A Rant About That Internet Groupthink Thing (Harassment Lately)…

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Warning: Views are my own and not yours. :)

I read through comments for pretty much anything. Especially if it’s for something I consider a “social issue”. I know it’s a bad habit, and can get depressing, but once I got past the initial shock (which still happens) I started treating it as more of a sociological experiment.
In recent case I’ve been thinking a lot about the entire backlash of Feminist Frequency, harassment of Depression Quest’s creator, and “public execution” of Fez creator. (See how I craftily avoided names?)
When I was reading through the comments of the IGN article “Fez Creator Sells Company After Hackers Expose His Personal Info” about Fez creator quitting after hackers exposed basically everything, it struck me as strange how many commenters stated/behaved as if he “had it coming” because “he’s an asshole”. Which is both empirically retarded, and interesting. The self righteous tone that’s predominant throughout any of these comments, or participants (4chan, tweets, resulting memes, etc…) amazes me.
It is as if the form of “Internet Vigilante“-ism that was used occasionally (questionably maybe) for good, and more often for practical jokes, has gotten so out of hand that things have turned into an absurd form of online “police state”.
After watching all of this, I get the impression that this could make a really good science fiction based in the not-too-distant future where “we the people” attacked opposing views to such an extent that “we” turned into Big Brother in the end… It’s a cute idea. Maybe I’ll explore it… Unfortunately the fiction here is not that fictitious.
I mean, seriously, saying someone “deserves it” because “they are assholes” is just about admitting that this has become some bizarre form of people’s run dictatorship.
This entire behavior is ridiculous. Being hacked on a personal level is horrible. Seeing that particular individuals are being targeted, and that it’s happening more and more, is just as horrible.

Every woman that I know, with some sort of online project (where personal views are in the forefront), has gotten death/rape threats. A great article on this problem is “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet“. I reference the article often because it’s absolutely true. I have gotten death/rape threats in the past. I mean… I get the mentality. It seems to be the pan-ultimate punishment a man can throw at a woman, so threatening rape is a great way to “shut her up” when there isn’t any sound counter-argument founded in logic to come up with. If you get a rape threat, then you know you’re probably on to something.
I haven’t been able to take them serious. I try to “creep them out” back. It works. I never thought much more of these things other than “it’s just internet culture”.
Looking back at that attitude I now think that’s a horrible thing to just “be ok with”. Primarily because that “internet culture” ends up bleeding over into offline reality. This affects all of us.

Like I said above, I’m treating this as a sociological experiment. I regard the internet as our collective psyche. Our subconscious. I want to understand why people do horrible things, so I look at how we behave in our “fast-lane” that is internet land.
In making sense of it, it just helps. I often found the question “why” to be the worst question you could ask when fighting trauma. For example, the classic “why did this happen to me?”, or “why did they do this to me?”, aren’t answerable because there is never really a satisfying answer. Maybe because there is a “me” in that question? I know, that sounds terribly self-help. :)
Much of this makes sense if you see “hate”, or “evil”, as an intelligent organism. Just to understand, take the concept “hate” and see it as a mental virus. It starts to become understandable…
Hate does not care what philosophy, reason, excuse, ideology, religion, science you theme it with. Hate needs to spread. Something hurts you (severity of what was done to you may vary), you might apply your belief over it (any belief), and then you pass that hate off to someone else by hurting them intentionally (under the self righteous guise of your belief). They will get hurt, and theme their hate accordingly. Now you have this never ending cycle of men are better than women, Christians are more righteous than science, science is more right than religion, all of you are inferior to me and must die… It’s interesting. Maybe too obvious to be committing to writing, but I digress…
To your average troll there is no consequence to what is being said or done. It’s all digital, often anonymous, so it’s “not real”. A great “autobiography” here is The day I confronted my troll. The end reaction is so predictable. When the troll was confronted with the results of their actions:

“The Troll sat there for a moment and said “I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m sorry. It was like a game thing.”

I’ve found that Philip Zimbardo’s work on “what makes nice people turn bad” explains a lot about this.

“Evil is the exercise of power, and that’s the key, it’s about power. To intentionally harm people psychologically, to hurt people physically, to destroy people mortally, or ideas, and to commit crimes against humanity.”

I suggest looking into his work. He is the psychology professor that led The Stanford prison experiment. I think this is very relevant to online behavior today. “We” are our avatars (that “empowering” mask we hide behind) and those are the nameless, faceless, recipients of our “game thing”. Calling them victims would be a stretch, because even the consequences of “our” actions are “masked”. For the troll, there is no concept of the effect trolling has on those that are being harassed.
Badass Digest’s article entitled Video Games, Misogyny, And Terrorism: A Guide To Assholes (worth the read) summarizes it well by saying

“What we’re seeing is the gamification of a social struggle.”

And since I’m lazy, I’m going to drop this quote:

“Groups are capable of being as moral and inteligent as the individuals who form them; a crowd is chaotic, has no purpose of its own, and is capable of anything except inteligent action and realistic thinking. Assembled in a crowd, people lose their powers of reasoning and their capacity for moral choice.”
- Aldous Huxley

Isn’t all this trolling typical crowd behavior? Politicians, and dictators use this to their advantage, but in this case there is no clear leader. There is just the “gist of things”/groupthink/hive mind to get caught up in…
But I should stop here… I meant this to be just a small facebook rant. :)

Sorry for the grammar/spelling. I’ve got other to do. I’m releasing a game soon! :D

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