The Hardest Game On The Internet

The hardest game on the internet is one I call "C/S/T", which is short for "Crazy, Stupid, Or Troll?" There are nuances to those categories — sometimes a troll is a performance artist, sometimes someone is not so much stupid as willfully ignorant — but the broad categories suffice.

It's such a hard game because on the internet being crazy can look very much like being stupid, and a troll can look very much like either in a quest for lulz. Occasionally someone is all three.

This week's C/S/T challenge takes us to the world of poetry. Back in the day I visited the world of poetry in an attempt to get into the world of attractive poetry-favoring women who were never in a kajillion years give me the time of day, which I had heard was adjacent.

The poet in question is one "Shaun Shane," a pseudonym. Shane is rumored to be dead, though not, as decorum and four millennia of poetic heritage would militate, of shame. If poetry is emotion recollected in tranquility, Shane's is insipidity recollected in banality. I refer particularly to his fortune-cookie-length poem "Tongues of Glass," which goes something like this:

if only
our tongues
were made
of glass

that bitch in study hall
would shut up
and I might make cheer team

Burma shave!


I'm doing the second half from memory but I think I got the gist of it.

[Aside — very short poems can be very evocative or powerful or funny. These aren't. De gustibus pup 'n taco.]

Anyway, somebody is threatening Twitter users who quote "Shane's" poems. This someone uses the name "On Press, Inc.", fraudulently claims that "On Press, Inc." is a division of Knopf Publishing, and uses a bizarre array of duplicate Twitter accounts to spam threats. Tim Cushing at Techdirt has done an admirable piece of investigative work in a two-part story about "On Press, Inc." here and here. It's a long story, but well-told and a good illustration of internet culture.

Whoever is running the internet-threat operation under the name "On Press, Inc." has certain defining characteristics — truculence, functional illiteracy, and a grasp of law cobbled together by listening to 13-year-olds swearing at each other on Xbox Live. (Hint: if you think that anyone will ever be prosecuted for copyright infringement for quoting a poem on Twitter, you are a moron with a comic-book-level grasp of the criminal justice system. Full stop.) "On Press, Inc." insults to the best of its bless-your-heart ability, threatens civil suits and criminal prosecution against people who quote "Tongues of Glass" on Twitter, apparently sends DMCA notices, and generally asses about the internet. As Tim notes, bloggers have also received abusive comments nominally by third people but possibly by the same person running the "On Pres, Inc." account.

But here's the tough part. Is "On Press, Inc." run by a very stupid person? Is it run by a crazy person? Is the user both crazy and stupid? Is the person performing to make a point about legal threats or internet culture? Is the person attempting to publicize "Shane's" work through asshattery? Is the person trying to provoke people for lulz? Now that the bizarre legal threats are being covered, how can you tell "genuine" On Press, Inc. threats from ones that are fabricated by people satirizing On Press, Inc.? For instance, I had a Twitter exchange last night with this Twitter account styled to look like the other On Press, Inc. accounts, which yielded comments like "really we have bigger fish to fry than you. Your more entertainment for us. we get a lot of laughs." (Edited to add: here, courtesy of Tim, is the exchange.) Was it "real," or a troll pretending to be On Press, Inc.? Was it a troll pretending to be a different troll? [Ultimately my instinct was that it was someone pretending — the illiteracy was a little too consistent and on-the-nose.]

This game isn't over. I'm not ready to call C/S/T. In playing the game, I note that (1) this preexisting biography of Shaun Shane displays some of the same illiteracy as the On Press, Inc. threats, (2) the preexisting Shaun Shane Facebook fan page displays some of the same illiteracy, (3) there are "On Press, Inc." corporations registered in five states (CA, MI, IL, OH, NY) with public contact information.

I am intrigued. I'd like to play this game out. Tim Cushing has done excellent work on it already, and others are starting to join into the investigation. Come play, if you like. Let's find out who is actually behind the threats and invective.

Updated: I have communicated with the principal of the California corporation named "On Press, Inc.", who indicates he has nothing to do with this nonsense. Investigating others.

Second Update: The New York "On Press, Inc." is inactive and would therefore not be able to sue anyone.

The game's afoot.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. says

    Was it a troll pretending to be a different troll? [Ultimately my instinct was that it was someone pretending — the illiteracy was a little too consistent and on-the-nose.]

    Turns out it was you, trolling yourself from another window.

  2. says

    I'm going to vote "Stupid" on this one. It just shouts pure stupidity to me.

    As a side note, if "Snort my taint!" wasn't already a valliant battle cry, I would submit "Burma shave!" as a suitable replacement :)

  3. mojo says

    People who inflict their bad poesy on the unsuspecting public never get beaten enough, if you ask me.

  4. says

    As someone who spent countless hours trolling the Above the Law comment sections when I should have been billing back in 2007-2009 (up until the firm's IP address was banned from commenting… thank you, thank you), this sounds like a great game. Many (most?) ATL commenters are super-easy troll targets, and it made great sport.

    Looking to these tweet threats, I'm going with Shane trolling to generate attention for himself. I'm also leaning towards troll performance art with a hint of crazy and dash of stupid. So my C/S/T percentage score is 5/10/85.

  5. A Different William says

    This does sound like something that would amuse some sections of the internet.

    "Lets pick some random shitty media producer that is mildly popular on the internet, then find as many copies of their work as possible and send the poster poorly written legal threats."

  6. naught_for_naught says

    Nice play on Wordsworth, ken – insipidity recollected in banality.

    Way back when, I also pursued the poetry-loving maids. There worship of Sylvia Plath only intrigued me more. With them as my muse, I wrote my magnum opus of seduction verse. It had everything that Herrick offered without badgering about Everything has a shelf life, Honey.

    And without any encouragement from anyone, I will share it with you now…ahem.

    my heart is a piece of bread

    and it's fallen peanut butter side down
    in the jelly of your love.


    It didn't work, even with the whole e. e. cummings all-lowercase thing.

  7. naught_for_naught says

    My aphasia is still affecting me. Make There worship of Sylvia Plath only intrigued me more read They're worship of Sylvia Plath only intrigued me more. Right?

  8. says

    As I said on Amazon and possibly in a dream to Tim – who is now Popehat famous & OMG will be insufferable now ;) – it actually makes perfect sense if you think of the style of poetry and the incomprehensible lack of english diction (as per the DMCA – what's an "onwer") the only conclusion any reasonable person can come to is:

    Vogons – it has to be Vogons! they're real and I for one have my towel handy

  9. naught_for_naught says


    People who inflict their bad poesy on the unsuspecting public never get beaten enough, if you ask me.

    Longinus in his work On the Sublime advises us that if we should ever happen upon a poet in a ditch that we should leave him/her there because it is doubtless that they were all consumed, reading their verse aloud without regard to others or the hazards of the road. So you have at least one heavyweight backing your play.

  10. Joe Pullen says

    Edit: Please note that this person has responded and said they have nothing to do with the bogus legal threats on Twitter.

    This was the website link on which was on the Twitter profile @OnsJht – the website link is now gone from the Twitter profile. Sorry I didn't snap the profile before the weblink was removed.

    The real question will be if the troll copied some innocent person/company's website and URL on their Twitter profile or if they used their real company name/website. If, and only if, the company OnPressInc is really behind it -then public data per their website and Hoovers is:

    Company: On Press, Inc.
    Industry: Miscellaneous publishing, nsk
    Principle: Scott Schutzer
    Duns number 094082695
    Location Type: Single Location
    Facility Size (sq. ft.) (modeled): 2,095
    Owns/Rents: Rents
    Employees (All Sites): 2
    Key Financials: Annual Sales (Estimated) $110.00K
    DUNS Prescreen Score: Medium Risk
    From the current website:
    Company: On Press, Inc.
    Industry: Miscellaneous publishing, nsk
    Key people: Scott Schutzer 49 years old
    Duns number 094082695
    Location Type: Single Location
    Facility Size (sq. ft.) (modeled): 2,095
    Owns/Rents: Rents
    Employees (All Sites): 2
    Key Financials: Annual Sales (Estimated) $110.00K
    DUNS Prescreen Score: Medium Risk

    From the current website:
    Phone: [redacted by Ken
    Above phone on his website goes to a small building office address of 1420 Stafford St Redwood City, CA 94063 although the address listed on the website is a house address of [redacted by Ken – which also matches the public whois contact and address for the website.

    Thanks Joe — but I made a few redactions based on our preferences here. Business addresses OK, generally home addresses we avoid publishing in comments.

  11. sorrykb says

    @naught for naught: Not (naught?) to worry. All it needed was a comma. "There, worship of Sylvia Plath only intrigued me more." See? Perfect.

  12. says

    (time to waste more of Popehat's bandwidth)

    My question is: How does he find the time to chase down every freaking instance? It has to be mostly bots and/or he out-sourced it to an Indian trollcenter.

    I wasted a lot of time trying to track down instances of people pirating complete articles and novels of my own, and sending DMCA takedown notices. I gave it up; there were too many, and most people ignored anything that didn't come from an (unaffordable) attorney. Amazon eventually responded by delisting all my works in my accounts. Apple's iTunes store is still selling copies* of Net Assets and The Anarchists**. Smashwords ignored multiple DMCAs from me, and only agreed to stop selling bootleg copies when fans complained (and then demanded that I delete all my criticisms of them from the Internet; yeah, right).

    I eventually gave up on enforcement as being impossible. I also gave up writing the sequels (and more than one person who obtained unpaid-for bootleg copies has criticized me for refusing to provide them with the — free, of course — sequels).

    So… bots, paid trollcenter, or he's independently wealthy and has less of a life than even I.

    @Ken: And ditto on your version of "Tongues" being an improvement on the original. But so would cat-on-the-keyboard typos.

    * Ten bucks a pop. Which is hilarious, since Net Assets can be downloaded free of charge, as can The Anarchy Belt which includes all the stories in the bogus edition plus a heck of a lot more.
    ** Which itself is a recursively pirate-assembled collection of short stories he gathered from the Internet, and published with all the editing skills of the Nashua Typograph. Sheesh.

  13. naught_for_naught says

    >sorrykb — That is perfect. What a difference a comma makes: without it, a semi-literate boob; with it, an existential shaman.

  14. naught_for_naught says

    >Joe Pullen

    Scott Schutzer => Shaun Shane?

    Edit: Please note that Mr. Schutzer says he is not involved with these threats.

  15. A Different William says

    Is anyone interested in writing a book of poems that use common thuggish copy right legal threats and copyright it?

    Then, whenever anyone sends out a bullshit copyright threat, reply with your own bullshit copyright threat.

    You've infringed on my copy right
    My lawyers are legion
    you should be running in fright
    I can file in any region

  16. naught_for_naught says

    >A Different William

    I've got one I can throw in.

    In the Well of the Old Bailey

    The apparition of these faces in the jury
    murmur, reprint without permission and your ass is slurry.


  17. Scott Schutzer says

    To Joe Pullen and Naught_for_Naught, the On Press, Inc. that you are referring to in your comments has nothing to do with publishing or the postings on Twitter I am a printing broker located in the San Francisco Bay Area (Redwood City, CA) specializing in full color printing and packaging. I've been in business for 20 years. Ken contacted me and I let him know the same thing. I just wanted to clear this up and let everyone know I have no connection to the person using the same name. www, is my website, but I do not have a twitter account under that name. Thanks, Scott Schutzer

  18. naught_for_naught says


    I'm not a lawyer, but doesn't Trump's undermine his own claim of tortious interference when he acknowledges , "… 'the guy's a loser,' he says, adding that the protest has had no negative effect on the sales of Trump merchandise at Macy's."

    Clearly, this is the writer for THR saying this, but it seems to negate any claim that Trump's being hurt.

  19. En Passant says

    Ken wrote:

    The hardest game on the internet is one I call "C/S/T", which is short for "Crazy, Stupid, Or Troll?" There are nuances to those categories — sometimes a troll is a performance artist, sometimes someone is not so much stupid as willfully ignorant — but the broad categories suffice.

    Ah yes, a fine old conflict, as Jessica Mitford once said. There is another possible T variant — a 'bot.

    I encountered the phenomenon on usenet back in the day, complicated by the fact that I knew a living person with the same name as the C/S/T persona. Said living person was also perfectly technically capable of the performance, though it was more extreme than I thought his sense of humor to be.

    Turned out that the C/S/T was more or less a T, but with a twist. It was a psychology project, a bible salesman trollbot developed by a group of grad students. They had simply picked their persona's name without knowing the existence of the actual person by that same name.

    For a mercifully brief explanation, see here. For an explanation complete with flashy blinkies and dancing doggies, see here.

  20. Joe Pullen says

    @Scott Schutzer – thanks for letting everyone know. We suspected that was a possibility. Looks like some unknown twitter troll is using your company name – hopefully we can uncover who. More digging.

  21. corporal lint says

    Shaun Shane reminds one of the 1944 hoax-poet Ern Malley (a href="">wikipedia). The alleged terminal illness, the withdrawal from life, the semi-illiteracy, and the fixation on Modernism are all straight from the Malley playbook. The difference being that Malley tightroped along the profundity/inanity border better than anyone else with his great line "I am still / the black swan of trespass on alien waters."

    I love the inclusion of the idea that he studied philosophy at Yale ("he's smart!"). Then there is his alleged concern that slams are somehow harming the world of poetry (they are, in the same way that open mic night is ruining the civic opera house). There's also the wonderful claim that he hates fame, as his name is being plastered all over the internet. Hint: if you are a poet and hate fame, it is astonishingly easy to avoid becoming famous.

  22. Goober says

    Now, Ken, I think that the entire world wishes to know:

    By "world", did you actually mean "pants?"

    Just wondering.

  23. Tali McPike says

    Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the person defending a poem about choosing words carefully is hurling insults all over the internet?

  24. Joe Pullen says

    I need more caffeine because I'm not comprehending the troll’s end game. Does it attempt to collect $ for non attribution? Is it doing it to promote sales of the authors content? The crazy is giving me a headache or maybe that is its end game.

    If only these tweets were made of lead so someone could drop one on my head.

  25. Joe Pullen says

    Well kiddies it is very much looking like it is NOT poor Mr. Scott Schutzer or OnPressInc. More to follow later I'm sure by Ken and others.

    Anyone know if they make kaluah flavored popcorn infused with coffee?

  26. Tim Cushing says

    As I said on Amazon and possibly in a dream to Tim – who is now Popehat famous & OMG will be insufferable now

    G Thompson, I appreciate the implication that I wasn't insufferable before. ;)

  27. Tali McPike says

    @Joe IDK about kaluah/coffee popcorn, but I can work on it ;)
    In the mean time there is always Tequila Lime Kettle Corn

  28. AngryPanda says

    So, not that this needs saying – and Cushing implied as much – but as an author I can't let that claimed sales figure in the second article walk.

    Some weeks 3,000 sales would get you on the NYT Bestseller list. Probably not most weeks, but some weeks it would. And even if only half those sales came from Amazon it would have made a category list at Amazon. Yet, interestingly enough, it hasn't made a category list and is ranked on Amazon's best sellers list at a whopping 1,036,848. Now, bear in mind that 650-ish sales/day will get you in the top 10 on Amazon's best sellers rank. A rank over 1,000,000 on Amazon indicates sales of maybe a book a year. Less than that depending on how far over 1,000,000 you are. That's a long way from 3,000+ in a few days. And a sudden burst of sales will automatically trigger a recalculation of the rank. So unless none of these sales came from Amazon …*cough*bullshit*cough*

  29. Stephen says

    The really stupid part of me wants to re-post this quote, give these assclowns my home address, and see if I ever get served.

    But, meh. I've got groceries to buy and stuff.

  30. Guns says

    The hardest game on the internet is one I call "C/S/T", which is short for "Crazy, Stupid, Or Troll?"

    Actually, not really. See, the effect of all three is that they repeatedly say stupid things. The trick is not giving a fuck why they say these stupid things, and just communicate as if they're stupid and ignore them when they repeat themselves. That's not always easy, but it is quite simple.

    When you fall for the trap of attempting to figure out the reason they repeatedly say stupid things, you've already lost.

  31. AlphaCentauri says

    on friday
    i get my bowl
    and ride
    a car
    driven by
    eighth graders

    disaster is
    which seat
    I choose?