Internet trolls ruin their own ontological security

elizabeth-post-headerInternet trolls ‘poison our national life’ UK justice minister Chris Grayling declared in October, and ‘should face two years in prison’. But a case proceeding through the courts of Portland, Oregon, highlights the difficulties of a simplistic take on the problem. It shows that sometimes the biggest losers – and biggest targets of hate (on and off-line) – are the haters themselves. Consider these tweets:

• YOU ARE A SICK PANSY AND NEED RE-EDUCATING PRONTO
• try breathing through your nose you sod
• I find that whenever you’re talking I have to turn away. The trouble being your face. Very disappointing. *Very*.
• Stupid trousers
• Remember yesterday? Actually probably best to forget yesterday isn’t it you daft c*nted plop
• Deep yellow piss atoms make your body, you know
• Here – idea: suffer and die in appalling circumstances. try and remember that. 

These are seven of a total of more than eight thousand tweets Andrea Bess Jennings, currently facing trial, sent to herself from her ‘drunk account’ – her twitter alter ego her sober self was not aware of. Oregon authorities now face an acute dilemma: enshrining self-hate-speech into criminal law. Legal experts raise the spectre of prison officers force-quenching prisoners with alcohol to meet definitional targets of punishing ‘drunk offenders’, allowing sober non-offenders freedom in daylight hours – an unworkable tangle of chemistry, body-mass, autonomy, deception, memory, nostalgia and physical restraint.

As for Andrea Bess Jennings herself, the researcher in climate communication psychology sees a solution in gene therapy: manipulating the body to feel sick when drunk tweeting – a solution she’s outlined in a short poem:

ALL OF THIS IS HAPPENING, A SPIRAL OF EVENTS. THE RAIN IS RAINING HARDER, ON HOUSES – ALSO TENTS. FATNESS SUCKS US UNDER, THE DATA GATHERS PACE, ALL OF THIS IS HAPPENING, A PROVABLE DISGRACE.
ALL OF THIS IS HAPPENING, TANGLED UP IN BREW, THE LOWS ARE GETTING LOWER, FINGERS TURNING BLUE. SO MANY ARE THE NUMBERS THAT CHART THIS SPIRAL DOWN, TIME TO DRINK, OR TIME TO THINK – THAT’S SORT OF A DRESSING DOWN
NONE OF THIS IS HAPPENING, MAKE IT GO AWAY, MY EARS ARE BLOCKED, DENIAL STOCKED, THIS CANNOT BE THE PLAY, NO NEED TO FRET, I’M NOT AS WET AS TIMES IN DISTANT BLUR, BUT TIMES ARE BLURRED BECAUSE YOU’RE CURD, AND FOOLISH AND ABSURD
MAKE ME AFRAID OF KEYBOARDS, OF SMARTPHONES AND PCs, TRAIN MY HEAD TO NAUSEATE AT QWERTY AND SUCH KEYS, THAT’S ALL IT TAKES, THOSE ARE THE BRAKES I NEED TO STOP THE TEASE, SO PLEASE GET SPLICING, GENE RE-CODING, BUSY AS THE BEES 

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