These pseudonymous protesters are like real-life comment trolls.

No one takes anonymous comment trolls seriously; we just assume they’re expressing impotent rage. So why, when precisely the same thing is happening on our streets, is anyone bothering to listen to what these petulant, work-shy people have to say?

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Hiding behind a mask.
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Milo Yiannopoulos
On 24 October 2011 10:54

We're all familiar with the cutesy names given to traditional Left-wing agitators. Stinky. Stumpy. Griff.

But have you noticed how much the new middle-class brand of attention-grabbing troublemakers seem to enjoy masquerading in pseudonymity too?

The simplest explanation is that these people are criminals, anxious to avoid identification: vandals, robbers, squatters and so on. But there are other reasons for this curious phenomenon, which I think throw some light on to the psychology of the crusties still camped outside St Paul’s cathedral.

Rent-a-nuisance Natalie Szarek, most recently seen causing trouble sticking up for the gyppos at Dale Farm, has tried to obscure her identity and background with her activist nom de guerre Natalie Fox.

She’s been busted, though: her Cambridge contemporaries, whom she had alienated with her dour feminism, leaked her identity to the press. Subsequent to her real name appearing in the Mail and the Telegraph, Szarek was nowhere to be seen, even as the diggers moved in on Dale Farm.

Am I alone in suspecting an angry call from Papa?

“Comedian” and activist Jonathan May-Bowles, a man most famous for getting smacked in the chops by Rupert Murdoch’s wife, has shed his double-barrelled surname to avoid sounding posh – no doubt in a bid to ingratiate himself with the limpets who cheer him on.

Alas, his adopted moniker, Johnny Marbles, is the apex of Mr May-Bowles’s wit, as can be readily observed from his Twitter feed. And when an undercover Sun reporter threatened to reveal May-Bowles’s boasts about drug taking, he too fell quickly silent.

And then, of course, there’s our old friend Johann Hari, friend to and spokesperson for whatever Lefty fad is passing through this week – and Mandelsonian master of the dark arts of slander, innuendo and disingenuousness.

Hari conjured up not one but several entirely fake personas in order to smear people he didn’t like, and praise himself, on Wikipedia.

You’ll forgive me for banging on about Hari week after week, but reading through the edit history on the articles he tampered with makes it clear that Hari even conducted conversations with himself using these fraudulent identities, with one of them at one point offering to buy the other a pint. Talk about troubled.

Now, it makes sense that unstable people holding hopelessly conflicted views about the world would need a form of multiple personality syndrome in which to house the absurd contradictions of their existence.

But the precise manner in which their personalities have splintered is revealing, isn’t it?

It’s almost like they have each constructed a disposable imaginary friend to do their dirty work for them, lobbing stuff at the police and yelling obscenities at video cameras, while their authentic bourgeois identity only appears at home with mum, in the opinion pages of the nationals and emblazoned on their Oxbridge degrees.

Because, while the fractures in Johann Hari’s online identity may be representative of his fragile psychology, there’s no doubt he knew exactly what he was doing when libelling Cristina Odone and Nick Cohen, so the ease with which he cast off his second identity (and third, and fourth, etc.) suggests that he saw it as a carapace and not as integral part of himself. That way, David Rose’s sins could be disposed of along with the body when the inevitable revelation came.

Yet, though I like to think of Hari as a socialist version of Rod Hull - one fist poised over the CTRL and C keys of his laptop, the other acting as a puppeteer of a psychotic, racist gay incest porn-penning lunatic called David Rose - there was something a bit more indispensible about his counterpart.

Rose was Hari’s dark side: while Johann was publicly doing little more than doctoring quotes in his articles, his evil twin was free to silently spread lies about his enemies and massage the egos – and online biographies – of his mates.

Whatever the intricacies of their individually damaged psychologies, it’s obvious these tragedy tourists are stuck in a prolonged adolescence.

We can therefore think of their public performances as a mass teenage hissy fit, in which protesters indulge themselves in romantic fictions about their dispossessedness while ostentatiously aware of their role in a sort of gigantic reality television show – all the while acutely aware of the life back home that threatens to abandon them if they get too carried away with the role-play.

As a friend remarked to me over dinner last week, these kids know they’re being watched, too. They play up to the cameras with all the gusto and gracelessness of a Chelsea heiress or Essex wide boy. (Though with none of Mark Wright’s charisma, it has to be said.)

Indeed, the architecture of shows like The Only Way Is Essex – “real people in modified situations” – is a pretty good approximation of what’s going on inside the protesters’ heads, as they try to navigate the paracosm the Guardian’s lies and distortions have created for them.

You see, retreating into alter egos is the only way for them to stave off the admission that all they’re really doing is letting off some steam.

But while pseudonymity, more properly the domain of gossip columnists and agony aunts, serves the purposes of angry Lefty man-children by minimising the possibility of embarrassment for the folks back home, it’s a grotty, self-defeating tactic for the activists themselves, because it encourages behaviour like Charlie Gilmour’s Cenotaph-swinging.

The festival atmosphere at these protests is analogous to the comment box, which rewards antisocial behaviour with attention.

So when brats take to the streets to “express themselves”, hiding behind false names and fortified by narcotics, they end up behaving like comment trolls, indulging in behaviour they would never countenance if they thought they’d be held accountable for it afterwards and which, when examined dispassionately, says nothing worthy of consideration.

No one takes anonymous comment trolls seriously; we just assume they’re expressing impotent rage. So why, when precisely the same thing is happening on our streets, is anyone bothering to listen to what these petulant, work-shy people have to say?

Because, as they prove time and again when things get sticky, they don’t even really buy it themselves.

Milo Yiannopoulos is a journalist and broadcaster who writes and speaks about technology, media, business, society, religion and celebrity culture. You can visit his website at http://yiannopoulos.net/ and follow him on Twitter at @Nero. 

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