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.

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  1. A SEINFELDIAN MOVE: In this puerile attempt to promote the “airing of grievances” non-stop, the alt-right PCs have virtually proclaimed it “Festivus Day” throughout the year by hiring these trolls and Astroturfers on kijiji to do its bidding. No indication if this Seinfeldian manoeuvre will include “feats of strength” or “Festivus miracles.”

  2. Given the quality of some of the right wing posters I have seen, perhaps they are looking for more paid content in an effort to improve quality. Now there seems to be a lot of name calling and anger/rage, but not much logic or strong arguments.

    I suspect they will also be trying to bait more progressive politicians with certain comments or questions. However, I am not sure how well that will work on social media where trolls quickly get known and ignored.

    I suppose whatever the strategy is, it is a sign that they feel what they are doing now is not working well enough. It can’t be a happy time for the right wing extremists in Alberta with a Liberal in power Federally, the NDP provincially and the big city mayors are definitely not right wing.

    I would have thought their first focus would have been the the new provincial UCP party, but perhaps they are so confident it will succeed that they have already decided to move on to the next front – municipal politics.

  3. Interesting that RW pundits like to claim any LW activism is George Soros funded shilling, yet here is some evidence that the right does it.

    Also it’s Kijiji not Kajiji, despite the way most people pronounce it.

  4. “The don’t count on every finding out” is the worst of it. These people are subverting the realm, and should be serving lengthy, lengthy prison terms. The organisational structure supporting them should be bankrupted by fines. And the state has all the powers of surveillance necessary to bring them down. And yet they do not. It’s truly puzzling.

    1. Shameful really. Not them. You. Free speech no matter how distasteful it is to you is the cornerstone of this country and every democracy. But you know that don’t you? Is that what make you so irrationally vindictive or so harsh in what you would do to them?

  5. I wouldn’t count out the Calgary home builders and Manning who tried to overthrow Nenshi in the last election. All of RW backroom boys used to getting their own way in Alberta and in Calgary development. The amount that they upped for Manning to use against those candidates that they considered “LW Not Friendly” was substantial. It wouldn’t surprise me if they are Kenney, Unite Alberta, Alberta Can’t Wait, etc. supporters. I expect that the big money boys have moved support from WRP to Kenney.

  6. I love it… right over an ad for bad credit… says it all. Btw, it’s ‘kijiji’ not ‘kajiji’.

  7. Thanks to my army of volunteer editors for pointing our my misspelling of Kijiji. Just a typo. Really. It’s been fixed. DJC

  8. I had a feeling something would happen today related to that kijiji ad but I did not expect it to be right wing trolls attempting to slander councilors running for reelection in calgary.

    1. This shouldn’t surprise us, I think. Progressive councillors on Calgary City Council are a particular irritation to the right in Alberta and their financiers in the development issue. The Kijiji ad made it clear this was a Calgary campaign of some kind. If you think it’s ugly now, just wait.

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