The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Twitter Trolls and the Abuse of Anonymity

Posted on | December 13, 2011 | 28 Comments

“Bagehot99” signifies his arrogance by his choice of pseudonyms, referencing the 19th-century economist Walter Bagehot — as if.

Exactly how my name came to his attention, I’m not sure. He had been carrying on a Twitter flame-war of sorts with Dan, among others, and decided he’s so much smarter than either of us that he should denounce us — to his hundred or so Twitter followers — as “middlebrow, self-regarding bloggers.” He has also fired off noxious messages aimed at Jeff Goldstein and others.

Look: I have friends who blog under pseudonyms, but they well know the risks involved in using a pseudonym to attack others. It is one thing, in 21st-century political discourse, to employ a pseudonym as an online cloak to insulate one’s real-life existence against hassles that might attach themselves to one’s Internet persona. Ace of Spades is an educated man with professional credentials and ambitions beyond blogging and politics, and the insulation of his pseudonym permits him to deploy his madcap humor without worrying that this will taint the career prospects of the mild-mannered real-life Ewok-looking fellow he is.

What “Bagehot99” is doing on Twitter is something utterly different. He’s a troll, stalking people with whom he disagrees and targeting them with put-downs — a purely negative and destructive abuse of Twitter, and one he would be well-advised to abandon.

Putting down people as “silly little wankers who can’t sustain a coherent argument“? Telling them they are “Intoxicated by your own ordinary intellects“? This kind of high-handed treatment naturally inspires the objects of your attack to ask, “Who is this pompous asshole?”

“Bagehot99” ought to be careful about his choice of enemies, and he also ought to be careful about disclosing biographical data:

Feel for me, I’m stuck in Missouri….for the last 13 years. I miss London.

I’ve seen Dan Riehl sleuth out the real-world identities of people based on less information than that: How many alumni of the London School of Economics (just a guess there) currently reside in Missouri? How many of them moved to Missouri circa 1998? How many of them are ardent soccer fans and Republicans with Tea Party leanings?

Dan Riehl may be just a “middlebrow” blogger, but if he ever decides an anonymous troll is worth the time and effort necessary to expose him, things have a way of getting ugly pretty quick, as Jesse Griffin learned to his everlasting chagrin.

UPDATE: Mr. Troll hasn’t been too tidy online:

Martin H (@Bagehot99). Dual nationality (Brit/US) living in the US, Saint Louis to be exact.

And also this:

An Englishman in, errr, St. Louis
Saint Louis, MO
I love to write; I used to blog extensively on a now-defunct political website. I have written humor/satire pieces, news pieces, general interest stuff, technical writing, contract drafting, business communications. I am well-known in my field as an authority on Integrated Project Delivery means and methods, and can write compelling presentations, resumes, and other assignments based upon creative and articulate use of the written word.

I’ve got lots of readers and friends in Missouri, and if any of them know a pompous British asshole named “Martin H.,” our Twitter troll buddy might have cause to regret his obnoxiousness.

UPDATE II: Did I say “Republican with Tea Party leanings”? No, actually, he’s a Libertarian who ran for a state legislative seat in 2010 and got 260 votes. Better luck next time, Martin.


28 Responses to “Twitter Trolls and the Abuse of Anonymity”

  1. CCR
    December 13th, 2011 @ 10:51 am

    Based on my recent exchanges with Ace, I’m having a little difficulty with the description of him being mild–mannered. A whiny, hypersensitive petulant little jerk, perhaps. Mild-mannered, not so much.

  2. DeAnnBradford
    December 13th, 2011 @ 11:01 am

    The Allure of Twitter is ‘Honesty of Opinion and Character’! I’ve never been starstruck or intimidated by anyone, so I could care less about a person’s success. Rather, I find genuine interest in what makes people tick. I love Politics, but I see ‘Grey’. Pseudonym Users on Twitter are Insecure and while I follow several, I feel sorry for them that they don’t believe in themselves and their idea enough to put their name to their thoughts. Sad actually.

  3. Joe
    December 13th, 2011 @ 11:07 am

    Stacy:  Now in hindsight, was Dan Riehl right about Herman Cain? 

  4. Anonymous
    December 13th, 2011 @ 11:14 am

    The facts remain unknown, but obviously the allegations proved fully as destructive as anyone might have expected.

  5. richard mcenroe
    December 13th, 2011 @ 11:35 am

    It’s a mistake to assume twitter trolls are loner losers.  Losers, yes, but organized.  Look at the campaign Eric Boehlert put together against Andrew Breitbart, or the ongoing shitstorm flung at Michelle Malkin.

    A new candidate for catcher of the shit seems to Kurt Schlichter, but so far he seems to be enjoying giving as much as he gets.

  6. ThePaganTemple
    December 13th, 2011 @ 11:42 am

    Some trolls just like to have fun fucking with people. In a lot of cases, while you’re sitting there spitting and spewing over your keyboard their sitting their laughing their ass off. It’s like a hobby.

  7. Anonymous
    December 13th, 2011 @ 11:49 am

    It didn’t take but another 5 minutes to get Martin’s surname and employer. He seems to have gone silent, so I have no reason to bother him anymore, but … “now-defunct political website”? Could that have been Culture 11?

  8. Brandon
    December 13th, 2011 @ 11:49 am

    Amen.  Beware anyone who dares challenge or test Ace on his chosen candidate. You’ll receive a prompt blocking, and then a cowardly mocking to his followers. Ace, mild-mannered? Hypersensitive wuss is more like it.

  9. Joe
    December 13th, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

    Remember, Dan R. did not jump on Herman Cain over the sexual allegations.  Yes the allegations were destructive.   I still suspect that was an unfair dirty political trick, with obviously a grain of truth since there were some settlements.  And I fault Herman for not dealing with this sooner and more professionally because he absolutely should have foreseen what was coming (certainly on the settlements). 

    What Dan Riehl said is Herman Cain was never serious about being a contender.  He was using the process to self promote for a book deal or a TV gig and then the campaign caught fire.  I am not sure if that is true (I think Herman was a bit naive rather than craven), but after what I saw I think Dan Riehl’s theory is definitely a possibility. 

  10. Joe
    December 13th, 2011 @ 12:08 pm

    Ace is friends with Patterico.  Any surprise? 

  11. Ladd Ehlinger Jr.
    December 13th, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

    My issue with current conservative infighting is the tendency to fight each other with the same tactics one uses against the left. Some jerk called me a liberal yesterday for pointing out that Glenn Blech has clay feet.

    Is it possible you approached Ace in the same way you’d attack a liberal troll?

  12. Anonymous
    December 13th, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

    If Ace is on your side of the argument, you’re apt to think him a wonderful fellow. If he’s on the other side, not so much.

    I’ve been reading AOSHQ for years, and a few unfortunate disagreements aside, it’s still the funniest thing on the Web. I even laugh at his jokes when they’re aimed at my candidate, as when he lacerated Herman Cain. Were his jokes cruel and unfair? Yes. Were they also funny? Again, yes.

    But during the WeinerGate saga, Ace was a contender for MVP, as he has been in previous battles, and I am disposed to forgive much in such a valuable ally.

  13. Joe
    December 13th, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

    I like Ace.  I like his blog.  I like alot more about him than I dislike.   But Ace can be a dick.  Ace can be wrong.  There is nothing wrong in pointing that out. 

  14. Joe
    December 13th, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    That is a fair assessment of the scurge of Scandis and the hunter of hobos. 

  15. Joe
    December 13th, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

    Beck’s followers tend to be sort of like him…a little on the manic side.  I do not hate Glenn Beck.  I occasionally listen to his radio show.  I did not care for his TV show (well on Fox, I am not signing up for his network).  I do not consider him in the same class as a Sowell. 

  16. Chakam
    December 13th, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

    If I had Twitter, I would call myself, “YourMom” and write vitriolic drivel about liberals.

    I had Twitter once and then acquired a stalker from Texas who would call my house from a payphone in a mall so it was untraceable.  He also used a voice scrambler.  Freak.

    Anyhoos, I like how you pwned this jackass.  Hey, when you play the role of Internet tough guy, ya gotta remember that the Internet is a double-edged sword.

  17. Anamika
    December 13th, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

    Spoken like a true troll…

  18. Bob Belvedere
    December 13th, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

    Some of us face firing if we reveal our names, even though we do not comment on our bosses [it would be dishonorable to do that from behind the mask].

  19. chuck coffer
    December 13th, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

    Beck is in the same category as Herman Cain for me now…someone I regret having defended. I hate it when someone makes me ashamed I stuck up for them.

  20. Adjoran
    December 13th, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

    Aha!  I had thought you died.

    Please return the flowers ASAP.  Thanks.

  21. McGehee
    December 13th, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

    Stacy, you have “a few thousand followers”…? I have 20.

    I am therefore entitled to hate everyone with 21 or more, apparently. Wherever will I find the time?

  22. Adjoran
    December 13th, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

    Twitter always seemed annoying to me.  I do have one comedian’s feed bookmarked, because she is funny, but I rarely check even that.

    Here’s a sample, one of her “Rejected Hallmark Cards”:


    Front: So exciting that you’re black! Black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black, black!!!

    Inside: Get well soon.

  23. Roxeanne de Luca
    December 13th, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

    Look: I have friends who blog under pseudonyms, but they well
    know the risks involved in using a pseudonym to attack others. It is one
    thing, in 21st-century political discourse, to employ a pseudonym as an
    online cloak to insulate one’s real-life existence against hassles that
    might attach themselves to one’s Internet persona.

    More importantly, long-time bloggers, twitterers, and commenters know that their pseudonyms end up becoming their online identity, around which they build (or destroy) their reputations.  Jim Treacher, Ace of Spades, Bob Belvedere, or any of those other people have the same online reputation attached to their pseudonyms as you have to Robert Stacy McCain. 

    Peter/Da TechGuy isn’t shy about letting people know his full name, but I would venture that more people know him as Da TechGuy than as Peter – but that hardly means that he’s hiding anonymously. 

    These twitter trolls, however, are designing their lives so that they face no repercussions whatsoever – neither in their real lives nor their online worlds.  That’s the problem, not the pseudonym.

  24. CCR
    December 13th, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

    There was a time when Ace was a must read of mine, going to his blog several times a day. I could count on him not only for numerous good laughs, but also for the ability to write lengthy, thorough posts explaining the conservative position.

    However, I gradually lost interest as the blog became more and more redundant. There’s a limit as to how many times you can read Ace being Allahpundit’s marionette/parrot, the South Park Republican shtick and an overall vibe of the blog’s head being more important than the message being given before you start looking elsewhere.

    What finally did me in was Ace becoming a victim of Hugh Hewitt syndrome. Remember 2008, when Hewitt was a really big deal on the conservative scene? He destroyed his credibility by so openly championing Romney’s cause, in the course of doing so mercilessly trashing all other Republican candidates, that when Romney withdrew from the campaign any words on Hewitt’s part to support the eventual nominee rang utterly hollow. When was the last time you heard anyone in conservative circles mention anything Hewitt has said or done? To quote Utopia, he’s the invisible guy; forgotten but not gone.

    Back to Ace. The moment Perry announced he was running, Ace became such an utter shill for him he adopted the same tack Hewitt had done four years earlier by going after other candidates, especially Sarah Palin who at the time was still considering entering the race, and their supporters with a level of personal venom that immediately made him into what he was accusing overzealous champions of other candidates of being; namely, mindless drones that were blindly worshiping their candidate of choice, using neither logic nor reason as any part of the basis of their support. Rather, it was all a cult of personality. This from a man who had turned himself into a giggling, drooling Perry fanboy.

    It’s not that Ace has been alone in this; Erick Erickson has also succeeded quite nicely in making an utter fool out of himself. They have sulked like children at every  one of Perry’s gaffes on the campaign trail, taking out their frustrations on others who have, be it politely or not, snickered at how their chosen one has fallen. Ace and Erickson have rapidly made themselves irrelevant in the 2012 campaign. They will sound like utter fools should Perry not get the nomination, with them having to support whoever the eventual candidate might be, especially if it’s Romney.

    This is the basis of my beef with Ace. He is no longer interested in the conservative movement nearly as much as he is interested in stroking his own ego and nursing his own hurt feelings. I don’t have time to deal with a pouty blogger. Neither does our country.

  25. mojo
    December 13th, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

    BTW: do we have a current count of the number of idiots self-identifying as “Vercingetorix” or something equally pretentious?

  26. ThePaganTemple
    December 13th, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

    The best thing about Twitter, if you can stand it long enough it will make you a better writer, because it will make you write your thoughts down more concisely using less words.

  27. ThePaganTemple
    December 13th, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

    Irony, thy name is Anamika.

  28. Bob Belvedere
    December 14th, 2011 @ 9:23 am

    Well put, Roxe.