Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson continues to be a lightning rod in his fan interactions following intense criticism of The Last Jedi. His latest stunt involves blaming Russian trolls and “political trolling.”
Johnson retweeted Morten Bay who claims his academic paper shows that approximately 50% of criticism directed at Rian Johnson was “political trolling, some of it likely from Russia.”
A bit of Morten’s research came out awhile ago and made some headlines – here’s his full paper. Looking forward to reading it, but what the top-line describes is consistent with my experience online. https://t.co/MTRgmPxGgZ
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) October 1, 2018
He would clarify his comments aren’t about “Fans liking or not liking the movie.”
And just to be totally clear: this is not about fans liking or not liking the movie – I’ve had tons of great talks with great fans online and off who liked and disliked stuff, that’s what fandom is all about. This is specifically about a virulent strain of online harassment.
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) October 2, 2018
Bay’s paper claims “the study finds evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments.” Then it makes a huge assumption without any evidence claiming, “The likely objective of these measures is increasing media coverage of the fandom conflict, thereby adding to and further propagating a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society.” He then goes on to somehow connect his findings to the Alt-Right stating, “Persuading voters of this narrative remains a strategic goal for the U.S. alt-right movement, as well as the Russian Federation. The results of the study show that among those who address The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson directly on Twitter to express their dissatisfaction, more than half are bots, trolls/sock puppets or political activists using the debate to propagate political messages supporting extreme right-wing causes and the discrimination of gender, race or sexuality.”
This is just absolutely ridiculous. And here’s why. Morten created a biased research technique by focusing solely on “tweets addressing The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson directly.” And then his sample size is just a complete joke. “Using Twitter’s Advanced Search functionality I retrieved 1273 tweets tweeted directly at the director’s Twitter handle, “@rianjohnson” between December 13, 2017 and July 20, 2018.” He also notes he removes “GIFs and meme images” as well as “retweets and likes that appeared as individual tweets in the data set.” Morten also tries to isolate individuals by looking at “one tweet per account.” He believes by doing this “it was now possible to turn towards an analysis of the accounts those users who had tweeted negatively.” So, Morten would find negative Tweets directed at Rian Johnson and then comb through the rest of their Twitter activity applying his own personal bias to place them into categories. That’s right, Morton writes, “I would conduct searches for specific terms on the accounts to find tweets that could help place the account in one of the following three categories.”
Morten even points out his own bias by using search terms like Trump and SJW to indicate a political stance. He also tries to malign people who are using pseudonyms or anonymous Twitter accounts as sock puppets, and groups them with Russian trolls and bots.
There is nothing academic about this study at all. It is purely based off Morton’s own personal leanings and where he decides to place people based on their Tweets. He also discounts the idea that people are using anonymous accounts to voice their opinions to avoid potential blowback on themselves or their family. There is nothing wrong with this and Morton should not be attempting to demonize people doing this. Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief previously used a pseudonym and so do many popular authors including Mark Twain. Even James Madison and Alexander Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers anonymously.
But to make matters worse, Morton doesn’t even acknowledge that Johnson’s own Tweets could affect the responses he gets. The time period Morton examined saw Johnson specifically target Star Wars fans by calling them “manbabies.” He also actively blamed fans for his own failures with The Last Jedi.
And while Morton tries to gin up some absolute crock of a study to defend Rian Johnson, Disney, and Star Wars, the truth of the matter is the film sucked and a majority of fans rejected it as evidenced by the abysmal 45% audience score. To make matters worse Johnson’s behavior and his direction of The Last Jedi was also a factor in the first box office bomb of a Star Wars film with Solo: A Star Wars Story only bringing in just over $390 million, well below the $1 billion mark which all of the other Disney Star Wars film crossed.