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They Have to Be Monsters (codinghorror.com)
42 points by frostmatthew 537 days ago | hide | past | web | 14 comments | favorite



I don't understand why we are giving the trolls so much attention. I've been using the Internet for 15+ years and have heard and seen pretty much every bad comment imaginable.

I don't even think of them as real anymore. If someone comes along and says something nasty about me, I just ignore it.

The problem with all of these 'safe spaces' we see on college campuses is that we aren't giving our youth the skills they need to just ignore assholes, which will always be there. When they do come across something like this, it ruins their life and they need to go see a therapist...and the trolls love it because they get to control the person they are tormenting.

We also don't know the age of many of these posters. If you play any game on Xbox live, you will see and hear pretty brutal comments. You also hear the high-pitched squeak boys whose voices haven't changed yet.

Everyone is so quick to blame entire industries of adults without even having the ability to do a proper age or location check on the people posting these terrible comments (which is virtually impossible with the use of proxies, VPNs, and TOR).

I suspect 99% are teenagers and kids under the age of 18.


I think his point is that people are pushing back against emotional stories that don't have actionable responses. It's more pleasant to feel righteous and smug, to blame the victim, than to recognize that, no, this is the arbitrary tragedy of life. You could be next. And there's nothing you can do about it. (From the Pulitzer Prize winning article cited. "Humans...have a fundamental need to create and maintain a narrative for their lives in which the universe is not implacable and heartless, that terrible things do not happen at random, and that catastrophe can be avoided if you are vigilant and responsible.")

I wonder what it would look like if we actually were presented with actionable solutions?


>This man left the junkie comment because he is afraid. He is afraid his own children could become drug addicts. He is afraid his children, through no fault of his, through no fault of anyone at all, could die at 30."

More than likely he's just an asshole.


So he's just an incorrigeable freak, filled with a low form of evil. Definitely not something you would ever find yourself doing in a moment of weakness and fear.


>Definitely not something you would ever find yourself doing in a moment of weakness and fear.

It might be something one does during a "a moment of weakness and fear", but there is zero evidence that's the case. It's mentioned only because it fits some corny, pseudo-intellectual narrative.


Well, I have people I knew in my family that used to have political responsibility for the social care in a small town.

Be it this person related to me -that was well intentioned- or others on the opposite spectrum of political range that were "also nice persons" they used to be in the anonymity of their function quite pukingly judgemental and lacking of empathy. Online people see it, it is shocking. IRL people with power can ruin lives. But no one sees, it is made by "correct people" and no one cares.

Secrecy/privacy in real life is as harmful as online. It is just you will not have access to the secrecy of the office of your rulers, but people should understand that what you see online is also happening offline in every day life.


There's national newspapers that do the basic equivalent of posting "junkie" on a grieving mother's Facebook page. In those cases I also believe the Just World hypothesis plays a part. The people who read such papers have to believe the poor and the vulnerable are responsible for their own misfortune, or else they can't explain their own comfortable existance, and therefore have no reason to believe it will continue.

BTW, that pulitzer-winning story is deeply affecting. I read it years ago and think about it often.


Good essay, but I think Atwood overreaches here in trying to find the root psychological cause of online hostility. People can leave comments like "junkie" because the technology enables them to deliver such a comment effortless and with virtually zero- repercussion. In the "junkie" example, it turned out to be a father [0] (as far as public Facebook searching can discern)...but as far as I can tell, there's nothing that backs Atwood's assertion here:

> This man left the junkie comment because he is afraid. He is afraid his own children could become drug addicts. He is afraid his children, through no fault of his, through no fault of anyone at all, could die at 30. When presented with real, tangible evidence of the pain and grief a mother feels at the drug related death of her own child, and the reality that it could happen to anyone, it became so overwhelming that it was too much for him to bear.

It'd be nice if there really were deep and dramatic reasons for people's seemingly inexplicable behavior. But the reason could just be that this guy -- who happens to be a father (but correlation is not causation) -- is just a bored and callous type who has access to the Internet. In a pre-internet era, this father would just be bored and callous in his own limited network. Just because he can now spread and amplify it worldwide with a few taps on a phone doesn't amplify the root cause.

I worked at a newspaper in the years in which phone calls from readers were almost as common as emails. People who called in to complain were generally much nicer and calmer than they were when they were greeted with an answering machine -- it's much easier to rant off to a machine than it is to someone who greets you sincerely with "Hello". With email, the sender is always interacting with a non-responsive/interactive recipient...moreover, it takes much less effort to to send an email than it does to look up and dial someone's phone number from your (wired) phone. So the people who called in had greater reason and depth-of-reason to complain. Whereas with email, it could just be anyone who wanted to vent or troll.

On the other hand, I found that when I responded in length to people's emails, even the rudest ones, I'd usually get a much lengthier email that included some measure of gratitude that I took the time to hear them out.

With commenting forms, you now have even less effort required for people to leave feedback, and fewer personalized ways to respond. The kind of people who leave glib "junkie" comments would have never done that by phone, regardless of what deep-rooted psychological fears they may be harboring.

[0] https://medium.com/@stephaniewittelswachs/the-end-of-empathy...


How about a little bit of recognition that this adults choice to do Heroin resulted in his premature death and hurt his family.

The "junkie" comment was crude, but true. The mother wanted to blame god, she should just blame her son instead. That requires a little more introspection though.


May I suggest that you look up the rat park experiment and maybe look into Gabor Mate's research into addiction.

Addiction does not really happen by choice -- or no one would drink or smoke or eat sugar etc.

Refusing to look at the many factors and complex causality behind addiction is a part of the disastrous, unscientific and inhumane narrative of the war on drugs.


I have spent a lot of time around junkies, addiction may not be a choice, refusing to acknowledge your problem and seeking help is.

Junkies are the kings of selfish behavior, and they have little to no regard for how their actions affect their loved ones. Lies and the eventual grief of their loss are their legacy.

I have buried enough friends to know this as a fact.


Using the derogatory term "Junkie", judging another's actions as "selfish behavior", deciding that you know better than others about what is a choice for them -- somehow I don't see an intention to understand.

If you look at someone struggling with addiction and all you see is these labels and judgements, how can you see the person? How can you gain a new understanding about something you believe you already know?

I am sorry you've lost close ones and I hear your pain. I imagine you already suspect that it's not as simple as someone being a selfish junkie".


Addiction doesn't happen by choice but rehabilitation does.

Not all ailments are the same. There's room for human intervention in addiction, both from oneself and their family. We can't always be blaming God for our misery.


For what it's worth, here's an amazing interview in which Harris Wittels details how he fell from a casual recreational drug user into a heroin addict, taken a few months before his overdose.[0] The logic is nightmarish, the whole story tragic. I miss Harris.

[0] http://nerdist.com/you-made-it-weird-236-harris-wittels-retu...




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