Monday, April 21, 2014

Of flying triangles and internet trolls...

I rarely publish things of a personal nature on this blog, but there is a concern I must address, even at the risk of inciting the troll.  

It's not often in this life you discover that someone truly hates you, absolutely despises you with a passion that burns for over twenty years.

It's a given as we go through our lives we make enemies or come across people we rub the wrong way, but it's rare when someone makes it their life's work to be more than a pebble in ones shoe and actually makes it their quest to tell the world at every opportunity that you are a fake, a phony, a con-man and a fraud.

I understand dislike, disagreement and even disgust for someone, but obsession and cyber-stalking I do not. This comes from a man I have never met.
For the sake of this article, I'll spare you his name, but if you are a radio monitoring enthusiast you'll know him as "Hooligan."

It all started many years ago when I was a contributing writer for Monitoring Times magazine.

I had a monthly column called "The Fed File" and also contributed semi-montly articles, mostly on military and aviation monitoring.

My column and writings were very popular and prompted a call from Tom Harrington at Universal Radio who asked me if I'd be interested in authoring a book on monitoring called "The "Comprehensive Guide to Military Monitoring."

As a writer specializing in military aviation communications I had amassed a great deal of information on the (albeit esoteric) subject and agreed with Tom it would be a cool idea to put all this info into one book for us military monitoring enthusiasts.

In addition to the information I had collected, Tom sent me other books on the subject they had in their catalog and asked that I collate all the information within to make the book truly comprehensive. 

It was our goal to cover every part of the military radio frequency spectrum from VLF to UHF. I also sent out requests to every Air Force & Naval base in the CONUS for their base guides and I also bought DOD/DMA aviation flip-chart and maps to dig through for any ATC or discrete frequency information.

While Talking with Tom, he mentioned that he liked the format of one book in their library (Monitoring The Military by Daryl Symington) a 120 pager - published by Radio Info Systems in 1990. He said, "The book should have a base-by-base profile with a list of frequencies to go with it. I want it to be like MTM, but better. 

I suggested we add a bit of history and information about the base, units, maps and published and unpublished frequencies. He agreed.

Armed with my info and my instructions, I set about writing The Comprehensive Guide To Military Monitoring. 

It was written and completely designed on (then state of the art) Macintosh clone called a Performa 650. We didn't just write the book, we paginated it so it would be print ready.

It was a daunting task, especially in light of the fact that while in the middle of the writing, the military airwaves (especially those on HF) were restructured. Eighty percent of what I had spent a year, writing had to suddenly be thrown out.

In late 1993 the book (almost 300 pages) was finally finished. I sent it to Tom for review, knowing it still needed some serious editing. However, he gave it a quick once over and said "It's fine." and immediately went to press with it.

When it was included in the Universal catalog it sold very well, despite (to me) some glaring flaws.

However, its publication did cause some problems. 

The magazine I wrote for (Monitoring Times) was not happy. Although I had approached them many times to write a book for them, they had turned me down since they didn't have the budget for it.

They had recently taking a bath trying to create their own super-duper communications receiver (which they had sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into development of) without every producing a single radio for sale.

Needless to say, they were not pleased when my book came out and our relationship soured. It was evident they were unhappy from their published lukewarm review.

About that time "Hooligan" began writing letters to Monitoring Times crying foul. 

 As far as I can remember, he didn't write Universal Radio or me but only MT. 

Apparently his big gripe was that I had plagiarized Symington's book. I don't know if he was a friend of Daryl Symington or what - but Hooligan took it on himself to bring what he thought was a great injustice to the attention of Monitoring Times. They passed his letters on to me and they were largely ignored since they were both sometimes profane and rambling.   

I'll note here that neither Monitoring Times, Universal Radio or myself ever heard anything from Daryl Symington claiming I had ripped off his book - but MT heard plenty from Hooligan.

Since then. Hooligan had apparently made it his life's mission to trash every word I wrote. 

We knocked heads more times than I can count on many radio forums but soon I got bored of reading his rants and chalked them up to the ravings of what we called back then a "Internet Nazi" someone who felt slighted for some reason and had to exact revenge. 

I will admit his rants did have an effect on me, and it kept me from being very active on any of the Internet radio-monitoring forums, something I really enjoyed, but ended up opting out because of Hooligan's continued barrage of insults and accusations.

One of his major rants was about a article that was published in Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine concerning the now infamous "donut-on-a rope" contrail sighting I had in 1992.

I'll quote the article written originally by William Scott, the west coast editor for Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine.

"A link between the sightings of the donut-on-a-rope contrail and the reports of distinctive sounds was established in a sighting on 23 March 1992 near Amarillo, Texas. Steven Douglas took a series of pictures of the contrail, describing the engine noise as a strange, loud pulsating roar... unique... a deep pulsating rumble that vibrated the house and made the windows shake... similar to rocket engine noise, but deeper, with evenly timed pulses."

In addition to providing the first photographs of the distinctive contrail previously reported by many, the significance of this sighting was enhanced by Douglas's reports of intercepts of radio transmissions:

"Air-to-air communications... were between an AWACS aircraft with the call sign "Dragnet 51" from Tinker AFB, Okla., and two unknown aircraft using the call signs "Darkstar November" and "Darkstar Mike." Messages consisted of phonetically transmitted alphanumerics. It is not known whether this radio traffic had any association with the "pulser" that had just flown over Amarillo."

Hooligan immediately jumped on many forums crying foul again over the veracity of the radio transmissions, stating the DARKSTAR call sign was common to a NORAD AWACS and any fool should have known that.

And you know what - he's absolutely right, but what he chose to ignore was the key sentence, "It is not known whether this radio traffic had any association with the "pulser" that had just flown over Amarillo."

Hooligan beat that tired drum for a decade as proof that I knew nothing about military monitoring.

Initially it bothered me - but after making my point on various forums that he was wrong, I let it slide. Later on I realized it was a waste of energy and I was allowing him to get under my skin a little too much.

I also realized in the long run, he wasn't having much luck convincing anyone I was the charlatan and the fake he claimed I was and in fact his rants were having the opposite effect making himself look like a stalker and a loon.

Don't get me wrong. Hooligan is not an idiot. He is a ham radio operator who lives in southern Utah and has more than considerable knowledge on the subject.

However, as far as I know, he's never published a book or written an article but prefers to just lurk on the radio hobbyist forums.

That said, although I'd like to think I'm special and the only target of Hooligan (and believing in the old journalism adage; "If you aren't pissing someone off - you are probably doing it wrong." I have recently learned I am not.

I've found many rants on many subjects where Hooligan thought he had the need to set the record straight and tear some poor hobbyist a new one by jumping on them for one reason or another.

After all, as he states on his Radio Reference profile he is the "King Of All Monitoring" with his avatar being a police badge.

It's obvious Hooligan thinks of himself as a radio-monitoring hobbyist cop of sorts and is protecting the innocent from the likes of posers like me.

As a result, I drifted away from the forums and began my own blog (Deep Blue Horizon) and wrote articles for other magazines such as Popular Science and Aircraft Illustrated, wrote two novels, did a couple dozen TV shows and concentrated on writing about my other favorite obsession, covert military technology.

I was (and will always be) a rabid radio-monitoring hobbyist and in fact, it's an important part of my income. 

I work for a local TV station as a stringer, listening to police, fire and emergency calls and reporting what I hear to the station. I also have a twitter feed, FB group and breaking news blog called The Pro News 7 Situation Room, which has become a great success.

Then recently (and quite accidentally) as I and some friends were having lunch at our favorite airport we photographed three aircraft flying in formation that had never been seen before. Flying in broad daylight were three perfect flying triangles. I also had managed to snag (possibly) related radio traffic coming from the mystery flight.

The photos (taken by two photographers and witnessed by 4 persons) were sent to Guy Norris and Bill Sweetman (not William Scott as Hooligan ascertains) at Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine as were links to the scanner audio I had captured.

The photos were passed around at Aviation Week and among select people who analyzed them. It was determined we had photographed something new, something real and something unacknowledged by the Pentagon. 

Every effort was taken to determine if the objects flying could have been something else, maybe B-2s photographed at weird angle or a drone but the aircraft couldn't be identified and in fact the public affairs office at Whiteman AFB said there were no B-2s flying on that day.

If indeed the radio traffic I recorded was coming from the threesome, it raised the very real possibility that what we had photographed was manned. 

However, even though the communications were captured on a discrete military frequency and at the same time as the sighting it's something that's impossible to actually prove for obvious reasons. 

I discussed the implications of the revelation that the USAF was flying a hitherto unknown manned stealth aircraft with select friends, aviationistas and writers. 

They advised me that once the word got out, I'd better have all my ducks in a row because there would be those who would do their best  including the Pentagon) to shoot down the story and discredit you. This advice came from an expert who was well aware of what was in  Disinformationists Playbook because he had helped write it.

"I hope you are prepared for the shit-storm to come." one "interceptor said.

I was.

Once the story was published, they were right and all hell broke loose.

It went viral really quick. 


The national and international press and even local media began echoing Bill Sweetman's story and the clamor began.

I began reading the comments and speculation on the various aviation forums. The opinions ranged wildly, some downright bizarre. Onw theorized they were UFO's or Chinese stealth spy planes, others (as I expected) theorized they were just B-2s photographed at an unusual angle, until the read that a spokesman for Whiteman AFB said there were no B-2s flying at the time.

As I had planned, I delayed posting the photos and the recordings on this blog until the speculation had reached a fever pitch. 

I also didn't post because I was expecting Hooligan to pop up and try ad shoot the whole story down.

I wasn't disappointed. 

This comment soon appeared on the Aviation Week story;

"Sweetman & Steve Douglass have a longtime symbiotic (or parasitic) relationship. Douglass magically see & hears things which he attributes to being part of "black" programs, and Sweetman eagerly publishes, speculates & pontificates on it. It usually still adds-up to nothing new factually.

Amazing how Douglass comes up with grainy photos, but claims of associated radio traffic-often with very specific dialog -- isn't backed up by any recordings. Back in the day he was affectionately known as 'Dark Star Douglas' due to the claim (published in AW&T) that he intercepted some sort of 'black' aircraft using the Darkstar callsign (which in reality was & is a standard E-e AWACS back end crew callsign prefix."

I was pleased to see someone post unsolicited; "HIS REAL NAME" is a serial troll who exists to slander Douglas - who has not worked on anything much with Sweetman in the last 20 years. So this post means as much as the witterings of any troll."

And then on a Houston Chronicle story I found this anonymous comment with Hooligan's fingerprints all over it.

> DarkstarPapa: Where is the 'audio', Steve?? Produce it.

Folks, Steve Douglas is a known fraud when I comes to speculating on secret aircraft. He is infamous within the radio community for falsifying comms intercepts and doctoring photos of so-called black aircraft to promote his website and books. You need to treat this with the upmost skepticism based on his past track record. Aviation week should know better than to publish his fantasy stories

Again I laughed and again I was pissed, a strange combination of feelings. I knew this was coming - but I didn't realize Hooligan was so obsessed with me to the point he felt compelled to comment on as many stories as he could find to trash my name on. His "Steve Douglass is a fraud" posts began sprouting up like weeds across the internet landscape. 

I then posted my account along with the audio recordings.

You can read it here: 

I (again) was pleased to see someone go to my defense.

@DarkstarPapa - You realize that it's likely you've committed libel. Steve Douglass is a well-known and respected journalist in Amarillo. His colleagues here respect his ethics and his talents. He has helped break local stories because of his acumen with radios. Aviation Week has work with him a long time as well. You better be able to back up your assertion of Douglass being a "known fraud."

If you had any guts, you'd come out from behind your screen name. I'll sign this so I am not anonymous.

George Schwarz, publisher and editor

The Amarillo Independent

I couldn't help but reply:

AmarilloPublisher - I know exactly who DarkstarPapa is. He's a radio monitoring hobbyist known as "Hooligan" but his real name is --- never mind outing him he just wants the attention. "Hooligan" has a problem. He's made it his mission to "out Steve Douglass as a fraud" since the early 90s when I wrote for Monitoring Times Magazine. It wouldn't matter if I posted the sky was blue - because in Tim's mind - I has to be green because I must be lying.

Somehow he's made this leap in logic that because I'm a published author I must be making this stuff up for the money. But as you know - I'm not exactly living on easy street. It's hardly worth the effort to respond to his accusations because he's hides behind the anonymity of the internet, however I just ask that you read the story behind the story on my blog.

FYI: There were a total of four witnesses to these aircraft and dozens of photographs taken by two photographers. It's not impossible to fake but pretty improbable. There's also much more to the story than you are privy to. They were scrutinized by experts and not only at Aviation Week. Sources were called and information was vetted. The raw images are also available to interested accredited journalists to do their own analysis. As for my blog - I won't post the address because it's easy to find. Just Google my name - which unlike DarkstarPapa I'm not afraid to use.

Last night I began thinking about Hooligan and because I'm analytical I tried to understand just why would someone develop an obsession like this? 

I wasn't worried about my reputation. I was intrigued and wanted to understand what was really behind Hooligans' still simmering hate for me.

I was also motivated by family and friends who expressed a growing concern for me because it seems like "Hooligan" was becoming close to being a serial stalker.

So, I asked myself these questions:

Did I have something to fear and what exactly compels people like Hooligan in their obsessions?

At the risk of inflaming the situtaion, I decided to do some research, on both Hooligan's motives and the stalker mentality.

An article published in the New York Times gave me insight.

Dr. Kristine K Kienlen a psychologist who evaluates criminals and patients who are mentally ill and dangerous wrote, "stalkers are wreaking havoc in the lives of millions of Americans. 

Every year, a recent national study by the Justice Department disclosed, an estimated one million women and 400,000 men are plagued by unrelenting pursuers who harass, terrorize and in some cases kill the victims or anyone else deemed to be in the way of a stalker's desired goal. 

That wasn't comforting.

The extent of the stalking problem and its potential for growth through cyberstalking has astonished even the most astute researchers in the field and prompted a call for stronger laws and stricter enforcement of existing statutes to better protect the victims of stalkers, even when there is no direct threat to their physical safety.

"Stalkers simply do not fade away," said Rhonda Saunders, Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles and head of the Stalking and Threat Assessment Team.

Dr. Doris M. Hall, a specialist in criminal justice at California State University at Bakersfield, wrote; "Sometimes stalkers seem to pick their victims because of some imagined slight,

Had I somehow slighted Hooligan? I decided to delve deeper.

I looked at past arguments archived on the Internet and began to see a common thread.

I now believe Hooligan feels personally wronged by me over the publication of my book and the fact that he thinks it was a plagiarization of Monitoring The Military by Daryl Symington.

I don't know what the connection is between Daryl Symington and Hooligan - or if there is one but apparently Hooligan took its publishing very personal when (in his eyes) my book showed similarities to Monitoring The Military.

Letters he sent to Monitoring Times and texts and Internet conversations all point to this. Hooligan feels wronged and has been carrying a grudge for over twenty years!

So what do I do? Apologize?

Not hardly - according to studies it would have no effect and could maybe aggravate the situation (as this post could very well do) but I've decided to write about it anyway just in case something happens.

And besides, I've done nothing wrong.

The Comprehensive Guide To Military Monitoring reads like a phone book. I don't know of any phonebook companies getting their panties in a wad since they all follow the same format.

However, I really don't believe Hooligan will leave southern Utah looking for me and try and settle an old score.

Kienlen goes on to say she had encountered three kinds of attachment disorders among stalkers.

1: The "preoccupied" stalker has a poor self-image but a positive view of others and constantly seeks their approval and validation in order to feel good about himself. When rejected by others, the person stalks to restore his sense of self.

2: The "fearful" stalker has a poor self-image as well but also sees others as unreliable and unsupportive. The stalker tends to get caught in a vicious cycle of wanting someone to boost his own self-image, then rejecting the person for not being trustworthy, which prompts the person to stalk because he again needs someone to boost his sagging ego.

3: The "dismissing" stalker thinks of other people as jerks and usually remains distant from them to maintain an inflated self-image.

My guess is Hooligan is the third type.

Hooligans' pattern has always been the same, he posts and then retreats back inside the anonymity of the internet.

"My theory is that in these vulnerable individuals, suffer from damage to their sense of self-worth," Dr. Kienlen said. "To alleviate their feelings they compensated by focusing on stalking."

Although I do not believe I have anything to fear, my family does. My guard is up and I have people looking out for me.

However, it is what it is and it is having an effect even as going so far as to prompt me to write about it on my blog, which some thought I shouldn't do.

But I feel it's important to have it out there, on the un-eraseble internet just in case Hooligan decides to take it up a notch.

But still, it won't stop me from doing what I love to do - which is listen and write and post.

"Hooligan" if you are reading this (and I'm sure you will) I'm sorry if you feel slighted or wronged, but it's time to put that burden down.

In the long view of things, it's time you realize that I  (and many others) really don't care what you think about me but when it causes concern among my friends and family, I have to take notice.

I also need to serve you notice,that  I do know who you are, where you live and so does my lawyer.

Your tirades and rants have become so predictable that I even know how you will respond to this post, in so much  that within my circle of friends we have a side bet on which words you are going to use. I'll make an extra $5 if you use the words "Stevie" misspell my name or accuse me of self importance or whining.

Wikipedia defines an Internet Troll as "a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people,[1] by posting inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[3] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[4]

This sense of the word troll and its associated verb trolling are associated with Internet discourse, but have been used more widely. Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment. For example, mass media has used troll to describe "a person who defaces Internet sites with the aim of causing grief to families."[5][6]

In closing, if that was Hooligan's aim - to cause concern among my friends and family - this post is proof he has accomplished his goal. He has my attention now and he's made his point.

Now that he has, I suggest he get on with his life or move on to harassing someone else - but I seriously doubt he will.

-Steve Douglass 


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