No Voice of Reason in a Trollstorm

Someone going by the handle “Forbidden Snowflake” made a comment here on this article that I am lifting from that context to discuss. TW: That article extensively documents ableist misogynist abuse heaped on someone – hundreds and hundreds of examples of terrible people being terrible. It’s very demoralizing and I wouldn’t blame anyone for skipping it completely.

This is the comment:

…Anyone who has legitimate concerns that PTSD is being overdiagnosed would be perfectly justified in writing a blog post about the evidence that points to PTSD being overdiagnosed. Making a specific person, a stranger who was diagnosed with PTSD, the focus of your “concerns” because it kind of seems to you that their diagnosis, about which you know nothing, isn’t justified, is abusive. Shouting your “concerns” at that stranger from a crowd of harassers is harassment.
And if a person does the latter and not the former, there’s no reason to think that they have legitimate concerns or are acting in good faith. People with legitimate concerns and trolls: the behavior patterns are actually different.

(I added boldface to the part I want to emphasize.) To me, this is a very simple and powerful argument against the hordes of philosophy dudebros who feel they have legitimate logical criticisms of various social justice movements. It’s quite possible some of you do have a legitimate concern buried somewhere in your convoluted statements. But you are not “voicing your concerns” in a vacuum where they can be judged independent of circumstances.

You are not the one special voice of clarity that will cut through the din and bring reason from chaos. A sad reality of our society is that many valuable voices self-censor. A person with a gentle disposition and modest self esteem may look at an online (or IRL) discussion, see that their viewpoint is not being represented and think to themself, “There must be a reason no one is saying this. No one wants to hear that view, or it is wrong.” So they don’t contribute, a truly original thought on the matter fails to become part of the record. Meanwhile, there’s you and I: people with good self-esteem and a feeling that – even though five hundred people said something similar to us – our voice is distinct and the world is entitled to our opinion.

When you voice opposition to an advocate of social justice now, you are part of a massive swarm of screeching hate-vomiting bullying creeps. You may not want this to be true and it may not be your fault, but the swarm created this circumstance, and you cannot escape it with your civil tone and erudite wisdom. If someone is receiving death and rape threats from hundreds of people because the threateners disagree with their stated position and you come in to oppose that same position, you have turned yourself into a voice of abuse. The words you use are irrelevant. In this context, you are part of a very bad crowd.

And this works against you even outside of that one post or hashtag where one given torrent of abuse is happening, because a broader context exists. The people who are being cyber-bullied are aware of the opposition. The swarm wouldn’t leave it at that. They have poisoned the internet against progress in every venue and every circumstance where they have license to spew. So let’s say you are trying to do it right and voice your quibbles in a blog post in your own space, or on a neutral forum, or whatever. Who do you think is going to appear out of nowhere to agree with you, like genies from a chamberpot?

If you have a problem with the way social justice advocates are doing things right now, you are going to have to try very hard to distance yourself from the abusers to have anything close to an air of legitimacy. If you are not willing to denounce cyber-bullies and their smirking friends, if you are not willing to state clearly that what you desire is betterment of and equal opportunity for all people, then your opinion on social justice is just another howl in the trollstorm. Do better.

  1. qmartindale’s avatar

    I strongly disagree with your gloss on Forbidden Snowflake’s point. Telling someone they’re wrong about their own mental illness is hurtful in itself (it’s gaslighting) regardless of the tone used. That doesn’t extend to all criticisms of social justice movements. As an easy counter-example, consider someone expressing their concern that a feminist (who’s receiving vile misogynistic slurs and threats) is being ableist.

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  2. Great American Satan’s avatar

    Good point there. Is there any way my thesis here could be worded differently that would sit better with you, or do you think the premise is too fundamentally flawed to get past?

    Also, thanks for making a criticism worth reading. So far, all the negative feedback I have received on other posts has been bad faith troll dooky.

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  3. Edward Gemmer’s avatar

    It’s a good point. I represent juvenile offenders and I try to not be a voice that tells kids they are wrong or there is something wrong with them, as they often have heard this quite a few times in their lives.

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  4. Great American Satan’s avatar

    I’m not sure where I stand on decent comments from people who also spend time being regressive trollocks. What if someone sees the good comment one day and assumes the associated name is a safe person to pay attention to, and the next time they see the name they get eyes full of toxic waste?

    On the other hand, do I want to remove a reasonable contribution to the discussion? I don’t know yet. At any rate, that’s very cool of you, Edward Gemmer.

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