Trolls in Wonderland

Welcome to the hivemind, otherwise known as Collective Consciousness. You know: having a shared belief system. Similar group behavior. Polite society. In real life, anyway. Online the hive mind is the stuff of Kafka and Orwell, or their thirteen-year-old versions anyway.

It's a kooky where faceless people simultaneously proclaim the need for free speech at almost any costs, while seeing no hypocrisy in censoring everything it disagrees with. Espousing the right to privacy and free speech while using these rights as a platform for posting photos of abuse, and child pornography, only stepping in after the fact, when enough people who don't like child pornography and abuse complain.

Reddit is the poster child for this behavior. Yes, the same place that hosted President Obama's "Ask me Anything" session are guilty of this.

Not just because they tend to espouse and contradict free speech rights, but because Reddit is owned by the parent company of Condé Nast. The people who also produce GQ, Gourmet and Vanity Fair also allow trolls like Violentacrez to wreak havoc online.

Or at least they used to.

Yesterday, the troll equivalent of Watergate happened. Columnist Adrian Chen outed perhaps the world's most notorious troll, Violentacrez, as being 49 year old Michael Brutsch.

Brutsch believes he is a champion of free speech. According to Gawker,

Since Brutsch stumbled on Reddit from a link on the internet culture blog Boing Boing in 2007, he has pushed the boundaries of Reddit's free-speech culture. He has done this mostly through creating offensive subreddits to troll sensitive users.

As Violentacrez, Brutsch was able to champion free speech under such sections titled:
/r/ Chokeabitch /r/Rapebait /r/Incest and the internet's favorite, /r/Hitler

Oh and he also was behind the creepshots forum, too.

In the Gawker interview, Brutsch goes from First Amendment champion, to pleading with Chen to keep his anonymity. Why? Because the biggest fear a troll has isn't losing the right to post child pornography, or sexual abuse photos, or hurl insults in the comments section. The biggest fear a troll has, is being found out. Once you are found out, it's game over. If Brustch wants to continue an anonymous life, then his user name Violentacrez, which has so much brand equity, must be abandoned. And I can't imagine the fifteen minutes of fame experienced in the real world probably is as fun as it was online.

Unsurprisingly, Reddit has responded by censoring the Gawker article links. The people who defend free speech are banning anything that calls them out on their shit. As far as I'm concerned though, an article like this has been long overdue.

To paraphrase a scripture, trolls like the poor, will always be with us.

But that doesn't mean we have to tolerate it. It doesn't mean our free speech should be silenced. Besides: with I.P. Addresses and cookies, most of y'all aren't as anonymous as you think.

As much as trolls want to believe otherwise, the publisher still has the last say. Condé Nast, might want to wake up and really start taking a second look at who and what is being posted on one of their most valuable outlets. Anonymous users on Reddit say as much about the Condé Nast brand as GQ, Vanity Fair and Gourmet. They should start to be a lot more proactive in their concern about the Trolls in Wonderland, lest any more unwanted attention bubbles up from the murky pits of free speech.