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On The Care and Feeding of Trolls

Last night my friend Natasha talked about her recent experience of getting swarmed by Reddit. She did that one stage as part of the monthly Public School storytelling show that we put on, but it wasn’t a planned story as much as it was one of the little asides that the hosts do between the other storytellers.

She spoke honestly about how much it sent her into a spin… and then how she realized it was pretty much just 14-year old boys who were doing this.

The problem with things like Reddit mobs and the GamerGate horde is that they give cover and encouragement to deeply mentally ill people who are capable of hurting others. It feels lately like were are very close to an another incident where “internet hate” turns into a bloodbath.

Yet I can’t help but feel that our responses to this behavior, on the whole, are all wrong. It might be better if we were treating this like a mental health issue and attempting to deploy resources to pull the perpetrators of online harassment out of whatever dark spirals they’re in.

I know that it is necessary to publicize the dire threats that are being made when law enforcement doesn’t take them seriously. I also know that the attention that comes from that publicity only feeds the fire: it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Scorn hasn’t seemed to do much to diffuse these guys, as scorn just fuels righteousness. Pity, however, is never sexy, and is a tactic worth exploring. Because face it: this shit is just sad.