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Don’t feed the trolls

Ever since Internet blogs allowed comments, there has been a particularly nasty, vile group of people that visit the comments sections of blogs, post inflammatory comments to provoke others and move on when they have derailed the conversation. Usually the rationale for doing this is to disrupt the blog or to get some publicity for themselves. The process is known as trolling. The remedy is ‘don’t feed the trolls’ – ignore them.

It’s probably wasn’t a surprise to many when the offensiveness of new Senator Fraser Anning’s maiden speech in the Senate was reported as being deliberate. The Monthly’s Paddy Manning laid out the process in his daily email a couple of days after the speech was made. Briefly the concept behind the speech was to ‘out Hanson Hanson’ thus gaining free publicity and potentially longevity in the political system. In other words, Anning is trolling the Australian public.

Hanson’s particular brand of racism has allowed her to suck at the public teat of election funding for a quarter of a century. As Anning was born in 1949, his time in public life probably won’t run to 25 years, which is a blessing. Anning only got a seat in the Senate because he was third on the One Nation Senate ticket in Queensland at the last federal election. When the somewhat ‘strange’ Malcolm Roberts was ruled illegible for the Senate seat he occupied (remember he was the one that claimed he renounced his UK Citizenship by email without confirming the correct email address), Anning was nominated to fill the breach. Between the time of his call up to the Senate and his first appearance in Canberra, he ditched his alliance with Hanson’s One Nation and formed a ‘loose’ alliance with Senators Bernardi and Leyonhelm. By the time he read his ‘maiden’ speech, Anning had ditched them and joined Katter’s Australia Party. While Anning might have had some input, the speech was written by Roberts’ ex-speech writer.

Hanson lined up with Turnbull, Shorten and a host of others to condemn the speech by Anning. And it should be condemned as it is factually wrong according to Fairfax. It was also deliberately provocative, crude, racist and disgusting. The problem with Hanson et al condemning it is that they all have skin in using racism and hatred for political gain. Hanson’s ‘disapproval’ is disingenuous at best as her organisation was the one that put Anning in the Senate. Hanson’s comments were also probably a warning shot to ‘get off her turf’. Turnbull oversees the current inhumane policies towards refugees imposed by the Australian Government and his party’s current ‘elder statesman’ — John Howard — was the first to use the plight of refugees to win an election. Shorten doesn’t make treatment of refugees a point of difference between the ALP and LNP. Keating’s ALP Government introduced the concept of detention while refugees were ‘processed’. Pot – meet kettle. Demonstrating the point, as Paddy Manning wrote:

Within hours of denouncing Anning yesterday, Hanson introduced a bill backing the immigration plebiscite he’d proposed in Tuesday’s speech. Likewise, after decrying racism yesterday, as Andrew Wilkie tweeted, Labor and the Coalition “ganged up in Parliament to strip the rights away from 1,600 asylum seekers who’ve been illegally detained”. Only Wilkie, the Greens’ Adam Bandt and independent Cathy McGowan voted against the government’s legislation to retrospectively validate the excision of Ashmore Reef from Australia’s migration zone. Today Cory Bernardi tabled a 15,000-signature petition from the Halal Action Movement and moved a motion against Australia joining the UN’s Global Compact for Migration. It has to end.

So while the ‘shock and horror’ of Anning’s speech was still fresh in everyone’s minds, various politicians that were ‘outraged’ demonstrated that their words are cheap.

Unfortunately the trolls like Hanson, Anning and others such as Katter, Bernardi and Leyonhelm are seeking personal aggrandisement at your expense. It is far easier to attract followers by picking on a group such as Africans, non-Christians or those from the Middle East that don’t have the public recognition enjoyed by the trolls, blaming the group for some problem such as lack of employment for those from a low social-economic background and falsely claiming cause and effect.

It is base politics for the sake of base politics. From Manning’s article again:

We will not be the most successful multicultural nation in the world for long if this goes on. Something concrete has to happen to stop the downwards slide into open bigotry.

Look at Menzies’ ‘Forgotten People’ speech of 1942 or Chifley’s 1949 ‘Light on the Hill’ speech. While you might not agree with the particular points made in either speech, our politicians in the past could articulate policy that was inclusive, promoting a solution to perceived problems without hatred and finger pointing at those that ‘are different’ for some reason or other. They didn’t need to troll and incite hatred to gain publicity.

Australia is a successful multi-cultural society and like it or not, we are all immigrants to this country or descended from them. Perhaps Anning, Hanson and others who have a problem with multiculturalism should, in the words of a racist bumper sticker, ‘love Australia [as it is] or leave’. Meanwhile, the rest of us need to remember not to feed the trolls. The shame is, we really used to be better than this.

What do you think?

This article by 2353NM was originally published on The Political Sword.

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6 comments

  1. Andrew Chambers

    My response to this article is simple: If you’re going to put up a post then tend it. Discussion needs to occur and more of it the better. “Trolls” are people with opposing views, most of the time, there are exceptions and those are the professional disruptors fielded by our governments and other agencies to disrupt civil discussion and the organisation of any form of viable civil alternative to the government monopoly on the national narrative.
    I have found that while it can be very difficult to engage sometimes – there really are some angry and blinded souls out there, they are a MINORITY. Scratch below the surface, extend the hand of friendship and reason and generally the response I’ve encountered in my years at ODDP ( https://www.facebook.com/oddemocracy/ ) is that while we may never meet ideologically there have been many moments of transcendence where the shouting stops and the reason comes out.
    These have been moments of discovery for me and I would hope, occasionally, those who have initially shouted down the opinion or statement that so aggrieved them.
    We have a simple policy – Play the Issue not the Person, stay on topic and no abuse – 3 strikes and you’re out.
    It requires that we have a group of moderators who will put up a Post and then have the care, patience and time to stick with it, guiding the conversation toward civility wherever possible. But that takes time and it’s a commodity that many of us do not have the luxury to contribute freely or continuously and that is an important issue for us all.
    If we are to develop our Democracy and we most certainly need to as it’s that in name only, then we have a need to engage this kind of person and service professionally as it’s impossible to sustain at any serious level of engagement without major issues arising.
    It is possible within the bounds of existing technology to create the processes to run a liquid or direct democracy that engages us all in a Democratic model of Issue creation, discussion and voting – it’s really no different to recording the transactions of your money and could conceivably be implemented using that very same network.
    What is truly needed to make it viable is the creation of an entirely new professional class of researchers, moderators, archivists, help desk operator all rolled into one, rewarded by a direct payment derived from the action of voting with trust built through a similar system of “reputation” as we see in the ebay and online sales environment.
    So next time you get trolled, challenge the person to own their humanity, grow in stature and attempt a real defence of the opinion rather than simply sling off a smart arse reply (I realise that at times the temptation is too much ; )
    Social media is one part of the great evolution that we’re slowly bringing to maturity and I hope ends with a more inclusive and just Democracy for all.
    Cheers!

  2. Mark Needham

    “We have a simple policy – Play the Issue not the Person, stay on topic and no abuse – 3 strikes and you’re out.”

    Saw this happen once, and the whole ‘shebang’ was removed.

    Point is, I reckon, is that it is always the other bloke, who is the Troll, wrong, devoid of ideas, human, difficult to engage, incoherent, blind and so on.

    Trolling,
    Mark Needham

  3. 2353NM

    @ Andrew Chambers – all very well and good. TPS (where this article came from) and AIMN do have processes in place to ensure the issue rather than the person is played. What I don’t see however is how your response discusses the point at hand – there are a number of small (usually right wing) political parties that are trolling the Australian public.We should ensure that these trolls are deprived oxygen, just as most blog sites (such as TPS AND AIMN) deal with internet trolls.

  4. Cool Pete

    In an ideal world, it would be, “Right-wing readers get their news from Sky News and the Murdoch Press, and left-wing readers get theirs from the ABC, SBS and the Guardian (with a bit from Fairfax).” I can remember, when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister, a dickhead with multiple profiles, all of which were obviously fake, would comment with idiotic, inflammatory comments on her page, suggesting that she would go to prison and all this other garbage. How we knew they were fake, too, is that some had Russian names and the phraseology was identical. Fortunately, some comments were removed, but then the idiot appeared on Sarah Hanson-Young’s page and the ABC. It was obvious it was an abbott supporter. When his comments were removed, he would then harass people he suspected of reporting them, but unfortunately, you could not block them. Now, fortunately, you can.

  5. Mark Needham

    Yes, of course when the question is to close to the bone, the easiest way is to ban them. After all, anyone with a differing opinion, can and therefore must be a troll.

    The pleasant part about my opinion, as well as yours, is the degree by which, you ascertain that I/you are always correct. Hence the opposing view must be wrong. Not just wrong, but crazily so.

    One must remember to never enter a conversation with an opinion that is not correct. To go in believing, that possibly you do not know, your opinion is based on myth, fallacy or just plain untruths, is bordering on suicide., ‘n we don’t want that do we.

    Worst part is when the argument is bordering on mediocrity, based on reckless opinion, and justified, by then raising the voice, shouting racist, communist, finally calling out, ‘Troll on board”.

    I don’t do that..!
    Mark Needham

  6. Mark Needham

    Recommended viewing for some. Though having recommended it, I doubt whether any here would bother. Which confirms my thoughts.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3UeUnRxE0E

    Rowan Atkins for ever,
    Mark Needham

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