Monday, May 30, 2005

Anatomy of a Troll: The True Story of Jane Howard

Anatomy of a Troll: The True Story of "Jane Howard"
by Kit Jarrell and HE!D! (acid-dipped and cold filtered for your enjoyment)

[The following story is cross-posted from Euphoric Reality.]

According to the Urban Dictionary, a “troll” is someone who “posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.”

Allow me to introduce you to a real life troll. Her alias is Jane Howard. You might know Jane from her many posts throughout the blogosphere, all of which had the same tone: Lt. Ilario Pantano is a horrible officer. Those of us who followed the Pantano case with bated breath and fearful, prayer-filled hearts know Jane well, for we couldn’t go anywhere in the blogosphere without seeing her snide, hateful comments. We were all certain that Jane had a hidden agenda; for no other “regular citizen” was nearly as pointed or personal in their verbal attacks on Ilario’s character. Jane was tireless; posting with three aliases at all hours of the day and night, on any blog that talked about Pantano and allowed comments. Sadly, Jane was as unoriginal as she was venomous, and was forced to resort to cutting and pasting the same tired, embittered story that she got from her “son”, who she claimed was a classmate of Pantano’s in Officer School.

Here at eR, we take great pride in our ability to ferret out the idiots who like to think that because they hide behind an alias, their immature ramblings will not be tied to their real life persona. As with Coburn, whose oral diarrhea is preserved for posterity on this blog and in court testimony, our curiosity was piqued at the idea that yet another cretin whose bitterness far outweighed their intelligence was running amok.

Being the enterprising minds that we are, we finally decided that with such an abundance of clues as to the posters’ identity, we would be doing the public a disservice by not ferreting out these weasels and parading their insanity and stupidity for the entire world to see. After all, they seemed to be out for attention, and who are we to deny them that?

And now, in keeping with our tradition of exposing losers who think they’re anonymous, I present to you the true story of Jane.

While most of us initially paid no attention to what we figured were the ravings of a potentially undersexed, incontinent older woman with no social life, we soon found that Jane was far more motivated than your average insomniac troll. Theories abounded: Who was Jane? Coburn’s wife? Sister? Aunt? And who was dvldog36? Was this really her son? I talked to quite a few journalists working the case, and we theorized much about who Jane could be. We got satellite photos of her location through IP traces and turned them over to authorities, since she expressed a desire to see Pantano killed. Basically, we did the research so you don’t have to. And now, we can finally let you all in on the secret.

Jane was telling the truth. Her son is a Marine officer stationed at Pensacola, currently undergoing pilot training. After Jane spent most of her waking hours bragging about her son, even going so far as to email me a photograph of him as “proof” that he existed, [Note: The photo showed a Marine officer in dress blues, standing over a coffin while wearing sunglasses. Yes, I said “dress blues” and “sunglasses” in the same sentence.] Jane accused us of “outing” her son, insisting that people were coming up to him on post and “targeting him”. [I haven’t quite figured out what they actually did to him that was considered “targeting”, but this will be way more amusing to you once you’ve read the whole article.] As much as it pained us, we were not able to claim responsibility for that, for one simple reason: Her son was slated to testify for the prosecution. Regardless of what we knew at that point, we were bound by the rules of integrity not to release his name during the hearing. Now that the court proceedings have ended, and her son was dropped from the witness list (we’ll get to why in a moment), we feel that the time has come to go ahead and make Jane happy by doing what it is we were accused of months ago. You asked for it, Jane.

Her son is 2Lt.Graham Hopkins. He was, in fact, a classmate of Pantano at OCS at Quantico, Virginia. During their 6-month course, the officers-in-training were constantly evaluated by superiors and each other. Through painstaking research and a burning desire to know, we were able to obtain knowledge of some of the peer evaluations. It becomes apparent very quickly that Lt. Hopkins had what can only be called Coburnitis; which is a debilitating disease characterized by cowardice, self-servitude, and an overwhelming sense of envy at the success and admiration enjoyed by those who are both better troops and better men than fools like Coburn and Hopkins will ever be. I bring you some tidbits for your amusement:

Lt. Pantano is very experienced and has great knowledge of tactics. He has a tendency to be very pompous as well as micromanage situations. He also tends to “throw people under the bus” when his plan does not work out.

Lt. Hopkins, in an anonymous peer evaluation of Lt. Pantano

Now, let’s take a look at Jane’s blathering:

[My son] served with Pantano in Officer Candidate School…[he said] Pantano was pompous and had rated him in his bottom three of most qualified officers in his class at TBS…

And here’s a comment from dvldog36, who we now know is Lt. Graham Hopkins:

Lt. Pantano is everything that his friends say in the dorm; he is a great guy, looking out for and willing to help everyone. But in the field he is egocentric, pompous and a micro-manager. He was told that if he kept that it up that his Marines would see right through him and maybe one day they might frag him..

By now you’ve noticed the running theme. We believe that Coburn did attempt a “legal fragging” of Lt Pantano, and Lt Hopkins was eager to get in on the action. Unfortunately for Hopkins, his own poor service record eliminated him as a credible witness for the prosecution.

Lt. Hopkins goes on to belatedly engage in some classic CYA behavior later:

I have no opinion on the guilt or innocence of Lt. Pantano, but I can see, and I am not surprised, that someone from his own platoon would turn him in. I would caution you before you characterize the Marine as disgruntled and is motivated by revenge. He may or may not be. He could just be unwilling to back up Lt. Pantano’s story after he lost confidence in him. This is just some background information on Lt. Pantano from someone who has been through intensive training with him.

Now here’s where things get fun.

Lt. Hopkins refused to sign his peer evaluation of Pantano; however, he is the only officer in that class to rank Pantano so poorly. Why? Pantano’s peer recommendation of Hopkins sheds light on the reason:

Lethargic. Uncommitted. Sloppy. Seemingly allergic to training-IGP.

LT Pantano's signed peer evaluation of Lt Hopkins

As you can see, Pantano had no problem putting his name down on the eval. In fact, sources who were there at the time tell me that Pantano considered Hopkins a “disgrace to [the] uniform”, and told him so – often and in public. It was no secret that Hopkins hated Pantano.

Perhaps the most telling evidence of Hopkins’ lack of credibility comes from the final scores of the class of officers that graduated that training cycle. Out of a class of 192 officers, Lt. Graham Hopkins graduated with a rank of 175. His leadership score, considered the most important of the class, was lower still. Lt. Hopkins graduated at the absolute bottom of his class – last place at #192. Even in training, he failed to secure the respect and trust of his fellow officers. The only thing that saved Lt Hopkins from failing out of the course was his academic ability – his “booksmarts”, and I’ll leave you to decide how important that is when you don’t have the respect of your men or the physical skills necessary to carry out your duties. The court received a dozen letters from former classmates attesting to Hopkins’ hatred for Pantano and his complete uselessness as an officer, calling him an “embarrassment”. This combined with Hopkins’ personnel jacket making it into the hands of the prosecution eventually caused them to remove Hopkins from the witness list. Apparently they felt one substandard Marine with a grudge was enough.

Once you know the whole story of Hopkins and his performance at TBS, it becomes eerily self-descriptive to re-read his comment:

I would caution you before you characterize the Marine as disgruntled and…motivated by revenge.

So where does Jane fit into all this? It’s obvious that the bitter, “blame others” tactic that Coburn perfected seems to have permeated her parenting skills, since it’s obvious her son subscribes to the same lack of integrity. Her son’s exclusion from the witness stand didn’t stop her crusade, however, and she even contacted reporters during the hearing to gain some more attention for Hopkins and his oft-repeated story of Pantano’s perceived incompetence.

What’s satisfying for us is to know that our initial impression of Jane (aka Mom of 2 Marines) and dvldog36 was so gratifyingly accurate. On the other hand, when it really comes down to it, it’s nothing more than the sordid tale of yet another whiny, disgusting, cowardly excuse for a Marine that somehow gets to wear a uniform that he will never be worthy of. The saddest part of all this is that an exemplary officer was taken away from the front, where we so desperately need him, and put through a hell above and beyond his time in Iraq – and for what?

[Editor’s Note: Pantano ranked fifth in his class, by the way.]

UPDATE: For those of you looking for the interview with Pantano, it is coming - just delayed while he spends some much-needed time with his family.