Thomas Wictor

The REAL paid trolls

The REAL paid trolls

Adrian Chen has written a stunning piece on Russian social media trolls. Titled “The Agency,” the article is a virtuoso example of investigative journalism. Chen can rest on his laurels forever, as far as I’m concerned. “The Agency” is the gold standard of how to expose wrongdoing.

It’s a very long article, but here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite.

The Columbian Chemicals hoax was not some simple prank by a bored sadist. It was a highly coordinated disinformation campaign, involving dozens of fake accounts that posted hundreds of tweets for hours, targeting a list of figures precisely chosen to generate maximum attention. The perpetrators didn’t just doctor screenshots from CNN; they also created fully functional clones of the websites of Louisiana TV stations and newspapers. The YouTube video of the man watching TV had been tailor-made for the project. A Wikipedia page was even created for the Columbian Chemicals disaster, which cited the fake YouTube video. As the virtual assault unfolded, it was complemented by text messages to actual residents in St. Mary Parish. It must have taken a team of programmers and content producers to pull off.

And the hoax was just one in a wave of similar attacks during the second half of last year. On Dec. 13, two months after a handful of Ebola cases in the United States touched off a minor media panic, many of the same Twitter accounts used to spread the Columbian Chemicals hoax began to post about an outbreak of Ebola in Atlanta. The campaign followed the same pattern of fake news reports and videos, this time under the hashtag #EbolaInAtlanta, which briefly trended in Atlanta. Again, the attention to detail was remarkable, suggesting a tremendous amount of effort.

On the same day as the Ebola hoax, a totally different group of accounts began spreading a rumor that an unarmed black woman had been shot to death by police. They all used the hashtag #shockingmurderinatlanta. Here again, the hoax seemed designed to piggyback on real public anxiety; that summer and fall were marked by protests over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. In this case, a blurry video purports to show the shooting, as an onlooker narrates. Watching it, I thought I recognized the voice — it sounded the same as the man watching TV in the Columbian Chemicals video, the one in which ISIS supposedly claims responsibility.

These hoaxes are created by the Russian Internet Research Agency, an infamous troll farm. Here’s a woman who used to work there.


She’s a dead ringer for the Cardinal Ghost.


It’s very odd: All my ghosts have returned. Maybe it’s not possible to be un-haunted. I’d achieved peace of mind in late 2012, and then my parents died horribly, I lost all my friends, and my return to writing ended up like this.

I’d finally gotten over my unreasonable hatred of the Irish, which was the result of almost being murdered by the Irish Republican Army on July 20, 1982, when they detonated a nail bomb in Regent’s Park, London. My brother Paul and I turned left instead of right, so we weren’t injured, but we felt the pressure wave. I was left with a lifetime of PTSD and unquenchable rage. Though this white-hot anger dissipated in the early 2000s, now it’s back. On social media I’m hounded by Irish Jew-haters who say things like this.


It’s easy to mock stupid, drunk, semi-literate, toothless welfare recipients, as I did by saying that I support the murder of children medium rare, but it’s also all too easy for me to sink back into my abyss of rage. Irish Jew-haters represent much more than retrograde tribalism. The IRA developed a way of knee-capping their opponents that would make Hamas vomit in horror. First you use an electric drill on the knee joint, and then you pour in quick-drying cement. As the cement hardens, it expands, shattering the knee and making it impossible to reconstruct.

IRA or Hamas?


Is there a difference? I’m thinking about all this stuff again. It’s not healthy.

Still, my current situation doesn’t particularly bother me. There’ve been so many assaults that I’m inured. I no longer have aspirations to do anything other than to talk with my brother Tim, collect postcards, blog, care for my cats, and observe the world. I may self-publish two novels that I’ve mostly written, and I’ve decided to self-publish my postcard, photo, and ephemera collection in a series of books called Assault Troops of World War I. I have to choose how I want to split up the twenty-five nations represented. One short book for each country, or group them into three titles: the Central Powers, the Allied Powers, and the neutrals?

It won’t be for a while.

Today someone alerted me to the fact that Pierre Rehov has again made his trailer for War Crimes in Gaza public.

I didn’t know it was up because I’m not closely involved in the project anymore. Mr. Rehov and I didn’t have a falling out; it’s just that the movie I wanted made would’ve gotten no distribution. As a professional filmmaker, Mr. Rehov had to create a “balanced” film, or else nobody would’ve agreed to be interviewed by him, and nobody would’ve shown the documentary on TV. This is harsh reality. The movie is his vision, not mine, which brings me back to government-paid social-media trolls.

There’s no question that Israel is the target of coordinated social-media campaigns run by several nations. The tweets and Facebook posts are too similar, and they’re written by non-native speakers of English. They make claims that invert reality, such as the notion that the world has been silenced by the Jews and is prohibited from criticizing Israel. Fake videos are created, along with the billions of photo memes.

Well, I have no concerns about marketability or stepping on anyone’s toes. That’s why I’m having a twenty-minute documentary made about the Hamas murders of Ismail, Mohammed, Ahed, and Zakaria Bakr. I hope to have it finished soon. It won’t be “balanced” in the least. Instead, it’ll expose the cold-blooded murders of four little boys whose lives were taken for propaganda purposes. When it’s done, I’m going to make it available to everyone for free. If you care about human life, help it go viral. Share the video and post it on your Website.

There is no hasbara. There are no Zio-trolls. Too many Israelis and Jews are so concerned about being balanced that they’ll never fight on their opponents’ terms.

I’m not Israeli or Jewish. When my documentary Operation Four Little Martyrs is ready, I’m going to need help from those who are indifferent to how the world sees them. I’m no longer doing this for Israel or Jewish people; I’m doing it for four young murder victims. They’ll never receive justice, but their terrible story must be told in all its depravity. I must bear witness to their suffering.

Jam their suffering into the faces of the organized trolls who screech about “IDF child killers.” Show them what real child killers look like.


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