By Charlie Angus
Now I know that online commentary isn't generally known for its erudite reflection. After all, troll culture seems to revel in trashing everyone. Thus, some might say, First Nation readers shouldn't be so sensitive. But if you read through the comments it is impossible not to recognize a relentless pattern of malevolent attacks that would be considered inexcusable if they were used against other social, ethnic or religious minorities.
Let's compare response to recent natural disasters. Online commentators responded to the natural disasters in places like Oklahoma, Bracebridge or Alberta with an outpouring of comments that were very heartfelt and moving.
And yet, when two communities in my region--Attawapiskat and Kashechewan--were hit by flash flooding earlier this spring, the pages were overwhelmed with vicious glee.
The online consensus was that the families who were flooded out by failed sewage lifts were actually responsible for the flood--either out of either deviousness or mental decrepitude.
"And so the annual spring shopping evacuation begins," wrote one troll. "The only reason the problem never gets addressed is b/c it would take away the annual reason for evacuating south at government expense!"
"I guess the gasoline, drugs and alcohol made them stupid," wrote another. "Talk about inept!!"
"I hope their cigarettes doesn't get wet," wrote one commentator. "Or their gasoline," chirped in a second. "Or their oxycontin," piled on a third.
The idea that government agencies might send aid to help these Canadian citizens sent the online commentators into a rage. "Their culture of dependency knows no bounds," wrote one commentator in the HuffPost. Another suggested creating a separate currency for Aboriginal people so that white people could decide whether or not to honour the costs.
I used to think that trolls wrote this crap because they could post their junk anonymously. But now I seeing people who are not only willing to sign their name but supply an accompanying headshot. Far from feeling marginalized, the purveyors of these false stereotypes--the "lazy" Indian, the "corrupt" Chief, the "ripped off" taxpayer"--seems to be hijacking the public conversation away from issues like chronic infrastructure underfunding, third class education and the inability to share in economic development.
Having received such little push back the trolls continue to promote even more dehumanizing caricatures. In a recent comment on Attawapiskat one person wrote, "Europeans have created the modern world, while you people created lice, fleas and more welfare recipients." Such screeds were once found on marginal Neo-Nazi sites. They now find themselves at home on the public spaces provided by reputable media organizations.