Leonard Pitts' blood ran cold when he realized he was being targeted by a neo-Nazi leader, the nationally syndicated columnist testified Friday.As I explained three months ago, when I met Bill White in April 1999, he was a 22-year-old self-proclaimed anarchist. Over the course of two or three years, White's Web site, Overthrow.com, changed from being the online home of the "Utopian Anarchist Party" to the (oxymoronic) "Libertarian Socialist Party." He later became a neo-Nazi and moved to Roanoke.
"I feel like I have been violated," Pitts told a federal jury in Roanoke.
In June 2007, after the Miami Herald commentator wrote a piece about black-on-white crime, he received an electronic diatribe from William A. White, the self-described leader of a Roanoke-based white supremacy group.
Addressed to "N----r Pitts," the e-mail and subsequent online posts by White listed the columnist's home telephone number and address along with a passage about whites rising up to slaughter blacks.
Pitts said he took the words as a threat. "He is essentially inviting them and daring them to commit violence," Pitts said of the intended message to readers of White's racist Web site.
But in the end, the jury must weigh the testimony of Pitts, whose livelihood is based on the First Amendment, against the rights of a defendant who is seeking the very same constitutional protection.
Lawyers for White say he made no direct threats against Pitts or a half-dozen other targets. If so, then White's words -- however hateful -- fall under the safeguard of free speech.
When he lived in the D.C. area in 1999-2000, White was actually a useful source for behind-the-scenes information on, among other things, the anti-globalization protests and the effort of Pat Buchanan's supporters to take over the Reform Party. After the 2000 election, however, White got mixed up with the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi organization run by William Pierce. As I wrote in September:
This was nearly a decade ago, and the timeline is quite fuzzy now, but I remember in particular one night (was it in 2002?) when I met Bill White at the Dubliner bar near Union Station. During that meeting, he made repeated references to his conspiratorial anti-Semitic beliefs, and I tried to tell him, in effect, "Don't go there." But he was determined to do so, and clearly was not interested in being persuaded to the contrary.By 2007, White had gone so far off the rails as to threaten a nationally syndicated columnist. Leonard Pitts is a professional journalist. Writing is what he does for a living. The more success you have as a writer, the larger audience you reach, the more likely you are to become the target of hate.
Bill stayed in touch for a while by e-mail and occasional phone calls. He went off my radar until, one day, I saw him on TV at some kind of Nazi rally in a brownshirt uniform, doing all the Sieg-Heil stuff. He eventually became entangled in legal trouble and, among other things, appears to have harassed Charles Johnson back when LGF was a conservative blog.
What happened to Pitts very much resembles what happened to Michelle Malkin and Jeff Goldstein when they were targeted by online harassers. It's wrong and I suspect that, despite what Bill White's lawyers say about the First Amendment, the Roanoke jury will find that he crossed the line that separates merely "wrong" and illegal.
The post here which made Charles Johnson "apoplectic" suggeted that he "went off his meds" and was suffering from borderline personality disorder. If CJ is not clinically insane, he is at least emotionally unstable.
Becoming Johnson's particular idée fixe has not been a pleasant experience, but it has been instructive. For some people, life is a zero-sum game in which one person's success can only come at someone else's expense. Frustrated ambition fuels envy, which turns to rage and . . . Well, hate destroys people's souls.
The object of hate may be harmed (being repeatedly labeled a "white supremacist" by Charles Johnson hasn't been exactly what you'd call a career-booster for me) but the hater suffers far worse harm and, if unchecked, will ultimately destroy himself.
Being prosecuted in federal court for making threats (the Roanoke Times has continuing coverage of the trial) may actually be the best thing that ever happened to Bill White, if it causes him to step back and examine his own actions and attitudes. On the other hand, if he can't step outside the selfish zero-sum mentality, if he insists on viewing his experience from a standpoint of self-pity -- the Martyr Complex -- the judge might as well sentence him to life in prison.
As for Charles Johnson, I repeat that I have tried to heed the advice of Andrew Jackson's mother:
"Never tell a lie, nor take what is not your own, nor sue anybody for slander, assault and battery. Always settle them cases yourself."Good advice.