‘ellie light’ is the pseudonym used by someone who loves and supports president obama. according to several news agencies, ‘ellie’ has been sending letters to the editors of various news outlets supporting the president and bashing the media for daring to criticize him. one editor, sabrina eaton of the cleveland plain dealer, bagan to notice that the same letter, often word for word, was sent to different papers by the same alias, ‘ellie light,’ but stating different local addresses within the expected readership of each of the papers. when eaton wrote a story about the phenomenon and exposed the alias, ‘ellie’ wrote in response continuing to bash the press coverage of president obama, but never answering eaton’s questions of ‘ellie’s’ identity. for instance, eaton asked ‘ellie’:
But why did all those letters say you lived in all those different places? It seems quite peculiar.
This email of yours has apparently been published in scads of newspapers. Each of them lists you as residing in their circulation area. How can you simultaneously reside in Kellogg (Michigan), Midland (Michigan), Follansbee (W.Va.), Myrtle Beach (S.C), Waynesboro (Va), Vallejo (Ca.), Mansfield (OH), Salinas (Ca), and Three Rivers (N.M.)? I also found your Haiti email printed in the paper in Lebanon, (PA). That one claimed you reside in Cornwall.
How did your missive end up in all these different publications, citing all these different residences for you? Where do you actually live? What do you actually do for a living? Are you sending these emails at the behest of any organization or politician? Are you the same Ellie Light who was once a reporter for the Bergen Record? Please respond ASAP because I plan to write about this.
Plain Dealer, DC Bureau
‘ellie’ did respond, but answered none of eaton’s questions about her identity. and this reminded me of something very similar that has been taking place for the past three years with regard to the dead sea scrolls: the case of ‘charles gadda’ and raphael golb, who is under indictment in new york for, among other things, forgery, aggravated harassment, identity theft, and criminal impersonation, all stemming from a letter writing campaign used to promote a certain view of the origin of the dead sea scrolls and to attack scholars that disagree.
it is, of course, not illegal to pose as a different person and send the same letter to a bunch of different newspapers online. but when one is exposed as being deceptive online and attempting to use aliases to feign the appearance of widespread support or outrage, it makes the cause for which one is advocating appear weak. in fact, appearing to require a bunch of aliases to write scathing letters to press agencies with the hopes of drumming up some invented controversy in support of a cause makes the entire cause look so weak, it’s embarrassing. is it illegal? no. but it makes the one for whom you are advocating (in this case president obama) look like he needs to depend on fake supporters to prop up his ideas.
however, what is illegal would be the following hypothetical situation: the person behind ‘ellie light’ writes an article accusing sabrina eaton of plagiarizing ‘ellie light’s’ real-life father. then, ‘ellie light’ takes out a gmail address in the name of sabrina.eaton (at) gmail.com and proceeds to email the real sabrina eaton drawing her attention to the false article. when eaton does not respond, the alias emails sabrina eaton’s colleagues and, in the first person singular, admits to the false plagiarism that ‘ellie light’ originally posted in the internet. because gmail, yahoo, and other private email providers are commonly used as alternative personal email addresses for professionals who are required to use their corporate email addresses for business correspondence, this impersonation could cause many to assume the email is legitimate, and this impersonation could cause eaton’s employer to question her work as a journalist. that kind of forgery and impersonation would be criminal. and as absurd as the above hypothetical situation sounds, it is the very thing for which raphael golb, son of university of chicago oriental institute historian norman golb, stands accused of in new york superior court.
so let’s recap:
- using aliases on the internet is legal.
- using aliases to promote one’s point of view is and create the appearance of widespread support or outrage is deceptive, and is embarrassing and perhaps even counterproductive if exposed.
- defaming, harassing, and libeling others on the internet using aliases is potentially a civil crime remedied in civil court via civil law suit if it can be proved who is behind the aliases.
- impersonating others and forging their name in emails to confess to false accusations of plagiarism with the express purpose of harming one’s credibility as a professional crosses the line into criminal behavior.
in a business like journalism or academics, where the credibility of one’s written work is central to one’s success in one’s job, this kind of forgery and impersonation with the intent to damage one’s credibility and therefore livelihood would potentially be criminal.
one should be very careful when writing letters of protest or support on the internet. for those who wish to do so, here are a few tips to follow when writing on the internet:
- don’t use aliases.
- don’t say anything on the internet you wouldn’t say in your own name.
- and for the love of god, don’t be a prick online.
there is no such thing on the internet! all is known by someone, and when it becomes known, the prophetic words of 2 samuel 12:12 become very true.
Filed under: anonymity, blogging, idiocy, justice and legal, media | Tagged: aggravated harassment, alias, anonymity, barack obama, charles gadda, cleveland, criminal, ellie light, forgery, identity theft, impersonation, internet, norman golb, plain dealer, raphael golb, sabrina eaton, university of chicago |