At the end of 2012 I was still allowing unrestricted commenting on my blog. This meant that all and sundry could pitch in, including those who wanted to conceal their identity. Some unnamed people did have interesting and supportive things to say. Others seemed to be playing a rather nasty game. This post was published to vent my displeasure at Anonymous.
It was called The rules of the game, and was dated 17 December 2012.
Recently I've noticed some comments, on this blog and others, from persons called 'Anonymous'. One anonymous comment actually came from a friend who didn't blog - that was perfectly all right. But who are the rest? I have no idea whether it's one person commenting, or a dozen persons working in a team. How can you tell? They don't say who they are. Even when you ask. It wouldn't matter, except that often these comments from 'Anonymous' have an edge to them, and may be downright provocative - making you wonder why they have been made.
It's never explained how they are qualified to express an opinion that you should take seriously. I'd be quite happy to engage with someone who identified themselves and said, 'I'm Dr So-and-so, with eighteen years experience working with trans people who have made failed suicide attempts, and my own case notes, research and experience suggest that...' because that's a real person who has evidence. I can look at his evidence, especially if he has published it for me to read in full, and tells me how to access it. I don't promise to agree with his conclusions, because I might interpret the evidence differently. But I won't dismiss him as an uninformed, troublemaking idiot either.
Is 'idiot' the right word to use? Well, if you do take these unnamed people at face value, and answer their points intelligently, they seem to ignore what you said. They just come back to you, spouting another set of standard comments, as if working from a script. I conclude that two-way communication is not the name of the game here. They are not going to accept a word I say, and in fact it wouldn't matter what I said. I must be dealing with a troll.
It's so easy to be a troll. Here are the rules I think they play by, when the target is the trans community:
1. Find any trans blog, and make a comment that will upset the author and most of the other commentators. You want to stir them up and watch the fun. Any comment will do, so long as it will needle and irritate.
2. If possible, pretend to be sincere. Then they may try to reason with you. And that gives you plenty of ways to prolong the game.
3. There are lots of ready-made clichés to hand that will push a tranny into an anguished response. Hackneyed phrases like 'men in dresses', for instance. Pronoun misuse will always inflame the trannies. Keep the pot boiling by constantly using these trigger phrases and trigger words.
4. Play hard and long. See how wound-up they get. If they lose interest, reignite the argument.
5. You win when someone loses their cool big-time.
6. Keep a score on a spreadsheet - how many comments it took till a tranny started to cry. Share it with friends. Copy and save their distressed and angry comments, to laugh at later.
7. Remember: they're not proper human beings, just deluded saddos, so it doesn't matter one little bit who gets upset or why.
8. The Big Rule: never, never, never say who you really are. They can't get at you then.
So, in future, I want no more 'anonymous' comments, please. I simply can't tell who is genuine and who is a troll. Genuine people can email me, and enjoy free speech that way. Trolls will be deleted. That's my rules.
Posted by Lucy Melford at 18:05
There were actually more than seven comments, but I felt compelled to delete one or two:
1. Shirley Anne 17 December 2012 20:05
The answer is really simple Lucy. All you need to do is vet such comments before you allow them to be published. I don't know how it works with Blogger although I should do because I have a blogger account too but with Wordpress I can set first-time comments to be vetted before they reach the page. Established comment makers are automatically allowed through but even so I still have the power to delete nasty or provocative comments. I don't like to place a wall making it awkward for anyone to post by making them prove they are not a machine either, the excellent spam filter does that for me. Of the two platforms I use I have to say Wordpress is the better.
Shirley Anne x
2. Carolyn Ann Grant 17 December 2012 20:10
I'm not a fan of vetting comments, but I do use Blogger's "no anonymous comments" setting. It's easier than trying to argue with idiots. (Yes, "idiot" is the right term for such trolls.) There are more than a few folk who will criticize without admitting they're behind the criticism. I've come to the conclusion that they want to be perceived as reasonable and nice, while allowing themselves the room to be stupid and inane. It is, as you note, easy to be nasty when no one knows who you are! So, I stop them from hiding and hope they feel very frustrated. :-)
3. Lucy Melford 17 December 2012 21:18
Thanks both. For now I'll keep it so that anyone can comment - except of course whomever Blogger automatically filters out for me as a probable spammer. That way I can deal with anonymous comments on a case-by-case basis. Some of them may have a good point to make, which I would certainly allow to be seen. But I won't tolerate my blog becoming an easy platform for making spiteful or prejudicial comments.
But of course I've always been able to delete any comment I think is irrelevant or perverse. I haven't done it much: I think I've made deletions only three times in nearly four years. The persons concerned were either begging for money or advertising a tacky service I didn't think appropriate.
Trans Media Watch might get some referrals if I think any unnamed person making the wrong kind of comment could have a media-industry connection.
4. Sophie 18 December 2012 14:00
I've always vetted comments, and usually go for private replies anyway. Don't get guys like the anonymous 'translator' here, maybe because they think their comments won't make it through, or, in my case, because of the replies that they're liable to get.
5. Lucy Melford 18 December 2012 18:07
Just deleted a long comment parodying my post from Anonymous - it wasn't pleasant reading so it got the bullet.
6. Lucy Melford 18 December 2012 22:25
[To Anonymous, threatening to repeat their nasty message somewhere else on the net] That's fine, if it's elsewhere. MKIA [i.e. Miz-Know-It-All, a blogger last heard of in March 2013] can deal with your post as she sees fit. If she allows it, and gives you a platform, then so be it.
7. Martin 19 December 2012 01:47
My worst 'troll' was an actual bona fide Scottish Anglican Priest. Who I met, close to four years ago, in Africa. He relentlessly left taunting messages on my then bcuk blog, which I couldn't block, as he was then a member of that site. Have you heard the phrase 'indifference is the best revenge'? Bullies tend to thrive on admissions of hurt or annoyance from those they choose to torment. 'Just delete and ignore' is the obvious advice. But which I know isn't easy if they are waging a sustained war of words against you.
Post-mortem in 2014
I soon had to restrict comments to those with blogs of their own, blocking out Anonymous. This didn't stop people registering with Blogger (or another recognised platform) simply as a way to get past the 'no anonymous comments' restriction. But even this is not a big problem nowadays. Perhaps they know that I am very quick to delete, and have no qualms about being ruthless.