I promised you to dissect trolls, and this is an examination of at least two types of trolls.
Fortunately, from the point of view of an anthropologist, we were given plenty of rich material in my blog over the last week. I know you’re as overjoyed as I am.
It occurred to me while reading the endless string of name calling, that:
1- It’s a form of defense that has nothing to do with the subject matter being discussed. It means the people name calling feel personally attacked. When a post – like mine was – is philosophical and non-partisan one wonders why.
2 – They call one names they know very well aren’t true.
3 – There is the same amount of group thinking and incantation-like repetition of slogans that provoked the post to begin with, and remarkably little engaging with the point of the post.
4 – They try to assign you an ideological “side” so they can dismiss you.
There are blog posts aplenty in each of those posts, but I’m not feeling really well and I’d prefer not to let the circus freaks in again just now if it’s all the same to you. Instead, I’ll concentrate on point two.
We’ve all seen them. They descend on a blog and deploy a series of epithets. Usually if it’s a blog or a post they perceive as right of center (and I’m still puzzled by what’s considered right or conservative these days – I must in fact have fallen through the looking glass and not noticed) they reach into the familiar insults: Sexist. Racist. Homophobic.
Part of this is merely what they’ve learned is bad, so that’s what they’ll fling. But part of it is an effort to put the other people on the defensive. And it often works. I’ve seen them derail the discussion by calling a GAY Libertarian poster “homophobic.”
Why does it work? Because it isn’t true. And both parts of the exchange know it isn’t true. It can’t be true for it to work.
Look, the reason this hit me was that some of the things that the trolls call me just roll off me, or make me smirk. Take “Gender traitor” (please. Someone has to.) The idea that what’s between my legs should determine the way I think or where my social allegiance lies makes me laugh (and also a bit nauseous and a bit pitying for anyone who thinks this is a valid point.) It makes me think of one of my gay friends asking “Why should I be a socialist because I like sleeping with guys? I never got the connection.” I too fail to get the connection between my being female and having to think a certain way. And therefore that particular name calling is baffling and a bit sickening but not offensive.
Or take calling me stupid or submissive or whatever the heck they implied about me. (Rolls eyes.) I have the IQ test results to prove I could beat most of them with half a brain tied behind my back. And also, I have the mastery of English as a foreign language and having become good enough to become a published author. (I know my publisher reads this, so I won’t pretend I’m flawless. She has seen the raw manuscripts!) And besides, I have thousands of situations in which I was neither stupid nor supine – and the fact that talking back to established authority means I’m not submissive. All of this just causes me to roll my eyes.
Or take “bitch” which is what the high schoolers called me. It didn’t even dent. While I’m not a female dog, I can very much be the world’s own b*tch, sometimes even without justification. I’m one of these people who is very laid back and reasonable, until you kick the invisible trip wire that means I’m verbally going to burn your village, take your cattle and possibly salt the fields, and there will be no mercy till I’m done. Do I like being called that? No. But mostly it makes me laugh ruefully. Because… eh… what defense do I really have after I’ve unloaded a can of metaphorical pain on them?
However, note I did bridle at implications I was just “cleaving to the party line.” Why? Well, because I can’t even imagine what party line I’d be cleaving to. What I wrote about the relative treatment of men and women comes from my own experience as a wife and a mother of boys. What I wrote was the result of painful thought and careful research. It has nothing to do with what any party is doing. I know the kerfuffle is partisan, but my annoyance is the mindless repetition of a slogan. I’m perfectly open to being persuaded on the subject, with reasonable discussion. Unless there’s an anti-slogan party (Heck, I went off on a slogan on the Prop 8 thing, even though I agreed with the opponents) I’m at a loss at what party line I was following. So, that stung.
THAT annoyed me because it wasn’t true. And the same goes for the other things that trolls fling around.
Look, have you ever met a true male chauvinist? Someone who is, from his heart convinced that women are inferior across the board? (And before we get trolls, no I’m not. I just think women and men are different. DEAL. Celebrate diversity. How dreary would it be if we were all exactly alike?)
I have. While it’s no longer the norm (I think) in Portugal, it was still pretty common when I was growing up. Call a man who genuinely thinks women are inferior sexist, and what you get is a baffled look and a “Well, of course I am. They’re stupid creatures and–” Same with racists (which is still more common in Europe than here, particularly openly expressed) and the same very much with homophobes (which was very much open last time I went to Portugal, possibly because of EEC and the cultural shock.) They will look at you and say “Well, of course, as a right thinking person, I must think this.”
Go to a far left blog and call the poster a communist. You’ll get the same reaction. At most you’ll get back a comment along the lines of “You say that like it’s a bad thing.” (This doesn’t stop people from calling them communists, of course. Some of us have trouble believing that most human beings wouldn’t consider that an insult, but I digress.)
So, names like that repeated and beaten into the poster only work to silence or put on the defensive people who are NOT racist, sexist, homophobe, or whatever the trolls are calling them.
Next time you have a troll invasion and people call you names, tell them that. “You’ve just told me you don’t believe I’m any of those things. Because if I were, I wouldn’t get upset. And you want me to get upset. You want me to shut up. But you KNOW I’m not that. So, thank you.” Then go on with your life, and let them howl.
Like an incantation designed for the single purpose of shutting you up, they lose their effectiveness when you see how the evil magic is performed.