The 10 Kinds of Trolls You Will Encounter When Talking About Mike Brown

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If you’re paying attention to the events unfolding in Ferguson—and by God, you better be—then you probably already know there is a group of people in this country of ours who are determined to change the focus of the conversation about the murder of Mike Brown and the subsequent protests, attempting to shift the lens away from the Constitutional rights of US citizens and the murder of a black teenager. If you’re reading this, you probably already know the folks I’m talking about. But here they are. #Staywoke.

The Full-Blown Racist Troll (trigger warning)

Block on sight. Some of them are friends of your Facebook friends—block them. Some of them are your Facebook friends. Many of them are accounts like the one I have screenshotted below: anonymous and relying on blatantly racist language, such as blackface imagery, monkey references, use of the N-word, etc. These have exploded over the last week. We’re talking hundreds. I’ve been using Twitter avidly for years and I can’t recall ever seeing quite this much racist bile taking over an event-related hashtag (#Ferguson) as I have this week. Block them and report them for spam immediately.

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The “Wait for Evidence” Troll

This troll may or may not be anonymous and pretends to be focused on respecting and upholding the law. “We don’t know what happened yet,” they say, “wait for evidence before you lambast an officer of the law.” They pretend that things like racism, police brutality, police corruption, etc. don’t exist and insist that if concrete evidence is released, they will be swayed to feel “sympathy” for Mike Brown. But they won’t. When evidence arises, they find objection to its relevance or veracity. They then transform into The “Mike Brown Shouldn’t Have [insert human action here]” Troll, to follow.

The “Mike Brown Shouldn’t Have [insert human action here]” Troll

This troll (and the others as well) will go great lengths to justify the taking of black life. “He shouldn’t have run,” “he shouldn’t have been sagging,” “he shouldn’t have been walking down the middle of the street,” “he shouldn’t have stolen something.” These trolls come in all races and will insist that when a police officer (or a homeowner, or a security guard) assaults a person of color, that person must have done something to deserve it. The fact that Mike Brown was shot at least 6 times doesn’t register as overkill, even when two of those shots were in the head. They will also extend effort to paint Ferguson as a ghetto, where this kind of thing happens all the time. Nope. Ferguson, Missouri had zero murders until Officer Darren Wilson killed Mike Brown.

The “Police Are the Good Guys” Troll

These folks have a blissfully naïve version of police in their heads, the one fed to them since they were children that says police are the good guys and that no matter what they do, they must have had a reason. These people have no concept—or pretend to have no concept—of the depth of white supremacy and the way it is ingrained in every facet of our culture…even our police. Because they believe the police are always right—and usually because they also believe that groups of black people are inherently violent—they have no qualms about police dressed in military gear, sitting on tanks and tear-gassing American citizens. ‘Murica. You may also hear these trolls say, “What about due process?” Well…we would proceed with due process. If they would actually arrest Darren Wilson. Which they haven’t. So…

The “Violence Just Begets More Violence” Troll

These people are the riot-shamers. They roll out the word “looters!” at every chance and are not interested in the fact that only a small number of people at the protests have actively looted, or that Ferguson protestors actually locked arms to prevent said looting. These trolls hide behind anonymous accounts, they masquerade as sane coworkers, and they work for CNN and other major media outlets. They focus on the “unrest” in Ferguson and talk about it out of context in an attempt to 1) divert attention away from the killing of an unarmed black teenager and/or 2) disguise their lack of critical thought. As Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous said so well in this post:

“a community pushing back against a murderous police force that is terrorizing them is not a ‘riot’. It’s an uprising. It’s a rebellion. It’s a community saying We can’t take this anymore. We won’t take it. It’s people who have been dehumanized to the point of rightful rage. And it happens all over the world. Uprisings and rebellions are necessary and inevitable, locally and globally. This is not to say that actual riots don’t happen. White folks riot at sporting events, for example. Riots happen. But people rising up in righteous anger and rage in the face of oppression should not be dismissed as simply a ‘riot’.”

The Concern Troll

These are among the more passive aggressive trolls you will encounter. They not only target victims like Mike Brown with statements like “I wish he hadn’t stolen those cigars: he might be alive,” but target the community as well, saying things like “Should they really be out there protesting with little kids? I worry about that kind of parenting.”
Let me make one thing clear in case you weren’t sure: these people aren’t worried about the children of Ferguson. They’re not actually “concerned” at all,” despite their title. These people employ words like “worry” and “I wish” and “concern” to communicate their disapproval of black people doing anything besides playing the Martin Baker role. If they were actually concerned, they would see the images of police with hidden badge numbers, tear-gassing eight-year old girls, and be concerned about the escalation of violence police in Ferguson are responsible for.

The “But What About Black on Black Crime!” Troll

Yes, 85% of violent crime against black people is perpetuated by other black people. But guess what? The exact same is true for violent crime committed against white people: the vast majority of those crimes are committed by other white people. People who use the term “black on black crime” either 1) work for Fox News, 2) are seeking to portray black people as violent and out of control, and/or 3) seek to portray black people as only caring about black lives when there is a way to blame white people. Let’s run that back: 1) If they work for Fox News…you already know. 2) If we’re going to make sweeping statements about people being violent and out of control, perhaps we should focus on young white males. 3) Anyone who would fit with #3 is not interested in facts, otherwise they would be aware of the vast number of organizations and movements to end gun violence in black neighborhoods…spearheaded by black people. The real motivation behind this troll (and all of them really) is to distract from the matter at hand, and that’s that an unarmed black teen is dead.

The “Don’t Make This A Racial Issue!” Troll

These are the pearl-clutchers. “This could have happened to anyone! Let’s not make this a racial issue and instead focus on getting this cop off the street!” Yes, we should focus on getting this cop off the street, but we must also focus on the conditions that made this murder possible, and that is one of racism, white supremacy, and police violence that has been being built and rebuilt since the birth of this country. No, this wouldn’t have just happened to anyone. A black male is killed by police every 28 hours in America. This is a racial issue.
These trolls will also accuse you of being racist for talking about racism and start quoting to you all the times black people perpetuated “reverse racism” against white people. Suggested action? Block and keep it moving.

The Misinformation Bots

These are particularly dangerous and I have seen a lot of them in the past week. I won’t speculate on where they come from—although I have a fairly good idea—but their sole purpose is to spread misinformation about Mike Brown and Darren Wilson, targeting people tweeting under the #Ferguson and #MikeBrown hashtags and sending them to false articles on homemade websites about alternate eyewitnesses that saw Brown attack Wilson, etc. Don’t engage with these people: they likely get paid for it. Report them as spam and, you guessed it: keep it moving.

The “I Wish We Could All Just Get Along” Troll

These trolls might mean well. They might. But that doesn’t mean they’re not trolls. You post/tweet an article and they tweet back, “This is all really bad, but I wish this wasn’t happening. Can’t we all just get along?” They’re trolling you. We all wish we could get along. But right now a boy is dead and is receiving no justice by the system that supposedly exists to protect him. Injecting Pollyanna-isms aren’t helping anyone. If you really want to help and the frontlines aren’t for you, just donate to the Michael Brown Memorial Fund. And stay out of the way.

This isn’t an exhaustive list. When a black person is killed in America, trolls come out of the woodwork in an attempt to justify or distract from the taking of that life. After finishing this post, I’m not even sure “troll” is the right word, but I’m not sure if I have a better one either. Weights, perhaps. Cinder blocks shackled to the rising tide of Americans who want better, believe in better; who see the murder of another black kid in America and say “enough.” These people are not merely trolls. “Troll” implies something harmless, a faceless entity in the underbelly of the Internet. These people are not harmless. They are part of the problem. Unfortunately I don’t have a solution for the problem they pose: they are not interested in self-education. They are not interested in empathy. They are not interested in challenging the worldview that has tucked them in at night and told them the police are here for our protection and that black people deserve what they get. They are interested only in standing very still, while the rest of us move forward. All I can say is this: move on without them. Block, report, and move on without them. Even when they’re friends.

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31 thoughts on “The 10 Kinds of Trolls You Will Encounter When Talking About Mike Brown

  1. […] The events in Ferguson have led to outrage in social media as friends and families hurl disgusting messages at one another and accusations of racism and race-baiting (Michael Brown was Black) have raised unnecessary tensions between Americans. My colleagues in the blogosphere have responded with well-intentioned pieces, that only further the divide and contribute to the madness. […]

  2. Zonk says:

    I truly enjoyed your piece and understand where you are coming from. I suppose you think I fall into the “can’t we all just get along” troll category. Regardless, your piece is well written and I respect your opinion. I hope there are no more injuries as a result of irresponsible behavior on both sides. Thanks for allowing the ping-back.

  3. justincaynon says:

    This is all very upsetting because I don’t think this man will ever face punishment for what he did and a lot of people seem to be very happy about that.

  4. Wonderful piece of work here, Olivia! Thank you! thank you! thank you!
    I’ll be sharing it here: https://www.facebook.com/shamethemhere

  5. esilvan says:

    Olivia, I hear you! Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2014 14:30:33 +0000 To: erhs624@msn.com

  6. oils4mylamp says:

    GF, I am laughing hard in agreement with you because you’ve covered all the bases. I wrote a piece called “White Elephants.” Please stop by and read.

    It is what it is and you (in general) can’t cover it up. At the end of the day a young man has been murdered with the use of excessive deadly force. THIS stuff, the execution of our black males and males period — need to stop. I’m tired of hearing about these stories for the simply fact that injustice is always the outcome results. My heart breaks and I pray because I have 3 male children, one adult in California and two minor boys I am raising. It’s time to dialogue and get to the root of this ugliness.

    I have a friend who always says (and this is no pun intended) you cover the head and the feet stick out! You cover the feet and the head sticks out! In other words — they can’t cover this up because they are utterly exposed in board day light — this is out and out murder!

    Oh gesh, one other thing, why are our law enforcers equipped with tear gas by the military and the military doesn’t even use tear gas on those they are in battle with? What’s wrong with this picture? Oh goodness I could go their and join Alex Jones with his rants about America but I’m getting off my soap box now. Wake up America!

  7. donnadreams says:

    Olivia, thank you. I am so infuriated and fed up with the “but what about Black on Black crime” troll/idiot I could scream. Totally irrelevant to the execution of MIke Brown.

  8. TheOrangeMask says:

    Olivia, you are becoming my 2nd favorite blog after my soon to be fiance’s. This is beautiful. Consider me subscribed.

  9. hrhdana says:

    I love you Olivia. Okay that might sound creepy. LOL I mean it in the most non creepy way possible. I know that love and understanding are possible because I see it in my life but right now….right now…it’s so hard to hold on to love. The rage threatens to choke me.

    Then I read you and other white people like you and I’m reminded that what we are all fighting for IS possible. It IS happening. It’s just slower than we all want it to be.

    Thank you for doing the work. It is SO important. You are SO appreciated.

  10. Yanick Leflot says:

    In France, we have the same ones. Only, the ” boucs émissaires” are different. Our trolls focuse on the ” arabs and muslims”. We have to continue to fight those ” idées reçues”!!! BRAVO Madame!!! Le 19 août 14 à 16:30, Olivia A. Cole a écrit :

    > >

  11. Lionel Sneed says:

    You have spoken truth today. Thank you for posting.

  12. Monica Rochon says:

    Reblogged this on My Truth Captured.

  13. I really enjoyed reading this today it actually made my day! It was forwarded to me from an artist friend of mine who lives in Missouri, about 20 minutes from Ferguson.

    As someone from the east coast now living in the Midwest, my heart goes out to anyone living in MO now. I know what it feels like for the place you live to be put under the microscope. I lived thru 9/11 when the whole world had an opinion. But so much attention is being placed on the riots, and the victim that I think for people looking in from the window it is easy to be deturred from what started all this, and simply stated an unarmed man was shot and killed by a police officer.

    Regardless of what is found out later, I for the life of me cannot justify it. You could not pay me a million dollars to buy that it was in self defense, no matter how big he was, whether he got in a fist fight in the car, no matter how much pot he smoked, I cannot for the life of me justify it. Its really easy for people to come up with all sorts of reasons why it is his fault, but no one no matter what color they are deserves to be shot 6 times.

    Also, it is really easy to side with an officer if you have never personally seen an officer profile someone. Primarily because it does not happen in predominately white areas. But it happens all the time, so I can also sympathize with the frustrations that are fueling the rioting. But the rioters and protesters are two completely different groups.I don’t agree with the rioting but I get where it is coming from.

    And I guess the best way I can explain this is simple, Im an educated, white girl, who grew up in NY & NJ (big city lots of different folks)(we aren’t really all that politically correct, we despise people equally) , and now I live in Denver, I still have a big mouth and I know my rights. I live in a mixed community in Denver, Colorado, and I teach in a not so mixed community. Primarily black and Hispanic. Every day, and I mean everyday when I drive to work, I get stopped at least 3x by a police officer asking me “what I am doing here….”, Every single day I have to explain to someone what I am doing there. Because the fact is the cops wanna know what a white girl like me is doing in the hood…because they are assuming im buying drugs or doing something illegal, I mean because what other reason would I be there?….For me, not only is it highly annoying, but it frankly pisses me off, but I am smart enough to simply say, why r u stopping me, did I break the law?!- On the flip side, cops do this every day to blacks and Hispanics, stopping them for no reason, or just cause….and 9 out 10 times it is reason enough because they have a badge and you don’t.

    Its harassment disguised under a badge, and for a just turned kid (18), I can guarantee he has been stopped 1001 times before this day and maybe he is not educated enough to know its against the law to just stop someone, or maybe he is just a scared kid, or maybe he knows that if he gives him any kind of lip, he will be handcuffed to the back of a car before he is even charged with anything. ……..Because of all the information being put out there from the ferguson situation, no one has yet to be able to tell me why they stopped him in the first place.

    I think all the news media is just fueling the fire, deturring the public in every direction but right just to keep the focus away from the fact that an unarmed PERSON was shot and killed. Regardless of whether he stole smokes, regardless of if he was high, and regardless of if there was a struggle, it really doesn’t matter, all of this information is coming out AFTER a crime was committed by an officer. ALL of these things should have come to light before they decided to empty a gun into him, not after.

    It used to be if a police officer wanted to “get information” they needed a warrant to do it, but now all they need is a badge. And in many places, having a badge means I can stop you, pull you over, run your name, cause im a cop and your not. Basically because I have a badge I can harass the crap out of you and hope that I get something later. And while this may not happen where you live, it does happen every single day. So if we learn anything from ferguson, 9/11, columbine, any major travesty that brings out such heated discussion is simple. NOONE NOWHERE is immune to hatred, it can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone regardless of what kind of car you drive, where you go to school, how much money you have, how much money you don’t have. Every single place in America has a “Ferguson” and no one is immune to it.

  14. pdlfrost says:

    Thank You for the Troll Article.
    Olivia, I’m new to your blogasphere, but I’m incredibly grateful to have found you. As a black mother of both sons & daughters, I was starting to become discouraged by so many non-blacks who seemed incapable of mustering any sort of compassion for Mike Brown. But when I read your article, I felt: “She GETS it!” I know you’re only one person, but your words touch many people. And that matters. So from one woman to another: thank you. And please keep it up. You can add me to your lists of fans.

  15. […] of the offense to “strong-arm robbery.” Left-wing activist and blogger Olivia Cole dismisses as a troll anyone who talks about waiting for the evidence and deplores (seriously!) […]

  16. Bleu says:

    Well said and we’ll put…And a great challenge to those who have these sorts as friends. I think it’s a beginning or some where to start in terms of a solution. Or at least keeping what’s important the focus.

    Instead of “Trolls” one could also call them Droids or Drones– something programmed and with blinders made to see what those in control wants it to.

  17. […] “chain letter” email can be seen in the context of a massive online trend of racist “trolling” and harassment in reaction to the eruption of anti-police brutality protests that spread after events in Ferguson […]

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