From Douchebag to Teabugger: The Joe Basel Story
It's been called the "Louisiana Watergate"--four conservative activists infiltrated the office of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and fiddled with her phone. They claim it was stunt journalism, but federal authorities are taking it considerably more seriously--the so-called "teabuggers" have been charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony, which could net them serious prison time.
Soon after the scandal broke, it emerged that one of the four Teabuggers was local boy Joe Basel, a product of the University of Minnesota-Morris, where he cut his teeth as a conservative agitator by founding the conservative paper The Counterweight as well as plastering the campus with posters that said "
While that caper was unquestionably the lowlight of Basel's nascent career as a college provocateur, we have recently attained a veritable treasure trove of U of M-Morris memories of Joe Basel from his classmate, Donavon Cawley.
I can think of dozens of capers that Joe got himself involved in, though the greatest of these was probably the infamous "End Racism" debacle that you have already reported on. But what people must understand is that these are not isolated incidents, but indicative of a greater campaign being haphazardly waged by this man to expose the greater liberal conspiracy against young, educated, conservative men such as himself, and along the way, become a martyr for the conservative movement as well. Compelled by the misguided belief that he was some sort of conservative guerrilla warrior, Joe had long ago embarked upon a very self-destructive path of stunts, capers, and shenanigans, the results of which have now landed him in the big house. Can't say I'm surprised.
Anyway, back in February 2005, Joe was a writer for the University Register. There were a lot of accusations at the time of the UR being a radical leftist social club, and the editor-in-chief wanted to nip this notion in the bud by hiring some conservative staff writers to contribute to the news and opinion sections of the paper.
One of the stories he was assigned to write was on the University's lobby day. Like anything fit to print in a college newspaper, it was supposed to be a fluff piece; something congratulating all of the students who drove down to the capital and spoke to their legislators on behalf of the U. Throw in a picture of Pounce the UMM Cougar posing with Bob Bruininks, and you have yourself an above the fold story! Joe, however, had his own agenda. I quote:
Not to pretend that partisan politics isn't alive and well in St. Paul. According to one Morris lobbyist, "Senator Dean Johnson, Majority Leader of the Senate, was extremely rude and verbally stated that none of the legislators were going to listen to the college kids in the capital. He also shared his belief that all college students are about drinking and partying. All this animosity was inserted between snide comments about the Governor and his cronies."
Joe Basel, "Students Converge on Capital to lobby for funds," The University Register, 2/24/2005
More Joe Basel
I mean, aside from the grossly libelous nature of the quote, this was just bad journalism. Bad writing, even. What, they couldn't remember Sen. Johnson's exact quote, so they just quoted a guy who kind of remembered what he said? It's lazy. It's stupid. It's irresponsible. Truly, such an efficient transformation of slander into libel has never before been accomplished before Joe Basel came to town. Not only was this guy was a master at making bad decisions, but we would soon realize that he was indeed a master at getting other people to take responsibility for them.
Sen. Johnson was understandably enraged by this clumsy attempt at character assassination, and threatened to sue the newspaper, the U, and anyone else who had come within ten feet of this article, including Basel himself. There were even calls inside of the school administration to, as a show of good faith to the senator, completely shut down the newspaper.
Joe, of course, was unphased by all of this. This was exactly what he wanted: to cause a ruckus. He knew that the newspaper would protect him and his "source," if for any other reason but to just save face.
The money shot
And protect him we did. The editor at the time defended the article, refused to print either apology or retraction, and didn't even give up Joe's "source." Joe asserted that the quote was accurate, and that was good enough for the editor. You see, we didn't throw one of our own under the bus whenever shit hit the fan, and when one of our writers came under attack by the powers that be, we'll send our heavy hitters up to bat for them.
And then at the end of the year, Joe poached all of our conservative-minded editors and writers, and founded a conservative news magazine called The Counterweight, under the auspices of balancing out the left-leaning tendencies of the University Register. It appeared, by all accounts, that the far-left University Register just couldn't be bothered to give conservatives like Joe Basel a voice in the local college media. If only we had reached out to the conservative community on campus. If only we had given him a chance.
And all we could think back in the newspaper offices was, "You know what, Joe? Fuck you, too."
That isn't all. There were several more capers contained in the email that we are aggressively reporting, and we are seeking contacts with anyone and everyone who worked with Our Boy Basel at the U of M-Morris student newspaper.
If you know Basel, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.