Friday, April 21, 2006

Village Idiots

Some people seem to think that they have the right and/or duty to send out into the world, unfiltered, everything that pops into their head, whether through the usual channel (aka: fat mouth) or the new favorite: comments posted anonomously to a blog. Because these people seem to go trolling the Internet for something to be offended by or outraged at, they are commonly and appropriately referred to as "trolls." I like it.

You might wonder why this came up: Trolls leave their claw and tooth marks on a lot of blogs, covering thousands of topics. But there is one blog that really got me thinking about this. I really, really like this blog. And I like to think that, if I met her in the offline world, the author and I might become friends. But she gets some of the nastiest, snarkiest, truely horrible comments from readers who can always find something to hate, from her parenting style to her hair to the ads on the site. One ass of a troll (trollass?) even wrote to tell her not to worry; he'd heard that some kids get cuter as they get older. That's right: He delivered a virtual kick to the head of a toddler because he didn't like Mom or what she was writing. Does anyone think he'd do that to her face? Of course not. But he felt fairly safe in doing it because he was hidden behind whatever identity he chose that day.

So why can't these Trolls just log off? Delete the bookmark? Shut up already? Because they are the same people who try to get books banned from schools and public libraries. Who boycott movies and amusement parks and sponsors of television shows they deem objectionable. Who think it's ok for them to decide what is best for all families, not just for their own. Maybe it does take a village to raise a child, but some of us would prefer to leave the village idiots out of the process.

I guess my bigger question is whether this is human nature, or just an unfortunate subset. It's like asking if someone would steal a lot of money if they knew there was no chance of being caught and punished. Or if some turn to cybercrime because, without the human interaction, it is a seemingly victimless crime. I'm not saying that people shoudn't feel free to criticize or comment, but common decency should still apply. If you don't have anything nice to say, try using a little thought and creativity to put it more politely. And if all else fails, don't say anything. After all, telling a mom that her kid is ugly isn't going to make her stop writing, but it might get your email address posted publicly.

Note to Self: Might want to stop calling them "village idiots" and "Trolls." That whole "practice/preach" thing.

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