I’m not sure why exactly, but I have a fascination with Internet trolls. More than anything, I’m confounded by their behavior — but nonetheless, I find it all so interesting, and I always want to know more.
So it’s no surprise that my interest was especially piqued when I saw a Gawker post circulating on Twitter today: Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, The Biggest Troll on the Web.
I mean, first of all, what a claim to make. The “biggest troll on the Web”?! He must be pretty abhorrent if he’s given that title. But then I began to read the piece and learn more about the troll who goes by the username “Violentacrez.”
WARNING: Much of the content is incredibly offensive.
Gawker’s Adrian Chen did a great job of telling this story. He gives us appropriate background, shedding light on who Violentacrez is and what he’s done.
There are many sides to Violentacrez, and now that I had Michael Brutsch on the phone I hoped to find out where the troll ended and the real person began.
He talks about why Violentacrez is so influential to the online community.
A troll exploits social dynamics like computer hackers exploit security loopholes, and Violentacrez calmly exploited the Reddit hive mind’s powerful outrage machine and free speech values at the same time.
It was this pattern, repeated to various degrees dozens of times, that made Violentacrez an unlikely hero to many of the white male geeks who make up Reddit’s hard core. They saw Violentacrez as a champion in the fight against the oppressive schoolmarms
Chen details how he unearthed Violentacrez’s true identity. One of the most poignant moments, to me, was when Violentacrez — or Michael Brutsch — learned he’d be outed. He pleaded to Chen not to expose his identity.
"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. "I do my job, go home watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time."
There it is. “I just like riling people up in my spare time.” I can’t explain it, but that makes my stomach churn — not to mention the other details of exactly how Brutsch went about “riling people up.” Frankly, it’s disturbing.
I know many people have a problem with Gawker and are quick to dismiss their content entirely. But, in my opinion, this is a compelling piece that’s worth a read.
Chen puts this issue into just the right perspective, and it offers a kind of insight we don’t often get to see.