He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster.
And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.
Joseph Bernstein, in Buzzfeed, on a guy who went from “Alt-Right Troll To Father Killer“:
… I knew Lane. I knew him as a guy who kicked around some of the pro-Trump, anti–social justice internet communities that I’ve reported on since 2014. Like a lot of people in those volatile spaces, Lane bore grudges, which made him useful as an occasional source. Unlike a lot of people in those spaces, and despite being a fabulist, Lane understood how to weaponize information, which made him even more useful, and a little scary. From early 2016 to summer 2017, we emailed regularly and talked occasionally. As with most sources, Lane had some tips that were good and some that weren’t. But even if nothing he told me ever led to a blockbuster story, he was smart and he understood his world well — talking to him was never a waste of time. I thought I understood him about as well as I needed to.
Last October, a conservative blogger discovered a local news story about Chuck Davis’s killing. He spread the word on Twitter, including another shocking detail: Before stabbing his father to death, Lane had loudly accused his parents of being “leftist pedophiles.”
There’s a whole universe in those two words, one that Americans unfamiliar with the rhetoric of the internet culture wars might not recognize…
Long before a neo-Nazi at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville allegedly killed a counterprotester named Heather Heyer, it had been clear to many observers that the sheer amount of anger and fear fueling the circa 2016 alt-right would eventually lead to physical violence. More than once it occurred to me that one of my sources might be involved. But I never thought it would be Seattle4Truth.
Most of my correspondence with Lane was unremarkable — a tip here, a heads-up there. Once he did me a kindness by letting me know that my doxx (basically a file with my address and contact information that could be used to harass me) was making the rounds. I was vaguely aware that Lane’s output online was unhinged. But was it any more so than, say, certain beet-colored conspiracy barkers whom the president has praised? Over the years I’ve had a handful of sources who were less lucid than Lane. We all perform different versions of ourselves on the internet, and I found the contrast between Lane’s content and the way he communicated with me so strong that I thought his “Seattle” character was mostly shtick.
I began to wonder about the people who spent all day online with Lane. Lane had worked as the political editor for a culture war shock site called the Ralph Retort. It had been a hub for some of the most malignant trolls on the internet — including people who had sent me violent anti-Semitic threats in the past. I hadn’t taken this rhetoric seriously for two reasons: First, there is so much of it that to dwell on it would be paralyzing, and second, the people behind it almost always claim to be trolling, testing boundaries, pushing limits. Now that Lane had killed his father in an apparent spasm of conspiratorial pique, it seemed that what was left of that extremist/troll boundary had started to collapse. I wanted to know how the people who lived on its edges were adjusting…