From a Presidential candidate's fake Pavement tweet to the media thinking Kanye fans don't know who The Beatles are, this was truly the best year for trolling.
Trolling is an art form. You’ve got to know who you’re trolling, what their weaknesses are, and when—if ever—you should tip your hand. Some people spend years honing their trolling skills, where others are simply born with it. A troll can be rewarding or dangerous. If not carried out with precision, it can backfire horribly in the troll's face, rendering them the trollee. Most attempts at trolling crash and burn. But when when the troll stars align and a troll goes just right, it is a thing of true beauty, maybe the last pure thing we have in this crazy world.
Truly, we are blessed to be living in The Glory Age of the Troll where even the country’s biggest troll is running for President and will surely lead our nation into the Kingdom of Troll Heaven it deserves. Let’s take a walk through the most notable trolls of 2015 and remember all the good times.
@fart’s Glorious HLN Edward Scissorhands Interview
John Hendren is an Al Jazeera English correspondent who tracks news and social media trends. Jon Hendren (no “h”) is an internet wiseass who once tricked the Smash Mouth guy into eating a shit-ton of eggs. Presumably, while booking a show about the significance of Edward Snowden joining Twitter, the cable news network HLN intended to invite the former on as a talking head. But one letter made a glorious difference.
Somehow finding nothing suspicious about the fact that his Twitter handle is @fart, HLN bookers mistakenly emailed Jon Hendren (again, no “h”) to extend the invitation. Now, Jon Hendren could have politely declined the offer, pointing out that he is not a Snowden expert. But that’s not what heroes do, and that’s not what a man who claimed the handle @fart would do. Instead, Hendren donned a blazer and a straight face and joined the show via Skype. What happened next was assuredly the only smart thing to ever happen on cable news.
The interview started out like most daytime news segments do—with a conversation completely devoid of any substance on the topic at hand. Hendren played it cool, giving host Yasmin Vossoughian just what she needed to hear until she was lulled into a sense of security. But after a minute and 40 seconds of letting the momentum build, Hendren turned heel. Asked if Snowden’s actions could harm people, he responded in the driest possible tone: “I think to cast him out to make him invalid in society simply because he has scissors for hands, that’s strange. People didn’t get scared until he started sculpting shrubs into dinosaur shapes and what not.”
The interview should’ve ended there. The producer should have whispered into Vossoughian’s earpiece to cut the segment. But instead, she reacted either as if what he just said was a completely reasonable response, or more likely, she just was not actually listening but waiting for her turn to talk. Then she made her second mistake of letting him field another question, and Hendren doubled down. “We’re treating him like an animal, like somebody who should be quarantined and put away,” he deadpanned, not letting on that he was amazed that he had not been cut off, “just because he was created on top of a mountain by Vincent Price and incomplete with scissors for hands. Edward Scissorhands is a complete hero to me.” He said the actual words! He said “Edward Scissorhands.” Surely this would be Hendren showing his hand. But he was still asked follow-up questions and responded by mentioning how he poked a hole in a waterbed.
On the surface, this is just someone from Weird Twitter playing a prank on national TV. But there is so much more going on here. The fact that at no point did the anchor even acknowledge the mockery being made of her show points out that there is no way to make a joke at the expense of cable news. It’s a 24/7 joke.
The Media Getting Trolled into Thinking Kanye Fans Don’t Know Who Paul McCartney Is
Trolling started bright and early this year. Literally on the very first day, when Kanye West and Paul McCartney premiered their “Only One” collaboration. Kids took to Twitter wondering who this Paul McCartney guy was, and how great it was that Kanye was giving this unknown artist some exposure. While some kids probably legitimately don’t know who Paul McCartney is (can you imagine the audacity a child must have to not know the members of a band whose career ended several decades before they were born?), most tweeters were just fucking with people, laying on the sarcasm pretty thick.
Buzzfeed did a roundup of these tweets in a post entitled “These Kanye West Fans Want To Know: Who Is Paul McCartney?” and later added a very tiny update at the bottom: “Update: A couple of the tweeters above claim now they were only joking.” But by then there was no way to get the toothpaste back into the tube of Trollgate.
The non-story made its way around the interwebs, gaining a layer of misguided outrage the further it spread. It was on E! Online, The Daily Mail, and Death and Taxes to name a few, many embedding a tweet by Desus Nice, a well-known Twitter funnyman with over 60k followers at the time. Then things hit a breaking point when Good Morning America devoted a segment to it. The correspondents all gathered ‘round the GMA desk, reading the troll tweets in earnest, and having a good ol’ chuckle about the hilarity the generation gap wreaked. Except the joke was on them the whole time. Because the generation gap wasn’t spotlighting that kids don’t know who a famous Beatle is, but that middle-aged news anchors are completely oblivious on how to use Twitter.
Music Blogs Getting Tricked by a Fake Beach House Song on a Fake Wayne Coyne Podcast
Riot Fest 2014, photo by Nick Karp
It is incredibly easy to fool bloggers given that the industry is set up to reward whatever site is able to post their story about a breaking news item to the internet the fastest, regardless of insight or accuracy. So when an email went out to a few music blogs from one “Sean Price,” announcing that the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne had launched a podcast called “The Fearless Freakcast” and the first episode featured a new song by Beach House as well as an interview, bloggers quickly picked it up.
The podcast, hosted on Podbean, was very clearly not Wayne Coyne, but a guy doing an impression of an excited, spaced-out hippie. On it, he interviewed two people who he introduced as Beach House’s Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. The three went on for almost a half-hour in this role playing, talking about Instagram likes, the challenges of having only two people in a band (“If you listen to any of the Flaming Lips records, there’s at least 20 people playing on every track! You listen to the new Miley Cyrus collaboration, there are 30 guitar players!”), and the show Say Yes to the Dress (they liked the part with the dresses). After giving a shout-out to “Jimmy and Pete down at the docks,” “Alex” and “Victoria” introduced a song called “Helicopter Dream (I’m Awake),” a title which “Coyne” said “gets me so hard.” The song, which might as well have been called “Helicopter Dream (I’m Totally Fucking with You),” was essentially a minute and a half of phasers and mumbling and most definitely not a Beach House song. Even if you’d never heard a Beach House song, you could tell it wasn’t a Beach House song. But the blogs still snatched it up.
Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, Fact, and Spin all reported on the new “Beach House” song and threw a bunch of music writer-psychobabble onto it, calling it a “reverb-soaked number” and a “fuzzy space-age odyssey.” Eventually people started to wise up and realize that they’d been duped.
Stereogum deleted their post and the others all updated them to reflect that it was a hoax. Except they still weren’t getting it. Consequence of Sound changed their headline from “Beach House debut new song “Helicopter Dream (I’m Awake)’” to “Update: Wayne Coyne pranks the Internet with fake Beach House song” and Fact added a line to their post: “Damn you, Wayne Fucking Coyne.” But Wayne Coyne had nothing to do with it. It was just some dry dick rando fucking with people, plain and simple.
The Meta-Troll That Was 2 Chainz on ‘Nancy Grace’
In case you missed 2 Chainz’s now legendary Nancy Grace segment, put down what you are doing and watch it immediately. Grace invited 2 Chainz on her show to talk about marijuana, asked a line of completely asinine questions, showed a video of a baby smoking weed, and said the words “Tity Boi,” a recipe for the best TV segment since that lady fell stomping the grapes.
It’s hard to say who got trolled here, but somebody definitely got trolled. Arguably, it was Nancy Grace, twice. First, she got trolled by her booker, who set her up to have her ass epically handed to her, and then again by 2 Chainz who trolled her by dutifully performing said ass-handing. It was like trollception and Grace fell so far down it that she’ll never come back to reality. Not that she had a super tenuous grasp on it to begin with.
People Believing That Donald Trump Hates Pavement
Donald Trump hates a lot of things: facts, minorities, not going bankrupt several times, basic human decency, etc. But he has never stated his opinion on indie rock legends, Pavement. So Twitter user and Noisey contributor Zach Schonfeld went ahead and made a joke tweet that made it look like The Donald disproved of the band:
Again, it was a fake tweet (hey it’s almost like Twitter is not a 100 percent reliable source of information?), and most people got that. But the further it spread, the more it reached the clueless masses. “People on the internet are much more gullible about who said what when they’re blinded by hatred for a particular figure,” Schonfeld said in his recap of the shitstorm. Stereogum posted the tweet on their Facebook, where there is a huge dropoff in irony detection. People wanted to know how Trump had even heard of Pavement or Big Star.
Of course, the joke is much less funny these days now that this overtanned foreskin in a suit is in prime position to be the Republican Presidential candidate and his Muslims Are Unanimously Terrorists rhetoric is inciting Islamophobia and even violence. But uh, Stephen Malkmus jokes… those were funny for a minute in simpler times, huh?
Facebook Users Ruining the Burning Man Event Page
The torching of the Burning Man Facebook page has become as much of an annual tradition as the festival’s actual ritual of lighting the big wooden dude on fire. The flames burned particularly bright on Facebook this year, as dozens and dozens of trolls bombarded its event page with hundreds of comments, lampooning the absurdity associated with drug-heavy festival. People asked about the Pan-Asian co-ed waterslide, what time the Kid Rock meet and greet was going down, and how to get a good spot for the screening of Paul Blart 2.
Even Burning Man gave the situation a nod:
Eventually, the troll comments piled so high that the page was rendered completely useless. If you were coming to organize meet-ups with other Burners, you’d have to wade through 800 comments about Guy Fieri’s cage-free Flavortown booth. Though from the looks of these Craigslist missed connections, it didn’t seem to prevent the Burners from getting their fuck on:
Trapt Getting BOFAed
Lexi Kozhevsky is a 19-year-old who became a meme this year after standing in solidarity with the Ferguson police department while wearing a Fall Out Boy shirt. It seemed like a peculiar act since both Ferguson police and Fall Out Boy have historically been terrible. Lexi had an unlikely supporter, though: the band TRAPT. TRAPT, who [I wanted to insert some background information about the band but then I’d have to Google them], had also previously defended Officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot Michael Brown.
The band started getting owned left and right by people on Twitter and you might be surprised to hear this from how original their music is but the band’s comebacks were horribly uncreative. “didn't you write a song called 'stay' in the 90's? Where are your glasses? Miss them;),” they said to one user who they must’ve thought resembled Lisa Loeb? Good stuff.
Then when TRAPT, a band of white guys, started questioning whether or not white privilege exists, Twitter hero Rachel Millman pulled the BOFA card on them:
In case you’re unfamiliar, BOFA, much like Updog, is a call-and-response to test people’s gullibility. TRAPT took the bait:
And then Millman dropped the hammer on ‘em, her vengeance swift and merciless:
Aaaaand much like the rest of their career, anything TRAPT said or did after that was irrelevant because they got burnt, sonnnnnn.
A Guy Named Trollhorn Trolls Metal Fans Over H&M Clothes
via Metal Injection
Leave it to a motherfucker named Trollhorn to pull the biggest metal troll of the year.
In the spring, everyone’s favorite chain retailer of garments thin enough to blow away in the wind like a dandelion, H&M, launched a series of metal-inspired clothes. No, not those Metallica and Slayer ones they sell, but a line of jackets, pants, and shirts with patches of generic, non-existent metal bands. It looked like they googled “what are cool black metal logos so we can sell cheap crap to mall dipshits,” printed up some patches, and sewed em onto their overstock of clearance jeans.
Then a few metal sites, believing these to be obscure metal bands, noticed that all of them—MORTUS, MOTMROS, MYSTIC TRIANGLE—could be linked to one label: Strong Scene Productions. When you looked at the label’s Facebook page, you’d see biographies, merch, and artwork for these bands. Some of them, it was pointed out, had ties with the National Socialist Black Metal scene (a.k.a. neo-Nazis). Since many believed H&M to have created SSP as a marketing campaign, the story spread outside the metalsphere into places like Complex, inciting outrage that the company would be so culturally ignorant. Except H&M had nothing to do with it.
Henri “Trollhorn” Sorvali of the Finnish metal band Finntroll, along with a few others, created the fake label to fuck with everyone. It was a deep troll and it paid off. It was done “to point out the fact that you cannot commercialize a subculture without actually knowing all the different aspects of it,” he told Noisey.
Satan bless him.
A Very Clever, Very Handsome Man Sells Williamsburg Air on eBay for $20,000
In what is being called a brilliant satire of both the reactive blogging landscape and the overdevelopment of Williamsburg, one very clever jokester who is rumored to be both ruggedly handsome yet remarkably warm and approachable sold a bag of air from the trendy Brooklyn neighborhood on eBay.
Over the summer, the eBay user, TheEdgeDweller, listed a Ziploc bag full of Williamsburg air with the following description:
“The air was collected in the summer of 2015 and the mystery oxygen could’ve come from anywhere–perhaps it circulated at our trendiest bars and brunch spots like Enid’s or the Wythe Hotel. Or maybe it spent some time on the set of Lena Dunham’s hit HBO show, ‘Girls.’ It could’ve even been breathed in by our hippest resident celebrities like Sky Ferreira. That store on Bedford Ave. that sells only fedoras? The hot sauce store on Wythe? We’re not saying! There’s truly no telling where in 'The Burg' this air came from!”
The bidding started at $39.99 and an immediate bidding war broke out. Soon enough, there were over 40 bids, with the highest one at over $20,000. Shortly after, the media fell in line, with several blogs reporting on this “hipster air” and how crazy that dang ol’ Williamsburg is these days with those kids and their condos and fedoras.
That’s when things got really interesting for me. For him, rather. For the guy. The guy selling the air. The “story” made its way onto the evening news in a segment which called the sale “just plain ridiculous” and prompted the seller’s mother who saw it on TV to call him and give him a 20-minute lecture on how he’s wasting his life.
eBay eventually stepped in and—for no reason whatsoever—ended the sale and banned the account. The seller is still awaiting that $20,000.
DJs Trolling Their Audiences with Fake Beat Drops
You may be surprised to learn this, but people who spend perfectly good money to get grinded on by molly-tripping day-glo d-bags while someone presses play on iTunes (and might actually just be someone doing an art project) are not the brightest music fans. DJs are well aware of this as they are the ones taking said perfectly good money. Some have even begun trolling entire crowds by building up to a sick beat drop, only to stick in Spandau Ballet’s 80s sap classic “True.” It’s the EDM equivalent of getting Rick Rolled, although it’s still a step up from what most DJs are bringing to the table.
Father John Misty’s Covers of Covers of Taylor Swift
Josh Tillman wrote a pretty solid album about being in love this year. But to avoid coming off like another white jerkoff plugging songs about feelings, he funneled his sense of self-aware hipster irony through his Father John Misty character. Over the course of the year, he went on a troll-spree. Here’s a quick rundown of some of his greatest hits:
—He confused The Late Show’s audience by performing on a player piano over a laugh track.
—He took jabs at the industry’s current free streaming model by launching his own music service called SAP.
—He performed at the offices of SAP’s rival, Spotify, by singing along to karaoke track versions of his songs.
—He performed at his concerts behind a cutout of a giant cellphone to mock how we all watch bands through fucking screens nowadays.
But in perhaps his most noteworthy troll, Tillman added to the already ridiculous media pile-on of Ryan Adams covering Taylor Swift’s 1989. After Adams’ versions of Swift’s songs gained immediate popularity, Tillman wasted no time in releasing his own covers of Ryan Adams’ covers of Taylor Swift’s songs in the style of the Velvet Underground. Music bloggers, who you may have figured out from reading these entries, are not the most discerning bunch, all went nuts over it and the story started trending. Realizing it had gotten out of hand, Tillman deleted the songs. He released a statement saying that Lou Reed came to him in a dream and asked him to take them down, which also became a story. "I was annoyed at the media," he explained on a radio show. "I was like, 'these people will print anything,' so I went and gave them the most fraudulent, the most blatantly absurd, unprintable piece of surrealistic nonsense—and they printed it!"
But the best, most subtle troll in the whole thing came in the form of this quote he dropped about Taylor Swift and 1989, which Tillman says he’d never heard before covering: "I’m sure I’ve been walking by a Cinnabon or something at the airport and heard it." Calling Taylor Swift’s music airport Cinnabon music. Goddamn that is some cutting but accurate shade!
Getting in the Middle of It with Martin Shkreli
We all remember Martin Shkreli, the Pharmaceutical CEO and toddler in a suit who jacked up the price of a cancer drug an absurd amount and then mocked the people on Twitter who pointed out what a petulant little shit he is. The music industry was particularly invested in ripping him a new asshole after it came out that he was the investor behind Collect Records. And while Shkreli thought he was a master troll for deflecting criticism with glib replies, the true winner was a YouTube user named Erik, who made this wonderful video where he really gets in the middle of it with ol’ Shkreli.
Sun Kil Moon’s Troll Marketing Campaign
photo via Sun Kil Moon's website
Sun Kil Moon man Mark Kozelek adopted the “any press is good press” mentality while promoting his album this year. After he got some negative attention last year for telling the War on Drugs dude to suck his cock, he thirsted for more and went after female writers, called festival organizers inbred hicks, and generally tried to start beef with anyone who would pay attention to him. And it worked, because each created its own news story. Hell, here we are talking about him. You got us, Kozelek. We’ve been trolled.
Dan Ozzi is on Twitter if you wanna to troll him but FOREWARNING: He is a level four troll master so expert trolls need only apply. - @danozzi