Anonymous, Adrian Chen, and the Shoe

September 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Yes yes, this news is 12 hours old — I’m just now posting about Adrian Chen’s shoe and tutu-themed Glamour Shot because today was the first day of classes (well, the first day of my class), and one simply cannot write blog entries about that one time Anonymous said they did a thing and Adrian Chen responded trollishly whilst discussing one’s attendance policy.

So. Anonymous threatened to withhold any further information about an alleged hack on an alleged FBI cybersecurity agent, allegedly, unless Chen outfitted himself in a tutu and balanced a shoe on his head, Gangnam vintage ytmnd-style. Sounds legit! Chen agreed to Anon’s terms, and as a result, the above image will grace Gawker’s front page until 6:30 tonight.

As someone who studies the homologous relationship between troublemakers (trolls, hackers, etc) and members of the media, I am intrigued by this arrangement. By drawing attention to Anon’s claims, Chen breathed new life into the story. As a result, both Chen and Anonymous achieved their short-term objectives — the ultimate in quid pro quo branding. This is textbook amplification; this is how the process works. What’s unusual about this particular story is that Chen is (read: seems, I don’t know what lurks within the hearts of Gawker writers) fully aware of Anon’s intentions, but has decided to play along anyway — if only to call their bluff.

And this is where the story goes off-script. Usually, the media has no idea (or as the case may be, pretends to have no idea) that they’re ultimately just pawns in the troublemaker’s game. See Jenkem, see Over 9000 Penises. I’m curious to see how –or more interestingly, if– this unholy non-alliance results in the kind of spectacle Anonymous has historically been so adept at creating. I’m inclined to doubt it, since in this case there is no game to win. In fact, Chen’s willingness to play the game means the game has already been called, or at the very least is now Anonymous’ to lose. This is a very smart move on Chen’s part, not just in terms of pageviews, but also because his response –which essentially amounts to “I double-dog dare you”– will likely diffuse what Anon hoped would become the hot new trend in teen trolling. Well played, Gawker. Well played.

Update: Yeah nothing happened, at least on Anon’s end. Both the FBI and Apple have denied Anon’s claims (that Anon acquired 12 million Apple ID names/passwords from the FBI, which acquired them from Apple), which…I mean who knows, corporate henchpeople deny things all the time. But we’re well past Anon’s deadline and there’s been no update to Chen’s Gawker article, and you can bet your bippy that he’d update if there was something worth updating. 

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Because Several Things Have Happened Since 2008

September 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

scummy, slimy

Today was a dumb troubleshooting day, and like all days that start off looking manageable, ended up being a much bigger pain in the ass than I was expecting. Am still tinkering with certain passages, mostly re: slippage between trolls and the media that feeds them. The following bit comes near the end, after I’ve run through my three case studies. I could have chosen other examples, newer examples, but wanted to stick with the classics due to I’m mostly concerned with world building. Here at least. And as I argue, this particular world was built on the scrapheap supplied by raaaaaaging media wieners. Hence the memetic throwback machine. (and credit is to that lemonparty guy, who said a thing about memes the other day & likened them to collective storytelling — got me thinking about trolls and their media overlords, who do the same thing only don’t know they’re working together)

Just as the media’s response to Jenkem and Oprah’s response to Pedobear — and of course trolls’ response to both responses — inadvertently gave trolls more material to work with, Fox’s various responses to Anonymous, 4chan, and trolls generally helped fortify the borders of what at the time was a localized phenomenon but which soon emerged as a full-blown subculture. My inclusion of all three meme-clusters reflects this shift; each was introduced just as the media began to circle 4chan’s wagons. Not only did these stories augment the trolling lexicon, that is, provide trolls with additional memetic material, they helped legitimize the development of a discrete, deliberate, and highly recognizable trolling identity. In short, these early directives—from the framing of Anonymous as the sole proprietors of the Internet Hate Machine to the association of 4chan with pedophilia and poop gas and exploding service vans—have shaped what trolls are today, or perhaps more accurately, have shaped what trolls, both on 4chan and across the web, believe themselves to be. Put another way, and with Fox News leading the charge, trolls were given support beams upon which to weave their web. They happily took up shop, and were immediately furnished with a constant supply of food — which more often than not came in the form of buzzing, bug-eyed journalists.

Also Known as “Butt Hash”

September 19, 2011 § 5 Comments

Paige Kelton of Fox 30 news looks earnestly into the camera. “Here is a shocking heads-up for parents,” she begins. “About teenage drug use.” Kelton punts to reporter Jack Miller, who describes a hot new street drug called Jenkem. Consisting of “raw sewage,” that is to say, human waste, Jenkem is packed into jars and allowed to ferment; once the mixture has produced an adequate supply of methane, the substance is huffed. According to Miller, Jenkem was first documented a month earlier by the Collier County Sheriff’s Department, which circulated an internal memo featuring a description of the drug as well as several graphic images of a young boy huffing from a jar of urine and feces. The memo was subsequently leaked, and several news organizations, including The Washington Post and The Drudge Report, followed up on the story. Although law enforcement found little evidence of pervasive Jenkem abuse, a seemingly inconsequential detail echoed by Fox 30’s inability to find anyone who had ever even heard of the drug, Jack Miller implores parents to remain vigilant against the dangers posed by this so-called Human Waste Drug. Or as the kids are calling it, “butt-hash.”

A few days after the Fox 30 segment, WINK out of Fort Meyers runs a similar report. As newscaster Trey Radel explains, the trouble started a month earlier, when a concerned Palmetto Ridge parent sent a letter to her son’s school principal. Her son admitted to hearing about the DIY drug at school, and she wanted to make sure the proper authorities had been alerted. The principal reached out to the Sheriff’s Department, which launched a cursory investigation; an internal memo was produced, circulated, and subsequently leaked. Based on this information, and possibly in response to Fox 30’s segment, WINK interviewed a number of students from the local high school. Just like Fox 30, however, the crack news team was unable to confirm any actual cases of Jenkem abuse (“Human feces?” squealed one teenager. “Ok I’m sorry, that’s…gross.”). And yet Trey Radel delivers his report straight-faced. The story is “disgusting,” he proclaims, and had sent “shockwaves” through the newsroom.

*

In other words, successful troll was very successful. First, a bit of background: the term “Jenkem” first appeared in the late 90s, in a New York Times article chronicling the struggles of AIDS-ravaged Zambia. Children in this area were so poor and so desperate that they sought refuge through any and all possible means. Including—allegedly—the inhalation of methane gas. A year later, the BBC picked up on the “recreational raw sewage” story and cited the NYT article as evidence, thus ensuring its long and happy half-life. Eventually Jenkem dislodged itself from its original context and began appearing on a number of forums and websites, often as a punchline or go-to “grossest of the gross” conversation stopper (or starter, depending on the forum). In 2007, the concoction reappeared on Totse, an image board devoted to all stripes of shenanigans. This time it was serious; a Totse user named Pickwick uploaded a series of images chronicling his attempt to “try” Jenkem, including a picture of a half-full jug of shit and piss labeled with the words “Jenkem,” “Pickwick” and “Totse” as well as Pickwick “huffing” its contents.

The subsequent thread and its constituent images became legendary, and like most—let’s say questionable—online content, ended up on 4chan/b/. Jenkem quickly began generating memetic variations, including one copypasta post (text posed numerous times by numerous posters) imploring users to copy and paste the provided text into a letter, which would then be mailed to the principal of whatever local high school.

Step 1: email this to school principal

I am writing you anonymously because I do not want my child to get in any trouble, but I need to alert you to something your students are doing that is potentially very dangerous. Yesterday afternoon I came home early to find my son and his friends getting high on something called “jenkem” which they say they heard about at school. This “jenkem” is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard of. They urinate and defecate in plastic bottles and leave them to ferment in the sun, then inhale the resulting gas. I know it sounds unreal but when I came home I found my son and his friends laying on the grass in the backyard and they were acting very strangely. There was a horrible, putrid smell in the air. I can’t believe my son would do something like this. I looked it up on the internet and apparently this was something invented by African children that wound up online and now kids all over the world are doing it. My son says most of his friends at school have tried it.

This seems to be a new thing and I can’t find any information about the health effects of jenkem – I think it is the methane and ammonia content that provides the desired high, but I don’t really know. Both of those are very harmful chemicals. All sorts of diseases are spread through fecal matter. I imagine it could lead to some very serious health problems at your school. My wife and I are utterly shocked and talking about private school. We have spoken to our son about this and he says he won’t do it anymore, but because it is on the internet kids all over the country are trying jenkem and they need to be educated about the health risks. It is only a matter of time before somebody dies from methane poisoning or this leads to a hepatitis outbreak. I don’t know exactly what you could do about this as jenkem is legal but I needed to inform you of what some of your students are doing.

Step 2: ???

Step 3: PROFIT

According to the “Jenkem” entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica, trolldom’s unofficial archive, this particular copypasta appeared /b/ on September 17th, 2007, less than a week before the Collier County Sheriff Department circulated the now-infamous internal memo—which featured precisely the images, and even some of the language, Pickwick posted onto Totse, and which was subsequently cross-posted onto /b/ and ED. As soon as Pickwick got wind of these developments, he distanced himself from his actions, deleting the original post and asserting in no uncertain terms that it was just a hoax—a slurry of flour, water, beer and Nutella. “I never inhaled any poop gas and got high off it,” he was quoted as saying on September 24th. “I have deleted my pictures, hopefully no weirdo saved them to his computer. I just don’t want people to ever recognize me as the kid who huffed poop gas.”

Despite Pickwick’s confession, the media continued running with the story; the Fox 30 and WINK reports were filed early November, as were a number of online articles. FoxNews.com, for example, acknowledged the hoax yet still expressed concern over Jenkem’s negative health effects, the plentitude of raw ingredients, and the legality of possessing similar, which a DEA agent explained couldn’t be classified as a drug “because it’s feces and urine” (Fox). Austin’s KXAN suggested that parents take note of any “funky smell or odor” coming from their children, and Kelli Cheatham of WSBT advocated smelling kids’ breath before letting them go to bed (2007).

[fin]

So…….this is what I get paid to do.

Also, this is just an intro. Meaning that. Thesis and stuff –YES I’m going somewhere with this– ain’t here yet. Well it’s here. [points to head]. But not HERE [waves at machine]. And it’s what’s on the machine that counts.

Today’s Travels/Research Update – The Work of the Devil

September 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

As if you couldn’t already tell, Mother has been on “vacation” since exams. And by that I mean, she’s been outlining her 4chan chapter and chipping away at a HARD-HITTING EXPOSE on Jenkem, the nation’s most dangerous drug-slash-punchline respawned by trolls in 2007 to mock just about everything the media is & stands for. This will be my 5th pass at the /b/ shit and my first pass at the Jenkem shit, lol get it because of POOP, and boy has my argument changed over the years. Seems like it was only yesterday I was trying to apply a psychoanalytic model to trolling behaviors. Which still makes me feel dirty inside, oh well. These days I’m focused more on the relationship between denizens of “bee” and the reporters who take, at least pretend to take, at least have a vested interested in taking, Great Offense. It’d be funny to put all the different drafts side by side, to really appreciate how stupid I used to be. Also to put into perspective how stupid I’ll probably think this argument is, in 3 years.

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