Trolling Democracy

I had a week that was both frustrating and interesting. I made a New Year’s resolution to break my habit of wasting time on commenting elsewhere, including on my own social media. It can make me feel drained and dirty.

It’s a hard habit to break, though. I was drawn in by some fake reviews on Amazon. Dishonesty really really bothers me. I know they are trolls, but they represent so much of what is wrong with our society. I do see them as a genuine threat to what little democracy we have, as they make public debate nearly impossible. Their only purpose is to obfuscate the issues and derail discussion.

Still, it wasn’t an entire waste of time. I made a fascinating discovery. It fascinates me, anyway. One of these fake reviewers, Johan RF, must have a lot of time on his hand and he has learned how to game the Amazon system. I’ve been studying him and tracking down his activities across the web. But before I get to that, let me discuss the book reviews that got my attention.

I was reading a sample of a book about psychology and perception in relation to climate change. It is Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life by Kari Marie Norgaard. Be smarter than me by skipping the Amazon reviews and just go straight to reading the book. It is one of the more recent books that looks at the human side of the issue.

At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. I had other books on climate change that I had yet to read. But the human aspect was on my mind (because after all I’m human and my concern is accordingly biased). So, that is what led me to look at the reviews, to see if they would tip me toward getting a copy of the book. In this case, I will give the fake reviews credit for helping me decide. They made me all the more curious. Sometimes fake reviews have that effect on me.

I even left comments in response to some of the fake reviewers explaining that they had convinced me to buy the book. That was when the fun began. About a third of the reviews are critical, four out of eleven. One of the critical reviews is genuine and only moderately critical with a three star rating. The others are all one stars and, of course, they are dismissive while refusing to actually review the book itself. Two of these reviews are by a William Beahan and someone ironically calling themself Realist. The third is by the aforementioned Johan RF, and that is the troll that got my goat, so to speak.

There is a perverse side of my personality that almost enjoys engaging trolls. I had a troll on a blog post recently who threatened to make my life a living hell. He told me he knew who my family was and where I lived. My response was to tell him to stop by for coffee sometime and I’d personally introduce him to my family. He stopped bothering me at that point. The internet has given me a thick skin. I have more important things to get excited about than mentally disturbed people online. Unhappy people sometimes feel inclined to try to make other people unhappy. It sucks for them and everyone involved, but it usually isn’t anything of great concern. That kind of troll just needs a kindly pat on the head to send them on their way.

Johan RF, however, is a more intriguing species of troll. He somehow kept getting my comments deleted, not all of them but many. I’m not sure how he was doing it. He somehow knew how to game the system in getting the bots to delete comments. When that failed, he simply deleted his entire review and reposted it. This he did several times. I just kept putting my comments back up. I think he finally gave up on trying to censer and silence me, but he was almost as persistent as me.

In interacting with Johan RF, my first response was amusement, then frustration, and after that grim determination. I checked out all of his other reviews and I commented further. I was testing the water to see how he would respond. I began to see a pattern to his behavior and I adapted to it. If it was a game he wanted to play, I can go along with that for a time. Once my curiosity is piqued, I go into obsessive mode.

Who is this person? That is always the question. Names often mean nothing online.

In a comment under one of his reviews for Hoggan’s Climate Cover-Up, he stated that, “For the record I am a scientist. I believe humans are putting molecules into the atmosphere that may well indeed have an impact on climate. I am also a statistician and in that realm it is very easy to identify a HUGE hole in the man-made-climate change assumptions and claims being made.” He made a similar statement in a review of Mann’s The Hocky Stick and the Climate Wars: “I am just a scientist who likes rigour and adherement to basic principles of scientific investigation.”

I doubt any of that is true. His grasp of science appears to be slim to none. He even goes so far as to claim an author of a book (Haydn Washington, Climate Change Denial) is a “non-scientist,” when in reality that author has almost four decades of scientific experience. Ya know, typical troll behavior.

The thing is this guy is prolific. He has quite a few  reviews posted on multiple Amazon sites. Here are his Amazon profiles for the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom.

I would have been at a dead end, if I hadn’t come across someone speculating about Johan RF’s identity. It is from the Scott Mandia’s blog Global Warming: Man or Myth?, in the post Anthony Watts’ Minions Attack Mike Mann and Make Mockery of Amazon Review Process. There is a several year old comment by Lamna nasus:

.. JrF ‘Jonny old boy’.. jonathan frodsham.. same person/activist?.. JrF is definitely fond of leaving very low rating, ad hom filled reviews of AGW publications on Amazon at any rate.. also didn’t like being challenged over being the same ‘jonny old boy’ Climate Change Denier who frequently posted comments on Richard Black’s Blog at the BBC.. JrF has admitted changing his identity details on Amazon on a frequent basis (currently using Johan RF)..appears he or a supporter recently (10.09.12) threw a hissy fit and had all comments on his review of Mann’s book and identity removed from Amazon.. gotta love that Wingnut dedication to freedom of speech.. interesting that another Denier suddenly throws a necropost at this thread…

That is such an intriguing comment. I wish there had been some links offered or something. Still, it was a lead.

There apparently used to be an Amazon profile of JrF “Jonny old boy.” Michael E. Mann has an old Facebook post with an image with a dead link to a review by JrF “Jonny old boy.” Further down in the comments, Mann says that, “the guy has replaced his old review w/ an even more dishonest revised review, and apparently Amazon resets the ratings–which seems absurd. Could use some more attention.” That fits the profile of Johan RF who does the same thing, replacing old reviews with new ones (he did this to me several times, but I noticed others complaining about the same thing at some of his other reviews).

That doesn’t prove they are the same person. Even so, others apparently have made this connection.

Adam Siegel, at the Get Energy Smart! NOW! blog, has something of interest at one of his posts, Amazon-ian challenge: what is the right thing to do?. In that post, he shows a review of JrF “Jonny old boy,” but when you click on the name it goes to Johan RF’s Amazon profile. The specific review is found as a screenshot at Scott Mandia’s post, which Siegel discusses. Here is the image:

1 Star Reviewer Shows His Lack of Understanding of Basics

Over at the Skeptical Science Forum, there is a discussion (LIVE NOW – Mike Mann’s hockey stick book now live at Amazon so post your reviews!), also from several years ago. The last comment is by Tom Smerling:

Just for fun….and as a sign of how things are trending over at Amazon…

The long-time record holder for “most helpful” one-star review (below) first appeared on Feb 8 and by Feb 12 was scoring about 50% “helpful” (that high in trollville).

But the author (“JrF” aka “Jonny Feese”) deleted his own post, and reposted the same review on Feb 13.

In doing so, he inadventantly, but helpfully, created a controlled experiment.

Now his post’s second incarnation, instead of scoring 50%, is running …9%. In fact, he’s gone from first to last among the 1-star crowd: in fact, it’s now the #1 least helpful review of all 65+.

It just shows how the tide has shifted.🙂

P.S. Gotta love that headline. . .


4 of 44 people found the following review helpful:
1.0 out of 5 stars i did read this and thinks its poor. I am allowed to think this., February 13, 2012
JrF “Jonny old boy” (UK) – See all my reviews
This review is from: The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (Hardcover)
Had to repost this review after abuse from AGW nutters.

Like Siegel, the name JrF “Jonny old boy” is linked to the Amazon profile of Johan RF. I’m not sure if that means that it always has been the same profile, but the username changed. Can someone change the name of their profile while maintaining the profile itself with all the reviews? I don’t know, as I’ve never tried. Smerling also throws out the name Jonny Feese, but I have no idea where that name comes from and websearches weren’t helpful.

To return to the comment by Lamna nasus, the other name that popped up was that of Jonathan Frodsham. There is a JB Frodsham with a blog and a Youtube account, both of which show an interest in climate change. A jb frodsham left a comment at Watts Up With That? (WUWT), and at the same post there is also a comment by jonny old boy. Another post at the same blog has comments by jonathan frodsham and jonny old boy.

Those two WUWT posts are the only two results that come up in a websearch for those two names. I’m not sure what that might mean. By himself, I was able to get a lot more results to come up with variations of Frodsham: Jonathan Frodsham, J Frodsham, JB Frodsham, etc. The last is most interesting, in that it could easily be connected to JrF “Jonny old boy.” Along with Johan RF, all of these names are some combination of ‘J’ and ‘F’, sometimes with ‘B’ as well (or all three letters).

I noticed a comment by jonathan frodsham (at JoNova):

“Can you give me a hand?? This guy is calling me a shit eating denialist. There are a some real swine here:”

Following that, there is a link to an Amazon discussion. When you follow that link, it goes directly to comments by a Realist. In one comment, Realist calls himself Jo-the-former-Green. Other commenters refer to him as JB Frodsham or some shortened version of it, such as JBF. The other commenters all somehow seem to know who he is. If you go to some reviews by Realist, the comments also refer to him as Frodsham, and Realist always responds when called that name.

When I saw Jonathan Frodsham going as Realist, I began to see a connection. As I mentioned earlier, I first came across Johan RF on his review of Norsgaard’s Living in Denial. I remembered that Realist also had a one star review of the same book, and Johan RF (AKA JrF “Jonny old boy”) left a comment there in response to me.

It’s interesting to compare the two reviewers, including Johan RF’s profiles at the Amazon sites of other countries. There is at least one other book that both of them review. Their reviews fit the same basic profile. The style of writing and the sentence structure has some similarities.

They both always write very short reviews, often a single paragraph. They have a preference for non-standard usage of commas as a way of connecting two separate sentences or sentence fragments: Johan RF writes “not sure why , maybe because the author accepts spin as fact” and Realist writes “This woman is dangerous, she want to get rid of democracy and freedom.” Of course, they both tend to give either one or five star ratings to books on climatology. And, of course, in their negative reviews they attack the author’s credibility and dismiss them.

The main difference is that Johan RF less often capitalizes words and more often uses elipses (whereas Realist uses normal capitalization and rarely uses elipses, not at all in most reviews), but those are easy superficial things to change to make the reviewers seem more like different people. If he has managed to maintain multiple sockpuppet accounts, I’m sure he has done so by creating some basic rules for writing for each one, rules that would be easy to remember and implement.

Assuming that were the case, you might think at some point he’d slip up or that Amazon would eventually see a pattern. Still, I know that Johan RF is a somewhat clever guy, at least in terms of learning how to manipulate the system to get comments deleted and such. Looking at Johan RF’s other reviews, there are some where he maybe slips out of persona and writes more like Realist, with words capitalized and sentences ended with periods.

Let me give one other example of similarity. Realist likes to use the word ‘rubbish’, even in reviews not about books (in a review of anti-virus software, he calls it “absolute rubbish”). His review of Living in Denial is simply titled as “Rubbish.”

I must admit that I don’t hear that word used a lot, at least as an American, but Realist claims to be from Australia. By the way, Johan RF claims to be from London (AKA JrF “Jonny old boy” from UK). Johan RF uses ‘rubbish’ a lot in his reviews at the Amazon sites for UK, Canada, and Australia, although maybe not as much in his reviews at the US Amazon site.

Is Johan RF (AKA JrF “Jonny old boy”) and Realist (AKA Jonathan/JB Frodsham) really the same person? It would be hard to absolutely prove it without an open admission of guilt, but the gathered evidence could be interpreted as indicating a connection of some sort. That could mean they are the same individual with multiple sockpuppets. Otherwise, it could simply be two people who are in the same internet social circle and happen to think and write in a similar fashion. Either is possible.

Anyway, trolls are fascinating creatures, especially those of this variety. These aren’t just your average denialists. They have (or he has) brought contrarianism and obfuscation to the level of an art form. To this kind of person, everything is a game to be won at all costs. Defeating the enemy is more important than winning the truth.

It makes me wonder if such people simply have too much time on their hands. Or is someone paying them to distort the issues, derail debate, and drop the ratings of climate change books? In recent years, a couple of books were published about the highly organized and well-funded corporate campaign against science (or rather public debate of science): Doubt is Their Product (2008) by David Michaels and Merchants of Doubt (2010) by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway—the latter writing:

“Small numbers of people can have large, negative impacts, especially if they are organised, determined and have access to power.”

The manipulation of Amazon ratings is just a tip of the melting iceberg. The full effect of this kind of activity undermines democracy itself by making informed public debate almost impossible. It filters into mainstream media, given voice by pundits and politicians alike. And then it gets repeated endlessly by the disinformed public.

* * * *

(In case anyone is interested, I do have screenshots of most things mentioned in this post: reviews, posts, comments, etc. I figured that, as I went to so much trouble to research this, I better document it all. Johan RF showed that he has a habit of deleting things. So, if some of it does get deleted and anyone wants to see what it was, just ask me and I’ll offer you the screenshot.)

27 thoughts on “Trolling Democracy

  1. I find trolling and superficializing social justice to be flip sides of the same coinage of shaming and superficial social control that manifests on the internet. It makes wonder greatly about the viability of our notions of social participation being healthy or if it is essentially a problem with the medium. I may write on this soon.

    • It goes beyond the obvious factors of democratic involvement. If democracy (i.e., self-governance) is a real possibility in the world as it is, then it must mean something far different from what we presently understand. That is why I look to ancient civilizations, in order to shake up my cultural assumptions and biases. Community membership and public participation has operated in many ways in the past and likely will operate in many other ways in the future.

      The main weakness of modern democracy is the obsession with individuality, which I sometimes wonder may contradict a fundamental element of human nature. I don’t mean this as a simplistic and singular notion of human nature. Does democracy exist in human nature as a potential (or not)? If so, how can or should we understand it? What is the ‘self’ that presumedly would self-govern?

      When I say trolls fascinate me, I do mean that with all sincerity. It’s not just about ideological dogmatism and blindness, not just about corporate stooges and groupthink activism, not just about people who are mentally unstable and intellectually stunted. I wonder if people like Johan RF even grasp their own motivations. He has apparently dedicated his life to this activity. Why? For what purpose? To what end?

      The internet complicates all of this. It creates a whole other dynamic. It isn’t a technological medium and a social structure that has even come close to maturing and stabilizing in a healthy functional form, assuming it ever will.

      • The thing about ancient civilizations if outside of pre-agricultural societies, democracies were rarely exclusive even if they were deliberative. They could only be so on the backs of the labor of others. Individualism and collectivism are reductio ad absurdums that result from largely a misunderstanding of community anthropology after the Enlightenment. The tension between group identity formation and individualism is undone by the realization that individuals only have meaning and subjectivity when their is a group to contrast the self with. Hegel was the only post-Enlightenment European philosopher to wrestle with this tension probably and even he ended up mystifying it.

        • Looking to early civilizations is potentially useful because it forces us to question our own humanity and to consider what makes civilization possible in the first place. It pushes our thought back to first principles and beyond. And it opens up a gap in the post-Enlightenment edifice, through which we can glimpse other understandings and possibilities.

          I don’t know what that could mean. But considering the past seems better than being mired in the present. And it seems to me that our vision of the future is only as good as our grasp of the past.

          It is in looking to the ancient world that I’ve come to realize how little I understand about humanity. But there are too many people stuck in their thinking and fearing the unknown. The known comforts people, even when the known status quo is the problem. Those who are the most entrenched in the system are going to defend it to the last.

          Climate change threatens the world as we know it. It’s an existential crisis greater than nuclear war. How do people respond to a situation that is nearly incomprehensible?

        • I wasn’t meaning we should study ancient civilizations in order to learn how we should operate democracy or whatever. It is simply that those early civilizations were closer to the basic evolutionary conditions of the human species.

          We still don’t understand what made civilization emerge, what made it possible. When you look closely at the evidence, there was something strange about the earliest settled societies. They seem to have built houses for their gods before they built houses for themselves.

          Even when the early civilizations became fairly advanced as with Egypt, they still didn’t function in a way that we understand. They lacked much in the way of physical infrastructure and social organization. Their society was more primitive than war-torn Afghanistan and yet they would spend centuries building pyramids.

          And when you read their literature, you realize their sense of identity and reality was far different than our own. Those like Jaynes and McGilchrist have offered up intriguing evidence of how different those ancient people were. It seems there was a traumatic event of some sort that destroyed nearly all civilization and when it was rebuilt it was changed at a fundamental level. It was one of a number of traumatic events that altered humanity.

          I see that with capitalism and the Enlightenment. When I first read about the enclosure movement, I realized why the revolutionary era happened. An entire way of life and a way of being in the world was ripped out by the roots. Our modern hyper-individualism was created through force and violence.

          I mentioned the book “Living in Denial” in the above post. The author, Norgaard, discusses Robert J. Lifton and his theory of psychic numbing. She writes, “In this usage, numbing comes not from a traumatic event, but from a crisis of meaning.” Or to put it another way, some events are so vast that we don’t experience them as events. Our entire sense of reality shifts from under us or fractures into pieces that can’t be put back together again. We lose the context of our sense of identity and reality.

          That has happened before for humanity. We are now facing that now. What happens when our hyper-individualist belief system comes crashing into the reality of climate change? What kind of new meaning and hence new society will be built in the rubble?

          • I don’t play prediction games. But some predictions seem a safe bet. I feel fairly certain, for example, that change is inevitable. Also, it seems likely that the greater the changes in environmental conditions the greater the changes in results that impact society.

            Beyond that, I don’t predict. It’s just useful to understand what change has meant in the past so as to understand what it might mean in the future, possibly in our lifetimes. Besides, I’m just a naturally curious person, about all things, the future included.

          • “Who knows. I don’t play prediction games anymore. When I am right, its generally by betting on evil”

            Well, that sounds more like that you don’t predict a positive future. Betting on evil is still a prediction of sorts, even if it seems like a safe bet. I’m not an optimist by nature, having a depressive personality and a long developed streak of cynicism. I easily think of worst case scenarios and I’ve been known to obsess over the power of evil.

            But more generally I like to think of myself as a ‘possibility’ thinker. I easily see diverse possibilities, good and bad. From my view, the world is full of potentials with varying degrees of probability. The slightest shift of conditions can tip the course of history in any number of directions. The future isn’t ultimately predictable even for those who wish to control everything.

            Even with vast evil everywhere, I still find the world a fascinating place, trolls and all. The world sucks and is full of suffering. I know. Yet the strangeness of it all can keep the mind wondering until death takes us out of the game. The forces of evil will have to pry my curiosity out of my dead cold hands. And then I’ll leave you with this quote:

            “But in this dark world where he now dwelt, ugly things and surprising things and once in a long while a tiny wondrous thing spilled out at him constantly; he could count on nothing.“
            ~ Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly

          • I wrote a comment and it disappeared. Let me simplify. Life sucks, full of suffering and evil. But life s also fascinating, strange, and absurd. Our response to this can vary greatly. We can be fatalistic, philosophical, distracted, despairing, oblivious, frustrated, hopeful, amused, curious, etc. Take your pick. We either find a reason to go on livng (even if only inertia) or we get busy dying (quickly or slowly). But life remains what it is. And everything will go on changing, as it always has. Nothing you don’t already know. I’m reminded that Ligotti considered his book on philosophical pessimsm to be a self-help book.

        • Out of curiosity, what might be a more accurate or useful community anthropology? Or at least a more interesting and compelling theory? Is there anyone who has a better grasp of this issue or is looking in the right direction? Where is the most original and innovative thinking being done?

    • Trying to win debates in this atmosphere is rather pointless. For those who genuinely care (about truth, compassion, etc), it is already lost once you enter into this arena. We have to change the debate itself or else continue to get the same results.

    • “I find trolling and superficializing social justice to be flip sides of the same coinage of shaming and superficial social control that manifests on the internet.”

      I agree. I’d like to look past all of that to a deeper level of the issues involved. I’m fascinated by trolls only in that that they are a puzzling expression of our shared humanity. But I otherwise have no desire to waste time on trolls. Anyway, what keeps humanity from facing the harsh realities before us can’t be blamed all on trolls and similar people.

      In this particular case, my curiosity got piqued by how this troll was operating. It’s a strange world that few of us ever peer into. It’s hard to imagine the kind of person who spends their time creating fake identities, fake reviews, fake debates, etc.

      Trolls like this are a variety of conmen, there being many varieties. And conmen sometimes have a way of unintentionally providing insights about our society and our psychology. Conmen have to first con themselves and in that they show us how belief systems operate. Even in creating a fake identity, for a troll to take that to a whole other level they have to come to believe in that identity to some degree. Similarly, we all create identities that we become attached to.

      Conmen would be irrelevant, if the rest of society didn’t play along. Some conmen even become quite successful and respectable. And then they can forget that they are conmen. The best con is the one we come to accept as normal.

  2. Amazon should let me choose to designate some other reviewer as a troll, even just privately. Then that troll’s reviews are discounted from the ratings I see for books (or even count in reverse). The troll reviews could be ghosted so I don’t have to bother reading them. Amazon should also let me plug and play a list of trolls, so I could find a list made by someone I trust and insert the URL.

    • There are many possibilities to how we could deal with problems. We do need to consider that from many perspectives and in many areas. But the bigger issue is that we have this problem to deal with in the first place. I’d like to figure out the source of the problem and work toward rooting it out. That is a long term project, though. In the immediate situation, we need to lessen the impact of the problem until we can hopefully resolve it.

    • I’m not familiar with the specifics of Klein’s worldview. But I am in line with the broad analysis she offers there.

      As she explains, it isn’t just a failure of capitalism, fascism, corporatism, industrial state socialism, or whatever one calls it. The failure has been global and was as bad or worse in many of the old left-wing governments. Small social democracies like Norway have done better, but even their actions are too little too late.

      What Klein makes clear is that we have to envision and create an entirely new kind of society, governance, and economics. It’s a game changer.

      This is why Cold War and Culture War rhetoric ends up being a distraction or worse in furthering the problem. Neither side can be right, when the whole system is wrong. We need a new paradigm of thought and action. This goes way beyond merely reframing debate. We need to reframe our minds, our identity, and our sense of reality.

      Klein is right that this inevitably will be a revolutionary change. And there is nothing that can stop it, because climate change will force our hand. The powers that be are scared of this for good reason. The good times of the capitalist elite will be coming to an end, no matter how they try to delay or alter it in their desperation.

    • I do like Klein’s article. The point she makes about revolution is on target.

      The one thing that those in power fear more than anything is revolution. It’s the reason why they will use welfare queens as rhetoric but would never dare to actually end welfare. If we ended welfare today, there would be a revolution tomorrow. Welfare simply keeps the system from falling apart. It’s why so many Walmart employees are on welfare. Walmart wouldn’t be possible without welfare. As I’ve said before, welfare and Hollywood are America’s version of the Roman bread and circus.

      The political right often sees these problems the most clearly. This is because the threat is more direct for them. Those on the political left often don’t comprehend what the threat even means. The problem is the political left in mainstream politics is a rather meaningless category, simply defined as not being the political right or else a more moderate form of it. Many leftists think the system can be reformed, but the hardcore right-wingers understand that the system is doomed and that the fight to hold power must be ruthless.

      “Building such a transformative movement may not be as hard as it first appears. Indeed, if you ask the Heartlanders, climate change makes some kind of left-wing revolution virtually inevitable, which is precisely why they are so determined to deny its reality. Perhaps we should listen to their theories more closely—they might just understand something the left still doesn’t get.

      “The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system. As British blogger and Heartland regular James Delingpole has pointed out, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.”

      “Here’s my inconvenient truth: they aren’t wrong. Before I go any further, let me be absolutely clear: as 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists attest, the Heartlanders are completely wrong about the science. The heat-trapping gases released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels are already causing temperatures to increase. If we are not on a radically different energy path by the end of this decade, we are in for a world of pain.

      “But when it comes to the real-world consequences of those scientific findings, specifically the kind of deep changes required not just to our energy consumption but to the underlying logic of our economic system, the crowd gathered at the Marriott Hotel may be in considerably less denial than a lot of professional environmentalists, the ones who paint a picture of global warming Armageddon, then assure us that we can avert catastrophe by buying “green” products and creating clever markets in pollution. “

  3. Here is an article about climate change from a NASA scientist and former astronaut:

    He is facing terminal cancer. It makes one wonder what a troll does when they realize that death is near. Do they go back to work trolling to the bitter end?

    From the article, this caught my attention:

    “All this as the world’s population is expected to crest at around 9.5 billion by 2050 from the current seven billion. Pope Francis and a think tank of retired military officers have drawn roughly the same conclusion from computer model predictions: The worst impacts will be felt by the world’s poorest, who are already under immense stress and have meager resources to help them adapt to the changes. They will see themselves as innocent victims of the developed world’s excesses. Looking back, the causes of the 1789 French Revolution are not a mystery to historians; looking forward, the pressure cooker for increased radicalism, of all flavors, and conflict could get hotter along with the global temperature.”

    Climate change will mean social change, that is to say revolution.

  4. I suspect that there are a high percentage of trolls that may be paid for by various special interests. Fox News has been known to hire professional trolls as we discussed in the past and it is well known that the Tea Party is heavily astroturfed by ultra wealthy donors such as the Koch brothers.

    This may be quite widespread. That and propaganda has exacted a terrible price I fear.

    • I was seriously wondering about that. How many internet trolls, fake activists, agent provocateurs, astroturf organizers, scientists and pseudo-authority figures, etc are paid to undermine public debate and political action? It could be a higher number than many would suspect. Even with a smaller number of a few hundred dedicated to this work could cause immense havoc and obfuscation.

    • Commercial Trolling: Social Media and the Corporate Deformation of

      While “trolling” originally named and is today often thought to be the activity of recalcitrant orobstreperous individuals with too much time or their hands or axes to grind about particular issues, a great deal of trolling on today’s social media platforms is crafted not by such individuals but instead by persons (or even computer programs) acting on behalf of (and usually employed by) powerful interests, including corporations, institutions, governments, and lobbying groups, and whose goal is not so much contributing to real exchange of political views, but instead the tilting of the discursive field to make some positions
      appear reasonable or even popular, and to marginalize other opinions (and those who hold them). Such action is visible in the range of ongoing intrusions by corporate actors into Wikipedia, which is reflected in the elaborate infrastructure the site maintains to police such intrusions, an infrastructure not available to much of the rest of the internet. It is even more obvious in Anti-Global Warming (AGW) discourse, by agents of industry lobbying groups and energy companies, in many locations across the web. Given the ease with which capital can purchase the services of agents to advocate effectively for views that are
      disfavored by a large portion—at times, such as in the climate change debate, a large majority—of the population, questions are raised about the apparently inherent democratic nature of information distribution on the web, and about what means might be utilized to level the playing field between good-faith contributors to discourse on the one hand, and institutionally-directed contributors on the other.

    • I’m glad you stopped by. And thanks for sharing that video. I think I’ve seen it before or a similar video. It’s good for people to watch a video like that. It’s not a conspiracy theory to argue that there are many people doing this. It would be nice if there was a website dedicated to tracking these people who seek to manipulate media, write fake reviews, create sockpuppets, mass downvote things, etc.

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