Trolls, it would seem, lurk everywhere. They pounce when you least expect it and not just in the digital realms.
This weekend, I had my first experience of a troll. At least, that is how I am choosing to categorise him. I knew when I wrote this piece and submitted it to my local paper that not everybody would agree with me. Vaccination is an emotive subject for many and every man and his dog has a tale of woe to tell about it.
Now, educated debate I can handle. Constructive criticism is a way of life for a writer. If we are ever to improve our craft, we need honest feedback and guidance on how we could have done things differently. But personal insults are never called for.
Sadly, that is exactly what happened this weekend. An individual, passionate about the evils of vaccination decided to pepper his response to my article in a letter to the Editor with abuse that called for readers to ‘treat me with the contempt with which I deserved’, claimed I was an ‘apologist’ for vaccine manufacturers and ‘to get out more’.
Okay, so worse things have been said at sea. I was prepared to just laugh it off and leave him to stew in his own bile. But the inaccuracy of his arguments against vaccination really started to get under my skin. This was an area I felt passionate about and I just couldn’t let it lie.
So I have responded. I made sure to spell his name correctly (a courtesy he failed to extend to me) and I simply stated the facts about Andrew Wakefield, subsequent studies into MMR and autism and the realities of herd immunity. I resisted serving a volley of abuse back.
So my question to you, dear readers, is this: Do you feed the trolls in the hope that nourishing them with good, wholesome facts will enlighten them? Or do you walk away hoping everyone will see them for what they are?