“Trolls” Move From Comments to Campus

You’ve probably heard of internet “trolls”; someone who deliberately agitates commenters on online sites and articles, often by pretending to hold opposite political beliefs in order to make readers associate certain political affiliations with negative qualities. For instance, a liberal Obama supporter may comment on a pro-Obama article something racist coupled with a conservative belief, so that other readers will think the racism came from a conservative, or that all conservatives are racist. The idea is to add to the anecdotal evidence of hateful republicans, or racist conservatives. I have also seen the opposite happen, where a conservative expresses liberal beliefs in order to give the impression that liberals all display whatever negative quality was put forward along with the liberal belief.

But there appears to be a trend forming where trolls are moving off the message boards, and trolling real life. The original troll could arguably be Tawana Brawley who falsely accused six white men of raping her in the late 80’s. The troll was more accurately Al Sharpton for attaching himself to the hoax, in order to exploit racial tensions for personal gain. Sharpton was eventually found guilty of defamation of one of the accused rapists, whose marriage and career were ruined due to the hoax. Tawana was found to have been at a party during the supposed abduction and rape, had no bruises, no burns despite burnt clothes, had no stab wounds despite stabbed shoes, was found to have not been sexually assaulted, and her state was not consistent with having been held captive for days, as she claimed. She apparently invented the story in order to avoid violent punishment from her stepfather.

More recently two separate incidents revealed real life trolls seeking attention for alleged anti-gay attacks, which both turned out to be self inflicted. Charlie Rogers carved anti-gay slurs into her skin, and then crawled naked and screaming down the street before filing a police report. She was later charged with filing a false report, and admitted to faking the attack to spark change. Another boy recently claimed he was attacked for being gay (I even shared the sad story on Facebook) before it came to light that he staged the attack. Are there legitimate instances of gays being attacked for their sexuality? Yes, of course, but to make these stories up for attention, personal gain, or to “spark change” damages the entire movement for equality. Likewise to make up racist incidents increases racial tensions in America, at a time when we should be putting our differences aside, not highlighting a made up “us against them” philosophy.

Most of us hate to see actual racist or homophobic events transpire, which is why I was relieved to learn that supposed racist incidents at Oberlin College were actually liberal trolls trying to further the impression that there is still a widespread anti-black sentiment in our country, according to the Daily Caller. In fact, the two students who posted racist and anti-semeitc fliers, who drew Swastikas and put up Nazi banners, and who posted derogatory posters on other students’ doors were actually Obama supporters. They admitted to “some” of the racist etchings around campus, and said they did it as a joke, to see the reaction of the college. Perhaps these two youths were in fact bored with a terrible sense of humor, or perhaps they were trying to start something bigger, like Charlie Rogers. Was this their attempt to spark change by pretending that racists and hate mongers still roam college campuses in droves?

The two students who made demeaning comments about Martin Luther King Jr., who wrote anti-gay slurs around campus, and left out anti-semetic pamphlets were students Dylan Bleier and Matt Alden, who have since been suspended from campus. Bleier founded a group called “Ithaca High School for Obama club. He also identified himself as a member of the Oberlin College Democrats”. In addition he  held an organizing for action (the Obama campaign arm) event, and participated in an Ithaca group White Allies Against Structural Racism.

It seems likely that Bleier was attempting to fuel the fire of the idea that we still live in a country of racists, where the entire system is built on inequality. People like Sharpton and Bleier need racist, homophobic, and anti-semetic events to transpire, in order to support their world view. If race relations are getting better, and if equality is on the horizon, then these types have nothing left to offer. Only in a world where blacks, gays, and Jews need to be saved by the liberal elite through legislation and government action can they be important. And if actual racists are hard to come by, then they just make up their own racism. This is trolling at its worst, when people will fake events to perpetuate a negative stereotype of whites, conservatives, or others as being racist and homophobic.

If the people who claim to care about equality actually did, they would not damage their cause with false episodes of racism. There are plenty of real life events to attach oneself to, and actually effect positive change. What these students did harms race relations, and appears to be a thinly veiled cry for attention. I’m sure they would love to live in a world where they can be the saviors of the downtrodden, and champions of equality, but they sort of missed the boat on the bulk of actual racism in the US. All they are doing now if fighting to keep racism alive, in order to have a cause to champion. I’m glad their charade was found out. I don’t want to see actual racism, and I don’t want to see a couple of punks whip the country into a frenzy over staged racism and hate.

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