Chapter Five - Msscribe Battles Gryffindor Tower
An Unauthorized Fandom Biography
June 2003 - Msscribe and the IP Evidence
On June 4, 2003 -- five days after carissa_lynn's post about Clarabella -- GT released the results of their investigations. They posted all the evidence against Msscribe on the gryffindortower LJ in a spirit of great hope and anticipation, although some of them were rightly cynical (though, as it turned out, not quite cynical enough). Here is the post (scroll down to June 4), by GT admin tartanboxers:
Update on the PottersGinny Situation
The post was so long and so detailed -- and contained such unwelcome information -- that most of the fandom immediately declared it tl;dr (the term didn't yet exist then, but the concept did) and were unwilling, or unable, to detangle the confusing threads of Msscribe's handiwork. But it's not THAT complicated:
Apparently Msscribe had three different sources of access to the internet: a Comcast account, a GST/Time Warner Telecom account, and a State of Delaware "eduproxy" account. She also used a service called "Anonymizer," which assigns you a proxy IP to cover up your own. With all of these resources available to her -- aspiring puppetmasters, learn from this! -- she should have been able to put up a good facade by using certain accounts only for certain puppets, etc. But apparently she didn't have the time or patience to do this, because she used the accounts seemingly indiscriminately. And, of course, with nine puppets actively posting in "enemy territory" where their IPs could be logged, she didn't have enough accounts for all of them, anyway. So what the GT admins posted was a confusing list of IPs in four different series, with all the identities randomly sprinkled around among them (plus a large number of corroborating screencaps and downloads).
Seeing that the fandom was confused, ladymaidmarian helpfully posted this simplifying recap where she highlighted all the exact matches:
The Who's Who of IPgate
Other people analyzed the same information in a different way. One particularly influential analysis was done by a young techie guy named zorac:
Inspired by this statement by msscribe, this is a response of sorts to this posting on gryffindortower which is claiming proof that two individuals are the same based on lists of IP addresses. I’ve looked up all the addresses mentioned using DNS (matching forward and reverse) and WHOIS (using whois.arin.net initially and rwhois.verio.net for more specific information on Verio addresses).
Msscribe's many friends interpreted this post of zorac's as a complete exoneration of Msscribe. A typical response, from picklepuss in the comments to the post:
I assume if someone pointed GT to this post they would act as though it didn't exist.
Actually, if you follow this logic through, Zorac's post is extremely damaging to Msscribe, but following the logic through wasn't very popular that day. If you combine the two analyses, you get this:
All posts admitted to by Clarabella and Msscribe are plain text; all posts they *denied* making are *starred*:
The most damaging thing, to my mind, is that both Msscribe and her racist attacker used an anonymizing service (why?) -- the same anonymizing service -- and were assigned the exact same number (and only three hours apart). What an ironic coincidence, huh? We also have to remember that both Clarabella and Msscribe had publicly acknowledged on their LJ's (though both posts were soon deleted or made private) that the Fermatojam post 18.104.22.168 was made on Msscribe's computer, as were the Msscribe, SarahKJames, and Clarabella posts 22.214.171.124 and all others in the GST/Time Warner series except the three Pottersginny posts. Apparently, Msscribe had a GST/Time Warner dial-up account at her home and she either had access to a Delaware state educational account at her home or she and Clarabella were lying about where those posts were made (a school, perhaps?). Pottersginny, who really gets around, had a Comcast account (like Msscribe) with the same IP as the original, "real" Fermatojam (even though he supposedly lived in Ohio and she in Texas) and a GST/Time Warner dial-up account (like Msscribe) with the same IP as SarahKJames, plus she used Anonymizer (like Msscribe) and happened to get assigned the same Anonymizer IP as Msscribe. Remember, Msscribe and "Clarabella" absolutely denied making any of Pottersginny's posts.
I have more evidence to contribute, evidence which GT had at the time, but for some reason didn't include in their announcement post. I have screencaps of three emails "Clarabella" wrote to Carissa on May 30, 2003 and three emails Msscribe wrote to Carissa on May 31, 2003, with copies to Praetorianguard. Here are the times and IPs from those emails:
Clarabella email 1: Fri May 30 06:23:59 2003 - 126.96.36.199.Clearly, "Clarabella" was using the Delaware eduproxy K12 account with rolling IPs to send her emails, and she was assigned identical IPs as Fermatojam (the later one), "Kellie," and Melodyannsings.
Msscribe email 1: Sat May 31 04:04:30 2003 - 188.8.131.52.Clearly, Msscribe was using the Comcast Cable account with the fixed 184.108.40.206 IP to send her emails, and she had the same IP as Fermatojam in April and Pottersginny on May 7th.
And I have yet another piece of evidence to contribute. At the time GT released their evidence, both angua9 and dianora were mods at the Sugar Quill. Even though the SQ admins had refused to search their database for IP evidence, they looked to satisfy their own curiosity and discovered that Clarabella had made one post at SQ on Jan. 18, 2003 -- pimping Msscribe's fic, naturally. Because that one post was in a forum Angua modded, she could see the IP. At a later time, Dianora became a mod for that same forum and could see the IP as well. It was 220.127.116.11, the fixed Comcast address used by Pottersginny, by the "real" Fermatojam, and (though Angua, Dianora, and the rest of the general public didn't know this at the time) by Msscribe in her emails to Carissa. Because she was not an admin, Angua did not give GT a screencap or release that information publicly, but from that time forward both she and Dianora were fully convinced of Msscribe's guilt.
As am I. To me, it seems completely clear: Msscribe, who could easily afford it, had both a dial-up GST/Time Warner account and a cable Comcast account. She also had access to the Delaware school account -- a person with her real name is listed as having an employee computer account with the vocational and technical school district in _____ County, Delaware -- either at her home or elsewhere. The Comcast cable account had a fixed IP over that five-month time period, and she was captured as Clarabella in January, as Fermatojam in April, and as Potterginny and Msscribe in May. The dialup account had rolling IPs, but identical IPs were captured for Msscribe, Clarabella, and SarahKJames, and also for SarahKJames and Pottersginny. The State of Delaware account also had rolling IPs, but identical ones were captured for two different pairs of sockpuppets, and Clarabella. She also used an Anonymizer service that gave her five different numbers, one of which was identical for Msscribe and her troll Pottersginny. All IPs ever captured for Msscribe and all of her alleged sockpuppets (including Hgempress) come from one of these four sources. NONE of these supposedly independent entities EVER was logged from anywhere else, notably including Fermatojam and Clarabella, who were never logged from the universities they were supposedly attending.
What are the odds?
What really boggles my mind is that at the time, nearly every single one of the people defending Msscribe had access to evidence that could have either supported or contradicted GT's claims. The admins and many of the mods at FA and Portkey could see logged IPs for Msscribe, Clarabella, and SarahKJames. Dozens of people had LJs with comments from Msscribe, SarahKJames, Clarabella, and Infinitus. Praetorianguard definitely had emails showing Msscribe's IP as 18.104.22.168, and other people most likely did as well. Any one of these people could have come forward and said that Msscribe either did, or did not, post with the fixed Comcast IP 22.214.171.124, which would strongly tie her to both the "real" Fermatojam and to Pottersginny. Even today, many people could still do this. If Msscribe did NOT post with that Comcast IP and the other IPs claimed by GT, that would have been a strong indication the GTers had faked their evidence. But as far as I can tell, everyone was so sure that Msscribe was the good guy and the GTers were the bad guys that they didn't even bother to check.
June 2003 -- Msscribe Strikes Back
What was Msscribe's response to the GT charges? The next day, June 5, 2003, she made a post on her LJ. Here is a screencap of the post and here it is in downloaded form, without the graphics:
Current mood: annoyed, sort of like when you see a cockroach
She starts out on the offensive, linking to a post by praetorianguard, an attorney for both FictionAlley and Nimbus, stating that "everybody knows" you can't use IP evidence to accuse someone of crimes (this would be news to Cassandra Claire and Jeff, I think), and using the words "reckless disregard for truth" and "libel." Then she offers an alibi, and closes with an appeal for sympathy. Let us look at the alibi more closely:
Also, they probably don't know this, but one of the times they claimed a post came from my PC, Clara was at school and I was lying in the hospital, unconcious. Lovely little admission form sits in a file now, in case I ever need to whip it out. I'm pretty good about posting, but even I'm not that good. And another one, I was attending the funeral I posted about going to at the same time.I have studied all Msscribe's LJ and Portkey posts from that time and I must confess that this statement completely baffles me. I know that Clarabella posted that Msscribe was unconscious in the hospital for several hours on March 21st, and conscious in the hospital, posting from her laptop, from March 22nd through 24th. "Fermatojam" didn't show up on LJ until March 26th, and he didn't post at GT until April. "Pottersginny" didn't post anywhere until May 7th. Either this is the worst alibi in history, or I am misunderstanding what Msscribe was trying to say. Did she mean that Fermatojam had made an anonymous comment on her LJ on March 21st, while she was unconscious? Or did she mean that she had made another hospital visit (not mentioned on her LJ) sometime in April or May while Fermatojam or Potterginny was posting at GT or the H/G LJs? But, if so, how is that an alibi -- "lovely little admission form" or not -- when she had already posted from the hospital using her laptop?
As to the "funeral" alibi (assuming she is referring to the funeral of the friend she said had died of AIDS on May 4th, three days before Pottersginny appeared), she never said on her LJ when or where the funeral was. We have only Msscribe's word that she attended a funeral at all, and even if she did, funerals generally only last an hour or two. I can only suppose that Msscribe hasn't read many murder mysteries and doesn't know that the person who comes forward with an alibi immediately becomes the detective's hottest suspect.
But, of course, Msscribe's friends responded with support, not suspicion. Her first commenter was morgaina, offering this icon...
made by morgaina, taken from morgaina
... and saying:
This is seriously ridiculous. You've handled this whole situation amazingly well, good on you. I hope you like the new icon, anyone feel free to borrow it. I just wanted to let you know there are sane people out there concerned about you and supporting you through this.lizardlaugh helpfully offered that in her experience IP evidence was unreliable, to which Msscribe replied:
I use Comcast (covers all of Met Philadelphia and DC area) and AOL. LOL. And thank you for explaining that, although I believe they know those posts didn't come from here. I think they damn well know it, and are just rying to save face.
And then zorac commented with a link to his analysis:
Hi, I've posted an analysis on what their list of IP addresses does (or does not) prove over on my LJ. Summary: You and PottersGinny both used Anonymizer, a whole load of people used the same dialup ISP, and three of them used a Delaware school.
This must have been an interesting moment for Msscribe. Of course she latched gratefully onto the authoritative-sounding defence -- she either edited her post or made a new post linking to Zorac's post and saying essentially "See! Cleared!" -- but she probably wasn't happy with Zorac announcing to everyone that she had used Anonymizer, that some of the IPs traced to her home state of Delaware, or that GT had done "an excellent job" of tying Pottersginny to Fermatojam, when her story required that they be different people. That may be one reason she soon hid this post. She responded as follows:
Thanks for doing that, but I think they may be fabricating a few things. Isn't it easy to create this so-called "evidence" I wouldn't assume the IP's they are giving are correct. Because here is the IP that Infinitus (I called her)and I have for Pottersginny: 126.96.36.199. Could you look that up? I don't know how. Also the real fermatojam was at University of Dayton, so the IP they are giving for him is clearly a lie to point the finger back at me.and
Uh oh. The spouse has asked me to friend's protect your evidence, and perhaps mail us a hard copy of the evidence, just in case there really IS a link between the two. This guy is on probation, so if he's broken it, we need to know that.
She was definitely pushing the idea that the GT admins faked the IPs, either by using a spoofing device or by photoshopping, probably because she knew that people all over the fandom (Praetorianguard for one!) had captured her using the fixed IP 188.8.131.52 on her comments, emails, and forum posts. The suggestion that Pottersginny and Fermatojam were the same person worked fine for Zorac (and she played along with it a little for him), but it could do Msscribe no good at all with any of the many people who might have logged her using that same number.
In support of the photoshopping or spoofing hypothesis, she offered a different IP for Pottersginny than the six different IPs GT had announced: 184.108.40.206. This IP traces to Zen Internet Ltd of Lancashire, Great Britain, a preposterous offering for the supposedly Texas cracker Pottersginny, but perhaps Msscribe was making another play at RunechildUK or Imogen (and, if so, she missed them by a good distance). Zorac responded, telling her so...
OK, now that's just weird....and she replied enigmatically...
Never heard of it, but I'm not shocked, to say the least. Of course, it's only an IP...Not shocked because... what? She'd always suspected "Darlene" was secretly British?
Msscribe also made vaguely legal-type gestures by claiming that her lawyer husband had asked for a "hard copy" of Zorac's "evidence" -- which was no more than the simple IP tracing that anyone can do! -- and for her to "friends protect" Zorac's comment (even though his own post was still fully public). Then she repeated the claim that Clarabella made in her emails to the GT admins, a claim that contradicted her other accounts on her own LJ, including one from just eight days earlier -- that she had pressed charges against Fermatojam and that now he might have "broken his probation" (if Pottersginny was actually him in disguise, as Zorac suggested). By the way, if Fermatojam had already been prosecuted and received probation, I wonder why Clarabella thought the police weren't "doing enough" -- what more did she think they could do?
But, as I have said, my current skeptical and analytical mood was not the mood that prevailed on Msscribe's LJ when she made her post. This comment from cygnusfap (now malachan) in response to Zorac's comment sums up the general mood:
Big thumbs up to Mark for that post. Now that he's shown that they don't have a case, I am convinced, so I am right behind you Msscribe. :)ari_o's comment sums up the rest:
Gryffindor Tower = "Worm"Msscribe's friend muffinbutt stated the same sentiment a bit more forcefully:
Already said this on your other post, but just wanted to be public -- these people are truly mad. Like, creepy, keep a knife under your pillow nuts man. I am so incredibly sorry that you got roped into this ongoing wankery. I don't even know what to say. At this point, I just want to tell the world to fuck off and go curl up in my bed. But say the word, and I'll fucking fight for you, Dionne. I'll fight for all of you. Because this isn't right.
Msscribe's defense was fully sufficient for most people. One person even concluded (demonstrating less-than-total mastery of both IP tracing and logic) that GT must have faked all of the IPs. One wonders why, if they were going to fake IPs, they chose to make it so complicated.
Over at Fandom Wank, the discussion was dominated by Msscribe supporters like Cygnus, but there were plenty of people willing to consider the hypothesis that Msscribe was her own nanny, and her own stalker. Fandom_Wank regulars seemed willing to point and laugh without assigning a hero and a villain, but Msscribe's friends and FictionAlley insiders in general were not nearly so laid back.
Msscribe went on the offensive, insulting and taunting the GT people in new posts on her own LJ and in comments to the many posts that people made defending her. Her description of the GTers as "cockroaches" spread like wildfire. flourish (a young girl who was one of the founders of FA) made a GT cockroach icon, and quite a few people adopted and used it:
snagged from professorjewels, created by flourish
Here is a typical post from a Msscribe supporter, nmalfoy (one of those honored as Big Name Sinners by Fermatojam):
The magic of Harry Potter...
irinaauthor said this:
My friend msscribe has just been publicly accused of committing a crime. You can read the accusations here and here. They say that she committed cyber-fraud and cyber-identity theft, both of which are against the law. This accusation is false, and it is defamation. You can read praetorianguard's excellent explanation of why right here.And in the comments to this post, epicyclical (Cassandra Claire) said this:
Thank you for pointing this all out, Irina. Not to mention that the evidence they are waving around here is a great deal shoddier than the evidence that I had. I'd like to think they are just stupid, but the unhappy fact is that these are not just extremely stupid people (as evidenced by the fact that they are too stupid, apparently, to tell the difference between "defamantion" and opinion". For instance, I can say, "In my opinion, the GT.net admins are the most two-faced, backstabbing, inherently nasty, paranoid, delusional psychopaths that I have ever had the displeasure of meeting in this or any other fandom" and that's not defamatory, because it's my opinion. Just for reference.) In addition, they are also are people who have adopted such a cultish, clique mindset that they are no longer able to distinguish reality from demented paranoid fantasy. Fortunately nobody in the fandom pays them the slightest respect or attention. Huge as this fandom is, as scattered and as divided as it is, we have one thing that unites us - we all despise GT.
So... it's fair to say the whole thing didn't work out exactly as GT had hoped. Far from being vindicated and exonerated, they were despised and reviled even more fiercely than ever before. And I'm afraid that the thought of being the factor that brought together the scattered and divided fandom as it united in despising them did not provide much solace.
The GTers expressed themselves with all they wry humor they could muster, proudly adopted Flourish's icon, created and displayed their own cockroach icons...
snagged from professorjewels and carissa_lynn, created by a GT member
...and resigned themselves to being hated. This was posted on the GT LJ community on June 6th:
A brand new trend has hit GT. No, it's not our latest theme, although you might want to check that out. It seems that the ever lovely and mature flourish appreciates us all so much she designed a new avatar for us all to use at GT. So we've adopted it. You know, because we've got a hive mentality and all that. I was just looking down my friends page earlier, and it was wall to wall icons from flourish. So if you haven't got in on the new trend I urge you to do so now. Here's the link to the avatar. Just plug that url into your LJ avatar, make it your default and you're ready to roll.It must have been surreal for the GTers to confirm just how much they were hated -- and how widely -- by people they didn't even know. And the people running the FictionAlley website soon made that even clearer.
June 2003 -- Msscribe and FictionAlley
We have seen that Msscribe's defenders included Cygnus, Irina, Nancy Malfoy, Ari_o, and Cassandra Claire. The powers-that-be at FictionAlley rallied to Msscribe's defense in a more formal way, as well. You have already seen several posters allude to the fact that praetorianguard, an attorney representing both FictionAlley and Nimbus, made this post (which I can't see anymore, but some people may be able to) with a bunch of legal sounding stuff about what constitutes defamation, seemingly intended to warn the Gryffindor Tower people that they could be sued or prosecuted if they continued to persecute msscribe. Simon (then SJBranford, now owlman, on LJ) made an "official statement" in the name of FictionAlley (Heidi, the usual spokesperson, was out on maternity leave) both on his own LJ and on the FA site saying basically that the FA corporation wasn't the same as people-who-happened-to-be-members (in response to complaints like this one about FA mods at gt_hidden_room), and linking to and agreeing with Praetorianguard's post about defamation.
The next thing that happened was that on June 9, 2003 -- five days after GT published their IP evidence -- Msscribe was made a mod at FictionAlley. SCUSA mod aome (known as Plumeria) was stepping down, and Msscribe was chosen to replace her. This appeared to be a particularly pointed slap in the face to the GTers because Msscribe had never been active at FA -- she had made only 31 posts at that point, of which 21 were pimping her own fics or responding to reviews, and only ten were "normal" posts. This was also at a time when becoming a mod at FA was considered a particularly coveted honor, something that hundreds of members aspired to in vain (they were told to post actively and responsibly and hope that they would get noticed), and something that was considered to imply membership in what was still being called "The Inner Circle." It would have been the bitter pinnacle of irony if Msscribe had been put in charge of the H/G thread at SCUSA, but that didn't quite happen -- instead she was in charge of the R/Hr thread (among others). As far as I know, she did a fine job.
tartanboxers made this friendslocked post in response, which she has given me permission to copy here:
How to Become a FA Mod in Eight Easy StepsTo which Angua9 made the following comment (which she has also given me permission to copy here):
Heh. And people used to think it was hard breaking into the FA Inner Circle! But now we know their weakness -- as long as you flatter them constantly and carefully confirm their prejudices, they'll swallow anything!
It was also at this juncture, on June 6, 2003, that Angua and Dianora became alarmed at the rate that posts were disappearing from Msscribe's LJ, not to mention the complete disappearance of Pottersginny's and Infinitus's LJs. All their lovely evidence was vanishing! Dianora immediately downloaded and saved all the posts from Msscribe's LJ that still remained public at that time, and some other information that she considered particularly important. She has very kindly shared those downloads with me, and this account is heavily dependent on that information.
At this point, I think the GTers gave up. Msscribe was impregnable. She had lawyers on her side -- Heidi, Praetorianguard, and her own husband. She had money. She had the support of the fandom. She had the stomach, which they mostly lacked, to relish public confrontation and vicious invective. And -- apparently -- she had the ability and willingness to make and use malicious sockpuppets to manipulate public opinion. Msscribe had won. Now it was time for her to party!
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