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.
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”
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.
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:
However, one commenter has offered her interpretation of this aspect of the phenomena:
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.
Theme 5: “I Fucking hate you!”
I am not even going to attempt to analyse this one. I’ll just leave it here…
Theme 6: “I REALLY FUCKING HATE YOU IN A TWISTED SHOUTY WAY”
And probably the most disgusting one of the lot:
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:
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:
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.
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!”
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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