I used to say that it was a compliment to have internet trolls. I thought that it meant you were saying important things if they had the power to make someone angry enough to troll you. That was when I thought about trolls as the people who might send you a mean tweet, or post a cruel comment on your blog. Maybe they just do it once, or maybe they plague you for a few months. I have always dealt with those. I have learned to just block them and move on and assumed that this is part of living your life out loud in the 21st century.
That was before I realized what trolling can really look like. That was before I knew that trolls can say terrible things about you in extremely public ways, that they can go to great lengths to find out intimate details about your life, and finally (and the breaking point for me) that they can involve your family. They will speak about the things most sacred in the world to you. For me, my children.
Here’s a little backstory that is important to understand for the rest of this to make sense. In 2010 I went on a trip to Kenya to teach in a community school. The trip was with a well-respected organization that has created experiential learning opportunities for participants all over the world. I was working as a tutor with refugee families at the time, primarily from Eastern Africa, which motivated me to want to take the trip. I was young (27), I had never traveled abroad, and I had two children (ages 4 and 2). I knew I couldn’t be gone for long, even though the organization offers very lengthy trips, and I knew the easiest way to experience another culture would be to do a service trip where I took my teaching skills and applied them overseas. At this time, Kickstarter was very new and it didn’t have restrictions about what it could be used for. With the support of some dear friends, I created a Kickstarter campaign, including a video, that helped fund the volunteer trip. Forty-eight people (almost entirely my close friends and family) helped me raise a little over $2,000 and I was incredibly grateful.
The trip was life-changing for me. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have regrets. When I think about the experience now (the desire to go, the fundraising, the trip itself) I can see that it was seeping in white saviorism. However, I wouldn’t change anything. I met people from all over the world on that trip, many of them I’m still in touch with today. I fell in love with travel. I refueled my love for picture books (which I brought with me), children, and teaching. I gained so much perspective about my place in this world. That trip was the best topic of conversation on my first date with my husband. It solidified my understanding of community. When I asked for help, regardless of what I was asking for, people graciously answered. I’ve spent 10 years funding every single Kickstarter campaign, GoFundMe account, and Facebook fundraiser that I can possibly afford just to make sure other people know that I am their community, and that I think it is okay to ask for help. That is what a community is here for.
A few years ago, an alt-right, white supremacist ‘comedian’ found the video I created as part of my Kickstarter campaign and used it as an episode on a TV series he created that ridicules Kickstarter campaigns and the people who created them. I’m not going to link to this man to give him any more traffic than he already has. I’m not going to link to the video. The real video is behind a paywall anyway, where he is making money from mocking me, but there are bootlegged versions on Youtube. If you must watch it, if you really need proof that people are as terrible as I am describing them to be, then search Youtube for the name Mega Negbert (clever, right?). These bootlegged versions have more than 400k views and some really, really terrible comments. I featured only a few of them in the banner above and not even the worst of them. Again, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to watch it, but if you do, please at least flag it as inappropriate so maybe Youtube will take the bootlegged versions down.
Here is what the video is like, and truly this is a formula that it seems trolls follow almost every time they are targeting someone.
-Find a woman who is speaking her mind (I had the audacity to ask for help funding a trip)
-Define her as selfish and or greedy (I’m a bad mother for leaving my children)
-Talk about how unattractive she is (are my gums actually huge?)
-Display intimate details about her life (he found photos of me at my wedding, including one with my deceased grandfather)
-Incite violence against her (call me every name in the book and physically destroy things to demonstrate anger)
-Demean minorities or people of color (call Africa a cesspool)
-Ignite a fire in people who think like you do
That last one is actually the part that is plaguing me the most. The video, and the person who created it, are trash. But the people who watch it, who enjoy it, and then spend their day trying to track down what is happening in my life (hoping that I’ve been killed or gang-raped since the video was created) well, they have taken trolling to a new level for me.
The creator of the video was quoted in an article in 2016, after getting kicked off of Youtube, Twitter, Reddit, and Adult Swim for hate speech: “We’re not f—ing scum. We’re not people who callously try to create suffering and think cruelty for its own sake is funny.” I’m not sure what humor he thought he would instigate when he created a video about me. It is hard for me to see anything but cruelty and pleasure in suffering when these are the types of people he appeals to, and the things they find humor in:
I have spent years just blocking and ignoring, not telling a single person. But every time one of these creeps finds me, I spiral a little further. The other day, my husband asked me what I would tell my children if this was happening to them. Here is my go-to, typical mom comment that I tell them every time they are having any sort of conflict: “You can’t control other people, you can only control your reaction.” I need to find a way to take control of my reaction. I need to establish a way that I can use these trolls for good.
So I’ve created a fundraiser in the amount of $5,500 for the Idaho Coalition against Sexual and Domestic Violence. That is $1 for every idiot that has given these bootlegged versions of the video a thumbs up. I am going to start the fundraiser with a $200 donation and I’m going to share it with my community, and like I did ten years ago, I’m going to ask for their help. Each time I am contacted by a troll, I’m going to donate and push the campaign out again. The more they try to hurt me, the more I will put every ounce of energy I can into fundraising for this cause.
So why the Idaho Coalition against Sexual and Domestic Violence? The Coalition works to end all types of violence: domestic violence, dating abuse, stalking, and sexual assault. “When you donate to the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, you support the movement to end violence against women and girls, men and boys – across the life span before violence has occurred – because violence is preventable.” This is a cause that is important to me. It is a cause that I think is relevant in this situation. And most importantly, this is a cause that I think trolls will HATE.
So I’m asking you – my community near and far – if you can give. Can you help me take control of some trolls, and turn this situation into something meaningful? Please check out this link to give.
Thank you for your consideration.