All of this has happened before.

There’s apparently been a movie, very heavily anti-Musilm and generally racist, that’s been out online for a while. For 9/11, someone translated the trailer for it into an Arabic language and started pushing it around in the Arab world. It was a deliberately provocative act, and a successful one as well: the rioting started, US consulates in that region were attacked, and people started dying. One of those killed was the US Ambassador to Libya. The same attack that killed him killed three State Department staffers.

I knew one of them. His name was Sean Smith, and he did IT. More relevantly for me, he was known online as Vilerat. He was an acquaintance in some forums and chat channels I frequented, as well as a big name in a particular online game, and we used to talk often. 

After he’d joined the state department one of his early postings was in Iraq in about 2007. I remember chatting with him a great deal about it, with the difficulties of trying to live there, even in the relative safety of the compounds there. In particular he told me of one rocket attack that had struck so close to his living quarters that it literally threw him out of bed. He’d talked of suffering some PTSD after that, and went on to get the ugliest tattoo I’ve ever seen in my life. But I’d thought he was going to stick to calmer postings afterwards, and especially after he had two kids. I guess that didn’t last.

In truth I barely knew him, though of course I mourn his loss. I’m more mentioning all of this because of how extremely eerie it is to be seeing the whole of the internet lighting up like a Christmas tree for him. He’s got posts dedicated to reporting his death on gaming websites, and on the BBC and Business Insider as I linked above. He’s even trending on Twitter

I’ve known a lot of folks in a lot of professions, and relatively few would get a memorial like this. It’s quite a testament to how much impact he had on a lot of people, even if only superficially in a video game, that he had. Although I knew him first from the current events and debate forum we used to frequent, I later knew him in EVE Online where he was one of the big organizers for the corporation we were in together. His actions in that game shaped the whole of that game’s world. The fact that he was the great diplomat there, and then went to work for the state department as well (granted in IT rather than as an attache or anything, but you know) speaks volumes about the guy. 

But then it comes down to this. A handful of racist dickheads deliberately try to provoke shit, and the people who are in a volatile region trying to calm it down are the ones killed as a result. Kind of an unbelievable pisser, though in truth I probably wouldn’t have even noticed had it not been an old acquaintance that drew the short straw there.