I have some experience, in my life, with people who are skilled at making themselves seem innocent when they are not, at directing a narrative which suits their needs, and cultivating followers who will stand up for them even when they act egregiously. Whether such people are sociopaths, narcissists, or just your common douchemonkeys is up for debate, but in any case such people will use small segments of truth to bend a narrative which will make them look like the victims.
And, I think, I found someone else who might–just might–fit into this mold. And what I have been asking myself, for the last couple of days, is whether I’m biased to see this pattern or if it’s actually what’s happening. So, dear reader, here’s a story about some of my weekend.
I play this GPS-based, augmented reality game called Ingress. In fact, I downloaded the game just over a year ago as you can see from this post. On Saturday evening, I got into my car with two other Resistance agents and went to take down a long set of level 8 Enlightened portals along Germantown Ave, starting in Mt. Airy all the way down near Broad street (which will make sense to other Philly folks). It’s a significant stretch of road, with dozens of portals, and it take a fair amount of effort to destroy them all.
As is natural, whenever any agents attack and destroy heavily upgraded and shielded areas, it’s an annoyance for the other faction. People will defend, and will ultimately rebuild their area, and sometimes it will lead to some complaining, personal (but generally harmless) animosity, and often retribution on your own areas where your faction holds more control.
It is, after all, a game.
Except some people take it way too seriously. About half way through our “booming” of Germantown Ave (AKA, destroying the virtual portals along the road, with our virtual bursters, which are virtually placed along the actual Germantown Ave), I received a few text messages.
OK, so I don’t have this number stored in my phone, and I don’t recognize it. So I ask who it is. Nothing abnormal here; every once in a while I get a strange text which someone has sent me by accident or from someone who I just recently gave my phone number.
I continue to boom Germanton, destroying portals and moving on to the next cluster, and my phone buzzes again, but I don’t read it immediately because I’m busy Ingressing.
And, I want to point out here, that it’s not uncommon for people to send messages, usually in game, to attackers. Sometimes it will amount to whining, playful taunting, and sometimes to actual annoyance.
Reaching out to agents of the other faction happens frequently, and in fact I’m in a Google hangout dedicated to cross-faction (X-faction) conversation and event planning (which I sometimes attend, because there are some very nice and fun people on both sides–and it’s a game which we play together).
But what happened next was beyond simple line-crossing.
Yeah… So that happened.
In recent weeks, I had been hearing, through conversations with other players, that there has been some drama with some players who were cheating, harassing, etc other people in the game. One of these players, and possibly some of his friends/cronies, had been a nuisance to people I know, and the week prior (the last time I boomed Germantown Ave) I was actually followed, by a car, by two Enlightened agents as I did so. One of those agents was this same person who I had heard bad things about, recently.
Now, being followed, whether in a car or on foot, while playing Ingress is not unheard of, and it’s usually actually harmless. After all, the game is location-based. It might be considered obsessive to do so for long periods of time, but it is a relatively normal part of the game. But this car was right on my bumper, and I managed to lose them (twice) because my car has a better turning radius than theirs and because I’m secretly a government agent trained in advanced urban driving techniques.
That last part might not be true.
What I didn’t know, but suspected (as do leaders of both factions still suspect), is whether the person who texted me is the same person who has been responsible for some recent harassment, cheating, and who was recently kicked out of PIE (the local Philly Enlightened community, which has many wonderful and very friendly people, despite their poor choice in factions :P).
(All I’m saying is that if you receive a cryptic message from an alien source which promises to help you transcend to the next level of human evolution, compare it to those promises of registry cleaners and other software that promise to make your computer run faster, and choose to not install the software (because it’s probably malware). In other words, resist the offer of infection. I’ll get off my Resistance soapbox, now.)
Anyway, I don’t know if they are the same person, but the coincidences seem too convenient for them to be purely random. This agent (who I will not name, publicly, until I’m sure) was the owner of many of the portals I was attacking, so he would have received notifications of my destroying them immediately. The last time I did so, he showed up within 15-20 minutes to follow me in my car (so he knows what me and my car look like). He has been accused of harassing other players as well. And, as I have found, he has previously been involved in a local NAZI skinhead organization (now, apparently, he’s associated himself with anti-fascist organization, become a vegan, and so seems to have turned around those aspects of his life). But he was also involved with a murder in 2000.
Apparently, he got probation, possibly due to his cooperating with law enforcement, but he has a past with organizations and individuals capable of violence, and now he’s [potentially] writing me threatening text messages, which make reference to people to whom I have, or have had, close relationships. This is a person who spent some effort to find out who I am, who I’m close to, and how to contact me.
And then, yesterday, as I’m walking my neighborhood, I see him walk into a restaurant very close to where I live. And he looks right at me. And then he destroys the portal that the restaurant sits on (which is fine; that’s part of the game). But then that player, who may or may not be the same person who sent me the texts, messages me in game saying he wants to talk to me, face-to-face.
Now, I’m reading this and I’m thinking a few things.
One, It’s possible that this man, nor any of his immediate friends, sent me that text message. It’s possible that he’s being falsely accused, and he’s trying to talk with me about it, perhaps to reassure me.
Two, it’s possible that he wants to beat the shit out of me, in broad daylight, in my neighborhood knowing he’ll be suspected and not care.
And three, (and this is the one that bothers me the most because it’s so familiar) He wants to talk really nice to me, face-to-face, because he knows he’s made a mistake and he wants to make himself look, especially to his friends, harmless and an innocent victim. In other words, he wants to massage his image to people around him as not a transgressor of common behavior and a person who threatens people’s health and possibly life over a game, but as a nice, misunderstood, reformed man.
That last possibility is scary to me because I have seen this behavior too many times in the last couple of years. Having lived with Wes Fenza, who is quite capable and willing to lie, manipulate, and twist the perceptions of the world around him to make himself look like the victim of everyone he harms, I have learned to recognize the signs of such behavior.
And then I start to self-doubt. I start to say “Am I priming myself to see this everywhere, now?”
Maybe. But what if I’m right? What is the price of trusting this man, and giving his friends, the community, etc more reason to think twice about a person who might be capable of harassment, assault, or even murder over a game is to risk my own safety? What if my willingness to trust him leads to his further harassing others because he’s able to make himself appear innocent, just like other people formerly in my life continue to do to this day?
My experience has taught me that some people simply do not care if they hurt people, so long as they can distract everyone to look the other direction, that they are the victim, etc. Hell, in some cases such people can apparently have their own partners change their mind about the severity of their own trauma when it’s exposed that their own husband did similar things to other people; gotta keep that cognitive dissonance in check after all, right? If the only way to keep your savior complex alive, after said savior has assaulted and traumatized several people, is to make that type of behavior not actually assault, in your mind, then that’s what you do. Hence, months of therapy, anger, and blame against other people who did the same to you must simply be washed away for the sake of the comfort of your soul.
But back to the question at hand; am I being overly-cautious? Am I biased to see manipulative behavior even when it’s not there? Maybe, but the simple fact is that I was told by other people I know that this person is manipulative in this way that I have seen so many times. I have been told to be careful with this person. And I have heard this from people from both factions, and that has to mean something.
Because, for example, much of last year was about making sure that the poly community knows that Wes Fenza is a dangerous predator, potentially a sociopath, and that he will not hesitate to fabricate, embellish, and seek out information which will make any of his accusers appear incredible, dangerous, or unstable rather than face his own mistakes. And this effort has paid off, as many people in the local and national community have distanced themselves from him (some simply don’t know, care, or are so dependent upon him that they ignore the claims against him). Others are complicate in his actions. Whats’ worst about it is that many of his cronies are people I’ve heard him shit-talk about several times. You know; before people started abandoning him and he had to hold onto like the pilot fish they are.
And it seems that some people have made similar efforts against this person with whom I interacted this past weekend. I want to say that where there is smoke there is fire. I do not want to simply dismiss the warnings from other people who have experience with this person, because the risk is too high. I will leave some small doubt that I might be wrong, but I will not risk my health and life to find out, so I’ll stay away.
Because even if I am biased (which I certainly am), I’ve decided to take the precautions necessary to keep me away from this person, just in case they were the person who sent me threatening texts. I have created a police report with all of the pertinent information, I have informed the local Ingress community, and I have told many people close to me about this so that they know that if I’m harassed, attacked, etc that there is someone to look into.
Because in the unlikely event that this person is who I suspect he is, he follows through with his threats, and the police catch him, then perhaps he won’t be able to weasel himself out of prison. Guilty people walk free in our communities all the time, unreformed, unrepentant, and they sleep well at night because they have convinced the world and themselves that they are innocent or they are incapable of the feelings of guilt or responsibility which most of us feel when he make mistakes.And since they keep getting away with it, they’ll be much more likely to keep harassing, threatening, and maybe even following through occasionally.
Such people need to be indicated, so that we all can know that there is reason to be cautious.
Because even if people can learn, change, grow, and rehabilitate, some simply do not want to. I’ve certainly made some mistakes myself (although, if you listen to some people those mistakes are much much worse than the truth, because some people have a casual relationship with the truth), and I have paid for those mistakes. The problem is that sometimes people don’t feel the need to learn, change, or grown because they never accepted their responsibility, and they will have no compunction about continuing to do what they want to do without the pang of conscience or remorse. And we should all make sure to be aware of such people, and keep ourselves safe.
Good luck, out there.
And if you decide to play Ingress, just remember that the Enlightenment want you to be brainwashed by aliens who claim to want to help us evolve. They’ll couch it in terms of transcending what we are now (which has some obvious Nietzsche-esque qualities), and creating something better for our future, but they probably also checked the box, when installing Flash Player, to include all the Yahoo crap. The Resistance simply want you to not accept this free gift of salvation, because most free gifts of salvation are bullshit.
And yet, there is that murderous AI ADA… Lesser of evils?
It’s just a game….