When I read Glenn Greenwald's latest leak of the Snowden files, titled How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations--I found it some pretty sobering stuff. (all graphics here are from the article; you can click to enlarge.) Greenwald wrote:
One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the [NSA whistleblower Edward] Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.And now it's time to tell another chunk of the story, focusing on my little corner of the net.
On the radio, I had been talking about online-provocateurs (and their carefully-targeted disruptions) only a few days prior to reading the Greenwald piece. I suddenly knew I had to write this. Typically, very few over on Tumblr seem to have read the leaked documents. On Social-Justice Tumblr, despite the okey-doke posturing, politics is basically secondary to self, self, self and the self's many facets of wonderfulness. (sigh)
I knew I might have to name names. And naming names has a tiresome and predictable outcome: The named-persons' friends stream forth to defend them and call me evil names. In this case, the provocateur is a successful and much-enjoyed troll, with literally thousands of followers. In December, after this individual "gave the order"--I was basically Tumblr-blacklisted ... which means it is highly unlikely that this person and their legions of fans will ever read this. Thus, I feel a certain freedom in that I don't have to please anyone and I have already been labeled an enemy (although I am not sure why--it was never fully explained to me). I might as well go ahead and speak my mind.
I am talking about THIS AWFUL PERSON (quoted therein), who shall henceforth be known as TAP for short. She is probably the most well-known leader of the trans women faction at Tumblr. In many ways, she directs the posse and calls the shots; if she was not in a leadership-position, I wouldn't take note of her zealousness in destroying others, she'd be just another meanie. But as a leader who draws a lot of attention, it is pertinent than she is divisive and gives advice to others, that they should be as divisive as she is. TAP is an entertaining writer, fairly outrageous and very good at reducing her detractors to tears; she excels at the personal insult, the creative cussing and take-downs. It is useless to attempt to argue "facts" with her. I know this, because she told me.
In the above link, TAP pointedly called herself an ex-troll, and yet, she is obviously trolling more than ever before. I wrote that piece in 2009, and it was only last year that I learned she was considered the biggest, nastiest and most vicious hell-raiser on Tumblr.
So what happened?
Check out the list of stuff I quoted from TAP in the link, the different types and techniques of trolls... and then check out THIS list:
It's the same, only not as colorful. Same. In fact, I am wondering if TAP is the one who wrote it. (Or maybe she just excelled at the correspondence course?) "Divorce behavior from outcome" = pretty much defines emotionally-manipulative trolling.
And here is where we cut to the chase:
We are not talking about a simple troll, folks. We are talking about someone who is masterful at driving people away from social justice movements; someone tremendously skilled in purposely painting social justice activists in the worst possible light. TAP is excellent in creating and exaggerating discord between two or more factions (as G Gordon Liddy said was necessary for the destabilization of a popular movement). In short, TAP may be a paid provocateur or federal agent. She might be working for the government, the NSA, The Dept of Homeland Security (etc etc) or she might be working for right-wing operations like Americans For Prosperity. She may be part of a "dirty tricks campaign" run by a particular sectarian group or politician. She may be getting nickel-and-dimed; regularly slipped some PayPal contributions in exchange for picking a fight with first this activist, then that one... and she may not know WHO she is actually working for.
Since TAP endlessly talks about being mentally ill and having been manipulated by opportunistic people in the past, it is also reasonable to assume this could still be happening. Certainly, she is far worse than she was in 2009, when I wrote that post.
Who is making her so much worse, and who benefits?
Ask yourself: who benefits?
We see that TAP's last attack was on Ellen Page, a likable and popular young actress who just came out as gay. TAP attacked her, claiming that she was transphobic (since all cis lesbians are transphobic). However, in her coming-out speech, Page pointedly mentioned trans actress Laverne Cox as an inspiration, so TAP's statement instantly blew up into a feud within the LGBT community on Tumblr, not surprisingly. TRANSLATION: A great public-relations moment for the movement, gets the immediate take-down from TAP.
This is a seasoned provocateur-move, and this is what made my antenna go up: Take the last morale-building WIN from a movement, and turn it into a morale-killing LOSS. TAP did this admirably. Although I do find it odd she is changing her name so many times; like a half-dozen times in the last few months. She changed her name again, right before this attack on Page.
And now, since the Greenwald leak, I have suddenly become aware of TAP's habits. Mostly, she tears feminists apart. She is devoted to keeping trans and cis women divided and spends hours and hours online exacerbating the divisions, keeping everybody angry and stirred-up. When things start to die down, she gets them stirred up again in short order, by making pronouncements like the one about Ellen Page. For instance, she tells all cis women that we are ugly, stupid and totally inferior to trans women. (She emphatically says "Ewwww!" about the bodies of cis women.) This kind of thing is calculated to get a response. And although she claims she has a job, she appears to spend ALL of her time insulting people on Tumblr. She deliberately tries to upset and hurt people and proudly succeeds. Usually, after one of her bloody verbal attacks, she invariably tries to milk pity, and suddenly reminds her readers that she is suicidal, mentally ill and popping pills. (Apparently, she doesn't realize that being a constantly-vicious, cruel person makes you feel bad about yourself. As you should, of course.) She then throws in some politically-correct stories, reblogs some crowd-pleasers. Next day, she is right back at it without missing a beat. Dedicated and determined. She is single-minded and relentless.
After all, she has a job to do.
To those of you who follow this person, stop. You are being used and exploited. She is spreading her poisonous hate to you, and you ingest it willingly.
But even more than garden-variety hate: you are being manipulated. It is doubtful she believes most of what she says. SHE IS TROLLING AS A COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY, deliberately trying to bust up several movements at once. And she does it demolition style: accuse cis feminists of raping thousands of trans women (she has actually claimed that, for example) and then scream like a maniac when anyone asks for evidence of such a thing. There is no "evidence" that will satisfy a provocateur, there is only emotional manipulation and extremism. These are their DESIRED GOALS: to make you mistrust feminists and trans women, to make people more likely to avoid face-to-face collectives and/or group-activism, and in fact, likely to drive you away from all political involvement.
Or maybe more likely to come to the conclusion of the right wing: THESE PEOPLE ARE ALL CRAZY.
That is the real goal, since there is no olive branch offered, no dialogue, no efforts to come together or to understand each other. After all, that would STRENGTHEN our movements, not weaken them.
And that is not what she is being paid for.
When she stops this behavior, I will change my mind. Not before. Until she stops, she is dangerous. She is working for reactionaries and effectively doing the work of the right wing. I regard her as the online equivalent of a grenade.
And so should you.