Trolling the bottom: How facts got trumped by volume
Google defines “trolling” as making a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them. This makes a “troll” someone who makes a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting. In observing both people and world events of late; it would be fair to extend the term from cyberspace to the current state of public discourse. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s trolled President Barack Obama when the leader of the archipelago nation called the U.S. president a epithet.
While President Obama did briefly meet with President Duterte on the sidelines of the ASEAN conference, Duterte showed no class or respect for the Presidency in insulting President Obama. Given a Nuclear North Korea and China’s aggression in the South China Sea, both nations probably needed the full meeting more; where Duterte could have been forced to apologize publically in Obama’s presence.
The current presidential campaign is further proof that accuracy and respect have been trumped by volume and rhetoric.
Trolling has metastasized itself so deeply within American culture that it’s advanced far beyond people’s offense to comments on social media or an internet post. It has contributed to a collective refusal to research fact and internalize information which results in a rejection of facts.
It dominates discussion on race, culture and our debate on law enforcement.
In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the phrase chanted by protesters there and at almost every similar protest since has been “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” The phrase came from an eyewitness account by Brown’s friend at the scene of the shooting and the strong-arm robbery at a convenience store which preceded it that day. However, numerous other witness accounts from other African American neighbors and two independent autopsy reports on the Brown shooting established that there is no physical way that Brown had his hands up and back turned to Officer Darren Wilson when he was shot; as reported by his friend. Has that stopped BLM from repeating “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” or labeling Wilson a murderer since? No. Why let other witnesses, medical reports, or the opinions of a racially-diverse Grand Jury deter our “troll” culture from a good narrative.
The Ferguson shooting did, however, create a high public demand for Police body cameras. These body cameras have helped police transparency, as well as creating a record of a myriad of false complaints filed on officers. However, body camera footage fuels this corrosive “troll” culture. The posting of police body camera footage on social media has created a voyeuristic demand to see people on their worst day, every day; regardless of their privacy. Worse, even law enforcement officers who are exonerated through body camera footage are left to condemnation by “trolls,” regardless of official findings. This leaves leaders in the law enforcement to ask, why spend tens of thousands of valuable, sparse funding dollars on body cameras when nobody seems to care about the truth anyway?
There is a simple solution to this problem, but one nobody may want to use. If the established media, courts, and our politicians could find the intestinal fortitude to not address “trolls,” they’ll lose the temporary outrage and the spotlight they crave.
Mannes is a national subject matter expert in public safety. He serves as a member of the Pierce College Criminal Justice Studies Advisory Board in Philadelphia and is a Governor on the Executive Board of InfraGard, the FBI-coordinated public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection. Follow him on Twitter @PublicSafetySME
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