Pro Troll Campaigns — more notes from the trenches

A few notes on professional troll campaigns.

It’s no longer enough to talk about trolls and trolling in the abstract. We have a collective blind spot and need to pay closer attention to the threat of having social media spaces manipulated.

Social media spaces are easily colonized and destabilized by pro trolls who’ve been trained. Some posts are planned and constructed; they’re designed and created as a performance to elicit a certain outcome. There’s a science behind pro trolling. Once you recognize the techniques and understand the strategy, spotting them becomes easy. Delete them right away, don’t fall for the ‘freedom of speech’ gag order, hateful and ugly speech is central to pro trolling.

When a new member comes out swinging, that’s a caution flag. 

Example. The new member has a name that is generic white male. The new member posts a discussion topic with a headline that makes it stand out. Maybe the font is large, the message is dumbed-down and the poster wants people to weigh in on a very contentious subject—racism, for example—any hot button topic that will generate interest and controversy. The goal of the post is to snag some real racists, then add more fake racists in order to create the evidence needed so the site/article can be vilified and discredited.

A post will seem like an injection of poison, because that’s exactly what it is. 

Once the post is up, the pro trolls will get to work. Several will work one thread and if the attack is severe they will completely swamp the thread. They seed the conversation with extreme views, they post inflammatory hate-filled posts. Pro troll comments are often filled with ALL CAPS and lots of exclamation marks!!!!! Their role is to jack up adrenaline and stoke tensions.

It’s like building a bonfire, they mix and mingle and add their extreme comments in order to build confusion and conflict in the minds of the unsuspecting who are reading and watching in horror as their once-good site becomes awful and degraded. Another goal accomplished: demoralization and doubt; momentum is lost and people cease their support.

There will be pro trolls whose job it is to loudly accuse the site of being evil, awful and bad.

And it appears they are right, the evidence is right there in the comments—and often those comments were made by the pro troll team. And shortly thereafter media outlets pronounce your site/article as crazy, fringe, and retrograde. Mission accomplished.

Pro troll performances disappear as quickly as they arrive. After they’re gone, your cheeks burn, you feel like you should pat down all your pockets to make sure you still have your valuables. Everything on your site goes back to being quiet and civil, the usual normal range of discussion. But the damage is done.

It’s time to recognize that pro trolling has become a tactical standard of attack, for better or worse, and it’s time that the media developed an awareness of this in all of their reportage.

 

 

War for Dummies

Easy instructions for readers of all ages! Recommended by experts in the weapons trade! Non-fiction by I. R. Soul!

KEEP THOSE FIGHTER JETS IN THE AIR

Bombing campaigns are important. Withdrawing your fighter jets from the Middle East, as Canada plans to do with its six CF-18s, is a big, big mistake. There’s absolutely no truth to the rumour that the best way to lose control of your country’s fiscal autonomy is to buy in; contracts signed with the Military Industrial Complex come with reasonable payment terms. You can trust us, we’ve been honouring our commitment to upgrade our product lines for nearly 100 years.

BE SURE YOUR MEDIA IS ON SIDE

There’s no point in confusing the little people, keep the stories simple! They have been well trained in loss and revenge so be sure to hammer home any losses on our side. Ignore casualties on the other side, it’s best to pretend there aren’t any. Encourage simplistic thinking, the only two protagonists allowed are Us and Them. There’s a fringe movement of lunatics suggesting the equation ought to be We = Us + Them but that is dangerously naïve.

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Book Review: Selfish, Shallow & Self Absorbed

Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids — edited by Meghan Daum

As Daum writes in the introduction, her “lack of desire to have children felt hardwired from birth, almost like sexual orientation or gender identity” and reading this rang my bell. From an early age I wasn’t interested in having children. Other girls would see babies and toddlers and dissolve into gushing and cooing; they’d rush in. I, on the other hand, would stand back, silent, bewilderingly unmoved and waiting for it to be over. The odd time—if I’m in the mood for trying to disguise my disinterest—I’ll try to engage with the baby or toddler by smiling or making funny faces or uttering unconvincing approximations of maternal glee, but most often I get the blank, cool-eyed response. You can’t fool the wee ones, they know an impostor when they see one.

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Zoos and aquariums suck

So it’s time we stopped enslaving the animal kingdom and using and abusing animals for our own entertainment. These days zoos are all pimped-up in ersatz natural settings with visuals designed to camouflage the cage; aquariums flog the education justification and make whales, who are probably more intelligent than humans, do tricks. And don’t get me started about elephants in the circus.

dolphins

Recently I perused a photography blog which featured the author’s trips to zoos. The author enthused about how a gorilla made eye contact with him and how amazing that experience was. Sheesh, talk about being blind.

I was blinded, too, as so many of us have been.

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Book Review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

non-fiction by Jon Ronson

A timely subject given the unmediated power of social media, a survey of some of the ways the shame monster breathes its foul breath upon our lives. The book is a quickie tour, though, so readers looking for a deep-end analysis are likely to be disappointed. Ronson’s reportage can be amusing, as in his description of himself as the “tweedy and owl-like” observer in a San Francisco Kink factory. I know that writing a book entails too much solitude and a lot of ass-numbing work so I guess it’s hard to blame the guy for slipping some kink tourism into the research budget. For all the good it did him, though, the sexual atmosphere must have overwhelmed because the tweedy owl’s observations about shame fell short of relevant.

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Truth and Reconciliation

June Op-Ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News

The Truth and Reconciliation commission just ended and now the government must follow through with its recommendations. Top of the list should be making it mandatory that the history of residential schools is taught in grade school curriculum.
Two weeks ago I was in a Fraser Valley classroom and the teacher asked the students (all non-Native), whose ages ranged from 19 to 25, if the history of residential schools should be taught in schools. Of the ten students, two said yes, eight said variations of no. “They get enough handouts already,” one student said and the rest agreed, parroting what they’ve heard many times before from people just as ignorant. Further discussion revealed the students had little or no actual knowledge of residential schools, let alone the horrors that occurred inside them or the terrible repercussions that ensued.

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