A story about the early days of the Internet, a persistent troll, and how humorous stories set in a post-Apocalyptic world saved the day.
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear: The late 1990’s to the early 2000’s, to be precise. A time when the opening of the Internet to the general public and the establishment of the world-wide discussion system known as Usenet allowed huge numbers of people who shared common interests to ‘meet’ and exchange information and views. This was all to the good, of course. Unfortunately, it also gave a public stage to disturbed, obnoxious individuals who relished having the opportunity to ‘perform’, disrupt that information exchange – apparently because they had nothing of value to say, themselves – and make others angry. In very short order, these came to be known as trolls
One of these was a character who called himself Mabu. He haunted the Usenet groups of Alt.Survivalism and Misc.Survivalism. That was where those who worried about the possible End Of The World As We Know It (commonly called EOTWAWKI), or indeed, any form of disaster, large or small, would post information and speculation, and argue about the best means to prepare to survive catastros of all sorts.
Mabu dismissed such talk. HE did not fear the possible end of civilization, he claimed; indeed, he welcomed it. Because once the current system was destroyed, those who were smart, aggressive, skilled, physically capable, and unburdened by morality or foolish ideas of cooperation would naturally rise to the top and live like kings. Be kings, in fact: A new breed who would rule over the weak and subservient because of their superior strength. The only types of ‘preps’ these predators would need would be guns, because they’d be taking anything else they wanted by force.
Of course Mabu insisted he was one of these…
Needless to say, this was not a popular attitude among most of the other members of the groups. Mabu had a few fans and adherents – a poster named Quonster was chief among these – but most excoriated him and his attitudes, viciously. Partially this was genuine revulsion at his statements and behavior. Partially it was irritation at the stupidity and lack of rational thought he was showing. But also, contrary to public belief, most survivalists hate those who espouse a raider, take by force mindset. Because survivalists are aware that THEY, with their accumulations of supplies, food, and weapons and ammo, would be the prime targets of such ‘predators’.
Unfortunately, while the posters on Alt. and Misc. Survivalism could make their feelings known to Mabu, they couldn’t drive him away. Curses and personal attacks (these were unmoderated Usenet groups), logical refutations of his positions, even road company psychoanalysis into Mabu’s character, they meant nothing to him. He brushed them off with condescension and contempt. And continued expanding on his plans for a post apocalyptic existence of rape and enslavement, conquest and slaughter, all the while singing his own praises as a man among men.
Then a talented writer and group member named Jeff Schwartz began using a weapon of deadly effect: Ridicule. He wrote a series of stories about Mabu in the kind of setting he wanted: A world where a swarm of meteors had crashed into the Earth and wiped out government, law and order, and most modern infrastructure, truly a Apocalyptic event.
Except that the Mabu in the stories wasn’t the supreme warrior and world beater real life Mabu insisted he was. Fictional Mabu was a complete loser with delusions of greatness who, when the meteors fell, immediately launched into a career of comic and disastrous misadventure trying to become the warlord he felt he deserved to be. His constant and humiliating failures and predicaments not only came in counterpoint to real life Mabu’s boasts, claims, and stated plans, they also showed WHY real life Mabu was full of baloney.
Real life Mabu smirked that women would be an easy target after a collapse; fictional Mabu was beaten senseless (more so than normal) and almost killed when he tried to jump a woman soon after the meteors fell, by a bystander who – even if civilization was coming to an end – saw no reason to allow things like THAT. Real life Mabu crowed he was a leader of men; fictional Mabu had his group, a bunch of screw ups even MORE inept than he was.
Real life Mabu went on and on about how easy it would be, after the EOWAWKI, to get all the food needed by his men by taking over farms and looting them, writing with relish about sneak attacks, armed assaults, and lethal sniping that would slaughter the hapless, clueless yokels. Fictional Mabu tried to attack a farm and very nearly got killed – again – and most of his men wiped out by a grizzled old farmer and WWII vet who still had his Garand and could shoot accurately with it, and his family and the surrounding farmers. Who were HARDLY yokels. And who also knew the lay of their land, knew how to defend themselves, and had no doubt what sort of scumbags would be coming after their crops and cattle. As well as no objections to making sure the scumbags might come, but wouldn’t be leaving.
Things continued in this vein. When real life Mabu mused about attacking and taking over small towns and suburbs filled with terrified people to begin his slimy reign, fictional Mabu tried that very thing. He ran into people who, terrified though they might have been, were willing to fight back. Competently lead, with time to organize, install defenses and booby traps , and set up observation posts and snipers, they proved formidable. Mabu was defeated so thoroughly, he wound up being the slave of an aged Chinese dominatrix for a time, until he could escape. Real life Mabu all but salivated over the idea of raiding gated communities and the houses of the rich. Schwartz pointed out the rich were the ones most likely to have the means to be able to defend themselves, and fictional Mabu ran into an army of hired, trained fighters with automatic weapons. And again, lost most of his newly recruited army, and nearly died himself. Again.
The various newsgroups ate these stories up. It was like watching the Keystone Cops or the Three Stooges trying to wage war. Not only were Schwartz’s works entertaining and informative, they held Mabu up to the mockery most felt he deserved. AND showed graphically why the raider philosophy was nonsense. Raiders imagine themselves easily victorious, overwhelming ineffective opposition; in reality, the other side can shoot back, and raiders aren’t bulletproof super warriors. In fact, as the stories made clear, post apocalyptic raiders – unless they were well trained, well armed, and/or well lead, with considerable numerical superiority and discipline – would have a very hard time dealing with targets who’d taken even minimal precautions. Would-be warlords like Mabu, fictional AND real life, were delusional.
Real life Mabu heaped scorn on the stories. But when it became clear the survivalist groups gave more weight to the Schwartz version of himself than to the reality, the frequency of his posts decreased. Especially once others began contributing other Mabu stories that, if anything, made him look even more ridiculous and absurd than Schwartz did. His final real life post recounted his visit to a gathering of white supremacists, where he claimed he was welcomed and accorded respect. Soon afterwards Schwartz produced another Mabu story. In which the wanna be world conqueror, running from yet another disastrous raid, was taken captive by a band of Nazis who couldn’t decide if Mabu was Aryan, subhuman, or something worse, but kept him around as a sort of court jester. Fictional Mabu, misinterpreting this as acceptance, was making plans to ride the mighty Nazi juggernaut to supremacy; unfortunately, most of the other ethnic groups in the area united against Mabu’s ‘hosts’. And in the ensuing battle, the Warrior Prince – a play on Xena, a popular TV show of the time – bravely ran away into a swamp, preferring alligators and snakes to bullets coming towards him.
The stories of Mabu, by Schwartz and others, continued for a while. Without real life Mabu around to ridicule and provide inspiration and new outrage, though, they eventually wound down. And most appear to have been lost to history; or at least Google’s search engine. But the first four episodes are still around and are presented below. Be warned, there’s violence as well as humor.
This reminiscence does have a point: Several of them, actually. First, trolls take themselves very seriously, and demand that others do, too. They don’t like being the butt of jokes, and will leave, eventually, if they’re made fun of. They don’t have much of a sense of humor.
Second, there’s a lot of interesting, entertaining writing on the Internet that disappears without a trace. This is unfortunate. But seems to be unavoidable.
Third, survivalists aren’t generally the gun crazed, anti-social maniacs they’re commonly painted as. But the survivalist community is shot through with trolls, conspiracy theorists, alarmists, and kooks of every stripe that give a bad name to all the rest. And with reality shows reinforcing that image, public perception probably won’t change anytime soon.
And a good writer can make even the end of the world, funny.