A young poet, enough of a rising star to be profiled in the New York
Times Magazine, posts a poem called “The Rape Joke.” It begins, “The
rape joke is that you were 19 years old. The rape joke is that he was
your boyfriend.” It is about as intense and intimate as an online post
can get. In the magazine article, the poet’s mother reads the poem, but
it is the comment thread that makes the mother cry. “Do you see what
these people were saying about you?” her mother asked. “Mom, it’s O.K.,”
the writer, Patricia Lockwood, said. “It’s just the Internet.”
cruelty is nothing new. It might only surprise children and the
uninitiated, who dip into the public sphere for the first time and are
shocked by what comes back at them. But Lockwood’s response reveals a
generational shift. Her mother calls the commentators “people.” Lockwood
identifies them as “the Internet,” a strange hybrid of human and
computer, innately vicious but also ubiquitous, phenomena to be ignored.
Others have a more difficult time ignoring it. After reaching out to her father’s mourning fans, Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda became a target of sadistic trolls
— piling trauma upon trauma. She closed her Instagram account and shut
down her Twitter feed. A budding journalist who had just had one of her
first stories posted on her university newspaper’s website was so
stunned by the comments that she decided to find another line of work. A
young writer in New York City who was photographed trying to make ends
meet by hauling his typewriter to the High Line and busking stories was
savaged online. (He ended up writing an article about his ordeal called “I Am an Object of Internet Ridicule, Ask Me Anything.”) Journalist Amanda Hess, who wrote one of the most talked-about stories of this year
on women and the Internet, relates getting this comment to one of her
pieces: “Amanda, I’ll fucking rape you. How does that feel?” - Salon
You may think that so-called internet "trolls" are a minority of people who finally have a medium through which to express their innermost thoughts and feelings, but if you take a close look at your own thoughts, you will recognise the occasional cruel thought swimming in a pool of thoughts in your mind.
Internet trolls are showing us the extent of the problem we are facing within ourselves - the extent to which we lack respect and compassion for each other, the extent to which things like discrimination still exist. It is safe to say that most people have at least one thing to which they would behave in this manner, be it bad drivers, an ethnic or racial group, or even the government. The reality is that those foul thoughts exist within you, whether you feel that they are justified or not, you are allowing this cruelty to exist simply because you feel justified. Everyone who allows a cruel though believes themselves to be justified in allowing it - it is that belief in your own rightness that contributes to the massive problem we are facing in human nature now.
We allow everyone the right to their own opinions, even when those opinions amount to discrimination or downright cruelty. We allow it in others in order to validate our own participation in these thoughts. Twisted, yes, but a clever trick that lets us do whatever we want without feeling too guilty about it.
Don't be so quick to judge the trolls on the internet, take a good hard look at yourself to see where you may be having similar words going through your mind. Being willing to be honest with yourself is the first step to changing yourself into the person you want to be and live according to principles of integrity.