June 23, 2011 — Is this what journalism in general and sports journalism in particular has devolved to? Are the feverish rantings of disturbingly obsessed message board lunatics now seriously considered credible sources for the media?
That would seem to be the case at least in part when it comes to the recent furor sparked by Brooks Melchior of the Sports by Brooks website. On Monday of this week Brooks blasted out a story about Auburn’s Tigerettes and Tiger Hosts that was chock full of innuendo and rumor, seethed with false leaps of logic and painted shady picture of Auburn and its students.
Unfortunately the shot Brooks fired was a blank. He had the facts wrong. Completely wrong. And in the process, he sullied the name and defamed the reputation of a number of young women who were guilty of nothing more than holding a job on the Auburn campus — just as hundreds of students at Auburn and every other college campus in the nation do.
Brooks obviously didn’t do the bare minimum required to research the veracity of the speculation he posted. Where then did his inflammatory ammunitioncome from?
The Internet is a wonderful thing. Thank you Mr. Gore. We have more information at our fingertips today than anyone could ever have imagined. But there are also dark and dank corners of this world wide web where fungi breed. There are dirty and seedy places that allow people of similarly diseased minds to hide behind fake names while they posit fantastical theories and ridiculous assumptions. These shadowy places foster obsession. And lunacy.
It’s not our place to barge in on these steaming pits of hate. We have standards and won’t dignify them by mentioning them to name. But those who peddle in this trash know who they are. Suffice it to say that without dropping names or letting too much out of the gate, there are moore of these dingy little hovels of insanity on this wooly world wide web than there are tuna in the sea.
What’s disturbing is that Brooks was at the very least directly involved with one or more of these sleazy hate mongering sites in developing the story he posted.
On Sunday June 18 at 8:15 a.m. a poster to a message board with a reputation for delving into the most crass rumor and conspiracy theories provided links to the Auburn University open records search as well as a list of amounts paid to certain students who worked at the college.
The following day, Melchior received a tweet from another site asking what he knew about Auburn’s Tigerettes. The site that tweeted this information is a sick and deranged hate-fest where a group of men and women wearing tinfoil hats and wizard robes sit around and scour the internet searching for anything they can find to defame, degrade or destroy Auburn University. Rats would be ashamed to reside here, yet a small handful of petulant haters call it home.
Within 24 hours, Brooks had broken his non-story. He essentially took information provided by the shadiest of sites, used the same open records search results, did little or no research and hurled a wad of salacious garbage onto his blog.
Is this truly the basis of journalism today? How could a semi-credible journalist allow himself to be snookered by the lunatic fringe of an obsession-driven fanbase?
Since the story hit the Internet, reaction has been harshly critical in all but those remote dark corners. Brooks has slowly and steadily backpedaled. He’s done his best Pontius Pilate and tried to wash his hands of the story, but the egg still covers his face. Once it was out there, he couldn’t pull it back. Perhaps research in advance might have been the prudent course.
Paul Finebaum strayed into the fray on Tuesday, allowing callers to his show to promote the implications raised by Brooks without raising a hand to point out that the information was clearly incorrect.
National sports radio hosts Jack Arute and Mike Leach on XM/Sirius took Finebaum to task Wednesday, blasting him for allowing his show to get out of hand. Arute said Finebaum, who is also carried nationally on XM/Sirius, has responsibilities to do things the right way, but does not and has not. Arute said Finebaum’s antics were an embarrassment to college football and called for Finebaum’s show to be removed from the XM/Sirius lineup.
In one of the oddest deflections of Finebaum’s long history of deflection, he tried to turn Arute’s condemnation of his show into a condemnation of the South. He ridiculed the hosts as northerners and tried to drum up sympathy for a southern show against the carpetbagging yankee horde.
Worst attempt at obfuscation. Ever.
Arute’s dislike for Finebaum’s methods has nothing to do with a north versus south bias. It’s about integrity versus innuendo, legitimacy versus lunacy, fact versus fiction, decorum versus debauchery. There are plenty of people from the South who cringe at the backwater rube stereotypes Finebaum’s regular callers exhibit to the nation on a daily basis.
Finebaum has always pandered to the lunatic fringe of both the Auburn and Alabama fanbases. His show relies on the ill-informed and ignorant to throw flaming balls of mud at each other while he sits back above the carnage and plays ringmaster for the circus of freaks. It’s his schtick.
On Tuesday, Finebaum did more than stir the pot, however. His snide comments and snickering asides to a series of despicable comments kept fans flamed when he could and should have defused the issue by speaking the truth he most certainly knew. He chose to follow the path of vulgarity in the name of entertainment. He should have expected to pay a price.
It was clear on Wednesday that a growing negative backlash from his Tuesday show including the tongue lashing from Arute affected Finebaum.
At one point Finebaum self-righteously quivered, (and we’re paraphrasing):
“Arute may have backed away from his statement, but once you put something like that out there it’s what you truly believe. You make an allegation like that, it doesn’t matter what you say later, you’ve said what you think.”
The king of crawfishing set a Guiness record for irony with that comment. Perhaps he’s forgotten the slew of accusations and insinuations he hurled at Auburn during a recent speech to a business class at Birmingham Southern. In that rant he made numerous allegations about Auburn’s recruiting efforts and regurgitated all the asinine chum that flows from the hate-Auburn sites.
Finebaum attempted to slither away from that controversy claiming his comments were taken out of context. By his own Wednesday words, when allegations are made, you can retract them later but you’ve said what you really think.
The additional irony of this situation is that the entire episode was ignited by a handful of yokels with nothing better to do than sit in their dingy basement and search for anything they can use to defame Auburn University. It was perpetuated when a quasi-journalist ran with a bogus story they concocted without making any attempt to verify it. And it festered when a radio host who should have known better let the tin foil hat society run amok on his show.
Auburn fans have always known that when the Tigers won the football national championship the reaction from rival fans was likely to be negative. Frustration, anger, denial and pettiness were expected.
What Tiger fans didn’t expect was the full-on tantrum, the foot-stomping, fit-throwing, wall-punching, foaming-at-the-mouth fury that exploded the moment it became apparent that Auburn was on track to have a shot at the brass ring.
From that boiling rage, numerous hate sites were born and the sad, sick individuals who frequent them are hellbent on destroying everything that Auburn represents. Sportsmanship is lost on them. They concoct mind-boggling conspiracies that paint Auburn at the epicenter of all that is wrong with the universe. Bitterness is their primary emotion.
To be fair, this pack of rabid dogs does not represent the entirety of any fanbase. Unfortunately the minority paints with a broad and vocal brush. It’s their voice you hear roiling up from the hate sites that bubble at the edges of the Internet. It’s their harangue that drives the Finebaum show and it’s their obsession to which the show genuflects. It’s their wall of noise that drowns out the good and decent contingent of the fanbase. And it’s their cauldron of jealousy and fear that spawns psychotic deviants like Harvey Updyke.
People who thrive on churning dirt aren’t needed or wanted. They are an embarrassment to the programs they claim to support. But as long as there are outlets like Sports by Brooks and the Finebaum show to give them an outlet they will continue to skitter around the edges like roaches.
Semi-legitimate journalists like Melchior simply cannot allow lunatics like that to provide him material. Voices like Finebaum cannot allow unadulterated filth to go unchallenged. They must consider the bitter source. And break out the Raid.