Is Al Giordano building an enemies list? It certainly appears that way, although Giordano claims it’s a response to constant harassment.
Wait—who is Al Giordano?
Giordano is an independent journalist who began his career in the 1980s at the Valley Advocate, an alternative weekly in western Massachusetts. He has been published in The Nation, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. Giordano founded Narco News in 2000 and founded the School of Authentic Journalism in 2003.
Giordano has found success and enjoyed consequent media attention in the past year due to his anti-Bernie Sanders and pro-Hillary Clinton online activism. He received glowing coverage from Joy Reid at The Daily Beast over the summer when he floated the idea of running against Bernie Sanders for Sanders’ Senate seat (Giordano is no longer pursuing the position due to health problems).
On Monday, Giordano raised eyebrows—and concern—when he told the world he had the personal information of a number of journalists and personalities from Twitter’s left wing accounts.
It all began with a bracketed competition to determine the winner of Twitter’s Shit Account Tourney 2016. The competition is divided into brackets; Twitter users are asked to vote on each contest for which is the worse account. Giordano faced off against Center for American Progress President and CEO and welfare reform implementer Neera Tanden.
Tanden won by eight percentage points.
After his loss, Giordano launched into a tweetstorm, saying, in part, “These 4,673 accounts [behind the voting] likely represent fewer than 2,000 actual persons. I hope [twitter support] will study their abuses & act on them. This is the core group of “Alt-left,” “Bernie Bro,” “dirtbag left,” Intercept, Jacobin, Bruenig boys, whatever name they go by… the dozen or so ringleaders have first names, last names, addresses, jobs. I have a lot of that info (and feel free to email me more).”
The implied threat of publicly airing people's personal information triggered reactions across left-wing twitter. Some unhappy:
But no matter where you come down on the continuing battle between left and liberal twitter—a battle that became extremely acrimonious during the primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders—it’s undeniable that the threat of “doxxing” is a serious one.
Doxxing, for the uninitiated, is when an anonymous or famous subject of unwanted online attention has their personal information exposed to the world at large. The practice is frowned on and seen as a particularly vicious and dangerous form of harassment. Giordano’s tweet stating that he has “a lot of that info” about his enemies could easily be seen as a direct threat to release the data to the public.
Giordano told Paste in an email that he was only letting his sources know they could send him information.
“Today I simply said, ‘Hey, I’ve received interesting info. Anybody else who has some, my line is open,’” Giordano wrote. “That’s journalism.”
Giordano said he’s been part of a constant, targeted campaign of harassment over the past year.
“We are subscribed daily by unknown persons to right wing and porn and other kinds of mailing lists,” Giordano wrote. “There are multiple daily attempts to hack our social media accounts. We get alerts about that each time from Twitter and others.”
He provided evidence of that harassment in the form of an undated screenshot of a password reset request and a subscription to the right wing magazines TownHall.com and HotAir.com. Giordano also provided an email from Pornhub asking him to activate an account.
“Hello penisboy67,” the sex-site email read. “Your Pornhub account penisboy67 has been successfully created.”
Giordano alleged that he is regularly libeled by anonymous harassers and that his Wikipedia page is frequently the subject of vandalism. But he did not provide Paste with any evidence of “the usual suspects who really have doxxed, harassed and urged their cohort to do the same to many of the best voices on social media.”
Instead, Giordano pointed Paste to “feminist scholars who have been doxxed the worst by this same crowd: Sarah Kendzior, Sady Doyle, Imani Gandy, and many more.”
Paste pointed out that Giordano, not the others, was the one who had said he held private information about his enemies. But Giordano stuck to his guns.
“It wasn’t a threat,” Giordano wrote. “It was a statement of fact. If you want to criticize a journalist for saying people send him information about anonymous poseurs, you will be criticizing the essence of journalism itself.”
“I have not declared any intention to use information,” continued Giordano. “But I would like to know the names and identities of the anonymous cowards who seek to harass, silence and intimidate me and so many others.”
By his own admission, Giordano is building a list of the names, addresses, and other personal information of his political adversaries. That Giordano is just an independent journalist makes his list less dangerous and have less reach— but it’s still a cudgel hovering over the heads of those who publicly disagree with him.
It’s undeniable that Giordano has been the subject of anonymous harassment. But that comes with the territory of being a public figure. At no point during Paste’s discussion with Giordano did the latter provide any evidence that his personal information had been exposed.
The freedom of information online, and especially on social media, is something to be cherished. For someone like Giordano to use the inverse of that freedom to pressure his adversaries to silence their speech— by implication or direct threat— is antithetical to the principles of the profession he claims to hold dear.
But Giordano is undeterred.
“I think my statements on Twitter,” he said, “speak for themselves.”
You can reach Eoin Higgins on Facebook and Twitter.