We’ve Sent You Black Roses and Are Coming to Slaughter Your Pet Hamster: My Life With a Twitter Stalker
August 3, 2009
by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.
Trust me, this isn’t a story I want to write. But my previous blog about Extreme Malice on the Web – http://wp.me/pycK6-5 – quickly spawned even worse malice, in the form of a bona fide Internet Stalker.
Since neither diplomacy, nor entreaties, nor repeated pleas to Customer Service has made a dent in this demented young woman’s determination to make my life a living Cyber-Hell, I must fall back once again on satire.
A Mistake So Egregious, Only Harakiri Can Assuage Our Outrage
Shortly after publishing the saga of Algernon, Herbie, et. al., I decided to sign up for Twitter, to see what the fuss was all about. Like so many others, I didn’t really understand the rules, which seem to resemble the Red Queen’s famous game of croquet. But like Alice before me, I plunged in mallet in hand.
The main thing I didn’t understand was the difference between a Tweet-Into-the-General-Bouillabaisse-of-Tweets and a Tweet-to-a-Specific-(Probably-Faux-Possibly-Criminal)-Individual-Twitterer.
Cheerfully unawares, I made the latter kind of Tweet to several dozen individuals, with a link and an abridged title of my “serious humor” blog about malice. Here’s an example:
@Saintly, Kind Philanthropist “I Don’t Like What You Wrote. You Should Be Stabbed With Stiletto Heels, Have Vultures Eat Your Liver” http://wp.me/pycK6-5
The majority of those I Tweeted seemed to understand that this was a humor piece. And in fact, most of them immediately decided to “follow” me, in Twitter parlance, becoming my Connections.
But a handful of those who received my story title and link seemed to think – or pretended to think – that I was threatening them, clearly reacting to the well-publicized raft of serial killings involving high-heeled shoes, plus the propensity of so many villains to train their pet birds of prey to eviscerate criminal rivals.
In any case, a small group of young Twitterers, primarily in the UK, demanded my immediate public apology for their undue distress. I gave it to them . . . but perhaps I shouldn’t have.
In retrospect, it might have been better to ignore them completely. Because immediately after acknowledging their existence, I started receiving an escalating stream of malware, the seeming immediate response of any computer-savvy young ‘un with a chip on his/her shoulder these days.
Attila Was A Pussycat Compared to You
These confrontations occurred over a weekend, about eight days into my hazing-by-Twitter. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened Monday morning, when a pingback link appeared on my Word Press site, directing me to a truly shocking hatchet-job-of-a-blog, which called my direct-reply faux pas at Twitter “The Worst Tweet in Human History,” before going on to make scurrilous and frankly ridiculous comments about my background and character, which even minor research could have proven untrue in fifteen seconds flat.
The author, a young woman I shall call Agatha-Anne, describes herself as a public relations practitioner based in London. Silly me! I always thought PR people were supposed to be adept at enhancing reputations, not destroying them. One wonders, in fact, exactly what this young lady’s clients hire her to do.
But it’s possible young Agatha-Anne takes pleasure in a menacing public persona. Her blog, which is based at Type Pad, presents a portrait photo of her from a fish-eye viewpoint, her head blown up to absurd proportions, resembling nothing so much as a giant squid. On the morning in question, I clearly felt like squid-food.
But ours is not to reason why. And after spitting up my breakfast and pacing around and around my office for ten minutes or so – I do so like to pace – I decided the first order of business was figuring out what sort of damage an essentially silly amateur hatchet-job could do.
I looked up “Worst Tweet Ever,” “Terrible Tweetings,” “Twitter Hall of Shame,” and several dozen other variations. I found neither me nor Agatha-Anne at this point, but I did find thousands upon thousands – upon thousands – of Google and other search engine entries.
If I am, indeed, an Inept and Stupid and Awkward and Cootie-Ridden Tweeter, at least I have a heckuva lot of company! Among those who’ve been placed by the irate in this Negative Pantheon of Bad, Bad Birdies are Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Oprah, Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper, Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi, the Pope, virtually every political pundit, everyone in Hollywood, everyone who wants to be in Hollywood, as well as your local bank manager, your dentist, the mechanic who works on your Honda, and half the neighbors on your block.
In fact, there seems to be an entire cottage industry surrounding “Tweets We Disapprove Of.” It may well be Google’s fault, since their Search archives endeavor to record every tiny Tweet ever Tweeted, including such momentous and fascinating ones as “I hate Billy, he stole my girlfriend,” or “Mom made me a peanut butter and banana sandwich for lunch.”
So verifying that I wasn’t the first perfectly innocent Tweeter pilloried by a psychotic squid-woman, I thought I would try to post on her blog, explain that I was a Twitter newcomer, and attempt to convert her from foe to fan.
It was not to be! You may view my pitiful attempts to curry favor on Agatha-Anne’s blog site still, followed by her rejecting my subservient apology with escalating scorn, while some of her Kiddie friends chime in with posts like, “Don’t forgive her, she’s a Monster, a Manatee, a Member of the Mafia, and possibly a Mason” – or words to that effect.
I finally gave up. But anxious to prolong my psychic pain as horridly as possible, Agatha-Anne somehow arranged to post a permanent pingback on my blog’s home page, so that although I was assured it wasn’t visible to anyone but me, every time I went to my blog, I was greeted by this cheerful little cutout thingie with the endearing message, “You Wrote the Worst Tweet in History.”
My plaintive letters to Word Press Customer Service, their Askimet spam-sniffing associate, and even corporate management have been repeatedly rebuffed.
But Something (Even More) Wicked was This Way (to) Come.
I Don’t Care If His Hat is Purple. He’s Simply Not a Gentleman
Agatha-Anne may believe she’s a world-class Web Intimidator. But despite her intimidating me, I doubt if anybody I actually know happened to see her delightful little hatchet-blog. Anyone, that is, except a fella I’ll call Palance, because he’s a rather large and scary-looking dude, who tends to dress in black like a Western movie bad guy.
I know this, because I once actually met Palance at, of all places, the Princeton Club in Manhattan, at an Ivy League event. It’s hard to believe Palance even went to college, because despite looking so scary, his personality resembles that of a teenaged boy who plays computer games 24-hours-a-day. Which, indeed, he probably does.
Palance is a professional computer consultant and, he says, a “White Hat” computer hacker, which apparently means that he breaks into and changes computer code, but only for benign and benevolent purposes. This is in contrast to “Black Hat” hackers, who break into computer code to sink battleships, divert shipments of armaments, or cause your Aunt Mary’s microwave oven to emit flames while playing the Hallelujah Chorus.
Palance contrived to meet me at the Princeton Club event, because he heard I was a journalist and fancies himself a Blogger Extraordinaire. The day after the event, he sent me some links to his blogs, which are extraordinaire, indeed. They consist mainly of lists of people he knows and what they’re doing, whom they’re connecting with on Linked In and other social media sites, and what they’re posting to websites on a moment-by-moment basis.
You have to see these blogs to believe them, and maybe you should, because they’re so unusual – rather like detailed intelligence dossiers for some unfathomable purpose only Palance himself may know. In any case, they scared me witless! So much so that although I would rather have dropped Palance from my own list of acquaintances then and there, I decided that it was better to be on his good side than his bad – or possibly downright evil – side.
So I allowed him to send me a series of little notes whenever the fancy hit him, which managed to be both incredibly cheery and totally creepy, along the lines of, “I happened to come across that nice story you wrote in 1985 about XYZ Corporation. Pity their Vice President of Marketing absconded to Rio with 300 million dollars in 1992.” Or “I just saw a photo of you at Senorita JKL’s Christmas party in 1979. Your hair was so much prettier then.” Stuff like that.
It should not have surprised me, then, that Palance seemed to know immediately about Agatha-Anne’s hatchet-blog. The afternoon after the morning it appeared, I got another cheery little note from Palance, commiserating that “You must be upset about being called the Worst Tweeter in Human History,” then adding that “You clearly frightened those poor people with your talk of eating their livers, so what do you expect?”
What I would expect, Palance, is for anyone who pretends to be my friend to be against my being Blogged-to-Death by a total stranger! And I told him as much in a return note of my own, adding that since he didn’t seem to be on my side, it was probably better if our acquaintance ceased.
Oh, dear! Talk about baiting a consulting-hacker-bear in its consulting-hacker-den. Palance must have changed out of his White Hat and into his Black One in a phone booth on the way back to his computer desk. Because seemingly within minutes, he hatchet-blogged me, too, in some ways worse – although some ways better – than little Agatha-Anne did.
Worse because what he did – in line with the intelligence dossier format of his blog – was to string together our entire mutual correspondence since I met him at the Princeton Club into what he clearly feels is an epistolary indictment of my thin-skinned-ness. But better, because after reading this novelette-in-letters at least forty-seven times, I still don’t think I come off badly.
I did tell him in one note, as I’ve told numerous friends, that I’m hoping a couple of my ongoing media projects might result in books. Maybe Palance thinks that sounds pushy. I think it just says accurately what I’m striving for. As for my telling Palance I no longer wanted to correspond with him after the hatchet-blog incident – hey, if that brands me as touchy, so be it. I restrained myself and didn’t curse – although, believe me, I wanted to.
What does upset me about Palance’s semi-hatchet-blog is that he identifies me by name, as, of course, does Agatha-Anne. I would never think of doing that to him – or to her – or to anyone at all. It’s just – not nice!
In fact, I remember back in my sorority days, when we were evaluating whom to invite – or not to invite – to pledge the group, we had a little code word for people who behaved in a nasty or malicious or perennially impolite fashion towards their fellow human beings. And that code word was “common.” Well, Palance, whatever color hat you wear, you’re common.
We Will Haunt You – Or At Least Google – Till the End of Your Days
These events happened over a month ago. But their worst effects are just beginning to hit-the-proverbial now. That’s because, paradoxically, my own blogs are becoming quite popular, which moves them up in the rankings at Google and the other standard search engines. And along with my name and my article titles – like barnacles – come Agatha-Anne’s “Worst Tweet in History” hatchet-blog and the “Ellen’s Thin-Skinned-Ness Revealed in Our Correspondence” epistolary hatchet-blog from Palance.
Moreover, Google’s strange system of preserving truly idiotic ten-word “publications” related to Twitter seems to have caused a couple of other nasty comments – literally one-sentence comments – to be attached to searches about me.
They obviously come from malicious little friends of Agatha-Anne, and they’re especially annoying, because they’ve upped the ante, slandering my reputation by not only labeling me a very bad Tweeter, but also – I kid you not – a “notorious spammer.”
I invite anyone in the Universe to examine not only my entire output – sparse though it is – on Twitter, but my entire output anywhere since the day I was born! and try to find anything I’ve ever written that qualifies as “spam.”
I intend to write a more serious article about the casual and malicious use of the “spam” label applied to things that have absolutely no relationship to what “spam” by definition actually is. But this is not the place to do that.
What I want to point out here – and get my readers’ advice about – is how hatchet-blogs and even ten-word hatchet-comments can, under Google’s extraordinary system of linkages and “search engine optimization” tactics applied by the unscrupulous, allow computer-savvy Nasty People like Agatha-Anne, her little buddies, and Palance to link to and libel my good name and reputation forever and ever in Internet searches to come.
Is there any way I can just get rid of them?
For that matter, is there any way I can persuade Word Press to take Agatha-Anne’s seemingly perennial pingback or whatever-you-call-it off my poor little blog for good? Every morning, it greets me and taunts me, “You Made the Worst Tweet In Human History.” Nyah, nyah, nyah.
I’ve complained and complained and complained. I’ve tried to tell them that being visually harassed by this pingback every time I go to my blog is the equivalent of an African-American blogger being greeted with “The Ku-Klux-Klan-Is-Watching-You” or an Israeli blogger being taunted by a pingback to “Carefree Nazis Unite on Word Press.”
But they just won’t help me.
I fell down the Rabbit Hole unawares, and now I’m stuck at the Mad Tea Party for Eternity.
Readers who enjoyed this story might want to take a look at Ellen’s new – and controversial – series, Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation.
For the Intro to this series, please go to: http://wp.me/pxD3J-3
And if you like more wholesome games than those played by Agatha-Anne and Palance, please see “The World is Divided” at:
Filed in Humor, Interactive, Internet
Tags: Agatha-Anne, Alice in Wonderland, Attila, Black Hat, bullying, Common, Complaints, Computer Consultant, Croquet, Croquet with the Red Queen, Customer Service, Cyber-Hell, Downright Evil, dr ellen brandt, Dressed in Black, ellen brandt, Ellen Brandt Ph.D., Epistolary, Epistolary Blog, Giant Squid, Harakiri, Harassment, hatchet job, Hatchet-Blog, Humor, Humor Blog, Intelligence Dossier, Internet Bullying, Internet Harassment, Libel, Mad Tea Party, malice, Palance, Princeton Club, Public Relations Practitioner, Rabbit Hole, Red Queen, Ridicule, Satire, Scared Witless, SEO Practitioner, Serious Humor, Slander, Spam, Squid, Tweet, Twitter, Type Pad, White Hat, Word Press