I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, and I mentioned that I didn’t really fathom the activities of trolls who spend an amazing amount of time crafting long-winded hate-filled diatribes and posting them in my comments, despite knowing that the comments are moderated, and therefore, such comments are unlikely to show up. Especially when they include things like misogynistic insults.

“Ah,” my friend said, “but you’re missing the point. They know that you aren’t going to let the comments through moderation, they just want the satisfaction of knowing that you have to read them.”

Only, the thing is, I don’t actually read them. I can tell within the first sentence (usually the first few words) whether or not I’m going to approve a comment. And when I smell a troll, I just hit delete. I don’t bother to read. I’d say that for every 100 comments not from a spambot that get deleted (i.e. comments that don’t get shunted immediately to the spam queue), I only read one or two. And, honestly, those comments I usually don’t let through because they contain fawning praise and no substantive addition to the discussion, and while I like praise as much as the next person, I kind of try to limit the meaningless comments here.

So, really, I guess this means I’m winning, because the trolls get so riled up that they spend all this time reading my posts so that they can leave nasty comments that don’t even get read. (Although probably they don’t actually read, but rather look for keywords to riff off of.) Most of them never return. The few who do usually leave another comment about how I’m censoring them or infringing their free speech or am afraid of dissent or something. Because, you know, a comment that starts “you dumb cunt…” is sure to have some thoughtful, well-argued dissent which really goes to the heart of the matter and challenges the assertions being made.

It’s kind of amazing, to me, the sheer amount of vitriol I get. I can’t imagine how it is on sites that get serious traffic, although I have an inkling from sites like Salon which have basically no moderation and some of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen in the comments threads. It’s clear that people have Google Alerts for their pet subjects, and that every now and then I write something that gets picked up by the misogynistic mouthbreathers and passed around their forums. (Hint: when you drive traffic to my site, I can see it! I know, it’s a difficult concept to understand.)

Ultimately, I just feel kind of sad for these ineffectual, pathetic trolls. Here they are, striving so desperately, and they get roundfiled before I even read their comments. I feel like the equivalent of the human resources director who throws out any resume with a hint of Comic Sans, without even looking, because…because you just know that it’s not worth reading, and there’s no reason to waste your time.

What’s the point of it all? I have a personal policy of my own, which is that I don’t like to shit in someone else’s house. Sometimes someone on the Internet says something I passionately disagree with, and when I do, I usually write about it here, because I don’t feel comfortable doing it on their site. Especially if that person is in a community I don’t belong to; it seems disrespectful, to me, to get argumentative in a space that I have been invited into. So instead, I read, think, process, and post something here. More commonly, in the act of writing out my thoughts, I get to the core of why I felt so strongly, and often that core is something inside myself, and I realize that whatever pissed me off actually had its merits. (The things which don’t have merit are so obvious that I don’t even bother to write about them any more, because, well, I have better things to do with my time.)

Somehow, I doubt that’s going to happen with the kind of trolls I get, though. They are, as others have pointed out, in a world where privilege does not exist, and so they aren’t even in a mindspace where they can dissent with me logically. They aren’t actually here to read and be challenged, to think, they are just here to spread their vile selves around because they think it accomplishes something. They resent the idea of being asked to examine themselves, being asked to sit down and shut up, being asked, in other words, not to shit in my house.

Only one person shits in my house, baby, and that’s me.

2 Replies to “Ineffectual”

  1. I don’t know if you read my post on trolls and trolling (I can link you if you want, over twitter) but you’re basically doing exactly what I suggested. You don’t engage them, you ignore them, you don’t let their vitriol see the light of day.

    That’s mostly why they move on. A target that can’t be controlled isn’t a target that’s worth it. Unfortunately you’re also an exception. A lot of places let it through and then respond and many others have no moderation at all. Which goes back to why they do it. While trolling happens for a plethora of reasons the reason why most bigot trolls engage in social engineering of that type is for silencing or kicks.

    Either they don’t like your message (and therefore seek to control and silence you) or they just have fun offense trolling marginalized groups. The methodology works in most cases and they probably have nets down on multiple sites, so largely, it’s easy for them to move on from you when you don’t engage with them.

    So they tend to be effective all over the place, because folks are engaging them and getting trapped in the troll trap. They’re ineffective here because you avoid being caught in the social engineering.

    So the big question becomes, how do we get the rest of the activist communities to handle it right? XD

  2. I did indeed write your post on trolling; I actually wrote this before I read that, though. I think it’s important to talk about trolling and why/how it happens, because, yeah, a lot of the activist community is not handling trolls very well at all.

Comments are closed.