Tag Archives: trolling

The Tip of the Iceberg

I think it’s pretty clear now that the only reason we’ve been hearing so much about Russian election interference is because Hillary lost, and so many Americans need a convenient explanation that doesn’t require them to face the ugly truths in our society.  I’m sure the DNC hack, arguably the most influential aspect of the interference and the one which could have actually swayed votes away from Clinton, would have remained news for a few months and perhaps the related sanctions still would have been implemented, but apart from that I don’t think you’d see much more. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the chuds who are currently being indicted and investigated never came under any scrutiny, free to work their next con.

But of course Hillary did lose, and now we’re scrambling to track down every conceivable example of Russian interference. Some folks are going far above and beyond the call of duty as well.

russophobetweet

Now this is what Russophobia looks like. 

Unfortunately, for all the talk about Russian information operations in the US, few actual solutions have been proffered, and some of what has been suggested could be dangerous. It seems in the hysteria, some people have lost their ability to extrapolate and imagine how their remedies against foreign propaganda could one day mutate into suppression of internal dissent. But I can still extrapolate, and I’ve recently come to realize that Russia’s influence operations and the overhyped response to them could lead to something far, far worse.

As it stands now, a significant portion of Americans, especially in leadership positions, seems to believe that Russia successfully swayed the 2016 election. Perhaps their belief is not strong enough to get them to push for invalidating the results, but people seem to have no qualms about voicing this opinion. That means, for all intents and purposes, that the Russian tactics- the trolls, the bots, the fake pages, etc. were seen as effective.

What’s so scary about that? Well I can guarantee you that the PR industry and the rest of corporate America is watching. If they believe that these tactics are effective enough as to allow a country like Russia to sway a US presidential election, they’re likely to start adopting them. Since these will most likely be native US companies, they won’t be subject to the same scrutiny or regulations as foreign entities like the Russian government. Everything will most likely be well within the limits of the law. And it’s going to be terrible.

Remember back in 2008-2009 when people were talking about “astroturf” organizations behind the Tea Party movement? That was nothing. Some of these organizations were funded by people with deep pockets, but the people who showed up to the rallies were their on their own volition, driven by their own beliefs, however disconnected from reality they might have been. But what comes next is going to make astroturfing look like child’s play.

We already have rent-a-crowds in America. The decline in stable employment and lack of living wages means this could increase in the future, turning our political system into something resembling that of Russia or Ukraine. But imagine what it will be like when American lobbyist firms start adopting the online tactics of the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, better known as the infamous Troll Factory.

Just imagine what it will be like when numerous corporations and lobby groups are implementing the same tactics for disparate or similar goals, year round. It will be almost impossible to say for sure what’s real, just like in Putin’s Russia. The worst is yet to come, my fellow Americans.

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“LOL U MAD, BRO?” Troll Politics

What is the biggest political crisis of our age? Is it the rise of far-right reactionary politics, or “populism” to use the centrists’ blanket term? Is it polarization, partisanship, or tribalism? Not only could people spend hours debating that question, but they could just as easily debate whether there is a singular problem or a combination of some of the aforementioned tendencies. Whatever one thinks the answer to that question is, there’s one general tendency that seems to be on the rise and it may be more detrimental to political discourse than any rigid dogma or fanatical rhetoric.

Think back, for a moment, about all the times you’ve seen some story or tweet about some group being “triggered” by something. Most recently it was male Dr. Who fans (or people suddenly pretending to be in order to pander to an audience) who threw a fit when it was announced that the next incarnation of that sci-fi protagonist would be female. I don’t normally consume conservative media outside of Twitter, but I’m sure there are several things “libtards” or “SJWs” (Social Justice Warrior- a snarl word) are supposedly “triggered” by at the moment. Let’s break this down, shall we?

When someone is “triggered,” as they say on the internet these days, they are actually upset or otherwise expressing disapproval of something. The word triggered here makes no sense because triggered refers to a PTSD response. A person voicing disapproval, including loud and possibly hysterical disapproval, is not “triggered.” Someone who is actually triggered might not say anything at all. When someone is “triggered” on the internet, they are actually upset or angry.

It’s interesting how on the internet, being angry or upset is somehow a “loss” of sorts, and making people angry is admired and done with pride. Ordinary people don’t take pride in making people angry in real life. In real life there are consequences for that. Yet the internet gives people the ability to deliberately provoke others to anger and some people take a lot of pride in that trolling.

trolling

Of course I myself have to admit that I’m guilty of trolling, and if you’re being honest you probably did your share of trolling as well. In our weaker moments, we get amusement out of knowing we can provoke an angry response from dozens of more-or-less anonymous people, often simply by saying the exact opposite of whatever they passionately believe in. But some people recognize this for the distraction that it is, and some people confuse it for politics itself. I’m beginning to believe that the problem of 21st century politics might not be just the lack of lofty ideals and ideological discipline, but rather the degeneration of virtually all politics into what could best be called troll politics.

It’s easy to pin this mostly on the right, especially in America where it seems that your average conservative would happily castrate himself in public if you told him it would “trigger the libtards.” Indeed, it is on the far right where we see trolling and “memes” forming the basis for a political identity group, if not an ideology, loosely known as “Kekistan.”  While many people have referred to these highly defective individuals as neo-Nazis, the reality is actually far more pathetic. They use Nazi symbolism not because they actually have National Socialist beliefs and the will to express them, but rather because they get a cheap thrill out of the idea that they’re making people angry by breaking what they see as a taboo. In a way that makes them worse than actual neo-Nazis, who at least believe they are advancing some kind of ideology they feel is morally justified. They have to put up with the consequences of expressing beliefs which most of the world rightfully finds morally reprehensible. The “Kekistanis” can just tap out “LOL U TRIGGERED, SJW FAG?!!” and then it’s back to jerking off to Japanese cartoon schoolgirls.

Though troll politics are extremely widespread on the right, a good swathe of the left has been guilty of foregoing real politics for troll politics. To be sure, many leftist are just reacting to the right’s moral panic about “political correctness” when they point out how the same people who scream about young people being over-sensitive “snowflakes” will scream about businesses using the term “Happy Holidays.” At first it was novel, but after a while it gets old. We get it- the people who call everyone a special snowflake are in fact the most sensitive and the most likely to get upset about trivial matters. It’s always been this way with “political correctness.” Those who complain the most about political correctness tend to be those who whine about their beliefs being criticized and who want society to tip-toe around their feelings so as not to offend them by challenging or criticizing them in anyway.

We can see the existence of trolling politics in the international arena as well. Oftentimes on Twitter I see people cheering about how some official Ukrainian account “trolled” the Russians over some controversy such as the recent “Anna of Kyiv” reference Putin made during his meeting with Emmanuel Macron in France. Sure, Ukraine’s official Twitter “trolled” Russia, but Russia has trolled Ukraine quite a bit since 2014. So if you were keeping score, Ukraine got in one sick burn against Russia, and Russia has killed about 10,000 citizens, displaced a couple million more, and annexed a large part of Ukrainian territory. It pains me to admit it, but I think Russia came out on top in this little trolling engagement.

The Ukrainian example demonstrates one major shortcoming of troll politics- they’re completely worthless if your opponent has a concrete advantage over you or is simply beating you. A similar case can be made about American liberal comedians and their so-called “eviscerations” of President Trump and the GOP. No matter how biting their tweet or rant might be, at the end of the day Trump is still president and the GOP wields enormous power in the US, not only at the federal level but in many states as well. You can make them mad- they can screw up your country. It’s no contest.

While people might call troll politics a symptom of polarization or otherwise trivialize it, I think if this trend continues unabated it might end up reaching the level of an existential crisis. Advocating things because you think they will get a rise out of your opponents is not a good methodology for finding good policies. On the contrary, it’s likely to lead to the absolute worst, and quickly too. Already there are people who gush with glee about the idea of eliminating environmental regulations, all because they think it will make some caricature of a hippie angry, we’re talking about a very dangerous line of thought.