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*SIGH* A Personal Review of Negative Commentary

I’ve read two interesting articles this week. One was by Lorelle on WordPress how blogging is like stand up comedy and the other was how Amy Schumer threw a heckler out of her show for yelling “Show us ya tits” only after two minutes of her performance.

Upon reflection, I do feel that blogging is very much like stand up comedy. You get the welcoming applause, as well as the ugly side – the hecklers.

I have my own writing style, as do all bloggers and as do comedians. My blogs pieces are sometimes heavier reading and lengthier than many other blog articles (like this one, sorry!) and have a more serious tone. I do this because I want to present substantial factual supported evidence to promote serious thought and discussion about the topic at hand. My writing areas are: women, welfare, unemployment, stigma, sole parents etc.

‘The Heckler’ has shattered my personal aim of driving awareness about important topics and creating positive discussion about a way forward with like minded people many a time.

I have seen a pattern emerging and the heckling has grown worse over time and the serious discussion I so desire, muted. The last instance of absence of on topic conversation (unemployment/job-search model) had me turn off comments for the first time in three years.

Because I love understanding and investigating phenomena, I have put the hecklers’ comments into themes to try to understand what drives them away from serious discussion on blogs about serious topics.

I have gone through comments across many of my blog posts on various blog sites, on social media and from private messages and emails (as a result of a blog post) and I have grouped them together into themes. Theming is a valuable tool used to understand and identify patterns in phenomena.

Overarching Theme

The main overarching them I have identified was that for a substantial portion of commentary, formulation and discussion of opinion of the writer (me) was more important than the topic.

Therefore, what I seek to understand from this exercise is

(1) When commenters detract away from the topic, what is it that they need to say instead?

(2) What are the themes in commenters’ opinion, which detract away from the topic?

(3) Should bloggers engage in the commentary?

(4) Should bloggers learn to be resilient to negative (and often personal) commentary?

The method of grouping

After I selected the comments, I minimised the comments to groups of nouns, adjectives or short phrases. After three hours of data gathering, I had completed six A4 pages of cut and paste of negative commentary. I ceased this exercise at that point, as it was emotionally draining and confronting. Some comments have been cleansed out of the original collection, some comments have already been forever sent to the black hole oblivion on the internet though deletion, so this only a section of the data. I also have not included positive commentary (it does exist!), as this blog post is only discussing negative commentary (hecklers).

As I have undertaken this exercise from an Interpretivist perspective, my own personal perspective of “How I see they see me” underpins the themes.

The first theme is relating to specific negative commentary about my writing style. This is a fair call. Our own writing style is personal and we cannot please everyone. Sometimes the boundary is blurred between the writing style and the personal; however, for the purpose of this exercise, I have grouped these are specific to criticism of my writing style.

Theme 1: “Your writing sucks”

 

Writing comments

Questions (1) & (2) will be addressed below.

Theme 2: “You are incapable of independent thought, due to party affiliation”

One the consistent themes is from the view that I am incapable of critical independent thought because I belong to a major political party. I am very open that my posts “are presented with a left wing/progressive slant” mainly due to the fact that I want to promote that my writing will not be pleasing to the conservative reader and readers understand where I position myself. This does not mean that one is not capable of independent thought, can understand opposing viewpoints and also reject them and understand the reason that the opposing view point is rejected. I’m sure Andrew Bolt, a well known right wing commentator, has viewed his beliefs as not in line with socialism, democratic socialism and the like and I’m sure he is intelligent enough to understand why and intelligent enough to counter arguments from both sides. Understanding where you ‘fit’ or belong on the ideological political spectrum, should not be a source of shaming. As Keating said, “You can have a thought-out position.”

It is important to note that not many conservative, right wing leaning commenters frequent or comment on my posts. So this cannot be explained by the typical right versus left disagreements.

LABOR

The second theme is interesting and it is connected to the first theme. Commenters self-label a connection between me and another female blogger, who is very open about her party affiliation. As you can see by the commentary below, the grouping is evident. However, I have never met, had a conversation with, or even said ‘hi’ to the other writer concerned. In fact, it feels a bit weird using this as an example (as I am but a just a mere … well huge fan of Victoria’s writing), but as it emerged in the themes, I will do so. (I apologise in advance if this causes offence).

Although I have looked at comments of other male bloggers who appear Labor friendly, this connection does not extend to the ‘grouping’ by the commentariat.

However, another important point is comments are not directly sexist or misogynistic in nature (towards me) and do not carry the same negative commentary that many feminist bloggers receive in terms of sexually related threats, this remains an unresolved aspect of the phenomena. It is difficult to determine if this has anything to do with gender.

Theme 3: “It’s bad enough you are Labor, but there are two of you and you are girls!”

Within the commentary, in a brief period of three hours, I found the words “You and Victoria” or Victoria and Trish or Trish and Victoria 17 times. Some other examples of commentary are:

Victoria

However, one commenter has offered her interpretation of this aspect of the phenomena:

3 little pigs

Questions (2) & (3)

The next themes examine “What people say” as well as “Should bloggers engage in commentary?”

This is always a hot topic of conversation in blog advice columns and opinions differ. Each of these have pros and cons. As I do feel I get quite a fair bit of negative commentary, I have tried to undertake a range of advice from blog advice columns; but the negative commentary has increased more in the last year, not decreased.

The following themes are a mixture of reactions to the blog piece itself, or a reaction to my engagement in the commentary. I understand many will say that I am in control and this is my fault. Some have even pointed out, I should be more resilient and some even say the negative commentary towards me does not exist and I need to “get over myself.”

In line with comments I receive, some will even say that this entire blog post is a “Self-Indulgent exercise to feed my own ego.” However, it is not. It is a genuine take on detraction from engaging on matters of serious importance.

In defence of the central arguments in my blog articles, I do have a high expectation of counter arguments. I do not believe that if one is making a serious suggestion that may change our political or social landscape substantially and affect the lives of people, that this should be just be accepted for the ‘sake of politeness.’

I know I am a hard task master when pushing people to come back at me with more, especially if I see holes in their counter-argument. Defence of an argument is a beautiful thing, not shameful thing and defence of argument should truly well be exhausted, depending upon what is being discussed. However, I truly believe many despise me for this style, yet that is not particularly a bad thing either. Is it worth it to continue to engage in commentary? I still do not know the answer to that.

Theme 4: “Academic Shaming/Anti-Intellectualism/Smart Shaming”

This is something I actually had to research. It is indeed a ‘thing’ It is worthy to note that research on this topic claims that anti-intellectualism is the biggest threat to modern society and the rise of Donald Trump.

I do not consider myself as an intellectual. I am only presenting these themes as they occur.

STOP USING INTELLECTUAL ARGUMENTS

Theme 5: “I Fucking hate you!”

I am not even going to attempt to analyse this one. I’ll just leave it here…

STOP TALKING (1)

Theme 6: “I REALLY FUCKING HATE YOU IN A TWISTED SHOUTY WAY”

Attacks

And probably the most disgusting one of the lot:

“Trish should be left to emaciate.”

Theme 7: Laying in wait

I even came across this gem, of a commenter actually laying in wait, hoping I would enter the commentary:

“I hope that Trish Corry comes along soon. Should be good.”

Theme 8: It’s all in your imagination or stop taking this so personally.

As per other women writers I respect; I have been following their advice of calling people out online. In the beginning of my article, I spoke about Amy Schumer making an example of and throwing a heckler out of the audience. However, when I do try tactics of bringing the conversation back to the topic, or ask people to stop making value judgements, personal judgements about me as the writer, or judge what I am thinking about, or make a judgement about the level of my intellect etc, it is not always supported:

Upset you

The straw that broke the camel’s back as the impetus for this piece, was a fellow blogger, who is often critical of me when I ask people to stop the negative commentary and has insinuated many times, “That the negative commentary does not exist and I’m purposely making this about me.” This person cut and pasted my comment about negative commentary on a blog post followed by a patronising:

*SIGH*

My personal view is that it is not up to fellow bloggers to judge how any writer experiences personal interactions on their blog, as our experiences are all not the same and no one is privvy to what is received by the writer via other mediums, other than the writer themselves. Negative affect does accumulate. Negative affect is also subjective and no one else can determine how negative commentary, especially consistent negative commentary impacts on another.

Theme 9: You need to be more resilient

This addressed Q (4) – Should bloggers be more resilient? Where is the line of ‘enough?’

After I complained about what I considered a string of online negative commentary towards me, a fellow blogger once said to me:

I also think that those of us who choose to put our opinions on sites open to public comment must be resilient up to a point. We could just talk to our friends but we have chosen to invite strangers to discuss our thoughts.

Outliers

I don’t have a theme for this. It is my only outlier. As someone who values qualitative research, I cannot ignore it.

“Could Trish be a brunette? Oh please Trish bare your hair!”

Conclusion

Why do commenters detract from the (serious) topic at hand and focus on the personal?

The conclusion is up to the reader to judge.

Originally published on Polyfeministix

 

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22 comments

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  1. Woodypear

    Trish, judging by your photo, I would suggest you weren’t around in the days where speakers (even politicians) would get up on a soap box in either Fitzroy Gardens or Hyde Park and talk to the passing crowds. They would be faced with the inevitable mix of believers/people interested in the topic/ hecklers. I always thought they were very brave people, with conviction. I would have loved to do it but I think I would have needed to either wear a mask or have a screen between me and the crowd. It seems to me that the blog has become the soap box and that people who have one are similarly brave. But the crowd is potentially bigger and the commenters have the luxury to hide behind anonymity and say whatever they like. This anonymity is the only difference between your situation and my analogy. The benefits however, are that we have the chance to improve our understanding of a topic due to the wider and hopefully more diverse audience. Unfortunately, we invite the ‘tribal’ nature of political debate that ‘left is evil and right is good’ or vice versa. This, I believe, is due to the lack of education or dare I say it – ‘intellectualism’ of a large part of the population who cannot take a discussion beyond the ‘good/bad’ phase.

  2. Trish Corry

    Thanks Woody. Funnily enough, I was originally going to call my blog “Trish’s soap box. However, I thought that was a little unoriginal.

  3. John Kelly

    Trish, I blog to express a point of view and where I can, expose an injustice. I welcome criticism in the expectation that I could be wrong, be ill informed or in need of more detail. I don’t cop too much flak but I’m always ready for it.

  4. Annie B

    If I were a blogger, I think I know how I would handle negative commentary, and on occasions – it would not be pretty. I also know it would probably get me down sometimes, if I took up writing for public edification.

    Have often said [ this, from experience ]… there is Always One, in a work place, neighbourhood, group ( of whatever ), charity, clinic, and very often in a family. … Always ONE ~ who will try their very best to make life difficult for those around them, because it gives them a false sense of power, when in fact they come from a position of their own self-known weakness. So they spew negatives, abuse, sometimes filth … and insult. Put downs galore, evasive answers to simple questions; and toward women writers, misogyny unlimited. … But to be fair, there are far more and many, decent men who are not this way inclined at all. … And equally, there are some nasty sharp tongued bitches as well.

    I guess in blogging, you have many many *always ones’* … Add those to the people who deliberately troll because they are unfortunately, sick of mind, and a writer can end up with some seriously disturbed persons, ‘having a go’. … As a blogger, I think that would have to be expected, unfortunately.

    Envy now comes to mind. … How many ‘ hecklers / negative commenters ‘ are in fact envious that they have not the nous, command of the English language, or the intelligence to put together more than a few words of invective, delivered to hurt.

    …..

    As for getting off topic … um – I hangs me head in shame 😉 … it is easy to become side-tracked when something is mentioned in comments, that rings bells in the readers mind, and it is taken up ~ and off people go onto a different path. … I can see how that could be annoying for a blogger who has spent hours of research and thought, to deliver something for honest debate. But … it’s something that people who are in discussion, sometimes do. … A human trait.

    Always enjoy your writings Trish, and this article was very interesting.

  5. bobrafto

    Just hang in there and try to understand you’re dealing with some folks who are intellectually challenged.

  6. John Lord

    Thanks. Replicates my own experience.

  7. 1petermcc

    Should you engage in the comments?

    For me it comes down to if it’s abuse or poses a contrary view. I’m more than happy to see a different point of view and sometimes it will even cause an adjustment in my thinking, but the abusive ones die with no reaction from me.

    I copped a huge spray early on with a contribution here which was pretty impressive but it didn’t actually challenge any of my points. Ultimately I could tell if the writer was offended as a Green or a religiously inclined individual.

    Some of the negative that you get seems to come from those not articulate enough to write something that anyone else would follow so its all they have left to be rude.

  8. kerri

    In my opinion much negative commentary comes from the
    “I don’t like what you are saying but I don’t have a worthwhile argument to counter your words so I will just insult you personally” mob.
    If personal attack is all you have then you are clearly a bully.
    And many of our right wing politicians have made bullying a daily, acceptable practice.
    Many of their followers now feel validated in expressing nasty thoughts.
    Thankfully the left, by their actions on Thursday night have shown that if game playing is the status quo, then it can be done with intellect to a very successful level. No bullying required.

  9. helvityni

    I’m almost ready to stop commenting on any blog; there are too many unhappy, vindictive people out there ready to dish out their daily dose of abuse. Using pseudos, often many different ones, makes it too easy for them. They might get banned, but come back using a new alias.
    On the ABC’s MODERATED blog, Unleashed/Drum, someone used my name and imitated my style of writing. I complained, the post was deleted, yet it happened again and again..

    On another site the nastiest abuser wrote under 37 different names.

    It’s easy to say: ‘toughen up, princess’, I don’t want to. I put up a friendly -looking avatar, it did not help: ‘ your eyes are too far apart. Far out…

    I can understand that young insecure teenagers are driven to suicide by on line abuse.

  10. Freethinker

    You hang on there Trish, ignore the ones not capable to have a mature exchange of view and rip the benefits that give and intelligent debating which it is learn from each other.
    After all here in Oz it is not to bad, I remember well back home (before the dictatorship but under draconian laws, Brandis type) that the authors of articles not only copped with insults but also loosing their jobs of the police knocking their door for being against the establishment even called communists.
    Dad was one victim of that but never stopped writing the truth.
    I love to see technical articles, the uneducated comments pop up with insults or childish comments because they do not have the intellect to contribute with an educated point of view.
    Look at some of John Kelly comments by some readers and you will see what I mean.

  11. stephengb2014

    I am not a blogger but I do try to have intelligent and rational discussion on Facebook politocal sites, I do it because I see Facebook as a very wide pltaform for both education and learning, and I have learnt a great deal over the last two years.

    Finding AIMN was one of the most informative sites I found on Facebook, thank you to all of the AIMN bloggers.

    Trish this article has taught me that I am experiencing similar commentary from the hecklers.

    Meanwhile I say let them heckle it tells me they are uncomfortable with our words and want to shut us down.
    This is the strategy of bullies, and dictators, when we let them win we give credence to their heckling.

    My strategy is to use some patience, then give as good as I get, then simply “Dismiss” them publically when they nasty.

    Keep up the blogging and thank you and all AIMN bloggers once again for opening my mind!

  12. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Trish,

    2 points to make.

    1) You’re correct; you should not cop abuse and the discussion should be about the message, not the messenger.
    2) If there are dissenting voices and arguments to your line of discussion, don’t automatically confuse them with abuse against you.

  13. Harquebus

    Trish.

    I have recognized some of my own and you are confusing criticism with abuse. I also happen to agree with a lot of the other criticisms in points one and two of your examples.
    I have a feeling that the “Hope Trish comes along” quote was mine as well. I am not entirely sure about that but, I can assure you that I do not lay in wait.

    There are relationships between politics, government, economy, resources, population, society, infrastructure etc. It is difficult to argue politics without referring to some other aspect of our complex industrial overruled society and debates not taking tangents.

    Keep the comments open. They are the best part and I doubt if you would have as many readers without them. Myself would be one.

    It’s also good that you don’t mind staying up late.

    Cheers.

  14. diannaart

    Trish

    I don’t like being mocked or bullied either.

    As JMS said no-one should cop abuse – but we do, whenever we give an opinion that may anger or irritate another. A difference of opinion is not abuse – although it may appear that way.

    I have encountered some particularly venal abuse – but not here on AIMN – yes, there is abuse and yes, it has annoyed me but nothing to the extant that I have received on Twitter or Youtube or Facebook. I am not going to reprint any of it here – because for one, I do not need to relive it and two, don’t want to give any bullies any more ammunition.

    AIMN is like a quiet little lagoon just outside the storm – we all appreciate this special place and enjoy reading articles whether we agree with all the content or not.

    I look forward to any further articles you may wish to write – a bit envious because I just don’t have the literal energy levels to research, prepare and write AND submit. I will continue to comment when I agree and when I disagree.

    Regards

    Dianna

  15. Kaye Lee

    My response to being liberally quoted out of context in Trish’s article (and grossly misunderstood)….

    I will never read or comment on an article of yours again. I am assuming that was the point of this self-indulgent post.

  16. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    Some excellent and interesting points you bring up Trish, and some equally interesting comments. And, of course, all of them entirely valid because communication is never easy, and writing, perhaps more than any other method is very easy to misinterpret meanings and intent.

    As an occasional blogger, I recognise that many will disagree with what I write, and that is perfectly acceptable. I also recognise that may will totally misinterpret both the meaning and motive of what I write. If readers wish to get personal and insult, then I can live with that too (though I know that many unfortunately cannot, and this is a pity as losing their perspectives due to the bullying attitude of others is not conducive to good discussion). I also recognise that the fault is often that of the writer, not the reader.

    The most difficult aspect is that the “conversation” is not facilitated, which is also a pity, but what can you do. I have found myself making replies to another comment only to find that in the meantime many others have commented, leaving ones comment stranded! I’ve also found my comments to be misinterpreted both in meaning and intent.

    As I’ve said before, on the commentary on The Conversation, if you comment without using your own name, you will be encouraged to do so, then ignored. I’ve noted that debate there, whilst it can be equally heated, is somewhat politer. There must also be a WordPress add-on that would allow conversations within the commentary, which would be useful when a particular point is being debated.

    Despite the disparaging comments, I will continue to submit articles which I hope encourage feedback and debate – that is very much my reason for writing them – to encourage discussion. As a person who is prepared to challenge the status quo, many ideas I have are likely to be well off the mark, so vehement dismissal of them is as useful feedback, as agreement.

  17. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Well said, Steve Laing.

  18. paulwalter

    Patronising.. I see not a lot of merit, but a real sense of victimhood induced from questioning of the articles by posters. Boy, what a flounce, how dare we even question points in these articles?

  19. Annie B

    Well said diannaart ,,, and great points by Steve Laing.

    With the advent of social media, which can be used for good and for bad, it seems to have come to a point where – akin to the domino effect, more and more people are resorting to abuse, rather than constructive comment. Specifically on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter … they attract people who have some serious mental aberrations and who wish to indulge in their own fears and hatreds by personal attack.

    Apart from a few angry outbursts on occasion, this does not happen here on AIMN.

    What is being spread like a viral disease, is hate, racism, and some of the worst language one could encounter. Facebook ( e.g. ) does little if nothing about it. Being an American run site, I am presuming this inaction relates to some concept of ‘freedom of speech’ ?? … However, when really filthy hatred is shown – Facebook does nothing, except ‘explain’ that a comment or subject complies with their policy. …. yet at the same time – it will ban the photograph of a breast ( no nipple showing ) .. with a baby suckling at that breast. That photo was reshown ( and continually taken down ) so I quickly reposted it myself, challenging Facebook to again make a mockery of a breast-feeding baby. Some weeks later, it had been removed again, along with the comment – & replaced by the reason – white font on black bg, which was a warning of graphic content. ??? Censorship at its best – – – or worst.

    This is the danger and damage : that some, even many, users may unwittingly adopt these horrid attitudes, into their own lives … and it seems now that this is what is happening.

  20. diannaart

    Annie B

    The ‘suck it up, sweetheart or eff off’ retort has become a common attitude even among people who probably don’t even consider themselves particularly aggressive or intolerant.

    Having read through the comments of Trish Corry’s recent articles – not even the most disagreeable of comment compares to that I or many of us have experienced elsewhere.

    I agree with helvytini The Conversation is a relatively polite forum – it is stricter than AIMN, things can get heated, but nothing compared to the social webs of the aforementioned FB, Tw and YT.

    Of course one persons ‘erotica’ is another’s ‘porn’ – it should be possible to discuss both without resorting to bullying or hostility.

    That the licence to offend has become a right under freedom of expression may be due to the world-wide lurch to the autocratic far-right. Lefties can be crass and rude, but I do not see many lefties lobbying for the removal of 18C – I stand to be corrected on this of course.

  21. Never Been There

    As a person who is prepared to challenge the status quo, many ideas I have are likely to be well off the mark, so vehement dismissal of them is as useful feedback, as agreement.

    Bingo. That sentence has more meaning and value than this entire blog entry, which fails to recognise the overarching importance of context.

  22. Annie B

    @ Never Been There …….

    Your bolded comment is a tad confusing. So I read it as this : ” so vehement dismissal of them is as useful ( in ) feedback, as ( in ) agreement.

    Not doing the semantics thing here … had to work that statement out to the best of my ability.

    Your next statement leads me to address a ‘question’ asked by the blogger, Trish Corry – and so I will try to answer – quite simply ……..

    *******************

    @Trish Corry …. you asked :

    “(3) Should bloggers engage in the commentary?” … Answer : NO.

    Bloggers in their initial article, have had their say – often in good length and good writing, and as you have mentioned here and elsewhere, you “open up a subject for discussion”. Engaging with commenters can become counter-productive, imo.

    “(4) Should bloggers learn to be resilient to negative (and often personal) commentary?” …. Answer : YES.

    If one writes to and for the public and for their edification, they put their ideas out to be judged – much the same as public officials stand ( or not ) on their public statements. Politicians are public figures – by choice – and we all know what happens when a politician makes gaffes, utters inanities or 3 to 6 word slogans. They are either agreed with – – or not. Or worse, they are lambasted to the enth degree. However, some politicians deserve those responses.

    Final thought – One must have a tough hide to enter these arenas.

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