the art of trolling

Sandy’s Biggest Twitter Troll Apologizes, But Won’t Find Redemption

Since he was outed as a hedge fund analyst and GOP political consultant named Shashank Tripathi, the man who tweeted some of the most egregious false information about Hurricane Sandy under the handle @comfortablysmug has been publicly shamed and threatened with prosecution. But it wasn’t until Tuesday night that Tripathi, who is also a former Daily Intel commenter and sex-diarist met his first real-world consequences: In a tweet apologizing for spreading rumors as New York flooded and burned in the storm, @comfortablysmug (he still hasn’t used his own name) said he had resigned as the manager of the campaign of Christopher R. Wight, who’s running for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York’s 12th District. “I wish to offer the people of New York a sincere, humble and unconditional apology,” he tweeted, attaching a statement that went on to take “full responsibility” and exhorted readers to still vote for his candidate. But if it’s forgiveness he’s looking for, he’s not going to get it.

@Comfortablysmug’s greatest sin was adding more panic, worry, and confusion to what the city was already dealing with as Sandy charged ashore (and there was plenty). He tweeted, falsely, that Con Edison workers were trapped in a facility, that the floor of the New York Stock Exchange had flooded, and that ConEd would shut down power to all of Manhattan. These are the kinds of things that make their way into news reports that then terrify people, who already have plenty of real reasons to be scared. Of course, reporters should check their sources outside Twitter. And that’s exactly why @comfortablysmug won’t find any allies in the media. As Mashable’s Stephanie Haberman tweets, “I was working FAR too late into the night last night verifying truth from rumor to accept @comfortablysmug’s apology. Sorry I’m not sorry.”

Then there’s the disingenuous apology itself: Yes, @comfortablysmug takes “full responsibility for my actions” and “deeply regret[s] any harm or stress they may have caused,” but fully half of this apology amounts to further campaigning for the candidate whose employ Tripathi just left: “It is my sincere hope that the voters of New York will see him based on his merits alone, and not my actions of the last 24 hours.” That makes the whole “apology” sound a lot more like a political move than a legitimate expression of remorse. “An apology with a ‘please consider voting for’ attached to it is not an apology,” tweeted Reuters’s Matthew Keys. Felix Salmon pointed out: “If your apology is so sincere, why didn’t you put your name to it?”

Finally there’s the fact that @comfortablysmug has spent much of his career as an anonymous personality on the Internet building himself up into an extremely unlikable troll. Consider this passage from the Sex Diary he wrote for Daily Intel: “My suspicion she has low self-esteem is confirmed once I’m basically fucking her face, which segues beautifully into rough sex. I’m satisfied by the thought this will probably leave her with bruises.” He hasn’t exactly created a sympathetic persona, so it’s hard to offer sympathy when he requests it (see the comments on his 2009 Daily Intel interview). Now that New York City Councilman Peter Vallone says he’s going to seek charges against Tripathi (which does seem like overkill and a waste of time and money), nobody’s rushing to Tripathi’s defense. They’re just making fun of Vallone on Twitter.

Sandy’s Biggest Twitter Troll Apologizes