Internet

Trump is a Troll

trump

 

Trump is a Troll

Donald Trump is a classic internet troll, especially when he’s on the internet. His twitterfeed is a perfect example; you will check that there’s a blue tick and it’s not actually a parody. Everyone does. It’s unbelievable, and ridiculous, and then scary – just like Trump is in real life, and that’s how you know it’s him.

Internet trolls are simple creatures, and easy to spot with a little practice. There’s been an academic study, and several more user-friendly articles on the back of that, too. But these often relate to deliberate trolling in specific types of forums, rather than that annoying person on facebook who shares David Avocado Wolfe posts, angel wishes and calls you a ‘libtard’ for not hating immigrant children – and they’re trolls, too. Try asking them a direct question, especially about something they’ve just said. All you’ll get is another question – often the one you just asked turned around – accusations, or abuse. Post a statement contradicting their point of view, even with all the evidence in the world, and they’ll just say you are lying. Then, obv, more abuse. How dare you bully them like that? You fascist*.

Unlike a lot of internet trolls, however, Trump is also a troll in real life. This is because he’s basically a narcissistic sociopath**. Lots of trolls behave the way they do on the internet because they don’t see the people they are talking to or about as real people; the text barrier allows them to easily dehumanise the people behind the comments. Trump does this to real people, right in front of him. People whose angry, hurt and frightened responses are right there on their faces and in their body language – but he still doesn’t care. It doesn’t change him or what he’s saying in any way. Even when there is direct, well-founded, empirical evidence right in front of him that contradicts everything he says.

This doesn’t stop him contradicting himself, however. But, even when you can show him direct, empirical evidence of what he himself has said, he still just calls you a liar, and moves right on. He simply doesn’t care what you think, or even what you know. For him, you are just an annoying noise on the outskirts of Trumpworld, and what you believe, think or feel is of no importance. You don’t just not matter, you don’t even exist. This isn’t just you, tiny internet nobody. This is Crooked Hillary, The Lying New York Times, senators, political experts, scientists, even those at the shitty end of the stick he carries with him to beat on his rabble-rousing drum.

So, Trump is trolling reality. Ok, we all know the advice – don’t feed the troll. Smart people are advising this as well: don’t RT his tweets, don’t respond, don’t share facebook posts about him, or articles from the press. It only encourages him, he loves the publicity, and most importantly, you’ll not change the minds of his real supporters.

There’s a core of truth, here. Trolls just say that stuff to get a response, so by giving them one, by caring, you give them more power. Trump does speak for a section of the public, and they adore him. Like with him, there is nothing you can say that will change their minds or alter what they believe – you, just by trying to do this, are part of the conspiracy against him, after all.

But, whilst there’s often no point in continuing to feed a troll, there is a point in responding. Just once, just to say, ‘No. That’s not right, and please don’t say such unpleasant things.’ On the internet, in your local facebook group, say, you can see this with clarity. If someone posts blaming the increase in littering on a particular group of immigrants, then to just ignore it and leave it without any response at all might well mean that the person who posted it will eventually get bored and wander off again. That post will scroll down, and many people will probably not even see it.

But during that time, anyone coming into your group will see that post, and see that no one has even said, ‘Well, I’m not sure that’s entirely the whole issue…’ It will seem, to an outsider, that you’re all tacitly agreeing with it. Yes, maybe you don’t want the whole awful fallout popping up on your alerts, but hopefully a group admin will step in before then, or it’ll be reported and be seen to contravene the Community Standards***. Or you’ll just block them if necessary. There are tools there designed to protect you, and to allow you to say, ‘No, thank you. You’re being rude and hurtful, and I don’t appreciate it,’ without fear of reprisals or abuse.

I’m not in any way saying you need to go full on Social Justice Warrior, and take down anything hinting at bigotry wherever you see it. Please don’t, in fact, as it can be a very unpleasant and occasionally dangerous business. What I am saying is that there is a purpose in responding to misleading posts or sharing the truth when you find it; there is a group that you can and will reach – and that group is The Lurkers.

Look at any group or forum on the internet: it’s a good way of seeing how society works in microcosm. Look at how many members there are, then look at how many actually post regularly. The average can be as low as ten percent. So, what are the other ninety percent doing? They’re enjoying the show! Sometimes they’ll sneak out for a moment to like or reshare something, but often they just stay quiet, reading along.

Huge portions of society are lurkers. Entirely passive, they see everything, but they don’t interact beyond that point. What they see therefore, matters. They either don’t have or don’t wish to use critical thinking skills to look beyond what’s in front of them, and so they are particularly easily mislead by propaganda. Our politicians know this, and so are even less afraid of telling outright lies than ever before.

There was a dream that the internet would democratise information; that one day, everything would be there at our fingertips, and no one could ever lie to us again. Instead, we have the opposite – everything is there, in our eyeline, so we don’t need to make any effort to look any further. Brexit happened because a significant number of people believed what they were told, and voted accordingly. No one can blame them for that – at a pinch, you can even not blame the people who voted for Brexit because they ‘didn’t think it would actually happen’.

Let’s not have that happen, with Trump. Let’s address the people who think he’s just ‘a bit of a laugh’, a ‘character’, just saying ‘the stuff that all blokes think’ or not actually going to win, so it’d be funny to vote for him. Let’s address the people who still think he’s a successful businessman, that he always wins court cases, that the scandals around him have no basis, that he’s not a possible rapist and a definite serial abuser of women. Let’s make sure that the people who think he might speak for them hear what he’s actually saying.

Trump is a troll, but we are going to feed him. We’re going to feed him the bitter truth, even if he spits it back in our faces like the spoilt child he is. We can’t stop Trump and his supporters from saying the awful things they’re saying, and neither should we. Instead, what we can do is to shine a light on every contradiction, every lie, every abusive and aggressive post, every call to violence, every belittling, nasty, childish comment and soundbite. Find the truth, check the truth and then share the hell out of it, whenever you get the chance.

And let’s all do it, because we are a global community now, and our words can travel across national and cultural boundaries. Let’s all do it, because we care about each other as human beings, and because those of us who do care are the majority, and will listen to each other.

And because if that isn’t true, we truly are doomed as a society, whoever the next US president is.

 

 

 

 

*What is it with idiots calling left-wing rhetoric fascist? It happens so often, and it’s really odd.

**I’m not a psychiatrist, and bandying mental health diagnoses around is not a good or smart thing to do, generally. But I make a needful exception in this case.

*** Hahaha. As if…

Writing Won’t Let Go

I was in an interesting place for most of last summer. Aftet my father died, I spent a lot of time at my mother’s house on Anglesey, and the fact I was already off work was something of a godsend. To be honest, there were just lots of days, one after another, with me and my mum just getting on with living, watching tv, cooking food, idly chatting about something and nothing.

There was something of a distraction in the middle, with our wedding – which would never have happened if not for some of the best friends a person could ever wish for – but I was very much a bystander in my own life for quite a while.

But the world, ignorant bastard that it is, keeps on turning. Shit keeps happening. People live and die without so much as a by your leave. The pictures of the two little brothers washed up on a Turkish beach did send a spark of reality into my wooly haze. The reactions of the press and social media actually impacted on my thinking, and I started talking to people about it, especially on facebook. I undertstood the effectiveness of shocking images in creating a real public outcry, but that didn’t mean that all and sundry should share those pictures in their statuses like random clickbait. We couldn’t do much for those children, I couldn’t do much, but I could ask people sharing the pictures why they were, and if they would consider using another image, because maybe the one thing we could do was try to give them some dignity in death.

I had some really interesting, thoughtful discussions with people I hadn’t spoken to for a long time, and actually felt like I was starting to think again, in some small way. I lay in bed, still thinking over what had happened, and how people were responding to it, and also, the awful, horrible reality of what had happened to that family. I had an odd, recurrent image of an illustration from Charles Kingley’s book, The Waterbabies, of a small, cherubic child sinking down through the depths of the sea, and it wouldn’t leave me. More than the image, the words, ‘Oh my babies, my poor waterbabies…’ kept running through my head, and it took me a little while to recognise the process; I was writing. Writing like I used to. Writing a poem, by repeating and repeating word and rhythms until it would take shape. Part of me was watching myself do this, fascinated, as it had been so long since I wrote anything like poetry.

So, I wrote a few lines, slept a while, dropped them onto facebook for want of anywhere else to put them, and that was that.

I had some really nice responses and a few shares over the next few days, which was lovely. But much more importantly, I felt like I had something of myself back that I had been missing. Times have been up and down since then, but that part of me that wants to craft words into a shape and share them with other people is still there. I’ve written a few things since then, and I’ll share them here with a little bit of context around each one, as suits.

But here is that first one. It’s not perfect, and I think the rhythm isn’t ideal, but it’s the one that my mind wanted, and so it’s the one it has.

 

 

 

I was once told a story about Waterbabies,
And how they were lost, unloved and alone.
Til at last they found sanctuary under the waters
And were taught of the kindness from which love is grown.

But oh my babies, my new Waterbabies,
You were loved so much more than comfort and home.
But you have learned nothing but ruthless exclusion,
And how crocodile tears swell the morning tide’s foam.

Fuck Hate

So, my mental meltdown started not long after I looked up the term ‘kyriarchy’, after doing some research into ‘intersectionality’ and discovering you’re not supposed to ask people what ‘CIS’ means, because your ignorance is NOT THEIR FAULT. Radfems, UKstraightPride and TERFs, oh my.

And my brain went ‘Excuse me?’

And then, ‘What the freaking fucksticks is going on? How in the name of all the fucking demons is this supposed to help anything??’

I mean, come on guys. Do any of you actually KNOW what you’re hoping to achieve? At all?

Now, I’m a lucky person. I have a home, a partner and children. I have a job, and I’m white and educated. I’m not disabled or marginalised in any particular way by society. Check MY privileges out, bitches.

I’m also lucky in that I have good friends from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. None of them seem to hate me for being who I am, and all are happy to talk to me about their experience of the world, and seem glad that I want to understand the way that life may treat them. I was under the impression that this was how we make progress, and live in harmony and all that shit. It’s also how we learn to adjust our thinking, grow as people and develop appreciation of life outside our own personal boxes.

I was also under the impression that marginalisation was a bad thing, and acceptance and understanding and equality for everyone was what we were working towards.

Now, if it’s not what you think we should be working towards, then… well, fuck off, frankly. Sorry, but – and I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite here (see below) – but bigots of whatever nature can just fuck right off. If you have a problem with anyone purely because of whatever subset of humanity they belong to, then you need to rethink your prejudices. I don’t really want you to fuck off; I don’t hate you, but I do question your beliefs.

You see, questioning beliefs is fine. Not just fine – it is important. It is vital. And the only way you can truly maintain your beliefs is by being open to having them questioned, and by being open to hearing the beliefs of people who believe differently to you. If you can’t do this, what you have is not belief, it is dogma, and it is bigotry and it is bad.

Don’t criticise a person because they are part of a group, or criticise a group because of the actions of only a few of its members. Don’t label people just so you can mush them all together and criticise them as a group. If you take away people’s individuality, if you dehumanise them like this, you are just making them easier to criticise, easier to blame, easier to hate and easier to kill. If you talk to individuals about their lives and beliefs and problems, if they then talk to you about yours, if you find common ground – hate goes away. Change happens. Understanding happens. Acceptance and love and nice things and ponies and sweeties and roundabouts and rainbows! Less shit generally.

Haters DON’T gotta hate. Haters have to stop hating, because all hate does is breed more hate. No, you can’t even hate the haters, because hate and aggression both come from fear and insecurity and ignorance. You can’t even silence them, because freedom of speech is important, and it lets us know who the dicks are. Only by communicating with them do we have any hope of changing them.

It’s really easy, and quite satisfying to tell someone who is being a dick to fuck off (See above). But whilst I admit to having done it myself on occasion, it achieves less than nothing.

If you feel society is marginalising you, then speak out. Speak loud, and be proud, and tell people. Fight for your right to be accepted, and to live your life as you choose – so long as you are not hurting or oppressing anyone else by doing so. But choose your words. Remember that other people can’t know what you are going through until you tell them, and if they ask you questions, it’s because they want to understand. If you’re speaking out, you are also putting yourself out there as an expert on your own life experiences. People may ask you questions that seem stupid, but the best way to defeat ignorance is through knowledge. Answer them. Use short simple words. Don’t roll your eyes, even metaphorically. Try not to patronise.

Oh god, and can I go off on a tangent here? Do not accuse anyone of ‘mansplaining’. You’re devaluing what someone says because of their gender. Sexism is a Bad Thing. It applies to anyone. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice. Hating men counts too. Yes, even if they are being dicks. Being a dick is non-gender specific, non-anything specific.

If you are being mistreated, if you encounter injustice and abuse, if no one understands what you have to deal with on a daily basis – tell people. It’s the only way to end stigma and prejudice and ignorance. But make sure you are then open to hear other people’s experiences, too, and try to show some compassion. No matter what the wrong done to you, no matter how awful the oppression you encounter, and how minor anyone else’s problems seem to be in comparison, please don’t play ‘my pain is worse than your pain’. Pain is pain. There is no prize for being the most hard done to, and there WILL always be someone suffering more than you. There are people being killed and tortured every day, all over the world. People with no one to turn to, little hope and no voice.

You have a voice. Use it well. Use it to bring understanding and defeat ignorance. There is too much hate in the world as it is, so make sure you’re not adding to it.

Whatever someone’s ‘privilege’, whatever their material wealth or fame, whatever their race, gender, religion or level of disenfranchisement – if they are suffering and brave enough to speak out about it, OFFER THEM SUPPORT AND SYMPATHY. Don’t judge them, don’t grade their pain against your chart of worthiness, and don’t belittle or criticise their experience. You are privileged to have been allowed an insight into someone else’s life. That’s the only privilege that counts here. Be damn grateful for it.

Give one other person some hope, and you may find you’ve actually given it to lots of people. The actions of one person can grow and spread, and the only person whose actions you can directly affect is you. Make sure you are doing something for the greater good, when you use the beautiful, wonderful gift of being able to speak your mind and use your voice freely.

Don’t be a dick, dearheart. Be nice.

It works – and you know what, it confuses the people who are being dicks no end. Angry people have no idea what to do with you being nice to them. It wears them down, and makes them listen to you, and makes them rational against their instincts. Shouting is all very well, but a moment of compassion changes people.

Jesus. Did I just turn into the Giving Tree? Fuck. Sorry. I did start off being really pissed off… I’m going off to find some right wing, racist, sexist, ignorant gun-toting dickheads to abuse, now.*

*Not really

Losing the Lads’ Mags

So, the #losetheladsmags campaign hates ‘Lad’s Mags’, because they ‘portray women as dehumanised sex objects’ and they ‘promote an idea of male sexuality as based on power and aggression, depicting women as sex objects and including articles that feature strategies for manipulating women’.

And, you know, that all sounds good. As in, it sounds bad! No one should want anyone else to be dehumanised and open to violence. I want my daughters to grow up in a society that tells them that however they look is fine, and whoever they decide they are is beautiful. I want them to have a positive body image, and grow into strong, empowered women. If I had sons, I’d want them to respect themselves and everyone they met, whoever they are and whatever their appearance, gender and beliefs.

So far as I can determine from the website, (http://www.losetheladsmags.org.uk/) this campaign has two issues:

1. It wants to protect us from ‘page three style’ covers being on view in major supermarkets. The reason that page three is on page three is so that it’s inside and not on general view, as it involves nipples. Most major supermarkets have modesty covers for anything vaguely sexualised, including gay interest magazines – which is all well and good, unless you want to know what the articles are about this month.
So, we are not actually subject to those images.

2. Employees can and should sue shops they work in because they are being forced to handle objectionable material. But that’s really not going to work if they were already selling them when they took the job. You can’t work in Ann Summers for 6 months then decide to sue them for exposing you to sexualised material. That would just be silly.
So, employees can’t sue their workplaces for things that are already on sale.
Which makes the whole ‘campaign’ a bit of a waste of time.

If you really want to make sure that overly sexualised and unrealistic body ideals are not promoted to the impressionable, then ‘lad’s mags’ are not your target. The true, insidious promotion of dehumanisation of womens’ bodies is right there, at eye level. In the magazines for women, selling us size zero, photoshopped ideals, telling us how to please men, how we should look, how we should orgasm. Telling my daughters that they should diet, and what they need to spend on clothes to fit in.

If you are going to ban things according to their covers, then I give you this. Which of these covers offend you? Which do you not want your children exposed to? Which should be removed from our shelves to protect impressionable young minds?
(Warning: boobs. Do not look if offended by women’s bodies)

mags composite 2

Take Bizarre, which may or may not be included in the very unspecific ‘Lads’ Mag’ criteria. More than anything, bless Bizarre for making a mockery of this whole campaign. I agree they should be top shelf/modesty-covered, along with the tattoo and gay interest magazines, but don’t you DARE ban them. Bizarre, in particular are one of the few (if not only) magazines on general release that positively promote plus size, transgendered, disabled and sub-culture models. Say what you like, but I’ve let my daughters read Bizarre from an early age, and I hope that is one of many things that have made them more accepting of all the various definitions of sexuality and beauty that exist.

Lads’ mags sell to lads. They know who they are. They like cars, beer, gadgets and boobs. They like short sentences and innuendo. And, damn you all, so do I. They are NOT the problem.

The problem is girls’ mags. Deriding female celebrities for being photographed not at their best. Mocking anyone in the public eye who puts on any weight. Questioning the value of any woman who isn’t in a very small and exclusive subset of body image. Making ordinary, attractive women question their worth based on which products they buy, where they shop and how often they have sex.

In all honesty, I’d rather my daughters saw large boobs at eyelevel in the newsagent than stick insect celebrities. But the fact is, they don’t, because we have ‘modesty covers’. So what IS the point of the #losetheladsmags campaign? I struggle to understand, and I say their ire is entirely misplaced.

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