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I talk to all the people who sent me threats
Instead of ignoring those who said "I hope you get hit by a truck" I started engaging with them instead. This is what happened.
Note: all the names in this piece — except in screenshots — have been changed.
Last week in “I hope you get hit by a truck” I explained my day in the firing line of New Zealand’s conspiracy theorist crowd, after they’d distributed disinformation about me. You may recall this doozy from Dazza the firewood man:
Usually I ignore unhinged rants in my inbox, but last week I decided to do something different: engage with them. After-all, New Zealand’s conspiracy set is just a little version of what’s found in the USA. And all over the planet. Understand the mindset of a kiwi conspiracy theorist down under, and I’m pretty confident you’ll understand it anywhere. So I figured we could all learn from the responses I got.
First up, I replied to each and every bit if hate mail with a reasoned response explaining their error.
OK — full disclosure — to the dude who said “you’ve been getting rammed up the arse by other sodomites” I replied with “omg ur cute”.
But to everyone else, I sent this:
What happened was interesting.
First off, quite a few people didn’t appear read my email before hitting “reply”, still utterly perplexed by the fact my e-mail address had appeared in the screenshot. They didn’t seem to grasp — despite me explaining it really clearly — that it was a screenshot of something submitted on a web form. It wasn’t an e-mail.
It shows you did David it has your email address on it. Are you saying someone stole your email or hacked into your email and sent it?
So there was a lot of that. Some of those ones I replied to, to re-explain — telling them that now I had their email address, I could use it on any form I submit online to make it look like it was sent from them.
Other people like Sam were semi-satisfied with my explanation, but felt I needed to do more work to clear my name. They wanted me to start making calls. Why the onus should be on me I have no idea, but this is what Sam demanded:
RE: Vinny Eastwood, and your email
If what you are saying is true then I would expect you to ring Billy T K and clear your name. Once you have done this and Billy T K is convinced it actually is you on the phone then I am sure Billy will make this public. Here is a private number to get straight to Billy [phone number provided].
I look forward to hearing about the outcome of this situation. You will receive an apology from me once you have cleared your name.
Sam was really digging in hard.
It was at this point I got an email from Vinny Eastwood, the man who’d spent four hours on YouTube saying he’d like to cage fight me, and telling his audience to harass me. He’d read my Webworm piece, and to his credit — he apologised.
Subject: Sincere apologies from a complete idiot
Read your piece about what happened yesterday,
it’s very clear that someone has tried to frame you and set me up to look like an idiot (not that they have to try that hard).Just made the video on youtube private Deleted the Facebook version & related posts. Hopefully this may prevent you being subject to further harassment.
He then invited me on his show. I declined.
To his credit, Vinny then posted an apology on his social media channels. To be honest, this surprised me a little: he’d gotten a new truth, and he updated his reality accordingly.
Billy TK Jnr posted a similar message (I imagine Billy is starting to get a little annoyed at the disinformation in his life, after his political party fell apart. He’s now full-time grifter, armed with a Facebook page and a truly terrible conspiracy app).
And this is the interesting thing: my email inbox now started to fill up with apologies. One of them was Sam — the guy who’d been entirely unhappy with my explanation earlier, and had wanted me to start making calls to clear my name.
Now he’d heard the same explanation from his leaders’ mouths, he was happy to apologise:
RE: Vinny Eastwood, and your email
I see both Billy and Vinny have found your claim to be true that you were set up by someone els. I would like to give you my sincere apology for my original email that accused you of being behind this act when it was not you at all. I would also like to apologise for those people who have given you death threats, thats not the type of people I have seen in this movement and suspect they are shills.
It was going so well, until the “shills” bit. The scream of “shill” is pretty textbook in the conspiracy theory movement. It’s a cry that magically discredits absolutely anything. I am often called a “shill” because I know New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern (I do), and am apparently being paid a lot of money by her (I’m not).
(But I would say that because I’m a shill).
In this case, instead of Sam realising that his fellow conspiracy theorists were very capable of sending threats, he put the threats down to “shills”. It’s the same thing that happened when the capitol riots were blamed on shills and Antifa. Spoiler alert: turns out they were not shills.
I wrote back to Sam one more time, saying that perhaps he should consider where he puts his trust, considering he had this really concrete example in front of him in what had happened to me. I also pointed out how bonkers his earlier request was, that I make calls to clear my name. But his reply showed he still didn’t get it.
RE: Vinny Eastwood, and your email
I do trust Billy and Vinny, no reason not to.
No. Reason. Not. To. FFS. This really is an impossible task. Sam went on:
If I recall correctly Vinny did ask if it was you in his video, not sure if you watched that or not. I did put the weight on you because it was your name being used, I also was not even sure if it was you because you spelt your own name with a small d, and that seemed strange for anyone , especially a journalist.
This also speaks so strongly to the conspiracy theory mindset: there are clues and conspiracies everywhere. “you spelt your own name with a small d, and that seemed strange for anyone , especially a journalist.”
Yes, very very strange. I think anyone who’s read my Twitter would just know I am quite annoying in that I love to write in lowercase. I’m just badass like that, you know? But here, to Sam, it’s some kind of clue. Truly infuriating.
Sam wasn’t the only one emailing me. Others apologised as well, but wanted to make it clear they were still deeply suspicious of journalists:
RE: Snitching arsehole
Sorry about that.
Anyway we have our views which obviously don't match yours. I'm convinced Vinny and Billy’s followers are not spreading misinformation. You journalist’s need to change tact in order to regain any public credibility because our movement is gathering momentum.
“You journalists”. Like so many emails I received, none of them expressed any kind of realisation that perhaps their conspiracy theorist leaders like Vinny and Billy should be the ones to “change tact in order to regain any public credibility”.
And yeah, that classic refrain “You journalists…” — always said from behind a clenched, unflinching jaw.
Some replies were 100% pure, and in stark contract to their initial email. Meredith was pretty tame compared to the others. She had originally sent me this:
Who the hell do you think you are spreading lies and disingenuous disinformation.
I have reported you to you tube and have reported you to fb.
Get on your way and be gone with you.
Her reply was as if from another personality:
My most humble apologies I am very very sorry I got it wrong. You are right I am wrong. Please forgive.
All the best
Other emails made me really sad — as I realised there’s little hope for those stuck in the bubble. Mary could be an aunt, or the kind lady I always see walking her dog in the morning:
I’ve been listening to Vinny daily for a couple of years now and he and our movement has become the only thing giving us hope in this dark twisted world. I unfortunately fell into the trap and felt I needed to vent my pure fury and anger because Vinny literally spoke for 4 hours about how ‘David Farrier cancelled his channel’ and he asked his listeners to email you their grief. Turns out you were framed and Its become a hurrendous [SIC] misunderstanding and I apologise deeply.
I believe Mary was truly apologetic, and I felt for her. But as I read on, I realised the whole experience had done nothing to persuade her from her overall beliefs. She was stuck, as if in quicksand.
Its weird cuz [SIC] at first I was like ‘what? this is insane’ but he kept going on and on and on and on and on to the point where (being a very emotional and sensitive person during this dystopian time) I ended up starting to believe it and it I felt an anger and desire for justice like nothing I’ve ever felt before in my life. I’ll still watch Vinny, I’ll just think twice the next time he mentions a popular NZ figure shutting down his channel. I can’t imagine what it must’ve felt like for you getting all those angry messages.
There were a lot of Mary’s. They were a variety of sexes and ages, but overall (going on some brief internet stalking) I’d say were all in the 50+ set. This is Sue:
I have heard you were set up. My comments remain, but clearly they are not assigned to you. The media on the whole have been awful to all of us, while we are trying to get transparency in this COVID scam. This stunt that someone pulled did not stand out to be much worse than what we have been dealing with for nearly a year. The media should be our watchdog, but either blank us or lie about us. Perhaps you might be able to clean up their acts by reminding them that we are not in a dictatorship and they are not the SS.
The SS. Gawd. There always has to be a nazi reference when it comes to our government protecting us from a pandemic.
In my mind, these are just people who’ve fallen down the rabbit hole because they are scared and vulnerable. And if they can’t understand an email from a web form, what fucking chance do they stand once they’re watching YouTube videos? The internet is such a powerful force, but if you don’t understand how the pieces fit then you’re screwed from the start.
I’m reminded how QAnon essentially started as a joke on some infantile forums. An insider with all the secrets: a joke that had been made before, but had never left the board. QAnon only spread because those who didn’t understand the nuances of 4Chan thought the gag was real, and ran with it.
Many of the more abusive emailers didn’t get back to me — including the “I hope you get hit by a truck” guy.
And then there’s Darron. Dazza. Big D. The firewood man. He’s not a Mary or a Sue; he’s a different breed. His emails paint a portrait of someone I never want to meet or see or think about again. He’s not rare and he’s not unique and these people genuinely fucking terrify me.
RE: You will get what’s coming to you
I see you down like being attacked David?
Perhaps you should consider not attacking people yourself?
What do you think?
You could have just quietly dobbed Vinny in because you don't agree with his views, else your Boss put you up to it or whatever the case may be - but oh no, you have to rub salt into the wound don’t you by telling Vinny that you’re the snitch who did it. He makes a poultry living out of what he does […] How would you like it if someone did that to you?
He followed this up with another — moaning I hadn’t published any of his other emails. Well here you go Darron. Have at it.
Dear David [Farrier],
I see you made good use of my first email in your article David but failed [as most mainstream journo’s do] to include the full truth [if any] to mention my reply to it and your response, which clearly explains the first one - in order to paint me badly of course but not yourself as the poor innocent victim.
Nice one mate and you wonder why so few real citizens have any time for the scumbag media? No reply from you to my second email I notice David - that's about par for the course mate for journo’s too isn't it.
Have also apologised to you in my Facebook post - I concede you may not have even bothered to look at that - but doubt I'l be getting one from you for slagging me off in your article and not bothering to mention the point made in the 2nd one - WHICH WAS THE WHOLE POINT OF THE EXERCISE dickhead, as I'm sure you well understand but don't want to know about or share with your audience of course.
So since I'm a decent human being but doubt you are - I hereby apologise to you for the harsh email sent to you if indeed you are the poor innocent victim of a nasty prank here David.
But are you mate? [No need to reply David I highly doubt I will be getting one and have explained why - but hey, maybe you are a decent bastard after all and shock me with a reply].
THE QUESTION REMAINS DAVID - WHO would set you up in such a fashion mate and WHY?
Best, [following your lead mate, nice one] Darron
I guess I’ll leave it there, with a shouted “THE QUESTION REMAINS DAVID - WHO”
It’s a statement that sums up the modern conspiracy scene: nonsensical, shouted, and devoid of any real meaning.
Vinny wrote back to me, too — after I’d gently hinted that he held some responsibility in all of this: for the emails and threats I’d received, and for convincing a set of New Zealand that COVID-19 isn’t real. For backing QAnon propaganda and continually spreading misinformation.
Online, Vinny mimics his heroes like Alex Jones who put on an act — affecting a certain voice. But Vinny’s reply to me was gentle, showing a level of self-awareness I wasn’t expecting.
What motivates me?
To be honest, I’m probably doing this because of unresolved traumas and don’t want others to have to suffer brutal life lessons to gain their knowledge like I had to.
I have the worst business model in the world, to make money, by telling the truth, truth’s hard to determine in this confusing world so the best approach is honesty.
I think that the ideas he expressed are the most troubling of all. Someone fully aware of their own trauma, but not seeing that as a reason to work on themselves. Rather, a reason to lash out at a world imagined; a world of vast conspiracies, cabals and chaos.
Just to end on something a little more positive — it was cool to see Minari win at the Golden Globes yesterday. It’s my favourite film so far this year. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen (yeah, New Zealand), but I’d urge you to check it out however you can!
And Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste took home Best Original Score for their work on Soul. This track, in particular, I love: