Category: internet

The Confessions

Joshua Cohen for Wired
The Confessions - Joshua Cohen

For Wired, a new short story by Joshua Cohen called ‘The Confessions’, where it is explored what might happen if one’s secrets became public information:

DEAR MONICA—THAT’S how you start a letter, with a salutation, I’d almost forgot.

Monica, my dear, my love, my girl woman pony heart—I’ve written you a letter! On paper! With pen! A letter!!!

(How many exclamation points do I have to use nowadays to come off as normal???)

Hope you can read my scribbles.

Now I know what you’re thinking: You’re thinking that if I’ve gone to all the trouble of cursiving and sending you a Marriott Marquis stationery/Marriott Marquis ballpoint letter all the way from the middle of my business trip to New York, I must have something serious, something grievous, to tell you, because letters are for serious grievous occasions, like Latin is for funerals.

In my mind, I can see you sitting down now, green couch, den, and preparing yourself with a breath to hear that I’ve been diagnosed with over 70,000 incurable rare cancers, or that I’m leaving you for someone else, but don’t worry. Or do worry, but about yourself: Because while I’m fairly sure that I’m in decent health, I’m just as certain that, at the end of this, you’ll be the one leaving me.

OK. My computer. It seems as if my computer has been hacked and all the crap on it, or all the crap related to all the accounts related to it, or whatever—everything I’ve ever done on it—has been made public.

I was alerted to this fact by a phone call from HR—apparently, the attack has struck throughout the company. Striking most of management too, along with all the road reps. I’m just putting that out there, the extent of the attack, not so as to evade responsibility by spreading guilt or victimhood around but just as reassurance, to reassure you more than myself: I’m not alone.

We’re not.

It’s all out there, all of us now: not just my company emails and files but my personal emails and files, all our chat logs together, our banking.

I’m sorry, Monica, I apologize. You’re about to find out many things.

I love you. That’s the most important thing. That I love you and our life together. That I love what we have very much. I see your face every night when I shut down my head, in a new bed in a new room in a new hotel, wherever the company gets a discount. Your voice is the sound that every morning wakes me.

But sometimes I just lose it. I’m ashamed, but I do.

It happens when I’m too far out, when I’ve been gone for an extended stretch and everything like a dream just fades away for me.

I forget who I am, what joy I have.

I have sex with other women. This has never happened in LA, only on the road, and there is never any emotional involvement on my part. The sex is always safe. Or mostly safe. I promise to get tested.

Better that you find this out from me than online.

You don’t want to go online, Monica, you don’t want details. It sounds perverse, I know, but: Trust me.

I will never cheat on you again. Or even be in contact with these women. I will go, alone or with you or both, to counseling of your choosing. And I will stop taking Modafinil (Provigil), and I will stop posting on men’s rights subreddits (under all my names). All of that brute shit I wrote about your parents I didn’t mean. And I will repay the money, about $70,000, which I took from the 401(k). I never did make those investments. And what investments I did make failed.

I’m currently on the phone, on hold, trying to cancel the Visa.

And now I’m off—to figure out how to contain that other damage: the professional damage. I want to keep my job. I want to keep my wife. I’ll be back in LA by Wednesday, this letter should land there by Mon or Tues. How many times have you reread it already? Or is it shredded? If you prefer that I don’t come home, just say so, but don’t email. Tie a ribbon that isn’t yellow to the front yard oak and I’ll stay away—Monica, I’ll check every day until it’s gone.

Loving you,

Austin

(…)

Schadenfreude with bite

Richard Seymour writing for the London Review of Books
troll doll

Writing for the LRB, Richard Seymour takes a closer look at the rise of ‘troll’ culture on the internet:

Trolls are the self-styled pranksters of the internet, a subculture of wind-up merchants who will say anything they can to provoke unwary victims, then delight in the outrage that follows. When Mitchell Henderson, a 12-year-old boy from Minnesota, killed himself in 2006, trolls descended on his MySpace page, where his friends and relatives were posting tributes. The trolls were especially taken with the fact that Henderson had lost his iPod days before his death. They posted messages implying that his suicide was a frivolous response to consumerist frustration: ‘first-world problems’. One post contained an image of the boy’s gravestone with an iPod resting against it.

What’s so funny about trolling? ‘Every joke calls for a public of its own,’ Freud said, ‘and laughing at the same jokes is evidence of far-reaching psychical conformity.’ To understand a joke is to share a culture or, more precisely, to be on the same side of an antagonism. Trolls do what they do for the ‘lulz’ (a corruption of ‘LOL’, Laughing Out Loud), a form of enjoyment that derives from someone else’s anguish. Whitney Phillips, whose research has involved years of participant-observation of trolls, describes lulz as schadenfreude with more bite. The more furious and upset the Henderson family became, the funnier the trolls found it.

In 2011, one of these ‘RIP trolls’, Sean Duffy, a 25-year-old from Reading, was jailed for posting messages online about dead teenage girls. He called Natasha MacBryde, who had killed herself aged 15, a ‘slut’; on Mothers’ Day he posted a message on the memorial page of 14-year-old Lauren Drew, who had died after an epileptic fit: ‘Help me mummy, it’s hot in hell.’ Often, trolls gang up on their targets. Phillips details the case of a Californian teenager called Chelsea King, who was raped and murdered in February 2010. Her relatives were treated as fair game, and supportive strangers who tried to intervene were themselves tracked down and hounded.

RIP trolling treats grief as an exploitable state. It isn’t that the trolls care one way or another about the person who has died. It’s that they regard caring too much about anything as a fault deserving punishment. You can see evidence of this throughout the trolling subculture, even in more innocuous instances. In one case, participants phoned video-game stores to inquire about the non-existent sequel to an outdated game. They called so persistently that the workers answering the phone would fly into a rage at the mention of the game, to the amusement of the trolls. The supreme currency of trolling is exploitability, and the supreme vice is taking anything too seriously. Grieving parents are among the easiest to exploit – their rage and sorrow are closest to the surface – but no one is invulnerable.

(…)

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