“Gonzo Notes” is Kit’s newsletter of political analysis and direct action tips.
When trolling becomes a lifestyle
I was a teenage (and young adult) troll.
In my early 20s especially, I hung out on SomethingAwful, a website with a lively associated forum that would often target groups we perceived to be low hanging fruit (furries, goths, and so on) for online attacks.
Our viciousness never rose to the level of today’s super-trolls, who send SWAT teams to their enemies’ houses or wage ongoing campaigns that drive vulnerable people to suicide, but I can see how I took part in the early days of this trend, and I’m not proud of it.
Part of maturing for me has been recognizing that I can’t eradicate this prankster side of myself, so I’ve instead learned to direct it against the corrupt systems that promote inequality and the powerful people who profit off modern day, extractive capitalism.
Pranking up, not punching down.
It’s much the same impulse that helped birth the Anonymous hacktivist collective out of 4chan, a notorious hive of porn and villainy, when some of the most active members began “virtuously” trolling, first against the Church of Scientology for their crimes against the internet, and later against the global 1% in support of the Occupy movement.
4chan and its spinoffs continue to foment online culture, only now they are brewing up something far darker and more destructive from the same roots. Created out of a mixture of white supremacy, modern anti-feminism (“Men’s Rights Activism”) and the usual economic and cultural factors that give rise to fascism, these Pepe-the-Frog worshiping anime nazis would have you believe they’ve embraced the path of genocide just “for the lulz.”
Take the “okay” hand signal, which this crew have recently, and semi-successfully redefined as a white power hand signal. If you spend any time communicating with them — and thanks to the hundreds of trolls appearing in my social media accounts since May Day, I’ve had little choice — you’ll discover that the Pepe Set finds it hilarious that some folks now “believe” the hand signal to be racist.
Their prank goes something like this:
- Act really racist.
- Use the OK signal while being really racist.
- Laugh when people decide the OK signal is a sign of being a racist.
Because the Pepe Set are obsessed with “triggering” people (which to them just means forcing someone to feel emotions), they’ve equated any kind of feeling with weakness. Being disgusted with their behavior means they are “winning” by successfully trolling us.
Ignoring them is not enough. The worst of them are in the streets now, proudly chanting “Free Helicopter Rides” and holding signs with their favorite frog idol. One of the most notorious in Texas, William Fears, brandished a knife against activists in Houston. Now he and a whole set of froggy wastes of oxygen travel about Texas disrupting events, teaming up freely with Confederate-flag waving white supremacists and armed “Open Carry” douchebags.
Whether they’re violently assaulting activists or working to get left-leaning academics fired, these people are real and dangerous, and the harm they do is no joke, no matter how much they laugh at your pain.
With no futures and no hope of finding meaningful careers under late stage capitalism, a disturbing number of young people got radicalized in the electronic void, and would help the rich and powerful steer us right into the abyss, all the while sharing clever frog memes and funny one-liners.
They’re geeks that took to the internet, then realized they could team up to become the bullies that had tormented them in school. No matter how much they beat their chest and yell about Sharia law, it’s these young white men (and the Pepe-loving women, too) that scare me the most, that I’m most worried will hurt me and my friends.
And all the while they’ll be giggling and gaslighting, telling us it’s our fault for making them nazis, because we called them nazis. If we let them, they’ll kill us all with circular logic and their fists.
I look around me, and I don’t see enough people fighting back. They’ve bought the lie that it’s all a joke, just “free speech,” however poor and unfunny. They don’t realize these words lead to broken bones and charnel houses.
I’m not going to take it sitting down. I won’t bend my knee to their joking genocide.
But without you at my side, I’ll be crushed. Unless we all stand up to these jocular brownshirts and their allies, the future is grim indeed.
“Don’t wait to get intel from someone else, be organized, be vigilant, and be smart.” — “AGAINST IDENTITY EVROPA, AGAINST THE ALT RIGHT“
Gonzo action tips
This issue, I want to offer a simple protest tip: If you are bringing a phone to a protest, turn off Bluetooth.
The Oh Shit! What Now? volunteer security team also recommends turning off Bluetooth at other busy, target-rich events where hackers might try to steal information from your phone, including music festivals and computer conferences.
Of course, in many situations, including protests and direct actions, you may be better off leaving your phone at home.
If you’re interested in reading more about Bluetooth vulnerabilities, check out “A Review of Bluetooth Attacks and How to Secure Mobile Devices” and “Bluetooth: Just How Secure Is It?”
Are there other issues or topics you’d like me to cover here? Email GonzoNotes@kitoconnell.com.
Laughing Ourselves To Hell: Trolling As A Lifestyle by Kit O’Connell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://kitoconnell.com/2017/05/15/laughing-hell-trolling-lifestyle-gonzo-notes/.