- As many reading this know, I have participated in the
alternative media for many years, mostly as an essayist, occasionally on-air
as a radio guest and co-host, and more recently as a video maker. I literally
thank God every day for the Internet, and people like Jeff Rense and many
others who have allowed me the opportunity to share my work with the public.
The vast majority of alt media denizens understand just how gravely important
is the health and vibrance of this medium; the Internet represents the
most crucial database of independent, uncensored, worthwhile information
in human history.
- I shall now speak as briefly as possible about the darkest
sides of Internet communication. Most Internet users today are familiar
with the inane, abusive activities known as "trolling" or "flaming."
Internet "trolls" are generally anonymous provocateurs who invade
forums and comment sections for the primary purpose of disrupting discourse.
Some "trolls" wish to defame people and damage reputations,
some wish to discredit certain ideas and concepts, and others simply want
to make spectacles of themselves through brute heckling.
- Trolls and flamers are an unavoidable nuisance on this
free medium; few would disagree with this. But what needs to be reaffirmed
now is the absolute "sovereign right" of the Internet author
to take every step at his disposal to insulate himself from these abusive
- Comment sections are now a common feature on blogs and
news services, and they have always been an integral part of the YouTube
experience. YouTube viewers must create user accounts in order to comment
on videos, so it's undeniable that YouTube and many other websites have
increased their audiences by encouraging user "participation."
- For those who post their own original videos on YouTube,
the comment sections invariably represent a no win situation. Regardless
of the quality of the content of one's videos, it is absolutely inevitable
that some anonymous YouTubers will eventually invade the comment sections
for the sole purpose of abusing -- NOT to offer dissent and disagreement,
NOT to engage in meaningful discourse, but to slam both feet down and wage
grotesque ad hominem rampages against the video owner. From the site's
beginning, YouTube comment sections have been overrun by barely literate
and overtly sociopathic maniacs.
- Vicious, unsupported, and outright fabricated accusations
permeate comment sections, as do vulgar abuse and name-calling, and sometimes
physical threats. The video owner has the right to remove the offending
comments; but of course, this requires that one actually take the time
to wade through the comments, then make the tough call of whether it legitimately
warrants removal. Or one can take the time to respond to negative comments.
But this can represent a horrendous chore; high volume videos that are
seen in the tens of thousands of times easily produce hundreds or even
thousands of text comments. A video owner who tries to respond to every
abusive or disingenuous comment will find himself wasting extraordinary
amounts of time, for no benefit to himself other than an illusory sense
of "winning" some inane argument.
- YouTube comments are restricted to a ridiculous 500 characters;
this only seems to encourage vapidity and aggression in commenters. It
might take a video owner anywhere from days to several weeks to produce
his or her video. It takes a commenter all of five seconds to graffiti
the video by excreting some inane and grammatically impaired vituperation.
- In response to my latest video "V's Message for
the U.S.A," I received over 150 text comments in less than 48 hours
(as of this writing, the video has been viewed over 23,000 times). I disabled
comments after reading this concluding one from YouTube user louishollis
(www.youtube.com/louishollis): "Hahahaha, i wanna punch this little
fag. Don't get me wrong people, ofcourse i understand what he's saying
but fuck it would be satisfying to punch him hahaha."
- Quasi-threats made by emotionally disturbed sadistic
cowards from behind the safety of their keyboards is actually not something
I am troubled by. In fact, this remark was one of the more reasonable that
I received. The previous poster bleated that I am an MK Ultra CIA psy op
victim, I have inside me a "demon seed," and that I am trying
to incite people toward self-destructive behaviors. Apparently, this person
did not read or was not able to mentally process the caveat with which
I began the video in question:
- "V's revolution included violence and mayhem. This
is not something that I condone nor advocate. Rather, I believe in inspiring
one another toward meaningful civic action through peaceful creative expression.
And I love and believe V's statement that 'ideas are bulletproof.'"
- A vacuous, unthinking person might assume that an actor
who portrays a dark, flawed, or outright evil character (as I've done several
times) actually subscribes to everything the character says and believes.
Of course, this notion is pathetic and beneath contempt, but the world
is populated by vacuous unthinking persons, and they are incredibly eager
to make their voices heard on the Internet -- almost invariably under the
black veil of anonymity.
- I cannot state clearly enough that no one supports free
and unfettered communication more than I. Anyone who disagrees with me
or simply dislikes me personally is absolutely free to criticize me in
any manner they see fit (though of course threats, libel, and defamation
are NOT protected speech in ANY free society). I even the support the right
of the lamentable clown above to publicly pine for his opportunity to punch
my "fag face." What I do NOT support is the intellectually bankrupt
notion that I AM OBLIGATED TO PROVIDE A MEDIUM ON WHICH HE CAN DO IT.
- The author of a book is not obligated to allow anonymous
readers to graffiti his book jacket. A stand-up comic is not obligated
to be hog-tied and pelted with detritus by an unhappy audience. Nor is
the Internet author obligated to have his work defaced by anonymous people
who have neither integrity nor transparency. What is difficult to understand
- Another aspect to Internet "trolling" to consider
is the phenomenon called "astroturfing." This describes an organized
effort by some entity, be it a corporation, government institution or political
movement, to sway public opinion. On the Internet, this is frequently done
through the organized invasion of forums and comment sections. The definition
of astroturfing from Wikipedia reads: "The goal of such a campaign
is to disguise the efforts of a political or commercial entity as an independent
public reaction to some political entity-a politician, political group,
product, service or event. Astroturfers attempt to orchestrate the actions
of apparently diverse and geographically distributed individuals, by both
overt ("outreach", "awareness", etc.) and covert (disinformation)
means. Astroturfing may be undertaken by an individual pushing a personal
agenda or highly organized professional groups with financial backing from
large corporations, non-profits, or activist organizations. Very often
the efforts are conducted by political consultants who also specialize
in opposition research."
- More than four months ago, immediately prior to the sudden
and unexplained deletion of my previous YouTube account, I posted a video
called "Comment Sections" in which I discussed astroturfing.
(Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UuzcDMixtc) An example I gave
was a story that appeared on ynetnews.com entitled, "Pro-Israel media:
Bloggers join media war." The article explains that "Some 1,000
new immigrants and foreign-language-speaking Jews volunteer to army of
bloggers set up by Absorption Ministry and Foreign Ministry with the stated
objective of flooding blogs with pro-Israel opinions... Each time the ministry
identifies an anti-Israel trend on a foreign-language blog, news site,
or other website, it will immediately put out a message to the volunteers
to flood the site with pro-Israel opinions." (Full article: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3663679,00.html)
- Obviously, Israel's Absorption Ministry is not the only
entity doing this. Everyone who can do this probably is. Why shouldn't
they? It's much easier to train people to act like bullies and flood Internet
forums with inane, abusive remarks, rather than training them to be fully
transparent and formulate substantive coherent treatises. This is the world
we live in -- people achieve their ends by any means necessary, and the
favored means of a bully is stupid brute force.
- A few reading this might pretend to not understand my
point, and may even consciously choose to lie about me (I've never presented
an argument that didn't generate such responses). They might claim that
I secretly favor government control and censorship of the Internet, no
matter how many times I explicitly state that I don't. What can I do about
such people? Nothing. Nor do I want to. I am simply standing right where
I am and saying, This is my place to tell the truth as I see it. It makes
no difference whether you agree with me or like me. This is my place to
say what I want. You have your place, too...IF you want to use it. If you
only care about unleashing graffiti on the place of someone else, then
you will never contribute anything of value to the Internet, and in fact,
you likely have a hand on the hammer that is driving nails into the Internet's