By Felicity Lee, MA
Anyone familiar with operating internet forums, sites, and chat rooms recognize trouble-making ‘trolls’ as mere irritants attempting to access, control, and recruit members for their own purposes.
If you are unfamiliar with the term ‘troll’:
“An Internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, in fact, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.”1
2014 study of internet trolls revealed:
“Strong positive associations emerged among online commenting frequency, trolling enjoyment, and troll identity, pointing to a common construct underlying the measures. Both studies revealed similar patterns of relations between trolling and the Dark Tetrad of personality: trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, using both enjoyment ratings and identity scores. Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior. Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism. Thus cyber-trolling appears to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism”2
Although, trolls have been around for decades, a new generation of ‘troll’ began to emerge some six years ago. Owners and operators of online forums began calling them ‘infiltrators’ realizing the sophistication of their techniques, musing whether they were government operatives or hired agents of some kind. This notion, seemingly a bit paranoid and without evidence, was not taken seriously until now. The reality of the new generation of ‘trolls’ came to life recently when Glenn Greenwald leaked documents and evidence that covert government agents were infiltrating the internet.
Glenn Greenwald, a journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, and author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, has been working with NBC News in publishing a series of articles on how covert government agents infiltrate the Internet to “manipulate, deceive, and destroy reputations.”3
Greenwald published a copy of a spy training manual: “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.” Greenwald wrote that agencies like the NSA are “attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.” Greenwald writes:
“Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.”3
“According to these latest documents, there are paid government agent/contractor persons on social media posing as someone they are not, whilst on the payroll of the government. Their job is to befriend members of the alternative media, embed themselves in the ebb and flow of day-to-day communications, and then to engage in elaborate subterfuge – by any means necessary. The training exercise terms like “befriend”, “infiltrate”, “mask/mimic”, “ruse”, “set-up”, “disrupt”, “create cognitive stress”, “use deception”, “ruin business relationships”, and “post negative information on appropriate forums” – all of which is not only illegal and morally bankrupt, but also runs completely contrary to the very fundamental ‘values’ and indeed founding principles, of a modern free democratic society or constitutional republic.
Government targets in this malicious operation appear to be bloggers, activists, journalists, social event organizers and anyone else deemed to be an ’emerging leader’ or voice in the public sphere, or alternative media online.”
“Greenwald at Firstlook reveals the powerpoint slides used by British intelligence (GCHQ) to train its operatives in how to deceive Western publics. The powerpoint slides instruct cyber-spies to write deceptive emails to their friends and colleagues (did anyone you know suddenly stop talking to you and wouldn’t explain why?), to change their photos on social media, and to create a blog in which the individual posed as a purported victim of some alleged dastardly deeds falsely attributed to the target. Where the target is a company, the slides advise “post negative information on appropriate forums,” “ruin business relationships”.
The mantra of these dirty tricks units is the “4 D’s”: deny, disrupt, degrade, deceive.
The slides, in short, exhibit signs of sadism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy and narcissism, the Dark Tetrad. The “d’s” in “four d’s” are best understood as standing for “Darknesses.”4
This obviously extends way beyond the practice of employing paid ‘trolls’ to pollute comment sections and redirect forum threads – which still exists under both government and corporate umbrellas.” 5
For many survivors of abuse, these tactics are so common as to be part of our understanding of how the world works. Of course, ‘they’ are on the internet, and of course, they will attempt to take down forums that support survivors, and of course, they will use all the programming methods they always have, and of course, we will laugh in their faces, because we are totally aware and have been hurt enough. To my surprise, that is not at all what happened when an agent under the fake personae of “Menagerie” joined our forum – Ivory Garden DID Support Forum – some three years ago. Within an hour of being a member of IGDID, Menagerie had already befriended the Administrator (Shadow). Unbelievably, Menagerie was able to collect personal information, including Shadow’s credit card number, address, email address and personal cell number. In fact, they were already on the phone making plans to meet in person within the first week.
Several members were immediately aware that Menagerie was a troll – but, we were not aware that she was more than the garden variety troll until shortly after her/his arrival when Shadow and the other administrators began threatening that if Menagerie was not put in an administrator position, they would be leaving the group and taking some 100 members with them. That Menagerie could manage to control so many members seemed impossible, but it was a reality. Myself, having degrees in psychology and operating online forums for some eight years, I realized that the tactics she used were similar to government ‘programming’ – too sophisticated to be what trolls would generally use.
First, she called members on the phone to befriend and talked to them for literally up to twelve hours a day influencing them. She accessed them during chat discussions or through personal mail. It was not long until Menagerie didn’t need to influence anymore. The members were doing her dirty work – spreading gossip and turning each other against the forum and staff. Within weeks, members were following her/him without thought. Menagerie’s purpose was ‘not’ to cause trouble, but to take over the forum as the owner. That was also new to me. Trolls do not try to push the owner out in order to take complete control. At the time, the appropriate choice would have been to ban her, but by then, she had taken control of the forum members. As staff tried to decide what should be done, Menagerie had also taken control of the Board of Directors who attempted to vote me off as President in order to elect Menagerie to replace me.
Finally, Menagerie was removed from the forum, but the damage she did to members and the forum was phenomenal. Most of our staff and some 300 members followed her or left our forum out of fear or distrust. She also took a list of our members’ personal information and is still, three years later, calling our members or emailing them pretending to be me, etc. I have heard from past members that they have been threatened if they mention coming back to our forum. Though Menagerie influenced our members to believe blatant lies about me, Shadow and I kept contact. In fact, she wrote to me six months ago afraid of Menagerie, and two days later was found dead in a hotel some two states away from her home. According to witness reports, Menagerie had come to her home and, Shadow – afraid to say ‘no’ – had gotten into Menagerie’s car and left with her. Her death was not and will not be investigated.
Today, Menagerie (who uses several aliases) continues to influence past members from our group as well as new members who join. Her followers are loyal and have no idea that they are being programmed by one or more government troll who infiltrated our forum one day.
These ‘agents’ use many different tactics. Another common and easily believed technique is to spread the ‘censorship’ rumor – that the forum staff ‘bans’ everyone. This gives those banned for good reason more credibility creating the illusion that safe forums that inforce guidelines to protect members are actually ‘unsafe’ and not to be trusted.
It is important to remember that members of forums that support survivors are by definition vulnerable and easily influenced using the tactics explained in recently leaked documents.
“Ed Snowden’s latest leaked documents open the lid on what is perhaps the most vindictive and disgusting aspect of the government-corporate joint surveillance state seen yet…
“GCHQ documents are the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online and harm the reputations of targets. Under the tactics they use, the state is deliberately spreading lies on the internet about whichever individuals it targets, including the use of what GCHQ itself calls “false flag operations” and emails to people’s families and friends. Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?
Mostly, there is the use of psychology and other social sciences to not only understand, but shape and control, how online activism and discourse unfolds. Today’s newly published document touts the work of GCHQ’s “Human Science Operations Cell,” devoted to “online human intelligence” and “strategic influence and disruption”6
Clearly, these leaked documents and what we are witnessing on the internet are not paranoid conspiracy theories – these are real documents with reams of evidence that you can check out yourself. I did not want to overwhelm you with the facts or documents, but simply copied from various places so that you could read the articles and view the documents yourself.
Within these documents were many instructions for agents to follow on ‘how to’ including:
“How to Gain Control of a Targeted Forum
It is important to continuously maneuver for a forum moderator position. Once this position is obtained, the forum can then be effectively and quietly controlled by deleting unfavorable postings — and one can eventually steer the forum into complete failure and lack of interest by the general public. This is the ‘ultimate victory.’
Depending on the level of control you obtain, you can deliberately steer a forum into defeat by censoring postings, deleting memberships, flooding, or “accidentally” taking the forum offline. By this method the forum can be killed.
However it is not always in the interest to kill a forum as it can be converted into a “honey pot” gathering center to collect and misdirect newcomers and, from this point, be completely used for controlling agenda purposes.
Remember: these techniques are only effective if the forum participants do not know about them.
Once they are aware of these techniques the operation can completely fail, and the forum can become uncontrolled. At this point other avenues must be considered such as initiating a false legal precedence to simply have the forum shut down and taken offline.
This is not desirable as it then leaves the enforcement agencies unable to track the percentage of those in the population who always resist attempts for control against them.
Many other techniques can be utilized and developed by the individual and as you develop further techniques of infiltration and control it is imperative to share them with HQ.” 7
“No matter your views on Anonymous, “hacktivists” or garden-variety criminals, it is not difficult to see how dangerous it is to have secret government agencies being able to target any individuals they want – who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes – with these sorts of online, deception-based tactics of reputation destruction and disruption.”3
What has happened to me on the internet because of these people is horrifying. I have endured everything and more and have the emails, the forwarded emails that I never wrote, death-threats, friends who have disappeared, and more – so much more. I don’t want to worry or scare anyone away from the internet. I do know the tactics government agents use to program and influence people – they can’t touch anyone as long as people remain aware and don’t fall for their phony lies and psychological ploys. Yes, it is difficult to break from them once they have control, but not impossible. Keep in mind that you are anonymous on the internet. You can change you identity anytime, change your email address, and phone number if need be. Do not isolate, but seek out safe people and tell them about your dealings with these people especially if you have become a victim and fear them. Remain on the internet where you are known and able to gain support. Realize how they work and know that they are not really ‘scary’ – but, are using very clearly recognized tactics that are not commonly known or used by safe people.
For instance members of Ivory Garden do not judge or put blame on victims who fell into this scam Menagerie and others set up. I don’t blame anyone for what has happened to me. I was hurt for many years that those I cared for so much are gone – either through deceit or death. It is difficult for me to see myself as a victim, but I was as much as everyone else. I wanted to walk away, take the forum down myself – I trusted those who I cared about, but felt rejected and betrayed. That hurts me deeply, but I realize that these government operatives are highly trained to create scenarios that produce these very results and reactions in targeted victims.
For instance, today, I went on the internet to plan for our conference and found derogatory comments everywhere about Ivory Garden and me. The tactics we are talking about in this article are lethal to a group or company, but cannot be carried out without victims’ help – spreading gossip is another successful and common tactic used to ruin the reputation of targeted groups and leaders. And, why would we be targeted? All we do is create a safe place where survivors can go privately and feel the support of others with similar experiences, backgrounds, and empathy. No government agency wants survivors talking to each other or sharing our past abuse. Why would they leave Menagerie and others free to do so and target us? Those groups are not a threat to government agencies, because the members who belong, most likely the owners, and staff are controlled by them.
I write this with great sadness in my heart. Within the past several months, I have read several similar suicide posts written by our/past members explaining that they have recently discovered memories of government type programming that created ‘parts’ that are evil. Evidently, these folks have come to realize that their ‘evil parts’ must be killed. Not only are these posts similar, but the information each is sharing is incorrect – which tells me that someone is influencing survivors on the internet with what is known as ‘suicide programming’. Most survivors believe that only children can be programmed. This is not true, and these survivors, mostly with DID, can easily be programmed on the internet by government operatives who are practicing what they call “Human Science Operations Cell.” So, the danger to victims isn’t just getting into a car and being murdered in a hotel room (meeting in person). The same objective can be successful attained through programming on the internet. People don’t question or investigate death by suicide, especially when people are writing their ideation on open forums and all over facebook, rather than on safe forums where they can actually get help.
Within the past couple years, I have spoken to a few members and questioned why they are following these people and their answer is, “Well, I am suicidal anyhow – who cares?” and “I want to be with all my friends – I go where they go.” Reality – no one is already ‘suicidal’. We all have a basic need to live. And – another reality check – those people are not all ‘friends’ – no one has that many friends – many are out to hurt you.
We at IGDID are there for everyone. It is a safe place where you are accepted and cared about – as it always has been. Your therapist is a safe person. There are many crisis centers that you can call. Do not make the mistake of isolating and remaining loyal by staying silent – speak out and tell everyone. I know it is difficult to go against programming, but do it anyhow. You are not a ‘victim’ – you are a strong survivor who ‘can’ break away from this horrible mess that survivors did not create. Remember mostly that people who bash others are ‘bad’ people. If you are not a ‘bad’ person, don’t spread gossip or bash others – do not trust those who are out to hurt people. If they are ‘programmed’ and can’t find their way, they are lost and prisoners of internet predators. Pray for them and mourn them – they are not ‘friends’ if they are not supportive to all survivors.
A note to those who have always supported Ivory Garden DID Support Forum:
“Thank you from the bottom of our heart – you rock!”
In loving memory of:
Lori King (Shadow)
Co-Founder – Ivory Garden Nonprofit Corporation
Christina Blount (CoziBear)
Ivory Garden DID Support Group Co-Founder
2. Buckels, Erin E., Paul D. Trapnell, and Delroy L. Paulhus. “Trolls just want to have fun.” Personality and Individual Differences67 (2014): 97-102