The internet should come with a Content Warning; OR – I don’t know just thinking aloud here – maybe people could learn to behave in a way that isn’t hateful .
Over the years we have seen so much material online that is patently untrue ranging from misinformed ignorance to willfully abusive hate speech. It rarely matters what the intent is as – in matters of abuse – the impact is what is important. The impact of racism and sexism (and all forms of bigotry) is well documented and what is posted online has effect in real life because, whether you like it or not folks, the internet is real life. It is community. It is people and it has lasting and permanent status in all our lives no matter how, when, or why we use it.
Omar Khayyam seemed to understand the importance of words and their permanence when he wrote The Rubaiyat in 1121, the most famous of its quatrains being:
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on : nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
Recently a CBC Indigenous article discussed how stories are spread so easily online lately and how the effects within community are immense. The constant unending ‘trolling’ behaviour of some individuals can result in lies taking on lives of their own and being used to justify some opinions which are incredibly harmful. In this instance a well known ‘troll’ (Tyler Kek Jeffries) used a story he claimed to know as fact, based on ‘his personal knowledge of the situation’. He spread this lie along with a horribly insensitive view that a person who has been harmed by someone else might have done something to deserve the abuse. In this case, the victim deserved to die because they were far from perfect.
This same individual has the habit of saying the most insensitive and repugnant things because…. well it is really hard to understand why anyone would spread lies and fuel hatred unless if you examine the concept of projection. We see things through our own personal filters, thus the world reflects back to us, ultimately, what we acknowledge in ourselves.
When confronted with his behaviour this ‘troll’ typically responds with more abuse in an attempt to harangue people into silence but if pressured, or if he knows he won’t get away with his usual vulgarity, he repeatedly offers the excuse “it was a joke”. This shows that he is clearly capable of modifying his behaviour to suit the situation. This is not a person who lacks filters but someone who knowingly behaves badly when he chooses.
Here is a quick and easy summary for anyone having difficulty with the concept of humour:
- Comments about admiring Hitler: not jokes;
- comments about sex workers/drug addicts deserving harm: not jokes;
- comments disparaging Muslims: not jokes;
- comments about dead or dying Native women: not jokes;
- comments about rape: also not jokes.
The Anti-Racism Collective (ARC) has also done a great job of detailing the behaviour of Mr. Jeffries in this blog article found here: http://anti-racistcanada.blogspot.ca/2017/11/tyler-jefferies-alt-right-troll.html
Mr. Jeffries: You need, instead of trying to deflect from criticism of your behaviour, to take a long critical look inward, examine personal issues, and stop being constantly abusive online. It is not edgy; you are not some sort of Free Speech Maverick; you are not being progressive. You are projecting a whole lot of hate towards women, Muslims, Indigenous, and anyone who doesn’t find your brand in any way appropriate.
See the CBC story here:
How a Facebook lie about Thunder Bay woman killed by trailer hitch spread
Question is… when it is continued and repeated behaviour, how much of it can be excused as simple trolling and how much is actually hate. One way to deal with this type of problem is to not give trolls the platform or the megaphone to broadcast their harmful screeds. The owner of the facebook page where much of the abuse was being spread was also interviewed in the article. Pino Demassi is the owner and administrator of ‘The Real Concerned Citizens of Thunder Bay.
The page administrator doesn’t understand that anger is a valid response to hatred and has refused to moderate or ban anyone who was abusive IF anyone engaged with them. It doesn’t matter whether it was the person who was the target of the abuse or some other community member who responded. He claims he can’t moderate all activity but he punishes people who cannot wait for him to chime in.
It would be one thing entirely if he moderated nothing. But he moderates selectively which means he is actively creating the tone in the space. He is responsible then for everything that remains. (See Whatcott SCC decision regarding hate speech of a “restrictive and exclusionary” kind.) He is not supporting free speech in what he does; he is limiting it to only that he supports personally.
Free speech is only guaranteed between an individual and the government so Facebook pages garner no such protection. You can moderate it as much as you wish. And so he should. He should refuse to allow his page be a platform. Mr. Demassi: I hope your recent desire to learn is sincere and productive but it may be too little – too late.