Predatory Blogging in Maine

March 5, 2007

Lance Dutson, Susan Collins…strange tales

It all started in 2005, when Maine blogger and perennially unemployed website developer Lance Dutson inexplicably attacked the Maine Office of Tourism –  for driving up bid costs on the Google Adword program.

The medium for this mendacious message was a phony press release written by Dutson in the third person about himself,  on the Camden-Lincoln-Rockport Chamber of Commerce website, which coincidentally enough, was being developed by Dutson himself and overseen by his wife, the then-acting Director of the above Chamber.

This accusation just did not ring true, especially given the undeniably snarky tone in which it was delivered.  So I did some checking up, and here’s what I learned.

Dutson’s Google Adword accusation was demonstrably wrong. And yet, he claimed to be an SEO (Search Engine Marketing) expert.

Did he know he was wrong?

Alas, despite strong dissent from the MOT’s director, the MOT’s clueless ad agency sued Lance Dutson anyhow.  And from the tiny town of Searsport, Maine spewed an eruption that shook the entire  blogosphere.  A blogger had been sued for critisizing his government.

From that moment on, Dutson was a folk hero. The champion of the  underdog …the people’s blogger.

Lance Dutson could do no wrong.

Right wing  Mainers  assuaged their cabin fever by taking up the Dutson cause.   Small town web rats put down their corn curls and picked up their mouses. They could now post inflammatory comments on Dutson’s blog, and be read by important people from as far away as Washington. DC.  What a delicious stink.

The lawsuit was of course  quickly dropped. Yet Dutson publicly declared that he was disappointed it had not gone on further.

He  had felt his 15 minutes of fame, and was not about to let this new-found power slip through his fingers. He huffed and puffed and parried with a loud display of righteous indignation.  He cried that governmnet insiders were threatening and harrassing him.

“Daddy, Daddy, why is that woman threatening us?”  he attributed to a “son” ….who was in truth just one of the progeny of his new wife’s second, or third, (or was it fourth?) marriage. There of course was no “threat”. Just a heart-felt query.

But still he wallowed in it.

A city-bred slicker from just outside Washington DC, he instinctively knew exactly how to play these gullible peasants. He took a page from his fellow Republican Party poofers; and padded his erroneous  “Pay-per-Gate” charges with yet more prevarication.

(In a loud exhibition of paranoic pretense, Dutson raved that everyone in Augusta was out to get him. He cleverly  twisted the facts to fit into this “persecuted investigative journalist” image.  A true American hero.)

But. The touble with this scenario is that Dutson was perfectly aware that his lies  – well – they were lies. He  seemed to fluctuate between bouts of honesty and of…. lying.  There were several occasions in which he himself even admitted that a certain charge or other was not true.

But in the glare of the morning spotlight, (and having limboed under the radar of his attention challenged web rat readers) he  would ignore these admissions, and renew the dishonest attack.  On, (and on, and on)  he ranted.  If you were to follow the links to the “Proof” that he offered, you  would find no proof at all – in fact, often the links even disproved his accusations.

None of his readers ever bothered to read the links.  They only read the lies – the  manufactured and phony charges. And they believed every word.  And they reacted like angry village riff raff.

Yes – we do all believe just what we want to believe. Like rising right wing internet impressario Robert Cox, who also bought  Dutson’s lies without even having read through Dutson’s blog – even after several people informed him about what Dutson was doing.

Cox really did not bother himself much with Dutson’s honesty or lack of it.  He was only after the glow of Dutson’s growing celebrity.  Cox adopted Dutson as a “Cause Celèbre” (his own words) and arranged for Dutson to attain yet more exposure and celebrity… as the first blogger ever to “live blog” a major media event – the Scooter Libby trial.

Needless to say, Dutson’s vacuous followers – and even some “legitimate” press pundits –  increased tenfold.  And his readers still mindlessly swallowed every  lie that  Dutson fed them.

Using proof, I pointed out Dutson’s lies in several comments on his blog. But he of course deleted every comment I had ever made. Other people who tried to expose the truth received similar treatment by him.

The MOT director (who had been serving “At the Pleasure” for 12 years) was dismissed by Augusta “amid allegations of corruption” . Right wing bloggers crowed. But the truth is that the dismissal  had nothing to do with the phony charges. The change had been planned long before Dutson entered the scene.

And since every fairy tale has a happy ending -you will be bemused to hear that  Dutson was rewarded for his long campaign of lies and false accusations. He was given a >$25K position as Susan Collins‘ webmaster.  This is very big money for an unemployed webrat.  In this case, dishonesty did pay.


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