The sustained sliming of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, back on American soil after five years in captivity as a prisoner of war, has been nothing short of a national disgrace.
Whatever happened in Afghanistan, despite the theories of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers, remains a mystery. And surely will remain so until the Army, after its investigation, shares with the American public the circumstances of the soldier’s absence from his post, his capture by the Taliban and his subsequent imprisonment by the Haqqani network.
But this lack of information has not stopped legions of people — mostly political conservatives who objected to the president’s decision to trade five Taliban prisoners for an American they deemed unworthy — from assuming the worst about Bergdahl, and publicly proclaiming it.
One particularly obnoxious expression of this tendency was the creation of a Facebook page called “Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is NOT a hero.”
The page was created June 1, the day after Bergdahl was released, and as of today is “liked” by 9,281 people. For 2 1/2 weeks or so after it went up, it was a dumping ground for bilious accusations against Bergdahl and anti-Obama chatter.
But last week, the page was hijacked by a liberal Facebook personality known as “Busta Troll." It is now full of pictures of goats — or “goatz” in the lingo — goat puns and pointed insults about the conservative rush to judge Bergdahl in particular, and the anti-Obama tea-party mentality in general.
Busta Troll’s own Facebook page explains:
“The whole Bowe Bergdahl thing really gets my goat...He is an American...He volunteered to serve his country...Whatever happened over there is between Bowe and the military he swore an oath to serve... That doesn't change the fact that we don't leave men behind... Period... When I see a page like this I just can't help but get a little irritated...So I took it...Calling the herd to action...Enjoy...”
On the now-corrupted anti-Bergdahl page, in a post called “Page Goated. Deal with it,” Busta Troll elaborated:
“When you have [walked] a mile in this man's shoes and completely understand what he went through and what is in his mind you have the right to pass judgement [sic] on him...Advocating leaving a man behind and spreading rumors and lies makes you horrible Americans...The goatz are here to offer you peace and love...Enjoy!!!”
Dozens of like-minded Facebook users jumped into the fray, posting their own photos, jokes and goat puns. Jocularity and vulgarity reign, along with a certain neener-neener sensibility.
Busta Troll, as it happens, did not hack the page. As he has done with other pages vilifying the president, he simply outwitted its administrator.
In January, the conservative Washington Examiner first reported the ruse in a story called "Leftist con men hijack conservative Facebook pages."
“It would be inaccurate to call this ‘hacking,’ since that actually requires playing dirty with computer code; no, this is far simpler. Busta Troll simply hangs out on a wingnut Facebook for a while, pretending to agree with them, and then asks for administrator privileges (which is ridiculously easy), so he too can post cool anti-Obama stuff there. And then after he takes over, GOATS!”
In a private Facebook conversation with me today, Busta Troll confirmed the Wonkette explanation. "I'm not a hacker, I'm a troll," he said, identifying himself as a "very ordinary 40-something middle-class father and husband."
"What I would most like people to know about Busta Troll is that he stands for the reasonable people who are tired of reading about how President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim," he told me. "They're tired of reading about how he went to bed after issuing a stand down order, purposely allowing 4 people to die [in Benghazi]. They're tired of the hypocrisy of a group of people who 'stand for the Constitution' unless you're anything other than Christian, value your right to free choice, or understand that the same rights and freedoms afforded us by our Founders apply to everyone, no matter what their political, religious or even moral beliefs may be."
In May, a Facebook page for someone called Kevin Kopper offered a $1,000 bounty to anyone who could reveal Busta Troll’s true identity. The Examiner website reported that the reward produced results; Busta Troll, the website said, was a Maine cabinetmaker and veteran named Christopher Lyman. A website called Conservative Firing Line posted a interview with Lyman, in which he said he had "goated" 17 pages. He said his Busta Troll days were over, and that he would donate the $1,000 bounty to Planned Parenthood.
And that was the end of Busta Troll. Or so it seemed.
But it turns out the whole reward story, subsequent “outing” of Busta Troll and interview with the Conservative Firing Line, was an elaborate hoax. There was no Christopher Lyman. Nor was there a Kevin Kopper, who had been invented by a separate group of liberal trolls "running their own agenda and using me as bait," Busta Troll told me. "Our two groups came together and worked out the end game," he told me. The ruse is explained in this video.
Busta Troll told me he felt bad about promising to donate the non-existent reward money to Planned Parenthood, so he raised $2,500 in real money from supporters and donated it to the family planning organization in the name of "Rightwing Nutjobs."
None of this, of course, answers any questions about Bowe Bergdahl. Those will be forthcoming soon enough.
In the meantime, though, the goatz are on the march.