We’ve Talked About This Enough, We Can Shut Up Now (Or, Don’t Feed the Trolls)

Continuing from the previous conversation

I’ve written about this before (Shut up about everything all the time unless what you have to say is HITLER!!!!) and it relates to the previously discussed topic, as Godwin-Scaping is a way to tell someone to stop talking. Richard Dawkins told Rebecca Watson that her comments were not about the repression of women by Islam, therefore she should shut up. Numerous Nuclear Power Apologists have told Ana Miller and me to Shut Up about Fukushima because more people die in automobile accidents world wide every day than were killed by radiation at that power plant. Recently, Rebecca Watson wrote about how being told to “not feed the trolls” might sound like friendly and helpful advice (and may even be meant that way sometimes) but it is actually just another way to tell people to shut up.

I’ve also referred to this as the “Watch the Monkey” strategy, as invented by the famous lawyer Johnny Cochraine. Well, for him, it was done with a glove, but South Park saw it differently:

And, during the early days of Elevator Gate I was told numerous times by many people that the discussion had been worn out, used up, was over and done with, had gotten boring, or needed to stop. I still hear that from people.

However, last time I checked, Rebecca Watson is still getting obnoxious emails including rape threats, and other bloggy colleagues and friends of mine are being told that this or that person would like to “kick them in the cunt” or other such niceties. So no, it is not done. It is not done until all that stops. Stopping this will probably require the transformation of our species to one that reproduces with parthenogenesis and the males mostly die off, because it is mostly the males laying on the crap that requires addressing, though it is not always the males calling for the conversation to end.

And now a word from George Carlin:

(Hat Tip: Jaf)

The American Civil War was fought over slavery, and we are still talking about it because there is still racism over the very issue. I don’t think conversations like Elevator Gate end. They simply become parts of other, newer versions of the same conversation.

This specific issue can also be considered against the broader backdrop of “Codes Of Conduct – Sexism, Skepticism And Civility Online.

Can you think of any counter examples? Aren’t we still discussing what people were whinging about in the Old Testament? Isn’t #Occupy closely related to some of the issues brought up in the Code of Hammurabi? We really should always be suspicious when someone comes along with the “we’ve had enough” argument, even if, as I suggested earlier, it is meant well. And, half the time, it isn’t.

And now … The Damage Richard Dawkins Did

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25 Responses to We’ve Talked About This Enough, We Can Shut Up Now (Or, Don’t Feed the Trolls)

  1. Celeste says:

    Same-sex marriage is an extension of several of the old arguments, all of which stem from a desire to control what people do in the privacy of their bedroom.

  2. Alecthar says:

    I’m not sure that “Don’t Feed the Trolls” really warrants inclusion here. As I often see it used, it’s an exhortation by reasonable members of an online discussion that people not engage in unproductive debate with a contrarian. Obviously the nutball viewpoint the “troll” holds must be addressed, in the sense that we must find a way to defeat it, but the “troll” themselves will never be satisfied or even interested in substantive discussion on the issue.

    For example, in speaking with an MRA, it’s virtually impossible that anything you say or do will convince them of the error of their position, but we must address that position via other means (law, education, etc.) to ensure that it is marginalized, prevented from affecting policy, and (hopefully) eventually disappears.

    TLDR: I don’t think that telling someone to avoid unproductive debate with intransigent jerks is necessarily the same as telling someone to shut up about a genuine issue.

  3. Greg Laden says:

    Alecthar, I would have agreed with your comment reading it in isolation a few months back, but I’ve come to see it slightly differnetly, and then, after reading Rebecca’s post (linked to above) …. well, obviously I was moved to write this post!

    But still, yes, there definitively are times when in fact it is better to not “feed trolls.” I guess a good way of putting it is this: Before you tell someone (who’s side you are on) to not feed the trolls (publicly) check with them first and see what their overall strategy is. Maybe the best thing for you to don in a given instance is to help with the process actively for a short time then step aside. Or maybe that person does need to stop but should hear that idea not as a challenge or admonition, but as a private conversation.

  4. Alecthar says:

    Greg, assuming I understand you correctly, I agree. I suppose I didn’t mean to offer a blanket pass to the saying itself, but rather the sentiment I was expressing. In the circles I usually run in, I often see “Don’t feed the troll” as a public, general exhortation, rather than a post directed at a particular person, where it might be more likely to be interpreted as a “challenge or admonition” (which is an interesting perspective on the issue I hadn’t considered till now). A case by case approach toward the prevention of troll feeding seems warranted.

    Also, apologies if I seem under-informed. I’m a newcomer to these online circles, so my background on surrounding community events is weak, and where I am currently, I can’t access the link to the post you’re referring too.

  5. Nice Ogress says:

    Aw. I miss George Carlin. :<

    There are a number of topics that – until this year, actually – I'd assumed could genuinely be put to bed:

    Anti-miscegenation laws are one. Loving vs. Virginia ruled that such laws were unconstitutional waay back in 1967, but every once in a while, a news article comes up about some idiot trying to revive the sentiment, either through local legislation or through community pressure, like church groups. Really? People still think mixed-race relationships are something bad? In the 21st century? Really?

    Child Labor protections are another. Newt Gingrich is actually running for president while suggesting repealing child labor law, and there was an attempt in Missouri to outright repeal labor protections last summer, though I don’t recall whether it got through or not. Again, this is the sort of thing that no sane person could look at and think was a good idea, but apparently sanity’s not required in governance.

    The lesson I draw from this is that one can’t ever really stop talking about such issues, even though we’ve won every debate, and by all rights the fight should be over. If you lay down your burdens, someone else will ever-so-quietly pick them up and try to make them legitimate issues again.

  6. John Horstman says:

    Hear hear! This conversation will not be over until sexism is dead and gone, which might be never.

  7. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    However, last time I checked, Rebecca Watson is still getting obnoxious emails including rape threats, and other bloggy colleagues and friends of mine are being told that this or that person would like to “kick them in the cunt” or other such niceties.

    This is absolutely f***ing unacceptable. It isn’t the rampant stupidity and short-sightedness of political leaders that make me despair for the future of the human race, but the host of people who look normal on the outside but are pathetic slimy insecure emotionally stunted little cowards with anger issues on the inside. They’re like a hidden infectious agent that are always there but swarm in huge numbers whenever there’s a hint of an injury, trying to make things worse.

    If anyone reading this has sent those sort of obnoxious emails or thinks that it is okay to send those type of emails, then you need to work to make the world a better place by jumping off a very tall building and removing yourself from this world so you don’t inflict more pain and suffering than you already have. If you’re unwilling to do that, then for god’s sake, get neutered so you don’t breed and spread your poison.

  8. Greg Laden says:

    Horsey, just come out and admit it right away if you are an MRA, please. No sense in dancing around the maypole here.

  9. phillydoug says:

    Greg: “It is not done until all that stops. Stopping this will probably require the transformation of our species to one that reproduces with parthenogenesis and the males mostly die off, because it is mostly the males laying on the crap that requires addressing, though it is not always the males calling for the conversation to end.”

    Truer words never spoken.

    Reading the misogynistic (and racist, and homophobic) crap that bubbles to the surface so quickly, during even seemingly innocuous on-line ‘discussions’, I alternate between despair and sheer fatigue.

    But it has to be called out.

    Here’s some sage words from someone I consider an authority on the unhealthy attitudes of men towards women, and not tolerating being told to ‘shut up’– bell hooks:

    “Usually adult males who are unable to make emotional connections with the women they choose to be intimate with are frozen in time, unable to allow themselves to love for fear that the loved one will abandon them… Often in their adult relationships these men act out again and again to test their partner’s love. While the rejected adolescent boy imagines that he can no longer receive his mother’s love because he is not worthy, as a grown man he may act out in ways that are unworthy and yet demand of the woman in his life that she offer him unconditional love. This testing does not heal the wound of the past, it merely reenacts it, for ultimately the woman will become weary of being tested and end the relationship, thus reenacting the abandonment. This drama confirms for many men that they cannot put their trust in love. They decide that it is better to put their faith in being powerful, in being dominant.”

    “I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”

    “No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”…No woman has ever written enough.”

    Don’t stop writing about this until the crap is eliminated, once and for all. And we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Anas and Rebeccas of the world for being willing to stand in the firing line.

  10. phillydoug says:

    Horsa: “Interesting analysis, Sigmund. How can we test your hypothesis?”

    You seem to have already performed an admirable job presenting yourself as a prototypical case study.

    Which aspects of your relationships with women, and attitudes towards them, would you care to discuss openly?

  11. julian says:

    Take issue with that all you’d like, but at least provide a fair description of what happened.

    That is what was said. His comment was even quoted in full on another of these threads. D.r. Dawkins dismissed it all as a non issue because it didn’t meet his threshold of worry and because he didn not believe an elevator was in anyway dangerous (as his push the stop button comment showed.)

    He dismissed every concern of rape and sexual assault expressed those posting. And he did so without ever engaging any of them in discussion. Why shouldn’t people be annoyed at that?

    This is exactly what I’m talking about when I describe “statements of overreaction” on this issue.

    Stop. You just bent over backwards for Richard Dawkins. Why have has your standard just changed?

  12. julian says:

    Horsa says this after mocking The Crommunist for discussing racism. You’re an idiot.

  13. julian says:

    Horsa, you know nothing about anything or anyone who’s blog you’ve commented on so far. Your commentary (brief as it was) on The Crommunist’s post alone shows how unwilling you are to engage with others and how ignorant you are of the topics they are discussing. Crawl back under your bridge.

  14. julian says:

    Actually, I prefer to bend over forwards for Richard Dawkins.

    So… not even going to think about the question, then? Got it.

  15. Greg Laden says:

    For the record, and speaking of trolls, our friend Horsa started to get out of hand, so I tossed his “name” on the moderation list, and this caused him to start posting innane comments in using other names and other methods.

    So, owing to his bad behavior a) he is no longer welcome here (a welcome he worked very hard to wear out) and b) only “trusted commenters” can comment.

    Thank you very much Horsa for ruining it for everyone. You are probably the same asshole who kept driving away from the pump without paying for your gass, too.

    Anyway, if you are a real commenter instead of one of the Winged Monkeys, and your comment is held in moderation, please be patient: I’ll free you and “approve” you as a commenter. There is a good chance you are already approved anway.

    Thank you and good night.

  16. Dunc says:

    Censorship at freethoughtblogs.com?

    No. Censorship and moderation are not even remotely the same thing, and the fact that so many people insist on confusing them is merely an illustration of how little censorship there actually is.

    When the government shuts down your own blog because of what you’ve posted there, or makes a deal with a major search engine to exclude all results containing certain keywords, that’s censorship.

  17. julian says:

    Horsa makes scores of off topic comments, insults the blog host and his friends, acts like a general jerk and gets put on moderation temporarily to stem the tide of o/t. This does not sit well with hir so xe tries to spam via sockpuppets. Finally this last action gets him banned (as it would almost anywhere) and this is cited by Chris Willet as censorship.

  18. phillydoug says:

    Greg: “our friend Horsa started to get out of hand, so I tossed his “name” on the moderation list, and this caused him to start posting innane comments in using other names and other methods”

    Do I get to take any credit for getting Horsa to reveal himself in his full glory?

    That’s really why I’m here, to take credit for things. That and getting misogynists fired up by tricking them into reading bell hooks.

  19. phillydoug says:

    Sjurður: “But if you do that against a target unapproved for “freethought” here, you get muzzled.”

    Can’t say this was the clearest sentence I ever read, but I gather you’re charging Greg with suppressing the comments of those who espouse certain points of view, presumably points of view that he dislikes, or are contrary to his own, or perhaps he singles out those who criticize him.

    And yet your comments, and those of Chris Willets, are allowed.

    Logic much?

    But keep up the fight for freedom against the forces of darkness! That is how you see youself, right?

  20. phillydoug says:

    Regin Smiður: “Doug, what exactly makes you think I’m a misogynist? Disagreeing with you?”

    Don’t remember an exchange with someone using the moniker you chose; I was referring to someone who called themselves ‘Horsa’, who among other things, took my invitation to discuss his actual “relationships with women, and attitudes towards them”, to regale us with an anecdote about a ‘MILF” he met. In a thread about the vicious, sexualized and demeaning treatment of women via the internet. Charming.

    Now, if you’re that same Horsa, well, I call you a misogynist because you show yourself to be one.

    If on the other hand, you’re not Horsa, but someone who thinks Horsa has been unfairly targeted for unpopular views, I’m wagering you’re also a misgynist, but you could be just disoriented, since you seem to think I was referring to you, when I have no idea who you are. Enlighten me.

  21. Munkhaus says:

    Hey Greg,
    “friends of mine are being told that this or that person would like to “kick them in the cunt”?

    Someone called Marilove at Skepchick posted :
    “If this was a real life conversation, you would have already been kicked in the nuts for being a condescending, rude asshole.”
    I trust you’ll be condemning that sexual violence threat too, to be consistent like.
    (PS have you apologised for calling Steff McGraw a rape apologist yet, you nasty little man?)

  22. Greg Laden says:

    Munkhaus, I promise to add all the things you want me to do to my list of things to do.

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