This article is the first in a series that examines the present-day circumstances of the assorted weirdos, hacks, shills, creeps, and nutjobs who coalesced around the attacks on Brett Kimberlin from 2011-2012.
For a moment, it seemed that Seth Allen had finally fulfilled his most bizarre personal ambitions and stood on the cusp of greatness. After years of failed efforts to win the public applause that he felt he deserved, Allen finally had the attention of powerful people in the world of online media; if their outlook was very different from his own, Allen still felt he could leverage the situation to win his longed-for fame. But then Allen’s new friends stole his thunder regarding Brett Kimberlin, and abandoned him just as reality came crashing down in the courtroom, leaving Allen to run his chemtrails conspiracy forum without a friend in the world.
Yes, for a few minutes, it seemed to Seth Allen that the world finally did revolve around him, just as he always thought it should. But where is he now?
A long history of deranged internet behavior
A Massachusetts man who suffers from mental illness and severe narcissism, Allen had already been a troublemaker for many years. Unemployable since losing his teaching job in 2001, within two years the conspiracy-addled Allen was trolling chemtrail boards with more than the usual smug self-assurance of your average internet crank. He was adept at creating multiple profiles with which to engage message board communities, stir dramas, and pick fights — especially where chemtrails were concerned — and he aimed to win every argument with everyone, even himself. To paraphrase William Burroughs, Seth Allen is the paranoiac who knows what is really going on.
‘Chemtrails,’ of course, are a relatively recent urban legend about the contrails created by everyday jet aircraft at cruising altitude. Within the fever-swamp of paranoid ignoramuses with internet access, these clouds formed in the wake of passenger planes are not just water condensing from air turbulence and jet thrust, but a sinister conspiracy of some kind with global dimensions. Details of this epic plot vary according to the individual interpreter; some think ‘the government’ is secretly spraying chemicals to change the atmosphere, while others believe the objective is mind-control over a docile populace. Seth Allen decided they were all fools, and that he alone knew the correct answers, and that everyone needed to acknowledge his superior intellect. To make them see the light, Allen would hold entire argument threads with himself, switching back and forth between his alternate personas while dragging other forum users into his false fray.
Much of this activity took place at Arianna’s Forum, an early user-driven social media platform which was later folded into Huffington Post, so the original content is no longer visible. But we can still see old discussions about Allen’s various personas as well as his harassment and cyberstalking. For instance, here are chemtrails enthusiasts complaining about ‘Jay Reynolds,’ who claimed to have associated with the late conspiracy theorist William Cooper, in 2004; here is someone complaining about Allen’s multiple identities on a different forum in 2005, where he reveled in disgusting and alarming people. Among the pseudonyms appearing during this time is the handle Allen uses at his blog, ‘Socrates.’ Things got stranger when Allen’s personas collided: here is a thread where some other chemtrails enthusiasts complain about ‘Lou Aubuchont’ at a website called Chemtrail Central, where yet another Allen persona — FUIwon’tDoWhatUTellMe, a phrase borrowed from a lyric by the band Rage Against the Machine — accuses Aubuchont of being a government provocateur in 2007. When the folks at that site eventually figured out Allen’s game, including the reprised role of ‘Jay Reynolds,’ Allen’s accounts were all banned. It was just one of many sites that have reckoned with him over the years.
But in 2008, Allen formed a whole new obsession with BradBlog.com, where he had a simmering disagreement with Brad Friedman, the eponymous site owner. Allen was convinced that Steven Hertzberg, a libertarian ‘voting integrity’ activist with links to the Ron Paul campaign, was the evil mastermind behind the 2004 election irregularities in Ohio, and that Friedman was covering up the crime. Allen also queried Friedman about a job writing for the site, proposing to cover ‘weather modification‘ along with election integrity issues. When Friedman understandably balked at this notion, Allen began to leave increasingly hysterical, insane, and obscene comments at BradBlog under a long list of screen names, earning multiple bans from the site. As soon as Allen dug into Friedman’s life for damaging information, many of these comments began to mention Friedman’s business partner, Brett Kimberlin.
Writing as ‘Dave from Queens’ in his Blogspot diary, Allen apparently sensed an opening with Kimberlin, for his screeds about the controversial former federal prisoner became ever more strident and bizarre. Seeking a liberal outlet which would take his conspiracy theory about ‘fake progressives’ seriously, Allen even blogged about his obsession at Daily Kos as ‘Prepostericity,’ which is also his Twitter handle. The DKos community eventually banned Allen, too, and for all the usual reasons.
By the end of 2010, Kimberlin had filed suit against Allen in a Maryland court, while Allen’s libelous gibberish had finally brought him the attention he wanted — though from an unexpected quarter.
An unlikely hero to Andrew Breitbart’s fandom
In July of 2010, Velvet Revolution lobbied the Maryland Attorney General to pursue wiretapping charges against conservative video prankster James O’Keefe. Weeks later, the website IndictBreitbart.org went live to publicize the lobbying campaign, drawing Andrew Breitbart’s attention to Kimberlin for the first time. Dustin Farahnak, a friend of the principal characters surrounding Breitbart, brought Allen to their attention, and by that October, BigJournalism.com writer Mandy Nagy was cribbing Seth Allen’s posts about Kimberlin for her own articles. In fact, her writing is similar enough that Allen later accused Nagy of plagiarism.
Farahnak also introduced Allen to John Patrick Frey, the Los Angeles Assistant District Attorney better known by his nom de blog ‘Patterico,’ and a little-known Virginia attorney named Aaron Walker who was guest-blogging at Frey’s website. It would prove to be a crucial turning point in both of their careers. While these attorneys encouraged Allen to defend himself in court, no one would help him financially — a very sore point for Allen, who lives on food stamps and a small trust fund left by his dead mother, doesn’t own a car, and has very little means to travel. In August 2011, after his new right wing ‘friends’ ignored his latest appeal to subsidize a trip to Maryland for his looming court date with Kimberlin, Allen sent Nagy a self-pitying email that contained a violent suggestion:
Whatever, maybe I should murder (Kimberlin). Maybe that will finally get me some justice. This life sucks anyway. All anyone cares about is themselves and their own money. Freedom of speech is dead in America. Thanks for nothing Breitbart.
Nagy forwarded the communication to police in Allen’s hometown, and shortly thereafter, Kimberlin obtained a peace order against Allen. This was the moment when Walker, who blogged under the pseudonym Aaron Worthing, decided to take a more personal interest in the case, offering Allen legal advice as an anonymous attorney — even though the case was lost, and the time to appeal it had expired. But as Alex Pareene explained in 2012, Walker’s actions thereafter seem deliberately aimed at replacing Allen as Kimberlin’s primary courtroom antagonist.
After the hearing, Walker and Kimberlin had a confrontation outside the court. They argued, and, according to Walker (his account is in the massive post linked above), Kimberlin raised his iPad and Walker snatched it away from him. Then he gave it to a deputy. Kimberlin soon filed criminal charges against Walker, alleging assault, claiming to have been rather badly beaten up. “He took my iPad away from me, hit me in the eye, sent me to the emergency room,” Kimberlin told me. Criminal charges were filed, then dropped by the state. Walker claims Kimberlin forged or falsified his hospital records.
Although Mandy Nagy continued trying to defend his honor, Allen was virtually cast aside by the rest of the people who had spent the previous year building him up and egging him on. With one of their own now engaged in ‘lawfare’ against Kimberlin, Frey and the others had no use for poor Allen, whose case was lost and finished and soon forgotten. Then Andrew Breitbart died at midnight on the 29th of February, 2012, whereupon the entire Kimberlin ‘scene’ was elevated to a kind of memorial crusade by his bereaved friends and fans — but without elevating Seth Allen in the process.
Is Seth Allen still talking to himself?
Although Google has removed the most libelous material about Kimberlin from his Blogspot account, Allen still posts frequently at the ‘Dave from Queens‘ blog. He doesn’t care for Breitbart groupies, thinks very little of Frey and Walker, and acknowledges that he was used to promote someone else’s agenda, yet Allen has never retracted his fabrications or apologized for his role in a right wing contrivance. Despite his meager circumstances, Seth Allen’s outsize ego will never allow him to have that kind of clarifying moment. Instead, he insists that Kimberlin and Friedman have been “exposed” as “fake progressives.”
But Allen still craves someone to acknowledge his greatness, and nowadays he has Donkeytale, aka ‘Pete Richards.’ Allen’s putative friendship with Donkeytale has been on-again, off-again over the years — a series of occasional vitriolic quarrels interspersed with long, friendly exchanges of flattery and cordial discussion. Lately, the relationship is hot and heavy, with the two personas exchanging dozens of friendly comments on every post at Allen’s blog.
In fact, Donkeytale and Allen are the only two commenters on any of the recent posts at the ‘Dave from Queens’ blog.
So is Donkeytale a real person, or a figment of Allen’s demented imagination? It’s difficult to tell. While Donkeytale has left some electronic traces on a couple of progressive blogs going back a whole decade, his ‘voice’ reads quite similar to Allen’s, especially when they compare notes on a schizophrenic range of topics in a stream-of-consciousness, word-salad style. Many of Donkeytale’s MyFDL posts at Shadowproof.com carry the imprint of Allen’s unique obsessions and grudges, and the ones from 2011 link heavily to sites chattering about Allen and his legal entanglements with Kimberlin. My sources who were at FDL back then have no recollection of the account, and do not know who is behind it.
The more I look at ‘Pete Richards aka Donkeytale,’ the more I am convinced that it is another alternate persona developed over many years to cure the loneliness of mental illness. His one shot at fame now a distant memory, poor Seth Allen has fallen so low that he has nothing else to do all day long but talk to himself.