Trolling and Fighting Back

If you are wondering why I make time to attack aggressively the trolls who come to my blog, here is why:

It’s concerted, focused, and deliberate, the effort to silence people, especially women, but not always, as I can attest, and particularly feminists, though again, not always, as I can attest, online. The readers, the consumers, the fans, may not always notice it because people are silent about it. Because this is the strategy that has been adopted, to not feed the trolls, to grin and bear it, to shut up, to put your best foot forward and rise above it.

I don’t believe in being silent when attacked. A bully – be it an online or a real-life bully – needs to know that whenever s/he tries to get aggressive with people, they will push right back. Sitting there, taking aggression silently, and trying to be nice and martyr-like about it is not my style. Bullies and trolls need to be insulted and humiliated because that is what they deserve.

“Oh, you just make them more vicious when you attack them,” people say.

No. This is simply not true. I don’t make them anything. The trolls are vicious because this is the kind of shitty people they are. And if trolls are looking for silent patient victims of their bullying, they will have to look someplace else. Because here they will hear in great detail exactly what kind of nasty vile freaks they are. After which they will be shut up and sent to the trash bin for good.

Here is more from Mike on this subject. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

87 thoughts on “Trolling and Fighting Back

  1. I 100% agree 🙂

    BTW another good approach if you can is to change their posts a bit to make them look stupider. They really hate that 🙂

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  2. Just something like littering spelling mistakes through their posts then telling them to learn how to spell. They won’t even be sure that they didn’t misspell anything anyway.

    Basically anything that leads them doubting themselves is fun.

    You can even change your posts that they have replied to, so that it looks like they have gone on a wild tangent.

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    1. That’s a dishonest way to fight. If you need to resort to such methods in order to look cleverer, then it’s time to reexamine your priorities.

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      1. Adi :
        That’s a dishonest way to fight. If you need to resort to such methods in order to look cleverer, then it’s time to reexamine your priorities.

        You are kidding right? Would you not slam the door on the fingers of somebody who was abusing you at the door of your own house?

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  3. Why would you want to shut them up? Aren’t you just as bad then?

    If you’re going to open your blog up to comments you can’t pick and choose what people write. Certainly, you can editorialize over what gets published, but it misses the point of comments in the first place.

    People troll because they want a reaction. People troll in different ways. Sometimes it’s like a bully, and other times it’s like your friend. Sometimes they just want to troll with some memes that only they and their friends get and you will never know. It’s the nature of the internet. You can’t change it, and you probably won’t recognize it until long after it happened, and you can no longer “fight back”.

    Framing it like they’re bullies, and you’re fighting back, still only paints you as a victim, and a rather pathetic one. They don’t want to silence you. The opposite in fact. They want an emotional reaction out of you.

    Most people just ignore trolls. That’s the only way to get rid of them.

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    1. The difference between a troll and a bully can come down to intent. Clarissa has already mentioned that she had to stop them posting where she lived.

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    2. I can do whatever I please on my blog. Those who don’t like this policy are welcome to go away.

      “You can’t change it, and you probably won’t recognize it until long after it happened, and you can no longer “fight back”.”

      -The kind of bullying you don’t recognize isn’t bullying. So you are talking about something that has nothing to do with the topic.

      “Framing it like they’re bullies, and you’re fighting back, still only paints you as a victim, and a rather pathetic one. They don’t want to silence you. The opposite in fact. They want an emotional reaction out of you.”

      -Are you a mind reader or something? You know the thoughts and feelings of all the trolls in the world? Nobody can get “an emotional reaction” online. have you ever even considered that? What you see on your screen right now is letters. Any emotion you ascribe to them comes from you as a person who reads those letters. Got it?

      ‘Most people just ignore trolls. That’s the only way to get rid of them.”

      -I said explicitly that I think those people are wrong. Can you read?

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      1. You called them “trolls”. A troll isn’t always an aggressive bully. A troll is many things, and you won’t recognize their intentions until after they’ve got out of you what they want out of you.

        If all you recognize are the aggressive ones, then fine, but then, by your logical aren’t you powerless to humiliate them, since humiliation is an emotion, and all they will see are your letters on the screen?

        They want a perceived emotional reaction out of you, same as you want a perceived sense of humiliation from them in retaliation. If they think they can get you wound up, they’re satisfied.

        Most people have a preconceived notion of the person you are when they come to troll. If you confirm their suspicions then they’re likely to stick around a bit longer and continue. If, on the other hand you could turn it around, and maybe make them like you, rather than attacking them aggressively you have a better chance of handling them.

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        1. Trolls by definition are people who don’t have a life and have an abysmally poor self-esteem. Humiliating them is a piece of cake.

          I’d consider it a huge personal failing if this kind of stupid freak liked me.

          “Most people have a preconceived notion of the person you are when they come to troll.”

          -Now you are just being silly.

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      2. “What you see on your screen right now is letters. Any emotion you ascribe to them comes from you as a person who reads those letters.”

        Then isn’t that also true for spoken communication?

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        1. No, because if you see a person cry, for example, it’s kind of obvious what their emotions are.

          As for priorities, my only priority on this blog is to have fun. I spend time writing, answering comments and moderating because it gives me pleasure. If other people end up deriving pleasure from reading and participating, that’s good. But it’s not my motivation. This is all about making me happy and about absolutely nothing else. 🙂 And I was always very clear about it.

          I let trolls participate while it amuses me. But when it begins to get boring I kick them out. This is my space, so I’m entitled to that.

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    3. Really? They come on her blog and act aggressively and possibly threateningly, and she should let them be? If someone barges into your house and starts trashing the place, are you going to let them do it? Because that’s what you’re suggesting she allow with her virtual space.

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    4. I don’t understand the analogy to physical violence. Especially since the blog owner can ban anyone anytime anyway.

      And, incidentally, I would only do such a thing if it was self defense; if even then because I’m seriously squeamish about hand or finger injuries.

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  4. I totally agree, but unfortunately only in principle — I would love to be able to implement it in practice, but I find that I get too upset by trolls and I suppose I am not nasty enough to silence most of those people. In the past, I would lose a whole day or two of work because I couldn’t calm down due to the attacks. For my personal sanity (and blood pressure) not feeding the trolls works best. I really really wish I had the thick skin it takes to engage with them and pound them into oblivion without getting upset! Hats off to Clarissa and other people who have no problem doing it.

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  5. Do you believe a troll is vicious because that is the kind of shitty person they are.

    If you respond in kind and “humiliate” them, what does that say of your own character?

    What if someone simply appears to be a troll, and you humiliate them undeservedly?

    – Alan

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    1. “If you respond in kind and “humiliate” them, what does that say of your own character?”

      It says that I am a brave, self-assured person who valiantly defends the internet space from idiots and castigates bullies.

      “What if someone simply appears to be a troll, and you humiliate them undeservedly?”

      If it walks like a duck. . .

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  6. Thing about trolls is that they’re perpetual victims and what we in Australia call wowsers. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=wowser

    They’re innately qualified in reducing complex matters they encounter on the web, including processes of developing one’s thoughts or relating to other sorts of people, down to to those that speak to them of their own vulnerable feelings in non-gradated terms. They act triumphantly when they think they’ve found something that speaks of these kinds of thoughts, but it would be hard to imagine any actually existing character whose life is exclusively marked by such light or dark shades as those they can imagine.

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  7. I think fighting trolls is a hopeless cause, because they’ll love every ounce of attention they get. Of course by adopting an aggressive stance, you can feel like some satisfaction at having done something, and get over a probable feeling of impotence, but that’s about it. Also the blog that you link to, I agree that the various profane attacks on the blogger that have been described there, are extremely obnoxious and in very poor taste, but I felt that calling it a “rape threat” was a bit too much. Something could be called a threat only when there is a realistic chance that the threatened action could be carried out. Here it just sounded like some asshole trying to be obnoxious. I agree that some sort of action should be taken against that person, and that these people exploit the vaguely defined laws of the cyberworld.

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  8. Clarissa, Tiger Beatdown says

    I was careful in all the ways they tell you to be, to make it difficult to find my house, for example… The quick skim to find out if there was any actually personal threatening information, like identifying details… Many feminist sites stay on services like Blogspot because of the higher security they may offer

    If somebody opens a blog and doesn’t want to be found, are there any safety measures, except not giving personal info, like real name, pictures or work email? Do you know the way to prevent people from knowing from which country / city you come (something about connecting through other server?)? How did they found out Tiger’s/yours address? If you don’t want to give info to trolls, you’ve recently replied to me, so know my email. (Btw, thank you very much, I wanted to think before replying, but the near week is going to be very busy, so …:()

    Do you think Blogspot security is better than wordpress? In which ways?

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    1. I heard you have a lawyer and Mike said somebody lost his job because of trolling him, so I was frightened a bit. Do you keep a lawyer specifically because of blogging, if it isn’t too personal question, of course. What I really wanted to ask was whether somebody not ready to do that should better forget about blogging.

      Last question is if women get trolled much more and a woman decides to blog, do you think it’s better to take a man’s or not showing gender nickname? On the one hand, one wants to be oneself, but on the other hand some people don’t enjoy abuse.

      May be you’ll post about Internet security and how not be found in RL? (And about Bible Belt in “Through the eyes of the stranger”)

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    2. The problem with concealing all those things about your identity is that you lose all effectiveness as a blogger. I would have to delete half of my posts if I wanted to preserve my anonymity. But then what the point of blogging would even be? Besides, readers respond to honesty and sincerity. A person who is a fake isn’t going to attract any readers. Why not just write a diary in a notebook then?

      I kind of think that the reason why my blog became so popular so fast is that people feel that I’m being very honest and direct about everything I write. I was trying to conceal who I was initially but that limited what I could write about a lot, so I stopped doing that.

      As for how these losers find addresses, I don’t know and I can’t say I care very much. If they want to waste their lives on something like this, let them.

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  9. el :Last question is if women get trolled much more and a woman decides to blog, do you think it’s better to take a man’s or not showing gender nickname? On the one hand, one wants to be oneself, but on the other hand some people don’t enjoy abuse.
    May be you’ll post about Internet security and how not be found in RL? (And about Bible Belt in “Through the eyes of the stranger”)

    I used to get trolled a lot and then it stopped. But before that, the trolls provided a really good feminist education for me. Before they educated me thoroughly, I had been under the impression that males were generally nobles types. I think my mistaken impression was due to my impression that males went to war and defended our territories for us. Later, I got what now seems to be a more psychologically accurate portrayal of the political meaning of men going to war. It’s a kind of mounting of each other like dogs in heat, whilst the sisters and daughters they are supposed to be protected get raped and murdered by the other side. Yet, I would never have come to such a firm conclusion as to the actual nature of men if had not had the trolls to educate me. They showed me how much I was in a thrall to patriarchy, even though I had taken some steps to criticise some aspects of it. I realised I still hadn’t gone far enough. Dealing with trolls and their ideologies eventually made me ruthless. After that point, the trolls suddenly died off. There were no receptive or uncertain elements in my treatment of patriarchy — so nothing for the trolls to latch onto.

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  10. Troll? Isnt that the intellectual term for asshole. 😉
    The most interesting part of the internet world is the new lingo that gets used on it, I always thought trolls were under bridges. 🙂

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  11. Jennifer Frances Armstrong :
    Yet, I would never have come to such a firm conclusion as to the actual nature of men if had not had the trolls to educate me. They showed me how much I was in a thrall to patriarchy, even though I had taken some steps to criticise some aspects of it. I realised I still hadn’t gone far enough. Dealing with trolls and their ideologies eventually made me ruthless. After that point, the trolls suddenly died off. There were no receptive or uncertain elements in my treatment of patriarchy — so nothing for the trolls to latch onto.

    It seems somewhat harsh to extrapolate the nature of men from the behaviors of internet trolls.

    It is like assuming that all feminists are man haters by listening to quotes from Mary Daly.

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    1. Except that the trolls outnumber Mary Daly by tens of thousands to her one…and Mary Daly does not spend her time anonymously attacking and threatening men whose speech she disagrees with in order to drive them away.

      The sheer numbers of men who attacked Kathy Sierra, the large number of the guys on AutoAdmit who trashed and threatened female bloggers; seriously, for a fair number of men it seems as though either they actively participate or stand by in silence. Contrast this with the female presence on line; how many women do you hear about who are threatening male bloggers with violence or exposure? Sure, there’s the occasional lone woman who does this, but whole masses of women who threaten and actually drive a male blogger away or cause him to lose any sleep over the threats? I have yet to see it.

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      1. This is precisely why I believe that trolls deserve every ounce of vituperation and humiliation they deserve. I am SO not planning to listen to those who are listing all those spurious reasons for why trolls should not be attacked. I think such troll-apologists are part of the problem.

        I also act the same way in RL. Whenever anybody made sexist statements in my presence, I’d humiliate them so loudly and viciously that soon, nobody dared do this in front of me. It works a lot better than “trying to become their friend”, “getting them to like you” and “not paying attention.” These are useless strategies that don’t work. My strategies, however, do. And I stand by them.

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      2. No, don’t you see! Harassing women is funny! The so-called “trolls” are post-PC absurdo-ironists and you’re just too much of a dumb blonde to get their genius socio-meta-humor. Let me make it real simple so you can absorb it into that oral sex machine you call a skull: nothing’s edgier or more clever than misogyny, except maybe racism. Jesus, I swear, no one gets more worked up by threats and derision than women. It makes me want to put you all in a wood chipper. It’s like you’re always on the rag or something. Otherwise maybe one of you would see the brilliance of the male internet comedian and throw one a fuck once in a while. *sigh* Guess I’ll just have to keep waiting for that special lady who laughs at my jokes and likes Hot Pockets and being choked. No fats, but mental illness ok.

        [disclaimer: this is only barely a parody of pretty much every response I’ve ever seen to a woman telling a jerk on the internet to knock off the sexist crap it’s not only offensive it’s fucking lazy and boring.]

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        1. In the spirit of fairness, I have to say that two most vicious trolls I ever got were female. I had to threaten them individually with legal action to make them go away. Middle-aged suburban housewives they were. They went as far as attacking my family members online and threatening to complain to my employers that I dared to have an opinion on my blog.

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      3. jodi :
        Except that the trolls outnumber Mary Daly by tens of thousands to her one…and Mary Daly does not spend her time anonymously attacking and threatening men whose speech she disagrees with in order to drive them away.

        Thankfully Mary Daly is dead. She finally got the flick from her teaching position as a result of not allowing male students in to lectures they were paying for but instead insisting that they be tutored her in her office.

        This is actually worse than internet trolling because she had an actual position of power over these students.

        How many men do you think read blogs regularly? Not a huge proportion of the population read blogs at all

        The sheer numbers of men who attacked Kathy Sierra, the large number of the guys on AutoAdmit who trashed and threatened female bloggers; seriously, for a fair number of men it seems as though either they actively participate or stand by in silence.

        Yes there are a lot of misogynists online but the thing about online is that each website doesn’t get a representative sample of men hitting it every day. Misogynists are attracted to and post on sites that support them or on sites that they are against. Just as mainly only feminists post on Feministe. What happened to Kathy Sierra was bad it cant be used as an example that all men are bad.

        For most men the silence is simply the result of not being part of the blog sphere.

        Contrast this with the female presence on line; how many women do you hear about who are threatening male bloggers with violence or exposure? Sure, there’s the occasional lone woman who does this, but whole masses of women who threaten and actually drive a male blogger away or cause him to lose any sleep over the threats? I have yet to see it.

        If a male blogger was threaten by women do you think that societal expectations would allow these bloggers any credibility? I would suggest many male bloggers just don’t mention it and hope that it doesn’t happen.

        There are a number of sites that “out” men who have behaved in a way during a relationship that some woman decided she did not like. http://www.womansavers.com/ used to allow the opportunity for men to buy there name of the blacklist.

        This is exactly the same sort of deal and thousands of women have participated. The difference here is that the men on their list are generally not high profile.

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      4. Except that the trolls outnumber Mary Daly by tens of thousands to her one(Jodi)

        But one of the BIG problems with Mary Daly is that she had a pulpit. She is a professor. Unfortunately it seems she shared way too much of her nasty shit also. 😦

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    2. I’m talking about over a period of more than ten years, watching male behaviour on the Internet — who supports one in a scrape and who turns on one.It can be very educative. However it is you extrapolating from my post to assume that I meant something about the nature of men in the broadest sense. This is a subtle form of trolling on your part, which is no doubt inadvertent, but distorts my meanings all the same. Perhaps it is my fault and I should clarify that what the trolls taught me was that to the degree I was in a thrall to patriarchy, they could easily get access to me, because I was receptive, in a positive way, to certain ideals of maleness. These ideals were ideologically founded and emotional. So, the trolls came up from under the bridge and destroyed the bridge that would have made me receptive to men purely on the basis of my internalised ideological constructs. They taught me all about patriarchy.

      This doesn’t mean I don’t like men. I’m married, very happily and have been for over ten years. The man I’m with happens not to be particularly ideologically minded, in that gender oriented way.

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      1. Ok I see what you mean now. Your realisation wasn’t about the actual nature of men but more about your perception of the nature of men.

        Basically you didn’t realise some men where really nasty people.

        I had a similar kind of perception problem myself only a couple of weeks ago. It has changed my approach to talking with feminists online. I didn’t ever consider some of them could be really nasty people either.

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  12. “I am SO not planning to listen to those who are listing all those spurious reasons for why trolls should not be attacked.”

    I think one of the main problems — and perhaps the main problem — with liberal movements in general is the ever-willingness to back away from any fight or battle. It wasn’t always this way — the Civil Rights movement being a prominent example.

    I just can’t get on board with that. Someone threatens me or those I love with harm, or actually harms them, I am going to do my best to make them regret they ever heard my name — and no, I am not talking about debate. Debate is a good thing. I am talking about threats, harassment, etc.

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      1. Please please modify their comments. Basic suggestions are adding small sentences like “I know I have a little penis and whine a lot but…”

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  13. Helena Suess :
    Let me make it real simple so you can absorb it into that oral sex machine you call a skull

    OMG you do misogyny much better than I could ever consider and I am male. That the most horrible sentence I have ever heard. Yet I know somewhere that some man has probably said that.

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  14. mike :I think one of the main problems — and perhaps the main problem — with liberal movements in general is the ever-willingness to back away from any fight or battle. It wasn’t always this way — the Civil Rights movement being a prominent example.

    Worse than that, I think that venting their fury on women is a way of getting rid of pent up anger from too much ritual humiliation in the workplace. If men don’t fight the real targets of their frustration, I don’t think they can be real men in their own eyes or in the eyes of any other.

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        1. The funny thing is that this kind of masculinity that is so unprestigious among men is very popular with women. And it has been like this for centuries. There is a beautiful Spanish Golden Age play that explores this difference between masculinites that men and women consider prestigious.

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  15. I was completely unaware that you could modify comments – I thought you were limited to moderation. I find this disturbing; that you appear to consider it a viable option, extremely troubling. It reeks of juvenile pettiness. Fight, but fight fairly. Otherwise, you belong in the same class as the trolls you encounter.

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      1. Trolls never go away when you tell them to, no matter how politely you ask. Or how many times. I cannot possibly imagine a situation where I’d be asked to leave but I’d try to foist myself on people anyways. The lack of self-respect in these people is amazing.

        Well, the latest bunch of trolls are PUAs, so they are used to being rejected by the entire universe on a daily basis.

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        1. I only change comments when people email me and ask me to. This happens on a regular basis. Some people reveal personal info without wanting to. Some reconsider their statements and want to take them back. Believe me, it’s a drag to do that but I try to respect readers’ wishes as much as possible. One reader asked me to change the same comment FOUR times.

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    1. Ok how about this one:

      Don’t modify comments in the posts and if somebody gets intolerable, ban them. and/or lock them into a “special needs” thread where you can post all the stupid comments for everyone to laugh at. That way you (and your readers) get to have relatively clean threads but don’t have to miss out on a good laugh once in a while.

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    1. I googled it. This is now the second time in two weeks. I seem to put the idea out of my head. What is the point of those sites? Don’t these men realise all you have to do is treat women like people too, why would you need a website for that?

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      1. I find the idea very distasteful. I can’t bring myself to go and look up what these techniques are but it is obvious that the idea is to intentionally deceive.

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  16. Clarrissa: “What you see on your screen right now is letters. Any emotion you ascribe to them comes from you as a person who reads those letters.”

    Adi: “Then isn’t that also true for spoken communication?”

    No because with a spoken communication you have the tone of the conversation. If you are face to face you can also read body language.

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    1. You can also misread tone and body language.

      As for there being no emotion in words on a page – that is patently false. If you’ve ever gotten angry or cried over a novel, you know words have power, especially if they are put together properly.

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  17. Adi :
    That’s a dishonest way to fight. If you need to resort to such methods in order to look cleverer, then it’s time to reexamine your priorities.

    It is not a matter of honour. Once a poster is asked to go away by the blog owner the fact that they continue to post shows they have no honour and can thus treated in any fashion which will ensure they do not return.

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    1. Ok, by dishonest I meant deceitful or just lying because it’s making somebody look more stupid than they are – in my experience totally unnecessary. If you want them to go away, and they won’t then just ban them. Surely it’s a waste of time to alter their comments. Of course, a little substance abuse, combined with a cynical mood could make me want to try that out though.

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      1. Adi :
        Ok, by dishonest I meant deceitful or just lying because it’s making somebody look more stupid than they are – in my experience totally unnecessary. If you want them to go away, and they won’t then just ban them. Surely it’s a waste of time to alter their comments. Of course, a little substance abuse, combined with a cynical mood could make me want to try that out though.

        Not getting posted rather than get a perverted version of your message through. Which would you prefer?

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      2. The problem is that I don’t think I’d even be able to make them sound more stupid than they already do. 🙂

        Wow, this is proving to be a very popular thread. Trolling resonates with people because we have all been bugged by trolls too much.

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  18. I have had to deal with this problem on more than one occasion so I can definitely sympathize. Though I generally implement a free speech policy depending on the site I post on, nonetheless I found that some people who do not want to get the message will just clutter up the thread with pointless mud slinging comments. This brings down the site or page.

    On the other hand, I’ve also seen a lot of people labeled “trolls” as an ad hominem response to whatever they wrote. This happens a lot on gender-activist websites and so I have decided for myself to not use the term troll. It’s just too easy to use and that’s a bad sign.

    Here’s a nice little read in case you don’t already know it:
    http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2011/06/why-you-cant-win-an-argument-on-the-internet/

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  19. “Not getting posted rather than get a perverted version of your message through. Which would you prefer?”

    Definitely the first of the two. Because if somebody changes the words of whom they’re talking to, then you can’t trust anything that anyone writes on there anymore.

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    1. Exactly, so if you were trolling and your message did get modified you would pretty much never post on the site again.

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  20. bloggerclarissa :
    The problem is that I don’t think I’d even be able to make them sound more stupid than they already do.
    Wow, this is proving to be a very popular thread. Trolling resonates with people because we have all been bugged by trolls too much.

    Sometimes I think your threads would have hundreds of posts if you would just stop writing new ones for a few hours.

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    1. I think so too. 🙂 OK, I’ll try to control myself a little with the constant spewing of posts. 🙂

      Self-restraint is not my biggest virtue, though.

      It’s true that somtimes good posts don’t get noticed because new ones come in like crazy.

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  21. bloggerclarissa :
    No, they don’t. These folks simply lie. The level of obsessiveness they demonstrate reveals a complete lack of a sex life.

    I can assure you that they do work – obviously not on everyone but on enough women to make it pay off. I wish it wasn’t so but that doesn’t make it any less true.

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  22. llama :Ok I see what you mean now. Your realisation wasn’t about the actual nature of men but more about your perception of the nature of men.
    Basically you didn’t realise some men where really nasty people.
    I had a similar kind of perception problem myself only a couple of weeks ago. It has changed my approach to talking with feminists online. I didn’t ever consider some of them could be really nasty people either.

    As strange as it sounds, I actually didn’t realise the underlying nastiness. It’s a constant form of education to try to realise what is actually there and I put much of this down to my idealist cultural upbringing.

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    1. Jennifer Frances Armstrong :
      As strange as it sounds, I actually didn’t realise the underlying nastiness. It’s a constant form of education to try to realise what is actually there and I put much of this down to my idealist cultural upbringing.

      It is not strange at all. Like you, I grew up thinking people were essentially good. Over time you realise that some groups of people are not. But the shocking thing for me was realising that people who outwardly support social justice issues can be nasty too. It is almost like having a family member turn against you.

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      1. Yes, it’s like when I discovered that my most passionately Communist colleague in grad school who kept reciting Marxist theory to everybody owned a factory and lived off the proceeds.

        Like

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