Quinn Norton: Trolling, “Men Are Raised To Hate Women” and Other Confusing Statements.

They See Me Trollin'

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

Or

B: Go unexplained by the person responsible

To twitter!

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.

1

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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

56Which, in short means “She didn’t say all men”,  Which links back to my initial assumption about generalisation.

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.

8

I make the point that clarity is important when making such seemingly sweeping generalisations on what is a global news network.

9

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:

finished

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.

GS

**UPDATE** – In The Interest Of Clarity

47 comments

  • I do love the “I’m too busy for…(insert word here)” reply. The implication being that their time is more important than other people’s. It’s not, of course. What she might mean is that she is too lazy or does not have a reasonable response. We are left to guess her real reasons for refusing to answer the question.

    This is how I see the “report for abuse” button working out – Twitter is run by algorithms, very few humans actually trouble to check accounts or deal with problems. You can email Twitter for weeks and only ever receive auto responses. If a certain number of people report an account for spam, for example, it is automatically suspended, and no human checks are made unless you approach Twitter, repeatedly – and it still takes many days for them to sort out the mess, even when they admit their error.

    There is no reason to believe the report for abuse button will be any different. It will become a “report for the fact that you have annoyed me/embarrassed me/I disagree with you/I find you offensive button.” and a certain number of reports will trigger automatic suspension of an account. Really, the sheer volume of Twitter users precludes any other outcome, the amount of staff they would have to employ to police such a button properly would be ridiculous.

    Not to worry, if the site becomes too much hassle to use another site will pop up and take its place and we’ll all move over there. Remember MySpace? Hmm, me neither…

    • “I do love the “I’m too busy for…(insert word here)” reply. The implication being that their time is more important than other people’s. It’s not, of course”

      Pro tip: You are not owed a personal explanation for every little curiosity, question, or moment of confusion that pops into your head. A modicum of consideration would make it clear to you as to why this is the case; it’s an approach that does not scale. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people saw the clip in question. Asking her to personally respond to every ‘polite request’ would mean that she did nothing but repeat the same clarification over and over again for weeks.

      In context, her meaning was clear. If it wasn’t clear to you, checking her timeline would have clarified it.

      Since I stepped in to make fun of a particularly virulent troll six days ago, my @replies have been clogged with people asking the same polite questions over and over again. The conversation has moved on, gents. Catch up. Take some responsibility for your education.

      • “men are raised to hate women” is a generalised statement, it does not necessarily mean “all”, and it does not require “all” to be general. I could make the statement “dogs have tails”, it would be a general statement, it would not necessarily be disproved by an example of a dog having no tail. However the wording does indicate that dogs in general have tails, and dogs without tails are an exception.

        A statement broadcast on a television news source should not require someone or everyone to go check the person’s twitter account for clarification.

      • “The conversation has moved on, gents.”

        Ummm…some of us are women.
        I read some excellent contributions to the convo by @lizziek34 for example.
        Embarrassing slip-up given the topic of the discussion?

      • Perhaps when quoting me you could simply respond to what I said, rather than inserting your own points and responding to those. Nowhere did I say I was owed a personal explanation for anything, simply pointed out the undeniable fact that her time is no more important than anyone else’s. Strangely, she did nevertheless find the time to tweet repeatedly on the subject, when one tweet with an explanation would have covered it. But no clarification was included in those tweets.

        Her meaning was not clear. At no point has she clarified it, at least not since the last time I looked at her TL, yesterday. Please feel free to add a link to any article, tweet or anything else Ms Quinn has provided since then which clarifies what she meant, since her own original statement remains unclear. As, Quinn Norton has refused, for her own reasons to provide one, we are just left to fill in the blanks, so any updates would be appreciated.

        How nice for you that you have moved on. Although puzzling then that you chose to respond to my comment. Of course, you would not be silly enough to try to tell other people that they have no right to ask a polite question and wonder about clarification of a blanket statement, simply because you are satisfied with no explanation.

        I am not a gent, just for the record, but a 45 year old woman. Pro tip, don’t make assumptions about strangers.

      • “Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people saw the clip in question. Asking her to personally respond to every ‘polite request’ would mean that she did nothing but repeat the same clarification over and over again for weeks.”

        Invalid. She hadn’t even made the clarification once. If she had, this article wouldn’t even be necessary.

    • Annoying that my commas appear to be out of control. Which is what comes from typing on a small screen earlier.

  • Interesting story. It highlights my concern that this new feature will be grossly abused, but we’ll apparently have to wait to find out whether or not Twitter is going to invest any real time in investigating the reports before suspending accounts.

  • Well written sir. As always, (and not to sound like too much of an ass-kisser) it’s a pleasure to read your posts.

    Cheers from Texas!

    – Zane Murry

  • I’d hope the ‘report abuse’ function would recognize that an account like @gspellchecker has 48K followers and thus is highly unlikely to be a troll (whereas troll accounts generally have a few dozen followers).

    As for Quinn Norton’s interactions with you I would suggest that it is perhaps the anonymity of the @gspellchecker account that leads people to conclude that you are trolling. Perhaps they perceive that you are “hiding behind a stop sign” while the rest of us participate authentically as ourselves.

    Having said that, those of us who regularly follow your tweets and appreciate the intelligence and sincerity of your content recognize your posts as legitimate, reasonable and informed.

    • I used to engage in discussions with my real name & photo for this very reason. Now as a result of civil tweets similar to GS’s my name is listed on the block bot, which Newsnight referred to as a list of “abusers” and people who send rape threats etc. My real name. My real identity. Publicly associated with people who threaten murder.

      I doubt I will ever use my real name again online outside of Facebook.

      • And of course, she only had to read the tweets to see he was not trolling. Assuming every polite questioner is a troll says a lot more about her than it does about GS.

  • I interpreted her comment at the 1:20 mark to mean “all men are raised to hate women”. I played it to my partner and he did too. It’s a reasonable interpretation for an English speaker to make, I believe.

    I understand why you’d assume, as I did, that she didn’t (couldn’t!) mean generally and I agree it’s a valuable exercise to ask for clarification, given the interview was on a global news network, thus exposing her statement to many people who don’t read her twitter timeline.

    As someone described in the clip as a journalist who has studied trolls, to then accuse you of trolling, seriously damages her credibility for me.

  • She seems to take herself a little too seriously, and some of her replies were downright uncivilised.

  • “seemingly sweeping generalisations” entirely apropos of nothing, one of my favorite saying is “People who make generalisations are all f****wits”

  • 1) Where did the assertion come from that you added the word “all” before her actual words? I don’t see that anywhere. You didn’t. You quoted her correctly throughout.

    2) This conversation reminds me of another recently where you said that mysogny and sexism were different things, and the counter party called this “stupid”, where she clearly wasn’t aware that gender discrimination can, and does, go both ways.

    3) I also contributed to this debate on Twitter. Without “all” (which nobody actually used…) the comment is still unfair, indeed sexist. It paints a very broad sector of people in a negative way – wrongly I might add – based on gender. This is wrong.

    4) Rather than refusing to apologise for her clearly incorrect statement, and had she just clarified and said she believes this to be true about “some men”, that would have been appropriate I’d have accepted that to (sadly) be true.

    5) The accusation of “trolling” highlights another important issue, that people simply think they can apply the term whenever somebody simply disagrees with their point of view. I too worry about how the planned “abuse” button will be used, hopefully it will include a mandatory tutorial for people who abuse it.

    6) keep up the good work GS, always a pleasure reading your stuff 🙂

  • For someone who has claimed to have spent years studying internet trolls and has been the subject of abuse herself, she seems very lacking in knowledge on the field. To accuse genuine inquisitive tweets as trolling is quite frankly absurd.

    It is evidently obvious that she was unable to answer the above questions and so to save her reputation, she whimpers away and deflects by exclaiming “TROLL”. It is quite clear that there was no trolling whatsoever.

    Unfortunately for her, her credibility has now gone completely out the window.

  • I had an exchange with Norton that, while considerably briefer, was the same thing. It’s a viscous cycle for people like her. They decide that nothing a troll ever says is worth listening to, while simultaneously assuming that anyone who disagrees with them is a troll. Indirect infallibility.

    Great post.

  • Completely agree, no one could objectively look at this and say that GS was trolling. GS was polite and civil throughout and was making a perfectly reasonable challenge. Why do some people find it so hard to simply put their hand up and say: “Yeah, sorry I didn’t express myself very well there. I meant to say this instead”? Labeling someone a troll is easier but is probably counter productive in the long run.

    As an aside the slightly patronising Zombie metaphor is flawed anyway. To quote:

    “The problem is: People are being bitten and turned into Zombies.

    Now, if this was a reasonable person, they would talk with you about how and when people are being turned into Zombies and you’d come up with some ideas on how to deal with that problem.
    If this was an idiot or a troll, they’d instead say:

    You stated that all people are being bitten and being turned into Zombies”

    I’m not sure that’s the case. The first thing a reasonable person would do, is exactly what GS did and very politely ask the question:

    “Wait, what? How many people are being bitten and turned into Zombies?”

    Without any idea about the scale of the problem, any plans you formulate to address it are meaningless.

  • If you are going to accept a platform such as News Night you should probably chose your words very carefully and if you make a controversial assertion you should be prepared for some clarification questions. If the statement is defensible there is no reason not to explain the where and how; if it’s not you should be prepared to modify or withdraw it and apologise as appropriate.

    To do neither of these but to shout “Troll” in response to legitimate and polite enquiry is not only intellectual cowardice it is grossly irresponsible. Trolling is a genuine and dangerous activity that the online community needs to bring under control. Ms Norton’s misused of the term is insulting to those that have suffered the real thing and does little to advance the situation.

    We often see people throw out emotive labels when their cherished position is questioned and they have no logical or rational argument. You can be accused of Anti-Semitism of you are critical of Israel, Islamophobia if you question some Muslim practices or Misogyny if you take issue with a feminist position to name but three.

    Their intention is to shut you down, to demean you and to invalidate your position; and it sounds a bit like trolling to me when it’s put it like that.

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    • Hi. This is inaccurate. I never at any moment added an ‘all’ or misquoted. A revision would be appreciated, unless you can highlight something I’m unaware of.

      Kind regards

      GS

  • I honestly thought the editing on the BBC show was poor. It was edited to make Quinn look, well, anti men. Now we’re all supposed to be smart enough to figure out what was edited. It was obvious to me something was. The sad part to me of the BBC is that not everyone that watches TV is going to go to the twitter page and say “oh that explains what was edited!”. Not having “all” in there is important, but I think I blame the BBC more than anyone else. To them this was “if we edit this properly, it will be more dramatic!” (or should I say improperly). I heard there was also more information about the levels. If they had included a few more seconds, it would have been a balanced report that while some people would have still been upset, most people would be “oh this seems fairly reasonable, three levels for THOSE MEN that have been raised poorly. And other levels just for those that annoy us.” Clearly. instead the BBC is like any other TV program, edit for the most drama, instead of full clarity.

    • I disagree. And so does Quinn. Your concern was my initial one, that I made to her (abridged?). However, If you read the blog she confirms herself that the segment provided sufficient context.

      GS

    • It’s possible that the Beeb did a bad job on the edit although the item was supposed to be about dealing with Trolls with Ms Norton providing an expert opinion; I don’t really see what they gain by discrediting her. But assuming the edit did distort her contribution why is she so reticent to set the record straight and take the opportunity flame the BBC, so often a target of sexism accusations?

  • For more context, note that Quinn Norton was being hit with many tweets like those from the author of this blog and was clearly getting exasperated with them. Her other tweets from the time of the News Night piece make clear she did not mean “all” and the scope of her remark was specifically directed at the question of the men who are abusive and harassing on Twitter, which was the context in which she made her statement.

    The principle of charity of interpretation (as expressed in, e.g., the works of H.P. Grice and Donald Davidson) says that we should first try to understand the remarks of others by trying to find the most reasonable interpretation of what they say. If your first question had been “when you say ‘men are raised to hate women’, you’re just referring to those who engage in this kind of online abuse, right?”, you might have gotten a different reaction from the one you did.

    • And this would require some sort of psychic ability, I assume, since I was clueless towards her meaning. Hence my fair question.

      You’ll notice my opening question clearly indicates my willingness towards benefit of the doubt in regards to generalisation.

      How is a clear, polite and direct question a failure to try and understand one’s remarks?

      • You still don’t understand the zombie analogy? You didn’t bother looking at her other tweets to other people about this? I don’t understand why you still don’t understand.

        • I do understand the analogy. However she didn’t present a Zombie analogy on a global network, did she? She made a seemingly blanket generalisation.

          I should have checked her timeline? So others found this confusing too then? And here’s me thinking a reasonable question was perfectly reasonable. Even if any of your points held weight (they don’t), it doesn’t explain the willingness to throw out ‘trolling’ when questioned in this manner.

      • The zombie analogy doesn’t work – in fact, if anything, it backs up GS’s position, because it uses different words: it says “men are being bitten by zombies”, not “men are bitten by zombies”.

        If Norton had said “men are being raised to hate women” her meaning would have been much clearer. As with the zombie analogy, this would have clearly not have meant all men.

        “Men are bitten by zombies” would be a bizarre statement – it would imply all men, but that just wouldn’t make sense in that context.

        Let’s use some other examples. “Cats are predators” would clearly mean all cats.

        Or how about one that many women / feminists rightly get annoyed about: “women are bad drivers”. Is that an acceptable statement? Do you think “most” is implied there?

    • White people are raised to be racist. Would that be an acceptable statement to make on television or would you ask for for clarification?

  • A great article. I do feel there needs to be some kind of protection from genuine hateful trolling, but fear it will be open to abuse and actually undermine the issue through scaremongering. As a gay man I see this with the homophobe card being pulled all to readily at times, which just feeds those genuinely spreading the hate that we all fight against.

    In terms of the news night item, I see this as very poor journalism. Her twitter feed may be full of questioning regarding the item, but that is all it is. To condemn such questioning as trolling is as poor of a judgement as that of not correcting the news night item before broadcast.

  • I’ve seen the statement “men are raised to hate women” somewhere before – on feminist blogs (tumblr mainly). Based on what I’ve seen, this whole episode is not surprising. They have their own kind of “shorthand” and are not too great at always being precise with definitions.
    To me Quinn Norton sounds very much like someone who subscribes to the feminist notion of gender oppression dynamics or Patriarchy. Whether or not you agree with this, the theory’s all about men being responsible for most of the problems in society. The “logical” argument would go something like:
    – Men created patriarchy
    – Patriarchy oppresses women
    – Therefore men oppress women
    Forgive me if I’m paraphrasing. So when they say “men” it’s not clear whether they mean men generations ago, men nowadays, all men, some men, or just the men in power (multinational CEOs, Dictators, Presidents etc). Are we supposed to feel guilty for this? Different people have different interpretations.
    I would guess the statement “men are raised to hate women” is another incarnation of the Patriarchy narrative. I would interpret it as “Too many men are not being educated enough in respecting women when they’re young, and as adults are being exposed to (or partaking in) the harmful effects of Patriarchy which views women as objects without abilities / opinions of their own”.
    It’s a bit of a distance from the actual words used. It was a lazy shorthand in my view. I’m not saying I necessarily disagree with their theory though.
    I don’t get into conversations with feminists about such things. You always risk being called a troll if you question them much.
    But you’re no troll GSPellcheker. Your behaviour throughout this was exemplary!
    Oh, and talking about the block bot: If you don’t want to be blocked by the Atheism+ BlockBot, don’t mention Atheism Plus, atheism + or similar, especially not with negative words. All too easy to get on the level 3 “annoyance” level.

  • Can I add that my children, a son and a daughter, are being raised by both a man and a women. Is it my wife that is also teaching our children to hate women, or is it just me?

    Does this also mean that we are raising my daughter to hate herself?

    My main annoyance with “The Statement In Question” is not the generalisation of the quantity, but rather about the word “raised”.

    Does she mean “parents are raising their children to hate women” or “parents are trying to raise their children in a society that hates women”?

    Jimbos interpretation:

    “Too many men are not being educated enough in respecting women when they’re young, and as adults are being exposed to (or partaking in) the harmful effects of Patriarchy which views women as objects without abilities / opinions of their own”

    is one that I can get behind, and had Qinn taken the time to express herself fully (assuming the above is an accurate interpretation) I would have been behind her.

    My son (almost 8) has just read what I have written and said “but I don’t hate Pip”. I know have to somehow explain all this to him :~/

  • To those defending what she said (or more importantly that she refuses to clarify/justify the statement), would you hold the same opinion if she had said

    “black people are raised to be criminals”

    “Jews are raised to be cheap”

    “Women are raised to be whores”

    ?

    It is undoubtedly true that SOME black people are raised to be criminals. I don’t doubt that SOME Jews are raised to be cheap. Nor would I be surprised if SOME women were raised to be ‘whores’. But if I heard any of the above statements made authoritatively on a news program, I would be deeply offended, and would expect the person making the statement to bend over backwards to clarify what they said if it did not come out how it was meant or was edited in a way that altered the meaning.

    If you are offended by the above statements, but not offended by

    “Men are raised to hate women”

    then you clearly think that men, as a group, can be treated in a way that it is not okay to treat other groups of people. This is misandry.

  • Another great post!
    Words have meaning. Use them wisely. Sweeping generalisations are way too common in our everyday communications.

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  • Can’t comment, too busy teaching the local boys how to hate women.

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  • Her phrasing was pretty sloppy. I’v read the transcripts and most if not all the twitter conversation about it and found no redeeming context plausible. It’s like Bill O’Reilly going on The View and saying that “muslims” attacked the US on 9/11 then backtracking and saying that he only meant terrorists.

  • Very much enjoyed this post. Reblogged it to mine.

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