Some Forum History
"Forum History (repost)"
Posted by Chris on 05:55:57 3/25/2000
Back in 1998, one of our posters gave a very good "introductory" lesson on
JonBenet forum history. It pretty much still applies and might help some of
the newer posters understand the "culture" of the JonBenet discussion
boards so I went and dug it out of the archives.
"22 months of forum history for frankg!"
Posted by V on 18:55:29 10/13/98
(Warning -- this is long).
To frankg --
You said the other day, "I wasn't looking for someone to replay 22 months
of forum history for me." Too late, I'm already here. Bear with me on this --
it may help put in perspective some of what you've seen and heard lately.
During the first year of forum discussion on this case, the principal forums
were regularly subjected to attacks -- and I don't mean criticism, I mean
relentless, concerted efforts to physically shut the forums down. The worst
was a siege lasting several months in which a hacker group used all the
means at its disposal to render the Boulder News Forum unusable, even
inventing a "spam-bot" that posted garbage threads 24 hours a day. We'd
log on each day never knowing if we'd find case discussion or loads of raw
sewage from the hackers; sometimes we'd jump from forum to forum to stay
ahead of the disruptors and keep the case discussion going. Eventually the
BNF had to shut down entirely for months.
The point is that right from the start, we had to *work* at discussing this
case on the web, and we were vividly aware that there were people out
there who, for whatever reasons, would like to see such discussion grind to
a complete halt.
In addition to the hackers, other kinds of troublemakers tried to perch on
the JBR forums -- such as the guy who posted megabytes of rude
anatomical observations about his gerbil. (Gerbil-boy actually managed to
crash the BNF once through sheer volume of material). There were also
religious cultists, political crazies, and garden variety loons, who thought
nothing of jumping right into serious discussions about the case to push
their own agendas.
And finally, there were people who acted like they wanted to discuss the
case but in the long run just wanted to disrupt whatever discussion was
going on, by any means necessary. We began calling these people "trolls." It
wasn't necessarily a partisan thing: there were trolls who fell under the
"pro-Ram" umbrella and trolls under the "anti-Ram" one. Some common
denominators: trolls never really listened to anyone else; they seemed to be
totally immune to reason; their views remained completely static over time,
unaffected by new information in the case; and they either dodged tough
questions or answered with non-sequiturs. They did nothing to advance our
collective knowledge about this crime, and plenty to impede promising
In any event, after experiencing the hackers, the loonies, and the trolls, we
may be a bit hypersensitive and/or paranoid about whether newcomers have
come to this forum to help or hinder. Kind of like those guys who came back
from Vietnam and found themselves hitting the dirt whenever a truck
backfired. Overreaction, yes, but an overreaction that was learned over a
substantial period of time and for a real reason.
A new arrival on the forum will be welcomed, but there's sometimes a bit of
lingering wariness: will the new person turn out to be another troll? And God
help that person if he or she innocently or inadvertently displays any of the
behaviors that we're likely to interpret as the warning signs of trolldom.
Altogether, between troll attacks on one hand, and, on the other, serious
(and sometimes loud) differences of opinion among the "real" posters, these
forums have been feistier than most from square one. It takes some getting
Now, I'm assuming that you're not a troll -- you genuinely want to discuss
the case, and have recognized from the start that most of your information
comes from a source which we consider suspect: the A&E documentary.
So, what went wrong the other day? You introduced yourself on the
"Theory" thread (response 10), and by (42) found yourself being roasted on
a spit. Hey, JusticeWatchers, what're we trying to do, set a new land speed
record for running people off? We've barely heard from frankg since then,
except for a comment in "I Stand By My Beliefs 2" about how hostile we are
here. "I still don't understand where the flame came from but it was nasty
and downright abusive."
So what happened? Play by play --
You began by stating that you only recently got back to following the case,
thanks to the A&E documentary, and say you sent an e-mail "that in
hindsight probably came across as a flaming emotional outburst" to Mrs.
Brady. You go on to say that after seeing the documentary you were
sympathetic to the Ramseys, and did not understand why this forum
seemed to be so sure they were guilty. You asked us to explain why, and
what was wrong with the A&E documentary.
Eight of us posted responses -- some of which welcomed you to the forum
and supported aspects of your position. Most of us attempted to answer
your questions, and made at least 16 distinct points. You speak again at
length in (22), in which you answer one of these points, then state "So far
I've seen lots of emotional perspectives but little hard fact."
The next post (23) supports your position. At (27) and (29), CensusGrrl and
I respond to your posts, both for the second time; she adds several more
points, and I add a whole laundry lists of reasons why the Ramseys'
behavior after the crime was suspicious. At (28), fly supports your intruder
scenario, with a reservation. You add another element to your scenario at
(30) and agree with fly at (31).
At (33) you respond to two points of mine, dismissing them and stating
"your position seems to be one of 'this guy's guilty and I'm going to find
fault in anything he did'." Then you dismiss the *entire* laundry list,
suggesting that no one should be convicted "solely on the basis of...
behavior after the crime." You repeat your questions, what evidence do we
have that the Ramseys are guilty?... what was incorrect in the A&E
documentary?... and say, "Please leave emotions and lack of expected
At (34) CensusGrrl returns with a point-by-point deconstruction of the
intruder theory which you have sketched thus far. At (36) Shamrockpati
welcomes you to the forum and suggests that you read the A&E threads.
At (37), the flaming begins. mandarin implies that you know more about the
case than you claim, suggests that you may be a lawyer, and says,
"jumping in on page 330 of GONE WITH THE WIND and expecting the rest of
us to bring you up to speed and revisit every argument we've had for two
years is somewhat arrogant." You deny his charges at (40), and say that so
far neither of your questions has been answered. "Surely with everyone so
sure of their guilt there had to be some evidence I hadn't heard of... Either
the A&E piece was not factual or there were numerous fallacies brought
forward by the media that unfairly portrayed the Ramseys. I was looking for
someone to tell me what was not factual. So far, no one has been able to
do either of these things. Doesn't that bother anyone?" At (42) mandarin
repeats the charges, compares you to Dan Quayle and suggests that you
Okay, let's freeze-frame this thing right here.
Again, frankg, I'm operating under the assumption that you are no troll --
but in that exchange, you were being treated like one. Why?
Well, my personal troll-detector went into "warning" mode about the time of
your post (33). By this time, you had asked repeatedly for any factual
inaccuracies in the A&E program. I had stated that I was told that the
program says that suspicion of the Ramseys "began" with the story about
there being no footprints in the snow. I had tried to point out that the
suspicion actually began in the first week after the crime, with the Ramseys'
refusal to talk to police; that the "no footprints" story didn't break until
three months later; and that in stating that suspicion "began" with the
footprint story, the documentary was misrepresenting both the timing and
the cause of suspicion in the media -- and was substituting a late, weak
cause for an early, strong one.
Your response: "No 'timing' of the footprints was implied in the program."
Non sequitur. This does not address what I said, and sounds as though you
read through my post so quickly that you didn't even get the point. Then
you go on to repeat your claim that no one has identified anything factually
incorrect in the documentary. In the same post, you characterize me as
having a position of "[Ramsey]'s guilty and I'm going to find fault in anything
At about the same time, you go back and forth with CensusGrrl about your
theory of how a kidnapper could have killed JonBenet accidentally and
hidden the body intending to try to collect the ransom anyway. By (34)
CensusGrrl seems to be icily polite (read: furious), perhaps because she,
too, is having to re-answer questions which were already dealt with. She
gives a long, detailed, well-thought-out account of why this scenario won't
work, and you don't respond to it.
So by now I'm irked, CensusGrrl is irked, Mrs. Brady -- who has contributed
more towards keeping this case in front of the public than almost anyone --
may well irked, because of the "flaming" e-mail. You asked for evidence
against the Ramseys and were given at least two dozen separate points.
And still, you continued to say that "no one has been able to do (this)."
Further, you suggested that you did not want to hear any evidence
regarding the behavior of suspects after the crime. That was an amazingly
sweeping stipulation, ruling out a huge portion of what actually constitutes
criminal investigative methodology in real life.
And all of this BEFORE mandarin flamed you.
I'm not going to defend what mandarin said 'cause mandarin can defend
hirself just fine; in fact, I'd suggest to mandarin that the use of the word
"arrogant" on (37) and the sarcasm on (42) were needlessly insulting. Also
premature -- do we really need to decide that someone is an irredeemable
troll on their first day here? And comparing anyone to Dan Quayle is a
I will also, however, suggest that mandarin's response did not come out of a
clear blue sky (though it appeared that way to you). I'm not saying that
you deliberately intended to do this, but you *did* dis several of us,
displayed a classic troll symptom (asking questions and not paying much
attention to the answers), and repeatedly make generalizations: about how
no one here could answer your questions, about how our arguments were
"emotional" and "bogus," and about how warmfuzzy the Ramseys' A&E
Think about this for a second: if a Ramsey defense attorney were to find
himself on JusticeWatch, incognito, what would he do? He'd ignore any
evidence or reasoning that would pose a problem for his clients, fixate on
alternative suspects, attempt to frustrate and annoy the people who were
trying to demonstrate his clients' guilt, and repeat, mantra-like, phrases
which called into question the motives and methods of JusticeWatch
posters and which affirmed his impressions of the Ramseys as good people.
(Making sure that there were plenty of posts in which the Ramseys were
praised and the other posters' comments were dissed might be helpful for
when media people drop by the forum to take a look). Plus occasionally
throwing in false logical/rhetorical moves, such as ruling out behavioral
evidence, if he thought he could get away with it.
Now, I'm taking your word for who you are. You are not a troll -- you aren't
stoopid, and trolls usually are. You are not a Ramsey lawyer, and it was out
of line for mandarin to suggest as much -- but you can see where mandarin
got that impression.
Summary: on arriving in this forum, you conducted yourself in a manner
remarkably similar to what we could reasonably expect from a member of
the Ramsey camp. You're not a member of that camp. So why the
resemblance? The answer to that, I think, may tie in with the reason why
you, and other newcomers, are *needed* on this forum.
You stated that most of what you know about the case came from the A&E
documentary. Same goes for millions of other people, a good many of whom,
we may presume, will be in the jury pool. I would suggest that one reason
for the debacle on the "Theory" thread the other day might be: the
documentary worked. It did exactly what it was supposed to -- it was
effective propaganda. It was intended to cultivate empathy and
warmfuzzies for the Ramseys and skepticism about those who criticize them.
It was intended to encourage people, after two hours in the video hot tub,
to come out with the same kind of attitudes and assumptions about the
Ramseys and about the case that the Team Ramsey members themselves
This is the new "environment" of the case, and something which we who
have been following the case must not ignore. We on JusticeWatch must
not simply dismiss the comments and reactions of people like frankg who are
only guilty of going by the only substantial source of information they've
seen about the case. It behooves us to know what types of responses the
documentary is promoting, what kind of questions will be asked of us in its
wake, and what kind of responses to give.
frankg, a deprogrammer I'm not, but I'd like you to consider something about
the motivations of some of the people involved in the documentary -- as
compared with your cranky colleagues at JusticeWatch.
I'll assume that Michael Tracey, the Boulder filmmaker, is sincere in his belief
that the Ramseys are innocent. Beyond that, let's also consider the
serendipity: making this documentary has boosted his bank account by
about six figures, brought his work to a national / international audience,
and left him in a position where one of the principal power-brokers in
Colorado politics -- John Ramsey's attorney, Hal Haddon -- now owes him a
couple of big favors. In turn, Hal Haddon -- who we will also assume is
sincere in his belief that the Ramseys are innocent -- has so far run up a bill
which will result in a seven-figure transfer of funds from John Ramsey's bank
account to the account of Haddon Morgan & Foreman.
So Haddon and Tracey, both of whom benefit substantially and materially
from the proposition that the Ramseys are innocent, want everyone to see
and believe the documentary. Two words: vested interest.
Let's return to your question of what was wrong with the documentary.
[And again, I'm at a disadvantage here, going by written descriptions of it
-- those of you who have seen it, please call me on it if I misstate.]
I'm not saying that the "crockumentary" is a *total* crock. There is useful
information in it, accurately presented. There were and are many admirable
things about the Ramsey family, and it is certainly within their rights to
point those things out. (The anti-Ram species of troll refuses to believe the
Ramseys are anything but totally evil -- as unrealistic a view as considering
them saintly). Some of the documentary's criticisms are well-taken. The
tabloids have tended to take molehills of fact and speculation and whip
them into lurid screaming headlines -- which, often as not, contradict last
week's and next week's lurid screaming headlines. The Ramseys are also
within their rights to point out, as many of us have noticed, that some of
the tabloid stories are, well, crocks, and mean-spirited ones at that.
Where the documentary falls short *as* a documentary -- and starts to
become an infomercial -- is in its treatment of the case. Now, it comes with
a disclaimer stating that it does not try to solve the case, so it leaves itself
a loophole regarding all the issues which aren't addressed. However, it also
deals, very selectively, with certain aspects of the case, thereby creating
the impression that serious matters germaine to the solving of the case are,
in fact, being dealt with. The documentary seldom lies outright, but does a
substantial amount of misdirecting by omission. The "evidence" against the
Ramseys which is shown to be bogus -- "no footprints in the snow," for
instance -- tends to be minor. The major elements, the principal reasons for
the suspicion in the first place and for the steadily increasing suspicion
thereafter, are not even mentioned.
Ultimately, one of the documentary's lessons needs to be applied to the
documentary itself: you can't always believe everything you see in the
(Show only the good things about the family, get us to know them and like
them. Show all the terrible things that the least reputable media have said
about them, and imply that ALL media coverage of the case was at the
same level. Triumphantly knock over a few straw men while tacitly giving
the impression that major evidence against them is being demolished. Leave
us with the impression that those poor people have been persecuted
terribly, and with the motivation to defend them. Very professionally done.
Leni Riefenstahl would be proud.)
(Okay, strike the Leni Riefenstahl remark. That was tacky.)
About your other major question -- where is the smoking gun?
Sorry. Can't help you there. Most people who commit capital crimes try to
make a point of not leaving the smoking gun in plain sight. If we were to
require such a thing, there wouldn't be many prosecutions for such crimes
-- except maybe for the street hood who guns down the convenience store
clerk while the camera's running.
Asking for the smoking gun, especially in a case as complicated as this one,
is like approaching someone who's working a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle
and saying, "show me *the* piece." Sorry -- it's the *relationship* of the
pieces. All of the aspects of the case which may not mean anything in
isolation, but which show a pattern when they're all viewed together.
(When a suspect tells one untruth, it might just be a mistake; when a
suspect tells many, it can't be).
*The* piece of the puzzle is exactly what we can't give you in one simple
package -- especially in the wake of the documentary/infomercial. You've
recently spent two multimedia hours experiencing a carefully-crafted view of
what certain people with certain vested interests in the case wanted you to
see, being given exactly the emotional cues they wanted to give you, and
being left with certain blind spots in places where they'd rather you not
look. We can't counter this with half an hour's worth of strangers' words
scrolling by on your computer screen. If you want to know what's going on
in this case, the real story and not the prefab sound-bite version, it will
require an investment of time, energy, and critical thought. It's worth it.
Yeah, we can be pretty cranky here. And our patience wears thin -- after
all, it's been almost two years. But unlike Hal Haddon and Michael Tracey,
we have no vested financial interest in promoting a particular point of view
about this case. In fact, some of us have invested hundreds of hours and
thousands of dollars on it, with no realistic prospect of getting back one red
cent. We only seek one kind of return for all that we have put into this, the
most important return of all: justice for JonBenet Patricia Ramsey.