Pepper-sprayed provocateur Patrick Howley: Does he really exist?

This morning, TBD -- OK, what’s left of it -- is going nuts trying to find information on Patrick Howley, the journalistic provocateur who boasted of instigating a half-baked assault on the Air and Space Museum as part of his campaign to “mock and undermine” the Stop the Machine/October 2011 protestors downtown.

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Howley breathlessly reported his exploits in a piece the American Spectator has now bowdlerized without comment (some great American, perhaps thinking of future journalism classes, preserved the original text):

But as far as anyone knew I was part of this cause -- a cause that I had infiltrated the day before in order to mock and undermine in the pages of The American Spectator -- and I wasn't giving up before I had my story. Under a cloud of pepper spray I forced myself into the doors and sprinted blindly across the floor of the Air and Space Museum, drawing the attention of hundreds of stunned khaki-clad tourists (some of whom began snapping off disposable-camera portraits of me). I strained to glance behind me at the dozens of protesters I was sure were backing me up, and then I got hit again, this time with a cold realization: I was the only one who had made it through the doors. As two guards pointed at me and started running, I dodged a circle of gawking old housewives and bolted upstairs.

Disposable cameras? Was Howley at Air and Space or at a wedding in 1998? And that’s not the only bit of Howley’s reporting that seems both too good to be true and mired in anachronism (“gawking old housewives,” sheesh).

Maybe the reason no one noticed Howley infiltrating the tightly guarded ranks of people who show up on their own accord is that he, as far as TBD can tell, barely exists. We can’t find a Twitter account, his Facebook profile seems to have gone dark, and a public records search turns up only an attorney in Potomac and a 34-year-old in Columbia, Md., whose voicemail is full. Messages left for everyone on the masthead at the American Spectator haven’t been returned (though if any publication is taking off Columbus Day, it’s those folks).

A quick and not especially thorough spin through Howley’s reporting online dredges up a couple pieces about Irish politics that show a better-than-average familiarity with Irish politics, so maybe he’s from there? Only two other pieces (again, very quick read here so could be wrong) --  accounts of Roger Clemens’ trial this summer -- in the Spectator’s list of Howley’s pieces show any reporting; mostly he bounces off news pieces much as TBD’s staff is doing right now.

Patrick Howley, are you real? Email us!

True Howley obsessives: Check the next page to view differences between his original post and the new version!

 

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