Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Trouble with Trolls

Yesterday I listened to an interesting CBC radio The Current piece on internet "trolls." http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2014/02/24/should-media-sites-stop-feeding-the-trolls-and-abandon-online-comment-sections/These are the people who "comment" on articles in the online versions of newspapers and blogs and are often vicious and racist in their responses. They are also cowards for the most part, unwilling to reveal their actual identities. It sours the value of the legitimate conversation which comment sections afford and unfortunately some media outlets and bloggers and disabling the comments feature because it takes too much time and energy to moderate out the nasties. And who needs the grief? I can't believe the horrible racism of comments after virtually any article on First Nations peoples.

Churches have their trolls as well, the cruel snipers living under the bridges of congregational life who take potshots at those in leadership, including clergy. I am grateful that in all my years of ministry I have never received a derogatory letter or email. although that doesn't mean I haven't been criticized behind my back. Unfortunately this isn't the case for many colleagues. Sadly, it seems that women in ministry are more likely to receive these sorts of unfair and unkind missives.

Recently a woman in ministry in the Kingston area found an anonymous letter on the pulpit on a Sunday morning which demeaned her sexual orientation. Another minister I know well,  who has served her congregation for fifteen years, got an anonymous letter last year from a " concerned mother" who criticized her bare arms during the summer and her fat ankles. Huh? She doesn't have fat ankles, but that's not the point. What level of cowardice and pettiness do certain "Christians" possess that they can do these sorts of things? And why do the few --very few-- feel at liberty to bully women, even when they themselves are women? The male on our friend's ministry team wore short-sleeved shirts but got no such criticism.

Have any of you noticed the disturbing level of discourse in the comments sections online? What about churches? Are you surprised that supposed Christians can be so petty and hateful? What do we do about it?


Judy Mcknight said...

One could spend a lot of hours/days/weeks discussing this matter ... ego is a big part of the problem when things like this happen ... and a need to be in a power position, and recognized as the one with authority ...What do we do about it? Name it, tell how it is hurtful, and see if apologies and genuine forgiveness can come out of follow up discourse (but, of course, all parties have to agree to be part of the discourse...)The problem certainly can cause LOT of pain and division in any organization, and the church is not exempt ...

roger said...

I am often tempted to comment on a story online, particularly on CNN, but after looking at the hateful and idiotic commments, decide to pass. The best one can do is to not react in any way to these trolls, but someone always does. Unfortunately, that feeds the trolls.

I find it sad that these people you mention go to church, but deep down are hateful and miserable. Like the saying goes, going to church doesn't make you a christian any more than standing in a barn makes you a tractor. Some of the most judgmental and angry people I've met are regular churchgoers.

David Mundy said...

You're right Judy, the church is not exempt, but it should be different somehow.

I agree with you as well Roger, and the church trolls have driven too many people off the bridge.