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|Date: September 2011|
|Yabloko messages leaking |
Rebirth of GUM
Comeback of Robert Lethler
The Yabloko Dossier
|Aldrich Lucas |
Yablokogate was a political controversy that took place during September 2011 within the MicroWiki community surrounding the publication of a report by Robert Lethler which claimed to have uncovered a conspiracy within the Students' Isocratic Oligarchy of Yabloko with the aim of manipulating the MicroWiki community.
The dossier, published by Lethler on the MicroWiki Forum and named the 'Yabloko-Lucas Dossier', demanded the immediate removal of Aldrich Lucas from the MicroWiki staff and the ostracising of Yabloko from the community. Prior to its appearance on the Forum, the document was leaked to members of Tasman-Pacific (commonly known as TASPAC), an organisation of Australian, New Zealand and Indonesian micronations, a few days before it was due to be publicly released, including to A1 Military Intelligence. The members and observers of TASPAC planned to release the dossier and various replies prior to the official public release of the document by Lethler, who had already presented it to the Grand Unified Micronational. However, a log of the TASPAC Skype chatroom was leaked to members of the GUM by Anton Larsson and, following the release of the logs to the community by Lethler, further controversy arose from remarks by Joseph Puglisi, at the time a MicroWiki administrator and an observer in TASPAC. The publication of both the Yabloko-Lucas Dossier and logs from TASPAC caused widespread confusion on the future and the workings of the MicroWiki community at the time.
The term Yablokogate is derived from the Watergate scandal of the United States in the early 1970s, which resulted in the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon. The scandal was dubbed 'Watergate' by the press, after the Watergate complex in which many of the scandal's important events occurred. The suffix -gate is used to embellish a noun or name to suggest the existence of a far-reaching scandal, particularly in politics and government. As a CBC News Online column noted in 2001, the term may "suggest unethical behaviour and a cover-up".
The same usage has spread into micronationalism, and more specifically, in the MicroWiki community in 2009. The adoption of -gate was first promoted with the Eurogate, a controversy surrounding the political system of the Empire of New Europe in June 2009. Subsequently, other names using the same suffix were coined, including Observergate, a journalism scandal involving the St.Charlian Observer that erupted in September 2009. The terms Erusiagate or Lethlergate were also used for describing the collapse of the Democratic People's Republic of Erusia in July 2010, but these terms were used only by a small group of people.
Previous leaking of posts
It is generally accepted that Yablokogate began on September 6 2011, the day that the dossier was published on the MicroWiki Forum. However, from as early as May 2011, several micronationalists, including members of the Grand Unified Micronational, had seen many of the posts later analysed in the dossier. Screenshots of these posts had been leaked by Nicholas Woode-Smith who had previously worked as the Minister for Defence of Yabloko prior to his resignation. The posts were authored by Reborn, the Yablokon Lord Speaker, and were posted on the Yablokon Forum between September 2010 and May 2011. While several micronationalists threatened to make the content of the posts public, nobody did so and the posts were largely dismissed or ignored at the time.
Return of Robert Lethler and rebirth of the GUM
Robert Lethler returned to the community early in the month of August 2011, following the collapse and disgracing of the Democratic People's Republic of Erusia in August 2010. His return, and his several previous temporary returns, were met with controversy. Some micronationalists argued that he should not even be allowed to return, stating that he may "return to power" as an administrator of MicroWiki.
During this time, Lethler began to participate in the community more actively and "examined" the community, understanding that he was in a rather vulnerable position, and that there was growing support for a revival of the GUM from its former members. He learned of accusations involving Yabloko in a private discussion involving another micronationalist and began to ask around for more information on this incident, dating from May 2011. Over the following weeks from early August, when Lethler returned and was informed of the alleged conspiracy concerning Yabloko, to September 7, Lethler worked with several micronationalists, including Bradley of Dullahan, Will Sörgel and Jacob Tierney, on gathering evidence and drafting the dossier.
Meanwhile, while more information was being gathered, Tierney, Sörgel, and the Crown Prince began to gather support for the GUM until a working, constitutional quorum was held on 14 August 2011 which formally refounded the organisation. The refounding of the organisation was silenced and kept secret, as directed in a motion of the GUM Quorum. This was done due to the perceived attitudes of the community towards the GUM at the time and to allegedly protect Joe Foxon, then Vice Secretary-General of the Organisation of Active Micronations, from possible harassment and attacks until the next OAM elections, when it was planned that Foxon could stand down and the GUM could publicly announce its revival. However, this motion would be later violated by Joseph Puglisi of Tiana when he informed TASPAC of the dossier and consequently, the GUM's revival.
The revival of the GUM, contrary to accusations of some at the time of the Dossier's release, was not due to the Dossier, according to the statements of some GUM members. According to these members, it was due to the alleged growing resentment of so-called "Old Guard" micronationalists against a growing display of what was perceived by its members as "unprofessionalism" and a lack of formality. It was also seen as a way to show solidarity with each other in order to "...foster a more professional environment".
Kozuc-Sandus diplomatic incident
Another event which lead to a debate on the "seriousness" of micronations and the subsequent appearance of the Grand Unified Micronational was the "War on Walruses" declared by East Kozuc on August 31, 2011. At 4:00 am UTC Riley Small, President of the People's Republic of Kozuc, posted a message on his personal Facebook page, announcing the beginning of the "War on Walruses", and justifying his Government's decision by jokingly denouncing a "looming West Kozuc illegal walrus trade". At 12:05 am UTC, Will Sörgel of Sandus replied to the post with a statement announcing that East Kozuc could "...expect the derecognition papers later this afternoon".
Small argued that his campaign against walruses was a way to "get citizens", and implied that many other micronations did the same with other "non-serious" laws, such as Molossia. Sörgel then accused Kozuc of "foolishness" and "unprofessionalism". He then added that "...[Sandus] does not need to subject itself to foolishness or nonsense", which were violations of Sandus' foreign affairs regulations. Sandus was due to cut off diplomatic ties with the People's Republic after repeated events in Kozuc that were seen by Sandus as unprofessional, apart from the "War on Walruses" - namely the cold war with Skendal. However, following the dispute, the action was postponed and suspended pending re-evaluation of Sandus' policies and regulations.
The resulting discussion, which lasted until the evening of September 3 and saw the interventions of Daniel Morris of Dorzhabad, John Gordon of Sakasaria, Joseph Puglisi of Tiana and Gordon Freeman of A1, who largely defended Kozuc and attacked Sandus for "imperialist" actions which violated Kozuc's sovereignty over internal legislation. Will Sörgel of Sandus defended Sandus' policies, stating that the message was a "notice" that action would be taken in conformity with Sandus' policies on foreign affairs. Kozuc argued that it had full rights to issue laws and decrees deemed to be "non-serious", and Sandus argued that it had to preserve a policy against micronations which were found to be "...too frivolous or superficial".
On September 9, Sörgel proposed a new policy, following counsel from Marka Mejakhansk of Nemkhavia, concerning Sandus' foreign affairs. He later stated that legislative change was being considered but that one of Sandus' oldest foreign affairs policies may never be changed.
The Yabloko Dossier
Publication on the MicroWiki Forum
At 6.52pm UTC of September 6, Robert Lethler, under the username of 'LivingHistory', posted a topic named "A Grand Conspiracy" on the MicroWiki Forum, outlining the real purpose behind the publication of the dossier. The main authors of the document were Jacob Tierney, Will Sörgel, Anton Larsson, Bradley of Dullahan, and Marka Mejakhansk. Mejakhansk later withdrew his authorship of the dossier as a sign of protest.
Lethler openly accused Yabloko and Aldrich Lucas of having planned to seize control of the MicroWiki Community through their growing influence and Lucas' position within the MicroWiki staff. Moreover, he accused Gordon Freeman, Lucas, Joseph Puglisi and others of creating "...a plot amongst themselves to crush all voices of dissent against Mister Lucas and his supporters", as well as denouncing their attempts to pre-empt the publication of the report through TASPAC by authoring a combined reply in advance. He also accused them of hatching a "massive organised plot...to attack anyone involved in this dossier brutally and without mercy". In his post, two files were published: the initial dossier on Yabloko, and the chat log of a conversation that took place within the TASPAC Skype room hours after the drafting of the report, which was leaked by Anton Larsson to the GUM.
While Lethler's intention was to present the new dossier to forum users, the message posted focused more on criticising TASPAC for the conversation that took place hours before on Skype. In his analysis of the logs, Lethler claimed that Lucas, Hogg and Puglisi's intentions were planning to abuse their authority within the MicroWiki sphere by banning users who supported the dossier. However, the proposal was never taken seriously nor endorsed by any way by either Hogg and Lucas, and was only ever suggested by Puglisi, who wasn't ever a member of TASPAC. Lethler also emphasised the positions of administrators on the MicroWiki as the one of leadership in the MicroWiki community, even though staff members have always claimed it to be a "service" and never a "leadership position".
Jonathan of Austenasia posted soon afterwards at 7:33pm, urging the Community to support the dossier and act against Yabloko on the grounds that "those TASPAC logs are something which I never thought that I would read".
First response of Aldrich Lucas
If I were even remotely interested in manipulating you lot, I would... you know... manipulate you lot. Which I haven't done. At all. Ever. [I know someone who has though.]— Aldrich Lucas' response to the Yabloko Dossier, 6 Sep 2011. The text in brackets was hidden
Aldrich Lucas replied for the first time to the Dossier on the evening of 6 September, hours after the publication of the document. The reply was hurriedly prepared after the unexpected publication of the document during the late hours of 6 September in the AEST timezone. In his response, he directly addressed Lethler, who he accused of not having "any intimate knowledge of the current workings of the community considering he hasn't really interacted with it for the past year" and of "clutching at straws". He also stated that Lethler didn't have the right to comment on the internal affairs of Yabloko, as his own micronation, Erusia, was proven to be completely fake in July 2010.
Lucas stated that the Dossier was "completely inaccurate," as he claimed that the information appearing in the dossier was too old, irrelevant and "...completely taken out of context". He first replied to Lethler's claims that Yabloko is not a real or internally active micronation, citing the fact that most activity takes place outside of the online forum and that Yabloko has more messages in its forum than the ones of St.Charlie and A1 combined. Furthermore, he argued that despite growing inactivity within the government, such issues had already been made public by Lucas himself in the past and were not an issue given similar situations in many other micronations, including staff members.
He then replied to his alleged plan to manipulate of the community, explaining that the suggestions were never put in place or even considered, as the posts were never taken seriously by any other members of the Yablokon Government. Despite the position of Reborn, then within Lucas' cabinet, the comments were denounced as him "pulling stuff out of his arse - he does that a lot, any Yablokon can confirm as much". Reborn later confirmed this in a forum post on the MicroWiki Forum.
Lucas concluded his reply by stating that his position as MicroWiki Administrator is completely separate from his occupation in Yabloko, and that nobody was ever able to "...provide any examples of where I've manipulated the community through my position as an administrator." He acknowledged that it had been jokingly proposed by some others, but "nothing whatsoever came of it."
The only official reply to Lucas' letter was from Alexander Reinhardt, on the same evening. Reinhardt, speaking as MicroWiki Administrator, questioned Lucas on why he spent most of the reply insulting Lethler rather than using the space to specifically reply to the accusations appearing on the Dossier, claiming that despite Reborn not being taken seriously, he was still an "important figure" within the Yablokon political sphere and that his comments had not been denounced or criticised by other Yablokons at the time.
Reactions to Yablokogate
The reactions to the Dossier and the subsequent arguments following the leak of private conversations between TASPAC and GUM officials were varied. The TASPAC logs were seen as more controversial than the Dossier itself by several people, notably GUM supporters.
Impact on the MicroWiki community
Taeglan I Nihilus of the Reylan Imperial Triumvirate commented on the Dossier by claiming it "emphasises the points I made [...] that not only is this community obsessed with influence, but also is far too insular." While some community members condemned the entirety of TASPAC rather than just Yabloko, many replies issued condemnations of both organisations in how they dealt with the Dossier. Barnaby Hands, president of Senya, released a total of two videos during Yablokogate, condemning both TASPAC and the GUM and encouraging an end to the scandal by requesting everyone to "calm down". His message was emphasised by Alexander Reinhardt, who was responsible for the "Keep calm and carry on" video together with Marka Mejakhansk.
The initial reactions of the community to the entire affair were often tainted by the supplication of either inaccurate or misleading information, as many struggled to fully understand and come to terms with the full context and breadth of the situation. There were few compilations of information surrounding the controversy, which resulted in many community members having little or no idea of what was going on. In an attempt to compile information and answer questions on the affair, Gordon Freeman responded to a request from the MicroWiki Forum, setting up a Skype chatroom to "...answer questions" on the situation.
Dismissal of Joseph Puglisi
The publication of the TASPAC logs resulted in the dismissal of Joseph Puglisi of Tiana from MicroWiki staff. In the logs, Puglisi was seen angrily commenting that he wouldn't oppose the ability of the other MicroWiki Admins in the room (Lucas and Hogg) to "ban members they didn't like" in order for Lucas to "assert" his authority over the wiki. However, his remarks were ignored and received no support from any member of TASPAC, and were never treated as an official proposal by TASPAC members. Some alleged that Hogg stated that this may be an issue for "another time", but this was in reference to another totally unrelated comment made at the time and was often misinterpreted given the selective nature of quoting in Lethler's original post. Gordon Freeman, on behalf of TASPAC, publicly stated that the views of Puglisi were not representative of those of the organisation, and Michael Sander also pointed out the fact that he was only an observer in the organisation and did not hold membership. Heinrich Schneider of St.Charlie summed up his view towards Puglisi in his reply to the Dossier, stating that "maybe power got to his head".
Will Sörgel of Sandus brought to attention that Joseph Puglisi had made remarks that he later admitted, and most of the MicroWiki community believed, were "inappropriate and uncalled for". Puglisi had remarked angrily to TASPAC members that "[he] wished Sörgel would just die", and immediately was criticized by TASPAC members, and later the wider community, for this remark, which was considered especially inappropriate for an administrator on MicroWiki.
Anger at the treatment of TASPAC nations by Lethler, Sörgel, Larssen and in particular the Crown Prince saw Sirocco suspend diplomatic relations with Austenasia at 6:50am NZST on 7 September, an action met with much bemusement from Austenasian officials due to the two micronations not having diplomatic relations to suspend. This was followed by the suspension of relations with Tiana at 11:30pm that evening. The suspensions, which ended some days later, were seen as some of the most direct counter-attacks by a TASPAC member aside from Lucas himself.
On 7 September, Alexander Reinhardt motioned for Puglisi's dismissal as a MicroWiki Administrator, citing his "unacceptable behavior". Simultaneously, unaware of Reinhardt's proposal, Puglisi removed himself from his position as administrator and announced his resignation on the MicroWiki Forum. In the same forum post, he announced his move to Micras by accusing the community of having negatively declined since he joined and of willing to put Lethler in power as a leader of the MicroWiki community. Though he requested for nobody to reply directly to his post, despite this, Reinhardt would post a response noting Puglisi's dismissal, and also claimed that his decision to propose his removal was not pushed by third parties, but because of his remarks in the TASPAC room.
The following day, Puglisi posted a message in 'MicroGroup,' a group of micronationalists on Facebook (later reposted on the MicroWiki Forum), where he announced again his intentions to move to the Micras Sector, and apologised for his involvement in Yablokogate, claiming that his words had been taken "waaay [sic] out of proportion" and were "a result of anger if anything, and the illogical and overtly aggressive way I've been acting recently, especially with the way things have been going as of recent in terms of stress." He also stated that he would have accepted to be banned if necessary and publicly apologised for his actions.
Shortly thereafter, Tiana left the St.Charlian Commonwealth on a proposal made by Joseph Puglisi. He was criticized for the lack of notice given to the St.Charlian government before this. His prior actions in Yablokogate are believed by many to have affected his support for leaving the commonwealth.
Effects on TASPAC
With pressure mounting against TASPAC, Anderson, TASPAC's chairman, and A1 representative Gordon Freeman motioned in the TASPAC Skype room for the establishment of a separate forum for TASPAC members and the gradual distancing away from the MicroWiki community. The proposal was met with support from Dranorian representative Jeremy Oakes and Zealandian representative Håkon Lindström. On the evening of September 7, a new forum dubbed "Tasfora" hosted on the A1 website went live, while at the same time TASPAC governments began preparing to leave the community to form their own. Ultimately the crisis died much quicker than expected, and the plans for a shift were abandoned, as was the forum, which became inactive less than a week after it was founded.
On September 8, Siroccan Premier Daniel Anderson said in a statement to the Sirocco Times that "The community is melting down thanks to crafty manipulation by Lethler and Soergel, and now we TASPAC nations are all being painted as evil when indeed we have done nothing wrong". Anderson also reiterated that "There is no dossier outlining our takeover. There is no planned takeover. We merely produced a joint TASPAC response to the accusations outlined by Lethler, and by extension his allies. This has been misconstrued and now we have become an international pariah.”  No mention was made of the proposed TASPAC shift, and indeed it remained a secret to the wider community for many months, being met with surprise when Anderson revealed late in the year how close TASPAC member states had come to leaving.
"Keep calm and carry on"
Soon after the release of the Dossier, at the height of the scandal, rumours of a "microworld war" spread around the MicroWiki Forum, especially by younger micronations. The first one to use the term for Yablokogate was Matthew of Burkland on 6 September, a term which he later rejected. However, the term was later echoed by Westsylvanian head of state Mac Coat, after a heated discussion between Hogg and Sörgel regarding the TASPAC logs and by Barnaby Hands on his video address.
With the sudden (temporary) departure of Daniel Morris of Dorzhabad from the MicroWiki Forum, some more experienced micronationalists decided to post messages on Facebook and Youtube, requesting everyone not to be too scared by the ongoing controversy and to go back to their ordinary work. Marka Mejakhansk of Nemkhavia requested the members of MicroGroup, on behalf of the Federation, to "keep calm, stand fast and wait for this issue to pass - which it will in due course".
In general, Yablokogate caused much confusion among the group of micronationalists who were not involved in any way with the controversy, and even some of those who were involved. As a consequence, and also in order to solve the general bewilderment caused by the involvement of four MicroWiki Administrators in the scandal, a video, "Keep calm and carry on", was published by Alexander Reinhardt on 7 September. In the video, Reinhardt quickly and humorously explained the situation taking place and how people should calm down because "no one is going to die [...] the community is not going to collapse [...] and we're going to find a solution to everything. [...] We need a big community to act together and solve this issue". The video ended with Reinhardt singing a fragment of "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley.
Reinhardt's video was praised by Erephisian Justice Minister, and Broughtopian Monarch Jack Leach, who claimed that "[Reinhardt] acted like a real admin and tried to calm the situation, a true model to represent the community".
As a result of Yablokogate, the Federal Republic of St.Charlie proposed the creation of an independent and neutral commission in order to investigate the documents published during the scandal and eventually provide the MicroWiki community with a solution to all the problems raised by both the Grand Unified Micronational and the Tasman-Pacific.
The original idea was first conceived by St.Charlie on September 8, when Prime Minister Nicolò Alvisi published, on behalf of the St.Charlie Government, a list of proposals to attempt to solve the crisis. The document included, together with a confidence vote on Aldrich Lucas' adminship and reforms to the MicroWiki Staff, the "creation of a neutral and impartial commission" to investigate the Yabloko Dossier, as well as the TASPAC chat logs. Alvisi believed that the ideas raised could not only "stem the tide of conflict in the community, but also ameliorate the community and make it stronger". The proposals received a mostly positive response from forum users, most of who were not directly involved in the controversy.
Other proposals were made in order to attempt solve the crisis through a commission. Gordon Freeman proposed to use the newly-created Intermicronational Court of Law of the Organisation of Active Micronations, but the idea was rejected due to the IMCL's unofficial associations with TASPAC and the absence of a charter. Parker I of Secundomia proposed to let the MicroWiki Community elect the members of the commission, as the document merely proposed the involvement of five experienced and neutral micronationalists. The proposal was not included in the recommendations.
A notable reply, which also started the debate on the neutral commission, was the one from Sebastian Linden of Pristinia, who commented on the reforms to the MicroWiki Administration. However, the topic went back later to the logs issue. James Wilary criticised the commission by alleging that it was judging Yabloko as already guilty. He also argued that the proposals would have violated the privacy of the Yablokon population, a point later shared by Gordon Freeman.
The main criticisms of the commission came from TASPAC members. Hogg, as well as other members of both TASPAC and Yabloko, argued that asking Yabloko to open their forums to the commission would have been an "intolerable intrusion on Yabloko's internal affairs" and pointed out that the GUM was not being investigated in the commission while TASPAC was. Heinrich Schneider, a strong promoter of the commission, replied to Hogg claiming that "if Yabloko is innocent then it has nothing to hide and nothing to fear from the inquiry" and said that the GUM would have been asked for logs too, despite it not being mentioned in the proposal document.
Reborn also intervened in the discussion, accusing the proposal to be "completely biased" and claiming that St.Charlie had "no right to announce any plan of this sort". Reborn received only one reply, by Alexander Reinhardt, who claimed that St.Charlie did have the right to propose the commission, as they were part of the community like many others. Reinhardt also argued that the commission was not requesting to see private information, but rather to prove that the "conspiracy" that Yabloko was accused of never existed.
On September 17, Reinhardt, still working for the establishment of a commission, stated that Yabloko wouldn't have needed to submit any logs to an eventual commission, "as if thy (sic) were to hide something, they could just delete all the posts and then give us access". The decision was later backed by Lucas, who specified that all the evidence needed for an eventual inquiry would have been found inside the dossier published by Lethler, to which he replied twice. The idea of a Commission was eventually abandoned.
Dismissal of Aldrich Lucas
In February 2012, in an incident often mentioned alongside Yablokogate, Aldrich Lucas was dismissed as administrator after vandalizing the MicroWiki forums.
- 'Chaos reigns as "conspiracies" unfold', 7th September 2011
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- MicroWiki Forum Vandalised, Early Signs Point to Lucas