Say No to Troll Control

Pornographic photography in 1910s
Pornographic photography in 1910s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Drama Queens and Flame Wars

Oh, I guess it’s my turn to say stuff about this.

Back in my days working with the University of Minnesota Pagan organization, we would get our share of drama-seekers. ((Pagans, all religions, have mistakenly fed a lot of these troublemakers to the point where they have more voice than those who actually get things done.)) Since we were on a yahoo listserv (email group, for the newer netizens) we also got our share of spam. The students that ran it weren’t terribly vigilant about photo folders etc. a fair amount of spam got added. Usually the spam was pornographic.

The presence of the unwashed spam turned out to be useful for spotting drama-seekers. One woman posted an intro to the list serv. The next day, she posted (not quite verbatim) “I found porn in your photo files! I have children! What kind of people are you???”

Some of you will get triggered by the “OMG the children!” and that trigger – used quite deliberately – turns off the critical faculties to make you stop and think about what this poster was actually doing.

But for people like me who are not inclined toward the “What about the children????” tack since 95% of the children become adults no matter what we do to them I had a different response.

1. What on earth did her children have to do with finding the porn?
This was before the day of tablet computing, etc. If a kid got into her email accounts and started flipping through photos it had to, in some way, be because of either action or neglect on her part.

2. OK, there’s porn. She’d been issued the same rules we all had. Why did she post to the list instead of asking a moderator about them, first? Most people when they join a group try to feel it out and go to mods, etc. first or check rules to see what the deal is. Why, exactly, did she assume – or pretend to assume- that the porn was normal?

3. What kind of people are you?
Basically, she was leveling an accusation against every single person on the list in the “are you still beating your wife?” phrase. No matter what way a person answered, that person was stuck having to admit her established assumption/accussation that this group posted porn on the files.

4. Since most people only ever looked at the list from their email accounts and thus never saw the photos in question, it raised another question: why was she looking for this instead of reading the many emails distributed by the group?

I answered by asking her what sort of person she was, leveling an accusation like that without bothering to check group policies to see if it was normal first. She went straight to the “defend yourself!” for whatever disordered reason. She left promptly after my response and the group was better for it.

That’s how I handle trolls now, too. An honest question doesn’t use manipulation. “What about the children?” is only brought up when there are actually children directly involved. An emotion may prompt an action, but it must be mediated against actual fact finding. What this woman was doing was attempting to stop people in their fact finding and simply react to her.

Don’t give the trolls that kind of control.