08.26.2014 07:24 AM

How to deal with online assholes

I’ve been doing this web stuff – it’s a web site, people, not a blog – for about a decade-and-a-half.

At the start, I didn’t have comments – partly because the web-site-based platform I used, designed by Bjorn and Boris, simply didn’t permit me to do so – and partly because I wasn’t wild about providing an open forum for some jerk to libel someone else, and get me sued in the process.

In 2007, I finally decided to give comments a shot. My web platform had been modernized, and the law had become a bit less muddy. So I opened it up, and was glad I did: I think my commenters are pretty darned smart, and they make me think. Hopefully they make you think, too.

Anyway. With the good, of course, comes the bad.

The trolls. The haters. The defamers. The stalkers. The assholes. Because they have no life – they tend to be unattractive, unsuccessful, unemployed men, between 30 and 55, who are consummate losers – the online world is where they live.

They have all sorts of fake names: Bocanut, Sattva, Skippy, others. They come and go, but one thing is constant: they hate. They live to make others feel lousy.

The New York Times has a fascinating story about these assholes I encourage you to read, here. It has some good tips on how to deal with haters.

Now, through a decade-and-a-half, I’ve developed some tips of my own. Here they are, for you to use, gratis:

Call the cops: If they’re really bad – if they are persistently stalking or harassing you – call the police. I recently recommended someone do that, after being endlessly abused by a very senior political operative. She did. A detective went to visit this creep, and gave him a warning. A file is now open on him, and the attacks (for now) have subsided.

Expose them: Lots of tools now exist to track a hater’s IP, his geolocation, you name it. (Hell, I’ve got software they tells me what kind of computer and operating system trolls use.) Use them. When you are sure about a hater’s identity, shame them online. When you are unsure, seek help: whenever I do so, very talented folks always step forward to help flush the knuckle-draggers out. Thus, thanks to free online tools and online good samaritans, “Bocanut” becomes who he really is – Borys Demchuk, recently let go by Johnvince Foods of North York, who harasses women online. And who we’re going to sue (see below).

Sue them: I have, plenty of times, and I’ve won plenty of apologies (see here). I sue when someone goes after my family, my business, or my professional reputation. Suing someone in Small Claims Court, for real and meaningful defamation, is your legal right – and it’s quite inexpensive and easy to do. You don’t need a lawyer – just a real case, and a determination to see it through. Take my word for it: when you hit them in the pocketbook, they thereafter tend to be much more careful. Or they disappear.

Block early, block often: That’s the advice of my pal Steve Ladurantaye, and it’s advice I’ve been following for years. If some anonymous creep has been coming after you on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere, block ’em. Their mission in life is to make others feel as worthless as they are – so don’t let them. Turn them off. You’ll feel better when you do.

Read the Terms of Service: If a troll is relentlessly stalking you, defaming you, and upsetting you, check the terms of service for the web platform they favour. Inevitably, their attacks will contravene the rules. Carefully document what’s happening and file a complaint. Nine times out of ten, the troll will be shut down.

Consider the source: The Internet is a bit of an equalizer, which is good: it gives a voice to people who would not otherwise have one. But there’s an unhelpful side to that, too. Namely, it gives a platform to cruel bastards, one that sometimes seems far out of proportion to their significance in real life. So, always consider the source: if some anonymous piece of human garbage is sliming you on Twitter, check their metrics: you’ll inevitably find that they are followed by no more than a dozen people. That is, practically nobody cares about them. You shouldn’t, either.

Consider what they have to say: Sometimes – just sometimes – a critic will have something to say that you need to consider. Sometimes, their criticism of you will be right. Sometimes, a critic won’t be a troll; sometimes, they’ll be a thoughtful person with some thoughtful (but critical) things to say. Heed them, if you can. I try to, by opening up comments every day – and I inevitably receive criticism that gives me pause. Criticism doesn’t always equal hate.

Anyway, that’s my list of tips and tactics. Hopefully, you found it useful. And, if you didn’t, I say:

Everyone’s a damned critic.

37 Comments

  1. Randy B says:

    This is great advice. Thanks Warren.

  2. sezme says:

    Another one for commenters: if the comments are starting to get you down, and I’m speaking here of the general tone of the conversation, not individual assholes, if you feel your brain starting to overheat, don’t read the comments! Take a break from it; you’ll soon realize that that little comment section you’ve invested so much energy towards, really isn’t important in the world or in your life.

    And another one for commenters who might turn into online assholes: if you find yourself writing a comment that’s unfocused and cranky or that’s designed to get someone’s goat, delete it before hitting Submit. Step away from the computer. Come up for air. Remember the golden rule.

  3. Anthony D says:

    I don’t know why you are in denial about being a blogger. You should be proud of it!

    Here is the definition of a blog from wikipedia. You be the judge if this is a blog.

    A blog (a truncation of the expression web log) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first).

    A majority are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via GUI widgets on the blogs, and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites. In that sense, blogging can be seen as a form of social networking service. Indeed, bloggers do not only produce content to post on their blogs, but also build social relations with their readers and other bloggers.

    Many blogs provide commentary on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries; others function more as online brand advertising of a particular individual or company. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important contribution to the popularity of many blogs.

  4. Groucho Marx says:

    A blog is a form of a website. This is a blog.

  5. davie says:

    I thought everyone on this site fit those categories…although, I myself fit only 3 of them.

  6. socks clinton says:

    But what to do you do when you cross the dreaded Alpha A-hole whom learned all his tricks all the a-holes before him?

  7. socks clinton says:

    Calling the cops doesn’t work for many A-holes as they know the script on how to talk with cops and appear reasonable (even though they were not with you). In such a case you yourself can be charged for being a “public nuisance”.

  8. Michael Bluth says:

    If all parties involved had followed this advice we wouldn’t have the waste of money that is the Twitter trial.

    http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2014/07/24/twitter_harassment_trial_second_complainant_says_accused_wouldnt_leave_her_alone.html

    All sides are wrong on that one. Even the women. It’s ridiculous the first complainant only blocked the accused a few days before charges were filed.

    • Dave Silverberg says:

      Three women who won’t get a job ever again outside left wing advocacy because they made a specticle of themselves in the media.

      I’d be asking questions about the Crown and who approved this loser of a case.

  9. Ty says:

    Excellent peace, but as a lawyer, can I please recommend something with regard to “sue them”?

    Talk to a lawyer first. Don’t need to go to Blakes or something, any lawyer. There are a lot of misunderstandings about how libel/slander/defamation work, and quite a few notice requirements under the Libel and Slander Act that have to be complied with to get any form of damages or even a finding that you’ve been libeled/slandered/defamed. I tend to notice quite a few comments when Warren (who knows his stuff) posts about the topic that show quite a few very basic misunderstandings people have.

    While taking someone to Court does give you the opportunity to get these folks off their hindparts (quite the feet), it also costs you, taxpayers, and court officers time and money, and it helps no-one if you go to a settlement conference and the Deputy Judge tells you that your claim is awful, or worse, you actually end up at trial and get under the crosshairs of a Deputy Judge with a full plate of matters.

    Needless to say, if you’re being threatened, take the other advice (cops, etc). Just take it easy on the “Sue them” part. Paying an initial meeting fee to a lawyer can save you a lot of time and hassle.

  10. The Doctor says:

    Obviously there are vicious, demented, highly abusive trolls out there. And like just about everything else in life, trolling runs a huge spectrum.

    Having said that, there is a tendency — ESPECIALLY on politically oriented websites such as this one — for certain partisans to label any poster whom they disagree with, or who seriously challenges their position, beliefs and sacred cows, a troll. And that’s just not right. Simply flinging the “troll” label around like that dilutes and devalues the true meaning of the word. Just like certain people fling the label “racist” or “genocide” around like rice at a wedding.

  11. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Ty,

    In this neck of the woods (Quebec), you can get a free telephone consultation from some members of the Bar.

  12. David says:

    I’m writing a screenplay on this very subject. Thanks for the input.

    • david ray says:

      may I suggest a title. TrollJam or TrollJamming as a good name for outing trolls. All you need is what’s left of the BeeJees to write a sound track.

  13. Sharon Reilly says:

    Warren, please consider this: Just hit the news that the “intruder” was a 19 y.o. intoxicated man who inadvertantly entered the Trudeau residence thinking it was the home of his friend, wrote a neat warning note and laid it on top of kitchen knives after realizing he was in the wrong house.. while drunk!

    The Ottawa police did not give his name and have closed the investigation with no charges because it was just a “mistake”!

    But, Althia Raj a Bloomberg reporter said last week on (Thursday’s?) CBC P&P program to Evan Solomon that she had seen the “hand-written note”, and it was done in a flowery feminine style script? She strongly suggested it was written by a woman and not the man shown in the street video.

    Can you believe an intoxicated 19 y.o. man had written that neat “feminine” note while in a drunken stupor?

    Does the bearded man in the 3AM video look like a 19 y.o. man-boy? I don’t! I want to see the intruder’s face and compare it to the face on the street video.

    Now we await the name of the 19 y.o. man who was given a pass by the Ottawa police with no charges laid. I wonder if they will reveal his name. By concluding the investigation with no charges does his name becomes hidden? Something doesn’t add up! Are Ottawa cops complicit in a coverup?

    p.s. The CBC have put a lid on this story as has Althia Raj at HuffPo with her Tuesday article. Looks like the Media Party are rallying around the Trudeau wagon.

    • david ray says:

      it’s amazing what people will do in “a drunken stupor” oh c’mon you knew that was coming 🙂

      • Sharon Reilly says:

        It’s simple:

        1. Name the “intruder” and provide his picture.
        2. Show the “hand-written” letter he wrote.
        3. Identify the “person of interest” in the video.
        4. Reveal the extent of the Ottawa police investigation and if a Crown Attorney was involved in the final decision not to prosecute.

        Lacking that information, we must conclude there is a “cover-up” in which the Ottawa police are complicit with the perps! Canadian justice gone awry and fluffed off?

  14. Torence Baxter says:

    Paranoid Delusions

    Journalist Michael Den Tandt of the National Post shrieked about the “Vile reactions to Justin Trudeau break-in a symptom of the degradation of political debate” and “the reactive bilge water on Twitter” and links Conservative ads to criminal and deviant behavior. He advocated for a tightly controlled media environment a la Putin’s Russia where, “online anonymity, in social media and news comment streams, should be abolished…Let individuals be responsible for what they say; everything they say.” Turns out, a “very intoxicated” Ottawa 19-year briefly considering stealing knives and electronics, then abandoned the plan – the teen didn’t even know the Trudeau’s lived there. Correlation does not imply causation. No matter. One disturbingly high-placed Liberal operative mused: “I don’t believe it. Just because he was drunk doesn’t mean he wasn’t a Con hater.”

    Of course, Liberals have a long history of paranoid delusions and jumping to conclusions. Senior Liberal MP Hedy Fry tweets: “The Conservatives are focused on character assassination” and links to: “Tories haven’t grasped the cost of wedge politics” (Montreal Gazette). Mind, this coming from the operative who shrieked that crosses were burning on lawns in Prince George, British Columbia “as we speak”. No evidence was given and when asked to justify her charge she stated that the mayor of Prince George had informed her. Problem was, there were no burning crosses – ever. No matter, the damage was done. The good people of Prince George still labour under the smear that every other household is KKK or neo-Nazi. (This is Vladimir Putin’s tactic in Ukraine -“combating the glorification of Nazism,” Prensa Latina.)

    Hand-wringing propagandist Doug Saunders describes this “ethnic problem”: “The English …prone to violence, rioting and substance abuse…have become a drag on British society…white English are falling behind economically, scholastically, and socially…unlike the island’s other ethnic groups, low-income members of the English community seem determined to stay poor and uneducated. In measures of alcohol abuse, ‘trouble with police while drinking’ and lawbreaking, they outrank any other ethnic group in Britain (except the Irish)” – evidently the Irish are the benchmark of degeneracy for Saunders. One politics blog describes the process of fighting these imagined devils: “Essentially, have someone who gives you plausible deniability take the hit for a contentious public statement… to make you think John Tory is a racist.” Is this not a recipe for character assassination Hedy Fry et al.?

    After the genocidal nightmares of the last century, one would have thought that demonization tactics would have been entirely decommissioned. Stalin demonized Ukrainians as “kulaks” and “fascists” to facilitate starving 3 million plus Ukrainians to death in arguably history’s most intense genocide. Hitler demonized Jews and other assorted non-Aryans. The end result is well known. Mao’s “basic dictatorship” demonized the “bourgeoisie,” “running dogs,” and “counterrevolutionaries.” Forty million starved to death in the Great Leap Forward alone. Many millions more liquidated in the Cultural Revolution and other purges.

    Demonization was utilized heavily during the genocides in Bangladesh and the Nigerian Civil War. Again, millions upon millions died. Just before the Rwandan genocide, President Laurant Kabila broadcast over the state radio this open call to murder: “People must bring a machete, a spear, an arrow, a hoe, spades, rakes, nails, truncheons, electric irons, barbed wire, stones, and the like, in order, dear listeners, to kill Rwandan Tutsis.” Almost one million died. During the Cambodian genocide (2-3 million) people were demonized along the most bizarre lines – being “too pretty” or wearing eye glasses which was seen as sign of being “bourgeois” and Western. The fuel behind the Islamic State is demonization – literally – to kill the “Great Satan” and the devil “infidel.” Note that the preceding genocides were engineered by Russian, German, Chinese, South Asian, African, Cambodian, and Arab cadres – not the descendants of the British Empire. The ritual of mass-murder very much belongs to the self-worshippers of ethnic, tribal, and racial “pride.”

    Responsible and rational Canadians are seriously questioning a political movement whose core tactic is to foment racial and ethnic tensions. Justin Trudeau proclaimed: “I want you to know that I will always stand up to the politics of division.” Ironically, by rejecting the Trudeauites’ neo-Stalinist tactic of sowing division, Canadians are doing just that.

  15. debs says:

    trolls are sometimes just troubled souls. I can feel some compassion for them as their need to control others or screech in negative ways at the public seem to be sad and somewhat pitying. With that said, these days there are certainly the harmless run of the mill jackass trolls, and then it can go to the extremes with a sociopathic disturbed individual taking the trolling to new heights. Thats when the law needs to get involved. Glad there is software to cope with that. Stalking via the internet is something that can have really drastic consequences.

  16. david ray says:

    then this song is for you 🙂
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrgpZ0fUixs

  17. Sharon Reilly says:

    Trolls may be an invaluable and indispensable part of the internet scene because without those kindred spirits we may lose the weeds that improve the genetic environment and inject reality into our delusional existence.

    Wasn’t it written somewhere in a Shakespeare play to listen closely to the insults of your enemies because they will reveal the truth about your weaknesses, whereas your friends will deceive you with sweet lies?

    Btw, Warren… is it true the title of your next book is “The Cleft Left”.. Or How to Keep the Conservatives in Perpetual Power ?!

  18. Derek says:

    Or… just ignore them…

  19. que sera sera says:

    I remember the “black dog” thread and your comments, John Daly. Good on you, dude.

    When people speak & listen from the heart, serious shit can happen – even road-to-Damascus conversions. 😉

  20. Dave Silverberg says:

    Also, don’t get together beforehand and agree to go to the cops because one of your friends in the media has an “in” in the police department.

    See R. Elliott and @amirightfolks, @paisleyrae and @ladysnarksalot and Blatchford.

  21. Stephen says:

    Putin is an “asshole”…. Justin is an “asshole”….. so how do you deal with them?

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