24 Apr Social Trolling by Craig Harms
Publisher’s Note: This guest post draws on a guerrilla tactic known as social trolling to diminish and destroy government psychological operations directed against captured populations whether a result of invasion or the occupation of land masses by the usual suspects to organize and regulate tax cattle farms. Make no mistake that governments are merely the vampire writ large and various defenses need to be erected to disorient and eventually disrupt their ability to initiate and use violence to organize society. While I don’t agree with everything, his thesis is thought-provoking and gets people pointed in the right direction. -BB
Events in America occur so rapidly that to believe any one person can ever find the full truth about any single event is truly laughable. We strive, daily, to maintain control of our surroundings; perceived knowledge gleaned from the various sources at our disposal helps us to believe that we possess control of ourselves and the environment we live in. Are we concerned enough, or perhaps paranoid enough, however, to read through the information that is fed to us in search of a motive? While I certainly do not promote paranoia or distrust of anyone, I do promote the premise that at this point in history we are being deliberately misled. I suggest we place less credibility and importance in the social messages presented by media until we can reestablish our own beliefs and our own reality as a people of this nation. We can accomplish this by examining how media serves to enrage and divide an otherwise cohesive country, taking an honest look at what is happening while we center ourselves around public distractions, discussing traditional attempts to change our direction and how they can be co-opted by division, considering methods of change that have shown signs of success, how we can modify these methods to specifically target the problem of a divisionary message, and what these efforts might accomplish in the larger scale of American social practice.
Division amongst the American people serves to keep us at odds with each other while fear ensures that we stay dependent on our government. John Avlon at The Daily Beast wrote, “As news of a new ‘credible’ threat swept across the nation on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Americans were abruptly reminded that terrorism is always one bad day away from being issue No. 1.” Messages of terrorism plots both overseas and at home in the states are a staple of daily news reports. We are constantly reminded that the next “bad guy” is just around the corner. Meanwhile, the Trayvon Martin controversy, built in part by a month long media feeding frenzy that has yet to completely subside, set a new standard for building tension among races. If we look closely at our news and media, we will notice that every issue presented has two sides, and two sides only. It has always been black or white, liberal or conservative, terrorist or citizen, consumer or dangerous individual, good guys or bad guys. We notice that in the 2012 elections Dr. Ron Paul chose to forego the libertarian title in favor of the republican banner to receive any notice at all. In the political and social scheme of modern day America independent parties and mindsets that step outside of the carefully erected parameters quickly become silenced.
Meanwhile, as the media presents us two different cages which we may inhabit, outside of the standard press we discover that an incomplete list, found at Wikipedia, with 134 total citations, displays over 63 cases of police brutality between 2001 and 2011 that have gone unreported and unemphasized. If we follow independent news sources we discover that, on average, a new case of police brutality or a violation of constitutional rights is occurring on a regular, almost daily, basis. While it would be remiss to state that these cases receive no coverage, most people can agree that they do not receive the same attention as “The Royal Wedding in 2011,” for example. Most would argue that they should receive equal if not more coverage than such frivolous events. More startling yet is the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act that occurred under cloak of night on December 31st 2011. “It allocates funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also includes “counter-terrorism” provisions which would allow the military to detain anyone on US soil indefinitely, without needing to guarantee a trial,” wrote one contributor at The Open Globe. During the first week of 2012 we may have heard a few talking heads on the radio voice their disgust regarding the bill that finally legalized indefinite detention sans trial or lawyer, but if we did it was brief. The true coverage came from independent news sources which were mostly comprised of online articles and YouTube videos. By January 17th 2012, the general public was content to go about their lives as displayed by Thetvaddict.com, which listed NCIS, Last Man Standing, and Glee as the top rated television programs for that day. What is the point in all this? When our media wants us to pay attention to an issue, it is everywhere. Real issues that actually affect us as a people are glossed over summarily.
Some people, however, observe issues in our society and political system and strive to do something about them. We have all paid witness to, through one media or another, concerned citizens’ attempts to “Wake people up” or “Change things”. These attempts usually come on the heels of some perception gained from mainstream media. These perceptions may include our party based political system, race tensions, religion, or any of the other myriad conceptualized “Issues” gripping our times. We have all seen how protests have gained attention only to fall unnoticed in their due time, how verbal disagreements have led to violence thus creating new issues, and how racial tensions serve to further divide us as people. It seems that our attempts to work within the box to solve our nation’s problems are ultimately futile, if not destructive. A great example is found in the firestorm of the “Occupy Movement” in 2011. Michael Calderone at The Huffington Post wrote in his article aptly titled, “EXCERPT – OCCUPY: Why It Started. Who’s Behind It. What’s Next.”, “Occupy Wall Street’s amorphous, seemingly leaderless, and non-partisan movement presented unique challenges for journalists experienced in covering protests with clear demands and cable talking heads accustomed to neatly categorizing dissent as either good or bad for one political party or the other.” What happened next was only to be expected. We see the divisionary tactics of the media coming a mile away, and do nothing to hedge against being discredited. What started as a unified people coming together, regardless of political boundaries, eventually developed into a left-wing jubilee, complete with singing hippies and “Down with capitalism!” workshops. While we strive so hard to overcome division and make a difference in our country, our efforts eventually end in being co-opted and dismantled.
Other forms of protest and activism seem to have taken a more significant turn. We begin to edge closer to what I feel is the ultimate solution to ineffective activism when we analyze the anomalous “Anonymous.” Emil Protalinsky at ZDNet.com points out that vote by vote, the Anonymous collective was voted TIME Magazine’s most influential person for 2012. Anonymous was the greatest supporter of if not among the arbitrators of the Occupy Wall St. Movement. How then, are they so influential with their greatest accomplishment torn asunder by the repetitious efforts of divisionary media? We can answer this question by looking closely at their techniques. In viewing any of hundreds of YouTube videos or “Pastebins” issued by the hacker collective, one message is clear: Anonymous is leaderless, it is decentralized, it has no specific message, and no specific agenda. When the media failed to categorize the collective into a political or social group, they initiated a vilification campaign. Upon that initiative, Anonymous launched a collective effort to destroy corruption and undo censorship. Within weeks we saw corrupt security firms’ sites defaced and their records published. We saw companies like Sony and MFGlobal as well as firms like the FBI having their network presence effectively diminished in light of censorship and unconstitutional investigation.
In 2011, at the apex of their hacktivist effort we saw “Operation Syria” which was the first time we had seen an activist group of any kind take on an entire government. The following was written by an anonymous poster on a Wikipedia page designed to display a timeline of the group Anonymous’s accomplishments: “In early August, Anonymous hacked the Syrian Defense Ministry website and replaced it with a vector image of the pre-Ba’athist flag, a symbol of the pro-democracy movement in the country, as well as a message supporting the 2011 Syrian uprising and calling on members of the Syrian Army to defect to protect protesters.” We can look at groups like Anonymous and acknowledge their accomplishments. We can believe in what they do or we can dispute their efforts as being morally wrong; they do not care either way. Of this I am assured. What then, can we learn from them if we choose to take on efforts of our own? If we look at their beginnings, it becomes clear that everything started for this group on the internet and spread henceforth. Their efforts have always been anchored in aggravation, shock humor or “lulz”, intentional irritation with the end goal resting on enlightenment, or in short, trolling.
According to Paul Gil, who writes for About.com, “An internet ‘troll’ is an abusive and obnoxious user who promotes hate and disharmony in online communities.” That is an abrasive assessment to be certain, though there is some truth to it. While many communities find trolling to be an offensive activity that disrupts their otherwise peaceful online encounters, not all trolling is enacted with those purposes in mind. In many cases trolling will occur with the intention to help people come to conclusions on their own regarding various moral, religious, or political opinions. Generally, when this happens the troll in question will set out with that goal in mind and will search until he has found an environment that is conducive to his “lessons”. Though other users will almost always be offended and angered in the process, if they think about something they might have not thought of without the trolls intervention, then the troll has done his job. The chance of a troll on a website having any sense of morality to his purpose is probably fifty-fifty, but in this modern day, when it seems that the whole world is up in arms with a message to convey, the chances are increasing. Jared Newman from TIME Techland (a subsidiary of TIME Magazine’s online site) reports that “Being obnoxious on the Internet may soon cease to be a fundamental right in Arizona, where lawmakers approved a measure that effectively makes trolling illegal.” With this measure setting a precedent in Arizona, and the group Anonymous, being effectively hunted down and arrested by our own FBI, we can make the assumption clearly that trolling and online activism have been raising some eyebrows and stirring the social-political pot.
We know that trolling works and we decide to follow the guidelines that took a group of hackers to international levels of effectiveness, where do we go next? To look at it simply, I recommend we do just what Anonymous did: take it to the streets. What does that mean exactly? Shortly after several successful online campaigns, Anonymous helped organize Occupy Wall Street. They stepped out from behind their computers, donned “Guy Fawkes” masks, and marched into the streets to stand up for what they believed in. They committed to traditional protests and demonstrations. We have shown already how the traditional protest no longer works: it becomes divided and cast into obscurity. Had they followed their proven online tactics into the public and physical arena, I would not be writing about this topic and “Social Trolling” would be a household name.
Social Trolling, as recommended by this writer, is the act of using the divisive and frightening messages presented to us by our media, and applying it aggressively to the public, in a way that will dull the messages impact thus diminishing the effects of division and fear. This is not a new concept. Linda Kiltz with ICMA Publications referred to flash mobs when she wrote, “Generally, flash mobs are groups of people who congregate in public spaces to carry out incongruous acts and leave after a brief period of time. We have seen such groups on YouTube and television advertisements doing everything from dancing and singing, to freezing in place and chirping like birds.” Traditional protests are also a form of social trolling, though we are familiar, by now with the path they take.
When implemented correctly, social trolling should make people nervous without anyone approaching them. It should offend people. The best troll will do his work based off of that week’s news reports. In 2010, a friend and I set to coughing and sneezing in a crowded gas station. To the resentful looks of the patrons therein we responded only, “Damn swine flu!” Exercised correctly, social trolling will lead to laughter, making new friends, and the broadened views of the masses. Exercised incorrectly will land trolls in jail. The beauty of the method is that, in the end, everyone involved should appreciate the other individual; the message to be delivered above all others is simple: “I love you because you are a human being, just like me.” This message in and of itself can complicate the masses quickly. It is the most dangerous thing that someone can say at this place and time in history. Even if we did away with the “trolling” aspect altogether and simply told people with whom we are unfamiliar that we loved them, the upset over time would be immeasurable. The message is legitimate if we believe in the goodness of other people and have faith that division will dissolve when we remind them of our shared humanity. If we choose not to love people or choose not to convey that message, then simply disturbing peoples’ sensibilities can be fun as well; at that point however, we diminish the effectiveness of the act considerably.
What could happen if this message got out? What might take place if everyone decided that race, gender, sexual preference, religious preference, political affiliation, or potential to inflict harm did not matter? Imagine if one day the new trend was to allow the nightly news to continue reporting its normal content but to take its messages with a grain of salt when it came time to make conclusions about other people. The social landscape could be permanently altered. Cornelius Holtorf wrote in his Museum International article “Ironic Heritage: overcoming divisions between communities through shared laughter about the past,” “In this situation, celebrating a non-existent common national heritage means celebrating the existing divisions within civil society that threaten social cohesions” in reference to an area in which a minority of residents are not native to said area. I retain and submit that U.S. citizens want to love their fellow citizens. It is not in the true nature of any person to automatically fear or hold suspicion for another human being. Division and fear are taught. Division and fear can be done away with.
We have looked at how fear and division is implemented in our country, what other events may be occurring that we could be paying more attention to, what others have tried and why it has or has not been effective, what methods have had success, how we can use these successful methods to specifically promote social cohesion, and what the effects might be if we were to succeed. It has become common knowledge that our system is failing. We have put too much trust in our leaders and forgotten about our fellow man. In 2012, we can look at our country with fresh eyes and work, under the premise of love instead of hate and fear, towards rebuilding what we have lost. We started as a nation of the people. We recognized the power of unity. Reclaiming that power is the only trick we have not tried. It is the only method that will work.
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