There are plenty of people who substantively engage with issues, but prefer to do so anonymously, and few people object to that, even if discussions get heated. Trolls, however, are folks who derive some sort of power and pleasure from inflicting emotional pain on other people. I’ve had occasion to communicate with a number of other lefty and feminist bloggers about the troll problem, and most of us have had common, awful experiences. Laurelin in the Rain wrote this about trolls:
…The truth is, whatever you say to a troll, he is not going to believe you, or admit that he does. He is not going to be convinced, because he has come to your blog especially to piss you off, to divert your energies from your struggles and goals. Trolls existed before the internet. They attacked brave feminists everywhere they spoke up; told feminists that women didn’t need feminism, that they were unnatural women, that they were going to hell, they beat them, they ridiculed them and they went to amazing lengths to shut them up. And why? Because they were afraid, and because, inside they knew that what feminists were talking about was real, that should feminism spread, their male privileges and constructed perverted pleasures would be destroyed. Every time a troll comes a-ranting, whether he polishes his argument with pseudo-intellectual gloss or simply calls you a whoredykebitchprude, he is afraid. And so he should be.
We deal with their arguments everytime we post here in that beautiful space known as the feminist blogosphere. We have carved out a place for ourselves, and the price we pay is that dickheads will come in to try and destroy us, break our unity and compromise our respect and love for each other. We will not let them. None of us need feel obliged to answer every dumbass rant of the troll, every slander, every shot of hatred, because trolls are not interested in rational argument, they are interested only in themselves. We mustn’t let them divert our energy into fighting the stupid.
Non-trolls who read our blogs and are open to argument will listen to us, they will ask us genuine questions and approach us respectfully. They will link to us, speak to us and their passion to make the world a better place for women will be obvious from their words and deeds. They will be ready to examine their own thought processes for misogyny, just as we make it our business to do in ours.
I would suggest that when we want to counter a misogynist viewpoint that we bring it to our own blogs, and post about it. That way we can highlight the bullshit we face without having to waste our precious energies in a slanging match with the wilfully ignorant. We can create the arguments and show them to the world, so that other women and men will be able to know misogyny when they see it. Trolls do not have the right to smear their hatred on our blogs. They do not have the right to free speech in our personal spaces; they have it everywhere else, and one would think that would be enough for them.
Trolls are despicable and infuriating, there’s no doubt about that. But we have the truth on our side, which we should make every effort to spread amongst those willing to listen. Trolls will always be trolls, they are the reactionaries in every society, whose self-esteem and privileges depend upon the maintainance of the status quo. They demand our attention because they think they’re owed it. They’re not. Our attention is far too valuable to waste on them.
Read her full post here.