One of the interesting moments – I wouldn’t call it a highlight – of Wednesday’s debate was when Nuttall threw the “taking us back to the Seventies” canard at Corbyn and a large part of the audience responded with immediate vocal contempt. I don’t know if it was simply a recognition of that line as part of lazy and condescending scaremongering – see also “magic money tree” and Amber Rudd’s bizarre idea of what a game of Monopoly entails – or if it means the recent questioning and debunking of several myths of “the Seventies” are gaining traction, or if the audience was just young enough that the Seventies mean little to them, or if we’re at a point where the changes in geopolitical context since “the Seventies” are so glaring as to render such a reference to them absurd.
I find this article as a whole too blustery and otherwise wrong-headed to actually like, but the following snippet does a useful job of prising open the discourse around ‘scroungers’ versus The Respectable Poor, in picking up on the kind of reactions which need to be progressively engaged with and challenged from a position of understanding rather than superior, usually class-inflected dismissal, both here and, it seems, in the US. NB I don’t, obviously, think that the problems here expressed began with an article in Salon.
“Before that article in Salon, this mother was allowed to believe that her staying off the dole had some honor in itself– some validation of her identity– and it allowed her to survive her hardships. Now she is forced to swallow that these people are not merely as good as her, but more valuable– they get an article, they get defenders like you, they are praised for their intrinsic human value, and all she gets is mocked, belittled, “she’s too stupid to know what’s good for her!”– all she can do is comment on their life– and her small act of rebellion is to at least use the space to tell the world she exists. Rage is her defense that keeps her intact while the world seemingly ignores her.”
(Yeah, this is how I like to spend my Saturday afternoons.)
The Louise Mensch judgement seems to have set the seal on that weird redefinition of the word ‘troll’, which didn’t at all seem to mean then what it seems to mean now. Certainly I got introduced to the term in its online context as meaning something like ‘wind-up merchant’, someone often without a vested interest in his/her chosen argument, but who simply enjoyed the process of baiting and the ensuing ruck.
The current use of ‘trolling’ as a synonym for bullying/abusing/harassing has been strange to watch. Shut-ins who write the modern equivalent of poison-pen letters are hardly an internet phenomenon, although like many other community outliers they’ve now been granted greater reach and anonymity. Conversely, targeted and concerted attacks on individuals online should be called out, as they increasingly are.
I’m not sure that either of the above categories constitute what used to be called ‘trolling’, but I guess definitions change. Something to do with the political wish to establish a modern folk devil in advance of advocating greater restrictions on online privacy/anonymity, perhaps? Who knows. Anyway, just a thought.
* Actually almost nothing about Louise Mensch to be found here beyond what’s necessary, u mad?