The Rat Patrol Sockpuppet Debacle

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Fanwork
Title: The Rat Patrol Sockpuppet Debate
Creator:
Date(s): 2000
Medium: online
Fandom: The Rat Patrol
External Links:
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In 2000, The Rat Patrol fandom endured massive wank involving sockpuppets, fake small children, bullying, the pitching of Americans against the Canadians, false eyewitness accounts of terror at the World Trade Center on 911, marriage infidelities, pseudocide, and other various hijinks.

This is brief introduction by Amedia (written in 2002, posted in 2006), one a long series of online discussions and exposes:
A couple of years ago (i.e. in 2000), there was a small but active group of Rat Patrol fans, most of whom knew each other by postal mail or email and had chatted on the phone or met in person. (For now I'll refer to these people as "oldtime fans," but there must be a better appellation.) In addition to an email listserv run by Kathy Agel, a new group called the Rat Patrol Yahoo Club had sprung up, attracting additional fans from the Internet. It seemed to be doing pretty well. There were some new Canadian fans (RP was being rerun in Canada at the time) and other new fans who were fitting in quite well, as well as some guys named Max, Keith, and Gene, who wandered in from somewhere and tended to "top" whatever everyone else said, but otherwise behaved themselves. Two of the new fans were writing hilarious episode synopses for a popular Rat Patrol fan website, and they also came up with an idea for a new fanzine, that would be an all hetero-romance anthology called "Romancing the Rats." We all made positive noises about it. Another one of the newer fans had an idea for a zine to be called "Rats on the Edge," which would feature stories that put the Rats (or Dietrich) into unusually challenging situations where they might be forced to act in a way that would normally be out of character. We made puzzled but positive noises about that as well.

Then a rather odd thing happened. The aforementioned guys, along with a woman going by the screenname CatO, who had previously been active in Garrison's Gorillas fandom, a woman named Sofi a guy who claimed to be Rat Patrol actor Justin Tarr, and the three new fans formed a kind of syndicate and announced that they would all work together on both new zines. The group was called "Rainbow Butterfly Press," but was quickly nicknamed "Gang of Eight" for their high-handed attitude and heavy-handed tactics. They accepted very few submissions and sent back brutal, nasty, and inaccurate edits to anyone whose work they didn't like (who wasn't in the inner circle).

Also around this time, one of the club members began complaining of getting unpleasant private emails from other members off-list... [much, much snipped]

Then we were informed that CatO, Sofi, and the guys were actually members of a much larger RP club that had been going on for thirty years, with hundreds of members, quite a few fanzines, and several international conventions. Of course, everyone wanted to see the fanzines - I was fascinated by the idea of another world of fanzines co-existing with the one I'm familiar with, like dark matter in the normal universe. It didn't seem totally unbelievable since most of the people I knew came into RP through media science fiction fandom, and I knew there was a whole world of WWII enthusiasts who were for the most part unconnected to us. But they refused to produce the zines - they were lost, or packed away, or too fragile to share. And their claims of 2000-member cons in places like Tokyo certainly didn't sound realistic... [much, much snipped]

After the con, though, things got bad again. A bunch of us oldtimers compared notes and decided that obviously the several hundred fans from the earlier club weren't real. After some more note-comparing, we decided that some of the Gang of Eight weren't real either. We'd met CatO and one of the three original editors at the LRDC, and enough people had met the other two original editors that we were pretty sure they existed. That left Sofi, Max, Gene, and Keith. No one had ever met any of them in person or knew anyone who had, and they all seemed to act pretty much in unison on every issue. We began trying to guess who was a person and who was a puppet, and who was running which puppet. We pretty much settled on the woman who had taken over as clubmom as one of the possible suspects (the other two original editors, including the one we had met at the LRDC, had pretty much dropped out of sight), and CatO as another possible suspect. [much, much snipped] [1]
Another comment:
Rat Patrol is something of a special (basket) case. There were complex issues involving fans buying or attempting to buy the rights, and with a truly outstandingly psycho fan who at one point was running *600* sock puppets -- which I sincerely hope is a record. [2]

Further Reading: Other Commentaries and Explanations

References

  1. amedia, rough draft - RP sockpuppeteer account June 22, 2006; reference link.
  2. comment by Mary Ellen Curtin at Looking for confirmation of a rumor, April 2001