Monday, September 07, 2009

When not feeding the trolls doesn't make them go away

From Yarn Harlot, a knitting blog, comes a pretty amazing story of a very angry stalker who made blogging miserable:
"I absolutely cannot keep up with her, the lies, the threats or the accusations. She believes that everything I do, every post I write, every tweet I log, even mentioning drinking a beer, is about her. Everything I write is bait to her, and I can't stop writing. One of her comments is definitely going to make it onto the blog while I'm sleeping or eating or with my kids. I've spoken with my web host, the authorities, and some other resources to see what I can do... but I realized that this morning, I was going to fail. She is determined to take it public, determined to get a comment up and determined to keep hurting me."
The woman was, apparently, offended by this completely innocuous Canada Day post, which she believed is virulent anti-Americanism; I don't see it, frankly. Actually, I don't think any sane person would read it that way (and let's stress again: we're talking about someone getting angry at a friggin' knitting blog!), which brings up an uncomfortable fact about blogging: it's basically broadcasting, which means that you will get some readers who are nuts. There are some amazingly angry people out there, and indeed, their computers work as well as anyone else's. So, you get exposed to some real pieces of work.

I've only had it happen once: some guy took offense to something I wrote about youth culture and decided that I am am arrogant and heartless educator who posts here because I think I'm a genius, and it was up to him to knock me down a peg. What was funny, and a bit disturbing, was that he posted comments throughout the entire blog, dozens of them, all of which I deleted. Eventually, he got the message and pissed off.

But, I've definitely seen things go farther south. There's an academic blogger I read who once made the mistake of commenting on a trial that was still pending. Anyway, another blogger and a bunch of his readers took offense and they decided that this blogger should no longer be employed by her university. So, they harassed her by email, called her department head and dean to demand her firing, and left several threatening messages on her answering machine. Interestingly though, the blogger engaged with these people until, eventually, they gave up.

People say that the whole tohu-bohu of public discourse is getting crazier and meaner than ever before. But, it could just be that more people are broadcasting than ever before. I suspect, although I don't know for sure, that people who work in broadcasting have always been dealing with the nutters. Alan Berg got shot in 1984, if I remember right. I definitely feel for the people who go through this sort of thing, because they don't deserve it.

In some way, I also feel bad for the nutters. I can't be sure of this either, but I suspect that a person's anger can reach a point in which it cancels out all rational thinking. (Actually, that's pretty much the point of like half of the Greek myths.) In the end, of course, having nothing to offer but bile leaves you with nothing for yourself but ashes.


Anonymous said...

"People say that the whole tohu-bohu of public discourse is getting crazier and meaner than ever before."

That's because people don't remember the election of 1800. Godless French anarchy defeated enslaving British tyranny, according to the rhetoric of the time. Some choice.

I've thought it would be fun to revisit some of the predictions made last year about an Obama presidency, and trot them out again in 2012 in front of the people who subscribed to them. Probably a waste of time.

The Pagan Temple said...

Just imagine if they allowed anybody that wanted to be on a television show or news show to just walk on and say what was on their mind, at any given time. That's pretty much what you have with the internet. It only stands to reason you're going to end up engaging with some cranks and nuts.

Rufus said...

Pagan: Yeah, it's definitely unavoidable. I'd recommend engaging as little as possible with the cranks though.

Rob: I get the feeling that a lot of people are living in their own reality at this point, so they probably believe whatever they predicted- either Obama is the greatest leader in world history or a radical Marxist terrorist in their particular reality tunnel.

I added your blog to the roll, incidentally. It's good- I especially want to hear more about the early modern conference you're attending.

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