X-post from Books on Deck blog that’s relevant to Technology and Internet culture.
If you haven’t checked out the first part of my post, check it out here. Comedian Jim Norton and Jezebel columnist Lindy West debated over whether or not sensitive topics like rape should be off limits for comedians to joke about. Although I don’t believe that comedians should ever be restricted or stifled in their ability to make jokes as long as they are jokes, I do believe that comedians should be mindful of their delivery and intent when making them.
However, not everyone out there on the internet attempted to respectfully disagree with Lindy’s opinion on what’s “too far” for comedians. Some internet users went as far as harassing West via twitter and making derogatory remarks and threats towards her. West, some time after the debate wrote that “detractors have been “threatening to rape and kill me, telling me I’m just bitter because I’m too fat to get raped, and suggesting that the debate would have been better if it had just been Jim raping me.”
Despite Jim Norton’s respectful disagreement that certain jokes should be off limits, Norton himself has noted his disgust with the recent threats that Lindy West has received from the internet. These threats are disheartening and cruel, and Lindy West has every right to feel upset, and even a bit cautious. But we should note that these threats come from a special breed of people, most of whom, despite their inflammatory remarks behind a screen would be too scared to actually act on this. (Note: I am not condone their actions, but noting that these trolls are bonafide cowards)
Although the internet is a great medium for inciting discourse, both its greatest strength and pitfall, its anonymous nature. The internet lets anyone voice an opinion. It is the ultimate embodiment of free speech. But unlike in public where you have to walk a fine line and show some class, the internet’s anonymous nature allows people to say what they wouldn’t otherwise say in polite society, aka internet trolls.
Internet trolls are basically people who say inflammatory things on message boards and social media websites to get a rise out of people. While most trolls are likely cowards that wouldn’t have the balls to say said inflammatory remarks to someone’s actual face, their desire and ability to ruffle feathers is an unfortunate side effect of the web and its anonymous nature. Anonymity+Audience=occasional douchebag. See above picture:
My all time favorite blogger has a great write on the psychological make up of trolls and their reasoning for trolling. Be sure to check it out.
All I can say is that although I don’t always agree with everyone’s opinions, Lindy West and other writers should continue to speak their piece, and take solace in the fact the internet trolls are exactly that, trolls. Internet tough guys like trolls are too scared to act on their remarks.