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A Case Study: The Pathology of Trolls - Lighthouse Global

Updated: Feb 7



This article addresses to examine the specific pathology of an online troll by using an example of a former Lighthouse Global mentee, Richard Howard, who was mentored for five and a half years by Senior Partner, Kris Deichler. When the relationship turned sour, Mr Howard turned to unlawful trolling of Lighthouse International Group, now known as Lighthouse Global on Reddit along with a small group of other ex-members. So, in line with Lighthouse’s commitment to educate people about the dark pathologies in people who turn to trolling, this article takes an in-depth look at this case study of what length certain individuals will go to in order to avoid accountability and personal growth by blaming and persecuting others.


None of the information or accounts used in this article are not already in the public domain and we have taken great care in ensuring all personal and private details not public or relevant remain undisclosed.


I recently wrote an article about The Pathology of a Troll in which I outlined some of the ways in which people troll online, as well as some of the reasons for this. I highlighted some research which exposed the dark personality traits; narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism; that are associated with people who are most likely to troll online. Soon, I will be releasing part 2 of that pathology article in which I will be delving into further research around Schadenfreude, the German word for joy felt at the misfortune or misery of others, which has also been identified as being key to trolling behaviour.


The first pathology article was very well received and I felt it important, as a proud Associate Elect in an organisation who is being trolled online, to highlight a real life example of this trolling pathology. This example has been chosen due to the public nature of the supporting articles around it which highlight and prove the unreliable, duplicitous and even pathological character of someone trolling Lighthouse Global online. Such trolling will be shown to have been pursued through half-truths, misleading statements, lack of context and personal bias and prejudice in order to defame Lighthouse, one of its members and fulfill a personal vendetta.


Lighthouse Global is committed to leading and teaching around the pathology of people who are directly and indirectly causing harm to children through trolling. It’s also important to remember these pathology traits are present in people who commit vastly devastating crimes; violence, abuse, rape and murder. We are looking particularly here at the psychological pathology of a person who turns to trolling.


Lighthouse International Group, now known as Lighthouse Global, Targeted by Online Trolls

In this case study, I will be studying one individual who has surprisingly revealed his identity as part of a very small group of people currently trolling Lighthouse Global online. The group includes a small handful of former Associate Elects and Lighthouse clients who, in taking umbrage against Lighthouse Global and its Associates, have taken to unlawful and libellous attempts to defame the organisation rather than accept offers to meet and discuss their grievances or even see things out in court. My friend and Lighthouse Associate Partner Jai Singh recently wrote about his experience of being a target of racial abuse as part of the same smear campaign.


An internal review of mentoring relationships at Lighthouse found, in fact, that the Reddit group represents less than 0.01% of the people and clients Lighthouse International Group have worked with in the last 18 years. To read some of the experiences by those who have valued and appreciated the mentoring they received at Lighthouse International, check out our blog where you’ll find testimonials of current Associates and mentees, as well as the very moving new blog by Ella Watson detailing her experience of being mentored by this organisation, assessing the negative claims against them and what this has helped her realise.


Exposing a Troll: The Dark Pentad of Personality Traits

Before going into the case study, let’s remind ourselves of the pathology of a troll. In a great number of situations, trolls will use usernames by which they cannot be directly identified in order to conduct their unlawful behaviour. Many of them do not seem to realise that a pseudonym or false email does nothing to guarantee their anonymity as everything online can be tracked and cybercrime including malicious communications can all be traced leading to convictions.


The reason for this anonymity is to be able to get away with dark pathological behaviour demonstrated by those with the Dark Triad of personality traits. (I referenced it as a triad in my previous article, but some psychologists are putting sadism as the fourth, making it a tetrad, which I will agree with and will consider Schadenfreude as the fifth, so here briefly is the Dark Pentad!)


  1. Narcissism — an obsession with self, either partially obsessed or totally obsessed. At the extreme, someone who is totally obsessed with self is a malignant narcissist.

  2. Machiavellianism — a personality trait that denotes cunningness, the ability to be manipulative, and a drive to use whatever means necessary to gain power.

  3. Psychopathy — a pathology characterised by a lack of empathy, continuous antisocial, behaviour impulsivity, selfishness, callous and unemotional traits and remorselessness.

  4. Sadism - the intentional infliction of psychological or physical suffering on a conscious victim [1]

  5. Schadenfreude - feeling pleasure at the misfortunes of another and essentially wishing for bad outcomes for them. [2]


Again, I make reference to Jennifer Golbeck PhD who writes in Psychology Today “Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response”. She goes on to ask, “what sort of person would do that?” Well, great question, Dr Goldbeck. Let’s look at an example.


Case Study: Richard Howard

A ‘Redditor’ named Richard Howard, known on Reddit as “rjhoward1986”, has joined the small mix of otherwise pseudonym-using trolls currently unlawfully dogpilling and libellously attempting to defame Lighthouse Global on Reddit. His posts make various claims about the nature of his relationship with Senior Partner Kris Deichler including alleged demands by Mr Deichler for money, Mr Howard’s attempts to repair the relationship with Mr Deichler and, supposedly, winning a small claims judgement against Mr Deichler for money he believes he was owed.


History

A vitally important factor to consider in assessing this case is examining the history behind these claims and the character of the person making them. From just a little research into publicly available information it can be found that, following an ASA investigation, Mr Howard was found by Leeds Crown Court to have conned his customers out of over £1.6million and was handed a one year suspended sentence after pleading guilty for breaching of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 following a National Trading Standards investigation


Between 2013 and 2015, Mr Howard operated 3 websites offering support to secure and renew UK passports but ‘duped’ customers into paying fees and additional costs, which, if they did not pay, led to behaviour where he “callously abused the legal system to harass consumers who dared to challenge him and even harassed those who had not used his service”.


A BBC article from 2015 found Mr Howard went on to sue his own customers when they would not pay into his fraudulent scheme. He filed over 800 claims against his clients who refused to pay after his service proved to be fraudulent. Alex Yates, a duped customer, wrote a blog sharing his experience of taking Mr Howard to court in 2015 in which he wrote: “He’s making a lot of money by bullying innocent people who he has duped with his website,” after Mr Howard tried to sue him for his fee of £207, not counting court costs.


In 2019, an article in The Mirror revealed how Mr Howard had found a different tack, using a premium phone line system, deceiving people applying to renew their passport to pay for a high cost per minute line before transferring them to the free government passport phone line. For this latest scam, Mr Howard was issued a fine of £200,000 and a five-year ban from premium listing services.


Deliberately Deceptive Behaviour

The nature of Mr Howard’s crimes and the choices he made to try his scheme, not once, but twice, while “callously abusing the legal system” speaks directly of the kind of dark pathology that seeks to unlawfully feed upon others in order to elevate his own position.


This same pathology is visible in his tactics by trolling on Reddit in which he is actively encouraging people on Reddit to use the same modus operandi to sue their mentors that he used to file a small claim against mentors at Lighthouse Global.


Figure 1


His account reads that Mr Deichler “had no viable defence” so “secured judgement” against him. But Mr Howard is deliberately misleading readers of his post in his statement. Small Claims Courts in the UK operate on a basis of default judgments which means that if no reply is heard from the defendant, the claimant is awarded a default judgement.


In this case, Mr Howard only needed to provide his version of events, provide Mr Deichler’s name as the defendant and an address to file his complaint, which he did in April 2020 (16 months after he had voluntarily ceased mentoring). Mr Deichler, however, was not aware of this claim as he had moved home in September 2019, seven months prior to Mr Howard's Small Claim submission. Mr Deichler therefore was totally unaware and could not respond, leading to him being issued with a County Court Judgement in April 2020 that he only became aware of when he finally received a message from Mr Howard about it in September 2020, 6 months after the hearing by the court. At no point prior to this had Mr Howard made any attempt to notify Mr Deichler of his action or confirm his claim’s receipt by any other means, despite possessing Mr Deichler’s phone number and email.


In the following screenshot, Mr Howard seems to either have consciously or unconsciously misrepresented Mr Deichler’s reference to Mr Howard’s “same mistakes”, which Mr Deichler has told this article was in reference to Mr Howard’s history of persecution and uncompassionate behaviour, as exhibited in Mr Howard’s previous behaviour harassing his former customers through the small claims courts. As you can see below, Mr Howard does nothing to elaborate on the context or meaning behind Mr Deichler's statement, presenting a false image of Mr Deichler and the situation to suit his claims and manipulate people’s opinions.


Figure 2


Note also how Mr Howard twisted the truth to paint himself as the victim of a situation, which highlights both narcissism and Machiavellianism.


Dr Erin Leonard writes for Psychology Today:

Narcissists often oscillate from hero to victim mode. As the hero, the narcissist attempts to dominate the situation. Saving the day fuels his or her ego and provides control. As the victim, the narcissist evades accountability by relying on a past hardship to excuse current wrongdoing. Both stances are dysfunctional and hurt others. To be the hero, the narcissist needs to create a “bad guy,” and as the victim, he gives himself license to mistreat others free from repercussions.

A reporting article by National Trading Standards, the agency that successfully prosecuted Mr Howard, made a point of highlighting the fact that two of Mr Howard's harassment victims were especially vulnerable:


“His victims included a 16 year-old female who was in the middle of her school exam year. She reported receiving threatening phone calls and text messages during classes, leaving her unable to concentrate, frightened that bailiffs would turn up at her parents’ house. Another victim, a disabled woman, experienced worsened physical and mental wellbeing as a result of the threats and harassment.”

The fact that Mr Howard has chosen to dogpile with other identified trolls on Reddit is consistent with the dark nature of a person who would embark on an online crusade to defame someone, like any of the 800 people he has previously harassed using small claims courts.


As an additional note, Lighthouse Global Legal Team has not been publicly announced due to the online harassment being received by Lighthouse to protect their identity whilst investigations into the online trolling is being carried out.


Defamation of the character of Lighthouse Associates

Mr Howard’s posts on Reddit are riddled with deliberately misleading, factually incorrect, defamatory statements presented as a true account that could worry someone who wasn’t able to ascertain the whole picture and malicious nature of the behaviour that would create such a post.


As with narcissism and narcissistic feeders, Mr Howard presents himself on Reddit as caring, conscientious and as having gone out of his way for Mr Deichler. The reality is very much the opposite. Mr Deichler supported Mr Howard from 2013 to 2018, during the time when Mr Howard would have been under investigation which Mr Deichler supported him through emotionally, although the situation had been falsely described to Mr Deichler as Howard himself being the one that others were unfairly persecuting or that he was “screwed over” by his ex-business partner.


The following screenshot is an example of some of the ways in which Mr Howard presents himself as the victim in the situation. The excerpt lifted from Mr Deichler’s message to him was sent to Mr Howard upon receiving a very lengthy letter where Mr Howard had meticulously, point by point, criticised Mr Deichler for not meeting his expectations. Being aware of his previous convictions and tendency to relentlessly persecute others without concern, Mr Deichler’s reference to Mr Howard’s pathological behaviour is exactly the one that this article is discussing. In fact, a consistent focus of Mr Deichler's mentorship work with Mr Howard had focused for a long time on trying to help him develop a stronger level of empathy, compassion and personal responsibility when and where he felt a relentless need for retribution.


Figure 3