Why we don’t publish our names

Orwell on journalism

Dear Readers,

Recently we were upbraided by an elected official for not signing our names to the emails we send, or signing these posts. It’s understandable to wonder why, so it’s time to explain. Due to multiple threats and abusive behaviors directed toward many people who’ve spoken out, we disabled public comments on this web site and no longer sign WCAA emails sent to those who sign up (see right side of this page.) The threats and abusive behavior have come from Navy personnel, and from a group of Navy contractors representing “Team Whidbey.”

Navy-award-702x336

“Team Whidbey” gets an award from the Navy, January 2016. Article in the Whidbey Daily News.

We have documented the abuse with screen shots and narrative, posted it, and reported it to the Navy command, but to no avail. We know that not signing our names flies in the face of the transparency we seek from our government, but when you are personally named in multiple newspaper letters to the editor as a “threat to 30,000 jobs” and you have Navy personnel publicly saying they’d like to “strap you to a Growler and fly you into ISIS territory to see how much guts you have” or a pilot tells you the dart board at the officer’s club has your face on it, and the tone of that continuous smear campaign implies that violence might not be out of line because you are a traitor, and they tell you on social media that they know where you live, you start to take precautions with your personal safety.

UPDATE APRIL 2, 2016: The Seattle Times published an article on its front page, called “Jets, helicopters, rockets: Military plans more uses of Northwest public lands.” You will see that “Team Whidbey” and its supporters are again harassing and intimidating people in the comments section.

To read these illustrations, click to enlarge.

Screen Shot Boycott campaign

Social media post from Navy contractor running the “Boycott Port Townsend and Al Jazeera” campaign.

When two Navy personnel in blue fatigues sat down right next to five of us on an otherwise empty Keystone-to-Port Townsend ferry, and made it obvious they were recording our conversation and snapping our photos with their iPhones, it was disconcerting and intimidating. The traitor inference comes from “Team Whidbey” and others objecting via months and months of letters to the editor and in trolling public forums, to Truthout reporter Dahr Jamail, a fourth generation American who has frequently written about the Navy. They vilify him in veiled racist ways, and publicly print again and again, in multiple forums, that I (Karen Sullivan) am “colluding with Al Jazeera.” They evidently wish to conflate Al Jazeera with Al Qaida in their social media audience’s minds. When it became known to Navy personnel and their supporters that I had been asked to write the Port Townsend City Council’s comment letter on an EIS last year, and when the contents of that comment letter became public, the threats and abusive behavior escalated. A Navy contractor organized a campaign he called “Boycott Port Townsend and Al Jazeera.”

Screen shot Seattle Weekly

One of many nasty responses to people who speak out, this one to Seattle Weekly reporter Dan Person after a March 1, 2016 article.

When an elderly woman commented in a public forum about how much the jet noise was impacting her recovery from a hip operation and how depressed it made her, a Navy pilot suggested she should go ahead and commit suicide, because, he said, the jet noise over her community was going to increase and they were going to “punish” her. He continued with the following, about a retired Air Force officer who wrote to complain about the noise and lack of respect:

note from pilot

Email from a Hornet pilot.

Trolls that included several active duty pilots jumped on a public Facebook page and intimidated public comments with their sarcasm and abusive language.

Screen Shot I can't believe I protect you morons

Interaction with a Navy pilot

I personally reported the abuse to the base commander and public affairs officer at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island more than a year ago, but received no reply. So I reported it to the Secretary of the Navy. No reply. Then I sent it to the White House. No reply, but the webmaster at the citizen’s group Citizens of the Ebey’s Reserve watched in astonishment as all abusive comments were stripped one by one from their site. The only reply we have seen from the Navy is a fact sheet that says the public is “confused” because of “misinformation.”

Facebook page title created at NASWI

Facebook campaign by Navy contractor now representing “Team Whidbey”

So, lack of any reply whatsoever from our two silent Senators, on any of the letters we have sent, none of which have been unreasonable, is doubly disturbing.

It’s not unpatriotic to ask your government to follow the law and to respect the citizens who pay dearly for their equipment and salaries. I’m the spokesperson for the West Coast Action Alliance, and I’m proud of it. I’m also verging on being a little old lady, and to see people who raise reasonable questions being targeted like this is scary. It also makes me mad, and by God I’m not backing down.

Sincerely,

Karen Sullivan

*Footnote: Within two hours of publishing this post, Navy jets began flying lower and louder than usual, over Port Townsend.

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