Reddit user “HanAssholeSolo” posted a meme video of Donald Trump beating up on a figure whose face is the CNN logo. Trump reposted it on Twitter. The original poster’s apology reveals how trolls think.
Analysis of the troll’s self-serving apology
Buzzfeed’s Brandon Wall took a screenshot of the Reddit poster’s apology and shared it on Twitter. HanAssholeSolo has shared other racists posts, including a graphic that identifies which CNN on-air talent were Jewish. He subsequently deleted his account (and the apology along with it). Here’s what he wrote and what it means.
To my fellow redditors in this community, the rest of reddit and the media/public, I apologize.
My fellow redditors,
First of all, I would like to apologize to the members of the reddit community for getting this site and this sub embroiled in a controversy that should never have happened.
Analysis: The Reddit forum where this was posted, “The_Donald,” thrives on crossing boundaries and encouraging hate. It’s ironic that HanAssholeSolo is apologizing for creating a controversy that draws attention to a space where everything could create controversy. (The main reason this post created controversy is that Donald Trump posted it on Twitter.)
Translation: I’m sorry everyone can now see how smelly our sewer is.
I would also like to apologize for the posts made that were racist, bigoted, and anti-semitic. I am in no way this kind of person, I love and accept people of all walks of life and have done so for my entire life. I am not the person that the media portrays me to be in real life, I was trolling and posting things to get a reaction from the subs on reddit and never meant any of the hateful things I said in those posts. I would never support any kind of violence or actions against others simply for what they believe in, their religion, or the lifestyle they choose to have. Nor would I carry out any violence against anyone based upon that or support anyone who did.
Analysis: This provides some insight into how trolling happens. Anonymous posters egg each other on. Some are racists, others are anarchists, all are hungry for attention. But there is no distinction between “I post racist things” and “I am a racist.” Racists posters are racists.
Translation: I am not a racist, I just act like one.
As time went on it became an addiction as to how far it could go with the posts that were made. This has been an extreme wake up call to always consider how others may think or feel about what is being said before clicking the submit button anywhere online that an opinion is allowed. Free speech is a right we all have, but it shouldn’t be used in the manner that it was in the posts that were put on this site. Just because you are behind a keyboard doesn’t mean you can’t hurt someone with your words or cause a situation such as this one where a simple meme is misconstrued as calling for violence.
Analysis: Trolling is only fun if you don’t think about the people you’re targeting. Once you do, you realize it’s just anonymous hate.
Translation: It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt
I do not advocate violence against the press and the meme I posted was in no way advocating that in any way, shape or form. Our first amendment protects the press from things like violence, and we as American citizens should respect that even if the opinions of the press are not in line with our own. The meme was created purely as satire, it was not meant to be a call to violence against CNN or any other news affiliation. I had no idea anyone would take it and put sound to it and then have it put up on the President’s Twitter feed. It was a prank, nothing more. What the President’s feed showed was not the original post that was posted here, but loaded up somewhere else and sound added to it then sent out on Twitter. I thought it was the original post that was made and that is why I took credit for it. I have the highest respect for the journalist community and they put their lives on the line every day with the jobs that they do in reporting the news.
Analysis: More self-delusion. The First Amendment protects the press against suppression and prosecution, not violence. The only thing that protects the press from violence is the convention that reporters are deserving of our respect — this video meme, or a candidate bodyslamming a reporter, punctures those conventions. It’s delusional to think that posting a video of punching a character with the CNN logo for a head is not a call for violence. It’s ludicrous to think that it won’t get shared — the idea of memes is to tempt people into sharing them. It’s hypocritical to say you have respect for the press and post a video showing CNN being pummeled. And it makes no difference who put the sound on it.
Translation: Punching CNN isn’t really calling for violence against the media, is it?
The Internet and social media is capable of many great things, and this is an example of the not so great things that it can do. Trolling to get a reaction out of people is not the best way to make a point, the way to do it is to present your facts in a manner to convey the message that will not invoke anger. To people who troll on the Internet for fun, consider your words and actions conveyed in your message and who it might upset or anger. Put yourself in their shoes before you post it. If you have a problem with trolling it is an addiction just like any other addiction someone can have to something and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Trolling is nothing more than bullying a wide audience. Don’t feed your own self-worth based upon inflicting suffering upon others online just because you are behind a keyboard. We as redditors and as Americans are better than this.
Analysis: This is true: “Trolling is nothing more than bullying.” Now one troll has seen the light. There are only a few million left to reform.
Translation: Trolling is bad. Don’t be like me.
So to the members of this community, the site, the media (especially CNN), and anyone offended by the posts, again I apologize. This is one individual that you will not see posting hurtful or hateful things in jest online. This is my last post from this account and I wanted to do it on a positive note and hopefully it will heal the controversy that this all caused. Peace.
“The more you know yourself, the less judgmental you become” — Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel
Analysis: Just to be clear — the poster is apologizing to the media for being an asshole that foments violence, and to his fellow trolls for revealing that they are assholes who foment violence.
Translation: I got caught, so I’m leaving now.
This apology is still better than most
I’ve analyzed a lot of apologies in this space. Most people who apologize don’t fully realize what they did wrong, don’t admit everything they did, make excuses for their behavior, and don’t apologize directly to the people they’ve hurt. HanAssholeSolo understands what he did and is actually quite articulate in understanding why it was wrong — because his memes hurt people. He apologizes to the people he hurt and, strangely, to the other trolls he’s exposed.
It’s ironic that a sad little troll is better at apologizing than corporations and executives that abuse people. Trolls have only their own egos supporting them — once that’s stripped away, there’s nothing. Corporate executives have shareholders, direct reports, and other enablers that tell them they were doing things for forgivable reasons, which makes it harder for them to apologize.
What shall we do with trolls?
You have the right to be anonymous online. And if you are hateful, I (and the media) have the right to expose who you are.
Some people I respect have said it’s always OK to punch Nazis (meaning, racist alt-right types). I disagree. I don’t think it’s right to punch anybody who isn’t being violent. I don’t think anybody gets to call somebody a Nazi and then use that as a justification to punch them. As Isaac Asimov said, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
The right reaction to words is more words.
But it’s always OK to reveal who Nazis are. It’s a lot harder to be hateful if we know who you are.
Would you say it to their face?
I’ve published a lot of withering criticism. Some people were very upset with what I said about them. Some have denigrated me publicly; others have called me and berated me.
I stand behind everything I’ve written. I always imagine saying it directly to the person whom I’ve criticized. I critique words and actions, not people or groups. I think this is a worthwhile activity.
Next time you write something nasty, ask yourself if you would say it directly to the person you’re writing about. If not, think twice. That’s how we remain a civil society and not a haven for trolls.