Ever since Wisconsin Still-Gov. Scott Walker managed to survive the recall election last night, from the minute the results were announced, I started getting tweet after tweet by troll after troll spewing (mostly misspelled) nastiness, gloating, and insults.
Sidebar: A brief Twitter lesson on trolling… A “troll” is someone who enters a Twitter stream, usually uninvited, and initiates a conversation in the most inflammatory way possible. Sometimes, but not usually, it starts out more subtly, then quickly escalates into full-on offensive content. The idea is to provoke, bait, disrupt, and eventually get an emotional response. One motivation is to acquire more followers and/or get a posse to pile on. They often appear to be illiterate, bigoted, racist, uninformed, misinformed, and very angry. And yes, that description also fits commenters at this blog, as well as the very definition of Fox News [sic] devotees… and believe it or not, even some fellow Dems.
Just as things were settling down, I was deluged again because Michael Moore retweeted the same tweet of mine that the Maddow Blog posted on their site (scroll), and all the Moore haters swooped in.
These people don’t want to debate for the most part, nor do they care about having a civil discussion. They go directly to rude, hostile blather and harassment, and I go directly to the block option, although I do sometimes succumb to a couple of rounds of Whack a Troll when I’m feeling feisty.
But why is this happening? Why is there so much blatant rancor? The political climate is so heated, so hateful, that, just as Congress is more divided than ever, so are the rest of us. And because people can hide behind their computers, feel removed, knowing there’s a distance between them and who they choose to attack, even bully, knowing they are likely impossible to track and identify, they take full advantage.
How can our representatives govern properly if one side openly announces that its primary goal is to boot out the president instead of passing laws that will improve life for fellow U.S. citizens? How can those who are governed by clashing Congress members achieve their own peace if tea party enthusiasts, Breitbart followers, right wing extremists, and religious fanatics condemn and assault anyone they see as the enemy?
What’s worse, and ironic, is that those we think are dead wrong about so many things feel the very same way about us. Their concern is that we’ll win elections and power, and we’re worried that they will. Fear can be a powerful motivator.
Disagreements are fine, but bombarding or beating up on political opponents doesn’t resolve disputes or change minds, it solidifies positions, and can even radicalize the other side. Launching attacks without provocation expressly to evoke a knee-jerk response or to start a fight to get attention is self-serving, destructive and unnecessary.
And it’s no way to improve the nation’s collective state of mind, or for that matter, the state of the union.