Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What are the New Modern Sounds in Right-wing Online Trolling?

I mean no disrespect towards Brother Ray Charles by linking his landmark album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music to an essay about cyber racism (and online trolls more broadly). Perhaps, I am seeing what is not there, imputing data from unreliable variables, but I would like to think that Ray Charles had a wicked sense of humor and would have taken no offense.

My recent piece on Darren Wilson and the Right-wing propaganda machine is teetering on going viral. It has a few thousand shares so far on Facebook.

"The Facts are None Too Kind to Darren Wilson: How Will the Right-Wing Hate Media Distort the New Evidence in the Michael Brown Murder Case?" has both sizzle and steak.

I am my hardest critic; I also know when I have put in some good work. Hopefully, my most recent piece on Michael Brown, the new witnesses to his murder, and the lynching photography culture of Wilson's supporters, will be a slow burn that gets enough heat stored up so that it explodes--in a good way--on these Internets.

When an essay is gaining momentum it begins to attract the sewer dweller online trolls. Some of them are paid for PR hacks running multiple accounts. The vast majority of trolls are people who lack insight, talent, and the ability to contribute constructively to a discussion. They are the worst example of Plato's chorus as all they can do is throw garbage, complain, and conspicuously play with themselves in the digital public sphere with the hope that someone will comment on their defunct genitalia.

Several Right-wing trolls are trying to pollute the comments section for my recent piece on the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson over at the Daily Kos.

The trolls will likely begin to publicly soil themselves over at Alternet too.

WARN is a moderated site where I only leave up such examples of the talking point detritus which is simultaneously forced out of the mouths and cochleae of trolls because their waste can provide a teachable moment for the rest of us. Consequently, while I try to monitor the rhetorical tropes and techniques of the Right-wing, racist, and other trolls as need be (and because of intellectual curiosity), I do not pay that much attention to them.

Online trolls have a known psychological profile. A question for those of you who encounter their mess on other sites that allow such pollution: what are some of their new tropes and styles? Are there any? Or are they just doing the same old thing? How are Right-wing trolls responding to the Michael Brown case and like situations where white thug cops and other vigilantes have killed unarmed people of color?
The following is a very useful outline of the strategies and tactics used by online trolls. Works such as The 15 Rules of Web Disruption helped me in my decision to make WARN a moderated site, and to also reign in my instinct to engage and confront the online trolls who complain about my work, as well as that of others who are trying to do some truth-telling about the realities of the color line and white supremacy in the United States and elsewhere.

For me, several of the most resonant points from The 15 Rules of Web Disruption are:
3.  Demand complete, fool-proof and guaranteed solutions to the problems being discussed. For example, if a reporter breaks the story that the big banks conspired to rig a market, ask “given that people are selfish and that no regulation can close all possible loopholes”, pretend that it’s not worth talking about the details of the manipulation.  This discourages people from reporting on and publicizing the corruption, fraud and other real problems.  And it ensures that not enough people will spread the facts so that the majority know what’s really going on.
6.  Coordinate with a couple of others to “shout down” reasonable comments.  This is especially effective when the posters launch an avalanche of comments in quick succession … the original, reasonable comment gets lost or attacked so much that it is largely lost. 
7.  Use an army of sock puppets.  You can either hire low-wage workers in India or other developing countries to “astroturf” or – if you work for the government – you can use software which allows you to quickly create and alternate between numerous false identities, each with their own internet address. 
8. Censor social media, so that the hardest-hitting information is buried. If you can’t censor it, set up “free speech zones” to push dissent into dank, dark corners where no one will see it. 
11. Become incredulous and indignant. Avoid discussing key issues and instead focus on side issues which can be used show the topic as being critical of some otherwise sacrosanct group or theme. This is also known as the “How dare you!” gambit. 
13. Hit and Run. In any public forum, make a brief attack of your opponent or the opponent position and then scamper off before an answer can be fielded, or simply ignore any answer. This works extremely well in Internet and letters-to-the-editor environments where a steady stream of new identities can be called upon without having to explain criticism reasoning — simply make an accusation or other attack, never discussing issues, and never answering any subsequent response, for that would dignify the opponent’s viewpoint.
Trolls want attention, they are desperate to exhaust their foes, and especially on matters of race, the cyber racists' ultimate goal is to create a hostile environment that breaks you via a strategy of repeated and coordinated micro aggressions.

Do share, why do so many folks find themselves compelled to engage in a losing battle with individuals who are not intellectually honest actors?


Myshkin the Idiot said...

Did you answer your first question with your second?

People get tired of the mess of ignorance about politics.

As for the second one, perhaps a lack of sophistication, but in spaces that I see and participate, people are more interested in building an honest coalition without sacrificing their identities or goals, which makes them far more likely to engage with "good intention" allies and less likely to engage with outright bigot trolls.

On a lighter note: I lost a couple brain cells last nigh talking with a neighbor about history. It started out talking about rent for his trailer when I mentioned the previous tenants had paid $600 a month for his place he said, "Oh, the Mexicans."

I corrected him and said, "They were actually Puerto Rican." He insisted that Mexican and Puerto Rican were the same thing and they weren't American. I told him Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and so, they were actually American citizens.

"Yeah, but they're not REAL Americans. In my view, we're not even real Americans. Cuz, when the guy came over... there was another guy what did it before him, came over.... His name was... uhh.... I don't remember.. but he was here before the other guy and they wasn't even Americans cuz they couldn't call it that. I know, I watch my history."

James Forrester said...

One reoccurring theme is the height of Mike Brown. I am 6'2", he was a couple inches taller than me but according to some he 'towers' over Wilson. I think in there imagination it is something like this:

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Yes, but I find using a Biblical reference for slavery and the history of the trade is useful to get folks off the "blacks selling blacks" dishonesty. If I can get them to see that trade in slavery throughout the Mediterranean has basically existed to this day, then that's helpful for me to get them to understand how Europeans changed that with the Atlantic Slave Trade.

DanF said...

I think every so often, a trolly-troll pushes just the right button, and I feel almost compelled to respond. The best responses though are like the one balitwilight did in your last post to a troll - essentially agreeing with whatever ridiculous premise the troll takes while disproving it and mocking the troll the entire time. This has the advantage of simultaneously advancing the conversation for the non-trolls and it demeans a non-serious argument.

chauncey devega said...

Giant super negroes on the attack!

Wild Cat said...

That's good, to approach people on their own level, which often does include Bible analogies.

joe manning said...

The ultimate objective of rightist trolls and the media in general is to drown out critique with happy talk.

Lkeke said...

What I've been encountering are the usual people who know nothing and have studied nothing but nevertheless, have an opinion about everything.

One new thing I've encountered lately is people using Martin Luther King's words (usually only a handful of phrases they learned in High School) to further or excuse their racist arguments.

Another one is using the language of Social Justice to claim victim- hood after someone has called them out on their BS. (This is especially galling after some racist or misogynistic rant decrying victim culture.)

And one of my personal favorites (not) is moving the goalposts of their argument after you've made your point with them. I see this one a lot.

But my all-time favorite is asking for proof or for someone to educate them, so you provide a buttload of links with which to educate themselves on an issue and they don't read any of them, and then tone-policing you afterwards.

However most people seem to like the classical Basics of Derailment.

Lkeke said...

Websites like that ink are being used and people are getting pretty savvy about derailment tactics. I've seen people calling out lots of derailments in the forums using the model on that site.That is a good thing.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

So many people have such facile views of historical events, populist Biblical references are essentially all some people understand about ancient history.

It is a tactic I used on my brother and it worked at the time to get him thinking more about the history of slavery rather than just excuse make for Europeans using slavery. He probably has gone back to his original way of thinking, though. We haven't talked in years since he moved away.

chauncey devega said...

Good points on cyber racist colorblind racism tropes. Lots of folks fall into how the white right has repurposed and distorted contemporary American liberalism and anti-racist discourse.

KissedByTheSun said...

I won't link to any but I've seen many racist memes floating around here and there. There was one with an image of Capt Ron Johnson marching with Ferguson protestors juxtaposed with an image of him holding a gun on an unarmed white teen. The message was clearly about some supposed hypocrisy.