I rarely feed trolls. It is just validating their efforts with undeserved attention. Not that I have to deal with them on the quietblog site, but sometimes when my posts are picked up by larger sites, the comments section occasionally includes the odd comment that makes me seriously doubt the commenter actually read the article. I really hate being misrepresented, so it is tempting to try to explain myself further with another carefully thought out mini-essay at this point. But then I think if they didn’t read the original article properly, why waste time writing something else they won’t read either? Instead I make do with a shake of the head and reassure myself that the comment is self-evidently stupid so I don’t have to say anything. I sometimes see the same level of stupidity in the comments section of other articles I read and have got quite good filtering them out like garbage.
But this approach was tested sorely recently, when one of my precocious students was featured in a newspaper article about the Hobart Taspride march. Ada was interviewed and gave some intelligent answers on her feelings around equality, including making mention of the posts she has written on her own blog page.
While I obviously have pretty strong views about this issue myself, I don’t push these on students, but encourage them to get informed about issues so we can discuss them. I was extremely proud of Ada and her friends for wanting to show support for a cause they thought was important.
Now the comments section of an online newspaper articles rarely make edifying reading, but since it applied to one of my students I resignedly clicked on the link. I wasn’t surprised but I was still disappointed by what I found. The majority of comments were supportive and praising of Ada and her friends for standing up for what they believed in and for taking an interest in the world outside Instagram, but there were also the expected detractors who condescendingly dismissed Ada’s involvement as tokenistic and exploitative.
This is really a case of finding a reason to attack a peaceful demonstration of support for a minority group. It is a pretty safe bet that those making these comments are opponents of LGBTI rights, as opposed to child welfare enthusiasts who don’t have an opinion on the matter (as people primarily concerned about children wouldn’t be publicly denigrating them by implying they are stupid in the newspaper).
Of the comments critical of Ada’s involvement, not one person took a moment to try to actually refute anything she said with a logical counterargument. Their only criticism was that at 12 years of age, she was too young to have an opinion or to be heard (they should have just said, “Children should be seen and not heard,” and been done with it).
This is pretty simplistic. I have worked with many 12-year-olds who have better literacy standards, maturity, self-control and global awareness than a lot of adults. Don’t tell them they don’t have a right to express their beliefs just because you don’t think they are old enough. Actually that is worse than simplistic. It is age-based discrimination, but then I guess those who want to find a reason to criticise a gay pride march are pretty comfortable with discrimination- just as long as it isn’t being done to them.
Instead of limiting children based on our own prejudice, how about encouraging them to learn about the world they are part of and challenging them to be ambitious about how they want to affect it? Age on its own doesn’t guarantee rational thinking (otherwise we wouldn’t have One Nation voters), any more than youth prevents it. Ada happens to be a highly intelligent and mature student who has done considerable research about a number of issues to do with equality (I can also testify from personal experience that it is very difficult to get her to do anything she doesn’t want to do). But those who patronisingly dismissed her opinion because of her age were happy to make their disparaging comments without knowing anything about that.
I should also I add I am a little sceptical about the moral indignation these people have around exploitation and welfare of children. One of the bigot groups’ favourite arguments against marriage equality has been the disingenuous claims about the right of children to have a mother and father. As this is both an emotive and deliberate piece of sophistry, playing on our natural instinct to care for children even though it isn't related to marriage equality, this is blatant exploitation in itself. And you can’t claim to be concerned about children’s welfare, whilst opposing the Safe Schools Program which can be vital for some children, itself.