My recent posts on #TheTriggering drew more than a few Triggerers to We Hunted the Mammoth, and to the comments here. I let most of the comments the Triggerers posted through moderation, in part just to show how ridiculous they were. But there were some others I didn’t let through, for an assortment of reasons.
But I do think it’s worth talking about some of the horrendous stuff that online abuse campaigns like #TheTriggering stir up.
Here’s one from a rather foul-mouthed fellow; I had to censor it so much that it now reads like an obscene mad-lib.
Howdy all of you fläming [homophobic slur, plural]. Welcome to #TheTriggering. Hope all of you [different homophobic slur, plural] take the [still another homophobic slur] [naughty body part] out of your mouths long enough to gasp in outrage!
Oh, you wish.
There are only two genders! There are no real lesbians!
Wait, what? You mean we paid good money for supposedly genuine lesbians, but were given cheap lesbian knockoffs instead?
Down with gye matriarchy! Equal rights for all means women should have their prison sentences increased 2-4x to equal their crimes out to men!
Well, there is a bit of a sentencing disparity, but men convicted of crimes don’t get sentences that are double (much less four times) those received by women with similar criminal backgrounds convicted of similar crimes.
I’m not even going to ask what “gye matriarchy” is.
But this comment, for all of its nastiness, is nothing compared to the lovely missive I got from someone calling himself Travis, possibly a reference to Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, a creepy, violent, and thankfully fictional fellow obsessed with, er, cleansing the world of those he sees as degenerates.
“Travis” begins by reporting that
I’m always getting triggered – not by conventional trolls but by things like attractive girls that get tattoos, the sight of obese people, the homeless, homosexual waiters, public housing projects, pictures of destitute Arab Muslims storming into Europe… I’ve just never thought of it as being ‘triggered’ – I’ve always used the words ‘disgusted’ or ‘enraged’.
Yeah, that’s not what being “triggered” means. What you’re describing is your own bigotry, and your rather creepily possessive attitude towards women’s bodies.
[I]n Iran in the early 1980’s the Revolutionary Guards would brutalize women for not covering themselves. I’m no more for this attitude towards fashion than I am for Hitler’s attitude towards the Jews, but the methodology worked and we should find it inspiring.
What the hell, dude. Really?
However, we have our careers and the law to worry about in a world where our peers have accepted the degenerate liberal zeitgeist that Hoellebecq has so aptly lamented, so attacking the SJWs on the internet anonymously is a great way to blow off steam.
Well, posting ridiculous offensive crap on Twitter is certainly a better alternative than, you know, brutalizing women for what they’re wearing, but that bit about blowing off steam? I don’t buy it.
I used to believe that “blowing off steam” was a real thing. That is, that one could purge oneself of anger and hatred and so forth by letting it out in a “safe” way. Obviously. the idea of “catharsis” is a pretty ancient one. But I’m not sure any more that it’s an actual thing.
And I definitely don’t think it’s a thing when it comes to campaigns of online abuse like #GamerGate or #TheTriggering. Far from purging anger and hatred, it seems to amplify it. Things like #TheTriggering cause participants to wallow in their screwed-up emotions, not to free themselves of them. They end up more angry and hateful, not less.
And despite the claim that these guys are just “trolling,” it seems pretty clear that their anger and hatred are all too real. Do either of the Triggerers I’ve quoted today literally believe every offensive word they wrote? I don’t know, though Travis’ mention of Michel Houellebecq, a reactionary, racist novelist who’s become something of an icon on the so-called alt right, suggests that he’s steeped in this kind of hate.
Even if “blowing off steam” did work as advertised, online abuse — or even the sort of “trolling” that somehow ends up looking and functioning exactly the same as”real” abuse — is hardly a “safe” way to get those bad emotions out, because it is in itself (obviously) a form of abuse. It’s not like punching a punching bag, because in this case the punching bags are real people. Online abuse is intended to hurt people, and it does, even if the abuser claims to be “just trolling.”
#TheTriggering may have been more risible than most of the harassment campaigns we’ve seen of late; it even came with its own trigger warning, in the form of the hashtag itself. But there’s nothing cathartic about it. It’s just a giant exercise in public douchebaggery.
EDITED TO ADD: And here is the relevant Clickhole article, “Huge Relief: This Student Thought He Was Being Bullied For Years But The Other Kid Was Just Joking Around.”
(Clickhole is a spinoff of The Onion, so this is essentially the relevant Onion article.)