Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Waterbury's Trolls

As you may know, the internet has spawned a new category of people called trolls. Trolls typically spend a lot of time posting hate-filled comments on news articles, Twitter posts, and elsewhere online. Trolls are typically anonymous, hiding their true identities behind screen names. Trolls love to argue. Trolls are also very self-righteous and love attention.

The only way to deal with trolls is to block them, to ban them from posting comments on your website, Twitter feed, etc. Trolls can also be reported to the authorities if they have written any threatening comments.

Trolls are venomous creatures, who like to dominate online conversations, bullying anyone who disagrees with them, driving away polite discourse, and shaping public perception.

The Rep-Am newspaper website is severely plagued with trolls. There have been many times when I have read an interesting article online, then scrolled down a little further to read the comments, and then been disgusted, repulsed, and sickened by the comments.

The Waterbury trolls are fairly predictable. If a Rep-Am article has anything to do with minorities, the poor, or city government, the trolls will fill the comments with their venom.

Take, for example, a recent article titled "Hispanics nearly half of city's student population." Although the Rep-Am has deleted some of the worst comments, many of the ones that remain are disgusting. Here are a few examples (I have refrained from pointing out the false information in them; hopefully it is self-evident to you):

saints wrote on Oct 14, 2013 7:55 AM:
"Is anyone checking on the legal status of these students parents just to make sure they're not stealing education? Never mind; I already know the answer to that. Do they still have American Flags in each classroom or have they taken them down yet? There might be room for a few more flags yet. "
Truth wrote on Oct 14, 2013 8:20 AM:
" The article should answer the question, how many residents are taxpayers? The city welfare population is destroying this society! "
Donna wrote on Oct 14, 2013 10:03 AM:
"We used to shop in Waterbury but get angry when we see hoards of Hispanic teens pushing expensive baby carriages, dressed in expensive clothes and jewelry, or packed into the nail salons, while we worked our entire lives and can't afford to buy anything. I can't count how many times I have remarked that they must have gone to college at 12, graduated and become professionals to have that much disposable cash while raising two or three children at the age of 20. In Torrington, they fill the shelter for "abused women" and their kids run wild while they have men in their rooms. During the day they pick through garbage cans for bottles and push them around in shopping carts which they also use for baby carriages. Welcome to the new America.. "
conservative1 wrote on Oct 15, 2013 10:33 AM:
" Jimmy..came on earlier boats? No one here came on earlier boat than blacks. And the Hispanics either fly in or cross the border by foot (with backpacks full of drugs). If you're referring to Europeans, They came here legally and EARNED that place. They didn't come here for free stuff. They came here to work hard and succeed. Just as they are coming from Eastern Europe right now. They are skipping right over blacks and hispanics by working hard and earning respect. They learn the language and are proud to be a part of America.
As I've said before, stop listening to democrats that tell you you are being held down by whitey, that you are too stupid to take care of yourself, that you need the government to take care of you, because it's not true. You can do it Jimmy. All on your own. "

conservative1 wrote on Oct 18, 2013 9:39 AM:
" The BOE wants to celebrate the latino heritage in Waterbury. Freeloading and crime. What a bunch of gutless votewhores. "

Want more? Here are some "gems" posted to the article "Waterbury school board member questions integrity of magnet school lottery": 
conservative1 wrote on Oct 15, 2013 10:06 AM:
" Ginny have to agree and disagree. The Board is corrupt and backward thinking and are ALL COWARDS. Yes Ms Harvey is a racist. We have a school board that rewards laziness and irresponsibility. That is why it is so expensive and still failing.
We need someone with the balls to say to parent, yes parent because these kids only have one (if that). That as the adult responsible for the student YOU WILL BE INVOLVED or your child will be expelled. Sports are for HONOR students only. Want to play B-Ball? Get your grades up. Cause trouble or habitually absent. EXPELLED.
It's time to take a hard line with education or we are just setting these kids up for failure in the real world.

As far as these "lotteries" they were fixed during Giordano and Jarjura administrations. Assuming things haven't changed. I'd argue they are fixed for MINORITIES though. The reason they are "whiter" than the general population is because whites come in from other towns and WHITE parents bother to fill out the lottery applications in higher numbers than minority parent. "
conservative1 wrote on Oct 15, 2013 10:12 AM:
" @ Tax payer. your kids better off . These maggot schools are no better than the regular pre-prison schools. The idea behind them was ok but there are just as many trouble makers in them.
Pay the money, your kids will thank you when they are older. I would also suggest moving out of this dump. Assuming you are a homeowner. Between your $8000 in tuition and you're $ 6000-$10000 in property taxes you're getting killed. You could live anywhere in the state for that amount. "

And then there's this lovely comment posted to "Effort to rename school dropped":

conservative1 wrote on Oct 18, 2013 9:29 AM:
" The Entire BOE needs to be replaced.
Board of Education member Karen Harvey urged Hispanic residents not to give up their attempt to name a city school.

"I really think we as a community need to come together and say it is time, it is time to honor our Latino heritage in Waterbury," Brown said. OK Ms Brown. WHAT HISPANIC IS DESERVING OF A SCHOOL NAMED AFTER THEM???? The Latino heritage in Waterbury is of freeloading and committing crime. You really want to celebrate that?? Ms Brown is a typical politician.

@ Mayoral aide Geraldo Reyes . I ask the same question. WHAT LATINO IS DESERVING?? You don't honor a race just because we haven't yet. That just dishonors those previously honored justly. You sir should be "let go".
To Mayor OLeary and the BOE Is there anyone in this city's history more deserving honor than Mario Generali? "

These examples are relatively mild compared to some of the other comments I've seen posted on the Rep-Am site, but they are still horrific for one simple reason: the writers are demonizing an entire class of people. This is unacceptable.
If you are black or Hispanic, the Waterbury trolls are against you. If you are poor, the Waterbury trolls are against you. If you don't own your own home or a car (and therefore are "not a taxpayer"), the Waterbury trolls are against you. If you are a city official, the Waterbury trolls are against you.

There are a handful of trolls who frequent the Rep-Am's website and poison the online discussions. Their screen names include: conservative1 (the worst offender, in my opinion), al.cap, wtbywtchdog, stanley, blue star, ratsmik, and Truth. Other comment writers fall prey to their bait and engage them in argument, which is what the trolls love. Occasionally, there are other trolls who surface to add their venom to a discussion. As a result, the comment sections are filled with insults, derogatory comments, and bullying. Anyone who isn't a troll winds up feeling angry and frustrated. The trolls create an atmosphere that makes people lose interest in Waterbury.

Ultimately, the responsibility for the content of the Rep-Am's comment sections lies with the Rep-Am. The newspaper is privately owned, which means they have full authority to ban certain types of comments. If the trolls really want to get their message out there, they can get their own blog and stop polluting the Rep-Am.
While the Rep-Am does delete the most offensive comments, they still let the trolls control the dialogue. I recently dropped my subscription to the Rep-Am for this reason. Until they change their standards and ban the trolls, as well as any comment that demonizes an entire class of people, I will not spend any money on the Rep-Am. This is a personal decision, part of a larger rethinking of what I will and will not tolerate. I will not tolerate trolls, and I will not support anyone who enables them. If they are allowed to make hate-filled statements targeting minorities and the poor and whoever else online, pretty soon it will be commonplace to say such things in public. The venomous comments posted by the trolls is like a cancer that threatens to spread, and it needs to be stopped.

1 comment:

Teenygozer said...

I stopped reading the Rep-Am when they recently posted an editorial (not an op-ed or a letter, an actual editorial) about how unscientific "warmers", otherwise known as "scientists who are trying to educate the world about climate change", are. I actually felt embarrassed for them as I read it. They could not have possibly understood how idiotic they sounded or they would not have published it. I've never seen the expression "warmers" before, I guess they're trying it on for size to see if it catches on. It is ridiculous.