With the Presidential election less than 90 days away now, it seems as though, well, pretty much everything is approaching a fevered pitch. Here in the world of conservative Internet political activism, one of the ways the heat seems to be increasing is through Internet tricks and pranks. I myself felt the brunt of the psy-ops nature of Internet political operative tactics, along with The Trenches’ good friend Greg W. Howard, and a new Twitter friend who goes by the handle @Esmeral46420119.
We’ll take a quick look at each of these incidents, and what they possibly imply going forward.
As anyone who follows The Trenches knows, we have a talent for making friends easily. Well, not really. In fact, we seem to piss people off more than anything else. So, it wasn’t all that surprising when on August 2, I started receiving a series of text messages from an unknown number. The texts are as follows (my last name is redacted because well, yeah.)
So, they start out with implying they know where I work, and also by bringing up former handles I’ve used on Twitter, both of which have been inactive for AT LEAST a year. Trying to insert seeds of worry and doubt into my mind.
Here, they try and play more mind games by referencing a blog of mine that’s been inactive since early 2008. They try and frame it as though it’s a bad thing, and could possibly compromise my relationship with my wife. Luckily, as I say in the text, my wife is aware of that blog, and those posts, and frankly doesn’t care. Know why? Because she got me in the end.
More attempted psy-ops, with “Sir Brian” implying he’s in close geographical proximity to me. He tries to continue to play this trick in the next shot.
My reference to Los Angeles comes from the fact that a reverse look-up of the number lead to this link, which shows the number to originate from the Los Angeles area (first number listed). After further research, a friend was able to help me determine that the number itself is a Google Voice number. Surprise, surprise!
Now, Sir Brian attempts to continue his social engineering effort against me by implying he was at a little sandwich shop I like to frequent in the city I work in. A place called Fat Monk’s. Killer cheesesteak sandwiches there, by the way, but NOT pork sandwiches.
SOCIAL ENGINEERING FAIL.
From the earlier texts, it’s relatively clear that Sir Brian is at least aware of where I work, and the restaurant in question is less than a mile away from my office. So I figured they probably did a Google Maps, guessed on a place, and got lucky with the fact that it is, indeed, somewhere I like to eat.
Here, Sir Brian tries to pull some more social engineering and tries to get a rise out of me with the “don’t have money” line. But, as you can see, I just blew the jackass off for the most part, and it seemed to irritate him, and the conversation ended.
IF you ever find yourself in a situation like this, the best bet is to just ignore them, at least in my opinion. Don’t engage. Their intent is to scare you, and if you let this stuff go by, any power they thought they might gain over you is completely non-existent. Now, if you find yourself in this kind of situation and the person is mentioning HIGHLY specific details about you, your family or anything else along those lines, my advice is to contact your local authorities ASAP. In fact, I filed a police report for this incident, even though it was relatively benign.
Greg W. Howard
Howard himself received something similarly bizarre, within a few days of my text message friend. For Howard, it wasn’t quite as a direct interaction as mine was, but equally weird. Someone, oddly enough, attempted to contact Howard on his home phone, and apparently spoofed the number to make it appear it was coming from the White House.
And just to confirm that is indeed a number associated with the White House, click here.
From a tactical standpoint, it’s unclear what the intent of this was. Perhaps it was meant to get Howard to pick up the phone, so he could be subjected to some intimidation over the phone. Or, it could also be that this was an initial foray into social engineering against Howard, in which they were attempting to confirm Howard’s phone number by trying to get him to pick up a call from the White House. Again, it’s difficult to say, but I myself thought it was significant that he had this happen within two or three days of Sir Brian texting me.
I recently began following Esmeralda on Twitter. From what I can see, she looks like another solid conservative Latina woman who’s taken to the Internet battlefield to fight for this country of ours in whatever way she can. Earlier this week, Esmeralda began tweeting some interesting tweets that caught my eye.
I've been informed that my twitter profile has been posted on a site named 4chan. It sounds familiar but does anyone know what it is?— Esmeralda Lopez (@Esmeral46420119) August 14, 2012
Well this is beyond creepy since it appears that creeps frequent that website.— Esmeralda Lopez (@Esmeral46420119) August 14, 2012
@foolishreporter According to this person who has disappeared now, they ask for everyone to troll me because I am a latina conservative.— Esmeralda Lopez (@Esmeral46420119) August 14, 2012
In case you’re unfamiliar with 4chan, it’s the site generally credited as being the birthplace of Anonymous, exactly for the type of thing it appeared was being tried against Esmeralda. It literally is a pastime of 4chan to post someone’s picture and available info to the /b/ or /rs/ board, with the intent of extreme trolling.
Luckily for Esmeralda, as I pointed out, is that for all intents and purposes, 4chan is mostly apolitical. Anyone who tries too hard to push a political agenda over there gets labeled as a “moralfag” and is subsequently mocked and derided. From what I can see of reviewing Esmeralda’s TL, it doesn’t appear anything too sinister came of this.
If it hasn’t sunk in yet, I hope this post will do the trick. If you make the conscious decision to be politically active on the Internet, through a blog, through social media such as Twitter or Facebook, or any other online forum, you must realize you are stepping onto a battlefield. More importantly, this is a battlefield with little to no established rules of engagement, and it’s also a battlefield where the most common, and perhaps most effective, tactics, are psychological in nature.
But, knowing that the nature of our battlefield, when it’s taken to this level, is predominantly psychological in nature, is a powerful defense. The easiest way for this stuff not to have the enemy’s desired effect is to ignore it. (Of course, keeping in mind the caveat discussed earlier.) The only power they have over any of us is the power we choose to give them. And as long as we don’t give an inch to them, they are rendered impotent.
Stay alert, my friends.
This is gonna be a bumpy ride as we head towards November.