Saturday, April 01, 2006

Why is Jeff Ackerman trolling?

Updates appended.

In online communities, writing like that of The Union's publisher is called "trolling"#. It's a form of attention-seeking behavior; much like stirring a hornet's nest, it's intended to rile the readers and maximize the ensuing swarm, indignation and disruption.

Why is he doing it? Here are some possibilities:
  • he has issues. (but see 7/2010 update at bottom of post)
  • It's deliberate and calculated.
    Why?
    1. to distract from the real news - likely of Doolittle and Klein, the ramifications of which could be extensive.
      or, worse yet, #Bush
    2. Perhaps he's leaving, and is thumbing his nose at the community* on his way out.
    3. Readership. A short term readership spike would make the circulation numbers look a little less bad.
      (Comparing target area households' subscription rates in The Union's 2005 and 2006 Advertising Rate Cards*:
      • 50.00% in 2005
        (15735 "Union households" out of 31469 "total households")
      • 33.25% in 2006
        (13988 "Union households" out of 42066 "total households")
      )


Not that you asked, but my money's on "deliberate" and "Doolittle". Yours?
---------
Apr 3 updates:

Wikipedia, for the moment at least, on internet trolls:
a troll is someone who comes into an established community...and posts inflammatory, rude or offensive messages designed to annoy and antagonize the existing members or disrupt the flow of discussion

For many people, the characterising feature of trolling is the perception of intent to disrupt a community in some way. Inflammatory, sarcastic, disruptive or humorous content is posted, meant to draw other users into engaging the troll in a fruitless confrontation. The greater the reaction from the community the more likely the user is to troll again, as the person develops beliefs that certain actions achieve his/her goal to cause chaos.

----------
On George Bush -
The worst - Feb 12 NYTimes lead article, linked and quoted in a comment here:
We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers - and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less.
This has been a central flaw of Mr. Bush's presidency for a long time. But last week produced a flood of evidence... [domestic spying...the prison camps...the war in Iraq...]

Apr 4 update: looks like somebody whipped out the Troll-B-Gone - Jeff's column for today is a different beast entirely.
(although his argument overlooked something)
(although the above-linked "something" may not be accurate, goes against GV's policy of not raising fees for projects once they get into the pipeline)(?)

---
7/2010 update/clarification: re "having issues", I'm hard pressed to think of anyone who doesn't; it is pretty much the human condition.

20 comments:

maxr99 said...

An excerpt from Jeff Ackerman's Feb., 2005 hit-piece on Kevin Ramirez:

"Part of the closed-door settlement stipulated that nobody say anything bad about anybody else, which is why Klein really couldn't tell me anything bad about Ramirez."

Ackerman then spent several hundred words saying bad things about Ramirez.

Ramirez came out of the investigation squeaky clean. Aaron Klein emerged looking much less so. By the time of the next election, Klein will be a forgotten name, who's political career ended as abruptly as it began. Jeff Ackerman backed the wrong horse. Big time.

Bruce said...

Jeff seems to gravitate to backing wrong horses, which I have no problem with- It will, over time, reveal the Union's and Swift newspaper's agenda to those that still think.

Anna said...

So does either of you think there's a motive, to the tone and inaccuracy of the recent columns?
Or am I reading too much into them?


The Feb 2005 column maxr99 quotes from is the one that's here and here.
(URLS are good)
What I'm wondering though, max, is what the story is behind the episode that Jeff did recount. Considering the author, I'm guessing the reality's rather different, but do you know what said reality is or where accurate info on it can be found?

and Bruce, yes, they are compiling a track record.

Bruce said...

Jeff promotes the accepted "Right" talking points, which is fine. Figuratively, it's his paper (right now). What's left out in the paper is as telling as what's put in. E.g. the lack of coverage of the Doolittle rediculousness (the 15% fundraising commision his wife receives- pretty good with NO prior fundraising experience and not having to actually DO ANYTHING), not to mention her few other clients- all connected to Abramoff. I can see why he doesn't cover it- it's just not important enough. I'm sorry, the UNION is NOT a newspaper, the same way Fox News is not Fair and Balanced.

maxr99 said...

Here are some on-line articles regarding the incident that was written about by Jeff Ackerman. They make no mention of 'whistle-blowing', although one is a Grand Jury report, where if such a thing occured, you'd think that's where it would have been mentioned. More later.

http://www.cfac.org/CaseLaw/Cases/Furtado_Sierra.html

http://www.placercourts.org/ftp/grandjury-1999-2000/sierra-col-1.pdf

maxr99 said...

More information on the incident Ackerman wrote about can be found at the following address. By all appearances, it was a 'gender discrimination' lawsuit filed against the college, I've yet to locate any 'whistle-blowing' reference with regards to administrative offices being placed in an academic only building, as Mr. Ackerman stated. If it's out there and someone could direct me to it, I'd love to read it. But...what did that incident have to do with the Aaron Klein accusation of money laundering and why would it be of any relevance?

http://www.placercourts.org/grandjury9900.htm

Anna said...

re Bruce's
> "the lack of coverage of the Doolittle rediculousness (the 15% fundraising commision his wife receives- pretty good with NO prior fundraising experience ..."

You may be right. Certainly the Doolittle affair isn't given anywhere near the coverage it should have.

On the other hand, we should factor in The Union's shooting itself in the foot a bit, reputationally, in that the "bad-Doolittle" coverage that they do provide is typically from wire stories, and those don't show up on their website or in any permutation of their search that I know of.

So the online paper does indeed have great gaping holes in its coverage, that are larger than the paper paper's.

Although even the paper paper is likely substandard on this - might be worthwhile to survey "paper" Union readers, if you know some, to find out if they're aware of the 15% cut.

And - if The Union were a newspaper first (with goal "to inform the readers") and a small-town business second - they could survey their Reader's Circle to determine just that, and adjust their coverage accordingly.

But they are a business; and - obviously, aside from the publisher (who's an outlier) - how fair is it to castigate them for it, if that's all they aim to be AND if that's pretty much par for the course, for small-town papers?

(I'm not asking rhetorically, I'm interested in your answer.)

Anna said...

re maxr999's URLs - cool, thank you; I shall look into them.

As for why any of it's relevant - it's relevant in two ways:
1) calibrating the publisher
(yes we already have a fair idea, but more data's always good)
2) my own perception is that allegations call for answers. It a basic human-psychology truth that when even unfair mud is slung, it clings to both 'donor' and 'recipient' - and, as we saw with the recent Ramirez news (and with the Grand Jury's stated reasons for investigating/reporting) - if smears aren't addressed, they continue to influence people.
Like "intelligent design" - all the lofty ignoring by scientists did was to make the 'audience' think that since scientists aren't rebutting it, there must be something to it.

and, re strategy - it used to be the lofty ignoring made sense - if you had limited airtime for getting your msg to the public, you wanted it to be _your_ message, not denials that you had intercourse with pigs.
Now you can have a blog, devote _one_ post to "Contrary to what he's said, I do not covet my neighbor's pigs", refer (link) to it when questions are raised, and move on.

or so I like to think.

BTW Sandman and Lanard had a good article on when/how to respond, Games Risk Communicators Play
(and hark - they've got a new column that looks to be extremely relevant, locally)

Bruce said...

You can rest assured, however, that when the indictments come down, there will be no way the union can avoid publishing the info. They can always say (right now) that nothing has been proven yet. Of course that argument would fly in the face of all the accusatory crap they publish (Rameriez ,Van Zant, Izzy etc.).

maxr99 said...

My referral to relevancy was directed as a rhetorical question to Jeff Ackerman. Because SC, which includes Ramirez, was involved in a Grand Jury investigation regarding the termination and settlement structure of a former employee, how is that relevant to a investigation six years later that has absolutely no connection to the first investigation? It isn't relevant, that's simply Jeff slipping in a murky accusation (his is incorrect, by the way) to further muddy the waters and attempt to cast Ramirez in an even darker light. So...why does Jeff Ackerman hate Mr. Ramirez so?...I'll wager he's never even met the man.

Anna said...

> My referral to relevancy was directed as a rhetorical question to Jeff Ackerman

in which case yes, I agree with you.

> I'll wager he's never even met the man.

Now that's an interesting wager.

OK, you're on. For 20 bucks to the charity of your choice?

I'm betting against you mostly just to be sporting; you do recall that during the Land Trust uproar Andy Cassano said (column, post) "The publisher of The Union was unwilling to meet with me to discuss the facts")

Bruce said...

It's interesting that with all the caveats about posting in the Union that they let slip a couple of pretty racist comments yesterday, circleing back to the "White..." artcles. And the Ackerman prophecy about how fast things will move in Grass Valley in his editorial today. God, what a hack outfit, which is too bad because there are some really great people employed there. Unfortunately the people who make up the brain cells of that organism are slowly killing the rest of the body.

Anna said...

Bruce. Two things.

First, the tone. Sorry to be Miss Manners here but we need to elevate it.
"Crap they publish" and "hack outfit" don't contribute to the discussion (and admittedly, neither does "giving the community the finger", which came from some idiot who should have thought before typing) and will NOT be ok in future.

(also, to the extent that you can provide URLs in your comments, that'd be helpful; I realize it's a pain though)
(e.g. to Jeff's column today, which - to my amazement - was great. And funny.)

Second: Bruce, a question - I asked above, and am still curious to hear your answer:
=====================
The Union is a business; ...how fair is it to castigate them for it, if that's all they aim to be AND if that's pretty much par for the course, for small-town papers?

or to rephrase the q, under what conditions _is_ it appropriate to give them hell, if they're not informing their readers?

"any and all"?

(I'm still gnawing on the facets of this one myself, so am curious what others think)

Michael R. Kesti said...

If you are genuinely interested in elevating your blog's tone, Anna, you might consider refraining from suggesting that Jeff Ackerman has a mental health problem. I cannot imagine that he would even cosider being as rude to you.

Anna said...

> If you are genuinely interested in elevating your blog's tone...

Mr. Kesti, a) I'm glad to see you here; b) you have a point; c) you seem to have overlooked the word "gently", in the criteria for comments :-}.

I'll tone the wording down.


But I do want to ask you a question, and I hope that you'll answer: on what rational basis would a community leader publicly label, stereotype and scorn a major sector of his community?

(in my opinion it's not showing good citizenship, and we certainly don't need any more bad examples set up here)

?

Michael R. Kesti said...

>> If you are genuinely interested in elevating your blog's tone...

>Mr. Kesti, a) I'm glad to see you here; b) you have a point; c) you seem to have overlooked the word "gently", in the criteria for comments :-}.

a) Thank you. b) I thought so. c) Was I ungentle? If so, I suppose it came from I found to be an unkind accusation. (BTW, “gently” does not seem to occur in your blog’s comment criteria.)

>I'll tone the wording down.

Okay.

>But I do want to ask you a question, and I hope that you'll answer: on what rational basis would a community leader publicly label, stereotype and scorn a major sector of his community?

Jeff Ackerman is no more, or less, a community leader than are you, Anna. He was not elected by the people but was, instead, hired by a corporation. The nature of his job certainly gives him more opportunity to shape opinion than most, but his mission requires him to meet a business plan rather than serve the will of an electorate. It seems a popular notion, lately, that The Union must act as if it were a branch of government but this is simply not the case. The Union is a newspaper and, unlike city councils and boards of county supervisors, you are free to start your own if you feel that you can better serve its market.

I saw the labels and stereotypes included in Mr. Ackerman’s “white-flight” piece as factual and, rather than scorn, I felt I had witnessed more of his mildly sarcastic and somewhat self-deprecating insight. Could it be that, having made it your mission to find any-and-every-thing to criticize about The Union, you have chosen to see insult where mildly humorous provocation of thought may have been intended?

>(in my opinion it's not showing good citizenship, and we certainly don't need any more bad examples set up here)

Are degrading insults your idea of good example? I see, this morning, that you have toned the wording down by substituting a euphemism for your previously explicit insult. Well, I suppose that such circumlocution is, at least, more accurate as Jeff Ackerman indeed has issues: Issues of newspaper to sell.

Anna said...

Michael, sit.

This is not a Usenet newsgroup, this is my weblog. You are in my living room, virtually speaking. I expect those who speak up here to do so with civility, respect and consideration.

> Jeff Ackerman is no more, or less, a community leader than are you, Anna.

Please Michael, go to Swift's website and read what they say about their publishers and management teams.

Some newspaper managers believe they have a responsibility to the public, and consider their organization to be a public trust; The Union's mgmt invokes this rationale when it serves.

When Swift takes "our publishers and management teams...are leaders in their communities" off their website, when representatives of The Union don't argue "the public needs to know" when agitating for more access to government information, when Jeff and Pat say "Our only responsibility is to make money for the owners and advertisers" then I'll agree with you.

(like ISO 9000's "Say what you do and do what you say")

> I saw the labels and stereotypes included in Mr. Ackerman’s “white-flight” piece as factual and, rather than scorn, I felt I had witnessed more of his mildly sarcastic and somewhat self-deprecating insight.

Yes, I can understand how it would come across that way - a perfect example of how we aren't neurologically suited to judging fairly.

> Are degrading insults your idea of good example?...you have toned the wording down by substituting a euphemism for your previously explicit insult.

1. Tu quoque.
2. I suspect that what you read is not what I wrote. Could you please paraphrase what you think I'm saying?
(did I say "Ackerman has issues"?)

one and one don't make one, one and one make two.
Or rather, please consider the combinatorial logic

3. Michael, you have issues.
I have issues.
Lots of people we know have issues.
In saying this, am I "employing a euphemism for an explicit insult"?


Finally, on property rights:
I want my virtual living room to be a place for thinking and chewing, not for fighting.
The former thrives with civil discourse, the latter with bombast.

If you want to take the judgmental, name-calling, blaming route, may I recommend The Union's comments section, or some other weblog, or best yet, get your own living room and invite the community in to wrestle - I think the county _does_ need a more rough-and-tumble place for debate, since some people are more comfortable there. I'm not one of them.
(BTW I'd be happy to help you set a blog up again, if you'd like)

I'll be happy to have you here if you're willing to be civil, thoughtful, reflective, and considerate of other commenters and the host. But it _is_ a different frame of mind, and not everyone likes or wants to spend time in it.

If you might still be interested, a request -
Before responding, wait until your're in a calm and thoughtful mood.
Then read Smashing Heads Does Not Open Minds.
If you find its message convincing, then come back.

(if you aren't interested, or don't find it convincing, let's move to email)

Anna said...

to amend the above, for greater accuracy -
Nearly everybody has issues; some are just better hidden than others.

Anna said...

Threaded comments would be really nice right now...

Max, the whistleblowing incident _is_ addressed; on the 1999-2000 Grand Jury page, the third link - it's just called "Sierra Community College District" - takes you to "Sierra Community College District - Complaints 98B-32 and 99B-32" - which covers that incident and some others, and which doesn't portray the college admin in a good light. So it looks like Jeff wasn't just blowing smoke, as it were. apologies to Jeff, re my assumption that it was all in his head.

But max you're still right that it didn't bear on the ostensible justification for "regime change" in winter 2005.

And with this stuff I have _no_ feeling for scale, or what the norms really are.

what did seem odd was the difference in tone between the 2 contemporaneous(?) 99-2000 'sierra college' grand jury reports.
(but then again, it is 2am so by definition my judgement is suffering)

Anna said...

2 updates:

From today's Auburn Journal, Klein, 'attack politics' infect trustees

and, re a previous comment of mine - "bombast" doesn't mean what I thought it meant.
(we have met the enemy and he is us...)