April 30, 2016

"I used to write a comedy show. The letters I got were pretty awful — sexist, violent, rude."

"Some of them I still remember word for word. I wrote back to every person and responded very nicely. I asked them if they wanted to write an episode, and I said I would be really happy if they did and I would work with them. It was amazing how my putting a human face on the correspondence changed the tenor of it. Many responded to me. Some apologized. All were sheepish."

That's a letter from SAS in Newton, Massachusetts that the NYT received in response to its article — which we discussed here — about 2 women sportscasters who'd made a video of themselves listening to men reading their hate mail to them.

SAS's response reminds me of an episode of This American Life: "If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS."
So I did what you're not supposed to do. I fed the troll. I wrote about [him on line].

The morning after that post went up, I got an email. "Hey Lindy, I don't know why or even when I started trolling you.... I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being. It offended me because it served to highlight my unhappiness with my own self....

I'm done being a troll. Again, I apologize. I made a donation in memory to your dad. I wish you the best."
The episode continues with a phone conversation with the apologetic former troll, who says, among other things: "You know, it's like you stand on the desk and you say, I'm Lindy West, and this is what I believe in. Fuck you if you don't agree with me. And even though you don't say those words exactly, I'm like, who is this bitch who thinks she knows everything?"

16 comments:

MadisonMan said...

It's a whole lot easier to complain about people than to try to change their behavior.

SOJO said...

What weird is when famous people, who ostensibly have lives, have active troll accounts.

It's great, I suppose, but why should she have to be freaking Mother Theresa to a bunch of asshats?

tim maguire said...

That fits with what many websites have discovered--having their authors maintain a human presence in the comment section is all that is needed to keep the comments fairly clean and respectful.

Farmer said...

I've been trolled on Twitter by Lindy West, as has one of my pals. But I think when she does it, it's justice, or speaking truth to power, or something.

Birkel said...

The reaction to trolls says a lot about a person. Giving power to the trolls by overly concerning yourself with what random strangers think seems a very bad strategy.

The quoted person did not give the trolls power, seemingly. She maintained her self-control and engaged them but gave them no power. That seems a good strategy.

Ann Althouse said...

"I've been trolled on Twitter by Lindy West, as has one of my pals. But I think when she does it, it's justice, or speaking truth to power, or something."

What did she write that you are classifying as "trolling"?

I think the word is overused, for example, I've frequently been accused of trolling my readers just by posting something I choose to write, not attacking any of my readers, but just writing something that the accuser thinks I knew would aggravate readers and that I wrote for the purpose of aggravating them.

Michael K said...

Internet comments have a similar setting to drivers on the freeway. You are distant from the others and there is very little or no cost to boorish behavior. It seems to stimulate rude and sometimes very dangerous behavior. People in person and not in a vehicle or at an anonymous distance are much more polite.

boycat said...

All it takes to qualify for trollhood is to be anonymous and say something critical in a sarcastic way. Pretty thin gruel. One person's sarcasm is another's incisive wit and pith. But the targets of the criticism don't like being skewered thataway, so they lash out and label it "trolling." Then they superimpose the medical model over it and try to pathologize it. This is a favored tactic of the left, as when Soviet political dissidents were sent to mental institutions. As in dealing with individuals anywhere else in life, not all "trolls" are alike.

YoungHegelian said...

Then again, there's the opposite case of where someone in the media or in public life in general does something egregiously rude or stupid, & then proceeds to, at best ignore, often actively denigrate, someone who points out their rudeness.

Not that long ago, Sen. Barbara Milkulski, the senior senator from my state of Maryland, used the term "Teabaggers" in public to refer to the "Teaparty" membership. I wrote her office a letter stating that it was unworthy of a senator to use a homosexual slur, a slur very much like the word c**ks***er, to refer to her fellow citizens who were simply exercising their 1st A. rights, and that she owed her constituents an apology. I wrote that if her office was unaware of the original meaning of the word "teabagger", that they should avoid using the word in public at all.

It was completely ignore, of course.

And let's not get into all the times the press just gets matters of simple fact wrong, & refuses to correct the record in any way. I mean, I've just given up on trying to set NPR straight.

Mary Beth said...

I think that what people consider trolling depends on whether they think it means acting like a troll - mean and rude - or if they think it's a fishing reference - tossing something out there to see who takes the bait.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

I'd say that effective strategy in dealing with nasty aggressive scary people is to appear angry more than scared. Fear can be prudent, but abusive types can take fear to be a sign that they've compromised your ass. One might think that sodomizers, being specialists of sorts in sodomy, would be able to figure out whether they've sodomized you or not, but they tend to have had many female ancestors incapable of distinguishing sodomy, and so they are not good at this distinguishing. Sodomizers tend to be like tail-gaters--they aren't any better at distinguishing girls they've scared from girls they'v'e sodomized than they are at distinguishing rear bumpers from human hindquarters. Accordingly, if you act too scared, they will naturally tend emotionally to take that as a sign that they have sodomized you and thus that you are especially vulnerable to their torture (semen has algesic chemicals). Anger makes you look strong--and of course taking reasonable defenses can make you strong (but overdoing it can make you weaker by making yourself look excessively scared).

Online especially has another dynamic in that people will try to get you angry (invoking your defenses against sodomy when, e.g., only a loss of an argument is involved) to make your arguments less effective, and so if you think you are more concerned about winning an argument and you can scarcely help getting too angry, you might reasonably avoid looking too angry, so the troll doesn't know his tactic is working. But an ideal way to win against trolls trying to provoke you is to make out like you are in a good way to go insanely angry (which would likely make your arguments weak if that were really what were going on), while really that won't happen, thereby provoking levels of provocation in your provoking troll that makes him look quite ridiculous while not preventing you from making beautiful well-shaped arguments. Even if you go a little to the insane side in your anger, that's good practice in being more sane while using this technique in the future, and adopting the ferocious appearance could be protective because sometimes provoking trollls are secretly on the side rapists, etc., you know, trying to get you to feel bad because after they forcibly sodomize you they sometimes will say you deserved sodomy because you are a bitch who naturally wanted it (a plausible argument to victims feeling its insidiously seductive addictive effects).

On balance, I find it surprising that more girls don't behave more scrappily with male invective when defending their freedoms of expression, etc. Whether girls keep their youtube, instagram pages, etc., on public changes like almost weekly on average, and they are forever changing their screennames, etc., like if they don't do all that people will think them weak. Or maybe it's for some sort of mysterious reason I don't understand?

Probably the best thing one can do to be safer is just to understand the evil of sodomy. Looking back at my own youth, I appreciated that there was poorly understood danger from the many violent males about in school, which made me timid. But if I had pretended that I was not in danger, I would have been. My tendencies included some good focused defenses--I'm glad I never went to the bathroom in middle school or high school. However, I could have safely been much more at ease and less timid if I had understood rationally the evil of sodomy. Sodomy just was not something it had occurred to me to be worthy of thinking about.

rcocean said...

Wimmins are tough creatures, equal to a man in any situation, from being an Infantry "person" to being POTUS.

However, don't speak roughly too them, or they'll cry.

rcocean said...

If I was to insult someone on Twitter or Facebook I would mean it - because they deserved it.

Sending someone a nasty email full of invective and then blubbering an apology when contacted strikes me as weird, in every way possible.

I wonder how many nasty emails Palin and Coulter have gotten?

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

Lindy West is so dumb as to be dangerous. Trolling her is a public service. Her inability to think, paired with her willingness to speak (or write) makes her a public liability.

Basil said...

Smells like fake anecdote to me. Just sayin........

Jonathan Graehl said...

it's true that if a famous person responds non-adversarially with a troll/heckler they can sometimes disarm.

it's true that bystander vs celebrity intimate encounters usually result in gushing or blistering reviews of the celebrity, with no sober middle ground available. angel or devil?

this story reeks of dishonesty, though. at best it's not a typical troll. then again, i don't know much about the population of people who troll celebrities with mail, phone calls, or other private forms of messaging - i just know public commenter trolls