Fighting Back

Some interesting advice the other day from Olive Ole on how to deal with obnoxious comments and online bullying. Diverting from the “don’t feed the trolls” strategy that most advise, Olive argues for a direct response — Know your bully, learn their weak spot, and use it — which at times seems closer to retribution than self-defense. To her credit, Olive does warn that going all Oulaw Josy Wales on your tormentors can turn victims into perpetrators, and her advice is given with the intent to stop the cycle of abuse rather than escalate the conflict.

As the tenor of my reaction suggests, I feel very ambivalent about this type of response, as revenge has always seemed an inadequate substitute for justice. But then again, justice in the wonderfully uncontrolled environment of the Internet seems comically impossible, and the most effective technique against any form of bullying is to fight back. A troll starved of attention does tend to go away, but sometimes the spell of indifference doesn’t work; while I don’t agree with many of Olive’s tactics, I do see the value in assertive responses to trolls who won’t go away.

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