CONSIDER THIS: The sadness of trolling

Managing Editor

Michael Rodriguez

Michael Rodriguez

Considering the times we live in, internet trolling is no longer a shocking phenomena. Trolling, for those of you who are unaware, is an anti-social behavior that consists of posting inflammatory comments on the internet—usually on message boards, social media sites, blogs and everywhere else on the web—in an attempt to disrupt and dismay.

So the question is why someone would do such a thing? There are educated theories, of course, but it really comes down to attention—trolls seek it; trolls crave it. Some of the trolls are probably getting a kick out of the fact that I’ve devoted a column to their antics. And I know what you’re thinking: Why did I feed them?

By writing this piece, I realize that it may only serve to give these people the attention they desire. However, I’m also inclined to explain why certain comments are edited, and in some cases deleted.

First, take into consideration that we often incorporate a zero tolerance policy in the event of name-calling, obscenities, socially degrading commentaries and racist remarks. There are also a number of derogatory comments that, sometimes after reading the first few sentences, automatically get trashed.

There are others who have also pretended to be other people. Again, none of this should surprise us anymore. Still, if it’s obvious to us that you’re not who you say you are, say goodbye to your comment.

Although there have been plenty of times when a comment flies under our radar, readers often call to alert us of the situation. If you’re one of those people, thank you for caring enough to call and express your concerns.

I have even been visited by commenters who introduced themselves to me just to prove they’re not who other bloggers on the website say they are. Folks, just because someone agrees with the suspension of San Benito CISD Superintendent of Schools Antonio G. Limón doesn’t mean that person is San Benito CISD Board President Yliana González or Board Secretary June Aguilera.

They’re just expressing their opinion, which happens to differ from yours.

Still, I can appreciate the heated commentary given the fact that it displays a passion for one’s community and a desire to see it succeed. What I cannot appreciate are the comments that attack people’s social status, age, sexual orientation, physical condition, personal life and their faith.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve incurred the unfortunate task of reading some of the most despicable things from people whose sole purpose was to start a flame war (a heated argument occurring over the internet). They attempt to do this by baiting people who they knew would take offense. What’s sad is that some of these individuals (yes, I know who a lot of you are) are twice my age.

So … How exactly does a man or woman in their 50s and 60s not feel silly about resorting to school-yard antics when insulting, and sometimes even poking fun at people’s disabilities?

One word: Cowardice.

This reminds me of one gentleman who had just enough guts to call and complain about one of his comments being edited but not nearly the amount needed to give his name.

“If you’re going to edit my comments and remove words even though nothing is wrong with them, then just don’t post them at all,” he said.

When I asked for his name, he refused. When I asked for the name he commented under, he again refused. My response: “Well, how can I answer your question and properly address your concern if I don’t even know who you are and what you’re talking about?”

Believe it or not, I get a lot of phone calls just like this one. In fact, my favorite callers are the ones who talk really loud and hang up before I even have a chance to respond. I’m sure these people, in their minds, think they’ve won some sort of imaginary war of words with me. Meanwhile, their comments remain deleted.

Commenting on is a privilege you should not abuse. If you’re incapable of responding to our stories intelligently and without resorting to degrading, inflammatory comments, then the problem ain’t with us.

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    • Jim Howell on August 29, 2013 at 8:57 pm
    • Reply

    Mr. Rodriguez your absolutely right. Oscar Medrando better start asking all the vendors for political donations starting now because he’s going to need it. That maybe difficult since all his vendor friends are out and under indictment ( investigation ” Bob Trevino” .. Oops, lets see if the editor gets this through his ” awaiting moderation” .. That’s the truth.. The investigation should be focused on Oscar and his friends taking trips and partying at Bob Trevino’s condo at the Island and the only reason why people know is because they’re so arrogant that they boast about it .. Now that’s self indulgence at the expense of the school district.

    • Leo Rodriguez on August 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm
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    Reliable sources have confirmed extremely capable and trustworthy candidates will be running for school board seats. Certain folks need to start emptying their lockers.

    • Edith on August 29, 2013 at 7:02 am
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    To mr. Editor: your words were perfectly said …”community content with being held in the dark”… We want to be informed and the majority on the SBCISD school board should hear our words. They campaign about change but all they have done is CREATED A MESS! What happened to working together? Very sad times in San Benito.

    • Javier Sanchez on August 28, 2013 at 9:10 pm
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    Mr. Editor,

    The comment by RSB was written some time back in May or April. Somehow it seems to have been conveniently disappeared or deleted. I imagine that as an editor you are to remain as neutral as possible when it comes to certain issues; however, your columns clearly display your personal stance and show how biast you are. It is because of this that politicians seldom comment because their comments will either be misconstrued or blatantly altered. You are very transparent in showing what board members you support.

    1. These politicians I can only assume you speak of have also been tight-lipped with all other media outlets. Are all reporters biased, Mr. Sanchez? Our elected officials are not only responsible for the governing bodies in which they serve but to also explain their actions to the public, especially in controversial circumstances. No amount of blame levied at local media outlets will change that. In fact, I’d venture to say that blaming everyone but themselves for largely avoiding the media is a cop-out.

      Take into further consideration the fact that we have never “blatantly altered” officials’ comments. We even go as far as to read the individuals’ remarks back to them to ensure accuracy and promote awareness. Whoever told you such a fairy tale–that is, of course, if someone did feed you this nonsense–outright lied.

      Yes, I express my opinion in the form of a column. Yes, I have criticized board members for their actions and inactions. Expressing as much is clearly a personal stance, but is it biased or somehow prove that I support other officials? I assume those who would disagree with my opinions conveniently believe that to be the case. Reality says otherwise. Just because I disagree with decisions that could have a lasting effect on the community, and because I choose to hold accountable the people who make those decisions and who have also refused to answer to the public regarding those decisions doesn’t mean that I’m somehow in cahoots with your opposition. This is a matter of accountability, Mr. Sanchez. I suggest that all journalists hold the public officials who serve in their coverage areas accountable as well. The lack of such action can only further perpetuate apathy and a stagnant community content with being kept in the dark. Shame on anyone who argues otherwise.

      Regarding the RSB comment, narrowing down the months to April and May helped locate the comment in question, and it will soon be edited in accordance with your concerns. It had not “conveniently disappeared” nor was it deleted. That, Mr. Sanchez, was simply more fiction on your part.

        • Reform San Benito on August 29, 2013 at 11:57 am
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        Mr. Editor, out of curiosity, will you be staying up indefinitely ’til midnight — or later — combing the archives for objectionable comments? Shouldn’t people be required to object at the time a comment is made, or is 4-5 months after the fact reasonable? If such a lengthy time expires between comment and objection, and the complaint is so vague as to not state the exact comment, how can you be certain which comment is being objected to? Without specific reference to a comment, you may be editing the wrong comment. After all, many can find my comments objectionable!

        Specificity and timeliness of any objection should be required or SB News staff will have to scour the archives for comments to edit that already once withstood editorial scrutiny prior to publishing. With all of your current responsibilities, is it reasonable to expect you to also take on the duties of censor? There are recourses for those who feel wronged by public comments, one of which is to reply, pointing out the errors. Another would be to file suit, which would expose all phone records, texts and emails to the scrutiny of the public and the courts.

        With all due respect, Mr. Editor, this and every other publication that provides a public forum; that exists and publishes under the protection of the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech, should not engage in censorship of every comment simply because it might inflame the delicate sensibilities of some. This is San Benito! If I comment “it’s hot outside,” someone will take offense and berate me. Vulgarity and obscene remarks are understandable. But where is the line between moderation and censorship?

        Aside from that highly debatable topic, I am amused that Mr. Sanchez is speaking in defense of a public official who cannot be bothered speaking to the public officially. How ironic.

        1. Good points, RSB. Consider, however, that all submissions–whether they be freelance stories, op-eds, letters to the editor or website comments–are subject to editing. This does not equate to censorship nor does it infringe upon your freedom of speech. You have the right to say and think what you want, but this publication also reserves the right to edit your comments. We’re just going to have to agree to disagree on what warrants editing and deletion.

          In case you were wondering, it didn’t take me very long to find the comment Mr. Sanchez was referring to once I had a time frame to work with, so I wouldn’t necessarily say it was unreasonable for me to research the matter. I would do the same for you, after all.

            • Reform San Benito on August 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm
            • Reply

            Believe I found the same quickly, as well. But then it made me wonder, “Is this the comment or a different one he’s objecting to?” That’s what prompted the thoughts above. Your editing never really impacted me, though there are times when I have reread my comments after they posted and wished you had edited…even deleted!

            1. Haha … Let me know which comments you’re referring to and I’ll take it under advisement.

    • Reform San Benito on August 28, 2013 at 9:05 pm
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    @That Lady and We The People: Thank you for your kind comments.

    I cannot speak on the values taught in the homes of some, but I do observe and draw my conclusions.

    All I know is, if I carried on like some of our elected officials, my parents would take away my computer, cancel my membership to the American Society of Trolls, and evict me from their basement.

    • WeThePeople on August 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm
    • Reply

    The mayor of the City of Progreso, his father and brother have been arrested on federal charges of mail fraud, theft, bribery and conspiracy, officials said. Mayor Omar Leonel Vela,his brother Michael “Mikey” Vela, the president of the Progreso ISD school board and their father Jose Guadalupe “Lupe” Vela, the maintenance director for Progreso ISD and were arrested this morning at their Progreso homes, a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office shows. The indictment accuses the men of working a pay for play corruption scheme using the city and the school board as leverage to collect kickbacks in exchange for contracts.

    With any luck, the Feds will come to our town SOON !!

      • Reform San Benito on August 28, 2013 at 9:08 pm
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      What makes you think the Federales are not all ready here?

    • That Lady on August 27, 2013 at 9:44 pm
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    @Reform San Benito: Thank you for your comments. I do not know your identity but your words speak the truth. Rodriguez-Gonzalez has and will continue to shame Mr. Limon to leave. She and her puppets will pay out a huge settlement for the mess they have created. What she and her puppets did before graduation is lower than dirt. Where are the values that were taught to them? They are loooong gone. How in the world do those people sleep at night and how can this community let this go on. Speak up community…. they do not represent my values… and by the way, the value of my homes continues to decrease every time those people talk.

  1. As the wizard said in the Wizard of OZ: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”

    • Reform San Benito on August 27, 2013 at 1:55 pm
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    Mr. Sanchez, for the record, two things: First,I am not a member of “Mr. Limon’s klan.” Never did I comment on school district issues until Mr. Limon started being bullied by the current majority. Had they simply bought out his contract from the beginning, as one trustee mentioned shortly after the majority was formed, I probably would have remained silent on district issues. Instead, they started gradually stripping him of his duties in an effort, I suspect, to publicly humiliate him and force him to resign. Then they suspended him just before graduation — as the ultimate slap in the face — on the pretense of having the DA investigate him. As we all know, the DA declined to investigate him. Still they continue to bully him but they can no longer humiliate him; now they humiliate themselves. Yet it is our district, our children, who will bear the ultimate price for their ignorance and incompetence.

    Secondly, if any board member is having a personal relationship with a “vendor,” and that board member influences other members and speaks on behalf of and votes in favor of the vendor, then the relationship ceases to be personal and becomes a relationship with a conflict of ethical proportions. Hope you see the difference, Mr. Sanchez.

    • Reform San Benito on August 27, 2013 at 11:22 am
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    Decisions, decisions. Part of me wants to blurt out my name, lest anyone feel I’m a coward. Not much worse than a coward in my book aside from a liar, thief and someone who abuses the public’s trust for their own gain.

    Used to blog under my own name, then I watched a citizen get arrested on a bogus charge after he made a criminal complaint against the mayor. When the mayor threatened him and a friend, the SBPD did nothing about it. If it wasn’t for the media coverage bringing the threats to light, the mayor would have gotten away scot free.

    Before that, I read on this very site a comment by a citizen using his real name, I suppose, that was responded to by as assistant city manager in the middle of the work week during business hours, and still works for the city. Not only did he attack the citizen in his response, he attacked the citizen’s family member. This is the same assistant city manager who oversees the police department who arrested one citizen for a bogus harboring a runaway charge while letting the mayor threaten two citizens with fire and death without doing anything.

    These are just two prime examples of why I blog under this assumed name. There are other examples: The mayor having the former mayor’s name removed from a plaque for acknowledging the current mayor’s forfeiture over the property tax issue. The current mayor didn’t stop there; he also fired the attorney who gave the advice on the tax issue as his first official act upon re-election, and removed the two former city commissioners, who also acknowledged his forfeiture, from their positions on the EDC board even though their terms were not up.

    Want to talk about cowardice? Let’s look at the school trustees. Gonzalez and her three merry puppets are never available for comment. When was the last time this community heard from either Huerta regarding the controversies at the school district? Gonzalez? Aguilera? Usually we get “no comment,” or, “Can’t discuss that because it was discussed in closed session.” Where is the courage of their convictions to stand up and inform the public why they are doing what they are doing? This community demanded an investigation into that insurance letter Gonzalez wrote but she hid like a coward behind the corrupt majority she controls.

    There are lots of people in this community who know my identity. There are people who know my identity who I never told, and there are strangers I never met, save through social media, to whom I revealed my identity knowing full well they might tell others. I blog anonymously, not out of fear that I can’t support my comments, but to avoid the types of retaliation we have witnessed take place in this community. It’s the reason why so many blog anonymously.

    Mr. Sanchez, until this community is reformed and people can speak their minds without fear of reprisal, I, as well as others, will undoubtedly blog anonymously. In the mean time, feel free to ask any blogger for proof of any matter asserted. Personally, I try not to state something as fact unless I can prove it. Feel free to read my comments and tell me I’m full of chitlins if you don’t agree. Feel free not to read these comments if they offend you. And, by all means, if people are tired of reading my comments, please tell me. I have other things I should be doing anyway!

      • WeThePeople on August 28, 2013 at 10:46 am
      • Reply

      RSB: Tell it Like it IS ! Your comments are spot on about the hatefulness of many in this community. Some are even so called leaders. What they have done to Mr. Limon is outrageous, and hopefully the citizens have had enough of Chuy and the gang.
      Even the Editor of this paper will tell you that he has been attacked publicly and privately several times for taking a stand on issues. I don’t blame anyone for using a pseudonym. There are too many haters out there to do anything else. Otherwise you might get photographed, threatened or attacked!
      Such are the unforeseeable vicissitudes of life.

    • Leo Rodriguez on August 26, 2013 at 10:55 pm
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    Article well articulated Mr. Editor, I share your concerns and heartbreak as to how bloggers denigrate each other. But in reference to Mr. Sanchez’s comments, bloggers will continue to insult and humiliate other, primarily due to the fact that they are hiding behind pseudo names. Has there been any thought as to only allow comments submitted by bloggers using true identity? As I commented on here previously, I used to post under a pseudo, but opted to use my real identification, due to the fact that I did not want to “hide behind the curtain”.

    Unfortunately, these bewildering slinging comments will continue if no changes are made. With that being said I can appreciate the fact that SB News does not want to silence citizens in expressing their concerns.

    I Guess we will have to continue to be amused, entertained, or ticked off by fellow bloggers.

    • Paul T. on August 26, 2013 at 9:57 pm
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    Good job Mr. Editor!

    • Javier Sanchez on August 26, 2013 at 9:38 am
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    Mr. Editor,
    Why the change of heart when up until recently bloggers were allowed to insult and humiliate each other, especially certain board members? The Huertas have been called ghetto and much worse. How do we know these bloggers are the actual person they claim to be? For example, “Reform San Benito” (Mr. Limon’s klan), is allowed to post many times and if I remember back in May he was even allowed to make allegations about the board president and the new attorney, claiming that he was the board presidents love interest. If you claim not to comment on their personal lives then how was this allowed?

    1. “Although there have been plenty of times when a comment flies under our radar, readers often call to alert us of the situation. If you’re one of those people, thank you for caring enough to call and express your concerns.”

      As I mentioned in my column, some comments fly under our radar. Still, I’m not sure what your concern would be with the number of times RSB posts (it’s not as if there’s a limit), but I’d be more than happy to look into the allegations you mentioned. Do you recall when this comment was made and in which post?

      Also, we wouldn’t necessarily red flag a word like “ghetto;” it’s not considered obscene nor is it a form of name calling. Would you like to direct me to the “much worse” you’re referring to?

      And this is not a “change of heart,” Mr. Sanchez. This is how we’ve moderated the comments since the feature has been available on I would venture to say that you won’t find other publications making such an effort.


  3. Not only cowardice, but might also be folks getting a kick of starting trollish arguments. Those said people want to feel good about starting that sort of thing and instead of using civilized debate, they fling themselves into the act of trolling.

    Also, there are others who want to vent about things and feel more comfortable behind the mask of anonymity and troll. Or actually decent debate.

    At least you are acknowledging them in a reasonable manner and not sinking to their level. It might not stop things, but it just might make them think twice. Nothing is more fatal to a ‘net troll than making them look silly, and turn their vitriol into something meaningful, educational, or witty.

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