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October 13, 2012 10:45 AM A troll unmasked: the riveting tale of Reddit’s notorious Violentacrez

By Kathleen Geier

I have to say, one of the most deeply satisfying web posts I have ever read has got to be this one, posted yesterday, in which Gawker’s Adrian Chen unmasks one of the internet’s most infamous trolls, Reddit’s Violentacrez, aka Michael Brutsch. Brutsch, who is a Texas-based 49-year old programmer, is a truly revolting character; he is a hard-core misogynist, racist, and anti-Semite who, under the auspicious of the Violentacrez moniker, specialized in posting sexually suggestive images of underaged girls, most of them photos taken in public, but secretly and without the subject’s permission. This charming section of Reddit was called “Creepshots;” it was (finally!) banned from Reddit this week, following news reports of a Georgia teacher who was fired after posting pictures of his students to the site. Other Reddit sections moderated by Violentacrez included Chokeabitch; Beatingwomen; Jailbait; N—-erjailbait; Rapebait; Hitler; Jewmerica; Misogyny; and Incest.

What is perhaps the creepiest thing about Brutsch is not that he exists; as we all know, there are countless disturbed, hate-filled, and morally depraved individuals out there. But even more upsetting that Brutsch himself is the way he was not just tolerated, not even merely enabled, but actively valorized. And it’s not just that he gained many followers and became a hero to his fellow trolls on the Reddit site, though that of course is nauseating in itself. It’s the way Reddit’s management welcomed the dude with open arms, awarding him the coveted, and (in internet terms, at least) powerful position as volunteer monitor for a number of Reddit threads.

Predictably enough, when Brutsch was told by Chen about Chen’s plans to out him, Brutsch whined: but what about my job? What about my family? Part of what is so fascinating about this post is what Chen reveals about Brutsch the man, and indeed, those details help to humanize him a bit. Brutsch has a job with a financial services company; he also has a disabled wife and a son who is about to go into the military.

I’ve often wondered about what internet trolls are like in real life, so tales of trolls unmasked always fascinate me (you can find another, similarly disturbing and fascinating tale of a troll here). While I imagine trolls to be extremely sketchy, socially marginal characters, Brutsch turns out to be a much more mainstream and functional person than I ever would have dreamed. But though that is part of what humanizes him, it’s part of what is terrifying, as well. It makes me wonder: how many people do I know, who are all smiles and sunny normality on the outside, are actually dark, simmering cauldrons of violent, misogynist, racist, sexually twisted hatred on the inside?

As to the fears Brutsch expresses in the piece about the impact his unmasking will have on his employment — welI do have some degree of sympathy of people who don’t use their real names on the internet, because they hold political views that are considered extremist and could get them fired. Heck, I worry about that myself; I am well-aware that, due to some of the things I have written on the web under my own name, I would not be considered employable by huge swathes of corporate America. And America is a nasty, brutish country for people who can’t find steady unemployment, particularly in this economy; for most of us the only alternative to a steady job is destitution and homelessness.

But sorry — my sympathy for political extremists does not extend to a person like MIchael Brutsch, who openly applauds wife-beating and rape, and who, on Reddit, specialized in sexually harassing underaged girls via the internet. That form of internet harassment and stalking may not be illegal, but it damned well ought to be. Violentacrez got what was coming to him. If he was so worried about how his trolling might affect his employment status, he should have thought about that before his started posting such vile, hate-filled material. On the internet, it’s very difficult to hide your true identity for very long, if someone is determined enough to out you. And clearly, Brutsch was sophisticated enough to have been able to figure that out. Dude, you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

Brutsch/Violentacrez was a monster, and he was certainly old enough to understand that actions have consequences. He got exactly what he deserved. Justice, and the entire internet, has been well-served by the unmasking of this thoroughly noxious individual, and Adrian Chen is a hero in my book. Huzzah and kudos to him and to Gawker, both!

Update: the always sharp and insightful Amanda Marcotte has more.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

Comments

  • g on October 13, 2012 12:19 PM:

    I am very glad I know nothing about this troll and have no interest in learning more. But it's a good story that he was outed.

  • DBuck on October 13, 2012 12:21 PM:

    KG, if you want to see an open sewer flowing by, take a look at the Washington Post reader comments on any given day.
    Dan

  • g on October 13, 2012 12:28 PM:

    Wow, thanks for that link to Traynor. What a story.

    I am part of an online women's support community - the host writes of motherhood, menopause, losing weight, marriage issues, etc. It's very supportive, but every once in a while after a very vulnerable and confessional post, there is a commenter who posts very unkind things. No vulgarity or profanity, but just very unkind things. Always directed at the blog owner, never at other people.

    I really wonder at that kind of ugliness. How can you sit down at your laptop and deliberately type out such hurtful things?

  • jjm on October 13, 2012 12:37 PM:

    And a supporter of the GOP?

  • RepubAnon on October 13, 2012 12:37 PM:

    It reminds me of the study where students sat behind a "one-way" glass window and administered what they thought were electrical shocks to people who couldn't see them. (The persons receiving the "shocks" were actors, the shocks were faked - but the students didn't realize this.)

    When the students felt disconnected from their victims, they were happy to administer what they thought were extremely painful shocks to the folks on the other side of the glass.

    I'd suggest that many of the trolls are like this: they can't empathize with their unseen victims, so it's just a game - like bashing on a non-player character in a video game.

  • c u n d gulag on October 13, 2012 12:38 PM:

    GOP POV:
    But, but, but...
    1st Amendment!
    Free Speech!
    BIG GOVERNMENT COMING TO GRAB THE SOCKS OFF OF MENS C*CKS!!!
    ______________________________________

    In internet and anonymity often bring out the inner psycho/socio/path.

    Actually, I have no problem with whatever idiotic misogynistic crap this sociopathic moron wrote.
    That's his 1st Amendment Right.
    And it's the right of other sociopaths to read him, and egg him on by hitting "LIKE!", or whatever they have there, since I've never wasted a second of my life on that site.

    It's taking and posting pictures of unwilling "participants", aka: victims, that inflicts on many of THEIR rights.

    And I, like you, feel absolutely no sympathy, sorrow, or pity at his being "outed."
    If he was a kid in his late teens or early twenties, I might, might, have some sympathy for him, and the prospect of his losing his job.
    But not a "grown man." Wife, kids, or whatever.

    I also have no sampathy for that teacher who got fired for taking shots of his students and posting them.

    You want to post p*rn?
    Pay models who are of legal age, or get them to do it for free. There are probably nearly as many people who get-off at being looked at, as there are people doing the looking.

    Taking pictures of unwilling participants and posting them on a website for your own, and some fellow sociopaths, enjoyment, is not a violations of your 1st Amenment Rights.
    It is a violation of those people Human Rights.

    The 1st Amendment gives you "freedom of speech."
    It does NOT give you "freedom" from the consequences of using your right of "free speech."

  • Neildsmith on October 13, 2012 12:38 PM:

    I had never spent any time on reddit before today... Yikes!

    Oh well. I guess you could consider it a commentary on the human condition. We presume way too much goodwill and decency about our fellow citizens. Being aware of the seedy side of humanity keeps a liberal like me a bit wary of all the social engineering my fellow liberals love so much. No good intentions or deeds go unpunished... or exploited for personal gain by the evil among us.

  • Old Uncle Dave on October 13, 2012 1:09 PM:

    This may be bogus, maybe not, but it's a fun read.

    Confessions of a Paid Disinformation Internet Shill
    http://the-tap.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/confessions-of-ex-shill-theyre-real.html

  • bluestatedon on October 13, 2012 1:29 PM:

    "how many people do I know, who are all smiles and sunny normality on the outside, are actually dark, simmering cauldrons of violent, misogynist, racist, sexually twisted hatred...?"

    What many people seem to ignore or deny is that many of Hitler's supporters among the general German populace were like people anywhere else: outwardly loving parents, dutiful children, law-abiding, civilized and relatively well-educated people... who also were perfectly happy to see their neighboring Jews beaten in the streets and eventually carted off to death camps.

    I'm not religious, but it does make me think there is something to the view that evil (with a small "e") is irreducible in humans.

  • TCinLA on October 13, 2012 1:36 PM:

    What you are talking about is "the banality of evil." Go look at the Nazis like Heinrich Himmler (a skinny little chicken farmer with coke-bottle eyeglasses), who happily organized the Gestapo, or Adolf Eichmann, an accountant who organized The Holocaust. All of them, "the guy who lived next door with his wife," till the opportunity presented itself.

    Almost all the great Nazi war criminals were guys who could be described just like this piece of dreck (who I hope has his life destroyed forever).

    That you would believe all trolls to be marginal anti-social types as you do is a demonstration of a naivete that is downright dangerous to yourself, that you cannot recognize danger.

    What's even worse is the scum who run Reddit, and that such a place is allowed to exist. Why doesn't Anonymous come along and turn the place into its component electrons?

  • Walker on October 13, 2012 1:46 PM:

    Reddit likes to pretend they are mainstream and acceptable. But at the end of the day, they are just another 4chan.

  • TCinLA on October 13, 2012 2:26 PM:

    Under Reddit logic, outing Violentacrez is worse than anonymously posting creepshots of innocent women, because doing so would undermine Reddit's role as a safe place for people to anonymously post creepshots of innocent women.

    Which reminds me of what George Carlin said:

    "Think of how stupid the average person is and realize half of them are stupider than that"

  • E.Hatt-Swank on October 13, 2012 2:27 PM:

    Thanks for bringing that story to our attention.

    It's amusing that so many of the comments on the Gawker story bring up the topic of free speech. It's painfully obvious on a moment's reflection that this issue has nothing to with freedom of speech. That said, I have to admit to feeling some ambivalence about the outing of this a**hole. Sure, nobody is guaranteed anonymity, but as someone who really values his privacy, I'd have to be pushed pretty far before exposing someone else who was hiding his identity.

    Then I read in the Gawker story that Brutsch had started a forum about dead underage girls - I presume, from the "Picsofdeadjailbait" name, with a not-very-respectful attitude. So f**k him. He deserves everything he gets from this outing.

  • greenfairy on October 13, 2012 3:26 PM:

    Ew. Just...ew.

  • Lolly on October 13, 2012 3:28 PM:

    Ambivalence over "outing" someone on the internet presupposes a respect for privacy.

    Posting salacious pictures of unwitting and unwilling teenagers demonstrates a complete lack of respect for privacy, so we are entirely reasonable in assuming that they are not entitled to privacy.

    Heck, maybe some neighbor can get some embarrassing shots of this guy through the window and post them. I'm sure he wouldn't mind; that's what it's all about, isn't it?

  • thebewilderness on October 13, 2012 3:31 PM:

    I think that the euphemism "financial services" for a payday loans shark is absurd. I also think that his working as a payday loan shark is in keeping with his internet persona.

  • charlie don't surf on October 13, 2012 6:32 PM:

    First they came for violentacres.

    And when they came for Kathleen and Amanda, there was no-one left to stop them.

  • PaminBB on October 13, 2012 6:57 PM:

    To charlie don't surf:

    a. "They" didn't come, he took the risk himself.

    b. Posting pictures of children on the internet for the perverse isn't speech, it's nasty and shouldn't be tolerated. I suppose that you are a NAMBLA supporter?

  • unpopular opinion on October 13, 2012 7:47 PM:

    Free speech sucks, doesn't it? The whole point about the Reddit community is that you can post just about anything and the community decides (via up or down voting) what happens to the comment. This guy was a total creep, no doubt that, but the whole point of free speech is that it allows the horrible, hateful, awful stuff like this to be said.

    I'm not overly familiar with Violentcrez, but as long as he was not threatening anyone, everyone has the god-given right to make an ass of themselves.

  • Doug on October 13, 2012 8:55 PM:

    unpopular opinion, no one here disputes Brutsch's right to make an of HIMSELF, it's when he involves others - without their permission - that he loses any right to whine.
    If Brutsch wishes to advocate for child porn, he may. If he wishes to advocate for the legal right to beat his spouse, he may. What he may NOT do is use photographs taken without the permission of the person photographed and use those photographs for his and his viewers "pleasure".
    "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...". That's what the 1st Amendment states and, as you can see, there was no governmental involvement in Reddit's decision.
    Although I suppose one COULD say the fear of possible legal action, which DOES involve the government, may have had something to do with the decision...

  • CharlieM on October 13, 2012 9:27 PM:

    @ unpopular opinion
    Yup, it sucks. You'd think the Reddit community would be as equally supportive of Adrien Chen's right to free speech (outing a creep) as they would be of defending the creep. I mean, free speech and all. Right?

  • SYSPROG on October 13, 2012 10:44 PM:

    Thanks for posting this. I knew hateful speech is on several of the blogs (comments) but I had no idea that things could be THIS bad. I've always thought 'trolls' were bullies but this...I don't feel bad they were 'unmasked'...I don't believe they would have stopped otherwise. As my mama used to say 'Don't put anything down in writing that you would care about the whole world reading'...and that was BEFORE all this technology stuff.

  • charlie don't surf on October 14, 2012 6:37 PM:

    >a. "They" didn't come, he took the risk himself.

    No, "they" are an internet lynch mob. Do you consider yourself judge, jury, and executioner? Do you consider random strangers on the internet capable of those roles, impartially and fairly? Would you subject yourself to the "justice" of an internet lynch mob?

    I don't care what the guy did, nobody deserves to have an internet lynch mob after them. And trolls aren't just people who post stuff you disagree with or dislike. If you agree that internet lynch mobs have the right to go after people like VA, then you submit yourself to that same treatment, if someone disagrees with your posts.

    This is the slippery slope. I like what Bill Maher said a couple of weeks ago. He said that Arabs are offended by a YouTube video attacking Muslims, because they think it's a US Government sanctioned product. Nothing will convince them that it's not a product of the US Government, because their media is all censored and is a product of the government. So pictures of Kate Middleton's breasts are proof to the world that our media is not censored by the government.

    I would rather have a society with the problems associated with a guy like violentacres, than a society where an Internet Taliban has the power to destroy people without due process.

  • Paul Henry on October 14, 2012 9:41 PM:

    "No, "they" are an internet lynch mob."

    Hey, do you know what a lynch mob is? It's a group of violent vigilantes who kidnap someone--often a member of a racial or ethnic minority, or of some other group that's on the outs with society--whom they feel hasn't been punished sufficiently for some real or imagined offense, and then murder that person. By contrast, what you're talking about is a bunch of people saying angry things on the Internet about a guy who's a human shitstain, who may (or may not) eventually lose his job on account of the fact that he is a human shitstain. Do you see now how those two things are really, really different?

    "I don't care what the guy did"

    Yes, that is clear. I hope there's enough left in you that's recognizably human to cause you to think long and hard about why you're less bothered about the behavior of Michael Brutsch, an inflamed boil on the ass of civilization, than about people whose only offense has been to take offense and to express that offense--a liberty granted to them by the very freedom of speech you claim, incorrectly, to venerate.

    "This is the slippery slope. I like what [blather from a moron who thinks he's a lot smarter and more philosophical than he really is deleted]"

    Yeah, fucknugget, we get it: you think you're a real defender of our most sacred rights and all that. You even had the unbridled audacity to misquote Martin Niem�ller above, I see. There is not a thing you believe in that you don't completely misunderstand. And the beauty of it is, you're too stupid to see it. Freedom of speech, idiot, does not mean that you get to skate through life saying whatever you want without ever once facing the opprobrium of your peers for it. You get to say what you want to say, you noxious puddle of liquid snakeshit, and I get to tell the world exactly what I think of you for saying it. That's how it works. Do you get it now, dumbass?

    I hope Michael Brutsch loses every friend he's ever had because of what he's shown himself to be. And I hope you lose every friend you've ever had because of what you've shown yourself to be. (That's allowed, you see, because of another freedom we value quite highly around here: freedom of association. Look it up, scumwad.)

    "I would rather have a society with the problems associated with a guy like violentacres, than a society where an Internet Taliban has the power to destroy people without due process."

    And I would rather have a society where no one's as stupid as you. Takes all kinds, huh?

  • Maggie on October 15, 2012 12:20 PM:

    hey, charlie don't surf
    I wonder if Amanda Todd's photos were posted on his forum. You remember her - the little 13 yr old girl who was talked into removing her shirt on a webcam by some man. Then he posted it all over the internet. I'm just wondering if he posted it on one of violentacrez's forums. She drank bleach. Think about that charlie. SHE DRANK BLEACH. Then she hung herself.
    Have a great day Charlie

  • charlie don't surf on October 15, 2012 9:43 PM:

    Yes, Maggie and Paul, this is how the Internet Taliban work, just like you're doing it. You demonize people without the slightest evidence, and then you demonize people who point out that your position is unsupported.

    If you guys have actual evidence, rather than just secondhand stories from Chen, or speculation like sensationalistic assertions about a girl committing suicide, then you should provide it now.

  • CharlieAdamsInKy on October 16, 2012 9:30 AM:

    Paul Henry: Bingo, right on, amen brother, and sundry other expressions of agreement. charlie don't surf: either 1) you don't *think*, either, or 2) you're one of violentacrez's favorite fans. You have the right under the First Amendment to walk up to a total stranger in any dive in the worst part of town and call him a dirty sonuofabitch to his face, too - "freedom of speech", y'know? But I suspectpeople like you and Brutsch do your "thang" on the anonymous internet because you know exactly what it gets you in the Real World. Just in case you don't, I'd give real money to see one of you do it sometime. Then you can see how far all your stupid bitching about "lynch mobs" will get you.

  • Hola BackGrinder on October 16, 2012 12:17 PM:

    I have been blogging on this from another angle here: bit.ly/Qo92Sf

    I think people like violentacrez should be stopped, but I am very, very leery of vigilante groups starting up on the internet, I give some reasons in my blog post but this is a tough issue to take on from any angle.

  • Hola BackGrinder on October 16, 2012 12:20 PM:

    I have been blogging on this from another angle here: bit.ly/Qo92Sf

    I think people like violentacrez should be stopped, but I am very, very leery of vigilante groups starting up on the internet, I give some reasons in my blog post but this is a tough issue to take on from any angle.

  • Mary on October 17, 2012 8:45 PM:

    Excellent story, but I don't agree that he "got what he deserved". Otherwise, he'd be doing 15 - 20 in the Big House.

    What a slimy creep....

  • BlooEyedDevil on October 18, 2012 11:41 AM:

    Please, please, please, find an editor! This is otherwise a well-written piece, but the type-os are killing it. (See, for example, in the second sentence, the use of "auspicious" instead of "auspices"--the two words aren't even homonyms or homographs. Never mind that even "auspices" isn't really the best word for what you're trying to say.)

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  • Pot meet kettle on March 06, 2013 10:40 PM:

    The guy on Reddit sounds like an out and out creep, no doubt about that.

    But stories like this and the comments posted underneath them show that such a dispensation towards hatred is in all of us. It's not that people condemn what he did - so they should - it's the gleeful way that they exult in their now-licenced freedom to hate, safe in the knowledge it's a "legitimate" target.

    One or two people here have gently tried to point that out and the response is so predictable. Condemn what he did, but be careful of revelling in all that hate. It tends to stain.

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