You Have No Power Over Me – The Futility of Trolling

Published September 1, 2011 by sleepydumpling

The bulk of this post was written a week ago, and I had intended to publish it then.  However with my coming down with some kind of stomach bug at the end of last week, and then other topics coming up, it waited patiently in my queue, ready to be posted when I got a moment.

However, over the past 48 hours, I’ve been hit by a wall of trollery both here (mostly at people pissed off that I and others keep saying that no matter how fat someone is, they still deserve nice clothes) and on other social media sites of mine – particularly my Tumblr.  So this topic became all the more relevant for me.  I was also preparing to post it tonight when I read this beautifully honest and heartfelt piece from Gluten-free Girl, which I cannot resist linking back to here.

So, I’m going to talk about a subject that is often considered taboo in Fat Acceptance spaces.  It’s often taboo in many social justice spaces.  That is the subject of trolling.

I bring this up because of a comment on an earlier post about someone being attacked by trolls, and because I read this excellent piece by Melissa over at Shakesville about the level of hate that is aimed in her direction, and Ragen from Dances with Fat often mentions the same issue.

There is this unspoken (or rarely spoken) understanding that to talk about the amount of hate and trolling that we get, we are somehow feeding the trolls, that by acknowledging their presence, we’re encouraging them to continue their shitty behaviour.  However, what nobody acknowledges is that they troll anyway, whether you ignore them or out them, whether you keep silent about the hatred or you speak about it.

Just existing feeds the trolls.

To me, this results in a real feeling of solitude, as though we stand alone in dealing with this.  But the truth is, we don’t.  It happens to all of us in the Fatosphere at some point, and the more visible you are, and the more you stand up and speak out about the injustice of fat stigma, the more they do it.

The real irony to me is, it seems that the happier you are, the more comfortable you are in your skin and in your life, the more vicious and nasty the trolling gets to be.

That’s the bit that I don’t understand.  I actually have people, not just random anonymous trolls who pop up for a bit of “You suck, fatty boombaladah!”, but people who have met me somewhere (either through work, or through friends or other things I’m involved with, or they know who I am through someone else) and they are so angry that I’m happy, that I’m confident and have strong self esteem, that they have to troll my blog, and various other social media sites and try to tear me down.  They spend their precious time (and I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have enough hours in the day!) watching my every move, keeping notes on what I say on Twitter, Tumblr, here on my blog and other places, and saving them up to try to use them against me to make me feel bad or something.

These people have so much time on their hands, and are so fascinated by me and my life, that they spend inordinate amounts of time following everything I do, trying to find a way to make me angry or feel bad or something.  Here are some examples of things I’ve discovered my own little posse of trolls doing.

  • They go through BOTH my entire Twitter streams (I have two Twitter accounts, I keep a separate one for work stuff) and catalogue every single time that I mention I’m tired and any other statements they can use to try to prove that I’m unhealthy, and tried to fling that back at me.
  • They spent several hours one evening signing me up to every weight loss clinic, gym, diabetes organisation, personal trainer and diet company they could find in Brisbane.  Those poor businesses had so much time wasted in contacting me back, but I was happy to hand the culprit’s IP address over to their internet service provider’s fraud investigation team, as I’m sure the businesses I gave that IP were too.
  • They spam my Tumblr and Formspring with the most boring, inane questions, like “How much do you weigh?” and “How much time do you spend on the computer?” (Zzzzzzzz)
  • They send childish, passive-aggressive notes, pretending to be my “friend”.  Bwahahahaa!
  • They Google my name and find out as much information about me as possible, and then they troll me saying they hate everything about me (and list it off, every bit of it!)
  • They search for where I have commented on other blogs or news articles, and leave personal comments hating on me.
  • They go through my Flickr stream and look at every photograph of me, leaving insults and bitchiness on my photographs.
  • They comment on Facebook pages for anything about obesity saying that there is this horrible blog called Fat Heffalump that is hating on thin people and “promoting obesity” and urge people over here to “Stand up against this bully!” and troll me further.
  • They are even stupid enough to log on using their work email or on their work internet access to leave nasty comments here on Fat Heffalump… where I can see their IP address, and can put in a formal complaint about them to their employers with concrete proof!  You can get fired for trolling people’s blogs and websites on your work internet.

And these are just some of the examples of just how much time and energy these people put into directing their hate at me.

Here you go darlings.  You don’t have to pour over my Flickr or Tumblr or Twitter, here’s a photo JUST for you:

Check out my big fat middle finger Trolly McTrollerson!

My experience with being trolled is by no means isolated.  Many in the Fatosphere experience all of this and more.

However, do you know what I think?  When people do this kind of stuff at us, they don’t hate us at all.  I know I don’t actually hate anyone (nobody is worth that kind of passion if I don’t like them) but I can’t imagine spending hours and hours examining someone online, looking for any little thing you can pick at them on, reading everything they write and share and looking at every photograph of that person in detail when I don’t like them.  The first thing I do if someone gives me the shits is block them, wipe them totally from my view and move on with my life to all those awesome people I do really love and enjoy.  I don’t have enough time in the day to keep up with all the awesome people and stuff out there, let alone waste it on those I don’t like.

But these trolls, they spend hours pouring over every thing they can find, compulsively checking every single iota of online presence.

I think they actually admire us, but they’re too scared to admit that they’re not happy and wish they could be like us.  I think they fear us, and worry that somehow, by our being happy and confident, they are missing out on something in life.   I think they are jealous of us, because they see our happiness and joy, our successes, the praise we receive, the community we hold and the fact that we simply refuse to hate ourselves because of what other people say about us and they want that.  I think they wish they could be as outspoken, passionate, funny, intelligent, respected, honest, confident and bold as we are.

I think they are sad, frightened, angry, lonely and envious.

That must be the case, because I can’t for the life of me think of any other feasible reason why someone would devote so much time and energy to reading, viewing and interacting with someone they actually didn’t like, let alone supposedly hated.  I’ve said it before, but people with full, happy lives don’t need to hate on others.  They are too busy, too otherwise engaged to do that.  They don’t feel hate in their hearts, or feel the need to make others feel bad.

We fascinate them, we fatty unicorns.  That’s what we are, those of us who refuse to buy into the fat loathing and hate ourselves for being fat, those of us who stand up and say “I won’t apologise for my size, and I deserve the same rights as every other human being.”  We’re fat unicorns.  There aren’t that many of us in comparison yet (though we’re breeding rapidly, which must be a mix of terrifying and fascinating to these people) and we have special powers.  We have the power of confidence and self esteem.  We have the power of the Fatosphere, our very own community of fatty unicorns around us.  We have the power of self respect.

I know, that it gets hard dealing with these people sometimes.  In the past it used to hurt me terribly when I got that kind of crap turning up on my blog or social media pages.  Nowdays I mostly find it funny, or just ludicrous that someone would spend so much time watching me so closely.  But the thing that really twigged in my head a while back was that these people have no power over me.  For all they think that they’re going to bully me into hating myself, or shut me up from talking here on my blog or any of my social media accounts, or change who I am or what I do, they have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually doing any of that.

Because they are completely powerless.  That’s why they do it – they know they have no power in their everyday lives, so they try to exert power over us online.  But it’s completely redundant.

The only person who has the power to make us change anything about ourselves, is ourselves.  Promise me you will never forget that lovelies.

About these ads

53 comments on “You Have No Power Over Me – The Futility of Trolling

  • Wow. Just wow. I didnt realise you were targetted to that extent. I am gobsmacked. I am glad you are so strong hon, you are stronger than I am. I love you and I love your work. You rock my world.

    • Thanks Bri. I actually know who a couple of mine are. People who have failed to get what I have, because they thought they were entitled to it, rather than working their arse off like I have. Others are people who thought they were better than me and I offended them for failing to think the same. It’s all very childish and I really feel sorry for them.

      And it’s because of you, I am where I am today!

  • and they are so angry that I’m happy, that I’m confident and have strong self esteem

    Gosh, this was timely for me, because I was just telling (on NotBlueAtAll’s blog) about my mother doing exactly this, for years: I was not supposed to be happy, goddamit, when I wasn’t living my life exactly the way she wanted me to (and being thinner was a very small part of that). It’s a basic failure of empathy to assume other people cannot be happy, healthy, fulfilled and all the rest unless they do it your way, but from what I see it appears to be all too common.

    I’m astonished that anyone takes the time and effort to do this to you. I take my hat off to you for reacting in as civilised a manner as possible (actually, flipping the bird is rather nicely restrained under the circumstances). And, carrying on living your amazing life is absolutely the best response of all.

  • Looks like a lovely long post, but I’ll have to read it all later. I just had to say YAY Labyrinth reference!
    Nobody rocks tights quite like David Bowie.! :D

  • Great post & dead on. Trolls are indeed self-hating & insecure, because strong, self-confident people who have actual LIVES do not have to do this kind of crap. They are cruel & can hurt us, if we let them, but actually they are pretty damned pitiful.

    I posted on the BBS called the Fat!So? Gabcafe regularly for 10 years or more & we got trolls on a regular basis. Some would post & run, some would post a few times, other hung around for a year or maybe even two trying to stir trouble & defeat what we were doing & indeed at times succeeded in helping to drive some of our regulars away. We would complain to Marilyn (Wann) & she would tell us to not respond, not react…”Don’t feed the trolls.” Sometimes it seemed to work, but sometimes, especially with the ones who hung on, it didn’t help at all. I coped with the more persistent ones by using a filter we had available which enabled us not to see the posts of certain people.

    I am sorry that you go through this, that we all do. As a fat, disabled person, I have had so many various kind of ‘trolls’ in my own life, starting with my abusive parents. That we survive & even thrive is a mark of our strength & indeed evidence of the futility of trolling. That these idiots appear more often as we become more visible & attract more believers is a sure sign we are doing something right.

    • Indeed, quite often we know our trolls, or they know us.

      I think not talking about the trolls and the bullshit they perpetuate leads to a real sense of isolation and frustration that you can’t talk to anyone about it. It gives them power that they really don’t have otherwise. By exposing it and sharing the information (and highlighting just how DUMB most of them are!) we strengthen the most powerful thing we have… each other.

  • This post comes at a very timely moment for me, but not for the reasons you might suspect. Because I myself, yes lil ole me, was recently accused of trolling.

    I had developed the extremely bad habit of reading a weight loss blog, written by a person who advocates highly restricitive dieting and losing weight as quickly as possible because otherwise you will DIE, DIE, DIE. Let’s call this person X. The language X uses to describe fat people (themself included–notice the use of the neutral pronoun to avoid disclosing the sex of the blogger) is insulting and awful.

    Now, although I firmly disagree with the premise of the blog, the language used, the suggestions given, there is no reason to respond to the writer. However, over the six or so months that I read the blog, one very disturbing thing moved me to post a total of four comments: X’s habit of linking to other blogs, written by people who either are a) not “succeeding” and therefore, in X’s opinion stupid, wallowing in pity, whatever or b) do not agree with X, and have expressed these ideas in extremely cogent and scrupulously polite fashion. In one case, X precipitated the demise of one of the most interesting blogs I have ever come across. The blogger in question maintains that she was heading towards closing the blog anyway, but X’s vile and long-winded insults definitely hastened things.

    Last week, I commented on X’s blog, saying that X was a bully. It was a short comment explaining why I felt this way. I even wished X all the best with their efforts. A couple of days later, X announced that they were going to collaborate with another weight-loss blogger (who, whether or not you agree with his goals and methods, is certainly one of the kindest people blogging today, with never a mean word for anyone). I responded that maybe X should learn something from this man’s kindness towards others and stop linking to blogs just to put others down and puff themselves up.

    The next day, X wrote a fairly long post about me (and I admit, I didn’t sign it with my usual moniker, preferring to use a “shell” blog in order to avoid the linking that X would inevitably do to my real blog), using explosively hateful language, making amazingly off-the-mark statements about my appearance, my life and (of course) what and how I eat and ending by threatening to track me down and make my life hell if I persisted in my troll-like behaviour.

    I have decided to let sleeping dogs lie. If X wants to gather a coterie of lemmings around their blog, I can’t do anything about it. If X wants to persecute others by linking, I can’t do anything either.

    Was I a troll (with my total of four comments in six or more months)? I don’t know. But I have finally, and definitively stopped reading the blog in question. It was an addiction and I’ve now gone cold turkey.

    Fat Heffalump, I admire you enormously and support you fully in your blogging. You are a brave woman. Thank you and please continue writing!

    • Ah, I know who “X” is, and X is one of the most unhappy individuals on this planet and a huge bully. One has to wonder how much pent up rage fuels X’s “work”. I never read it, except that once when someone told me about something or other, and I went dark for a bit as a result (because I didn’t want X’s lemmings descending on me en masse with whatever vitriol X egged them on toward).

      The interesting thing about X’s attack on me and the responses that X received was that there was a clear lack of understanding that I am nothing like X (and my blog was never read by this creature). There was talk of how I wouldn’t live and my children would suffer (when I have no children) and about health issues I would certainly expire from which I did not have. X can’t see outside of X’s bubble. The whole world to X is X’s life and should have X’s responses, concerns, and lifestyle. It’s such a small existence that you can’t help but pity X. Of course, it’d be easier to do so if there weren’t such a large audience for X’s poisonous work, but such entities cannot operate in an environment which is naturally inclined to believe what they offer. We can’t really blame X. X is just responding to ears already eager to hear its message.

    • New Me, I live by this rule of thumb:

      Don’t read stuff that doesn’t add to your life, and CERTAINLY don’t engage with it. Don’t read things that tear people down, don’t read things that snark or bully, don’t read things that try to stir up drama and don’t read things that are negative in nature. Hit that unfollow button, use the unsubscribe function, delete them from your feed and walk away. Unless they name you directly, don’t respond. Even then, most of the time it’s SO not worth responding. If they name someone you want to support, instead of joining in on the bully’s post/piece, send your support directly to the person who is being attacked and let them know you care about them and that what they do matters to you.

      It’s different when trolls come to your space and attack – then you have the power there, you choose how you want to respond. But when they are doing it in other spaces, take their power away from them by realising how insignificant and unworthy of attention they are.

  • I never thought I’d use the term “beautiful” to describe a post about trolling, but this post is exactly that. I look at the things they have done to you, and I wonder if I would be able to persevere through the same situations. I don’t know, but seeing you be so strong, gives me hope that I could. Keep doing your thing, Kath. The fatosphere needs more people like you.

    • Thank you hon!

      I actually don’t consider the things I listed above as things they’ve “done” to me. All they’ve really done is wasted a whole lot of my time. And clearly their own! But it looks like they have a lot of time to waste. Perhaps they could find some friends, or get a hobby or something?

  • I think a lot of people who troll feel very short-changed in their life. There is usually some security in being thin in that, historically & still now it’s supposed to make you an accepted member of society. You’re okay because you’re skinny and that’s mean you’re cool.

    Fat people are supposed to suffer, they’re not supposed to have happy fulfilling lives and be confident. They’re supposed to be downtrodden and by contrast, thin people are supposed to better and happier. And when fat people fight back against that it shifts the status-quo and some people just don’t like that. It takes away that inherent sense of superiority they thought they had. Makes them less special and it’s usually people who feel they have no other special qualities that dislike it the most and go trolling. Also true of other fatties who troll. Why does she get to feel so good about herself and I still feel shit about myself? She’s fatter than I am, it’s not fair!

    I feel sorry for them but at the same time they’re independent people who have chosen to act like arseholes, so, fuck them!

    • I think you’re absolutely right Kylie. I think there is this feeling of missing out on something, or entitlement that spurs them on. It’s worth noting though, not all fat hate trolls are thin – some of the most vicious are fat themselves. They still feel short changed though – how dare someone who is fat like them not loathe themselves like they do?

      And spot on, while I do pity them quite a great deal, they are the only ones who could make things better for themselves.

  • I’ve been stalked and trolled on the same way as you (people searching for my comments on other blogs – following me around, etc.). However, I do not think in any way that they “envy” us. In my case, my stalkers were not responding to my weight-related writing, but rather to totally different blogs. They didn’t like that other people read what I was saying when they didn’t agree with me. They couldn’t bear the notion that they couldn’t silence a voice they didn’t concur with. It’s my influence that they hated. It wasn’t that they coveted it, but simply that they couldn’t bear the idea that people may perceive my opposing opinion as “right” because then they felt “wrong”.

    This has everything to do with having such low self-esteem that they can’t tolerate disagreement. It really has nothing to do withr jealousy, but is just another manifestation of bullying. Saying other people are “jealous” of whatever is a tricky thing as it seems to indicate some insecurity on the part of the person who believes they are envied. I can’t tell you how many weight loss bloggers believe other people are “jealous” of them when really it’s simply a difference of opinion and egos at stake.

    They don’t hate you, but they also don’t envy you. It’s about power. They want to take control of your life, hence the signing you up for things and attempting to intimidate you by trolling all over the place. The best thing you can do is ignore them until they get the message that they can’t control you and move on to bullying someone more sensitive and responsive.

    • While I don’t disagree with your analysis at all, I personally believe some trolls are as jealous as hell. They’re envious of the fact we no longer subscribe to the mindset and values that still have have them hidebound – and of the flagrantly trend-bucking strength of character that bought us our freedom. They invest so much time and effort “watching what they eat” (however that might manifest itself) and/or exercising like maniacs simply to avoid looking like us, regardless of whether they’ve ever been fat or have the genetic disposition to become so. The least we could do is care/ forlornly admire their iron will while wallowing in our moral laxity and self-loathing/ collude with the idea that looking like us is the worst fate that could possibly befall a person/ exemplify the belief that all fat people deservedly lead wretched and terrible lives.

      We live in a vicious culture where very few people – particularly women – are allowed to feel good about their appearance. Instead of examining that profoundly unhealthy state of affairs and getting angry enough to challenge it, they project the rage they feel at constantly being made to feel inferior on those they consider to be more so. And because this is such a superficial, short term fix in our current cultural climate they need to do it constantly. In my experience, many trolls are resentful of the fact we don’t need to feel jealous of them in order to feel good about ourselves. Opting out of their value system means their “superiority”, so finely honed at our expense, is worthless. You can’t win a competition if you’re the only one competing.

      • ETA What I should have written is, “many trolls are resentful of the fact we don’t need to inspire jealousy in others in order to feel good about ourselves”. (It was late when I posted!)

    • I still think that’s based in envy Screaming Fat Girl. I think they envy that people were listening to you, rather than agreeing with them.

      And honestly, they have absolutely no control over anything except themselves. They *think* they are controlling us, but really… all they are doing is wasting their own time. I feel it’s absolutely laughable for anyone to think that their dicking around on the internet is “controlling”.

      Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away – they’d have gone away a long time ago if that were the case. Ignoring them does isolate people who are being trolled though, because it makes people think they’re the only ones being targeted. When the truth is, they are not.

  • As always you are awesome. I think I have been lucky to only have a handful of trolls come across my blog other the years. It probably also has to do with the fact that I don’t post regularly, but I never understood the anger and lengths that people will go to when trolling.

  • i think the recent uptick in trolls has to do the sorry men and women who lost their jobs and have to feel better somehow…what better way than to ridicule fatties! lord knows trolls led to me shutting down fat n sassy for the most part. Maybe a few years down the road when i am futhur down my recovery process form ED i can take up the torch again.

    • I actually don’t know if they’re correlated at all erilyn. Lots of people lose their jobs, have tough times in their lives without resorting to trolling to make themselves feel better.

      I think it’s a cultural trend that comes from the media breeding a kind of entitlement, a “Fuck what happens to you, I want…!” mentality.

      I do hope you come back to blogging and activism when you are well enough.

  • Years ago I took a social psychology course that noted ‘out group’ prejudice ( I think that was the term) was the most common of prejudices. That is to say, if you aren’t exactly like me then there’s clearly something wrong with YOU. I see people pitting diet against diet in a remarkably silly battle over who is right. There’s more than one right, and the fact that some one else’s right is different doesnt make it automatically wrong. As for trolls, they are simply out of line and unworthy of the internet airspace they take up. Like the screaming brat in the yard behind mine, I think a smack is in order.

    Barb

  • I’ve been trolled at my blog and at FFF. One troll must have been someone from my past, they knew things about me that no one else online would know (the comments from that troll never saw the light of day, and that’s the IP address I published in my warning on my blog that I wouldn’t tolerate trolls). I’ve never had anyone follow me to the extent that they have you, Kath, thank Maude, but then again, I don’t have much of an online presence either (just 3 blogs and Facebook). The trolls I have are repeat trolls, and there’s no rhyme or reason for why or when they attack – their comments never get published, I never read them, I mark them all as spam and then delete them.
    I think the main problem with trolls is that basically they’re very unhappy people and can’t stand to see anyone else happy, especially someone who society says is supposed to be a glutton, or dirty, smelly, lazy, stupid, not desirable, or any other bad description you can give a fat person. When they see a fat person who is the opposite of all or any of those nasty descriptors, and is living a happy life, they just can’t handle it. ZOMG, someone FAT is happier than they are, they have to do something immediately to remedy that awful situation. Can we say obsession? Trolls are the online equivalent of meat-space bullies and that old saw of “ignore them and they’ll go away” doesn’t always work (I’ve been bullied, I’ve ignored bullies, the only thing that got them to leave me alone was to beat the crap out of the lead bully). Unfortunately, there’s not an effective way to “beat the crap out of” trolls online to get them to leave you alone (short of them using work computers to harass you and turning them in to their employers, which still leaves them their home puters to harass you from). Although, I’ve often wondered if finding their email addresses and sending them tons (pun intended) of pics of fat people doing every-day things happily and joyfully might be considered reverse trolling? Or sending them messages of love and sympathy? Sort of heaping coals on their heads, so to speak………………

    • I find it hilarious that people who actually know us troll us. I mean, come on! We’re all used to some dickweed who pops up randomly to say “Yo fat pig!” and slink away again, but those who just cannot let us go, who obsess over us and examine us constantly are the most sad of them all. Makes me think of the “I just can’t quit you.” line from Brokeback Mountain!

  • Ah my dear, you had me at the title of this piece. I do adore Labyrinth.

    While I’ve been mostly fairly unscathed online (though we did get a comment once on Big Girl that I tossed in the spam file claiming that Plumcake, Francesca, and I were all one skinny guy named Jim who lived in Macon, GA which made me giggle a lot. I’ve never been a guy, and never even been to Georgia!LOL!), I spent most of my later childhood and early adolescence being hideously bullied every day at school. For a long time, I let it fester, wouldn’t talk to anyone, allowed the bullies to make me less than myself. The couple times I tried to talk to someone in authority (including the time a girl choked me with my own scarf until I nearly blacked out in front of a couple dozen witnesses), I was told to stop doing whatever I was doing that was annoying them… like standing in line at the snack bar at recess minding my own business, apparently.

    Eventually, I did figure out that I wasn’t the problem. I wasn’t doing anything but being. But when I cowered in corners and tried to bribe my way out of beatdowns, it not only didn’t help – it actually made more bullies see me as a target and bully me. I got mad. But I didn’t hit back. That’s not my style, and frankly I was the smallest kid in class most of the time and not athletic. But I got loud. I started living my life more fully again. I talked to my older brother who looked like he could easily be on the football team, and he started walking me to and from school.

    The bullying didn’t just go away overnight. And I’m sorry to say I didn’t think very much about who would take over for me as the school punching bag. But after four years of constant physical pain and emotional terror, things improved drastically in a short time.

    Bullies and trolls both try to feel better about themselves by cutting others down. I pity them, because ultimately making others less does not make anyone more or better. And refusing to call them what they are only makes them feel like they have more power than they do. Every blog that comes down in response to trolling makes the trolls feel like their efforts are worth something.

    All you trolls out there? Spending your life trying to make one or two other people shut up by hurling abuse at them is not the act of powerful people. It’s the act of cowards who measure their self-worth by how much they can stop other people simply doing whatever it is they like to do. And if you have the time, energy, and imagination to spend your entire day trying to hurt someone else… maybe you should think about what you could accomplish if you just focused on doing something constructive.

    After all, that’s what people who own their power do: they get off their butts and try to do something that gives them joy or makes the world a better place to live in. They don’t have the time to waste on bullying people who are happier than they are.

  • Yikes! I’d call that stalking, if it were happening to me. You are just inundated with crap. I’m sorry!
    I think you’re right too, about these people actually admiring and respecting us.
    This is such a great post, thank you! XOXOXO

  • If you are going to mainstream places, you are going to encounter the IDIOCRACY, ever hear of that movie of the same name?, I think that has come true for American society. I guess I am old enough to be an old curmudgeon who is already clucking my tongue, and the overall melting of brain matter. Most are too dumb-down and brainwashed to understand the ins and outs of how we are being made fat in this society through many factors outside of our control. They are merely doing the bidding of their social programming. These are the same types who believe everything they are told on TV. I am sorry you had to face this.

  • Maybe it’s the mood that I’m in, but this makes me feel unbearably sad.

    However… I also endorse the commenter above who said that trolling is everywhere and not just in the Fatosphere. It’s a dysfunctional response to some serious shit that’s going on in society right now.

    • Indeed, that’s what I said in my post, but I think we face a unique kind of trolling in that we have society excusing fat hate because we’re “unhealthy”. We need to speak about it and use the strength of our community to expose these people who try to bully us into silence.

  • I wish there were anything I could say to make it better or anything I could do to somehow make all of these trolls disintegrate where they stand >.< but nothing I can say will stop the hate.. all I can say is that you're fucking awesome and you inspire and help so many people

  • Ironically, due to the success of the fat-hate trolls over the years, there is very little institutional memory of the damage they’ve done because they have a long history of completely taking down whole communities. A very small number of trolls essentially shut down the main FA newsgroup back when newsgroups were still a thing and then proceeded to band together with a larger contingent of concern trolls in destroying the NAAFA forums. That one was especially discouraging to me as I had spent years rallying the troops in support of those boards whenever they were invaded by groups from weight loss or weight-lifting communities looking to silence it. Always the community was defended, but finally it was a less than a half-dozen hard-core trolls who finally ended things.

    The problem was that for years, the response from the powers that be was to acquiesce in the face of trolling. The NAAFA trolls were exposed early on as being the same troll cell that shut down soc.support.fat-acceptance. Someone uncovered their board they set up to plan their trolling attacks. Yet, when all was said and done, these trolls actually got treated as alternative voices on fat acceptance. They had a site where they bragged about abusing us, but in the name of “moving on”, they were allowed to assert their claims as Size Acceptance activists. They set up a front organization and website that purported to stand for “True” Size Acceptance while it also was home to explicit death threats against specific fat activists. And yet NAAFA treated them as equals. So did BigFatBlog and a few other big sites of the pre-fatosphere era. It was perverse. Here you had people fantasizing about the violent deaths of fat activists and they were lifted up as alternative voice. Obviously, they had no intention of doing this and their site evaporated as they got bored with their triumph and returned to the guerrilla attacks we’re all quite used to.

    What I’ve always seen as the big problem is when the naked hate of this troll cell finds common cause with the self-flattering concern trolls calling for more acceptance and tolerance of fat-stigmatization in FA communities. That was the perfect storm that destroyed NAAFA’s public forum and there have been dust-ups in the fatosphere era as well. Things are better now, though, and its not because trolling has been reduced. Indeed, the opposite is true. But the people leading the discussions are a lot less willing to put up with it. I agree that “don’t feed the trolls” is not enough, but its still progress from the days when fat activists got FEED to the trolls. But people need to understand what are facing. I think its especially important for newbies just joining the conversation. We both need to strongly define what we stand for their benefit, and also let them know that if they do get abuse for speaking out, they aren’t alone. We all are getting this. When I was blogging most regularly, I got trolled on a daily basis from a person making vicious, personal attacks. Indeed, I got the “pretend to be a personal acquaintance” message, too.

    • I didn’t know the full extent of the historical trolling, thank you for sharing it Brian. Strangely enough, the very thing I think that makes the trolling more, not frequent but… blatant I guess, today, is the very thing that is going to break open this appalling behaviour… and that’s the fact that the internet is growing at a phenomenally rapid pace. This is not the small collection of people in an lesser known corner of the internet. That in no way denigrates the work that was done in foundation for fat acceptance, God no. I just think that the internet has become so ubiquitous, so mainstream now that we have the unique opportunity of being able to touch a much wider audience.

      Look at Facebook. As big of a pain in the arse it is, and how much bullshit is spread by it… we would never have been able to get our message out to as many ears as beforehand. I say that as an extremely early adopter of the internet myself – I’ve seen such a cultural shift in how we share information and opinion and even activism. What blog or news site doesn’t have a “share” function nowdays? How many articles do we see posted in our news feed every day?

      While that does breed a whole new league of troll, it also becomes a powerful tool for US to use in our activism. Most importantly, it is far easier to find community, to find support and encouragement now that it has ever been. We can post a tweet that will get instantaneous responses. We can rally people with Facebook groups. We can document our realities using YouTube and Tumblr.

      Yes, these platforms are the same ones that the trolls attempt to silence us with, and on, but they’re also the very tools that enable us to combat them as well.

    • Also note that the trolls Brian talks about have been active in the somewhat recent history. They had an anti-fat spouse site (I think they might still have it, I dunno) and message board to track their ‘conquests’ in trolling. They’ve tried to infiltrate the BFB forums over the past couple years, and didn’t amount to much, mainly because we have people in the forums who have troll-dar (I’d like to think I’m one of them!).

      Having been on messageboards since I was 13 (hello, AOL and Windows 3.1) I’m very familiar with troll behavior. I do know that it can go away with ignoring it, but it has to be an ‘active’ ignore — as in, their posts need to be deleted or they can’t be allowed to post to the site. Most of them just care about being visible, having their graffiti on the wall, as it were. Destruction and defacing is the name of their game (not to say I don’t respect some *actual* graffiti artists out there).

      Ignoring doesn’t always work, though. And I think posts like this one are good; people need to know that trolls aren’t just internet nuisances that come with the territory, but people willing to engage in criminal behavior like stalking and committing fraud to ruin the lives of others.

      Sorry you had to go through this. Do you keep a log of the harassment? I don’t know Australian law very well — do you have a case for stalking?

  • Thanks for this, 100%. I can see both sides of the issue and what I do really depends on what is going on at the time. If someone wants to intermittently trash me and my blog in their own space, that’s their problem and they are the ones that need to get a life.

    However, I will respond on my own blog in some instances. I won’t name specific people and I won’t troll their blogs in return, but I want my allies to know where I stand and I want to address what trolls are saying about me so I don’t look like I’m backing down.

    Ever since I wrote “The Truth is Radical,” and even more so after publishing Censorship Queen and “Yes, There’s a Difference,” I have had two bloggers devote at least three blog posts each just to dressing me down and trolling my blog. I’m still getting traffic for those posts from these sites.

    My policy is if I am being trolled persistently like that, I will write one blog post addressing the issue and then I will drop it. I deserve to defend myself, but there comes a time when I say, “I said my piece, you don’t have anything to say that I give a shit about, and I have a life. Maybe you should get one too.”

    Basically, I agree with everything you’re saying here. I think it’s particularly pertinent to fat acceptance because we are still such a powerless community and there is virtually no fat accepting space available to us in the real world. We need to diligently protect FA spaces and we deserve to after the work we went to creating those spaces.

    In the end, the best revenge, regardless of whether you address trolls or ignore them, is to keep blogging! They will troll you no matter what, but they’re the ones that look pathetic.

    • You know, I never even look at other people’s trolly crap in their spaces. It’s just not that interesting. I don’t have time to read the stuff I love, let alone the crap that’s out there.

      However, if someone comes into my territory, I’m going to hand them their arse on a tray.

  • Luckily *knockonwood* I have not had the level of troll viciousness in the nearly three years I’ve been blogging. I don’t go out of my way to promote myself. I write because I like to and it’s cathartic. My Facebook is private. If I don’t know you, you don’t get friended, simple as that. I don’t do Twitter and Tumblr. That’s just how I keep myself safe.

    Trolls are stupid. They will rant about anything and anyone they think is beneath them. Unfortunately, fat is at the top of the list because it’s visual and it’s what 99.9% of online journalists are obsessed with. Basically, these people, if they have lives, need to live them away from the comment sections on the computer. If they’re such good thinner moral citizens, then they should be exercising seven hours a day and eating those carrot sticks and not wasting time acting like assclowns on the Internet. They need to either practice what they preach, or clam it.

  • Heh, lifeonfats, that reminds me of this one troll who used to come to BFB and spend untold hours arguing with us, talking about how our fat was costing our fellow taxpayers money, until one of the regulars said something like, “You’ve been on this thread for the last six hours. Don’t you care enough about your fellow man to at least get up and stretch?”

    The thing about the fatty trolls is, I’d bet my last Trader Joe’s sea salt and turbinado sugar chocolate almond that most of these folks are fat themselves. Only they somehow think that’s a temporary state and that they’re really thin people inside, despite having spent the better part of two or more decades trying and failing to get there.

  • I appreciate your posts on trolls and I have a favor to ask along those lines — actually it’s more along the lines of bullies who are hating on fat people.

    Over on the Lane Bryant Facebook Page people are hating on the new Lane Bryant catalog that shows 5 beautiful, full-figured women — topless. They are covered with their hands/by camera angle, but the hateful comments are unbelievable.

    These people don’t complain to Victoria’s Secret but they have a major problem with LB.

    Why should the size of these women make any difference?

    They are calling it pornography and denigrating, but the real problem is they don’t want to see fat woman as sexy.

    They are nasty bullies and I think it would be great if the fat acceptance movement will tell them that everyone -regardless of size – is beautiful.

    Thank you!

    • Marie it’s against my methods to jump in on trolling in Facebook.

      However, I will have a look at the Lane Bryant catalogue and maybe post a positive piece about it. I prefer to jump in with positives than try to “prove” anything to negatives.

  • Comments are closed.

    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 1,952 other followers

    %d bloggers like this: