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Rove photo fake artists and disinformation experts pose with Bush

Or, as our goateed Rove-emulators from Chattanooga call him, "the leader of the free world".


As it turns out--in the Coptix-hostedserviced Chattanooga Times Free-Press--Coptix reveals today that they faked the Rove photo originally posted on the Gidcumb's site. So, one of the fakers is posing with Bush in the photo above.

My concern was that the Rove photo was an April Fool's joke; too good to be true. Typically, however, April Fool's jokes take place on April 1 [and the light-hearted prank is revealed at the end of the day, not three days afterward]. So I checked other sites, checked the Google cache, checked the Chattanooga Times-Free Press on the Bush visit, and went with it.

What didn't--and perhaps should have--occurred to me was that three parties would cooperate in planting the disinformation.

First, Coptix themselves. They're looking pretty good right now, eh? (Actually, they'll probably get plenty of business from the wingers, now.) I do wonder how Karl Rove feels about having his photo faked. And I do wonder how Bush feels about having his photo taken, smiling, right next to fakers. (Probably nothing, but you never know.) Here's what Coptix has to say for themselves:

Mr. [Josiah] Roe [that would be the original commenter who planted the fake story in our comments section] said the company altered the photo and placed it on the Internet after bloggers implied that Coptix was involved in a "vast right-wing conspiracy" because the company -- along with another local firm, SmarTech -- provides an Internet service for the Republican National Committee.

I'm not sure I understand Roe's logic here--to prove you're not part of a conspiracy, you plant disinformation? This seems a particularly odd strategy in this context, since Rove is well known for planting disinformation. One might almost think that Roe was part of a Rovian ploy that aborted. If one was foily.

Mr. Roe said his firm altered the photograph as a humorous way to get exposure for Coptix.

Well, he's certainly ended up getting exposure. And good luck to him. The wingers have lots of money, so I imagine this will work out quite well for him. As Carol Darr says:

Carol Darr, director of George Washington University's Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet, said the doctored image is really a "dirty trick."

"You're putting something out there that is deliberately deceptive (and) ... you know that people who are in on the joke will catch the significance," said Ms. Darr, 55. "It is just simply a lie."

Now for the Gidcumbs, on whose site the disinformation was planted once Coptix had PhotoShopped it. Here's what they have to say for themselves:

Though, there seems to be a lot of speculation that my whole blog was part of the grand scheme, but in reality the only thing on this entire blog which was changed for the practical joke was the one Karl Rove image.

Right. "The one thing," which was the only essential part he had to play in the scheme. I'm glad the whole fucking site wasn't a Potemkin village, what with all the cute babies, 'n' stuff. Of course, if the site suddenly goes dark, we'll know Gidcumb, like Coptix, is lying. Give Gidcumb credit, though, he sounds like he's trying to back off from the part he played, possibly through a (vestigial?) sense of shame. (I wish they'd get their stories straight. Roe says he's angry about being part of a conspiracy he faked photos to prove he wasn't part of, but Gidcumb says it's just a practical joke. [When stories shift, you know you're dealing with Republicans and liars. Sorry for the redundancy.])

And the third party, that planted the link to the Gidcumbs in a post dated February 27 is one "irresponsible journalism." So, either IJ backdated the post as part of the disinformation campaign, or the date's right, and the disinformation ploy's been in the works since February. Some practical joke.

Oh, and the Coptix-hostedserviced Free Press gives the third of our disinformation artists free advertising an Op-Ed, where he explains the whole thing as an experiment in meme propagation. How conv-e-e-e-n-i-ent. (Again, I wish they'd get their stories straight.)

Real life is calling, and I don't have time to finish this post. But--

I apologize for not being skeptical enough.

And I also apologize for polluting the discourse by being taken in by a Rovian disinformation ploy. The handwriting is exactly the same as in the Killian case, where papers that seems to confirm a pre-existing and well-proven story on Bush's military "service" surfaced, were picked up by the press, and then discredited. The network was discredited, the anchor was discredited, and, worse of all, entire story was discredited, even though most of it was documented and well-attested. I fear that the same thing may happen here, and that the many questions about, and the research being done on the subject, will be discredited as well. It's hard to imagine that this is not the real object of the exercise, since all of the technical reasons for investigating the story remain. If that happens, I will have hurt the country and helped the people are who destroying the Constitution.

Most of all, I apologize to my blogmates for violating the cardinal rule, and making the blog look bad.

NOTE The Coptix line seems to be "All you had to do was call us." First, all Coptix had to was leave a message, at the end of April 1, that the post was a prank. They didn't do that. Second, I'm an old-school, anonymous blogger, like Publius in the Federalist Papers. I don't do phone calls.

NOTE I don't include Ron Ott in the indictment. There is, indeed, a giveaway, and after the story had taken off, the artist left a comment to that effect. I'm not an artist, and my eyes are old. I just missed it. Mea culpa.

UPDATE We get letters:

To: "Lambert Strether"
CC: "michelle mustonen"
Subject: The Rest of the Story, with Dr. Karl Haas
From: "Jeffrey Cross"
Date: Wed, 4 Apr 2007 01:03:18 -0400

Hi Lambert [and CD],

So now I'll give you "the rest of the story".

Basically, when people first started telling us that we were being mentioned in posts about GWB, I was a little worried - just a little - being in any way connected to anything political, much less conservative Republican political. Hence my initial post on Corrente and my responses to Michelle. I said nothing that wasn't true when I said we were not involved. I was a little miffed, then, that the folks who had originally implicated me and my company didn't really seem to be that interested in actually contacting me or Coptix to find out what our involvement was - Michelle herself pointed out that it wasn't really something she had been following, and then I see Xan & Lambert commenting about my post as if I was writing a cover-up. But I didn't really care all THAT much, truth be told.

HOWEVER, some of my guys at Coptix (who probably have Google alerts set up on our company name) caught wind of it, and said "hey, let's see where we can go with this". Once Ron came up with the idea of the Rove photo, I said "yeah right, nobody will fall for that, but whatever - have at it". I have to say I was astounded when sites picked up on it, especially given the Sleestaks he put on the TV screen.

By the time you emailed me Saturday, I was more or less sworn to secrecy, hence my evading your question with "I know, but I can't tell". What I knew was simply that the picture was Photoshopped. I still didn't tell you anything that wasn't true.

None of our folks have ever met Karl Rove, and I have a feeling none of them really want to. Gid(cumb) is somebody several of us know (Chattanooga isn't all that big, tech-wise, eh?), and he agreed to repost the image. He's actually a conservative, I think. At Coptix we have a few folks who are probably non-vocal conservatives (I'm guessing, but they're not vocal...), in contrast with a few who are very vocal liberals. Most of us are well-rounded independent thinkers. We all get along. Alice took about eight months off last year to agitate successively on three different (Democrat) campaigns. Jennie used to maintain, which I would have used as another crazy non-hint, but she moved to Orlando to program video games and let the domain expire. I'm.... well, I'm still not going to say what my personal beliefs or politics are, mostly because I'm spread so thin across the spectrum that it would bore you.


Well, I could address a lot of other things: the name ""; the non-relationship with NextLec/ST3 (I was one of the few Net developers in Chatt that did NOT jump on that wagon); our conservative customer base (try running a biz in Chattavegas without conservative customers!); the name "Coptix"; etc. If you really want to know, hey, write me back, but most of these seem peripheral.

To be sure, I've been following the attorney scandal on NPR [my conservative friends say NPR is way liberal; you guys probably say they're way conservative; so my assumption is that they're within shooting distance of the center...] and if WH staff discussed this stuff over non-WH email servers, they should be reamed for it. Like impaled on a red-hot veggie kabob skewer. But COPTIX has nothing to do with it, whatsoever. BTW, the stuff I wrote Saturday about email being non-traceable was completely true. It amazes me how many people have commented about this topic, assuming that there is some way to get emails that were sent months ago. NO WAY! That is, unless the system was specially built for it, as I'm sure the WH internal servers are. I casually asked one of the SmarTechs the other day if they stored any email, and he said "are you kidding? like we have the storage for that!" Which is what I figured. Our mail servers (which again, do NOT have anything to do with this - we have our own, not shared with STC) log a record of messages going in and out for a couple of weeks, but that's all it is - just one line per message. Uh..... actually, that's just in. We don't log outbound at all, which is pretty normal.

One more bone to throw: there IS actually another company which would fit almost all of the things that were said about Coptix. They're in Chattanooga a mile or two from us. Two of the founding principals worked for Smartech until they all went to work for ST3; and then after ST3 imploded Averquacky re-started Smartech and the other guys started [...]. I think they do a lot for RNCHQ and otherwise a lot of sub work for ANG/STC - they're still buds. We talk to them once in a while but don't generally run in their circles, them being conservatives and all.... Check out for the evidence - they're not hiding anything. I'm surprised nobody tracked this down - they use the same nameservers as GWB.

So wrapping this up, I expect you guys think we're completely soulless asses, and me telling you it's not true isn't necessarily going to change that. [Your comments about our portfolio were especially stinging to me; but I take comfort in the fact that our portfolio page is tuned for generating the type of work that appears on it: we do a lot of other work that's not necessarily on there.] The point of all this was (1) retribution for you apparently being more interested in digging up a scandal than finding the truth, (2) the kids wanna have fun (and 15 minutes of fame), and (3) the Internet is a place where you just can't be too careful about checking your sources. I think my favorite phrase this week is "ocular proof!"


A new Corrente reader...

If we have any readers left ("Reputation, reputation, reputation...) Four years of free work down the drain. For me, the moral of the story is not just never trust a Republican, but never trust anyone who does business with a Republican. Because, at the end of the day, the RNC is still paying money to these guys to host

UPDATE [...] redacted at Jeffrey's request.

UPDATE The redaction correspondence from Jeffrey Cross who, interestingly, attended Covenant College. (I wonder if he knew Monica Goodling? Naah....)

Actually, if you would also redact the para about Smartech back to:

Coptix is a Smartech/Airnet customer - we have a co-lo rack at their facility - and they give us a discount on it in return for maintaining their secondary DNS on our backup server at Rackspace. This makes sense for both of us, so if there is some major facility problem (say all the lines into their building get cut at once) the sites that either of us host don't all disappear.

that would be good too. Again, probably not a huge deal, but I don't want JSA on my case if I said something that he wouldn't want public.

I do appreciate your asking me.


And more:

If you wouldn't mind redacting just the paragraph about [meta-redaction], I'm fine with it. They would probably be ok with it, but I don't want to find out after the fact that they're not. Thanks.


Cf Matthew 5:19. Not to mention Job 11:3-5.

No votes yet


ralphe's picture
Submitted by ralphe on

Coptix doesn't host the Times Free Press website. According to the Coptix portfolio, they've provided design and development services to the Times Free Press in the past and/or currently.

Really, it's not hard to be accurate with that kind of information. You also could have run a "whois" on the domain name and seen that nothing was associated in any way with Coptix, and therefor Coptix was not a hosting provider.

Irresponsible Journalism appears to be the personal blog of the Josiah Roe in question, and according to him Coptix isn't affiliated with the RNC other than providing backup DNS for Smartech, who actually does the work with the RNC.

Submitted by lambert on

1. "Hosting" changed to "serviced."

2. Yep, errors happen all the time. That's why we rely on helpful commenters such as yourself to back us up. Thanks.

3. Yes, I am well aware that as a nameserver provider, Coptix probably plays a minor role. In fact, I've said as much.

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

You got duped,take a joke. That was brilliant on their part.

Ruth's picture
Submitted by Ruth on

... we'd all be wrong a lot more times. Don't feel bad, it's another lesson in how far trolls will go to get themselves into the limelight. Nobody died, unlike in GOPerverts' dirty tricks.


leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

Which is something that cannot be said for the SCLM, else we wouldn't still be hearing the phrase "Clinton scandals" as if it was still 1993-2000, (and it hadn't been shown that there were only two Clinton scandals, Monica, and Starr's mis-use of his mandate to undermine the ability of a sitting President to do his fucking job), and we'd be hearing the phrase "Bush Scandals" at least every once in a while.


As you also said, and this should be underlined for everyone, there is a real scandal here, and no one but us, meaning all of blogtopia (thank-you skippy), is paying attention to the fact that Bush folks in the White House set up an alternate email system, deliberately subverting the legally mandated capture system within the White House.

Remember at the end of the Clinton administration when it developed that some of Gore's emails hadn't been captured, and thus hadn't been delivered to the Republican congress, which claimed full access and pretty much got it to any emails, outgoing and incoming, of any Clinton official or White House worker they pleased to interrogate or raise doubts about?

There were, of course, immediate hearings; I watched them on C-Span; the technical people made clear that it was a tech error, and it was only either the incoming or the outgoing emails that weren't captured, and for a limited time until someone realized what was happening, but from the response of Republican committee members, and of course there was more than one set of hearings, you have thought that there was some evidence that Al Gore had personally hacked the system to get rid of suspicious material in his emails.

Lambert, four years of work, paid or unpaid, doesn't disappear because of a single mistake, which you have now corrected.

Luckily, so far, the wingers have been too busy excoriating Tony Blair and Britain for not invading Iran and being shocked that Nancy Pelosi wore a head scarf in a mosque to have noticed what they could have played up as moonbat foil-wrapped unhingedness. Since they only read one another, serves them right.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Don't feel too bad. Maybe you got Rathered.

Suppose the evidence is fake, yet it presents the truth? Whoever prepared those letters was the best friend Bush ever had.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Then where is the ORIGINAL PHOTO? Can we see that?

I know there are folks out there who can do the Photoshop work and tell the difference. (Not me, unfortunately.)

How about seeing some of Josiah Roe's work with Photoshop to compare? Is he really that good?

This email from Jeff Cross seems authentic, maybe even sincere, but after what's happened surely he can understand that his "explanation" is now suspect too.

Personally, I wouldn't want to do business with a company who would pull this kind of stunt, but then, I know that's the kind of thing some people are looking for.

Lambert, you don't have to worry about your credibility. You went with a story you thought was authentic. We all make mistakes and I doubt people will hold it against you. The real screw-ups are the hoaxers at Coptix.

Submitted by lambert on

I suppose there's no reason to believe that the "real" photo is not the fake one, and the "fake" one is not the real one.

It's like a Borges short story...

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

josiah's picture
Submitted by josiah on

Everything can be found here [DCOW].

NOTE Glossary item added. --Lambert

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Way to go deceptionist (lie much?):

"HOWEVER, some of my guys at Coptix (who probably have Google alerts set up on our company name)"

Mr. Cross it will please you to know that *I* have Coptix on Google alerts and the initial subposts didn't do crap on google news. Maybe they have on google alerts, but that would be odd. Coptix never show jack squat on google until Wonkette.

Proverbs 14:25, “A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.”

[EDIT: removed my un-Christian language]

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

You guys are so hip, and fun.

You will notice it only took Wonkette readers FIVE hours to find your photoshop fingerprint. And all WEBSITES and bloggers questioning your adventures in mis-information have since corrected their posts!

How about Your President(tm) and his photoshopped pics of Iraq holding a folder of WMDs? How about your swiftboat friends? Do you think Drudge or Fat Limbaugh are out there correcting when they have been overtly misled?

See, it's not a prank when you have to go to such extreme lengths to fool people. When you modified the photo dates, and THEN pushed the photo out there. No one "found" it and thought gee, that is odd. You peppered it all over the place and pushed the story out there. We gots some of your "check this out" emails. You are neither subtle or viral. Try evil.

We received a suspect email on April 2nd that ran down a list of links to 14 left-blogosphere sites that had written about the photo, encouraging us to check into it.

The email was sent from a Gmail account with a presumably phony name (I say presumably because there is strong circumstantial evidence it came from Roe or someone involved in his scheme). The subject line of the message: "Visual PROOF of Karl Rove's direct involvement in GWB43 scandal?"

As did Roe's op-ed, the message made a special, separate mention of Wonkette's coverage (though CorrenteWire was at the top of the list).

I don't think you have anything to be ashamed of here. You provided an open forum for investigating a possible lead, and readers across the blogosphere ultimately caught the fraud.

We all aren't Dan Rather or CBS News; we will not lose face over an engineered attempt to discredit and/or embarrass, and we will not lose sight of the goal of shining a bright light on the inner workings of the GOP IT machine.

If these guys were as interested in the truth as we are, they wouldn't be playing photoshop games, and they wouldn't be sending out emails as bait to entrap people.

shystee's picture
Submitted by shystee on

Jeffrey's email to Lambert makes it sound like the photoshopping was retribution for not believing his protestations of innocence, but now it looks like the whole thing was a deliberate marketing stunt.

Josiah's link above points to a special page on Coptix' site where they boast about their "viral marketing" abilities. That's basically the gist of this post: "look at how we suckered bloggers into spreading our company's name all over the internets". With the implication that Coptix could do the same for a client's brand.

In the end Coptix tried to improve their reputation by damaging that of the blogs they used. So you can understand how Correntians could be slightly pissed about this.

Sure it's all in good fun, but we have put in a lot of work, over many years, for free, and our reputation is all we have. Will dKos and Wonkette be extra careful before linking to us again?

As to whether Coptix really has anything to do with the RNC, hopefully we'll get the truth in congressional hearings. You'll excuse me for not believing anything they say at this point.

Submitted by lambert on

On reflection, what strikes me is how many people were involved in the ploy. This is no joke.

An April Fool's joke that extends to April 4th and involves an artist to fake the photos, one site to post the faked photo, a second site to backdate a reference to the photos, and a third site, Coptix, to initiate the whole thing -- Seems like a lot of work there. Not so much in the hours put in, but in the coordination, and the writing as well: both commenting, and the Op-Eds.

And I've also been wondering why the fake was revealed when it was. Why wait until April 4? And why reveal it at all? Obviously, I can't ask the fakers, because I'd just get more disinformation.

Or, to put this tendentiously, why did they abort the ploy when they did? Was the real goal a second Rather-gate -- but the press didn't bite? Or did they abort the ploy because the Tidcumbs had been photographed

And as I keep saying: The fact remains that Coptix is an RNC vendor.

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Clearly this April Fool's thing is thought up later to try and force this story into a square peg hole. Listen to the mp3 interview (DCOW) and not once is it credited to April 1st.

You could have waited about two days to make it a prank.

Goose chase, huh?
Submitted by J. (not verified) on Fri, 2007-03-30 15:00.

Check out the Karl Rove photo in this post about the Pres. visiting a BBQ joint in Chattanooga. That’s a Coptix logo!


Be careful. That photo
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 2007-03-31 14:28.

Be careful. That photo could be photoshopped to throw you off on a wild trail.
Remember Dan Rather.

Yeah, yeah in retrospect it's got all the markings are viral douchebaggery.

For the record, I pointed out that Coptix was only a secondary nameserver. But I guess that answer wasn't good enough, so you had to get your revenge. You do realize (and even address this) that Smartech is in fact in bed with RNC, and that people's hunch here is well founded. They just got the wrong company listed on the whois.

Alice took about eight months off last year to agitate successively on three different (Democrat) campaigns ... I’m… well, I’m still not going to say what my personal beliefs or politics are

Oh, bless your heart, darlin', you don't have to. There's only one kind of person who uses 'Democrat' as an adjective.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

This stunt HAS to be approved from the top. Do you think Mr. Cross can mock his biggest partner? Smartech hosts ALL of Coptix's stuff, provides them server space, and probably pays them a ton for the DNS redundant service.

Do you think he would go around calling the biggest IT partner business in Chattanooga as "Averquacky"?

Also what's with the "I asked this guy causally about emails" disinformation. You think there is not email backup? What if you leave you mail on the server? Isn't there ONE backup in case your hard drives go ratfuck themselves? What if you don't check you email for one week? Would ALL the emails just start to vanish cause there is no record after a week??

This B.S. discussion of yours is about monitoring the actual network usage. The mail server is still saving every email until you delete them or reach your mail quota. But you are saying if Rove erased everything, there is no proof. But there are backups of the drive. Maybe monthly, or others. Odds are no one deleted ALL of their years of email. And what's with you claiming you don't log outgoing? Nothing? You never look at if your mail server is sending out millions of emails? What if you get hacked and start sending out spam, or say Josiah Funnypants decides to start marketing viral Penis-creme campaign and emails out 1,000,000 spam messages a day? You don't log that of course. [EDIT naught wingnut language]

kelley b's picture
Submitted by kelley b on

I think this was (part of) the real motivation behind this. Mayberry Machiavelli types do this all the time. It's sort of like the idea firing attorneys to block "voter fraud" and incidently helping their own efforts + the tobacco companies + maybe even derailing Libbygate + more other dirty deeds than you could count.

Now, all attempts to frame Rovian use of private companies as fronts for ratfucking will be "like the Coptix pic".

No Hell below us
Above us, only sky

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Just so we don't lose track of the "prank":

- Coptix notices people talking about who is behind
- Coptix owner Cross posts here asking to be contacted
- Coptix rogue staffers replace real Rove photo with fake and back dates the photo
- Coptix Roe "Irresponsible Journalism" edits month-old blog entry to link to fake photo
- Coptix staffers post to blogs discussing and redirect to photo
- Coptix staffers email out a list of Rove photo blog posts
- Coptix Roe acts surprised when story picked up by Wonkette
- Coptix Roe selectively quotes one dkos poster and doesn't point to the many skeptics and comments left by posters
- Wonkette readers notice the Sleeslaks in 5 hours after story was posted
- Everyone ignores the fact that is, in fact, a private Rove email server and IT infrastructure is, in fact, provided by New Media, SMARTech and Coptix

At no point does Coptix explain their connection to "Prank" begins on 3/30 and continues until 4/3. Roe claims it was April Fool's joke? And viral marketing ploy? Cross implies it is revenge for not contacting him.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Oh shut up and take your medicine.

Jesus Christ! You were had. So what? Why make a goddamn federal case out of a joke?

And btw - lighten up, willya?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Let me get this straight; to prove they weren't part of a vast right-wing conspiricy, they faked evidence that they WERE part of a vast right-wing conpiricy? Is that what they're saying or am I just confused more than ever?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

To the various 'take yer medicine' types, I say, piss off.

I'm with Nell:

From Jam-Master Jesse o' Coptix re: Gidcums.

"He’s actually a conservative, I think. At Coptix we have a few folks who are probably non-vocal conservatives (I’m guessing, but they’re not vocal…), in contrast with a few who are very vocal liberals. Most of us are well-rounded independent thinkers. We all get along. Alice took about eight months off last year to agitate successively on three different (Democrat) campaigns."

First, yes, he is conservative. Very, very, very. Just read a few entries on his blog. He's an evangelical and is a Focus on the Family follower. I find it very hard to believe that in the 'small world' of Chatanooga, such a thing would not be well known. And if Gidcums is keeping friendly company with Coptix people, I doubt he's keeping much close company with the liberals who work there.

Second, Nell's Tell: anyone who uses 'Democrat' as an adjective doesn't like Democrats. End of story.

This smells like pre-emptive oppo, and very much so.

Has it occurred to anyone else that after Rove was seen actually walking around with a Coptix folder, for real, the accomplice agency went into damage-control mode and concocted a story about a big joke ... that really isn't funny, and is really stupid ... and isn't really a joke? They weren't trying to be funny ... or trying to see how far they "could push it" (whatever the fuck that means), they were scared they were going to be implicated and indicted by association vis-a-vis a real folder in Rove's hand at some point during the day. Which they should.