Regarding That Guardian Article
September 19, 2011 § 1 Comment
A few months ago I was asked by the Index on Censorship to interview a troll for their special issue on privacy, which was nice of them. I tapped the honorable Paulie Socash, who as usual had more interesting things to say than I did (he’s a bastard like that). Recently they posted the interview online, and yesterday the Guardian ran a piece featuring a discussion of our fireside chat.
And I have to say, I’m impressed by Bennett’s framing — which isn’t JUST about trolls, nor should it be. The “troll problem” is certainly its own can of worms. But there are many other cans of worms to contend with. The problem is that, especially in response to RIP behaviors, trolls are singled out not just as the most pressing problem to emerge from Facebook, but as the ONLY problem to emerge from Facebook. The same is true on the wider web — trolls are an easy scapegoat, and so they are the knee-jerk scapegoat. Again, it’s not that trolls haven’t earned their reputation. They’ve worked hard for it, and take great joy from the havoc they know, and go out of their way, to wreak. That said, and contrary to the hysterical coverage trolls deliberately court, trolls are not the source of the world’s problems. Trolling may be symptomatic of these problems, depending of course on where your sympathies lie. But they’re not why we can’t have nice things. We can’t have nice things for so many other reasons. And I’m sorry, but the same country whose pundits smile and nod as creepy closet-case bigots scream from the rooftops about praying away the shameful gay don’t get to then turn around and furrow their eyebrows like SO hard you guys because some mean kids on the internet were rude to a gay person. One simple suggestion is that we stop encouraging all the self-loathing closeted sag-monsters to vom their sad weird hate across the television screen, due to Fair and Balanced Coverage i.e. Ratings. Then let’s deal with naughty words online. On account of. Homophobia and racism and things, they don’t get invented online, and certainly not by trolls. Punishing them for what’s already wrong with the country doesn’t seem like a particularly effective strategy.
tl;dr It’s much easier to condemn “vile and disgusting” trolls than to think about the ways in which trolls echo, or simply point to, or in some cases are outright drowned out by, real-life corruption and violence and general fucked up-edness. Which is a technical term, the end.