I am a member of the New Yorkers Against Fracking online rapid response team, as well as being on several other list-servs on the topic of high-volume hydraulic fracturing. My main mode of service to the cause is through commenting on articles and blogs, often using links to scientific findings to fight misinformation.
The topic is very contentious, both in my local area, unfracked Broome County NY along the fracked PA border, and inter/nationally. Especially in our local press comments, I am frequently accused of fear-mongering, or called a liar or stupid or similar, or asked personal questions in a hostile manner. I do not name-call in return, but often defend myself with documenting links to the facts that back up my commenting. I will not answer personal questions, which sometimes leads to badgering. I try not to let it bother me, but it does, especially when the commenter is local, as I use my real name and photo so these people could recognize me when I am out at a rally and several of them have a track record of harassing fracktivists in public.
Earlier this week, I spent way too much time in a back and forth commenting battle with someone who decided to branch out from my support of a local PA woman who leads citizen tours of local wellpads, compressor stations, and affected households to making all kinds of assumptions/accusations about my support of every other thought this woman has ever expressed. I patiently tried to explain that this woman had not been accused of any wrongdoing and I was not going to condemn her – which really set him off and led to a string of his questioning my judgment and my own values. It got ugly quickly and he was throwing around Hitler and cannibalism and child molestation, among other unsavory topics. And all these comments were landing in my inbox because they were through disqus. I realized I had to disengage and I wrote to the online publication in which the article appeared, asking them to remove my original comment and the string of replies. Then, I posted to my Facebook timeline about it to help calm down and my friends came to the rescue to support me. It’s now several days later and the comments have stopped, although I haven’t checked to see if our commenting has been deleted from the site. I’m still feeling a bit insecure because, while I know this person lives in my area, I’m not sure who it is, as he wasn’t using his real name. It’s known that several of the very vocal drilling proponents comment under multiple names, so it could very well be someone that I have seen disrupting local press conferences and rallies.
So now I am trying to get my equilibrium back with my commenting and trying to find the line between clearing up misinterpretations and “feeding the trolls.” It really bugs me not to clear up unfounded accusations, half-truths, and lies; I know that I won’t convince the person lobbing the attacks, but I want other readers to have access to accurate information. But I need a rest for now. I am continuing to comment, but not responding to replies. I’m actually trying not to even look at replies, by not posting to Facebook – which is the responding mechanism for Gannett papers, supposedly to keep things civil – or subscribing to follow posts. I should probably update my disqus preferences so that I don’t get emails from replies from them, either.
I’ll go this way for a while, or maybe permanently, if I have really (re)learned my lesson.