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POLITICAL PUNCH SPURS BLOG BRAWL
Interviews with participants indicate the dispute isn't that clear-cut.

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Date published: 2/27/2007

BY MICHAEL ZITZ

It was the punch heard 'round the blogosphere.

On Feb. 17, a Fredericksburg man with fervent anti-war feelings sought out, confronted, and is accused of assaulting a "College Republican" at the University of Mary Washington for supporting the war in Iraq.

The tale of pacifist passion boiling over provided juice for political Web sites on both the right and the left. One conservative blogger cited it as an example of how hatred of President Bush is driving liberals to extremes.

Interviews with the participants indicate the dispute isn't that clear-cut.

The man accused in the attack refuses to call himself a Democrat but acknowledges that his actions were "dumb."

The "pro-war Republican" who was attacked says he isn't an active member of the campus political group and no longer strongly supports the war. One of his roommates, whowas the first to be punched, describes himself as a liberal Democrat.

Their stories offer a cautionary tale about the danger of putting too much personal information on the Internet, about the corrosive nature of debate in the blogosphere, and about what can happen when people jump to conclusions as quickly as they click from one Web site to another.

A plan to confront

Andrew Jefferson Stone, a 23-year-old Mary Washington alumnus, didn't know Reed Pannell, a UMW junior from Sterling.

Stone said he found Pannell's name and address by doing a Facebook search for College Republicans in Fredericksburg. Stone made a list, then started going door to door with Army recruiting materials.

His plan was to ask those on the list if they support the war--and if so, why they weren't fighting in it.

Pannell, 20, said he listed "College Republicans" as one of his activities on his Facebook profile, even though he said he doesn't even attend the UMW group's meetings.

He said he wasn't concerned at the time about openly providing his home address on the profile. "All I was worried about was people showing up unannounced to party," he said.


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'Violence and harassment and intimidation'

Conservative columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin contended in an interview that because of President Bush's Electoral College victory in 2000 and the war in Itaq, "On many college campuses, there's been this [liberal] spillover and this frustration" compounded by "inability to articulate arguments against the war, arguments against conservative principles ... The only ways in which the left has to fight back are violence and harassment and intimidation.

You see that with attacks on ROTC offices across the country, attacks on conservative speakers [on campuses]."

'Flame war'

"I regret using a racial slur in a political bullentin board flame war," Andrew Stone said.

"I have serious [political] problems with Israel, and I feel that even legitimate criticism of that nation is stifled by our media ..."

'Everybody knows the liberal blogosphere is way cooler'

"I don't really care about Michelle Malkin and the conservative blogosphere," Andrew Stone said. "First of all, everybody knows the liberal blogosphere is way cooler, and though there are exceptions, they generally don't spend this much time talking about a 23-year-old college grad with three misdemeanor assault charges pending."

Stone said he's received a number of emails from readers of Malkin's conservative blog: "I generally delete them without reading, though the ones I have read usually read something like, 'Try coming to MY house and doing this--you'll be sorry,' signed, Anonymous'."

'I'd rather not hurt the label'

Andrew Stone declined to confirm that he's a Democrat. "I'd rather not hurt the label of any political persuasion that my opinions may relate to by identifying too closely with it," he said.

'They all laughed'

Patrick Brooks-Kinney, a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran and UMW freshman from Springfield who served as an Army sergeant and is friend of Andrew Stone's, said he doesn't believe he went to Reed Pannell's house to pick a fight. "He's too smart for that," he said.

He said he agreed with Stone's assessment that those who support a war should be willing to fight in it, but that he advised Stone not to proceed when told of his plans to "recruit" Republicans.

Stone said that he went to an Army recruiter's office to pick up the pamphlets and said he was "going to help them out by recruiting college Republicans. They all laughed."

'An interesting job'

Andrew Stone, who wants to become a filmmaker, works for the Capitol Police in Richmond, getting arrested again and again in training drills.

"We act out different scenarios," he said. "The last time I went they had me run at trainees with a rubber knife and they shot me with paintball ammunition rounds. It's an interesting job."

'That's what happens'

Reed Pannell has maintained a sense of humor about the incident. He said his parents are politically progressive and that when he told his father what happened, Rick Pannell teased his son: "See, that's what happens.

That's what happens [when you're a Republican]."

Andrew Stone said his parents, who live in Vienna, Va., found out about his arrest from Fox News--at least indirectly. He said his uncle saw it on the cable news channel and called them.

"Silence on the left" "I've seen enough of this type of person in far left politics to think that it's the politics that drive the behavior," Michelle Malkin said in an interview. "There are certainly unhinged people everywhere. Pro-life fanatics bomb abortion clinics. [But] Those cases are extremely rare. And pro-life people everywhere loudly condemn those [acts]. What I notice is a lot of silence on the left when these fanatics go wild. They'll make an excuse, or rationalize the behavior."