Beginning with the assertion that “the only thing stopping the drug cartel the Zetas from going to Forrest Rutherford’s house is the likelihood that nobody in the Mexican mafia cares” about Blues Traveler, an article published yesterday by The Daily Beast under a top line that reads “DOXED” in red, full caps suggests a big deal of wrong-doing by frontman John Popper. It’s a story about Popper using Blues Traveler’s verified twitter account to post a photo from Google maps of the house of Forrest Rutherford, the troll behind the @assbott twitter account programmed through election day 2016 to immediately reply “Delete your account” to every tweet by Donald Trump, then respond with randomly automated tweets to subsequent replies (for an example click here).
It’s an odd claim to begin an article. Is it supposed to be an insult? Why would the Zetas care about Blues Traveler? Moreover, why would Popper, his fans, or anybody else care if they don’t care? The rest of the article is equally bizarre. What’s to be made of its unsupported contentions, hard to follow structure or the straight-forward information about Blues Traveler’s career misreported in the opening paragraphs that jumps out (to me at least, and I’d presume anybody else who turned on an American pop radio station in the mid ’90s). It may be nitpicky to criticize the story’s author – Daily Beast senior news editor Ben Collins – for describing Blues Traveler as a “one-hit wonder,” or a strawman to discount the rest of his writing because of that, but even if they are to be reduced to that surely “Run-Around” would be the one hit, not “The Hook” (as Collins writes, though it’s actually titled just “Hook,” another trivial albeit easily checkable fact gone unchecked). For the record they had six chart singles, two of them Top 40 hits, and six albums with RIAA Gold & Platinum Awards: three gold albums, an additional two albums certified platinum, plus the six million confirmed US sales smash Four. It’s “Run-Around” though that is the sole Blues Traveler song to make it to the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 (where it charted for an impressive 49 weeks; for context, that’s more than “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Baby Got Back” combined), as well as their one recording to win a Grammy. Whatever, nevermind; we all make mistakes. (There’s probably some in this post. If you spot any, corrections are welcome; contact twitter.com/TheFutureHeart.) Pointing out Ben’s inability to accurately report the most basic facts that take mere seconds to check – or that he doesn’t substantiate claims, for instance the opening assertion about the Zetas – isn’t to suggest that Popper can’t still be in the wrong, just that if he is The Daily Beast may not be the place to find out how or why.
So when Popper responded to The Daily Beast article, tweeting he’d love to give his own interview and “respond to these utter distortions of the truth,” I volunteered to publish what he saw as those distortions. Popper quickly got back to me. I mentioned the aforementioned nitpicky errors, that though ultimately of little relevance nonetheless show Collins is incapable of getting easy to check facts correct. Popper is unconcerned. “Who cares about ‘one hit wonders’ references,” he says. “That’s all fine with me. I have trouble picturing us with any hits really.”
A quick search on twitter reveals some of the exchanges between Popper and Forrest Rutherford, the guy behind @assbott making the accusations in The Daily Beast. Hundreds of tweets come up (which @assbott himself described as “trolling” in an eight-day series of posts last September). In that spree he tweeted “I’m trolling you because you let Hanson and Bowling For Soup be on your last album” at least nine times by my count.
The tweets above and below are just a small sample for example of the trolling of @blues_traveler’s twitter by the @assbott account. Forrest is also known to have trolled @blues_traveler from his @nasboat account, which has since been suspended, and most recently @nasboatOG.
Every day between September 22nd and September 29th the @assbott account tweeted repeatedly at @blues_traveler. The quantity and automated nature of the tweets, many of them off-topic replies, suggest they were sent by a bot set up to troll Popper. For instance, when Blues Traveler tweeted a live Periscope video of one of their concerts assbott immediately replied, “What idiot named it a plunger and not a john popper?” When Blues Traveler tweeted a video of Popper on Jimmy Kimmel Live! with then vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine assbott immediatly replied, “Do you still get short of breath when masturbating?”
With at least 65 tweets like this on September 29th alone, all were variations or copies of these:
Other users also joined in Rutherford’s trolling of Popper from @assbott and his other accounts. For his part, John often replies to taunts like these with the Blues Traveler’s twitter account and has blocked many twitter users. This escalated on John’s end the afternoon of July 14th. Popper twice tweeted Forrest’s street address, along with several comments on those tweet (“Sorry it had to come to this…”, a still from Forrest Gump, a screen shot of Rutherford’s Facebook profile image, “perfectly legal available info…”). Popper also posted on his personal Facebook account a message that included Forrest’s first and last name and read in part, “he has been stalking me foryears&has been trolling me for ever…please invite him to stop…” When Forrest and other twitter users accused Popper of inciting violence Popper repeatedly rejected the claim. “I don’t condone that in any way,” he tweeted that night, before pleading for Forrest to “cease all contact w/me for all time…” Soon after Popper deleted his Facebook post and both of his tweets containing Forrest’s home address from earlier that afternoon, and reiterated that he wished him “no harm” and that Forrest would not “harass any more.”
When Forrest started in again on July 18th, Popper tweeted Forrest’s hometown and street name in separate tweets (but not his street address). When Forrest started in again on July 26th it led to another account tweeting about Popper’s wife by name with a link to aerial pictures of Popper’s house connecting to his home on Google and Bing Maps. John replied with a photo of Forrest’s house from Google maps. Between July 26th and July 31st Rutherford antagonized Popper with dozens of more @nasboatOG tweets, many of them since deleted (their former existence evident from Popper’s replies), including a refute of Popper’s accusations, and tweets about the editing of Popper’s wikipedia page and alias “Michael Pornman’s” NSFW trolling of Blues Traveler’s Facebook page.
Since The Daily Beast published Rutherford’s story he has tweeted incessantly about it and the interviews he’s been doing on local TV and radio shows, and is bickering with people on Facebook commenting below CBS-affiliate WKYT’s post that don’t take his side.
A small sampling of his tweets:
- Rutherford “has been the target of a weeks-long targeted harassment campaign propagated entirely by John Popper”
- “Two Fridays ago, Popper posted an aerial photo of Rutherford’s home on Twitter from Google Maps alongside his address.”
- “Then Popper posted Rutherford’s name and address again last week.”
- “Rutherford, who had been posting under a pseudonym until Popper outed his identity weeks ago, said the feud started in 2014.”
Rutherford says it all began with the below tweet, in which Buzzfeed News senior editor Katie Notopoulos mocked Popper’s obesity on twitter, referring to a incident he discussed in the Blues Traveler edition of VH1’s Behind The Music. Commenting on his lifelong battle with weight in the 2001 episode Popper mentioned chest pains he experienced while masturbating. “The odd thing was that ten years earlier, being honest about that was helping people,” Popper writes in his autobiography of Notopoulos’ tweet and what followed, “but now it seemed to be some sign of weakness or something to be laughed at. I was trying to go along with the joke…”
Notopoulos’ out of the blue reference to an incident Popper mentioned thirteen years prior – if she wasn’t bringing it up to taunt him for masturbating while fat, what other information did she expect? – sent off a chain of replies, many from Popper himself. He subsequently described his response as his “best attempt at being jovial” in his autobiography. “We all take ourselves so seriously on Twitter that at times it can become a place to have an adolescent-style fight,” he writes. Katie turned his replies into Buzzfeed click-bait contending his responses went too far. Judge for yourself. Below are a few of the initial exchanges between Popper, Notopoulos and Huffington Post’s Karen Geier (there’s also one tweet below from CNBC’s Caroline Moss, at the time an editor for Business Insider). Note that there’s far more interactions than these: it’s been continuing on like this for years with many others joining in (including musician Ted Leo, Noisey/VICE’s Dan Ozzi and freelance political writer Chris Hook; Roseanne Barr also stopped by to say wtf????). The tweets below are provided merely to offer a jist of what went down. Click on the links for more if so inclined (though be aware the context of some of the replies is obscured by tweets that were since deleted either by the user or by the account being suspended, as is the case with Forrest Rutherford’s tweets).
The Daily Beast says “Rutherford jumped into the conversation with some barbs of his own.” The article also includes more recent accusations from Rutherford of Popper, like this one: “He spent a bunch of time using a photo app to Photoshop my pictures and then post them online. He’s done little things like that. Nothing got too crazy until he decided he was going to incite his fans on Facebook.”
Does John agree with Forrest that their exchanges began in the wake of Katie’s tweet? “I believe that’s where he started,” he tells me. “I’m not entirely certain but that sounds about right.” At the time Rutherford was tweeting from twitter.com/nasboat, an account that’s since been suspended. Because of that suspension the tweets that started this all, and many more that followed, are no longer accessible. Evidence of the account’s three year feud with @blues_traveler remains in a screenshot from Cracked and tweets from others accounts’ linking @nasboat (albeit with Rutherford’s tweets missing from the exchanges, making the context of some of the replies impossible):
Forrest is currently tweeting from twitter.com/nasboatOG, an account opened in April 2017, in addition to the @assbott account, which is mostly automated. A July 26th assbot tweet suggesting Popper should “log the fuck off” was deleted on August 1st shortly after it was included in this article (a cache version of the tweet is still readable below). Last year The Daily Beast wrote about assbot trolling Trump and his supporters, including a quote from Rutherford mentioning Popper. The assbott story – like The Daily Beast article yesterday on Forrest’s version of events in his feud with Popper – was written by Ben Collins.
I ask Popper what he sees wrong with The Daily Beast report. “The distortions are in regards to the omission of many tweets they did not include and the fact that it was on a private Facebook stream that Forrest chose to intrude. The timeline was incorrect as is also the number of times. Also that old fight with Buzzfeed, but I covered that in my book.” To clarify, private Facebook accounts do not exist: all profiles are public, even if every individual post on a profile is set to “only me” or “specific friends” privacy settings. I ask John what he means by “private Facebook stream.” Popper says Rutherford posted “on to my personal account” and that interaction “led to his easily findable address that a random third party then researched in that stream.” Popper’s point isn’t that his Facebook account is inaccessible to the public, but that it was through Rutherford posting on his personal profile that information about Rutherford became just a click away. “Forrest’s address was from his Facebook posting,” Popper says. On twitter Rutherford himself claimed a troll account he is somehow related to is responsible for Blues Traveler not allowing guest posts on the band Facebook page and alluded to a version of events concerning Popper’s personal Facebook similar to Popper’s description: “I didn’t really hide my name to begin with, plenty of people knew long before you” “uh yeah I didn’t hide at all, in fact I was a follower of your FB page and ‘liked’ your posts for months before you noticed.” Both John’s version of events and Forrest’s tweets differ from Forrest’s claim to The Daily Beast that “Popper outed his identity.” Regardless of how John acquired Forrest’s address though, tweeting it does break one of twitter’s rules and qualify as doxing as defined by wikipedia (of the most basic sort, not involving the more advanced techniques or programs to acquire IP addresses that some people associate with the term).
Popper and I agreed he would send me a statement to clarify his account of all of this. Shortly thereafter he does. Read it in full below:
“This may go down as one of the dumber uses of social media since recent presidential politics and certainly reflects a stupid persistence in both myself and Mr. Rutherford. I will allow that I am not very sophisticated on twitter but I will also defend my freedom from harassment when I choose to engage in social activity. I certainly wish the same for Forrest, who has sought and is continuing to seek this infamy, despite claiming to want it all to go away. I say it’s a genuine concern for both of us not to act foolish, and while moronic, neither of us revealed anything that wasn’t public record. Had Forrest respected anyone’s wishes or his stated intent, we’d never be talking.
In point of fact, I have in the the past attempted to report Mr. Rutherford and his compatriots when I was myself actually doxed and assailed, as I have been by he and his friends for several years. I have seen my house from space a few times certainly not by my own design. Beyond reporting it I was prepared to accept this harassment as part of the gig. I don’t think I managed to report correctly as I was that inept at tweeting in the first place. However I did clearly and on many occasions ask him to stop communications and he would not.
After blocking him, he would continue to get accounts created by he and his friends to get past the blocks. It got to a point where he would post my immediate location, which was a direct security problem, forcing me to keep track of his obsessive posts of me. He would make clear his attempt to locate what hotel I was in or where my bus was at that moment and how he wished to challenge me to some sort of fight.
Now I don’t wish Forrest any harm…or anyone really, and never have. However after continuing from a twitter handle to assail me on my own Facebook page (not the band’s page, and a clear escalation), I saw no option after repeated warnings he ignored, but to post his identity fully one time. He finally agreed to leave me alone and I took it down. He and his friends then posted a picture of my house. I then returned in kind a picture, one time, of his house off the same publicly available google maps site.
For the record I name search myself to engage people I wouldn’t normally meet on twitter and to tangle with trolls. Some of these tangles become nice relationships. Others are at least entertainment (as one can find on the road when there’s nothing good on TV). I feel that very act invites a troll to say what they will about myself or whatever they wish and I still welcome that on twitter. I will also allow again that I’m bad at likely any social convention. But I sought to separate myself from a person who absolutely would not stop intruding and while I may have felt forced to violate a social convention, I in no way violated the law!
At no time did I wish this person ill, or well really, Forrest doesn’t really matter to me. His getting this Daily Beast article written is amazing to me in it’s entertainment value!
Also unlike Forrest who went so far as to mention family members of mine as some form of intimidation, I have not. Also his ‘bot’ IS shut down which makes this whole exercise not entirely invalid to me. As to the incorrect timeline of events (the incomplete exchange with Buzzfeed’s Katie Notopoulos or Forrest’s escalations) I can only speculate that The Daily Beast is getting it’s revisionist facts from said trolls who can only enjoy the fame – or rather infamy – this causes. And to Forrest and anyone else who can scrape that together, I must say, ‘Slow news day’…and not bad!”
Popper also replied to tweets about the situation on twitter
(…then Smash Mouth weighed in that John was “the funniest man on the planet”):