For Whom The Bell Trolls
A few more thoughts arising from the Occupy London demo:
I mentioned in an earlier post that Social Networking enables access to a far wider range of viewpoints than tends to be covered by conventional media. This is nowhere more true than in the discussions that coalesce around a topical hashtag such as #occupylondon or #OccupyLSX. The purpose of a hashtag (just in case you’re new to this) is to enable people with a common interest to participate in discussion, chat etc about their chosen topic.
However, wherever bridges are being built, trolls will lurk.
“Trolls”, in Social Networking parlance, are people who join in with discussions specifically to disagree with the prevailing view or to stir up confusion or fear. In some cases, such as #OccupyLSX, the trolls end up swamping the discussion to the point of obliterating the hashtag’s original purpose.
Now of course discussions such as these are supposed to be all about open and honest debate, frank exchanges of views, tough democracy. Different points of view are to be expected and encouraged. But believe me, it’s not hard to tell the difference between trolls and genuine participants. The Occupy movement and the vast majority of its sympathisers are characterised by politeness and willingness to debate the issues. Most comments about the encampment are obviously based on firsthand experience. The naysayers, on the other hand, frequently appear quite out of touch with what’s actually going on, dealing in lazy generalisations and stereotypes and resorting to childish insults when questioned. It’s also fair to say that, for the most part, they betray quite breathtakingly bigoted views to the extent that calling them right-wing would be an insult to right-wingers.
Up to a point it’s quite good sport to engage in a bit of back-and-forth with these types and some people make a pretty much full-time occupation of “troll hunting”. Ultimately though, it’s a bit depressing, wading through endlessly retweeted bile and nonsense to finally wind up in some EDL infested cul-de-sac. “Don’t feed the trolls” is probably one of the wiser slogans in cyberspace. Maybe they’ll go away if we ignore them. Here’s hoping hey?