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h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 1

Happy Nerd

I read an article today that made me so mad, I nearly posted in anger. "Tom Philpott," I did not say, "you made numerous factual errors in your Beer Charts of the Day article, two in the following sentence alone."

http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/08/beer-charts

Then I didn't point out the mistakes in that sentence*, nor any of the others in his article appearing in Mother Jones. I did not express my sudden doubts as to the veracity of all of Philpott's articles. I did not share my suspicions of the quality, nay, the very existence of fact-checking at Mother Jones. I managed to restrain myself, under the calming influence of a quality craft brew.

Of course nothing in what I would have posted could remotely be considered trolling or bullying. My scathing criticism would have included no personal remarks nor calls for violent action. There would have been no campaign to carefully comb through Philpott's other articles for errors upon which I could pounce, no hounding him through the lonely stretches of cyberspace. Who has the time?

Oh yeah, that's right, trolls and bullies do. They go through every post in every thread to see what they can find and twist into something that makes their target look bad. They follow their target from one forum to the next, derailing conversations, making threats and vile accusations.

Some of my fellow researchers and I have been discussing this side of human behavior in light of Tim Adams's recent article entitled 'How the Internet created an age of rage'.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jul/24/internet-anonymity-trolling-tim-adams

The article suggests that trolls and bullies behave deplorably because they feel safely anonymous. But this would mean that hatred and bile were unheard of prior to the Internet age and outside of a cloak of anonymity, and we know this isn't true. Sure there are some cowards who wouldn't dare put their name to the bile they spew, but there are plenty who do. Numerous talk radio hosts come to mind. This ugly behavior has always been going on, just not in an easily distributed electronic print format. Until the advent of search engines, a person or group often had no way of finding out who was spewing bile about them, unless the bullies and trolls were issuing their hate-filled messages through some form of distributed media.

My exasperation over Philpott's article seemed out of proportion to his errors, as numerous as they were. (Quiz: Can you find them all?) Sure, h2g2 has spoiled me. I'm used to reading better quality online journalism and writing for the Guide and the Post, both of which expect fact-checking and references. But the guy was talking about beer; he wasn't giving out erroneous health advice. What was the real cause of my vexation?

And then it struck me. I found his article because I followed a Twitter link. Mother Jones promotes its contributors through social media. h2g2 hasn't just doesn't have the same kind of promotion. Philpott's stuff is seen, because Mother Jones makes sure to promote it.

For all the promotion we give ourselves and each other, we might as well have written less, turned off our computers, and gotten a little more fresh air over the years.

Can we build a h2g2 social media marketing machine or will we leave Radox the Green to plug away at Twitter all by himself?


smiley - alesmiley - alesmiley - alesmiley - alesmiley - alesmiley - alesmiley - ale

* The offending sentence: "Note that breweries plunged to zero in 1930, in honor of that ignoble experiment, Prohibition, and then recovered for a few years after."

Prohibition began and the number of brewing establishments went to zero on 16 January, 1920 - not 1930. (A29019369) Once prohibition was over, only half as many breweries were able to reopen. The number steadily dwindled until there were fewer breweries than states in the US. The number of breweries did not recover a few years after as stated - it took decades.


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 2

Nick

I know that I have been called a bully and a troll many times, usually because it seems the common catch-words these days for anyone you seriously disagree with or dislike. Almost like the kids naming anyone they don't like with a term used to describe a woman of loose morals and values (a term not unlike a garden implement)

There was one time period when I and another did act very much the bullies, to distract a particularly nasty person who was annoying (and in some cases frightening) women friends on the site. Amazingly, the editorial staff of the day acted far quicker than was their usual and he found himself banned by his own 'merits', and life moved on. I'm not proud of how I treated him, nor do I regret acting for the interests of friends.


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 3

Penny for the Gosho?

Actually, he's wrong on two counts:

"During Prohibition, Kosmas Spoetzl kept the brewery afloat by selling ice and making near beer. After Prohibition only five of the original 13 Texas breweries were still intact. When the Prohibition laws were repealed larger beer plants, such as Anheuser-Busch, moved to Texas making life harder on the smaller independent breweries, but Spoetzl kept things small and simple never going more than 70 miles for business."
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Spoetzl_Brewery


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 4

Penny for the Gosho?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoetzl_Brewery


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 5

Happy Nerd

He's wrong on a lot more than that, including what was illegal about home-brewing and what then-President Carter amended to change that.

Hint: Barley, hops and yeast were and are considered food items.


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 6

Happy Nerd

Hey Nick, didn't see you there, I guess I was focused on the beer. (Had my beer goggles on.)

On the bully/troll issue, I try to avoid posting unless I am smiley - smiley. If I am smiley - sadface or smiley - grr I try to figure out why before posting.

Which is why I refrained from saying anything to the MJ blogger. I might have informed and corrected him, and he might have acknowledged my post or ignored it, but it really doesn't matter. The point was I was miffed, and not even at him, and I don't post while torqued.

What vexed me wasn't his factual errors, it was that we have a huge depository of good quality writing that is receiving almost no publicity. It wasn't what he was doing, it was what we aren't doing enough of. In fact, most of our writers are too modest to blow their own horns, and too discreet or something to promote the writing of anyone else.

Either we get in the habit of promoting what we have and what we do or h2g2 will never make it financially. We - all of us - need to get a little ... evangelical, in the sense of being zealous about advocating h2g2.

Mother Jones knows this. Mother Jones is promoting content that's finding traction, even if it isn't particularly well-researched.

We routinely have much better content, and we either whisper "jolly good" to the author or say nothing at all.

Will we get smart enough fast enough? What tools do we need to promote our content? Will promotion be considered an important activity or just shuffled off to the side and forgotten?

Okay, I'm off to groom shelter smiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - catsmiley - cat


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 7

Happy Nerd

>>> There was one time period when I and another did act very much the bullies, to distract a particularly nasty person who was annoying (and in some cases frightening) women friends on the site. Amazingly, the editorial staff of the day acted far quicker than was their usual and he found himself banned by his own 'merits', and life moved on. I'm not proud of how I treated him, nor do I regret acting for the interests of friends.

Were you bullying the "particularly nasty person" only because the Internet venue gives you a certain anonymity?

Or was it simply a case of the sort of thing one would do in real life? Suppose you walked into a bar and saw a "particularly nasty person" pestering one of the patrons. Wouldn't you at least ask the patron, "Is everything okay?" or even "Is this guy bothering you?"

How really do our real life and online behaviors differ? Aren't particularly nasty persons particularly nasty in real life as well?



h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 8

Nick

If I met such a beast face to face, and he was really annoying (and in some cases frightening) friends as he was, I probably would have acted more directly. On-line and across an ocean though, words were all I had.

And pretty much since my 2nd day on this site, I have never been really anonymous. Any number of people could quite easily find my phone number and home address. I really am not capable of lying well or consistently


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 9

aka Bel - A87832164

>>How really do our real life and online behaviors differ?<<

I guess with an ocean and two continents between you and somebody you started a witch hunt on, it does not really matter if your RL name is known. smiley - erm

I'm only in a different country, but I've been a lot more free with giving information of my whereabouts than I'd ever have been in a German forum. It just didn't/doesn't seem likely to be stalked or having to endure telephone terror (in RL) as I'm so far away from the majority of users here on h2g2.


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 10

Nick

Witch-hunt? I will guess that you remember his effects on a lot of women much differently than I do then. smiley - erm


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 11

Nick

Mind, I did make some pretty good friends from that whole affair. His ex-mate for several years before she married and went off-line (not uncommon for a woman living in Dubai), a pirate wench that we visited in Ireland, two others that are sporadic but always there. smiley - smiley


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 12

Happy Nerd

Bel, I can't recall starting a witch-hunt, and quite a few people know who I am. Only one troll, one here on h2g2 in fact, tries to pretend that I am actually a sock-puppet. smiley - laugh Really, we need a better class of troll. Of course, if trolls were classy, they wouldn't be trolls, right?

Well, my coffee break is over, and it's time to get back to KP.


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 13

aka Bel - A87832164

I just meant to say that some things are a lot easier to do when you know that you're sort of 'untouchable' in RL. I didn't mean to imply you did such a thing. But you asked in how far online behaviour and RL behaviour could differ, and I think distance adds a lot to acting more freely online (as does anonymity, of course).

smiley - smiley


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 14

Nick

I will certainly agree with you there, Bel. I think distance is more important than actual anonymity in building a good trust in folks sooner than one might if they were in the same state or province.


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 15

psychocandy - Moderator

I have to comment here on how imperative I think internet anonymity really is.

And oddly enough, a website I follow posted a brief collection of reasons today: http://www.disinfo.com/2011/08/why-online-real-names-policies-are-wrong/

I use an anonymous handle here, on Goodreads, on Google, everywhere but Facebook (where I have mainly family and "RL" friends in addition to the handful of internet friends, including those from hootoo, who have given me no reason not to trust them as of yet). I do this for two big reasons.

One of those reasons is that as a teenager, I was violently assaulted by a group of young men near a suburban train station. Yes, it was a bit late, but I was on my way home from work. I am lucky, apparently, to have survived (a handgun was used, and was fired. I sustained a reasonably serious injury). The guilty parties have long since served their time and been released. (note: I am NOT COMPLAINING- I am in favor of a fair judicial system, and these people were minors at the time). I just don't want any of them to be able to find me, even though my surname has changed (was married and divorced in the mid-90s).

The second reason is that my ex-husband was a smiley - bleep and I don't want him tracking me down. smiley - winkeye

And now there's the recent development of a new job in a field which requires the utmost discretion, and I don't really want my employer and co-workers privy to all my internet musings. Especially the bits I've revealed that people in this country attack people for- like having had to terminate a pregnancy in the past, etc.

Re: distance- for me, that has nothing to do with it. The *only* person who has stalked and harassed me online has done it from the UK (and got away with it because of a friend in a high place, so to speak). This person obtained my personal contact info, put me on a mailing list for offensive materials, called my home at all hours shrieking at me for not having replied to posts while I was asleep, called my now husband/ then S.O. libelous names, and told other hootooers they couldn't speak to me because she did not like them.

Anonymity does a lot more than distance can- just because you can't show up on my doorstep doesn't mean you can't make my life a living hell.


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 16

psychocandy - Moderator

A couple hours later, and I'll add this- anonymity doesn't make me tell lies. I might not bare my personal details but I'm pretty straightforward. But I've encountered the dreaded "internet persona", both with someone using an anonymous handle and someone using their "real" name. And they were all liars.

I can't STAND smiley - bleeping liars or phonies. There's a big difference between using another name, or hiding behind a persona, be that persona a concern troll, a nasty troll, or not a troll at all but just a liar.


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 17

Happy Nerd

>>> I just meant to say that some things are a lot easier to do when you know that you're sort of 'untouchable' in RL. I didn't mean to imply you did such a thing. But you asked in how far online behaviour and RL behaviour could differ, and I think distance adds a lot to acting more freely online (as does anonymity, of course).

>>> Interesting. Very perceptive of you to mention untouchable. We have seen a number of extremely powerful individuals appear untouchable at least for a spell. Some of them use part of their wealth and power to pervert the justice system to their own advantage, bribing lawmakers and law enforcement officers. Many times they are able to build powerful dynasties and even rewrite history. Other times they get investigated and even prosecuted.

But is it the likelihood of escaping (or at least postponing) consequences which leads to trollish or bullying behavior? Or is it the anonymity? Or the distance?

I don't believe it is the anonymity that leads to trollish or bullying behavior nor the distance. If that were the case, there would never be a schoolyard bully, since everyone would know who and where they were.

Rather it is that they either feel they can escape consequences at least some of the time, or that they perversely enjoy the consequences. After all, one troll can tie up a lot of time and attention.

But unfortunately, a number of online service providers, including Google Plus, are insisting on RL identities. Here is Grrl Scientist's article protesting this 'gormless' policy:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/punctuated-equilibrium/2011/jul/25/1

There are many good and valid reasons to have a pseudonym. I'd hate to see the loss of this particular form of self-expression.


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 18

Happy Nerd

>>> I will certainly agree with you there, Bel. I think distance is more important than actual anonymity in building a good trust in folks sooner than one might if they were in the same state or province.

One of the truly beautiful aspects of the Internet, or rather online communication, is that we can meet intellect to intellect. It really doesn't matter if I am white black or green, male female or other, able-bodied disabled or just worn out, young old or in-between. The quality of our conversations can build the foundations of trust and understanding.

Providing you cut me a little slack for my American spelling and regional slang, of course. smiley - winkeye


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 19

Nick

Awww you Muricans ain't so bad once a body gets used to ya. smiley - winkeye


h2g2, Mother Jones, Bullies, Trolls and Internet Rage. And a beer.

Post 20

Happy Nerd

Aw, shucks. smiley - blush


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