Sunday, April 10, 2011

Evil Troll Laugh

My random thought today is that the NY Times article  just irks me. It really irks me. Bah!
For those of you who didn’t click the link, the piece concerns anonymity, mainly on the Web.  There you are,” Ms. Zhuo writes, “peacefully reading an article or watching a video on the Internet ,” and then, she continues, there appear the words of mean-hearted little trolls intent on turning your peaceful reading experience into something horrible and warlike and too awful to bear.
Get a grip, lady! Bet you got picked on in school, hmm? Poor thing. Oh, wait, me too!  And seeing as how we both apparently survived that, I fail to see how “trolling” warrants an entire article in the NY friggin Times, even in the opinion pages. Yes, she deserves her opinion, but it seems more like the type of thing to discuss at a dinner table, rather than something to be considered seriously.   
Soon, she attempts to smarten herself up, referencing Plato.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like most of the Greek philosophers (well, not really Aristotle, but that’s a whole other post), but I don’t necessarily agree with them all the time. “Morality, Plato argues, comes from full disclosure; without accountability for our actions we would all behave unjustly,” Zhuo writes.
Nope.  Morality comes from fear of death. It has very little to do with accountability. That smidgen which is formed in response to accountability is of the kind which comes from our Gods. Not other — ahem, anonymous — Internet readers. Give me a break! Besides, what kind of people are we if we are only good because we are under threat of accountability? The big questions of why we should or shouldn’t act a certain way are not answered “because I’ll be found out if I do it wrong.” Puh-lease.
Zhuo also references psychological studies. Talk about slant. First of all, what studies?  Conducted by whom, over whom, and in what instances?  I hate it when vague “studies” are references as credible support to a thesis; that’s sloppy writing. 
Soon, she expounds that road rage stems from anonymity. Absurd! Road rage (gratifying, isn’t it? lol) is that the driver/pedestrian/road worker/cyclist/squirrel/random cow you are mad at can’t hear what you’re saying, because you are in separate vehicles, and not because they don’t know who you are.  She confuses privacy with anonymity.
And by the way, anonymity is not a new concept. Sheesh. It’s not “relatively new,” either, unless she’s speaking in terms of geological times, in which case it definitely is. In fact, one could easily argue that one possesses much less anonymity now, than in any other age.
Besides, as even this authoress notes, there is a relatively simple way to avoid this problem of “trolling.”
But what?” you ask me, breathless.
Derrr — turning off the comment function! Or dare I even suggest—abstaining from reading those comments!
 Whoa. Earth shattering, revolutionary solution.
Gawd, almighty.
What I find even more interesting is the general tone taken to the laws drafted in response to these Internet trolls. I know my point of view is not held by everyone, and that is a good thing. But I do feel it brushes dangerously close to ignoring our constitutional right as Americans to make it unlawful to comment in certain ways.  Slander and libel are another story…but stupid little comments that most people skip reading? That’s a whole other ballpark, and ought to be treated (or ignored, rather) as such. Lumping all that together is a monstrous error.
Anyway, I find anonymity, to a certain extent, key to the Internet. Each day we learn more and more about how our Internet presence can influence a future hubby, employer, loan provider, whatever, for good or for ill. In that respect, the more anonymous one can be, the better, until we become more discerning in regards to the Internet as a populace.
I think it is important to remember that though we may connect with others via Internet, for business and pleasure and everything in between, it is not the real world. Take it with a grain of salt, folks. If you really get so terribly upset by trolling remarks, well…
Don’t. Effing. Read. Them.
If you are a parent and you worry over negative contact, take it upon yourself to control what your kid sees, if you can. I get that parents have a LOT of things from which they must protect their children, and explaining the pros and cons of how to navigate the Internet safely is bound to come into play somewhere. No, I don’t have a child. And I can only imagine how difficult it must be to deal with the perils a child can find on the Internet. But combining discipline with information and a running parent-child dialogue seems a good place to start, right?
If you’re a grown-up, and trolling nonsense isn’t ruining your career, I don’t see what the big damn deal is. By crying like a baby, the entire system is weakened, and everyone suffers.
 I’ll be hanged if I’ll see the First Amendment go out the window over somebody jerking off to his ill-humored little Internet quip.
The Internet is a source of information, in the age of information itself. By trimming what comes in, we trim what we get out of it. Laws against trolls? What’s next? In Areopagitica, Milton asks what we do to our sensibilities, if we censor ourselves from things which may [or may not be] unpleasant, or evil. He then basically answers himself — we shall lose the capacity to recognize these things for what they are, and thus fall victim to them more readily, because we won’t know the proverbial snake that bites us.
I firmly, firmly believe this. Firmly.
You cannot eradicate unpleasant or uncivil behavior. To think this is possible is idiocy at its finest. Even attempting to do so would open a Pandora’s box of badness. Lol. Who decides what is uncivil? How is it enforced? What happens to those who commit to those kinds of acts unknowingly, or on accident?
It’s not like we’re talking about murder! We’re talking about the comment function on webpages!
It just made me mad. Please feel free to comment and argue with me. But be warned, you evil, conniving, life-ruining trolls. If I don’t like your shit, I will delete you. Muahh, haaa, haaaa, haaaaaaa!


  1. Psychological studies. Right. Reading this post made me pull out my old human development textbook. If you take a good look at Kohlberg's stages of moral development 'avoidance of punishment; superior power of authorities' describes Heteronomous Morality or the stage that coincides with 'the end of the preschool period and the beginning of middle childhood.'

    Yup. This is why we need NPR, people. Commercial news is just becoming one very long episode of The View.

    Seriously though, I think a lot of Americans are out of touch with how diverse and divided this country actually is, not just culturally, but also in terms of opinions and ability to communicate. Some times I think that the 'Trolls' might actually think some of the things that they type, they just lack the communication skills to express their opinions as something socially acceptable as well as the life experience/education to overcome their troll-ish thinking. I think it would serve the Troll Hunters out there to know that the Supreme Court upholds the right of the KKK (really do trolls get any uglier than the KKK?) to hold parades in ethnically diverse neighborhoods because the 1st Amendment is *that* important.

  2. Such a good comment! (And one which I certainly won't delete, lol.)

    I get the feeling I should read this Kohlberg fella, because I know nothing of what the field's literature holds as the status quo for moral development, and I ought to be better informed.

    ***Okay, I just looked up his stuff (Wikipedia, true, but still...)--I think a more profitable look at the so-called "problem" of trolling commentary would be to ask what the wide world of the Internet does to our sense of conventions, and how, in this modern technological world, we apply our morality; how we decide what to comment, and when, rather than fretting over some unknown person's semi-offensive comment.

    The View part cracked me up. Ha! And I love NPR. Sometimes it's fuzzy around here.

    And yeah, I think some of those trolls (I despise that term the more I type it, lol) probably believe what they type as well, since lo and behold, everyone has their own opinions. And that is their right, even their duty, whether or not I like what those opinions may be.

    I worry too many people want to just avoid offensive behavior at any cost, rather than trying to sort out why it's offensive and then get beyond that original issue.

    Things like political correctness and censorship, the protest groups at soldier's funerals, or the "God Hates Fags, Kill Them All" fliers that newspapers recieve (used to see those e-ver-y sing-le day; awful), or yes, the KKK, these are REAL issues. And we've got to be sensible in how we deal with them. Because you're exactly right; there is a reason these things/groups, etc., are allowed and even protected by our Constitution.

    Wow my comment's getting really circular. lol. Must need more coffee...

  3. Actually it's interesting. My original impression was Zhou believed that trolling directly relate to a sense of freedom from punishment. I think I got stuck on some of the litigious arguments involving harassment. (This would make internet trolls approximately six years old, according to Kohlberg.) If you look at this trolling phenomenon as a function of conformity to social norms rather than a fear of punishment thing, then Zhou would be assuming that the majority of people using the internet are in stage three. Children are supposed to hit stage two around eight or nine and, in normally developing children, stage three is supposed to take effect during adolescence. By Zhou's logic, the internet is primarily a playground for people who are morally about thirteen years old.

    And the sad thing is, this might actually be true. I've always felt that there are a lot of factors out there that are specifically designed to stunt intellectual and moral growth. But I also think that attitudes like Zhou's are part of the problem. By metaphorically wrapping people in psychological bubble wrap, she's creating this expectation of mental and emotional feebleness and I do believe that a lot of people will lower themselves to meet that expectation.

    But I guess that one of the big problems with the internet is that person-perception is often skewed. Recently, I heard about this insurance policy that protects people from internet shopping sprees while inebriated. I don't think that there's a policy that protects people from the consequences of their social interactions while similarly intoxicated.

    I think you can stream NPR directly from their website.

  4. I think I pounced on her usage of anonymity, but yeah--I just skimmed it again--here Zhuo states "This kind of social pressure works because, at the end of the day, most trolls wouldn’t have the gall to say to another person’s face half the things they anonymously post on the Internet."

    Which I find hard to believe. Not that these are the same thing, but for argument's sake, what I remember of middle school bullying (hmm, hello stage two-to-three lol), the mean ones never really care about getting in trouble for what they say or do. And in regards to the Internet, at least some "negative" comments are probably meant in earnest, like you stated--and those people are likely to hold the same exact opinion aloud, should Zhuo call them up. Ha!

    Oh and yes to the playground for teens stuck in stage three part. Double ha!

    A certain phrase just popped out at me "polluting the conversation." *shakes head* I get stuck on her word choices and then the more I think about them, the more innane her opinion seems...though it has spurned a very interesting dialogue here. Suppose there's always a silver lining.

    To kind of back-track, I don't think I know anyone beyond stage five. Stage six it could be dangerous, or at the very least extremely tricky, lol. I cannot fathom how stage six could actually exist in the real world. Wouldn't it require a critical mass of people all functioning at that level, like a whole population, so that it could actually work?

    I must read more!

    Anyway, back to your comment. One of my English teachers in high school hated using the telephone. No, he was not a hermit, lol, at all. But he said that it altered our perceptions of each other because our responses weren't face to face. And that was before the real rise of cell phones, so go figure. But even letter-writing alters our perceptions of one another, perhaps even more, since the replies can be deliberated over during long, calm periods of time. Any time we present ourselves to the world, we run the risk of (or purposely do)presenting a slightly different version of who we really are. At least with face-to-face contact, you can watch for body language, face ticks, expressions, whatnot. I've wondered before if the concept of the self will, in say, oh, 2000 years, be an outdated concept. Because it seems we are so very rarely our true selves, since we automatically adjust responses to individuals and situations as they arise, and are probably only "only ourselves" when completely alone, and even then, that's arguable. But I'm getting circular again, and I realize now I as I glance up that you might not have meant that phrase the way I took it, lol. Anyway.

    Wouldn't it be funny if there were insurance against, say, drunk-talk? Some hubby goes out, plays poker and drinks whiskey with the boys, then gets home and informs his wife she has a fat leg and a mean voice and he's ready for a divorce because she can't cook him McDonalds. *laugh* So his wife threatens him, the next morning, with a very real and sober divorce. Then his lawyers and insurance agents swoop in, crying--wait, no! He's drunk-talk insured!

    Oh hey, that might make a good story. Lol. Thanks for the heads-up on NPR. Derr. Should have thought of that.