Commenters & Trolls: Extremism at its Finest


Photo Credit: Kip Lyall

I regularly read news articles, blogs and other posts online to catch up on what’s happening on the outside of my little bubble.  This is harmless, right? Well, maybe not so much.  Lately I’ve been increasingly becoming turned off by the comments people make on articles and posts that generally wouldn’t elicit extreme comments.  We’ve all been there though, right? You’re reading a post or a blog about something pretty simple and straightforward and then…BAM, you see the most obnoxious, hateful comment you’ve seen in a while.

So, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and I saw a pretty standard post written about Amiri Baraka, former NJ poet laureate who is recently deceased.  The comment says:

Today, Newark’s light is dimmed with the passing of Amiri Baraka. A true son of our city, Amiri was a veteran of the civil rights struggle who left an unforgettable mark on our world. He was a literary icon who wrote essays, plays, poems, and books that will not be forgotten. He was a political icon, setting the stage for the empowerment of those who had been locked out for so long. The history of Newark cannot be written without an account for the life and legacy of Amiri Baraka. We are everlastingly grateful for his service.

You would think, okay this is something typical that I or anyone else would write about a well known influential person who just died.  But then I read one of the comments on this post and I was taken aback.  It read:

I am appalled at those comments, Shavar. Amiri Baraka admitted that he was delighted at the 1967 riots, because he wanted the Jewish and Italian communities to leave town, so that Newark would be left to the black community. Only then did he realize the error of his ways. He said that he thought that the African-American community was totally cohesive and in much better shape than it was. Moreover, he wrote that horrific poem indicating that the Jews engineered 9/11. He has always been an anti-Semite and you should go back into history. Read that poem. Re-evaluate…

This comment set off a whole slew of comments going back and forth spewing hate.  Hmm…I thought to myself.  Now, I know that everyone has done both good and bad things in their lifetime.  I also know that we’ve made some controversial comments here and there (don’t judge me and I won’t judge you).  But, shouldn’t it be acceptable to write some positive comments about a deceased person?   People try to remember the good when loved ones die, not the bad.   I mean damn, the guy literally just died.  I don’t want to get too much into the comment above, but when is enough enough?  When will it be okay for random Facebook user number 1 to post something that isn’t generally polarizing (i.e. “Newark’s light is dimmed with the passing of Amiri Baraka”) and Facebook user 2 to read it, disagree with it (internally) and just keep on scrolling?  Why do people always have to antagonize everything?

I read some other article (I can’t remember the name of it), but it simply read something like “John Doe was killed while taking the trash out of his home”.  I read several comments that said “wow, that’s sad” “RIP” “prayers to the family.”  However, the comment that got the most responses read something like “good, let them all kill each other, there will be less on welfare.”  One of the responses called this “top commenter” a troll. I didn’t know what it meant (apparently I’m not as well read as I thought 😦 again, don’t judge me).  The Urban Dictionary defines it as “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a news group or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” Now your asking yourself (just like I did)…do people actually do this? Yep, they do.  It’s unfortunate, but yes they do.

Trolls are like the family members you don’t want to sit next to during Thanksgiving dinner. You know the ones who look at you and say “have you gained weight?” or “you look halfway decent today, is that a new outfit?”  I don’t wish any harm to anyone, but I’m calling it. 2014 the end of the troll. The trolls online and the trolls in our real lives.

And that’s my rant for now 😉