Update: Today, on his website, Greg Aymond responded to this post. He wrote:
As you probably know, Freddy’s first job after he got his degree in English and Theology from Rice University in Texas was with his mother, who is rumored to have fired him for not working. He then worked for Mayor Roy, on the public dole, before he resigned last Summer to enter law school at S.M.U.
I did call Freddy a “gimp” after I got tired of his constantly writing about his disability in a clear effort to gain sympathy among his fellow liberal travellers outside of Cenla.
I know this is may boring the heck out of some of you, but it is important to me, as I imagine it would be to anyone, that a man who has never met me is publicly and definitively corrected for his repeated and persistent lies about my education, my job experience, and my personal essays and blog posts that I have published referencing my disability.
With respect to my work experience: I actually launched my first business, along with a friend of mine, when I was in fifth grade. It didn’t make any money. I didn’t have any real business model. But I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to get kids more involved in the political process. Looking back, it’s all somewhat embarrassing; I named my company “Politics and Business for Kids,” and the good people at Dixie Blueprint even supplied me with a deck of business cards. I would ride around my neighborhood in an oversized tricycle (because I’ve never had the balance necessary for a bicycle), stringing along my friends and my little brother, and together, we would pass out fliers and literature about politics, while also peddling magazine subscriptions. Magazine sales were the extent of the “business” aspect of the enterprise. And no, of course, that was never a real job. It was a hobby, and thankfully, I had great parents who supported their strange kid’s nascent entrepreneurship.
In high school, I made a few dollars helping companies promote their websites on the Internet; this was way back in the day when search engines required you to add your website to their databases, before there were sophisticated algorithms that could scour all of cyberspace. When I was in college, I worked for a software company that developed a peer-to-peer collaborative program, specializing particularly in architectural and planning work, and I also tutored a couple of high school students in English and creative writing. And after college, after my father had died, my family and I created a company to manage some of his rental residential real estate investments, Elm Tree Properties. It’s called Elm Tree, because E, L, and M are the initials of the given names of my siblings and I.
I moved back to Alexandria in late 2005 and began working for my family’s company. It was an awesome and invaluable experience. I helped to manage the homes and apartments for at least 150 families in Alexandria and Pineville. It was eye-opening, getting to know and learn about the lives and the daily struggles and triumphs of so many of my neighbors. In large part, this experience is what inspired me to begin writing a blog and become more engaged in the civic discourse in Alexandria. About seven or eight months later, I graduated from Louisiana Real Estate School, but I never became a licensed realtor. Around this time– less than a month after I graduated real estate school– I became involved in Jacques Roy’s campaign for Mayor. And, as most of you already know, once he was elected, I joined his administration and worked for the City of Alexandria for nearly five years. I resigned last August in order to enroll in law school.
Throughout my life, my mother has always been my fiercest and strongest champion and supporter, and anyone who knows her and who knows me also knows the absurdity of the claim that my own mother “fired” me. My mother has always encouraged me to follow my passions, and I did. I took a job in public service, and a few months later, my family and I (wisely I believe) sold the vast majority of our single-family rental homes. I still maintain and have always maintained an active interest in my family’s business. So, to Greg Aymond, whoever your source is: You are wrong, and you should stop repeating these insipid and mean-spirited lies about my work experience, my mother, and my family’s business.
Also, I really think it’s the height of hypocrisy for Greg Aymond to ridicule the professional legitimacy of a person who actually worked, day in and day out, for the government, as if I was somehow on the “public dole” while, Greg Aymond, who actually owes the government money in tax liens yet lives off of checks cut at the United States Treasury Department, is not. I know what he’ll say: He paid into the system. And guess what? So have I.
With respect to my education, one minor correct: English and Religious Studies. Theology and Religious Studies are too different discourses.
And his statements about my disability and his justification for calling me a “gimp,” I’ll deal with that in another post
Today, my friend “AlexCenla” on his website AlexCenla’s Rants and Ravings published an insightful and provocative piece about the state of the Central Louisiana blogosphere. I recommend reading it in its entirety. As “AlexCenla” has mentioned before, we do actually know one another in real life, and I respect his desire to maintain his anonymity. He is, without question, a true champion of the history and a true believer in the future of the City of Alexandria. We have, at times, disagreed on certain issues, but he has always treated me fairly, respectfully, and with a healthy dose of good-natured humor. And I like to think I have reciprocated in kind.
Quoting from his post today:
Why do blog authors (in Central Louisiana) attack and try to discredit any one person or a group of people? Sometimes it is for a noble cause… to correct a real dysfunction in government or in social life. These people sometimes achieve a miracle of sorts. But this happens very seldom.
I am seeing a trend more and more in the local Alexandria blogs. They seem to get some sort of perverted pleasure in attacking each other. I want to be the last to judge, but the whole thing is getting away from being constructive and is on a downhill destructive nosedive.
In reality, very few people are affected by the learned writings of bloggers.
Of course, “AlexCenla” is completely right. Without question, there has been an uptick in blogger-on-blogger attacks, or, as Alex puts it, “a destructive nosedive” in the overall discourse. There are only a handful of political bloggers in Central Louisiana, and I’m fairly certain that, of those bloggers, Alex and I are the only two who have never been involved in any sort of local blogosphere-related litigation, which is a strange and remarkable statement.
As a recap, for those unaware, the blogger Greg Aymond, operator of the website Central LA Politics, sued the blogger Ed Hooper, operator of the website WeSawThat, for defamation of character. And, for some reason, as a part of that lawsuit, the blogger Steve Coco, operator of the website CenlaNews, was deposed as a witness for Mr. Aymond.
Currently, blogger Danny Slayter, one of the contributors to the website Cenla Briar Patch, is involved in a couple of lawsuits against local attorney Thomas “Tommy” Davenport. Slayter, among other things, alleges that Davenport defamed him while blogging under the online pseudonym “TheClearTruth.”
And earlier this week, Greg Aymond threatened to sue Danny Slayter for defamation, after Cenla Briar Patch re-published and essentially endorsed the same claims Hooper had made against Aymond.
You got all of that?
There are only a half of a dozen or so political bloggers in Central Louisiana, and the majority of them have either been a party to or involved with defamation lawsuits. Obviously, with all due respect to my fellow bloggers, they seem to be a litigious bunch.
I thought about Alex’s comments for quite some time. I know I’ve injected myself into many of these discussions, and as I mentioned earlier in the week, I recognize that I sometimes have made mistakes on my blog.
Alex’s post attracted a comment from Greg Aymond, a man who has written about me more frequently and with more ferocity than anyone else, ever, in my entire life, despite the fact that he has never actually met me. I won’t publish Mr. Aymond’s comment; you can read it for yourself if you wish on Alex’s website. But after reading him proclaim himself to be an “issues-oriented” “political activist,” I felt compelled to respond.
I anticipate that some of you may think I am merely contributing to the very discourse I seek to reject, but after being involved in the local blogosphere since March of 2006, I have a slightly different perspective on the root causes of the current and persistent dysfunction and acrimony. Here are my comments, reposted in full:
Alex, thank you for your level-headedness and for putting things in the proper context. I do not believe Mr. Aymond is fair or accurate, however, and I sometimes feel obligated to defend both myself and others from some of the things he posts. He has repeatedly called me a “gimp,” for example, and has mined my personal Facebook account in order to alter photographs of me, making me appear as a Klansman, a Nazi, and Mao Tse Tung, among others. He has publicly suggested that I do not believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, and he has repeatedly misrepresented my education, my employment background, and my experience.
If these things were said about you or someone you love by a stranger — a man you’ve never even met once in your life– on an Internet website that claims to be the most popular blog in Central Louisiana, would you simply sit idly by or would you defend yourself? I know it is easy enough to say, “Just ignore it, and this person will eventually ignore you.” But I tried that approach– for months, actually– and Mr. Aymond never relented. If I posted a positive story on my website about Alexandria, Mr. Aymond would, like clockwork, respond with a personal attack against me.
It is fair, I think, to point out that Mr. Aymond, who fashions himself as a “political activist,” actually began his activism as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, particularly when he accuses others of being racists or alters photographs of others to make it appear as if they were actually Klansmen. During the last Mayor’s race, Mr. Aymond posted an untrue and completely unsubstantiated claim that Mayor Roy once appeared in blackface. Ironically, the same accusation had only recently been leveled against John Georges, then a candidate for Mayor of New Orleans. The difference, of course, is that there was actually a photograph of John Georges. But because Mr. Aymond’s story about Mayor Roy was a ridiculous lie– and despite his pleas for readers to submit an incriminating photograph, Mr. Aymond, instead, created his own photograph. More recently, I reminded readers of the tactics employed by the pro-Von Jennings website JacquesBarack and the way in which this person used a photograph of the Mayor’s four-year-old daughter as a part of an attack piece. Incredibly, Mr. Aymond responded by suggesting that Mayor Roy was actually at fault because his campaign brochures contained a picture of his family. Of course, family photographs are a standard part of nearly every political campaign, and it is absurd, almost deranged, to suggest that a four-year-old child is “fair game” because she appeared in a candidate’s family photograph.
A few other things: I have never denied the fact that I am an unabashed supporter of Mayor Roy. I know him, personally and professionally, to be a man of the utmost integrity. Having worked alongside him for five years, I saw this every single day. So yes, maybe I am biased: I’ll fully concede that. But, throughout the last few years, reading the ways in which Mr. Aymond attacks and criticizes Mayor Roy, it seems to me that he is not really interested in raising political awareness or offering legitimate or substantive policy criticisms, he’s interested in waging a one-man smear campaign.
I don’t respond to him or engage in discussions like this one with the hope of receiving more hits on my website. My responses to Greg Aymond aren’t intended to promote myself or stroke my own ego or ingratiate myself to anyone else. I was reared to stand up to bullies; for me, this entire back-and-forth isn’t about promoting myself or others; it has always been about defending myself and others from attacks I know to be wrong, hurtful, and painful.
And you’re absolutely right: I am just as guilty as others of making mistakes. I have my own obvious faults. Sometimes, I can be hot-headed and quick to the punch, and when that happens, when cooler heads prevail, I have no problem admitting my mistakes and apologizing. But what I will never do is merely roll over and allow someone that I don’t even know, a man who has never even met me personally, to continually lie about me and spread vicious lies– sometimes carefully couched as “rumors”– about people I know to be good, decent, and compassionate.
I absolutely support Mr. Aymond’s fundamental right to free speech, but the First Amendment works both ways. This is not some game we’re all playing; it’s not a competition to see who can say the worst and most hateful things about one another without actually committing defamation, as if readers or the public award style points for the person who can press as far up against the line between free speech and defamation.
And it’s a lesson I have had to learn the hard way– that when I criticize someone publicly, I am criticizing a real human being, with a family for whom he or she loves. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know how to criticize someone’s political opinions or professional judgment without calling into question their basic and fundamental humanity. This, however, does not mean that we should simply ignore bullies or smear artists.
In my opinion, more often than not, Mr. Aymond– however earnest he may be about his political opinions– fails to appreciate or, perhaps, fails to even care for this distinction.
I am not interested in a blog war. I’m interested in a robust and respectful conversation. Several months ago, when you posted an item about the Great Wall of Alexandria, as you may recall, I completely disagreed with your analysis. But I didn’t call you names. I tried, to the best of my ability, to respond passionately but respectfully with my criticism. And I think that is the way the conversation should always be.
But it’s difficult, if not impossible, when you’re dealing with a man whose style of political activism is “yelling in (your) face,” someone who recently wrote that, “ethics among blacks is usually a lacking character trait,” someone who paints anyone who disagrees with him or with whom he disagrees in the most vile and contemptible language– all while championing himself as an activist and a watchdog. Mr. Aymond may like to present himself as a defender of the First Amendment. He can call me a “gimp;” that’s protected, of course. But ironically, when the blogger Ed Hooper called Mr. Aymond “an unethical attorney,” Mr. Aymond took Mr. Hooper to court– a process, by the way, that we all had to pay for, at least in part, as taxpayers– to sue Mr. Hooper for defamation, submitting his medical records as evidence (one can only presume) of the physical trauma he experienced as a result of Mr. Hooper’s blogposts. And throughout this whole process, Mr. Aymond taunted Mr. Hooper repeatedly on his website. Ultimately, an out-of-town judge awarded Mr. Aymond nominal damages– $500, a hollow and meaningless victory for a case that, I believe, should have been thrown out from the very beginning.
My point, in bringing this up, is that, for Mr. Aymond, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. The local blogosphere should not be considered one man’s bully pulpit– particularly a man who attacks others on a daily basis but who holds up his law degree and his willingness to sue anyone who dares to criticize his professionalism and his ethics.
Instead of being a place for robust and honest discussion, the local blogosphere has become a caricature of everything wrong with the American political discourse; it’s like a junior high school rumor mill, except instead of passing notes, people threaten lawsuits against one another for the VERY behavior they are engaging in themselves.
I know this website is titled Alex’s Rants and Ravings, so Alex, please forgive my rant. It seemed like the most appropriate venue. Thank you again for your level-headedness and for sharing your obvious love for the people and the history of Alexandria.