On October 4th, I published a spoof blog post declaring that Russian Bots were responsible for the purported online harassment of Kelly Marie Tran. It was a joke.
On October 21st, I published my Kelly Marie Instagram Incident Theory. In it I suggested that after temporarily disabling her Instagram account to better comply with an NDA while in production for Episode IX, the Online Harassment Narrative sparked by an opinion posted in a single tweet by an unverified user, snowballed with the help of the legacy media to such an extent that it became too difficult for KMT to come clean due to overwhelming peer and professional pressure, and it perhaps even became lucrative for her to maintain.
Then on October 25th, The Mercury News published the following story:
It turns out many of the nasty online attacks on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” actress Kelly Marie Tran were directed by Russian bots, sock puppets and trolls. At least that’s what a USC study suggests, according to the Huffington Post.
The study sifted through the tweets about “The Last Jedi” as part of research on how political influence has now infiltrated pop culture. Morten Bay, a research fellow at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, found that 51 percent of negative tweets about the 2017 installment of the “Star Wars” franchise were “politically motivated or not even human.”
“Based on the findings in the present study, it is not fair to generalize and paint all of the ‘Last Jedi’ detractors as alt-right activists, racists or misogynists,” Bay wrote. “However, the findings … show that a majority of the negatively-poised users included in the study do express such sentiments, either in ‘The Last Jedi’-related tweets or in other tweets on their accounts.”
On October 29th, Cinemablend posted the following story:
Kelly Marie Tran left social media because of an influx of negative responses to her role in a movie, but it seems that not all of it came from real sources. It turns out that potentially as much as half of the vitriol focused on the Star Wars: The Last Jedi actress may have come from Russian bots, not actually angry fans.
The news that Russian bots may have been involved in amplifying the negative reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi was part of a research study published earlier this month by Morten Bay, but in addition to the bots piling on the existing general backlash aimed at the film and director Rian Johnson, it seems that the criticism also included the anger that was focused on Kelly Marie Tran and her role in the film.
The study found that possibly as much as 51% of the negative social media response may have been bots. It seems that sources in Russia saw the negative response happening and decided to piggyback on top of it as a way to expand the decent and generally cause a commotion.
To be clear, that means that about half of the people sending negative Instagram responses to Kelly Marie Tran were actual people who thought telling her they didn’t like her role in a movie, frequently in some pretty movie terms, was a good use of their time. That’s still far too many, but it also means that there weren’t nearly as many people actually doing it as it may have seemed.
It was several months ago that Kelly Marie Tran disappeared from Instagram. While it was rumored at the time that she had been driven away due to ongoing harassment, it was some time before the actress opened up publicly to discuss the issue. At this point, it’s unclear if Tran will ever go back to social media. Currently, the actress has an official Instagram account, but nothing has been publicly posted on it.
The fact that bots got involved in something like the social media response to a movie and its actors isn’t good news for anybody. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to Kelly Marie Tran how much of the hate she received was from legitimate sources. Plenty of it was, and the part that wasn’t just ended up making it all harder to deal with.
These two articles tell us a number of things.
First, the narrative will continue to be coordinated, and I expect a flurry of similar stories to be published by the legacy media over the next week or two.
Second, the articles talk out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, the writers want to make sure you know that KMT is a victim of online harassment. On the other hand, they seem almost reluctant to point out that half of the purported harassers may have been Russian Bots.
Next, if what the writers state is true, and as many as 51% of the harassers were Russian Bots, then of the 7 pieces of evidence being passed around on social media that I examined – that’s right, seven pieces of evidence – 3 to 4 instances may be Russian Bots. Has anyone looked into whether or not Down With Disney may have been a Russian Bot? But I digress.
So there are several possible motivations for this new direction in the narrative.
One is obviously being so close to the mid-terms election, activists in the legacy media will look for any angle to get the “Russian Bots stole the election” narrative going. Especially if they think that the Blue Wave just isn’t coming. If that’s the case, then the legacy media is abandoning their damsel in distress in favor of more pressing issues.
Two, this could be an attempt to smooth things over with the fans in advance of The Mandalorian and Episode IX. It could be Lucasfilm’s way of saying, “It wasn’t all toxic fans after all, but those darned Russian Bots. Sorry!” After months of articles stupidly calling the fanbase toxic, I don’t know how they think this could work. Then again, it is today’s Lucasfilm, so anything is possible.
Three, it could be that the publication of my Instagram Theory hit a little too close to home for some, and they’re now working to get out in front of that and give Kelly Marie Tran plausible deniability, in the event that the Instagram narrative comes crashing down all around her. Now, I don’t delude myself into thinking that anyone of importance is paying much attention to this blog. I don’t really see myself as being all that important. On the other hand, I tweeted a link for my Instagram Theory to Kelly Marie Tran’s agent on October 21st.
— Itchy Bacca (@ItchyBacca) October 21, 2018
World Class Bullshitters commented on the CinemaBlend story: