What normal people call trolling, Fox calls p.r.
If you read the comment sections during the early days of internet news sites and blogs, you recognize the trolls. In the early days, trolls dropped their list of talking points regardless of relevance to the topic. They were prolific and argumentative. It’s as if they either had no life or trolling was their job because they were always there. Chances are that if you encountered a troll singing the praises of Fox news, trolling was their job.
According to David Folkenblick, author of Murdoch’s World, Fox’s p.r. department had trolls on the payroll from the mid to late 00’s. Former trolls for Fox told Folkenblick they used a variety of tactics to avoid being traced back to Fox. They set up wireless broadband accounts, used dial up and old computers to that end. One of Fox’s former trolls told Folkenblick they used 20 fake accounts and another confessed to using 100 aliases to sing the praises of Fox on blogs and at websites that has less than positive things to say about the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.
On the blogs, the fight was particularly fierce. Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked. [Murdoch’s World, pg. 67]
Although it’s unclear if Fox’s troll department continues to exist today, they remain appealing as tools for the right wing’s powers that be.
The Koch brothers’ funded Tea Party hopes to use trolls as part of their on-going battle to deny people access to healthcare. In fact, they’ve turned trolling the ACA website’s live chat into a contest with cash and prices for the “most shocking government response; funniest” and best uses of tolling.
You’ve conquered entire Facebook pages and gotten semi-celebrities to bite on Twitter, but are you ready to troll the biggest target of them all?” he writes. “If you said yes then get ready because it’s you versus the government and this time there are prizes to be won!
The Daily Beast reports that Stockton tried to downplay the troll strategy during his interview with them.
Stockton seemed rather pleased with the attention his trolling for prizes contest is getting from the press. “So far so good as far as generating press hopefully we’ll be able to get more attention throughout the week as we get closer to awarding the prizes!”
It could be said that trolling isn’t what it used to be when it qualified as a job at Fox. But then, desperate extremists whose support has collapsed are left with scraping the bottom of the barrel for brick bats.
Image: Everything is Annoying