Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Trolls and Suppressive Persons: We're All Scientologists Now

As Dear Constant Readers know, I've an unhealthy obsession with less mainstream religions. Scientology is one which, though not mainstream, a great many people have at least heard of. So some of you may well know what a Suppressive Person (SP) is. For those that don't, here's the Church of Scientology's view:
"the Suppressive Person seeks to upset, continuously undermine, spread bad news about and denigrate betterment activities and groups. Thus the Anti-Social Personality is also against what Scientology is about—helping people become more able and improving conditions in society. As anyone can think of many examples of a Suppressive Person, this concept is not limited to Scientology. However, when such a person is connected to Scientology, for the good of the Church and the individuals in it, such a person is officially labeled a Suppressive Person so that others will know not to associate with them." Source: Scientology page "What does Suppressive Person mean?" 
Tory Christman, an SP but still a wonderful person, has a video of her experiences of getting an "SP Declare".

Basically Scientology use SP Declares to silence opposition, to keep people from interacting with SPs so that they won't hear what they are saying. They do it both to harm the SP and "protect" those still within the Church from hearing any views opposing the Church's own.

Pretty much everyone agrees that this policy is harmful, destructive and authoritarian. What does this have to do with internet trolls?

Wikipedia describes trolls as follows
In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog), either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. 
While this sense of the word troll and its associated verb trolling are associated with Internet discourse, media attention in recent years has made such labels subjective, with trolling also used to describe intentionally provocative actions and harassment outside of an online context. For example, mass media has used troll to describe "a person who defaces Internet tribute sites with the aim of causing grief to families."
Sound familiar? The current campaign against abuse on Twitter brings up some reasonable concerns about those who threaten other users. But it is also beginning to take on the appearance of a witch hunt where those who disagree with some of the aims of the campaign (like a report abuse button when using the block button or a phone call to the police might be more appropriate depending on the issue) are themselves receiving abuse from supporters! And what are those who disagree called? Trolls.

Quiet Riot Girl has had to deal with this sort of a thing for a long time. The use of the word troll has gone from the descriptive to a way of shaming someone into silence. Instead of perhaps listening to what the other person has to say, or feeling the need to be the better person and rise above non-threatening abuse by ignoring it, people attack. Over the last few days I've been left to wonder if anyone on Twitter has ever heard the phrase "Two wrongs don't make a right".

If you feel you are "the better person", then I implore you to start acting like one. Rather than abusing positions of relative cultural power to insult the less intelligent, the nasty or the rebel, why not ignore or, heaven forbid, engage them and try to show them the error of their ways?! Because otherwise we'll end up building the same sort of horrendously offensive social apparatus as operated by Scientology which is detrimental to free speech, open debate and basic human decency.

As Tory says in her video: "the top two worst cults in the world are the Moonies and Scientology. Why? Because they cut you off from thinking, they stop you from looking. Right away, early on, you can't be talking to these Suppressive People because they're evil, they're horrible, they're bad".

We can do better than that. 

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