Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dirty Tricked

by Dr. Ellen Brandt

A few more bits of "housekeeping," before we return to the core of this series and already promised posts on Meritocracy and UniversitiesMeritocracy and Baby Boomers, and Meritocracy and Political Centrism.

First, the distressing news that the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project is already attracting its unfair share of Internet Trolls and Dirty Tricksters, especially at Linked In, where I have a superb and very large network of business and academic leaders and where, therefore, the most - however temporary - harm can be done.

We've experienced plain vanilla Trollism: Flamers Flaming Flame-boyantly on posts featuring the project or the blog. Typically, these irate commentators seem less-than-bright; use poor grammar; can't spell; and generally don't include photos with their profiles, an almost-sure sign that they're Bots, not Humans.

Some Dirty Tricks require solid hacking skills - and could be prevented, if Linked In tweaked some of its most controversial rules and regulations.

For instance, there are several "Honk, if you're willing to accept invitations from fellow Group members" threads at Ivy League (and other Alumni) Groups. These threads have been popular, since many Alumni honestly do wish to expand their networks to "those they don't (yet) know," based on their having been vetted as fellow grads by Alumni Group managers.

Like most other veteran members of these Groups, I have been pleased to invite new Linked In members from the Ivies, especially new grads, to join my excellent network (almost 3,000 strong and 70 percent Ivy) based on their participation in these threads.

But lo and behold! some skilled Hacker-Trolls have somehow made their way into these "open-to-connections" threads - via faux bios and faux Group membership, one believes -  for the sole purpose of rejecting the invitations of Group members who sent them, based on our politics, our company affiliations, or, quite possibly, our eye color, hair color, nail polish color or which sports teams we do or do not root for.

They've made these rejections, not with the neutral "Ignore," but with the dread "I don't know this person" entry, which goes against the entire purpose of this type of thread and which will immediately wreak havoc upon one's Linked In "invitations status" - sometimes leading to the casting of stones, hexes, multiple parking tickets, and being pricked with radioactive umbrellas in London Tube stations.

There's another Linked In Star Chamber-like rule that can get you in even worse trouble. And this one doesn't even require hacking skills. All an organized group of users - or more likely, Bots (see above) - has to do is "flag" the postings that their supposed Enemy-victims make within Groups, which are the meat and potatoes of the Linked In system.

The simple act of "flagging" a post knocks it out of Discussion - the posts people actually consider reading - and into Promotion, which no one in his/her/its right mind ever visits, because it is the province of cultists, life insurance salesmen, and people from countries you've never heard of who want you to fund their three younger brothers' prep school education.

Too many such "flags," and you will be knocked into the gulag of Post Moderation, which means your postings will stagnate in an in-box the majority of Group managers don't know even exists, let alone look at regularly.

Linked In doesn't tell you how many "flags" will knock you into this Post Purgatory, but most of us surmise it's somewhere between 3 1/4 and 5 5/8 - in other words, something even one Crazy-Person-With-a-Grudge can accomplish in twenty seconds flat, blindfolded and with nine of ten fingers (or claws) tied behind his/her/its back.

One illustration of how effortless it is to Moder-rape someone is the fact that it has happened to at least a dozen friends of mine who are Group owners or managers - the stalwarts of Linked In (as I am), who were its earliest initiators and may own three or more Groups. These friends have said they've been pushed into Moderation by (probably faux) members of their very own Groups! Clearly, the Mad Hatter walks tall at Linked In - and various other social media sites which have similar "flagging" or "tagging" rules.

In any case, since the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project was first announced - around last Thanksgiving, although the structure of the Landing Pages, Communities, and Groups was only put into place a couple of months ago - my posts about the project, plus some of the blogs in the related Destitute Ivy Leaguer series, have been Moder-raped to near-death, with 9 or 14 or 861 bouts of gang-flagging - I forget which - having occurred.

Of course, there are many ways to get articles to your intended audience besides their being posted in Groups. But I'd like the (already many) fans of the project to ponder the extraordinary occurrence of so much pure hatred being aimed at a project which is totally and completely non-monetized, non-profit, non-partisan, and essentially non-controversial and which will utilize no government funds of any kind.

So just which Trolls and Hackers despise this project so much, they'll go to any lengths deemed necessary to prevent it  gaining the attention of even a few more readers, thinkers, and potential participants?

Pretty much all the proposed elements of the project should appeal widely to Conservatives, to Progressives, to Centrists, to Independents, and even to the difficult-to-please Libertarians, since the project will depend not on government funds, but rather on the good will, hard work, and focused attention of those who choose to participate.

So who in this wide world - or World Wide Web - could hate Bring Back the Meritocracy! this much?

I think we got our answer over the past three weeks, during which I've been posting - or trying to post - a nice, neat, and, I believe, witty and well-written little story about the recent rash of Hate Speech aimed at the Baby Boomer generation.

I'm going to give a link to it, in case you haven't seen it, for the purpose of demonstrating just how unreasonable, biased, and perhaps clinically cuckoo the actions of those responding to a plea for an end to Hate Speech with - Yes, you guessed it! - more and more Hate Speech might be.

The first time I tried to post this story at Google+, I was greeted, minutes later, with a response from a Script Kiddie Bot, which claimed to be a high school sophomore from California. This supposed young lady, whose accompanying photo looked a great deal like Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander, charmingly told me, "You have gone too far this time, and we are going to get you."

Unfortunately, this delightful message appeared just before I was set to leave for a dinner appointment. I "muted" it, in Google+ parlance, but did not delete it, and I wrote down the name of the Lisbeth-look-alike, with the intention of reporting her to someone or other - Interpol, the Dalai Lama, Larry Page's chauffeur - when I returned from dinner.

Alas, it was not to be. When I made it back to my Google+ stream, the sweet threat had been "disappeared," along with the profile of the sweet young thing who had purportedly written it.

But the threat has proved very real. The efforts to remove this nice little article - read it, and you'll agree it is as logical and reasonable as possible - have been utterly Herculean. It has been somehow "ghosted"  - now you see it, now you can't - in Google and other threads; gang-flagged for Moder-rapetion all over the place; and when they don't succeed at making it invisible, Flamers have come out of the wormwood-work, ranting and raving about how Boomers have destroyed the country, the planet, the solar system, the galaxy, and other galaxies far, far away - undoubtedly populated with little green Millennials.

A quick digression here: If you clicked on the "Stop Anti-Boomer Hate Speech" story, you will have noticed that I did not make it part of the Destitute Ivy Leaguer blog, but have set up a new blog series, EllenImpromptu, for shorter pieces, which may or may not be directly relevant to the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project. I thought this would be a good idea, because such stories may attract wider and sometimes different audiences from those with an interest in the project, depending on their specialized subject matter. I plan to circulate one or two more short articles in this new series over the next few days.

But back to the Boomer Hate Speech story:

I think the extraordinarily violent and possibly crazed reaction to a story pleading for an end to anti-Baby Boomer Hate Speech shows that the ranks of those trying to "Dirty Trick" Bring Back the Meritocracy! may be heavily populated with The Deluded Ones who think any project that benefits Baby Boomers automatically harms other groups of people they favor.

We'll examine why this mindset is not only ridiculous, but downright dangerous, in our coming blog on Meritocracy and Baby Boomers.

But Boomers are not the only large group of human beings some Hatemongers enjoy hatemongering.

Some who disapprove of Bring Back the Meritocracy! seem to do so because it aims to be "too Centrist," which in this context is synonymous with non-partisan.

Sad to say, there is a substantial subset of politically active people, particularly very young ones, who don't want to try to work with those who are at different points in the political spectrum. They're the folks who prefer posturing and creating sound-bites to trying to effect compromise and reach consensus on any and every issue.

Since Bring Back the Meritocracy! truly seeks the participation and help of Conservatives, Progressives, Centrists, and Independents alike, it has drawn some wrath - and Dirty Tricking - from those who relish dissent for dissent's sake over cooperation and collaboration. More on these points in the upcoming Meritocracy and Political Centrism story.

Of course, there are some (strange and disturbing) Trolls and Tricksters who don't like Bring Back the Meritocracy!, nor any blog or Group or Community connected with it, because they don't like me, the project's Founder.

Like so many others who are visible on the Internet, I've been dealing with these Creepy-Crawly Ones for over a decade, and nothing I do or don't do seems to shake them off. Call it an Anti-Fan Club. Or call them what they actually are: cowardly Bullies and Stalkers.

As I stated vehemently in a previous blog post: Under no circumstances do I wish to make this project about me. And any supposed "opponents" who do try to impede a potentially valuable project like this, which may help hundreds of millions of their fellow human beings, because they don't like its Founder should be profoundly ashamed of themselves - provided Shame is in their emotional repertoire, which is doubtful.

So be it. As I promised previously, I am going to start posting a Private Blog about my own situation: Why I gave up incipient efforts to help the "Highly-Educated But Under-Employed" in 2010 (out of pure frustration) and why I think it is important - to me personally and to everyone in a similar situation - to get on the ball and do something right now, no matter how many Dirty Trick boulders are placed in our path.

This Private Blog will be a heartfelt and "naked" recounting of the scope of what I - and so many others exactly like me - have suffered. It is possible that some of us, particularly visible over-50 people like journalists, academics, and older entrepreneurs, have been directly targeted by organized predators because of our "Meritocratic" qualities: experience, intelligence, talent, strong educational backgrounds, and decades of hard work and perseverance.

That is what needs to become understood more widely: So many of those formerly acknowledged as "Best and Brightest" have been deliberately targeted for economic destruction in a fashion both calculated and casual. Calculated, because unless one has the deepest of deep pockets, it is fairly easy to do. But Casual, since the entire enterprise - hurting so many millions of people who have so much to give back to the world - is at its base incredibly stupid and harmful politically, economically, culturally, and in every other way one can think of, a theme we'll explore further in the Meritocracy and Baby Boomers story.

On to more pleasant topics:

The Bring Back the Meritocracy! project landing page has now gotten about 150,000 views from interested observers, even before we've chosen to seek active press coverage.

The project's Venture Capital component is doing extremely well, in terms of attracting interest from experienced and well-known practitioners. And we expect to have an announcement that will please Project proponents by late summer or early autumn 2015.

As for the Dirty Tricks: I am not going to post this particular blog entry widely, except to direct members of my network, since it will undoubtedly make the Crazy Ones crazier still.

But within my network, there are many people with managerial level responsibility at Google, LinkedIn, and other key social media sites. I hope they will ponder the apparent flaws within their systems which allow Dirty Tricks to occur on such a regular basis, even aimed at those of us who manage, moderate, or own Groups and Communities; have superb social media networks; and are working hard to create projects and entities benefiting our fellow human beings.

The next blog in this series looks more closely at the topic of Meritocracy and Universities: Why every top-tier university in the world needs to defend the concept and ideal of Meritocracy to the hilt, because without it, their very reason for existence would be lost.