Disgraced IDW Event Planner Travis Pangburn Couldn’t Possibly Be Running A Hilariously Inept Network Of Sockpuppets On Twitter
Old habits die hard, but grift springs eternal.
Around 2017, an oft-bearded Canadian named Travis Pangburn sprang fully-formed from the collective amygdala of the Intellectual Dark Web, a marketing conglomerate of “renegades” who some people think are not renegades. Jordan Peterson’s coattails were expansive and lush and rocketing upward, and Travis, via his erstwhile venture Pangburn Philosophy, grabbed on for dear life.
Seemingly overnight, Pangburn became the organizer-in-chief of live IDW debates, podcasts, and other permutations of the same ten people talking to each other about woke undergrads. Pangburn’s rise never quite made sense, but the skeptics and rationalists of the IDW fully bought in. Their relationship reached its climax with “A Day of Reflection,” a $500-a-head IDW symposium scheduled in NYC for November 17, 2018. “A Day of Reflection” became Pangburn’s Fyre Festival, as scheduled participants, led by Sam Harris, dropped out, citing Pangburn’s failure to pay speakers and refund ticket holders for previous events, which left in the lurch those who had purchased tickets and transportation for the forthcoming bonanza of ideas.
After the debacle surrounding “A Day of Reflection,” Pangburn stepped away from the public sphere, as more reports surfaced alleging Pangburn Philosophy’s failure to pay its debts. The septuagenarian surviving members of 80’s preschool TV series “The Elephant Show” claim to be owed $15K from October 2018 tour gigs promoted by Pangburn and Pangburn Philosophy, and suppliers involved in the Kootenay Country Music Festival in Travis’s native British Columbia sing a similar refrain.
For several months, Pangburn’s twitter account, @ThePangburn, tweeted nothing but the occasional link to a video, usually one of his own. Then, on September 16, Travis returned in full force with, uhhhh, this:
Pangburn appears to be in the early stages of rehabbing his relationship with the IDW. He just announced promotion of a live NYC debate in March between IDW-adjacent moderate atheist activist Matt Dillahunty and far-right racist homophobic lunatic felon Dinesh D’Souza. Skeptic magazine EIC and IDW stalwart Michael Shermer has also recently talked up Pangburn on Twitter.
So Pangburn 2.0 appears to be happening.
Only this time, Travis brought friends.
Very dumb friends.
Friends who are almost certainly also Travis Pangburn.
This odyssey started when a friend of mine—an actual human who is not the same human as I am — got caught in a barrage of suspicious replies from a number of tenacious Pangburn defenders. We did some digging, and what followed was one hilarious revelation after another of what appears to be the most bumbling, obvious sockpuppet network ever assembled.
Come along with us on our journey, starting with…
Dave loves Pangburn so much that all of his tweets are either to defend or promote Pangburn or people with whom Pangburn aspires to associate. Being a retired lawyer, Dave’s specialty is telling Pangburn critics that Pangburn should sue them.
There are so many people Dave thinks Travis should sue.
Dave also has a keen eye for bots.
Issuing threats of litigation from an account purporting to be a lawyer is not very cool, nor is calling robots retarded, but Dave’s pinned tweet is on another level. Dave has issued a long “challenge” thread to Sam Harris’s recounting of “A Day of Reflection,” and it has quite the peculiar stat line:
How does 2–49–8 happen to a tweet?
Brief Aside About Pangburn’s Incredible Popularity With Russian Bot Accounts
Russian bots love them some Pangburn. Travis’s last few hundred followers read like a phone book from Nizhny Novgorod.
If you scroll down far enough, you can pinpoint the exact moment Travis became acutely appealing to our borscht-eating adversaries.
Would it surprise you to learn that the vast majority of the hundreds of Russian bot accounts that started following Travis all at once were created in November 2019, just in time for dozens of them to retweet Dave’s “challenge” to Sam Harris?
Back To Our Man Dave
Travis leans heavily upon Dave’s pinned tweet thread in fashioning the “Response To Criticism” section of his new website, which addresses the fallout from “A Day of Reflection.”
Travis: “I agree wholeheartedly with almost all of Dave’s points.” (Which points, pray tell, does he disagree with?)
Let’s recap. A Twitter account that sure seems a lot like a Travis Pangburn sockpuppet (more, much more, on this below) issued a “challenge” to Sam Harris, Pangburn’s chief adversary in the omnishambles that was his past year and a half, which Travis found so compelling that he built the rebuttal to his personal Everything-gate around that tweet thread, and which Russian bots that were created and began following Pangburn at the same time found so compelling that they retweeted it en masse.
This seems fine.
Other than the Kremlin, who’s liking and retweeting Dave so often? Allow me to introduce…
The November Crew
HeatSeaker (@HeatSeaker6) discovered Twitter about two weeks ago and immediately began spamming Pangburn critics with Dave’s Russian Bot thread.
Our lovable Joker enjoys long walks on the beach, Andys Ngo and Yang, Every IDW Blue Checkmark, all the miniscule accounts in this article (and only the miniscule accounts in this article), and, of course, Travvy P.
PangburnWarrior (@PangburnWarrior) only speaks to Dave and to Pangburn (with literally one exception, when, after tweeting at Dave, he gleefully informed a Pangburn critic he was blocked). The rest of PangburnWarrior’s twitter time is spent retweeting Pangburn, people Pangburn likes, and the other members of this decrepit repertory.
It seems PangburnWarrior has feelings about Sam Harris that differ somewhat from Travis Pangburn’s stated feelings about Sam Harris. And PangburnWarrior has a “colleague”! Meet…
SkeptixSocial (@SkeptixSocial) and their separated shoulder appeared just in time to retweet Dave’s pinned thread along with Sergey and Natasha and 40 of their comrades. SS’s Twitter routine is a mixture of Dave and HeatSeaker: threatening Pangburn’s critics, retweeting Pangburn and those he aspires to befriend.
The only small accounts Skeptix has ever retweeted are Dave, HeatSeaker, and our next contestant…
The Weird Outlier
Our spicy bespectacled heroine is a bit different than the November Crew. She discovered Twitter a couple weeks earlier and tweets more often than they do, using flowery language and copious Emojis. Jig likes everyone Dave and the November Crew like, and she always shows up exactly on time for the dogpiles, but she also occasionally retweets random news stories and articles of more general interest.
Even more than the others, Jig leapt into twitter from the top rope. Claiming to be on the “security team for the Kootenay County Music Fest,” Jig’s first tweet was to call someone retarded for promoting a video called “The Pangburn Implosion,” followed by accusing the former Assistant Production Manager of Pangburn Philosophy interviewed in the video of getting the job by sleeping with multiple people. This is somewhat ironic given her purported professional relationship with Pangburn and the frequency with which she tweets heart emojis at him.
From a spicy note to a somber note, our final personality…
The Dearly Departed
JanJan (@JanJan53956976) appeared on Twitter at Pangburn’s personal invitation, followed Pangburn, tweeted a few times at Pangburn, retweeted some people Pangburn hopes will like him again someday, and then…
Rest in power, JanJan.
Now that you’ve met the players, let’s get into the evidence, in order of ascending hilarity:
The Minimally Hilarious Evidence
Much of this can be gleaned from above, and it’s not very hilarious, so let’s blow through it.
Jig leads the group with 18 followers. Next comes Dave with 13, Skeptix with 6, HeatSeaker with 3, and PangburnWarrior with 2, and poor JanJan bringing up the rear with 1. Everyone is followed by both Pangburn and Dave, except JanJan’s lone follower is Pangburn.
Dave joined Twitter in September 2019 and started tweeting the same day Pangburn made his triumphant fuck weasel return; Jig, ever the odd girl out, joined in October 2019; and all the rest joined in November 2019.
They obsessively like, retweet, and respond to each other, often at nearly exactly the same time. They have never paid any positive attention to any small account.
The Somewhat Hilarious Evidence
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. One way to disguise sockpuppets, if you’re hellbent on following your own sockpuppets, is to space out the timing of those follows.
Travis does not always do this.
Travis also followed HeatSeeker just before the Botpocalypse.
Another way to disguise your sockpuppets is, like, not to systematically log in to one, do a bunch of shit, then immediately log out and log in to the next one, do the same shit you did on the last one, and then repeat that lots of times.
Here’s what your menchies look like when the Pangburn clan is at work. These are in chronological order (bottom to top of pic 1, then bottom to top of pic 2):
Another way to disguise your sockpuppets is by tweeting from different devices. Phones, tablets, computers, refrigerators. But not this crew. We spot-checked all these accounts, including Pangburn’s (including Jig’s!), back to Fuck Weasels Day, and never found one tweet that wasn’t sent via “Twitter Web Client.” Every one of these accounts is operated from a computer, and, as far as I’ve seen, only a computer. Whenever Travis needs them to assemble and defend him, they’re not only available, they’re sitting in front of a keyboard.
The Moderately Hilarious Evidence
So far, it sure seems like all these accounts belong to the same person. But is that person Travis Pangburn? Let’s see what we can learn from the partially redacted recovery emails for these accounts.
The Grand Poobah himself. Dave’s email address starts with “pa” and is probably a gmail account. email@example.com? firstname.lastname@example.org? email@example.com?
Are you sure it’s the right —
What about the November Crew?
Damn. That’s one letter too many for “firstname.lastname@example.org”
I FORGOT ABOUT THE HYPHEN
2 for 2.
God knows what that email address is.
No email address at all, but there’s that 90 again, maybe there’s a Pangburn phone number —
NARRATOR: There is a Pangburn phone number.
And, last but not least in our hearts, JanJan, taken before her time:
Maybe that’s email@example.com, a website designed by a black ops team militarizing marine mammals. Or maybe it’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s everyone but Jig, our Spicy Cute Wallpaper Girl, with something incriminating about the phone number or email used to register the account.
Now, for the pièce de résistance…
The Absolutely Hilarious Evidence
Trying to debunk our own claim, we thought, what if these accounts tweeted during one of Pangburn’s livestreams? That would be pretty strong evidence Travis isn’t behind them. So we found Pangburn’s most recent stream, which, at the time, was on the night of November 29. Pangburn announces the stream at 11:32 PM EST (8:32 PM British Columbia Time):
We know the timing of the tweet matches the timing of the stream because Travis livestreams the tweeting of the announcement immediately after the stream starts.
The stream lasts two hours and fifty minutes, which means it ended at about 2:22 AM EST (11:22 PM BCT).
Oh God. Oh no. Look who tweeted.
Heckin’ Dave just shot our theory to hell by tweeting about an hour and 35 minutes into Pangburn’s stream. The absolute madman. So much for that.
You know, just for grins, let’s see what Pangburn was doing 1:35 into his stream…
“My Twitter is starting to get very busy.”
<scanning the screen>
“I’ve got a lot of notifications popping up…”
<digression about posting things for the Yang Gang>
For a guy with “a lot of notifications popping up,” Pangburn appears to have received zero direct replies during the stream (other than the tweet by Dave), and, unless they’ve all been deleted, nobody quote-tweeted his stream announcement.
“I need to, uh, do one thing…”
“Just bear with me a minute, guys”
<looking at different windows on the screen>
What do you need to do, Trav?
“Just sending one email, well, it’s an attachment here…”
<scanning the screen>
“Hmm, where did that post go?”
Post??? Wasn’t it an email?
“Oh, there we go”
<another minute or so of muttering and clicking around the screen before returning to the stream>
At the exact time Dave tweeted (from a computer, as always), Pangburn took a break from his stream, remarked on all the Twitter notifications he was receiving (he was probably not receiving many Twitter notifications), then typed and sent some mysterious message that he really did not seem to know how to describe to the cursed people watching his stream.
This may be the first recorded instance of a person filming themselves tweeting from a sockpuppet account.
Pangburn’s stream ended around 2:22 EST. Let’s see who replied to him directly afterward:
Skeptix hadn’t yet subscribed to the YouTube channel of their favorite person in the world?
What a team.
- inauthentic engagements, that attempt to make accounts or content appear more popular or active than they are; and
- coordinated activity, that attempts to artificially influence conversations through the use of multiple accounts, fake accounts, automation and/or scripting.
Are all of these accounts solely operated by Travis Pangburn? Who knows. People are strange, and Twitter replyfolks are certainly not the exception. Travis could have some number of extremely dedicated friends who he convinced to join twitter and rally around him at a moment’s notice. It’s my understanding that wouldn’t violate the laws of physics. Are none of these accounts ever operated by Travis Pangburn? That seems difficult to believe on the evidence above. Whoever’s behind the keyboard — and it’s always a keyboard, never a phone or tablet (or smart kitchen appliance) — they’re certainly coordinated, and they’re certainly doing something that isn’t supposed to be obvious.
Old habits die hard, but grift springs eternal. Pangburn recently announced his new YouTube channel, “Pangburn fOr KiDs” (I’m not making fun of it; this is how he writes it), which would be a Poe from literally any other person on Earth (now I’m making fun of it).
What’s next for the Jacob Wohl of the IDW? Stay tuned. And, as always:
“Let art & science inspire.” — Travis Pangburn aka? Dave Schroeder aka? HeatSeaker aka? PangburnWarrior aka? SkeptixSocial aka? Jig aka? JanJan (RIP)