I was reading a post by tech journalist Steven Levy in which he tells the story of how his name has been erroneously added to a widely shared email about the so called “war on Christmas”. He had nothing to do with the email, but every year he gets comments from people who think it was his words in that rant.
I had a new experience in the days around the last election – people were sending emails out that pretended to be from me, or with my support. The election is over, hopefully things will calm down and the over-caffeinated people who try to send all kinds of rants on the internet will go back to normal. I hope that I will not have to deal with this during every election, but like Levy and many others who find themselves attributed with saying things that they never said on the internet, I have no way to stop it from happening.
I have had this blog (and the previous blog Grandview Watch) for more than 10 years. In all that time, I have used this blog to post my opinions, not emails. I don’t post on Facebook, I don’t use the comment sections of local newspapers. Other than a few letters to the editor in the Tri-Village News, this is where you will read anything that I post.
Any email you have read that pretends to be from Watching Grandview, or justicewg, or John Wagner, is fake. I am not famous enough to get a page on Snopes to debunk fake emails, but you can use this website as a substitute. If I don’t say it here, you are reading a false email.
I can’t say why someone would do this. Maybe somebody with a beef with a school board member is using my name to throw attention away from themselves. Maybe this is a false-flag operation. There are lots of reasons someone could try this. None of them very good, most of them pretty useless at attaining whatever goal they have.
I’m guessing things will go back to normal after the election, but I’ll again say this – you might think you are good at covering your tracks on the internet. Unless you are a hacker with some deep knowledge of the net, you are not as anonymous as you think.
How bad can it get?
If you are interested in learning how bad the trolling can get for someone who posts controversial material on the internet, try reading this story. Author and former Jezebel columnist Lindy West had a troll who made a fake twitter profile using the name and photo of her deceased father, and used it to send trolling comments. That’s how bad it can be.
The surprising part of the story is that after West found the true identity of the troll and confronted him, it turned out he was just mildly annoyed and though the trolling was a joke. When he read how hurtful the posts from her dead father were to West, he realized that it was way over the line, and had some regret (although who knows if that regret was made up because he got caught). A lot of internet trolling is not from anger, but boredom and envy.