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Internet trolls, ritualized social-media cruelty, online cesspools, and their real-world political effects

By jazz_music following x   2018 Feb 9, 1:43pm 1,050 views   13 comments   watch   sfw   quote     share    

After Charlottesville, the mask of irony that wrong-footed so many commentators was ripped from the U.S. alt-right. And more recently, an email leak reported by has stripped the irony defense from Breitbart’s former star provocateur Milo Yiannopolous, who, leaked internal records show, was the celebrity nexus connecting Nazi-saluting race warriors, powerful Republican funders, and members of the liberal media and entertainment class who fed him tips and dirt. The transformation of internet platforms into havens for the far right is crucial to understanding our current political crisis and what may lie ahead.

It’s easy to forget—especially when the most famous Twitter troll in the world is the president of the United States—but only a few years ago, social media and unregulated online spaces were heralded by many political progressives as Utopian forces ushering humanity to a new age of equality and democratization. By 2011, Silicon Valley boosters were agreed that the digital revolution had finally arrived. That was the early, hopeful moment when Twitter was supposedly driving the Arab Spring, and the hackers of Anonymous—the main political product of 4chan before the alt-right—became symbols of the Occupy movement.

At the same time, however, uglier emanations from digital society were being hidden by euphemisms like “trolling.” Trolls were often seen as sinister, yes, but also as an exciting new counterculture from the internet’s underground. Just as Silicon Valley rhetoric about an optimized, low-cost future concealed the consolidation of unprecedented levels of money and influence by the tech oligopoly, so, on a cultural level, the idea of “trolling” gave a romantic cover to antisocial exercises of power and resentment. As bombastic parody became the lingua franca of the internet and the line between irony and sincerity blurred, people lost their footing, which made them easier to manipulate. Debate on the internet vacillated between the claim that everything is ironic or that nothing is, and the political corollary: that everyone is Hitler or no one is, possibly not even Hitler.

Practically, this meant that people warning about a growing far-right coalescing around the ritualized cruelty on troll forums like 4chan were dismissed as priggish normies, clueless about the creative complexities of online subcultures. At the same time, with so many ideas around race, gender, and democracy, being declared off limits to debate, and with so many people calling their political enemies Nazis, those of us writing about actual Nazis (and their sympathizers) were often lost in the noise.

To understand how we got here and why so many people were bamboozled by the alt-right’s playful insincerity we have to revisit an earlier period when the groundwork was laid in conceptual failures around 4chan, trolling and ‘lulz’. A decade ago, The New York Times ran a prescient story by Mattathias Schwartz called “The Trolls Among Us.” The article follows a group of hackers and internet mischief makers who fill their days defacing memorials for suicide victims, posting flashing images to epilepsy websites and theorizing about their role as an elite, transgressive vanguard. Trolling, Schwartz wrote in 2008, “has evolved from ironic solo skit to vicious group hunt.” The story depicts one Andrew Aurenheimer, better known by his hacker sobriquet Weev, who, even then, “displayed a misanthropy far harsher” than the article’s other subjects:

Trolling is basically internet eugenics,” he said, his voice pitching up like a jet engine on the runway. “I want everyone off the internet. Bloggers are filth. They need to be destroyed. Blogging gives the illusion of participation to a bunch of retards. … We need to put these people in the oven! I listened for a few more minutes as Weev held forth on the Federal Reserve and about Jews.

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, Weev popped back into the public eye when an image circulated of his post on Daily Stormer, named after the Nazi publication Der Stürmer. Accompanying a picture of Heather Heyer, the protester tragically killed at the Charlottesville counter-demonstration, Weev had added the caption: “What’s the location of this fat skank’s funeral? …i want to get people on the ground there.”

Weev’s journey, from anti-Semitic troll to alt-right neo-Nazi, did not require much of a leap. Yet along the way, because of his activities as a hacker and prosecution by the government, he had a number of high profile left-wing defenders like Natasha Lennard, an unofficial spokesperson for the putative anti-fascist activists known as Antifa and the author of widely read articles celebrating Nazi punching. When former progressive supporters were confronted about their public support they claimed, entirely plausibly, that they simply didn’t believe Weev really meant what he was saying. Buzzfeed’s exposé shows Yiannopolous, an openly gay man, soliciting editorial advice from the virulently anti-gay Weev and angling to bring him onto his podcast as a guest with a note to his editor calling him a “great provocative guest … one of the funniest, smartest and most interesting people I know. … Very on brand for me.”

So was Milo a secret Nazi all along? Had weev, singlehandedly tricked everyone from his champions in Occupy Wall Street to media contacts like Yiannopoulos? Or, was something else going on, was there something further down poisoning the water?

New York magazine’s culture-war observer Jesse Singal subscribed to trolling culture’s own best trick in an essay last year where he argued that Trump supporting alt-right “trolls” online could not be understood with conventional moral and political categories:

A political journalist covering this “movement,” then, is going to make certain assumptions about it that would be reasonable in any other context, but which get quickly melted down by the sheer weird lulzy heat of chan culture—namely, that the actions of the participants in these online spectacles are motivated by normal, normie incentives and goals and politics. Nope—they’re just in it for the lulz.

The other argument now being made that the heyday of ironic trolling in the internet’s creative counterculture is distinct from the current politics of the Trump-supporting alt-right suggests a fundamental break between the old freewheeling 4chan of /b/, it’s random board, and the new far-right 4chan of /pol/, its politics board. And by extension a clear line of distinction between the old promise of the internet and its contemporary reality. But the truth is both more interesting and more unsettling. The rise of digital fascism in online subcultures once celebrated for their subversive power is not a break with their origins but in fact continuous with them. The alt-right was never in doubt about the purposes and uses of 4Chan’s trolling culture, as an essay on CounterCurrents, an influential alt-right publication, made clear: “The one thing /pol/ respects is power, and those without it are fair game for ridicule by virtue of it being not only hilarious, but morally justified in the spitting-upon of one’s enemies.” The far right knew what progressives are only beginning to realize: “Lulz” wasn’t just an amoral defiance of moral categories, it was an ethical claim. Through years of pre-political collective bullying, it trained those who would go on to become alt-right to deprogram the moral codes that might cause feelings of guilt and empathy by aestheticizing the collective dehumanization of enemies.

The failure to see trolling for what it was, in its germinative form on 4Chan and other message boards, and in Yiannopoulos’ opportunistic appropriation, was a collapse of moral and political imagination across the spectrum. Progressives in thrall to transgressive signaling and rule-breaking praised the nascent alt-right for “fighting the power. Liberals who couldn’t imagine that trolls might be otherwise regular people who used lulz to indulge an appetite for cruelty and the irrational and vent sincere but unspeakable desires.

Conservatives desperate to take back culture from the liberals, and libertarians who’d accept any allies in the battle against PC, invited Yiannopolous and others like him into their midst, who then in turn left the side door open for neo-Nazis and white nationalists. They all had a part to play in bringing us here.


In recent years two powerful currents in trolling came together to produce the digital vanguard of the alt-right. One was opposition to political correctness and the increasingly censorious culture of mainstream liberalism. The other was a creeping despair. Where the anti-PC sentiment had a fairly broad appeal, this was a more pointed sentiment. It was associated in its political dimensions with increasingly maligned and alienated young white men who saw their career and social prospects narrowing at the same time as interpersonal relations seemed to fracture and grow more mercenary. Feminism, immigration and demographic shifts changed both the labor and cultural environments. Naturally, white men who had the most status to lose, reacted with the greatest vehemence. Some became embittered and joined together in subcultural communities of resentment. They saw themselves not just as victims of circumstance but came to believe they had been cheated out of their rightful power and influence by a conspiracy of interlopers: women, minorities, Jews.

The hacker scholar Gabriella Coleman has compared 4chan’s trolls to the dadaists and in a particular unintended way there was truth in this comparison. Egging each other on under the cloak of anonymity, free to voice their fears and desires, the young men of 4Chan unleashed tremendous creative energies that still influence and resound in mainstream popular culture. If the 4Chan hive could sometimes behave like an art collective, it is also the case that Dadaists, in common with other modernist movements, were drawn to totalitarian temptations. Dadaism was dedicated to aesthetics above all and politically incoherent, but it evinced a belief “that the style and the beautiful gesture was all that mattered” as the historian Walter Laqueur wrote in his cultural history of the Weimar Republic, “and for that reason sympathized with the bomb throwers rather than their victims.”

There is a view in the popular imagination of art as an inherently enlightened, revolutionary force. This default association of artistic genius with the left still blinds people after more than a century to the strain of totalitarian yearning that runs from the Romantics through the modernists and postmodernists and down to their descendents in the present. Which is to say that the aesthetic energy of 4Chan’s early trolling culture hardly precluded its embrace of far-right reactionary politics. Was Salvador Dalí just trolling when, in 1934, he “proclaimed that Hitler’s surrealist personality was as admirable as that of Sade or of Lautreamont,” as Alistair Hamilton recounts in his book, The Appeal of Fascism? The lure of fascism among intellectuals and artists, Hamilton writes, “had its origins in sheer rebelliousness, in an anarchistic revolt directed against the established order.”

Today, the revolt against the established order has taken new forms. The politics of postmodern ressentiment, which the French novelist Michel Houellebecq has been dramatizing for decades as the terminal stage of European civilization, has lately arrived with unexpected force in America. Instead of Houellebecq’s ageing jaded libertines who have experienced the full course of the sexual revolution, America offers the young, often sexually inexperienced, men of 4chan, immersed in the most extreme material the free internet had to offer. Steeped in an online world of gruesome sexual violence and sadistic horrors they became known for targeting helpless individuals, like the families of suicide victims. What started as hedonism—Internet as pornographic paradise—ends with a Weimar-like counter-reaction. Once again, modernity’s perennial war against itself begins in rebellious nihilism that creates an unbearably contingent sense of existence and ends with a camp of rebels fleeing freedom into an embrace of violence, absolutism and the idolatry of race.

The characteristic image of the 4chan user and proto-alt-right member reflects the combination of fear and derision directed towards such people by mainstream culture. It is the image of the basement dweller, alone in his dark dungeon, furtively hunched over the pallid light of the computer screen. It is a version of the same image, a weakened photocopy over the centuries, of the Marquis de Sade, forefather of the modern political marriage of sexual sadism, emancipatory rhetoric, and the totalitarian desire to lord, by the rule of nature, over all of nature starting with the torture of the weak.

The journey within the internet’s once celebrated counterculture from recreational sadism and artistic nihilism to overt fascism is neither a sharp political turn or a put-on; rather, it is the tracing, once again, of a familiar emotional and political arc. It is a hollowed out aesthetic radicalism, emptied of any moral, humane or even political core, reaching its logical conclusion.

1   TwoScoopsOfWompWomp   ignore (2)   2018 Feb 9, 1:45pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (2)   quote        

I think one guy they arrested had a job at DQ or some DQ like Ice Cream Stand, Part Time.

What institutions do the alt-right dominate?

I know SJWs dominate several, and they are just as racist against Males and Whites, so I know who is the bigger threat.
2   Onvacation   ignore (2)   2018 Feb 9, 2:10pm   ↑ like (1)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

jazz_music says
Milo Yiannopolous, who, leaked internal records show, was the celebrity nexus connecting Nazi-saluting race warriors,

So you think a gay man married to a black man is a nazi? Really?
3   Onvacation   ignore (2)   2018 Feb 9, 2:13pm   ↑ like (3)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

TwoScoopsPlissken says
SJWs dominate several, and they are just as racist against Males and Whites,

More racist. Especially the race focused self hating white people.
4   anonymous   ignore (null)   2018 Feb 9, 2:35pm   ↑ like (3)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

The alt right fascists are like those guys from american history X and they should be asked the same question - "What have YOU done to make YOUR life better"?
5   anonymous   ignore (null)   2018 Feb 9, 4:23pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

Onvacation says
So you think a gay man married to a black man is a nazi? Really?

A Jewish gay man. Hard to believe that such a man is a Nazi. The real Nazis would have killed him as soon as they found him.
6   TwoScoopsOfWompWomp   ignore (2)   2018 Feb 9, 4:43pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (2)   quote        

TwoScoopsPlissken says
What institutions do the alt-right dominate?

Dislike all you want, but you can't answer it because the answer is none.
7   jazz_music   ignore (2)   2018 Feb 9, 7:50pm   ↑ like (2)   ↓ dislike (2)   quote        

TwoScoopsPlissken says
the answer is none.

Nobody I care about thinks that.

Favorite subject to change to? --too bad!
8   Tenpoundbass   ignore (11)   2018 Feb 9, 9:45pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (1)   quote        

But Social media suspended all the accounts. How are they dominating Social media?
9   jazz_music   ignore (2)   2018 Feb 10, 4:39pm   ↑ like (1)   ↓ dislike (1)   quote        

Tenpoundbass says
But Social media suspended all the accounts. How are they dominating Social media?

No. They are dominating social media still by devoting their time to repeating their daily pack of lies all over all day feeling heroic and macho about themselves.

It's like the neckbeard's in their basements are in some glorious battle star on daily sorties.
10   jazz_music   ignore (2)   2018 Feb 10, 4:40pm   ↑ like (1)   ↓ dislike (2)   quote        

Some sites have even given racist trolls of fascism the power to delete comments from users they disagree with.
11   TwoScoopsOfWompWomp   ignore (2)   2018 Feb 10, 5:26pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

jazz_music says
Nobody I care about thinks that.

And a fringe element that controls no element of society is nothing to worry about.

On the other hand, people who teach that "Whiteness" is evil and masculinity is toxic literally run most of our universities and much of HR and the Media.
12   anonymous   ignore (null)   2018 Feb 10, 6:40pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

jazz_music says
Some sites have even given racist trolls of fascism the power to delete comments from users they disagree with.

is that another personal attack on Patrick?
13   Feux Follets   ignore (0)   2018 Jun 2, 5:53pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

6 logical fallacies politicians often use and how to guard yourself against them

Here are six logical fallacies that are commonly used in politics. Included are examples of how these fallacies are used and suggestions on how to avoid being taken in.

1. Ad Hominem

One of the most common and pettiest fallacies known to humanity. This fallacy occurs when the traits of the person holding a position are attacked rather than the merits of the argument they make. It can also be used against organizations or institutions.


Mr. Jones’ tax plan isn’t worth considering. What could a person who works for the government know about taxes?

As you can see, no argument against the tax plan is given. All we have been told is something about one person who supports the idea. This says nothing about the merits or failings of the proposal.

2. Slippery Slope

A pervasive fallacy that regularly fools millions. This is the argument that if one action is taken another, absurd or undesirable, action will inevitably follow. Therefore, we ought to not take that first step.


If we let women vote, the next thing you know we’ll let animals vote!

This argument can be hard to spot but always relies on the idea that one event will necessarily follow from another. The fallacy lies in that some actions are not connected by necessity but are presented as such.

3. Strawman Argument

Some arguments are so bad that nobody makes them. They could be pointed out as absurd just by saying what they are. The Strawman fallacy takes advantage of this. This fallacy occurs when another argument is exaggerated or presented bizarrely in an attempt to discredit it. Other times, a position that nobody holds will be presented as the one held by an opponent, and that position will be attacked in place of their actual one.


Person One: I think people should eat fewer fatty hamburgers.

Person two: You don’t think people should eat meat? Are you trying to put farmers out of work? Trying to disrespect the culture and work of barbeque chiefs everywhere? You vegetarians and your moralizing, soon you’ll complain when people drink water!

As you can see, the second person misrepresented the point person one made and then attacked that point. By exaggerating the first person's position, they have created a strawman which is easier to attack than the first person's real stances. The original argument is ignored and not disproven.

4. False Dilemma

We’ve all heard this fallacy before. We are given two options, one much worse than the other. It is then said or heavily implied that we must select the option that is the lesser evil. Potential third options are left out.


The choice is simple; either we let dogs vote, or we’ll slide into a dictatorship!

As you might suppose, there are plenty of other options. Perhaps we can retain democracy without enfranchising animals, for example. The speaker, however, is trying to railroad you towards supporting a position they hold by only presenting two options.

5. Ad Populum

Also known as the bandwagon appeal, this is the false claim that what is popular is good. This fallacy is widespread and sometimes blatant. The famous “I like Ike” television commercials were nothing but this fallacy set to a snappy jingle.


Everybody likes Mr. Jones! You should vote for him too!

This appeal to popularity suggests that the popular choice is the good one. When you hear this argument, you’re likely to hear more about how popular they are than what their qualifications are.

6. False Equivalence

This fallacy is when two stances are presented as equivalent when they are not. During campaigns, you will often hear people comparing two candidates using this fallacy.


Yes, Mr. Smith is a serial embezzler, but Mr. Jones once littered in the park. They’re practically the same!

Embezzlement is a serious crime while littering, while wrong, is poor manners at worst. The argument in the example, however, is that both offenses make the perpetrators equally bad. While this does mean that both people have done things they should not have, they are far from equally bad; especially if they are trying to be in charge of public funds.

More on each of the six. http://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/six-logical-fallacies-youll-hear-this-election-season-and-how-to-beat-them

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