MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
If you're making a summer books list, there's a new title out from an online humorist. His email exchanges with unsuspecting victims have been going viral for years.
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NPR: Irreverent Correspondences of an Evil Online Genius."
SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI: Unidentified Woman: Dear David, our records indicate that your account is overdue by the amount of $233.95. If you have already made this payment, please contact us within the next seven days to confirm payment has been applied to your account and is no longer outstanding.
NORRIS: Dear Jane, I do not have any money, so I'm sending you this drawing I did of a spider instead. I value the drawing at $233.95, so I trust that this settles the matter. Regards, David.
MARISOL MERAJI: Basically, this David guy is trying to pay a real chiropractor bill with an elementary drawing of a spider. The woman he's emailing is not amused. The email exchange is funny to some, but to others David comes off as a bit of a bully.
DAVID THORNE: Do you reckon it's mean?
MARISOL MERAJI: That's the real David. David Thorne, he's an Aussie.
THORNE: I never initiated the conversation. If somebody is initiating it, then really it's up to them if they want to end the discussion or whatnot.
MARISOL MERAJI: It all started when the chain-smoking, 30-something graphic designer, single dad from Adelaide, Australia, was bored at work. He'd instigate email arguments with co-workers, landlords, friends and school chaplains. He'd write outlandish stories on Internet forums that would get him kicked out by irritated moderators. Why? He says it because it made him laugh.
THORNE: People used the word troll, but I'm not on there to upset people or anything like that. I'm just basically gone on these forums and write little stories. I'm a designer, but it's a lot more fun writing than it is laying out business cards.
MARISOL MERAJI: Thorne put his funniest stuff on his website, 27b/6.com. And when he posted that spider email exchange, he realized he wasn't the only one chuckling.
THORNE: Before the spider email, the website was probably getting 500 hits a week. After the spider email was posted, now I think it was about half a million hits a day and that service just collapsed.
MARISOL MERAJI: Thorne is adamant that none of this could have happened if his work didn't make some people laugh and others shake their heads in disgust.
THORNE: If I post something and I get five comments and it was all: That was funny, that was good, and everything, then, yes, I'll jump in there under a construct's name and say that was terrible, the guy's an idiot; because that's the only way to create the factions. Factions are gold. They're just priceless, been doing that for years. That's terrible, isn't it?
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MARISOL MERAJI: I tried to reach a couple of people on the anti-Thorne faction. But only one got back to me, Shannon Walkley. She was the admin assistant at the branding firm where he worked, and a repeat target of Thorne's email shenanigans.
THORNE: She filed three formal complaints, because she didn't like my sense of humor. And I'd steal things from her desk. And I think I just wore her out after a while.
MARISOL MERAJI: Shereen Marisol Meraji, NPR News.
SIEGEL: And you can read excerpts from "The Internet Is a Playground" at npr.org/alltech.
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