Musing on Ranting

mtuni, a commenter here, recently made an observation on some comments mostly in response to my recent Alamo Theater post. She spotted something that has not happened here before — “hit and run trolling” type of rant. She observes…

…”what is it with the ‘hit-and run’ trolling lately? I just spotted two of them in the comments section in another post and now I see this ‘Liz’ person making completely unfounded accusations -and no attempts made to back up her ‘point’, of course (hence the ‘hit-and-run’ expression).”

Liz wrote, “I’m all for being childfree, but militant people like Laura make the childless sound bitter about not being able to have kids or something. It’s called ‘live and let live,’ people. Being so judgmental against people who have kids just make the childfree appear bitter and washed up. This isn’t the right way to go about your cause.”

I then wrote, “The last thing I want to do is be militant about those without children by choice or to sound bitter! Please tell me where this shows up–I try very hard to be a site where childfree issues can be discussed with respect.”

No response back. Well, I am serious about the tone here at La Vie CF. If you sense there is any truth to what Liz is saying here on this site, I want the feedback and now.  I truly want it to be a place of respectful discussion, not one laden with one-sided judgment or bitterness, for that matter.

Also with the Alamo post, for the first time since this blog started, I chose not to post some comments because the rant levels were far from meeting the respectful discussion standard.  They were outright mean. Here is one I did not approve that gets at the vibe of others I also did not approve for viewing:

“Wow, have all of you baby/children haters suffered child abuse in the past? What has made you so angry and disgruntled towards something as natural as having children? Are your eggs dried up? Does your sperm count have low motility? Did your parents hate you?…baby/children haters do have their place in society–to keep from recycling their bigoted ideals in the gene pool. Someone unrelated to you had to listen to your whining self at one point. I know of many adults that speak at their loudest while on cell phones or after that second glass of pinot noir. Get a life.”

This kind of commenting has me shaking my head. What gets in to people to communicate like this? As I wrote in the post “And the Rant Goes on,” in my experience, ranters are in the minority. Most childfree are not militant or anti-kids. Most parents are not staunch anti-childfree. Even if it is mostly the minority, rant’s place in the online world is a phenomenon that needs to be understood better.

Here are my questions to you:

What do you think inspires people to do the mean rant, in particular?
What do you think is at the heart of why people who do the hit and run rant?

One thing for sure, I don’t want it here. Another–ranting just results in continued clash between parents and the childfree, and does nothing to help them understand and respect each other.

19 thoughts on “Musing on Ranting

  1. I’ve _never_ seen anything militant or bitter in your posts, Laura. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoy this site so much. 🙂

    “What do you think inspires people to do the mean rant, in particular?”

    In certain cases I suspect that (untreated!) mental illness or insecurity about one’s own choices influences rants like the one you shared. Most of the time, though, people who act this way are just extremely unpleasant human beings. 🙁

    I have no idea why some people do hit and runs. Hopefully someone else will have a good theory!

  2. Laura,

    I have tried to, very carefully, write about my choice to be childfree a couple of times. I have been lucky, both in real life and on my blog, in that I don’t get a ton of judgment.

    I think that some parents take any discussion of being childfree or of child bearing as a choice as a judgment of their decision to have kids. I don’t ever mean it that way, but being in the minority can sometimes feel isolating, so it makes me want to reach out and be open about my decision in the hopes of finding like-minded and open-minded people. I would hate it if that came across as judgmental of parents, because I hate being judged for being childfree.

    I don’t see any of what your ranting commenters are complaining about here. I think people are just really sensitive about this issue.

    1. Tracy, Thanks for your comment–I definitely resonate with trying to write “carefully” about being childfree and related topics. Please poke me when you write about anything related to being childfree on your blog! L

  3. I think a large part is the anonymity of the internet. If you have no power in your life suddenly you can come across as strong, forceful and full of the rage and passion you can scarcely share in real life.

    By the way, this is not limited to the Childfree sights, but is spread across all internet forums. You should see the condescension and meanness that can come across in long distance learning forums …

    Also, here is a very NSFW link that explains it. I know you monitor your comments so I wanted to warn you about its content.
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/

    Love the blog!

    1. Thanks Rachel. I am aware that the phenom is spread across the internet. I like your point about anonymity and as a way to feel a sense of power–not real power if you ask me. Why is the kind of meanness you see on long distance learning forums? ~L

  4. When I was working on my Master’s, a few of the classes were long distance as it worked better for working adults. Many of the persons in my class were in their late 30s to early 50s and for a lack of a better word, stuck. They weren’t going anywhere in their professional without another degree. These people were truly powerless in their professional life and as such when finally in a position of “power”, aka a discussion where opinions are called for, it was almost required to attack the person instead of the idea. They spend ALL DAY at work being ignored or discounted, so when they finally had the chance to speak up they lost no opportunity to spread their ideas as widely and as loudly as possibly, regardless of merit. The most hurtful things said to me on the internet were said in those classrooms in the guise of “giving their opinion”, and as a hardcore internet gamer I am hardly sheltered to the realities of forums.

    I think this powerlessness translates into the hatred often seen in the comments on the Childfree forums.

  5. (I’m not the Liz referenced in the post!)

    I think people are naturally defensive, and if, as Rachel points out, someone is “stuck” and feeling powerless, perceived offense can blow them out of proportion.

    I think PERCEPTION is the key here. People make assumptions about other people’s lives, and that can cause them to evaluate their own choices, and maybe not be too happy with the way things are. They get jealous, angry, opinionated, mean and judgmental. They don’t want to admit to anyone (let alone themselves) that perhaps they have made a choice that they shouldn’t have, and so defense go up. It is only natural, once you’ve been attacked for your opinion or choices once, to become immediately defensive, and defensiveness can change quickly to ranting rudeness. Especially when you can hid behind and anonymous name.

    I’ve always found Laura’s site to be extremely respectful of one’s right to make their own choices (one of the most respectful CF sites I know of), and the commenters here are (usually) much of the same.

    It’s really all about personal choice, tolerance and understanding. It’s easy to forget that when you’re not talking to someone face-to-face.

    1. Love the insights–it does seem like it boils down the psychology of defensiveness, especially when one can remain anonymous…..
      Thanks for good words on the tone of La Vie CF!

  6. Hmmmm…..

    While I agree with other posters who speak to the role that [perceived] anonymity (IP addresses ARE traceable, so you’re never truly anonymous online) and feelings of powerlessness IRL and defensiveness can play in trolling I also think that these people have chose La Vie Childfree for the specific reason that this blog IS one of the moderate CF spaces online that isn’t geared toward ranting. Because the dialogue here tended toward thoughtfulness while still being sedate I think these people think of Laura and her blog as safe targets for their ire. The idea of “picking on someone your own size” comes to mind… these people may be content with their “rebuttals” to the points raised here but I doubt they would visit any of the places that actually ARE rant blogs/forums because they would probably be chewed up and spit out.

  7. The troll is out of its mind. Laura could not be more even-handed and fair if she was officially made a diplomat/ambassador for the childfree with an awards ceremony and everything.

  8. I love this site. I think that people that leave rants do so because they can hide behind the anonimity of the internet. They would never walk up to a total stranger and say the kind of things they do on the internet. Unfortunately, we just have to screen the comments before we post them.

  9. I feel like it’s a combination of factors:

    I agree with Tracy – any discussion of being childfree, or of childbearing being a choice, makes some people feel like they are being judged. (Included in this is the tendency to hear what they want to hear, regardless of content or intent)
    Also, the perceived anonymity of the digital world tends to make one…brazen. I had an online tiff with my sister-in-law about CF lifestyles, and she got nasty, saying things that she wouldn’t dare say if we were face-to-face.
    To segue into psychodynamics, the person could have feelings and thoughts that are incongruent with their self-image…so they relieve the anxiety with anger (meaning…they aren’t too thrilled with being a parent themselves. Seeing something with a CF bent makes them aware of these feelings – which aren’t compatible with their image of a “good parent.” Although angry at themselves for not fitting this image, they lash out at the object that influenced the thoughts).
    Let ranters go long enough, and you’ll see Godwin’s Law in action: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (100%).”
    There seems to be an unwritten rule that the first one who mentions Hitler or Nazis loses the debate.
    Sometimes it can be good fun – I picture a troll, foaming at the mouth and red with anger, pounding at the keyboard in a hamfisted attempt to get their point across. I laugh, wondering why they allow themselves to get worked up over a simple internet discussion.
    Most of the time, though, it’s pretty sad, and I feel sorry for them. Anger and hate take a lot of effort to maintain – they must be awfully tired. Being a Buddhist, I try to bring compassion to the table, and give them the benefit of the doubt.

  10. I think it boils down to intelligence. While it is safe to say that the ranting examples you showed were fine examples of people that have trouble thinking through the issues, it is also safe to say that we all suffer the same intelligence problem.

    We have the exact same intelligence as the people that argued that enslaving blacks was the best thing for the blacks. The medical experts that bled people to rid them of diseases were just as smart as today’s doctors.

    The difference between now and then is only that society has collectively learned that enslaving humans is wrong, and that draining blood doesn’t cure diseases. We are taught these facts growing up and thus they are common sense.

    When Laura Carroll states that it is OK to have few or no children, they make a simple mistake and interpret that as stating that you should have few or no children. Unfortunately society teaches us that it is OK to have as many children as you want, so they get pissed off when they hear LC stating they should have few.

    StopAtTwo.org points out the simple logic that we must limit ourselves, and specifically must do the TwoFourEight algorithm (see stopattwo.org for what this means). You can imagine the hate stopattwo.org is going to get when this information starts getting out there.

    Abolitionists received the same hate.

    jt

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