Monday, January 2, 2017

Trolling From the Left

Intimidation and name calling online on social media sites and platforms has become commonplace. In virtual as opposed to actual, contact you don't need to know anything about them in order to insult them. The fact is, the less you know about your adversary, the better.

Unfortunately, it is not only the extreme right that is willing to perceive huge swaths of the population as the enemy.  It seems like the us and them mentality fuels many folks on all sides of the proverbial aisle. This kind of thinking will divide our movement before it even has a chance to get off the ground.

I recently joined a group that has a presence both online and in the real world. Their stated goal is to fight fascism. Because I am not on Twitter, I have always felt immune to any form of trolling. My Facebook friends are great and while we sometimes have intense political discussions, we talk about opinions and don't stoop to personal attacks and name callinig. Because of that basic philosophy, I made the faulty assumption that this online group would adhere to the same guidelines, even though their number of members far exceeded my number of Facebook friends. And the more folks in a group, the higher the likelihood of trollers.

The first thing I posted was well-received, at first, anyway. It had a great historical photo of lesbians and was titled, "Lesbian spaces are still needed, no matter what the queer movement says," by Susan Cox. I linked to it so you can decide for yourself if t's offensive. It certainly was not my intention to offend. Au contraire, ma chere, I thought it was an valuable post for an ostensibly queer group.

I didn't overthink it or realize that the very idea of lesbian space is a controversial one. The first responses were positive. Then someone decided that the article was biased against transgender women and things devolved from there. Read the article yourself and decide if you think it's negative. I didn't see it. I re-read it. I still didn't see it. People began taking sides. Dissension was turning to anger. Young people referred to lesbian places, for example the Lex, that I'd never even heard of. I said I was just comparing it to the seventies and places that existed when I came out. It was now clear that I'm old. Condescension increased but I was still not completely discouraged.

But when people started calling me and others fascists and throwing about the term TERF, I withdrew from the discussion. I'd heard of surf n turf at restaurants, but I didn't even know what a TERF was. I assumed it had something to do with my age. But it didn't. It stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist and is commonly used to attack lesbians who consider themselves a distinct group separated from the queer alphabet melange. Articles are proliferating because famous disappearing L from the title of  Bonnie Morris' new book about lesbian erasure. 

Whatever your individual opinions are on this, or other issues, trolling attacks are never appropriate. They are designed to silence individuals and groups who are perceived to embody the other side of the us vs them paradigm. This kind of attack is the same pile of crap whether perpetrated by the right or left. Trolling is not a political discussion. It is just hateful name-calling. The organized right wing will surely defeat us if we are abusing each other before Trump's presidency has begun. It's a self-defeating tactic that is destructive to our entire movement.