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May 22, 2014 9:19 AM   Subscribe

"... trolling wasn’t the work of just a few bad apples. Instead, there were many, many people who sent us mean messages saying that they simply thought the blog shouldn’t exist." Amanda Levitt of FatBodyPolitics.com writes about the role that trolling, up to and including threats of violence and doxxing, plays in maintaining privilege and furthering oppression.
posted by emjaybee (95 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I really wish that the phrase trolling could be retired in these sorts of situations. Call a spade a spade, it's harassment(up to the criminal level even, at times), hate speech, and attempts at silencing.

Trolling is for the lulz. It's spamming "SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE" or whatever right before that book came out. I'm not saying it never involved telling people to kill themselves, but if you stare at it for 30 seconds and you can't see a hint of jest it's not trolling.

Why do i care? Because i think a lot of people, especially gen Yers who grew up with the internet immediately dismiss anything called trolling as not that serious, and the recipients complaining and saying it's serious as well, to use a phrase we've mostly retired here, just butthurt.

Doxxing someone and threatening them in a call the police way aren't trolling, or at least if you really want to classify them under that umbrella people should be discussing them straight up and not putting them under that umbrella.

I mean feel free to call me a concern troll or the tone police or whatever, but i just bristle whenever i see serious 911 harassment/intimidation/threats classified as "trolling". Because there's never someone far away who goes "meh, you gotta ignore the trolls lol!". Break free of that framework.
posted by emptythought at 9:47 AM on May 22 [62 favorites]


And don't forget that these attacks happen offline as well:
So, why not walk?

According to a number of men who seem to come crawling out of their hidey hole around this time of year here’s why:

I’m a woman.
I’m fat.
I’m sexy.
I’m a cunt.
I need a man.
I’m walking.
I’m walking with another woman.
I have tits.
And it's not just happening because there are trolls or assholes, but also because mainstream attitudes about fat people, especially fat women, are so bad. The constant stream of fat = unhealthy, fat = lower class, fat = slob etc serves the same sort of role as Labour or Tory politicians speaking about their sincere fears about the number of migrants coming in to the country, it legitimises bigotry, hatred and aggression.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:51 AM on May 22 [18 favorites]


I'd say add menacing and stalking to the harassment label. I agree that "trolling" tends to imply someone getting a kick out of being intentionally provocative and who's not being serious.
posted by ChuckRamone at 9:52 AM on May 22


One of my good friends occasionally relates things that strangers have said to her on the street. Often they are vile. Just as often, they're covert. Like the man who saw her eating a salad for lunch and remarked with a smile, "That looks healthy." He was carrying a McDonald's bag.

Having said that, as much as I agree with Levitt about about privilege and oppression, half of this essay is just her speculating. We probably agree on which curse word to use for whoever sent that pizza, but if you're going to climb farther into his or her head then you need more substance than merely connecting societal-effect dots. She's just making assumptions about motivation and trying to hide it by using conclusory language. It ends up detracting from her overall point—which is too bad, because it's a good point and I agree.
posted by cribcage at 9:54 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


i just bristle whenever i see serious 911 harassment/intimidation/threats classified as "trolling"

Indeed. What happened to Anita Sarkeesian wasn't trolling: it was a coordinated & calculated campaign designed to silence her.

The scary thing is, these campaigns do silence people; there are thousands of blog posts, articles, and projects that don't happen because the creators are afraid of what happened to Sarkeesian, and Amanda Levitt, and hundreds of other women as well.
posted by suelac at 9:55 AM on May 22 [22 favorites]


It’s easy to roll your eyes at trolling...and dismiss trolls as just a bunch of haters. But let’s talk about trolling for what it really is: disruptive behavior that seeks reinforce power over marginalized communities.

Well, it is easy to roll your eyes when people say absurd things...

But, when you're only tool is a hammer...

It'd be a decent bet that some trolling is like that. But a whole lot of trolling is just people being assholes. Not everything is a conspiracy. And not everything is a conspiracy against "marginalized communities."

It's really too bad that so much sloppy thinking like this is so widely tolerated in certain political sectors. It'd be perfectly reasonable to suggest that *some* of what gets called trolling is like this...but to make the claim above--in effect, that the definitive characteristic of trolling is that it has a more-or-less political aim--is just ridiculous.

And, this being the place it is, I'll just go ahead and note: I watched being overweight destroy my mother's life. I'm in no way unsympathetic to the plight of people who are overweight.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 9:55 AM on May 22 [4 favorites]


She's just making assumptions about motivation and trying to hide it by using conclusory language.

I think it's pretty clear that whoever sent her a pizza wasn't doing so because they wanted to do something nice for her.

That the threat is unstated doesn't really make it less of a threat.
posted by suelac at 9:56 AM on May 22 [9 favorites]


to make the claim above--in effect, that the definitive characteristic of trolling is that it has a more-or-less political aim--is just ridiculous.

You're missing the distinction. Levitt isn't saying all trolling is harrassment intended to silence someone; she's saying that calling harrassment trolling minimizes the damage such harrassment does.
posted by suelac at 9:58 AM on May 22 [10 favorites]


i agree on trolling is harassment.

she links to http://win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/

how would the reception of her message change if it was about smoking cigarettes? drinking and driving?

as a society, what is the acceptable way to call out unhealthy behavior? if you are communicating a message someone doesn't want to hear, is that unto itself harassment? where is the line?
posted by osi at 9:59 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


You're missing the distinction. Levitt isn't saying all trolling is harrassment intended to silence someone; she's saying that calling harrassment trolling minimizes the damage such harrassment does.

That wasn't how I read it; quite the reverse. I believe she's saying that all trolling is intended to silence someone, and because of that we shouldn't take any trolling lightly:

Definitions have since emerged that name trolling as disruptive behavior that seeks to shut down a space or conversation. After viewing all of the messages I’ve collected, I would take it a step further and label trolling it as more serious than just being rude: trolling actions seeks reinforce the power of dominant groups and maintain negative narratives about marginalized communities. While trolls attack anyone they disagree with, people from marginalized communities have long pointed out that they are more likely to be targets of trolling that people with more privileged backgrounds and positions. Essentially, trolls are trying to shut people up
posted by cjelli at 10:04 AM on May 22


as a society, what is the acceptable way to call out unhealthy behavior? if you are communicating a message someone doesn't want to hear, is that unto itself harassment? where is the line?

As a first draft, how about not:

Someone went so far as to make a fake Craigslist personal ad from Averill that listed her full home address and asked for people to come over and fulfill her "fantasies of being violently sexually assaulted."
posted by sparktinker at 10:05 AM on May 22 [17 favorites]


I wish the general discourse on gender in the public sphere could also acknowledge that even though Not All Men do things like this, enough men engage in terroristic practices to constitute a distinct social pattern that operates as regulatory enforcement. So it's not like there's a conspiracy to keep women down and to ensure that their bodies can be policed openly and with impunity, but there doesn't need to be a conspiracy because this kind of behavior doesn't require coordination to terrorize any woman who does speak up into silence. It's terrorism, plain and simple.
posted by clockzero at 10:07 AM on May 22 [25 favorites]


It's really too bad that so much sloppy thinking like this is so widely tolerated in certain political sectors. It'd be perfectly reasonable to suggest that *some* of what gets called trolling is like this...but to make the claim above--in effect, that the definitive characteristic of trolling is that it has a more-or-less political aim--is just ridiculous. .

Worth noting, the linked blogpost contains neither the word privilege or politics, so the issue seems to be with the FPP's framing, specifically:

plays in maintaining privilege and furthering oppression.

To which I should add. I can't help but concur that usage of the p-word isn't really helping anyone anymore, except perhaps those who would wish diminish the substance of the harassment at hand.
posted by philip-random at 10:07 AM on May 22


as a society, what is the acceptable way to call out unhealthy behavior? if you are communicating a message someone doesn't want to hear, is that unto itself harassment? where is the line?

How about we stay out of other people's health behaviors unless you are their care provider or they ask you explicitly for your fucking opinion.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:07 AM on May 22 [70 favorites]


Who are you to call out "unhealthy behavior" in the first place? Is said behaviour being done unto you? It's none of your business what other people do with their bodies. If it's not impacting you right now, shut up.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:09 AM on May 22 [18 favorites]


"as a society, what is the acceptable way to call out unhealthy behavior?"

Is the assumption here that smokers don't know it's bad for their health? That overweight individuals don't know their situation has risks to their life expectancy? If society makes clear that smoking causes cancer and obesity is tied to cardiac issues and Type 2 diabetes, why do we need another way to call out that behavior as unhealthy?
posted by TheFlamingoKing at 10:10 AM on May 22 [4 favorites]


It'd be a decent bet that some trolling is like that. But a whole lot of trolling is just people being assholes. Not everything is a conspiracy. And not everything is a conspiracy against "marginalized communities."

Amazing. I never thought I'd see a "Not all trolls!" argument being made, yet here we are.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:10 AM on May 22 [33 favorites]


[Don't turn this into a narrowband argument about weight/health. You're better than that. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:11 AM on May 22 [15 favorites]


how would the reception of her message change if it was about smoking cigarettes? drinking and driving?


Personalized vs Public Service Announcement. If you have a friend and you have any doubt as to whether or not it is okay to call them out on a self-destructive behavior, it's not okay for you to call them out on that behavior.
posted by Fuka at 10:11 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


if you are communicating a message someone doesn't want to hear, is that unto itself harassment?
If your method of "communicating a message" includes publishing funders of a documentary's full addresses with a note that says "happy hunting" or posting a fake craigslist ad with someone's address saying that she wants people to come there and help her fulfill her fantasy of being violently sexually assaulted, then you should not be participating in any form of communication. That is not "communicating a message."
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:13 AM on May 22 [19 favorites]


Moreover, I'm ok with "calling out unhealthy behavior" remaining the purview of the public health agencies and organizations. They do a great job conducting antismoking campaigns and the like; no one except maybe my partner or a super close friend needs me to personally tell them that a behavior is bad for them.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:13 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


"If it's not impacting you right now"

The thought is that it is impacting me now and forever, because we all take part in a societal health care system that imposes costs on you for their risky behavior.

We adopt those same risks for people that go skiing or ride motorcycles and fast cars or play amateur sports and don't feel we need an "acceptable way to call out" that behavior. But here, at least, people feel that since I pay for your health in so many ways, I have a right and maybe even an obligation to call out behavior that I don't want to pay for.
posted by TheFlamingoKing at 10:14 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


We adopt those same risks for people that go skiing or ride motorcycles and fast cars or play amateur sports and don't feel we need an "acceptable way to call out" that behavior.
On the contrary. If you are emailing rape threats to people who ski or ride motorcycles, then you are calling out behaviors in an unacceptable way and are participating in harassment.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:16 AM on May 22 [14 favorites]


It's really too bad that so much sloppy thinking like this is so widely tolerated in certain political sectors.

Like most generalisations, this one doesn't really stand up to scrutiny. Exactly what political sector doesn't have examples of "sloppy thinking" said by some of its members sometime?

More to the point, it doesn't really apply to this case. She's talking about what happened to her, i.e. the kind of massive campaign of harassment that is widely labelled "trolling" these days even if some folks are used to a more harmless and (cruelly) humorous type. When you call out these people or their defenders, they will frequently laugh it off and identify themselves as merely trolls, as harmless internet non-entities. Saying "But there is too such a thing as apolitical trolling!" and picking at semantics is missing the point.

To which I should add. I can't help but concur that usage of the p-word isn't really helping anyone anymore, except perhaps those who would wish diminish the substance of the harassment at hand.

Wrong! It's very useful in discussing, discovering, and trying to counteract and neutralise oppression and inequality. The fact that some people -- usually those who are priveleged, funnily enough -- balk at or laugh at or trivialise the word and by extension the concept, is not a good reason to abandon it. That has always happened and will always happen.
posted by Drexen at 10:16 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


It's a tricky issue and both sides need to work on their framing. I'd say that regular people need to stop harassing fat people, because it doesn't help, it's none of their damn business, and a lot of them are trying to (or have previously tried to) lose weight. And fat acceptance people need to make sure their message is confined to 'We need to accept fat people' and doesn't progress to 'Being fat is totally fine' because even if everyone perfectly accepted fat people, it's still a serious health problem.

And of course, people need to stop poisoning the debate by engaging in tactics such as this. Hell, I'd say the cops need to get more involved - a lot of this stuff is totally illegal.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:19 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


as a society, what is the acceptable way to call out unhealthy behavior?

I don't believe there is one. At its most fundamental, I would suggest that "Unhealthy" is between a doctor and her patient, and it's no-one's fucking business otherwise.

That said, you can't change people anyway, and you're wasting your time and energy on one hand, and people will react badly to having their comfort zones challenged on the other.

If someone else is going to hell, the only thing I can really do is hope they find their ride enjoyable.
posted by mikelieman at 10:20 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


She's talking about what happened to her

In part, yes. She also talks about what's happened to other people. But either way, having firsthand experience from one perspective doesn't substantiate your guesses about a different one. She discusses some of the wider consequences of this harassment, and she's right. Then she scrawls a line between them and calls it intent. Well, not so fast.

as a society, what is the acceptable way to call out unhealthy behavior?

I think that's a valid question in the abstract, but it's not valid in the context of this article. You can't begin with trolls having pizzas delivered and making death threats, and then pivot to, "Alright so what should they have done?" It's a legitimate discussion but for another day.
posted by cribcage at 10:28 AM on May 22


Fists O'Fury: " Not everything is a conspiracy. And not everything is a conspiracy against "marginalized communities.""

Widespread behavior is not per-se a conspiracy. Mobs are not per-se a conspiracy. People can be drawn to behaviors intuitively without any discussion at all.
posted by boo_radley at 10:28 AM on May 22 [4 favorites]


As the Internet moved from a curiosity to the primary communication platform of a generation, the meaning of "trolling" has changed. It originally consisted of the act of posting something you know is wrong in order to draw out responses. Now people use it to refer to outright threats and harassment. For some older internet users, this can give some sympathy to statements like "well, trolling isn't so bad". I think it would be much better to just use the term "harassment" to refer to the kind of behavior discussed in the article.
posted by demiurge at 10:30 AM on May 22 [10 favorites]


as a society, what is the acceptable way to call out unhealthy behavior?

I am a public health professional.

We tend to consider evidence-based interventions to be far more reliable than rape threats.
posted by entropone at 10:32 AM on May 22 [78 favorites]


Seeing a fat person and thinking you need to "call out unhealthy behavior" is not even wrong.

Being fat is a condition, not a behavior. It is something that happened -- partially as a result of choices, partially as a result of physical disorders, and the ratio varies from one case to the next.

It is an indicator that something happened in the past. Calling them out for being fat is like calling out someone in a wheelchair for being reckless on a motorcycle.

Believe me, you can have gained that weight 25 years ago and spent all the time since then trying to get rid of it, and people still assume you are lazy, dumb, addicted to cake, don't care about your personal appearance, and so on. They will still assume this even if they see you exercising at the time. They will still assume this during meals even while you're eating half the food they are.
posted by Foosnark at 10:34 AM on May 22 [35 favorites]


Yeah, trolling is the wrong word. Language changes over time, and so black can come to mean white if enough idiot media outlets use it that way, but to my ears, if it has a specific target (instead of dropping bait in a community to get bites), then it's not trolling; "In modern English usage, trolling may describe the fishing technique of slowly dragging a lure or baited hook from a moving boat"

If it has a target, if it's aimed at someone in particular, it's harassment.
posted by anonymisc at 10:38 AM on May 22 [4 favorites]


Who are you to call out "unhealthy behavior" in the first place? Is said behaviour being done unto you? It's none of your business what other people do with their bodies. If it's not impacting you right now, shut up.

I don't think it's anyone's business to comment on what someone else has for lunch. I think that some of the shocking, creepy as shit behaviours she documents in that article go far beyond "trolling" and into outright, clearly illegal harassment which should be documented and prosecuted, if possible. And I agree that some of the behaviours she's documenting are aimed at silencing her through fear.

But I'm a little wary of the jujitsu she's performing here, where because some dipshits out there do stuff like tracking down her address, the implication is that every single person who sends a critical email or comment to the blog is equally guilty of harassment and deserving of censorship. There's an expansion of scope in there that's troubling to me.

Because the fat acceptance/positivity movement is a political movement. It says, "Society thinks X,Y, and Z negative things about fat people; these thoughts are incorrect and immoral and Society's views should be changed. People who think X, Y, and Z are wrong."

It's fine to want to change people's views. But views should be changed through exchange, through open debate. And that means contention, criticism, argument --- and, a lot of the time, people losing their tempers, getting angry and saying mean things. Making it taboo to openly criticise you is not the same thing as winning.
posted by Diablevert at 10:41 AM on May 22 [4 favorites]


Also, "calling out" means forcing someone to confront hypocrisy or injustice, or making explicit a moral problem that isn't being openly or honestly discussed. You call someone out for saying something that they know to be untrue but is self-serving, for instance; you call out an unspoken injustice precisely because nobody wants to acknowledge it. That's what gives calling out its moral force.

Committing assault against strangers because you have intense and socially maladjusted feelings about their bodies is not calling anything out, it's terroristic harassment and bullying. If you see a heavy person on the street and think that screaming obscenities at them is somehow equivalent to "calling out" a behavior, there's something wrong with you.
posted by clockzero at 10:44 AM on May 22 [15 favorites]


The older I get, the more obvious it becomes that you cannot look at a person and tell ANYTHING about them or their health. But even when I do think I have a pretty good idea about what's going on with someone, it's STILL not any of my business and not my place to tell them what to do or not do.

I have an acquaintance who regularly posts on her blog about eating entire bags of mini candy bars in one evening; I am pretty sure that her weight and her ongoing decisions with regards to food are a cause-and-effect situation; I will never, EVER say anything to her about it, and I wish that I was a person who never thought about it either, because it doesn't have anything to do with me.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:46 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


the implication is that every single person who sends a critical email or comment to the blog is equally guilty of harassment and deserving of censorship

Deciding not to post a comment/ask/email on your blog isn't censorship; it's moderation and content curation of a space that you maintain. A fat acceptance Tumblr isn't a government entity, and no one is stopping someone from posting their thoughts on their own blog elsewhere.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:49 AM on May 22 [13 favorites]


I'd say that regular people need to stop harassing fat people

"Regular" people??
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:54 AM on May 22 [8 favorites]


Committing assault against strangers because you have intense and socially maladjusted feelings about their bodies is not calling anything out, it's terroristic harassment and bullying. If you see a heavy person on the street and think that screaming obscenities at them is somehow equivalent to "calling out" a behavior, there's something wrong with you.

Yea, and that's the real issue here. A lot of people, disproportionally reddit neckbeard cellar dweller types but also a lot of "well meaning" general society think that "calling someone out" for their "unhealthy choices" by being what they deem overweight is speaking truth to power.

As if they're taking the hard line, and saying what everyone else was unwilling to admit or was thinking but not saying.

There's the same broken bit in their mind that makes every drunken rapist fratboy think that everyone does what they do, or at least thinks about it, they're just a bit more open about it and "not a pussy" or whatever. So yea, like most people saying or doing shitty things they have this absolute core belief that they aren't wrong, and they aren't even abnormal. Everyone else is like them too, and the people who aren't are just afraid to admit they agree.

Conceptually, the entire concept of "calling someone out" has been both tarnished and muddled by these wankstains. They're basically trying to find a way to justify to both themselves, and others around them that "I don't agree with choices you appear to have made, and your appearance, which may or may not be outside of your control" is a morally and logically defensible view and statement.

I just really wish more people would realize that there's not much more to it than "i don't like you", and that it's backed up by the same amount of weight as a little kid going "i don't like strawberry ice cream".

Because it's like "Why?" "because i don't".

Every other argument they bring up is completely flatulent.
posted by emptythought at 11:05 AM on May 22 [19 favorites]


I think that's a valid question in the abstract, but it's not valid in the context of this article.

I think there's a context that's not totally explicit here, which is that This is Thin Privilege is pretty radical when it comes to fat acceptance.

For instance, it has posts like the one where a mother's reaction to her doctor suggesting to her that her child might be getting overweight is to be so outraged she immediately took her daughter for ice cream or this one where you need to give trigger warnings before complimenting someone for losing weight.

I don't want to sound like this does anything to excuse the awful harassment, because it doesn't. Fat people shouldn't face attacks any more than mothers who refuse to vaccinate their children should.

But she's asking for more than that. In the article she wants doctors to stop finding fat people ugly and noncompliant and wants them to stop questioning their lifestyles; much of the posts on TiTP are around how children should not be encouraged to lose weight, how health and weight are unrelated, how media representations of people should normalise fatness and so on.

She may or may not be right in this campaign, but it's a big societal and political change she wants to achieve, and the question of "how do we as a society engage in these sorts of discussions without it immediately descending into harassment and attacks" is actually the most salient one, I think.
posted by bonaldi at 11:11 AM on May 22 [9 favorites]


This seems to go so far beyond trolling into outright criminal behavior.

It's the obsession of the "trolls" (for lack of a better word right now) that boggles my mind. I appreciate the article, but I don't know if the assessment goes far enough. I can't grasp the who or why of who these people are or why they attack with such fervor.
posted by kanewai at 11:13 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Seeing a fat person and thinking you need to "call out unhealthy behavior" is not even wrong.

Indeed, it is in fact giving cover to the sort of people who make rape threats against fat women.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:13 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


Deciding not to post a comment/ask/email on your blog isn't censorship; it's moderation and content curation of a space that you maintain. A fat acceptance Tumblr isn't a government entity, and no one is stopping someone from posting their thoughts on their own blog elsewhere.

Censorship is maybe not the perfect word choice on my part, not sure what would be better. And sure, it's their Tumblr, they're perfectly free to moderate the comments however they want.

But the article isn't making the case "why it's okay that I delete critical comments from my blog". It's making the argument, which some in this thread have echoed, that "trolling" is a form of emotional terrorism/political oppression and people in general should be highly intolerant of it, should regard it as not merely annoying but egregious, beyond the pale.

In making this case, she appears to me to sweep up several different categories of behaviour into the category "trolling," making no distinction between someone who writes a critical email disagreeing with the premises of her chosen movement and someone who explicitly or implicitly threatens her person. I think it's really fucked up that someone tracked down her address. I think it's really fucked up that people comment negatively on people's eating habits to them. I do not think it is equally fucked up for someone to hold the opinion "there's no such thing as thin privilege" or to write an email expressing that opinion. I think what society's attitudes towards fat and fat people are and what they ought to be are pretty contentious, complex subjects and it's possible for reasonable people to hold differing views.
posted by Diablevert at 11:13 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I think it's really fucked up that people comment negatively on people's eating habits to them. I do not think it is equally fucked up for someone to hold the opinion "there's no such thing as thin privilege" or to write an email expressing that opinion.

It doesn't really matter if you're the one special snowflake who's acting out of genuine concern for fat people; you're still part of the problem, you're still harassing.

Sort out your own side first before you start fingerwagging.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:17 AM on May 22 [4 favorites]


It doesn't really matter if you're the one special snowflake who's acting out of genuine concern for fat people; you're still part of the problem, you're still harassing.

Sort out your own side first before you start fingerwagging.


Why is "concern" relevant here? Do I have to be concerned about my Republican acquaintance's well being in order to explain why I disagree with him about what the minimum wage should be set at? That's the core of what I think is problematic with this essay. One the one hand, you have an explicitly political agenda, to change societal attitudes about fat and fat people. And on the other you have personal attacks, harrassing someone for expressing views you don't like or engaging in behaviours you disapprove of. Personal attacks are wrong --- some of the ones she describes in the article are downright criminal. But political disagreement is not in itself a personal attack. If you want to change the way society thinks about fat people, that's fine. Tumblr away. But I don't think it's right to tar everyone who a disagrees with your political agenda as a borderline criminal harasser.
posted by Diablevert at 11:33 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


MartinWisse: It doesn't really matter if you're the one special snowflake who's acting out of genuine concern for fat people; you're still part of the problem, you're still harassing.

I think you might be exceeding the definition of harassment somewhat. Expressing your opinion to someone, as long as you don't threaten, don't communicate excessively, and don't engage in personal abuse, isn't harassment. Particularly when someone has gone out of their way to express their opinion publicly; you are not harassing if you respond to their message, unless you respond in a harassing way. Just responding by itself is not harassment, even if you disagree.

A quick policy guide:
Sending an email that states that you disagree with her and she should stop spreading this message - Not harassment.
Sending a hostile email full of personal attacks - possibly harassment.
Inciting a bunch of people to all send emails - probably harassment.
Sending 100 emails - definitely harassment.
Doxxing - harassment bordering on threat.
Death threats and/or the craigslist rape thing - much worse than harassment, time to get the police.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:37 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


To clarify, calling out individual people for being fat is still harassment (since it's personal abuse). But when someone publicly makes a political argument, they open themselves to public responses. Disagreement is not harassment in and of itself.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:39 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


I do not think it is equally fucked up for someone to hold the opinion "there's no such thing as thin privilege" or to write an email expressing that opinion.

I don't think that it's "fucked up" to hold the opinion, but I should think that it's pointless at best, rude or aggressive at worst to email a "fat positive" advocate (or really anyone) with the news that they're wrong about their body. I mean, what's the fucking point? "Hi, you don't know me, I just wanted to tell you how wrong you are about bodies." Maybe in an ideal world where simple disagreements didn't so often accompany various kinds of threats and identity thefts, there would be a place for this kind of dispassionate disagreement over email, but we don't seem to live in that world. My present feeling is: if that kind of disagreement is really important to you, then publish your own manifesto. Nothing good's going to come of trying to hash these things out over email (or probably, face-to-face.)
posted by octobersurprise at 11:42 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


craigslist rape thing

This drives me just nuts. I really want to see those people in jail. I would really like to live in a world where sending a nasty email is seen as radically different from death threats and even empty death threats are radically different from actual attempts to get someone raped.

Why does no law enforcement agency take this seriously? How fast would the perpetrator be under the jail if it were the police chief's daughter being threatened? Why can't it be viewed as the crime it is?
posted by tyllwin at 11:46 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


Diablavert, can you specifically point out places where she characterizes any disagreement with her group as trolling? In the Bitch article it appears to me that she is being very specific about incidents of harassment/discrimination, not just disagreement. Are you pulling this from somewhere else? I went back and reread the main piece to be sure I wasn't missing something, and I don't see it.
posted by emjaybee at 11:51 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Emjaybee: she says that her collection of trolling messages includes a great many people disagreeing with her that thin privilege exists.

She doesn't actually quote them, so it's hard to know if they are also abusive and harassing, but if they just honestly disagree I don't think it counts as trolling, no.
posted by bonaldi at 12:01 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Do I have to be concerned about my Republican acquaintance's well being in order to explain why I disagree with him about what the minimum wage should be set at?

A Republican acquaintance that's against raising the minimum wage is advocating for policy that directly, negatively affects millions of people, a population of which said acquaintance is probably not part of.

These are bloggers who are advocating for fat people to be left alone and treated humanely. Many of those advocates include themselves in the "fat" population and they are advocating for their own well being, as well as that of other people.

These two things are not at all alike.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:03 PM on May 22 [7 favorites]


I don't think that it's "fucked up" to hold the opinion, but I should think that it's pointless at best, rude or aggressive at worst to email a "fat positive" advocate (or really anyone) with the news that they're wrong about their body. I mean, what's the fucking point?

Well, what's the point of having a blog about any issue in the first place? Changing people's minds, right? Arguing the issue, explain your point of view, getting them to see things your way? All of those are good things. It's a big part of how society eventually does make positive, progressive changes. But I think you've got to expect that when you do that, when you do attempt to change people's minds, sometimes you're gonna fail. Some people will resist. They will argue back and push for their own point of view. And in my view, those are good and important healthy things that you want to have happen. I tend to think that when that doesn't happen --- when expressing the opposing view on any given issue becomes taboo --- that's unhealthy. Because the opposition doesn't go away, it just goes underground. It festers.

Having said all that, I do want to emphasize, again: much of the behaviour she points to in that piece is not the kind of healthy debate I'm talking about. It's cruel and criminal harassment, and it should not be tolerated.
posted by Diablevert at 12:04 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Here's my opinion on the trolls v. fat acceptance activism:

Some people think that fat is a moral/ethical issue. They may couch it in concern for health, but they think that truly, if a person with more fat than they are comfortable with would just get off their ass, move more and eat less they wouldn't be fat and therefore so repulsive/such a drain on health services/generally icky. But the person with "too much fat" is too lazy or too stupid to care and therefore being fat is a moral failure on their part. This is why I think some people feel obligated or at least feel it is acceptable to "call people out" on their size.

Other people see weight based issues across the spectrum as a more complex affair that is based on genetics, history, finances, family life, culture, access to healthcare, mental and physical health and many other issues and that it cannot all be put into one big squishy box marked "DANGER". They know that they do not know the reason for a person's size, no matter what it is and so they advocate for an end to shaming all around.

I wish I could give it a fancy name like Ask vs. Guess culture, but I think someone else more clever than I is going to have to work on that.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:09 PM on May 22 [7 favorites]


Well, what's the point of having a blog about any issue in the first place? Changing people's minds, right?
Not necessarily, or at least not every person's mind. The target audience for a fat acceptance blog is not necessarily thin people who have horrible prejudices against fat people. The target audience could be fat people who are working towards self acceptance. It could be all people who already believe the tenets of body positivity. It's possible to have a political blog that isn't intended to engage in any way with the opposition.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:10 PM on May 22 [12 favorites]


To which I should add. I can't help but concur that usage of the p-word isn't really helping anyone anymore, except perhaps those who would wish diminish the substance of the harassment at hand.

There should be an mass movement from "check your privilege" to "count your blessings." Concept is pretty much the same as far as I can tell, and it would give some on both sides of the pro and anti p-word debate an interesting pause for thought.

Plus it sounds like your (my anyway) grandmother. Everyone loves grandmothers.
posted by pseudonick at 12:11 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


the question of "how do we as a society engage in these sorts of discussions without it immediately descending into harassment and attacks" is actually the most salient one, I think.

No, not that way, it's not. Because it's not an open question for all of society, for all people participating in the discussion. We have this discussion without it turning into harassment and attacks by people not harassing and attacking anyone. It is not the fault of the people being harassed. They do not need to change the way they are presenting themselves to not get rape threats. They don't need to change how they're approaching this discussion. Whatever part of the opposition is inducing anyone to think that it's okay to send rape threats? That's the part that needs to change.

It doesn't matter if you see it as equivalent to advocating drunk driving. If someone starts a blog advocating drunk driving, it is still entirely unacceptable for anybody to harass them, doxx them, threaten them. There is never a point where you are being too inflammatory and you need to tone it down because otherwise you deserve this--not even the WBC deserves this. There is never a point where someone is so wrong that anything approximating this is allowed to stand. If we have a point where we have to pick between someone's feeling of entitlement to correct strangers for being Wrong and someone's right not to be harassed, it's always the latter. It doesn't matter if you take away the rape threats, the worst of it, the rest of it is still not acceptable, and anybody who isn't sure where the line is for "not harassment" needs to err on the side of leaving that person alone, and that decision belongs to the person sending the message, not the person receiving it.
posted by Sequence at 12:22 PM on May 22 [6 favorites]


Well, what's the point of having a blog about any issue in the first place?

Eh. I don't know. A far as I can tell, sometimes it's discussion, sometimes consciousness-raising, or therapy, or support. But IME, it's a mistake to assume that everyone wants a good old-fashioned debate in their email box on every topic they've chosen to write about. Especially when/if that topic is intimately connected to their bodies and how they and others see their embodiment.

But it's a big internet. There's lots of room for us to disagree with whatever we wish without getting in someone's (virtual) face.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:42 PM on May 22


I do want to emphasize, again: much of the behaviour she points to in that piece is not the kind of healthy debate I'm talking about. It's cruel and criminal harassment, and it should not be tolerated.

And I should say that I'm taking it for granted that we agree on this, my point is that there are circumstances where any "healthy debate" is best conducted at a distance. Where even more-or-less dispassionate disagreements are going to produce more heat than light if they are delivered directly; are going to be pointless or taken as rude, either because of the volume they may arrive in, or because they may be accompanied by threats or other kinds of harassment.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:57 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


There should be an mass movement from "check your privilege" to "count your blessings."

I doubt that this would have much of an effect - it's the politics behind the concept of privilege, and not the word "privilege," that so many object to. Someone who doesn't agree that they are privileged for being thin and white isn't going to agree that they're blessed for being thin and white, either. There would quickly be just as much debate about "count your blessings."

And, as I type that out, I actually am bothered by that language - the term "blessing" makes it seem like being thin and white is a gift and inherently good. Even if I phrase it, "you're blessed because society treats you better," I don't like it. As fraught as the term "privilege" is, it doesn't have the same connotations of goodness. Privileges can be something that is good and that we want all people to have (e.g. health care), but they can also be unfair, unearned, and come at the expense of others (e.g. preference toward hiring men or whites). I don't think "blessing" fits the latter type of privilege well at all.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:03 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]


Well, what's the point of having a blog about any issue in the first place?

I don't know, without even directly answering this question...

How about for a moment, that we imagine that people are allowed to have discussion spaces just for other people who fall into XYZ minority group, or who already hold the same beliefs, etc? What if those spaces were in no way intended to appease, or appeal to people who were outside that group or disagreed?

For some reason no one expects someone who writes a blog about late 90s emo to explain why it isn't "gay" to metalheads(or at least they don't, without everyone going "yea, that's a troll or an asshole) but as soon as it dares to venture into the realm of feminist stuff then if you don't dutifully answer every question/point/rebuttal presented by some dude then you're a see you next tuesday.

Basically, it's not there for you. And it's not required to be either. And this is a problem that EVERY minority space seems to encounter - the outrage at that fact and the resulting entitled "how DARE you".
posted by emptythought at 1:16 PM on May 22 [12 favorites]


Doxxing someone and threatening them in a call the police way aren't trolling, or at least if you really want to classify them under that umbrella people should be discussing them straight up and not putting them under that umbrella

I agree, but the same word is being widely used for both types of things (abuse and classical-style message board trolling), and it's probably entrenched that way.
posted by thelonius at 1:19 PM on May 22


Some people think that fat is a moral/ethical issue. They may couch it in concern for health, but they think that truly, if a person with more fat than they are comfortable with would just get off their ass, move more and eat less they wouldn't be fat and therefore so repulsive/such a drain on health services/generally icky. But the person with "too much fat" is too lazy or too stupid to care and therefore being fat is a moral failure on their part. This is why I think some people feel obligated or at least feel it is acceptable to "call people out" on their size.

This is exactly the attitude I see most often--not, thankfully, hostility, abuse, criminal threats, but people telling others they are living their life wrongly in terms of how they eat. The same people who believe with all their hearts that who you sleep with is your own decision, will happily tell others there are moral and ethical absolutes regarding health, especially food.
50 years ago almost no one would condemn another for what they ate, but would happily do so for how they conducted their sex life; now it is the reverse.
posted by librosegretti at 1:21 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


It's really hard to get across to people with unexamined privilege that not everything is about them.

Fat people talking about fat acceptance? Not about you. Doesn't affect you. Not your business. They're not there to change your mind or have silly 101 style debates with everyone who just heard the word privilege and got their feelings hurt, or to hash over the same facile arguments over and over and over again, individually, with every single person who farts them out.

One of my major tricks to having a happy internet life is that, when someone tries to start some debate, or asks me to explain a concept, I go to Duck Duck Go, where there are no search bubbles, and I search on the actual keywords from their argument or question to see if the information they are seeking/obvious rebuttal shows up in the first page of search results. If it does, that person is not sincere. They are not asking a question or inviting a debate. They're trying to get me to hold their dick for them while they jerk themselves off about something. And I don't want to do that.

But OMG yes about the word 'trolling.' That's not trolling. Trolling can be fun and harmless, and good trolling takes skill. What they're talking about here is harassment and bullying and sometimes assault. I've mostly given up trying to take that word back to its original meaning (internet-original, anyway), and it does seem kind of futile. But on top of maligning the art of trolling, it does tend to diminish the seriousness of these abuses too.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:26 PM on May 22 [5 favorites]


Do police ignore online threats of violence or are they being prevented from moving forward by legal or technical barriers? Or is there more enforcement than I think? This seems like an issue that could probably never be eliminated, but could certainly be at least reduced with some more common visible enforcement. It feels like this sort of thing might only be taken seriously when someone dies or the threat is actually followed up on. That seems crazy to me.

Anyway, there are a lot of areas where it's absolutely amazingly great for me to read the things some of these bloggers post. It helps me understand things about my own experience I wasn't able to see from my own perspective. On the other hand, there are areas where I think they are wrong and my disagreements are very strong. Despite this, it's flabbergasting to me people think this is an issue worth issuing these sorts of threats over. I don't think I can disagree with what Amanda Levitt wrote: Essentially, trolls are trying to shut people up. You don't really resort to threats if what you are looking for is an exchange of ideas.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:33 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


How about for a moment, that we imagine that people are allowed to have discussion spaces just for other people who fall into XYZ minority group, or who already hold the same beliefs, etc? What if those spaces were in no way intended to appease, or appeal to people who were outside that group or disagreed?....Basically, it's not there for you.


But trying to influence the broader public discourse is precisely what the author say she, and the documentary she discusses, are aimed at:
Through my own work, I know how important projects like Fattitude are to changing the conversation about fat people in the media and online... 'The project was inspired by a need—an absence of theoretical fat activism in the mainstream,' says Averill, of Fattitude. 'While all the information is out there to open the conversation about the hate that is directed at fat bodies, people don’t even seem to realize that there needs to be a conversation.'
...We desperately need media that deconstructs the way fat people are dehumanized and pathologized in our society."
To my mind, that suggest she is trying to change minds and wants the blog to be read by lots of people, not just those that already agree with it.
posted by Diablevert at 1:38 PM on May 22


Do police ignore online threats of violence or are they being prevented from moving forward by legal or technical barriers?

Online threats are seriously hard to go after. I'm going by experience I had working for an ISP - it may be different nowadays but it would have shaken out like this:

Say someone emails you a threat from gmail. You would (I believe) need a subpoena to get their IP address from google. That will only give you what their ISP was, assuming they weren't using a proxy. You would then need to subpoena the ISP to get the person's information. Basically you have to jump through a lot of hoops even in the best-case scenario.

And people do face legal action for online threats all the time, but they're not as common as people making threats. My understanding is that it's mostly a question of online threats requiring a hell of a lot of work to pursue.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:40 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


We adopt those same risks for people that go skiing or ride motorcycles and fast cars or play amateur sports and don't feel we need an "acceptable way to call out" that behavior.

As a white dude who doesn't get bothered in public, ever, or get told how to live by anyone other than my parents, the experience of being judged when I bought a motorcycle was very strange. The public feels it has a right to tell you why it's morally wrong, what the risks are (as if they're not obvious and I just need to be told in order to then correct my ways), and I receive a general looking-down-upon attitude that I very rarely get exposed to otherwise. Luckily it's not a common occurrence nor does it contain threats of violence, so I can contemplate it in a mostly abstract context.
posted by MillMan at 1:45 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


Fat people talking about fat acceptance? Not about you. Doesn't affect you. Not your business. They're not there to change your mind

Well, except that is what they are explicitly and exactly trying to do. They are advocates, and for some quite strong positions.

Part of the job description there is precisely to have the same old arguments again and again, yep. This is not just people going about their own business and being harassed for it.

They want to change hearts and minds. We should all want them to be protected from harassment and abuse in their attempt to do so. But reasonable criticism seems like a reasonable consequence.
posted by bonaldi at 1:52 PM on May 22


Hey everyone. Since this post has been coming up on my blog's stats all day and I'm really enjoying the conversation I thought I would chime in about a few things.

About the use of the word trolling - I'm not actually a big fan of it either since it is used to trivialize the very issues I'm talking about in the article. The things people write are not meaningless or silly comments. They are a reflection of a larger dominant narrative that people are trying to keep in place by performing patterned behavior. My use of it is to make people stop pretending this stuff is harmless because I think comments left online give really good insight into widely held beliefs in a particular location or within society overall.

My main goal of this project is to challenge the way we think about behavior online and build research that gives insight so that laws and policy can be created to protect people online. As of now there is very little that can be done to protect people. Many people go to the authorities after being doxxed or having a rape / death threat sent to them and the police are asking "What's twitter? What's Tumblr?" Having no idea how to handle the issues people see online. This has made it so people have to protect themselves, hide where they live or use an alias.

As for the comments specifically, I don't necessarily believe someone disagreeing with me is purely trolling. What I do believe is that people who disagree are often showing / replicating patterned behavior that again is reinforcing a dominant narrative. When people tell me thin privilege doesn't exist, they are often also telling me I'm going to die. That being fat is unhealthy. That the stigma and discrimination fat people deal with is due to us being fat not a society that is fat hating. These statements are not supported by scores of literature showing the systemic and institutional fat discrimination in our society. They are also reflecting a larger narrative that believes fatness is an individual problem that needs to be solved through individual behavior, thus making the discrimination we experience our problem to deal with not societies.

In the end I'm always up for debate. Particularly with people who are open to reading research that for some reason is incredibly radical online but in academia it is far more easily accepted. At least that has been my own experience. An issue emerges when I'm seeing a pattern in the backlash and no logical or rational debate actually happening. Trust me over the last 8 years I've had every argument anyone could think of about fat people and more often than not they are circular debates where no amount of research presented is accepted as fact. I don't care if people agree with me but when people are ignoring research about food deserts, fat people being more likely to live in poverty and lacking access to stigma free medical care while demanding we are healthy there is a point I can't debate anymore. Sometimes you have to call it as it is and build community with the people who desperately need it.
posted by FatBodyPolitics at 1:57 PM on May 22 [25 favorites]


I understand trolling as attempting to make a person respond with unrequired emotions, and also to act in a self-deprecating manner. The difference from real-life threats and that Craigslist thing is that it's not attempting to bait a response that a troll can read with much satisfaction; it's an action where inactivity can cause you damage.

The following is more of a general… point?:

They may have valid points, but people will pick up on any invalid points and use that as an impetus to discredit an entire varied message, instead of figuring out how applicable certain points are. Also, if they're like me, they can be incredibly lazy on things that don't affect them personally, so dismissing something entirely is simpler. The issue is that people who make well-constructed platforms tend to get ignored by the people that shout way beyond what's required, and that you can't tell the difference from afar. Because of this, every platform, regardless of the thought behind it, will get ridiculed by someone somewhere.

Weight and health is something that should be taught as a kid. Teach them about different reasons and causes for a certain physical attribute. Then teach them to critically think, and mind their own business when acting without prior knowledge of a subject/person's situation.
posted by halifix at 2:01 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Part of the job description there is precisely to have the same old arguments again and again, yep
I think that if you're not signing someone's paycheck, you don't get to dictate what their job description is.

I've done enough political campaigning to know that sometimes you try to persuade people who are persuadable, and sometimes you try to get all of the already-persuaded people to go vote. (You almost never waste your time on people who are totally hostile. It's not a good use of resources.) The get out the vote stuff is not any less valuable than the persuasion stuff. It's actually often more valuable.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:07 PM on May 22


I apologize if this is not the right forum for this question but how much is hating fat people really about hating fat women? I feel like fat men don't have to defend their right to exist nearly as much as fat women. I think the rage directed at fat women is anger that how dare a woman not conform to social norms regarding how she should look. Men don't have the same problem. Thoughts?
posted by kat518 at 2:10 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Part of the problem with the language of "trolling" is that it's frequently used by people to excuse their own despicable behavior. Just about every time someone tracks down one of these terrible people and confronts them with how bad they are, the response is, "I was just trolling."

"Trolling" seems to be an important part of the rhetoric used by harassers to convince themselves they aren't doing terrible things. I think it's worth challenging at every opportunity.
posted by straight at 2:16 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


The things people write are not meaningless or silly comments. They are a reflection of a larger dominant narrative that people are trying to keep in place by performing patterned behavior. My use of it is to make people stop pretending this stuff is harmless

But you seem to be using "harm" in two senses here. It's one thing to say "I can call these comments trolling because they're showing behaviour that reinforces a dominant narrative and reflective of a social attitude that is harmful to fat people" and then to say "rape threats and doxxing are harmful to people so we need laws to protect them from trolls".

By categorising both threatening abuse and opposition as "trolling" you make it hard to agree with building a case for laws against it. Laws to protect people from rape and death threats online? Absolutely. Laws to protect people from the patterned exercise of the dominant narrative? Not so much.
posted by bonaldi at 2:17 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


It's one thing to say "I can call these comments trolling because they're showing behaviour that reinforces a dominant narrative and reflective of a social attitude that is harmful to fat people"

Are you familiar with the concept of microaggressions?
posted by sukeban at 2:26 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


I apologize if this is not the right forum for this question but how much is hating fat people really about hating fat women?

Though there are some aspects of hating fat people that are universal (they take up too much space on the train!) and some that are more keyed to men (a pressure to be physically strong and tough while being fat is in some cases seen as being soft) it seems pretty clear that you are correct that a lot of it is more about hating women for not conforming to beauty standards. A man can define himself with something other than appearance while we demand women meet those standards no matter what else they do with their lives. While of course realizing there are always exceptions, I think its fair to say that generally large women have it worse than large men, but both genders face pressure not to be fat and can be seriously hurt by that pressure.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:26 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


They want to change hearts and minds. We should all want them to be protected from harassment and abuse in their attempt to do so. But reasonable criticism seems like a reasonable consequence.

Some "hearts and minds" are pretty much intractable, though, and engaging with them is a waste of time and effort.

So if someone is coming in and making the sort of emotional 'rebuttals' to the notion of thin privilege, or even privilege generally, they are clearly not open to learning anything new. They have very very low barriers for confidence, and they became confident in their initial kneejerk reactions. There are many, many resources out there to clarify common misunderstandings of concepts like that. Someone who persists in making arguments based on ignorance like that is not interested in learning more about it. They're not worth the time.

There are plenty of people out there who will gain something from increased awareness, and who are open to learning more, so there are hearts and minds to be changed. It's just not the ones who come around spoiling for a fight and demanding a personal audience.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:30 PM on May 22


[Please see previous comment.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:48 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


bonaldi - At no point did I say that people should be protected by laws against people who merely disagree. I want the legal system to catch up to technology so that when people's lives are put at risk through trolling once it escalates to rape threats, death threats or stalking. I don't think I need to make a case for why people shouldn't be raped, killed or stalked for talking about politics online.

That said, patterned behavior is mentally taxing and harmful even if it never results in physical violence. The relationship between disagreement and violence isn't as far apart as people would like it to believe. This is particularly true when people think we are talking about political policy and not the lives of people who are continually dehumanized in our society.

I'm interested in creating awareness and starting a discussion to make people think more about comments online because too many people think that what they are saying is new and hasn't been asked over and over again. Or that they have no relation to any system of power.

kat518 - Fat stigma is totally gendered. While fat people regardless of gender deal with discrimination women are considered fat at a far smaller size and are discriminated against more significantly as well. Even with issues as another person mentioned about taking up space, we know men are often allowed to take up space whereas women are expected to take up as little as possible. That translate into fat women being more likely to deal with shaming than fat men.
posted by FatBodyPolitics at 3:45 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]


I should also mention that trolling does not just target activists but anyone who exists online. Particularly marginalized people. I've seen far too many people who have never called themselves an activist be the target of the very issues I'm speaking about. Including having people move in the middle of the night with their children after being doxxed.
posted by FatBodyPolitics at 3:52 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


there are some seriously wacked people out there these days
posted by pyramid termite at 5:34 PM on May 22


I should also mention that trolling does not just target activists but anyone who exists online. Particularly marginalized people. I've seen far too many people who have never called themselves an activist be the target of the very issues I'm speaking about. Including having people move in the middle of the night with their children after being doxxed.

That's not trolling and you're doing the victims a disservice by calling it that.
posted by ymgve at 5:39 PM on May 22


That's not trolling and you're doing the victims a disservice by calling it that.

There are too many widely-used definitions of "trolling" for me to understand your comment. Would you mind clarifying?
posted by Zimboe Metamonkey at 5:44 PM on May 22


That's straight up harassment/stalking, and as others have said upthread, calling something like that trolling downplays how harmful it is, because in most people's minds, trolling is "doing mostly harmless things to get others angry".
posted by ymgve at 6:01 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


That's not trolling and you're doing the victims a disservice by calling it that.

Yeah, all due respect, I don't know what purpose it serves to insist on describing (violent) threats and continued harassment as "trolling." Repeated rhetorical abuse? Probably still shouldn't be dignified as "trolling," but the definition seems to have stuck. But anything that, say, makes someone move in the middle of the night is far beyond "trolling" and associating it with simple nasty words on a screen is no way to make people start taking it seriously.

In fact, I really wish we'd lose "trolling" all together. There are better, clearer words to describe what people do online and if we stopped making it all sound like some lulzy game then maybe we could start to exert a little moral clarity over it all.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:10 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


Added on preview: Thanks, ymgve! That makes sense. Now to my actual comment:

Sequence: There is never a point where you are being too inflammatory and you need to tone it down because otherwise you deserve this

Repeated because I can't favorite this a hundred times. It's easy to argue about whether the original post conflated honest debate with harassment, or whether the word "trolling" is appropriate (that's the first place my mind jumped to, as you can see) but can we at least agree that personal attacks are out of line? Experience has shown that certain topics meet with widespread vitriol. Whatever you may believe about the motivations or organization of the harassment, the fact that it happens is pretty hard to deny.

I don't think anybody here has outright said "they were asking for it", despite a couple of comments that looked like it at first glance, but there are clearly a lot of people out there in the world who do believe that, and act on it. If anybody needs to be "called out" on anything, surely it is those people?
posted by Zimboe Metamonkey at 7:21 PM on May 22


but can we at least agree that personal attacks are out of line?

I believe every single person in this thread has made it clear that yes, they agree upon that point. It's more a discussion about a) why the word 'trolling' doesn't really describe this behaviour, which is really harassment, and b) the difference in degrees between simple disagreement and attacking, and where individuals draw the line.

octobersurprise said earlier about this, And I should say that I'm taking it for granted that we agree on this. Which I like in theory but in practice, because of point b, often does need to be stated, because that assumption isn't always correct, nor is it always offered. Good faith discussions are desired, but are sadly not the internet norm.

Moreso here than most anywhere else, though.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:24 PM on May 22


I am a fat woman- and an angry one to boot.

My body is none of your damn business. AT ALL. You do not get to decide if I am healthy or not. You do not get to decide if I am attractive or not. YOU HAVE NO SAY IN MY LIFE WHATSOEVER. None. Nor do you have a right to one. Don't parade that "public health crisis" false concern bullshit here. Guess what, I pay taxes too, and the day my fat ass costs as much as a bank bail out, war, or congressman's summer house, then you can bitch to me.

As a fat woman in our society, every single thing I do is scrutinized and criticized. Eating junk food? Well what do you expect, she's fat! Eating healthy food? She must be on a diet! I have a handicap placard because I have multiple sclerosis, but of course people assume it's because I am fat and lazy- or that the reason I have difficulty walking is because of my weight, not the fact that I have a paralyzed leg. In fact, before I was diagnosed, I was sent away from over 5 doctors with a condescending "maybe if you lost weight" speech. Because fat makes you blind in one eye and numb from the waist down.

My entire life, I have been a pariah, a eunuch, and the thing people literally would rather DIE than become.

And I am fucking sick of it. Seriously, FUCKING SICK.

SHUT THE FUCK UP and talk about someone elses body like it's public property for a change.
posted by evilcupcakes at 9:53 PM on May 22 [17 favorites]


Part of the problem with the language of "trolling" is that it's frequently used by people to excuse their own despicable behavior. Just about every time someone tracks down one of these terrible people and confronts them with how bad they are, the response is, "I was just trolling."

This is fair enough, but "trolling" tactics are used all the time to very opposite ends - I was just earlier reminded of the "Anti-Racism Dog" twitter account. I'm not trying to say it's an even split, I have no idea whether trolling is an effective weapon against oppression, I'm not sure having this semantic argument is worth much and we should probably start talking about the actual problems these actual people are facing. But I do know for sure that "Shit Reddit Says" for example absolutely constitutes trolling for social justice.
posted by atoxyl at 11:25 PM on May 22


Also, as far as "healthy at any size" goes, certainly I have seen activism skirt denialist territory. But why don't you oh-so-public-health-minded folks try thinking about it as harm reduction. Recognize the true difficulty of losing weight for many people - to open yet another can of worms in some cases there's very literally an addictive process going on - and the complexity of being overweight, and that it doesn't do anyone any good to spread shame or hatred or to do anything less than our best to support everybody's health within realistic limits.

edit: if you need a target maybe try the food industry and friends for a start?
posted by atoxyl at 11:48 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't buy it when people think mockery and hate is a good way to promote positive change. Bad attitudes do need to be called out, but actively going out of your way to find every example you can more for your own personal amusement/recreational outrage...eh, I'm not really with you there. It doesn't strike me as something honestly rooted in altruism, it's a message that people should fear the consequences of speaking up well beyond facing standard criticism.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:19 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


how much is hating fat people really about hating fat women?

Anecdotally, as part of a heavy pair, neither of us gets a lot of commentary about our weight but if there's a salad on order at a restaurant, it's inevitably put in front of me whether or not I ordered it. And I usually didn't because I don't like salads and restaurant meal salads generally aren't that healthy compared to the rest of the menu. I wouldn't call that a hate issue, but it's certainly "the fat woman should be striving to be skinnier whether or not the man does".

My take on the gendered problem with online fat hate is that the response of law enforcement to threats is essentially "boys will be boys so this isn't important". Which comes from a lot of bad assumptions about who uses the internet (men? how about all of us?) and the results of harassment (nobody gets hurt, also untrue). I know people are allergic to the P word, but "law enforcement ignores it when I break the law" is absolutely a form of privilege.
posted by immlass at 7:03 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


There should be an mass movement from "check your privilege" to "count your blessings."

Blessings come from God; privilege is entirely unearned and comes from systems which keep white, male, heterosexual, wealthy people in power. Fat only gets a pass if you belong in all four of the previously mentioned groups (or possibly three of the four).
posted by SassHat at 1:42 PM on May 23


Fun side story:

I am a fat lady. A salesman came to my office for an in-person cold call the other day and looked at my snack (green beans) and literally opened his pitch by pointing at the green beans and saying "Good girl!"

When he left, his card went directly in the trash and I added his business to our database as "Do not hire".

The lesson here is that your bias against fat people, whatever shape it takes, can bite you in ways you did not plan on.
posted by SassHat at 1:58 PM on May 23 [6 favorites]


What happened to Anita Sarkeesian wasn't trolling: it was a coordinated & calculated campaign designed to silence her.

Speaking of Sarkeesian: This Woman Was Threatened With Rape After Calling Out Sexist Video Games—and Then Something Inspiring Happened
posted by homunculus at 12:54 PM on May 30


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