– by The Shitty Activist
If you’re an activist like me, you’re often riding through the social media landscape of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, armor agleam, broadsword in hand, embarking on dangerous quests and saving the townsfolk.
And that means you’ve probably come across your share of the most dreaded denizens of these wastelands: trolls. But what are trolls, exactly?
In storybooks, trolls are filthy, misshapen monsters who sulk under bridges and make a meal of passing goats. In the Internet’s enchanted forest, instead of making mayhem from under bridges, trolls wreak havoc from the comments section under articles, videos, and other posts.
Trolls express opinions that conflict with the person who posted the original article, viewpoint or video, and often others frequenting a particular website, page or group. When people react to a troll’s figurative shit-slinging, that’s where it gets its jollies. In fact, it’s the whole point of a troll’s miserable existence.
Let’s look at a few real life examples of classic troll behavior.
In a Facebook group called “Climate Armageddon,” of which I’m an admin, I wrote: “Let’s keep fossil fuels in the ground and transition to 100% renewable energy.” Most reactions were positive, a whole slew of likes and responses like “No more fossil fools!” and “Solar is sexy!”
Unfortunately, a passing troll was drawn to our scent and started growling contrarian nonsense like this: “Solar is great, but it only makes up 6% of electricity in the U.S. according to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Since 82% of our energy use comes from fossil fuels, the only realistic way we’re going to switch to renewables is by massively reducing our energy consumption.”
Outrageous, right? Typical trollspeak, saying anything—anything at all!—to try to get a rise out of diligent activists like us, in this case attacking renewable energy and endorsing the coal, oil, and natural gas industries!
If you want to spout a bunch of climate denying, pro-fossil fuels, anti-renewable energy malarkey, fine, but not in the “Climate Armageddon” group. F’ing troll begone!
I tweeted about a recent victory for a forest protection group I volunteer with where we protected 1,000 acres of alpine peaks, including dozens of miles of hiking trails and world-class views.
Tons of retweets and congratulations, some people posting their own pictures from the trails, and thousands of dollars of donations (including from a timber company, which shows we’re not just protecting forests, we’re converting people from the other side!).
But of a course a troll had to come along and piss on our party, tweeting about how our organization made a “backroom deal” with the Forest Service where we agreed not to sue them for their plans to log 5,000 acres of old growth forests in exchange for these 1,000 acres of “unloggable rocks and ice.”
Trolls are a lot of things—ugly, smelly, dumb—but one thing they’re not are political strategists. As proven by this ignorant tweet, trolls have no idea how politics work: how the only way to get a seat at the table and the foundation grants needed to run an organization is by giving a little to get a little.
I recorded a YouTube video endorsing the Democratic candidate for President. Most of the comments were positive, reminding everyone how important it was to get a Democrat in office to protect the ideals so many of us hold dear: the environment, peace, and economic justice. How we might not agree with our candidate 100% on every issue, but the alternative of four years of a Republican presidency was unimaginable.
But then a troll—a vile, toxic troll—had to throw a temper tantrum, spouting about how the Democrats only give “lip service” to our principles, how the two party system was “holding us hostage,” and that the only way to break free was to throw our vote away on a third party candidate…and ensure a half a decade under the heel of a nightmarish Republican dictator.
Now that I’ve given you a few examples of trolldom, you can figure out how to identify them yourself. But more important is how to deal with them, so listen up.
Under no circumstances are you to engage a troll!
If you do, you’re just encouraging it to make another one of its precious “points.” Either it’ll come in the form of a link to some study in some obscure scientific journal, a quotation from an “expert,” or some long, complicated explanation that no one in their right mind would waste their time reading.
Remember, attention is what trolls feed on, and what keeps them coming back for more, the way leaving trash outside attracts raccoons.
Finally, here is my four-step attack for slaying a troll.
Step #1: Delete, delete, delete!
If you are in charge of the website, Facebook group or page, or YouTube video where the troll comments, delete all its comments as soon as they are made, just as you would any other form of hate speech.
Step #2: Block
Like any good warrior, defend yourself against your enemy. Block this troll so you never have to be within arm’s length of its reek again!
Step #3: Ban
You might have protected yourself from the troll, but what about the defenseless townsfolk? In the case of a particularly aggressive troll on a Facebook group, you might have to exile it from the kingdom by banning it from the group.
Step #4: Report
The most heinous of trolls can’t be defeated by exile alone. After all, a troll can just hunker down under its bridge and lick its wounds until it’s ready to attack again. Which is why you sometimes need to report a troll to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, effectively calling on the King to chop the fucker’s head off.