Move over, Ashley Madison—there’s a new scandal in town. At least, that’s what the media is desperate to have you believe.
In late October, the “hacktivist” group Anonymous, usually referred to oxymoronically as a “collective” of anarchists, announced that they had obtained the membership rolls of several Ku Klux Klan organizations. They planned to release the names of a thousand or so members “in retaliation” for “the Klan’s” threats of violence against protestors in Ferguson, Missouri. (According to the FBI, there are approximately 3,000 to 5,000 members of the Klan in the entire United States.) Following the lead of Anonymous, almost every news report referred to “the” Ku Klux Klan, as if there were a single national organization by that name. In reality, the hundreds of organizations around the country that use the Klan name are not even chapters, in a traditional sense; they are competing organizations that are so utterly unrelated that they make the far fringes of Protestantism look as centralized as the Catholic Church.
That in itself should have fostered doubts about Anonymous’s claims in the mind of any relatively competent reporter; that it did not speaks volumes about the state of journalism today.
Still, Anonymous made the story too juicy to resist. There were, they claimed, some very prominent and surprising names on the list. Political careers, they implied, would be ruined. The political left, their appetite for blood whet by the post-Ashley Madison downfall of Josh Duggar, could not wait. After all, any major political name that Anonymous released would have to be a Republican, right? Never mind that the five most prominent political figures ever revealed to have been members of the Klan were Democrats—President Harry Truman, U.S. senators Robert Byrd and Theodore G. Bilbo, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, and 1988 Democratic presidential candidate David Duke (before he switched to the GOP).
As I write, however, those who relished the promised revelation are a bit confused—dismayed, even. Anonymous does not intend to release the full list until November 5, the day after this issue goes to press; but on November 2, an account linked to Anonymous offered a foretaste. And yes, there were a few prominent Republicans—most notably Sen. John Cornyn, the Republican whip from Texas, and Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana. But there were also some real head-scratchers, including several Democratic mayors of major cities, among whom are a radical feminist and a homosexual—not your stereotypical KKK members.
The presence of Cornyn and Coats on the list, however, was enough to convince leftists to throw caution to the wind, and the story spread like wildfire, even though there was no way to prove that the information was anything other than a bald-faced lie. Since when does the question of truth have anything to do with politics? Your side bad; my side good—that’s all you need to know.
As doubts about the initial list were raised, otherwise reasonable people resorted to the oddest justifications to continue to allow themselves to believe it to be true. The list was posted on the file-sharing site PasteBin, which is where the Ashley Madison list was posted, so . . . So what? On the day after Halloween, I found a Hershey bar on my front porch; yet if I someday find there a flaming bag containing something soft and brown, I will not jump to the conclusion that someone must have been making s’mores.
I will admit that, when I first heard Anonymous had obtained Klan membership rolls, I hoped beyond hope that they might be accurate, and that various people I disliked might be among those listed. But none of those people were prominent politicians of either party, because it beggars belief that any politician still in office today (or seeking office today) could ever have been a member of any Klan organization. At age 72, Dan Coats is the oldest person on the November 2 list; that means he was 22 in 1965, a year by which it was crystal-clear that any person of either party with political ambitions could not belong to such an organization. A man’s mind has to be completely twisted by hatred for his political opponents to believe that the name of Coats or of any other nationally known politician would legitimately appear on such a list.
If Anonymous has any legitimate names, they will be of losers who make their plans and schemes in their mothers’ basements, much like the members of Anonymous. But at this point, even if I recognize a name on the list—even one I hoped to see there—I won’t believe it. With their Guy Fawkes masks, modeled on the one worn by the antihero of Alan Moore’s comic book series V for Vendetta, the “hacktivists” of Anonymous like to present themselves as truth-tellers upsetting the establishment. But another Moore comic may be more apt: Who watches the Watchmen?