I know this is a complex subject, and I won’t come out a hero, but I feel like it’s better to have things written down.
Organizational Sabotage, by moles, pranksters, and trolls, both from foreign governments and less than genuine people, is really easy on the internet.
Everyone knows about flame wars where one maliciously asks for anger, but there are other attack variants where one maliciously asks for calm.
If you’re good at what you do, changing minds, continue to change them. Never stop pulling together the communities of people who’ve had enough. Apathy is wrong, in my opinion. Being too zen about things and never having stress in one’s life means you’ll never push the world to a better place.
There are some ways to deal with it that are productive, and some that really feel like show. I can’t tell anyone to “be quiet about it” or “not be so mad about it”, because there are people on the other side trolling just the same, and we feel like fighting with fire is all there is.
Let’s get back into the physical.
I recently saw someone post about a Grindr hookup being serophobic. This is already a complicated subject with strong feelings. He then made a public remark to a friend that was racist, and intended as a joke. He’d made that remark once before, and 40 of his friends addressed that he’s not a racist in the DMs. Me, and another chap, were concerned with his comments enough to quote retweet him publicly, and discuss privately.
I’m a firm believer that that’s a good start. People will never find it easy to admit they’re wrong or change their ways in public. Evidently, he was told by the other chap that he should have a hard apology and delete the 3 tweets. I think the easiest thing for him is to never do it again, and let it blow over, only two of us cared.
To be fair, him being a title holder and this being a public account does mean that what he does is out in the open. Being an LGBT/Leather/Trans/Sero advocate is hard, and nobody is ever perfect. What I wanted to see is honesty and understanding. I got that in my messages from the accused.
The accuser, however, openly admitted that it was a joke between him and his boyfriend, that he had beef with the person he accused (who confirms it), and that he really didn’t have time for the person he accused and was just disgusted by it.
This is a twist that happens with me, though I usually select my discussions with those that will talk, so there’s survivorship bias here. My 6 anecdotes from racism, transphobia, ableism, & gun rights (3 conversations) are nothing compared to what advocates who discuss this on a daily basis know (heck, I’d like to know your experience).
The point is, advocates keep talking. They don’t think this is a joke.
There is something to be said for holding a radically “good” viewpoint and softly moving others to it. As far as I can tell, you’re really going for the same behavior Russian trolls are using otherwise. We need people to challenge the overton window as it slowly creeps towards worse and worse people as time goes on. We also need to care, and not think this is a joke.
There’s a strong possibility that someone in any group is a concern troll, out to sabotage your mission with infighting, agreeing with your goals but not means, or going on weird tangents claiming that because someone messed up in one area (or doesn’t hold the opinion they messed up). In order to prevent an efficiency sabotage, you need to deal with that.
My negotiation and persuasion book has been:
- Fact checked, harsh yet conciliatory “have you all seen this, this seems wrong” post (bit strong, little nuclear)
- private discussion (light touch)
- believe that people are good, give them the benefit of a doubt
- trust, but verify
- listen, figure out what’s eating them
- you’re here to make friends
- suggest a way that would be detectable, and a way that would be undetectable (they might have too much pride for one, but would think twice and use the other)
- insulate yourself from bad happenings
- always continue to reach out, always continue to care
- give up and take a break sometimes. Icecream is awesome.
Given that I don’t have any formal conflict resolution training, You could say my point is moot. Then again, telling you how to have a voice is exactly what infuriates so many debates (e.g. abortion, gun violence, racism). Giving them small ways to change won’t shift the overton window, I’ll give you that one. Being seen as a troll who just thinks it’s a joke will do you absolutely no good.
Lots of the kink community has to deal with infighting and drama tearing us apart. People have confided that they feel like the other should apologize first, that someone (A) wouldn’t obey commonsense rules about consent (that B had for the group) at their (A) event, that someone is placing all their stress on the organizers of the group (we’re both working to keep our own stress and that of others from bleeding into events), or that someone you initially thought had no problems had strongly held views in a different direction than you’d hope. (Run-on’s are fun)
Maybe I’m just a hypocrite for calling out others. Maybe I’m the concern troll. It’s all very Meta, the thing is, it concerns me. If you’re good at what you do, changing minds, continue to change them. Never stop pulling together the communities of people who’ve had enough. Apathy is wrong, in my opinion. Being too zen about things and never having stress in one’s life means you’ll never push the world to a better place.
If you’re not good at this, or think it’s a joke and you can call out someone and leave it at that, you’re a problem. Some people are despicable human beings not worth your time, but every inexperienced, unpopular person with a stubborn view is someone to change the mind of. I’ll bet you won’t have much luck, with them or public figures, it might take too much time, but leaving something unfinished isn’t good strategy. Maybe they are a troll. Maybe they do want to see the world burn, or waste your time.
I’m definitely not a hero, and I definitely don’t know what to do about all this. I do know you should do something, and I do know you should do it sincerely, with careful thought and planning for the words you have to say. You should, of course, be genuine. Those who craft words too carefully or seem to have a game they’re after or want to hook you in and ask favors are going to be perceived poorly. We don’t have enough time for every tweet to be a novel (though I’d sure read it), or every comment thread to be given the benefit of a doubt. We can’t have everyone voice concerns over video or video calls, but we can damn sure do something.
Think about the tough questions, and how your attempts to do good will be perceived by those for, and against it. If you can’t make a public discussion that satisfies both, have private discussions. It’s important that you:
- Learn about justice, and figure out where you want your overton window to be
- Learn about debates, understand where the voicing of your argument isn’t lining up effectively
- Give the benefit of a doubt, trust but verify, and insulate from the worst
- Reach out, care, don’t leave things half-assed, and don’t think this is a joke.
By every evening I’ve tried to understand and digest as much of a problem to let possible solutions swirl in my head, and I sleep on them.
I do have hope every morning.
You can think of sabotage as having similarities to IP based attacks.
Ordinary debate is like a good API or GET request, where the discussion happens transactionally, albeit that there are power discrepancies in what the server and client allow each other to say.
There are the quick, short, snappy remarks and hung connections of a DDOS,
and the long, burdensome, useless discussions of a tarpit, botnet trap, or slowris attack.
There are methodologies that distribute power yet expose oneself publicly (Tor without obfuscation, Torrents),
There are factions in control too set in their ways to change (twitter, the corporate democrats),
and there are seas upon seas of Russian trolls and botnets acting like little infantrymen in a war of attrition.
Really it’s a sea of IPs that need a public history of their behaviors, whether they’ve sent malicious payloads, atoned for their misdeeds, or are who they say they are / believe what they say they believe.