“Mark Kessler commented on my picture? Don’t know him, but the name rings a bell.”
It was just a Facebook notification that’s all. My profile is public, although I have my family and relationships set to private. Mark Kessler wasn’t on my friends list. So I clicked on his profile to see who he was and immediately saw why his name was familiar.
Kessler made a splash a while ago when he filmed himself spewing vitriol and bile at those who support gun control, while blasting away with a number of firearms. He would lose his job as Chief of Police in Gilberton, Pennsylvania, because of his ill-advised display of immature irresponsibility.
He then formed his own militia; scared the daylights out of residents in his hometown with intimidation tactics with them; then went off to protect America’s borders from child refugees; and recently made news with one of his members getting in the way of Border Patrol agents. His profile is a mosaic of anti-Obama rhetoric and More Guns propaganda. He and I have absolutely no connection. No mutual friends, no common Facebook groups.
Kessler has a full regiment of Facebook friends, 5,000 of them, and 18,000+ followers as well. So when he comments on stuff, it shows up in the newsfeeds of lots of like-minded individuals. Which begs the question; What was Mark Kessler doing on my profile?
Well, I write articles condemning gun lobbies, questioning their talking points, and have made the case for gun control many times. Even though I’m not a well known writer, the opposition to what I have had to say about gun violence has been enormous and immediate. I’ve had threats made on not only my life, but my young son’s as well.
Pro-gun lobby folks get to dish it out, but get outraged when you hand it right back to them. Apparently it’s perfectly fine for one of their own to threaten the life of an infant, but it’s not cool for me to expose this behavior.
Still, this was expected. Anyone on the Internet knows that the comments under an article, no matter the subject, are often filled with offensiveness and trollage. And when it comes to guns, those who favor gun lobbies like to attack en masse. There are Facebook pages devoted to sending swarms of their followers to virtually shout down posts and pieces they don’t like.
I recently published a piece heavily critical of the NRA. As per usual, hateful messages got sent, attacks were made on Twitter, and some pro-gun lobby pages posted it, commanding their followers to “sic ‘em!” They may do the same with this piece.
But back to Kessler. You’re probably figuring that he tracked the anti-NRA piece back to my profile. He attacked me underneath where I had posted it, obviously, there to unleash his anti-responsibility tirades, right? This has happened to me before after all. I’ve had to block many people for doing just that in the past. Were this but the latest case, I would not have given it a second thought.
That’s not what Kessler did. Instead he commented on a picture of my wife and son. In the image they are in the distance, and the caption says, “As deer look on and the circling hawk calls out, Liam, intrepid explorer, leads an expedition into the Catskills.”
Kessler commented underneath the photo with, “You say theirs deer in them woods? Well golly is a gonna get my gun and Wes gonna eat good tonight’s yeeeeeehawwwweee” (sic). He then liked his own comment.
This means Mark Kessler followed an article I wrote to my profile. It was a piece he didn’t like about a subject he infamously very zealously supports. But instead of commenting on the piece, he scrolled down my profile until he found a picture of my family so he could say something under that.
No, he didn’t specifically say anything threatening. He’s smart enough not to try anything like that, regardless of the impression his poor spelling and grammar gives. He’s currently doing damage control from the scuffle with Border Patrol Agents, after all. I suppose it’s possible that Kessler just searches random names on Facebook and makes bizarre comments on pictures of families, but it’s highly unlikely.
It’s also possible that he meant this as some sort of joke. After all, if your wife and son are walking into some woods that they’ve seen deer in, by all means start talking about shooting into those woods.
Pretty funny, right? What a laugh riot this guy is. I’m sure those Border Protection Agents thought the same thing.
What sticks in the craw is not just that Kessler felt the need to comment about getting his gun on a picture of my family, but that when I went to his profile to see who he was, he had recently “liked” a company my wife worked for.
Engel Entertainment is not a widely visited Facebook page. It’s well under 1,000 likes, and not very active. But my wife had it listed on her “About Me” section of her Facebook profile as her workplace. She doesn’t work there anymore, she’s freelance, but she hadn’t updated her employer in a while, and Engel was listed as where she works.
When I noticed Kessler commented on our picture, it was 7 minutes after he had done so. When I checked out his profile, I noticed he had listed Engel Entertainment as a “like” 3 minutes previously. There’s the part that bugged me.
Mark Kessler came to my profile, checked it out, found a picture with my family to comment about his guns underneath of, and then followed a tag to my wife’s profile where he checked her out too. He then decided to follow a page she had listed as her work. Kinda hard to rule that out as coincidence.
Kessler did not find me randomly, he came looking for me. He stalked my profile, then creeped my wife’s and he must have known I would then click on his profile back. After all, some random stranger makes a bizarre statement on a picture of your family, you’re going to try and find out who that is, right? He’s a former cop. He can’t be that unaware of his actions.
And, again, he didn’t actually do anything legally wrong. He didn’t insult anyone, didn’t overtly threaten us, and the picture I’d posted was public. What he did do was find a way to work gun into a comment about my family, phrased in such a way that he could play it off as innocuous or in jest when called on it. Even though we have no connection of familiarity, he has a history of attempting to intimidate those with different opinions, and he is infamous for saying those who hold opinions such as mine should “fuckin’ die” after we “take it in the ass,” apparently.
As a friend put it, “Looks like he’s marking you, like a dog pissing to mark his territory.” That analogy works as well as any. Kessler was letting me know he’s noticed me. Certainly, with his remarks potentially showing up in the feeds of over 20,000, had he gotten vitriolic underneath the picture itself, trollage would have seriously escalated.
I’ve read a lot of comics in my life. One of my favorite stories was Green Lantern teaming up with Batman. The two are total opposites, one is about light, the other about darkness. Lantern advocates conquering fear, the Dark Knight seeks to instill it. When Batman told GL to dampen his light, the response was, “No, I want my enemies to see me. That way they charge me and nobody else.”
That’s the way I wanted it to be. You want to oppose what I have to say, that is your right. If you have a legible point, express it, but once the insults, falsehoods, and ad hominems begin to fly, you get stepped over. But leave my family out of it.
Lt. Col. Robert Bateman wrote articles for Esquire criticizing gun lobby rhetoric. He was swarmed with gun advocates online, threatening both him and his family. It did not stop him, but it was jarring to see. A friend of mine who has worked in collusion with Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America has warned me to lock down my Facebook profile to protect my family. Mark Kessler just showed why she’s right to say so.
Back to superheroes briefly. In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman tells John Blake that he should wear a mask. Blake’s response was to say he wasn’t afraid, to which he was answered with, “The mask isn’t for you, it’s to protect the people you care about.”
I now understand why some of my colleagues are so protective of their privacy. I eschewed a pen name because I didn’t want those I was speaking out against to think I was afraid of them. But that’s not what a pseudonym is about. It’s to keep your friends and family removed from harassment.
As I have found out in the past, gun lobbyists will stoop to personal attacks, insults, troll swarms, and threats against not only me, but my family. It’s going to get worse as I continue. The opposition to what I have said so far has been astronomical, and at the time of this writing, it’s only been ten months since I’ve been doing this.
But a funny thing I’ve noticed is my opposition looks more and more familiar each time. It’s usually the same profiles over and over and over again, on Facebook to Twitter, from site to site, bringing out the same specious arguments and insults and rolling out a never-ending carousel of “Nuh-UH!” It’s not that my opposition is so vast, it’s merely that they are so persistent. They use the volume of their opinion to mask the lack of volume in their numbers, compared to the rest of us.
That tells me this message inspires its opponents with such fear and hatred that they will attempt to virtually intimidate me away from saying it. Kessler sure is known for that. No other issue I have written about inspires this kind of zealous opposition.
It also tells me I need to think about how I proceed. Mark Kessler, intentionally or not, has warned me that my family will be targets along with me. The kind of people who feel so strongly about their Molon Labe rhetoric will have no issues harassing my wife. This confirms their lack of morality and character, but that’s no comfort if my family will be attacked.
So a discussion needs to be had. I have spoken previously to my wife about the issue, and now I have to do so again, and possibly reach out to everyone else in my family as well. They need to be warned as to what I might be getting them into, intentionally or not. There might be strained relations as a result.
As for the picture, it was the only one Kessler could have commented on that included my wife and son. I had checked in with Facebook on my phone the previous week and included the picture to amuse our family. It posted publicly instead of privately, and he took that opening.
In future, I need to be careful about that. I am no longer free to post whatever I want on Facebook, due to concerns about possible reprisals upon my family from what I’ve said. Mmm, but I’m the bully, coming to take away others’ freedoms. Sure, whatever.
So, stalk me online and creep my profile all you like. Attack me all you want. You’re doing so regardless.
Just know that if you go after my family it will only prove you are not responsible gun owners, ethically correct, or “real men.”
And this will confirm all over again that Americans are right to oppose you.
He lives in Hell's Kitchen with his wife and son and their gigantic cat.
Chad also writes for spoiledNYC.com, quietmike.org, and contributes at politicalmoll.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ChadMac19 and on Facebook as well!
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