Earlier this month we wrote about "Jace Connors," a seemingly deranged violent Gamergate obsessive who filmed himself kicking a wrecked car and claiming he'd been planning to attack the game developer and writer Brianna Wu. At the time, we believed that "Connors" was terrorizing Wu out of a sincere belief in the Gamergate myth that Wu was harming "gamer culture." Now, he claims he was terrorizing Wu...for "satire."
Over the past couple months, "Connors" has repeatedly threatened the safety of Brianna Wu, a game developer and writer who became the focus of Gamergate ire last year. Now "Connors"—in reality a self-described prankster named Jan Rankowski—says the bizarre violent threats that made Wu scared for her life were an act of "trolling."
We wrote about "Connors" and another obsessive named Slade Villena when he released a video of himself kicking a wrecked car that he claimed had crashed when he was driving to Brianna Wu's house to attack her. But "Connors" now seems to say that Wu's life was never in danger, and that he never intended to attract the legion of GamerGaters (and likeminded nitwit sympathizers) that heaped fandom on Connors over the course of years.
Following the revelation of his identity by anonymous sleuths on 4chan, 8chan, Reddit, and other forums, the man who has for years gone by "Jace Connors" online revealed in an interview with BuzzFeed that his name is actually Jan Rankowski, and claimed that "Connors" is a character intended to lampoon the gaming-obsessed culture that embraced him:
In an exclusive interview, Rankowski told BuzzFeed News that he intended to satirize "the over-the-top, super-hyper-macho armed GamerGater"...
"The parkour dude guy was just a character he came up with," Hyde said. "I thought it was funny enough. For awhile there his videos would only have 200–300 views. He was doing his thing. It was innocuous enough — he was playing, like, a funny guy who was really into video games."
For Rankowski, the character was a catchall way to lampoon nerd culture. "The Jace character was just a lens through which I do satire," he said. "YouTube streamers; Call of Duty gamers. GamerGate was the next in a long line."
But instead of lampooning "nerd culture," Rankowski went after nerd culture's favorite victim. If Jace Connors was a work of "satire," its point was lost on Wu, who told me in January that the unrelenting, unhinged videos and tweets had made her scared for her and her husband's life. Only in the twisted, face-obsessed world of Reddit, the chans, and YouTube, is the distinction between a sociopath terrorizing a woman on behalf of Gamergate and a sociopath terrorizing a woman on behalf of an obscure satirical point involving Gamergate a meaningful one. Even if we take Rankowski at his word, outside of the Greater Internet Psycho Co-Prosperity Sphere, this line is nonexistent: Jace Connors purported to be a frightening, gaming-obsessed young man who terrorized Brianna Wu for amusement. In reality, Jace Connors is a frightening, gaming-obsessed young man who terrorized Brianna Wu for amusement... named Jan Rankowski. This is "trolling" in the same sense that Andrew "Weev" Aurenheimer was "trolling" when he tattooed a swastika across his chest.
If Rankowski's brand of blankly unfunny, stomach-churning "comedy" is familiar, it may be because he's apparently affiliated with Sam Hyde, the man behind the YouTube video group "Million Dollar Extreme," or MDE. MDE is known for recording very bold acts of willful assholery on camera—some of which are genuinely witty, some of which are sociopathically awful:
Unsurprisingly given its bizarre and racist stunts, Hyde and MDE have gathered a troop of fans including neo-reactionaries, garden variety white bigots, and hordes of 4chan-types who were just along for the mayhem—this is the internet crowd that rejoices in fake pulls of the fire alarm. Post-reveal, "Jace Connors" (who also went by "ParkourDude91") seems more triumphant than contrite around his fans:
Those fans—or some other group—may now be turning on him. Hyde and Rankowski both claim they've been subject to harassment and threats since they were revealed to be behind the Connors videos.
And then the phone calls started. "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."
But neither man is a trustworthy source, having spent the past few years doggedly lying to as large an audience as possible, and it's unclear how much of what they've said to BuzzFeed is remotely accurate versus how much is a further attempt to troll or mislead. It seems like no matter how far they take this, and no matter how shitty they act with their hands cupped to their mouths, someone will be clapping so long as they wink after and say just kidding.