Sock puppets are a huge annoyance to anyone who runs a forum or manages comments on any public site that allows them. A sock puppet or “sock” is an account or username created to obscure the identity of its user, so that person can comment on threads or edit materials – usually relating to them, their perceived enemy, or their pet topic, without getting called on it. One person using multiple sock puppets can give the appearance of swaying majority opinion.
Socks are an oft-used tool of those who like to whip up controversy about themselves, as well as emotional infants who can’t accept contradicting ponts of view – not to mention people who just want to promote themselves, and are not always malicious trolls. Trolls who use sock puppets include those who want to push a particular pet topic (“Morgellons is caused by government chemtrails!” for instance), or people who want to attack a particular person or cause.
Socks might become “the only option” once a particular poster gets banned from a forum. Sock puppets are also used in the political arena to voice political claims that might be inaccurate and/or insane, that the person behind the sock can’t risk getting called on. Trolls often use sock puppets at the intersection of sex and the internet, for various reasons. Not all socks are evil, though I wouldn’t say many of them are good.
But sometimes the sock turns out to be a rarer but still pathetic brand of hosiery: the sock puppet may actually be the celebrity being talked about, as Sarah Palin was caught doing on Facebook. And now Scott Adams is the latest in a series of celebrity trolls with crusty socks.
Scott Adams, Dilbert creator and previously admitted troll who thinks women are socially equivalent to the developmentally disabled, is probably entitled to break the rules because Scott Adams, as his biggest fan Planned Chaos has told us, is a “Certified Genius.” But as reported by Gawker last week, Adams admitted he was Adams supporter Planned Chaos, only after being caught by a Metafilter admin. Another user then pointed to the same “high-fiving by proxy” using an account of the same name at Reddit that made it a policy to praise – need I say it? Scott Adams!
The Metafilter occasion was a thread discussing Adams’s bizarre and virtually incomprehensible op-ed about education in the Wall Street Journal. What was it about specifically? I haven’t got the foggiest idea, because the article itself starts out with some bold and faux-clever pronouncements attacking the very concept of education, and then descends into a lengthy discussion of how cool Adams was in college. Some commenters didn’t dig the WSJ article’s wandering, hard-to-follow self-indulgence. “Planned Chaos” found that certified proof of their shit-stupidness. Adams had already won the debate, said Planned Chaos:
As far as [Scott] Adams’ ego goes…Everyone on this page is talking about him, researching him, and obsessing about him. His job is to be interesting, not loved. As someone mentioned, he has a certified genius I.Q., and that’s hard to hide.
Under his Reddit sock, Adams also claimed that “Adams” had already won any debate in which people talk about him, like so:
You’re talking about Scott Adams. He’s not talking about you. Advantage: Adams.
…which hurts my brain to think about, since in posting this, Adams was by definition talking about whoever he was talking about not talking about. I’m like that computer Captain Kirk drove insane by saying “Everything I say is true; I am lying.”
Here’s why this is important.
Trolling and sock puppeting have some clear boundaries. People who create phantom accounts to have conversations with their detractors are clearly crossing any reasonable boundary of civil discourse, and yet people who fuck up the internet by violating those reasonable boundaries and disrespecting the rest of us are always the first to say, as Adams did, that they’re sorry they “peed in your cesspool.” Except Adams only claimed it was a cesspool after he had been exposed as a troll and a sock by other people. So…was it not a cesspool fifteen minutes ago? When he was trying desperately to convince everyone they were far stupider than Scott Adams?
Or is it that Adams only thinks the internet is a cesspool once he loses the game? People who only like to play games they know they can win without trying very hard — are no fun at all for the rest of us to play with. I learned that in kindergarten, where I got my real education.
Some commenters on Tiny Nibbles have suggested that outrage over Scott Adams being a douche is misplaced. But if Adams seems harmless, then keep in mind that the voice of consensus on the internet often allows far more aggressive sock puppets to continue unabated.
It’s become impossible for me to consider any case of sock puppetry without talking about the elephant in the whorehouse, Alexa Di Carlo.
“Alexa” was the fake online persona of a sexual predator reputed to be a government employee named Pat Bohannon, who was finally outed with a heavily documented trail of evidence in October of last year by the proprietors of ExposeABro. “Alexa,” who claimed to be a high-end escort, wrote erotica about her encounters with clients as well as advice to women – particularly young women…particularly very, very young women – who wanted to enter the industry. Her advice included a lot of “permission” to enjoy really hard, rough sex of the kind that the real Alexa (a man, and a sexual predator) was interested in.
No surprise, then, that “Alexa” referred escorts “she” knew online to a “male client” of hers, “Matt,” who met up with them in real life without having to go through the usual screening process — because “Alexa” had vouched for him. Alexa even tried to get some of those escorts to induce other friends of theirs to have threesomes with “Matt,” because “Alexa” was “too expensive” for Matt to be able to afford to pay for Alexa and another girl. Word on the street is that young escorts were pressured into unsafe sex because this guy was a “friend” of popular sex blogger and sex worker rights advocate “Alexa” – so he must be okay, right?
Then again, there are some people who think “whores get what they deserve” no matter what happens to them. I doubt you’re one of those if you’re reading Tiny Nibbles, but you never know. In any event, the haters of sex workers very often claim (bizarrely and disingenuously, to my way of thinking) to be the staunchest defenders of the young, right?
So those haters/defenders must have jumped on Bohannon for having previously run Caitlain’s Corner, an “advice” site for teens that dished out abyssmal advice that seemed geared toward guiding young women into being sluts. No, not as in “be proud of your sexuality, unapologetic about your sex drive and unshameable.” That’s our department – the people who are realy giving factual sex information.
“Caitlain,” in contrast had no real facts – only fantasies with an agenda. The agenda? To turn young women into sluts of the sort who were desired by — and accessible to — the (male) sexual predator operating it. In the law enforcement and child protection communities, this is called “grooming” – it’s done by sexual predators. When a predator finds someone just a bit too young for their “esoteric” tastes, they start to plant the “seeds” of victimization in their heads. At Caitlain’s Corner, women under 18 were “advised” to explore their sexualities in ways that were obviously designed to guide them, once they were legal, into the hands-on guidance of…Caitlain’s “friend,” or others like him. Three posts (one — two — three) document the deception
Caitlain’s Corner never showed up on my radar, possibly because I have no interest or experience in sex education to youth. Alexa, however, was playing in my “cesspool.” She claimed to be a San Francisco resident, then to be in an undisclosed graduate program in human sexuality (there are only a few of them in the nation), then specified that she was in the Master’s program at San Francisco State – but, gee, no students in that program (yes, they actually exist – they’re not just fantasies) – had ever met “Alexa.” Others found it suspicious that Alexa’s “photos” had all been stolen from online sources, and despite never showing her face, they still sometimes seemed like they weren’t of the same woman.
That “seasoned” sex educators and bloggers ever took “Alexa” seriously was horrifying to quite a few of us, who had always thought it agonizingly obvious that Alexa wrote like a guy. Several sex-worker activists raised the alarm in the activist community that Alexa was fake, only to be beaten down as anti-free-speech by the online “community.” As now seems excruciatingly clear, people wanted to take the side of the popular girl in the room over the strident skeptics who pissed on the parade. Especially since the popular girl seemed to be saying what everyone wanted to hear: “The reality of being a whore looks exactly like the sexy male fantasy.”
Then again, I might have finely-tuned Guydar, because I started having online sex in 1987. During the ensuing glory days of Yahoo Chat, if you were a man-seeking-women in a BDSM chatroom, you could expect that at least 80% of the “women” you encountered were in fact “online cross-dressers” – guys who cooked up sexy, slutty, submissive, usually barely-legal personas to play in online for one reason and one reason only: because it turned them on.
These were heterosexual men, not transsexuals, cross-dressers, or transvestites. Anyone unwilling to concede an obvious or essentialist distinction between those (as I am) can hopefully accept – for the purposes of this discussion – the definition I’ll use. The majority of the biological males who played/play online with men, as women, are men who do not wear feminine clothing or underwear when they’re doing so, mostly do not have any established female persona outside the online realm, do not have secret longings to be full-time women, and mostly have no intention whatsoever of ever transitioning or, for that matter, being sexual with men. Therefore, they’re not transgender in any “lifestyle” way, and they’re not transvestites.
Once upon a time, I coined the term “jack puppets” for those online personas – they existed solely for the purposes of creating a satisfying jack-off experience for the user. These were fictional characters created by straight men, to my way of thinking, to enable otherwise straight and very possibly homophobic men to fantasize vividly about being sexual with men. If I were to speculate wildly, I’d say what I’m calling “jack puppets” might – might – be an expression of the bisexual impulse among heterosexuals – perhaps the male equivalent of straight girls who make out at parties because guys think it’s hot. It’s a way of getting “permission” to play without consequences. I guess. I don’t really know — to tell you the truth, I don’t understand it. But you’d have to be pretty clueless to not acknowledge that it’s an enormous phenomenon in erotic online chats and forums (though far less so in blogs).
That’s men who play with men, while pretending to be women. But in chat rooms, there’s a far more insidious creature online, pretending to be biological woman — and that person is not a jack puppet. “Alexa” was not, as some of her die-hard defenders suggested, a “jack puppet,” and here’s why:
Women who did a lot of anonymous BDSM chatting with either women or men (or both) in those days (the mid-to-late-’90s and early 2000s, before Yahoo chat was overrun by phone sex bots) often encountered a different phenomenon than the jack puppet. They sometimes found that they got contacted by “women” who happened to have “male friends” who “might” want to chat with them, too.
The “women” might vouch for their male friends as being nice guys. The “male friends,” once the introduction had been made, would quickly get around to their real agenda – which was shockingly similar to the garden-variety men-who-chat-as-men-with-women. It was, more often than not, asking women almost immediately for naked pictures, and suggesting, not long after that, in-person meetings for sex. Failure to provide either could sometimes result in a torrent of abuse, or just a guilt-trip, or more compliments (for a while). Having discovered that they don’t get very far demanding nude photos and phone sex out of every “woman” they meet in a chat room, they cook up a deception to make it seem “safe.”
These are not “jack puppets.” These are not guys who get turned on chatting as women. They are, essentially, predators. They are less highly developed in their predatory behavior than the likes of Bohannon/Alexa/Caitlain. But that doesn’t mean they’re not predators.
People confuse jack puppets with sock puppets with predators. Bona-fide jack puppets, I believe, are more or less harmless. They’re not really ethical, sure, but pretending to be someone else online for the sake of getting yourself off is different than trying to trick a woman into meeting up with “your friend” you’ve vouched for, or send him nude pictures, or have phone sex. And pretending to be a real escort and sex educator who tells sexy stories and thinks young women should become escorts because it’s empowering — well, that could just be a jack-off fantasy in a chat room.
Or it could be a blog, and an extensive history of email correspondence tweeting, Tumblr pics, and interviews. And a significant portion of the online sex blogging community could buy it because they don’t have the faintest idea what constitutes good sex or escorting advice.
Lying to someone in a chat room is one thing. Creating publications as a faux “expert” in order to mislead young women into doing unsafe things — some of them, with you, because “experts say” you’re a great lay and a nice guy — that is another thing entirely
Anyone who can’t make that distinction, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t have morals worth a damn.
That is why the internet is a “cesspool.” It becomes a cesspool because the reasonable users who want to be there for appropriate reasons are unwilling to define appropriate reasons.
What does this have to do with Scott Adams?
When people like Adams say they’re sorry they “peed in our cesspool,” they’re establishing that they think our world is a cesspool. They’re getting off on destroying our ability to create virtual worlds based on anything other than lies.
Uncomfortable with who they are, and incapable of tolerating life where their ideas can be ridiculed if other people think they’re stupid, they accuse those of us who of being something we’re not — cheats, liars, and idiots. That attitude encourages people like “Alexa” who think we’re not only cheats, liars and idiots — but prey. And like all predators, they prey on the weak.
And then people like Adams and Bohannon find no end of defenders who use, as their liar-defending soundbite, “The internet is a cesspool. You shouldn’t believe anything you read on it.”
People who believe that should get the fuck off the internet, and stay off.
Or is it only a cesspool once you get caught taking a crap in it?