That Time I Was Almost A Troll

I don’t always speak my mind on the Internet. When I do, I try to assure that my material is well-thought-out and clear. I write on my own terms, usually on my own blog, and proofread obsessively before I finally post. I try to avoid any emotional impulse and take time to breathe before I respond to something that irks me. Of course, this is easier said than done. My sense of self-importance is not so inflated that I believe my writing is always worthy of reaching the masses; it would be nice, but that’s not why I do it. I’m not a reporter or journalist, and I don’t think anyone should claim to be without doing actual investigative reporting. I mostly write for my own sanity, when I am able to stay silent no longer. Not that I am in anyway apathetic. I just don’t see the use trying to reason with the unreasonable who cannot put a human face to the person they are confronting (and more often than not, insulting). I believe comment forums are where humanity goes to die, and I don’t want to lower myself to that level. As the saying goes, “Don’t Feed the Trolls.”

With that said, after a stressful week last month, that would have been plenty difficult without a war in the Middle East, I was fed up. Enough was enough, and I went off. I had already written an article taking down many of the prevalent anti-Israel arguments, and I found myself copying the link directly to any friend’s Facebook who had accused Israel of being any type of villain. I commented on a post on the Students for Justice in Palestine Facebook page, which the admins soon removed and blocked my ability to comment. (The comment was rather reasonable as you can see, and I’ve seen them respond to accusations more damning, but no matter.) Then I came across this article, and my reaction pushed me to the closest I’ve ever come to living under a bridge.

The article was not completely one-sided, and its author did seem to have a wide range of material that had influenced her opinion. While the Golda Meir quote referenced was taken out of context, the author was right to assert that it had no place on a public forum for doulas. My issue was that the author was asserting she felt ignored, beaten-down, and oppressed by sharing her opinion, and then proceeded to attack the other side for “swallowing Zionist propaganda” and maintained that her Jewish friends were simply “confused.” Did she see no irony in her stance? Does she find it so hard to believe that presented with the same information in the same environment, others would draw a conclusion different from hers? You can support the Palestinians and oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza without demonizing the entire country of Israel and its people, but that’s exactly what her article subtly seemed to be doing.

I wanted to comment on the article - something I rarely do because as I said, it’s mostly futile - but I thought the likelihood of the author seeing it was rare. When I saw she was active on Twitter, I followed the link there. Big mistake. It turns out, the author’s strong writing skills were able to downplay her rampant hate for all things Israel, as her true thoughts would never be suitable for publication. Anything reasonable to be drawn from her article was at once eradicated when I saw her ranting and raving. I tried to resist the urge to engage, but I was too weakened from anxiety, and I succumbed to temptation.

That last comment (on top, since Twitter is reverse-chronological) was a concise, Twittered-down way of saying that being a white person with an unpopular opinion (an opinion not nearly as unpopular as she’s making it out to be) is nothing compared to the suffering of the people you’re trying to defend, or even the people you oppose. She’s not the martyr she desperately wishes she could be. Most of her retweets were people telling her how “brave” she was to write her article. Yes, living on the other side of the world from a war zone and expressing a pro-Palestinian opinion in Al-Jazeera is very brave.

I did a bit of research on the author after I commented, to see more of what influences her perspective. I learned from her other writings that she is a proud radical (because “fuck liberals”) and anarchist, she used to be a junkie, used to be a stripper, used to live in a van, and now has a cute baby. She regularly affirms her distaste for white people, although she still takes pride in being from Wales, demonstrating that cognitive dissonance exists within all political ideologies. Yet I do not know this person, and therefore refrained from attacking her on a personal level. I contained my grievances to the content of her article.

A few hours later, Ms. Fowler gave an oh-so-eloquent response to my critiques.

A complete stranger has insulted me on Twitter! With no logical basis whatsoever! And she used the word “waffling” in the wrong context? I’ve finally made it! Naturally, I had to respond with a more mature, rational approach.

While I heard no word back from her directly following this, she did tweet another lovely gem, to which I gave my final response.

Hundreds of innocent civilians are killed everyday throughout the world and no one gives a shit, but involve the Jews and suddenly the Ruth Fowlers of the world are Middle East experts. Anyone who claims they are “not an anti-Semite, just anti-Zionist” is either horribly misinformed on the definition and historical context of Zionism, or they are lying. Being anti-Zionist means you’re against the State of Israel’s right to exist at all. If you’re against this, then the only basis for your argument does not come from history or morality; it comes from anti-Semitism. Criticism against Israel is justifiable; being anti-Israel is not. You can rationalize or intellectualize it all you want; it doesn’t mean it’s not true. You can point to all the Jews in the world who agree with you; their self-hatred does not validate your own bigotry.

Now that this experience has sunk in, and things in the Middle East are hopefully settling down (for now), I’ve tried to come to a conclusion about what it all means. While I did seek out the author to comment on her feed, making me appear as a Troll, it was she who lashed out with the lowest form of disagreement; name-calling. I may not be the most honorable person for having engaged her on her territory, but she certainly does not have any more honor than me for her response. And is it Trolling when your comments are sincere and not simply trying to egg the other person on? I could have been a little more diplomatic in my approach, but her reaction was just vindictive. I understand she is angry about the situation, as am I, but who does she really think she’s helping with her brash approach to criticism? Maybe I’m only letting this affect me because I’m just not used to this kind of thing. I suppose I should get used to it though if I plan on putting my voice out there in this world, right? Not that I took it personally. It was more laughable than offensive.

Yet ultimately, it’s probably better not to participate in the nonsense. Nonsense can be dangerous and should not be ignored, but Twitter is not the proper place to combat it. I should have known better. The moment I saw her Twitter feed, I should have seen that there was no reasoning with this woman, even if her article made her appear as a rational human being. Her voice will never be part of the solution, even if she is somehow allowed to write for legitimate news organizations, so I shouldn’t make her my problem. But thanks for the milestone, Ruth! If you have anything more thoughtful to say to me other than “Zionist pig”, I would love to engage with you again. Until then, gai gezunterhait.

I have no doubt that if this ceasefire doesn’t hold, or when Israel’s next war comes along (I’m not naive enough to think this will be the last), it will still be very difficult not to feed the Trolls and/or become one myself. It’s always difficult for me, in times of great trouble in the U.S., Israel, and beyond, to not shut the whole world and all its imbeciles out. But at the end of the day, I refuse to live in a vacuum. I have to maintain a level of awareness from all sides of the major issues. I don’t have to remain silent, but I have to choose my battles carefully. I must not let my emotions get the better of me, even though I know this will always be easier said than done. So in the meantime, I will put up with all the noise that comes with productively engaging in this world, even if it kills me.

And I’m pretty sure it will.

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