IMPLAUSIBLE

When I cover interest groups in American politics there is a heavy emphasis on the ways in which the internet has made it easier to obfuscate. Groups not only can conceal their sources of funding and true ideological motivations – granted, it doesn't take a genius to figure out who's behind Working Families for Walmart – but more importantly a professional-looking online presence can completely obscure the size and influence of a group. The difference between a large, well funded, well organized group with a lot of members and a well funded, well organized group with few or no members is not always apparent at first glance. That's why it pays to do a little research. Especially if you're a journalist. Who exactly are these people so willing to provide you with quotes, data, and a story?

Last week the internet very briefly worked itself into a lather over some asshole who turned out to live in his parents' house who, despite being an absolute nobody with no evidence of having more than a handful of deeply disturbed followers, claimed that he and his "group" were going to pull off a worldwide event with 165 simultaneous big public rallies. These were claimed to be rallies to support his "legalize rape" ideology. Caitlin Dewey of the Chicago Tribune has a summary of what's blatantly, obviously wrong with this picture that is good enough to quote at length. I refuse to use his name and feed into his cheap publicity stunt:

***, known online as "***," is the self-styled prophet of a strain of radical misogynist pick-up artistry. He's also the proprietor of an obscure virtual empire that spans three Web sites, a forum and 17 self-published books. (According to analyses conducted for The Washington Post by the firms Tweetsmap and SimilarWeb, ***'s international "hordes" can be mapped to a few clusters of readers in the U.S., Canada and Western Europe.)

And yet, when *** proclaimed the objectively impossible — that his cult would emerge from the shadows on Feb. 6 and mass at 165 prominent public locations from Phoenix to Phnom Penh — millions of people, and hundreds of journalists, took his word for it.

The ensuing global uproar has manufactured publicity on a scale that few fringe Internet movements have ever dreamed of. By the time he "canceled" the faux-revolution Wednesday afternoon, *** had become a household name in places as far-flung as Winnipeg and Sydney — never mind that even social justice activists hadn't taken him seriously.

"We only count real organizations as hate groups," said Heidi Beirich, the director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks domestic extremists online and off. ***'s rhetoric has all the markings of hate speech, she said; but at the end of the day, "he's a guy with a blog."

Unfortunately for Beirich and others like her, the line between "real" movements and mere Internet grumbling is becoming increasingly hard to see. For one thing, the Internet makes it virtually impossible to quantify groups like ***'s, which claim to command — but rarely produce — untold hordes of followers.

Only one point there is questionable: is it really that hard to see the line between a real group of real people and some moron with a blog? (Hi!) The idea of "pro rape" activists is obviously disturbing and prompts a strong emotional reaction – almost as if that was the goal, right? – but the complete lack of basic skepticism applied to such an implausible bordering on delusional plan was disturbing. Countless legitimate and quasi-legitimate media outlets ran with this. Countless counter-rallies were hastily organized. Countless people I know offered heated, passionate thoughts about the idea that this could happen. And it's really hard not to look like a dick – I do that plenty and have been looking to cut back – and be That Guy who says, Who the hell is this person? Why has nobody ever heard of him before? How did such a patently insane ideology build a global following without anyone noticing until now? How many men, even deeply, truly, terrible men, are realistically going to do this even if they support the "message"? Everybody completely overlooked the fact that none of this made any sense whatsoever. It was transparently a cheap ploy for attention. By indignantly reposting the stories everywhere online, we probably brought him enough notoriety to actually find a few followers. His fan base probably exploded. From like, 100 to 500.

Of course not every person who sees a story is going to start fact checking it in depth; could the media not have dug just a liiiiittle deeper here though? One of two things must be true. Either they are too lazy to verify any elements of a story, or they knew damn well that this was nonsense but decided to run with it anyway for the rage-clicks. Something tells me it's the latter. Who cares if a story is true or makes any sense anymore as long as it confirms what a given demographic of readers believes about the world.

Finally, and this is strictly my not universally shared opinion, but if these rallies were real events, counter-protests are counterproductive. Nothing on Earth is sadder than a public event with like 12 people at it, which is exactly what a "pro rape" rally would have were it actually held. The presence of hundreds of counter-protesters and hundreds more journalists simply help the group ("group") achieve its goal of making it look like a big event rather than a non-event. This is the standard operating procedure for KKK rallies now and has been for years. Why show up and legitimize it? Let them have their event. It will be 15 people who all look like cousins addressing a crowd that doesn't exist, and the resulting images and video will speak for themselves. They won't even need a caption describing it as "pathetic."

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36 Responses to “IMPLAUSIBLE”

  1. Mike S. Says:

    spergs gonna sperg

    MSM should know that 20k youtube subscribers and some /pol/ shitposters aren't all that.

  2. waldoh Says:

    Sarah Palin only lucked right once -the lamestream media.
    And rage clicks is almost all they've got left.

  3. Talisker Says:

    The analogy with white supremacists is a good one. Never mind the KKK, the Guy We Shall Not Name is a crappy KKK splinter group. He's some bearded dude in a shack in Idaho, calling himself the Fuhrer of the American Nazi Party. Yeah, sure you are. Have fun addressing a rally attended solely by your old GI Joe action figures.

    That said, in both cases there are larger, better organised, and less openly insane groups which are much more worrying. The so-called Pick-Up Artist movement is no laughing matter.

  4. HoosierPoli Says:

    Talisker: PUA are definitely a laughing matter. Laughter and ridicule are far more effective than studious, serious opposition. That's Ed's argument and he's right.

  5. Talisker Says:

    @HoosierPoli: OK, poor choice of words. I'm all in favour of laughing at PUA's, white supremacists, and any other hate groups. At the same time, the response to the larger and more threatening groups shouldn't consist *only* of laughter.

  6. Kovpakistan Says:

    While that particular dickhead may not have so much of a following, the sad thing is that his general ideology is spreading throughout the web, and at times it has real consequences- Eliot Rodger and Gamergate are perfect examples.

    I don't want to name names, but I remember a journalist telling me a story about a freelance actress who was hounded by and received death threats from these types simply because she played a minor role in a sketch where she turns down a creepy male character. He told me he was afraid that the next big hate movement is going to be aimed at women.

  7. Xynzee Says:

    "…could the media not have dug just a liiiiittle deeper here though? One of two things must be true. Either they are too lazy to verify any elements of a story,…"

    You're talking about an 'industry' that no longer does what it's supposed to do. Investigate and inform. Everything is just a rehash of a wire service's pap and what's not that is just press releases from the 'celeberati'. And this we call journalism. Now you're asking them to actually investigate the copy they're loading into galleys*? For serious? That would require them to read this crap in the first place.

    *Given the previous topic, are people even required to do that? Or is it all just scripts nowadays? So glad I'm out of that.

  8. Skipper Says:

    Just because your opinion can reach all the way around the world in seconds doesn't make it any more legitimate than when it could only reach to the other end of the bar.

  9. c u n d gulag Says:

    Next to cutting your own dick off, appearing in public at a "Pro-rape" event is the surest way to make sure you'll never get a date with a woman again!

    At least not with any woman I'd care to date.

  10. John Danley Says:

    The Lawrence Bittaker Apologist Association is also scheduled to open a rent-a-tool booth at Curtis Hixon Park this year. Oba Chandler is expected to attend.

  11. Greg Says:

    John Danley you win the obscure Tampa reference prize for today. Oba has gone to the Great Celestial Trailer Park, though, where he is probably rolling back Satan's odometer.

  12. Mo Says:

    pretty sick burn, Danley. Ow.

  13. satrap Says:

    I'm not sure when, or how, I discovered this particular fart, wafting through the internet; but I've been aware of, and monitored them, for some time. Our piliferous friend, isn't even the worst of them, sadly. To keep track of them these days, I usually visit David Futrelle's blog, rather than provide their sites with traffic.

  14. mojrim Says:

    Everything you've said is true, or at least would be if he and his followers were actually pro-rape. That all stems from a single essay, a ham-fisted bit of satire he wrote more than a year ago. I'm not taking his side, the whole PUA subculture is a toxic exploitation of some men's insecurities, but we should at least get the critique right.

  15. Skipper Says:

    @gulag

    Sorry my friend. There are any number of women who, for some reason, have a fatal attraction to the most depraved men — even when they know they're depraved.

    How many women do you see wanting to marry prisoners who are incarcerated, some of them for life, for rape and other crimes. I'm sure the same thing occurs with men being attracted to dangerous women, but there is a whole other thing going on with women.

    When I was a young reporter, the first murder case I covered was two guys who had raped and murdered a 17-year-old woman and left her in a corn field. One of the guys was a dimwit, but the other was a classic psychopath.

    Both were convicted, both were sentenced to life without possibility of parole. About 10 years later, I got a call from a former colleague who had gone on to work at a metro paper. He wanted me to talk to a current colleague of his. It was a young woman who had been doing a story on the state prison, met the psychopath rapist/murderer, had "fallen in love" with him, and wanted to marry him, despite his lifetime sentence. She was a "normal" person with a journalism degree from a good school.

    I talked to her. I explained how this was a smooth-talking psycho who had shown absolutely no remorse in raping and strangling a 17-year-old. I never followed up – probably because I didn't want to know how the story ended.

    Unfortunately, it's not uncommon. Just look at Whitey Bulger, the Boston gangster who was the subject of "Black Mass." No one — absolutely no one — doubted that he was a cold-blooded killer who murdered scores of people, many for no particular reason, and in the most brutal ways. Yet, he had a girl friend who stayed with him to the day he was captured.

  16. BigHank53 Says:

    The next hate movement will be directed at women? Where have you been? There are tens of thousands of examples–pay differential, harassment, reproductive rights, ad nauseam–of how just how much our current society hates women.

    Folks who enjoy a longer read should check out this Sady Doyle essay:

    http://sadydoyle.tumblr.com/post/138860699828/progressive

  17. GunstarGreen Says:

    Perhaps the larger story here, beyond a couple of nutjobs on the internet staging a bunch of fake rallies, is this:

    That there are so many people in our society today that are so delusional, so completely and utterly detached from reality, so thoroughly locked inside of their own little echo-bubbles of social media, that they actually believed that "legalize rape" rallies were even a thing that could happen or needed to be opposed on any serious scale.

    In order to be outraged, they first had to believe it was a serious problem.

    Think about that for a moment. Just how warped and twisted does your view of the world have to be, that you believe that "pro-rape" is a legitimate movement that something must be done about in the year 2016?

    I'd say it's a cautionary tale or a wake-up call, but honestly by this point we're too far gone. People *want* to believe that there's a meaningfully-large portion of the population that just outright hates women for no reason, and nothing can stop them from holding that belief.

  18. Mo Says:

    People *want* to believe that there's a meaningfully-large portion of the population that just outright hates women for no reason, and nothing can stop them from holding that belief.

    Possibly because it's true?

  19. Megan Condis Says:

    He Who Shall Not Be Named is actually pretty well known in certain PUA/MRA circles. Not 165 meetups worldwide well known, but he is a subcultural celebrity.

  20. democommie Says:

    I would just loooooooooooooooooove to sit next to that asswipe in a bar and accidentally hurt him.

    OTOH, maybe I should just start a "LBTSOORF*" movement.

    * Legalize Beating The Shit Out Of Rapist Fanbois"

  21. c u n d gulag Says:

    Skipper,
    Sadly, too true…
    Oy…………..

  22. Robert Says:

    I have also been reading Futrelle's blog for a few years. The phenomena he describes and mocks are more widespread than I would have liked to believe. Nameless here has been trying to make a living promoting toxic misogyny, but there are others who, I think, may be even worse. The MRA Reddit is a good place to go if you want to see it, or lose faith in humanity.

    This toerag is not an outlier, in other words.

  23. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @Robert:

    Eh, I just don't think he's that dangerous. Everything he does is for rageclicks and publicity.

    About half of the stuff Futrelle writes is about these douches feuding with each other or their projects going down in flames.

    I think online harassment of women should be taken a lot more seriously and people who make threats should be aggressively rooted out and prosecuted. But the clowns in charge of these "movements" deserve little more than mockery.

  24. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @Skipper:
    Those women are stastical outliers, at least as much as men who consistently date borderline women. My heart goes out to them, but being an asshole isn't a particularly effective aphrodisiac, statistically.

    @Greg:
    "Oba has gone to the Great Celestial Trailer Park, though, where he is probably rolling back Satan's odometer."

    Somewhere, HST is smiling.

  25. Leslee Beldotti Says:

    When I first learned about Douche Canoe Who Shall Not Be Named, I just assumed that he read Bukowski's "Women" in the same way that Libertarians read Ayn Rand.

  26. James Ferguson Says:

    some moron with a blog? (Hi!)

    Such a delight. I wish I could contribute to your costs but I can't.

  27. Mo Says:

    Dude – tune in to oregonlive.com.

    Cliven Bundy arrested, in Multnomah County Jail

    Comment win: "Branch Stupidians"

  28. Nunya Says:

    I think my final realization that the formerly honorable calling of Journalism had finally disappeared was when the one space or two after a period guy had written the most viewed and commented on article of the year in like 2012.

    In a world where clicks, regardless of where they come from, pay more than being a legitimate journalist, we're all fucked. My first order of business as President would be to fund a reporters guild, paid for by a trust, and paid well for doing investigative journalism.

    Bonuses will be paid for bringing down billionaires.

  29. Misterben Says:

    I first stumbled on Nameless's website over a year ago while researching something completely unrelated. I started reading and eventually recognized it for what it is: yet another online echo chamber for folks who can't stand to be confronted with any version of reality other than the one they prefer. It's a swaddling blanket of agreement for people who are sick of their friends trying to stop them from saying horrible things. There's a million of 'em.

    I have continued to check in with that site about once a month ever since, in the same way that I periodically check in with Fox News, the John Birch people, and sites about witchcraft: that is, to keep tabs on what "those people" think is going on.

    It's sad, really. The same 4-5 guys write all the posts ("articles") on the site. They all have basically the same program: take a subject covered by the current news cycle, talk about it angrily for one paragraph, and then awkwardly transition into talking about how women shouldn't have jobs or rights and the "feminization" of society is destroying everything. Cue comments section.

    What's REALLY sad is the little bio blurbs they use to introduce themselves, such as:
    "[name] is a game veteran of a decade's standing, and a lover of women, literature, travel and freedom. He is also the author of The Seven Laws of Seduction. Visit his website at [link]."
    or
    "[name] is a life observer – but also a doer! He uses a multitude of profitable, challenging and downright bizarre experiences from his life to further himself and inspire others."

    I mean, come on.

  30. Mo Says:

    Just as the Internet killed cranks communicating by mimeographed letters full of closely spaced type with no margins – now they have festering little Internet hideouts – it seems to have killed reality TV last night, as thousands online listened, watched, and commented on the Oregon arrest of Cliven Bundy and the 4 holdouts at the Malheur site.

    Have to confess, I was up til almost 2am Pacific time reading the comments to the oregonlive.com articles. Doritos would have made the experience perfect, but my supply was gone.

  31. Greg Says:

    The Poynter Institute, parent of The Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St Petersburg Times) is just about the only journalism ethics education center left. The Times isn't perfect, but it remains an excellent paper. And Thomas French wrote a 7-part series on Oba Chandler that was still archived online a few years back and was just excellent. He did a similar piece on Scientology and its schools but that may not be online. For obvious reasons.

  32. PhoenixRising Says:

    Ed, you disappoint me.

    I assumed the first 3 graphs were the tee-up for 'and that's how Donald Trump became the GOP front-runner' joke.

    What a letdown.

  33. eau Says:

    @GUNSTAR: "Think about that for a moment. Just how warped and twisted does your view of the world have to be, that you believe that "pro-rape" is a legitimate movement that something must be done about in the year 2016?"

    Allow me to remind you about the "protecting cops' right to kill unarmed civilians" movement.

    The "Keep your hands off my medicare, Obama" signs at Tea Party rallies.

    The Trump campaign.

    I could go on, but I've made myself sad enough already.

    Just how warped and twisted does your view of the world have to be, that you believe these things are legitimate movements in 2016?

  34. Rick Says:

    Soooo…remember Elliot Rogers? Yeah. Fan of an adjacent set of writers. This was a big deal to people who follow the MRA/PUA/betamale/etc subcultures because one of their few redeeming features is an unwillingness to do anything more than harass people online. Which, by the way, has wreaked serious, real life havoc on real people. Forays into real life have been terrifying—shootings, SWATting, and doxing. And a local rapist club of 12 people is still 12 rapists going to get drinks around women and swap rape tips. That is news.

    I don't even disagree that there was poor calibration around this. Plenty of outlets ran with it to the extreme and that is worth remarking on. But these people are dangerous and newsworthy. One pack of lions getting lose in a Chicago bar is not unremarkable because it is not a large movement of lions.

  35. JM Says:

    @rick — actually eliot rodger was a member of a forum called PUA-Hate, which was dedicated to obsessively critizing and exposingg as frauds people such as the person who is the subject of this post. so, he was the exact opposite of a fan of pua/mra, in fact he hated them almost as much as he hates himself. people constatly get that wrong, and it's very telling.

  36. JM Says:

    Also very telling — no less in an article whose partial aim is to discuss the propensity with which people fail to do sufficient research on stories they write, and substitute the truth for a more personally pleasing caricature thereof — Nameless does not live with parents. Nearly every single piece on him has featured the jab that he lives in his mom's basement, when this can easily be verified as untrue. It just so happens that at this exact moment, the writer was on an extended visit home to see his mom. He has lived abroad for at least the last 5 years or so, and there are reams of easily accessible evidence demonstrating that this is so.

    It's important point, I think, because to suggest he lives with his parents is to claim that he is not successful at what he does, when that is simply not true. Though he does not specify his exact income, he claims it is above 60k a year. That he can pull that off suggests that his ideas may not be as fringe — at least in the sense of having few followers — than an ideological opponent might think.