If someone told me they were from Australia and their name was “Sandy Beaches,” I might suspect that a prank was underway. Not so for The Mary Sue, the home of “geek and pop culture feminism” on the internet, who were convinced to run two hoax articles from an Australian man posing as a feminist woman.
Mark Ankucic, a former video games writer who was fired from his previous position due to his support for GamerGate, convinced editors at The Mary Sue that he was a woman writing under the nom de plume “Sandy Beaches” to avoid “online harassment.”
Writing as his feminist critic alter ego, Ankucic managed to get two fake “feminist critiques” published at the site — one about combating sexism in the upcoming remake of Final Fantasy VII, and another about the inherent sexism of the tabletop game Warmachine.
Ankucic recently revealed his exploits in a Medium post and also explained his motivations:
Quite simply, I wanted to see how ridiculous and flagrantly wrong/untruthful I could be and get away with it. I’d had the FFVII/sexism article written well over a year ago, yet I didn’t pull the trigger. I thought, at the time, that it would be far too stupid and misinformed for any publication to run. However, as the articles regarding feminist complaints on…well everything…began to pile up, each one getting progressively less logical and more poorly argued, I decided it was time.
Ankucic’s prank resembles the famous Sokal Hoax, in which physics professor Alan Sokal exposed the lax standards of postmodern cultural studies by persuading Social Text, a leading postmodern journal, to publish an article “liberally salted with nonsense.”
Ankucic writes that he was surprised by the number of people who agreed with the points he made in his article, which were deliberately absurd.
Despite the fact I’ve gone out of my way to make every pointas ludicrous as possible, there are people who agree with Sandy. To the commenters credit, a lot of them had the suspicion that there may have been witnessing a troll in action, and a lot of them disagreed with some of the arguments made — but there were still those who agreed with some of it. I dropped in flagrant half-truths and lies, interpreted events in the broadest, most negative light imaginable, and tried my very best to make every objection I raised to include as much racism, sexism, and in the case of Tifa, body-shaming as possible.
Ankucic also noted that he did not receive any of the online abuse so often complained about by internet feminists:
Not a single rape threat. Not a single death threat.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that those occur. But I think the reason I didn’t get them is because I didn’t condemn men as a group, or accuse an entire swathe of people as being hate-filled or of unknowingly hating themselves. I didn’t pass out broad judgements and demand the world change for me.
The intrepid troll concludes his piece by promising to do it all again:
I’m going to retire Sandy Beaches. And then I’m going to do it again under a different name. This time, I will have a JSTOR account and I’ll have access to the pseudoscience necessary to make it look like I really know what I’m talking about. The facts will be hidden behind a paywall that most won’t have access to, and those that do won’t have the reach, speed or power to undo what I’ve put out there. I’ll spice the crazy with enough nuance for it to taste legitimate.