Yesterday, Katie Rife, a news editor for the AV Club, got a Facebook message telling her to “eat a shotgun barrel for lunch” in response to a story she’d written about Oprah Winfrey potentially running for president.
“No surprise you would want Fat Oprah as president, when all you do us [sic] whine like a little bitch with a skinned knee all day about Trump,” it read in part. Other language in the tirade was far uglier.
Rife is no stranger to online trolls; Last summer, a radio shock jock had sicced his followers on her and was ultimately banned for Twitter. But this was worse. “It was one of the meanest ones I’ve ever got,” she says.
The message came from someone named Scott Parker. Rife did a reverse image search and discovered the profile photo belonged to one of the owners of several Arlington bars, including A-Town Bar & Grill, Don Tito, Barley Mac, and The G.O.A.T. sports bar. Rife posted a screenshot of the message on Twitter and called out publications that had praised his bars.
As it turns out, though, the Scott Parker who threatened Rife wasn’t the Arlington bar owner. The real Scott Parker has been dealing with an internet troll attacking him and impersonating him for months. He had no idea how bad things had gotten.
The harassment began in the fall with a Twitter account called @fuckscottparker, whose profile read “Hi! I’m Scott Parker the worlds biggest dickhead!” The troll tweeted insults at him and his bars as many as five to 10 times day. “It would say things like, ‘I’m going to get blacked out with all my bros.’ All kinds of very bizarre shit,” says Parker, who is a recovering alcoholic and doesn’t drink.
Parker says he’s never had a lot of drama in his life. He doesn’t recall a particularly angry customer. He says he hasn’t had any relationship or personal problems.
“I felt confused, surprised that someone would have that sort of a problem with me and then also spend enough time to create a Twitter page devoted to saying ‘f’ me,” he says. “I couldn’t think of anyone I made that mad that they’re going to spend their time doing this.”
Parker mostly ignored the Twitter page—he doesn’t tweet—and eventually enough friends reported the page that it was taken down. He became aware of the Facebook page impersonating him about a month ago, when it began friending his friends. The catfish blocked him, so he couldn’t see it. Still, Parker says the Facebook page hadn’t caused any problems for him until he found out about the message to Rife yesterday.
Rife deleted her tweets and posted an update when she realized she had the wrong guy. “I feel bad. I feel guilty for getting an innocent person wrapped up in this,” she says. It didn’t occur to her that the harassing message might have come from a catfish.
“There’s no real protocol for when you get attacked by a troll, and so you try to use your investigative skills to find them on the internet, and this was just a step I didn’t think about taking that I will definitely take first next time it happens,” Rife says.
Rife talked to the real Parker today, and he was “very gracious.” Parker says he apologized to her for getting caught up in the drama, “but I don’t know what to say, it wasn’t me.” Meanwhile, he rallied friends to report the fake page, and as of this morning, it was taken down.
Parker is still reeling from the fallout of the misdirected accusations. In the past 24 hours, he and his establishments have gotten a number of calls and emails calling him a “misogynist,” “piece of shit,” and worse. Plus, he still doesn’t know what other damage the fake Scott Parker may have done.
“What concerns me is that maybe the page is out there harassing tons of people the same way it was yesterday,” Parker says. “For all I know, maybe there are 50 people who are pissed off right now.”