Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Sockpuppetry of the dicks

What would you do if, like me*, you had a prominent online presence and people started saying nasty things about you on blogs or in comments or on Youtube, or you weren't happy with your Wikipedia entry?

If you said, "I would create a fake online persona and set about deviously correcting all of these perceived wrongs" then you are a dick. If you are now thinking "you'd have to be a moron to believe that you could get away with something like that" then you are not a dick, although you are a bit up yourself.

Recently, a couple of high profile hands have unwillingly emerged from the sockpuppets they control. First up was Scott Adams, author of the comic strip Dilbert. He created the pseudonym PlannedChaos and for several months went around defending "himself" on websites such as Reddit and Metafilter, including, at least twice, referring to himself as "a certified genius". He ended up outing himself as certified douche bag.

And in breaking sockpuppetry news, acclaimed British journalist Johann Hari - fresh from accusations of pathological plagiarism - is increasingly looking like he may well be his own biggest fan, "David r from meth productions", also known as "David Rose". For years, David r has been editing Hari's wikipedia entry in an extremely favourable light, whilst savagely editing the entries of people who criticise or disagree with him. It is possible that David Rose exists but the evidence presented by David Allen Green and others is quite damning. Let's review:

  • David r claims to have been at Cambridge University with Hari
  • Claims to work as a sub-editor at the Independent, where Hari works
  • Hari claims to know a David R who has a degree in environmental science from Cambridge
  • No person matching any of those descriptions actually exists
  • Hari is suspiciously silent on the subject even in the face of a Twitter barrage

As an aspiring, half-arsed journalist myself, I would just like to take this opportunity to assure all of my fans, including my 16 Twitter followers, 93 Facebook friends and the 16 people who read my last blog post, that I would never, ever stoop to creating a sockpuppet, or any kind of fake or anonymous persona for the purpose of self-promotion. That would be wrong, and stupid.

Besides, I am much too busy reading gay, incest porn.

*Yeah, I know. God I wish someone would say something nasty about me online.


David r from meth productions said...

I find your writing witty and informative.

Niko said...

I know The Crapologist personally and I can vouch for his integrity and overall magnificence.

And he is super sexy.

Daryl said...

I feel that I need to formally deny that I am The Crapologist lest I be accused thusly. Yes, we share the same IP address, clothes, disturbing lack of personal hygene and we sleep with the same woman, but we are most definitely not the same person.

David r's little brother said...

I walk into Johann's house, determined to put the matter to him. He's invited me over for a drink, but I'm looking for signs of contrition.

What, I ask him, does he have to say to those who now consider him a gobshite sockpuppeteer of the highest order?

"This accusation is totally false – but I have reflected seriously on this and do have something to apologize for...", he says, between sips of his Negroni. "I’ve thought carefully about whether I have been wrong here."

As Johann's maid brings in another round of cocktails, it's clear that his apology isn't going to be unqualified. I look over his shoulder, at the tattered picture of the Pope on his dartboard, as more half-hearted words tumble out.

"An interview is not just an essayistic representation of what a person thinks; it is a report on an encounter between the interviewer and the interviewee... my interviews are long intellectual profiles, not ones where I’m trying to ferret out a scoop or exclusive."

I stare at him. It sounds weak, even to one inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. On the subject of the pervy writing and the sockpuppetry, he is silent. I ask him again, bluntly: did he use sockpuppets to attack fellow journalists? Did he write the paedophilic incest story?

"I’m sorry, and I’m grateful to the people who pointed out this error of judgement. I will make sure I learn from it."

That sounds like an admission of guilt, I suggest. He nods, and looks into the distance, as if drawing on hidden reserves. I cough nervously.

Suddenly, a knowing look comes into his eyes. He turns to me, a smile creeping across his face. With a violent movement, he lunges across the room, reaches for my flies, unzips, and...

[Continues at]