Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Vitriol*

And for the Veils

I'm probably naive about this, but I've been a bit shocked by the vitriol that sometimes exists in comment pages. I would as soon eviscerate a total stranger on a comment/ message board as I would scream filthy invective at my mail lady, which is not soon at all. Because I can't seem to forget that the person one is  venting one's spleen at is real. I think of that person as myself, on the other side of a mirror. Why would I do that to someone else when I know it can't help but hurt?

To this end, the Guardian/Observer had an innocent enough article about artists who use antiquated or analog tools as part of their art making. It's a cool article you can find here. Read it and enjoy. Then have a look at some of the comments. People are commenting on things that don't even make sense, making assumptions about the artists (nasty ones) that they couldn't possibly infer from the article. 

One of the artists profiled, poet Claire Askew, blogged about what these comments were and how they affected her personally. I think it's illuminating to see the 'result' of these virtual molotov cocktails that anonymous posters throw - to see where they land. As she says in her response, she's "never taken being picked on lying down " So instead of lying down and taking it or even taking the 'high' road of silence, she responds to some of the haters. It's interesting and kind of thrilling to see her take them all on. 

What do you think about the negative/flaming comments and posts about artists/writers? Haters gonna hate, but should there be a response? Or does that just fan the flames? And should bloggers in particular be honest (I hate this writer/book) or be discrete? Is there a way to be both?

*Yesterday, V was for Vexed, because that's how this issue made me feel. But Vitriol is much more appropriate, no?


  1. Thanks very much for the wee mention! I'll be stopping back here again, I think! :)

  2. As a veteran of internet forums for the last 10 years or so, I guess I'm a bit desensitized to this. At least, I'm not at all surprised or shocked. Yes, haters gonna hate and NO there should never be a response. The first rule of the internet is DON'T FEED THE TROLLS.

    You hit the nail right on the head as to the reason for this. Whereas you see people on the internet as people. They don't. They've become so used to communicating over a medium that doesn't allow any visual or physical contact, that cuts out all aspects of body language and tone of voice, that they can no longer think of anyone on the internet as real people. It's a disturbing trend that has been going on since the birth of the internet.

    Sadly there are so many people in the world who are either ignorant or malicious or (let's not be narrow minded) both that there's really nothing you can do about it. They feed off your tears. The best thing is to just ignore them. Same as that annoying kids who pulled your braids in grade school. If they don't get a reaction they get bored.

  3. Hey there poetess - thanks for visiting, and thanks for giving such a great response to the 'trolls'. I'm all for not taking it lying down!

    @sarah - I know you are right, that feeding the trolls makes them grow (or is that getting them wet, like in Gremlins? anyway...) But I admire Claire Askew's response specifically because it's a bit quixotic. Is it going to shame any of those haters to be less hateful? No, probably not. But I wonder if part of the growing trend of hatefulness you mention is because of the lack of response. Does not responding inadvertently give 'permission' to go ahead and stomp all over someone more? Do you need to call out the bully, or is ignoring them the best policy? I can see both sides.

    I absolutely do agree, however, that responding to hate with hate will only get you double hate, which everyone knows, is toxic for everyone. Difficult, difficult thing to figure out. I wonder what I'd do in the same situation and I hope I don't find out ;)

  4. I understand the temptation to respond, I really do. However, I think that responding is a dangerous slippery slope. I've seen it happen so many times. It's hard to stop responding after you've started and it's so easy to sink down to their level. I know we all think we wouldn't do that, but it happens to the best people. People who are normally the sweetest people you could know or the smartest. It's happened to me mroe than once. Trolls have a gift for bating and instigating. It's what they live for. They are toxic and if you touch them at all you're likely to get contaminated. The best thing to do is ignore them and just continue to be your lovely, shining self.

  5. Sarah -- all very well, but I'm not particularly lovely or shining! I'm fiery and vocal and not to be crossed. I deliberately addressed only the comments (for the most part, rather than the commenters themselves) I felt were valid, and I did so in my own space, rather than in the comment thread itself (always a bad idea). I stand by my decision to do so and don't see myself as having been "lowered" to their level. I'm also allergic to any sentence that begins with "never" or "always" -- these may be rules /you/ choose to abide by, and good for you. But to say a certain path is "the best way" just because it's the path /you/ follow? I'm with magpie -- allow people to pick on you and they'll just carry on. I was taught to always stand up to bullies. That's how I roll, and I'm sticking by it.


  6. Well, as someone else who tends to be fiery and far too vocal and who has gotten into these messes a fair few times, all I can say is good luck to you. But in my experience it's always a mistake in the end.


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