If A Troll Falls In The Forest, Does Anybody Hear?

August 17, 2010

I wrtrollote this post late last year, and it is testament to the force of its argument and its mantra-like qualities that I cannot even remember what incident it was that prompted me to write it. I’d now like to forget a confrontation with ugly that I had yesterday – ugliness that scratched the wound of an old ugliness, ugliness that was being hurled directly at the beauty of the other week, which meant that it had the potential to cause much hurt – which meant that it did cause much hurt, until I decided to follow the advice below – and so I am reposting it, in the manner of repeating it like a mantra, and asking for your support in asserting it, loudly and clearly and emphatically. Because.

How To Deal With Trolls: A Primer

Step 1: Ignore the trolls.

Step 2: Ignore the trolls.

Step 3: IGNORE THE TROLLS. Do not look at them, do not respond to them, do not point your finger at them and scream TROLL, because the only thing that trolls love more than the sound of their own voice (virtually rendered in the spaces of our community as unpleasant/derogatory/inappropriately critical/unnecessarily smug/indisputably bitchy words on the screen) is the sound of other voices responding to theirs. And what a troll hates more than anything else? The deafening silence that resounds when their words fall into the dark, empty pit of nobody cares, the dark, empty pit that rings only with the hollow echo of their mean spirits hammering against the walls of their vacant souls.

And in the space where you might otherwise have been tempted to put a rejoinder or rebuttal or argument or smackdown? Put love. Put friendship. Put community. Put laughter. Say something nice, something friendly, something clever, something ridiculous, something vapidly amusing, something about coffee or chocolate or how much you love person X or how much you admire person Y or has anybody seen that awesome thing that person Z wrote yesterday? or oh, look, roller skating babies!

And then move on. And forget that you ever saw that troll under that bridge because really, there are so many, there are always so many, always spilling out from the muck and the grime and reaching out with their spindly, warty arms and grabbing for attention, but they only have power if we let them, if we choose to see them, if we acknowledge that they’re there, if we let them seize that attention and hold it and turn it ugly.

Let’s not let them.

Let’s just not.

*I know, I know. I don’t always do this. This is as much a reminder to myself as to anybody else.

**And? I know that this can be hard to do. But I think that it’s the only thing that makes any sort of difference. Fight hate with love. Don’t give it space to grow. Shut it out. SHUT IT OUT. Plant these spaces with good seeds and sunlight and clean water and care and weed out anything that produces rot. That’s all there is to do. Really.

***We don’t even need to discuss why I wrote this. (ed. note: except for what I wrote above about why I wrote this.) Let’s just MAKE THEM GO AWAY by ELIMINATING THEM FROM THE VERY SPHERE OF OUR AWARENESS. (whips out canister of Troll-B-Gone) (pffssst-spray-pffssst). What trolls? Where?

****The claim has been made that it’s just critical commentary, and who is anybody to shut down critical commentary, and didn’t John Stuart Mill say something about how even bad ideas need to be permitted in the sphere of public discourse, yadda yadda…? To which I say, sure, and maybe this is something that we should talk about at greater length sometime. But John Stuart Mill also cautioned against words and ideas that cause hurt and harm, and I would argue that in the case of communities like ours – and we are a community, right? – we have a special obligation to ask ourselves, always, when we are tempted to take critical aim at each other, what is our intent? Is it to hurt? To discount? To silence? To cast aspersion? To make ourselves feel better about our own limitations? Where our intent is questionable, we should think twice.

Now, you: I asked this yesterday on Twitter, and I’ll ask it again here… tell me a happy thing. Tell it to me here, in the comments, or on your own blog, or in a photo or a tweet or whatever… just, give some light and air and space to happy things. Baby smiles, dry vodka martinis, meteor showers, Mad Men, chocolate, doing good, wearing tutus, peonies, shaggy haircuts on toddlers, double espressos first thing in the morning, Spanx, cupcakes, friends, butter, you name it. I want to hear it. We all need to hear it.

What’s your happy thing?

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    janetlansbury August 18, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    This is so smart and so touching…thank you!

    My 8 year old boy just yelled “I love you!” as he ran off to meet his friends at the beach.
    .-= janetlansbury´s last blog ..Parenting Clashes All In The Family =-.

    Sally in toronto August 19, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Here’s what JSM actually said:

    Before quitting the subject of freedom of opinion, it is fit to take some notice of those who say, that the free expression of all opinions should be permitted, on condition that the manner be temperate, and do not pass the bounds of fair discussion. Much might be said on the impossibility of fixing where these supposed bounds are to be placed; for if the test be offence to those whose opinion is attacked, I think experience testifies that this offence is given whenever the attack is telling and powerful, and that every opponent who pushes them hard, and whom they find it difficult to answer, appears to them, if he shows any strong feeling on the subject, an intemperate opponent. But this, though an important consideration in a practical point of view, merges in a more fundamental objection. Undoubtedly the manner of asserting an opinion, even though it be a true one, may be very objectionable, and may justly incur severe censure. But the principal offences of the kind are such as it is mostly impossible, unless by accidental self-betrayal, to bring home to conviction. The gravest of them is, to argue sophistically, to suppress facts or arguments, to misstate the elements of the case, or misrepresent the opposite opinion. But all this, even to the most aggravated degree, is so continually done in perfect good faith, by persons who are not considered, and in many other respects may not deserve to be considered, ignorant or incompetent, that it is rarely possible on adequate grounds conscientiously to stamp the misrepresentation as morally culpable; and still less could law presume to interfere with this kind of controversial misconduct. With regard to what is commonly meant by intemperate discussion, namely invective, sarcasm, personality, and the like, the denunciation of these weapons would deserve more sympathy if it were ever proposed to interdict them equally to both sides; but it is only desired to restrain the employment of them against the prevailing opinion: against the unprevailing they may not only be used without general disapproval, but will be likely to obtain for him who uses them the praise of honest zeal and righteous indignation. Yet whatever mischief arises from their use, is greatest when they are employed against the comparatively defenceless; and whatever unfair advantage can be derived by any opinion from this mode of asserting it, accrues almost exclusively to received opinions. The worst offence of this kind which can be committed by a polemic, is to stigmatize those who hold the contrary opinion as bad and immoral men.

    Amy Kristo August 21, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    the fresh bread, almonds and avocadoes from the farmer’s market… seeing my baby turn his head and smile at the girl baby three weeks older, trying to crawl and reaching toward him, smiling…buying baby some bigger socks to fit his more-grown feet… finding for the first time two blogs written by women who know what i’m going through and write about it candidly– knowing i’m not alone, that it is okay to feel the way i sometimes feel because these feelings are beyond normal, they’re human. universal.

    Jennifer August 22, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Enjoying the warm, breezy days of late summer.

    Looking forward to the spectacle of foliage changing colors in autumn.
    .-= Jennifer ´s last blog ..A Picture and a Story from Sammy =-.

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