The Unappreciated Art of the Troll

“To make a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.”

“To fish by trailing a baited line along behind a boat.”

Google search result for trolling

Everyone has their nervous tic, that thing that they just can’t keep themselves from doing. Popping gum, clicking a ballpoint pen, tapping their feet, clearing their throat, whatever form it takes, everyone has them. I have been known to create rhythms with clap-snapping while walking. Pen clicking is the reason I don’t like holding a pen in my hand, I’ve had enough of them slapped out of my hand over the years to realize how annoying some people find that repetitive noise. It can’t be because of the dysgraphia, that certainly wouldn’t have a thing to do with it.

But I also have a darker confession to make when it comes to nervous tics. I troll trolls. The barbed replies that I compose to posts in online forums and social platforms frequently happen without any planning on my part. As far as nervous tics go, trolling the unwanted and unwelcome, tormenting them with attacks that they will feel obliged to counter, speaks to internal issues of conformity and certitude that I wrestle with. And I do wrestle with them from online moment to online moment. There have been far more words that I’ve deleted from posts than I’ve actually ever posted in the decades since I started spending time on the internet.

Trolling is an obscure internet behavioral reference to just drop on the uninitiated. I figure if you got to this blog, you probably know your way around the internet. But still, most of us use words all day long that we don’t really have definitions for and can’t really define if pressed. I started this post with a definition for trolling, and I included both definitions for the behavior for a reason; and that reason is, trolling is seen in one light by the troll, in the other light by those being trolled. Trolls think they are the good guys. They are certain they know the truth and they think they are convincing people by trolling. They are speaking to the silent masses reading with a knowing eye, and not to the people they are arguing with. They are expecting their antagonists to admit that they are fakes and to walk away from the argument as changed people; that is, to whatever extent they actually take the people they are arguing with seriously. The fact that they just might be wrong on the ideas they are promoting never even crosses their minds. If the thought did cross their minds, they would never go where they go and say the crazy things they say.

So when a troll posts in a forum, any forum about anything at all, they are posting specifically to attract the unwary. Hoping against hope that someone will acknowledge their existence and gratify their longing to make a difference by taking the time to argue with them about whatever it is they posted. Cat videos in a dog forum. Dog memes in a cat forum. Rainbow colored memes in a conservative forum. Gun images in a liberal forum. Hentai memes in an Anime forum. Whatever it is, their fondest wish is that you click on their thing and reward them with your attention. Once they have a flame war going, they are like hogs in a wallow; able to roll luxuriously through the mud being slung in every direction. Which is generally where people like me show up. Flame war going, hogs wallowing, attention being lavished on the undeserving, from the anti-trolling perspective.

When people like me see an inept attempt to troll a group that the troll doesn’t like, we can’t keep ourselves from trolling them right back. Our desire is to put out the flame war, to deny the troll the attention that they are looking for. We offend the easily offended so that they will leave the conversation. Piss off the trolls so that they abandon their own threads, or cross some preset line of conduct that will get them evicted from the forum or punished in some other fashion. If nothing else works, spamming a thread with nonsense will generally put out a flame war because no one can keep track of what was said last by whom, silencing both sides with avalanches of bullshit.

Why do I and others like me do this? If you are going to take pleasure in causing someone else pain, at least have the decency to be good at it for fuck’s sake. That is why.

I have tried many things to remedy this nervous, twitchy, problem of mine. Proactive blocking. Spam reporting. Hate-speech reporting. Nothing seems to stem the unending tide of idiots who think they know how to score points on their enemy. There are just too many of you inept motherfuckers out there. I can’t escape you and your pathetic drivel, so I will do the only other thing available to me. I will write a primer on the subject so that I can hand it out to you when I regrettably run across one of you.

The first bit of business, like most subjects of discussion, isn’t what you think it is. You, dear reader, probably think that I’m going to illustrate how to compose a decent meme or perhaps lecture on shouting at people in ALL CAPS. This isn’t that kind of blog. There are other places you can go for that information. I am not your internet help desk. No, the first fucking thing to understand is knowing when you are being trollish. Learn to recognize when you are causing pain to another person and to ask for forgiveness if offense is legitimately taken. The first order of business is to understand what it means to troll. If you don’t know what you are trying to do, you will not be successful in carrying out your mission.

Your initial post should be savvy enough to be taken seriously by the casual observer. Posting porn images to a photography group will reliably get you banned the first time you do it. So don’t do it from an account you might want to use again, if that’s your thing. On the other hand, social posting has to attract attention in order to be social. A dialog rather than a monologue.  Why post at all if what you are doing is going to be ignored? Why talk to yourself online? You might as well log off and go masturbate if you are just playing with yourself; and frankly, most trolls would be better off masturbating more often anyway. It relieves the stress to perform well, take it from an old hand at this. If you are thinking about trolling, go masturbate first. It is better for everyone if you do.

Back already? Well, that was quick. Where were we? Ah, yes, the meaning of trolling, crafting a successful troll. You want to be provocative, but not offensive.  You want to question the status quo but do so in a way that won’t get you evicted from a group.  It is a consequence of this fact of internet life, the loneliness of it, the desire to gain the attention of others, that makes nearly every internet post an attempt to troll, an attempt to get people to pay attention to you, to dig me as George Carlin once put the question on his album Class Clown.

Virtually all comedy is trolling behavior. Anything you think is funny is probably offensive to someone. Posting humor will get you labeled as a troll, especially if you post that humor in places where whoever is being made fun of hang out. Telling Polack jokes on a Polish immigrant forum will get you banned as someone engaging in hate speech pretty quickly, and probably rightly so. Polack jokes are so 1990’s. Get with the times. Clearly the targets of choice have shifted back to the brown-skinned people South of the US border. If you are from Texas you reference them by pointing out they have to swim to get to this side of the border. In New Mexico, Arizona and California (states with land borders) that kind of reference is considered racist and will get you outed as a racist. And rightly so. So the second point of successfully trolling is to know the subject that you hope to exploit. Even in Texas you can be confused with a racist if you are so insensitive as to name a movie Deadbacks in humorous reference to the racial epithets of yesteryear.

Writing by its very nature implies that someone will read what you write. If no one reads it, do the words even exist? That is a bit metaphysical, isn’t it? Unlike speech, which elicits response if anyone can hear you, even when you are talking to yourself, writing really does imply that someone will read the words you write. Every writer imagines someone they are writing to while they are writing. That is how you gauge whether you are getting across to your audience, you imagine who they are as you type. Are they confused? Misunderstood? Go back and read anything you’ve written in the past, like I have done on this blog. Go back and read the things you wrote ten years ago, see if you recognize the person writing at that time. So many things we think are important at any given time look so pathetically misguided in hindsight.

Most people hate to think about the things they believe. Asking another person to do that is generally branded as trollish behavior. The most provocative thing you can do online is to challenge someone else’s beliefs. Any ideologue is a prime target for trolling.  It isn’t just conservatives in the wild who are susceptible. It is also anarchists and socialists, any group or person more allied with a set of ideas than they are with other people.

That homophobe or transphobe you are always running across is no more deserving of trolling than the social justice warrior who doesn’t know when to shut up. The Jehovah’s Witness who rings your doorbell on a Sunday morning that you’ve always wanted to introduce to the Flying Spaghetti Monster is on the same level as a target of trolling as that atheist friend who thinks all religion is stupid is a target. If you’ve asked a question specifically to get someone to question their beliefs, congratulations, you are a troll.

If you’ve ever engaged in anything other than casual conversation, you’ve probably engaged in trolling behavior yourself. Admit this fact, we’ll keep it between ourselves. No one will know of the secret pleasure felt when someone rewards you with a reply to your cleverly worded bait. It’s OK, we all do it. Everyone is a troll in some fashion, especially the people who think they would never do that. Like passive aggressiveness, everyone has trolled at least once. All of us find ourselves in conversations online and off, conversations that we weren’t invited to, have no real interest in, or are required to participate in because of social norms.  You just want a drink of water and the group at the water cooler stares at you as you approach. Do you offer an insight or just duck and cover? The smart person might keep to himself, but the adventurous amongst us probably attempts to riff on what the conversation appeared to be when it suddenly included them. If the comment can be deemed provocative in any way, congratulations you have just trolled the water cooler.

This behavior, trolling, is not really a new thing at all in spite of the fact that it never had a name before the internet evolved. It is the way the nature of conversation evolved over the millennia from basic communication needs, imparting information from one person to another that was life critical,

Food. There.

Into ways to convey complex levels of thought and to do so with enough rigor that the teachings were retained through multiple generations of descendants. The briefest of excursions into the subject of Freemasonry will shed light on just how convoluted verbal teachings can get, and just how misunderstood meanings passed down without writing and divorced of the concretes they deal with, specifically masonry in this case, can become.

It is not merely coincidental that some of the earliest human groups formed around the subject of masonry; nor is it coincidental that those groups sought to exclude others, the outgroup, from understanding what it was they were doing. The first recorded words that we still retain were recorded on stone by stone masons. And they retained their exclusive rank and that ability to divorce the spoken word from that impediment to communication, time, up until the fifteenth century and Johannes Gutenberg‘s masterful invention. It was only then that language becomes divorced from the spoken word. Only then that reading became something that anyone could afford to take time to learn and do, because it facilitated learning in other areas. Before the invention of moveable type you communicated all information directly, from master to apprentice, in words designed specifically to impart knowledge from the person with hands-on experience to the person who wanted to know how to do whatever that thing was.

After Gutenberg invented the printing press, it became more profitable for the master to write his knowledge down directly, so that his mastery could be spread wider. Could be spread to students who couldn’t hear his voice directly, because they lived in another town or even in another century. From Gutenberg’s invention until today we have continued to evolve the written word. From masters writing their knowledge down for the erudition of us all, into entire industries making billions of dollars off of the spreading of information world wide, into fat, naked old white men typing out their masurbatory fantasies in the darkness of their mother’s basement, all alone in the night. I’m not so sure this whole printing press thing is going to work out well, in the end.

The first time the veracity of the information imparted was questioned,

that ain’t food, that’s shit.

Trolling was born. Deriding or dismissing the offered information. Refusing a directive like turning a blind eye. Being known for writing a rebuttal to a treatise that history has long since forgotTrolling 101. Anyone can engage in this basic form of rebellion, just like the millions of meme-posters on Facebook, all of them convinced they are somehow unique and worthy of the attention of others. Facebook is the internet equivalent to the office watercooler, one step below icanhascheezburger on the meritocratic scale of trolling. Facebook is an intellectual level below lolcats, because lolcats know they are attention seekers and have to hone their craft against other self-admitted attention seekers. Most people on Facebook don’t even admit that what they want to gain by hanging out there is attention.

Facebook meme posters are to trolls what script kiddies are to hackers. Someone who only understands how to do one thing in a field that encompasses all known forms of things. Anyone can screen cap an offensive image and post it. Anyone can copy and paste a meme generator image, the kind you find reposted ad infinitum across the vast Facebook wasteland. It takes no talent at all to piss someone off.  Shit flinging monkeys can do it with a single gesture. Hell, if it exists, is filled with memes.

The internet is so full of amateur mental gamers, amateur trolls, that there are terms created just for them. Just asking questions is now referred to as Jaqing off. A Facebook friend went off on a tear recently because someone suggested they were playing devil’s advocate.  An artist never reveals his art as art. An artist creates and either the art is accepted or rejected.  If you are going to play devil’s advocate, be the devil’s advocate.  Don’t expect other people to indulge your mental masturbations, or to refrain from punishing you for your transgressions of norms. No one likes a show-off. No one respects an artist whose defense is but this is art or especially I was only joking.

The key to knowing when to troll and when not to troll is honesty. Knowing what results you want from a conversation and how you will get it. This knowledge turns a memer into someone interested in perfecting the art of the troll. A person interested in the shape of the conversation itself. It is at this point that the apprentice troll becomes a journeyman troll, believes himself capable of trolling like a master. This is the point where the smartass becomes the asshole, as in “the asshole that ruined [insert name here] forum.”  I have been kicked off so many forums over the years that I’ve actually lost count.  I was kicked off of most of them because that is what I wanted the moderators to do, although I may not have known it at the time. Challenge authority publicly and you will be smacked down. This occurs because 99.9% of authority’s effectiveness in the wild is based on fear of the application of force. If the mundanes you have authority over are not afraid of you, you will lose control sooner or later.

Respect can replace fear most the time, but there has to be mutual respect for hard and fast rules for this to occur. Mutual respect for rules, while a basis for any good argument, is sadly lacking in most online forums. Rules have to be enforceable to be hard rules. Rules against doing something the authority cannot even check on aren’t rules, they’re wishful thinking. It is not within the ability of a forum moderator to compel civil discourse, to prevent or observe that one member has blocked messages from another member. It’s not hard to find fast rules on the internet. You can be banned from forums just for observing that forum moderators are as naked as the emperor. Never tell authority that their rules are meaningless. You cannot compel discourse or civility in the wild. You can only control who gets to have a voice in your forum.

Contrary to popular belief, trolls do not ruin forums, moderators do.  More to the point, a moderator is the shepherd of the forum, and the moderator needs to be given permission by the forum owner to do the job they need to do.  The most damaging belief among forum moderators is that applying rules justly equates to censorship. That you cannot remove posts and users without denying them their free speech. You may never hear from that person again, or they might be back in minutes as a new user you’ve never heard of before; but either way the activities of a moderator are not censorship. Applying rules justly is how civilization is maintained, how progress is secured. Make no mistake, a bad moderator can destroy a forum but a good moderator can make a forum work flawlessly if they simply have the knack for smoothing over the rough bits.

But getting back to the assholes as in this is the point where the smartass becomes the asshole, assholes should be kicked off forums en masse, everywhere on the internet.  Kicked and kicked again until they graduate to the next level of trolling, or cease to troll altogether.  It is possible to not troll, The wife is one of those rare exceptions. Trolling is as alien to her as double entendres or puns.  When she ventures into those fields it is hilarious because it is so unexpected.  Every time she reads my posts she is baffled about why I bother.  Every time she reads responses to my posts she is livid, and it’s all I can do to keep her from hunting the offending party down.

The only way to deal with assholes is to remove them, and like a bandage it is best done quickly to limit the pain. As many times as I’ve been kicked out of groups over the decades, there are even more places that I’ve been a member of that have been reduced to ghost towns by assholes who simply don’t know when to shut up and had control over that Uniform Resource Locator or subreddit. On more than one occasion, that asshole was me.

Some of the assholes never learn.  They just get bitter. They just get angry. Anger is a copout. The targets of the troll are angry too.  Justifiably so, in their eyes. That too is a copout, but it is an understandable one.  People who are pushed, who are angry, lash out.  A good moderator on a forum does what the name implies. A good moderator moderates.

“Dude, I know you think this is fun, but your target does not. I know you can’t see the tears, but there are tears, trust me.”

When kicked from a group, understand that you are in error. Authority is never in error. Authority never admits error, in any case. The only time authority ever admits error is when they are pulling a Gorbachev. They are on their way out, and oh by the way, we fucked up. Sorry about that. Trolls live for that moment. But the kicking? That is personal.  It is all about you and your blindness to lines that everyone else knew was there and you didn’t. Until you crossed the line.  Now you know where the line is.  Cross that line again and expect the same results.  Cross the same line the same way and now you are just being stupid. Keep crossing the same line and you turn into a criminal, not a troll.

This is the other point I wanted to make. Trolls are not criminals any more than hackers are criminals. Trolls that continue pursuing the same person after they’ve been warned off are stalkers. Trolls that harass after they’ve been warned off are guilty of harassment.  Trolls (or anybody else) who threatens to harm another person have crossed one of the few universal hard and fast lines in human society. That person won’t be enjoying his liberty to troll people who aren’t in orange jumpers for much longer.

But there is hope.

I learned. I survived and evolved. I knew that this change had occurred because, for quite some time now I’ve changed tacks rather than bash my head against ineffectual moderation. Walked away from conversations that were clearly going nowhere.  Walked away from conversations where my target wasn’t ever going to appreciate the time invested in pointing out the error to them. I’ve simply packed up and left rather than finish the art, complete the conversational arc. I’ve walked away from forums where the moderators could not bring themselves to cull the assholes. The moderators couldn’t keep the Jaq-offs from posting every meme that crossed their newsfeed.  If the sub-group is going to be subjected to everything on the larger forum, why join the group? It really is too bad that Facebook is about the only place left to have an argument in the wild on the internet. Yahoogroups? Dead. BBcode forums? Dead. Usenet? I’ve heard rumors they still exist. Haven’t been there in years.

I’ve wasted enough time flinging shit at other shit-flinging monkeys.  There is no pleasure in it any longer. I have grown to appreciate the art of the troll while a growing despite for the mechanics of it keeps me from over-indulging.

You can say that you have graduated to an appreciation for the art of the troll when you can lead someone to a devastating conclusion blissfully unaware right up to that last step, and you leave them to it. You don’t hang around to admire the mess that ensues. That isn’t the point of a masterful troll, an artful troll. The point is to bring the offender into a position where they can recoil in horror at their own stupidity. Hang themselves with the lengths of rope that you’ve graciously continued to hand to them as they tied the knot and thrust their head through the loop to grin at you. Allowed the petty and the vain to impale themselves on their own sharp wits.

We all have a limited amount of time on this Earth and we can either fritter it away arguing with the ignorant and the ideologically blind, or we can spend time having conversations that have meaning and purpose and the potential for making positive changes in the world. More and more often these days, I’m choosing the latter. Anyone who comes into a forum for a specific point of view and purposefully trashes that point of view is not there to learn anything. They are there to convert by the sword. My response, now, is to repel with the sword. I block, report, and prosecute threats against my person. I block and report trolls who show up looking for a fight. I block, report and follow up on people who are racist, homophobic or Christianist to a dangerous level. That is how I’m going to make the world better for people who just want to live their lives as peacefully as possible.

If you are reading this, go wish Henry Edward Hardy a good day in hell from me. It’s because of him this was posted today.

My feeling is that the reckless, no-consequences, tantrum culture that has evolved online was something that sprouted and became normalized through SF fandom way back when, which makes it incumbent on us who are still part of it to do whatever is possible to make things better. The internet getting devoured by rage culture is only inevitable if we leave the trolls to the cesspool.

Atomic Junk Shop, The Exaltation of Anger

Daily Beef: Tumblr Not Talking to Facebook?

…now that I’ve gotten today’s news out of the way, I’ll type a few sentences about my new frustration with Tumblr and Facebook not being friends anymore, forcing me to duplicate my efforts to stay relevant on multiple social platforms yet again. Wait. I think that covers it. Easler than anything else I’ve tried to do today. Don’t get me started on trying to get my music library to sync with my expanded phone storage. That was A LOT OF FUN.

Facebook


Editor’s note, 2019. Shortly after writing this, I deleted my Tumblr account. One of the smarter things I’ve done recently. The only thing that would have been smarter would be never wasting time on Tumblr in the first place. I gave up trying to get my life-long compiled library of MP3’s onto my phone and now I’m just trying to bring in one folder at a time so that I can listen to it, clean up what needs cleaning up, and replace what is sub-standard. I think I’ll need another lifetime to get through that process.

Bye-Bye HelloTXT

Going back through old links again today on Facebook. Just like I try to do every day on Facebook, and then fail, condemning me to always be needing to go back through Facebook history just to see if there’s something important that I missed putting on the blog. Something that should be written to this public diary. I noticed today that On This Day has been renamed. It’s now called Memories. Talk about meaningless changes. Moving fast and breaking things. On This Day was always about Memories. I guess Facebook wants to be more expansive or possibly (probably?) restrictive about what they show you when you click that link.

I also noticed today that my ten year old links to HelloTXT content now go to malware sites. Hellotxt closed its doors in 2012 without my noticing.

HelloTXT was a highly used social media aggregator that has now shut its doors. It follows right behind social media aggregator Ping.FM. We are pretty sure that PixelPipe will be the next one to close its doors as the abuse of its service is overwhelming. While this was a very quick and decisive decision it was probably the easiest way to dodge the online backlash from all the users. HelloTXT provided mobile applications as well as an online API that allowed many applications to connect to its service and submit their posts. Each and every aggregator has helped connect users to multiple social media sites but it seems the maintenance and upkeep outweighs the profit. Onlywire is still up and running but also leverages a payment structure which helps keep the management worth it.  They definitely didn’t follow our blog on How To Retire a Brand.

HelloTXT Closes Their Doors and Shuts Down

Don’t go to the website for HelloTXT. That URL now goes directly to a malware site. The sad part is, I can’t access my profile if the site isn’t up, and so there is no way to recover what the old short links went back to any longer. I used HelloTXT for years to synchronize status across all the platforms that I was on. I quit using it for awhile because I was spending most of my time on Facebook. Now I discover it’s gone and I’m ambivalent but disturbed by it. Like lost memories that you glimpse briefly through the haze, but then they are gone.

What the hell was that? Must have been nothing worth remembering.

Facebook status.


Editor’s note: 2019. Memories is more expansive now. This is confirmed. All kinds of crap is now posted at the beginning and the end of the list of things that you did on that day over the span of years you’ve wasted on Facebook. I’ve wasted on Facebook. I’m trying not to think about that stretch of time too hard right now.

The Xenophobia of the Orange Hate-Monkey

The Orange Hate-Monkey says “open borders” as if there are terrorists just waiting across the river for us to let down our guard. Terrorists got into the country even in World War Two when the entire country was on a war footing and reporting suspicious activity all the time. There is no such thing as a secure border, because the border is in every international airport and in every seaport and every inch of coastline. When he says border he means the Mexico border. There is no confusion here. He means brown-skinned people coming over the Southern border. Brown-skinned people that he then hires to work at Mar-a-Lago. But that is part and parcel of his racism. Dark-skinned people are lesser people and should be afraid of white people. Should be grateful to be allowed to survive in his America.

I don’t have a problem with open borders. If you thought about it, you wouldn’t have a problem with it either. It’s called tourism, letting people come in because they want to visit a place. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

That is why we have to reject his America. Why we have to bring this machine to a grinding halt until he is removed from office. I make no bones about it now. He has to be removed. His Vice President has to be removed. The entire election should be voided because of Russian tampering and party shenanigans on the part of the head of the FBI, James Comey, who thought he was crippling the next President, Hillary Clinton, not putting a known criminal in the White House.

These GOP and Democratic party shenanigans have gone on long enough now. Time for them to stop. So first we take over the Democrats, and then we make the system sound again by passing state legislation that ends gerrymandering, institutes jungle primaries and mandates public financing for all elections. With those measures in place every dollar that gets into a representatives hands from outside the government will be criminal and prosecutable. Their parties will be largely irrelevant aside from the issues the party represents. Whoever best represents an area will be the representative because there won’t be a corrupting influence involved in drawing the districts. It’s a long haul, but we can do it. First we have to keep the OHM from making himself dictator of the United States, and that means keeping him from securing power in his hands. Stop the takeover of the SCOTUS. Say no to any appointments he makes until after the next congress is seated.

Facebook comments posted to the blog.

Personal Harm? #ImpeachTrump

Tell me: how your life has changed, for better or for worse, since Donald Trump became president. How has Trump’s administration affected you personally as opposed to society in general? Be specific and try to avoid hyperbole.

Stonekettle Station

Ah, the tell me where it hurts gambit.

Show me on this doll where the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) hurt you.

I’d like to take just a minute to explain how unnecessary this kind of detailing of the impacts of bad leadership truly is before I get into just how my life has changed for the worse since the OHM took office. The president is frequently given both credit and blame for things that are completely divorced from the actions that he takes, and yet the effects of a president’s actions or inaction can be felt by everyone in the world today, not just the residents of the United States of America. But the credit and/or blame as well as the actions have little to do with the outcomes themselves unless the authorizing legislation was crafted by the White House itself, and the President himself has a hand in making sure that the program in question is executed properly.

A case in point is the FEMA debacle of Katrina during the Bush II years, a failure of preparedness that Barack Obama avoided for his entire eight years in office having learned from W’s mistakes. Only to have the OHM return to the bad old days of political appointments to FEMA and the resulting catastrophe in Puerto Rico that continues to the time of this writing. W can be credited for learning from his mistake with hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, with the OHM steadfastly refusing to admit the reality of the massive death toll exacted on Puerto Rico because of his FEMA’s bungling of relief efforts and his general disdain for all brown-skinned people. These are examples of outcomes that can be laid directly at the feet of the occupant of the White House because FEMA management or lack of management is directly linked to White House control.

The OHM is quick to take credit for low unemployment numbers and continued economic growth, while carefully avoiding the subject of his predecessor’s actions and how those actions set up the rosy outcomes that he takes credit for now. Never is the fact that unemployment numbers are completely made up statistics that have almost no bearing on whether or not the average American can find work at any given time discussed. Never is the fact that growth statements are similarly jiggered admitted to, either. And it is the subject of the job numbers that brings me to how the OHM has made my life worse, directly. The Wife can’t find a job in this terrible job climate, and no amount of hype about how good the economy is on Wall Street will change this very simple fact. The Wife can’t maintain her health insurance because the OHM and his supporters in the Justice department and congress have derailed efforts to see universal healthcare coverage extended to all Americans. And without a job she has extremely limited ability to pay for her own healthcare. My wife is no different than millions of other Americans similarly affected by conservative rejection of universal health coverage here in the US. The most vivid display of the error in believing that life is a zero sum game.

His crackdown on migrant workers entering the US has caused shortages in manpower throughout the food production industry, resulting in higher prices and scattered availability for some produce and meats in some areas. I can’t say for sure if the price spikes I’m seeing at the grocery checkout are the direct result of the OHM’s actions on immigration, but I dare anyone to try to explain how hand-picked vegetables can get picked without migrant labor to do the job. Migrant labor that is under the greatest pressure I’ve ever seen applied to the poor people who do the majority of that work.

Similarly, his grifting our trading partners, shaking them down for bribes before allowing them to do business in America, has a broad negative impact not only on the well-being of today’s Americans, but also damages the potentials for the next generation of Americans. How will an isolated America fare in the future? We’d better start trying to figure this out now, because it will take a generation or more to pass before our trading partners will be persuaded that we won’t turn on them again as the OHM has. His tariffs on steel and aluminum will be exacting a price on American pocket books long after we’ve removed the OHM from office.

His pandering to dictators like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping leave me with little doubt that he will be ass-kissing Kim Jong-un if that meeting ever actually happens. His debasing of America destroys the reputations of all Americans, making us all look like weak-willed individuals unwilling to stand up to international bullies like Putin. Since his family personally profits from these arrangements with dictators, he has no inclination to think of the greater good that might be achieved. If Kim Jong-un agrees to let him build a Trump tower in Pyongyang, I have no doubt that the OHM will find a way to let him keep his nuclear arsenal. He might even give him plans for American weapons in exchange for a sweetheart deal. Who’s to say what level of betrayal is beneath him if there is personal profit involved? I can’t imagine that he would balk at selling Ivanka into sex slavery if there was a buck to be made from it.

Grand Conspiratorial Fantasies

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Hanlon’s Razor

The image at right was culled from a friend’s Facebook wall a few years back. The image serves as an introduction, the proverbial rabbit-hole, a building 7 to 9/11 truthers, a lead-in to draw you deeper into this post dedicated to critical thinking. Humor me, dear reader. I’m going somewhere with this.

You might well ask, what does the image mean? Anyone who doesn’t recognize Morpheus from The Matrix movies really needs to go back and do some homework before reading this. The Matrix is its own introduction to conspiratorial thinking, a rabbit hole of its own metaphorical making. However, the  text on the image is misleading. Anyone running for public office, from any party, is subject to the will of the people who fund their campaigns.  If the candidates from the party do not pander to the big spenders (i.e. the corporations) then the party will not get the funds they need to win, meaning their ideology will never take root directly in the politics of the nation. All parties work for corporations, even the third parties. The Kochs owned the LP for a long time before they shifted to the Republicans. The Kochs represent some of the worst of the worst of corporate behavior, strong-arming groups that they fund trying to force them to echo the policies that the Kochs find favorable.  This will continue to be true until we get money out of politics, plain and simple. There is no other way to fix the problem of corporations buying the parties and the candidates for office.

I have no problem with the image. I probably don’t have a problem with the website the image came from, although I haven’t spent any real time on it. What I had a problem with was where the conspiratorially motivated fantasists took the image in the wild after it was released. I have culled most of the incorrigible conspiracists from my Facebook wall.  Every now and then a new one pops up and I subject them to the ban hammer; but generally my wall is free of their posts. Some of my oldest friends do indulge in conspiracy fantasies though, and as a consequence of this I still have to deal with the odd reference to a conspiracy theory even though I find the entire subject of grand conspiracies completely ludicrous.

Grand conspiracies are ludicrous, starting with the phrase conspiracy theory. Grand conspiracies aren’t theories.  A theory not only explains the facts in evidence, it survives rigorous testing through trial and error.  The theory of evolution is an excellent example of this. It has survived test after test, and has made predictions about evolutionary history which have been proven to be true. It is a robust theory, accepted by nearly all of the scientific community. The fact that nearly half of Americans reject the theory of evolution merely serves as a painful reminder of just how misinformed most of us are.

Grand conspiracies aren’t conspiracy hypothesis either, which is the step in evidence below theory. A hypothesis of necessity must explain all the predominant facts it is attempting to address.  A hypothesis has to be testable to be acceptable as a scientific explanation. Grand conspiracies tend to ignore all evidence and instead look for anomalies that can be held up as examples of failure for explanations the grand conspiracy believer doesn’t like. Phrases like magic bullet get thrown around, as if the unexplained will remain inexplicable forever.

Grand conspiracies are conspiratorial conjecture, nothing more. They are stories that are told to entertain. They are, as the title of this piece states, conspiracy fantasies.  When you start allowing your fantasies to replace the reality around you, a whole host of bad is waiting in the wings to descend upon you. When the Facebook friend (mentioned previously) made a tangential reference to the Rothschild family in his post, I recognized the reference immediately (Rothschild Skeptoid episode) It is an old anti-Semitic/white supremacist fabrication. Like the whole sovereign thing. There is no sound basis for asserting that the fantasy has any reality to it, unless you have a problem with Jews, which says more about you than it does about anyone else.

I’ve argued with this guy and his friends over beers before. I know there is no convincing him that his pet fantasies were meaningless. Rather than hopelessly resign myself to having to ignore him once again, I tried to tangent into a discussion of the gullibility of conspiracy fantasists. I linked this video of Rebecca Watson discussing a recent study to see if I could head off the impending disaster,

Rebecca Watson May 18, 2015, No Shit Study: Scientists Show Conspiracy Theorists Will Believe Anything

Unfortunately for all concerned, the only fact that penetrated their heads was that “the Pink Haired Lady says chemtrails aren’t real”  which lead him and his friends to try to convince me they were real. Well, they aren’t real. Of course chemicals are detectable in airline contrails. The planes that create them are shedding molecules into the atmosphere everywhere they fly. The combustion engines they are powered by emit exhaust chemicals, which are also detectable. This really isn’t that hard to figure out.

…Unless there is a ready-made market of science denial set up specifically to use the tools of science against it. An entire method of approaching the world around us that paints the activities of others as nefarious and unscrupulous. This says more about the conspiracy fans than it does about the rest of us, but there is a large group of people out there ready to confirm your suspicions about any activity that concerns you. All that is required is to entertain your curiosity without engaging your critical thinking skills. If you ever learned to think critically in the first place. Without critical thinking we are all babes in the wilderness.

If you, dear reader, think the pink haired lady only dismisses chemtrails, then you are probably also a conspiracy fan, lack critical thinking skills, and are as gullible as the study she talks about shows. If I felt like messing with conspiracy fans I could feed them all kinds of crazy stuff which they would buy right into, just like Alex Jones does. So if that kind of trolling is something you enjoy, have at it. They’ll never know you’re pulling their legs.

After I rebutted the chemtrails argument the conversation with that Facebook friend I mentioned proceeded to spiral down the proverbial rabbit hole, morphing into a discussion of various other conspiracy tales. Haarp was mentioned. Like Agenda 21, it isn’t anything close to what conspiracy fans think it is.  Monsanto was raised, Godwin style. It was at that point that I knew I was quite literally wasting my time, and I really didn’t want to have to hear about Building 7 one more time. I didn’t want to have yet another conversation where the fans throw each conspiracy they believe at me one at a time, each time certain that it can’t be explained. All of them can be explained, and not with grand conspiracies. Good luck getting one of the fans to notice this fact.

So why are grand conspiracies fantasies? Scale. That’s really all there is to it.  Fantasists who support whatever conspiracy I sent you here to inoculate yourself against (if you got here without my linking this article in a discussion, well done!) will likely talk about the Gulf of Tonkin incident or Watergate or more recently, Edward Snowden. Well, Watergate wasn’t a grand conspiracy. It relied on about ten people keeping their mouths shut, and that conspiracy not only failed because ten people couldn’t keep quiet, it failed because Nixon was taping everything said in his office. He was that paranoid.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident, like the revelations of NSA spying, are the very stories that illustrate the problem with massive conspiracies and the theories spun about them.  The NSA spying was anything but secret. Oh, it was officially denied like Tonkin was denied, and the US government would love to punish Snowden for his revelations. But the spying was itself an open secret.  Anyone interested in the subject knew that the NSA was involved in a dragnet of information across the internet.

It is a lot like the people who point to the denials of Groom Lake (area 51) being a location for testing new Air Force technologies, and then conclude that the stories of alien visitations are true.  The locals knew it was testing facility for decades. The official denials proved nothing aside from the fact that they were conducting secret tests there. They certainly don’t point to any factual truth concerning extraterrestrial contact. The NSA’s spying program, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Tuskegee experiment, Project MKUltra, etcetera, are all hallmarks of the inability for large conspiracies to remain secret. It is only a matter of time before the secret becomes common knowledge.

After once again being forced to ignore an old friend, I’m left wondering why is the US such a misanthropic nation? Why do we obsess over these silly fantasies that cannot possibly be true? Perhaps the reason why so many Americans believe conspiracy fantasies is because they understand their culpability in allowing their government to go so far astray.  Like all the guilty parties of the world, they are quick to point to those shadowy others out there “Them! They did it! It wasn’t me!” rather than take the blame for their own inaction, their unwillingness to sully themselves with real politics.  I mean, if lizard people are running the world, why bother with democratic participation?

However this willful blindness to the state of US politics on the part of the people whom the government supposedly represents does have a cost. It is not all fun and games as we pretend that lizards run our country or that we narrowly missed being governed by a pedophile in the last election. Conspiracies do exist, yes. And when they are represented in plots hatched by a foreign government, especially on that speaks a different language and is on shaky ties with the US to start with, they can be quite large and even link to the leadership of that government, and still take years for us to catch wind of it.

It turns out that the Jade Helm 15 fantasy that took the nation by storm during the Obama administration came from somewhere, and that somewhere wasn’t inside the United States. It was created by Russian operatives as a testbed to see if they could alter US politics by sowing discord.

If you think the president can just wave his big Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo and declare martial law, you really don’t understand how your government works – but then again that’s not even a little bit surprising given a sitting US senator such as Ted Cruz apparently doesn’t understand how the very government he is part of works either.

Stonekettle Station, Jade Helm: The Insanity that Ate Texas

So the answer was yes. Yes Russia could and did interfere with our politics; and they continued to do it from that point straight on through the 2016 presidential elections that gave us the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) as president.

TEXAS STANDARD|May 4, 2018|SECURITY EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA IS WINNING THE DISINFORMATION WAR

A former director of the CIA and NSA said Wednesday that hysteria in Texas over a 2015 U.S. military training exercise called Jade Helm was fueled by Russians wanting to dominate “the information space,” and that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to send the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation gave them proof of the power of such misinformation campaigns.

Michael Hayden, speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe podcast, chalked up peoples’ fear over Jade Helm 15 to “Russian bots and the American alt-right media [that] convinced many Texans [Jade Helm] was an Obama plan to round up political dissidents.”

Abbott ordered the State Guard to monitor the federal exercise soon after news broke of the operation. Hayden said that move gave Russians the go-ahead to continue — and possibly expand — their efforts to spread fear.

“At that point, I’m figuring the Russians are saying, ‘We can go big time,’” Hayden said of Abbott’s response. “At that point, I think they made the decision, ‘We’re going to play in the electoral process.’”

Texas Tribune, Hysteria over Jade Helm exercise in Texas was fueled by Russians, former CIA director says

Does this mean that the OHM is a Russian stooge? No. No it doesn’t. Why? Because those links are tenuous and unproven. Likely unprovable. He is a money launderer and a client for Russian oligarchs, but he isn’t an invisible bomb-throwing ninja of the scale necessary to pull off that kind of spy intrigue. He’s just another conman who was used in a con that targeted the American people. The sooner we figure that out and get him out of office, the better everything will be.

However, he is one of the people who believed the Jade Helm story at the time. Just like Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Just like Ted Cruz. This is the cost of believing these conspiratorial fairytales. The cost being that these people have been shown to be unfit for office. They are far too gullible to be trusted with handling the daily business of our government. Unfortunately for the average American, they’re still caught up in so many other conspiratorial fantasies that they probably haven’t noticed that their leaders have been shown to be just as clueless as they are.

A previous version of this was originally posted here.

Facebook Nazi Salute

That is “fake news” right there. Facebook is rampant with hate groups. Not as bad as some other social platforms, but hardly the beacon of tolerance that Zuckerberg would like to pretend it is. I have to admit one thing here; 2 billion unique users on a daily basis. There isn’t anything on the face of the planet today that can claim that many interactive users in a single day. Facebook is unique in size and scope in the world of today, but it is horribly understaffed and lacking in oversight.

…and I’m not sure that I would want either corporate America or the US government to suggest any fixes for Facebook. Because I’m not entirely sure that either business or the government have a clue how to fix the problems Facebook has. But somebody is going to have to do something. Here’s hoping Facebook figures out how to reinvent itself yet again, because that may be the only way it saves itself.

Facebook status post backdated to the blog.


May 5th, 2019. Facebook can finally state that they don’t allow hate groups (as they define them) on Facebook, having kicked several of the more prominent haters on the platform off of it. We’ll just have to see how that works out.

The Key to Ending Mass Shootings?

How will you shoot dozens of people if your gun doesn’t reload itself?

The Washington Post

If you want law enforcement to predict the future without violating your rights, without taking away all the guns, without turning America into an science fiction dystopian nightmare, you HAVE to give them the tools to do the job.

Stonekettle Station
Continue reading “The Key to Ending Mass Shootings?”

Caveat Emptor, Again

You must hold this administration, every administration, accountable. Every Congressman. Every Senator. Every general. Every CEO who takes taxpayer money. Every political party. Every media outlet. Every journalist. Ask the questions and demand the answers. Never stop. Show up for every election, no matter how minor. Educate yourself on the candidates and the issues before the election.

StonekettleStation, Caveat Emptor

Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station was referencing the subject of the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s (OHM) military plans when he titled his piece Caveat Emptor. The OHM is selling us a military vision in his usual huckster fashion. The most glorious military you’ve ever seen. Anyone who believes this to be true is as dumb as the people wiring their account info to 419 scammers thinking they’re going to win big. Pretty much just as Jim tells the story.

When I used the title Caveat EmptorI was speaking to the selling of the OHM’s alter ego, Trump the businessman, Trump the deal-maker and fixer. Caveat Emptor, buyer beware. You are being sold a bill of goods. You are being taken. Guard your wallet. The OHM is none of those things. The OHM is a money launderer, serial philanderer, and a thief. Not necessarily in that order.


When I get a quotable snippet from one of Jim’s articles, I tend to post it all over the place so as to do him a favor and drive traffic to his website. Since I can’t afford to pay him for what he writes, the least I can do is promote him where he isn’t already being promoted. I posted the above quote to Google’s idea of a social platform, Google+ as well as a few other places, but I only got replies on G+, and what I got in response came out of the anarchist/voluntaryist wings of the political spectrum, a commandment to vote harder.

I recognized the flavor of this attack almost immediately. Voting is useless. Voting doesn’t fix anything. Ah, we’re dealing with a libertarian here. I have little to no patience with libertarians, having quit that cult not so long ago. I don’t participate in government (as the snippet demands) to achieve anything specific for me personally. My personal goals are not what voting achieves. This is a core problem with libertarianism specifically and individualism generally. Voting isn’t about me and it isn’t about you or anyone else specifically. This is true of most life experience, but try explaining this fact to a libertarian or anarchist. It’ll go right over their heads.

But that isn’t to say that voting and government as a structure haven’t achieved measurable good. General goods have been achieved and the list is nearly endless. Longer even than the evils that government has created through its existence. It is always that way with the tools we create. The evil comes with the good.

The elderly no longer have to die penniless and alone. The sick now have places to go to be cared for. The poor have the beginnings of structure that could end their poverty if used properly. Libertarians will say these goods were achieved by use of force because they don’t understand the nature of money, the meaning of money, etc.but they insist on force being applied to them before yielding so that they can say told you so. I know because I’ve seen this done many times over the years. That is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You libertarians and anarchists, you crazy right-wing armaphiles, you are not any deader when the cops shoot you for armed resistance than the dead black guy who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. What you are buying with your money is death, exactly like funding a military is buying death. The trick, just in case you are wondering, is to outlive the other guy, which means you are failing to understand what you are buying if you end up dead in the process. Caveat Emptor. There’s some good advice offered gratis. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

TL;DR? Maybe You Should Have Read It

StonekettleStation on Facebook

That is the most common response I get from people who think they disagree with me. “No links. Write your argument for me specifically. I don’t have time to read your articles.” I love the way they expect me to spend time they don’t have, as if I have their time and I’m hoarding it.

Many of the people that say this appear to have crafted this counter over years of dealing with disagreement. Having been confronted with a fact-based argument they couldn’t refute in the past, they simply insist on the facts being presented to them concurrently, probably knowing that most arguments are far too complex to be communicated succinctly in a comment thread. When their opponent becomes angry and ignores them, they feel vindicated. They never realize that their inability to accept facts in evidence is the real problem, not their opponent’s argument. That their opponent will not spend the time to hold their hand and lead them down the path to revelation somehow proves to them that they are right.

I have tried copying and pasting entire articles to comment threads in the past, and the resultant wall of text is then dismissed as Too Long; Didn’t Read (TL;DR) I dismiss long, rambling walls of text (like this one) as TL;DR myself, so I get it. But that doesn’t make them (or me) right. It means the reader isn’t interested in the subject or  interested in (even afraid of) changing their mind about whatever it is. I think this is the most common answer. They are bored. They really aren’t interested in the subject being discussed.

Now, imagine what the response would be if the bored person typing TL;DR really needed something, let’s say their air was poisoned and they didn’t believe it. They’d be dead before they figured it out. Or the other way ’round. What if they needed someone else to do a completely routine thing (like click a link and read a counter-argument) and the responsible person just couldn’t be bothered. “Why yes, I can see that you are bleeding out, and you need me to apply pressure to that wound. But I don’t want my hands to get all icky with your blood.”

If you are wasting time on the internet, reading a well-crafted counter-argument is probably the best use of your time. You learn what your opponent thinks. You learn what your arguments weaknesses are. The most frustrating thing is knowing you have the facts on your side, and the emotional believer of the contrary won’t even look at the facts for fear they might have to change their mind about something. It’s those kinds of people that make me despair for the future.

Politics and religion. A majority of people will not think critically about either one. Now that the Republican party has merged the two into one, becoming the party of Christianism, wanting to establish a christian nation, they think they’ve combined their strengths when they’ve actually multiplied their weaknesses. Like the person breathing poisoned air and doesn’t believe it, Republicans are blind to the threats they refuse to see. Here’s hoping they don’t take the rest of us down with them.