There’s no life like it! Alberta’s right-wing troll army is recruiting

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ILLUSTRATIONS: Poster thanks to the U.S. Army, circa 1941-42 or whenever they finally got around to joining the fight, with a little help from PhotoShop. Below: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi – is he the target of the Troll Army’s latest Alberta campaign? The ad in question.

Alberta’s right-wing Troll Army is recruiting!

There’s no life like it!

Plus, you never even have to leave your basement room!

This makes joining the RW Troll Army considerably less stressful than, say, joining the real army. No sergeant yelling at you. No pushups. No need to cut your cool spiky haircut. No overseas postings in hot places where dangerous locals look at you funny. No risk at all, really, except that some left winger you called a snowflake might “bully” you and make you cry, or your mom yells at you to stop smoking pot while you Tweet. And you can take your favourite copy of Atlas Shrugged with you wherever you go! (Which won’t be far.)

Look sharp! Be sharp! Go negative!

The advert appeared Saturday on Kijiji, aimed at experienced and aspiring Internet trolls in the Calgary area, preferably with right-wing credentials.

“Need individuals willing to help with online/social media reputation management…” (Someone’s reputation is going to be managed alright, and not in a good way.)

“Temporary.” (Like, right up until the Oct. 16 municipal elections. Then you’re on furlough till 2019.)

“Will entail using your own social media accounts (Linkedin, Twitter, FB) to Like, Share the content that is sent to you, to drive reach and engagement across social media.” (Using your own accounts shouldn’t be a problem, as they mostly use made-up names anyway.)

“Project starts Tuesday, May 23.” (That’s today. Look for an uptick in online attacks on Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi starting immediately.)

“Contractors will be paid per post/share/comment. **It’s a real bonus if you are a supporter of the PC Party or have Conservative views, or have interest in municipal or federal politics and are able to add valuable comments and input to our shared content. Make more money by being more active for our cause!”

Be all you can be! And less!

What can this mean?

Well, obviously it suggests that the Right-Wing Online Rage Machine isn’t quite the spontaneous outburst of popular sentiment its organizers would like us suckers to think.

This presupposes the ad is the real thing, of course, not a vicious fraud thought up by dystopian socialists, as the loony right is bound to claim sooner or later. All I can tell you is this … it checks out like the real thing.

The market being what it is, this recruitment effort also suggests the supply of right wing trolls is limited – which presumably explains why so many of them run multiple social media accounts. Does this mean Rebel Media or Alberta Can’t Wait has cornered the market on troll recruiting, or that some other supply factor is in play?

The location of the advertiser suggests, obviously, an emphasis on Calgary politics.

The very fact they’re forced to advertise and offer cash incentives – no matter how small – indicates the supply of willing trolls is, if not drying up, at least limited. This is cause for optimism.

It’s important to note that all major political parties hire and pay organizers. This is entirely legitimate and part of our democratic system. All political parties also encourage their supporters to back them on social media – and pray they stay on message.

This kind of fakery is something different, however. It’s a form of Astro-Turfing, that is, creating fake “grass roots” that are made entirely of petroleum products, metaphorically speaking.

An Army of One … In the basement

It’s been a long time since Canadian conservatives got caught publicly recruiting for trolls.

It’s been six years since ads appeared on Craigslist seeking trolls to serve Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada before the 2011 federal election through “a social media organization working for a political organization.”

That ad was looking for “a team of writers who will post to newspaper comments, media forums, FB pages, etc.,” adding carefully that “we are NOT officially affiliated with the Harper campaign.”

“Your writing must be right-wing, strong and use supplied talking points,” the ad said. “You are creating an on-line persona with a consistent tone. Ideally, you can make up facts and statistics to stir controversy. Where suited, humour, sarcasm and personal insults are welcome.”

“To apply,” continued the ad, which did not mention who would supply the talking points, “submit a 100 word post based on the headline ‘Ignatieff promises no coalition after election.’” That would be a reference to Michael Ignatieff, a now-forgotten pre-Justin-Trudeau leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and the false accusation by the Conservatives he was planning a coalition with the NDP. (This was back when coalitions were deemed by conservatives to be a bad thing.)

No one ever persuasively denied the 2011 Craigslist ad was legitimate, although recruitment of operatives seemed after that to move to more secure channels, perhaps the back rooms of various right-wing centres for “building democracy” – until last Saturday.

At least Saturday’s ad wasn’t quite so obvious about the nature of the message – although it’s a safe bet there will be no shortage of made-up facts, manufactured outrage and fake statistics in the attacks on Mayor Nenshi or whomever this is aimed at.

It would be interesting to know where the money comes from to feed the trolls for trolling the feeds, and who will actually make the payments, especially in cases where election spending laws may apply. Don’t count on ever finding out.

Categories Alberta Politics