Internet Self Defense and Locust Trolls

Every so often a post I write gets picked up by one of the 800 pound gorillas of the internet.

It’s almost always a very simple post that took no effort to write and which has, at most, one idea without any nuances or development.

I’m still quite new at this blogging stuff, so my opinions about it are forming, not formed. One of my forming, but not quite formed opinions is that if you want mega huge traffic numbers, you need to dumb your writing down.

I’m not going to do that, mainly because I don’t care about mega huge traffic numbers. That has nothing to do with the purpose of this blog. I don’t want every reader. I want readers who are interested in building a community of people who want to stand up for Jesus.

That said, whenever one of these internet gorillas links to one of my posts, I first become aware of it by the sudden influx of profane, foul-mouthed insults that appear in my com boxes. That’s what happened Saturday.

Two of my posts got picked up by other blogs with large followings. One of them was just another blogging colleague. But one was a major news service who keeps their numbers up by trashifying their coverage.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what was happening. I literally sat and watched the comment numbers tick up, one after the other, 44, 45, 46, 47 … 200, 300 …, just about as fast as the little meter could register them.

The two posts that got this loving attention were the humorous one where I compared atheists to vampires and the not-so-humorous one where I said that President Obama’s The First Time ad demeaned women and was beneath the dignity of his office.

I let any comment that I thought would lead to some sort of intelligent discussion through. I deleted comments that attacked Christians, Christianity, cursed, called me names (there were a lot of these), or which advanced arguments that I’ve learned are just come-ons for circular agenda-stealing, blog-destroying verbal wrangling that has no end.

The result: only a smattering of comments made their way through, and my trash file is blushing from shame about what I dumped into it.

I’ve learned that when I get one of these nasty-comment storms, the easiest way to delete is to use my cell phone. That way, I can just use my thumb to touch that little trash icon and send the f-bombs and you are a (insert misogynist name for a woman’s body part) away to virtual oblivion.

These surges of nut case comments don’t usually last too long. These people aren’t actual readers. They’re more like plagues of locusts. They fly through, destroy your blog if you let them, and then fly on, searching for somewhere else to behave like abusive wackos.

Before I went to bed last night, I studied the various stats from these two particular locust clouds. The Obama locusts almost all flew in on a mobile device, primarily either an iPhone or an iPad. The iPhone had by far the highest numbers of all the devices they used. I own both these gadgets. In fact, I used my iPhone to delete these little darlings. I’m not making a connection between Apple and internet nut jobs.

What I am thinking is that these are most likely internet savvy people. They evidently read internet news services on their mobile devices and then one-off a few foul-mouthed assaults in what appears to be an almost reflexive manner. I’m guessing that most of them don’t even remember making a comment on Public Catholic.

I think the atheist-vampire locusts are a much older crowd than the Obama locusts, and also much more intentional. They tend to fly in on their computers, and on Internet Explorer. Again, this has nothing to do with Microsoft. I think it’s more of a generational thing.

The Obama locusts focused almost exclusively on sexual thinking, which is not surprising, given the nature of the ad I wrote about. Their language was what you’d expect. A number of them were women. Most of their comments were focused on me personally. About the nicest thing anybody called me was “prude.” It went downhill — waaaayyyyy downhill — from there.

The atheist locusts came in with angry diatribes against Christians and Christianity. Some of them referenced their many victories in the courts limiting Christians’ freedom of speech and expression (not that they called it this) and angry comments about how vile they found the symbolism of the cross. None of them that I can remember actually attacked the Lord Himself. And most of them weren’t aimed at me. So far as I can remember, they were all male.

I don’t remember an atheist who called me any of the ugly names our society uses for women, which is certainly more than I can say for the Obama locusts. Instead, they gave full vent to their hatred of Christianity.

The Obama Locusts just buzzed in, dropped their load of insults and flew on by. The atheist locusts stayed to argue. When I deleted their comments, they circled back with insults and threats demanding that I undelete them. A couple of them went over the top with this.

All in all, it was an interesting exercise; my own little laboratory for the study of internet trolls in action. I’m not saying that all Obama supporters or all atheists behave like this. Obviously most of the members of both these groups were out enjoying their weekend. I’ve written other posts that got me zapped from Christian trolls who just flew in to quote canon law and tell me that I’m not pro-life enough.

The internet gives people a cloak of anonymity that lets them behave as they really want to, rather than as they feel they have to. For most people, that doesn’t mean much of anything at all. But for some, it’s a ticket to verbally act out their lower passions without regard for consequences. I also think that for some of them trashing other people on the internet is their primary recreation.

When I study the comments on other blogs and talk to other bloggers, it rapidly becomes apparent that Christian blogs are a primary — not exclusive, but primary — target of these attacks.

I’ve never seen a blog where a man gets called the kind of names that I get called. Of course, we are such a misogynist society that our language doesn’t even HAVE those names for men.

It’s no surprise, really, that two of the primary targets of these foul-mouthed internet attacks should be women and Christians. After all, our politically correct society has limited the targets. Who else can you call filthy names and be intolerant of except women and Christians?

My point is that we don’t have to let internet trolls take over our conversations, destroy our on-line communities and keep us from accomplishing what we want to accomplish with our blogs. We can stop them.

All we have to do is use that delete button.

  • Mark Shea

    The ban feature. Learn it. Love it. Live it.

  • Mr. V.


    on a different topic, I’ve tagged you for the blogathon award. :D You can read about it and pick it up here, if you like:

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thanks Steve!

  • Mr. V.

    On the topic of your post:

    I’ve yet to be visited by any trolls, Christian, atheist, or political. Granted, most of my posts are simply photographic posts, but still.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      It’s really not all that bad. You just have to remember that it’s not about you. It’s about them and their hatred of Christ. I think even most of the Obama Locusts fall into that category, based on the things they said. Getting virtually pummeled for my faith in Jesus is an honor and a gift.

  • Bob Seidensticker

    A meaningless comment whose purpose is just to drop an f-bomb is certainly worth deleting. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten one of those myself. (Plenty of insulting comments, of course, just none that are nothing more than foul language.) Perhaps a statement of how the internet treats men and women differently? Not a positive indication of the state of the internet.

    I understand your deleting those, of course. And I realize that this is your blog and you can delete whatever other comments you choose. But it is discouraging (the right word?) to see you deleting other comments that are merely antagonistic to your position. Even if you don’t feel like engaging with those commenters, they might argue among themselves.

  • Ted Seeber

    I’ve been attempting, sad to say, a bit of name calling myself, almost *exclusively* of male bloggers. The closest I can find is “rapist” and I had to redefine rape in light of both feminism and Catholic teaching to do it:

    Needless to say, among New Atheists whose highest sacrament is the orgasm and who utterly deny any morality beyond basic consent, this did not go over well.

  • abb3w

    I find the indication on older atheists quite surprising, given the Pew Forum and other demographic data pointing to atheism being nearly as youth-heavy as Iran, and the demographics of internet usage also generally though less extremely leaning to the young.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I don’t know Douglas. Maybe it’s just the atheists who live their lives as internet trolls who are the old grumps.

      • abb3w

        I strongly infer you have me confused with someone else– apparently, someone you have habitually removed, judging from the number of replies to missing comments that a Google search of your blog.

        I have never used “Douglas” as an alias anywhere, and my name is not Douglas. Furthermore, I’ve not ever used any other handle than “abb3w” on Patheos, not used any other handle anywhere that would allow it in the last five years, and been “abb3w” almost everywhere on the Internet, starting back in 1989 and the pre-WWW days of Usenet. Google yields over a million hits on “abb3w”, and will even turn up my real name with some patience.

        • abb3w

          (Sigh; “search of your blog yields“….)

      • Ted Seeber

        Doesn’t look like Douglas to me, he fails to refer to Catholicism as old superstition.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          I think you’re right Ted.

          • arkenaten

            Old superstition? I never said this, did I? Really?

    • Ted Seeber

      I think it isn’t so much atheists as “Nones” identifying as atheists. Another recent article I read here at Patheos said that the Nones were really leftover sexual revolution worshipers who couldn’t reconcile their hippie hedonism with traditional Christianity. Most of those are indeed going to be 40-70 years old at this point, and would fit Rebecca’s log profiles.

      • abb3w

        Well, there’s some of that type out there. (40 would be a bit young for a hippie, though; they’d have to be second generation.) However, that’s clearly not the bulk of the Nones, who are mostly too young by far; and two-thirds of younger “Nones” were raised in one or another Christian tradition, to boot.

        I also don’t think the claim about “leftover sexual revolution worshipers” has much empirical backing. Using the 2010 GSS for a quick check, someone who has had multiple sex partners has a relatively higher chance of lacking religious affiliation, but even among the Nones only about 1-in-5 has had multiple partners. Spreading to the 2000-2010 samples to allow a filter of those in the 1940-1970 cohort, less than one-in-eight “Nones” has had multiple partners — even among atheist and agnostics. Obviously, the commenters may be an unrepresentative sample, so you may be getting those few; but the basic thesis doesn’t hold.

        It seems there’s more empirical support for claiming common causation — that both the Nones and the bulk of the Hippies were people with relatively low authoritarian follower (RWA) personality tendencies. (See Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians”; Google turns up the free PDF pretty easily.) Hippies are pretty much the stereotype for low-RWA, and atheists tend to measure incredibly low.

        • Ted Seeber

          I could certainly agree with that! Yes, most nones I know of IRL are anti-authoritarian. All the worst Catholics I know are also anti-authoritarian (what’s weird is that I know almost equal numbers of anti-authoritarians on the political right as on the political left- the only difference is whether they like Fiscal Hedonism or Sexual Hedonism).

  • Sus

    I wouldn’t appreciate hate filled comments either. I do want to point out that “Romney Locusts” swoop down on liberal posts, use foul language and do everything that the “Obama Locusts” do. It isn’t one sided. Both sides have mean people supporting them.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Oh absolutely. You are right. Nasty nuttiness comes in every flavor.

  • tl

    Thanks for being big enough to experience the need for such a ‘delete’ button, use it wisely, and keep coming back! I am a beneficiary of your courage. I am grateful for you and to you.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you.

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  • Jessica Hoff

    Sorry you had to put up with that Rebecca. There are some trolls there who pick on women – misogyny added to stupidity is not a good mix.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Jessica, I tend to think misogyny and stupidity are synonymous!