Dallas author/reporter Kurt Eichenwald is going to subpoena Twitter over a message from a Trump supporter that gave him an epileptic seizure. Eichenwald also has filed a criminal complaint with Dallas police.
Eichenwald says Trump supporters finally succeeded last week in a months-long campaign to give him a seizure by sending him a strobe-pulsing image designed to cause seizure in people with epilepsy. A person using the handle, “@jew_Goldstein,” sent the message last week to Eichenwald, a frequent Trump critic. This time it worked — something Trump supporters have been trying since last October.
On its website, the Epilepsy Foundation reports that, “For about 3 percent of people with epilepsy, exposure to flashing lights at certain intensities or to certain visual patterns can trigger seizures.” The New York Times first reported on seizures triggered by flashing lights in the mid-1990s.
Eichenwald says he cannot describe what happened after he accidentally looked at the strobe-pulsing image on his Twitter feed. He told Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos Tuesday that he remembers, “very little. One of the problems with having a seizure is that your memory gets pretty obliterated.”
Eichenwald said his wife heard a noise, found him having a seizure and took a still photograph of the pulsing image on his computer screen as evidence.
Based on his description of the event on GMA, he must have stared at the image long enough for it to affect him. “It takes a repeated strobe,” he told Stephanopoulos. “Unfortunately I can’t tell you what it looks like because if I see it and it’s causing a problem, I don’t remember.”
Eichenwald’s claim that the seizure was the result of a targeted attack was immediately disputed by Trump supporters. Alex Pfeiffer, a reporter for the Trump-supporting “Daily Caller,” published a story Monday under the headline, “Dallas cops have no record of Eichenwald police report.”
“The Dallas Police Department informed The Daily Caller Monday,” Pfeiffer wrote, “that there is no police report or investigation into the alleged Twitter assault of Newsweek writer and Dallas resident Kurt Eichenwald.”
Well, yeah, but that’s why, after you get done being a reporter for your school paper and go out into the real world, you learn not to go by what the phone-answerer at the PIO tells you.
Eichenwald’s lawyer, Timothy S. Perkins, says he has filed a report with the department’s computer crime squad, a unit of the department’s financial crimes division. “This particular department requires you to send an emailed police report,” Perkins said. “You don’t go to a police station and tell the sergeant, ‘I was assaulted by Twitter.’”
Perkins tells me he was told by someone in the PIO that the report was “not in the system.” With a little effort, he says, that person was able to find the record of his calls and the report and that it had been forwarded to the appropriate detective.
I called the PIO myself, but as soon as I uttered the words, “Kurt Eichenwald,” they told me I had to put my request in writing. I did. They’ll get back to me, I’m sure, in a couple months. Calling the DPD PIO, like calling most police PIOs, is sort of like calling a pay phone at the bus station. It depends on who answers. You’re supposed to know that.
Perkins also has now been given authority by a state district judge to subpoena Twitter for information about the message, using a special Texas law that allows “discovery” or evidence gathering before the filing of an actual lawsuit or claim. If Twitter complies and tells the court who sent the message, Perkins says his client will decide between a variety of possible actions.
Writing for The New York Times in 2006, Eichenwald exposed a massve online child pornography ring.
Angry pedophiles mounted an online campaign of vilification against Eichenwald, but, you know, it’s tough to vilify anybody else when you’re a pedophile. Extreme as that campaign became at some points, the pedophiles were able to constrain themselves from crossing the line into physical violence.
Not so, the Trump-lovers. They were incensed during the presidential campaign when Eichenwald posted something online saying Trump had once been locked up for mental problems. That was not true, Eichenwald admits now.
On Good Morning America he offered a fairly fishy excuse for having said it – something about a joke, something else about it being a signal to a source to call him. I didn’t think that quite added up. I would rather have heard him say, “It wasn’t true, and I apologize.” But at a time when another Dallas home-boy, Trump-loving white supremacist leader Richard Spencer, is justifying Nazi salutes as “ironic,” I’m not wasting a lot of my time anyway listening to people’s excuses for what they say.
Of course – and very unsurprisingly – Eichenwald’s goofy excuse was the only thing pro-Trump sites took away from his GMA appearance yesterday: “This. Is. INSANE!” one site shrieked. “Find out what Kurt Eichenwald said THIS MORNING on Good Morning America.” Meaning what he said about his excuse for the untrue Trump post.
But what about the seizure hack? With the offending message displayed on the television screen, Stephanopoulos said Tuesday, “It says you deserve a seizure for your posts. So you are saying that leads you to believe clearly this person knew what they were doing.”
“They knew what they were doing,” Eichenwald answered. “Actually my wife took that photograph to make sure we had the evidence of what happened. You can’t tell from that still image that it was flashing constantly.”
Stephanopoulos asked him if he is now receiving copy-cat messages. He said yes.
“Apparently a lot of people find this very funny,” Eichenwald said. “A lot of people who identify themselves as Trump supporters are loading up my Twitter feed with more strobes.
“What concerns me is that I have a lot of people who follow me — I am very public about the fact that I have epilepsy — who have epilepsy (themselves). I have epilepsy organizations who follow me. Now my Twitter feed is dangerous to them.
“It is amazing to me that simply because I am a political reporter, simply because I write about Donald Trump, we have become so sick and twisted in this society that people think they have the right and obligation to inflict potentially very serious injury.”
Around the corner and down the street, does anybody else hear breaking glass?
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