That gun-loving gamebro who flipped his car while on his way, he said, to “race” video game developer and GamerGate critic Brianna Wu? It turns out he’s not the delusional and potentially dangerous asshole he seemed to be in the countless videos he’s put online.
No, he’s actually an aspiring comedian in an “extreme” comedy troupe known for trolling everyone from anime fans to TED talk attendees, and “Jace Connors” is just a character he’s been playing, a sort of parody of a basement-dwelling, monster-drink-guzzling gamebro douchebag who can’t tell the difference between real life and video games. His harassment of Wu — what he called “OperationWupocalypse” — was all part of an elaborate comedy bit that he’s been doing for years.
In other words, he’s not one kind of asshole, happily terrifying a woman who gets regular death threats in the name of video games. He’s another kind of asshole, happily terrifying a woman who gets regular death threats in the name of video games.
As Joseph Bernstein of Buzzfeed reported last night, “Connors”
is in fact Jan Rankowski, a 20-year-old living in Maine who is affiliated with Million Dollar Extreme, a provocative cult comedy group based in Rhode Island, and far from being the archfiend of GamerGate, Rankowski is himself now the subject of a campaign of harassment.
While lots of people had been suspicious for some time, the real identity of “Jace Connors,” also known as Parkourdude91, seems to have been first uncovered by a commenter on Kiwi Farm, a site devoted to trolling “Lolcows” — that is, “people and groups whose eccentric or foolish behavior can be ‘milked’ for amusement and laughs.”
The plot twist is that “Connors”/Rankowski has been milking the milkers, and the rest of us, for laughs. He told Buzzfeed that “the Jace character was just a lens through which I do satire” and that his recent behavior was designed to mock “the over-the-top, super-hyper-macho armed GamerGater.”
Now that his real identity has been exposed — assuming that this is not part of an even more elaborate troll job — the guy who terrorized Wu now claims that he’s being terrorized, with people calling his workplace and the high school he went to. He told Buzzfeed that “part of the humor of MDE is pushing the boundaries, but we’ve never encountered actually being afraid for our own safety.”
Rankowski added that he’s gained a “newfound respect for the people who are having to deal with GamerGate, Brianna Wu and Anita.”
Then again, he could be trolling us once again. On his blog Deagle Nation – named after a pistol “Jace Connors” fetishizes – he’s put up a post with the title THANK YOU FOR PLAYING. He promises that “THE TRUTH OF PARKOURDUDE91” will be revealed in a livestream tomorrow, declaring
WE’RE NOT DONE YET
THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING
AND IT’S ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE
All this even though he told Buzzfeed that he “was made to sign a contract at my job saying I wouldn’t make any of these videos again.”
When I wrote about “Jace Connors,” shortly after he posted a video of himself having what looked like a screeching tantrum by the side of an icy highway next to a car on its side, I noted that “his behavior is so strange and erratic and almost literally unbelievable that it would be easy to dismiss him as a troll.” But I went on to say that if he were trolling he would have to be “the most dedicated troll since Andy Kaufman’s fake comedian alter ego Tony Clifton.”
The prize was behind door number two. One difference: the famously assholish Tony Clifton was, at least some of the time, funny.
So is all this evidence that Wu and the others who’ve been targets of #GamerGate’s harassment army are making a big deal over threats that are “obviously” fake?
Well, no. To the person on the receiving end of threats and harassment, “fake” threats feel like real threats, because there is no surefire way to tell whether a threat is coming from an internet comedian or from a genuinely dangerous person.
Even if the overwhelming majority of threats aren’t meant seriously – that is, the threatener does not literally intend to track his or her target down and do them bodily harm – those who get the threats can’t simply dismiss them because, well, what if one of them is real?
So congrats, artist-formerly-known-as-Jace-Connors, you’re a huge dick. For real.