I don’t say this lightly. I am an extremely strong advocate for free speech and for open discussion. In 4+ years – and despite numerous wide-ranging and contentious dialogues here at this blog (many of them sparked by my own stupid statements) – until today I have never blocked or deleted a non-spam comment or commenter. But you are now the first person I have blocked as a commenter. Here’s why…
You’re mean, you’re arrogant, and you’re rude. You go out of your way to belittle others and, for some reason, you’ve decided that my blog is the place to spew your invecture. I’ve received numerous private e-mails about your online behavior and I’ve read far too many of your personal insults. I’ve repeatedly asked for civility from you and you’ve just masked your vituperation with more-generalized ad hominem attacks which fool no one. By all definitions, you’re an Internet troll.
Most importantly, however, I’ve watched many of my readers try to engage with you. Folks I really respect have tried desperately to have meaningful, productive dialogues with you. All to no avail. So, forced to choose between you and the members of my learning community, I pick them. Hands down.
It shouldn’t have taken me so long to decide this. Torn between my deeply-held convictions about open dialogue and my unease with your comments, I defaulted toward openness and discussion. But Bill’s recent statement resonated deeply with me and helped me realize that it’s time to put a stop to you:
I’m tired of seeing your unproductive angst and negative personal attacks in the places where I’m trying to learn.
I want to give people a platform for dissent. I believe strongly in the Hegelian dialectic. But in the end it’s my blog. It’s my party. It’s my and my readers’ learning community and you’re the jerk that’s ruining it. You’ve redirected too much of our time and energy in nonproductive directions. You’ve contributed nothing to our learning and I’m pretty certain that you’ve caused other of my readers to disengage. You’re an energy suck, a psychic vampire. I’m tired of it and I’m tired of you. You can have your own community and be as vile and mean-spirited and righteous as you like. But not here. Not anymore.
Go spit your vitriol somewhere else. Goodbye and good riddance. Oh, and for the record, I feel deep pain for the students whom you supposedly serve and for whom you have so little regard.
Image credit: goodbye
Hooray! Well done, Scott. Your rationale for blocking Mark is spot on. I was just teaching my media class about internet trolls last week and I’ll use this as a an example of how to deal with the issue in a productive way.
THANK YOU Scott! As I have joined the discussion at this and other education blogs, I have been so frustrated and disappointed in the responses from a small group of people. They take the discussion away from productivity and turn it into personal attacks hidden behind “big” words and their own self-regard. I’m so glad that someone decided to stand up for community learning and true discussion!
Well played. This reminds me of two things: 1) in college, a young man who belittled everyone in class for their comments in discussion, until I finally said something when the GA teaching class wouldn’t. And 2) when I teach class, I remind students that they have every right to choose not to participate and that’s their problem, but when they cause others to not participate, then it becomes MY problem. I tend to fix problems and I am glad you took a stand for learners in this case.
I respect, Scott, how hard it was for you to make the decision to block someone from your blog. I know—based on your words here and in the conversations that I’ve had with you over the years—that you see every contributor as a potential co-learner.
You’re not afraid of dissent—and in many ways, that’s what draws so many of us to the conversations that happen here in the comment sections of your blog.
But I think everyone—and that includes the Marks of the world—needs to recognize that co-learning carries a responsibility to come to conversations with an open mind.
They need to see fellow commenters as members of the same learning team—-and if they’re not willing to embrace that sense of “we’re intellectually in this together” and “I can learn from you and you can learn from me even when we disagree” then they aren’t productive contributors any more.
To me—and I suspect that Mark wouldn’t see this the same way—blog spaces aren’t places for the kinds of intellectual warfare that we see happening on slanted political networks. They aren’t spaces where we’re pushing our own agendas or where we’re trying to win propaganda battles.
They’re places where we’re pushing thinking together—wherever that thinking happens to take us. They’re intellectual playgrounds where we can agree and disagree freely and safely.
And it’s time we started to protect these spaces. That’s a battle we should all be willing to fight.
Anyway, rock right on….
Hmm. After reading this post it sounded reasonable. I don’t know who the readers or commenters involved are, but this guy sounded like bad news.
Then I scrolled down and read some comments. Granted I don’t know the history, but I did read comments from a guy named Mark who seemed frustrated by the groupthink that permeates many of these discussions. Maybe it’s a different guy?
The one I see uses words like “lemmings” which are a bit demeaning, but I frequently find that word popping up in my head when scanning comment after comment lacking any critical thinking about what we do or what we believe.
Supposedly one dissenting voice can prevent groupthink from leading people down skewed paths of thought.
It seems to me like he was filling this role, but like I mentioned, maybe I missed previous statements that crossed the line.
My gut feeling on this is that he is being treated the way most dissenting voices are treated in the edtech community- with disdain because he doesn’t follow the masses blindly.
He does seem combative, but I didn’t see anything that crossed the line and in fact from what I read, he is the most valuable commenter on the page because he is the reality check for the other commenters.
Maybe it would help if you posted specific examples where he crossed the line? I’d ban bad comments, but not the person. He seems too valuable. Without him, critical thinking is white washed from the comment section on this site.
Hi George, thanks for the pushback.
He has been involved in numerous conversations here over the past few months: always vitriolic, always attacking, and almost always personally insulting. I and others think he goes way beyond just being ‘combative.’ I wish he were just ‘a reality check’ or pushing back against ‘groupthink.’ I’d have no problem with that (and, indeed, initially thought that was what he was doing). But over time he’s shown that he’s just a horrible troll. I’ve got 95+ comments from him and most of them are awful. He’s so personally antagonistic and attacking that I felt it was finally time to intervene on behalf of others (and, admittedly, myself).
Thanks for posting this post. I am taking from this something slightly different than the rest of the responses. There are always “Marks” in the world…whether in our professional lives, or in our personal lives. I have had friends who sucked my energy to the core, and then left me high and dry. This blog shows that we don’t need to keep these people in our lives. In fact, I may show it to my 12 year old daughter, who is dealing with drama at school. Granted, I dont want her posting a blog calling out the classmates that are causing her grief, but I do want her to see how assertive control can be taken in seemingly out-of-control situations.
You’re right, Laura: There are all kinds of lessons to be learned in this situation.
For me, they include:
1. Protecting our learning spaces is important:
I love the new opportunities that I have to learn online in a digital world. Reflecting in blog comment sections and having my thinking challenged by others is awesome. If I value those learning spaces, I have to be willing to take a stand against people who refuse to contribute to those spaces in positive ways.
Mark’s behavior would never be tolerated in a college classroom. Heck, it wouldn’t even be tolerated in an elementary school classroom.
He gets away with it because he’s working behind the a keyboard insulting people who he’ll never have to meet in person.
We don’t have to tolerate that. We can take a stand against the divisiveness that defines conversations in today’s culture—-and we should do that if we care about learning together.
2. Those of us who join together online are a community:
I’ve got to tell you that watching Mark trash people over the past year—here, on his blog, and on other blogs that he has made appearances on—-has been painful.
He’s been downright rude to a ton of people that I really care about—and every time that he denigrates them, it really bothers me.
The funny thing is that the people he’s denigrating—the people that I care so much about—are people that I’ve never even met in person, but they’re people who have changed me in deep and meaningful ways.
They’ve given freely of their thoughts. They’ve helped me to think differently about topics that matter. They’ve improved my practice. They’ve shared resources with me that I would never have been able to find in other places.
They’re my peers—we’re a community even though we’ve never met—and that’s cool.
If you look through Mark’s comments, though, you’ll find that he doesn’t see digital spaces in the same way. In fact, yesterday he wrote:
“That’s what the internet represents to me, a medium where I cannot see, hear, or truly sense the humanity of others. Lacking that concrete component, I can’t consider it with the seriousness others can more easily.”
The thing is that to many of us, the Internet is an intensely human place—and that humanness is worth standing up for, too.
Anyway….thanks for reminding me to look for lessons beyond Mark in this strand of conversation.
Another example of what’s possible when we look at situations through multiple lenses!
“They’re my peers—we’re a community even though we’ve never met—and that’s cool.”
This is the fundamental flaw in human behavior generated by the internet age. We’re at the point where impersonal, anonymous, and physically detached communication via flickering screens constitutes a “community.” People are so desperate to socialize that they’ll accept a poor compromise.
Basically, the idea of “humanity” has been perverted and trivialized by electronic media. It’s for this reason that I strenuously protest.
There is no real “humanity” without bona fide vis-a-vis contact, only an imitation of it.
Machines always have been and always will be, coldly impersonal. Eventually, the addicted users of said machinery become the same way eventually.
I can certainly acknowledge the concerns and the claims made regarding a lack of “real humanity” in forming and participating in online communities. Those of us in a classroom daily, who do support the use of technology as a tool for learning, know that in order to be successful, we must strike a balance between teaching, learning, and technology.
Although, I would have to strongly disagree with the statement, “Basically, the idea of “humanity” has been perverted and trivialized by electronic media. It’s for this reason that I strenuously protest.” And I do so, respectfully. My next door neighbor (aka – the teacher in the classroom next to me) and I ensue in this very debate near daily. The above conversation reminded me of anthropologist, Amber Case, and her recent TED talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/amber_case_we_are_all_cyborgs_now.html) about the evolution of the relationship between humans and machines. Perhaps this new idea of humanity and community is just difficult to accept because it is different than what we know.
Further, while online connections may be just that for many, for some of us, they are the seeds planted that foster and grow into meaningful, future, off-line professional relationships and growth opportunities that would have never presented themselves but for that initial, online interaction. Online communities are as real as any other.
Correct decision, IMHO. I do the same in my domain, without even a farewell post. Trolls are like spammers, deserving only deletion and silence.
I think Dr. MacLeod is possessed of a large ego typical of many PhDs in American universities. It’s all about him asserting his power and authority. To have labeled this Mark guy as a troll seemed wrong. I’ve read his posts and he does make good points. So what if he ruffles feathers? How do you think any change gets done in our society without bashing some heads? Does anyone remember the 1960s? Change wasn’t made by polite protest. That’s what’s missing from today’s society. People are afraid to fight for what they believe in.
Good call, Scott, it really is time to pull the plug. Like Stephen, I wouldn’t even throw out a farewell post.
Still, is there really any way you can keep Mark away?
Case in point (not sure if you saw this the first time around):
Scott, it is empowering and positive work you are doing here on your blog. Many of us silent observers learn a tremendous lot from your postings and those of your colleagues who respond with their opinions.
What is unfortunate is that Mark seemed to be passionate about his work with young people and his opinions. Often, people who relate poorly to others have underlying struggles that are not apparent to us. This is true even when we interact face to face, but especially in an electronic forum. I hope Mark can find another outlet for his frustrations and experience acceptance elsewhere. In the meantime, please continue your valuable work here. You made the right decision to protect your community and forum.
I watched you for a long time before I ever commented once. I’m quite impressed with your writing and I’m excited to continue on with you in this arena. Rather than deal with something in common, let us now talk to each other in these posts.
Love your work Dr McLeod!
Elegant and eloquent. A truly classic blog post.
I must just keep your post up my sleeve as a reference point in the event I ever encounter a troll on my blog “world of the student teacher”.
Free speech isn’t required to be civil. As long as no laws are being broken, anything should go.
You’re putting your blog stats ahead of free speech.
If you don’t have the nerve to suffer the blows from posting in a public arena, then you shouldn’t be there.
Gov. Ed Rendell mentioned that we’ve become a nation of “wussies.” This action is a prime example.
As a private enterprise, Scott has no obligation to provide every holier-than-thou troll with unfettered “free speech”.
How’s this blog a “private enterprise”? It’s viewed by anyone from the public without private passwords or membership fees to have access.
It’s ‘private’ in terms of ‘ownership,’ not ‘privacy.’