We know! We're as surprised as anyone, but we have to give genuine credit where credit is justifiably and deservedly due.
We here at the ARC Collective make a point of exposing racists to public scrutiny. And we like to think that we're pretty damn good at it. We figure out who the racists are are and, if it is warranted based on their behavior (i.e. racist marches, flyering university campus' with hate propaganda, running racist and antisemitic websites and blogs, committing acts of violence, etc), we let the public know who they are, what they believe, and why people should care. Certainly even racists have the right to be racists (unless they're in violation of the criminal code or, and it will hopefully be determined one way or the other soon, in contravention of sec. 13 of the Human Rights Act) but as we believe the public has a right to be informed, we exercise our free speech rights as well.
Sometimes, we get scooped. Usually it's by Dr. Dawg or M.J. Murphy, but in this case, and we're almost embarassed to admit it, we were scooped by not one, not two, but three conservative blogs.
Earlier this month, Sassy Wire ran a story concerning a Rene Scherger, a Calgary city foreman with Parks and Recreation. Scherger once operated a virulently antisemitic blog containing links to other equally hateful websites. And Sassy Wire managed to track Scherger down, identify him, and publish why people should care. The article resulted in a number of comments, including some by a woman who seems to be a bit off her kilter who defended Scherger and made some pretty outlandish accusations which Sassy Wire addresses.
Now, Sassy Wire managed to do something that we here at the Collective have only rarely managed to do. Sassy Wire caught the attention of the mainstream media who proceeded to publish a story based on the original blog post:
City investigates anti-Semitic blog
By MICHAEL PLATT, Calgary Sun
Last Updated: 12th January 2010, 9:44am
The blogs are filled with venom and scorn for the Jewish religion. That much is obvious.
What isn’t so cut-and-dry is whether the alleged owner of the websites, a City of Calgary employee, can be punished for poisonous posts targeting Judaism and Zionism.
A full investigation of the employee, a 56-year-old foreman with Parks and Recreation, was launched Monday after the existence of at least two anti-Jewish blogs, both linked to the man, was revealed to city officials.
Described by one online watchdog as “one of the most twisted blogs you’ll ever see,” the sites both contain stories and articles targeting members of the Jewish religion, as well as anti-Jewish artwork.
The city is taking the matter very seriously, especially as one of the blogs and a Facebook site under the same name lists the City of Calgary and the Parks department as the man’s employer, for more than 30 years.
City officials confirm there is a foreman with Parks of the same name, and as a result, the city’s top lawyer has launched an investigation.
“We just became aware of the issue, so we are doing our investigation to determine an appropriate response — we need to determine a few facts, and then we can respond to this,” said City Solicitor Paul Tolley.
That the websites in question aren’t directly connected to the City of Calgary doesn’t necessarily protect the employee, whom the Sun has chosen not to name for now.
The city’s code of conduct for staff can include behaviour and actions outside of work hours, said Tolley.
“Sometimes the actions of an employee outside of the workplace can impact on their employment with the city and that’s something we’ll have to investigate,” said Tolley.
Given that the blogs in question contain vitriol towards Jews, Tolley acknowledges that a key question maybe the alleged owner’s role as a foreman, supervising people of all races and religions.
“That would be part of it, overall, but I can’t really say much about it, because I don’t want to compromise the investigation,” said Tolley.
The sites, updated as recently as August, came to the attention of the city and this newspaper after being highlighted on a separate, anti-racism blogsite, under the heading “Canadian Jew Hating Freak of the Day”.
The keeper of that blog included a warning to Calgarians: “FYI to all – If you live in Calgary you should know that you’re paying this guy’s salary. He works for the city in the parks and rec. dept. as a foreman.”
The websites connected to the anti-Jew blogs are a maze of links, containing conspiracy theories and essays aimed mainly at the Jewish religion, which is condemned as racist, power-hungry and corrupt.
It doesn’t appear the alleged owner of the blogs actually writes the material, though anti-Jewish words apparently penned by the same man can be found on plenty of online comment forums, under the same unique user handle.
As well, his Facebook page connects to one of the anti-Jewish blogs, where he is listed as owner.
Still, when contacted through an email address listed on one of the anti-Jewish blogs, the man denied running the website.
“What investigation? I went to the site and it is not my blogsite,” he wrote back.
The man did acknowledge a connection to the anti-Jewish site, but failed to explain why he was named as owner, complete with his age, occupation and profile picture.
“I am a follower as I am of many blogs, forums, websites and social sites,” he wrote.
And so the city, deserving of praise for launching an immediate investigation, will be forced to untangle the online mess.
The local Jewish community is taking a wait-and-see stance over the alleged connection to the City of Calgary, though leaders with the community wasted no time condemning the blogs.
“The places where the links take you are appalling and unfortunately, like many other inventions which benefit mankind, the web can be used for negative purposes,” said Calgary Jewish Community spokesman Adam Singer.
“There are parts of the web which have become a cesspool.”
While we do think that calling Sassy Wire an, "anti-racist website" might be a bit of a stretch (an anti-racist would be well aware of what has been happening in Calgary for some time), we admit that the person running it did do some solid investigative work.
Later, Blazing Cat Fur (BCF) of, "married to Kathy Shaidle" fame picked up the Sassy Wire blog posts which resulted in the following two comments:
Josephine: This is beyond disgusting
BCF: I agree, glad we can publicize him;)
BCF later adds while comenting on another blog post on the same subject:
I'm inclined to agree Rabbit, I doubt they would or should have any jurisdiction. If he has committed a criminal act that may be another matter. I think the public scorn should be sufficient punishment.
Finally, BCL's regulars kindly posted a number of links connected to Scherger.
To add insult to our humiliation over being scooped, friend of the blog Jay Currie (point of fact is, we actually don't thik that he likes us ver much) continued to discuss the story, adding a barb at ARC's expense. When he discussed the importance of making Scherger's name public, Jay Currie provided the following explanation:
Point and shun seems about right to me. Being a moron, even an anti-semitic moron, should not be, in itself, a firing offence. However, this guy is apparently a foreman and, as such exercises control over others. Some of whom may be Jews. Then his views might well be relevant to job performance.
Not all were in agreement though. Louise of "The Stubble Jumping Redneck" offered this dissenting view:
I’m afraid I have to disagree. He should be fired. The City of Calgary also has a reputation to protect. Keeping him on implies they have no problem with this kind of screwball thinking and it makes them complicit. I’m sure they have some sort of code of conduct governing their employees and after all, it’s the Calgary taxpayer that is paying his wages.
Now, point of fact is that we at the ARC Collective were aware of who Rene Scherger was and is (oh, he's another friend of Paul Fromm by the way). We were in the process of gathering information about him, but we had put him on the back burner as we were busy with other matters at the time. We were unaware of the blogs he operated or the other sites he was involved with and had we known we would have bumped him up on the list of things to do. However, we dropped the ball on this particular story.
Thankfully, and even though we will disagree on almost every other issue, at least on this topic Sasy Wire, BCF and Jay Currie picked up that ball and ran with it. We know that none of them will care that we want to give them credit, but in the spirit of not being partisan we feel that we have to recognize their efforts in this case.
Well done. You deserve the credit that you've earned through your work on this issue.