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Dealing with real-life trolls?

SophieSophieSophieSophie Registered User regular
We're starting to wrap up the end of the semester, and I'm heading the Student Union committee on welcome and health week. It is actually pretty much three weeks of orientation events and communication mainly aimed at incoming freshmen. There are a lot of college events, but student groups are supposed to contribute something as well - it could be events, speakers, or posters. A lot of this is around what is called 'sex week'. Officially it's health week, but it ends up being a lot of communication about consent culture, sexual health, relationships, and related health services. It's been pretty good this year, except for one group who keeps running poster campaigns that seem super inapropriate.
I complained to the Dean of Students about them, but he says that the rules are that they have to be fact-based, and not derogatory towards any particular groups. He says their campaign this year was fine by these rules.
The fact is though that it seems like a really trolling campaign - for example, they put up a series of posters with the tag-line 'no ifs, no butts' where they have quotes from medical text books or doctors about how much bacertia there is in the anus vs the vagina. If you saw it it's really clear that it is shaming people about anal sex, but it doesn't actually say that.
What kinds of tactics can we use to deal with this? Thanks!

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  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    Probably the first step would be to find the faculty advisors for your campus LGBT organization and make them aware of the issue. From there it would be a matter of connecting the context of the shaming to data points you can show the staff or faculty organizers about how damaging it is.

    Having actual faculty members supporting you in this, especially full tenured professors, is the way to go. You might want to check with your social justice office (if you have one) or with whoever runs your Gender Studies program for support.

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  • SophieSophieSophieSophie Registered User regular
    That's a great idea - I will have some conversations this week. How should I frame it though? When I've confronted the people behind it in person they always just say it's a straightforward information campaign, that people should know the facts. I've had problems making a compelling case, because it seems like they have gone out of their way to just state really well sourced facts. I worry that we would be open to them making a similar case about any number of other campaigns.
    I think I'm worried that they are so completely not acting in good faith, that I almost think they would welcome some kind of ruling that laid us open to them complaining that somehow some other thing should be banned too?

  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    edited November 14
    They almost certainly aren't acting in good faith, which is why confronting the other student group is meaningless. Your best bet is to bring this to the attention of faculty sympathetic with LGBT rights and the implications of the issues, and then with their backing approach the folks running the program. Your faculty members will know the inter-departmental politics and which university administration folks to speak with to get this sorted out.

    As to how to bring this up with faculty, bring pictures or evidence of the previous issue and talk to them candidly about your concerns (not with the students being trolls, don't use those words) but with how the poster/presentation is discriminatory and inflammatory.

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  • SophieSophieSophieSophie Registered User regular
    That sounds good. What should we be asking for? When I went to the Dean, he asked whether the poster was true, or were we disputing the facts. I had to say no, the poster was true. It wasn't saying anything that wasn't true, and he asked whether it was attacking any group. I thought that it was, but it was all implied, and I couldn't show which group. He asked me whether I thought that it should be against the rules to tell people that there is bacteria in the anus. I don't really think it should be - but I had a hard time articulating what I wanted him to do. Is there a good way to articulate what kind of remedy we want, or some kind of template for the kind of language for rules about this? Thanks!

  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    I don't think there is going to be a magic bullet here. Think about those questions he provided last time and come up with strongly articulated answers.

    Also, I don't know what your major is, but this sort of thing could be a nice launching point for some sociological/gender studies research with your faculty members.

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  • SophieSophieSophieSophie Registered User regular
    MechEng unfortunately... ;) Thanks. I'm just kind of depressed about it. It wouldn't be a big deal, except this small thing seems to have got much more attention than a lot better things that other groups did. It's like there's a lot of snickering about it, and it undermines the real messages. I'm more annoyed that people are paying attention. But then maybe I'm just making it worse by giving them any oxygen. Should I just not feed them?

  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    Well in your example the fact about bacteria numbers may be correct, but the tagline is misleading. To go from bacteria counts to "no butts" requires evidence that the bacteria are somehow relevant and not just a red herring. So you could argue that the posters are intentionally misleading.

    Having said that, I would be inclined to agree with your "don't feed the trolls" instinct and instead encourage positive, informative campaigning to counter them.

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  • Magic PinkMagic Pink Tur-Boner-Fed Registered User regular
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    Well in your example the fact about bacteria numbers may be correct, but the tagline is misleading. To go from bacteria counts to "no butts" requires evidence that the bacteria are somehow relevant and not just a red herring. So you could argue that the posters are intentionally misleading.

    Having said that, I would be inclined to agree with your "don't feed the trolls" instinct and instead encourage positive, informative campaigning to counter them.

    And, jumping right to "no anal sex" rather than "always use protection" is pretty telling here

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  • SophieSophieSophieSophie Registered User regular
    I know. Last year they pulled a similarly stupid stunt with a poster with a picture of a funfair on the right and a sewage plant on the left and some stupid innuendo I don't even remember about not going to have fun in a place full of shit. What I resent is that it makes everyone talk about it.

  • DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    Personally I'd just ignore. Don't feed them.

    As an aside, I'm pretty sure the mouth has more bacteria than the butthole.

    Regardless of their intent, they seem to be working within the rules and any response would have to as well, and changing the rules at a university is probably the only thing harder than getting congress to do anything.

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  • SophieSophieSophieSophie Registered User regular
    I get that, but the whole purpose of the week is education, and sending the wrong information is just really frustrating.

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  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    I get that, but the whole purpose of the week is education, and sending the wrong information is just really frustrating.

    For what it's worth, I think almost all of the students already have all the information they need. Or so I hope? College seems like a really late time to educate people on these issues.

    Then again, I've been known to express unreasonable optimism from time to time.

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  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Djeet wrote: »
    Personally I'd just ignore. Don't feed them.

    We have found out from the internet in the last couple of years that the advice "Just ignore the trolls" actually feeds them rather than starving them of the oxygen of attention.

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  • SophieSophieSophieSophie Registered User regular
    Bliss - lol! I wish! Have you spent time in freshman college classes recently? Sure - there are some folks who are well informed, but sex-ed in the US is pretty lamentable. Some folks who think they 'have all the information they need' actually don't. Also, there's a lot more than the mechanics and sti/pregnancy. There's so much about consent culture that is barely taught at all.

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  • SophieSophieSophieSophie Registered User regular
    Badger - that's my worry. But I also feel like they drag the discussion to their topic if others engage. How do you combat this stuff?

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  • kimekime Queen of Blades Registered User regular
    Bliss - lol! I wish! Have you spent time in freshman college classes recently? Sure - there are some folks who are well informed, but sex-ed in the US is pretty lamentable. Some folks who think they 'have all the information they need' actually don't. Also, there's a lot more than the mechanics and sti/pregnancy. There's so much about consent culture that is barely taught at all.

    Yeah, college is actually the first time a lot of people get a viewpoint on sex that isn't pretty traditional.

    It sounds like they are getting away with this by not technically putting non-factual information on there. That's not the only way to lie or misdirect. Honestly, from what you've described, the Dean kind of sounds like he's being deliberately obtuse. How conservative is your school?

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  • SophieSophieSophieSophie Registered User regular
    Well, I think if I'm trying to be sympathetic the Dean is trying to ballance freedom of speech with progressive politics. His line seems to be that if someone wants to present a factual statement that isn't hate speech then that's ok.

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  • kimekime Queen of Blades Registered User regular
    Well, I think if I'm trying to be sympathetic the Dean is trying to ballance freedom of speech with progressive politics. His line seems to be that if someone wants to present a factual statement that isn't hate speech then that's ok.

    I mean, that seems to be the line he's proclaiming, yeah. But if, essentially, "anal sex is dangerous so you shouldn't have it" meets his standards, then that strikes me as a particularly conservative view to put it mildly. I don't have an answer, but you may need to consider this from the perspective that he doesn't want to agree with you.

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  • SmokeStacksSmokeStacks The Myth, the Legend, the Bowman, the Dino FuckerRegistered User regular
    If they are presenting a factual statement and it's not hate speech than you don't really have any options. You might not personally agree with the posters, but part of going to college is being exposed to viewpoints you don't agree with.

    Instead of trying to remove the work of others, why don't you do some work yourself? Is there anything stopping you from running your own campaign and printing your own posters? Find facts that support your position and make them visible. As long as you abide by the same rules your message should be just as protected as theirs.

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  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    If this is a thing they do every year, combating speech with speech is a better solution. Health Week becomes Sex Week becomes Anal Sex Week I guess, but if the facts support your position (hah) then maybe it's worth getting the facts out there on your own terms rather than trying to use bureaucracy to silence Technical Correctness.


    As an aside: the Dean is not your ally. He doesn't work for you. He doesn't need to care about your political agenda, your progressive outlook, or your opinion on literally anything. You are not his customer, you cannot hold him accountable, and he already has your money. Whether he agrees with you or not is basically irrelevant - the rules are the rules, so take that as the definition of scope and operate within that scope to get your own message out.

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  • CambiataCambiata Commander Shepard The likes of which even GAWD has never seenRegistered User regular
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    I get that, but the whole purpose of the week is education, and sending the wrong information is just really frustrating.

    For what it's worth, I think almost all of the students already have all the information they need. Or so I hope? College seems like a really late time to educate people on these issues.

    Then again, I've been known to express unreasonable optimism from time to time.

    Yeah I can assure you this is really, really incorrect. I honestly didn't get much of any sex ed until I was in my 30s. College is going to be the first place a lot of people are allowed to explore that information on their own, as strict parents will keep them away from it during middle school and high school.

    Yeah there's always the internet which we didn't have back when I was a teenager, but the internet is frequently full of bullshit in regards to sexual health, so the educational need is still there.

  • kimekime Queen of Blades Registered User regular
    spool32 wrote: »
    If this is a thing they do every year, combating speech with speech is a better solution. Health Week becomes Sex Week becomes Anal Sex Week I guess, but if the facts support your position (hah) then maybe it's worth getting the facts out there on your own terms rather than trying to use bureaucracy to silence Technical Correctness.


    As an aside: the Dean is not your ally. He doesn't work for you. He doesn't need to care about your political agenda, your progressive outlook, or your opinion on literally anything. You are not his customer, you cannot hold him accountable, and he already has your money. Whether he agrees with you or not is basically irrelevant - the rules are the rules, so take that as the definition of scope and operate within that scope to get your own message out.

    Yeah. As opposed to trying to remove the (very misleading) "buttsex is bad!" posters, you should just go all out. Make a dozen different posters about how awesome anal sex can be or whatever. Make sure you keep it 100% factual!

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  • SophieSophieSophieSophie Registered User regular
    That's kind of depressing. I think he just doens't really want to get involved. His take is that his role is to provide 'guard rails' for debate, not promote a position. Which I think is kind of disgusting really.

  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    yea, go with the pro butt stuff posters.

    anal sex won't get you pregnant

    prostate massage can improve its health

    having a friend check your prostate is extra helpful

    etc.

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  • kimekime Queen of Blades Registered User regular
    edited November 15
    That's kind of depressing. I think he just doens't really want to get involved. His take is that his role is to provide 'guard rails' for debate, not promote a position. Which I think is kind of disgusting really.

    I mean, generally that's not a bad position to have! College is a great place to have a relatively open forum for most topics. I take "deliberately misleading your audience by selectively presenting and interpreting information" to be inside the guard rails, though :P.

    But yeah, it's not that you can't still possibly convince him otherwise! Maybe go find a rhetoric professor or something, see if they can help you formulate why this is not a healthy position to take in this example.

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  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    Cambiata wrote: »
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    I get that, but the whole purpose of the week is education, and sending the wrong information is just really frustrating.

    For what it's worth, I think almost all of the students already have all the information they need. Or so I hope? College seems like a really late time to educate people on these issues.

    Then again, I've been known to express unreasonable optimism from time to time.

    Yeah I can assure you this is really, really incorrect. I honestly didn't get much of any sex ed until I was in my 30s. College is going to be the first place a lot of people are allowed to explore that information on their own, as strict parents will keep them away from it during middle school and high school.

    Yeah there's always the internet which we didn't have back when I was a teenager, but the internet is frequently full of bullshit in regards to sexual health, so the educational need is still there.

    Holy shit. I had no idea. I'm sorry. I grew up in a completely different environment, and I thought it was normal.

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  • OrogogusOrogogus San DiegoRegistered User regular
    edited November 15
    kime wrote: »
    I mean, generally that's not a bad position to have! College is a great place to have a relatively open forum for most topics. I take "deliberately misleading your audience by selectively presenting and interpreting information" to be inside the guard rails, though :P.

    Eh... I feel like that's what rhetoric is for, to expose bad arguments and show why they're misleading, and that the Dean and the college are hoping that their students can win debates through reason and facts rather than having authorities step in every time to punish and silence people with wrong views. It's hard to make any kind of point without some selective presentation and interpretation, but you'd hope that the truth would be hard to beat.

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  • kimekime Queen of Blades Registered User regular
    Orogogus wrote: »
    kime wrote: »
    I mean, generally that's not a bad position to have! College is a great place to have a relatively open forum for most topics. I take "deliberately misleading your audience by selectively presenting and interpreting information" to be inside the guard rails, though :P.

    Eh... I feel like that's what rhetoric is for, to expose bad arguments and show why they're misleading, and that the Dean and the college are hoping that their students can win debates through reason and facts rather than having authorities step in every time to punish and silence people with wrong views. It's hard to make any kind of point without some selective presentation and interpretation, but you'd hope that the truth would be hard to beat.

    These aren't debates though. These are broadcasted messages that have been "vetted" by the school to be "true"

    It's not a debate, otherwise I agree the advice would be different

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  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    mts wrote: »
    yea, go with the pro butt stuff posters.

    anal sex won't get you pregnant

    prostate massage can improve its health

    having a friend check your prostate is extra helpful

    etc.

    Yeah, fingers up male butts is actually helpful. It should be taught to straight people. Feels nice to the guy, also serves to prevent/detect prostate cancer.

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  • SophieSophieSophieSophie Registered User regular
    Kime, it's not really that the school endorses all the messages, just that the school encourages the student societies to get involved with sponsoring events in health week. But I do think that the problem is that these kinds of messages are providing an unsafe environment for some people. It's not simply about the facts, presenting them in certain ways creates a hostile environment, and that shouldn't be something that is tollerated. I just don't know how to get them to take notice.

  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    If your want to fight them, you have to know why they're doing it. It's it for the 'haha butt stuff!' joke, or is it an actual anti-gay group?

    I'd counter with a campaign of your own.
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  • OrogogusOrogogus San DiegoRegistered User regular
    kime wrote: »
    Orogogus wrote: »
    kime wrote: »
    I mean, generally that's not a bad position to have! College is a great place to have a relatively open forum for most topics. I take "deliberately misleading your audience by selectively presenting and interpreting information" to be inside the guard rails, though :P.

    Eh... I feel like that's what rhetoric is for, to expose bad arguments and show why they're misleading, and that the Dean and the college are hoping that their students can win debates through reason and facts rather than having authorities step in every time to punish and silence people with wrong views. It's hard to make any kind of point without some selective presentation and interpretation, but you'd hope that the truth would be hard to beat.

    These aren't debates though. These are broadcasted messages that have been "vetted" by the school to be "true"

    It's not a debate, otherwise I agree the advice would be different

    It's usually the whole message at college, though, that students are learning how to think, not just what to believe. If they only allow dissenting voices at officiated debates instead of all their open events, it's not really better than having a token liberal on a conservative talk show. And if this event were really putting forth the administration's views then it would be staffed by faculty and contractors, not student organizations.

    In any case, I see this is the safe spaces debate. There's basically no chance that the dean is unaware of that issue; if administration were inclined towards that line of thought then they would have crushed that group long ago and there's no way the discussion previously described would have taken place. I'm inclined to doubt that rhetoric is going to change their stance on something so prominent in national politics.

    I think I'm worried that they are so completely not acting in good faith, that I almost think they would welcome some kind of ruling that laid us open to them complaining that somehow some other thing should be banned too?

    I don't think they're trying to get any other group banned, I think they're hoping to attack the college as being anti-free speech and anti-First Amendment, a narrative that's scoring points for the right.

    Or they could just be highly religious, or in it as trolls and nothing else. But in the alt right's America I think it's the free speech thing.

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  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    I don't generally agree with the 'don't feed them' line of reasoning, but in the scope of weird activist stuff that happens on a campus a group putting up a few posters and having a laugh isn't really worth bothering about. If it's anything like my campus barely anybody reads the posters and they're covered up with new ones in a couple days anyway.

    it's also not clear what the remedy would be; permission to take the posters down? Some action against this other student group (assuming they're even organized/recognized enough for that)? Sanction against individual students? Are they a presence at your events anyway?

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  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    I only recently learned that there are men in this country who still believe that periods are caused by a bad diet. I assure you this is all very necessary.

    If the stance the school is taking is "free speech", is there any way to find where all these posters are up and pin a poster of your own right underneath as a response?

    Something like an arrow pointing at the quote with "This is why you should always save your anal play/sex for last if not wearing a glove or condom! Learn the facts, stay educated. Special thanks to [group] for taking the time and resources to advocate safe anal. #allyinaction" It might be easier to turn the message around than try to get someone from the school to have them all taken down.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn

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  • RanlinRanlin Oh gosh Registered User regular
    edited November 15
    ceres wrote: »
    I only recently learned that there are men in this country who still believe that periods are caused by a bad diet. I assure you this is all very necessary.

    whaaaaaaaaaaaaat

    Man, sex ed was at least decent here but I thought I was aware how bad it could be elsewhere...I didn't realize the bottom of the barrel was so deep.

    edit: typo

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  • Ken OKen O Registered User regular
    ceres wrote: »
    I only recently learned that there are men in this country who still believe that periods are caused by a bad diet. I assure you this is all very necessary.

    Not to derail but this line of craziness is fascinating. Like they believe too much fatty food will make you bleed? Don't eat those Doritos unless you have a tampon type stuff? I have so many questions.

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  • Magic PinkMagic Pink Tur-Boner-Fed Registered User regular
    Djeet wrote: »

    As an aside, I'm pretty sure the mouth has more bacteria than the butthole.

    There's your solution. Print up stickers, plaster them on the front of all their homophobic signs.

  • Fuzzy Cumulonimbus CloudFuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud Communications expert for the millennial generation Registered User regular
    Free speech most likely covers this whole thing. However, the specific message is frequently used to shame men who have sex with men and its pretty deplorable.

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  • kimekime Queen of Blades Registered User regular
    Magic Pink wrote: »
    Djeet wrote: »

    As an aside, I'm pretty sure the mouth has more bacteria than the butthole.

    There's your solution. Print up stickers, plaster them on the front of all their homophobic signs.

    I don't think I'd go this particular route to counter the posters. That's getting pretty close to "the only safe/good way to have sex is traditional penis-in-vagina sex," which is probably not the OP's intention :)

    I know that's not what you meant, but it's pretty easy to be misinterpreted that way when it's a continuation of the other poster.

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  • SophieSophieSophieSophie Registered User regular
    Orogogus wrote: »
    I don't think they're trying to get any other group banned, I think they're hoping to attack the college as being anti-free speech and anti-First Amendment, a narrative that's scoring points for the right.
    This - I think they are just trying to find a reason to pick a fight. They seem to revel in getting a rise out of people and being able to portray themselves as the victim.
    Orogogus wrote: »
    or in it as trolls and nothing else.
    Yes. But I think those are basically the same thing. The whole idea that you can do this kind of thing and defend it as 'free speech' is just trolling. Everyone knows that there are limits to free speech, and those should be when it creates an environment that is unsafe for others.

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