Inescapable Bullying

The consistently wise Jay Smooth explains in his inimitable style why some trolls simply cannot be ignored:

Ill Doctrine: Why I Will Feed The Trolls If I Damn Well Want To from on Vimeo.

And the problem Jay describes, of being chased around the internet, extends not just to people who are high profile online:

It is
When the girls in Jenna Bowers-Bryanton’s class pretended to vomit when she walked into the room, or when an older student slapped her on the first day back to school, Jenna’s mom, Pam Murchison, pulled her out of school.

What Ms. Murchison didn’t anticipate was that the abuse would persist even at home. Jenna received nasty messages via SMS and on forums such as Formspring, where her tormentors posted anonymous vitriol about her looks, personality and singing ability. (Jenna had her own YouTube channel.) In January, 2011, when she was 15, Jenna died by suicide in Truro, N.S.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • mildlymagnificent

    And Amanda Todd died just a couple of days ago.

    And it’s not just bullying before death – there’s gloating afterwards (for want of a better word).

  • ZenDruid

    So how can civilized society protect the victims? I suppose every concerned individual has a bagful of solutions to punish the trolls. I certainly have, but every one of them fails either constitutional or practical tests.
    What I see is a too-little-too-late reaction. These stories only appear on the radar after the victim dies. I would advocate a proactive outreach scheme at the official level, but the biggest impediment would probably be the victim’s troll-imposed sense of shame and guilt.

  • Baal

    I believe that the only way forward is to insist that public discourse remain civil and that responses to problems are proportionate. Counter trolling a troll only shows acceptance of the techniques that trolls use.
    Trolls are tribalistic and when the community makes it clear that the troll is not welcome, the usually shut up. This community aspect of trolling means that we should always (but in a fair way) call out intentionally negative (or harmful) behaviour targeted to single individuals even when that behaviour is less than bullying.

    I usually support the “don’t feed the trolls” line but I’ve meant that you shouldn’t give the trolls what they want (attention in the form of outrage usually) and not that you should only ignore them (which can work but it’s not usually the most effective strategy).

  • Patrick RichardsFink

    Phenomenal. If someone is just calling me names or being obnoxious, then I may just starve their attention, but if they are trying to shut me up, the only response is to get louder — and if they are trying to silence someone else? Sic ‘em.