Monthly Archives: May 2008

WisCon Troll Attacks: A First-Person Experience

Cynthia Gonsalves says:

Many of you out there have heard about the systematic trollage of one of my favorite science fiction and fantasy conventions, WisCon, over this past weekend. [Information is easily available on the net, but summaries and links are here, {Eamong other places.] One young woman managed in one fell and pestilent swoop to hit all the spaces for a blanket win of Asshole Bingo. The troll thread she started on was full of attacks on fat people, transpeople, people with disabilities, women, etc. You get the picture, don’t you?

[EDITED to update link, which now goes to an extensive link roundlup by Malcolm Gin. It previously pointed to an earlier and far less extensive roundup.]

I was moderating a panel on self-care strategies for activists, which got caught up in the trollage; one of my co-panelists was singled out for abuse as a transperson, and the other co-panelist had her chronic disease [fibromyalgia] labeled “imaginary.” Me, I just was just another fat woman offending the troll’s sensibilities by being Openly Fat in Public. The substance of our panel seems to have been for her tastes; she was more offended by who the people in the front of the room were. And of course, if any of you had the misfortune to read the original posts (which have now been taken down), the troll got me and the other woman panelist confused. Sloppy, sloppy troll.

When I found out about all this crap last Sunday night, my initial desire was to smash her like a bug with my fat self; however, I got over that quickly. Losing my shit wasn’t going to be effective, and I needed my friends around me not to lose their shit either. My wrath got hot again when I heard that children of some of my friends and acquaintances had gotten targeted, but seeing effective group action beginning to take place helped me cool off again.

When I found out that this person had been identified by tracking the slime trail she’d left on the Internet (when doing detective work like this, please make sure you’ve got the right person; why direct wrath on the innocent namesakes?), I knew the Threefold Rule [whatever you put out in the universe will come back to you three times as strong] was kicking in. The technopagan part of me was nodding (she who lives by the trollage will die by the trollage). I have no problem with people having brought the troll’s behavior to the attention of the dean of students at her university, but I firmly disapprove of making physical threats against her.

I found out later that she is a troubled person struggling with an eating disorder, and that elicits some compassion for her in me, but not enough to give her a free pass on this one. Actions have consequences. What makes me particularly sad is that as I’ve begun on a size acceptance path, I’ve found some tremendous writing about struggling with and recovering from eating disorders out in the fat blogosphere that the original poster rejects so violently. She’s managed to piss off and alienate people who could have been strong supporters in her path to healing.

Part of me is somewhat surprised that the WisCon community hasn’t had to deal with this kind of attack sooner, because we collectively give the finger to the sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic trolls’ sense of what is right and proper in the universe. I’m hoping that we can work on protection strategies against the inevitable attacks; we can’t lock things down hard without killing the vitality of the community. There are always going to be People Being Wrong on the Internet, and directing their wrongheaded nastiness at us.

Where Is Body Impolitic, Anyway?

Debbie says:

Sorry for our long silence. We had hoped to post from WisCon 32, but both of us were knocked over in the middle of the convention by the stomach virus that afflicted maybe as much as 10% of the convention. We’re both well now, but exhausted, and we have lots to catch up on.

We’ll be back really soon with a couple of guest blogs, and probably next week with our own blogs.

Thanks for your patience!