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The Internet Equivalent of a Drive by Shooting

I’m puzzled by people on the internet. Not all, just those who cloak themselves in anonymity. It seems to me, if one has the balls to attack or even question someone else’s credibility (their reputation, their motives, their physical attributes, their personality, etc.), then that person should have the balls to publish a photo of themselves along with a complete profile, a link to a personal website (if they have one) and an e-mail address. To commit an opinion or comment out there on the web for others to read would seem to indicate, on the part of the writer, some personal drive, motive, or need to do so. Why then do they choose to not back up their writing with some personal information about themselves?

This type of anonymous posting is what I term the internet equivalent of a drive by shooting. The cowardice of those who practice this type of internet ‘trolling’ is as obvious as their motive – which is to provoke and inflict pain on their target. They accomplish this by distorting some aspect of your profile, the intent and meaning behind a post you made, or the personal information you provide about yourself. They do this under the guise of wanting to set you ‘straight’, to correct your behavior, to come to ‘the rescue’ of another poster, or to call your credibility into question. On occasion, there may be a good reason to do any of these things – for example when people are hurling unkind names at each other, but for the most part there is little basis for such posts. Yes, I know it’s ridiculous, but these attacks can cause the uninformed a great deal of anxiety – which, of course, is exactly the intent of the ‘troll’.

Now, as you attempt to defend yourself, these anonymous, nameless, faceless ‘trolls’ will try to trap you in all sorts of little word games – games where logic has no bearing and semantics are rendered meaningless. Don’t bother. It’s a waste of breath. Like quicksand, the more you struggle (try to explain/respond), the quicker you sink. Keep in mind - they have the power of anonymity on their side. They can say the most outrageous, baseless things and get away with it; for, cloaked in anonymity, how could there be any accountability?

Everything is fair game – especially the truth. And even if you should complain to the moderator of a forum or chat room and manage to get an offensive poster eighty-sixed, just like Hercules’ hydra (cut off its head and it grows another) – they repopulate themselves. ‘Trolls’ have the ability to reinvent themselves countless times. They frequently operate under several different handles at the same time. So, should you be in a forum - the seeming object of the scorn of many – there is a good chance that there is only one very sad, powerless little person manning all those handles from a single keyboard and the same ISP address. A good way to discern this? Check their posting history. If their attacks on you and others that day are the only posts listed – then it’s likely that the handle is merely a beard for another handle on the forum. Another good indicator? Is there a means of contacting them via e-mail? If they have nothing listed – then they’re probably hiding something – like their authenticity. Keep in mind that forums like Craiglist allow everyone to ‘anonymize’ their actual e-mail addresses, while still allowing others to contact them. This type of ‘anonymizing’ is perfectly acceptable given the current climate of SPAM that permeates the web. But given that safeguard, does one have any tangible excuse for not having a means of being contacted? Perhaps they simply don’t want to be bothered with e-mails filling up their in-basket – e-mails commenting on their behavior or making them accountable for something they wrote. Hmm, yes… that sounds very responsible of them. How convenient.

So what can be done about these ‘trolls’? Nothing. It is free speech. They have a right to be as boorish and obnoxious as they like and say or accuse you of whatever their ugly little minds can conjure. Do you have to take it? Sadly – sort of. You can complain – to them (they will just call you a crybaby or worse) or to the moderator of the forum/chat room (but don’t hold your breath to get a response – moderators frequently chalk-up such behavior as something you have to put up with – like bullies on the playground). Your best course of action? Don’t play their game. Tell them to leave you alone – point out their rude behavior and their cowardice (nameless, faceless them) – and then cease responding to their posts. Do not engage them in anyway, no matter how outrageous their behavior becomes – the ‘troll’ will eventually tire out and either go back under their bridge and go to sleep or move on to another ‘victim’.

Oh, I forgot to mention that, didn’t I? If you complain? They will accuse you of ‘playing the victim’. And, while you are the target of their boorishness, only you can decide if you want to be their victim. My suggestion? Don’t. Being someone’s victim implies that they have power over you (which is exactly why the ‘troll’ uses this tactic – they will also accuse you of being paranoid, too) - don’t let them. Don’t be anyone’s victim. In our society it’s a role that too many people readily accept and all too frequently it is only because they are too weak or lazy to stand up for themselves. Develop some character – stand up for yourself, but do so without escalating the rhetoric or engaging the ‘troll’.

Odd, isn’t it… that it’s come to this – that discourse and simple conversation can now be used as means of abuse. And it is abuse, no matter how harmless the ‘troll’ will claim their banter to be. Words hurt and bullying – even among consenting adults - is abusive. But what else can we expect from a society that views such banter from the likes of Bill O’Rielly and the entire Fox News team, or ill-informed, celebrity hate-mongers like Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter or Dr. Laura as entertainment and free-speech? Sure, the ‘troll’ is not a celebrity (in fact he conceals his identity), but it’s just as insidious and ugly as the garbage spouted by those cretins of the airwaves (Cretins of the Airwaves - a topic best reserved for another post).

I doubt the ‘trolls’ would agree with my assessment. They don’t see themselves that way. But then, given the anonymous nature of ‘trolls’? – If you did hold up a mirror in front of them?

There wouldn’t be anything of substance to be reflected anyway.

You see, it’s all smoke and mirrors, here, at Wonderland Burlesque.

Until next time.... - mhk