April 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
……because the thing is, upon closer inspection of time frame and tripcodes, the PDF on Wired looks pretty solid. Now I don’t know what to think, maybe it is real. It’s hard to say; these things aren’t easily verifiable, and there’s always a chance of, as the kids in the business say, “ultra-coordinated motherfuckery” in the form of time zone meddling or extensive photoshopping (nearly 4 hours passed between the last post on the now-infamous thread and Wired’s posting of the PDF — plenty of time for shenanigans). For me, the fact that this has happened so many times before, in exactly the same way, on exactly the same platform, every single time, for the last decade, is one hell of a reason for eyebrow raising. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, maybe I’ve spent too much time on the internet. As of press time, I can’t decide.
Anons on 4chan are discussing the story now — many seem similarly incredulous. Some are downright effervescent. Some are trolling other anons by claiming that all the other hoaxes were in fact a hoax, and that they were all true. tl;dr we’re gonna need a bigger boat.
March 25, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Yes, yes they are (click through to final slide of Gawker’s “The 20 Best Trollings in Modern History“).
I do of course vigorously agree that the media is every bit as skilled at trolling as self-identifying trolls, and that trolls and the media are almost identical in their behavioral and rhetorical tactics. But this is an inception-level metatroll masterwork, +1.
February 5, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Today Ethnography Matters posted my second in a three-part guest post series. Here is the opening!
As promised in my last post, this post will discuss my role as a participant observer in the 2008-2012 troll space. It was weird, I hinted, which really is the only way to describe it. Because space is limited, I’m going to focus on three points of overlapping weirdness, namely troll blindness, real and perceived apologia, and ethnographic vampirism. There are other stories I could tell, and other points of weirdness I could discuss, but these are moments that taught me the most, for better and for worse.
The three points of weirdness include:
- It’s Just a Death Threat, Don’t Worry About It
- inb4 apologist
- You’re a Vampire, Whitney
In other words, it’s a comedy. Click here for the whole article.
January 17, 2013 § 4 Comments
My friend, colleague and Awl co-author Kate Milter was on CBC radio this morning debating the editor of The Kernel, which has kicked off what they’re calling “Troll Watch.” As this Kernel article explains, Troll Watch is a campaign devoted to naming and shaming online trolls (they’ve even hired a private investigator to help them track down the worst offenders). They claim they’ll hunt down any troll, any troll at all, be s/he anonymous, pseudonymous, or trolling under his/her real name.
During the interview (you can listen here), Milo Yiannopolous explains that trolls are, by definition, anonymous abusers, and that that fundamental lack of accountability is, ultimately, the biggest problem related to trolling, implying that the issue is anonymous indecorousness, not indecorousness in itself. Because apparently it’s fine to be nasty as long as you take ownership of your own bile, and only ever post mean-spirited things under your real name. Kate does a nice job complicating the question of what and who qualifies as troll-to-be-watched, and discusses various problems associated with public naming and shaming. She also calls attention to Yiannopolous’ own trollish history (on a related point I just realized I appeared alongside Yiannopolous on Al Jazeera’s The Stream; he was one of the Google+ guests, and expressed his impatience with “protracted academic discussions” on the subject of trolling, which…well that’s apparent). The following is a snippet of their post-show Twitter exchange:
These kinds of interviews are so much harder when it’s actually YOU, and this was a particularly tough setup. But Kate held her own, and was especially strong when she challenged Yiannopolous on The Kernel’s (and Yiannopolous’ own) sensationalist tendencies. +1, would listen again.
Also, 2013 is already shaping up to be an interesting year.
January 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This morning Ethnography Matters published my first of three guest posts about trolling and the ethnography of similar. This is very exciting; I’ve not been very public about my research methods. Here’s a quick rundown of the article:
As I will discuss in this and several subsequent guest posts, my research experiences have been something of a mixed bag. Writing about trolls (to say nothing about working with trolls) has certainly been engaging, but has also proven to be the most consistently frustrating, challenging, and at times downright infuriating endeavor I have ever attempted. Which is one of the main reasons it has been so engaging, go figure.
Because in the end, it was the complications—the incomplete data sets, the trolls’ endless prevarications, the incessant march of subcultural change—that gave rise to my basic argument, the nutshell version of which can be found in my response to the Violentacrez controversy. As I argue, trolls are agents of cultural digestion; they scavenge and repurpose mainstream content, allowing one to extrapolate what’s going on in the dominant culture by examining what’s going on in the troll space. I could not have written my way into this argument if things had gone according to plan. I needed those roadblocks, even if at the time they made me want to rip out my hair.
Click here for the full article!
January 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment
In today’s trolling news, some friendly neighborhood anons revisited the well-trod path to Bieberville. This time they did not vote to send the teen star to perform in North Korea, but instead started a hashtag threatening to cut themselves in response to the recent and entirely not shocking news that Justin Bieber smokes pot. This has upset some people, and understandably so; the images accompanying these tweets (#cutforbieber) are pretty gruesome.
What’s every bit as gruesome is the sensationalist, re-trolling efforts of listicle assembly-line BuzzFeed, which published –shock!!– a list of the most upsetting images. You know, because…these images are terrible…so let’s make a list of the worst ones…because no one should see them. The Telegraph’s Tim Stanley sums it up nicely:
…BuzzFeed does us the courtesy of publishing some of those “disturbing photos” on the shady pretext of letting us decide for ourselves how authentic they are. Are they real, are they fake? Who cares? They’re sick and there was absolutely no journalistic value served in printing them. That’s why there’s no BuzzFeed link in my post and probably never will be again.
I had a similar reaction to Buzzfeed’s recent article (and I use the term loosely) “Here’s What James Holmes’ Online Fans Had to Say Before His Hearing Today,” which amounted of little more than bald-faced trollbait. Ironically, and unsurprisingly, there was no mention of the fact that BuzzFeed essentially started –or at the very least, popularized– the “James Holmes Support Group” over which they are now apparently so concerned.
In short, I think it’s time that we need to start mentioning outlets like BuzzFeed –or as it shall henceforth be referred, TrollFeed– in the same breath as we do the trolls who post disturbing images images onto Twitter. Really, what’s the difference? Both groups are engaging in incendiary, deliberately provocative behaviors –which includes posting the most outrageously shocking images– in order to incite the strongest emotional response possible. The difference, of course, is that the trolls aren’t raking in the ad revenue while doing it.
January 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Yesterday I appeared on Al Jazeera’s The Stream program alongside Aaron James of UC Irvine. The subject of the show –overview here– was TROLLS, and the degree to which they are killing the internet. As always, the term “troll” was contested, to the point of near-empty signification; throughout the broadcast it referred in turn to subcultural trolling, name-calling, racist online abuse, harassment, and identity theft. In almost every case, these behaviors were decried as antagonistic, destructive, and wholly deserving of immediate government or corporate intervention (so, the difference between passing laws and implementing on-site policies like upvoting systems, as more than one Google hangout guest suggested). Anonymity was cited by many as the ultimate root of the problem, because people are never hateful towards each other under their real names, and no one is ever violent or racist in real life.
One thing that was not discussed –and something I wish I had the chance to talk about; the conversation was primarily focused on the DARK SIDE of trolling, or perhaps more accurately, what many racists and assholes have taken to calling trolling (in other words, OH! My real life identity was linked to the hateful shit I’ve been spewing on Twitter under a pseudonym??? Just kidding everyone, I was only trolling!!!)– is the complicating fact that trolling is, or at least can be, an extremely effective tool against precisely the assbaggery to which this program was devoted. I know several trolls –and one troll in particular– whose greatest joy is to out or otherwise torment racists, homophobes and sexists who deserve to have their dumb asses handed to them, placing them directly in line (well, perhaps a bit uncomfortably in line) with the anti-troll crusaders who claim that the best response to trolling is to punish trolls. The funny thing is that many trolls wholeheartedly agree (though they might take issue with the definition of the term “troll,” as many reject the idea that being a bigot on the internet qualifies as trolling), and are more than happy to take up what many would regard as a righteous, anti-douchebag cause. This is where conversations of trolling (and more specifically, conversations about what to do about trolling) brush up against conversations about vigilante justice, immediately thickening the plot.
December 12, 2012 § 1 Comment
A collaborator of mine just sent me these screencaps (via imgur), said to be proof that the Clackamas Town Center shooter posted a threat to 4chan before fatally shooting two others and killing himself. The news hit Twitter early this morning:
From a simple Twitter search of “Clackamass” and “4chan” (conducted at 6:45am EST):
It’s early, and I’m not sure how/where/if this story will travel, so I don’t entirely know what to say, other than it is most likely a hoax, so proceed with caution. For one thing, this kind of thing has happened before. For another, why would a person magically have a screencap posted two days ago on a forum whose boards 404 after a few hours? People make weird threats on 4chan’s /b/ board all the time, so while it’s possible that a concerned anon saw the post and decided to take a cap just in case, it isn’t likely. What is likely is that some anon or group of anons decided it would be fun to photoshop a screencap and see how far the story would go, which was precisely the motivation behind the Aurora 9gag prank. In addition to lining up with everything /b/ has ever done, particularly in the wake of mass shootings, the alleged screengrab includes a subtle –what appears to be a subtle– reference to the perception that /b/ has been defanged, a point that strongly suggests that trolling is in fact afoot. “this is why no one takes 4chan seriously anymore. i am going to shoot up this fucking mall tomorrow and you will all see,” the alleged poster allegedly posted. This might not be an explicit memetic reference –a basic calling card of much trolling, particularly trolling emanating from /b/– but it does gesture towards an ongoing conversation amongst /b/ regulars.
So at first blush, I call bullshit. The question is, what will the internet say?
Update: Here is one thing.