“This page wasn’t removed. We reviewed the page you reported for harassment. Since it did not violate our community standards, we did not remove it. Thanks for your report.”
This is the message I received after reporting a hate page on Facebook. Near the top of the hate page was a statement that encouraged the extermination of all Jews. Along with that statement was a photo of my face and the name Ben Garrison. Trolls had stolen my artwork and photos from my blog, my cartoon site as well as my fine art site and had concocted an entire page devoted to spewing libelous hate. The troll entity called the page ‘Ben Garrison Cartoons—the Official Site.’ The trolls had stamped the name ‘Ben Garrison’ onto as many hateful images as possible throughout the page. How does one stop such blatant libel? Where do these trolls come from? Is it even possible to track them down? Why do they do such terrible things? Why me?
As I found out, it’s not just me. Many others have suffered the same outrageous indignity. It appears that trolls are no longer content just to talk to each other on sordid sites such as ‘4chan’ or ‘Stormfront.’ They want to go mainstream. Therefore, social media are a natural target for them. Do they really believe the vitriolic memes they are shoveling or are they merely playing an elaborate prank? It doesn’t matter. Their memes of hate must not go mainstream. Facebook must wake up and block the hate before it gets established. Hate speech is not free speech. Hate speech is blind, one-dimensional blackness. It is not reasoned debate. It loudly shouts for the murder of human beings and Facebook is providing them a megaphone for that purpose.
I first drew editorial cartoons for the San Angelo Standard-Times. The subject matter was local and state politics. I also drew a few for the San Antonio Express-News. I then worked nearly 20 years for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as a designer and info graphic specialist. They already had two cartoonists at the Seattle P-I. One was the Pulitzer-prize winning star, David Horsey. The other was Steve Greenberg. Steve moved to California and continued to get his cartoons published. He was tenacious and I admired that. I now must conjure up the same tenaciousness.
When the big banks were bailed out in 2008, I was outraged. I had written both senators and my congressman and asked them to vote ‘no’ on the bailout bill. It passed anyway. I had read G. Edward’s Griffin’s landmark book, “The Creature from Jekyll Island,” and I knew this was yet another step toward a corrupt system run by an oligarchy that is replacing our Constitutional government. I figured it was time to speak out against the growing police state and since I was an artist, editorial cartoons seemed the best way of doing something. It almost seemed like my patriotic duty. I had to help my country. My dad was a WWII veteran who fought against tyranny and fascism. Now it was my turn to do something about it. I drew anti-Federal Reserve and anti-banker bailout cartoons as well as pro-Constitution cartoons. I began posting them on my blog and various stock message boards. Some became viral. “The March of Tyranny” was seen around the world by millions. I drew it in only three hours. It is also the most trolled cartoon.
A gang of trolls suddenly made an appearance on my blog. At first, I didn’t know what to make of it. They took advantage of the comment field and began posting pro-Nazi statements and criticized me for posting videos of musicians who happened to be Jewish. (I’m a classical music fan). I deleted the messages and then I was forced to shut down comments altogether. I had just been trolled.
It was about this time that I started receiving hate mail. They pretended to be real people who were sickened by hacked-up cartoons. They assumed a piece of libelous art was mine simply because my name was pasted onto it. I figured out quickly this mail was probably from the trolls themselves—trying to elicit a reaction. Some of the troll mail was subtle. Some of it was not. I was called every foul name in the book. I learned never to reply to any troll mail whatsoever, but I did check out IP addresses. They came from all over the world, with a high concentration emanating from England, Denmark and Poland.
I decided to set up a specific web site for Ben Garrison cartoons and in 2010, www.grrrgraphics was born. I added a disclaimer that explained that my work was being altered by nefarious trolls and left it at that. I had read it’s best to ignore the trolls. That was the way to go. Don’t give the sadists what they craved the most—attention.
One day I received an email from Christopher Poole. I didn’t know this person, but he wrote, “Why so racist, bro?” I searched the name and discovered he had started a site known as 4chan. On this site he allowed posters complete anonymity. They could post whatever they liked without consequence. As one might guess, the site is the lowest of low snake pits that eclipses even the basest instincts of humanity. They claim it’s all for the ‘lulz’—a variation of LOLs. The site was painfully unfunny—full of torment and sadism. 4chan had a thread about me where hundreds of trolls were posting all sorts of garbage and pasting the name Ben Garrison onto all kinds of hate—whether it matched my style or not. They were writing hate memes and attaching my name onto them. They even posted my obituary. I’ve looked at this thread only once. I wrote Christopher Poole a very polite email and requested that he remove the thread. I was ignored.
Many people know what 4chan is about and won’t go there. If they do, they know nearly everything posted is a lie. The trouble is it is now a springboard used by trolls to launch campaigns on mainstream sites such as Facebook. The troll campaigns included memorial pages on which they would post images of recently deceased children. They would alter those images into unspeakable things in order to torment grieving parents. Oisin Sweeny, an Irish author and expert on the troll phenomenon, detailed this abhorrent behavior in his book “Hackers on Steroids.” It is known as “RIP” trolling. Oisin was so outraged that he began tracking down the offenders and attempted to bring them to justice. The trolls pretended to be powerful, omnipotent figures on the web, but in reality they were young, socially inept misfits who derived sick satisfaction from their repulsive behavior. They even looked like trolls.
Trolls can’t stand people who take a stand. They detest people who speak out against injustice in the world. They attack independent bloggers with a fury. They especially enjoy targeting feminist bloggers, whom they try to destroy. They try to portray me as a white supremacist simply because I wear a cowboy hat, live in Montana and I draw pro-liberty cartoons.
I have been trolled since 2009. The trolls are not going away in part due to Facebook’s lackadaisical attitude toward trolling. My libertarian cartoons continue to be altered. I have not had time to draw many lately. No matter—they paste the name Ben Garrison onto any piece of troll trash and spread it out far and wide. It’s their mission and they’ve devoted countless troll hours to the task.
Thanks to Facebook, the troll entity now has a forum to reach the mainstream. If their memes of hate become commonplace, it might also become acceptable–and that can lead to acts of violence, which also might become acceptable. We must not let this happen. The Holocaust did occur. It was a well-documented event. It’s a terrible FACT of history. Those who say it didn’t happen are encouraging conditions for it to happen again. It must not.
For a while, I didn’t even know Facebook trolls were posting libelous hate pages using the Ben Garrison name until two people from the Online Hate Prevention Institute contacted me. They spent their time and resources to assist me. They used their connections to help get the offending page removed, and I’m very grateful for their help.
I’ve found I’m not alone in the battle against trolls. It is a daily, on-going occurrence on social media that affects many lives. It’s time for people to speak out against the hate. Report the pages. Complain to Facebook. Take action. Good people can come together and outnumber the trolls!
It’s time for Facebook to utilize their vast resources and take more effective action. It’s time to end the hate.