Two days after a 15-year-old black girl died in a fiery crash along a rural Mississippi road in 2009, someone using the anonymous online identity “GENERAL_LEE” began posting rants on the racist, anti-Semitic Vanguard News Network (VNN) website. One of the crash victims, Dijonaise Rutledge, died when she was thrown from the vehicle. But General Lee, in his online musings, seemed less concerned with the tragedy and more concerned with the girl’s “weirdest nigger name.”
“Dijonaise. Get it? ‘Dijon’ as in mustard + ‘Aise’ as in mayonaise = Dijonaise. Cute yes?” General Lee wrote. He continued: “Well, Dijoinaise Rutledge, along with three fellow nogs met his [sic] final fate on the highways of Wilkinson County, Mississippi. So, we’re four niggers short.”
For almost a decade, General Lee has not only posted on VNN more than 3,500 times, but financially supported one of the most viciously racist Internet forums in the country, expounding on such topics as why he doesn’t tip black waitresses and entertaining such racist fantasies as wondering whether it is possible for a black person to procreate with a chimpanzee. Though he has posted a photograph of himself and his two sons, and once revealed that he uses the name “paulb” on another forum, he has closely guarded his identity.
A Hatewatch investigation, however, has determined that the man spreading hate online as General Lee the “Creepy Ass Cracker” is really a 50-year-old Hattiesburg, Miss., personal injury lawyer named Paul Bryant Caston. Several sources, all requesting anonymity due to their past relationships with Caston, confirmed that the photographs he posted of himself were Caston. Additionally, a username linked to Caston in 2009 has been tied to General Lee on VNN.
Though his affiliations with VNN were not previously known, his history on the racist right has been documented before. In 2009, One People’s Project in Philadelphia revealed that Caston had been posting on racist websites for years using the persona “shyster969,” though Caston denied that it was him.
When contacted by Hatewatch this week, Caston declined to confirm, but did not deny, that he was General Lee. Shortly afterward, all VNN posts tied to his username were deleted.
While Caston is hardly the only lawyer using the anonymity of the Web to spread racist rhetoric online, he has operated virtually unchecked for years. Black people are objects, animals or things, according to Caston, and he has frequently attacked fellow lawyers, including prominent civil rights attorneys such as Precious Martin in Jackson, Miss., who Caston called “it.”
“Yeah, we’ve got one here named ‘Precious.’ Precious Martin. It’s a lawyer in the nigger hell-hole that is Jackson, Mississippi. I refuse to address it by its name. … Hell will freeze over as solid as a gotdamned brick before I will ever address a nigger as ‘Precious,’” Caston once wrote.
Martin, when contacted by Hatewatch, was unaware of what Caston had said about him and seemed to be flabbergasted that anyone could be so hateful.
“I have a hard time hating any man,” Martin said. “I can’t understand why this guy hates me so, and I don’t even know him. He hates me for the work I’m doing trying to make the community a better place, and I just don’t understand that.”