Quinn Norton: Trolling, “Men Are Raised To Hate Women” and Other Confusing Statements.
Twitter has been big news of late, with reports that they plan to implement an abuse reporting function. I’ve been asked a few times what my thoughts are on the matter, and I’m all for it.
Threatening and unlawful behaviour is completely unacceptable and those who engage in such a manner should be held accountable. I displayed my willingness to side with this sentiment recently by reporting a clearly threatening tweet (not to me) to the police.
My only concern is: how will this be regulated? Will Twitter have the manpower (or women!!!!!) to efficiently distinguish abusers and trollers from genuine disagreement or attempts to engage in meaningful discourse? Given the vast numbers of Twitter users and the seemingly unrealistic task of policing it, is it likely to be an unmanned, automated process? An algorithm simply reacting to multiple ‘abuse reports’? Only time will tell.
‘Troll’ seems the buzzword of late. The problem is, that “troll” in the context of the internet has no unified definition. I personally take trolling to mean the act of intentionally making insincere statements to an individual, or individuals in order to provoke a response, or as they would call it, a “victory”. Others use it simply to describe an individual who seeks out arguments online.
I’m trolled daily in the former sense. People will tweet me en masse with clearly disingenuous statements in the hope that I may respond. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. It often depends on how dull my commute to work is that morning.
There also seems to be a small, but persistent gaggle of people who dedicate themselves to ‘atheist bating’, whereby they will say something incredibly ignorant/insulting about atheists online in the hope of provoking a reaction. They then receive such a reaction, and decide this means atheists are stupid.
I liken this behaviour to a digital version of feigning a punch and shouting “MADE YOU FLINCH!”, except the requirement of knowing actual people isn’t necessary.
I’ve sent over 36.4k tweets on twitter. Most of which are challenging badly spelled aggressive, abusive or downright confusing statements at the expense of atheists. Not one of my tweets has contained a single expletive (unless quoted), a threat or anything I feel could reasonably be characterised as ‘abuse’. Why? Because it’s not the kind of person I am. Because I’m genuinely interested in discussion. Why do people say these things? How can they not know the things I know, given my average level of education? Why do people with the least understanding, have the loudest mouths and the worst spelling?
I mock. I ridicule. I’m sarcastic. I lose no sleep over this, yet regardless of my commitment to predominantly civil discourse I’m frequently labelled ‘abusive’, ‘a troll’ or even more absurdly, ‘a bully’. It annoys me to no end that the serious issue of bullying is trivialised when used so cheaply as nothing more than a safety blanket to shield those who do not wish to have their idiotic statements questioned.
Moving on to a recent exchange with Quinn Norton, self-described ‘journo’ and ‘activist’.
I came across this Newsnight piece on YouTube, and at 1:20 she makes the statement “Men are raised to hate women”.
I was awaiting further expansion and clarity in the clip, post-hyperbole, but it was not forthcoming. Coming from a family which contains a lot of female and male role models, which have been invaluable as to instil a sense of fairness into me since I was Godless Nappy Filler, this left me scratching my head somewhat.
I was genuinely curious. Was there some study I missed? Where the Ray Comfort are men in the general sense she implied being taught to hate women? Is it all men? Most men? Some men? If so, which? Clarity is needed, especially when made so casually on the BBC, a global news network. Surely it would be unfair and irresponsible to allow such a comment to:
A: Be broadcast with such insufficient context, were it given
B: Go unexplained by the person responsible
This statement was made publicly, by a ‘journalist’, so I decided to ask them directly. Perhaps you can spot the moment this becomes trolling, as I’m still curious.
This response confused me and encouraged me almost immediately. It was implied there was a piece to be read, which i hadn’t seen, which is great, as that would surely shed light and some context on the statement.
Again. More confusion. More encouragement. Firstly, I was confused that they would suggest the NN (Newsnight) segment had enough context, as the statement had no clarification or expansion whatsoever. Was the segment I saw abridged? Who is @doingitwrong? and what does this have to do with the undead? First I had to ask @doingitwrong.
Then I proceeded to send @quinnorton some follow-up questions (including the clip I’d seen) about their claim of sufficient existing context and being busy. Notice the consistent politeness and reasonable questioning.
I was then gifted with the zombie analogy. (click the image if it is not displaying properly) Please note that the ‘you’ stated in the image isn’t a reference to me, but a reference to a so-called previous ‘troll’. This was made clear to me by its creator at the time of sharing, who felt it would be helpful regardless.
Of course, this analogy is flawed. The addition of the word “being” is not an honest comparison to the actual statements made. She didn’t say “men are being raised to hate women”. A fair comparison would be “men are bitten by Zombies”, which again, would generalise most, if not all men and make no sense in the context of the undead either.
I make the point that clarity is important when making such seemingly sweeping generalisations on what is a global news network.
I’m then oddly accused of trolling. You’ll notice the “.” at the start of the tweet, ensuring her labelling me as a troll is seen by all 11k followers. How is this a reasonable reaction to my questions? I, up until that point had made my tweets directly, to avoid/limit other voices from potentially derailing from an issue I was genuinely curious about. As counterproductive and unpleasant as trolling is, I would submit that being labelled a troll to 11,000+ people for little more than polite questioning is irresponsible, and may be damaging to one’s online reputation, given the almost universal contempt for trolls in the ‘online community’.
We ended on:
To summarise, how can someone who’s considered an authority enough on trolling to be granted a platform on a global news channel, miss the mark so easily on the very issue they’re supposed to be informed on? And if they can, what hope does Twitter have of regulating the issue?
I’m still in the dark about what “Men are raised to hate women” means. Perhaps it’s my own fault. Engaging in polite, clear and honest discussion on a social network clearly was not the way to go. Back under my bridge I go, to rethink.