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Antisocial Media. - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Antisocial Media.

I am really, REALLY getting sick of people.

Not you. Not the co-workers, or clients, or even opponents (for the most part)- but, rather, with the sewer of vitriol that Teh Interwebs seem to have enabled.

Like the poor, the trolls will always be with us. They go back to chat rooms and newsgroups, to office-cooler chain letters and joke photostats before that, and, probably, to offensive clacks on telegraphs back in the late 1800s.  It's different now, though. A troll's posting on alt.tv.startrek back in the day didn't go viral like his modern equivalent's stuff now does- and those groups tended to be, if not actually policed (any AOL folks remember the TOS Cops?), at least better self-policed than anything now is.

Another contributor is the short-attention-span (lack of) thinking that Facebook posts and, especially, Tweets encourage.  There seems to be an attitude that, if I say it in 140 characters or less, it can't be that bad, can it? Plus I can always take it down if somebody's offended.

No, and no.  As I will reference below, you can do an incredible amount of damage in that few spaces- to others' feelings and to your own reputation. As for taking it down, sorry- the Internet's in ink, and somebody's gonna screencap it and continue either the shaming of the poster or the terrorizing of the postee.

Two recent examples are all I need, really. 


One's from the dreaded Comments to news articles. Our local fishwrap made a conscious and controversial decision a few years back to require, and verify, real names on published comments- but when they went to a paywall model about a year ago, their software came with Disqus as the default commenting tool, and the cesspool immediately reopened.  There's a whole Hall of Shame on a tumblr site, reflecting comments, both before and after the switch, from people who even now have no hesitation about putting their own real name to some of the most knuckle-scraping of opinions on the news of the day.

The Head of the No Class on that site is from a recent article about possible transfers of Buffalo Public School kids to surrounding suburban districts, a remote possibility but made slightly more likely by recent testing results and State Ed findings showing virtualy all BPS schools to be "failing" under current New York standards.  As you might imagine, the repressed suburban white people are not happy about the prospect- but this dude was as brutally succinct about it as anybody:

Well played, Robert. Note the votes, too- as of the tumblr posting, almost as many people favored his comment as opposed it.  It did eventually get deleted (unclear whether by the poster or the mod), but it was there for several days and the original article is still drawing the same kind of mouth-foaming hatred of Those People that Robert managed to capture in that pile of pith of his.


Then there was a bit in today's paper, where the hate was even more personal, pointed and dangerous.  I'm not going to post the tweets in question, but they're in this syndicated piece-  and I warn of intense triggery potential in it- which covers the highly controversial and right-altering decision by the Bank of England to put a likeness of Jane Austen on the 10-pound note.

 Feminist blogger Caroline Criado-Perez had lobbied the bank for a wee bit more gender diversity on its currency; prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, the only other woman portrayed besides the Queen, was being rotated out for Winston Churchill. Criado-Perez’s online petition proposed, as “suitable replacements,” biophysicist Rosalind Franklin or 18th-century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.

Austen, as Rebecca Mead wrote for newyorker.com, “seemed the most uncontroversial of choices,” having achieved “a status among the English rather like that of a cup of tea: cozy, restorative, unthreatening, and omnipresent.”

Apparently not, except the omnipresent part. Criado-Perez found her Twitter feed deluged — not just the usual torrent of profanities but explicit threats....

I'm not going to say what the threats were of- but they are about as bad as you might imagine. The only worse thing would be the reaction of Twitter's management to the direct and specific threats against the blogger herself:

Labor MP Stella Creasy came to Criado-Perez’s defense and complained of Twitter’s corporate weak tea response. “Twitter tells me we should simply block those who ‘offend us,’ as though a ... threat is a matter of bad manners, not criminal behavior,” she wrote in the Observer.

And guess who got twitterbombed with equally sick and threatening tweets herself?  STELLLLLLA!!!!!!

Three men have since been tracked down and charged with the harassing, and the little blue bird is allegedly going to step up its Terms of Service enforcement, but let's face it. This lack-of-character world they've built depends on people being stupid and saying stupid things. Especially when politicians and celebrities are involved.  I suspect there's a smoking gun memo on their servers someplace saying that such attacks are the collateral damage of the instant-reaction fascination that is the heart of their business model.

I have not entered into the Twitterverse and have no intention of doing so, but it's already infected my own vocabulary and thoughts with @'s and hashtags and indoctrination of the handles of dozens of people I see and hear in media simply because that's the only way they communicate. ("Email address? That's so 2001," said one hipster radio host I heard the other day.)  I continue to post my thoughts- all my thoughts- in this limitless form, and to take responsibility for what I say here and elsewhere.  Enabling the Roberts of this world to live under a lower standard is, in the end, only Rob-bing us all of the responsibility that comes with the right of free speech.

This entry was originally posted at http://captainsblog.dreamwidth.org/150238.html. Please comment here, or there using OpenID.
7 comments or Leave a comment
bill_sheehan From: bill_sheehan Date: August 18th, 2013 02:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Back in the day, a few of our mutual friends gathered around the electronic campfire of a BBS. The redoubtable CVirtue kept the conversation rolling on a service called Boston Citinet, and when that went belly-up, I set up a Fido BBS called WithoutaNet that lasted well into the Internet age.

One of the features of a BBS was the twit filter. If you tired of a particular individual's postings, you just added them to your twit filter (bonk!), and they would vanish from your feed. No muss, no fuss. Trolls found themselves in their native habitat: alone in the dark dank space under a bridge.

I, too, regularly despair of the Republic when reading replies to stories in the press. I strongly believe that there are places in the Interwebs where anonymity is a bad thing, and cybernetic equivalent of letters to the editor is one such place. No newspaper would publish an anonymous screed written in crayon and posted under the door.
thanatos_kalos From: thanatos_kalos Date: August 18th, 2013 03:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, the stuff on Twitter's escalated since that; a few bomb threats have been made to various women including a very nice (if somewhat excessively idealist) Classicist I heard lecture years ago. Unsurprisingly, Auntie Beeb and other news outlets have been having trouble recruiting women pundits/experts. :(
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: August 18th, 2013 03:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, the New Yorker piece referenced in the original one mentions Professor Beard- and the vitriolic response to her pro-immigration stance. Because, yeah, Brits are such a ethnically pure race after, oh, 2000-plus years of being invaded so many times they've got EZ-Pass readers on the motorways to charge tolls to the invaders.
thanatos_kalos From: thanatos_kalos Date: August 18th, 2013 04:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
YEah, well, that hasn't stopped the increased xenophobia here, alas. Non-white people were being harrassed at various points on the transport network a few weeks ago, plus the 'racist van' thing. I'm thinking I might not be able to find a job here not just because there are only a few jobs available.
puppy_ciao From: puppy_ciao Date: August 18th, 2013 11:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh god, those BN comments are terrible. I wasn't able to read them from my work computer until recently when they made a change to our network filter, and man....I miss the filter.
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: August 19th, 2013 12:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been trying to discipline myself to Just Not Look, but they're like horrible road accidents, and you pretty much have to:(
headbanger118 From: headbanger118 Date: August 20th, 2013 03:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Bill would view the school issue from a different perspective. He has no issue with Blacks, Whites, or anything like that. He DID have an issue of having to ride a bus 90 minutes one-way to a school he had never heard of so that the population could be evenly distributed. Here was a 7 year-old kid getting up a 5:30 so he could help cure racism and inequality. I'm glad that worked so well. It's all fixed now.
7 comments or Leave a comment