Sock Puppets: Not Just for Kids Anymore

[Updated below]

Dear Readers:

We have uncovered overwhelming evidence of no fewer than 8 sockpuppets operated by a single individual, each with its own persona.  In the process, we have also determined that our list of bannees is not 4, but in fact only 3 individuals (for what it’s worth, one of the previously banned sock puppets had the persona of an uncompromising movement conservative, the other of a similar movement liberal).  Specifics of the investigation are below the fold, but we will be making substantial efforts in the coming days and weeks to limit the  puppeteer’s ability to cause additional problems.  We ask for our legitimate readers’ cooperation in this regard by notifying us of any future suspected sock puppetry by this individual.  

In the context of the League, which is so heavily dependent on the need to assume at least a modicum of good faith by one’s interlocutors, sock puppetry that adopts numerous different personae with varying points of view that the puppeteer may or may not actually hold directly undermines the entire purpose of the site, and will not be tolerated.  In the case of this particular puppeteer, the problem was compounded by an extraordinarily high percentage of comments making blanket accusations of bad faith and/or dishonesty at contributors and other commenters.  Yes, that’s correct: a person engaged in widespread sock puppetry was repeatedly and regularly and vociferously accusing others of bad faith and dishonesty.

In this case, the puppetry was eventually discovered when it was finally realized exactly why numerous comments submitted under a wide array of names were ending up in the spam filter, with the user in most cases subsequently submitting an immediate follow up comment, which usually got around the spam filter, complaining about being censored.

We had initially believed that this was just a minor issue with the spam filter that has, at various points, affected many regular commenters.  However, after noticing numerous similarities in the complaints about the comments being blocked, I looked into the issue a little more closely and determined that in these cases, the problem was not that the commenter was running afoul of the spam filter, but instead was that the commenter was posting from multiple IP addresses that had previously been banned.

The banned accounts with which the sock puppet accounts shared IP addresses were the conservative persona “Good Grief, the Comedian’s Incompetent,” banned about a year ago, and the liberal persona “Mike,” banned just a month or two ago.*  At least one of the sock puppet accounts shared at least one IP address with each of these banned personae.

What follows is a list of the other sock puppet accounts, along with a general description of the persona adopted for some of them (a few did not post enough to provide a basis to describe their persona):

James K. Polk – a conservative allegedly living in Saudi Arabia who had experienced waterboarding.

Jennifer – a pro-choice woman from Bozeman, Montana and a patron of the (apparently fictional) Planned Parenthood facility there

Kenneth – a Koch Brothers-obsessed liberal who showed up here in the last week for the first time yet somehow was deeply interested about the circumstances regarding “Mike’s” banning nearly two months ago.

David – a Brit with a desire to learn about American politics (and to vindicate “Mike”)


Matt – a rural liberal with a bit of a potty mouth

In addition to the identical IP addresses, which would otherwise, in and of itself, be sufficient to warrant a conclusion that these all are likely to be the same person, there are some additional factors that support the conclusion.

Specifically each of the above listed accounts contains at least one, and usually more, characteristics that are highly unusual in the LoOG community:

1. All of the most prolific accounts appeared for the first time within minutes or days, not weeks or months of the last post from another one of these accounts.

2. Immediately upon the first comment from a given account getting held up, the next comment from the account is a somewhat similarly worded complaint about being censored.

3.  A peculiar interest in the circumstances surrounding “Mike”‘s banning, with a purported knowledge of “Mike’s” activities extending well prior to the sock puppet account’s creation.

4.  Blanket and unprovoked accusations of dishonesty directed towards other commenters or contributors.  No, the irony of this is not lost on me.

5. Juvenile attempts to juxtapose elements of the word “retard” into claims about supposed opponents, ie: “Retardican,” “libtard.”

6.  An ability to post from numerous IP addresses within the span of a few minutes.

Importantly, I am not aware of a single other account that has ever been held up as a result of sharing an IP address with a banned commenter.

Given the direct evidence on the IP address issue, the above circumstantial evidence makes it nearly impossible to avoid the conclusion that these are all the same person.

*And yes, there is a certain amount of personal vindication in this for me, in that I was accused of banning “Mike” solely because he was a liberal even though he was banned for effectively the same reasons as I had banned the Limbaugh-conservative persona “Good Grief.” As it turns out, they were the same person.

P.S. This is Erik speaking. You know, your fascist, lying cowardly, effete liberal dictator-in-chief. I promise one more thing going forward: this site is growing bigger, and with more traffic come more trolls. And I am not afraid to swing my ban-hammer. After all, I’m basically just Evil Incarnate anyways, I might as well act like it.

Thanks to Mark for the work he’s done here, and to Tod as well.

[Update by Mark]: I forgot to mention that in the case of one of the more prolific of the above-referenced identities, around half of the many IP addresses used matched up with an IP address used at least once for at least one of the other 7 identities, with the overwhelming majority of those matching up with a specific one of those identities.

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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79 Responses

  1. BSK says:

    Do people really have nothing better to do than engage in a 2-year-crusade against a relatively small blog?

    • Chris says:

      I suspect this isn’t the only blog where he/she/it does this.

    • Burt Likko says:

      Res ipsa loquitor.

      Mark didn’t make up all this data out of nowhere. And going through it would have been tedious. But someone has to take steps to keep the environment here the way it ought to be. I know Mark would not ban anyone lightly and that bannination is a non-ideological decision. Nor did he make it on his own.

    • DensityDuck says:

      Hey, at least it wasn’t the Freedom Knights!

      • Jeff says:

        I love how the writer of that article, after being informed that using “gay” as a pejorative is not cool, substitutes “queer” in its place.  That largely undermines much of what the writer is saying.

        • Jeff says:

          BTW, thanks for that little bit of USENET history.  Having lost several newsgroups to spam back in the day, I sincerely wish the cancelbots (which I hadn’t heard of before that article) had prevailed.

  2. Erik Kain says:

    Thanks for this. But James has no identiy. Who is this mysterious James?

  3. I’ve often been concerned about a regular around here using two identities. Which is it, E.D. or Erik? We need to know!

    Dumb jokes aside, thanks for doing all this work to keep this place humming, Mark.

  4. Erik Kain says:

    Make that four again. I lost my temper.

  5. wardsmith says:

    I for one was completely taken in by Mavid, er I mean Menneth, er I mean Mennifer. Actually I wasn’t but it was fun to watch Mavid pretend to live in jolly ole England (North sounds more like an Englishman than Mavid ever did). I was sorry to see him go, although I could point back to his post that said he was just responding “this morning” while forgetting the 5 hour (EST) time zone difference. He won’t give up of course, he’ll just try again under a different guise. While we’re at it, for a minute there I suspected Fnord of being Patrick Cahalan.

    • Jason Kuznicki says:

      I had serious doubts about some of them, but neither proof nor the inclination to look for it.

    • Patrick Cahalan says:

      If I was going to engage in sock puppetry, I’d either be Fnord or a conservative transvestite named “Rita”.

  6. Jason Kuznicki says:

    I sometimes think we’d be better off if we all went by the name “An Anonymous Gentleman.”

  7. Rufus F. says:

    Call me naive, but I really was starting to worry that people were on the left had developed a serious animus against the developmentally disabled that, for the life of me, I could not figure out. What could be the connection between being a liberal and having such an axe to grind about “retards”? Hopefully, it really is just one dude.

  8. Jaybird says:

    Every now and again, I consider getting an “Evil Jaybird” login.

    Or, I suppose, a “Good Jaybird” one.

  9. Will Truman says:

    Does anyone else remember the last time someone was banned and they kept coming back and leaving comments substituting usernames with accusations against the board administrators? Even if we can expect someone to get upset at being banned, it’s quite curious that they would register their protest in such a remarkably similar manner.

    What was the name of that last guy?

    I think it was… Mike.

    • Chris says:

      You’re forgetting one of the other banned dudes, Hei.degger, who comes back in phases. Actually, did anyone compare his data with Mike’s? James K Polk is a Hei.degger-esque name.

      • Whatever else one might say about Heidi – and there’s plenty – his obsessions are quite different.  I’ll also say this much: if he was at all part of this, my investigation would have turned up a direct link of some sort.

        • Tod Kelly says:

          I would also say that for all of H’s quirks that led to his banning, most of the time he tried to make connections with people.  In his own way, of course, but I always appreciated it.

        • Will H. says:

          I liked Heid. Why was he banned?

          I began commenting here as “Will,” until I realized that someone else here already had that name.
          Actually, the nickname that has stuck with me the longest, the one that most of the guys at work know me as, is “the professor.”
          It’s because of the character from Gilligan’s Island.
          If you were around me long enough, you would see it.
          And I do like fiddling with the radio from time to time.

          You might find this link helpful.

  10. Had this simply been performance art, I would just want to take my hat off to the guy.

    But the dishonesty seems to have been mostly self-interested, and about kicking up dirt and bugging the site’s operators, rather than simple trying on internally consistent identities. So, less fun.

    Nice catch, thanks for setting it all out for your readers to see.

  11. Johanna says:

    Right now I feel banned as the sub blogs are frozen to my ability to comment and all I wanted to do was answer Jaybird’s question. All i am seeing is a reddit icon or a frozen page.

  12. Very nice police work, Lou.

  13. greginak says:

    People manage to be endlessly disappointing. I can’t say i’m surprised since some of those persona’s seemed pretty odd as i was reading the threads.

    Don’t feed the trolls is always good advice.

  14. I liked Mike.

    He eats anything.

  15. Murali says:

    I do know that people who log on through their university sometimes share the same IP address. Could that have been one of the reasons the IP address was the same?

    (At leas megavideo sometimes tells me that I have used up my free hours when I have done no such thing)

    • Noah says:

      It looks like he was spoofing his IP address and would occasionally get wires crossed and not have each account using the same IP.


    • Not possible in this case, unfortunately. I was able to rule that out pretty early on. He was using anonymizing software, but in a community of our relatively small size, the use of such software sticks out like a sore thumb; when combined with the consistent mannerisms and behavioral traits, the case became overwhelming. Also worth mentioning is that in reviewing the threads where these posts were made, it seems that several commenters expressed suspicions about sock puppetry with respect to two of these accounts almost immediately upon the account’s first appearance.

      • Yeah, I remember it was fairly obvious that Mike and David were the same person when David suddenly came into existence with the express purpose of standing up for the newly-banned Mike. David managed to calm down and behave like a civilized human being long enough for people to stop worrying about it, at least, but pretty much everyone in that thread noticed that David was almost certainly Mike.

  16. Jeff says:

    I might have to change my moniker —  Jeff tFL or, with cheers to Mr Cheeks, Jeff tCD, might work.