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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    Here at the Daily Dot, we swap GIF images with each other every morning. Now we’re looping you in. In the Morning GIF, we feature a popular—or just plain cool—GIF we found on Reddit, Canvas, or elsewhere on the Internet.

    A thousand pieces of plastic. A ruined piece of urban infrastructure. In ordinary hands, this would be a good excuse to rent a dump truck. In Tom Fruin’s case, it’s an excuse for art.

    Watertower, in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood, embodies the literally scrappy spirit of the formerly blue-collar suburb, recreating itself out of its own ruins in a constant process of reinvention as art form. On his site, Fruin explains, “The locally-sourced plexi came from all over New York City—from the floors of Chinatown sign shops, to the closed DUMBO studio of artist Dennis Oppenheim, to Astoria’s demolition salvage warehouse Build It Green!NYC.”

    The GIF artist at Un GIF Dans ta Geuele has added another layer to the piece, imbuing it with sequentially hued cloaks, moving from greens to blues to vivid purples. After all, why should you have to wait for the darkness to see the light? The GIF has 169 notes, and hopefully none are from confused colorblind Tumblr fans.

    Photo via Un GIF Dans ta Geuele/Tumblr

     


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    Doctors diagnosed area cat Henry with agoraphobia last winter, but thanks to regular treatment, he’s been coping well. But with Halloween just around the corner, he’s not looking forward to receiving visits from trick-or-treaters.

    “Opening the front door to strangers — especially ones wearing scary costumes — really freaks him out,” says Chad Budkiss, a friend of the cat. “The doorbell or a knock from outside is enough to put him on edge.”

    Photo via dobbi.


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    Most people don’t think twice about when they’ll get to use the bathroom next. But “Xander,” a 16-year-old transgender student in Canada, likens his fear of using the restroom in a public place to that of an earthquake.

    “One word has never caused so much dread in such a short amount of time before [as restroom],” he wrote on Tumblr. “Hell, in school I’m currently not allowed in either gender bathroom. Since we’re on a highway I have to literally walk near a high traffic density to the nearby gas station or Harvey’s if I need to use the bathroom. I’ve taken to just not going to the bathroom at school.”

    Xander is one of many teens participating in Tumblr’s 30 Day Trans Challenge, a month-long confessional of sorts where users share something different about themselves each day. Under the veil of Tumblr anonymity, Xander’s pseudonym allows him to feel comfortable sharing the most intimate stories of his life as a female-to-male transsexual.

    Prompts vary from participants’ everyday experiences to their thoughts on the way laws and religions affect transgender people. Sharing his personal accounts and reading other participants’’ answers to the prompt has helped Xander make some of his first transgender friends.

    “Honestly, not to sound depressed or pathetic, I don't think I'd be here without it,” Xander, who requested not to use his real name, told the Daily Dot via Skype. “[Tumblr] helped me connect with other people like me and I would lack a serious support system without it.”

    The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that there are millions of people in the world just like Xander—people who identify with a gender other than the one they were physically born with.

    Tumblr users have been participating in similar challenges since early 2010. This particular one seems to be striking a chord in the community—giving Tumblr’s transgender community a place to speak frankly about personal matters that rarely get discussed elsewhere. (Tumblr Storyboard Editor-in-Chief Chris Mohney declined to comment on this trend.)

    “It's hard to pass as a guy when you were born a girl,” Xander told the Daily Dot.

    “That's half the reason I like Tumblr. You say you’re a guy and—ding—they believe you. There's no reason to question. There's also no reason to hide."

    That’s not to say Xander doesn’t take precautions. He writes his Tumblr blog, Transgender Troubles, using one of the six pseudonyms he uses online.

    Flea, another pseudonymous user taking the challenge at his Tumblr, Mexican Jumping Flea, said he thinks the challenge is becoming popular right now due to a domino effect from transgender bloggers. Both Xander and Flea have used the tag to connect with other trans people. Xander has met “two or three;” Flea has met a handful. It’s still more trans people than either of them knew before.

    And Flea told the Daily Dot that Tumblr is a better platform for the 30 Day Trans Challenge than any other social network because he feels safest there.

    “Before I came to Tumblr I felt empty and incomplete,” he wrote. “When I found out about other trans people (through Tumblr) I finally felt whole. I felt like there were people I could talk to, people I could relate to. Tumblr is sort of my safe space.”

    Photo via Indelibility/Wordpress


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    In YouTube Right Now, the Daily Dot looks at videos that catch our eyes, push our buttons, and move our dials—and that you’ve just got to watch. Right now!

    The inspiring story of injured veteran Taylor Morris is a sure-fire way to put whatever problems you might have into perspective.

    Morris, who served as a Navy Explosives Ordinance Disposal technician in Afghanistan, lost both of his legs, his left arm from the bicep down, and his right hand after coming across an undetected improvised explosive device (IED) on May 3, 2012. Since then, the 24-year-old has been rehabilitating at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

    A new video— entitled “Unstoppable: A Quad Amputee Story”— chronicles Morris’s tough but inspiring journey from hospital bed to partaking in the 2012 edition of the Tunnel to Towers charity run in New York City. Throughout the clip, Morris is accompanied by his devoted girlfriend, Danielle.

    This isn’t the first time the veteran’s story has caught the Internet’s attention. About a month ago, BuzzFeed user TxBlackLabel submitted a post entitled “A Love Story in 22 Pictures” that introduced the heartwarming couple.

    Photo via TaylorMorrisRecovery/YouTube


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    If you’re part of the growing legion of Internet users hooked on Reddit—more than 20 million visitors a month, at last count—you might be interested in a new website that helps visualize your Reddit addiction over time.

    How often do you post? Which subreddits do you comment in most often? And, most importantly for some Redditors, where do most of your karma points come from?

    These and other questions can now be answered by redditgraphs.com. The website, created by Adam Pearce—known on Reddit as 1wheel—sorts through your entire comment history and visualizes your stats on an array of graphs.

    The graphs that are available for you to use include histograms, pie charts, scatter plots, and stacked charts. Holding your cursor over the results brings up additional information, such as your first time posting in the subreddit and your average karma score. Holding your cursor anywhere outside the graph displays your statistics site-wide.

    And, because Reddit comments are public, you can use Redditgraphs to view that same information for any user on the site.

    To test redditgraphs.com out, we at The Daily Dot looked up the data of celebrity Redditor extraordinaire Wil Wheaton. According to the results of the analysis:

    • The majority of Wheaton’s 983 comments lie in r/homebrewing, where he has shared his thoughts 126 times. The subreddits r/pics and r/startrek are close behind.
    • The average length of a Wil Wheaton comment is 152 characters.
    • Wheaton’s total comment karma score is 40,358, with an average of 41 points per comment.

    According to the site, on the day he successfully broke reddit, President Obama posted a mere ten comments, all of them of course in the r/iama subreddit. He managed to achieve 19,128 karma points from his half-hour session and dedicated an average of 583.8 characters to each of his ten comments.

    Photo via Jeff Keacher/Flickr 


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    Can playing computer games improve cancer treatments?

    The British charity Cancer Research UK has paired up with citizen-science portal Zooniverse for a new crowdsourced initiative that hopes to favorable answer that question. Cell Slider is an image-matching computer game with the potential to lead to personalized cancer treatments.

    Developer and Professor Paul Pharoah of Cambridge University said:

    “There is information that can transform cancer treatments buried in our data – we just need the manpower to unlock them. We've turned our data into something that can be accessed by anyone – you don't have to be a scientist to do this research. If we can get millions of people on Cell Slider, we hope to condense years of research into months.”

    The idea is for game players to look at images of cancerous cells to find and identify certain molecules or cell structures which indicate how well a patient is likely to respond to one form of treatment over another.

    The setup is similar to children’s image-matching games: look at an image and compare it to pictures of clearly labeled and identified cell shapes, in search of any matches. The game’s tutorial says, “Classifying samples is as easy as matching pairs of images and takes just a few clicks. Before we get started, we will guide you through the kinds of cell images you will see.”

    So far it looks like the project has taken off. When we checked the Cell Slider site barely 24 hours after its release, the top of its home page already said, “Your Contribution Matters. 23733 images already analysed.” A few minutes later, that number was up to 24,967, and it’s still rising.

    This isn’t the first crowdsourced science initiative.

    One of the earliest and best-known is SETI@home, where volunteers aid in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, hence the acronym, by letting their computers download and interpret raw radio-telescope data in search of artificially created radio signals. Other citizen science initiatives introduced in just the past year include WhaleFM, which seeks to unlock the meaning of whalesong, and UCLA’s malaria-fighting BioGame, where ordinary people playing computer games diagnose malaria-infected blood cells with an accuracy rate within 1.25 percent of trained professionals.

    Photo via Cell Slider


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    In the last several years, there have been indications that blacks and Latinos in the United States have taken significant steps in crossing the digital divide. Expectations at the Daily Dot were these gains would show they had assumed a greater profile proportionally online than their population in the country would indicate. If A, then B. But the Internet, to say nothing of race, proved to be more complex than that.

    In their December 2010 study, “Politics Goes Mobile,” the percentage of Latinos who used their mobile phones for political activities tied whites and Asians at 25 percent, and blacks exceeded that number, with 36 percent.

    A study from earlier this year, “Health, Technology, and Communities of Color,” looked into mobile as an increasing source of information on health. “This trend is especially pronounced among adults ages 18-29, adults who identify as black, and adults who identify as Latino,” the report said.

    In an even more recent study, “Cell Internet Use 2012,” Pew reported, “Half (51 percent) of African-American cell internet users do most of their online browsing on their phone, double the proportion for whites (24 percent). Two in five Latino cell internet users (42 percent) also fall into the ‘cell-mostly’ category.”

    The danger of statistics is that they can lead you far afield. Your imaginative leap can bring you to a point of revelation, but it can also lead you to a dead end. Academics are notorious for their unwillingness to speculate about the future. But we may have been too eager to do so. 

    “I don’t know of that much evidence that things have changed,” Dr. Eszter Hargittai of Northwestern University told the Daily Dot in a phone conversation. “The change in mobile use is not that recent.”

    John Horrigan, vice president of Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies and associate director of research at Pew, agreed with Hargittai. The trend, he said, was identified at least three years ago.

    In fact, what I was seeing is my first personal recognition of a change in one specific type of Internet use, mobile, among blacks and Latinos.

    The reality of race and the Internet is, of course, going to be more complicated than any one article, or even any dedicated researcher, will ever be able to thoroughly detail. For one thing, it is a supremely layered dynamic. It has to ask so many questions, including what part of the Internet are we talking about at any given time? Which community or communities are we concerned with? What do we mean in any specific context by race?

    Here are a few things the scholars have figured out so far.

    • 68 percent of whites have home broadband, but only 50 percent of Latinos and 46 percent of blacks do, according to an August study by Horrigan.
    • Blacks and Latinos owned more smartphones than whites in 2011, but since then, ownership has evened out, according to a Pew study.
    • 83 percent of smartphone owners also have broadband (meaning, 17 percent do not).
    • Half (51 percent) of African-American mobile Internet users do most of their online browsing on their phone, double the proportion for whites (24 percent). Two in five Latino mobile internet users (42 percent) also fall into the “cell-mostly” category, according to Pew.

    “I’ve argued that skills matter to what people do online,” Hargittai said. “Socio-economics makes more of a difference than race.”

    “The real question for me (regarding Internet participation) is not numerical presence per se but stigmatized or privileged status,” Dr. William Darity, Jr., chair of Duke University’s Department of African and African-American Studies, told the Daily Dot.

    All of the preceding discussion is traveling toward this point: We originally conceived of this article as one which would outline the gains made by blacks and Latinos and would show that that as Web users that they had grown in higher proportion than their population in the country as a whole would indicate. This turned out not to be true—or at least not demonstrably true.

    However, we think it’s still a powerful issue, and one that is examined in publications like ours very seldom. So instead of interviewing any more “experts” on race and tech, we want to interview you this topic.

    Specifically, we would like to find out how race affects your experience online; how your race and other concerns of birth and inherited culture influence which online communities you belong to; what limitations, and which freedoms, you’ve found online.

    Help write the story by taking part in the following survey. Leave a comment below, or email me.

    • What is your racial heritage?
    • How often have you encountered racism online?
    • How racist would you consider the communities you are a part of online?
    • Have you left a community due to racist speech?
    • Do you work in tech or at a company that is primarily online?
    • Has racism ever interfered with your ability to do your job?
    • How do your online communities compare to your physical communities?
    • What type of racism have you encountered online?

    Photo from Wikimedia


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    Here at the Daily Dot, we swap GIF images with each other every morning. Now we’re looping you in. In the Morning GIF, we feature a popular—or just plain cool—GIF we found on Reddit, Canvas, or elsewhere on the Internet.

    Vayu, capricious and moody Hindu god of winds, will not be forgotten. Particularly not by residents of the east coast of the US over the next few days. They are preparing for “Frankenstorm,” a more malevolent version of the infamous blow-down which inspired Sebastian Junger’s best-seller The Perfect Storm.

    For now, all civilians can do is buy bottled water, batten down, and point to this GIF of Frankenstorm component Hurricane Sandy as shot from space. And, possibly, break for the Midwest as fast as their Greyhounds can carry them. Take a close look, and have your partner start the car as you realize that this is what your immediate future looks like. Murky is the least of it.

    Photo via Gizmodo


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    “You know you deserve to date someone who will pamper you, empower you, and help you mentally, emotionally and financially.”

    Is this the latest installment of Fifty Shades of Grey? Nope, but it could be even better for the young, attractive student looking to get ahead—at least, that’s what the sugar daddy “arrangement” website Seeking Arrangement wants you to think. The escort service deliberately pairs up “sugar babies” and wealthy patrons for the kind of no-strings-attached relationship you would expect from a romance novel—except it’s in real life.

    “I had trouble finding dates when I was at MIT primarily because of the high male to female ratio, as well as my lack of social skills,” Seeking Arrangement’s founder Brandon Wade told MIT’s The Tech last year. “I believe the social problems I faced while I was at MIT eventually led me to consider starting the SeekingArrangement.com business.”

    The website claims to have 1.7 million registered users; that’s nearly double the amount from last year. Roughly 200,000 of those users are “Sugar Daddies”—wealthy male benefactors seeking casual companionship from the pretty young women who outnumber them almost 10 to 1.

    The site exploits this Hugh Hefneresque male fantasy to the fullest. “If you're a Generous Guy, you can use this website to find yourself a Sugar Baby who is young, hot, and sexy!" reads a testimonial by Playboy bunny Tiffany Granath on one of its pages.

    "I love beautiful young ladies, and I am not ready to commit,” reads another by a user known only as Sugar Daddy. “This website is the perfect dating website for me."

    Seeking Arrangement isn’t afraid to push hot buttons, such as when it endorsed Mitt Romney’s sugar daddy values after he gave all the money in his wallet to a 55-year-old woman. It also claims to have invented the phrase "Modern Sugar Daddy" and to have “coined the term ‘Mutually Beneficial Relationships.’”

    Verbiage aside, there’s nothing modern about the way the site courts the image of a submissive, ultimately disposable female sex partner. “Don’t fall in love with your sugar daddy,” urges the site’s blog—a smart suggestion, since over 40 percent of the site’s sugar daddies are married already.

    Since the site doesn’t require background checks for its members, it encourages women to have them done independently before any potential rendezvous. “Demand respect from the moment you first lay eyes on each other, and dress accordingly,” reads one post that encourages the sugar babies to take their safety into their own hands.

    “If you do become a victim, chances are, Liam Neeson is not going to be there to save you.”

    The site fails to suggest parallel ways that sugar daddies might increase their dates’ comfort and safety. It does, however, encourage them to be honest when critiquing their date’s appearance and performance: “For example, ‘I like that outfit, but I prefer your black dress because it compliments your legs better.’” Another blog post offers workout tips for the sugar babies:

    “Who says the Sugar Baby lifestyle is easy? It takes hard work to look as good you do!” Still another asks the sugar babies, “What are you doing to fit in that hot dress that’s bound to make any Sugar Daddy itch to whisk you away[?]”

    Women (and gay men) who pass muster for their daddies—sugar mommas only occupy 1 percent of the site’s membership—can expect to get paid handsomely for their efforts, provided they live in one of the site’s reported top 10 cities for sugar baby allowances and gifts. The yearly rate for a Los Angeles sugar baby is almost $70,000. With profits like that, it’s small wonder that a whole culture of sugar daddies has emerged, with sites like Sugar Daddie and Sugar World following in the footsteps of Seeking Arrangement—and more and more women signing up.

    The MIT’s The Tech railed against the site’s use of financial support as its primary draw for sugar babies: “If college girls were no longer desperately in need of money, I would be more than willing to bet that SeekingArrangement.com would cease to be highly profitable—it would certainly lose a large and important demographic.”

    But that might not be such a smart bet. In this year’s runaway bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey, the heroine—a young, insecure college student—falls under the sway of a ludicrously rich businessman who seems to want nothing more than to take care of her, fulfilling her every whim and desire. Eventually, against her wishes, he even buys the company she works for so he can take care of that, too. With female fantasies often revolving around the idea of being pampered and cared for, sugar daddy websites may seem too good to be true.

    “Treat your sugar baby right and she will be your arm candy,” insists the homepage at Sugar World. A life as “arm candy” is hardly the empowering experience these sites would have you believe—especially compared to the depiction of sugar daddies as men for whom “stress and pressure can build up when they are trying to run a company, manage others, or simply don't have enough personal time to relax.” But after all, a 2009 Time article, called “What Women Want,” reported that while women have gained financial independence, two thirds of them believe that “men resent powerful women.”

    Fifty Shades and similar erotic fantasies for women often feature a woman being pursued by a rich man who eventually wins her submission, either in the bedroom or symbolically through marriage. And although the sugar daddy sites purport to be for no-strings-attached relationships, the testimonials are all about pitching the ‘happily ever after’ fantasy to prospective sugar babies.

    “I have really found my soulmate on here,” reads one testimonial from “Sonia” at Sugardaddie.com, the first of a slew of testimonials from women declaring that they’ve found their “forever lover,” the “man of my dreams,” their “Mr. Right.”

    “To the men out there on the site,” reads a testimonial from one sugar daddy, “My Sugar Baby is stunning... My lady is a 6 foot super-model."

    But even the fantasy of submissive women is just that—a fantasy. Journalist Rachel Rabbit White, attending a ball hosted by Seeking Arrangement, notes that with the high female-to-male ratio, the system casts women against each other in competition for the richest men, turning them manipulative as a result. “While the girls play submissive in the club, here in the greenish light of the bathroom, it is clear that it is the guys who are betas.”

    Time concluded that modern gender relationships are “a cooperative, with bylaws under constant negotiation and expectations that profits be equally shared.”

    One might say that at sugar daddy websites, the profits are handily divided into money and sex—the oldest and perhaps still the simplest gender dynamic of all.

    Photo via catlovers/Flickr


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    Pinterest statistics tracker Repinly keeps tabs on which pins prove to be the most repinnable. Each week, we comb its popular pins from the past seven days to find the quotes, photos, and DIY projects that are hot on Pinterest right now.

    A roof over one’s head is a basic human need. But who doesn’t fantasize about living in an enormous abode lousy with luxuries?

    It’s a reality for very few, but pinners don’t mind pining for it—to the point that dream house pinboards are one of Pinterest’s most lasting stereotypes.

    Ridiculously large and sumptuously decorated homes were all over the site’s most popular pins this week. Take a house tour of pinners’ wildest interior decorating fantasies:

    1) A living room as large as a school gymnasium (original pin)

    2) A bathroom as big as an NYC apartment (original pin)

    3) A luxe designer bedroom (original pin)

    4) A kitchen with vaulted ceilings (original pin)

    5) A laundry room with a design scheme (original pin)

    6) An enormous playground for the kids (original pin)

    7) And the least necessary luxury of all—a two-story closet (original pin)

    All photos via Pinterest

     


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    In Buzzed, we take a look at four things that trended over the weekend while you were away from your keyboard getting buzzed.

    On Twitter
    Known Twitter-ruiner Lindsay Lohan has a piece of advice to those bracing for Hurricane Sandy: CHILL OUT. Lindsay tweeted Sunday night that she is totally confused about why the hell everyone is so scared by the powerful storm. Let’s stay positive!

    On Tumblr
    A sign of the times: Hurricane Sandy is now blogging on Tumblr, and it’s already miles ahead of those terrible Twitter parody accounts. A self-described “dreamer,” the 1,000 mile-wide storm is blogging gratuitous pictures of itself (below), commentating on the lack of activities for her in New York, and, in a genius move, using the lyrics of Vanessa Carlton to describe her journey.

    On Instagram
    The National Weather Services is updating its own hurricane track, but we prefer Andy Cohen’s map. On his late-night talk show Watch What Happens Live, Cohen tracked the location of the storm using different identities of Sandra. The hurricane was last seen measuring in as Sandy Bernhard.

    On YouTube
    We could link you to John Travolta singing that Sandy song from Grease, but this song is so much more enjoyable. Let’s all ride out the storm together by listening to this piano-heavy, stripped-down cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “This Kiss” from Chris Commisso. We’re calm already.

    Photo via jorcohen/Instagram


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    There are more than 5,000 people on social news site Reddit just horsing around.

    Subscribers to the surprisingly popular subreddit r/HorseMask send in pictures of themselves, friends, or complete strangers engaging in everyday activities... while wearing horse masks.

    There’s a photo for every topical occasion: “Gangnam Style,” the 1 percent, and hurricane survival.

    That nightmare-inducing headgear is the gift that will keep on giving long after Halloween and also proves that the marriage of frightening animal heads and everyday reality can indeed result in comedic perfection.

    Photo via gwokmoore

    “I find it funny and tell people just to wear the mask in human roles,” moderator Horse_Glue_Knower explained to the Daily Dot.

    “It's hilarious to see photos with horse mask-wearers doing everything things like buying groceries, ordering pizza and going for a run. When the other mods and I started, we didn't expect it take off like it did, but it's been fun.”

    Why horses?

    “Horses in real life are equally creepy as the mask,” Horse_Glue_Knower said. “The long horse face and bulging eyes are just super strange.”

    Day after day, hilarious photos trickle in of horse/human hybrids going about their daily activities. Subscriber loledoutloud shared a picture of himself cutting grass, marking a rare occasion in which the horse gets to be the rider. And how could the wedding of omgmanatees’ sister be any more memorable?

    Even the mods, who see every submission that comes through, have their favorites.

    “Recently, this one blew my mind as hilarious,” Horse_Glue_Knower revealed.

    “The submission for the photo scavenger hunt we had when the sub reached 5,000 subscribers was pretty epic, fellow moderator devilsfoodadvocate added. The winning entry is seen below.

    Photo via Peachy313

    If you feel that the photographs documenting your life are missing something, then “get thyself thine own horse mask” and join your fellow studs and mares over at r/horsemask.

    Photo via David Carter/Flickr


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    Warning: This story contains links to content that is not appropriate for work.

    Reddit has a new master purveyor of porn.

    In the wake of Gawker’s exposé on notorious troll violentacrez (VA)—a power user and top moderator behind some of the social news site’s scandalous sections—Scopolamina has emerged as the most prominent submitter of sexual images on Reddit.

    Over the last five months, the anonymous user has manually submitted 30,000 postsmost, though not all, pornographic in natureto much success. His links and comments have garnered 1.4 million karma points, Reddit’s standard unit of measurement for popular content, making him the second most-popular user on a site that accumulates more than 30 million unique visitors a month. In fact, the only individual who has more karma is MaxwellHill, who accrued 1.6 million karma points in a span of six years.

    In that time, he has also become the moderator of 213 different subreddits, including roughly 15 percent of the site’s top 1000 “not safe for work” (NSFW) subcategories, scintillating forums like r/nsfw_gifs that offer exactly what you expect and, according to one description, “would probably get you fired” if viewed from your corporate cubicle.

    While Scopolamina refused to disclose any personal information, through the course of various electronic exchangesReddit private messages and Gchat conversationsthe Daily Dot talked to the newly minted porn king about his role on the site, his relationship with violentacrez, and the precarious nature of moderating a  significant amount of NSFW content.

    Daily Dot: Why porn?

    Why not? Everyone loves porn. Man, I’m a red-blooded male with a high sex drive. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t draw wood from something that I’ve posted. I have such a variety available to me that there’s always something. I also feel like I'm doing a huge service to Reddit with my NSFW contributions because I'm providing more incentive for redditors to spend more time on the site rather than going to external sites for their extracurricular activities.

    My major concern with my own posting is that I don’t allow it to interfere with my relationship and my real life. If I ever feel like I’m spending too much time on Reddit, I will put it down and make sure to spend more time with my girlfriend because that’s what’s important to me. Whenever I’m feeling a bit bored with porn I contribute to several safe for work (SFW) subreddits. I’m a Colonel at r/MilitaryPorn now and lately I’ve been enjoying r/MorbidReality, r/SpecArt and r/Eyecandy a lot.

    DD: What, if any, relationship do you have with the Reddit administrators?

    I have no relationship with the current admins. As many people have mentioned all over Reddit, the Admins are notoriously hard to get responses from although the new guy /u/Reostra has been very responsive to the couple messages I’ve sent him regarding the spam problem in the NSFW community. The most contact I have with them is through r/RedditRequest and r/ReportTheSpammers. I will say that there are a small number of admins who are attempting to perform an almost entirely thankless job so that has to be taken into consideration.

    DD: In an Oct. 24 Jezebel article, “Samantha”—the redditor behind the Predditors Tumblr that exposed r/Creepshots—said that she had “found images of minors in almost every NSFW sub there is.” What’s your response to that allegation, given that you moderate a large portion of them?

    I consider this statement to be insulting. There are no images like that on any of my subreddits. These types of allegations are tacit accusations of illegal activity being either performed or supported by myself and a group of other NSFW moderators who are extremely dedicated to eliminating this type of content from the site and reporting any bad actors.

    I have an excellent track record of acting immediately on reported content, both in terms of dealing with illegal material being posted—which is quite rare—and with helping other redditors whose images have been shared without permission. With the latter, I assist them in getting those images taken down from the original host, which can be difficult for some people to handle without some help. 

    If Jezebel or “Samantha” would contact me, they’d find me not only extremely sympathetic to their cause, but also more than willing to help them with whatever they’re trying to accomplish. That said, given that they’re approaching the situation from a standpoint that everyone involved with the NSFW subreddits is the scum of the earth, it makes it much harder for me to reach out.

    DD: Reddit is often characterized as being racist and/or sexist. Do you agree with these assessments?

    It's difficult to make definitive statements about "How Reddit thinks" because it's simply too large of a population to make such wide-sweeping assumptions about how they think. That being said, I have encountered a lot of racist remarks when I post "women of color" content outside of subreddits devoted to them. I think that there are a lot of young, stupid males on the site who are still at an age where racist and/or sexist slurs are still considered funny. To borrow two popular Internet terms, they just need to GTFU (“grow the fuck up”) and STFU (“shut the fuck up”).

    Regarding any accusations that my subreddits marginalize women, I would again say that idea is completely false. There are many women on Reddit who, for a variety of reasons, want to share images of themselves and they should be able to do so without fear of being harassed. Many of these women choose to participate on my subreddits, such as r/Curvy and r/TinyTits, because they provide a safe and welcoming atmosphere for those who tend not to get much appreciation or respect in places like r/GoneWild.That’s the atmosphere I’ve created in my communities.

    DD: A lot of the subreddits you currently moderate were at one point created and/or managed by VA. What type of relationship did you have with him?

    My relationship with him was always completely “professional”. He and PIMA, another user recently banned from Reddit, were two of the first community managers to approve me as a submitter and to invite me to start moderating. I consider them both friends, although we have no personal contact and I haven’t had any communication with VA since before the whole fiasco. It’s a strange reality that they are both gone now.

    DD: You consider them friends despite the fact that your interactions with them were strictly through Reddit. Why is that?

    VA created almost all of the most popular NSFW subreddits, had a huge part in helping the others grow, and was a huge influence in the NSFW community and Reddit as a whole. I never would have been able to be so successful so quickly without the years of work that he invested before I started.

    The two were also very friendly and generous with me. It's difficult to be a top redditor sometimes. I've gotten more than one message from angry redditors cursing at me or even telling me to kill myself simply for being a prolific contributor to the site. During those times, PIMA, VA, and YoureGonnaLoveMe (YGLM) were extremely helpful because they had similar experiences and were able to guide me through them. To be fair, I've gotten more messages thanking me for my contributions than the negative ones. But those mean messages do have an effect on you, and it was very helpful to have people who understood what I was going through. Both PIMA and VA are gone now and as weird as it sounds, the loss is palpable.

    DD: It sounds like there’s not a lot of upside to doing what you do. Why still do it?

    When I started, Reddit was just a fun game and I wanted to get a lot of points. Now that I'm number 2 on the leaderboard and I moderate so many subreddits, my interests have shifted to creating active and engaging communities. In short, moderators on Reddit treat their subreddits as little kingdoms. I simply want my kingdoms to have the most citizens, i.e. subscribers. These citizens are the ones who make communities worthwhile. Mods only give subtle direction and lead by example when necessary.

    DD: Speaking of VA, what are your own views on what happened to him, and do you feel more vulnerable and susceptible to doxing—the releasing of private, personal information online—because of the subreddits you mod?

    First of all, VA never posted anything illegal; he simply excelled in posting the most distasteful content on Reddit. If anyone had concrete evidence that illegal activity had taken place, that information should have been taken directly to law enforcement to be handled properly. That is not what happened. Adrian Chen and Gawker ruined a man’s life for simply posting material that others found distasteful.

    Secondly, although I do not know the exact specifics of how Gawker got VA’s info, I feel confident in saying that he was hung with rope that he provided to his enemies. VA provided his personal information to various individuals around Reddit and attended meetups. He trusted that these people would not share that information with people who disagreed with him.

    I do believe that those responsible for the outing of VA will feel that they have license to continue this type of behavior. Once you’ve destroyed one of the most influential Redditors around, what more do you have to fear? As a result, I deleted two long-standing accounts because they contained personal information that I no longer felt comfortable sharing. It also means that I cannot participate in my city’s subreddit, in Reddit Secret Santa, or any of the other exchanges, or especially attend any Reddit meetups in my city.

    In short, I cannot participate in any of the things that I think made Reddit the best website in the world.

    Photo via Reddit’s age verification page


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    The rains have washed down and the winds have mostly subsided, and after 24 hours of #hurricanesandy chaos, the Internet has found itself one clear winner: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his party-sized penchant for goodwill.

    The rising Republican sprung into action Monday directly from his Twitter feed, writing that the federal government had issued an emergency declaration for the entirety of New Jersey.

    "Federal aid will be made available to state to supplement our response efforts," he wrote.

    Christie then offered emergency phone lines and brought down statewide speed limits before telling the "kids at home" that "there is no reason to be scared.

    "The adults are taking care of business," Christie offered, much to the delight of all the Garden State children who follow their governor on Twitter.

    From there, Christie shifted to hyper-speed tweets, posting messages at a once-a-minute clip.

    He lambasted New Jersey natives who didn't heed his call to evacuatepromoted TV spots, and bragged about having President Obama on speed dial.

    At one point, the governor even declared himself more powerful than Halloween itself.

    In 24 hours, Christie posted 62 tweets and retweeted 15 other messages, which has to be a record for a government official not named Dan Gordon. Christie's sentiment throughout has been reminiscent of a tweet sent this morning: "I don't give a damn about Election Day after what has happened here. I am worried about the people of New Jersey."

    Such roguery was enough to inspire a hearty round of online patronizing, which would have been sufficient had it began and ended with the following GIF from mlkshk user darth, but it extended well into the netherworlds of online gossip.

    Photo via CorvetteBeth/Twitter


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    Just because Hurricane Sandy effectively shut down New York City, that hasn’t stopped its citizens from trying to find someone to be shut in with.

    In fact, several New Yorkers are so bored with Netflix and whatever other indoor activities they had lined up to help them pass the time during the storm that they’ve taken to classified listings website Craigslist to find someone to rock like a hurricane.

    News of the lustful locals first hit Reddit, when user jaundicedave posted a screenshot of New York-specific “casual encounter” section.

    Unsurprisingly, an overwhelming majority of the listings were written by men, both gay and straight.

    Below is just a sampling of some of the most amusing ads.

    “Obviously I can't go to work and mostly everything is closed today,” one bored Williamsburg resident wrote.  “Anyone want to hookup today for some sensual pleasure. All I ask that you host. I will take care of the rest.”

    “I'll be your hurricane boyfriend til [sic] the storm is over! I have miles and miles of duct tape! But we could just watch netflix and cuddle, too!” typed 39-year-old Jim.

    For some, this was a chance to channel their inner Kim Kardashian.

    “I want to make a sex tape,” wrote an unidentified man. “You come over in a short dress and heels, wrap your thighs around my head, and journey to euphoria.”  

    If you’re going to take this Lothario up on his offer, however, you better be clean and be able to go the distance.

    “Have decent stamina, cause [I] like to go throughout the day, night[,] and repeat.”

    It’s not just single men, either. A “cute couple” who’s been together for more than six years is taking what’s been one of the bigger storms to hit the East Coast as an opportunity “to try something new.”

    New Yorkers, even if you’re not looking to hookup with some random stranger, your local Craigslist personal listings is yet another great way to pass the time until life goes back to normal.

    Photo via Anne Cloudman/Flickr


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    Taking on Donald Trump is no easy feat, but Jason Roeder is attempting to do it with a single hashtag.

    Roeder is the creator of #ThanksDonald, the hashtag that sparked a wave of trolling against Trump. His aim is simple: persuade the billionaire to donate $5 million to a charity for clean-up efforts resulting from Hurricane Sandy.

    It’s a counteroffer to Trump’s provocative “bet” with President Obama to release his college transcripts. If the President complies, Trump said he will donate a large sum to charity.

    “Excited that @realDonaldTrump has decided to donate $5 million to Sandy clean-up efforts, no-strings. I think everyone should thank him,” tweeted Roeder early Tuesday morning, with his tongue firmly planted-in-cheek. Another eight tweets followed from him carrying the same message of mocking Trump’s lack of selflessness and thirst for public attention.

    Other Twitter users with a large amount of follower caught on and started spreading the hashtag.  Roeder told the Daily Dot via email that he’s a “bit surprised” on how far the joke reached since he doesn’t have a large Twitter following.

    “On the other hand, I think a lot of people have been looking for some outlet for their feelings about this man that goes beyond insults,” wrote Roeder, a Brooklyn-based writer for Thing X. “And maybe this is it: totally unearned praise”

    Trump has not directly responded to the hashtag, which has racked up 1,100 mentions according to Topsy, a social measuring service. However, Trump’s ignorance doesn’t surprise Roeder.

    “I think Donald Trump is shameless and beyond persuasion, and I'll be mighty surprised if he responded at all to this,” Roeder said.

    “In a perfect world, he'd be forced to clarify that, no, he did not in fact contribute anything to relief efforts and was waiting on the President of the United States to release his college transcript before he'd consider doing so.”

    Roeder’s hashtag might be joking but his criticizing of Trump isn’t. He said he’s “doubtful” that Trump will quit with the publicity stunt and just donate money to disaster relief.

    “I’d rather he skip the middleman and just cut a $5 million check to the Red Cross,” said Roeder, adding that he encourages people to donate even if Trump won’t.

    “Even a $5 donation makes you a hundred thousand times the human being Donald Trump is.”

    Image via jasonroeder/Twitter


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    Are you a competent professional who doesn’t need to be told how to do your job? Are you also a woman?

    If so, you’ve probably experienced the phenomenon known as mansplaining, in which a member of the opposite sex attempts to inform you—often poorly—about something you already know how to do. For example, consider the tile manufacturer who tries to outsmart a female materials engineer at her own game or a presenter who blows off a female researcher, not realizing that she’s responsible for the majority of the research in his field.

    Academic Men Explain Things to Me was designed to highlight the practice in academic circles, but it has quickly progressed to mansplainers in all walks of life. The blogger accepts and posts personal experiences submitted by women from all over the world.

    The blog is the work of an anonymous associate professor of humanities who was was tired of watching mansplainers run rampant in her realm of academia.

    Less than three weeks old, it has more than 300 submissions from women who find themselves no better informed than before male laypersons attempted to school them. Though the blogger only shared the site with friends at first, she’s accumulated more than 1,500 followers on Tumblr and over 300,000 page views.

    The Daily Dot asked the anonymous blogger to explain her blog—no mansplaining necessary.

    DD: How did you get the idea for your blog?

    I got the idea at an academic conference where mansplaining was very much in evidence. In talking to other female scholars at lunch it became clear we had all similar experiences in the past, and it occurred to me that an anonymous online forum would be the perfect place to gather more of these.

    I thought mansplaining among academics might be of interest even to non-academic readers because, although it's a particular environment, it's also an interesting test case for the idea of mansplaining. Women in academia are there because they are extremely knowledgeable about something. If men who encounter these women often assume these women don't know their own fields, that is interesting evidence of the prevalence of mansplaining.

    In fact, it's proven to the be the case that we have gotten a lot of submissions from women who are not academics—including women who work in tech support, a member of a teacher's union, someone who works in radio, and so on. People have reported mansplaining from customers, salespeople, employees, fathers and brothers.

    DD: You've had almost 250 submissions in just one week. How did you get so much awareness so quickly?

    On a Saturday, I started the tumblr I sent it to a few close friends who I knew would have stories to tell, and I asked them to share it with friends of theirs. When I logged on to FB the next morning, I found it popping up in my feed via friends who had heard about it already, and had no idea whatsoever I was the one who had started it! That told me that it was serving a need.

    But what really got the blog out beyond social networks was an online interview I did a few days later with the web publication Inside Higher Ed. I got about 30 submissions in the hour after the story posted! Inside Higher Ed must have found out about the tumblr through its circulation on FB. It also got posted it to a few academic listservs, which are usually members-only, so it was lucky for me that people thought to do this on their own, as I wouldn't have been able to.

    I think the blog circulated so quickly because academics are often tightly networked electronically with people in their fields, so something that enters the network will get fast penetration if it's of interest.

    DD: What sort of feedback have you gotten from readers?

    Feedback has been very positive. I've heard from many women who are heartened to see that they are not alone, and even from men who have vowed to avoid mansplaining in the future! There have been a handful of nasty trolls, but nowhere near as many as I anticipated. Someone even started a spin-off blog on mansplaining in regard to sport, which seems to be doing well!

    I thought running the tumblr might be a bit grim, but in fact I've been encouraged by all the positive feedback. And while stories are sometimes enraging, the women telling them are smart and funny and positive. I think my favorite story might be from an anthropologist who got mansplained after facing off with polar bears while doing fieldwork in Quebec!

    Photo via methodshop.com/Flickr

     


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    If there’s one thing we all know about spam emails, it’s this: Spam robots want to talk about your wiener. They want to sell pills for your wiener, or they want to touch your wiener and you should really click through to their profile; they’re just so lonely and a good wiener touch is all they want.

    For over a decade, spam emails have focused on sex and hookups and porn and V 1 A G R A, all in an attempt to speak to your most basic carnal desires. That’s all I thought they ever did.

    At least I thought that up until yesterday, when I finally got a mature spam email.

    Here’s that email:

    From: owijksmrdlkojd@hotmail.com
    Subject: Would you like to be friends?
    Body: ”I like to dance, read, communicate, go in for sport, listen to music. I would like to meet a man, who is kind and clever. Who has strong family values, who can be a reliable friend for me, and can be a good father. He must be able to sympathize and support me whatever life brings us. My photo – here:”


    (And then a big, bold web address I was told to copy and paste into my browser, because it knew my spam filter would disable the hyperlink for me.)

    That is the most sensitive spam email I have ever read.

    It’s almost disarming to read a junk email that doesn’t say “hey baby i relly like sex please go to my profile for sex”. Why is this fake woman saying she’s looking for a man who “can be a good father”? Is this just the type of spam you get as you get older? Less “hay babby lets have a sex” and more “I want to settle down with a man who can make me laugh”?

    I didn’t click through to the website it wanted me to go to, but what if that site isn’t even a porn site? What if it’s a website for adoption or something? “Hey stud, I’m looking for a loving adult to raise my kids with me.” And there’s this banner of a sexy mother wearing a cardigan and she’s winking at you, and she’s holding a baby, and maybe the baby’s winking at you too.

    By , photo via Slacktory


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    Wherever he goes and whatever he does, hobo Nick Kleckner is committed to delivering his Twitter followers the truth.

    He did it Internet-famously from his @hobo_nick account this summer as he traversed the expanse of the continental United States by foot. Now, nearly a month after that journey concluded, Kleckner—now a cabbie—is back to tweeting the uncovered angles of American life, dispensing taxi cab confessions from the wheel of his new job handle, @Nick_Taxi.

    "Ok, driving [a] taxi is absolutely nuts!!" he wrote last week from the @hobo_nick account, just a few hours after announcing that he was working for a northern California cab company. "Crazy stories every night with drunken goons. Should I tweet about it? Or just keep this twitter for the next walk across America.”

    "It's interesting, but some of you might see it as negative. Let me know what you think. I just made my twitter account for my walk across America and that's all I have ever tweeted. So not sure if taxi tweets would be annoying or rad?”

    Initial response to the tweet was overwhelming. Within a few hours, Kleckner had created a second Twitter account, the aforementioned @Nick_Taxi.

    "Looks like I'm going to be tweeting about the real life of a hobo taxi driver," he wrote. "This job gets crazy in the late night. Just be ready.

    "And be prepared for pictures of some harsh realities. I'm not gonna hold back on showing what goes on in a cab when people get crazy #real."

    Here's a detailed account of Nick Kleckner's Twitter-infused taxi cab confessions, straight from the source.

    Photo via Hobo Nick/Facebook


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    Spam. It's the Internet’s most resilient parasite. Millions of messages pollute the Web's pipes every day. Grow a monster penis. Lose 20 pounds. Help out an African prince. You know the drill.

    A lot of it is garbled junk, sentences that read like a computer ingested the Oxford English Dictionary and vomited it back out. The results are bizarre and often unintentionally hilarious, a favorite subject of forwarded emails or, in the age of Twitter, cult celebrity. Spam account @horse_ebooks boasts 120,000 followers thanks entirely to the accidental and absurdist poetry of its tweets.

    But back in 1996, users of the proto-Web community Usenet got spammed with messages that reached an almost transcendent level of bizarre—a weirdness so precise it implied the influence of a very human intelligence. “Markovian Parallax Denigrate,” read the title of each post, followed by a mountain of seemingly meaningless word spew:

    jitterbugging McKinley Abe break Newtonian inferring caw update Cohen
    air collaborate rue sportswriting rococo invocate tousle shadflower
    Debby Stirling pathogenesis escritoire adventitious novo ITT most
    chairperson Dwight Hertzog different pinpoint dunk McKinley pendant
    firelight Uranus episodic medicine ditty craggy flogging variac
    brotherhood Webb impromptu file countenance inheritance cohesion
    refrigerate morphine napkin inland Janeiro nameable yearbook hark

    According to later accounts, hundreds of these messages flooded Usenet discussion groups on Aug. 5, 1996, launching the type of intense rigorous inquiries you’d expect from the geeky academics who frequented Usenet back then—none of which turned up any answers. And the event was soon mostly forgotten, washed away in the deluge of information and culture ushered in by the burgeoning popularity of the World Wide Web.

    Then, around 2006, the event’s Wikipedia page became a favorite bullet point for any number of “creepy Wikipedia” lists that made their way across blogs and obscure Web forums. Soon bloggers had dug up something even more curious.

    At Google’s public Usenet archives, only one message remains with a subject line that reads “Markovian Parallax Denigrate.” And the name on the sender’s email address was curiously familiar to anyone who happened to be a national security wonk: Susan Lindauer, a former journalist who was arrested in 2004 after allegedly serving as an agent of Saddam Hussein’s government. She’s has since become a purveyor of sundry conspiracy theories, from a Lockerbie bombing cover-up to 9/11 trutherism.

    Shortly after Lindauer’s connection to all this was dug up, the Wikipedia page disappeared. You needn’t have been a conspiracy nut to connect the dots, to think something fishy was going on.

    Was the Markovian Parallax Denigrate a message—a cipher hiding a deep government secret?

    This is a story of two Susan Lindauers and how they accidentally gave a second life to one of the Internet’s oldest and weirdest mysteries.

    Meet Snowflake

    Susan Lindauer’s life compares to the American average about as well as the Markovian Parallax Denigrate does to the English language. It is cryptic and convoluted and becomes more so the deeper you look.

    It begins in Anchorage, Alaska, where she grew up in a family of newspaper magnates, the only daughter of John Howard Lindauer II, a one-time Republican nominee for governor whose 1998 campaign collapsed dramatically after accusations it had been illegally financed. Her mother was “prone to wearing black capes,” and appeared to the denizens of Anchorage like a jet-setting world traveler, according to a story in the Anchorage Daily News published after Lindauer's arrest.

    Classmates at East Anchorage High remembered Lindauer as alternatively “super smart” and a “wild child”—an honor student with a love of plays and drama, someone who chased the spotlight and loved attention. She was a hard worker too, acquiring an educational pedigree to go far: After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Smith College, she moved on to the prestigious London School of Economics, where she graduated with a master’s degree in public policy.

    That was followed by brief stints as a reporter for places like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and US News and World Report. She parlayed her journalism credentials into a full-time career as a political spokesperson. By the time of her arrest in 2004, Lindauer—who counted President George W. Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Carr as a second cousin—had worked her way into Washington circles where national intelligence was a favorite topic and had held a string of positions with important politicians, including Democratic Illinois Senator Carol Moseley Braun.

    Yet even as Lindauer was building up an impressive resume and a rolodex of powerful political connections, there was something off about her. Friends and colleagues for years had noted odd personality quirks. Coworkers at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer remembered her for “erratic behavior and mood swings,” pointing out that a local merchant had once “sought an antiharassment order against her because of quirky phone calls Lindauer allegedly made asking the merchant to ‘cast spells’” on another newspaper.

    In Washington circles, she’d acquired the nickname “Snowflake.” Why? “She's from Alaska and she's nuts,” her friend Paul Hoven, who claimed to have coined the name, explained to the New York Times Magazine.

    Lindauer wore her liberal politics on her sleeve, especially her passionate opposition to sanctions imposed on Middle Eastern nations. She soon began taking trips to New York City, meeting with leaders of Muslim governments including Libya and Iraq and assuming a role of unofficial lobbyist on their behalf. She saw herself as key player in Middle Eastern affairs and believed herself to be a “CIA asset” in charge of back-channel negotiations with the Iraqis. In a 2002 letter to President George Bush, she described herself as an “expert in counterterrorism and peacemaking” who was proud of her “regrettably extraordinary gift for counterterrorism.” The letter continued:

    ''I have identified a dozen bombings before they happened with a high degree of accuracy and a number of assassination attempts on world leaders.”

    Both Lindauer’s brother and a close friend have said she warned them to avoid New York City before 9/11.

    In the mid-’90s, around the time of the Markovian Parallax Denigrate, Lindauer claimed that her “CIA handler,” a businessman named Richard Fruisz, knew the real identity of the culprit in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 that killed 270 people. The U.S. government had pinned the act on the Libyan government, though a competing theory at the time claimed it had been orchestrated by a Syrian-based terrorist. (The Libyan government itself admitted responsibility for the act in 2003.)

    The FBI arrested Lindauer at her Tacoma Park, Md., home on the morning of March 11, 2004, charging that she had acted as an “unregistered agent of a foreign government." The government cited a 2002 trip that Lindauer took to Baghdad, where she allegedly was given $10,000. Lindauer—who still claimed to be a CIA asset—asserted that her arrest, done under the purview of the newly minted Patriot Act, was intended to silence her from revealing the truth about 9/11. In Lindauer’s narrative, the "airplane hijackings were used as a public cover for a controlled demolition of the Twin Towers and Building 7." She has claimed that 9/11 terrorist Mohammed Atta was in truth a highly trained and tightly controlled CIA asset.

    Lindauer was released in 2006 after a federal judge declared her unfit to stand trial, citing findings that she suffered from paranoia and delusions of grandeur. A government psychiatrist said that she “claimed to have special powers and that she had indicated she once met with Osama bin Laden, who disclosed to her the location of a bomb,” according to a report in The New York Times.

    When Web users began digging into the Markovian Parallax Denigrate Wikipedia page and saw an explicit connection to Lindauer, it’s no surprise the wheels of conspiracy started turning.

    Post-modernist pranks on the proto-Web

    Before there was the Web, there was Usenet. Invented by Duke University graduate students Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis in 1980, Usenet linked computers together over phone lines, allowing users to subscribe to various topics, called newsgroups, where conversations played out in a pretty close equivalent to modern-day email chains. As Usenet grew, newsgroups popped up for just about anything, from atheism to news headlines to sex advice. It was the primordial soup of Internet culture, the place that created everything from the emoticon to the FAQ to spam—both the phenomenon and the term. When Tim Berners Lee wanted to announce the launch of the World Wide Web, he did it on Usenet.

    By 1996, if someone wanted to pass a secret message along to an international audience, Usenet was just about the best place to do it. It was the world’s public bulletin board.

    Only one message bearing the title Markovian Parallax Denigrate—sent from susan_lindauer@worf.uwsp.edu—remains in Google’s Usenet archive from Aug. 5, 1996. There are however, 52 other messages posted on the exact same day, each of which contains similarly garbled text and each of which includes the words  “Markovian,” “parallax,” and “denigrate” somewhere in their body. And there may have been many more.

    Google’s Usenet archive is not perfectly complete, especially in regards to spam. “We have Usenet posts dating back to 1981,” a company representative wrote in an email. “But that does not include every Usenet article from that time period, with reasons ranging from the privacy setting on an article to abuse and spam."

    The only person I know who was a true Usenet addict back in the day is my stepfather. At the time, he was working at Cornell University’s supercomputing hub, the Theory Center. He recalled:

    “I very vaguely remember the hoopla at the time, and the wild conjectures about sources and intentions. Seem to recall that the considered opinion was that it was a proof-of-concept event by some high-IQ bunch, and that a lack of subsequent attributions indicated that it was essentially benign.”

    The theory that the whole thing was a kind of thought experiment among Usenet brainier-coding types certainly had precedent.

    In 1984, Rob Pike and Brad Ellis unleashed a character named Mark V. Shaney onto the unsuspecting Usenet forum “net.singles,” a place for nerdy lonely hearts to find love or at least commiserate in their failed search for love. Mark was named after a Markov Chain, a random mathematical process that provided the coding directives for his preferred form of communication: Regurgitating text into grammatically correct but completely nonsensical approximations of human language.

    Mark was a bot.

    As a 1989 issue of Scientific American explained:

    The program must first read and reflect on someone else’s work. It then produces a rambling and somewhat confused commentary on the work… Although sense is conspicuously absent from MARK V. SHANEY’s writings, the sounds are certainly there. The overall impression is not unlike what remains in the brain of an inattentive student after a late-night study session.

    Or perhaps the brain of a pugnacious literature professor high on mescaline. One post from 1985 read, in part:

    It really galls me! I got a BA in computer science instead of a _Finnegan’s Wake_! Did you really intend your posting to be able to improve one’s life, and to win admiration — only the second seems to matter in schools? Granted, this clown may be the exception rather than the rule. It seemed that the intellectuals are usually the first to be so totally off the wall?

    While some astute readers of the net.singles boards properly guessed that Mark was a product of a computer, many others believed he was very much a real person, if just a tad eccentric. (Pike told me a story of how, when he and Ellis attended a real-life net.singles meetup, some wondered out loud if “Mark” was going to show up.)

    Photo of Rob Pike by Kevin Shockey/Flickr


    Pike, who now works as a distinguished engineer at Google, told the Daily Dot that he and Ellis had many motivations for creating the bot, but ultimately “it grew out of these complicated sort of post-modernist pranks we were playing on the Internet.” Pike pointed out that, at the time, the works of Jacques Derrida were a trendy topic among certain circles of literary-minded computer nerds. In Derrida’s philosophy of literary criticism, deconstructionism, any given text “has irreconcilably contradictory meanings, rather than being a unified, logical whole.” Mark V. Shaney upended texts and turned the meaning of words on their head by squeezing them into seemingly impossible contexts. Running a post-modernist prank like that on their own would have taken ages. The bot needed 10 minutes a day at most.

    Like Mark V. Shaney, the Markovian Parallax Denigrate looks a lot like a bot-created message that used Markov Chains to randomly generate words. (Its name is an obvious hint.) So what was its goal? Was it also a prank?

    Not if you're the type to see hidden messages in television static, to imagine grand plots in the mundane.

    Some have postulated the Markovian Parallax Denigrate was a code or a cipher or even a Web version of a shortwave radio numbers stations, something CIA agents likely have used to relay messages. Others have suggested Lindauer’s enemies attached her name to the emails, creating a deliberate misinformation campaign to smear her for her attempts to to reveal the real identity of the Lockerbie bomber. The most detailed and widely cited theory, in this regard, was posted by the blog Rigorous Intuitions in 2006.

    Chances are, by 1996 some parties were unhappy with Lindauer sniffing around the drugs of Lockerbie. And so, perhaps for short-term shit-disturbance and a cheap investment in an unknown, long-term pay out, the "Markovian Parallax Denigrate" was created and ascribed to Susan Lindaur.... Deliberate misinformation, to suggest Lindauer was playing a double game, and to lay down some legend if she gave them cause to use it.

    Psychotic, delusional, hallucinatory. But they were after her.

    “The paranoia of the Web”

    The fact that such grand theories began popping up isn't a surprise. Usenet and the Internet at large have provided more than just a great platform for high-minded post-modernist pranks. Information was suddenly cheap and free. For the first time in history, people from New Zealand to Tacoma Park, Md., have been able to instantaneously unite over their obsession about anything, from cats and videogames to dark plots to take over the world.

    The echo chambers of Internet forums and blogs were fertile ground for conspiracy theories to grow and spread.

    “One of the legacies of the Enlightenment is a methodology based on painstaking measurement of the material world,” Damien Thompson wrote in his book Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science, and Fake History. “That legacy is now threatened. And one of the reasons for this, paradoxically, is that science has given us almost unlimited access to fake information.”

    Photo via Not4Sale2NWO/YouTube

    Just consider the theory that has turned Lindauer into a full-blown celebrity among certain members of the paranoid class: 9/11 trutherism proliferated thanks largely to the Web. Loose Change, a 2005 documentary that used dubious evidence to lay out the 9/11 truther case, was shared widely on YouTube and other websites before going on to sell more than 1 million copies on DVD. Vanity Fair proclaimed it may very have been the “first Internet blockbuster.”

    Meanwhile, Amazon’s former top nonfiction reviewer, Robert Steele, made a name for himself thanks in part to breathless reviews of 9/11 truther books, including Lindauer’s 2010 volume Extreme Prejudice. “I am not at all sure why [Lindauer] did not get murdered while in prison with an overdose of whatever drug of choice they use these days,” Steele wrote in his five-star review.

    The Internet is an amplifier. In the novel Underworld, (penned by Don DeLillo, once named the "chief shaman of the paranoid school of fiction"), the most paranoid character, Sister Edgar, is easily sucked into cyberspace:

    There is no place or time out here, or in here, wherever she is. There are only connections. Everything is connected. All human knowledge gathered and linked, hyperlinked... [S]he feels the grip of systems... She senses the paranoia of the web, the net.

    She would have sensed others just like her, too.

    Susie Lindauer Mursau

    The conspiracies about Lindauer are awfully compelling. The facts would all fit so neatly together, too—if only Susan Linduaer, the one who was born in Alaska and arrested in 2004, actually sent the Markovian Parallax Denigrate message, or had any connection to it whatsoever.

    She didn't. She told me so, via a friendly email on Oct. 10:

    “I've heard of this cyber phenomenon, but I am not the Susan Lindauer who authored the code. Wish I could enlighten you. I'm baffled, too!”

    And besides, there's another Susan Linduaer out there, someone whose email address was clearly used by whoever created the Markovian Parallax Denigrate spam.

    There are so many articles about the Susan Lindauer who was arrested in 2004 that finding this other Susan takes some creative Googling. But it’s not that hard. Just start with that original Markovian Parallax Denigrate email address, susan_lindauer@worf.uwsp.edu.

    UWSP stands for the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. And it turns out there was actually a Susan Lindauer who attended UWSP as a graduate student in physical education. She graduated in 1994. I called up her former faculty advisor at UWSP, professor Rory Suomi, with whom she published at least two papers bearing titles like “Impact of Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program Classes on Strength and Range of Motion Measures in Women with Arthritis.”

    Though he wasn't helpful in tracking her down, Suomi did confirm that this Lindauer was very much a real person. That means she attended UWSP at around the same time the other Susan Lindauer was living in Washington, D.C. and making trips to the Libyan Mission in New York. 

    Ultimately, finding this Susan was as simple as changing her name and searching Facebook. She prefers “Susie” and switched her last name to Mursau after getting married.

    Mursau lives in Combined Lakes, Wis., and works in the local school district. According to her Facebook profile, she likes the Green Bay Packers, Chris Farley, and the MTV series The Hills. When I reached her by phone Friday morning and asked if she knew anything about the Markovian Parallax Denigrate email, she told me, "I've never heard of it." And she certainly didn't send it. (Nor had she heard of the other Susan Lindauer: "I've never Googled myself," she said.)

    So unless Mursau is purposefully hiding her past as a Usenet spammer (which seems unlikely, to put it mildly), she didn’t send the email that launched one of the weirdest mysteries in Internet history. More likely: Someone scraped her address along with the dozens of other academic emails used in the Markovian Parallax Denigrate messages, then used them to mask the actual address. It’s easy.

    Besides, if you're playing the game of conspiracy theory, why not look at the plausible, if not the probable?

    Spam events like the Markovian Parallax Denigrate actually did have a very real and very important effect: They made Usenet a quite unpleasant place. They were a harbinger of the vaunted platform’s demise.

    The first major spam event on Usenet hit just two years before, in 1994, and soon the phenomenon would so overwhelm the network that it would “pretty much ruin Usenet," according to Brad Templeton, one of the world’s few experts on the history of Usenet spam. He elaborated in an email:

    “Groups filled with spam, massive fights took place against spammers and over what to do about the spam. People stopped using their email addresses in messages to avoid harvesting. People left the net.”

    The simplest explanation is usually the most likely. The Markovian Parallax Denigrate was probably a troll or a prankster—someone being obnoxious just for the sake of being obnoxious. Or perhaps it was just a benign programmer’s experiment with a Markov Chain.

    Then again, maybe not.

    The world is a far more interesting place, after all, when its deepest secrets are hiding in your spam folder.

    Photo illustration by Kevin Morris, via PressTVGlobalNews/YouTube


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