A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about how we in the online community should respond to jerks and trolls. In it I said that we should stand against it. Not feeding the trolls, but calling them out and making it clear that their kind of discourse is a poison.
Cut to: The comments section at the A.V. Club. I love the A.V. Club. I adore it, particularly for their TV reviews. On last night’s review of the latest episode of Girls, Todd VanDerWerff showed us all how it’s done. His ‘A’ review of the episode was met with a flurry of comments, but one in particular caught his ire. The person left the comment, “If you’re sporting a mug like Lena Dunham, you’d better be really,really fucking funny. Unfortunately…”
People, this is how you deal with trolls. Now, maybe you don’t always have to respond with such length, but the message is important. Instead of ignoring trolls, or letting them draw you into an argument, just call them out.
My favourite bit of Todd’s diatribe is this:
Most of all, though, it just bugs me that you–and yes, I’m sorry to single you out, because there are a ton of people in this very article who are being dicks and acting like it’s the height of hilarity, when if you’re going to be a dick, you’d better be really, really fucking funny–were just an asshole and didn’t seem to care and (even worse) got 12 automatic “likes” for being an asshole who makes the world a worse place to live, just a little bit. Here’s the thing: I don’t know you, but I know you don’t have to be an asshole. You don’t have to say that thing. You don’t have to start this whole conversation. You don’t have to make the women in our midst feel unwelcome if they don’t look like Allison Williams. You don’t have to make me feel disgusted to write for a website that people like you comment on. You don’t have to make the world a worse place. You don’t have to make that joke. It’s not worth it. You can be a bigger man. You can be a better person. And you’re just not.
And that pisses me off.
Todd gets at the heart of it right there. Nobody needs to be an asshole on the internet. Being an asshole can happen. Lord knows I’ve been one, including online, but the attitude of this kind of asshole is unique to the anonymous online sphere. It’s so easy to come into the comments section of a site and leave a jerky piece of snark that’s manages to be reductive, mean and misogynist all at once. Letting this particular kind of asshole slide is unacceptable and so I applaud Todd VanDerWerff for calling it out.