Archive for ‘Oliver Willis’

April 13, 2009

A Quick Guide to Blog Trolls

Long ago, in the misty dawn of the Blog Age, someone coined the term “troll” to descibe commenters whose only evident purpose in commenting was to disrupt the discussion. “Don’t feed the trolls” — that is to say, ignore them and hope they go away — was one approach to this problem.

Eventually, however, most political bloggers realized that the trolls weren’t merely nuisances or distractions. Rather, they were bandwidth bandits, hijacking other people’s Internet space for purposes in direct opposition to the intent of the proprietors. That is to say, e.g., liberal commenters using conservative blogs to spread messages intended to harm the conservative movement.

This has, over the years, resulted in restrictive policies on comments at most political blogs. Let a conservative register an account at DailyKos, start posting blatantly disruptive comments and see how long it takes before the troll-hammer comes down. Your account will be deleted, along with every comment you’ve posted. Allahpundit wields a might troll-hammer at Hot Air (where commenters must first register), and Ace does the same at Ace of Spades HQ (where commenting is open to all, but e-mail addresses and ISPs for all comments are logged).

In case you haven’t experienced the troll phenomenon before, let me describe some basic varieties of the species:

  • Regular Troll — This guy is openly 180-degrees opposed to the purpose and/or ideological orientation of the blog. Whatever you’re for, he’s against, and vice-versa. If you’re doing a free-market blog about tax policy, he’s yelling that tax cuts are evil, “globalization” is wicked, and throwing in snarky anti-Republican messages, even though the blog is expressly about policy, not politics.
  • False-Flag Troll — This guy pretends to be on your side, but he’s really not. Claiming to be a conservative, he inevitably advances messages that are anti-conservative. His purpose is to sow confusion, discord and demoralization.
  • Concern Troll — A subspecies of false-flag troll. The Obama campaign deployed a swarm of concern trolls in fall 2008. They were recognizable by the 3-point argument that went something like this: (1) I’m a committed conservative/lifelong Republican, but (2) I’m concerned about [something the Republicans had said or done], and therefore (3) I’m thinking I might vote for Obama on Election Day. The Concern Troll often specializes his message to his audience. On a site for pro-life Catholics, he begins by vowing that he is a pro-life Catholic; on a Second Amendment site, he begins by saying that he’s an avid hunter and NRA member.
  • Agent Provocateur Troll — Another false-flag subspecies, who aims to elicit unsavory or disreputable comments from other commenters, which can then be quoted to discredit the blog. This happened at the Team Sarah site, where Agent Provocateur Trolls posted racially-tinged anti-Obama messages which they then called to the attention of their liberal blogger friends: “Look, Palin’s supporters are racists!”

Exactly how much planning and organization goes into these left-wing troll plagues is a matter of conjecture, and the expression of suspicion on this score will result in accusations of conspiracy theory. (“Look! Those right-wingers are paranoid kooks!”)

Here, meanwhile, comments have been moderated from the start. Although I seldom reject comments, I actually deleted two comments today on my post about Steve Benen and Oliver Willis, since these comments bore the clear imprimatur of “false flag” operations: “I’m a loyal reader but . . .” and then proceeding to derogate my blog-fu with a message that showed he hadn’t actually been reading the blog.

The objection was that I had said “Fuck you” to Benen for his pushing Willis’s lie about the Tea Party protests. I’ve said “fuck you” to others who’ve arguably deserved it less, as any regular reader would know.

The first troll comment had been initially approved without a close reading, and after I deleted that one, the troll came back with a second comment, acting as if his feelings were hurt. Zap — good-bye troll!

I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night. The fact that the troll commented not once but twice on the same post — the one where I took on Oliver Willis of Media Matters — is the first clue that this wasn’t an accident. And give the troll credit for cleverness: It wasn’t until I’d read the comment closely that I recognized it for what it was.

Notice that my post on Benen and the Media Matters smear was posted at 2:14 p.m. and that the troll commented at 3:37 p.m. Which is to say, in a little more than an hour on Easter Sunday, the Left’s troll operation was ready to push back. This should tell you a bit about the size and sophistication of their team. And the deleted comments were, as I say, clever in their form and content.

Notice something else: Nobody on the Left linked that post, and they won’t link this one, either. The Left manipulates and deceives its own followers, and they’re not going to send their readers to a post describing their methods of deceit. The mere mention of JournoList is enough to ensure nobody on the Left will link.

UPDATE: When Oliver Willis files his 1040, he must list his occupation as “troll.” Here he is trolling at Blog P.I.:

Almost every sentence in this blog entry is followed by one that contradicts it. I know you wrote the headline to linkbait, and that worked, but your overall thesis seems to be that liberals aren’t on Twitter, which is not the case. Do conservatives have more of a hashtag culture on twitter? Yeah they do. La-de-freaking-da. Cons were on the web long before the left was, but they have mostly failed because the people leading them have been the same-old Republican political consultants vs. regular people. Who are some of the top conservative Twitterers? Patrick Ruffini, Soren Dayton, Saul Anuzis… also known as… Republican consultants.

This is not an actual argument, just non sequiturs and ad hominem. Oliver Willis, a full-time inside-the-Beltway operative for Media Matters, nonetheless postures as an expert on “regular people.”

UPDATE II: I’m going to have to ask the Blogospheric Neologian to consider expanding his Blogger Mood Disorder (BMD) list to include trollmania, defined as the compulsion to comment disruptively on other people’s blogs.

In the grips of this dread malady, also known as mobyism or Oliver Willis Syndrome, the trollmaniac suffers from the obsessive fear that someone somewhere is disagreeing with him. Patient Zero feels compelled to try to have the last word:

“Professional” propagandist? I thought I was an amateur! Pretty funny coming from someone who writes for The American Spectator.

Let me explain something to you, Oliver Willis: I am a professional journalist, which means I write for money. I have been paid to write about football, music, movies, sex, art, history and many other subjects. Unlike you, I am not a political hack, and I don’t see everything through the narrow prism of, “Will this advance The Cause?”

Your manic devotion to the “progressive” cause explains why you, like your fellow obsessive Jane Hamsher, are a chump, the kind of sucker who should never be given an even break.

Speaking of people who’ve written for The American Spectator, Mr. Willis, how’s our old friend David Brock? Where was Brock and what was he doing while you were spending Easter weekend promoting The Cause?

In terms of his compensation package from Media Matters, what is the ratio between what Brock makes and what you make, Mr. Willis? Is it 5-to-1? 10-to-1?

Do you know or care, Mr. Willis? Have you applied your investigatory skills to the question of what the founder of a “progressive” non-profit makes, compared to what he pays the hired help in their little cubicles? And what about the others toiling away at the Media Matters shop? Does a regime of economic justice prevail among “progressives,” so that you and Max Blumenthal profit equally from your non-profit labors for The Cause?

No, don’t start asking questions like that, Oliver Willis. Don’t begin wondering what kind of travel, food and lodging David Brock and Eric Burns bill to their Media Matters expense accounts. Don’t concern yourself with the kind of “swag” freebies and useful connections they accrue as executives atop the pyramid where you remain down at the wide base.

You just keep toiling away for The Cause, Oliver, and let the bosses worry about stuff like that.


UPDATE III: Allahpundit suggests a “Troll Hole” at Hot Air.

April 12, 2009

Memo to Steve Benen, et al. (Or How to Deal With a ‘Progressive,’ If You Must)

Dear Mr. Benen:
In pursuance of the JournoList-approved Meme of the Day, that the nationwide April 15 Tax Day Tea Party rallies are not legitimate “grassroots” events, you quote Oliver Willis:

“When people were protesting the Iraq War, they didn’t have $500 a plate fundraisers. Then again, they didn’t have sponsorship from Fox News, the backing of corporate lobbyists and the attendance of prominent conspiracy theorists like Alan Keyes.”

Given that this is self-evidently an ad hominem attack, I will begin by responding with the question: Who is Oliver Willis?

Full Name: Lloyd Oliver Willis, Jr.
Age: 31
Date of Birth: 12/06/77
Place of Birth: Silver Spring, MD
Blogging since: December 2000-present
Work: Web Producer for Media Matters for America.

And, of course, Who is Media Matters? Which is to say that Mr. Willis is a paid, full-time, professional propagandist for his “progressive” cause. It is his job to promote stories favorable to his cause, and to derogate stories unfavorable to his cause. Q.E.D. (And what is your job, Steve Benen? Let us not digress.)

What is the substance of Mr. Willis’s accusation here? That the Tea Party movement is illegitimate because:

  • Fox News has given it favorable coverage;
  • Supporters are holding fund-raising dinners;
  • “Corporate lobbyists” are involved; and
  • Former Ambassador Alan Keyes will speak at one of the events.

This set of (non-randomly-selected) facts Oliver Willis contrasts with the protests against the Iraq War which, the reader is intended to assume, were legitimate grassroots events because similar facts did not apply. Which therefore raises the question: Who sponsored the protests against the Iraq War?

Having reported on the Iraq War protests, I know the answer to that question. In fact, I covered the very first major anti-war protest in D.C. after 9/11, the so-called “S29” demonstrations on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2001.

Sponsors of that protest included the International Action Center — a front for the Marxist splinter Workers World Party — as well as the Revolutionary Communist Party and its Maoist front group Refuse & Resist, and the Communist Party USA-affiliated Young Communist League, with support of the CPUSA-linked National Lawyers Guild.

Furthermore, I know that the S29 demonstration was actually planned before 9/11. It was organized as a protest against “globalization” during the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings scheduled that weekend. Because of the 9/11 attacks, the commie organizers just switched the topic. So what had been intended as just another commie protest against an international free market (i.e., capitalism) like the notorious 1999 Seattle riot instead became a commie protest against “U.S. imperialism.”

All of that was a legitimate “grassroots” movement, per Oliver Willis.

Fuck you, sir.


Robert Stacy McCain

P.S.: I don’t know about anyone else, but my participation in the Tax Day Tea Party is not sponsored by Fox News or “corporate lobbyists.” As every regular reader knows, my fundraising approach is direct and simple: Hit the tip jar, you ungrateful bastards! Or else I’ll ask you to speak to Gunnery Sgt. Hartman.

UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: Just had to delete a comment by a “Concern Troll.” Nice try, Anonymous: “Oh, I’m a loyal reader and you shouldn’t be so nasty to other writers. Blah blah blah.”

Yeah? Well, guess what, Anonymous? If you were such a loyal reader, you’d know that I routinely punk-smack people that piss me off. Steve Benen has forfeited any claim to respect by shilling for Media Matters while pretending to be an honest broker.

If you arrogant leftoids think I’m so stupid that I can’t spot coordinated messaging, and if you think I’m so naive that I can’t recognize the “concern troll” tactic, you’ve got another think coming.

UPDATE 6:40 p.m.: Over at The American Spectator blog, I’ve added some Cold War historical context to this. One of the problem we have is that relatively few Republican media operatives have ever studied the tactics of Communist subversion, and there is today very little institutional memory about that stuff, especially among younger conservatives.

The fact is that the old CPUSA propaganda methods have never ceased to be used by the Left. Saul Alinsky learned these methods and taught them to a generation of “New Left” activists (although many leaders of the New Left were “Red Diaper babies” who didn’t really need to be taught). Groups like Media Matters are merely replicating in up-to-date fashion communication strategies that worked for the Old Left in the 1930s and ’40s, and for the New Left in the 1960s and ’70s. (The smear campaign against Joe McCarthy was a classic example.)

Consider Kathy Shaidle’s shock of recognition when I described the “diamond pattern” tactic by which a handful of Communist operatives could manipulate public meetings. If you’ve studied the old CPUSA subversion methods, you learn to recognize the repeated use of the same familiar tactics.

Why do you think I’m so angered by “conservatives” who attack Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter? Nothing is more important to the Left than to destroy the prestige of effective conservative leaders. And nothing is more helpful to the Left than “conservatives” who assist them in such efforts, because everyone is more sympathetic to arguments made by their friends.

One of the ways that the Left destroyed McCarthy was by persuading Republicans that McCarthy was a political liability. All it took was for a few liberal Republicans to heed the Left’s argument — so that McCarthy was attacked from within the GOP — and the Left not only destroyed McCarthy but effectively undermined U.S. anti-subversive investigations for 40 years.

This is not to say that Limbaugh, Coulter or anyone else is above criticism. What it means is that your best defense against being manipulated is to understand that there are people trying to manipulate you. The Left has obvious motives for wanting to smear effective conservative leaders, and they have equally obvious motives for trying to persuade “conservatives” to assist them in their dirty work.

The Left has no moral scruples as to their methods. Their reasoning — and if you would read The Vision of the Anointed, you might begin to understand this — is that the “progressive” cause is so intrinsically moral as to justify even the most vile acts committed to advance the cause. (Pol Pot: Progressive Activist!)

The Left understands that the conservative constituency adheres to a bourgeois ethos of Judeo-Christian morality, civility, etc. Thus, any “scandal” or attack that makes a conservative leader or conservative movement appear disreputable by bourgeois standards will have the intended effect of undermining morale and cohesion among the Left’s opponents. The Left never heard of a “fair fight,” but fairness is intrinsic to bourgeois ethics, and so the Left is always winning battles by employing tactics that would be considered “scandalous” if employed by the Right.

Of course, the Left will cry “red-baiting” and “McCarthyism” when you accuse them in this manner, but if you watch them in operation long enough, and if you understand the history of the Left, you see the continuity from the “Popular Front” of the 1930s and ’40s, through the Cold War era, and into the 21st century.

It’s not “conspiracy theory” to say that the Left is engaged in coordinated messaging. As the JournoList revelations showed, it’s simply a statement of fact. So when you see Steve Benen hyping the same “the Tea Parties are a Murdoch hoax” meme being hyped by Oliver Willis and Jane Hamsher, you don’t need to wonder whether they’re all singing unison by accident.

And the fact that Left is using these dishonest methods to attack the Tea Party movement should tell you something else: Every conservative should be there on April 15!


UPDATE 7:20 p.m. ET: Note the method: Why is James Dobson “far right”? The objective of the Think Progress propagandist is to imply that Dobson (and other social conservatives) are extremists, part of a fringe movement. This is an invitation to “moderate” or “mainstream” (i.e., respectable) conservatives to jettison social conservatives. This tactic of portraying powerful allies of the Right as disreputable “extremists” is certainly not new, and was used against both Goldwater and Reagan.

UPDATE 7:45 p.m. ET: William Jacobson on Oliver Willis:

Yet another irony lost, a blogger who works for a media organization promoting opposition to a protest movement because the protest movement is promoted by a media organization.

UPDATE 11:20 p.m. ET: Jimmie Bise: “I think I’ve detected a theme here, haven’t you?” Also, a little advice on dealing with trolls.