"Disruptive trolling is essentially anti-freedom of speech"

Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon had a post last week articulating her opposition to censorship and how this fits with banning disruptive trolls from her blog.

Indeed, I would say disruptive trolling is essentially anti-freedom of speech, in that the troll wants to shut down certain conversations that he thinks shouldn’t exist here or anywhere. He’s denying the right of us to run a blog that communicates what we want to communicate. We have a right here to conduct conversations on our grounds, not just hand it over to some guy who has managed to hone his skills at shouting others down and making intelligent discussion impossible.

Emphasis mine.

I simply cannot agree with this more and I think it captures the dynamic seen in Fat Acceptance spaces extremely well. FA spaces should not be afraid to conduct our discussions on our standards, not the standards of anyone who waltzes in and starts throwing a tantrum at us. Concern trolling about "censorship" when its their behavior that is target the expression of people they don't agree with. They are trying to appropriate the platform and audiences others have built and use it to to attack the principles advocated by those communities.

This is what FA has seen time and time again with weight loss supporters and their abuse of fat acceptance communities and its something we should forcfully resist. No one has to agree with any of what we have to say, but that doesn't give them the right to redefine our beliefs to their liking. It doesn't give them the right to drown out our expression. Those kinds of things are forms of intimidation and they are not unique to Fat Acceptance. They are practically cliche. I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone abusively disrespect a progressive community all the while patting themselves on the back for their "bravery". There is nothing brave about disruptive trolling, nor is there anything cowardly by showing no toleration for that nonsense.

In the last 14 years I have seen so many fat acceptance communities destroyed by relentless disruptive trolling. Some have come from hardcore trolls who simply hate fat people. Others from concern trolling from dieters who cannot deal with the fact that not everyone supports weight loss dieting. Others still from foolish self-promoters who pick fights to "raise their profile". What they all share is a sense of entitlement and privilege to disrupt us and silence us all why insisting THEY are the victims. We cannot tolerate this. We need to move past it. Fat Acceptance has been unusually vulnerable to concern trolling, but we need to push back.

So, consider this my call to my community to not put up with people who want to shout us down. When they shout, shut them down. If you it is your space, just don't allow it. We could drown in this kind of petty snipping and lame feud baiting and we need to move past their efforts to define us and dictate the rules of debate to us. We don't allow such indulgences. We can't get lost sniping back, but if we cannot remove them we should still stand clear in our refusal to condone the disrespect and disruption. This really is about free speech, but not in the way they'd like us think.


Library Lady said...

This is dead on and I seriously can't agree more. This kind of trolling is like standard issue for the internet, it happens freaking EVERYWHERE, though it tends to be worse when it's on blogs or stories of controversial and/or emotional nature.

It's the big reason why I stopped frequenting several forums and the reason why I think a forum I won't name has become sort of "overrun" if you will. Every time the moderators tried to ban the known mega-trolls there was uproar from friends of the trolls harping and whining about free speech. I'm all for people voicing their opinions politely, but feel that a person's "My dad's dieing of lung cancer" thread is the wrong place to start harping on your vehemence for smokers.

I wrote a little journal entry a while back in an attempt to examine trolling and I came to the same conclusion you have. Trolls ARE trying to silence whoever it is they're trolling, whether it's intentional or not, and no amount of "I'm just trying to voice my opinion, but YOU'RE being super narrow-minded" whining changes that. And nobody should have to deal with it.

Sleepydumpling said...

Thank you for this post Brian. I get a lot of heat from the "ZOMG YOU'RE CENSORING ME!" trolls who have basically come on to my blog to either argue or just be hateful. It drives me pretty nuts.

I am always amazed that trolls seem to think that they have the right to just say whatever they like on someone else's blog. As I always say, a blog is not necessarily a democracy. Mine is a dictatorship and yours truly is the dictator!

Brian said...

Word. We just cannot take seriously those who complain about how we are censoring their obviously superior arguments when their argument consists of calling us cows. Which I swear just happened here yesterday. You want to call us cows, fucking do it on your own damn blog. No one is stopping you. Don't tell me I need to play host to that. Because it really isn't you or me or any blogger that they want to hear their hate. Its the readers WE have developed. Its our audience they want to commandeer. Well screw that. Find your own damn audience for your brilliant name-calling or feud picking.

Sleepydumpling said...

Oh God, you're so right. Thank you, because I've been letting it get to me. Thanks for articulating what I've been feeling.

Anonymous said...

My blog was destroyed by excessive trolling, even though I had the most strict control over it. When I incorporated Disqus, I had people registering full profiles just so they could get through to insult me.

Needless to say, it got to the point where I had a mental breakdown. I ended up attacking the fat acceptance community as a way to feel better about my doubts - and that post was stolen off my blog and posted to one of the nastiest fat haters blogs known to humanity. All they could talk about is how they defeated another "strong" voice in the FA community, and how I should just embrace my gluttony and physical ugliness - because that is what "real" fat people do. Ugh.

I've been silenced for over two years now, but I'm working on a new blog that is more about my personal struggles. I know I've hurt feelings and stepped on toes with my foolish behavior.

wriggles said...

Hey, Sarah, I have an idea of what you are talking about, I think. I hope you can let go of feeling bad (and forgive yourself I don't think you need to, but you might!). I'm sorry to hear that it affected you so badly and glad to know that you are still around.

We are none of us perfect and many of us have come from a long way. During all this, we were a lot more vulnerable, even than we realised under such an onslaught.

The most important thing is that you, we, still tried and that's why we are still here. Be proud of surviving and hanging in there the best way you could.

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