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When Trolls Find You

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Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

I knew one day it would happen, and I was ready for it. I have read reports in the media about trolls attacking celebrities, journalists and writers – before and especially during Trump’s ascent to power. As a longtime activist for undocumented immigrants who is active in social media, I knew one day I would face an attack.

In years past, I got the occasional casual unsavory comment, the anonymous sneer. But they were isolated commentaries. A real troll attack came on a Friday afternoon almost two weeks ago.

I was responding to an article titled Latinos Visit Mosques, Pray and More to Show Support for Muslims posted by NBC Latino. I responded that it was true, because that is what I did that weekend! What seemed like an innocent and uplifting commentary, a show of solidarity for the Muslim community, mobilized trolls in a matter of minutes.

Mark Krikorian retweeted, “In the segregated women’s section, right? And with your head covered?”

I froze because I recognized that name.

Mark Krikorian is “a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues” and has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995, according to the organization’s website. CIS seeks to drastically reduce all immigration, both legal and undocumented. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, CIS is “the anti-immigrant movement’s premier think tank” and “routinely circulates pieces penned by white nationalists, Holocaust deniers, and material from explicitly racist websites.”

To reduce undocumented immigration, Krikorian advocates a policy of “attrition through enforcement.” As for legal immigration, he says the U.S. should “start at zero, and then admit only those narrowly defined categories of people whose admission is so compelling that we want to let them in despite the problems immigration can cause in a modern society.”  Read more about CIS here. 

The irony is Krikorian is of Armenian descent and was raised in Armenian communities just like our immigrant communities. 

At first, it was funny that a middle-aged, college-educated man would have time to taunt a non-famous person on a Friday afternoon. But it was clear I was in trouble.

I was tagged for trolling. After the tweet, three more menacing and anonymous tweets followed. Kipling‏@awokensaxon said “If you really want to get full points you need to marry your 60 year old uncle and have some inbred children. ‘In solidarity’.” (sic.)

Then, I braced for worse taunts. “Oh, boy! They are going to get sexual,” I thought. They did. More than 10 trolls joined in and even more re-tweeted.

How can you fight the hate trolls? It is frustrating, but the best thing you can do is ignore them. It is tempting to try to justify or explain or educate. But if real trolls come your way, your efforts at reason are a waste of time. Any response actually fuels the trolls. Let’s be direct; you basically cannot educate sociopaths and anonymous cowards.

My recommendation is to be brave and carry on. In your subsequent tweets, without responding to the trolls, construct a wider narrative that champions facts, true stories and good journalism. 

Report incidents of harassment to Twitter and Facebook, and block any troll that is a repeat offender.

You can review an expanded guide to combatting hate speech on social media by following this link.