Portrait of a Troll: Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell
I think a book profiling the everyday, offline lives of digital serial stalkers and trolls would be fascinating. Chilling and upsetting, like this news item, which is going to piss you off, but still compelling. I think what stands out most for me here is this glimpse into that thing we all wonder at some point: in real life, who — and what kind of person — is that online vicious troll? Hateful stalker trolls leave evil comments, they impersonate, they threaten their target, they make hate blogs, they target across various social networks, they do everything they can think of to distort their target’s image, and they consider serial attacking an individual to be a hobby. We tend to think they’re male and live in their parent’s basement, and are around age 14. Not in this case… To the outside world, online trolls “pass” as regular people, for the most part. Just like Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell, now revealed to be one of the sicker anti-gay obsessed trolls to be exposed yet. I still have two stalker trolls who have harassed me for years. And like him, they claim “First Amendment rights” whenever we all scratch our heads and try to figure out ways to make them stop. Most online attackers, like Shirvell, also tend to have a history that makes their hardcore trolling sadly unsurprising.
However, I don’t think anyone expected that the person who dedicated his “off hours” time to a sick hate blog targeting one gay young man, the new head of student government at the University of Michigan, to actually be Michigan’s Assistant Attorney General. Here’s a snip from the CNN piece, click through to watch him explain to Anderson Cooper that he is a “citizen exercising my First Amendment rights.”
(…) Using the online moniker “Concerned Michigan Alumnus,” Shirvell launched his blog in late April.
“Welcome to ‘Chris Armstrong Watch,’” Shirvell wrote in his inaugural blog post. “This is a site for concerned University of Michigan alumni, students, and others who oppose the recent election of Chris Armstrong — a RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST, RACIST, ELITIST, & LIAR — as the new head of student government.” Among other things, Shirvell has published blog posts that accuse Armstrong of going back on a campaign promise he made to minority students; engaging in “flagrant sexual promiscuity” with another male member of the student government; sexually seducing and influencing “a previously conservative [male] student” so much so that the student, according to Shirvell, “morphed into a proponent of the radical homosexual agenda;” hosting a gay orgy in his dorm room in October 2009; and trying to recruit incoming first year students “to join the homosexual ‘lifestyle.’ ” (…)
Shirvell said he works on the blog during his off-hours.
On “AC 360,” Shirvell made no apologies for his blog postings, which include a picture of Armstrong with “Resign” written over his face. The same picture also had a swastika superimposed over a gay pride flag, with an arrow pointing toward Armstrong.