For all of those lefties who were enraged at Howard Kurtz granting publicity to conservative blogger Michelle Malkin a few months ago, they can now rest easy. On the front page of Sunday’s Washington Post, reporter Nick Miroff warned that a conservative "mouse-pushing crackpot" was tapping into ire against illegal immigrants – or more precisely, Miroff writes that he can’t be dismissed as a crackpot if he’s actually shaping public policy in suburban Prince William County. (This is the same Nick Miroff who couldn’t find the Democrat party label on the local mayor charged with running a brothel.)
The targeted blogger was Greg Letiecq, who runs a blog called Black Velvet Bruce Li. Consider as you read Miroff’s copy: can you imagine the Post using words like "crackpot" and "extremist" to describe positively anyone who stands on the opposing side to Letiecq? Would anyone who thinks the borders of the United States should be erased and that capitalism needs to be eradicated in America be subjected to a front-page story like this, with a message of: "Don’t look now, but hateful blogging kooks are running your local government!" (Here’s a hint: for a look at how the radical left gets covered in the Post, see Sunday’s cutesy gossip column item on the radicals with Code Pink "agitating for peace" and looking for a wardrobe at the Marshall’s discount shop.)
Miroff’s piece started off on the front page with punch:
Illegal immigrant ice cream vendors might be spreading leprosy in Manassas. Prince William County has been infiltrated by "unassimilated marxist radicals." Manassas Park police covered up the predations of five Hispanic men who gang-raped a woman in the street in June.
These claims, among others, have been made in recent months by Greg Letiecq, whose popular blog, Black Velvet Bruce Li, offers "Blog-Fu for Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park politics" -- often making up in passion what it lacks in proof.
But Letiecq (pronounced LUH-teek) is not some mouse-pushing crackpot with a keyboard and an Internet connection. In the past 18 months, Letiecq has leveraged his blog to help elect allies, kill off opponents' campaigns and shape local public policy. Peers call his site the most influential local blog in Virginia.
I’m just arriving on this story, and I didn’t find this blog until I recently looked into the Post’s coverage of the Prince William immigration battle. I wouldn’t pretend to know everything on it. But I have a question: Does Miroff know this is all unproven? Did he take two minutes to look into it? Take, for example, the question of a June gang-rape in Manassas Park. Did he call county police about the incident? The story is unproven, but it remains just that if the Post never looked into it. If the incident never happened, then it’s a cautionary tale about blogs following rumors of media omissions. But it’s not exactly fair to mock the blogger as pushing the unproven – if the reporter trashing the blogger (and his newspaper) haven’t followed any of the leads, or established the rumor was bunk. Miroff’s writing might suggest Letiecq is spreading the rumors ferociously as proven fact, but a look at his items suggests Letiecq uses question marks and talks about "rumors."
On the weird-sounding item on leprosy in your ice cream, the actual blog item doesn’t sound as weird as Miroff's freak-show carnival barking would suggest.
Let’s turn to the larger ideological battle. Miroff suggests Letiecq is a crackpot for talking about "unassimilated marxist radicals" arguing for open borders. Here’s another paragraph underlining the Miroff blogging-kook thesis:
When Letiecq isn't helping write county policy in Prince William, he can be found writing material of a different sort as Black Velvet Bruce Li. Among the ranks of the online martial artists who spin and strike across the so-called blogosphere, Letiecq is a virtual ninja, practicing character assassination, innuendo and exhortation with the skill of a black belt.
Let’s see how Miroff seeks to prove his charge of "character assassination and innuendo" about Letiecq’s leftist opponents, who are never labeled.
Fairfax County Harboring Illegal Aliens" was the title of a recent, and typical, Letiecq posting. Another warned "Zapatista Army Affiliate to Protest in PWC Today" -- taking yet another swipe at a favorite target, the immigrant rights group Mexicans Without Borders.
Letiecq even stars on the Web site of Mexicans without Borders -- playing the villain, of course. A photo of him smoking a cigarette and looking smug outside the Prince William County Board's chambers carries a caption that reads in Spanish: Greg Letiecq, "leader of the racist, recalcitrant anti-immigrant group 'Help to Save Manassas,' savors the hate, satisfied at having delivered a racist law for his group."
But to dismiss Black Velvet Bruce Li as the rantings of a fringe extremist underestimates Letiecq's reach and appeal. When he isn't fanning anti-illegal immigrant sentiment -- and providing a venue for raw, sometimes bigoted views, on his comment pages -- Letiecq reports on the minutiae of local news and politics to a degree no other media outlet has matched. Gossip, school board meetings, rumors, tax rate analysis -- it's all there on his site.
Put aside, for a moment, Miroff admitting that Letiecq is providing local minutiae that the Post isn’t. What Miroff is really doing here, by using the Website of Mexicans Without Borders, is letting the Marxist radicals define Letiecq as a "fringe extremist" – when what in blazes are they? They grant interviews to web sites like Socialism and Liberation, and are affiliated with the Stalinists at International ANSWER. (The interview is done by ANSWER honcho Brian Becker.)
Letiecq’s blog shows that one of his local opponents – with a job in the Prince William County schools system – teaches Zapatista organizing principles. (The Zapatistas are Marxist guerrillas in Mexico’s Chiapas province.) His link is to the radical-left site Beltway IndyMedia, which ought to know.
Finally, one smaller note on not labeling liberals: one of Miroff’s amateur Letiecq analysts is Ben Tribbett, identified very simply: "whose NotLarrySabato blog covers Virginia politics." Tribbett’s voice concludes the article, mocking Prince William County’s government as Letiecq’s toy: "It’s amusing to see local officials pushed around by a blogger."
Miroff really should have taken the time – especially in an article trying to expose a blog on the fringe right – to identify Tribbett’s blog as a liberal Democrat site. Tribbett’s crowing reaction about the piece (suggesting Letiecq looks like a gay man) hardly suggests he’s a disinterested analyst of the blogosphere.