Kevin Smith is right about online bullies

Aug 16, 2016 | Arts and Entertainment, Bullying, Internet Culture

Published: The Good Men Project (August 16, 2016)

Simply put, cyber bullies deserve to be ridiculed because they are cowards.

I suppose I can exclude the rare troll or hater who actually attaches his or her real name to their verbal bile. There are even a handful of individuals who make their careers out of trolling (Perez Hilton and Milo Yiannapoulos come to mind). That said, the vast majority of people who bully or harass online do so anonymously. The reason is obvious: They don’t want to be held accountable for what they say. Even though the very act of harassing another person presumes a position of superiority, the cyber bullies clearly know that they would be shamed for what they say. The only way they can keep the focus on their target instead of themselves is by cowering behind their keyboards. This makes them pathetic… and the more flamboyantly they attack their targets, the more it becomes clear that the joke is actually on them.

This brings us to Kevin Smith’s teenage daughter, actress Harley Quinn Smith, who was recently attacked by an online troll for appearing in his new film “Yoga Hosers.” Smith’s defense of his daughter deserves to be published in full:

“[E]ven though I should be apoplectic about it, my kid thought it was funny. ‘I’d be mad if I had a tiny dick and anonymous voice too,’ she said, bemused by the bitterness. But here’s a nickel’s worth of free advice for folks like this Troll: if you hate me (or my kid) this much, the better use of your time is to make YOUR dreams come true, instead of slamming others for doing the same.”

This may be one of the best-crafted insults against trolls ever penned, and it has nothing to do with the dick joke. The first part was Smith describing how his daughter laughed at the troll’s bitterness, an act that strips the bullies of their power. I’ve had a blast myself poking fun at some of my cyberbullies, in no small part because it’s important to draw attention to the inherent ridiculousness of a troll’s activity. Their power comes in making their victim believe that words written by unnamed sources can possibly be taken seriously; that artifice of authority is obliterated once you point out how ripe their actions are for parody.

That said, it’s not enough to simply put the trolls in their place. If we want to set a better example, we need to show them a level of empathy that they’ve refused to display. As Smith points out, someone who would enjoy trolling a teenage girl clearly doesn’t have any meaningful constructive outlets in their lives. It’s easy to interpret this as a verbose way of saying “Get a life!”, but in truth there are many people whose lives feel empty and without purpose… and not all of them are trolls. The troll’s problem isn’t that he or she feels inadequate, but that they lash out at innocent people because of their insecurities. It’s possible to condemn the action while still seeing the human being responsible for them, and perhaps by offering thoughtful advice as well as sharp rebukes, we can make lemonade out of their lemons.