Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Of Trolls and other Minutiae
People keep writing me and demanding that I control negative comments written by certain readers who take offence to this web site and who believe that they can cast aspersions by denigrating us with foolish comments that are mostly boring and mostly devoid of anything redeeming.
I want to separate these trolls from those who write legitimate comments that oppose the majority view of this blog.
Too many readers confuse dissent with 'trolling' and wrongly (in my opinion) demand that they be somehow squelched.
At any rate, it isn't I who empower the trolls, it is you.
Ignore them and they will be frustrated and go away, otherwise don't complain.
One of the reasons I allow trolls to post is to remind readers in what environment we live, their insignificant and content-less missives, a testament to their mindless dogma.
Trolls are a good barometer of how much we bother French-language militants and the more we attract, the more damage I know we are inflicting.
Every now and then, trolls reveal certain nuggets of truth that offer an interesting insight into their optic.
Here is an example that proves rather telling.
In response to Monday's bog piece about the OQLF harassment of English and the effects of keeping many products and services out of Quebec, a reader noted that for many years, the Monopoly promotion wasn't offered in Quebec McDonalds restaurants.
"For several years, the Monopoly game promoted yearly by McD's was not promoted in Quebec because they didn't want to make the game pieces in French as well as the game cards"
Which elicited these two sarcastic responses;
"less mcdonald's promo? what a blessing."
"Vraiment triste :(" (Very sad)
The reaction is as old as the hills and was described by Aesop in the famous fable of the fox and the sour grapes written over 2,500 years ago.
And so they denigrate what they cannot have (the sour grapes.)
Of course it's easy to disparage a silly promotion in a junk food restaurant, but it is the same reaction that is trotted out when Quebecers are deprived of something more significant.
There are those who declare that anybody or any company that does not knuckle to excessive language requirements is not welcome and ultimately no great loss to Quebec and Quebecers.
And so trolls can offer insight into the mindset of French-language militants and as such, play their own role on this blog.
That being said, I'm not defending McDonalds, there is no excuse for not respecting the French language, they certainly do enough business here to warrant the effort.
But for other businesses that isn't always the case.
There is a legitimate debate about protecting French language versus greater choice, but where that line is drawn is the issue at hand.
A company with one or two stores in Quebec (even if they have thousands of locations across North America) shouldn't be held to the same standards as a company that has hundreds of locations in Quebec.
But that is what legitimate debate is about. I cannot fault those who take the opposite view from myself.
Readers know me as someone with a particularly thick skin, criticism is part of the game and you should be aware of the venomous comments that aren't published and the hateful and threatening emails that land in my inbox frequently.
When regular readers, including so-called trolls offer a comment that violates the established standards of this blog, I censor the comment, but let readers know that I have done so by the familiar;
"This comment has been removed by a blog administrator."
It lets the regular contributor know that the comment was deemed unacceptable and allows him/her to modify it or otherwise react.
It isn't a rebuke, call it a safety valve, that checks excessive zeal or emotion.
But comments that are hateful, cruel or obscene, from strangers to this blog, never see the light of day and the writer never gets to see his comment publicly blocked.
I can say that the regular so-called 'trolls' to this blog do not fall in this category and I cannot remember removing one of their comments in this manner.
A couple of final notes on the comment section.
BLOGGER doesn't allow me to view IP addresses and I cannot 'ban' anyone based on such information. (I wouldn't anyway)
Readers have made many suggestions and I consider them all, but understand that there are no magic solutions that will satisfy everybody.
MODERATION: I do have the option to review comments before they are published, but I cannot pick and choose who I moderate, it is all or nothing. Sometimes it would mean long delays before what you write is published, which is frustrating. My choice is to let everything be published immediately and clean up any mess later.
Tuer les tous, Dieu reconnaîtra les siens (not Latin, but old French this time... I cannot resist!)
It is a choice I have made based on the fact that we really don't have so many abusers. Again I do not consider regular so-called 'trolls' abusers.
Some have suggested that I use a system like DIQUS to control the comments section, but the drawback is that you need a legitimate email address to participate and even with a dummy account it leads to casual commenters avoiding participating.
As for those who criticize me for not policing the comments section to their satisfaction, I can only reply that I do my best.
I want to remind readers that I am but one person with help from my wife. Sometimes people hold this amateur blog to standards that are unrealistic given the reality.
I am not a newspaper, nor a website that has contributing writers and support staff, nor a budget.
To people who don't like this blog and tell me how shitty my opinions are, all I can say is that nobody is forcing anybody to read my missives and those of our commenting community.
Just the same, we are doing pretty well and will probably hit a million pageviews in 2013, as Adam Sandler tells us... Not too shabby! for a blog that deals with a narrow subject.
By the way, when I use the 'our' or 'we' to describe the blog, it is of course because of the comment section, that is integral to whatever success we enjoy.
Stay or leave
There are some readers who have reacted angrily that their decision to emigrate from Quebec is somehow denigrated in this blog. Not true.
The decision to leave Quebec or to stay is highly personal and giving advice to others about the issue is gratuitous at best.
For every good reason there is to leave, there are as many good reasons to stay. For those who advise Anglophones to abandon their homes, one should understand that the advice is based on the writers successful transplantation.
I have never maintained that those who left to greener pastures have 'abandoned' the linguistic fight and there have been precious few comments that have said anything like that.
I for one, remained in this province because I had a successful business, which I didn't want to abandon. I have recently retired and also see no need to leave as my friends and family are mostly here.
This story is mine, but readers who have chosen to remain have made their own choice, based on their own circumstances.
Many of you have left Quebec and have built new successful lives elsewhere.
Good on you, but everyone is entitled to live where they want to and yes, bitching about circumstances is also allowed.
The idea that Anglos who complain about linguistic persecution should just pick up and leave is not akin to walking out of a theatre because the movie sucks. It is more complicated.
One thing that I do know, is that a great proportion of those expatriates who come to this blog, do so because Quebec is remembered fondly and remains part of who they are, this sometimes after twenty or thirty years.
Getting the message out.
Some have vented some frustration that this blog isn't making enough of a difference, a position I heartily disagree with.
We are widely read and although it is hard to gauge the impact, at least I know we drive French language militants batty.
The newly crowned Fuehrer of vigile.net, Richard Le Hir makes it a point to remind readers every now and then what vicious and dangerous 'angryphones' populate our blog.
I take it as a badge of honour, like being called a bigot by a racist.
What can you do to contribute?
Popularize this blog by getting the message out, new readers arrive every day and mention that they had no idea we existed.
There are one or two regulars who post blog pieces to REDDIT which drives a tremendous amount of traffic.
Ironically, the latest poster to REDDIT was someone who ironically opposed my position re: the OQLF. Nonetheless, it generated 150 new pageviews.
One of the best ways to promote this blog is to comment in national newspapers like the Globe and Mail or the National Post mentioning a post in NDOA that you feel relevant to the discussion.
This also drives a lot of traffic, but I cannot do it myself as it would be somewhat unethical.
Mentioning and promoting a blog post on your Facebook or Google+ page can also help us go viral and get the message out to a wider audience, so don't let me hear that you feel frustrated because you don't know what to do to help publicize our cause.
There are many other ideas out there, but it is mostly up to you, I've done my part, now it is your turn.
Posted by Editor on 1/09/2013 12:00:00 AM