It’s about the rise of dangerous trolling on the Net–no longer “just for lulz”–and how it’s contributed to the rise of Trump as well. This is because of the increasing acceptance in the modern “troll culture” for misogyny, racism, neo-Naziism, and the like.
“In a sense, we’ve managed to push white nationalism into a very mainstream position,” one anonymous white nationalist and Trump supporter told Olivia Nuzzi, writing at the Daily Beast. “Trump’s online support has been crucial to his success, I believe, and the fact is that his biggest and most devoted online supporters are white nationalists. Now, we’ve pushed the Overton window. People have adopted our rhetoric, sometimes without even realizing it. We’re setting up for a massive cultural shift.”
This, by the way, is one main reason why I do not allow comments on this website. It cuts off conversation, yes, but it also keeps out the trolls, especially on a site which discusses my own experiences of abuse and harassment.
I’ve seen plenty of this kind of behavior online, and now see the neo-Nazis all over the place on Youtube while researching WWII. I used to hang out on gaming sites and in IRC chats with my now-ex-friend Richard; the behavior I saw there was deplorable, but constant. It’s a main reason why I don’t hang out there anymore, or on forums like 4chan.
The following reminded me of Richard’s claim that my experience of sexual harassment from his online friends wasn’t “real” and that I was being ridiculous and just needed to “get over it”:
“The thing that’s so bizarre is this demarcation, IRL, in real life, versus some otherwise place known as the internet,” Phillips told me. “The thing about real life is that it pretty much subsumes everything. It’s not that the line is fuzzy. There is no line, and it makes no sense for there to be a line other than the fact that it’s often used as a post hoc justification for certain people’s terrible behavior.
“It becomes part of a sort of apology: ‘I didn’t actually hurt your feelings because I said it to you online.’ What the hell does that even mean? It’s just a way of perpetrators to hide behind technologies and language to justify them doing whatever it is they feel like doing that the rest of us apparently have to deal with.”
“Just because something happens in an online space doesn’t mean that it isn’t fundamentally connected to that person’s embodied identity and experience,” Phillips added. “Of course it is. You can’t go online if you don’t have a body.”
When trolls patronizingly suggest their targets become thicker skinned, avert their eyes from the torrents of abuse or simply step away from the computer, they’re attempting to diminish the very real consequences their bad—in some cases and states, criminal—behavior has on real people.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Phillips told me. “That you can just choose not to react emotionally and maybe if you weren’t so emotional then you wouldn’t be having these problems, so stop complaining. This is ultimately about you being too emotional.
“Think about the preponderance of this abuse that’s targeted specifically toward women and queer people and people of color. It’s very easy or comparatively easy for a white dude to be like, ‘Well then, just don’t take offense to racism.’ It becomes a mechanism of controlling, trying to police those sort of emotive boundaries of groups that have very real and embodied reasons for getting pissed off when they have to deal with certain kinds of content.”
I highly recommend this post.