Radical media, politics and culture.

An expose of the abuse perpetrated by Bob Black, written by one of his victims

An Expose of the Abuse Perpetrated by Bob Black, Written by One of His Victims Bill Brown

One of the worst things about abuse (physical, emotional or verbal) is that the victim can rarely be counted on to come forward, identify his or her attacker, and describe what he or she was forced to endure. The victim was originally chosen because of perceived weakness. There is shame in realizing this, as there is shame in the very fact of being abused. There are fears about being abused again. And so, many victims of abuse find it easier to suffer their abuse in silence. Unfortunately, many abusive people are aware of this all-too-human tendency, and take advantage of it. Not only do they remain unpunished; they become brazen. They know that their crimes won't be reported to the precise extent that these crimes are shameful; victims of shameful crimes are ashamed to come forward; thus their victimizers feel comfortable with attacking them again and again, for many years in some cases.

But I will not be silent any more. For several years now, I've been receiving word from people around the country that Bob Black has been barraging them with vicious, hateful lies about me. I've had enough of this self-appointed judge, this cowardly COINTELPRO-wannabe, and I'm denouncing him publicly for his latest unprovoked, scurrilous attack. On 22 November 2008, just two days after the opening of an exhibition of my work at a gallery at the University of Cincinnati, Black looked up some names on the university's Web page and sent them emails that began, "I write to report the background of bill Brown, who has an exhibit at the Reed Gallery." By way of attachments, these emails include "a chronicle of his movements," which "place[s] at your disposal everything I have on Brown."

Is Black trying to write like a police detective or is he trying to be confused with a police detective? He identifies himself as a lawyer, but his reason for writing has nothing to do with the law. He writes, "He [Brown] has often publicly insulted and libelled [sic] me in his fanzine 'Not Bored!' -- the zine you are exhibiting, and quite possibly one of these libels is on display, which, technically, renders you liable as its 'publisher' as this term is used in defamation law. I have no intention, of course, of proceeding in that fashion." Absent this intention, there is no reason for Black to continue to write, indeed to write anything at all, to the people at the Reed Gallery. As he himself has shown, if he continues to write, it is only because he is interested in perpetrating libel, not stopping it.

There is a sickening irony in Black lecturing strangers (people he's never met) about the very thing he is doing, elsewhere in his emails: namely, deliberately defaming someone's character, in this case, mine. Of course, the fact that Black's emails had no "publisher" (other than his ISP, which has Terms of Service that precisely forbid this kind of abuse of their services) doesn't mean that his letter isn't an instance of defamation. Furthermore, it is chilling that Black is perfectly aware of the precarious position that he has placed many publishers (real and virtual) over the years: Anarchy Magazine, for example, which several years ago published a letter to the editor from Black that contained obvious lies and libels about me. Of course, I threatened to sue unless a retraction was printed. That's what honorable people do: when confronted with dishonorable behavior, they use honorable means.

Given Black's calculated use of defamation -- either defaming others or using the claim that he's been defamed to launch a campaign of defamation -- it is hard to believe that publishers, especially "anarchist" ones, continue to allow themselves to be used in this fashion. Should not "anarchist" publications be interested in targeting as their "political enemies" the people who run the government and the corporations, that is, if these publications are really anarchist? But Black is no anarchist either: he simply terrorizes people he thinks are "leftists." Who could benefit from his on-going smear campaigns? Only right-wing zealots and nutjobs who hate leftists.

What does the content of Black's "chronicle" on me reveal? It is a nauseating collection of fantasies, half-truths and outright lies: the truly unpleasant thing is that Black is utterly obsessed with me, and has been tracking me for over 20 years. I'm a terrorist, a CIA agent, a fascist, a card-carrying Communist; I'm an assimilated Jew, an anti-semite, a neo-Nazi; I'm a baby-killer, a drug addict, a moral degenerate; I'm trying to reanimate dead bodies in the basement of my mountaintop laboratory -- the particular content of Black's lies do not matter. What matters is that these lies are spectacular enough to make the reader forget that Black has no business making them up and/or spreading them.

Though he may cast me as a mortal threat to something that he pretends to hold dear, Bob Black has never been injured, abused or libeled by anything I've said or done. He is simply using this opportunity (a bit of success on my part) to vent his pathological hatred against someone whom he calls his "self-appointed political enemy," that is to say, a target for perpetual character assassination. If any of the many serious charges that Black makes were true, and if Black himself were an honorable person, he wouldn't have wasted his time filling up the in-boxes of a few people at a university gallery: he would have gone straight to the police, the FBI, the House Un-American Activities Committee and/or the Spanish Inquisition (whichever has jurisdiction in such matters). But he didn't, because none of his charges are true; his insinuations are preposterous; he knows that the "authorities" would simply laugh at him and his bungling attempts to be a freelance COINTELPRO agent if he tried to sell them his trash.

Unfortunately, I am not the only one whom Bob Black stalks and attacks at will: he has also targeted the people at Processed World, Jim Hoagland, Ward Churchill, Ramsey at AK Press, and no doubt many others. No doubt we know about only a fraction of the dirty tricks that this man has played over the years. Is Bob Black keeping a file on you? How would you know? He didn't let me know that he's been "chronicling" my "misadventures" for over 20 years. If he is also keeping a file on you, to whom has he sent a copy? How would you know? I only found out about this most recent incident indirectly, four days after it happened.

The important thing, of course, is the outcome. None of the people to whom Black sent his emails took them seriously. In fact, they suspected that their author was actually me, trying to cause a "situationist" scandal and thus promote my own show! Yes, indeed, that would have been pathetic, but not as pathetic as the simple truth: the ranting hate-filled lunatic who signs his emails "Bob Black" is a real person, not a fiction. When the recipients of Black's emails found out that their content was a matter of defamation of character, not self-promotion, they immediately reassured me that the matter was over. Case closed. The gallery would never take down an exhibition in response to complaints, and certainly not in response to the artificially generated outrage of a dossier-compiling sociopath.

The moral of the story is simple: for predators like Bob Black to succeed, they must find, not only victims, but dupes who provide them with alibis, excuses and self-justifications. In this case, Bob Black encountered not dupes, but intelligent people interested in ascertaining the truth, and so his despicable efforts at sabotage were thwarted. May he find neither victims nor dupes, wherever he goes.

Bill Brown 27 November 2008