Tech

In 2016, An Anti-Troll Hero Came To My Rescue

My vulgar guardian angel, Captain James T Kink, may be a secret weapon in the war on trolls.

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As a "cuckkike" member of the "lugenpresse," one frequently up to the "Jewish tricks" of trying to "spread fake news" about the new right internet, I spent much of this year absorbing horrific online abuse: anonymous death threats, ad hominem screeds, gas chamber memes about dead relatives, phone calls to my bewildered parents, and so on. In particular, a series of stories I reported about a sketch comedy show with a rabid alt-right following, Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace, led to months of ferociously personal harassment, including hate mail sent to my apartment. I like to think of myself as a "sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me" sort of guy. But man, this stuff takes a toll.

Yet, way far down, in the furthest vantablack depths of my Twitter mentions, amid the eggs and the Pepes and the iron crosses and the "Heinrich Hammlers," I glimpsed this fall a glimmer of hope, and a potential way forward for all of us.

His name is Captain James T Kink, and he's an anonymous account with only 32 followers who started his Twitter life doing a parody schtick in the voice of a horny, gay Star Trek captain. Yet however inauspicious his beginnings, I think Capt. Kink may be a hero.

He has certainly come to my rescue, time and time again. As of last week, Capt. Kink had tweeted 793 times. Of those 793 tweets, by my count, at least 160 — or a fifth — are insults, invective, taunting, mockery, and sarcasm directed toward my trolls. (Bear in mind, Capt. Kink has been tweeting since 2013 and only took up the cause of owning my trolls in late August.)

He's my anti-troll troll, a potty-mouthed, gold-hearted anonymous internet do-gooder with seemingly nothing better to do than troll the people who have nothing better to do than troll me. In one week alone, Capt. Kink swooped in to call various harassers of mine "a shit flicking low brow," a "filthy paedo," "stiff as a broomstick for Joe," a virgin, and a "lukewarm Richard Spencer" who looks like "a middle aged Roger Moore."

Kink is a brilliant troll, with the mouth of a sailor and the mind of a poet. Check out the simile he dropped on one "MRSADSONGHIMSELF" (bio: DEPLORABLE SHITPOSTER PRESIDENT ELECT DONALD J. TRUMP), who called me a "BLOCK HEAD" one recent weekend:

@BAM_BAM023 @Bernstein Mrs Adsonghimself, you hilarious monolith of wit, Your tweets are like basking in Louis the 14th's piss tray. Sublime

Yes, Capt. Kink can go high, but good lord, can he go low. MRSADSONGHIMSELF responded to the Louis XIV tweet with what he must have thought was a clever comeback. Poor lil' guy.

@CaptKink @Bernstein WHEW I'm glad you spent time writing that.

Bait taken, Capt Kink absolutely unloaded:

@BAM_BAM023 @Bernstein not as spent as I was with your mom. She's a firecracker. Your dad watched

"Your dad watched" with no punctuation kills me. It's a devastating cuckold joke without the now-ubiquitous epithet, tossed off as an afterthought: Your sexually explosive mother and I banged, and oh, I guess your dad was there too.

Capt. Kink! He's a very happy warrior. He calls my trolls babies, onanists, twats, farts, frenula. There's no troll — or hate speech — too abominable for his pro–Joe Bernstein Twitter judo. He turns Holocaust jokes against themselves:

@futureperfect51 @Bernstein Very original. jizz funnel. What type of oven does your mom use to warm up your lunchtime tater tots?

And in a move I regard as an act of genius, he defuses the alt-right's constant invocations of free speech by posting shirtless pictures of Tom Selleck:

@Tom_MagnumP @Bernstein @BobbyBigWheel i think it's time for some Free Speech. Is it hot in here?

So who is this vulgar champion? And more importantly, what led him to become my personal Twitter henchman? Over email, Capt. Kink told me that he is an engineer from an English-speaking country. Like any hero worth his salt, he has an origin story:

Six months ago I fell off a ladder (helping a plumber replace my water tank) and broke my shoulder. I was off work for two months with nothing to do but watch Dr Phil and start up my old Twitter account. I was horrified by the level of antisemitism, misogyny and anime. I can't remember how I saw your besieged account but "Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do."

Yes, my Twitter guardian angel quotes Voltaire.

Look, I can't say I don't take some satisfaction in watching an anonymous account with an endless appetite for trolling do to my harassers exactly what they do to me. I do. I think any person who has faced the sheer volume of hatred that many of us have this year has fantasized about comprehensive and brutal retribution. So committed is Capt. Kink to my defense that my trolls have accused him of being me, and I in turn have half-wondered if I'm capable of some kind of unconscious, Tyler Durden-ish projection. It's not every day you discover your id outside your body.

But that's not exactly why I love Capt. Kink. The traditional wisdom about trolls is that it's best to ignore them, but that's worked about as well for me as abstinence-only sex education has worked for the teenagers of America. What if we engaged? When Capt. Kink gets involved with my trolls, a funny thing happens: They stop trolling me. They either get bogged down in endless shitfights with Kink, or they disappear. It seems to me that trolling is typically a fairly frictionless experience for the troll. Adding almost any outside opposition seems to cause a fair number of them to scurry under other bridges.

None of which is to say I don't still get harassed. I get harassed constantly. Capt. Kink is unfortunately just one man and, for the time being, sui generis. It took a specific set of circumstances and a bottomless appetite for conflict to create him.

(Kink, bless his soul, said via email that he's "surprised more people aren't challenging this type of behaviour.")

Still, imagine an army of Capt. Kinks. Imagine Capt. Kink at scale: A thousands-strong justice league of anti-trolls, descending on every two-bit neo-Nazi and antisocial shitposter on every social platform around the world, armed to the gills with hurtful jibes and state-of-the-art memes, fighting an epic war of flame attrition, freeing the rest of us to do our jobs.

I can see it in my mind's eye, and friend, it's beautiful.

Okay, I know how this sounds. But it's not that crazy. A guy in Foreign Policy magazine suggested we do it to ISIS! And if tech companies can set up bug bounties, paying black-hat hackers to contribute meaningfully to society, there has to be a way to incentivize hate-mongering trolls to use their powers for good. Maybe present it to them in the form of a Suicide Squad meme. I don't know. The point is, Captain James T Kinks don't grow on trees.

But I'd like to see what would happen if we made more of him. Because maybe, just maybe, the vaccine for the epidemic of online abuse that has ruined this year online contains a dose of the disease.






Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.

Contact Joseph Bernstein at joe.bernstein@buzzfeed.com.

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