The controversial legacy of Rep. Dan Gordon—a troll reborn
Daniel P. Gordon, Jr. is a "soulless" politician—and that's by his own admission.
The Rhode Island state representative has been many things in his time: a carpenter, a businessman, an inmate, and an advocate. In fact, he’s more of an Internet troll than a politician, alternating antagonizing and assisting the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous—depending on his mood at the time.
At the moment, he’s simply alone. The 43-year-old lawmaker has been abandoned by the Republican party—though he insists he "left the [Republican House Minority] caucus months before" the party disavowed him, in May of 2011 to be specific—bringing a temporary end to one of the weirdest political runs in recent memory.
“In the just shy of two years I've served in my term, I've learned so much more about what's real, what is not, what is bullshit, what is truth,” Gordon told the Daily Dot during one of two hour-long conversations. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of what the general public is fed by the government and their cohorts, the mainstream media, is all a lie.”
A former Marine who cites “Liberty or Death” as his personal motto, Gordon originally entered politics on a DIY impulse.
“When I first decided to run, I had never had aspirations for political office, ever,” said Gordon, who cited President Andrew Jackson as his prime political influence. “I'm a carpenter, owned a small business. But when I found out that my current state representative was leaving the seat to run for a U.S. congressional seat and that the Democrat candidate was going to walk into the seat—and I know the man, I didn't want him to be my representative—so, having the time and ability to run, I did so and I won. I just didn't want that guy to be my rep.”
For voters more concerned about their tax burdens than their inmate overflow problem, Gordon has had a decent run, co-sponsoring numerous bills to reduce taxation and oversight, including one to force the State Assembly website to post the voting records of all legislators within 24 hours of the vote and another to rename a local bridge to honor veterans.
Most of his motions, Gordon pointed out, were to repeal existing laws. “Part of running was to use the bully pulpit,” he said. “Legislation is extremely time-consuming if you do it properly. Most of my bills were to repeal bad laws. The average was 19 bills introduced by each lawmaker [per session], and with 110-plus legislators it adds up quickly.”
Gordon’s first term, however, will be remembered not for what he did in office, but for what he did online. He first came to national attention New Year’s Eve, tweeting Anonymous catchphrases from his official account.
‘IIf the Rhode Island media doesn't spread the word about #NDAA you are more than guilty. We are Legion. Expect us,” he wrote.
The Anonymous community was in shock, then curious. When various Anons challenged him on it, he elaborated “I understand that #ANON #occupy may be suspicious. Rightly so, being screwed by pols 4 so long. I am real. I am Legion. We are Freedom.”
And suddenly, whether he was Legion or not, he was news.
“I'd been following Anonymous and had been a fan since Project Chanology [Anonymous’ anti-Scientology actions, primarily in 2008],” Gordon revealed to the Daily Dot. “It was fascinating to see this group of individuals who didn't identify by any name unified against a particular group that they were adamantly opposed to.
”One of the first people I met on Twitter went by the handle Doxcake [a Cabin Cr3w member] who has since disappeared but was always kind to me despite the title in front of my name, answered questions, and vice versa, which gave me more of an inroads to Anon Family despite the naysayers who were in opposition.”
Gordon didn’t always play nice with Anonymous, though. He once deliberately picked a fight on Twitter in a bizarre string of events that started with Roseanne Barr and ended with Gordon tweeting a blatantly sexist comment.
“I've tried to curb my reverse trolling,” Gordon said in retrospect. “I've got better things to do with my time. I'll just hit the block button now, rather than get into situations like that. You can get addicted to it, especially when someone doesn't know the Internet, or trolling. They just keep coming back for more.”
Gordon is in many ways a hard man to pin down online. He’s also played hide-and-seek on social media, constantly switching up his Twitter handle from @RepDanGordon to @Rep_DanGordon, @RepDanGordon_ ,and @RepDan_Gordon, much to the consternation of media outlets trying to dig up his tweets. If they’re looking under the wrong handle, he appears to have been deleted.
“I was doing that at a time when there was a lot of tumult and trolling back and forth, and various individuals posting links and news items besmirching my name,” he said of his antics at the time. “It was more a tactic to throw off those individuals. It was a total onslaught.”
It didn’t take the press long, however, to find out there was plenty of dirt to dig on Dan. He has been charged with attempted murder against a girlfriend, though the charge was later dropped. He’s been convicted of assaults using guns and pool cues, as well as numerous weapons-free assault incidents, leading to several months in jail. There was a warrant out for him in Massachusetts for the misdemeanor charge of “eluding an officer.” Altogether he’s faced 18 charges since 1999, including some during his term in office.
Then there’s the charge he exaggerated his military record. There is no dispute about the fact that Gordon served in the Marines as an aircraft technician from 1987 to 1991, but the records show he was deployed domestically and overseas to Japan only. There is no documentation that backs up his claim that he received a shrapnel wound a few miles south of Baghdad during the First Gulf War or that he was ever deployed to Iraq at all. (Gordon counters that the records are incomplete and inaccurate).
Gordon hasn’t shied away from the controversy. He explained to a local radio host that after serving in the Marines and suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and a deepening depression, he became a functioning alcoholic and lost control of his life, which led to the assaults and accompanying drama.
“In a way I'm grateful for a lot of those experiences now that I am stable (others might differ) because I've been there, I've done that,” Gordon told the Dot. “I've been in jail. I know what it's like. And I think a lot of those experiences made me a better legislator. They're taking away rights from prisoners; they don't understand the conditions there. And I'm here to testify, been there, done that and it ain't what you read in the newspapers.”
Gordon’s days as a legislator, however, are numbered.
The Providence Journal reported that he failed to garner the needed signatures to stand for re-election as a Republican, due in part to redistricting. Gordon contemplated running as Libertarian, but he ultimately decided to leave politic altogether. (These days, he identifies with Anarcho-Capitalism.)
“I think I'd be more effective as an activist,” said Gordon, who claimed to have been effectively muscled out by Brian Newberry, who wanted to be the leader of the Republican caucus. “I did what I could while I was in but the tide is too much to turn back from the inside.”
Where to from here for the nation’s most controversial state representative? The answer is both unexpected and, in retrospect, completely inevitable: Talk radio.
Gordon has a new job as a station manager at the Accent Radio Network (ARN), a “Christ Centered” radio network dedicated to family-oriented content. Gordon claimed he initially approached ARN about hosting a show and was offered the broader job of getting the station back on track.
“The show itself is about pretty much all the stuff I blabber about on Twitter: global events, the lies and manipulation by government in the U.S., and the Anon Army, of course. I have a fantastic cohost, Joe Wolverton, who writes for the New American, a former constitutional lawyer and professor. We're going to call the show The Watchmen.”
Of course they are.
“The experience of going from having worn the uniform of one of the world's most revered fighting forces, to a stumbling, miserable drunk who didn't want to live anymore, to who I am today, despite a few brushes with the law during that person, I was lifted up out of the gutter, I became a new person. Started my own company, ran for public office, have very firm beliefs. I am a solid person, I've got my center now.
“It's been an interesting ride. We're not done yet.”
Update: This story has been updated to clarify that Gordon left the Republican House Minority Caucus in May of 2011. He told the Daily Dot that he garnered the number of necessary votes to run for re-election, but "due to redistricting, some of those signatures had been moved to another district."
Photo via Rhode Island House of Representatives