The internet is a bizarre, highly-curated universe. Deception abounds -- from false OKCupid profiles, to the Instagram accounts of fake-buttocked, dead-eyed "models" who desperately shill detox teas. Trolling is a sport. Misinformation and lies are a universal truth. Anyone trying to participate online should accept this.
When writer and activist Shaun King announced that his Facebook page had been infiltrated by "1,000 paid Hillary Clinton staffers," I was skeptical.
It's not that I don't believe him. I want to believe him. I follow his work, and have a great deal of respect for his social justice activism. But that is an incredibly specific claim to fling out into the universe without any supporting evidence.
I posted a benign comment, asking how I might be able to spot such a troll, or if King had any examples of their activity on his page.
Really? Checking my profile? You'll find some Mark Ruffalo pictures and super cute selfies.
I is not a paid troll, I promise!
It's been reported that the pro-Clinton Super PAC Correct the Record recently spent $1 million to hire online commenters to debate Sanders supporters. I promise, I am not one of them (although I am broke and definitely Will Troll For Food).
I don't care about name-calling. I lost any pride or dignity spring semester of my freshman year in college. So really, whatever. But I can't help but feel profoundly uncomfortable with this un-democratic behavior from members of a progressive movement. There is an air of hysteria and paranoia in Bernie supporters' online presence. You asked for sources -- you must be the enemy! You voiced an opposing opinion! Out!
In the same comments section, another Facebook user respectfully voiced similar concerns. She was jumped on by Sanders supporters. I would link to her comments, but I can't -- they have vanished. After speaking with her, I am quite sure she is not a Clinton inplant (although if she is, seriously brava. Somebody get her a raise, she is selling it! She is totally method about trolling!). Her comments seem to have been erased from King's public Facebook page because she voiced a dissenting opinion.
I've donated to Sanders and attended his rallies. I voted for him in my state's primary. Heck, I even have a damn bumper sticker! I believe in what he stands for. But I've lost faith in this movement, in his divisive platform, and the faction of his angry supporters who do the online equivalent of plugging their ears and screaming "Baa Baa Black Sheep" whenever they hear something they don't like. I've received vitriolic comments from his followers for suggesting we should focus on party unity and stop Clinton-bashing. Meanwhile, Trump-bashing is practically a blood sport for me, but I have yet to be cyberbullied by his supporters. Maybe they prefer old-fashioned physical violence.
From campus P.C. police to Bernie Sanders supporters who will discredit and silence an individual for simply asking a question or stating a differing viewpoint, there is a nasty underside to the progressive movement. Censorship makes me incredibly squeamish.
I have yet to see one of these 1000 trolls on Shaun King's page, and I hope he provides evidence for the skeptically-minded.
In the meantime ... say what you will, but at least Clinton and her Super PAC are creating jobs!