29 thoughts on “Love Song For Internet Trolls

  1. How about “Narcissistic Racist Sexist Ho-mo-pho-bic Diiiip-shit”?

    Sung to the tune from “Mary Poppins”.

    Scalzi ftagn.

  2. I like the message of this song, but I do have issues with some of the particulars. Sure there are plenty of cases where the best response to something you don’t like is to just… turn it off. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with criticism in the comments, so long as it’s a criticism of the work, reasonable, and not insulting to the people involved, or the other commenters.

    I also think that “If you don’t like it, make something yourself” is a reasonable criticism in certain cases. But I’ve also seen it used as a way to try and silence people who speak out about sexism in gaming or other media. While I think we should all have constructive and creative pursuits, we’re also likely to take in, evaluate, and criticise forms of media that we don’t have the skill sets to create ourselves.

    Obviously this song isn’t speaking to people who reasonably disagree, or criticise, but rather to the actual hate spewing, thoughtless, oblivious types of trolls, but it’s hard for me to quite follow along when I see so many of the same arguments used against people who disagree with works, or want to point out the real and important social issues that are rather pervasive in our media.

  3. I think the video is referring to those cases where people are just rude to be rude and not because they are offering a constructively critical viewpoint. I met one of those rude people today, as a matter of fact, and even though I was in agreement with her in every way…she apparently did not even feel I had a right to agree with her, and was just plain nasty about it. I had read an article I liked once on her blog and followed her. I have now unfollowed. That is what I do, but it is sad to see her in action, spewing out hate to everyone…not just me. It is amazing she has any followers at all.

  4. The one time I was accused of being an internet troll, I thought I was being constructive, but the members of the “group”–nerdfighers–thought I wasn’t. So I stopped watching vlogbrothers videos, unsubscribed from John Green’s blog, and never looked back. By the way, I really don’t like the song–she’s cute, sings well, it’s okay–but the lyrics? Nope. Don’t like ‘em. Not that it matters. The way I handle comments now is that I never look at them again, so if someone thinks it’s trolling to say you don’t like something, well, I’ll never see your replies.

  5. It’s not that you aren’t allowed to dislike something – that isn’t why people hate trolls. People hate trolls for the same reason your mother told you: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” As they say in the song. What is the purpose of saying you don’t like something? What are you trying to convey? A negative opinion is worth exactly the same as no opinion, which is nothing.

    Constructive criticism looks like this. “Wow, your voice is great. I didn’t really like the song, I’m not sure the lyrics are all that relevant to my life, but that’s ok, I know you weren’t writing it just for me. Keep up the great work. It is awesome that you have the talent to create and the guts to put it out there for all to see.”

    My solution to the troll problem: Only people who also create are allowed to comment on other’s creations.

  6. I like the message of this song, but I do have issues with some of the particulars.

    Yeah, “Don’t devalue the work, even if you don’t like it.” What the hell does that mean? It’s really not advanced theoretical physics to “devalue the work” if in your honest (and hopefully well-informed and rationally argued) opinion it’s not that good, without being an utter dick-weasel towards the people who made it. I’m just polishing up a book review — it’s going to be a rave with a few minor qualifications — and doing edits on another that’s… not. In both cases, I was commissioned to review a novel, not hired by their publishers to act as a publicist.

    Of course, it’s never pleasant to be on the receiving end of a bad review (been there, done that, my ego has the scar tissue to prove it), but Samuel Johnson was right. “The author places himself unbidden before the public, and solicits fame at the constant hazard of disgrace.”

  7. Cranapia: Thanks for that S.J. quote. I had actually managed to forget that one – old age and senility and such. Thanks for reminding!

    I am not a professional reviewer but the internet has made ‘reviewers’ of all of us – below the line, at least. Not being paid to comment on stuff to me means not commenting on things I don’t like (in the realm of art.) That’s part politeness and part why bother.

    If it’s your job to review things then the ‘If you don’t have something nice to say’ line obviously is a nonsense.
    (On the other hand, I’ve read enough reviews by professionals who seemed to be more interested in their own views than those of the authors, and more impressed with their own cleverness than whatever work they were supposed to concentrate on.)

    Apropos of the Johnson quote, when I was studying English a friend of mine once stated in one of those mini essays we were always being asked to write that the question ‘What did Shakespeare* mean with…?’ was stupid.
    My friend wrote: “I don’t give a damn what Shakespeare meant: I am the reader!”

    *I say Shakespeare but I can’t actually remember who the writer was… Old age and senility…

  8. Hi Jill,

    It would be interesting to see what kinds of ‘trolliness’ offends most people most – but only on a academic level.
    Without trying to come up with a definite definition of trolls I would still say that a huge part of trolldom is that a troll is someone who loves to needle someone into any kind of reaction merely for provocation’s sake.

    So I disagree with you that being negative about something makes you a troll (though I admit that I have never heard of positive trolling*.)
    As I stated elsewhere on this thread, I’m not a professional reviewer, so mostly I choose not to comment on things I don’t like – but not liking Dan Brown (in the privacy of your skull or online) does not make you a troll per se.

    Where I truly disagree with you is on this:

    “My solution to the troll problem: Only people who also create are allowed to comment on other’s creations.”

    That, to me, is silly. I mean, I am not an architect but does that disallow me from stating (quite loudly or under my breath) that some modern vanity building projects are f*ucking eyesores?

    *Slightly off topic but when I wrote that I had never heard of positive trolling I suddenly thought: ye Gods, perhaps yes – as in sexual stalkers! Same kind of almost narcissist mindset, no?

  9. At both Jill and Jantar:

    The more I think about this, the more that I think negative comments and the like can actually be a really good thing. I will often make comments about things I don’t like. Since this thread asked “If you don’t like it, why bother?” I actually had to stop an examine my motivations.

    The reason I make negative comments is primarily because I like to think about what I consume. If I didn’t like a movie, song, video, television show, photograph, article, or any other piece of work, I want to think about why I didn’t like it, and talk it over. Sometimes it helps me see things I didn’t see before, especially when I get responses and replies. And I think that’s a great thing. I encourage people to think about what they consume, and think about why they do or don’t like something.

    I think, also, the type of media is important. I’m not likely to leave negative comments on someone’s small scale, personal work. If someone makes a small youtube video that I find a bit silly, or a bit poorly done, then, yeah, it probably would be rude to leave a negative remark.

    Things like, say, Dan Brown, however, are another example entirely. Not that I don’t think Dan Brown has feelings, I’m sure he does, but any wide scale work is going to be taken in by a large audience. It becomes part of our culture. For those things, I think we should talk about it in full, both the positives and the negatives. It’s not really about a conversation with the creator as much as a conversation with the community. And sometimes it can be on important topics. I feel like Dan Brown misrepresented both science and religion pretty badly in Angels and Demons, for example. That’s a very large and important topic, and the book (and later film) were seen and watched by a rather large number of people. Similarly, issues with sexism in all forms of media are a pretty big deal.

    Finally, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to just want to have a conversation about that which we consume, even if it’s negative. The issue here, I think, is the scope. For small time things, where you’re more having a conversation with a creator, then, sure, stay positive or constructive. But if you’re having a conversation with a community, that’s different. Separating out the two can be hard though, especially when it’s a conversation that could be going on just about anywhere. For example, I may be criticizing the video’s lyrics, but I’m doing it over here. I think it’s reasonable to think everyone here has seen the video, so it’s a shared experience, and it’s not a direct line to the creators.

  10. Hey, wait if she loves Internet trolls, does that make her a trollop?

    @Jill Schmehl : My solution to the troll problem: Only people who also create are allowed to comment on other’s creations.

    Heh. By strict definition, I get paid to write prose for a living. Am I a creator?

  11. I met one of those rude people today, as a matter of fact, and even though I was in agreement with her in every way…she apparently did not even feel I had a right to agree with her, and was just plain nasty about it.

    Folks like that are frustratingly horrible. About all you can do is treat them like the proverbial dog crap on the bottom of your shoe: wipe it off and hope the stench goes away soon.

  12. @Jill Schmehl

    Constructive criticism looks like this. “Wow, your voice is great. I didn’t really like the song, I’m not sure the lyrics are all that relevant to my life, but that’s ok, I know you weren’t writing it just for me. Keep up the great work. It is awesome that you have the talent to create and the guts to put it out there for all to see.”

    Actually, that’s sugar coating. It’s also potentially insulting…I don’t think you have the strength of character to withstand honest polite criticism without buttering you up first. It tells someone you don’t think they can handle unvarnished criticism of their work without platitudes.

    I’m with cranapie. Frank criticism isn’t the same as being an internet asshole/troll.

    The song seems to conflate personal attacks with criticism of someone’s work. It should go without saying that if someone is incapable of distinguishing the two, they should probably not attempt critiquing the work of others. I’m going to give the the musicians the benefit of the doubt and assume they can make that distinction and felt that it was beyond the scope of a three minute song which, given their own assertion that it came from a place of anger, seems more geared towards catharsis than critical theory.

  13. Comments are right there, directly underneath the work. You don’t have time to evaluate what you’ve seen for yourself before you get to the comments, and so your opinion will be shaped by other’s reactions to it. Obviously this weak groupthink isn’t particularly effective for getting actual considered opinions – the comment threads that tend to be interesting usually start with the opening to a conversation rather than a complete work in its own right.

    In basically every case a creator actually looking for negative criticism to improve will go out looking for it. Those that aren’t looking for it probably don’t want it.

  14. I was delighted to get an honest 3-star review on my novel a couple of days ago. It was harsh in spots, and I think the dude missed a few things, but it was still a legit opinion of what I’d written from someone who had clearly actually read it. I appreciated it for that reason. I know that what I write won’t please everyone, and it’s also important to me to get realistic feedback so I can keep working on my craft. Not that I don’t appreciate people who love what I do–hell, yes–but I’m not interested in someone blowing smoke up my ass.

    Now, had that same 3-star review been peppered with misspelled profanity and bigotry, or had it been a purely ad hominem attack that had nothing to do with the book? Yeah … no. Not because I believe in honoring a work above one’s feelings about the creator of it (I don’t, in fact), but because even pointed criticism and outright lambasting don’t have to tread into bullying. This isn’t, I should add, a “tone” argument; genuine anger with genuine cause is of course legitimate to express. But when you’ve descended into barely coherent rageflailing and threats of violence, your opinion has ceased having merit.

  15. I have to agree with some others here that, while I am sympathetic to the sentiment behind the lyrics, I don’t like the lyrics themselves. Too many of them sound like the same sort of arguments used against people to silence legitimate criticisms of creative works. And a lot of it sounds to me like conflating personal attacks with criticism, as Gulliver said. As this is pretty much my first exposure to this duo, I’m also going to charitably assume that they know the difference and just couldn’t (or didn’t want to) try to make the distinction clearer in a short little pop song.

    @Jill Schmehl : How do you plan to define creators? Do I have to put something online for public consumption? Are my FB posts “creations”? What about comments? Since you didn’t specify what one had to create, I’m going to assume you didn’t mean only singers could critique singers, or authors critique authors, but is that true? And if you’re going to put that sort of restriction on criticism, why shouldn’t you limit it to same types of creators? But really, I think that’s just a really poor idea. Just because I don’t have a desire to create YouTube videos doesn’t mean I don’t have anything valid to say about one.

  16. “Most of the songs won’t be this angry.” Wow, is that what she thinks is “angry?” That’s the nicest anger I have ever seen. :-)

  17. Wow – all the comments on my comment are really good. But don’t you all see that you’ve made my point? You have criticized my words and my opinions, without hurting my feelings. You were respectful and considerate.

    @Gulliver – You are totally right – what I wrote there wasn’t actually ‘constructive’ at all. But it was a ‘kind’ way of showing dislike.

    You’ve all made me rethink my comment in a constructive, and kind way. (I was wrong to say only creators can comment)

    My question to all of you – What is wrong with being kind? You all managed to do so here – why can’t everyone do that?

    And another question: How do we teach people to criticize the art and not the artist?

  18. @JCfromNC

    @Jill Schmehl : How do you plan to define creators?

    This question got me thinking…there are at least two ways to take what Jill Schmehl said. On the one hand, it could mean whatever I choose to acknowledge as legitimate creativity. On the other hand, it could simply be a rally call to be more than a passive consumer of art. I don’t think non-creators should be barred from offering critiques of creators’ works but I will say that, as a creative person, I’m more likely to take seriously criticism from someone who’s been on both ends.

    On the gripping hand, if a creator is intentionally trying to appeal to an audience, then insulating them from feedback does them no favors. I’m a amateur who creates entirely for my own enjoyment, so I don’t have that concern as a creator. But as an audience-member I try to offer insight into how the work did or didn’t work for me.

    For example, I thought the music was competently crafted, the video well edited, the singing and playing technically proficient while still lively with the emotion (lighthearted sardonic anger) intended to convey, and the lyrical message a bit misfired. As you said, I’m sympathetic to the sentiment, but find the implication that the evaluation of someone’s work is tantamount to the evaluation of them personally does not ring true.

    Lest this be their only representation of their art in this thread, here is a previous song by the same duo which worked much much better, IMHO.

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