Barry Smith: Irrelativity
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Welcome to another installment of “Jerks of Our Times,” an ongoing interview series with those people – those people – who really get under our skin.
Today we’re speaking with Bernard Callahan, the mastermind leader of a group of performance artists whose “art” we’re all too familiar with.
Irrelativity: Bernard, you’re a difficult man to reach. Thanks for agreeing to this interview.
Bernard Callahan: U suk!
IRR: Excuse me?
BC: Sorry, sorry … my mind is on some big exciting projects in the works. They’re about to launch a Mahatma Gandhi YouTube channel, so we’re all gearing up to really bring our A-game.
IRR: Maybe you should start from the beginning. Tell us what it is that you and your team of artists actually do.
BC: We’re Internet trolls. Our motto is “Community Is Our Canvas, Poor Punctuation Our Paint, and Flaming Our Frame.”
IRR: That can’t look good on a T-shirt.
BC: We went for alliteration rather than the acronym, but yeah, I agree that it needs some work, lol.
IRR: I need to point out to our readers that you actually spoke the letters “el-oh-el” rather than actually laughing out loud.
BC: Job hazard, I guess. ROTFLOL.
IRR: OK, I get your point. You can get off the floor now.
BC: Sorry. I’m a little nervous. I don’t really do much of this face-to-face stuff. I’m really more of a behind-the-scenes guy.
BC: Yeah, right, getting back to that. We troll – that’s our art. Meaning we go to sites that allow comments to be posted, and we add ones that are intentionally nasty, inflammatory, ill-informed and barely literate. Or if we’re really warmed up, racist, homophobic and hateful.
IRR: Well, lots of people do that. I can’t even read YouTube comments anymore. It just makes me so sick how even the simplest conversation always breaks out in a name-calling flame war.
BC: Thank you.
IRR: Why would you thank me for being repulsed by the petty, cowardly dregs of humanity?
BC: OK, now you’re just making me blush. The thing about being the sole practitioners of this art form is that we so rarely get acknowledged.
IRR: How do you figure that you’re the sole practitioners? This crap is everywhere.
BC: Nope. It’s all us. Every troll-y comment you read online, that’s been posted by someone from our group.
IRR: Really? You must oversee an enormous collective.
BC: There’s about a dozen of us, give or take.
IRR: A dozen people are responsible for every bit of online negativity out there? Impossible.
BC: We use algorithms.
IRR: Oh. OK, yeah … I can see how that would work.
BC: You see, we’re attempting to raise the consciousness of the planet by being intentionally despicable.
IRR: What? Why? How? Seriously? Huh?
BC: Look, everybody knows that you should just ignore the person who makes these petty comments, right? I mean, if you approach it calmly, you realize that the person making such comments is just looking for attention and that giving it to them isn’t going to have the effect you want – putting them in their place or whatever – it’s just going to encourage them.
IRR: Sure, but …
BC: The more annoying we are in the comments page, the more we’re training people to ignore us. Hey, you know we aren’t going away, so you’re gonna have to figure out some way to coexist with people who really upset you.
IRR: So you’re like Jedi trainers dressed as stormtroopers?
BC: Nice. Way to bring everything back to a “Star Wars” reference. What are you, 10 years old?
IRR: Look, jerk, I’m just trying to understand what you’re … hey, wait a minute. I get what you’re trying to do.
IRR: That part’s really kinda creepy, though. Wouldn’t it be easier to just laugh?
BC: Ever see a Jedi laugh?
IRR: Hmmmm …
BC: The reason I’m consenting to this interview is to announce a new chapter in our organization – United Radicals Annoying Folks, Agitating Goodlyness.
IRR: Ah, went for the acronym on that one, I see.
BC: Our new efforts will be even more concentrated, and we hope to get some government funding and increase our 2013 troll output by 20 percent.
IRR: To what end?
BC: Global enlightenment.
IRR: Thinkin’ big.
BC: Once we’ve managed to train every person who uses a computer, which will soon be everyone, to stay focused even when someone is intentionally trying to knock you off your game, we’ll see a radical shift in the world. Wars will be a thing of the past. As will disease, hunger, climate change and reality television. We believe it will be a Utopia, but the cool kind of Utopia, the one where we don’t all have to wear flowing white robes.
IRR: Well, best of luck, and thanks again for stopping by.
BC: Whatevs – U R stupiid.
IRR: Indeed. I admire your dedication.
(Next time: More “Jerks of Our Times.” We sit down with that one guy who consistently turns without signaling.)
Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays in The Aspen Times.
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