Monday, May 23, 2011

Twitter Trolls: Writing in the Electronic Age

Should you want to become a writer, you're going to have to live with the Internet. You're already on the net, since you're reading this, but if you're just a casual user, get ready for culture shock. There are nut jobs all over the Internet. Normal, reasonable people, added to the Internet, seem to become quite psychotic. And I don't mean a little nuts -- because that can be any Friday afternoon after a busy week and you're stuck in rush hour -- I mean frothing at the mouth rabid, violently deranged.

If you want to go into writing, the Internet will be your friend. And your worst enemy. Probably at the same time. You will need it to sell your book. Interviews, book tours, podcasts, guest blogs, book reviews, all of it, are done online. It will be a valuable tool. Statistics seem to indicate that casual viewers of your material will not comment, one way or another. I have posted some stories from the blog for A Pius Man on another website, and have been rewarded with some glowing reviews of my work. One story got me three reviews in a matter of hours -- but only after nearly two thousand people had already read the story.

On this blog, some of the more viewed blog posts have come with people who have seriously, seriously hated me and everything I said. See the Lent post, if you don't believe me.

But, people are complicated: You could, for example, look at Matt's website. Matthew Funtime, artist for all of the good artwork on this blog, is an atheist. And I don't mean the casual "I don't believe in God, thanks, bye" sort of atheist. He's a bit of a die hard. And, if you look at his posts on religion, you might think he falls into the above rubric. He really doesn't. Unlike some people, who are reasonable until you lodge a disagreement, Matt seems to be in full Keith-Olberman-without-his-medication-mode to start with. However, if you lodge a simple, civil disagreement, he will politely disagree with you, and have a conversation.

Matt is a sane, reasonable person if you are a sane, reasonable person.

There are some that aren't so sane....

Long-time readers will remember that I dislike politics because the moment I have a label put on me, I have other people telling me what I think. I can't finish a sentence, or explain my long, thought-out, nuanced position, political philosophy.

Apparently, that's not even limited to politics anymore. Apparently, it's called the entire Internet

For example, there is a twitter exchange I had with one entity who made a casual mention about the Westboro Baptist Church -- that if they really hated gays, they should be outside the Vatican....

Now, after last week, you know my position on that particular cliche: it's overdone, overblown, and somewhat stupid. I figured I could take a swipe at him, or casually correct what he was saying. I could also call him out on the insult to gay people -- he was using the term "fag," and not referring to a cigarette or a piece of wood -- but he probably wouldn't get it.

So, as a lead in, I gave him a little counter attack, which was:
APiusManNovel JohnK

@GASmithIV Actually, if they wanted pedophiles, that's what the teacher's unions are for.
Yes, it's provocative. I wanted a reaction. When he asked for clarification, ("Are you saying that public school teachers are pedophiles?") I gave him
@GASmithIV Public school teachers had over 300K vics in the 90s, vs 10K for priests (1950-2002). So, yes.
@GASmithIV Teachers: Priests:

That was the total extent of it. Notice, if you would, that the numbers given only refer to numbers of victims. Nothing else. Yes, there are bad teachers, but there are still bad priests. The most I could make of "an argument" is that the priesthood isn't the only institution with a corruption problem.  The numbers in the report on teachers (cited last week) was that there were over 300,000 complaints registered against public school teachers over the course of more than a decade, and only 1% were investigated, or given any credence.  And that one in ten children go through the public school system and get abused at some point. From 1950-2002, there were only over ten thousand people who made accusations, and only 3% of those accused (the accused were about 4% of the overall priests during that time period) were convicted of anything. For a correction rate, 3% of 4% isn't bad. If you go by The New York Times, that boils down to only 100 bad apples over half a century.

Granted, 100 bad apples that should suffer horrors that would make GITMO detainees want to be water boarded, but still, for a corruption record, it's not that bad.

Now, I figured that, when this fellow read through the footnotes, the most he would do was correct me that the report cited above doesn't paint all teachers with a brush of child abuse -- a perfectly valid correction, one I would have easily accepted. We would smile, nod, and depart with an agreement. The sole premise: the Catholic priesthood might not be the most evil entity on the planet.

Then, in a reply peppered with foul language, this particular person on twitter said that was only because the Catholic Church hid everything. Muahahahaha .... okay, there was no evil laughter, but it would have been preferable to what he did say.

So, I blinked a few times. Wait a second. I cited a perfectly valid John Jay University study that examined the situation with science, psychology, statistical breakdowns and a full, nuanced report. John Jay U, an institution that deals heavily in criminal justice and related professions. It is a secular, impartial authority. You have to get up pretty early to pull the wool over their eyes. Since most Bishops don't get up until 8am, that discounted most Catholic clergy.

Hoping to prompt this fellow into reading the darn report, I decided to go the sarcastic approach, and underline the part I was certain he missed.
@GASmithIV Yes, because John Jay is in the pocket of the Catholic Church. #brilliant

Okay. Certainly, that would get him to read everything I had just sent him, right?

Not really. From the violence of his response, you would think that I had insulted every beloved relative he had. It took up three twitter replies, and the language was certainly R-rated.

The only salient point was that his reply was a little deranged. He wouldn't debate me on twitter, etc, etc, and there was a whole bunch of violence thrown in. 

I went for the assumption of Godwin's law. He went postal, he lost. I told him so.

He proceeded to go even more postal. He suggested that I be hung from a lamp post, with every priest ever born, all of my twitter followers, and my little dog too.

I only had two answers for him.
@GASmithIV So, you approve of public school teachers as pedophiles? Good to know it's not the action you hate, just the priests.

@GASmithIV U do realize the only implication was that there r other groups with corruption issues? U jumped straight 2 lynching. Good job.

19 May via web
Yes, it was a little childish stab at the end, but after the homophobic, Catholic-phobic, and generally delusional replies, I figured I was owed the jab.

Now, for those of you who are wondering: "Why did John only post his own replies?"  Good question. The answer is that I have no idea.  As I write this (Sunday, May 22, 2011 -- if it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done), all of the various and sundry comments made by GASmithIV have evaporated into the digital realm, yet all of my replies are still on my twitter feed. I have no idea why this is, or how, just that it is.

Unfortunately, there is a part of this story missing because it's my fault. Someone tried to get cute with me, and posted on my blog about the numbers I posted on Twitter. The moron read the numbers of victims as the numbers of the accused. He also told me not to debate him, because he was right, and I was stupid. So there.

Since he obviously didn't read anything I had posted, and he posted the comment in my Neil Gaiman post, I deleted it -- I mean, heck, he could have posted it in the appropriate slot in the cliche post. But he couldn't be bothered looking for that one. In retrospect, I should have saved the comment, but it didn't occur to me to write this post until after I deleted it
It was interesting. Without making any argument at all, I was subjected to a whole slew of death threats, ranting, raving, and general carrying on cranky.

So, welcome to the Internet. Lessons you should learn:

1. Don't feed the trolls.

2. No matter what your argument, people will disagree with you violently. Possibly because they have nothing better to do.

3. If you don't have an argument, people will fill in the blanks just so they can disagree with you violently. In all likelihood, because they want to be angry.

4. Don't go looking for attention from morons unless you know they will be morons in advance and you're ready for them. For example: when I had a twitter conversation with the Phelps spawn, I knew they would be morons in advance, and I spent most of my time laughing at them. I concluded they had no sense of humor. At all.

5. When they tell you not to debate you, laugh at them. A lot. Perhaps maniacally.

Illegitimi non carborundum


  1. As the writer of the post about your numbers, I thought I was being pretty respectful. You referring to me as a moron is clearly not. I am merely a teacher and I found your comments insulting and misleading. I did not mistake the victims and the accused, I gave a number that was the amount of total (yes, I rounded) teachers and priests and divided it by the number of victims for each to get a ratio of the number of priests/teachers to victims. With the way you twist information and statistics to make your own points if your writing doesn't work out in the US I am sure that they need some good writers in North Korea. I actually agree with a lot of your points, but seriously, why be so disrespectful and group me with GASmithIV? I made no such threats.
    I am going to leave it at that. Good luck with everything in your future. I hope maybe you can learn a little humility and realize that you can't always be right.

  2. Dear Anonymous -- and damn, I feel stupid writing that -- you cited the number in your original comment that "10 thousand priests means there was one in four priests who are child abusers." I stopped reading your comment right there, because I already concluded that you had at least misread something -- it's possible you miswrote, or I misread? You want to recrunch those numbers again for a viewing audience, so they don't have to rely on my recollections?

    My lumping you and the other guy together was only meant in terms of chronology, not in terms of the death threats. Reread that section where I conclude that I got death threats and "people carrying on cranky." You were the cranky.

    And, seriously, you couldn't have been bothered looking for the post in which the priest-teacher argument appeared? If not moron, how about inconsiderate?

    I like how you assume my arrogance, as well as compare me to a fascist dictatorship. Nice going. No ad hominem attacks there.

    I can lump you and GASmithIV in together in one respect: You're assuming I have an argument that implies that public school teachers are evil in some way. As I mentioned, my opening volley at him was to get his attention. You're assuming an awful lot since, again, I DIDN'T MAKE AN ARGUMENT....

    How about this, tune in NEXT WEEK for my full argument (because, notice, I haven't actually MADE one, other than "priests aren't the most vile people in inexistence"?) and THEN you can kvetch? Sound like a plan to you? Because saying that "my statements are misleading" is odd, since my only statement was noting the numbers in the studies. I didn't give a context on twitter, not in 140 characters, and I figured that the full report would give context to anyone who read the links.

    Sound like a plan, sir?


Please, by all means, leave a message below. I welcome any and all comments. However, language that could not make it to network television will result in your comment being deleted. I don';t like saying it, but prior events have shown me that I need to. Thanks.