It’s been a very stressful few weeks for us at Trans Rescue, as alongside our normal work with our passengers we’ve had to contend with a concerted attack from some vicious online trolls. It started when someone took offence at being blocked by our Twitter maintainer, and escalated into a bizarre and disturbing array of allegations against our organisation and its directors that were they true would be an existential threat. Closer to home we’ve received credible reports of concerted attempts to report us to the local authorities where we are based, moving the whole episode from the merely annoying into the distinctly concerning. We can and have refuted and debunked the allegations, but since that simply generates a fresh set we’ve taken the sensible course of non-engagement. We don’t talk to people who have demonstrated themselves to be bad actors, that’s it. Perhaps it’s time to look at this from another perspective when attempting to make sense of it all, to examine the motives and costs for each party.
It’s All About Motives And Costs
For us, the cost of all this could be existential. It represents a threat to our fundraising, our ability to support our passengers, and their personal safety, as well as to our reputations, both personal and as an organization. Our motive is to clear our names and defend our work. Our desired outcome is for the allegations to be proved wrong and the attack go away so that our stress capacity can be used on our mission.
But what about the people behind all this? We think that while their behaviour has been just as threatening, they aren’t in it for the same reasons as more traditional trolls from sites such as 4chan or Kiwifarms. It may have started as a fit of pique at being blocked, but for them it’s moved on into something of an obsessive quest for an imagined truth in which they have more in common with a conspiracy theorist. People who have convinced themselves that the Moon landing was faked will willfully ignore all the compelling evidence to the contrary, and so it is for them. Their motive is to be seen as the Seekers of Truth who demolished the Big Lie, and like the Moon landing theorists they simply dismiss anything which doesn’t fit with their pre-ordained conclusion. Their desired outcome is our complete destruction and their rightful recognition as crusaders for justice, without any room for retreat.
If that’s their motive, how about the costs? In this case the costs are just as high for them as they are for us. The loss of face in coming to terms with having tried to bring down a small non-profit working with in-danger trans people in a developing country using fake evidence fed to them by a scamming chaser would be immense. It would destroy their personal reputations, with the fallout being visible for anyone prepared to search the Internet for years to come. These are people who style themselves as transgender activists, indeed in another world we might be working with them rather than regarding them as toxic, so any “are we the baddies?” moment of realisation for them is too painful to contemplate.
Finding A Way Forward Through Independent Scrutiny
In reconciling these two positions, it’s difficult to see a way out without the unthinkable happening for one party. Either we are forced to shut down, or they end up with so much loss of face as to erode their credibility for good. If there’s to be a way forward then, it has to involve a lessening of one of those costs. We aren’t going to stop what we do, so the cost has to be reduced for them instead. Doing that is easy to say, but given the obsessive nature of their continued campaign it’s difficult to see how they might be talked down.
As we have tried resolving this we have continued to be open about what we do and to keep on with our work. We continue to refuse to engage with the trolls no matter how much they demand it, so for example we haven’t rushed to show pictures of the Eden House chicken coop that they’ve been obsessing about. For those interested in seeing our work for real we’ve put the word out to professional independent journalists, and will be the subject of their writing in due course. They will write what they find, and we trust that they will find us to be exactly as we say we are. The true spotlight of scrutiny comes from impartial professionals rather than obsessive conspiracy theorist trolls. If you have been watching this saga then we urge you to read what they have to say rather than rely on the trolls, or indeed even on us.
Header image: Keith Evans (CC-BY-SA 2.0).