Gamergate Supporter Who Threatened Brianna Wu Revealed To Be A Parody Character, Is Still An Asshole
AKA, The Boy Who Cried Troll.
Once again, everything is ruined by a dude who thinks he’s a comedian but is actually just a dick. Way to go, Jan Rankowski! You’ve managed to do harassment victims, feminists, the art of comedy itself, and even gamergaters a huge disservice all at the same time. I think that’s a new new record.
You might know 20-year-old Rankowski better as”Jace Connors,” a man who described himself as a former Navy Seal and ex-Marine on Youtube and who frequently posted videos of himself rambling incoherently about topics like Islamic extremism, Barack Obama, and video games, often while standing in front of an American flag and a Call of Duty poster and brandishing knives on camera.
Recently “Connors” turned his attention to Gamergate and begin expressing an interest in—well, an obsession with, really— meeting Giant Spacekat Games founder and frequent target of harassment Brianna Wu. This came to a head when he uploaded a video of a car crash he’d been in, claiming that he had been en route to confront Wu with guns in his car when she “tried to assassinate” him “via street racing.” Several media outlets then picked up on the story, citing Connors as clinching proof that the movement was inherently toxic.
The car crash itself was real, apparently—as Rankowski told Buzzfeed News, he came up with the idea to ad-lib the video after being involved in an accident near his home in Maine. Everything else? A complete fabrication invented by him and Sam Hyde as part of their sketch group, Million Dollar Extreme, whose main aesthetic appears to be saying really terrible things to get a rise out of people and generally being unfunny.
But now, real Gamergate supporters have apparently started to make the connections between Connors and Rankowski, and both he and Hyde say that they’ve become the latest targets of the same harassment they knowingly helped to propagate against Wu:
“People have been calling my old high school calling my work,” Rankowski told BuzzFeed News, “and saying these nasty things about me. I was made to sign a contract at my job saying I wouldn’t make any of these videos again. I received a letter in the mail with a picture of me from my high school yearbook… It said I shouldn’t have fucked with 8chan.”
Hyde told BuzzFeed News that over the past two days he has also been harassed. “Some kid stood outside my window throwing pebbles. And someone knocked on my door — it’s a closed apartment, you shouldn’t be able to get in. And then there was no one there.”
Hyde also posted on the MDE Twitter account this morning that he had been stalked and physically attacked last night as well.
ATTN: this man has been stalking me, most likely associated with recent game trolling. I fear for my safety pic.twitter.com/7cqn0VH7uL
— MDE (@mde_never_dies) February 24, 2015
@katienotopoulos last night I was stalked, physically assaulted, and had my car broken into. Are you OK with that, you ugly piece of shit?
— MDE (@mde_never_dies) February 24, 2015
“They realized I was making fun of them with those videos,” Rankowski also said to Buzzfeed. “I started it as a joke, but it’s become far too real and I wish I could take it all back. […] I didn’t take this situation seriously, but I see what it means now to be in the other person’s shoes. What her life must feel like. I have this newfound respect for the people who are having to deal with GamerGate, Brianna Wu and Anita [Sarkeesian].”
I guess now we should take those threats seriously? Oh, okay.
To be clear, I don’t believe Rankowski or Hyde deserve to be threatened for what they’ve done, because no one deserves to be harassed on the Internet. But I do think this is a perfect opportunity to bring up the most common dismissal of these kinds of threats, which is that the harasser is just joking and shouldn’t be taken seriously. These guys might have been lying, but Brianna Wu didn’t know that—she’s on record as saying she’d been worried he might do something to her before the car crash incident.
“This is has caused me immense psychological distress,” she told Jezebel earlier today. “I’ve talked to the police on multiple occasions. I’ve lost sleep over this. It has made me in fear for my life. If you come to my home we have padlocks installed on our attic and basement because every time we get home we check to see if anyone has broken in.”
By threatening her, these guys didn’t just make it that much harder for other harassment victims (like them, now) to get justice—they also made legitimately made a stranger think she was in danger just for their own amusement, which is a horrifically shitty thing to do. And on top of all that, now everything these guys say is suspect because of their reputation for trolling, meaning that both Gamergate supporters and critics alike will be far less likely to believe their claims of harassment.
On the plus side, now that Rankowski is out in the open, it might make it easier for Wu to file some type of charges against him for harassing her in the first place. “I thought they needed professional help more than prison,” she said to Jezebel. “Now finding out this is joke by this person that redoubles my effort to put him in jail.”
That‘s the kind of justice I want to see.