A Case Study: The Pathology of Trolls - Lighthouse International Group

Updated: Feb 3



This article addresses to examine the specific pathology of an online troll by using an example of a former Lighthouse International 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 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 International 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 International 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 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 International Group online. The group includes a small handful of former Associate Elects and Lighthouse clients who, in taking umbrage against Lighthouse International Group 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 International Group 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 International.


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 Howards 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 International 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


Mr Howard goes on to describe Mr Deichler as “incredibly cruel” and not being a “good Christian by any stretch of the imagination”. In Dr Leonard’s aforementioned article, she continues:


“A narcissist’s perception of “good” and “bad” is often unconsciously distorted due to his tendency to project. Several rigid unconscious defense mechanisms distort reality, allowing the narcissist to see fault in others but not in himself.”

Speaking to him about the above and things that are already in the public domain about Mr Howard, including other statements Mr Howard has written about him online, Mr Deichler said the following:


“I do regret the way I initially responded to Richard in the instance he has quoted from me there, I won’t deny that, but I also noticed that he fails to mention about the fact I later phoned him up and I apologised personally for my overreaction. Looking at what he is writing on Reddit, I can see he has been very selective in his memory and account of things, as he probably was during his court cases too. I feel there is good reason to doubt his accounts of those times now as I’ve realised since then how much he will twist facts to suit his perspective without an objective balance or recognition of the other side, something even at the time this was happening was of increasing concern to me and was part of what caused my reaction. He had sent me, in my view, a very long, biased and pedantic critical letter and I knew, even at that time, how much danger there was of getting caught up in a circular argument with the man, as had been the case before. At the time I put it down more to high levels of unreasonability, but I’ve since come to learn more about human pathology and how circular arguments are very typical in trolling pathology because the troll cannot bear to concede and thrives on getting a reaction out of the person. The best thing to do when faced with that is just to stop responding and not pour any more fuel on their fire, because that's what it is for them, fuel. Circular arguments are a form of negotiation with a troll, one they will never be satisfied with until you concede completely to their will. You simply can’t negotiate to sort something out with someone whose motive is not to sort it out.


However, I certainly ought to have been more balanced myself in that instance and I took responsibility for that. It came from the fact I am very aware of Richard’s sense of self-vindication and almost total lack of responsibility when challenged. I would handle parts of that situation differently now, but the nature of all my mentoring relationships, both then and now, has always been based on the fact that we are all imperfect as human beings and where we make mistakes and get things wrong, we must always take responsibility for our failings and come back to the table to work things out. That commitment is what creates and builds so much trust and it’s a philosophy that’s enabled me to build some very strong relationships with others, however, when it came down to it, this was something Richard refused to do if he wasn’t going to get his own way and as we know from his history, he will go to extremes to win against others at any cost. Even intimidation and manipulation.


If he really had to fight it out, let’s at least fight it out gracefully, fairly and honestly, something I didn’t get the chance to do. But you have to see, this is a man who, during his prosecution by the Trading Standards agency changed his name by deed poll to George Orwell, because he knew it would cause the Trading Standards’ legal team a lot of resources to change all of their legal documentation and progress with their case. I believe he chose the name George Orwell because it bolstered his assumed identity as being some kind of people’s hero standing up against the establishment and those who persecute others, which is quite ironic now, given his stance against Lighthouse.


My experience has taught me and even the law shows it is almost impossible to reason with a troll apart from taking legal action. I worry because I see that in Richard now, once he has decided he is right and you are wrong and I would encourage him to look at this and seek to change it before he gets himself in trouble again. I think it's clear from his history what things Richard needs to work on and I hoped then as I hope now that he can find the right person to help him change and turn that around, before he faces something more severe than he’s already faced, something, as he mentions, I have previously warned him about. All of our sessions were audio recorded with the knowledge and agreement of Mr Howard, which he has copies of also, as well as years of written communications and accounts that, if he consented and gave his permission, we can share more from to back everything up.”


Here you can see an earlier post in its entirety.


Figure 4 (which is the full post of the excerpt in Figure 1)


Figure 5 (the continuation of Figure 4)


Everyone involved in the Lighthouse International’s team has had to deal with this kind of pathology in their lives, including my own. I wrote about my experiences of challenging my own narcissistic traits in one of my blogs and I, like other people being supported at Lighthouse, are all learning to do all that we can to hold ourselves responsible for our own destructive behaviour. As imperfect human beings we all have our faults and make mistakes and anyone can have a trolling moment or episode. What matters is who we are consistently and how much we take responsibility for ourselves if and when that happens in order to learn and improve. We care about not causing damage to other people and would rather hold ourselves accountable before somebody else does, not to say that will always happen though.


Accountability for Unlawful Behaviour

Lighthouse International agreed for me to write this article to expose this pathology as a way of leading and teaching our readers how it is that people with narcissistic traits can present themselves as a hero, or victim, in order to inflate their ego and to expose the malicious intentions of those who are currently trolling Lighthouse International, its Partners, Associates and their families, all under the guise of seeking justice.


When people are dogpiling on Reddit, a notorious site for trolling and even child pornography, hiding behind their keyboards and feeling safe to say whatever they please amongst others of the same ilk, it will only serve to reinforce their warped sense of reality. They will only become more entrenched in their view instead of coming to the negotiating table to maturely and calmly discuss and work through any issues they believe has arisen. They are not seeking justice. They are seeking to inflate their delusions using half truths and cherry picked facts to bolster their self-righteous image and feel stronger at the expense of others. They often hide behind ulterior motives for their actions because their true motives would be very embarrassing for them if they were to be completely honest about them; an unrequited love for instance, or an inability to maintain commitments they told themselves and everyone else they could.


Speaking to Mr Deichler further, he added the following about Mr Howard,


“With regards to the accusations by Richard about further financial investments he makes in his posts, this account is entirely skewed and one sided with bias. Bear in mind we had been working together for 5 years by this point and it was normal and natural for us at times to discuss him making larger steps of investment in his development which we had done numerous times before, in line with his ambitions and desire for progress. At that time he was struggling in some areas and was clearly in need of more support along with the fact he had expressed some very ambitious goals for himself, which I won't disclose for privacy reasons, but which clearly weren't possible without a significant push from his side, certainly not in the timescale he was expecting at least, compared to his then rate of progress. At the same time I gave him an opportunity to invest in the future of the company as a very early investor, given he knew we were planning to go global eventually. It was something only being offered to very selected, close and trusted people we knew at the time and, given his length of involvement with us from early days and what I thought was a close relationship, I felt that granted him an opportunity to at least hear about this. However, it turned out, after I think one or two conversations, that we weren't going to see eye to eye on where to begin with that and I, quickly feeling it had been an ill considered move with him, promptly took the offer off the table, not to discuss it further, which I had no qualms in doing as I saw it as being quite a privilege to offer somebody that chance. By no means did I pressure or force anything with that as I had no reason to.


In regards to discussing investments I would add to this, that Richard was always very open to each conversation we had on this front and at no time did he ask me to stop or say that he no longer wanted to discuss them, otherwise I wouldn't have engaged with him about those things. However, those accusations came later. I think it's also relevant to make it known that Richard continued to participate in an online group study workshop we were running at the time for at least a month after he stopped one-to-one mentoring and during which we continued to communicate very cordially, without any issues. If there had been bad feeling and resentment for how I had treated him, I would have thought then would have been the time to raise it, including a desire for a refund, but that wasn't the case and I had no indication from him then that we wouldn't come to even resume mentoring again together at some time in the future, as we'd both left that option open. As you know, it wasn't for well over a year later that he made a refund request, in my opinion, far more because his personal feelings towards me has changed. Nothing to do with my or our failing to provide at any point the services he paid for, which is why he wasn't eligible for a refund. I and we at Lighthouse were never at any point unable to continue the small remaining element of the course he'd paid for, which he'd given up by his own free will, nothing else. If it was about that, I'm sure he would have asked for a refund then, not wait for another 16 more months.


At the end of the day Richard chose to stop his work with us following 5 years of mentorship because I believe he wasn’t prepared to be challenged in areas of growth key to him making further progress, like we had hit a boundary he wasn’t prepared to venture beyond. And even though that parting of ways happened very amicably initially, it was when the contact between him and I inevitably became less and less over the course of time, with me being immersed in various projects and needing to put my attention on others I was then working with as a priority, that I think he felt somewhat abandoned. It was nothing deliberate on my part, simply a case of changing life circumstances, but I had been someone who, week in week out, had been there to talk with him about his challenges and help him as best as I could to grow and develop his character and competency. There is a closeness that develops in such a situation between people, as it does with all my mentees. When that closeness wasn’t available as much though, I think he felt hurt, but rather than admitting this and accepting our situation had changed, which was down to his decision, he later became bitter and resentful. For him I believe it was not too unlike a break up, in a way, and something he took more personally than I expected, as you can probably sense in the way he writes. I did care for him like a brother, though I made my mistakes and wasn't perfect in every way I dealt with things for sure. I just hope he can come to realise that and maybe we can one day reconcile over this... While someone is bent on getting their win at the expense of the other however, I cannot and will not accept that. That is not healthy. Especially when it's a win that's wholly undeserved"


To make it categorically clear why those who troll are not out to achieve justice, but to cause maximum damage to their intended victims, there is and continues to be an offer in place for reconciliation in person. Those with a grievance against Lighthouse International, including those who have taken to trolling the company online are all personally invited to visit and sit down with Head Mentor Paul Waugh, at his own home, in order to reconcile and reach a Win/Win or No Deal agreement. Something which has, apart from on two occasions, been completely refused and ignored every single time. Whereas the two people who did take up that offer, have since both invested in themselves to become partners of the company. What does that say?


This article and the recent launch at Parents Against Trolls and Trolling, a Lighthouse Global initiative working with people and parents who want to stand up against the unlawful trolls and trolling that is damaging children, are aimed at exposing and understanding the pathological behaviour of a troll in order to handle them whilst advising around how to hold trolls accountable by law. To find out more about PATT, please visit our website www.lighthouseinternationalgroup.com/parents-against-trolls-trolling and watch our video of Paul Waugh speaking about the initiative and what we have found at Lighthouse.





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