It's one thing to suspect it and quite another to have it confirmed. Mother Jones reports that outgoing Daily Caller Executive Editor David Martosko had quite the career impersonating liberals in order to infiltrate and disrupt their organizations while he worked for PR hack RIck Berman.
Before Daily Caller Editor in Chief Tucker Carlson hired him in 2011—a controversial choice given Martosko's previous arrests and lack of experience in journalism—Martosko spent a decade working for Richard Berman, a longtime PR operative behind a number of industry-backed campaigns. At Berman and Company, Martosko served as the director of research for the Center for Consumer Freedom, a Berman-run nonprofit that opposes new laws on food and beverages. CCF, which is funded by the food and beverage industry, runs Humane Watch, a website that posts derogatory information about the Humane Society of the United States. Martosko was the site's "founding editor." CCF also operates Activist Cash, a website that compiles biographical information on groups and individuals that engage in "anti-consumer activism."
In the 2011 deposition, Martosko acknowledged he used a Facebook account under the name of "Gregory Davis" (later changed to "Preston Davis") to obtain information about animal rights activists. (You can read the full deposition here.) Read the rest...
Martosko didn't stop there. He went on to intentionally disrupt the organizations he was spying on.
"Davis wanted people to think he was a real extreme animal rights advocate or like a vegan abolitionist. He kind of invented a cover story for himself," one of the women who moderated the Stop Humane Watch Facebook page in 2010 told Mother Jones. (She asked that she not be identified, citing job concerns.) "I didn't think much of it at the time," she noted. "When people posted abolitionist or extreme stuff, we dealt with it. We weren't about doing away with farms altogether; we were about changing the practices." She recalled a particular incident in May 2010 when Gregory Davis posted a comment advocating violent action against Conklin Dairy—an Ohio farm that was the target of protests after animal rights campaigners released a video of a worker abusing livestock.
"He was trying to rile up people to go to this protest," the moderator said. The post was taken down, as Stop Humane Watch did not want be seen as encouraging violent acts. Asked about the Conklin Dairy incident in the deposition, Martosko said, "I don't recall doing that." But he would not absolutely deny he did so.
I've described some of the events that quite nearly disrupted the StopRush effort, and they were mirror images of the behavior described in this deposition. That effort was also plagued with a volunteer who jumped into the effort, developed relationships and then over a short period of time started posting messages that were menacing and violent, contradicting the goals of the group of honest volunteers and attempting to discredit their effort altogether. When the offending account was ejected, chaos ensued. It's difficult to read this story without recalling how much trouble that individual caused, too.
Martosko is leaving the Daily Caller to move to the Daily Mail, where I'm sure he can muckrake to his heart's content for conservative causes. Either that, or Tucker Carlson decided there was too much exposure from Martosko's hack story about Senator Menendez and Dominican Republic prostitutes.
The practice of infiltrating groups that challenge corporations isn't unusual, but it is evil. Until there is some resolution to the question of how identity is handled online, there will be a public relations hack somewhere trying to undermine messages that challenge corporate supremacy. Whether it's Rush Limbaugh or Bank of America, they will continue to exploit identity holes in order to silence messengers they don't like.