Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Defeating the Troll

The past couple of weeks, there was a war of words on a Facebook page for members of the Community of Christ. A disgruntled "Restorationist" woman reemerged on the site after a two month absence and immediately got to work stirring the pot with accusations against anyone who dared to disagree with her views. In one thread, a young lady posted some of her conservative views regarding abortion, homosexuality, and religion. The more liberal members of the board engaged in a discussion with this young lady. There was no name calling or personal attacks. But our troll, Cyndi, kept posting comments that people were "attacking" this young lady and she even warned the lady to be prepared for personal attacks. Attacks that never came.

The dialogue went on like that, back and forth, for many rounds. It was interesting to read and while I did not agree with the young lady's views, I did understand why she believed what she believed. Our troll took it upon herself to get offended on the young lady's behalf. As I've said in a previous post from this month, Cyndi has a persecution complex and perhaps even paranoia. She sees any disagreement with her opinions as a personal attack on her. She claims victimhood all the time. She's always a victim of everyone, who are just mean towards her. She also likes to claim innocence. In addition to all that, she actually does attack people and has claimed that a few of us "hate God" or are "angry with God" and are either "deceived by Satan" or "in cahoots with Satan." She has made these claims not only on the Community of Christ discussion board, but also a Restorationist site, which I am not a member of.

This past weekend, I was so fed up with her that I decided to copy her words from the Restorationist site and pasted them on the Community of Christ page. Not just hers, but a few people who made disparaging remarks about individuals on the discussion board. I was one of four people she and others have targeted for abuse. In fact, she seems to view me as one of the "ring leaders" on the church board. Ha! I laugh at her presumption. Me, a leader?

I was a little leary about posting their words on the discussion page (or "wall" in Facebook parlance), because some might say that it wasn't "Christian." But I used a favourite Sinead O'Connor song ("Emperor's New Clothes") as my guide. Particularly the line: "Through their own words, they will be exposed." And it didn't take long for me to see that my decision worked. The moderator of the Restorationist board posted later that she would crack down on any negative comments about people on the church board. She wrote that some of their words were being re-posted on the church site "as an example about how mean and nasty we are." So, she laid down the law. I was thrilled. My plan worked. Hypocrites do not like being exposed. They think they can type out words on the Internet and not be faced with them? I'm all for ownership of words.

Cyndi's battles didn't end there, though. In another discussion, he hated that her brother was more well received than she has been, because he's an atheist and she's not. It apparently bothered her so much that she did something that I consider to be the dirtiest, most disgusting thing someone can do to another person (friend or family member). In order to discredit her brother in an intense discussion thread, she revealed dirty family secrets from their past. I was so appalled by what she wrote that I responded with a scathing rebuke, calling her despicable. Of course, I got criticized by her defenders. They called me "judgmental" and did the usual quotes ("Judge not, lest ye be judged") that conservatives like to cite, even though Cyndi has done a lot of judging in the two weeks she's been on there. But, the dirty, low road trashing of her brother on a public discussion board pretty much killed her credibility. In fact, one lady who once defended her against some of my comments about her, turned against her and sided with me. Cyndi made a lot of enemies.

She enlisted her 19 year old son to defend her on the board, and he started going after me. She said of him, "he has more wisdom and maturity than all the rest of you combined!" Yeah, whatever. I seriously doubt that. She also claimed that he was more moral than anyone else on the site, so I suggested: join a fraternity or the military and we'll see how long you maintain your morals without mommy around. That didn't go over well with either of them.

All through these various debates, the more reasonable members of the board kept saying, "Don't feed the trolls!" I understand that view. Its based on the idea that Cyndi was seeking attention by getting people into debates with her. However, I disagreed. I believe in engagement. I actually enjoyed calling her out on her bullshit. I can play hardball. I was willing to push back as far as I could go. She was playing with fire with me. She had no clue who she was dealing with (I'm the guy people underestimate and for those who thought they could pick a fight with me, they ended up losing because I'm not someone to mess with. I don't just fight back. I make it a point that the person who picks a fight with me will end up regretting it). Of course, some people who don't have the stomach for conflict commented about how its all around nasty and how bad that looks for the page. Some even posted that they were leaving the site because of the nastiness.

I'm not sure what happened, but Cyndi and her son were deleted from the membership of that board. Someone told me that they had sent threatening emails to a couple people (I did not get such an email). It should have been obvious to anyone who the problem folks were. One Restorationist did post a critique of me for not acting very Christ-like. He complimented me on my intelligence but said that my posts, even if right, only alienated people. I didn't find that to be the case, though. A few people sent me private emails complimenting me for being so bold to speak out against Cyndi and her son. I realize that some people don't want to come out looking like the bad guy by telling Cyndi what she's doing. I don't mind looking like the asshole, because I don't care if people like me or not. I know that the people who like me, like me for my honesty and passion and sense of fairness / justice. People who don't like me tend to be ideologues.

One day after being evicted from the site, a new person by the name of "Reu Smith" joined and started posting. It didn't take long for people to figure out that Reu was Cyndi. The ruse was lame. Reu claimed to be a Baptist in Tennessee who recently discovered the Book of Mormon and was interested in the church, so she came on to the page when a co-worker told her that "you can find everything on Facebook!" Her profile revealed no friends and only minimal information. What made me suspicious, though, was that Reu had posted comments stating that she was shocked by the nastiness of people towards Cyndi and her son, who did not provoke such a response. A few people told her to keep reading the posts. She also attacked Cyndi's brother for being an atheist and wondered why an atheist would be on a church site.

I read enough of Reu Smith's posts to decide posting: "Clark Kent is Superman!" I even found it amusing that the Restorationist site had recently posted that several people were plotting to infiltrate their page to cause trouble. No one did such a thing, but a member of their page did that on ours. When I got more provocative and called Reu out on her lies and deception, even mentioning how hilarious I found that the other site did not even have a clue that Reu was Cyndi, that's when things really came to a head. Reu was evicted from the church site and a day later, was deleted from the Restorationist site after someone questioned her identity (thanks to my posts).

This was not the outcome that Cyndi probably foresaw for herself when she started stirring the pot a few weeks ago with accusations against others. She might have gotten her kicks to cause trouble, or else she grossly underestimated how she would be received. The end result of her games is that she was evicted from the church site, she lost her brother (who not only de-friended her, but blocked her), and on the Restorationist site, the moderator is deadly serious about deleting not just negative comments, but also any member who violated her stricter rules. Cyndi loved trashing church members on that site, but now she'll have to be civil or else get kicked off that site. I can't imagine that she'll "behave for long." She has serious psychological problems.

By Sunday, all was peaceful back on the church board. Amazing how things turned out. As I told a few people, I'm not one who can just "ignore the troll." Their nastiness doesn't bother me the way it does other people. I realize that a lot of people have different sensibilities and don't want the negative comments in their view. For me, I've been able to spar with different people over all kinds of ideas. I like the battles and the fireworks. I know how to win the battle against bullies of all kinds. In my experience, bullies pick on weaker people because they believe they can get away with it. And they count on the fact that most people will just stand by in silence, watching it happen. Bullies don't respect weakness. Thus, the advice of "don't feed the trolls" does not really put an end to their abuse. It only encourages them to get more outrageous until we respond.

I prefer engagement. I love putting a mirror to their face and showing them some of their own treatment of others. Whatever it takes to force an awareness. In my experience, only standing up to bullies works. Not just standing up to them, but also telling them what you really think of them is a powerful rebuke to a bully. So, if you don't have the stomach for confrontation, give me a call. I will stand up to bullies and tell them exactly what I think of them. As Tom Petty sang in one of his best songs: "I won't back down." I'm tenacious that way. I do not like bullies and I do not like that most people seem to think that the best way of dealing with them is to ignore them. They don't understand the psychology of the bully. Bullies respect strength and hate weakness. If you stand up to a bully, they probably won't admit it to anyone, but they respect anyone who dares to stand up to them without flinching.

As for Cyndi, I don't hate her or anything. I feel sorry that she has to stir the pot in order to feel important. She really should consider getting professional help. I admit that a part of me is amused that she went through the trouble to create a fake Facebook account just to get back into our board to continue her lies and deception. She just doesn't know how to quit. With her banned from the church board, the rest of us can post in peace, without fear of being accused of attacking someone. We can actually have meaningful discussions with one another. Its a shame that Cyndi will never know what its like to have a meaningful disagreement. She is a woman in complete subversion to her ego. That is a tragedy.

No comments: