Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Devil You Love

Just as a heads-up, some nasty language to follow.

A Redditor discovered her husband was viciously trolling people online and refuses to stop.
Pregnant Woman Discovers Husband Is Vile Reddit Troll Who Won't Stop
This being from Reddit and all, as the article points out, this story of Dr, Jekyl and Mr. Hyde may be entirely bogus, a person creating a tale of hard-trolling misery as a way of more softly trolling the Reddit community. You can check it for yourself, and see if it passes your sniff test.

As with so many things on the Internet these days, the article has to share the limelight with the comments section. And I think that it splits the insight with it, as well.

A few commenters openly speculate that the alleged troll, who is accused of "harassing teenagers on tumblr. Telling them to kill themselves, calling cute girls ugly and fat and stupid, etc," among other examples of online heinousness and would rather leave his pregnant wife than stop "lets off steam online" because he and his (now presumably ex-) wife only fought, on average, once every three years. (One wonders if one of these incidents was his walking out on her over his wanting to continue trolling people.)

As one commenter put it: "Yeah I think that's part of the problem. He lets out steam on the net because he can't release IRL."

But it's not just the peanut gallery on Jezebel that is handing out passes. According to the story, the man's own wife, despite being "completely horrified" at her husband being "A really fucking nasty troll," and baring the story to the Reddit community, won't share his username, even though she claims that in the real world, he's "a nice, gentle man who is supportive and kind" and that she's not afraid of him, and thus apparently has no fear of violent reprisal.

In the Jezebel article, Rebecca Rose points out: "We often picture trolls as isolated shut-ins who lack the social skills to form meaningful bonds with other people, hence the need to attack others anonymously online." But, perhaps just as importantly, do we also view them as carrying their trolling as carefully-guarded secret because they fear what others would think of them if they were outed? Are the questions: "But what if that's not the case? What if our image of trolling is completely wrong?" just as valid?

Maybe, "If we're being real here," it's fairly likely that trolls rely on the love, understanding and excuses of people who hate (or at least moderately dislike) the sin, but care enough about the sinner that they don't want to see them censured. Which is understandable. The internet hordes have threatened people with death and (depending on your point of view) worse for far less than leaving "horribly mean comments" that are "filled with racist slurs [and] awful insults" for "all kinds of people."

When we see someone defend a loved one charged with a crime as a loving and caring person, it's easy for us to sneer - and the internet community often seems to compete for who can be the most dismissive of the idea that good people do bad things. But I wonder how often it's just a matter of it being someone else - the idea that "evil" only wears faces you don't care about. How much does the collective we allow it to thrive because protecting people close to us from accountability is worth more to us than protecting those far from us from predation?

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