Of Trolls and Carefags

Or Stares and Oldfags


Anonymous carefag trolls New York Scientologists on the Ides of March 2008

I took my father out to a matinee yesterday and probably creeped out the girl at the concession stand by rudely staring at her. I knew I recognized her from somewhere, sometime long ago, a time that I hadn’t pondered many moons.

Back in ‘08 I was pretty fresh to the anonymous imageboard culture. Like most nerds of my generation, I had found 4chan through a combination of my interest in computers and my lukewarm anime fandom. Actually my “home board” was 420chan, which I had found through my interest in psychedelic drugs. More on that another time.

YTMND was also very popular at that time, and there was a lot of crossover between it and the chans. I was an avid lurker on YTMND. I didn’t make very many myself, but at one time, I had torrented every YTMND soundtrack compilation. As a lazy, jobless community college kid who lived with his parents, I could afford regularly to stay up into the wee hours trolling strangers on the Internet and laughing at the anger and frustration I caused them, while Stephanie from LazyTown explained how to bake a cake.

I was a troll and an oldfag, and I still am. I grew up with USENET and programmed my own games in BASIC. I had a message board for my friends that I wrote from scratch, and I had a blog when that still wasn’t a household word, where I shared my IRL trolling, in other words, pranks and vandalism.

But most of that is gone nowadays. It would at least take a little effort to dig any of that up on the Web. I came up with new nicknames, deleted forum accounts, and so on; partly because I was ashamed of my mean and stupid behavior, but partly because events in cyberspace were causing me to become concerned about my privacy and freedom. The latter concern continued for a very long time, and for a long time I balanced it against my desire to remain “current.” Only very recently did I finally delete all my accounts with Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the other major social networks.

Not everyone does this, however, and there’s still a lot of childish deeds done by people my age recorded for posterity. Among these are the first stirrings of what later came to be known as the Occupy movement: Project Chanology.

Now, let me be perfectly clear: Chanology started as a joke. Everything on the chans starts as a joke. The Internet hivemind came to a consensus that it would be really funny to make the Church of Scientology think that a large group of concerned citizens was trying to expose them. Of course, it was already common knowledge that Scientology was evil — this notion was only reinforced, not created, when an intrepid anon broke into the CoS’ computer system and retrieved their secret auditing manuals that detailed the brainwashing process that they use on the members of their cult.

However, and this is key, no one really cared. The user base of 4chan was already too jaded having witnessed the free dissemination of child porn, of gore, of snuff films, of Holocaust revisionism and other uncomfortably plausible conspiracy theories. We were nihilists. For oldfags, the black pill came long before the red pill; something changed in us to cause us to care years later. But at this time, we didn’t give a hoot. We were doing it strictly for the lulz.

It was bitter cold on that February day back in 2008, and the wind in Manhattan was its usual brutal self. I was there as an observer, not a participant.

It was my first time seeing Internet memes in real life. There was a Longcat sign that had nothing to do with the ostensible purpose of the protest. The Scientologists couldn’t have had any idea what it meant, but clearly the protesters were showing sub rosa the true nature of the event. A “Honk if you hate Scientology” sign would occasionally get a bus to use its horn, eliciting a cry of “Party van!” from the crowd of protesters. The chant, “Tax the cult,” a demand to remove Scientology’s tax-exempt status under the law, quickly morphed into “Tentacle,” an unfortunately very common feature of anime porn (as pedophile journalist Kurt Eichenwald has recently proved).

It was without question, by far, the most hilarious public event I had ever attended. It was also a glowing success. The Church of Scientology was paralyzed with fear. There were more protests planned — many more. It was being seriously considered by not a few anons, that we had the means to actually bring down the entire edifice of Scientology. But at this early stage, it was like my little secret. It was something wonderful that I was privy to and my acquaintances at school were not. For the first time in my life, I was the hipster. I was the cool kid. This kind of thing was going to make a splash and I could say that I alone was a part of it before it got big.

Or so I thought.

Then one day, I walked into the Student Life Center, and there you were, wearing one of my memes on your t-shirt, talking about how Anonymous loves Mudkips, as though you were my representative on earth.

How dare you. How very dare you.

I was the Couch Circle’s token /b/tard. How could you take that away from me? How could you be so callous, so unfeeling? Didn’t you realize that it was all that I had? I can’t. I just can’t. I literally can’t even right now.

Okay, back from my safe space. Let’s finish this.

As I was saying, I was too shy, too nervous, too autistic to even talk to you. Unable to bond over the thing you didn’t and couldn’t know that we had in common, my curiosity festered, and within a month, it turned to quiet rage.

You see, our actions against the Church of Scientology began to attract the attention of real concerned citizens, people who actually scoff wanted to make a positive difference in the world by exposing the crimes of the Scientologist hierarchy. People who actually cared. Carefags, in other words.

They completely hijacked Project Chanology and took it to a place it was never meant to go. We nihilistic oldfags had to abandon the project before it really even got started. And you carefags, unencumbered by our jaded cruelty, were well on your way to giving birth to Occupy Wall Street, useful idiots — but how could they have known? — for the very bankers they thought themselves worthy to defeat. All it would take was for a sufficient number of carefags to step back and wonder just how much social change could be effected using the psyop techniques employed for Chanology.

Unfortunately, they missed the point. The original power, and fun, of Chanology, lay in its essentially deceptive nature. Remember the Longcat sign; see what I mean? A protester who isn’t guilty of deception is most likely being deceived himself.

March rolled around. The day of the second protest in New York City was the fifteenth, the Ides; very clever. Obviously Anonymous is anonymous, but equally obviously, a completely different group of anons was in charge of affairs this time around. I wasn’t there, but I saw on YouTube that you were. There you were in your green bandana and your fingerless gloves, delivering the global speech against the evil Scientologists, telling them, We are here because we care about you!

No. No. No. No. No.

You steal my thing and then replace it with this carefaggotry.

It is all I can do to try to heal, simply to acknowledge what has been done to me.

So, all of a sudden, there you were taking my order at the theater concession stand. I wasn’t sure at the time, but now I’m pretty sure. It was definitely probably you. Definitely.

All these memories began to boil to the surface from somewhere deep below, like the sudden release of methane deposits. I think I should have said something, like, “So I heard you like Mudkips.” But hey, we’re both very different people nowadays, right? I mean, I’m clearly assuming that, but young people normally change over nine years.

Anyway, that’s the story of a complete stranger and the effect that you never knew that you had on his life. If I ever see you again, maybe I’ll give you the address of this blog entry. If I do, it’s because I want you to know that I did it for free, and I did it for the lulz. And I hope that you did too.