What goes into a great panel discussion? Since the launch of ABC News 24, television seems to be awash with talking heads analysing, opining, and pontificating on various issues. Hours and hours of podcasts are uploaded to the Internet emulating the pros to varying degrees of success. The best ones make it seem effortless. They happened to have three people who spontaneously erupted into an interesting, insightful discussion. Maybe there was a bit of heat. Maybe there were a few jokes. Maybe somebody said something so baffling it would merit a week of discussion.
Whatever it is that makes a panel discussion good was seriously lacking from How to Survive an Attack from an Internet Troll.
Hosted by Lip Magazine‘s Zoya Patel and with Melissa Wellham (Mamamia), Samantha Bradley (Woroni), and Joel Barcham (formerly of RiotACT), this was a bizarre discussion that meandered around discussing anything related to ‘trolling’ — loosely conceived as being ‘unpleasant behaviour online’. Thus, we’d skip swiftly from a discussion about people writing ‘Zoya Patel is an anagram of Lazy Poet’, through to ‘I hope you get AIDs’, and then through to rape threats. With nothing really anchoring the discussion, it was fitful and spasmodic.
If anything, we seemed to learn that ‘trolling’ was inflammatory behaviour from people who weren’t writers for organisations. In a moment of insight, Bradley noted that Mamamia is all but famous for writing troll posts. Here’s the description Mamamia gives of itself:
Unlike other women’s websites, we’re serious about making a difference. We pride ourselves on bringing you new perspectives on the issues but at the same time there are some social justice issues that guide our editorial and we care about deeply.
Here are some recent headlines:
- ‘The very young age at which little girls are asking for bras will break your brain’
- ‘The most ridiculous celebrity fitness selfie of all time’
- ‘The one thing Nigella Lawson wanted after her divorce’
- ‘He told her he wanted a divorce. This woman reacted in the most horrifying way’
- ‘This is why everyone in the USA hates Bindi Irwin right now’
Wellham’s answer: ‘Yeah… but that’s different.’
And despite believing that writing inflammatory content was wrong, Wellham admitted that she’d tried to troll some MRA websites but failed spectacularly.
None of the speakers really had a handle on the conversation despite being the targets of ‘trolls’. Thus, we ended up with a bit of a whingefest with some horrific behaviour (the rape and death threats) being almost trivialised in comparison to comments matter-of-factly listing every spelling mistake in an article. And when you’re really trying to grapple with the fact that the Internet is increasingly being exposed as an unsafe space for women (especially women with opinions), it shouldn’t really be that difficult to explore some interesting ideas.