[Discussion] The Inconceivable Power of Trolls in Social Media

This is a follow-on to the nearly two year old topic "Trouble at the Kool-Aid Point." The intention is to provide a place to discuss the unreasonable power social media trolls have over women and minorities, with a primary focus on video games (though other examples are certainly welcome).

Prederick wrote:

Dipsh*t reactionaries never fail to amaze.

Although, to be clear, these are people that have no interest in principle or consistency, much like the Islamic reactionaries they claim to hate. There is just power, by any means necessary.

(FWIW, I'm not drinking out of any glass you literally put your asscheeks on, I don't care how clean you swear you are.)

That's really funny.

I still don't 100% understand how the same people who would man the checkpoints in a modern day "Handmaid's Tale" are the same people who are constantly frustrated about "political correctness".

This Is Not Propaganda by Peter Pomerantsev review – dispatches from the war on truth

The great crisis of our political moment is that of vantage: where do you stand to get a reliable view of reality? Extremisms, which seek deliberately to degrade the objectivity and balance on which clear-eyed reporting is based, advance largely out of plain sight, in the global no man’s land of social media. From this shifting frontline, Peter Pomerantsev is emerging as the pre-eminent war reporter of our time, the Martha Gellhorn or Ed Murrow of the brutal campaigns against fact.

This book provides a series of Pomerantsev’s datelined dispatches from those myriad conflicts, “the digital Maginot Line”. It is required – and bleakly entertaining – reading for anyone wanting to understand the surreal scale and intent of the efforts to destabilise democracies.

Pomerantsev’s “adventures” take him from a skyscraper in Manila – where he meets the boyish Facebook manipulator who first shaped the murderous rise to power of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines – to the vast “International Research Agency” in St Petersburg, and the testimony of “Lyudmilla”, the whistleblower who exposed the industrial level of Russian efforts to drive western political sentiment to tribal extremes (including whole nine-to-five departments dedicated to injecting vitriol into the comment sections of British and American news sites).

He meets heroes of online resistance – Srdja Popovic in Belgrade, who offers “training courses that allow activists everywhere to pass exams in how to overthrow dictators without firing a shot”, and the delegates of the annual gathering of the world’s fact-checkers in Rome. He also confronts their nemeses, from the “bot-herders” in Nizhny Novgorod promoting far-right memes, to the Etonian Nigel Oakes, founder of the company behind Cambridge Analytica, which infamously employed research into online “behavioural dynamics” to shape populist election campaigns.


In the course of his autobiographical notes here, Pomerantsev remarks how he returned to London in 2010 in part for the psychological necessity of getting away from a world “where spectacle had pushed out sense”. In fact, of course, he returned to more of the same. What he had observed in Russia, “a radical relativism” with “conspiracy replacing ideology, facts equating to fibs, conversation collapsing into mutual accusations that every argument is just information warfare… and the sense that everything under one’s feet is constantly moving, inherently unstable, liquid” also began to characterise British politics.

He quickly saw how the methodologies that brought Putin to power had been exported, finding their expression first in Brexit and then in the election of Trump. Gleb Pavlovsky, one of the principal architects of Putin’s rise, explains to the author at one point how, in the absence of the old ideologies, the aim became “to lasso disparate groups together around a new notion of ‘the people’, bound around an amorphous but powerful emotion which everyone can interpret in their own way, and then sealed with enemies who will threaten to undermine that feeling”. Instead of a rational project directed toward the future, the aim was to offer the people “emotional highs” and sloganeering based in vague and unsupported nostalgias. The local equivalent of “Make America great again” or “Take back control” was “Bring Russia off its knees”.

Pomerantsev offers compelling fine detail of the ways in which social media campaigns would stoke fears about threats to a national way of life and offer simplistic solutions. These campaigns, automated and relentless, as well as cynical and blunt, were never designed to change thinking through argument but rather to change the environment in which arguments are made. “It is not the case that one online account changes someone’s mind,” Pomerantsev notes. “It is that en masse they create an ersatz normality.”

You know it might be time to revisit the thread title and scope. There's a lot of good information being posted here that might be overlooked based on the thread title.

Tyops wrote:

You know it might be time to revisit the thread title and scope. There's a lot of good information being posted here that might be overlooked based on the thread title.

I keep up with this thread. There is some good information, as you say. Personally, I am often unsure how said information ties into the title and/or scope, with a prior effort on my part to focus any contribution as such going down in flames. I since make do with taking it all in whilst shrugging the quandary away. There has been some great contributions on misuse of information, propaganda peddling, the cons of data protection and privacy policies.

Or, maybe it's just the Discussion and Debates section being devoid of participants and/or traffic. I only check select threads now and rarely, rarely come out of lurking. I partitioned flammable subjects away and elsewhere. It's basically just Games and Platforms now.

I also keep up with this thread. Have sent a lot of the info on to friends and family.

A lot of valuable info in these here pages

Yeah I keep up without too... Just the content although valuable really hasn't been lining up with age thread title.

Maybe I wasn't clear, I think we should keep this thread maybe just update the title a little.

To be fair, I think that quite a bit of our current reality falls under the rubric of "trolls in social media".

Why alt-right trolls shouted down Donald Trump Jr.

A group of alt-right and “dissident right” activists have joined forces with neo-Nazis and others on the far-right fringes to attack conservatives who they feel aren’t true conservatives, both online and in person.

Sunday, for instance, members of this group heckled Donald Trump Jr. at an event in California. And conservative speakers have been beset by the “groypers” at events in Texas, Tennessee and Arizona as well.

This group, which calls itself the “groyper army” — “groyper” being a reference to a meme of Pepe the Frog, itself a meme overtaken by the alt-right — purports to be supporting “traditional values” within conservatism, like immigration restrictionism. And it argues that relatively mainstream conservative student groups like Turning Point USA need to be confronted because they are shutting down “socially conservative Christians and supporters of President Trump’s agenda” and promoting “degeneracy” by having gay speakers.

This “groyper army” targets what it has termed “Conservative Inc,” a collective epitomized by conservative speakers like pundit Ben Shapiro, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, conservative writer Jonah Goldberg, and even Trump Jr., as well as conservative student organizations including Turning Point USA and Young Americans for Freedom.

Beyond the sort of heckling Trump faced, the network’s tactics usually focus on asking speakers specific and very leading questions about Israel, immigration, and LGBTQ issues within conservatism, hoping to elicit answers that reveal the speaker’s “fake conservatism.” “Real conservatism” being defined essentially as an emphasis on ethnic and racial characteristics as determinants for immigration coupled with an isolationist foreign policy and a “traditional” stance on LGBTQ issues. These tactics have gotten support from some mainstream right-leaning pundits who advocate for extreme restrictions on immigration, like Michelle Malkin.

In reality, the “groyper army” is simply the alt-right of 2016 and 2017, warmed over, reenergized and using new terminology aimed at disassociating itself from the “optics” problem caused by the tremendous failure of 2017’s Unite the Right Rally, which ended in the murder of a young woman. Its leaders and advocates are racists and Holocaust deniers, its message boards wax rhapsodic about the man who perpetrated the Christchurch mass shooting, and the questions it presents to conservative speakers are based on anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and “white genocide” fears.

As one source told me after a Turning Point USA event beset by “groypers,” “I did not know there were this many racists out there.”

I’ve been loosely following this fracture and the article, like most media about the right, sort of softballs it and dances around what is actually happening. This isn’t a split between the alt-right and conservatives, it’s a split between the straight-up Nazi’s and everyone else on the right. Over the last year or so the Nazi’s have been getting fed up with the Trump administration for not going far enough in it’s persecution of minorities so they’ve become more open and explicit in their Nazi dogwhistling which has made the rest of the alt-right pipeline nervously wanting to distance themselves from the Nazis, whereas before they just sort of ignored when their rhetoric went too far. Things really kicked off earlier this year when the openly Nazi youtuber Nick Fuentes was barred from a Turning Point event by Charlie Kirk, and now the Nazi failsons who follow Fuentes are crashing conservative events and sealioning anyone they feel isn’t far enough to the right.

Well, I kept reading that term as "gropers".

The Dark Psychology of Social Networks - Why it feels like everything is going haywire

Suppose that the biblical story of Creation were true: God created the universe in six days, including all the laws of physics and all the physical constants that apply throughout the universe. Now imagine that one day, in the early 21st century, God became bored and, just for fun, doubled the gravitational constant. What would it be like to live through such a change? We’d all be pulled toward the floor; many buildings would collapse; birds would fall from the sky; the Earth would move closer to the sun, reestablishing orbit in a far hotter zone.

Let’s rerun this thought experiment in the social and political world, rather than the physical one. The U.S. Constitution was an exercise in intelligent design. The Founding Fathers knew that most previous democracies had been unstable and short-lived. But they were excellent psychologists, and they strove to create institutions and procedures that would work with human nature to resist the forces that had torn apart so many other attempts at self-governance.

For example, in “Federalist No. 10,” James Madison wrote about his fear of the power of “faction,” by which he meant strong partisanship or group interest that “inflamed [men] with mutual animosity” and made them forget about the common good. He thought that the vastness of the United States might offer some protection from the ravages of factionalism, because it would be hard for anyone to spread outrage over such a large distance. Madison presumed that factious or divisive leaders “may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States.” The Constitution included mechanisms to slow things down, let passions cool, and encourage reflection and deliberation.

Madison’s design has proved durable. But what would happen to American democracy if, one day in the early 21st century, a technology appeared that—over the course of a decade—changed several fundamental parameters of social and political life? What if this technology greatly increased the amount of “mutual animosity” and the speed at which outrage spread? Might we witness the political equivalent of buildings collapsing, birds falling from the sky, and the Earth moving closer to the sun?

America may be going through such a time right now.

I recommend everyone listen to this podcast by Kevin Newman, a Canadian journalist.


"Attention Control with Kevin Newman" is a podcast series dedicated to covering the impact of technology on democracy in Canada and internationally. Led by Emmy Award-winning journalist Kevin Newman and powered by a team of experienced news and investigative reporters, Attention Control provides listeners with original news coverage and investigative reports on technologies impacting our democratic institutions, practices and values. From explaining how big data and social media platforms work, to practical advice on protecting your online privacy and identifying fake news on the internet, Attention Control is your one-stop “citizens’ guide” to navigating the intersection of technology, democracy and your vote.

"Attention Control with Kevin Newman" is produced by Antica Productions Ltd, who is solely responsible for its content. The podcast is a project of the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University. Attention Control is made possible thanks to the ongoing support of The David Family Foundation and The Rossy Foundation.

I highly recommend Episode 4.


If you're not happy with content and thread title/scope not aligning, please start a new thread with a scope that has a link to this thread (like the one found above in the original OP of this thread, with the thread that inspired it) as opposed to re-titling this thread. Renewing every couple of years on the topic seems to be an established thing already.

As per The Scope: "The intention is to provide a place to discuss the unreasonable power social media trolls have over women and minorities, with a primary focus on video games." Since the conversation has clearly moved on from the bolded part, it may be good to start a whole new thread instead and let this space to be the conversation that focused on the whole "women, minorities, and video games" part.

As an aside, I would like to suggest this moment as an opportunity to reflect on why it's important to maintain the emphasis of impact on marginalized groups within a community when discussing the oppression tactics of oppressors, and not potentially erase that for the sake of current convenience because folks went out of scope.

It's been a couple of years, we're in a different place, and a fresh thread with our current Dark Timeline in mind might be better suited for the current conversation.

HOWEVER...if the issue with the title is that 'inconceivable' is too denialist, then I'm okay with changing that particular word in this context.

Amoebic wrote:

HOWEVER...if the issue with the title is that 'inconceivable' is too denialist, then I'm okay with changing that particular word in this context.

I always read it as a Princess Bride quote reference...but that may be too obscure.

Gremlin wrote:
Amoebic wrote:

HOWEVER...if the issue with the title is that 'inconceivable' is too denialist, then I'm okay with changing that particular word in this context.

I always read it as a Princess Bride quote reference...but that may be too obscure.

A Princess Bride reference is too obscure? Inconceivable!!

It's all about ethics in journalism.

Gremlin wrote:
Amoebic wrote:

HOWEVER...if the issue with the title is that 'inconceivable' is too denialist, then I'm okay with changing that particular word in this context.

I always read it as a Princess Bride quote reference...but that may be too obscure.

It is still a Princess Bride reference and couldn't be any less obscure if you tried. It's there merely for the sake of being clever, but unfortunately makes it seem like the we're somewhat baffled by how marginalized people endure an intense amount of abuse in videogames and on the internet on a regular, daily basis. It's a bit yikes is all.

I'm asking Amoebic to close this thread. I believe the discussion about marginalized people in social media is still an important one, but this thread has kind of lost focus. Also, I am (for the time being) no longer active in the D&D forum. I hope someone else picks up the thread in a new topic, but I'm not the person to do that right now.