Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Chatting with the Trolls: Exploring Some of the Reasons behind the Leslie Jones' Cyberbullying (Part II)

In Part One of this article I suggested a few specific reasons why people are trolling Leslie Jones, in this part, I'm going to suggest an overall theory as to their motives.

So, that list of specific reasons are trolling Leslie again:
  1. Some of them think they are participating in a meme
  2. Some of them think that Leslie Jones has too much influence over Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter
  3. Some of them think that Leslie (or twitter) are in ISIS
  4. Some of them are just jerks
  5. Some of them are a bit sadistic
  6. Some of them feel they are justified because Leslie responds to trolls, and think she is trolling back
  7. Some of them feel justified because they think her responses to her trolls make her a troll and therefore a hypocrite
  8. Some of them know that they are haters
  9. Some of them don't know why they are doing it


Overall I think what's happening is broadly an example of Groupthink, I think anyone with right-wing views who is friends with other right-wingers on Twitter feel they have to troll Leslie because everyone else they know is doing it (or think they are).

One reason that I think this is particularly true is a repeated pattern I found when interacting with the trolls, I'd chat to one of them and be having quite a reasonable discussion as to why they trolled her, and suddenly between 4-8 other trolls would join in and start attacking me often in a coordinated way. These, I think, are so-called "mind guards" in the Groupthink literature, the self-appointed "protectors" of the group who try to stop members being exposed to adverse views to maintain unity within the group.

Another reason is their belief in the inherent morality (another common feature in the Groupthink literature) of what they are doing, they feel they are trying to expose the liberal bias of Twitter, that either Leslie is controlling Jack, or Jack is way too liberal, and banning conservatives, and therefore any tactic is acceptable in exposing that hypocrisy and (as they see it) gross injustice of the banning of Milo and others will be exposed also. Some of them also think Twitter is somehow working with ISIS (some of them are just mad).

One final reason I think that Groupthink is in play is the illusion of unanimity (another common feature in the Groupthink literature) that the trolls seem to have, although in practice (as I have mentioned above) there are very diverse reasons as to why different twitter users are trolling Leslie, when they swarmed together to attack me it was clear that some members were making comments that others felt went too far, so for example, at one point a group of about six twitter users were bombarding me with tweets, one sent a group tweet that said "he is almost ready for his hijab", a few others said agreed, but one tweeted directly to me saying "I don't agree with this" and quickly deleted the tweet. In another case one of the group said "when Trump gets elected, you and yours are going to get it", all but one of the rest of the group quickly agreed "Right on", etc. (as if this was a stock phrase, with an expected call-and-response), but one of the group didn't, and I think that is because they didn't agree with the sentiment.

Looking at the list above I think Groupthink explains reasons 1,2,3,6,7,8,9. Reason 9, in particular, "Some of them don't know why they are doing it" sounds like a perfect description of Groupthink to me. The other two reasons (4 and 5), because some are jerks and some are sadists, stand by themselves, those people will join any group if it allows them to spread pain.

I think if we can treat this twitter attack on Leslie as a Groupthink problem, we might be able to stop it completely.

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