THE HOAX - HOW A SEA-MONKEY BECAME JAMES BOND TO SAVE SCOOTER LIBBY
By Robert Ellmann
Before puberty, I had routinely saved the world, often just before dinner time. Space aliens, Communist spies, psychopaths,
and other rivals, fell before my battery-operated light saber, or my Secret Sam plastic gun with scope, or my camp Star Trek
phaser, or other plastic, battery-operated, deadly weapons in my imaginary arsenal. My success at saving the world since the
close of adolescence has been spotty, at best. Indeed, if I had to characterize my adult life up till now, I would call it
|The Sea-Monkey is a benign creature, here magnified
That is, until recently. Through the magic of the Internet, I've reacquired my extraordinary childhood powers, albeit
about as real as the ones I had deployed in my misbegotten youth. All this came about through an Internet-fueled hoax.
The Motive for the Hoax
Why would I endanger my own reputation through a hoax? A very good question, and one worth pondering, though a definitive
answer is wanting. Sure, I've had theories. REASON 1: fun. REASON 2: intellectual curiosity. I was wondering about how the
Internet and political gossip collide, now I know a thing or two about it, and that's rather satisfying. REASON 3: I'd always
wanted to join the pantheon of hoaxers, even if in a perfunctory way, in comparison with the greats, like Orson Welles' radio
hoax. REASON 4: Google. I wanted an internet search of myself to include some interesting results.
|Orson Welles hoaxed recklessly, frightening Americans silly and the Martians away
Or Irving's unauthorized, not to mention untrue, biography.
|Clifford Irving laughed first, Howard Hughes last
REASON 5: I had also wanted to examine a media storm surrounding either a contemporary economic or political event -
though I hadn't actually been intending to become an actual participant myself in a Washington furor.
These constitute the hoax's psychological backdrop, ignoring other motivations I'm either too dumb or even too afraid
OVERVIEW OF THE HOAX RESULTS
By the concoction of a strategy for procuring my own infamy through the abuse of the frenetic information flows on the
Internet, and shortly thereafter achieving the infamy itself - to the chagrin of some (particularly my brother; sorry!), to
the delight of others, and to the detriment of, if anybody, only myself - four items are noteworthy.
First, the hoax did achieve its principal aim, that of attaining a critical threshold of generalized Internet belief.
In other words, for a time, people could Google me and be left with the distinct impression that I was really a CIA spy. Second,
a strange process was discovered, namely, that gossip converts into fact in the cyber-domain through a novel path with its
own rhythm; point of fact, political hoaxes pass through 3 distinct phases, transmutating themselves repeatedly along the
way. Third, distinct personnel correspond to each of these three phases, which personnel I've nicknamed Jawas, Jedis and Yodas;
together, they comprise the factuation process by which gossip is converted into fact. Fourth, there is an inbuilt Internet
circuit-breaker that, thankfully, once activated, can halt a hoax's progress.
FISHING IN THE BLOGGOSPHERE, THE SHORT TERM EFFECTS
Let's start at the beginning, in the actions of amateur, usually angry, sometimes demented, always politically aware and
occasionally astute, bloggers.
In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Richard Dreyfus destroys the interior of his home to build basically what resembles,
at first at least, a hill of shit in order to welcome space invaders. The theory underneath was, if you build it, THEY will
Dreyfus had it easy. Anybody can attract space aliens these days. Attracting the creatures who inhabit the Internet with
a convincing welcome mat was more difficult. A fact's base, gossip, begins in earnest in the bloggosphere.
But how? The difficulty here was in the getting started. The challenge was in devising one single piece of gossip that
would be a call to arms to various Internet communities, given the scope of my interests. I chose to plug myself into the
Scooter Libby epidemic. Why Mr. Libby? I had considered several possibilities and settled on a spook angle: the whole spy
genre is irresistible, be it Litvinenko or Bond, especially to the kinds of people I was aiming for.
The element of irresistibility was critical because the essence of any hoax is to provoke others into action because of
it, while if people don't react to the gossip nugget - the basis of every hoax - then nothing good will happen.
When the Valerie Wilson (maiden name, Plame) affair exploded into the media (she having worked at the CIA's Counter-proliferation
Division) and when her employment at a purported CIA front company called Brewster, Jennings & Associates became known,
it seemed probable that placing Brewster, Jennings on my own Internet resumé (as a former employer of mine) would serve as
a perfect foil, because it contained two necessary ingredients for my future audience - SCANDAL and INTRIGUE.
Scandal: the White House was being rocked by charges it had deliberately exposed the identity of a covert CIA agent (Wilson)
as revenge for Wilson's husband's earlier criticism of the Bush Administration's questionable claims of WMD as one of the
primary justifications for the latest experiment in democracy (to administration supporters, like Tony Blankley) or the latest
genocide (to administration detractors, like Pat Buchanan).
Intrigue: who wouldn't want to be the first to out a former CIA agent? Since (and sadly) in reality, I am a mere U.S.
expatriate Sea-Monkey living in Prague, this basic human impulse to reveal has astonished me in practice. Apparently, one
of our most basic human instincts is to gossip incessantly about others. No surprise there, but what is intriguing is the
contemporary transmutative journey of political gossip: the first level is the sifters through the garbage dumps of Internet
information in search of the occasional gem - those known as the bloggers. These scavengers are, hereinafter, the Jawas.
After that CIA front had hit the news, I connected myself to it; of course, thanks to Googlebot, it was only a matter
of time before the Jawas would discover my 'Brewster, Jennings & Associates' resumé entry, link me to the CIA and then
proudly out me.
It took several months in fact.
I had put the 'Brewster, Jennings & Associates' resumé entry on the Internet about April 23, 2005 and references to
myself started appearing on blogger-radar about March, 2006 while I received my first Jawa e-mail on March 16, 2006. It was
naively straightforward, from a nice fellow whose real forename might actually be, as he claims, 'Tom':
"I saw your resumé. So were you actually doing legal work at Brewster-Jennings or were you doing spy work for the CIA?"
Immediately after that bite, I had the resumé reference to Brewster, Jennings removed - with unmistakable result. The
Jawas knew exactly what that meant and shifted into overdrive. CURIOSITY in Robert Ellmann transformed into the Robert Ellmann
Internet FRENZY. Check the avalanche of silly Internet interest for yourself. Make my day - Google me. From South America
to Europe to D.C., sites concerning myself were making their way up the Mozilla pop charts. The Jawas had done the impossible
- they made me interesting! For example-
"There is no proof one way or the other on Ellmann's resume...but I think it is likely that he was observing criminal
activities relating to Russian uranium, one way or another. I hope he really was doing it for the legitimate interests of
the U.S. instead of someone else."
A handful of the hardest of the hardcore Jawas, those most deeply wedded to conspiratorial explanations for politics,
outed me via Internet in a kind of amateurish, harebrained legal defense of poor Scooter Libby. Their deluded reasoning ran
something like this. Scooter didn't out Wilson as a CIA agent at all, because CIA agents were routinely listing Brewster,
Jennings on their resumés. Since CIA agents, such as myself, had been listing Brewster, it must have been already known as
a CIA front. As one Jawa put it himself:
"Libby never should have been indicted for leaking former CIA officer Valerie Wilson's name, because her so-called cover
company, Brewster-Jennings Associates (BJA) in Boston, was not undercover. Former employees like...Robert Lawrence Ellmann
even advertise...associations with the company on the Internet!"
This makes no sense on its own terms, of course, because no former or present CIA agent, when listing Brewster, Jennings
on his resumé, also included in that listing "CIA AGENT" - they weren't so dumb - so the former was technically cover for
the latter. My fake, and others' real, resume references to Brewster probably couldn't help Scooter out. No matter. Scooter
didn't go through this whole morass due to outing anybody, as he didn't - Richard Armitage has belatedly taken credit for
doing that (with the smuggest of smiles for reasons unknown to me though not to the prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, presumably).
Mr. Libby's going to jail simply because the court caught him in a lie. Nevertheless, a handful of Jawas took it upon themselves
to out me as an agent, which did nothing for Mr. Libby, but did do wonders for the hoax.
It also meant I had to wait for the trial to be over. Trials have a way of turning in unexpected directions, even if O.J.
isn't involved, and I had genuinely (though perhaps not realistically) feared being called as a witness for the defense.
Anyhow, these Jawas are quite extraordinary. Despite their being unpaid, through this exercise I've come to understand
their critical function within the grander scheme of the evolution of Internet 'facts' - at least of mine. They scavenge for
gossip and articulate thereby 'potential facts'.
|Two startled Jawas chancing upon my overt CIA identity
Trudging the billions of pages on the Internet, they search mainly for items that buttress their various psychological dispositions
(to put it mildly) and can be broken down into categories relating to those attitudes, thanks to which illnesses they perform
their crucial fact-originating function.
During the most pregnant period of the hoax, say, between spring, 2006 and the mid-term Congressional elections of that
same year, and given that there was a largely liberal (borrow & fight) Republican administration in power, and a Democratic
opposition not only without executive power but also expert in political reproach, this can be said concerning the most generalized
taxonomy of the modern Jawas:
'Leftwing' Jawas generally discover and amplify facts that validate their political and other fears (half-justified at
best) of the threatening agenda and overweening influence of the federal government, such an institution understood as being
run by a self-interested cadre of sinister individuals.
|A leftwing Jawa.
'Rightwing' Jawas usually learn and snowball gossips that confirm their political and other confidence in the righteousness
of the current administration's agenda, such institution understood as being run by competent people - a position increasingly
straining credulity, particularly since the midterm elections.
Strangely, this faith in the president seems to be what separates rightwing Jawas from true Republican conservatives,
and also explains why no conservative Jawas exist: lacking the requisite faith in government means they aren't willing to
expend the time and energy necessary to defend the president, as rightwing Jawas have done, through the utilization of my
connection with Brewster, Jennings. Not one conservative Jawa in defense of me and in praise of President Bush, communicated
|A rightwing jawa
More interesting than pure intellectual taxonomy perhaps, is the more humorous entries concerning myself, such as this
Jawa who marvels at my pathetic inability to conceal my CIA identity.
"...that its about an 8th grade level attempt at concealment. Doesn't the law here have some requirements about the CIA
actively tak[ing] steps to conceal an identity to lead to a criminal outing? Maxwell Smart was better at it than this bunch,
If you're unfamiliar with the reference to American television of the 1970s - lucky you - that comparison to Maxwell Smart
raped my ego. Yet another conflates me with my genuinely famous, unfortunately deceased, Uncle Richard and then accuses me
of claiming authorship of one of my uncle's Pulitzer Prize-winning books-
"I find it interesting that the "Robert Ellmann" resume you posted had a curious detail that caught my attention. The
resume lists under publications Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann. Note Richard, not Robert. Richard Ellmann is quite famous
in some literary circles, and in fact I have several of his books sitting on my bookshelf... I don't know what to make of
this tid-bit but it would be quite sloppy for a Robert Ellmann or whoever to claim to be the author of a book actually penned
by such a pseudo-famous man as the late and very real Richard Ellmann."
Jawa Clarice accuses me of - well, I'm not so sure - but I believe it has something to do with cowardice-
"The problem with the international set is they glorify countries that embrace their homeland, all the while distancing
themselves from their own."
A potential fact is basically a gossip, a kernel of info that could one day grow up to be a fact, though this possibility
is beyond the power of the Jawas, basically outside of their function, not to mention talent.
It also appears that the Jawas have a natural Internet life-cycle - not unlike real Sea-Monkeys - wherein they generate
potential facts: (1) first contact, (2) explosion and (3) lull. Roughly stated, (1) refers to the foreplay between the Jawas
and myself; (2) refers to the play between the Jawas and myself (e.g., the lurid accusations pitted against me) and (3) refers
to the Jawas' post-play lethargy towards me.
Google, the collective conscience of our most suspicious, most alarmist, most ill. The virulence with which some Jawas
latched onto me was, on occasion, discomfiting. The point, however, is not so much the varied, usually hostile, occasionally
hilarious, content but the very occurrence of the blogging frenzy itself, as it set the stage for what comes next.
LIGHT SABERS AND THE MEDIUM TERM EFFECTS
|Behold the Coelacanth, the Sea-Monkeys' most ancient natural predator.
Blogger frenzy is the prerequisite for the next phase in the factuating process: the attraction of the personnel of the next
phase - the Internet media, properly understood. I won't define it exactly because it can't be so defined; I'm referring to
the Internet sites people go to when they want to read something reliable: Drudge, Huffington, The Washington Post, Slate,
or any other Jedi site of one's choosing.
Anyway, back in Detroit (where I'm proudly from), official media outlets rained phone calls on my mother, requests for
access to her remarkably special son (me!), questions about his whereabouts and latest efforts toward the preservation - if
not ruin - of Occidental civilization, etc.-
"Then there is Robert Lawrence Ellmann, an attorney/economist/professor/filmmaker from Detroit who works in the Czech
Republic for the law firm Jindrichovsky & Partners. His resume, also currently on the Internet, says he worked for "Brewster-Jennings
& Associates, Boston, USA" in the period 1992-1996. Ellmann's resume says he did "contract administration"
for Brewster-Jennings. His resume says he speaks Czech and basic Italian. It is even more eclectic than Edwards', looking
more like the bibliography of a mystery-novel series than a resume."
Another site even implies I deal in yellow cake uranium on the side. In the blink of an Internet site, I was a Sea-Monkey
Moreover (and this is cool), what seems to have really happened is that the Jawas' work was finishing just as the journalists
began arriving - that is to say, the Jawas and Jedis form one seamless whole with regard to factuation. Only as the Jawas
exhaust themselves do the journalists - the Jedis - move in!
|David Corn, esteemed and dashing journalist and D.C. editor of The Nation, called me in mid-April
I made David Corn demonstrate his identity, which he duly did by faxing me the letter below; he refers to me as 'Ellen' and
it's worth reading the whole text of his short letter:
I told Corn the whole thing was a hoax, and never heard from him again- since I was useless to him, and to all Jedis
for that matter-, despite an apology and a request that he answer a questionnaire for my project.
You can easily tell the difference between a Jawa and a Jedi: the main difference is height.
Another difference is that Jawas don't fact-check. Of course they don't. Why would they? They're satisfying an unbalanced
mental agenda by and through the gossip that they do find. They're not really fact-checking at all, they're confirming their
skewed notions about the enemy they mistakenly believe resides outside of their own skulls. Why should they discard a valuable
bit of gossip they've only just discovered, which confirms their deepest held delusions. Many, if not most, Jawas will never
accept that their gold is fool's gold.
In contrast, Jedis fact-check.
Jedis are Jedis for a purpose. They are the paid guardians of medium-term factuality, as opposed to the Jawas, the great
rummagers of short-term gossip.
Jedis hunt for believable facts that are useful to their personal political agendas. Now, maybe a Jedi's agenda derives
from a Jawa-style personal mental defect or from a non-Jawa-style objective appraisal of the worthiness of such-and-such fact
toward the fulfillment of whatever political goals the particular Jedi has - no matter. Whichever the cause, or even if another,
the important point here is that the Jedi, given their privileged position, validate the facts usable in medium term discourse.
Nobody believes Jawas, because everybody presumes they're nuts. People do believe the David Corns and Pat Buchanans of this
world, primarily because they are not considered, prima facie, nuts.
If the Jedi in question isn't neurotic, then his motive is a reflection of his political beliefs, which are easy enough
to figure out. If, for example, you consider President Bush a fucker, as, I believe, David Corn does, then your articles or
posts look like David Corn's: "How Low Can Bush Go", "Who's in Charge?", "Scootergate: The Trial. The Leak and the 'Truth'".
He despises the Bush Administration and does his best to find and accentuate anything that will do it harm; each of his
articles and posts restates, in fluctuating forms, BUSH IS THE ANTICHRIST.
If, for example, you consider President Bush as a non-Antichrist, as, I believe, Tony Blankley does, then your articles
or posts look like Tony Blankley's: "Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?", "Journey Into Islam", "The Mental Path to Appeasement".
Each of his articles and posts restates, in fluctuating forms, BUSH IS NOT THE ANTICHRIST.
Whether Bush is or is not the Antihrist - (an irrelevant point to anybody truly civic-minded as he's the best president
America has) - it is the exclusive right of the Jedis to actualize the facts demanded by their personal ideologies. They usually
won't admit this. A pity. They hide the only thing that makes them special. But everything they say is horribly skewed. How
do I know this? It is so because they factualize the gossips that they wish to - and not others. I suppose Corn got in touch
with me simply because he was fishing for anything that might help him advance his agenda, though I'll never know, as he's
never answered my post-hoax inquiries.
Corn with Newsweek's Michael Isikoff, appearing at the signing of their new book entitled Bush Is A Bigger
Antichrist Than We Had Originally Thought For The Hardcover Edition - now in aggressive paperback!
It is common wisdom these days that the mainstream media, meaning particularly media institutions derived from the traditional
source of print media, have been marginalized increasingly by competing media sources whose births did not predate the invention
of the world wide web.
This hoax has indicated nothing could be further from the truth. It is the print media, increasingly online itself (though
utterly unJawalike in behavior), which polices the Jawas, which elevates gossips to facts. Regardless of whether what they
choose to elevate is true or false in the philosophical sense (the long term, discussed below), it is true from the political
By political, I mean Jedi commentary in the medium term, the purpose of which is to affect decision-makers. Who are the
decision-makers? Well, that depends on who the particular Jedi's pissed off at and where America is in relation to its various
political cycles. For instance, close to an election, the electorate=decision-makers; close to a federal budgetary deadline,
the Congress=decision-makers; upon an invasion, the president=decision-maker.
While if some Jedis come to despise a decision-maker, say, a president, then they go after him. They want to inhibit his
decision-making power. And one of the principal means for achieving this is by trumpeting a scandal against him. They don't
say this obviously. They couch the assault in morally acceptable phrases - "we are a nation of laws not men" - in the arguments
contained in their articles or blogs to prove their scruples, objectivity, news cred, high beliefs, fine Ivy League educations,
The real substance underlying the scandal is the Jedis' own prejudices. Take noble Jedi Eleanor Clift. For her, Bush=BAD,
abortion=GOOD. Here she goes, typically: "My capacity for outrage at the Bush administration must have reached its limit:
I just can't get all that worked up over Scooter Libby's get-out-of-jail-free card." Or consider noble Jedi Pat Buchanan.
For him, immigrants=BAD, Pax Americana=GOOD. Here he goes, with his usual drama: "As for this country, the argument over who
is responsible for the worst strategic debacle in American history will be poisonous. With a U.S. defeat in Iraq, U.S. prestige
would plummet across the region. Who will rely on a U.S. commitment for its security? Like the British and French before us,
we will be heading home from the Middle East. What we are about to witness is how empires end." The individual prejudices
add up to a cacophony capable of fulfilling the role of the Fourth-Fifth Estate admirably.
The Jedis aren't beholden to corporate elites or an evil state. They're pissed, they can't just activate their light sabers
and slice through their adversaries, and that's why they do what they do.
THE FORCE AND THE LONG TERM EFFECTS
We move from the Internet to academia proper, from is to was, from the Jedis and the medium term, to the Yodas and the
long term. The Yodas are the guardians of the philosophical truth of political facts: they decide what is and is not true
over the long term, irrespective of, and therefore also above, all political cycles.
Just because the Jedis have deemed a Jawa gossip a Jedi fact, there is no guarantee that that fact will persist, as such.
Was Nixon a crook, like the Democratic Jedis had said at the end of his presidency? The Yodas say he was. Was Carter as incompetent
as the Republican Jedis had said at the time of the Iranian hostage crisis? Yes. Was Reagan's indifference to legality ruinous,
as many Jedis had professed around Iran-Contra? No, the law isn't everything, opine the Yodas. Was Bush Senior's tax flub
a sin? Not at all. Was Clinton a teenage dirtbag? Probably not. Is our present president an Antichrist? The Yodas remain silent
- it's too early for them to say - they wouldn't mire their holy opinions in the Jedis' political machinations; they speak
when the others are silent.
|A Yoda officially proclaims Carter an incompetent
Yodas include, but are not limited to, professional historians. (They may include thinktanks, but I'd rather place these
amongst the Jedi, as their function is inside, rather than outside, of the political process.) They deal in the revelation
of whether the Jedis had hated appropriately. They accept and reject the Jedis' medium-term normative beliefs churned out
of the biased facts earlier actualized by them, courtesy of the Jawas' madnesses.
When liked (by the Yodas), the fact itself becomes a part of accepted history - Bush was an Antichrist. When disliked
(by the Yodas), the opposite fact becomes accepted history - Bush was not an Antichrist. Either way, all the work of the Jawas,
Jedis and Yodas results in political history having a new fact, detached from the Jawas' insane motivations for its promulgation,
disconnected from the Jedis' personal political vendettas, and this new fact persists, until such time the Yodas change their
collective minds, for whatever reason, and revise it. Changing the Yodian factual canon is referred to, in the trade, as 'historical
Obviously, it's too early to see the Yodas' revisionism, as the ink's barely dry on the Jedis' assaults on poor Scooter
Libby, let alone the present Iraq conflagration; however, how the Yodas dust off old facts and revisit them can be seen clearly
now in the heated debate over whether the lesson of the Vietnam War either helps or hinders the Bush Administration's belief
that the United States must press on in Iraq.
The Yodas haven't yet settled on any new Vietnam War truths, but they're machinating in that direction. According to the
London Times, Yoda Mark Moyar is currently working on a book that will argue that America's failure to use air power, thanks
to the Jawas and Jedis back home, lost the Vietnam War. Other Yodas, like Robert Dallek, argue that it is preposterous to
argue America wouldn't have lost the war if only she had fought harder and remained there longer. Yodian consensus is years
away concerning Vietnam, and decades away regarding Scooteraq.
WHAT HATH THE HOAX WROUGHT?
Facts are much more interesting than I had ever imagined. It is not so much they are open to abuse, but rather that they
are abuse - due to the disturbing Jawan psychological seas on which gossip is generated, the Jedian fact-cherry-picking for
specific political effect, the Yodian blessing or rejection, all of which constitute the process itself. 'Objective' political
facts spring from such hideously skewed 'subjective' sources; crazy Jawas, angry Jedis, fickle Yodas. Jawas misunderstand
themselves, Jedis confuse hate with truth, and Yodas mint (and remint) truth from corrupt sources.
And what about my fabulous spying career? It has largely vanished thanks to the noble Jedi David Corn from The Nation
who had the good sense to confer with me personally and put a stop to it.
|Robert Ellmann, reflecting on the end of his truly uncredible spying career
But, to some Jawas, my spook career will never end-
"Robert Ellmann, CIA Spy with Valerie Wilson on Russ Nukes - Recants
The other foot has dropped...Now, comes lawyer Robert Ellmann, whose resume also appeared on [a] Cryptome.org, with his
own version of cover. Ellmann says he had a friend post it on the Internet as hoax!
Ellmann admits he is a liar, so before looking at his blog attempt to recant on his resume, let's look at some facts about
Robert Lawrence Ellmann, ex-associate of the famed Valerie Wilson at the alleged CIA front company Brewster-Jennings Associates..."
A few more Internet entries like this and I'm gonna start drawing a CIA pension!