. comforting and amusing a few frustrated souls in the political sandbox with fake Republican campaign memos, Democratic party emails and a candidate profile…. and our last post, a small attempt to keep the Asheville High dropout report alive. In some small way, it seemed like the forum we always wished someone else would host.

I’d be less than honest here not to acknowledge one event that shaved yet a few more days off of our final broadcast date. A local website conducted surveillance as NTW joined in the discussion on their site, capturing an IP address and publishing that it was the same one another individual had posted from. A chill came over that other individual (yes, I was there and saw it), and then another. These folks were just beginning to get excited at the idea that cyberspace was bigger than Mayberry and that, even though they had jobs that kept them from speaking freely, they could go online anonymously and participate without having to worry about being "outed." But being watched online by private citizens is even more chilling to most people than knowing the Department of Homeland Security is spying on you, especially in a small town. To be clear, no blogger intimidated NTW (and they probably didn’t give it enough thought to have meant to). But what had started as a lark was now really just stupid, and it was clearly time to, as the website says, moveon. We hope the "bloggers" will miss us in some small way and maybe argue amongst themselves in our absence.

More importantly, if we’ve done nothing else, I hope that the next time an elected leader sits at the City Council dais and speaks righteously about the "viewshed," she will flinch just ever so slightly… or at least be more self-conscious thanks to Not Thomas. We know we’re vastly outnumbered. That would be enough.

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  1. Hey Chef, good point. But I’m not a hipster (is that like Cosmo Kramer or somthing?) or overly entitled, except in the global sense. Anyway, I’m not down with wars, "flame" or otherwise. So in the words of the great Don Cornelius, I wish you love, peace and sooooul.

  2. Hail to the Chef says:


    You people get way too in to this blog stuff. They’re fun to read and I get a kick out of posting now and then, but come on…it’s a blog.

    All the secrect identities and ip address detection stuff is just silly. No offense…but blogs just aren’t that important. They’re just entertaining and informative. but now it’s turning into a message board flame war between overly entitled hipsters, lol.

  3. I’m sorry, but do you realize how that sounds? "It’s very helpful in id’ing shills, politicians, organizations…" The point that Melissa is trying to make is that you would not "i.d." someone who was agreeing with you, not even if you thought they were a "sockpuppet", would you?

    I really think that if this is your practice you have an ethical obligation to post that policy prominently on your website, or at least provide it in a privacy policy. Visitors have a right to know that even if they think they are posting "anonymously" at Srutiny Hooligans that you reserve the right to monitor their IP address and publicly discuss such factors as whether or not they are an employee of government or a known organization.

    I certainly would support reviewing IP address information and pubicizing it or giving it to law enforcement in the event of threatening or criminal behavior. But the policy you are describing is one that I have not seen before and I can’t support it. Progressive groups should be at the forefront of voluntary privacy policy and practices, not making excuses for unethical behavior.

  4. Scared wabbit says:

    For what it’s worth, I thought (in addition to this particular blog, Ashvegas) that NTW was the most original and interesting blog in town.
    So many of the other blogs are inane, as the blog form tends to be. The same six or seven bloggers build each other up and then believe their own hype.
    So Screwy Hoo couldn’t take a little criticism, huh? Feathers seemed to have been ruffled. They should be less offended that their WNCNN video was tied to Elaine Lite and more offended by the sum of their own video efforts.
    Also, while other new blogs get listed seemingly in random order on the BlogAsheville list, NTW was put at the very bottom, and as soon as they announced their last post, it was immediately removed from the list, even though that last post is still fresh and far more noteworthy than anything else recently posted by anyone else. Who was in such a rush to erase NTW from the links list?

  5. Thanks for your judgment and advice, Melissa.

    The "point", just to get this out of the way, was to open the possibility that NTW and john were the same person. This is called sockpuppetry and is out-of-bounds. Now hurry up and relax, like I said in my comment above, we check IPs all the time. WordPress does it for us. It’s very helpful in shills, politicians, organizations, spammers, and sockpuppets. It’s like having a check engine light on your car. Nothing nasty about it, though I’m sorry you don’t like it.

    If you’d like to talk more with me about this, pick up the phone and give me a call. Ash has my number.

  6. (That should be "…TO BE cryptic and superior." Whoops! Wouldn’t want y’all concentrating too much on my typo/grammar, as with the Netroots Republicans.)

  7. Having someone’s IP info is one thing. (I know how to get it, too, but thanks for the lesson.) In this case, noting that these comments came from the same building is another. I saw no point in it, except to cryptic and superior. You didn’t mean harm? I believe you. I still think it was mean. As far as the other information that you wonder how I know…I know for the same reason I know Ashvegas was never NTW. Why don’t you check my IP address next time I comment on your site? I admire Ashvegas for being so quick to forgive. Next time – and I hope there isn’t one – instead of acting like Nixon prepping for the Saturday Night Massacre, why don’t you just pick up a phone and holla at a brother? That’s what a friend would do.

  8. FYI to Melissa: most database-driven platforms (such as WordPress, which is what ScruHoo is using now) have IP logging as a built-in feature. No investigation is necessary; the software does all of the legwork. To suggest that checking IP addresses is the work of a group of crazed, paranoid conspiracy theorists is, at best, silly.

    What NTW and "john" did @ ScruHoo is referred to as "sockpuppetry", and is universally frowned upon by the blogosphere at large. People who engage in this activity have a tendency to quickly lose their credibility and, in some cases, their jobs.

  9. OOOO. Blog Drama. Y’all ever hear of LiveJournal?

    I know most of our local political "big fish" blog anonymously. Including our host here. Mores the pity, but you can come to a blogger event or DILOA event and see who is who and find out where they work (which takes all the fun out of anonymous, but that’s my opinion).

    Still IP addresses are public information of record, like phone numbers on incoming calls. They are fully visible to any site admin that wishes to take the time to know how. They are fully visible *to the public* on any site that has (for one example) site meter installed.

    Although I wouldn’t do it for simple disagreement, I often publish those of readers who creep me out – as I did when someone spent *ten hours* reading my site, or the right wing crazy man who used a public library to post harassment. I see a published IP address as at least as much fair play in the internet as "anonymous", especially in politics where one often can’t trust even more reliable sources.

    And if you don’t want people knowing, I suggest

    Sorry to hear about the chill descending on the previously-anonymous NTW. But far better to say things (a) that one stands behind with courage; (c) not to bother saying them at all.

  10. Melissa!

    Thanks for reading ScruHoo. I was excited about NTW. I thought we were going to get a place to have some very good discussions about the future of the city. But then they posted a clearly libelous, dishonest, smear piece. That’s when I got more interested in holding them accountable.

    We check IP addresses all the time. Sometimes we find industry shills that way. Sometimes we find politicians, military, and the NRCC. Sometimes we find that one person is leaving multiple comments under different names. Noting that NTW and buddy John were at the same IP address was just a way to point out the union of the two. We didn’t mean any harm.

    Further, in regards to "accusing", I’m (1) confused as to how you came into that information; and (2) fairly certain I’ve made everything right.

    I was all for the biting sarcasm, as evidenced by the "framing" and "Screwball" posts. That was good stuff. The post misrepresenting WNCNN then having the gall to somehow link the misrepresentation to a city council candidate as if the two had anything to do with each other? That was over the line.

    Anyway, I’ll miss the possibility that NTW gave us a glimpse of before they jumped the shark and bailed. They got the attention they asked for and discovered they didn’t really want it.

  11. Now I hope the paranoid consipracy that Ashvegas is NTW can die — since NTW says he/she supports Brownie and Jan for council. You may pick on people, but you don’t endorse them! I’m sad that the blog has shut down, though. No matter what the "Screwball Shenanigans" thought (and I’m a loyal reader and fan of their blog, as well as a proud liberal) I enjoyed NTW offering a kick in the ass to them. They went nuts over his/her posts, like he/she was freakin’ Charles Taylor, instead of a person with a blog and a sharp, sometimes harsh opinion. (Checking the IP addresses? Accusing friends of being NTW? Utterly embarassing and unnecessary.) If you’re out there NTW, thanks for the fresh take on Asheville. I didn’t agree with everything you said, but I loved to give you my clicks. We hardly knew ye…though some thought they did! (Hey — can I still get my hands on that PAC sack?)

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