Not so long ago, I was chatting with a blogging colleague of mine who, after discussing our similar woes with trolling in our comments (mine, thankfully, are pretty light...his aren't), said to me: "When did I become the enemy?"

Certainly, with a great deal of severe evil in the world, people trying to take advantage of others everyday, spammers, phishers and other online creeps, rapists, bashers, child molesters, wife beaters and other horrid criminals that make the world unsafe, terrorism, and governments that torture and beat their citizens into silence...how does someone who is actually trying to change a little pocket of their world become the enemy?

I've heard some strange support from people recently: "Well, I may not always agree with what Kathy says, but she doesn't deserve the death threats."

What is there not to agree with? (everyone is concentrating on this line, which was just my own stupid joke that didn't come across that way - so I'm striking it)

Maybe you don't like an approach. Find it too positive and upbeat. Sure, like the rest of us who have faith in humankind, it may appear naive, but from my perspective, we need a heckuvalot more of that positivity in the world. As Kathy said to me:

"The world doesn't need more rage."

Absolutely.

So, why do people turn their hatred and rage and energy against people like Kathy? Like Robert? Like Michael? Like Violet? Like Scott? Why target people who actually do something about the crappy status quo?

Well, I have a few ideas, but maybe you'll have more:

  1. They like the attention. Yeah, well, if they spent time making hateful remarks about a big corporation polluting, they would probably be ignored or lost in the sea of concerned citizens. By attacking an individual, it's pretty certain that they will get some sort of response.
  2. They are envious. The targets of these attacks have usually gained some level of notoriety on a subject the attacker may have been talking about for years without attention. Instead of examining why they hadn't reached the same notoriety (and "because people are idiots" isn't a satisfactory answer), the frustration is turned towards those who have.
  3. They are angry (with themselves). It's hard to be angry with yourself. I know. I've been there before. It is a feeling that spirals. There are very few places that anger can go.
  4. They want instant gratification. When you release that anger in a way that gets the attention (see #1) and you see instant results. These results give instant gratification: a quick rush of power. For most of us, it is followed by an instant feeling of guilt (feeling like a bully), but some disempowered people can swallow this feeling in favour of the powerful one.
  5. They are afraid. If you think there is a right way to do something, but instead of doing it, you spend your energy on attacking those who are doing it 'wrong', it seems a pretty poor use of your expertise...unless you are afraid you are wrong. I think these attacks are a form of procrastination.

I'm trying to be empathetic here. We've all felt envious. We've all enjoyed attention. We've all been afraid. But most of us understand that spending time and energy attacking people working towards something positive and good is a waste of time and energy.

A closing thought from Iris, a very insightful commenter, here:

How is it possible that just by expressing a thought, an idea, or just a stand you get people to react with so much hatred and lunacy? This is beyond my understanding.

It's beyond mine, too, Iris.

:: P.S. I am differentiating this type of attack from the really really horrific stuff that went down just recently, too. There is an extra level of mental illness that is involved in those attacks...as well as the actual evil that emerged after this started with the black hat hackers who chose to expose SSNs and addresses, wishing to encourage true, physical harm.

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