The Adventues of Rocky and Gatewinkel (or When Gatemouth Met Hackshaw)

“Now Get on outta here, because I gotta get back to this screenplay. It’s about a pair of tough talking 1970s cops who don't take nuthin' from nobody. I call it Hackshaw and Gatemouth.’ Kinda like ‘Starsky and Hutch,’ but with less sex.” --Long Forgotten Room 8 Video Blogger Adam Green

It did not start out well between me and with Rock.

Rock had introduced himself to the New York blogocracy in fall 05 with an incredibly pompous post on a thread on the Politicker, the New York Observer’s Ben Smith edited political blog, which, at the time was like Rick’s in Casablanca, the place where everybody goes.

Rock’s non-germane post on a long forgotten thread since lost to the ages listed all his credential and invited folks to email him. It also invited and received much derision and laughter, including my own.

Most of the catcalls came from folks who thought “Rock Hackshaw” was the silliest nom de blogue they’d ever heard. I assured them it was real, and told the tale about how several pieces of specifications of objections to the petitions for a slate of candidates, including Rock and another perennial loser named Wellington Sharpe, had once disappeared from the Brooklyn Board of Elections during a ballot access challenge, and how later, part of the petition itself later nearly disappeared from the Board while being carried in the backpack of one of the slate’s hired hands.

For some reason, Rock went ballistic.

We were off to a great start.

Although Rock didn’t know it then, we’d actually started a bit earlier, when I was one of the folks working on the petition challenge against. Rock’s slate. We met each other one more time, two years later, when Rock outlined his theory of why the court would permit his candidates, who’d file for a party position which did not exist, remain on the ballot as candidates for the Democratic State Committee.

As per usual, he was wrong.

Things had gotten more peaceable as time went on, but one Sunday, during a thread on the endorsement of Carl Andrews for Congress by Dov Hikind, someone(s) had been riding Rock’s ass all afternoon. The thread had turned into a “Rock Festival” and I (joined by at least one other poster I suspect held elected office) had gently ribbed Rock about it:

“I thought when WNEW-FM went off the air that AOR was dead in this City; but I was wrong; the Politicker is the one place in New York where you get all Rock all the time. The Politicker: "The Place Where Rock Lives”.

Later, I actually wrote to partially agree with one thing Rock said (my recall is that he had opined that white racism had created the context for the Charles Barrons of the world to exist), and the person riding Rock started riding me, saying that Rock was answerable for supporting racists (meaning, I presume, Barron). I said this was true, but that Rock, and his anonymous opponent, were also answerable for turning an interesting thread into an exercise in self abuse, with all hands on dick. My actual language was somewhat harsh (I think the term “Rocks in his head” came up), but since Ben subsequently deleted it, and all of what followed, it is also lost to history. Several other folks then joined in, and Rock did a meltdown, saying he was quitting the blog and never coming back.

I was pretty sorry it happened. I don’t really think political blogging should be about the posters (although I regret to say that this assertion is abnegated by the kind of exercises in self indulgence your are currently reading). When Rock confined himself to the business at hand (rather than boasting about his curriculum vitae- sorry to break this to you Rockwell, but the Columbia School of Broadcasting is not part of the Ivy League), he gave the largely whiteboy blogging community an insight into a different strain of thought we probably benefited from hearing.

It's not that Rock is so great; despite what the cult which has grown up around him believes, he ain’t Woodstein (But who is? Not even Ben Smith), he's just the only political blogger or reporter in the City who talks to any Caribbeans. It's not he's so good; it’s that the mainstream press, and the white blogosphere, are so deficient in reporting on minority communities (a point I'm sure Rock would has no problem with). In fact, if they seem at a loss in East Flatbush, one should only see them stumbling around Flushing. And Rock's almost silly obsession with the horse race aspect of politics trivializes him at the cost of making folks take him less seriously. Although, to be fair, the mainstream press shares his enthusiasm for the horse race stuff.

While, like a stopped clock, Rock was right only twice a day, he, now and again, gave me a well deserved wake-up call. I was sad when he took that hiatus from posting (that time, and all the others as well), although, I assume that, like me, he never really stopped. I’d like to think that Rock thought my abuse stemmed from a misanthropic personality, rather than from racial bias; and I was relieved to learn that he did not put the blame for what had occurred entirely on my shoulders (which I think he indicated with his parting words to me at the time ("et tu Brute").

Shortly, thereafter, Ben talked Rock back into posting under his own name, and joining me, EnWhySeaWonk and a few others into becoming one of the original crew of bloggers on his new venture, “Room 8,” which launched in late March 2006.

Before the launch, Ben Smith asked that, in regards to Rock, I ask myself "what would Jesus do?" and "turn the other cheek". I informed him that Jesus was really not part of my narrative (was he even Jewish? He did carpentry, had been inside a stable and had a Last Supper rather than the Early Bird Special) and told him that the thought of turning the other cheek brought to mind
Daphne Merkin or Rachel Kramer Bussel. Nonetheless, I kept the truce more or less, despite provocation. For instance, it took a little over a week of the blog’s existence before Rock published a piece called “Hey Gatemouth: Your "Buddy " Chuck Barron Called This Morning.

However, despite Rock’s incessant and annoying demands that I debate the topic of same-sex marriage with him (probably because he thought I was gay--not his fault, since I was pretending to be such to hide my identity), or make election predictions (with Rock offering the latest dirt like a racetrack tout) we kept on a relatively even keel.

Truth is, we were pretty much the heart and soul of Room 8; and eventually Rock paid me the ultimate comments: "You are one only morsel of esoteric info away from taking my title: 'the black prince of the blogs'; and I will willingly concede."

Things heated up after the 2006, primary. Rock had been involved in a feud with a blogger known as EnWhySeaWonk, a master of whimsy and sarcasm, and coincidentally, a gay male. Their latest bitch fight, over an accurate and nonetheless gratuitous reference to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn as a lesbian, had gotten ugly and at one point, I’d intervened, telling them that while a little towel snapping in the Room 8 Locker Room was to be expected (and if one couldn't take it, they could always join the Chorus instead), if this sort of street brawling continued, I'd have to see to it that Coach benched the both of em.

About a month later, Wonk and I were the subject of a long rant by Mr. Hackshaw. The subject matter for Rock’s screed was is based upon a paragraph I wrote which contains less than 100 words:

“On September 26, 2006, I became the first prominent partisan NY Democratic blogger to declare he could not vote for Alan Hevesi’s re-election. This was two days before Rock Hackshaw, who given his September 18 endorsement of Jeanine Pirro, is obviously somewhat less driven than I am by rigid standards of ideology (and given that he still supports Pirro, is also seemingly somewhat less driven by rigid standards of morality, at least on subjects other than same-sex marriage)[OK Wonk, you owe me dinner]”

The words in contention seemed to me a good way to open a column with a couple of jokes I thought would be appreciated by “Room 8" regulars. The very fact that I mentioned “morality” should have been clue enough for anyone that the comment was made with tongue firmly planted in cheek (perhaps not the best choice of words in this context) . Of course, the jokes were largely gratuitous, and meta-referential, something I’ve often objected to, but they were intended for quick laughs, and I did not dwell upon them. They were intended merely as some more harmless towel-snapping. The last thing I wanted was to start another Wonk v. Rock type pissing match.

Concerning the feud, I’d been far harder on Wonk than on Rock, because I thought Wonk has been far more petty. But I understood where Wonk was coming from, and said “Quinn's sexuality was not relevant to the post. You brought it up, without (I believe) bad intent, but why, pray tell, bring it up at all? Sometimes it's relevant to mention that you are black, or Caribbean, sometimes it's just gratuitous. I know you meant no wrong, and perhaps Wonk overreacted, but he was not without his point. But, from there it's escalated into the realm of the ridiculous, and neither of you is without blame. BOTH OF YOU, STOP IT NOW! “

Rock had a somewhat different view of the proceedings. Amongst other things he said:

“The big mouthed Gate himself, was willing to stand there looking at a gaping wound (bleeding profusely in fact), willing to only apply a band-aid to it…What a joke! But then Gatemouth is usually an apologist for those in power anyway. We have seen this over and over and again right here on Room Eight….

…. For a while I honestly thought that it was a race thing, and that I was (to them) too opinionated and audacious for a black man. I have wondered why he and some of his sycophants keep taking these pot shots at me; and now I know….

…That is so childish. But so is Gate; childish and petty when he should be more mature and circumspect.

I have really tried to be civil, gracious and friendly towards Gatemouth. Truly. I respect his writing abilities- even though at times he is somewhat confusing, long-winded ( but then so am I at times / I am sure), inane, redundant and pompous. I admire his knowledge of NYC’s political history-even though he sometimes gets his facts wrong (like we all do at times/ I am sure); and I definitely agree with some of his positions on some issues. But that’s neither here nor there; the fact remains that his cheap shots are just that: cheap. And Gatemouth is a cheap shot artist.”

When Gatemouth and Wonk attack my endorsement of Jeanine Pirro, it’s not because they disagree that Cuomo is less qualified than Pirro for the job. In fact, they don’t even dispute that Pirro is overwhelmingly more qualified (and experienced) for the job…They are just angry at Pirro’s stance on gay-marriage (she is against it). And therein lies the crux of the matter. On these blogs in NYC, if you don’t support gay-marriage you are deemed politically incorrect; and as such you run into problems. It’s not about discourse; it’s about intimidation and constant harassment…

…For Gatemouth (and probably to a lesser extent “EnWhySeeWonk”), blogging is simply an intellectual exercise. To them it’s mental masturbation aiming to achieve some kind of cerebral orgasm …

...Then he writes this article and after taking his cheap shots at me, he tells Wonk that he (Wonk) owes him a dinner. So friggin childish. I tried to steer Gate (and anyone interested) to the threads which would have exposed Wonk’s lies and intellectual dishonesty, but to no avail. There’s a gay-clique on these blogs that doesn’t brook any kind of disagreement on issues they consider “gay”. They are totalitarian in their projections.”

I thought I had made my peace with Rock, and certainly didn’t desire to continue feuding. Half of me wanted to apologize, though I wasn’t sure what for, and half wanted to say “fuck you if you can’t take a joke”. Given my institutional stake in maintaining the quality of discourse at “Room 8”, contrition won out, and I wrote “I’m sorry big fellow, I really don’t want to silence you, though I wish you (and Wonk) would stop writing columns like this one and get back to doing what you do best.”

Wonk responded in his own way, photo-shopping a picture of he and Hackshaw as “Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots” engaged in a boxing match.

Sometime later, I was at the beginning of a nine month hiatus from the web, with a long Christmas vacation and an overwhelming desire to write something funny, when I came up with the pseudonym, “Stoned Crackwhore” and wrote a parody of Rock’s periodic “Grapevines” columns called the “Coca Vine.” Here is a sample of the sophisticated with which lay within:

Let us reflect, during this season of our Lord, upon the awesome and mighty power of Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose strenuous efforts contributed mightily to Hillary Clinton’s landslide victory. Especially notable was Hillary’s stunning victory over John Spencer in Hikind’s own 48th AD, where Clinton got 5878 votes out of the 11,755 cast, for a daunting 50.00% of the total vote and an insurmountable margin over John Spencer of 167 votes. LOL!

Another Orthodox Jewish political powerhouse is Harry Schiffman, a former Mark Green aide most famous for joining Manhattan’s Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats to support Green for Mayor at the behest of Allen Roskoff, political operative and diva extraordinaire. Harry’s always willing to bend over backwards for a friend. LOL! Maybe Harry thought Allen said “Lebanese”---No, that would have been even worse…Harry now works for Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, a hospital most notable for having zero Jewish patients. But does anyone have the patience for Harry? LOL!

Harry is currently waving his lulav in the direction of Yvette Clarke’s recently vacated seat on the City Council, hoping to pull a David Yassky. Memo to Harry: Yassky lost. LOL!”

The prank spurred an enormous amount of contention as to who was responsible, and though at one point Rock attacked a member of the New York City Council as a possible suspect, it seemed clear that he knew it was me.

However, shortly afterwards we met each other at a “victory” party for Wellington Sharpe, Rock’s former slate-mate who I’d helped to knock off the ballot seven years earlier. Wellington was now a City Council candidate we had both supported. Rock had never been around when I’d come down to volunteer, lest he be asked to do some actual work. Eager to reacquaint myself, I decided to yell out "where's Hackshaw?"

Rock responded, and I introduced myself by my day-job name, and said, “remember me?“ He apathetically responded that he wasn’t sure, so I told him I'd was one of the guys (along with the infamous Fat Ugly Smelly Toothless Bastard) who had knocked Wellington off the ballot in 2000, but had failed to get Rock as well; Rock shook my hand coldly, and I said, "I bet Azi Paybarah wishes he were here to snap this picture". He asked "why?", and I said, "because I'm Gatemouth," and he gave me a big huggie.

By late 2007, Rock was involved in canonizing Barack Obama and demonizing Senator Clinton and her husband who he referred to as “Billary“, in the manner of a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

According to Rock, “the only thing stopping Barack Hussein (Barry) Obama from being the next president of the USA, is an assassination; either a political or physical one.”

Good taste is timeless.

It soon became apparent that Rock saw the Obama campaign as the Second Coming, and himself as John the Baptist, and despite an occasional prescient insight and a good sense of the mechanics of the process, as the months went on, it appeared as if Rock had truly gone off the deep end.

Rock undertook a series of columns which were based on the following theories. 1) I am the greatest pundit in the world, and don‘t get the recognition I deserve because I am black, 2) anyone who disagrees with me is a racist, (3) billary is the devil incarnate and (4) she must get out of the race now. In all of this, Rock’s fiercest critic was Wonk, and their feud re-arose with new fury.

At the time, I was on self-imposed hiatus, brought about by the fury of a member of the State Legislature who had let me know through intermediaries he was going to try and get me fired from my job. I didn’t know whether he was capable of getting it done, but I knew he

was capable of the attempt, so I decided to lay low.

I was, however, still posting comments, but only pseudonymously or anonymously. As such, virtually all my comments about the Presidential race made before the selection of Rock and I as New York’s designated bloggers, were on Rock’s threads and those related to them.

Unfortunately, given on whose blog these comments were posted, they shed light not merely upon my political views, but also upon my troubled relationship with my convention partner, who probably was not unaware of the authorship of those comments, which soon bordered upon a pretty methodical campaign of harassment.

In my defense, I’ll say only one thing.

It was fun.

As the campaign went on, Rock’s Hillary baiting began to attract the praise of the likes of psychotic right wing blogger VJ Machiavelli. A critic said Hackshaw “…should change his name to Rock Limbaugh.

What's next, Rock, charges about who really killed Vincent Foster?” Rock seemed to conform this by noting he would not vote for Hillary in a general election, prompting this response:

“That's right; the endless war will continue and expand; the Supreme Court will continue to fill up with more right wing loonies (how old is Stevens anyway? 106?). Who cares about issues when Rock's sacred principle of tit for tat is at stake.

Remember, there is always an "I" in egomaniac!”

At this point, something happened I would have previously thought impossible. Rock’s writing had influenced my vote in an election, and I decided I’d be voting for Clinton.

And Stoned Crackwhore decided to make a return appearance:

Billary Will Burn in Hell With The Sodomites

posted by Stoned Crackwhore

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The AP Wire Reports that this piece was posted from the author's blackberry seconds before he was apprehended by the police outside of a gay nightclub in Chelsea, shouting at passer-bys, asking which one of them was EnWhySeaWonk. Police said that while searching him, attendant to an arrest for public drunkenness and disturbing the peace, they found three Saturday Night Specials, an Uzi submachine gun, a box of condoms, a tube of KY Jelly and handwritten list of names which included EnWhySeaWonk, Yoda, Gatemouth, JP, Cynical Negro, Politiko, Kevin Parker, Charlie Rangel, Jacob Walthour, Matthieu Eugene and Yvette and Una Clarke.]

As my daddy used to say, “Man plans and God laughs”; just when you think you are on top of the world you get bowled a googly. Nonetheless, there is a third point to the hat trick: “Man plans, God laughs, but Stoned Crackwhore prognosticates”. When it comes to saying sooth and speaking truth, old Nostradamus is to ole Stone as a one hit wonder like Smiley Culture is to the Mighty Mighty Sparrow. But while Uncle Stoney is channeling Sparrow, all the other bloggers are eating crow. Maybe they should try it jerked (no pun intended Wonk). LOL!

I am not overrating myself; I am just giving you the FACTS. I am quite safe in who I am. It is always easy after the event to say and call it; but were you (anyone) brave enough to go out on a limb, over and over, while being unafraid of risking credibility. That's the point here; and the main point here. I have been in political trenches all my life and in the womb; plus I studied political science and graduated from an ivy league university. It is easy for most folks to put down; but somehow it is difficult to build up or give credit where it was due. Some people need to go back and look at their respective responses to my observations and / or predictions here. It could be quite edifying.

That last paragraph and the page after frightening page which followed, was, with the exception of the long and comprehensive list of sources proving the Clinton’s murdered Vincent Foster, composed almost entirely of quotations by Rock from the comments threads on his pieces, all strung together like so:

I specifically stated from the jump I never called her (HRC)a racist or a murderer -but they said I did. Same for crook, dishonest and such. I laid my argument out and they distorted, embellished and exaggerated my words or points to try to smear me. They also said that it was libelous. Given the many lawyers at the Clinton's disposal do you think I wouldn't have been sued by now; given all the writings I have laid out here for years? They joined in the attack as blindly as bats fly. With each passing day media sources confirm the basic premise(s) of my columns; but they have never been honest enough to say: well, maybe we jumped to judgment and rushed to conclusions. Now we see that the re-count officials are admitting election irregularities. TOO MUCH FOR THEM TO CONCEDE THAT STONED WASN'T JUST SPEWING SOUR GRAPES AND THAT HIS SOURCES ARE GENERALLY ACCURATE. I said "HRC assassinated Obama", with her dirty campaign.

I could go on and on about our war that winter and spring. My unpublished (except for the columns it incorporates) chronicle (entitled "Buddy Film") of our adventures together as NYS’s team of DNC designated bloggers for the 2008 convention, from which this piece is mostly derived, runs 95 pages of sturm and drang, including all of our convention coverage (which in Rock‘s case is still forthcoming).

But the truth is I love Rock.

As I told City news, “Here’s a guy who says exactly what’s on his mind, all the time…Unlike [Council Member] Charles Barron, whose opinion seems to stem from this body of ideology, Rock is utterly unpredictable in what he’s going to say.”

This extends even to running. Rock says that it was the Council’s vote to overturn term limits which made him angry enough to run. And then he challenges a Council Member who actually voted against the law in question.

Rock then proceeded to keep on blogging in the same manner he had before he’d become a candidate, saying the damnedest things about Tracy Boyland‘s lips and Michael Jackson’s love life and responding in a hot tempered manner to any criticism which fell outside the six permitted modes:

1) Rock you're a genius.

2) Rock, you were first

3) Rock, all your critics are jealous

4) It must be because Rock is black

5) when did Rock ever say that?

6) Billary is going to hell

I tried offering advice. After all, the blog could be very helpful, if deployed correctly. As I said:

“You're a freakin candidate Rockwell---the blog is now only a tool to advance you towards your goal, so stop behavin like a friggin blogger and keep your coool--it's gonna be a long hot summer.

After Rock made an unprovoked (except by her miserable record) attack on a member of the City Council, and made unreciprocated endorsements, or hints of them; I told him bluntly:

“What are you doing?

I suppose you can make a case (a weak one ) for the political wisdom (as opposed to the merits) of attacking Darlene Mealy (which at least plays along with your campaign themes), or even Tracy Boyland (ditto), but what's the point in making an endorsement in this race?

How does it benefit your campaign? It probably makes you no useful friends and some unnecessary enemies.

Further, I'd cool my jets on tossing bouquets or brickbats in the comptroller's race just yet… And anyway, a guy who's running as being angry as hell about the term limit law change doesn't look very credible tossing compliments to a guy who voted the other way.

Focus your attention like a laser on the main prize and go for it--before you say anything, think "will this help me?" If not, STFU!

You are not obligated to say things you don't believe, or support folks you don't like. However, you are not required to do target practice in a rubber room with live ammo either.

Keep on telling the truth and nothing but the truth, man--just less of it, for the time being.”

I did not advocate prevarication, just discretion.

I did not get it.

Rock would not take advice about his blog, and Rock would not take advice about the constant stream of mail he sent out a list of the most notorious political gossips in New York, updating them frequently on the chaotic mess which was his campaign.

After one such email, marked “CONFIDENTIAL” I wrote back: “Rocky--any email sent to 60 people is not confidential--the only reason Azi hasn't published it is it's not all that interesting, but if it had any news, it would surely already be public knowledge, and, for all I know, may already be. “

I kept writing him in frustration: “Please do not feel compelled to let everyone in the world know there is chaos in your belfry; your public stance should be Panglossian--everything is for the best in this the best of all possible worlds”

Reached by City Hall News, I tried to put the best face upon it. “The reason everyone thinks that Rock’s campaign is in such disarray is that Rock has been sending out emails to half of the Western political world giving people periodic updates about how much disarray his campaign is in,”

They also asked why Rock seemed to change campaign managers more often than Gary Tilzer changed his clothes.

“Rock sometimes has a tendency, which he expresses in his column and his emails, to have a little bit of a short fuse…So perhaps he just hasn’t found the right match yet for his uniquely endearing personality.”

Normally, I’d say a Council District would be taking a great risk in electing someone so much more interested influencing people than winning friends, especially when he often seems capable of neither. A poor District, like the 40th, could use all the help it can get, might be taking a great risk in electing someone who often seems so unwilling to compromise his principles or hold his tongue (which, admittedly, would require a wheelbarrow).

But the seat for 40th Councilmanic is currently unoccupied by “Doctor” [LOL!] Mattheiu Eugene, so it’s not like the residents could do any worse.

Moreover, electing Rock Hackshaw to the City Council would be like stuffing in with a suppository made up of ignited M-80’s. I’m not sure how much this would do for “the legislative process,” such that it is (in Albany at least there are three men in the room), but think of the fun!

So I’m urging a vote for Hackshaw.

A final note: I know some stickler is going to complain that I gave John Heyer such a hard time about same-sex marriage, so “how could I endorse Rock?”

Well, first of all, Rock’s come a long way on the issue. He once was opposed to it; now he’s just confused (
although, arguably, the same could be said about Heyer). Next of all, a victory for Heyer will be taken by the political establishment as a stunning defeat for the cause of marital, while victory for Hackshaw would probably be taken as a warning of the possible resurgence of the crack epidemic.

Seriously, election of a non-supporter of same sex marriage in Park Slope would be a story, while election of the same in east Flatbush would be a snore. By contrast, I could never endorse a candidate who held such views were he running in the 35th Councilmanic (which includes the buppie communities of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights)

Most importantly, John Heyer has exploited the issue for votes, a sin Rock has not committed.

And that is a very big difference.