Rebuilding the Walls: How to Handle the Attack of Trolls
Guest post by Lydia Sherman from Home Living
The attacker, the naysayer, the whiner, the scorner and the scoffer--yes the troll: has been with mankind since the beginning of time. The purpose of a troll is it get you to abandon your walk in life. No sooner do we open our Bible, when we find the first troll, Satan, slithering around looking for a way to destroy someone's peaceful existence. And, destroy it, he did. Eve's first mistake was talking to the devil. The devil used a question in order to get the conversation started.
So this brings me to my first point in handling trolls:
Don't Answer Questions From a Naysayer.
Once you engage someone by answering their questions, you allow them to control what you write. They may begin rather innocently, asking you to tone down your message or be more fair or tolerant of things you do not believe in. They may accuse you of being unkind or mean spirited. Their design is to make you feel so self conscious and guilty that you apologize.
Once they extract an apology out of you, they have subjugated you, and you will never be able to blog your message without a nagging self-consciousness and a creepy awareness that someone hates you. It takes away your creativity and inspiration to blog, and the trolls know this.
The best example of someone attacked by the scornful, despising mockers was Nehemiah. Just read the 2nd chapter of the book and you can see the process:
- Nehemiah is saddened at the condition of the holy city, Jerusalem, broken down and burnt. He decided to do something about it, and approaches the king, Artaxerxes, for help in rebuilding the the memorials and the walls.
- The king sends captains of the army and horsemen with Nehemiah, along with letters with permission to collect timber supplies to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
- Enter, the trolls. When these three men hear it, "they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that you do? Will ye rebel against the king?" Right away, someone is ready to pull down a good work. And, these trolls did nothing to help. Trolls never have a solution. They only exist to monitor people and see that they do not make any progress. This brings us to:
One of the simplest and best definitions of trolls is this: They are people who look down on you and think they are smarter than you. They often point to spelling and grammar mistakes in your posts, to distract you and others from the main point of your message. Typical of the Pharisees, they are able to quote scripture to you in order to make you feel you are failing to live the proper Christian life. They can accuse you of being a bad mother, a domineering wife, or a poor housekeeper. Whatever it is that you care about the most is what they will attack.
Don't Waste Time Trying to Teach a Pharisee
There is not one of us that does not have a weak spot somewhere, and there is not one Pharisee that cannot find it and expose it in order to bring you down or make you a point of scorn. Trolls also have no solutions. They are like the hamster that treads the same cage all day long, never getting anywhere. It is sometimes tempting for Christians to enter into a dialog with them, hoping to save them from their liberal folly, but they are trained like hamsters, to run around in circles, thinking they are getting somewhere but never really making any progress in their lives.
"Ever learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." 2nd Timothy 3:7
Pharisees hung on every word Jesus uttered, trying to find mistakes. They quoted scripture to Him.They tried to trap him in his words. They looked for fault. They were jealous. They were not trying to find the truth. The more you talk to a troll on message boards, MySpace or Facebook, instant messaging, email or other groups, the more material the troll gleans from you. He will paste everything you write on a new hate-blog to embarrass you and debilitate you to the point that you cannot raise your head off your pillow in the morning or function during the day.
This brings me to my next point:
Speak Like Nehemiah
Nehemiah answered his trolls:
1. The God of Heaven will prosper us.
2. We are his servants.
3. We will rebuild.
4. You have no part in it.
5. You have no rights.
6. It is not your memorial.
This brings me to the next point:
Keep ministering, teaching, sharing, and working your goals:
A troll's purpose is to stop you, shut you down, and shut you up. Nehemiah's trolls tried the age old methods of derisive laughter (scorn), despising, and accusing him of being against the government. You'll usually find these three tactics in a troll's hate-blog or message board.
Nehemiah kept going because he was doing the business God had sent him to do. He reminded his trolls it was not their business nor their inheritance nor their memorial that he was working on. One of the three trolls, Sanballat "took great indignation, and mocked the Jews," when he heard that the wall had been rebuilt. He belittled their work, saying that a fox would break the stone wall down.
You will notice in the homes, even Christian homes, that some rebellious children do not want their parents to teach them. They want to create as much of an uproar as they can. Then, the parent will not want to open his mouth, fearing the noise and commotion it will cause when he corrects his child. Trolls have been doing this from babyhood. They are undisciplined people who have been trained in communist schools, and they are doing what they were indoctrinated to do. We are doing what we are taught: to publish the work of the Lord abroad. Whether we do it through blogs, letters, or publications, we are on the right side, and we will prevail if we "faint not."
The Lord will turn their reproach upon their own heads, and make them prey for others:
Nehemiah prayed that God would uncover the iniquity of the scoffers. He knew that the scoffers were attacking God. The Bible says in numerous places that God has a host, or an army, and when people attack Him, they are attacking a spiritual army. Trolls are attacking God's Word, and they will heap reproach to themselves. The scorners of Nehemiah were actually provoking the Lord to anger, which is a terrible state to be in.
Every single troll blog or message board is looked down on by the world in general. No one who reads these awful blogs or fake profiles will really respect them. No employer would knowingly hire such a dishonest person. No one would knowingly marry such a dishonest person. These people end up friendless and alone because they will undercut anyone who tries to be their friend.
Sometimes the place of business occurs on my statistics reader for my blog. When I get rude emails, if I am able to trace them to their place of work, I send them on to the employer or headquarters, explaining the situation. I do not know if anyone has been dismissed from their place of employment, but I do know that most of my trolls do their gossiping and attacking during work hours. (At night, they party).
In general, no one of any account really admires trolls or Pharisaical naysayers. No one is writing to such trolls asking for advice on how to live the Biblical womanhood role. No one is thanking them for their beautiful blogs. No one is asking them to write more on other subjects or to share their wisdom. Only the naive and the foolish woman will pay attention to anything a troll says. That being said, I would like to remind you....
Never give a troll or critic any audience on your blog:
Moderate all comments and even if there are some that you just do not feel comfortable with, you are not obligated to print them in the name of fairness. It is tempting for Christian women to mentor other women, especially when they send a comment that has a lot of false notions in it. Once you begin to answer, they collect it all and post it on their own blog.
They may say they asked you for help, but that you were not compassionate. They will say you caused them a lot of "damage." I sometimes think these trolls are working for lawyers because of the terms they use. One would think they are collecting evidence against you to take you to court and put you on trial.
The Pharisees were just like that: always looking for evidence of wrong doing, dishonesty, impurity, breaking the law, etc. Where they cannot see evidence, they create it.
There are three things a communist does to ruin people:
1. Find a weak spot in a person's life, or some past sin, and expose it.
2. If they cannot find anything, make up something.
3. Even if the victim goes to great length to have it proven false, the rumor will stick, and they will never be able to rise above it.
Nehemiah's trolls used rumor as a tool to stop his workers from progressing. Trolls would stand outside the walls taunting and jeering at the workers, telling them that their work was useless. Still, Nehemiah persisted. He armed the workers with weapons. Half of the servants held swords and spears, while the other half worked on the walls. He armed the families in the lower places with bows and arrows.
In blogging, half your effort will be to guard your blog, and the other half will be to work on good posts. The home is like that, too. Half your effort will be protecting it from outside influences, and the other half of your effort will be keeping it nice, improving it, teaching your children and training them. You have to be like our Pilgrim fathers, who carried a Bible in one hand, and a rifle in the other.
Rumor is something that never goes away. One lawyer told me, "You cannot stop a rumor-mill." Over 2,000 years since the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, there are still rumors that the disciples stole his body and that he never rose.
I once published a poem on my blog and suggested that the viewers read it aloud to get the best meaning from it. One of the troll-blogs reported that I had ordered every homemaker to read the poem aloud. From then on, they made a big deal about how I had set myself up as a grand leader with a cult-following, leading women astray and doing them "damage." I suppose when I am long gone from this earth, someone will recall my existence and say, "Oh. yes, I remember. That was the lady who told everyone to read poetry out loud."
Rumors are designed to debilitate us and depress us so that we lose our inspiration and our drive to do good in this world. James says, "Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is a sin. James 4:17. No matter what the trolls do to us, we must obey God and continue to do good.
Protect Yourself and Your Friends and Followers:
Encourage your friends to hide their profile, or to make one that shares no personal information. Sometimes women will proudly display their beliefs, right on their profile, with something like, "I am a home-school, home birth, home-medication, home-grown Christian who believes in spanking my children."
On a public blog, this is a magnet for places that specialize in hunting down what they call "fundie blogs," with the purpose of shutting them down. Use that kind of profile on your private blog, but do have a public blog that is designed for sharing and teaching and influencing the world. Check out my own profile at http://homeliving.blogspot.com/
Christians must publish. Christians must teach. Christians must set a standard for the world. We cannot do that if we hide. If we shut down our blogs, the web and the world will be more of a wasteland than it already is. Look what happened to Detroit. When it was abandoned, all the thugs moved in, and so did the bears.
So, keep two blogs: one that is private where you post pictures of your children, and one is public, where you post the beautiful paintings and the things that will inspire women. Your children are not fodder for trolls. Take off all their pictures and do not reveal anything on your public blog about your husband, his place of employment, or your children. It is not the public's business. It gives trolls material to make their hateful blogs. If you let people know anything about your grown children, trolls will find out where they work and contact them, and maybe cause them a loss of employment. You need to protect your family.
Nehemiah posted sentries outside of the gates to keep the trolls from discouraging the workers. Our sentries, or guards are the protective things we click to keep our privacy.
Do not publish your followers. Encourage those women on your blogroll to put only a minimum amount of personal information on their public profile. Do not publish your name. Use a name like, "Lady Jane" or something like that.
Do not show where you live. Be careful what you tell casual email friends whom you have never met. You would be surprised how much personal information we send out on emails. Your public blog still has to be regarded in the same way as your home: you make the rules and you allow only things to be seen that you deem necessary. You are teaching and influencing.
Protect yourself also by avoiding personal remarks such as, "My husband doesn't like the color blue, so I can't decorate my living room in blue," "I am having trouble potty-training my daughter," "My oldest son talks back to me constantly," "I struggle with being over-weight," and so forth. Don't say, "My mother-in-law used to do such-and-such." Instead, say, "I knew an older woman who did such-and-such," and "For those of you who struggle with being overweight," or "some men do not like the color blue."
All the phrases that include yourself and your relatives can and will be used against you. These trolls act like they are in training for jobs at the National Inquirer, the way they twist any little thing is a slam against you. You can protect yourself by phrasing things really carefully. Before you print a sentence, imagine how a troll will interpret it and re-invent it later.
That brings me to my final point:
Do not indicate that anything is wrong.
On a public blog, you are the gracious host, and you must make your hospitality a pleasant experience for everyone. Sometimes, for my own amusement, I will let some ridiculous comment be known, but I will not announce anything on my blog about the trolls.
Yes, they are out there and they have done me great harm. I was so stunned to see what they did that I sat immobilized, unable to function at home, for several weeks. I contacted a lawyer but he did not know how to go about finding the person who was trolling me and who had established the hate-blogs and stolen my family photos and re-written my articles. They stole my blog name, my header, my format, everything.
That reminds me that you should change your header and back ground regularly. I change mine once a month. I always anticipate the first of every month with excitement because I get to change the color and the picture on the blog.
Once I started doing this, the trolls could not imitate me for very long. I would change my header and they would have to go and change their imitation blog. After awhile, they quit doing that, and eventually the hate blogs were not even active, although they are still online.
Do not announce the filthy doings of trolls. Just go on as if everything is okay. You make it okay by presenting a good front, and by putting your readers at ease. If you announce the things that trolls are doing to your blog, they all run over to read it, bringing more trolls with them. Just post whatever your heart desires and remember you are teaching trolls, too.
When a troll has posted something online about you, do not go tell all your friends and do not announce it on your blog. It just makes their blog more popular and gives more credence to it. The naive woman, the simple girl, who may be your friend, can read something and it goes into her immature mind and she thinks, "Oh, yes, there is something to that!" She may think that what the troll writes is true. Trolls are good at putting enough truth in print to make the rest of their vile claims believable.
Do report to blogger or wordpress:
These companies are making blog users sign user agreements, but we are not making them sign user agreements with us! We need to let them know that we require them to use us fairly, just as they require us to use their programs fairly. The trolls are disobeying the rules, not us. Don't expect blogger owners to do anything about it, but keep reporting. I take time out about twice a year to fill in their forms and report the offending hate-blogs. I have not been successful in having them removed, but I will keep sending in my request.
Consider gathering like minded people together to find a way to put a stop to vile trolling and posting. In Australia, the government has cracked down on them severely. One woman was put in prison when she was convicted of ruining the reputation of a prominent model by creating websites, blogs and posting vile things about her, in order to ruin her business. The defense claimed that the accused was within her rights to do it because the model was (and I've heard this before) "a public figure." She also claimed that her trolling was good for the model, since it made her even more famous. The judge did not agree.
It may be possible one day to gather friends who have been victims of this terrible trolling, to do something about it. It is not wrong to use the laws and the courts, which were created to "punish the wicked and reward the good," but trolls like to make us into hypocrites by pretending they are Christians and then accusing us of suing them.
It is not wrong for Christians to use the laws that they and their forefathers helped create for the protection of Christians. I think someday these trolls will pick on the wrong people, who have the money and the time to go after them. In the mean time, they think they can pick off the homemakers by discouraging them and making them quit. I think each homemaker ought to publish a new blog in addition to the one she has, so that for every one that a troll causes to be shut down, another one crops up.
Finally, the most effective way to handle a troll, a hate-blog, or a stolen profile, is not to tell anyone about it and not to give it any attention. If someone stumbles upon it and contacts you, just say, "That's not my blog. I didn't publish that blog. Its not one of mine." Don't show everyone the awful blogs that people are publishing about you. The best thing you can do is give trolls stone-cold silence. They can only exist if you give them fuel. The more you contact them or acknowledge them, the more fuel they get.
In the meantime, remember Nehemiah's prayer after Tobiah said that even a fox could break down their wall:
"Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: and cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders..."
Each time you get bad news or someone deals you a blow, just post something really good. That way, you'll collect a lot of good articles that you can one day put in a book. Once you have a book posted on the side of your blog, trolls will be a little less bold. Federal law prohibits anyone from ruining someone's business, and having a book for sale can be a business that will benefit you in more ways than one.
Hats off to Lady Lydia for guest posting on Far Above Rubies.