Trolling the depths: Charlotte Dawson and the consequences of cyber bullying
Yesterday, Australian television personality and panelist on Australia’s Next Top Model Charlotte Dawson was hospitalised following a rapid and sustained onslaught of cyber abuse. Today, three of my friends and professional peers have written wonderful things reflecting on their own experiences of the anonymous bullies, reminding me yet again that the world of digital journalism can be a dark and rabid place.
You can - and should - read them here:
Clem Bastow, on being the target of a vile campaign of hate from anonymous snark site The Spin Starts Here: Trolling Charlotte Dawson
Marieke Hardy, who receives frequent threats of rape and who is probably one of the strongest women on the internet I know: Trolling, a response
Helen Razer, former radio host and current internet scythe, whose caustic wit gets me out of bed in the morning and who, despite having been famous prior to social media, was not immune to an ongoing campaign of harassment, stalking and revolting mail: Trolls, fame and blame
Bastow, Hardy and Razer have covered this topic amply, as have many other women before them. I’m not sure I can say anything ‘new’ about it. But I think it’s important to add my voice to the chorus regardless because it is exactly that action that incites the rage and wrath of anonymous trolls - particularly those who consider your greatest crime to be Writing While Female. Trolls do not attack en masse because they think you’re too submissive. The people abused the most on the internet are the loudmouthed ladies who refuse to keep their place and keep silent. Their most vehement bullies are the ones who don’t just dislike what they have to say, but despise the audacity they show in thinking they have the right to say it.
As the recipient of my own share of online abuse, I’ve often reflected that the saddest part is how immune you become to it. Granted, I have the hide of a rhinoceros and an ego that could apply for its own postcode. But no matter how strong you are, no matter how much you can shake the acidic bile from your shoulders and keep on moving forward, laughing with your friends over the appalling grammar and imagination on display, there are moments when you cannot help but pause to contemplate the reality of your daily grind - that a life in which you have found happiness, professional satisfaction and a general sense of accomplishment seems to be necessarily accompanied by the tradeoff of anonymous messages such as ‘I hope you get raped by a hiv carrier’, ‘you sound fat’, ‘your as ugly as a dead dog on the side of the road’, and the cut-and-paste job favoured by discerning misogynists and sent to every woman with a voice on the internet at one time or another: ‘your to ugly to rape’.
There are two issues going on with the sad affair of Dawson’s hospitalisation, and the lead up to it. Firstly, that the internet is a breeding ground for horrible people to exercise the most terrifying parts of their personalities under the Kevlar strong safety of anonymity. The lack of responsibility needed when engaging on the internet is a drug for some people - hell, I know what it’s like to hate-read something, and write snarky things about the people and things that I dislike. But as Hardy says, “I don’t give a shit about the odd times visible women on the internet have pushed the boundaries of satire or abuse. I have never, ever, carried on a relentless mission simply to ensure another human being is emotionally destroyed on my behalf. There is a difference.” Unfortunately, the distance between people’s perception of reality and life on the internet often prevents them from behaving with the kind of decency that defines civilised human behaviour. I must, for my own sanity, believe that the majority of people encouraging others on the internet to kill themselves would find such a demonstration of behaviour abhorrent if it took place in the real world. On the other hand, I find it difficult to believe that these online basilisks, intent as they are on spewing venom at those who incite their jealousy and rage, could possibly cope with even a tenth of the level of daily vitriol endured by those with even the most cursory of public profiles.
The sexual element of internet abuse cannot be ignored, because it goes part and parcel with being a woman on the internet. I have no doubt that male commentators from both sides of the political fence receive their fair share of abuse. Some of it will be comical. Some of it will pack about as much punch as being flogged with a calisthenics ribbon. And some of it may be so sustained, so belittling and so inexhaustible that they too find themselves going home one afternoon weighed down by a heavy heart and a seeping listlessness whose cause is difficult to pinpoint - the kind of weariness that can’t quite be cured, but can perhaps be dulled by a couple of cheap bottles of wine, a Fawlty Towers marathon and a little bit of a cry in the shower.
But what they are unlikely to get is the kind of abuse that seeks to shut them up through graphic descriptions of sexual violence, or cruelties about their lack of sexual appeal and therefore relevancy to the world at all. They won’t confront the confusing dreidel of abuse that tells them in an endlessly dizzy loop that they deserve to be raped by a shovel, that they are so repulsive that no one would even rape them, that rape is too good for them and that, finally, someone is actually going to come round to their house with the specific intent of torturing them, raping them and shutting their fucking bitchslutcuntwhore mouths up for good - that their mouths are only good for one thing, and that’s sucking cock, and they’ll stick a cock in their for good measure, and one up their arse and fuck them til they bleed. They will not, as Anita Sarkeesian found recently, have these kinds of threats made to them AND committed to illustration AND turned into video games so that angry young men can practice punching her in the face until she bleeds.
It’s easy to write these kinds of things off as the ravings of the mentally unwell; to say that the best approach is to ignore it, to disengage, to stop fanning the flames of abuse until the trolls get bored and go away. But mentally unwell people - even those stable enough to have partners, children, jobs, mortgages and an unhealthy appetite for calling women whores on the internet - have found a playground in the dystopian sprawl of cyberspace. The only thing they need to feed on is the thrill that comes with imagining a two sided relationship (even one of hatred) is being enacted. As a victim of their unwanted attention, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Ignoring them makes them think they’ve gotten to you, that you’ve collapsed in a fetal position in the corner of your study, snot running down your face as you confront the reality of your broken, useless, unrapeable self. But choosing to respond or retaliate only furthers their sense of relevance. ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ might sound very nice in theory, but the reality is that trolls are messy, ugly, brutal creatures who breed in unquantifiable numbers and never, ever retreat. Even those who do get bored come back eventually, emerging after months of radio silence to resume discussing your saggy tits as if a conversational break had never occurred.
Charlotte Dawson is just one of many women who’ve been - temporarily, I hope - bullied out of the public eye. Sadly, many women hesitate to even enter it for fear that they too will be subjected to the kind of commentary that reminds them their greatest assets are not their brains, their wit or their talent but their ability to not only cause an erection, but behave in a way that doesn’t threaten the masculine power of its bearer. And this is the real consequence of online bullying - that if, by virtue of the fact that society still does not hold men and women to be equal and does not demand a greater standard of behaviour from its citizens, women are afraid of what faces them in the arid wilderness of cyberspace, then we will not have the benefit of their input, their experience or their counterpoints. We will continue as we always have, with men at the helm and the only women brazen enough to dare to join them labeled shrill at best or ugly whores whose insolence needs to be cured through the systematic adminstration of a million penises.
And then, the trolls really will have won.
When trolls take it too far:
Media personality Charlotte Dawson was hospitalised last night after ‘twitter trolls’ took it too far. This directed hate towards Dawson came after her appearance on A Current Affair and The Project last night to expose Twitter bullying. The social media war began after Dawson tracked down one alleged twitter hater who then got suspended from her job after Dawson reported her abusive tweets to her place of employment.
After Dawson’s appearance on TV to talk about and expose Twitter bullying, hundreds of twitter users and ‘trolls’ took aim at her, directing many hate-filled and abusive tweets.
Dawson retweeted many of the tweets directed her way. Here’s a screenshot of some:
Dawson then posted these tweets in the early hours of the morning:
It actually horrifies and completely disgusts me that there are such vicious and vindictive people out there, happy to sit behind their computer on an anonymous (or otherwise) identity, directing so much hate to one person for such a pathetic reason.
Dawson originally exposed someone because that person too was a cyber-bully. She was right to expose this individual and take the tweets to her place of work. What you do in your private time on social media sites still has the impact to affect your career and otherwise ‘public’ life and people need to realise that. So maybe this individuals name didn’t need to become nationally known or exposed. But at what point do you draw the line? If someone in a mentoring job, is using twitter to tell people to go ‘hang themselves’ they probably deserve to be made an example of.
I literally am astounded that so much hate was directed towards Dawson after exposing this individual, and after her public appearance in talking about cyber-bullying. Such trolls are continuing this vicious cycle and while they may think they are being funny or that their tweets won’t cause harm, they do. This is a serious issue and it’s about time it starts being taken as a serious issue and as a crime.
Earlier this year teenager Olivia Penpraze committed suicide after years of battling mental illness, bullying and cyber-bullying. Only after her death did her parents realise the extent of the cyber bullying Olivia was receiving online through her tumblr, particularly through the ‘anon’ form, with people telling her to go kill herself or egging her on to commit suicide.
Online trolls are taking it too far. Through personal experience, on my other blog, I’ve also experienced a lot of online hate - with comments including ‘you’re an ugly mutt’ ‘you’re mother is the only one who would love you because you look like you’ve been hit in the head with a shovel’ and ‘why don’t you get surgery on your face’ amongst many many more. In my mind, I’ve never been too affected by it. I find they’re called trolls for a reason - to me the term troll conjures up ugly images, and these people are hardly displaying they are anything beautiful. I kind of think of this:
But at the same time I’m hardly getting hundreds upon hundreds of hate directed tweets or emails or tumblr anons a day telling me to kill myself. So of course it affects other people and can have disastrous outcomes.
Sure you have the option to turn anon off or not use twitter - but that’s not really the point. The point is online trolls are causing serious harm.
We can warn about online trolls, we can try and protect our children as best as we can, but if anything Charlotte Dawson’s case proves that it can happen to anyone, and have such serious effects on anyone - no matter if you’re a teenage girl, or a famous name. Regardless of this, online trolls have once again taken it too far - so when are the warnings going to stop, and when is some serious action going to be taken?
Lara Bingle just uploaded a picture of Anja Rubik from the Met Gala onto instagram to give her shit for what she wore and poke fun at her body. Honestly that is so embarrassing on her part, to upload a picture of an internationally renowned model who is infinitely more successful than her and was actually invited to the Met Gala, and publicly bitch out her outfit. After the Charlotte Dawson/Bryan Boy drama, i’m praying to Batman that if i become a media personality that I won’t turn into a vapid fame whore.
“Yesterday, Dawson was hospitalised. That being subjected to such treatment is considered, by many, par for the course for those in the public eye is a damning indictment of how far into the mire humanity has sunk.I’m a huge fan of Dawson’s and always have been; both for her commitment to anti-bullying campaigns, and her no-nonsense persona. As a fellow depression-sufferer, I have always appreciated her frankness in talking about the illness in the face of a culture that is often loath to do so. How awful, then, that the Twitter trolls used it as ammo against her in their witless tirade this week. That’s how they operate online: when calling you names and swearing at you doesn’t seem to be working anymore, they dig for “dirt”, for anything that might be used to break your spirit. They do it for the lulz, as the tale goes. How many more times does a “Twitter storm” or “blogwar” have to reach this sort of conclusion for something to be done about it? And what can be done about it? Defenders of internet freedom are circumspect (to say the least) about so-called “anti-trolling” laws and bills - such as Arizona’s House Bill 2549 - given the difficulty in defining online harassment, not to mention policing it. But surely there’s a happy medium? Depressingly, the broader, non-legislature response to trolling and internet bullying still seems to be “ignore it and it will go away”; “Don’t feed the trolls” is the empty phrase often rolled out in response to those who decide to speak out against their tormentors. This is exacerbated in Australia, I think, by our tiresome dedication to the old “dobbers wear nappies” mindset, where responding to (or even pointing out) abuse of this sort somehow makes you the bad guy, the whining dobber who can’t just soldier on and cop it sweet. In Dawson’s case, that has involved a choir of bright minds suggesting she should have just “switched off the internet” or “gone offline”. What a great idea, you guys! Who knew it were so easy?”—
I tried to offer some insight into why telling Charlotte Dawson to “just ignore it” is so incredibly unhelpful.
And if you don’t know that trolling or bullying anybody online, even if they’re “famous” and therefore somehow “asking for it” in your dunderheaded opinion, I don’t know what to say to you.
Facebeef show true side to media!
The media are always getting away with oppressing people.
It’s their job.
It’s what they do.
Never though, do they expect a bunch of ‘nasty trolls’ to make a fool of them.
Tristan Barker was wrongly accused of being the world’s nastiest man by no other news show than Today Tonight.
Taking his videos and manipulating them, TT were able to paint an innocent young man -who stands up for the victims that no one else will- and turn him into an ultra nasty cyberbully.
A.K.A a troll.
Making it one sided and leaving out all the facts, TT were able to wrongly oppress someone and bully them, just so they could have a great show and pull in the needed viewers to keep the show alive even though it should have been axed ages ago.
But something very amazing happened.
Just like TT had manipulated Tirstan Barker- Nebz and the rest of the Facebeef gang were able to manipulate TT and make them look like such fools.
Jasmine Frost (who pretended to be a victim to Tristan Barker’s bullying on TT) revealed with Nebz in a video posted at around eleven pm last night, that she is actually a part of the Facebeef team.
Jasmine (who appears to Nebz love interest) can also be seen playing the ‘victim’ in an earlier episode that A Current Affair did, which had focused on Nebz being some insane troll.
Now in response to all this TT have stated that they were unaware that Jasmine was just an ‘attention seeking troll’-
Now let’s just pause there and think for a second:
What gives TT the rights to call a girl like Jasmine an ‘attention seeking troll’ after they clearly stated that it was just so terrible and wrong that Tristan Barker had called Amanda Todd the exact same thing???
Amanda Todd did stupid things throughout her life, yet because Amanda Todd took her own life she can be excused from name calling and bullying?
Don’t tell me Today Tonight are going to start bullying Jasmine?
Because no one deserves to be bullied, right?
I mean that, after all, is the reason they have slandered Nebz and Tristan’s name and they have slandered their names due to the fact that they supposedly ‘bully people.’
Are TT acting hypocritically?!?!?! ;)
Now it appears that even before TT found out they were being manipulated and fooled, they started becoming bullies.
A part from the obvious fact that they have spent their entire campaign against the Facebeef team acting like a bunch of trolls- Jonathan Marshall took to his twitter and basically ‘threatened’ to unmask young Nebz Adlay, who for all this time has (obviously) gone under a different name.
Now even though Nebz didn’t use a fake name to save his real name from slander, how did Jonathan Marshall not know that maybe Nebz had received death threats or that Nebz didn’t want to be put into a life threatening/ruining situation?
Was Jonathan Marshal happy to exploit Nebz and let Nebz ‘maybe’ suffer cruel consequences just because Nebz owns a computer and harmlessly does things from it?
Now I don’t know how the rest of you can’t see it, but can you take the media seriously when all they do is bully, bullies?
Humans keep standing up for the fact that no one deserves to be bullied and blah, blah, blah YET all they do is troll other people and tell them to go kill themselves?
People hate people being mean towards others but yet they see fit to get on their computers and tell people to go kill themselves and drink bleach?
You are either pro-suicide or not and clearly all the Anti-Facebeef people are pro-sucidie because it’s great that you’re standing up for a slut that committed suicided, but in the mean time you are telling others to go kill themselves…
Anyway, due to TT painting Jasmine to look like a troll (the nastiest woman in the world is what I guess they are going to name her) a bunch of people sitting in front of the TV (apparently TT are going to fix the situation on tonight’s programme, that should be good) or the computer, are going to walk away with nothing but hatred and disgust against a girl who tried to open people’s eyes up and reveal the true side to the media.
The fact that TT didn’t really look into Jasmine’s victim claims shows you that they are willing to chuck any person in front of the camera to slander another person.
I noticed that Charlotte Dawson (one of the world’s biggest bullies) took to say that Jasmine was ‘laughing in the face of victims’ or some shit like that.
Now there is a perfect example of someone who made money out of telling other’s that they are a piece of shit and now she can go and troll other trolls?
And people fall for it?
Scary and wrong.
In conclusion to all this, I have one thing to say:
THINK FOR YOURSELVES!
Oh and also:
It’s important to do extensive research on something/someone before making final judgements.
With all that being said, I bid you all good-day.
This Charlotte Dawson drama is literally a fucking joke. No human being has a right to tell another one to kill themselves, that is disgusting and I hope you have a miserable life and I wish no nice things for you. A person is allowed an opinion at least she is brave enough not to hide behind a fake name or a twitter account. To everyone who sent something abusive to her you are fucking pathetic and you’re the kind of people who are just a waste of space for this life. How dare you.