New game: Trolling, or just that stupid?

It’s a question I often ask myself as I’m reading blog comments. This particularly facepalm-inducing instance occurred last night, as Greta Christina and I were giggling like 5 year olds over Santorum jokes. I then received the following tweet from Ed Clint, President of the Illini Secular Student Alliance:

I’m sure many of you would be delighted to explain to Ed how giggling about innuendo used to ridicule politicians with bigotted, homophobic, misogynistic platforms is different from reducing (almost always) women to nothing more to their genitalia and joking about a traumatic crime that affects 1 in 5 women, with said joking contributing to the culture that blames victims and encourages rapists.

So: Trolling, or just that stupid?


  1. screechy monkey says

    Well, whatever you do, don’t ever mention this in a speech. That would be abusing your mighty power as a speaker to victimize a poor defenseless student leader.

  2. Pteryxx says

    helLO, innuendo =/= rape jokes, because sex =/= rape. Are skeptics really this stupi- y’know, don’t answer that…

  3. says

    I thought more obvious would be the power difference in the two cases. Like, powerful one making joke about powerless one is less funny (and more douche-baggy) than powerless one making fun of powerful one.

    Guys rarely laugh about my dick jokes, hmm…must be doing something wrong.

  4. says

    Trolling AND stupid? And probably a little sexist too, since misogynists love to falsely accuse feminists of vile things as an excuse for their own fuckedupednessitude…

  5. screechy monkey says

    Remember, everyone:

    When we complain about sexism, we’re just whining about good fun dirty jokes that women who aren’t uptight prudes actually enjoy, no matter how much we insist that no, that’s not what we mean by sexism.

    When we make dirty jokes, it’s OMG SEXISM! GOTCHA!

    We’re all a bunch of humorless feminazis. Except when we’re a bunch of sexist jokesters.

  6. df says

    I don’t think he understands the definition of “sexual objectification” and I do not parse any of your jokes as either mentioning or implying “rape” in any form. I’m with @Improbable Joe. A troll and a stupid one at that.

  7. Gendo says

    Maybe not the right venue for this, but here goes…

    I’m trying to educate myself on these issues (of gender, sexism,etc.), because I feel they are important. If this isn’t the right sort of place to ask questions/get educated, I hope someone would be so kind as to point me to resources (preferably where I can ask questions) that might increase my understanding /knowledge.

    Thanks in advance.

  8. J. J. Ramsey says

    I could understand if he thought the santorum jokes were kinda shitty, but why the heck would he think they had anything to do with rape? Maybe @EdClint didn’t know what “santorum” now means. :shrugs:

  9. says

    While I have generally found the Rick Santorum jokes fairly harmless, I can understand the argument against it. Mellisa McEwan has an eloquent argument for why the Santorum jokes, which hing on the ‘ewwww, gross’ reaction is just more bullying. I think it’s amusing when the mainstream media does it because the joke isn’t understood by them. I think the jokes are mostly middle school snark, and Santorum spews such homophobic and bigoted bile that the remarks aren’t comparable.

  10. Pteryxx says

    If by “right sort of place” you mean “won’t ever hurt your feelings” then I don’t know one. If by “right sort of place” you mean “I know I’m going to screw up but I still want to be educated when it happens” then here, Almost Diamonds, Greta’s blog, Pharyngula or Skepchick would do just fine.

    I suggest clicking the tags marked “feminism” or “sexism” on these blogs, as this post is tagged, and read some along with some comments. That should give you a good-faith base.

  11. Pteryxx says

    …Nah, I don’t agree with Melissa on this one.

    I’m sure his family and friends love him very much, but his policy positions and casually expressed prejudices make him seem like a real fucking asshole, at least from where I’m sitting.

    Because *I* for one don’t see either fucking or assholes as bad things. In fact, I LIKE fucking and assholes, especially in combination. I don’t even see “santorum” as such a horrible thing. It’s perfectly harmless and natural (which Rick Santorum is not) unless you look at it in a sex-negative or homophobic way (which Rick Santorum most certainly does). Much like “douche” is a suitable insult because only misogynists think ladybits should be treated as disgusting.

    So, no thanks, but I’m fine with santorum. It’s the namesake I have a problem with.

  12. Gus Snarp says

    Ed Clint. Hmm. That name sounds familiar. I don’t think this is the first time he’s said something stupid. . .

  13. Gendo says

    Thanks to all of you for the suggestions. Unless you were raised by PBS WASPs as I was, I doubt you’d understand the sheer fear I had to overcome just to inquire. I’ll check these out.

    Thanks again!

  14. nathanlee says

    People are generally stupid.

    Thus I always lean towards stupid and trollish behavior as if they’re really just honest mistakes (usually mixed with arrogance, confusion, apathy, or whatever else). I try to keep in mind that this could apply to me at any time just as it could apply to you.

    So yeah, they’re really just that stupid.

  15. says

    specifically, if you want to ask non-loaded questions but want to learn stuff, asking in the Pharyngula Endless thread with the disclaimer you just posted here might get you good answers, depending on the mood in the room at any given time.

  16. Jeanette says

    Both. Trolling in the sense that he’s disingenuously trying to bait you into “understanding” that his misogynistic comments are “just jokes” like dirty santorum jokes, but stupid in that he can’t see the world of difference between those two things.

  17. says

    Ed Clint may be completely wrong (I don’t know because I deliberately skipped the Santorum jokes), but I think you owe it to him to be less dismissive. I’m gonna quote some Greta Christina at you…

    If you don’t agree that a comment or an incident really was sexist, say so. But keep your disagreement focused on the content of what you don’t agree with and why. Don’t attack us for the mere fact that we brought it up.

    Although come to think of it, you didn’t start criticizing his appearance or anything, you just said what he said was stupid, so it’s not quite the same.

  18. Praedico says

    I’m gonna go with ‘both’. He’s definitely trying to pick a fight,
    (“Oh, it’s okay when YOU make dirty jokes!”) but I think he’s doing that because he’s to stupid to realise that giggling over a bigot having his name redefined to mean something icky is hardly the same thing as consistent sexual harassment.

    Making jokes about politicians? Whatever next?!

  19. Joel Grant says

    Even Keith Olbermann is not above Santorum jokes.

    Just now, ending a segment, Keith says: “Next: Dan Savage on Rick Santorum…” [pauses a beat – throws up hands] … well, you know what I mean!”

  20. Pteryxx says

    Well, he said “it’s sexist”, “sexually objectify” and “make rape jokes”. First off, I don’t think it’s sexist because Santorum jokes have nothing to do with him being male, or santorum even. Anybody of any gender with a functioning backside can have anal sex. Second, I don’t think it’s sexually objectifying because nobody’s being treated as less than a person for sex. There’s nothing in santorum jokes about desire, nobody’s a target and nobody’s being harassed. Third off, it’s got nothing to do with rape. All those mental images of Republican candidates could be having perfectly consensual buttsex with each other.

    So, Ed Clint’s wrong, wrong and wrong, because DUH.

    If he wants to complain about it being childish and silly, that’s different. The whole “santorum” campaign is satire; it’s a way to not take this guy seriously. Because he says and believes things that would make some of us incoherent with rage if we couldn’t collectively laugh at his ass.

  21. Jeanette says

    I don’t agree with McEwan’s assessment, but I see what she’s saying and recognize that she’s arguing what she truly believes and everything she wrote is consistent with previous writing. It’s a point worth making even if I don’t agree with it.

    But I don’t think for a second that Ed Clint gives a shit about sexual objectification or sexism, he’s just trying to “catch” these bloggers being hypocritical (even though seeing hypocrisy here indicates a complete lack of understanding of these issues).

    A lot of skeptics rightly place an emphasis on trying to critically assess statements and not jump to conclusion based on who made the statement, as that is a common logical fallacy, but keeping in mind the sincerity of the person making the statement is important too. I don’t see someone genuinely concerned with an issue here, I see someone who doesn’t like that now skeptics are talking about sexism trying to dismiss the people who talk about it.

  22. says

    Can’t we just pretend he was perfectly sincere, and just registering his opinion? “It’s sexist to objectify political candidates and make rape jokes about them”… why, so it is! Glad we all agree on this subject, and since no one here is objectifying or making rape jokes, we can sit in the quiet enjoyment that we go among enlightened and civil fellow beings.

    I’m exercising my suspension of disbelief with great energy.

  23. eigenperson says

    I read the jokes. They appear to be sex jokes, not rape jokes. Either Ed Clint doesn’t know the difference between sex and rape, or he’s trolling.

    I hope he’s trolling.

  24. Jeanette says

    Yeah, seriously. The dripping insincerity of it is what makes it so icky. I like your approach of just agreeing with him and being done with it.

  25. carlie says

    I could understand if he thought the santorum jokes were kinda shitty,

    I see what you did there.

  26. Gus Snarp says

    Yep. That was it. There’s so much stupid flying around these days that I can’t keep it all straight.

  27. ambassadorfromverdammt says

    Another vote for both. Politicians are fair game for ridicule by the very nature of their profession. Ridicule is not cyberbullying.

  28. says

    I had to go back and look at the jokes, and I didn’t see any mention of rape at all (so he’s not just stupid, he’s a liar), and nothing objectifying either (though I think many people think objectification refers to any mention of another person in a sexual context [so he’s stupid]).

  29. says

    The hopeful part of me wants to hope that he’s neither stupid nor trolling but that he’s just one of many who hasn’t learned that sarcasm often doesn’t play on the internet.

    In light of all the less-than-enlightened debate re:misogyny going down in the online skeptical community of late, I kind of read this as an eye-rolling nod by a sympathetic mind to the childish, trolling, gotcha players running around crying hypocrisy and misandry where neither applies.

    Maybe naive, but without knowing a little more about where he’s coming from I hate to see him flayed for either stupidity or…uh, stupidity with a side of maliciousness when he may just be kind of tone deaf.

  30. Maria says

    Never assume malice when stupidity adequately explains the action.
    Never assume stupidity when ignorance explains the action.

    I’m not sure how anyone could be so ignorant as to confuse sex with rape, so I’m betting on stupidity.

  31. Alukonis, metal ninja says

    I think that Melissa is correct in her assessment that it’s bullying to use someone’s name, over which people do not have control unless they legally change them, to mock them. Also, as much as you may dislike Rick Santorum, he IS a natural product of evolution, as are we all. Furthermore, while you may enjoy fucking and assholes, you surely know that when Melissa said “fucking asshole” she meant “terrible person” and not “inserting a penis/finger/sex toy into a rectum.”

    You seem to be misrepresenting Melissa’s words to defend your usage of “santorum” because you like to use it. The fact that santorum, in the Dan Savage definition, exists and is not something you see as a bad thing, does not mean you aren’t mocking someone with their name in order to shame them.

    That said, I don’t know that it is necessarily a terrible thing to bully someone in a position of power. My feeling is that I side with Melissa and would avoid using bullying tactics, even towards people in positions of power. However, I feel this is a personal choice and if others want to giggle at Santorum having his name redefined because a gay blogger started a defamation campaign due to his (Santorum’s) raging homophobia, then fine, have at it.

    Also yes, I realize that sounds really passive-aggressive.

    TL;DR I agree with Melissa McEwan’s point, but I do not hold it against anyone making Santorum jokes.

  32. says

    Hi all – recently it has been made aware to me that there are a lot of good deals cheap lawn supplies online and I am very grateful for websites like this who take the time to make it easier for others to buy less expensive items online.

  33. Svlad Cjelli says

    Douching is easily overdone, and not entirely harmless. You should only be hyped on that idea if you do think women are low and dirty.

  34. John Horstman says

    There’s some sort of corollary to Poe’s Law concerning stupidity/trolling confusion that should perhaps be named (Poe’s Corollary?). Actually, I think both Poe’s Law and this kind of thing are special cases of a more general pattern where dissonance between the cultural context/frame of someone making a comment and some reading a comment causes confusion in the interpretation. If I’m the first to articulate it, I’d like to call it the Contextual Dissonance Principle.

    Definitely stupid, perhaps also trolling (as mentioned above, it’s a false dichotomy, unless you intended inclusive OR). I mean, there’s nothing “sexist” since most of the candidates (and Santorum specifically) are male, and men are not a marginalized social group, so the jokes aren’t functioning as part of an oppressive discourse like sexism. “In poor taste,” or, “Something to be avoided,” perhaps (though I would dispute those), but in no way “sexist”. I also see nothing about rape nor problematic sexual objectification in the examples Greta lists, so I’m not sure where that’s coming from (not-re-posted tweets?), though I do tend to think rape jokes are bad form, and always when they’re lazy and non sequiturs (has Santorum engaged in any rape apologism lately?). If his objection is to other tweets, I’m not sure why he was tweeting @ you guys; were you and Greta making objectifying/pro-rape tweets about Rick?

    It seems like maybe he’s projecting an “anal sex = rape” perspective, which itself is pretty demeaning for those who enjoy anal sex. The problem with labeling trolling is that one must read into intent, and there is no accurate, even-partly-objective way to measure intent (one can find suggestive statistical patterns over time, but still can’t make a certain determination about a specific instance). As such, I think we need to focus on impact when looking at trolling, and as such, this is both that stupid and trolling.

  35. John Horstman says

    Actually, the confusion of rape with “normal” sex is so widespread that we have a term for it: rape culture.

  36. John Horstman says

    I’ve been trying to convince people to start using “or” and “xor” to differentiate between inclusive and exclusive or for years, but it’s not a popular idea, perhaps in part because a lot of people aren’t aware of the distinction or (that’s inclusive) different possibilities in the first place.

  37. Svlad Cjelli says

    Awesome! If I had a lawn, or maybe a permanent residence so that I could keep grass in pots, and actually cared about mowing, I’d be all over that.

    Maybe I can live in a mower?

  38. John Horstman says

    Except it’s not “sexist”; it is perhaps rape-enabling, rape-apologetics, or otherwise objectionable, but to be sexist it would have to be functioning as part of a discourse that devalues/marginalizes/oppresses people on the basis of biological gender (i.e. sex), which, as political candidates are predominantly male and males are the privileged biological gender category in our society (the only misandrist discourses out there are highly localized and do not carry much cultural capital), it’s not. So if we take the sentiment as sincere and only tangentially related to the Santorum jokes, it’s still not true/accurate.

  39. says

    Is he not the loop as far as Santorum’s “google problem”? Because without that context the jokes are just really graphic and not particularly sensical. Maybe someone should tell him to google Santorum and then re-read the jokes before saying anything else.

    I’m voting ignorance although the fact that he’s expressed dislike for Jen’s blog and feminist stances before does not speak in his favor.

    If it is ignorance someone needs to explain what objectification is, what consent is and what a sense of humor is.

  40. says

    “xor” doesn’t carry an obvious pronunciation. That matters; for something to really take off, you want zero resistance (within the group you want to propagate it).

    Iirc, scholarly Latin had two separate words “aut” for exclusive or and “vel” for inclusive or — that being why the math infix symbol for inclusive or looks like a “v”.

  41. Azkyroth says

    I think the real question is whether he’s a motivated concern troll with an agenda or just an above-it-all smug hipster troll who thinks “principles-baiting” is hilarious.

  42. Azkyroth says

    Thus I always lean towards [“treating”?] stupid and trollish behavior as if they’re really just honest mistakes (usually mixed with arrogance, confusion, apathy, or whatever else).

    I’d say that’s an accurate assessment of your participation of the Mallorie thread.

  43. Azkyroth says

    I confess that I am unable entirely to apprehend the confused mental state from which arises the desire to pretend that people are sincere (or reasonable) who are blatantly neither.

  44. Azkyroth says

    Sufficiently severe stupidity is indistinguishable from malice. Sufficiently severe ignorance is indistinguishable from (and implies) stupidity.

  45. Azkyroth says

    I mean, there’s nothing “sexist” since most of the candidates (and Santorum specifically) are male, and men are not a marginalized social group, so the jokes aren’t functioning as part of an oppressive discourse like sexism.

    ….I seriously hope you don’t mean to imply that anti-male sentiment can never be sexist.

  46. freemage says

    You know, I’m willing to give audience to an argument against the “frothy mixture” campaign. But as soon as she called it “bullying”, I bailed.

    “Bullying” doesn’t mean “being cruel” or “being immature”. It very specifically means attacking an opponent who is unable to fight against you. It’s about the power-relationship, and by definition, cannot happen “up-ladder”.

    The day it is actually possible for Santorum to be ‘bullied’ by the gay community in this country is the day that progressives have won that fight and can move on.

  47. Quatguy says

    Trolls and lunkheads aside….santorum – a “flavour of the month” (yikes) joke candidate and a great source of comedic material. What is scary though is that he speaks to and resonates with a significant percentage of americans (~25% of the voting republicans in iowa! + similar numbers in many other red states?). Just imagine how twisted your world view would have to be for you to see this guy as a good choice for president! That’s scary! Not only does he want to regulate your personal sexual practices, and set up a theocratic government for the rich god-fearing business class, if he were president, he would control nuclear weapons. The world has enough crackpots in charge without adding (another) religous-headed prick to the pile. How would it look to the rest of the world if you googled the name of president santorum only to come up with “a frothy mixture….”. Talk about exporting american prestige and exceptionalism abroad.

  48. Azkyroth says

    Maybe naive, but without knowing a little more about where he’s coming from I hate to see him flayed for either stupidity or…uh, stupidity with a side of maliciousness when he may just be kind of tone deaf.

    I think you owe those of us who are actually tone-deaf an apology.

  49. Happiestsadist says

    That’s about my stance as well. It would be bullying if there were some mean gay mafia had the kind of power over Frothy Mix that he wants to hold over, ohhhh, every queer in the US. So IDGAF if it hurts his poor feelings.

  50. Happiestsadist says

    I blame the fact that it’s after 2 am here for my having to cover my mouth to avoid waking the household with the giggling this produced. Well played.

  51. Happiestsadist says

    I think both. He’s attempting to be trolling, but he’s in fact too stupid to make a remotely coherent point of it.

    And I’m really kind of creeped out by him claiming there’s a rape joke in there. Seeing as santorum (the substance) doesn’t require coercion. Does he always have trouble discerning consent, or just when he’s attempting to make a weaksauce rape-themed joke of his own?

  52. Happiestsadist says

    No, it’s not really possible. With the lack of actual power to oppress.

    This is, of course, contingent on whether we’re talking the preferred academic definition of sexism, which requires social power and oppression to be factored in.

    Or if we’re referring to the “anti-male sentiment” MRAs like to pretend exists.

    Or the actual contempt that traditional masculinity holds for men.

  53. says

    Right. It’s not bullying, it’s fighting back. This is the monster who equated sex between adults of the same gender with bestiality and who does everything in his power (and he does have power!) to make gays subhuman. I can’t believe someone was stupid enough to call it bullying.

  54. Azkyroth says

    I was using the common definition of gender-based prejudice.

    But, as far as your definition, how about the idea that the rape of a man by a woman is impossible or irrelevant?

  55. Azkyroth says

    Or, for that matter, policies which explicitly define “sexual harassment” solely as something male students do to female students, and thus leave male students with no recourse (for either male-male or female-male harassment)? That was actually the policy of Cordova Lane Elementary School and I believe the general Folsom Cordova School District when I attended. Are you seriously prepared to argue that this wasn’t oppressive merely because male privilege exists as a general condition?

  56. Azkyroth says

    (Or, more generally, even if for no apparent reason we restrict ourselves to discussing the specialized term-of-art sense of a word that’s understood to refer in a broader sense to a common-experience phenomenon, anti-male bigotry absolutely has power to oppress when coupled with other kinds of power imbalances. I’m amazed I even have to point that out.)

  57. sambarge says

    Yeah. The oft-repeated term is:

    Satire speaks to privilege/power, not from it.

    When privilege attempts humour at the expense of the un-privileged, it’s just bullying or harassment.

  58. jolo5309 says

    The bigger question is, why does a thread about Rick Santorum draw a mower supplies spam bot? Do people that like Rick Santorum have grass fetishes and like to keep it neatly trimmed?

  59. happyathiestmommy says

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoy that phrase. I’ll have to remember it.

  60. thepint says

    I’d also suggest familiarizing yourself with common derailing tactics that pop up quite often in discussions about feminist issues (or pretty much any issue tackling discrimination of a marginalized group). It’ll probably help in understanding terms that appear often in these discussion and hopefully help you avoid any pitfalls or accidentally using one of these tactics, which often results in people being (understandably) not so friendly. Good luck!

  61. Happiestsadist says

    I’m really failing to see where you got that. Try not to put so very many words in my mouth, mmmkay?

    The rape of men by women is a thing. A rare enough thing that it’s usually only brought up by sexists who seem to like using the trauma of their fellow men as a gotcha and a way to divert from the much more common types of rapes, but a serious crime. The complications in reporting and social stigma are all about the perception of woman on man rape being impossible within our sexist society.

  62. Happiestsadist says

    So once again, you’re reaching for rarities and exceptions grounded in misogynist perceptions to back up your non-point.

    You haven’t a leg to stand on, and you’re embarrassing yourself.

  63. Happiestsadist says

    And of course, as should be obvious (though I suspect it might not be), I absolutely condemn those rare policies, as the assumption of men as only being capable of aggression is itself incredibly antifeminist.

    Stupid, incredibly poorly-thought-out, an abuse of power to some extent. And ultimately sexist. But I think we may be thinking so for different reasons.

  64. spdoyle17 says

    Gave myself a coughing fit laughing there… But, would santorum on the grass be about as bad as certain canine urine? I’m pretty sure anything named santorum would bleach the lawn and kill any wildlife that tried eating off of it.

  65. Azkyroth says

    You said “never.” Now you’re backpedaling to “rarely.”

    I think we’re done here.

  66. says

    I think the difference is that Santorum is in a position of power. If you’re running for president, you deserve to get criticized. Hell, if you’re running for public office, people are going to hold you accountable. Doing some random puns and snarky jokes about the Dan Savage definition of Santorum is fairly on-par with what usually happens. Make threats about rape? Those are not okay. The original text mentioned rape, and I wouldn’t support that type of threatening against any person, even one whose opinions are as heinous at Santorum’s are.

  67. Allie says

    Like this? “But but but, why do we need feminism when we have humanism?”

    /reddit douchbaggery

  68. says

    I ask for more and more people would make a note websites such as this that are in truth taking study. With all the thistledown floating almost on the net, it’s uncommon to look on the locate like yours rather.

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