The Other McCain

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

Bill Schmalfeldt, Violentacrez, Barrett Brown and the Scourge of ‘Troll Rights’

Posted on | April 7, 2013 | 27 Comments

“Arrogant sociopathic punks think they can go around threatening people and if you dare say a word back to them, you’re the bad guy.”
Robert Stacy McCain, Sept. 4, 2012

Donald Douglas at American Power reminds me of the deranged cyberstalker’s irrational grievance: “Troll rights.”

A basic problem of online life: People Who Don’t Understand How the Internet Works, No Matter How Often You Try to Explain It to Them.

Back in the day you could — and, in many places on the Internet, you still can — say anything you want to say in the comments. People who habitually frequent such places become accustomed to unleashing their id at will, and believe that this is a basic First Amendment freedom, which it is — as long as the proprietors of the site don’t care what people say in the comments. But one way or another, that online space is owned by someone, and the proprietor makes the rules.

Try going over to Democrat Underground or Daily Kos, spewing out GOP talking points, and see how long it takes them to ban you.

Trolls don’t understand this. They believe that having access to the Internet confers on them the inalienable right to say anything they want anywhere they want to say it, and any site operator who refuses to acknowledge that right is a fascist totalitarian.

To which I customarily reply: Get your own damned blog.

Here in my space, I will say what I want to say and — while disagreement and criticism from commenters is tolerated — there are clear limits to what can be tolerated without destroying the value of the site as a community of readers. Some of our regular commenters regularly disagree with me, and disagree with each other, and that’s OK. But what is not permitted is intentionally disruptive behavior, or personal attacks impugning the character of the hosts or the integrity of the site, which is inevitably the kind of “argument” trolls want to make.

This rule is a matter of hospitality and courtesy. You don’t accept an invitation to a party then show up and start harassing your fellow guests, complaining about the food and saying rude things about the hosts. Well, maybe you do that, but decent people don’t.

If you hate me, there are lots of places on the Internet where you are free to express that hatred. The comments of this blog are not such a place.

The classic example of the troll mentality was Michael Brutsch, a.k.a. Violentacrez, the notorious “jailbait” troll on Reddit.

In the free-for-all environment which the proprietors of Reddit seemingly encouraged, Violentacrez’s domineering id-monster act flourished. There were no limits he would not transgress, no sensibilities he failed to offend, and anyone who tried to get in his way was denounced as a crybaby, a “pussy.”

Well,  it was anonymous, you see?

Except for a few trusted friends, nobody knew who Violentacrez actually was, and so there were no consequences for his deliberately vile behavior until, one day, consequences happened.

One of his “few trusted friends” finally had enough of his outrageous bullshit and narked him out to Adrian Chen of Gawker:

Last Wednesday afternoon I called Michael Brutsch. He was at the office of the Texas financial services company where he works as a programmer and he was having a bad day. I had just told him, on Gchat, that I had uncovered his identity as the notorious internet troll Violentacrez (pronounced Violent-Acres).
“It’s amazing how much you can sweat in a 60 degree office,” he said with a nervous laugh.
Judging from his internet footprint, Brutsch, 49, has a lot to sweat over. If you are capable of being offended, Brutsch has almost certainly done something that would offend you, then did his best to rub your face in it. His speciality is distributing images of scantily-clad underage girls, but as Violentacrez he also issued an unending fountain of racism, porn, gore, misogyny, incest, and exotic abominations yet unnamed, all on the sprawling online community Reddit. At the time I called Brutsch, his latest project was moderating a new section of Reddit where users posted covert photos they had taken of women in public, usually close-ups of their asses or breasts, for a voyeuristic sexual thrill. It was called “Creepshots.” Now Brutsch was the one feeling exposed and it didn’t suit him very well. . ..
“My wife is disabled. I got a home and a mortgage, and if this hits the fan, I believe this will affect negatively on my employment,” he said.

Alas, too late. Within a week, Michael Brutsch was fired from his job.

There are many words to describe Brutsch’s online behavior, but the important word is antisocial — a hostility to rules, a defiance of authority, an unwillingness to cooperate with others. Rules exist for a reason, and if you have a problem understanding why “distributing images of scantily-clad underage girls” is against the rules . . .

Dude, do I even need to finish that sentence?

But there were no such rules on Reddit, and “Violentacrez” managed to attract a posse of followers who shared his contempt for such rules — and also shared his appetite for “jailbait” and “creepshots” — and so this thuggish crew fostered an antisocial attitude that legitimized the terroristic intimidation of anyone who objected to their behavior.

I cite that example at length to demonstrate that (a) the troll problem is by no means limited to the world of political blogging, and (b) antisocial personalities tend to escalate their misbehavior unless and until they are stopped, confronted with serious consequences.

Didn’t I try to warn Barrett Brown?

You don’t need a lawyer, Barrett. You need a psychiatrist, or perhaps a priest to exorcise your demons. You are traveling a road to destruction, as harmful to yourself as to any of your chosen enemies. Get help.

He didn’t listen to that advice and, a little more than a week later, he had an epic YouTube meltdown, threatening to “destroy” an FBI agent, and is now in federal custody awaiting trial. How bad is it? Barrett’s mother had to cop a plea for helping him conceal evidence from the feds.

Consequences happened.

Strange to say, there are troll enablers, who want us to believe that Barrett Brown is a victim of something besides his own insane arrogance:

[T]he pending federal prosecution of 31-year-old Barrett Brown poses all new troubling risks. That’s because Brown – who has been imprisoned since September on a 17-count indictment that could result in many years in prison – is a serious journalist who has spent the last several years doggedly investigating the shadowy and highly secretive underworld of private intelligence and defense contractors, who work hand-in-hand with the agencies of the Surveillance and National Security State in all sorts of ways that remain completely unknown to the public. It is virtually impossible to conclude that the obscenely excessive prosecution he now faces is unrelated to that journalism and his related activism.
A brief understanding of Brown’s intrepid journalism is vital to understanding the travesty of his prosecution.

Fuck you and your “brief understanding,” Glenn Greenwald.

To call Barrett Brown a “serious journalist” is an insult to serious journalists, and your appeal to paranoid fears of the “Surveillance and National Security State” conveniently ignores the crimes — and terroristic intimidation — for which Anonymous hackers have been responsible.

Threatening to “destroy” an FBI agent? Not serious journalism.

Getting bamboozled into a bizarre conspiracy theory peddled in an IRC chat by “Carlito2000”? Not serious journalism.

Barrett Brown might be sane enough to stand trial, but he was too damned crazy — his nervous system wrecked by heroin addiction — to produce serious journalism. What he was doing was fame-whoring, playing the “I’m Gonna Be Somebody On The Internet” game that is a convenient temptation to ego-damaged narcissists.

‘The Kook Who Knew Too Much’: Heroic
Fantasy, Paranoia and Barrett Brown

Anyone who wants to understand this problem should click that link and read that article. You don’t need an advanced degree in psychology to understand the relationship between narcissism and paranoia, and how emotionally unstable amateurs play-acting as “investigative journalists” on the Internet are prone to the heroic fantasy of discovering The Hidden Truth that makes them The Kook Who Knew Too Much.

Yet here is Barrett Brown, having pursued The Douchebag Credo (“I gotta be me“) to its most ridiculous extreme, and Glen Greenwald is celebrating him as a suffering Christ-like martyr.

Here, I dare anybody to watch Barrett Brown’s 13-minute video meltdown and tell me this punk was engaged in “serious journalism”:

Yet here we see the deranged punk praised by Glenn Greenwald who obligingly cites a Guardian reporter’s description of Brown as “a prolific writer,” which is the exact opposite of truth.

Please, someone, cite for me every article that Barrett Brown published in the year before he was arrested (or in any year before that). Now go over to the archives at The American Spectator and look how many bylines I cranked out during the same time frame. Maybe you don’t consider my work “serious journalism” — I wasn’t trying to save the world from “the agencies of the Surveillance and National Security State” — but by God, I was publishing thousand-word articles on a regular basis.  In a single span of 72 days (Aug. 27-Nov. 7) I filed 32 columns, while also running a blog that averaged over 250,000 hits a month.

Not trying to brag, you understand, just trying to say you can’t expect to impress me with how “prolific” Barrett Brown was as a journalist, because I saw the kind of work he did, and am a competent authority to declare that he was an amateur — undeniably, a clever amateur, but an amateur nonetheless. Barrett Brown only wrote about what he wanted to write about. He never had a job and a boss and regular deadlines, never took an assignment to go cover a city council meeting or some other mundane event, and the spoiled little punk looked down his snooty nose at those of us who did not have the luxury of that amateur existence.

The boy had no discipline.

Oh, but Barrett was so clever, so young, and so gifted with that rumbly baritone voice which he employed with a bullshitter’s glee in convincing naïve people that he knew Important Secrets to which they were not privy. This dime-store detective was going to expose the Hidden Truth about the pet villains of paranoids everywhere — Corporate America! The Military-Industrial Complex! International Bankers! — and Barrett had Michael Isikoff eating out of his hand!

I mean, what the hell does Michael Isikoff know about hackers, right? And here’s Barrett Brown laying all this authoritative bullshit on him and — boom! — “Look, Ma, I’m on NBC News!”

Got himself a “six-figure” book deal with an eighth-grade dropout to co-author a book about Anonymous: “Look, Ma, I’m famous!”

Yeah, I’m sure the FBI was real impressed.

Escalation, you see. Just like Violentacrez, Barrett Brown kept upping the ante, pushing his bullshit act further and further, congratulating himself on how he was getting over on all these chumps, until he convinced himself he was invincible — bulletproof — and then came that day . . .

Consequences happened.

Well, I’m past the 1,800-word mark and nobody’s offered to pay me to write a book about these trolls and famewhores and their ridiculously misbegotten delusions of digital glory. I started out with Donald Douglas’s observations on “troll rights” and this rambling rant spun badly out of control somehow late on a Sunday night.

It is important to keep your ambitions in line with your abilities, and I’ve never imagined doing anything as grandiose as exposing the “shadowy and highly secretive underworld of . . . the agencies of the Surveillance and National Security State.” That work’s above my pay-grade.

Monday is Everyone Blog About the Howard County State’s Attorney Day.” If we can’t change the world, maybe we can change Howard County.




27 Responses to “Bill Schmalfeldt, Violentacrez, Barrett Brown and the Scourge of ‘Troll Rights’”

  1. TC_LeatherPenguin
    April 8th, 2013 @ 12:11 am

    “People who habitually such places….”
    DAMMIT! Tighten it up or hire me.

  2. robertstacymccain
    April 8th, 2013 @ 12:14 am

    Yeah, I’m catching the typos one by one. It’s important to have commenters who cut me no slack.

  3. robertstacymccain
    April 8th, 2013 @ 12:19 am

    And I just caught yet another typo — I do a lot of those when I’m in full-on rant mode.

  4. MrPaulRevere
    April 8th, 2013 @ 12:41 am

    I find it hard to believe Greenwald actually wrote this: “Those months of FBI pursuit, but particularly the threats against his mother, finally caused Brown to explode with rage.” So there you have it, it was all the FBI’s fault. I’ve never been impressed with Greenwald, I guess he’s one of the ‘smart set’ that we are supposed to pay attention to, like Bill Maher. Why do all of these malcontents and freaks wrap themselves in the cloak of political persecution when they get busted committing felonies? Maybe we should ask Brett Kimberlin.

  5. Kevin Trainor Jr.
    April 8th, 2013 @ 12:42 am

    Kevin Trainor Jr. liked this on Facebook.

  6. mushdogs
    April 8th, 2013 @ 12:50 am

    Good rant. Keep fighting the good fight.

  7. robertstacymccain
    April 8th, 2013 @ 12:56 am

    Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.

  8. mushdogs
    April 8th, 2013 @ 1:07 am

    The harassment and stalking you, your family, friends and acquaintances have had to go through from these yahoos makes my blood boil. No one should have to put up with what has been foisted upon you for simply doing your job as journalists and bloggers.

  9. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    April 8th, 2013 @ 2:07 am

    Keep up the good fight. Spelling counts, but not more than passion.

  10. rmnixondeceased
    April 8th, 2013 @ 2:15 am

    Heh. You said what I’ve wanted to say for a long time.

  11. Dustyn
    April 8th, 2013 @ 3:12 am

    Makes my blood boil too. It also drives me insane that they can’t get law enforcement to look past the fact it is happening on the internet and realize that it is really a serious problem that can escalate REAL fast.

  12. #BlogHoCoSAO Participants | hogewash
    April 8th, 2013 @ 4:43 am

    […] Monitor’s Access R. M. Nixon (Deceased) / Dead Republican Party Tanny O’Haley The Other McCain […]

  13. Pablo
    April 8th, 2013 @ 5:27 am

    “The boy had no discipline.”

    The junkie? No discipline? Say it ain’t so!

    Seriously, the boy has been fostering delusions of grandeur for years. Serious journalism, indeed.

  14. TC_LeatherPenguin
    April 8th, 2013 @ 6:04 am

    Compadre? This is “no slack”: “That was not a typo. Your head shifted gears in mid-sentence and failed to inform your fingers… and trusting ‘spellcheck’ made you pay.” ;-p

  15. Public Servants Should Be Careful About What They Say To Bloggers | The Lonely Conservative
    April 8th, 2013 @ 9:04 am

    […] You can find out more about the proceedings in Maryland here and here, and the idiotic notion of “troll rights” here. […]

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  17. Finrod Felagund
    April 8th, 2013 @ 10:14 am

    I tend to call mistakes like omitting a word a ‘braino’. Same category of error as typos, just a different mechanism.

  18. Rob Crawford
    April 8th, 2013 @ 10:43 am

    “Got himself a “six-figure” book deal with an eighth-grade dropout to co-author a book about Anonymous: “Look, Ma, I’m famous!”

    Yeah, I’m sure the FBI was real impressed.”

    The Secret Service once raided a game company that was producing a game about hacking, claiming that the game was a guide to hacking and computer crime.

    The feds aren’t known for being all that informed, or having a sense of humor.

  19. Rob Crawford
    April 8th, 2013 @ 10:47 am

    Greenwald is famous for being famous. He’s gay, he hates the US — that made him a go-to guy for the press during the Bush administration.

    Since Obama took office, he’s been reduced to writing for the British press.

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  21. Adjoran
    April 8th, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

    Greenwald is no “serious journalist” himself (the breed was doomed to eventual extinction when university English Departments decided to cash in on student demand and assign their weakest faculty to new “schools of journalism,” ending the traditional from-the-garden-club-up on-the-job training). He is most well known for his prolific “sock-puppetry” in which he assumed dozens of false identities to praise and defend himself on multiple web sites.

    Brown himself is famous for little more than his “fifteen minutes of fame.” It was evident from his actions and comments here that he was so full of himself that bursting was inevitable. Maybe drugs and Rauhauser contributed to his fall, but the proximate cause was neither heroin nor hero-worship, but hubris.

  22. The newest “oppressed” minority? Internet Trolls! | The Daley Gator
    April 8th, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

    […] McCain has the scoop on the newest Victicrats, the Internet Trolls as it were. They have jumped aboard the “Feel Sorry for Me Train” and are whining to beat the band. Because, apparently harassing people online is a civil right in their […]

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