I got called a concern troll last week. I almost laughed aloud. For everyone not priorly familiar with the trendiest terms of disregard in SJ circles, a concern troll is a pretty bad thing to be. I’ll defer to better-curated voices than mine. Rationalwiki states that a concern troll “visits sites of an opposing ideology and offers advice on how they could ‘improve’ things, either in their tactical use of rhetoric, site rules, or with more philosophical consistency.”
In discussions of feminism and gender issues, you can spot them by things like:
-expressing qualified support for feminist goals
-retreating from rather than engaging with answers to questions they post
-using the More Flies with Honey argument
-using the You’re Being Emotional argument
-using the Harming the Community argument
-using the Male Experience Trump Card argument
So, to recap, a concern troll is allegedly someone acting in actual bad faith. They are not just a “person” with some “concerns.” They are someone who is trying to tear down the edifice of feminism, or anti-oppression, and all that is good and right about it. And their dastardly tactic? “Expressing qualified support.” If you want to know what a problematic relationship with dissent looks like, you need look no further than an attitude that can, and sometimes does, view “qualified support” as evidence of actual malice.
I’ll go even one step further. The rest of those arguments you can use to spot a concern troll? The second item is just a natural human reaction to being treated as though your opinions and views were suspect in motive rather than merely content. And sometimes that suspicion stems from nothing more than the assumed gender of the speaker. I probably don’t need to point out how problematic that is. As for “more flies” and “harming the community?” I actually think both of those are real sometimes, too. But that’s an unpopular opinion for another time, so back to the topic!
I want this clear: I’m not here to say that people who call out concern trolls are some sort of witch hunters. Concern trolls that are acting in bad faith exist, and while there’s something pretty paranoid in believing that folks go out of their way to monkeywrench blog discussions in the hopes of getting the commentariat to forget what it was doing… well… I’ve seen MRAs actually propose that. So I guess maybe it happens? Assuming we think that the nefarious schemes of MRAs actually get implemented and they’re infiltrating the righteous corners of feminism and gender equality discussion, COINTELPRO style. I don’t think that much of MRAs, but maybe they’ve tricked me into underestimating them.
Regardless of the hordes of critics masquerading as well-intentioned, I can at the very least stand up and say that this notion of concern trolling really impinges on folks like me. Because, you know what? I very rarely have something more than qualified support that I want to express. Until that day when I meet a perfect theorist who supports only things I support and does so to exactly the degree that I do, I will differ from every person I encounter. And when I talk with them, and we prod at the edges of our beliefs and talk about them, my support is going to be limited or qualified. And if I think they go too far, that is what I am actually going to tell them.
Because that’s what a discussion is.
And every time someone trying to have these discussions about the way that SJ stuff is handled gets called a troll, that person is shoved away. Either as an ally, a discussion partner, or as a co-ideologist. And, frankly, I think the wages of that divisiveness are pretty poor.
With that in mind, I want to state a broad thesis that I expect I’ll probably be arguing until my hands give out: SJ and feminism discussions, in spite of their laudable goals and good ideals, have rigged the game against dissent. And furthermore, their antagonistic attitude towards any dissent (especially, anything even one quick sidestep politically to the right of itself) is the biggest threat to its own efficacy. No one takes an echo chamber seriously except the people inside it.