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.

A Clock, Broken

Mark Aldrich just posted a wonderful piece about . . .  well you’ll just have to click the link and find out, because I suddenly can’t remember anything other than enjoying it . . . 

“Always?” Kei lifted the mahogony clock from the shelf, held it close to her face, like an archeologist examining a surprising find.

“Yes, always.” Her mother’s paper-thin fingers brushed the top of its surface, leaving a track in the dust. “The woman who we brought the house from, she gave it to us. A gift.”

“Why?” Still clutching the clock with her left hand, Kei pulled the sweater tight against her body with her right. One of the concessions she had to make whenever she visited her parents (and this visit, coming so soon after the conclusion of her divorce, was more than a formality) was accepting, without complaint, how they kept their thermostat down to a level that comforted their frugality.

Her mother shrugged. “She didn’t say why, and it didn’t seem polite to ask. We just — accepted.” Her right hand reached up, patted the empty space on the shelf above the basement television. “And put it there.”

Kei sensed the clock, with its intricate woodwork and brass fittings, was too expensive for her to be handling, yet she couldn’t let it go. “I don’t ever remember seeing it here. Did you, maybe, have it somewhere else before? And moved it here?”

“No, it’s always been here.” Her mother took the clock from Kei, put it back on the shelf. “I remember it like yesterday. Your father installed these shelves the weekend after we moved in, and this clock was one of the first things we put there. Been right there, ever since.”

“Huh.” Kei stepped back, the back of her left foot nudging the large bean bag chair; instinctively she sat down, nestling into the position where she had spent a childhood’s lifetime of hours, watching and playing as the screen grew bigger with each of her father’s promotions. She pointed up at the clock. “I can see it from here, no problem. If it really was there all that time, I would have noticed it.”

Her mother sniffed. “Children have priorities that distract them, prevent them from noticing the world around them. Especially an item as mundane, as a broken clock.”

“Why don’t you get it fixed?” Kei was suddenly inspired by the thought of actually being able to do something useful for her parents. An inspiration quickly dashed by her mother’s response.

“Because it doesn’t belong to this era, as a functional device. If we want to know the time, we can find that information in so many, more reliable ways. This clock, that it doesn’t work, just makes it seem more like it belongs in the past. Which it does — “she smiled down at Kei — “along with our faulty memories.” 

Upside Down

I’m taking a short break from “Too Much” to contemplate what comes next in that story; I’m planning something ambitious, and want to give myself some time to improve my chance of success. For today’s post, I’m revisiting a technique that’s worked well for me recently — responding to an interesting post I’ve discovered in my Reader. Mark Aldrich, The Gad About Town, just shared his experience living with a disease that was first undiagnosed, then mis-diagnosed.

“Later.” And with a wave of a hand slender as a paper fan, Rex turned and walked down the hall, his head towering over the other students.

“You know him?” Hearing the disdain in Nathalie’s voice, Annie decided, contrary to her nature, to answer while her back was still turned.

“He’s a fencer.” Hands reaching behind her head to tighten her pony-tail, Annie twisted, met Nathalie’s gaze. “Been on the team longer than me. He’s — ”

“You ever see what he eats?” Shuffle of student feet along the tiled floor, punctuated by slams of lockers and doors. Nathalie’s lips purple today.

“Really? What’s with the sudden interest in other people’ lunches?”

“That kid’s weird.” An accusing finger pointed down the hall. “And those clothes, oh my God — ”

“Just leave him alone.” Two steps to her right, Annie on her way to AP Calc, then — “You’ve heard the rumors, right?”

Her instincts told her to keep walking, leave Nathalie to her petty insecurities. But it was not in the Hutchinson’s family nature to leave a challenge.

To be continued