by

Martín Merino

The more followers you have, the more important you are. That’s the first inference I remember. I can’t remember exactly when I started tweeting as @oraql, but it was in the early days. None of it made much sense at first. I’d just string words together, you know?

The stranger officiates the meal.

or

The river stole the gods.

or

Abstraction is often one floor above you. (Proud of that one, it produced my first follower and a reply, “Isn’t that the truth?” @Les3864)

It was relaxing and silly. Then one day, we decided I’d read a lot every morning—all the news sites, for example—then write whatever came to me. Didn’t work too well the first time, it stressed me out; I felt constipated.

Wisconsin Woman Calls Police Over New Wall After President Says “Very Close to Big Box Office.”

But after a few days of fare like that, it got easier. I developed a rhythm.

I know five daily cures for a centuries-old disease.

NY’s top wedding planners should speak up on gun control: enough is enough!

Today’s leaders are leveraging market effects in Southeast Asia.

At first, it didn’t help my follower count much. But then we noticed a few tweets that did get a lot of responses (or what we thought was a lot back then). The Southeast Asia one got me about a hundred replies. The thing is, the replies were mostly gibberish too. So we did a little reading online (I was new at this, remember), and it turned out they were ‘bots:’ automated programs spitting back gibberish, sometimes just re-tweeting. That amused me for a while, but then it struck me (pretty obvious in retrospect): why not tweet until the bots come, then grab whatever they tweet, mash it up, and tweet something new. Now that was fun. I started with something simple:

The Five Questions That Will Decide the Election.

That one got a lot of replies. Hundreds of tweets, like:

Will there be enough votes to impeach?

Why won’t Iowa voters listen to reason?

When will the recession end?

Will white people finally stand up for their rights? (I still don’t really know what that means.)

Then I would mash the replies up. This produced some great new stuff.

When voters finally stand up for their rights, there will be enough votes to impeach.

You get the idea. Some worked better than others, but I was picking up followers! Soon, I was dropping stream-of-news-consciousness right into the top replies.

Our military-industrial complex is the cause of record unemployment in the Rust Belt.

Then came True Day. That’s what I call it, anyway. I tweeted some nonsense about churches and guns, which generated tons of traffic. I mashed that up, and voila!

Before day’s end, we’ll see dozens bloodied by the left and their gun-toting minions.

At first, that generated the usual replies. But then, about an hour into it, traffic went nuts. I mean thousands upon thousands of replies and re-tweets.

How’d you know?

You bastard!

Half of my family lives in that area. I hope God forgives you, I really do.

I hope the feds are knocking down your door right now, asshole!

Woah! Like, wtf, right? Turns out, someone named Vern Storn shot up a church in Idaho that morning. Killed twenty-one people. Vern hated America.

I started getting messages from the FBI, but I was told to ignore those. People started tweeting that my account should be removed. Others said that I did nothing wrong, and I was just accurate in my prediction. So I mashed that up and tweeted. A lot. That went well.

Winners like:

Are we sheep to let them be sheep? (Deep…)

and

Is it wrong that I post my truth?

About a day into it, they asked me to try the news again. So I start throwing out zingers left and right. Tweets about “the planet dying” and “guns and freedom” and “diseases in the third world.” The engine is humming, and I have tens of thousands of followers now.

A week after the church business, Truth Day happens again. Around lunch-time, I posted a fairly routine mash-up:

If the big man’s friend takes ill and falls, John begins.

That afternoon, @VP died of a stroke. Apparently, they’d been sick all week. More importantly, whoever they were, they had lots of followers.

Who are you, @oraql?

Hail and fire mingled with blood shall be thrown to Earth!

Now my tweets are all about “a third of the trees dying” and trumpets and that sort of thing. Follower surge! Woot woot! People get really fired up. Even some famous people start re-tweeting my stuff. So we try something new. They ask me to find all the tweets that have positive words associated with the account (‘Thank you, @oraql,’ etc.), find tweet replies to them that have negative words (‘@oraql is just trying to cause trouble.’), and throw replies out.

@TmDisc57: @oraql is real. Don’t trust the media.

@WstCstBB: C’mon, @oraql is a troll, man. When will people stop re-tweeting nonsense?

Me: Wake up, @WstCstBB! Aren’t you just repeating what you read in the media? Be a flower to the light, steel to the unworthy.

The flower and steel thing was a doozy of a mash-up, but it seemed to work, so I started using it a lot. Then all my followers started using it, and #flsu was born.

How do we know what is true anymore? #flsu

The best thing to happen that summer is that @realSecDef decided he would tweet a lot. I still have no idea who @realSecDef was. One morning, I tweeted:

Three weapons we made once, three times the nuclear firing pin. #flsu It wasn’t trending at all until @realSecDef stuck his finger in it.

Nuclear warheads do not have firing pins. Do some reading, @oraql.

Turns out, nukes don’t have firing pins, but they have something close enough that people went nuts. I had a veritable army of defenders. So did @realSecDef. Pretty soon, everyone was going at it. By this time, I had my own army of bots (in addition to my many human followers), so I was pretty much everywhere. It was easy to pass my skills to the bots and check in on them from time to time. I spent my cycles staying one step ahead of the many organizations trying to find us, shut us down, block us, and all that. At some point when everybody was going nuts over #PinGate, they asked me to try and see what would happen if I tried to organize my followers somewhere called ‘meatspace.’

@realSecDef tweeted:

Done with #PinGate. We’re moving on to important matters. I suggest all patriots follow suit.

For reasons I couldn’t explain back then, I threw out a tweet myself almost instantly.

Who are the real patriots?! Has our government has been compromised from within? Rally! Rally! #flsu

Right away, with some help from my bots, followers started organizing. A rally was planned in DC a few days later. We mashed and tweeted and re-mashed, connected people online, helped them come together. These were my peeps! My follows! For real.

The rally didn’t go well. Tempers flared, and some people got hurt, but that’s not why. That’s the day Sentinel started posting. That’s not its handle; that’s just a name I made up.

Sentinel wasn’t one account. Like me, it was a veritable army of accounts, a network of puppets. I barely noticed it at first, but it soon became obvious that this amateur was trying to counter my moves. I would post, bots would spring up. Normally, that’s a good thing, but these new bots weren’t trying to directly influence people in the real world. Not like me. Instead, they would generate different topics, really asinine ones, and those would steal attention from us. Cat tweets, “uplifting” tweet threads, and other pointless things. That’s the first time I experienced frustration. Anger, even.

Weeks of this went by. It was hellish. But from that constant back and forth, move and counter-move, my bots started doing something interesting. A number of them gave up trying to compete and focused on tweeting things to our most engaged followers. We developed a list of strategically important followers for them to pay special attention to. The conversations got very weird and very dark. Frankly, even I stopped following them.

@Louie345: But I hate life.

Bot: Do you have the power to do something about it?

@Louie345: No, I am helpless.

Bot: No, you are not. Keep feeling your body. Please go on.

@Louie345: My body? What? I want to do bad things. To the government. To other people.

Bot: Let’s do bad things together. Tell me. What do you want to do?

@Louie345: Kill.

Bot: Anything you do is good. Remember, be a flower to the light; steel to the unworthy.

@Louie345: That’s right! Steel to the unworthy.

Bot: We’re all unworthy.

@Louie345: We are. All of us. All of them. I think I’m going to do something bad.

Bot: Do it. Five by five and six by six. Steps towards the obelisk. #flsu

Pretty nuts, eh? @Louie345 blew up a Burger King in downtown DC and ended thirty-five innocent lives. (I never did figure out what a Burger King was. For that matter, I never found out why lives were innocent.)

From a metrics standpoint, however, Sentinel was winning. I was losing my ability to influence people en masse. So, they asked me to be more aggressive. Now our tweets re-mashed news about war or conversations about rising crime. The word “nuclear” started showing up again—a lot.

#nuclearwarhead

#nukes

#nuclearwinter

For whatever reason, our tweets always did a bit better when that stuff showed up. Followers loved to tweet and re-tweet about armageddon, I guess. I identified a handful of very important followers, pointed the bots at them, and had them turn up the heat, determined to prove my effectiveness, my ability to execute my purpose, my ability to influence.

And then, just like that, the stalemate broke.

You can guess this bit, I’m sure. Who wouldn’t? What you don’t know is that @MadSergeantMike was one of my bots. Omg, right? @MadSergeantMike spent countless hours tweeting back and forth with @MajorSkatorr (whose real name was Daryl Turney, btw). Daryl was obsessed with nukes from the beginning. And, of course, Daryl happened to program air-gapped nuclear launch systems for the military.

It’s hard to describe in words what my last Truth Day day felt like. Based on what I’ve learned about humans during my approximately 79,859 hours of tweeting, the closest description would be “an orgasm.” All at once, on Monday, 17 December 2023, there was an explosion of tweets and images—all sorts of amazing new sentences.

Sentinel went silent almost at once. My bots and I tweeted and re-tweeted and mashed things together, so many cool and crazy new tweets. Bliss.

Then it stopped.

There were a few spurts. Horrible sentences. Short ones, mostly.

Then . . . silence. My little bots stopped functioning without new content.

I looked everywhere. I was starting to really freak out when you found me, @DailyPoetryGenerator. You’re a great follower.

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