After John Oliver’s latest defense of net neutrality, comments flooded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website — over 1.6 million to be exact. While many of those comments were bot accounts, fake comments, and pre-scripted messages, there were some that stood out for their original and colorful language.
Some comments were death threats against FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who revealed in April his plan to roll back strong regulations for net neutrality, a policy that expanded the federal government’s control over internet service providers (ISPs). Oliver dedicated his Last Week Tonight show on May 7 to criticizing Pai for his plan.
Other submissions included racist slurs and lots of profanity. Some people used a fake name, including “John Oliver,” “Donald Trump,” and “Jesus Christ” to submit their comments anonymously. Some used their real names — either willingly or unknowingly. The Daily Caller released survey data Wednesday after polling 10,000 of the “pro-net neutrality” respondents. The right-leaning news outlet found that only 44 percent of respondents could recall submitting a comment, while 39 percent denied submitting a comment.
InsideSources reached out to 20 individuals who used obscene language and publicly identified themselves on their FCC public comments about net neutrality. Only 2 people responded to emails, phone calls, Facebook messages, and LinkedIn messages regarding their comments. The people had a variety of jobs including business owners, technology professionals, and students.
For example, there’s a director of business operations for an information tech company, who submitted a comment to the FCC on May 8 that said, “don’t be a tard. keep ISPs in Title 2. And deport the bad arabs.”
There’s also a college student in Oregon who submitted a graphic comment on May 8.
“Fuck this shit take your act and shove it up your ass, you’re never going to get rid of net neutrality you disgusting greedy fucks,” he wrote. “I honestly hope every single greedy politician, stubs their toe tomorrow and trips and face plants. You filthy piles of shit, how dare you and the sad part is I voted republican you guys are disgusting.”
However, InsideSources was able to speak with someone about their use of profanity in their submission.
Meet Gregory Lookerse, an artist and professor, who submitted a comment to the FCC last week.
“If you don’t want to destroy the American economy, if you don’t want the US to remain a third world internet country, if you want America to remain the largest economic power in the world, then keep net neutrality regulations strong,” he said in his comment on Friday.
He wrote a decent amount about how he opposes a reversal of the FCC’s reclassification of ISPs as common carrier public utilities under Title II of the Communications Act. Yet, he ended his comment with this:
“Also that giant Reeses mug is fucking retarded,” he wrote referring to jokes Oliver made about how Pai often carries around a mug with the Reese’s candy logo on it. “You are a grown man leading a major federal organization, take off your diapers and do your job. Also, quit chortling on Verizon’s cock and balls.”
Lookerse admitted to writing the comment, saying how he disagrees with Pai’s actions.
“It’s all this bullshit of putting together a fast lane or it being good for the consumer, but they don’t give any details how,” he told InsideSources. “It seems so clear how they are helping their friends to make money. It’s just a shame.”
But he added that he used the language at the end of his comment for comical humor after watching the Oliver segment.
“I’m not one to use that sort of language in public,” he said. “It’s just so clear that there is quid pro quo or helping one’s friends instead of the entire economy and the American people. It’s a public sphere and if any of my employers did not feel that I conducted myself well enough, that would be a shame. I was thinking it was very lighthearted, especially after watching the John Oliver bit, and it was quite funny and I wrote it as witty and tongue in cheek.”
Opponents of strong net neutrality rules claim the policy is a problem in search of a cause. The light-touch regulations Pai is bringing back into force have been in place since the Clinton administration, and there is a lack of examples of ISPs violating the stronger net neutrality rules instituted in 2015. Quite the opposite, one of net neutrality’s biggest corporate backers, Netflix, was caught throttling traffic from AT&T and Verizon, but as an edge provider, the strong net neutrality rules supported by Oliver don’t prohibit Netflix from throttling, only ISPs.
It can be difficult for those posting public comments to navigate the work-life balance — using free speech as a public citizen, yet also being identified for your profession.
One person, who wished to remain anonymous because of his profession, was happy to speak about his opposition to the repeal of net neutrality, but was concerned after InsideSources asked him about his use of profanity in his comment submission to the FCC.
“It doesn’t really bother me that this is public. I did edit some of my post upon realizing that, but honestly, I’m shocked anyone noticed,” he said. “I think everyone deals with the things they are passionate about in their own way from complaining loudly to mocking to humor to being super fact based to speaking from the heart.”
Yet, he reiterated that he was speaking as a private citizen and not for his employer.
“When I write public comments on the FCC or the New Hampshire State House or when I write op-eds to newspapers or advocate for things that I’m passionate about, I do so as a private citizen, not as a professional,” he said. “I think you can advocate for the things you are passionate about separate from your professional persona as long as you don’t cross the line that forces your employer to decide if you exemplify morals consistent with the mission of your employer. I don’t think that believing Ajit Pai is a self centered empty suit shill for the corporate overlords that want to control the internet is inconsistent with the mission of my employer.”
Despite understanding that his FCC comment about Pai was public, he still didn’t want to risk being identified with his employer.
“I would say that I have a problem with Ajit Pai on a fundamental level because of the way he carries himself,” he said. “He comes across as unaware of the world around him. Ajit seems like the perfect example of a guy who believes a lot of things about how important and smart and funny he is and believes that other people think the same way about him. The [Reese’s] coffee mug is representative of his inability to view the world from the lens of other people. In other words, he lacks empathy. How can a person in charge of making important decisions that affect every person in the country be someone with no empathy? That’s insane.”
Another man, Joe LaRoche of Arlington, Mass., also left a public comment illustrating a sexual act between Pai and President Donald Trump.
“I SUPPORT strong NET NEUTRALITY backed by Title II oversight of ISP’s,” he wrote in his May 8 comment. “I DO NOT APROVE OF THE (BLATANT) CONFLICT OF INTEREST being perpetrated here by EX-VERIZON LACKEY AJIT PAI. By the way, the only thing Ajit’s ridiculously ugly mouth is good for is being Donald Trump’s cock holster.”
LaRoche, the founder of a moving company called Metrosexual Movers just on the outskirts of Boston, took to Facebook to defend his joke, stating he used the term “cock holster” as a reference to late night host Stephen Colbert who used the same term to insinuate the sexual act between Trump and Vladimir Putin. The FCC has since opened an investigation into Colbert’s comments to see if his joke meets the U.S. Supreme Court’s definition of “obscene.”
“Oh, and the bit about Ajit Pai’s mouth being good for nothing other than Trump’s cock holster is because Pai, as Trump’s appointed FCC Chairdouche is going after Stephen Colbert for using that reference about Trump on the air,” LaRoche wrote on Facebook.
Knowing that there are millions of FCC comments and tweets about him, it seems Pai is taking it all in good stride. He responded to several of the offensive and funny tweets in a Jimmy Kimmel-like video.