Amanda Hess: "Brats Come in All Ages"

There's an awesome article up at Slate, called Stop Internet Shaming "Ungrateful" Teens:  Brats Come in All Ages.  Amanda Hess makes the points I want to make every time I hear someone whining about Generation Y:

Plenty of adults say racist things, revert into ungrateful brats during the holidays, and demonstrate a tenuous grasp on world history. And yet these public shaming exercises tend to focus exclusively on teenagers. That’s partly because we see teenagers as redeemable, and adults as beyond help[, ...]  But we also criticize teens because we feel that we can control them, either by sending them to the principal’s office or just asserting our generational superiority over them. As one BuzzFeed commenter wrote, “Thank you Generation Y for making me grateful I have dogs and not an ungrateful brat!” When adults shame teenagers on the Internet, we feel like we can separate ourselves from American racism and consumerism by pinning the problem on this new, amoral generation. We all got out fine, but these kids? Worse than dogs.

This impulse to mock and distrust teenagers is so strong that some journalists don’t even bother to investigate whether their assumptions are correct before forever branding teens as spoiled jerks. And so adults have reflexively shamed an “ungrateful brat” who actually shares our distaste for ungrateful brats.

(Emphasis mine.)

It pisses me off to see the way people on the internet see behavior they don't like, and organize active hate campaigns to bottle all those people up into a convenient out-group that they can just collectively hate -- even if it's their own generation.  This article doesn't dwell on it, but there's no shortage of teenagers and twentysomethings who whine about their own generation, begging for approval by the grown-ups and an exclusion from the people who happen to be born around the same time as them.

Signal boost: How to Kill a Troll, by Erin Kissane

(via Neil Gaiman on Tumblr)

The most effective response to trolls is supposed to be ignoring them.

Anyone who was tormented by classmates as a child knows how facile that is. You can’t un-see threats and hateful comments, which is what the people who make them are counting on. 

"Don't feed the trolls" has always been pretty bad advice.  This should be obvious.  I remember, when I was younger, stupider, and frequented 4chan, what "Don't feed the trolls" meant.  It wasn't a strategy for diminishing trolling.  4chan is very nearly nothing but trolling.

"Don't feed the trolls" just meant:  Be good at identifying trolls, and don't fall for their trolling.  If you do, they win.  By 'win,' I mean the way you win a game of tag.  That's all it was.  That's all that not "feeding the trolls" is good for -- winning points in a juvenile game.

Trolling outside 4chan[1. Which is not to say that there's no serious, properly contemptible trolling in 4chan, but generally, I think the trolling on that site is often relatively benign, especially compared to the rest of its content.] isn't that playful game.  It's an attempt to control and dominate conversations.  Like propaganda in the early twentieth century, trolling is a weapon of opinion, and needs to be dealt with that way.

Erin Kissane's brilliant essay offers one solution, and she's right that it might be the only one:

 When it comes to actually changing minds, I think we’re stuck with love.

Read it here.  Share it everywhere.