Ryan Wild: Mastodon Fascist, Tendentious Universeodon Admin, and Enemy of the Fourth Estate

Ryan Wild is a wildly arrogant and deeply manipulative despot who lives in Swindon — a town in England’s Wiltshire district. He operates out of the Highworth borough, which voted for Conservative Vijay Kumar Manro as Borough Councillor in the last election. Wild, who has the husky well-fed mien of a man who has never known a day without a hot meal, will turn twenty-six next month. Like any garden-variety huckster, Wild is an “entrepreneur” who wants you to buy into his dubious hosting services and support his Mastodon instance Universeodon or his other instance Mastodon App UK, which was home to British cultural treasure Stephen Fry until Fry stopped posting sometime last year. (For those not in the know, “instances” are servers that are interconnected with each other on Mastodon. When I was on Wild’s instance, I did chip into his Ko-fi account and had planned to chip in more. Because I’m always happy to pay the people who keep the lights on. This effectively placed me within only 2.7% of the active users on Universeodon.)

But don’t think for a second that Wild has your best interests at heart. He is fundamentally opposed to any creator — especially journalists — who point out the iniquities and injustice carried out by the ruling class. Particularly if you are critical of Israel or people in power. On October 11, 2021, when Google offered free security keys for elected officials and journalists (historically speaking, both of these classes have faced significant harassment and, with heightened extremism in the United States, this has only escalated) to provide better security to elected officials and journalists, Wild had zero sympathy and called such protection “a huge waste of money.” He is also an avowed Brexit supporter and has also claimed that Hitler “should have been in power” because he was “legally voted in,” a colossal misreading of history that came laced with Wild significantly understating Hitler’s evil by saying “what he did was wrong yes.” Which is a bit like suggesting that the flooding that ravaged China in July 1931 and killed four million people was “just a tiny little rainstorm.” (Never mind that Hitler was defeated by Paul von Hindenburg in the 1932 Weimar Republic presidential election and that, as any high school graduate should know, Hitler manipulated his way into the Chancellor seat, taking only a few months after that to suspend civil liberties for all Germans and become dictator.)

(Mr. Wild did not return multiple requests for comment on this story over the course of five days. I emailed him at every address that was publicly listed for him and his business ventures. Then he blocked my main email address when I sent him a followup message — this when I was nothing but polite and respectful in my correspondence. (An email sent from another account went through.) Just before the deadline I gave him to reply to my questions was about to pass (and I would have been happy to grant him an extension to answer if he had simply asked), Wild claimed that he was sick. If he is indeed sick, I truly do wish Mr. Wild a healthy recovery. This still doesn’t explain why he blocked my email address before he was sick. After this article was published, in a futile attempt to discredit my good faith efforts to get him on the record, Wild claimed that his Mastodon UK email was not working. But I also contacted Wild at the very Atlas Media Group email address he cites in his post.)

In short, this diminutive businessman — this bright vanilla chunk of ice cream scooped ignominiously onto a slice of pumpkin pie — has no problem covertly upholding right-wing sentiments and shutting down left-wing ones when he’s not preventing users from accessing vital news. He has blocked numerous journalists from being seen by users on his instance. And if, heaven forfend, you make a mocking post against the rich, as one trans woman did, Wild will close your account faster than Anthony Comstock opposing the suffragettes in the late nineteenth century.

Wild risibly and falsely claims on the Universeodon about page, “From exploring the universe, to exploring the world we all share – everyone is welcome here.”

This, of course, is a lie.

To a great degree, one can sympathize with Wild and any other instance admin on Mastodon. Admins are usually hosting servers on their own dime, often at a loss, and, as X (previously known as Twitter) increasingly hardens into a toxic wasteland under Elon Musk, these admins are being besieged by thousands of new users. If an instance does have a moderation team, it usually consists of unpaid volunteers, who may tender false flags at the end of a long and exhausting day. But as the Fedeiverse — the collective network of instances connected to each other — burgeons into what many declare to be a calmer and more viable open source alternative to BlueSky, Threads, and X, it’s important to consider how certain biases from admins are contributing to a form of fascism rather than democracy, where viewpoints from the marginalized or those who don’t fit so neatly into an affluent Caucasian neoliberal box often struggle to have their vital voices heard. And, in Wild’s case, his clearly tendentious biases and elastic approach to moderation has resulted in a form of odious muzzling that is no different from the way that the Nazis demonized Black music that had flourished so beautifully in Berlin before 1933 or the way that, more recently, the Taliban has silenced Afghan journalists. If one of the most awe-inspiring realizations of the Internet is being exposed to marginalized voices and realizing that we all have far more in common than we know, then Mastodon — at least under the sloppy and corrupt hands of admins like Ryan Wild — is far from the great ideal that its most prominent boosters insist that it is.

Not unlike Elon Musk suspending numerous journalist accounts in December 2022, Wild is so fundamentally opposed to the noble efforts of the Fourth Estate that he has invented reasons to block journalists on his instance. He has claimed, without a shred of evidence, that newsie.social — an instance in which journalists valiantly report from all corners of the globe — supports “transphobic content.” (In fact, the newsie.social rules make clear that transphobia is explicitly prohibited.) So this means that anyone with a Mastodon account on his instance cannot access invaluable posts from the likes of ProPublica, which rightfully won a Pulitzer Prize last week for its valiant coverage of the Supreme Court. As William Maggos noted in the same thread, this was clearly a pretext to silence “commentary against the Israel govt.” (Requests for comment from newsie.social were not returned.)

Back in February, Jeffrey Phillips Freeman — who runs an instance devoted to the Assn for Computing Machinery — complained to Wild that his instance was wrongly included on what he deemed a “notoriously abusive” block list. Even when pointing to examples of how he had blocked racists, Freeman was gaslighted without full context. (Freeman was kind enough to return my request for comment and informed me that the meetings he had with fellow Fediverse boosters were quiet but that “bad actors” were a problem. I pressed him on a hypothetical, asking him what he would do if, say, J.K. Rowling created a new account on his instance and started posting TERF content, but he did not reply.)

But bad actors — in addition to disrupting thoughtful and civil meetings hoping to actualize a tech utopia dream — do become instance admins. And bad actors very often recruit other bad actors, as Wild did when — as Alan Jenkins pointed out on November 16, 2022 — he recruited a moderator named @lyicx, who used words and terms associated with the alt-right. (When called out on this in a followup thread, @lycix hurled abuse at Jenkins.) Ryan Wild is almost certainly operating his instance with the intent of propping up voices he agrees with and gagging any rules-abiding user he personally disagrees with.

A detailed examination of Wild’s Twitter feed reveals Wild to be a shady right-winger who cloaks his Tory loyalism behind centrist “common sense” claptrap and who appears to be thoroughly opposed to the vital practice of critical thinking. In a January 21, 2017 tweet, Wild claimed that criticism of Trump and Brexit was invalid until the policies were enabled. In other words, Wild declared that policies enacted on xenophobia should not be questioned until they “actually [did] something worthy of critique.” Likewise, on January 21, 2017, he believed that Trump should not be judged as President until he had been office. Never mind that the perspicacious Naomi Klein has written an invaluable book, No is Not Enough, that offered smart reasons why Trump and his cronies should be judged before his disastrous administration had started. To offer some defense for Wild, on September 8, 2019, Wild expressed some mild concern for policies that are “treasonous” and once compared Conservatives to “petty little children who haven’t gotten [sic] their own way.” But he also once described the Labour Party as possessing “shite leadership.” Yet on March 14, 2020, at the start of the pandemic, Wild expressed far too much faith in Boris Johnson’s abilities to contend with it. The portrait that Wild has presented of himself is that of a company man who lacks the spine or the moral conviction to criticize governmental policies and who resents anyone who does.

Wild is able to get away with his censorship on the sly because, while he’s been ardently and rightly opposed to transphobia in other contexts, he has, like any spineless and well-trained neoliberal, learned to pay shrewd and performative lip service to humanism, even as he covertly suspends accounts that are critical of Israel — even when these accounts abide by his rules. It’s one thing to claim to be for LGBTQIA rights. It’s another thing altogether to muzzle the very LGBTQIA voices that you profess to be “for” — because you are fundamentally uncomfortable with the perspectives they have to offer. (This has also been a problem among Black users of Mastodon as well. Black users are theoretically “welcomed” by the largely white admins, only to have their accounts suspended without warning. Or, as the user Ra’il IK quipped on X last November, “Welcome to the ‘I am Black and suspended by Mastodon with no warning and no process’ club!!!!!!!”) Ryan Wild is, in short, the walking and talking embodiment of George Orwell’s “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” line. One can logically infer that, as far as Wild is concerned, criticizing the rich or those who launch unprovoked attacks into territory populated by marginalized starving people makes one a lesser “animal.” And, sure, Wild is all too happy to rightfully protest web hosts that claim perpetual commercial rights over all hosted content (well, not so much a protest, as an opportunity for him to pimp his far from “Superior” goods), while simultaneously succumbing to similar tyrannical proclivities himself. If you are a writer like me, it is an act of thuggish and shameful dehumanization to have one’s work deleted or “suspended” without warning. Especially since I would have been more than happy to address any concerns and strike a mutually agreeable resolution, had I been given the heads up.

I greatly enjoyed my time on Mastodon. Numerous journalists and writers became mutuals. Despite the fact that I am a pugnacious (and some would say obnoxious) middle-aged punk, I didn’t get into too many fights — in large part because the user base (including myself) wanted to create a more thoughtful alternative to the mephitic online hellscapes of X and BlueSky. And I learned so much from everyone. People helpfully offered corrections when I was conducting what used to be known as “live tweeting” on Mastodon in relation to unfolding events, which I was happy to amend. And you know what? The user who initially expressed umbrage with my minor mistake and I became mutuals. But because Ryan Wild is so fundamentally opposed to the democratic possibilities of the delightful discussions which spring from people with other viewpoints, this man suspended my account on Tuesday afternoon under flimsy pretext and without warning and has proven indifferent and unresponsive to my efforts to resolve what I had hoped was simply a colossal misunderstanding. With Wild’s inexplicable ban of my main email address, this now appears to be a deliberate effort to target and silence me because of my progressive politics and the fact that I am not shy about speaking out against bad actors in prominent positions of power. And if you’re setting up a new Mastodon account, I would highly advise you to not use Universeodon. If you’re on Universeodon right now, I strongly urge you to switch to another instance before Wild shuts you down too. (Here’s a helpful guide on how to switch Mastodon instances.)

Last year, I had selected Wild’s instance at random. George Takei — a man whom I have admired and respected since watching Star Trek reruns as a kid — was on Universeodon. (Years ago, I once received an incredibly kind email from him, to which I naturally shouted “Oh my!” with great enthusiasm. So Takei is forever brokered in as one of the Cool Cats.) I figured that any instance that was good enough for this national treasure was good enough for me.

But my random decision turned out to be a tremendous mistake.

On Tuesday afternoon, as I was trying to report on a Zionist extremist who drove his car into peaceful Columbia protesters, I was shocked to learn that my Universeodon account was suspended. Now I’m no stranger to this elastic approach to moderation. After I had reached more than 40,000 followers on TikTok for my mix of leftist politics and surreal comedy, the moderators there invented excuses to ban me, siding with the right-wingers who mass-reported me — much as Wild did to me on Universeodon. While I always abide by the rules of any social media platform I join and stand firmly against harassment, Wild had to go all the way back to January to invent an excuse to ban me. I had merely documented a vicious cyberbullying and harassing campaign against me on BlueSky (with screenshots and receipts). But Wild claimed that these posts, which were simply expressing disbelief that some unhinged tech person would libel me with lies for 96 posts within an eleven hour period — violated the rules on his instance and that I was the one somehow harassing people while documenting a very flagrant and coordinated harassment campaign against me that carried on long after I had deleted my BlueSky account. This was classic and predictable gaslighting against political opponents, in other words.

But if Wild is going to go back in time, then I suppose I should do the same with him. Nothing that I posted on his instance was even remotely close to the unhinged teenage angst he expressed on September 23, 2014: “You wounder why I get pissed off then you go ahead and act like a world class dickhead. Fuck you.”

My account — which was largely concerned with books, culture, politics, news, and reposts of goofy TikToks — remained fairly consistent throughout my run on Universeodon. The only thing that changed was that I was more vocal in my criticism of Israel in the last month. I challenged the propagandist Steve Herman (who, ironically, was one of the “journalists” banned by Musk on Twitter), who claimed that Columbia protesters were terrorizing Jewish students. But Herman is such a sloppy “journalist” that he refused to corroborate the provenance of the video he cited — even when he hadn’t been to Columbia (I had and reported on it via TikTok after talking with dozens of people (most declined to appear on camera, for understandable reasons), none of whom had seen any violent protesters). I directed Herman to the dubious source of said video and noted how nobody had looked into who was shouting and observed that the audio did not match the “transcript.” Unlike Herman, I did my best to ensure that the information I posted was correct.

Now I had contended with Wild’s love for defending authoritarian maniacs last September, when I posted a clearly satirical post against Elon Musk, protesting Musk’s anti-Semitism in particular and pointing out that Musk was so clumsy that there was a good chance that he could accidentally set himself on fire. But Wild, who has no sense of humor and who appears to have a dog whistle against anyone who protests racism or denigration of a particular group, fired a warning to me and refused to keep my post up. Fair enough. It’s his instance.

But he then claimed that details about George Mitchell that I posted — which were reported and sourced in Josh Ruebner’s excellent book Shattered Hopes — constituted “misinformation.” Regrettably, I cannot access my original post due to Wild’s gleeful zeal in scrubbing posts (with the additional advantage of removing evidence that makes him accountable), but I was able to find my response to him:

But by suspending my account and refusing to give me the benefit of the doubt, Wild was effectively deplatforming the modest but robust presence I had built on Mastodon.

In other words, Ryan Wild is very keen on cracking down on nearly anyone who conducts journalism and who points out social injustice. He is a Mastodon fascist. And I’d like to qualify that by citing Lawrence Britt’s 2003 article in Free Inquiry in which he identified up fourteen characteristics of fascism. Wild certainly seems keen on powerful and continuing nationalism with his low tolerance for anyone critical of the government and his apparent love for Brexit and Boris Johnson. In blocking journalists and those critical of Israel, he certainly has a disdain for the recognition of human rights. He’s certainly for a highly controlled instance and, much like Truth Social, he has recruited alt-right moderators to offer the illusion of free speech. And he obviously has a priapic zest for corporate power and the rich, as well as a disdain for journalists (and thus the intellectual pursuit of the real truth). And in my attempt to get answers from Wild, he has expressed a colossal arrogance towards me.

The upshot is that, if you’re going to choose a Mastodon instance, you now need to deeply research the admin and the moderators of that instance to ensure that they aren’t twisting the rules to silence your viewpoint — especially if you are not white and affluent.

Ryan Wild’s clear corruption betrays the utopian potential of the Fediverse, which is certainly not going to flourish very well with compromised moderation on Universeodon, Mastodon UK, and other instances that are covertly censoring certain political voices and perspectives.

5/11/24 4:00 PM UPDATE: Wild sent me an email after this article dropped. Unable to rebut any of the claims in this article, he has instead falsely claimed that I am doxxing him. All information about Wild in this article was pulled from public information that is easily Googleable within thirty seconds. To be clear, I am firmly against doxxing. I have never doxxed anyone. Mr. Wild is still invited to tender a response to this piece to correct any “misinformation,” but he seems more content to spread misinformation of his own:

5/12/24 2:00 AM UPDATE: I arrived home from a very fun Saturday night out to discover more gaslighting from Mr. Wild, including a libelous claim that I am a “stalker,” as seen below:

Mr. Wild was contacted in advance of this article at two email addresses (including his email at Atlas Media Group, which was not part of an “email system breaking’) with a request for comment. He chose not to reply. He was informed of many of the claims in this piece in advance of publication. He has yet to refute or rebut any of the allegations expressed in this story. And he continues to promulgate the outright lie that I have doxxed him.

To demonstrate that Wild’s location is public information, the Atlas Media Group website lists Ryan Wild as being in Swindon. His Keybase page lists him as living in Swindon. I have not doxxed him. Wild has been quite transparent about where he lives. I have included screenshots below:

Concerning Mr. Wild’s birthday, this too is public information. Like any human being, Mr. Wild has tweeted repeatedly that his birthday is June 6th. If Mr. Wild did not want anyone to know what his birthday is, then he should have said nothing. But given how much Mr. Wild has publicized his own birthday (indeed far more than I have), this cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called doxxing.

Once again, if Mr. Wild would like to rebut the claims in this piece, then I will be more than happy to append his remarks to this article.

I have also updated the main article to include Wild’s claims that his email was not working. Again, Mr. Wild was contacted in advance of this story’s publication through the very same backup email address (i.e., the working email) he cites in his post.

The Alt-Journalist Sociopath

Now that the “fake news” braying from the frayed Trump cabal has faded into the obscurity of a horrifying age feeling improbably older than its actual position on the Gregorian calendar, the time has come to reckon with the alt-journalist sociopath, who may represent one of the greatest threats to empathy and thoughtful reflection in 2021. I speak, of course, of the Tim Pools, the Glenn Greenwalds, the Andy Ngôs, and, most recently, the Michael Traceys of the universe. These scenery-chewing and humorless offshoots of the so-called “intellectual dark web” live for ruining people even as they pretend to espouse some greater “truth-telling” ideal. They have picked up the slack left by Trump’s ban from all social media, catering to the ravenous hordes who wish to believe that the earth is flat and that the illusory Democratic conspiracy against them is very real.

If you are fortunate enough to have never encountered the alt-journalist sociopath, then let me fill you in on his common qualities. For the alt-journalist sociopath is almost invariably a “he” and really makes you aware of this fact by callously disregarding how other people use pronouns. (Ngô has gone to the trouble of deadnaming one of his victims. The YouTube commentator Vaush has limned Pool’s transphobic positions in an epic 85 minute video. Greenwald stumps for transphobic authors. Tulsi Gabbard tag-teamed with Tracey to ridicule the nonbinary.)

The alt-journalist sociopath is usually a white male, ousted from traditional platforms because of seasoned incompetence, outright hubris, or routine dereliction of basic journalistic practice. Facts, or even a cogent argument, do not matter to the alt-journalist sociopath. What does matter is the “truth,” which is often nebulous and subject to constant revision, but almost always tendered as something outside the purview of mainstream media and thus somehow nobler. This gives the alt-journalist sociopath a certain cachet shared by trendy serial killers or domestic terrorists who appeal to the fawning interest of incel shut-ins. This alt-right leaning crowd tends to represent the vast majority of the alt-journalist sociopath’s audience.

By so placing himself as an outlier upholder of dodgy “principles,” the alt-journalist sociopath anoints himself as a kind of deity, usually amassing several hundred thousand followers on his Twitter account. Yes, social media is the wild kingdom for this bilious animal. And because there are no zookeepers to administer to the alt-journalist sociopath’s unhinged rage and false sense of entitlement, the uncaged alt-journalist sociopath paws at his outsize megaphone rather than rattling the bars of his holding cell. These environmental conditions allow the alt-journalist sociopath to stir his legions of febrile acolytes into vengeful id-driven troglodytes.

Despite having the wide reach of a cult leader, the alt-journalist sociopath’s raison is to portray himself as a frail outlier even as he possesses no compassion or remorse for anyone beyond himself. In 2017, Michael Tracey ludicrously attempted to frame a modest brush from then 79-year-old Rep. Maxine Waters as a “shove” in a pathetic attempt to depict himself as victim.

Two years later, Andy Ngô went further than Tracey and secured fame and admiration from mainstream outlets after experiencing alleged violence during the Portland Black Lives Matter protests. The greatest problem with Ngô, aside from the relentless fabrication of his reporting (of which more anon), is that the details didn’t quite add up. Ngô claimed that he had been diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage after being hit with a milkshake mixed with quick-drying cement, but the cement angle was later debunked. Ngô told BuzzFeed reporter Joseph Bernstein, “I don’t feel obliged to share my personal medical records publicly to satisfy internet trolls.” (Bernstein reports that he reviewed a copy of hospital discharge paperwork confirming that he had suffered from a “subarachnoid hemorrhage.”) While no journalist, even dubious ones like Ngô, should experience any form of violence, it’s rather remarkable how Ngô mustered such sympathy for being “attacked” by antifa protesters. He secured a $195,000 GoFundMe nest egg from his ultraconservative enablers.

Being a victim is the alt-journalist sociopath’s bread and butter. It’s the winning lottery ticket that secures him some questionable legitimacy in the media food chain. Yet the alt-journalist sociopath is so self-absorbed that he will never consider the misfortunes, much less the victimhood, of anyone beyond himself. If anything, he goes out of his way to denigrate or disparage anyone whom he perceives as a threat. After Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez bravely revealed that she was a victim of sexual assault on Instagram Live, Tracey claimed this to be “a masterclass in emotional manipulation.”

Similarly, Glenn Greenwald inspired a campaign that resulted in New York Times contributor Lauren Wolfe being fired from her job. Why? Because she had the audacity to express that she had “chills” after seeing Biden’s plane land before his inauguration. Wolfe’s tweet was a relatively innocuous statement. Reporters are, after all, human just like the rest of us. But Greenwald’s 1.6 million followers took the catnip and responded with the fierce force of unhinged vigilantes, claiming Wolfe to be a demonic transgressor against journalistic objectivity. Greenwald neither took his original tweet down nor called for the Times to reverse its decision. Because the alt-journalist sociopath is usually a narcissist, Greenwald instead made it about himself, whinging that he bore no responsibility for the results of his reckless tweets and disingenuously cleaving to the great “speak truth to power” lie that all alt-journalist sociopaths champion.

The remarkably indefatigable Twitter account, @TimPoolClips, has tackled Pool and Ngô at length, exquisitely filleting these charlatans down to their oleaginous essence. These two have been highly selective and ideologically convenient about how they frame the “news” they purport to report on. As documented by Jacobin‘s Arun Gupta, in an article for the Wall Street Journal, Ngô omitted key evidence of a driver striking a protester, claiming his falsely edited clip to be the work of “angry, agitated ingrates and criminals.” As Gupta has outlined, Ngô’s journalistic liberties have resulted in other conservative outlets becoming emboldened to commit similarly egregious omissions. In a September 2, 2020 YouTube video, Vaush detailed the “Tim Pool Grift” as follows: Tim Pool has weaved a narrative in which has painted himself as “a liberal who is merely criticizing the Democrat Party” throughout his YouTube existence. But Vaush pointed out that the clickbait titles of Pool’s videos, often factually inaccurate, were more indicative of a Republican.

In any other world, these agitprop quacks would be laughed off the public stage for their risible anti-intellectualism and tendentious cartoonishness. But it is a regrettable truth that these sociopaths are largely impervious to castigation — in large part because they are regularly in the habit of doxxing and shaming their critics or anyone perceived to be “against” their mission. As The New York Times has increasingly shifted to glossy profiles of insurrectionists (the “Nazis! They’re just like us!” school of journalism) and Marjorie Taylor Greene faces no repercussions for expressing the desire to execute prominent Democrats, it’s not much of a surprise to see the alt-journalist sociopath thriving quite well. And since the nadir of what now constitutes “journalism” continues to slip lower than any other time in American history (even the notorious James Callender faced consequences!), the question we must ask is this: What will it take for the public to uproot these toxic demagogues from their perches?

2/2/2021 7:30 PM UPDATE:

Mere hours after I published this essay, Glenn Greenwald further cemented himself as an alt-journalist sociopath, aligning himself with Michael Tracy’s misogyny by belittling AOC’s story. He also offered the false and hyperbolic claim, “All she wants to do is attack Republicans and fortify the Democratic Party.” This, of course, is a Pool/Ngô style airbrushing of actual history. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted just six days ago, “I am happy to work with Republicans on this issue where there’s common ground, but you almost had me murdered 3 weeks ago so you can sit this one out. Happy to work w/ almost any other GOP that aren’t trying to get me killed.”