Trolls and Haters

I want to understand why people feel the need to go to blogs and message boards and the like just to bash people. Yesterday I was very upset to see that on a religious woman’s message board where they tell each other off for not being G-d fearing enough, that it is somehow acceptable for them to bash people by name. Yes there are some people in the religious world whose names are known to many people for a variety of different reasons – but that is no excuse to publicly malign them. Maybe some of it is jealousy, but still…. Were none of these people brought up not to speak Lashon Hara? Or is that rule suspended when you are on an internet message board which is an aveirah (sin) in and of itself?

There are others who make it their business to go blog to blog leaving comments, trying to stir up hatred and dissent – and I fail to understand why. I have a delete button, and I am not afraid to use it. But I do not get why those trolls like to make trouble – what does it bring them? Do they get some kind of sick pleasure knowing that they have caused hurt to someone?

I was brought up that if I had nothing nice to say, I should say nothing. Yes, yes, I have a blog and I know I am not always nice here. But I never ever direct any of my rants at specific people, I never name names. That’s just low.

Why do they do it?

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  1. Of course it brings them pleasure. They’re TROLLS. Because they lead sad, sorry little lives…

    Schadenfreude – such a pretty word for such an ugly emotion. I think most of the trolls still live in their parents’ basements and subsist on stolen wireless connections.

  2. batya from NJ says:

    I think the trolls are miserable, bitter people who have no lives & it brings them pleasure to cause pain & discomfort to others & besides, their mothers’ never taught them that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”!

    • fille says:

      But bloggers who rant on the net also give discomfort to all the people who resemble to those described on the rant, not to speak of the rant-subjects themselves, if they happen to recognise themselves…

      So the “anonymity” issue goes both ways…

      • It’s one thing to be sufficiently self-aware to recognize yourself in someone else’s rant and to feel the discomfort – perhaps that’s called “guilt”? :)

        It’s quite another to be outed and publicly humiliated by name.

        Now, if you have said something in public, and someone else is debating it and refers to you by name, I think that’s fair. But to just start a rant about someone (other than a public figure) and name names? To do it in an ugly, rude, hurtful manner? Trolls.

  3. mekubal says:

    Personally I think that it is the anonymity part of the internet. You don’t really know who is the person typing behind the screen, even if they use a “real” sounding name. With that lack of accountability, comes a lack of socially acceptable behaviour.

    Personally as someone who is called a kofer, apikorus, or has “normative” Orthodox Judaism suggested to me at least once a week on my blog or the comment thread of another’s, I have learned a fairly simple rule. Ignore it. They are mostly spineless people who feel empowered by their keyboards. I mean honestly, my name, my Yeshiva, and my Rosh Yeshiva are all well published on my blog. If someone really had a problem with me, and really wanted to do something, they would just lift the phone and call, ’til that day comes, they show their true colors hiding behind their anonymity and keyboards.

    • sheldan says:

      Unfortunately, the anonymity is a double-edged sword. But that doesn’t give them license to violate laws of loshon hora, even if they disagree with you. If someone wants to observe a stricter form of observance, that is their privilege; they have no right to shove it down your throat. I say, live and let live.

  4. Chaipad says:

    You never direct rants at specific people? What about the guy who didnt stand up for you in the DR office? What about the person who sinned by saying he babysits his child? Puhlezze!!!!!! If you (any blogger) try and project an image online that is patently false people can call you ot on it. If people cant take the heat then perhaps they should not blog. It is the right of the commenter to post what he feels. It is disgusting to call someone a hater or a troll ecause YOU dont agree with them. Do you see people calling bloggers names or just disagreeing with the post or the blogger?

    • mekubal says:

      @Chaipad

      I think you missed the point of what a troll is. It not a person who expresses a valid, however unpopular, opinion. To give the definition of troll from wiki:
      a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response[1] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

      If you don’t understand that there are just angry people out there who only(no matter how positive a topic) always post something negative… well I just don’t have an answer for that.

      • fille says:

        I think the “troll” is in the eye of the beholder, and it often happens that bloggers treat people who defend valid, unpopular opinions as a troll.

        By the way: this might also be a phenomenon on internet: it is much easier to have access to circles that have completely different opinions than ourselves. This is what makes the Internet so interesting for me: you can “talk to” people from different countries, different cultures, different backgrounds.

        However, I learned that “diverging opinions” are often not welcome on a blog with a fairly “homogenous” audience.

        You are not welcome to tell a stepmom on stepmom blog that it is idiotic and harmful to children to go to court to have an exact 50:50 time split.

        However, this is quite easy to understand to everyone outside the stepmom or divorced dad blogosphere.

        • mekubal says:

          To me a Troll is someone who says something(often offensive) and completely off topic. To my blog they come in two types. The neo-Nazi antisemites, and the people just looking to cause a fight, that usually lead off with words like kofer or apikorus. Occaisonally there are some Catholic and intactivist extremists that still wander by and try to convince me that I am heading straight to hell based on arguments made from varying papal decrees… I could go on…

          Then there are haters. Those are more the people who stay on topic, however are often simply rude or abrupt in their comments. Or seeking to put a negative twist on what is being said.

          At least that is how I see it.

          • fille says:

            Well, I think that here you hit the core of rudeness, especially unintended rudeness.

            Each person has traits in his self-image that they hold dear. For one it might be modesty or good midot or beauty or a perfect shape, etc…

            So if someone inadvertently comes and tells them that they are lacking precisely in the trait they hold dear, people tend to interpret it as a personal attack and view this person as a troll. Perhaps it was not at all meant in this way. Perhaps it was loving, albeit mistaken way to help someone growing.

          • sheldan says:

            Fille, if the advice is unwelcome and unsolicited, there may not be much difference. It may not have been meant to be hostile, but that is how it’s going to be interpreted by the listener.

  5. fille says:

    Often bloggers hide behind anonymity to vent their own, private feelings, to a wide public.

    They never know whether they are identified and whether the people spoken about are reading it.

    Anonymity is much more complex than one might think. It might well be that certain of your readers are able to indentify the guy who did not get up or the mom who does not watch her children (who end up walking up and down in front of cars), etc.

    Commentators also hide behind anonymity. Frankly, I would not mind to be identified, even if I make nasty comments (that’s the kind of person I am, even in real life). What I would not like is to leave too much of a footprint on the net, that’s why I prefer not to blog with my true name. However, if you want to find out who I am and have private conversations with me, I am ready to give you full disclosure on a one-to-one basis, but not on the net.

  6. sheldan says:

    “They tell each other off for not being G-d-fearing enough”? By whose standards?

    Again, the Herman Wouk quote applies: “No matter how observant you are, you will wind up on the treif side of someone whose standards are stricter.”

    You really wonder why these people fail to consider that they are probably committing loshon hora when, as religious people, they should know better. What does that say to the non-religious Jews and non-Jews who observe their behavior and generalize to all religious Jews?

    Thanks for the opportunity to vent a quick rant. :-)

  7. sheldan says:

    I always thought a troll was that person who sat under a bridge… :-)

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