I’m quite impressed by the Internet. We live in wondrous times. The World Wide Web allows us unprecedented access to information – some of which even bears a passing resemblance to fact. On the other hand, it is also populated by pundits who could charitably be called Unhinged.
This was brought painfully home in a story that has been making the rounds during the past week. The first image of a Black Hole was published. The image was the result of the painstaking work of Katherine Bouman, a 29-year-old postdoctoral fellow at MIT who is a part of the team who worked to capture the image.
A staggering scientific achievement given that the image is of an object which cannot be seen with normal telescopes and is 55 million light-years away in the Messier 87 galaxy. The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes — captured the image
Of course, this being the Internet the Trolls came out to play almost immediately.
Mysoginistic Reddit posts like one below and Twitter comments began to surface (and this is one of the more restrained):
“Notice something? Yeah, that woman wrote about 2,000 lines of code total. Another guy wrote over 850,000. Katie barely worked on the project at all until late last year, Andrew Chael worked on it relentlessly from its conception.
“If anyone deserves the credit, it’s him,” one Reddit user, SmellyTheBluCow, wrote.
Fortunately, Andrew Chael leaped to his colleague’s defense:
“If you are congratulating me because you have a sexist vendetta against Katie, please go away and reconsider your priorities in life – Andrew Chael”
Bouman and her colleagues clarified, in no uncertain terms, that the black hole image was a team effort. In all, more than 200 scientists from all over the world worked on it.
Now I have a serious problem with these Trolls – and I would like to express some opinions on their reactions.
There is an old saw about placing an infinite number of monkeys into a locked room for an infinite amount of time (with typewriters) and the result would be the production of Shakespeare’s greatest works (The Infinite Monkey Theorem). This exercise in the exploration of Chaos Theory and infinity/Time may have some value in pigeonholing the attitudes of the darker and more basement bound of the commentators.
The analogy may not work perfectly but bear with me. If you locked up those monkeys and had an infinite amount of time – and at some point in the far distant future checked on them you would witness a result that would neatly mirror the approach and end result of entertaining the Ambulatory Pieces of Excrement who find Twitter and Reddit such fertile ground.
- If you locked up these imbeciles (and there’s a great idea) you would not land up with the collected works of the Bard. You would end up with a full collection of Mills and Boons books and an ‘Illustrated Companion to the Shades of Grey Series.’
- You would also open the door to a room waist high in monkey feces.
Now there are two types of reaction when reading the comments of these Twitter attention whores.
- ‘WTF did I just read?’
- ‘He may have a point.’
If your reaction places you into the second group I have a few choice words. He doesn’t have a point. He has a statement that displays a complete lack of research and a crippling sense of self-doubt based on rock-solid misogyny.
So what do we do about these people? The answer is literally nothing. Although I am commenting on the situation here (and thus contradicting myself) – the best approach is to simply ignore them. Don’t talk about them, do not interact with them.
These are people who suffer from what I like to call ‘The Politicians Curse’. They are narcissistic in the extreme. They crave attention. It doesn’t matter if that attention is positive or negative – the fact that they have that ‘look at me’ moment is enough. Any sort of affirmation of their existence feuls their deviant world outlook.
Ignore them and they will go away – they will fall victim to another classification I use – a “Self-Correcting Problem.” This is the same category that reptile lovers fall into when they insist that ‘Burmese Pythons are misunderstood and all they need is intimacy and understanding from human beings.’ They tend to remove themselves from the Gene Pool extremely quickly.
Starve them of attention and they disappear. They are Chernobyl Sunflowers. They will twist themselves towards the sun. It could expand and fill the sky and they would still keep facing it as they burst into flame. It’s not growth they’re looking for – it’s simple attention.
I have absolutely no doubt that within a very short time some left-wing Neo-Fascist from some American East Coast institution of higher learning will accuse me of ‘Mansplaining’ the situation Through a mouthful of Kale and peering myopically from under a head of hair that is having its own private party, that individual will accuse me of being part of a patriarchal approach that denies women the empowering option of defending themselves.
So, it seems to be a case of between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea. But here’s the thing – I actually could not give a mouse fart about the opinions of two or more individuals who represent the gibbering, bed soiling lunatic fringe.
Here is another of the analogies that I trot out every now and then (full of them today). Keep in mind baked goods and once again bear with me. You can take two confectionery productions, cover them with two different flavours of icing – but when you cut into them you will quickly discover that under all that interesting sugar infused goodness both are still crazy cakes. Crazy remains crazy no matter the packaging.
So just leave them be – they disappear up their own assholes at reconciliation as my departed father used to say – but they do test my psychic resilience.