Internet trolls overwhelm top Marines in cringe-worthy Q and A
The U.S. Marine Corps fought and lost on the digital battlefront this week.
On March 14, the Marines decided to up their social media presence. In the tradition of the Reddit Ask Me Anything Q and A—where celebrities chat with users of the popular site—Marine Sgt. Maj. Michael Barrett and Gen. James Amos took to Facebook to answer questions from the general public.
Facebook users hit Barrett and Amos with a bewildering blend of legitimate questions, personal attacks and hostile comments. The top Marines were ready for an hour-long Q and A—but weren’t ready for the trolls.
“If your question wasn’t answered,” the admins wrote at the end of the session, “there will be more opportunities in the future. We tried to get to as many questions as we could, but more than 900 comments came in during the first 50 minutes.”
Many of the most hateful comments were directed at Amos, the Marines’ top officer. He declined to acknowledge most of them.
“Amos, you suck!” Mark Davenport let loose. “That is all!”
“How does it feel to be the most hated commandant?” Joshua Vera asked.
Other users took the opportunity to voice tinfoil hat-level conspiracy theories … and advocate the violent overthrow of the government.
“If the current POTUS ordered you to order Marines to go door-to-door and confiscate legally-owned firearms, would you expect Marines to follow that order?” Robert May asked.
“How long ’til Russia invades us?” Robert Morrow wanted to know.
“Do you approve of the way Obama is running our country?” Brent Eason asked. “Or should I say ruining?”
Facebook user Bear Walker went on an extended rant berating the military and advocating a coup.
When are the Marines going to pick their bawls off the ground and go remove a president who has overstepped his bounds, committed treason, lied to Congress and the Senate and put this great nation at risk to attacks from other countries by thinning out our great military? I am a patriot who would crawl into a battle if I was needed, even if I had to be a shield for someone else—I would at least have died with honor—but the actions of our own military thus far allowing a tyrant to hold you down under his whims is a joke and a dishonor to the men and women past and present who have fought for this country to make it what it was up to the year 2008. After that point in time, every soldier, veteran and volunteer who served has felt the shame come down upon them due to getting rid of our military personnel and the teeth they once had being ripped out from their mouths—no longer a force to be reckoned with, now just a barking dog in the yard.
Other commenters unloaded buckets of snark.
“They’re really starting to harness the power of social media, finally,” Christopher Fox quipped. “Now if the Marine Corps could just figure out how to use database software to stop me from filling out the same information on paper again and again and again.”
“Sir, I served in your beloved Corps and I have one gripe!” Joseph Cruz told Amos. “Why was the friggin’ pork chow mein MRE discontinued?”
“Sir, you do agree that the air wing is the greatest part of the Corps, right?” Jimmy Jones asked. Amos actually snarked back at this one and a few others.
“The strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf,” Amos responded. “We’re all in it together.”
“Who would win in a pugil stick match, sir, you or Gen. [James] Mattis?” Hoby Perala asked.
Amos played along. “We would join forces and go kick America’s enemy’s ass!”
“What time is chow?” Christian Fernando Serna asked.
“Chow is continuous,” Amos answered.
“What are your favorite Terminal Lance comic strips?” asked Max Uriarte, author of the popular Web comic.
“My favorite is ‘Rolled Up,’” Amos said.
Many users questioned the Marines’ recent restrictions on visible arm tattoos.
“Have we came to a decision about bringing back tattoos?” Michael McCombie wondered. “They are themselves a part of our history; a huge majority of Marines get the mark of the Corps on their arm, leg, wherever. I feel that they show the public our pride in Corps, country and self. Any input?”
Amos and Barrett stressed that the new policy would continue.
“So I can butt-bang another dude, but can’t get tattooed in the Corps,” Wade Daniel observed, adding, “#Downfall.”
Many of the questions tackled hot-button issues facing the Marine Corps, such as record levels of sexual violence.
“The USMC has the highest number of rapes [of] any other branch, [al]though it is the smallest branch,” Kimberly Grani pointed out. “What do you envision for changing the culture of hatred and violence against women in the USMC?”
“We began our sexual assault campaign plan in July of 2012, well ahead of all of the other services,” Amos responded. “Indications since implementation show an encouraging, positive trend toward eradicating this crime within our ranks.”
“What I can tell you is that we take the matter of sexual assault deathly seriously,” Amos added, “and we will keep after this scourge relentlessly.”
Shane Eckberg offered his opinion of women serving in combat roles—in particular, ongoing policy discussions about opening up the infantry to both sexes. “Keep females out of the [infantry] fields,” Eckberg proclaimed.
“First off,” Amos retorted, “we’ve been directed by law to examine female Marines entering all of our closed [specialties]. So we are following the law and doing just that.”
“There has been zero decision made with regard to women in infantry,” Amos continued. “Much work has to be done and much data has to be collected before I can go to the Secretary of Navy and the Secretary of Defense with my recommendations.”
“Keep the faith,” Amos said, ending the tense discussion on a passive-aggressive note.
In light of looming personnel cuts, many users wanted to know what the Corps is doing to help Marines transition to the civilian workforce. “Why don’t you prepare Marines to go back into the real world?” Chaz Michael Hickman asked.
“We do,” Amos insisted. “Our transition readiness seminars are the best in all of [the Defense Department]. The skills you learn in the Corps will make you successful in whatever endeavor you choose. Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
Amos’ dubious assertion met with hostility from the commenters. “Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit,” wrote John Vezina. “The transition readiness seminars are nowhere close to what they need to be. Suicides, substance abuse and legal issues are far too common with veterans returning from active duty and nothing is being done in order to properly prepare for the transition to civilian life.”
Overwhelmed after an hour, Barrett and Amos beat a planned retreated. The two top Marines had answered questions, deflected nonsense and ignored hate.
“Whether you like the [commandant] and sergeant major or not, they are the ones in charge,” Joseph Krivenko noted. “They opened up this social media thing to try and take care of the junior Marines’ questions and concerns … So next time, keep it professional and leave the buffoonery out of it.”
Don’t count on that happening. This is the Internet. Twenty-four hours after the chat ended on Friday, people were still commenting on the thread.
You can follow Matthew Gault on Twitter at @mjgault. You can follow Kevin Knodell at @KJKnodell. Sign up for a daily War is Boring email update here. Subscribe to WIB’s RSS feed here and follow the main page here.