Notes from a Triggerer: “Brutalizing women for not covering themselves” is a “methodology” that works

Human beings don't actually work like steam whistles
Human beings don’t actually work like steam whistles

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.)

99 replies on “Notes from a Triggerer: “Brutalizing women for not covering themselves” is a “methodology” that works”

What pisses them off is how little the constant threat of violence works to earase us.
I’m planning the cutest outfit for tomorrow. I’m fat, short haired, 40 and going out to have a lovely time.
Am I worried about some rando piece of garbage seeing me and being angry? Nope. Be happy for me or choke on your rage. It makes me even happier to sip misogynist tears.

Hey Lea. That is the attitude to take. The Triggerers full of rage don’t get it’s in their own mind. Their narrow (and ultimately terrified) views keep them wallowing in and spinning around their own hate. Hate only makes the hater have a worse life, a more angry life.
Sadly, some of these nasty people do go out and hurt/kill due to their never-ending hate. That is the only problem.
I bombarded that Triggering hashtag just to confront my dislike for the nasty horrible people they are. To see their awful crap and see it for how pathetic it is. I mean, who defines themselves by creating some stupid hashtag on twitter. Did they really think they were going to say anything people haven’t already heard?
It was just one person after another trying to be “cooler”, meaner, cleverer and supposedly more witty. It was just a lot of masturbation and attention seeking.
These people think they don’t need approval but they really do, they want all the world to gasp and be offended. Wanting this is really nothing to brag about but they think it is. They think it makes them tough and edgy, radical and free. But they aren’t free, that are ensnared in their own mind of hate/selfishness.
Anyone who thinks being a professional asshole is a notable achievement really is the most pathetic. And they really don’t hurt people as much as they think they do. Marginalized groups have seen and heard all that was tweeted and worse. They have to live it every day, never mind a few stupid days on twitter.
It’s just a sad world when being an asshole seems to be something many people aspire to.

I meant to add (to my long comment) that they are terrified of the “other”, anything different from themselves and their world view.

> pie

If you’re a massive asshole, you have to work really hard to prevent it showing every time you open your mouth, or put fist to keyboard. And most massive assholes don’t seem bother trying to hide it, because they are massive assholes.

Well, as would have said Michel Audiard (roughly translated, sorry) “Assholes, they dare everything, it is even the way you recognize them”.


There are only two genders! There are no real lesbians!

Wait, since when being homosexual is a gender ? And why just two ?
Now, bet time : how much do you bet that someone here has been rejected by a woman with her saying she is a lesbian (which is really courageous from her part, more than a simple rejection) ?


[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.

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.

So, the “methodology” of Hitler to deal with Jews is inspiring, and yet you praise an author who is pro-Israel and had say that “Jews are more smart and interesting than average” ( “Les Juifs sont plus intelligents et plus intéressants que la moyenne” in French). (That not makes this author better, he is pretty racist against Arabs and he is anti-Islam).
Contradiction : one more, one less, who cares ?

The most fun I had harassing TheTriggerers was when one yelled at me in a tweet to stop tweeting because I was ruining the hashtag conversations they were having. I guess they thought TheTriggering hashtag was THEIR safe space. Oh the irony as they say.

Lets off steam while trolling?

Actually, trolling kind of does make sense in that context. Psychopaths calm down when the people around them get more agitated and upset, so this could be a regulation strategy for those kinds of people.

Of course, psychopaths also are notoriously terrible at realizing they need regulation strategies in general, so either this doesn’t work, or these people probably aren’t even psychopaths at all. They’re just mimicking psychopaths.

In the past trolling used to be a lot more innocent.


I’ve been on the Internet more or less regularly since at least 1994. I’ve been trolled from the moment I dared to rear my head as a woman, and state a feminist opinion that went against the prevailing male-dominant orthodoxy. And got all kinds of vile shit in my inbox as a result. Much of it tinged with rapey overtones, and much else not overtones, but outright rape-threatening. I still vividly remember one troll, ostensibly female (but I suspect really male and with hangups about his own masculinity), telling me to “take that vibrator out of your ass” and blahblahblah. I see nothing “innocent” about that, much less “a lot more innocent”.

But thanks for downplaying my suffering, I feel so much better about it now that you’ve weighed in about how much nicer people were in the Golden Age of Internet Trolling!


Haven’t you been warned about keyboard diagnosing before? Either way, don’t do it.

Psychopathy, at least the way I use it in my work, is a personality dimension, not a clinical diagnosis. It’s like diagnosing someone as being an introvert.

Still, I forget it’s also considered a psychopathology, so apologies for elements of ableism.

I really don’t know how to feel about Houellebecq. I read his biography of Lovecraft (H.P. Lovecraft, contre le monde, contra la vie) and thought it was decent. It’s weird because if I’m remembering correctly Houellebecq was really critical of Lovecraft’s racism and Antisemitism (more so than any other Lovecraft biography I’ve read) but then he doesn’t seem to have actually internalized that message. Especially since he has adopted the “I don’t hate Muslims I only hate Islam” attitude.

That being said I sometimes get the impression that Houellebecq’s public image is a character he plays, considering the nature of his work. Then again I see stuff like this and can’t help but feel like he’s actually serious (because eww gross President for life? Really?)

Even if it’s only a character, it’s not a reason to forgive him anything. He is nowhere near good enough as a writer to get a pass for his shitty ideas.

The translation of Audiard seem a bit off, because in french, it’s a swear word (who litteraly meant cunt originaly, but completely lost that sense) who is used for people who are stupid and/or bigoted and/or obnoxious, but usually who aren’t really aware of it. “asshole” kind of imply to be actively evil, and not just unaware, as is implied in the Audiard quote.

… I guess I overthink it. It started because I translated it back in my head and it did not end in the original quote.

@occasional reader

My first girlfriend found out she was lesbian while dating me. You won your bet! 😉

apparently Davis Aurini has had his YouTube channel taken down.

– snork maiden

Considering the **** they will allow, how do you even MANAGE that?!

I’ve always been in the opinion that these people don’t actually understand what “trigger” means in this context. They believe it’s synonymous to “(very) offended”. It’s just another item in the endless list of things manospherians/right wingers/racists don’t understand but decide to make fun of.

Yes, I think they equivocate ‘triggering’ with ‘offended’ in a deliberate ploy to minimize.


This seems similar to the way they will equivocate rape with being asked to pay too much for a soft drink in a movie theater.

Imaginary petal,
They are too weak to even imagine navigating a world of triggers. They get off on nonconsensual sadism. They enjoy what hurts other people and don’t enjoy what makes them happy. Thus, they “reason” that harming people who aren’t them = good fun. That which gives comfort or joy to everyone else = wrong and bad. They are that simple to understand. They have no empathy.

About trolling being more “innocent” at one point in time: I don’t think that’s true, though I also don’t know of any good study to prove it one way or the other (can’t even really imagine a good methodology).

My impression at the time that the word “trolling” spread was that it was

1) benefitting from the confusion between “being a troll” and “trolling for _____” as a metaphor from the deep-ocean fishing technique.

2) advocated by trolls in a way to minimize what they were doing and so get away with it more often

3) taken up by people earnestly attempting to address this as a problem
…3a) who wanted a word other than “racist” or “sexist” or the like
…3b) so that when they brought the behavior to the attention of, say, a boss, the person wanting the harassment to end wouldn’t be dismissed as a troublemaker/overreacting

4) [and related to overreacting] a relief to many encountering the neologism for the first time because so many people were minimizing trolling behavior by saying it was behavior only happening “online” so it wasn’t like X other example of violence, stalking, heterosexism, whatever. Having a word that ONLY applied to online behavior was very useful. Then when you compared their behavior to other trolling, behavior which had been acknowledged as bad, the troll got no benefit from saying that it was happening “only” online: we were already talking about online behavior.


free speech means you have to listen to social justice warriors talk about how bad your behaviors and attitudes are exactly as much as the rest of society has to listen to you talk. #theTriggering


I honestly see trolling as a manipulation tactic to (as Lea said) derive pleasure from hurting someone, an action that would normally have consequences for the troll, while maintaining plausible deniability. No different from a bully (a parallel that David drew with the clickhole article), or an abuser.

DFW alludes to this is his essay “Host” about right wing talk show host John Zeigler, where DFW contrasts “PC dogma” against the popularity of right wing radio shows:

Even though there is plenty of stuff for reasonable people to dislike about Political Correctness as a dogma, there is also something creepy about the brutal, self-righteous glee with which Mr. Z. and other conservative hosts defy all PC conventions. If it causes you real pain to hear or see something, and I make a it a point to inflict that thing on you merely because I object to your reasons for finding it painful, then there’s something wrong with my sense of proportion, or my recognition of your basic humanity, or both.

I think there can be a fine line between “venting” and constructively processing feelings, as they can often appear very similar, but have drastically different outcomes. I feel it has to do with how familiar and/or complicated the feelings we’re having are.

For instance, I already know that it annoys me when people drive unsafely. If I were to go on and on about this at any little provocation (especially when few of my friends drive), I feel it would only reinforce the negative feelings, as well as make me better at getting angry in general. There’s no processing going on here; nothing productive.

On the other hand, my partner recently had a protracted falling out with a very very close friend. She is already very good at being angry, and is aware of this, so she did her best to work out her feelings and thoughts before engaging with the friend, which largely involved discussing it with me and her boyfriend. She did express a lot of anger, but with the intention to get past it, rather than focus on it. This helped her think through the situation, get feedback, and figure out how she wanted to deal with it, rather of jumping into what would have likely been a shouting match, and making decisions while at the height of emotion.

Venting isn’t even what these people are doing. What they are angry about is being kept from openly abusing other people for existing. You want to rant about potholes? Sure. That’s reasonable. You want to plan to and execute a campain to torment people for existing? No.

“How dare abused people not take my abuse! I like hurting them! Misandry! Cencorship!”

The target these alpha males chose are essentially rape survivors and people standing up with them. That isn’t an accident. There is a reason they want that population silenced.

You have to ask, “Why?”
Why is it wounded women insisting on respect they want to lash out at?

They want to trigger ptsd in women especially and also happen to like rape jokes…like alot.

What is it they stand to lose by those survivors having a voice?

I bet 1 in 10 men like rape jokes and hate trigger warnings for the same reason 1 in 4 women, at least, are triggered.

I know this isn’t adding much to the discussion, but just as an anecdote, blowing off steam works pretty well for me. I just do it in ways that don’t affect other people (or any other living thing).

I do things like play high-intensity video games, going for a difficult session of sprints or working out, listening to intense music in my home, etc. It’s the huge buildup followed by relaxation that does it for me. I don’t know. Everyone’s different.

How you lean to blow of steam is important. It’s a habit you have to develop. If you learn to relax by inflicting pain on others (which apparently can work), inflicting pain on others will have the reward of relaxing you, making you more likely to inflict pain on others to relax. Taking care to blow off steam in a healthy way like exercise is completely different.

That’s why researchers say catharsis is unhealthy; you explode in anger and then feel better, thus making you more likely to explode in anger in the future when you feel upset, for the purpose of feeling better. It’s not that it doesn’t work it’s that it can be an unhealthy habit to get in to.

That’s a great point. And the methods I use aren’t really about exploding in anger at all, just high-intensity. Getting “pumped up” as it were. (I guess that’s “turnt” today? I don’t know. I’m old.)

@AJ from GA

See, to me that sounds more like distraction than really blowing off steam. You actively engage in something to take your mind off of what pissed you off. That’s far more constructive.

I’m one of those people who can really dwell on something that upsets me, and sometimes I do need to talk it out, usually with my wife, but that’s mostly to just make sure that my thoughts about whatever it is makes sense, and sometimes to get a little validation that I am right to be upset. But if I really want to get over being angry or upset or whatever, I know I have to force myself to get involved in something else that will catch my attention.

@Palmedfire True. I was possibly using the phrase incorrectly. Thanks for your post!


You know, on one hand, I am terrified that Trump will win. On the other hand, I am equally terrified as to how these people are going to react if a woman or a Jewish socialist wins.

I feel the same way.

They’re abusers. And they like keeping others down. We’re all supposed to go along to get along. Which kinda, sorta keeps the peace (but not really, because they’ll still go off on you).

But when someone really pushes the issue–in this case, why shouldn’t a woman or a Jewish person or a socialist or some combination thereof be president?–the you-know-what really could hit the fan.

On the other hand, if a significant percentage of the US populace says, No, you can’t get away with that, most of these abusers will back down. But it does take political will.

Gods and Goddesses bless John Boyega. He’s not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need.

@AJ from GA: I try to distract myself from my rage as well by playing video games. Viscera Cleanup Detail is oddly relaxing, and a round of Left 4 Dead single player can really help as well.

Of course, I also want to try to take up needle-felting as an “anti-rage” activity. Because there’s something soothing about stabbing felt with barbed needles for hours on end and ending up with something adorable to show for it.

Yep, I find it very helpful to do things I enjoy like playing video games, drawing, or even just going for a walk/run when I’m stressed or very angry. It helps me to process my feelings instead of exploding in rage. But that’s when I am angry about something trivial. If I am angry at another person, (for a good reason, such as they did something that hurt me or someone I care about) I will usually try and talk it out. It feels much better to work things out with the person I’m angry at, if there is one, than continue to let those feelings stew.

It’s perfectly okay to be angry if it is justified, and expressing it in a non-violent way is healthy. Even venting can be okay sometimes, as long as you are not actually being a dick to people. Justified AKA if someone actually did something to you or something actually happened to you or someone close to you was wronged or there was yet another shooting/tragedy/act of violence in the news. Or if Donald Trump gets elected president, that would be a damn good reason to be angry IMO. But just getting angry over random people for simply existing and trying to blow off steam by yelling on the internet at no particular person will do no good for anyone. Not even the troll, in the long run. The rage will just build and build until they possibly commit acts of violence in meatspace, because trolling on the internet is no longer enough to contain the built-up rage. That’s scary.

I am hurting in places I didn’t even know was possible right now, my knuckles are cut up, bloody and so are random other cuts – when did my furniture get so sharp?! And my computer apparently bites when the cords/cables/connectors are detangled for reinsertion. Gah!!

There are no real lesbians!

Have they secretly been replaced with Folgers crystals? (Yeah, I’m old).

The kind of sentiment Trump is whipping up is disturbing, but I can’t imagine Hillary or Sanders being any more rage inducing as a far as neo-fascists are concerned than an African-American “radical Muslim socialist”.

In the past trolling used to be a lot more innocent.

I think because “troll” seems to have such a wide definition that some kinds of trolling can be seen as merely annoying and somewhat innocent compared to the misogynists, racists, homophobes, and islamophobes out there.

For example, I used to own guinea pigs and participate on a guinea pig forum. Occasionally some fifteen-year-old idiot would decide to amuse himself (they were invariably male and under eighteen) by running in, posting “I hate guinea pigs!” then watching the responses flood in.

Annoying? Yes. Harmful to the world at large? Not really, unless over the years that childish idiot graduated from posting mildly annoying stuff on a pet forum to spewing discriminatory garbage on some we’re-better-than-you-type website. But those bringers of small annoyances were still referred to as trolls.

Maybe “troll” should be reserved for those who choose to cause big problems instead?

I’ll have to hunt around for the studies again, but I read relatively recently that letting off steam, or venting, or whatever slang suits you doesn’t actually work. Especially in cases of, say, taking it out on a punching bag – you essentially form an association between extremes of emotion and violence, which means your immediate response or primary means of expressing those emotions is, surprise surprise, violence. Or being a bellend on the internet, as the case may be.

Or at least, immediate venting has that effect. I was lead to understand that allowing the emotion to pass and engaging in physical exercise as a purgative once your mind is clear is actually reasonably healthy.

I’m feeling guilty of being a not-so-nice daughter because my dad is super allergic to guinea pigs and for some reason that made me desperately want to have a guinea pig as a pet, but settled for playing with the guinea pigs of others and brought home their fur on my clothes which of course led to my dad’s allergy being triggered. 😛

But trolls assume a different tactic/form according to where they’re trolling; on a gossip blog they talk politics – the more obnoxious the better in their mind though I’ve heard of a couple very dedicated-in-a-twisted-way-types who endlessly create new ‘personas’ but ultimately reveal themselves as the same one from before and have an obsession with trying to find a way to upset other blog readers using info they collect from things a person says/mentions about their focus-du-jour(s) life and have been doing this nonsense for *years* without a payoff of upsetting the current target(s); here they try to do the gotchas, never heed the comments policy and get mad when they’re called on it, and generally try to get others to do the work/provide info/google shit for them but still argue when information and arguments have been supplied because they don’t like whatever it is, since it’s usually the complete antithesis of what they have convinced themselves is the truth. On MSM sites they decide whether it’s liberal or conservative and whichever one it is deemed they argue from the opposite position. Maybe the common thread is that all trolls have far too much time on their hands? 😛


Maybe the common thread is that all trolls have far too much time on their hands?

For sure.

Another common thread: they’re mean jerks.


And dissatisfied with their life thus they go around being mean jerks because they want *everyone* to be just as miserable.

“There are no real lesbians!”

I know although “lesbians” lacks the actual details involved so i prefer the more accurate description of “WOMEN WHO HAVE NOT MET ME YET”


I don’t think “trolling used to be less bad”, but I do think that once upon a time trolling was like the Guinea pig example- people online, talking about (oh, say) Kirk vs Picard, and the point of the troll was to try and get the people engaged in this meaningless debate to get angry enough to realize “ah, shit, I’m feeling blood-vomiting rage over a television show, what’s wrong with me?”

Now that people actually talk about important shit on the Internet, it’s morphed into this disgusting “hah! You actually care about a thing!” bullshit.

It was still hateful, sure, but at least it was hateful with a sort of weird Zen-ness behind it. Now it’s just more bullshit propping up the status quo.

@Ashara Payne

I have HUGE problems with our looks obsessed culture (and how some social media seems to amplify that) but I don’t get getting mad a specific people, such as Kim Kardashian, because I feel like there’s kind of a collective responsibility for people like that, like if we lived in a less image obsessed capitalistic society either someone like Kim Kardashian wouldn’t exist or wouldn’t be able to gain the fame and wealth that Kim Kardashian has and I feel like if the only thing different about our world was that the Kardashian family didn’t exist, there would be someone else doing the same thing for the same reason

also, the Kardashians are way less annoying then the people who click on articles about the Kardashians on Buzzfeed to complain about how Buzzfeed writes articles about Buzzfeed (and people who don’t get that Buzzfeed is not a serious news source)

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