This Is A Troll

Posted: July 7, 2012 in Blogging, Identity, internet
Tags: , , ,

This week there was an academic event at Sunderland University, that included discussions about the role of social media in academia and teaching. That is a subject I am very interested in. So I took part on twitter in the discussions relating to it, on the Sunderland Uni hashtag #uoslec2012

One of the points I made, was the importance in this field of the work of American academics and ‘social media theorists’ Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey. Their blog, Cyborgology is one of the most inspiring things I have read and engaged with recently. You can read more here:

However one of the academics, and one of Pink News’ ‘top 50 LGBT influential tweeters’ of 2011, Chris Ashford, did not welcome my contributions to the hashtag or the discussions. To his 4,000 followers on twitter, many of whom are academics he tweeted:

‘I would ask anyone getting messages from @Notorious_QRG to ignore them. This is a troll. #onedownsideoftwitter’

I was upset and angered by his comment. Partly because he and I used to be on friendly terms, and he used to (I thought) value my contributions to discussions on his blog and on twitter. And partly because he was obviously deliberately attempting to ‘silence’ me and stop me from being listened to by his academic colleagues and friends.

Calling someone a ‘troll’ is more than just commenting on their behaviour, it is a way of dehumanising someone. Of putting their humanity and decency into question. Of shaming them.

I really thought Chris would know better, as a ‘queer theorist’ and supporter of ‘minority’ groups against bullying and discrimination, than to try to make a fool of someone and to turn them into a pariah, an outcast. A troll.

He is not alone in his method of shutting me up. A method that as yet, is unsuccessful, but still very distressing. Later in the week Martin Robbins a science writer and ‘skeptic’ told me that the reason I get banned from feminist blogs is because of my ‘scarily aggressive  behaviour’ on said blogs. When I asked him, a great believer in ‘evidence based’ statements to provide evidence of my aggression he did not respond, except by blocking me.

I think one of the problems people online have with me, is that I don’t behave how a ‘troll’ is supposed to. And when I am cast in this role I challenge it. And I challenge their reasons for using the term to describe me, and to put me down and to try and make me go away.

I’m not going away.

And I am not accepting this kind of stereotyping either.


a troll.


  1. hetpat says:

    Calling someone a ‘troll’ is more than just commenting on their behaviour, it is a way of dehumanising someone. Of putting their humanity and decency into question. Of shaming them.

    Agree, but there is more to it than that. It puts their integrity into question. It implies that whatever they say should not be taken at face value because it’s not their honest opinion, and so it says if you engage with this person, you are a gullible fool who is being played for entertainment.

    Know nothing about Ashford, but say the exchange with Martin Robbins unfold the other day, I was part of the conversation, and I did find it utterly bizarre.

    • QRG says:

      Good points. I hadn’t really thought about the implications for people who might be so stupid to engage with ‘trolls’.

      The MJ Robbins thing I think, is partly to do with my general poor reputation amongst ‘liberals’, and also that I dared criticise Petra Boynton for not allowing comments on her blog. She is kind of ‘sacred’ amongst the ‘skeptic’ community and also presents herself as a delicate flower that must not be challenged. If you challenge her you are not necessarily a ‘troll’ but more likely to be accused of being ‘abusive’ in her psychobabbly lexicon.

  2. warriet says:

    the word ‘plonker’; I have observed that the more they know that you are right, the nastier they become.. For a putative academic to gossip an opponent as a ‘troll’ is perhaps indicative of of the weaknesses of the own argument. You are not a troll. I do not follow trolls or other offensive people.

    • QRG says:

      Hi warriet!

      Thanks for your comment. I think I am inclined to agree with your point that ‘the more they know that you are right, the nastier they become’.

      It was funny because their event/seminar was about academia and social media and it seemed to be quite a stark example of how unsophisticated academics tend to be in their use of social media! Maybe he was doing it as a teaching exercise…

  3. warriet says:

    I will note the dialogue for my daughter’s attention; her latest job at explaining to academics how to use social media. Perhaps the trolling comment was just part of a teaching exercise but surely it would have been to polite to warn you first? Ivory towers no longer opaque?

    • QRG says:

      that sounds an interesting job! I don’t think it was actually a teaching exercise partly as there obviously weren’t many students involved in the seminar, if any. I think I’d have spotted the students as they are much more savvy with social media than most lecturers!

      • warriet says:

        Dream job! After doing her time at RHUL, Cardiff and Southampton as a published researcher, Becca’s now doing what she enjoys, walking distance from home, #veryprouddad 🙂 (many lecturers seem to be stuck at what they once knew?)

        • QRG says:

          It’s nice to hear a positive story to counteract this slightly depressing post.

          Yes some academics and journalists too I think just get stuck in a groove, often a comfortable well-paid one, so why get out of it?

          • warriet says:

            I suspect that, like the rest of the pubic sector, academe is collectively scared and doing all it can to justify its value to society and to not be on the block when the blades drop. Poor darlings will be in serious trouble if they are ever on the open job market – even those with a sick note will be ATOSed as fit for work and confronting the joys of job-hunting and benefit scrounging and being poor.

  4. Papi50 says:

    This so surprises me. And it is so far below the standards of any discourse that wants to call itself “academic” — not to mention “marginal.” Thing is, this happens to you a lot! I feel like there is something here, a hidden detail about Brit name-calling that I don’t get. Why do you keep getting called “troll”? Do you hide under bridges and eat children? I hear, besides everything everybody says here, an unsexing in that word that seems to attack the very heart of what you do. I feel the word shames everyone who throws it your way.

    But you, on the other hand, get to imagine you are doing something right to provoke such a loss of self-control in your correspondents. All of this bullshit ultimately honors you. I’ve been away, I know. A bit overwhelmed at the moment, like many Red State academics, trying to deal with the massive budget cuts, trying to keep the lights on and the water running. But I still admire the daring and creativity of your blog here, and still send my students to you.

    In friendship,


  5. Dean Esmay says:

    To be fair you have been a bit fast and loose in the past with “queer” and “gay” language although people who know you should know better than to make blatant assumptions about you and in any case you’ve certainly apologized enough.

    I think there’s something to the idea that when you threaten an establishment they will do what they can to silence you, especially when you are in some ways perceived as de-legitimizing some of what they do for a living–though if they were less defensive they’d see you as not-a-threat.

    You are the gadfly as Socrates was subscribed: swatting you is easy, but what is the cost?

    • QRG says:

      I like that Socrates’ gadfly idea Dean. I will look it up!

      • Dean Esmay says:

        “During his defense when on trial for his life, Socrates, according to Plato’s writings, pointed out that dissent, like the gadfly, was easy to swat, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating could be very high. “If you kill a man like me, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me,” because his role was that of a gadfly, “to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth.” This may have been one of the earliest descriptions of pragmatic ethics.”

        Just don’t go drinking any hemlock, y’hear? 🙂

  6. Matthew says:

    Trolls do not exist.

  7. kenshiroit says:

    labelling people with the troll label. It’s pure mobbing.

  8. elissa says:

    Yes. Real trolls don’t mind being called trolls. They know who they are.

    False positive trolls can be recognized by the gang colors of the identifier. Standard profile of identifier is: in-bred community, religious like fanaticism, non-creative, non-innovative, and very annoying.

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