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When A Trump Troll Is Outed

Talking of trolling, the New Yorker published an interesting piece by Adrian Chen, looking at what happened when a pro-Trump Reddit-dwelling troll was suddenly brought into the glare of publicity when his Gif went viral — and his true identity was established.

Suddenly, his behavior became more than pixels on a screen. It had consequences:

For HanAssholeSolo, though, his gif episode showed him what most of us instinctively know—that our online lives are intricately woven into our real ones, and that freedom of speech is not an excuse for a lack of empathy, even “behind a keyboard.” This was “an extreme wake up call,” he wrote in his apology. “To people who troll on the Internet for fun, consider your words and actions conveyed in your message and who it might upset or anger. Put yourself in their shoes before you post it.”

If there’s one thing that these trolls and the traditional media have had in common for a long time, it’s been the idea that virtual interactions were in some way inferior to physical one, that they counted less – if at all.

Both groups are slowly learning how very untrue that idea is.

Hari: Knave or Fool?

Troll FaceGreenslade argues fool:

I admit that, having written that I didn’t believe Hari guilty of passing off somebody else’s intellectual work as his own, it did give me pause for thought.

But I concluded, in company with other sympathetic journalists – of left and right and centre, such as Deborah Orr, Ann Leslie and George Brock – that Hari had been a fool rather than a knave.

And I’d be prepared to lean that way, if it wasn’t for this part of Hari’s apology:

The other thing I did wrong was that several years ago I started to notice some things I didn’t like in the Wikipedia entry about me, so I took them out. To do that, I created a user-name that wasn’t my own. Using that user-name, I continued to edit my own Wikipedia entry and some other people’s too. I took out nasty passages about people I admire – like Polly Toynbee, George Monbiot, Deborah Orr and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. I factually corrected some other entries about other people. But in a few instances, I edited the entries of people I had clashed with in ways that were juvenile or malicious: I called one of them anti-Semitic and homophobic, and the other a drunk. I am mortified to have done this, because it breaches the most basic ethical rule: don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.

I find it interesting that most journalism commentators skim over, or completely ignore, this part of the story, as Greenslade did. To me, that violation of basic web ethics makes Hari a Troll and a knowing troll at that. Hence: a knave. 

At one stage Johann Hari quotes David Rose in his blog, giving him biographical details like “a starred first from a degree specialising in environmental science at Cambridge, and extensive work in Antarctica observing the effects of global warming”, to support a point Hari himself is making. Green counts “at least fifteen biographical facts (from a lawyer girlfriend in Walthamstow and subbing jobs at the Independent and Spectator, to a principled and noisy opposition to the invasion of Iraq)” about David Rose, none of which were true, because there is no David Rose. “[It] was a fluent stream of lies contrived just so that the systemic smear campaign and dishonest self-promotional exercise could carry on and never be exposed”, he says.

Perhaps Hari should just admit that he’s a fiction writer rather than a journalist and move on…?

Are Journalists as annoying as Bloggers?

A little Sunday evening therapy: I was reading the Game Dame's list of the six most annoying things that bloggers do, and mentally comparing it with what my journalists-turned-bloggers get up to. In the interests of openness, transparency and having my tongue firmly in my cheek, here were my thoughts:

1. Censored Comments

Oh, start with the biggie, why don't you? Almost all journalists want to start with 100% comment moderation, and have to be talked down from that ledge. Why? I think it's because they're used to being the arbiters of what appears in print, and the idea of unfettered access to publication is alien to them. And a touch, the merest smidgin, of suspicion of their readers is there, too.

2. People who don't participate in a process and yet feel they are justified in criticizing whatever they opted out of being a part of.
Hang on! That's what journalists do. If we can't criticise things that we aren't part of, how are we meant to make a living? Huh? Huh?

3. Calling someone a troll because they don't bow down to your point of view.
Journalists don't do this, mainly because most of them are unfamiliar with the term "troll" in this context. They do, however, have a tendency to refuse to publish negative comments rather than interacting with them.

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