Chris Graham: Trolls

312_stopthepressesZelda Williams, the daughter of the late comic actor Robin Williams, who died this week by suicide, is deleting her Twitter and Instagram accounts, maybe forever, because of trolls who insisted on using those media to send her photos of a corpse from a Spanish morgue taken in 2012 and insisting it was her father.

What the hell is wrong with people in this day and age?

Used to be that these twisted a-holes had these thoughts, chuckled to themselves upon having them, then went back to the hovel under a rock and ruminated on what to do about the massive protrusion on the side of their necks that kept them from success at picking up babes.

Now they can piss on all of our parades using media that should ostensibly give us the opportunity to access information, opinion and each other for the common betterment of the world.

And it often does. I sold my Jeep Patriot yesterday to a man in Charlottesville using craigslist. My two dogs came to our household because we saw listings on Facebook from their families, one of whom was a young family moving into an apartment that didn’t allow dogs, the second a senior couple who couldn’t keep up with their active puppy.

I make a living building websites and running marketing campaigns for companies all managed from a home office using the ‘Net.

And then there are the trolls. We have our own share. One person in City Hall in Waynesboro used to hide behind a fake name to offer negative comment on columns on city politics that we so, so easily traced back to the source using the IP address doublechecked by the curious email address associated with the login that linked to her high school in new jersey. Another from city government used his CB handle to “anonymously” attack rivals in and out of local government, and when I discovered his identity and got in touch with him about what he was doing, he turned his attention to me and not-so-anonymously used Facebook and the AFP comments section to call me, among other things, “fat.”

A third instance that comes to mind hit us just last night, when a long-time Tea Party commenter on our site crossed a line by making a racist comment about President Obama in reference to his decision to launch airstrikes in Iraq, earning himself a place on our blacklist, the first addition to the blacklist in more than a year.

That we hadn’t had to add to the blacklist since the spring of 2013 is probably a good sign for our community of readers and commenters. There are often long and productive discussions on AFP about the issues of the day, mixed with our live blogs on football, basketball and baseball games and occasional back-and-forths with attempts at humor.

That stuff is what Internet forums are supposed to be about. And then there are the trolls, who put life to the observation that this is why we can’t have good things. We tried to cover for that by using a Facebook-based commenting system, but trolls learned pretty quickly that they could set up fake Facebook accounts, and bully those with real ones, pushing the real ones away and leaving us with all bullies. So we went to Disqus, which gives readers the option to use Facebook, Twitter and other social media logins or set up a fake handle to be able to comment anonymously. Disqus has worked well for the most part, the racist Tea Party comment from last night aside.

But we still clearly see people acting like a-holes, here and elsewhere. One of my gifts as a writer is my ability to get in the head of subjects to see things from their perspective, to empathize, if not sympathize, with them, and at the least give fair play to their point of view, but for the life of me, I can’t get inside the head of the kinds of trolls who would send photos of a body in a morgue to a stranger who just lost her father to suicide.

There is a special place in hell for people like that. Of course, is it really hell if you enjoy being there?

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