Now I wrote a second story, which was maybe twelve column-inches long and ran the next day on the bottom of B2. It was workmanlike—it did what it had to do for our readers—and nothing more. I wrote that the author of a local blog, Gateway Pundit: Observations of the World from the Heart of Jesusland, had posted some photos of the minaret covered in scaffolding. One of the photo captions read, “Those calls to prayers ought to go over really well with the people of this South St. Louis neighborhood.”
I quoted the imam, who confirmed what I’d already written—that the minaret had no sound system or speakers and would not be used to call Muslims to prayer. I also quoted an FBI spokesman as well as a CAIR spokesman, and then detailed some of the comments that had alarmed Muslims and caused them to inform the FBI.
For example, one visitor to Gateway Pundit had written: “It is really hard on us white, nonMuslims to have to live with these folks taking over our neighborhood and community. Our government helping these people relocate into America’s heartland is like inviting the enemy into your camp. It’s totally disgusting.” On another blog, Little Green Footballs, a visitor named “Amer1can” upped the ante: “Would be a shame if it were to be vandalized or destroyed. Just a shame I tell you .wink wink STL youth.” Another visitor to the same blog added: “I suppose dynamite would be considered an extreme response.”
That was it. Twelve inches. Bottom of B2.
But of course, B2 doesn’t really exist anymore. Not on the Internet. The next morning, the e-mails started coming in at around nine. Many of them complained that I had written a story “planted” by CAIR, which was, I was told over and over again, a front for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and a fundraising arm for other Islamist terrorist organizations. But it was only after my testy e-mail exchange with Charles Johnson, the proprietor of Little Green Footballs, that the real fun began—especially after Johnson posted our correspondence on the blog.
Over the next two days, I received more than one hundred e-mails from Little Green Footballs readers. One suggested I should look into a job at Taco Bell, since I was obviously going to be fired for messing with Johnson. (Little Green Footballs fans credit Johnson with taking down Dan Rather after his 60 Minutes story on George W. Bush’s National Guard service.) Another called me “a self-righteous numskull with the literary prowess of a dodo bird. A dodo bird that dropped out of college and is on drugs.” Still another suggested that there was “no way you could possibly be any more of a dick.”
In two related threads on Johnson’s blog, which ran to nearly 1,500 comments, my photo, bio, and home address were all posted. Someone ran my name through an anagram site and listed the results (Demon Shitty Town, Howdy Mitten Snot, Hindmost Yet Wont). Another participant wrote a song, to be sung to the “Toys ‘R’ Us” theme: “I don’t want to be a St. Louis Post-Dispatch journalist, because if I was. There wouldn’t be heaven after death.” And let’s not forget the haiku:
Tim shills for haters While wearing moderate robes He does not fool us
Besides being called ignorant, arrogant, balding, stupid, rude, fat (my new nickname was Burger Boy), lazy, and incompetent, I was depicted as a Satanic baby. My mother was insulted. I was accused of lying about my academic degrees, having a comb-over, being a paid agent of the Saudi government, and acquiring “numerous social diseases.” I was, apparently, a plagiarist and a terrorist. Someone did a search to see if I was a pedophile. Others stuck with more generalized invective:
Tim Townsend—you’re a smarmy little fuck, aren’t you?
Townsend really should have checked on Dan Rather’s career before he messed with Charles.
What a chickenshit little cocksucker. Another journalouse prick with a face for radio.
Finally, there were suggestions that I should be murdered. To his credit, Johnson deleted the death threats and the comments with my address. Blessed are the peacemakers.