The Story of the Story About a Troll

A few days ago, Bloomberg Businessweek published my story “The Journalist and the Troll.” I’m in deeply unfamiliar territory writing about myself. First person narrative is not the norm at Bloomberg News, my employer of more than a decade, in case that needs to be said.

The reaction has been gratifying, and bifurcated: Shock and outrage from the majority of people who’ve written to me, and then a significant minority with their own stories of similar treatment. What I’m trying to say is, that this happens shouldn’t be shocking to anyone. What’s shocking is when it does happen, there’s so little recourse. Most people don’t get a nice photo and big platform to present their side of the story.

The summary is this: I did my job as a journalist, fairly, and someone was unhappy about that. It’s happens to almost every journalist. This someone, a man named Benjamin Wey, had the money and the wherewithal to establish his own platform, TheBlot, to attack me and his other perceived enemies.

If you’ve read my story, and the bits of the original Blot articles included there, I hope it’s apparent that they are wild, generally incoherent and ugly. To give a flavor of the defamatory claims and juvenile, vulgar style (No need to Google this, please don’t):

“Between collecting a lousy paycheck and taking bribes by illegal stock short sellers to publish hit pieces on public companies, Dune Lawrence is an obscure nobody in the news business — no one knows about her and no one cares what the bitch does every day.”

“Sources told investigators that Dune Lawrence had studied in Beijing years ago while working as a writer. Lawrence scrambled to stay afloat. Due to poor job performance and below average reseach (sic) skills, Lawrence was reportedly kicked out of China after her writing assignments dried up. Unable to make ends meet, she ended up working for minimum wage in New York, barely survived (sic). Years of consuming cheap hormone-packed fried chicken and stressing over money have taken a toll on her appearance — a wrinkled face like some ‘used toilet paper.’”

“Just Google the name ‘Dune Lawrence’ or the words ‘racist Dune Lawrence,’ and you’ll find a sensational (and not in a good way) writer. Dune Lawrence has hardly accomplished anything in her life. Desperate to seek attention from any living creature, Dune Lawrence is eager to find an audience for her babbling. For years, Dune Lawrence has lived a life totally lost like a ‘deer in the headlights’ … until she found China on a map.”

I didn’t think about writing something at first, in the vein of “I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.” I was sure I’d find a way to get it taken down, or pushed down in my Google results, aided by the reasonable folks who run Internet and social media companies in this country. Well, that was naïve.

I looked into “reputation management” services, but they seemed geared towards companies, or people with a lot of money to spend. I had thought that my very lack of engagement on social media protected me from the darker corners of the Internet. Now I realized that it was the inverse: To try and combat the smear tactics, I should overexpose myself with linked accounts all over the place: Vine! Instagram! Tumblr! Pinterest! Flickr!

I like looking at photos, I’m happy to hear about new quinoa recipes, I watch funny videos. But I don’t really have much interest in any of those platforms, and it seemed like a further erosion of my privacy to have to counter unwanted online exposure with even more online exposure.

So I settled on ignoring it, as I’m guessing most people do. Look at the prolonged, expensive court battle that at least two of TheBlot’s victims have gone through. I figured it would just go away. And when Benjamin Wey was indicted for alleged financial crimes last September (which he’s denied, fine), I thought ‘for sure, now it all disappears.’

Nope. It’s all still there. TheBlot articles haven’t ruined my life (not for lack of trying), but they’re juvenile, stupid, inflammatory, defamatory, infuriating, and still there.

I like what one person had to say on Twitter, and it sums up why I wrote the story: “Wow, this could be me. Or you. Or any of us.”