The average lolcow inspires all sorts of feelings: anger, horror, humor, sadness, curiosity.
Usually, several of them mix in some sort of crooked cocktail. There are, of course, certain lolcows that exemplify particular traits.
Nick Bate is unrelentingly terrifying, A-Log’s hypocrisy could induce anger in anyone, and JustinRPG’s bizarre art is good for plenty of laughs (so long as you find poop funny, which I do, as Short Circuits is a judge-free zone.)
Today I present Exhibit D: sadness. Meet Gail Schuler.
Gail Chord Schuler is a middle-aged woman who currently lives in Florida. Despite having a job and place of her own, she is a paranoid schizophrenic. The obvious severity of her large-scale delusions is exacerbated by what may be the largest-scale trolling scheme of all time.
It is unclear exactly how long Gail has suffered from her disorder. She has reported her first symptoms as occurring in 1988, particularly insomnia and hearing voices. This was around the same time she began writing fan mail to Star Trek: TNG actor Brent Spiner. Her mails became so consistent and uncomfortable that Paramount actually told her to not write him anymore.
|I guess you could call Gail…spineless. (Sorry)|
She also an author, albeit not a famous one. Her book Silver Skies is available on Amazon. Plot details on the product page are virtually nonexistent, except that Gail wanted “to honor Brent Spiner’s love.” The story, whatever’s there at least, seems to take place where Spiner grew up in Texas. Even the product page is not safe from her delusions, with a quote from Gerard Butler about the book.
Gail’s delusions are very extensive. She believes that she is descended from Catherine the Great and that she has the affections of numerous celebrities, including Gerard Butler, Vladimir Putin, and Hugh Jackman, along with over 30 others. Her most extensive, all-encompassing delusion, however, is her belief that the Order of the Jesuits – a centuries-old order of Catholic priests – are out to destroy her and her network of men. Rather than simply being a religious order, Gail believes the Jesuits are a huge organization with sophisticated technology who have allied with demonic aliens.
|Symbol of the Jesuit order. I suspect it means “Indeed, holy shit.”|
Gail’s trolls are perhaps even more interesting than she is, if only because of their invisibility.
Many internet trolls are driven by a desire for recognition (see: A-Log) and maintain some sort of identity in order to communicate with their followers.
Gail’s trolls are silent. Information about exactly who they are is nonexistent. However, they have gone to extraordinary lengths to mess with Gail: long Skype conversations, extensive chronicling and memorization of her delusions, and creating websites to bait her.
Gail is currently off all of her psychiatric medication.
She is divorced and her son is grown. She has another imaginary child named Brianna.
Gail has put out an incredible amount of videos on her YouTube channel depicting her reactions to the elaborate saga of her delusionary world. She records frequent updates on the events in her head. These have included the death of Barack Obama, Jesuits attacking the Wal-Mart where she works, and clonings of numerous individuals, including her own mother. It is unclear how many of these videos are inspired by her actual delusions or those perpetuated by the trolls.
Her personal website – where she goes by her pen name – resembles that of Gene Ray, the Time Cube guy. Its design is baffling, sprawling, and completely illogical, reflective of her schizophrenia. It’s so cluttered, in fact, that visiting it crashed Chrome on my older laptop. Gail’s mythos is practically impenetrable, even with careful reading and analysis, as she constantly changes things she has said or makes up wild explanations for new ones.
|Yes, she’s wearing an actual tinfoil hat.|
There are also several milk sources provided by Gail’s trolls.
The first is the aforementioned Jesuit website. The real Jesuit website exists here, interestingly unmentioned by Gail. The site contains information specifically tailored to Gail’s delusions, including a list of targets and agents. The order also operates a YouTube channel.
The second is the “Church of Gail,” a site Gail believes was created by men on her marriage list.
The church’s doctrine details her sexual preferences (including her “brain to brain” lovemaking sessions), views on Israel, and how to stop Jesuit infiltration. The best – and saddest – section of the site is the Forum, which is closed off to registrations. Gail posts there constantly, supported by trolls masquerading as her men and even her own children. The different users all have unique typing styles and personalities.
The trolls have created a Wiki about Gail in the vein of those about ADF and Chris-chan. She is aware of the Wiki, but has not yet attempted to edit it. It’s recommended reading.
Arguably the greatest “achievement” of the trolls is extracting nude videos from Gail. I won’t be posting those here.
The Big Picture
Gail’s world consistently blurs the lines between fiction and reality.
Though her schizophrenia obviously inspires her delusions, her group of trolls actually do torment her. The conspiracy is probably just five or six guys behind computers somewhere, but to her, it’s a universe-spanning plot.
Their scheme would probably only be possible on the internet.
Here they can hide behind anonymity or false identities. Gail comes from a different time, and on top of her disease this means she can’t possibly understand how easy it is to pretend on the web. While the internet allows her tormentors to perpetuate, it also gives her additional fuel for her fantasy.
In a weird way, Gail is probably grateful for all the attention since it only validates her delusions.
|Pictured: one of Gail’s tormentors. Also masquerades as an old meme.|
Consider, too, what Gail’s story says about information overload. In my article about ADF, I discussed the idea of “media noise.” Gail is a symbol of this. Her reality is affected not only by her disease but by the onslaught of information presented to her. Her worldview is a constant battle between the world she knows – the world of the 90s, where her love for Brent Spiner was simple – and the world of the now, where she’s not sure who he really is, where she speaks to the entire world through a webcam, where that damned YouTube interface is just so confounding.
|Gail in 1992. This was approximately four years after the onset of her schizophrenia.|
And Gail is also a symbol of us. Where do we draw the line? Do certain lolcows “deserve” the trolling they get? Does Gail? Are the trolls doing her a service by helping perpetuate her delusions, is it serious harassment, or is it just innocent fun? And most importantly, are we cruel for watching it?
The internet has inspired social activism and revolutionary change. But it has also turned us into a species of spectators. Our media-hungry society can now eat up more content than ever, much of it becoming increasingly meaningless.
Or is it?
|Gail took this photo for Vladimir Putin. It is unknown if he has ever seen it.|
For Gail, the same videos we watch for fun have tremendous meaning.
For us, funny cat pictures have meaning. Gif sets on tumblr with quotes from our favorite movies have meaning. Their permanence is questionable – I can’t remember half of the gifs I’ve ever reblogged – but even for a moment, they carry significance. It’s easy to dismiss products of the modern media as meaningless. Pop music is criticized for simple lyrics, and serious discussions on Facebook are often met with “omg u guys, it’s just facebook grow up!!!!”
The thing we have to remember is that meaning is all about context.
Whether you’re married to Vladimir Putin or reliving a scene from The Notebook for the five hundredth time on your tumblr, we all perceive the world in our own context. Our goal should be to recognize that context, rather than avoid it.
Gail cannot. But we can.
And through that, we can find meaning in the meaningless.
|The deepest thing you’ll ever see.|