Internet Trolls: An Open Letter to Shawn Coomer of Miles to Memories

read this article pertaining to Internet trolls which was written and posted by Shawn Coomer of Miles to Memories; and I felt that I had to respond — not necessarily to him; but rather to anyone who posts on the Internet. This is my open letter to him.

Dear Shawn,

You are by far not the only person who gets lumped with “you bloggers”. It still happens to me as well — nine years this month from when The Gate first launched and having written far greater than 3,000 articles over those years. Despite never having done such things as be affiliated with any credit card or publicly announcing a mistake fare, I have been accused of being a part of the cadre, complicit in committing those “offenses” anyway.

Realize that those people who comment with such a level of inanity probably have never read the articles which you have written over the years. They most likely have nothing better to do with their time than to attempt to cause trouble for others. Perhaps it is out of jealousy. Maybe it is desperation or depression…

…or could it simply be a lack of understanding?

Consider Lindy West — a writer for The Guardian — who confronted what she called her “cruelest troll” who went so far as to allegedly steal the identity of her dead father to abuse her and she decided to ask him why he would commit such a terrible act. The article is definitely worth a few minutes of your time for a read.

You might also want to read this article pertaining to the war against Internet trolls which was posted at The New York Times; as well as this update written by Danielle Keats Citron, who is a law professor at the University of Maryland.

Help may be on the way for those who need it: this article written by Mark Palmer of Travelblawg suggests the possibility of anonymous Internet trolls facing more lawsuits — specifically, those people who purposely attempt to defame, slander and threaten others via the Internet.

There was a brief time where Gary Leff of View From The Wing and I shared the same Internet troll in the Comments sections of our respective weblogs; and we exchanged e-mail messages about that one particular person. Gary and I were once co-moderators on FlyerTalk; and the e-mail exchange pertaining to that Internet troll was similar to ones in which we had engaged for years…

…and I believe my years of experience as a moderator on FlyerTalk helped to thicken my skin when it comes to some of the — dare I say — most ludicrous and absurd text I have ever read from Internet trolls; with the purpose of being hateful and acrimonious and the specific intention to hurt the very feelings of its target.

However, I just let the vitriol directed at me roll off of my shoulder. That is not to say that I do the same with comments which legitimately criticize me or what I write. I try to learn from them and answer them. Sometimes what I post might seem defensive; but I do learn from — and welcome — critical comments.


Because if the person who left a legitimate critical comment for me was willing to take the time and effort out of his or her day — even if it were only for a few minutes — to bother to give me feedback, then I feel honored. As I wrote in this article:

No one is perfect; and no company associated with travel is perfect either. Constructive criticism — which I absolutely invite from you pertaining to The Gate, by the way — is essential in helping the subject of that criticism to improve. If a person is willing to take the time to post positive or negative reviews instead of using that time on something else, then it should be appreciated. I have said it before multiple times — such as in this article — and I will say it again: Constructive feedback is a gift.

My day is truly brightened when I find out that an article which I wrote helps someone who reads it and that person takes the time to let me know. That is what writing a weblog should be about, in my opinion — helping, informing and entertaining others.

Realize that trolls affect virtually all who dare post on the Internet. They are like an indiscriminate disease which affects everyone — regardless of the creed, religion, race, gender, age, size, beliefs, sexual preference or history of the intended target…

…but unlike a disease — which usually needs to be fought and treated — the worst thing you can do in the eyes of obstreperous Internet trolls is to not only ignore them; but to ironically leave alone what they posted for the world to see. Allow those who read your weblog to judge for themselves when they read the vapid and asinine malarkey — residue of the poor man’s “virus”, so to speak — designed to compete with the bandwidth of the exchange of authentic information.

You might have noticed that — other than for obvious “spam” — I do not delete any content posted in the Comments section of The Gate. That includes comments specifically designed to irritate and annoy me. I prefer to let those comments speak for themselves.

I have read your articles, Shawn. It is clear that you also enjoy assisting other people. Keep on with that mission. If another ceiling panel falls near you — as has happened to you recently — simply dust yourself off and keep going. Just keep doing what you are doing — seizing every opportunity you can to continuously improve yourself and Miles to Memories, of course — and don’t let the deliberate obfuscation of some nugatory fatuous quasi-coccydynia with a sanctimonious bent and nothing better to do than be the source of unproductive virtual palaver derail you from your mission and goals.

Just be yourself — and as those 1,000,000 words you have written over the years “give you an identity”; so do the words of Internet trolls.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.



19 thoughts on “Internet Trolls: An Open Letter to Shawn Coomer of Miles to Memories”

  1. Gene says:

    Great post. I am pleased to report that I had to use to look up several of your words. I really need to work on my vocabulary!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I am flattered, Gene. Thank you very much!

  2. Shawn says:

    Thanks for the mention Brian. Very few trolls get to me anymore, but that is/has been a learning experience. My effort with this post is more to counter all of the negativity since I think it poisons the mindset of many people. The memes perpetuated by a certain few begin leaking into the mainstream and then everyone starts believing them.

    Of course with time their voices grow quieter and their true ability to upset me and to affect the community diminishes. l will continue going on to do what I do. Fantastic post and your knowledge definitely shines through. I deeply appreciate the compliments as well. They mean a lot.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I think the best way to counter negativity is to simply not give it attention — similar to that naked guy running across a baseball field during a game who is purposely not televised, Shawn. When Internet trolls do not get the attention they so crave, it frustrates them to a point to seek it elsewhere.

      Just ignore them and keep doing what you are doing, Shawn.

      Now if we can only get some of those people who patronize “spam” to stop doing so, perhaps we can eliminate that as well…

  3. Debra says:

    Well said and sound advice. Thanks for taking the time to share and support the community.
    Plus, mad respect for the inspired use of obstreperous!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Thank you, Debra — I appreciate that!

      I am now at a loss for words…

  4. Tom Brady says:

    I think trolls

  5. Tom Brady says:

    I think trolls should consider not reading these blog articles if they are not of interest or pertinent for them.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You are being too logical, Tom Brady.

  6. MEOW says:

    The trolls make BA entertaining.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      As irritating as they can be, MEOW, I will admit that there are those rare times when Internet trolls can be entertaining.

  7. Stephan says:

    Well, if you write a blog you should be smart enough to realize that along with any adoration, you are also inevitably inviting criticism and confrontation. It’s a public forum. I’m not sure that bloggers should be complaining if they get heckled. No different than a comedian. You can’t please everyone. And of course, some people are just ***holes. That will never change. Hopefully, eventually these people will get bored and go away.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I completely agree, Stephan; and in fact, the same could be said for other people in the public eye: politicians, actors, professional athletes, etcetera — or, as you said, a comedian.

      People are naturally subjective. Everyone has an opinion; and no opinion is right or wrong…

      …but as you said, the hecklers will never change and will always find someone to heckle.

      A person once told me that if someone is talking about me, then he or she must be leaving someone else alone…

  8. Carrie says:

    I really like both of your articles (yours Brian and Shawn’s as well.)

    I am a firm believer that the world is a better place when we approach our interactions with the base assumption that we don’t know the whole picture. (ESPECIALLY when it comes to the internet.) That can be applied to “trolls” making judgements on bloggers as well as bloggers making judgements on “trolls.”

    Anecdote: I once saw a very trollish comment on a friend’s facebook post. So I attempted to “put that troll in his place” by commenting with a tiny bit of snark. Well…found out immediately afterwards that the “troll” was an 11 year old kid. I felt horrible and immediately apologized.

    I’ve since decided that the number one rule of the internet is to assume that every troll is just an angsty pre-teen. (And therefore receives a free pass, because being an angsty pre-teen is hard.)

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That sounds like a sound rule about which you thought out well, Carrie. Thank you…

      …although if I were an eleven-year-old boy with Internet, I can think of a lot of things I would rather be doing than trolling the Internet. That would not be fun for me — and I remember when I was eleven years old and what were my interests.

  9. Dia says:

    Hi Brian,
    I agree about letting the comments stand. I recently had someone comment that my kids were due for a lifetime of Xanax because they got culture shock in Hanoi! I didn’t have to engage as other commenters called him out for trolling. Sometimes a well placed “Wow.” Is all you need.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That is absolutely an awful thing to say to you, Dia.

      It sadly reminds me of what a customer support reservations agent employed at call center in Seattle which was closing later that year told me when I visited:

      “Another woman recounted a telephone call with a customer who hoped that she and her family would ‘die in a plane crash’ for not being able to seat all of the members of the family of the customer together on a flight.”

      That quote was extracted from this article which I wrote three years ago:

      It is bad enough to troll; but it is unacceptable to be so inexcusably and intentionally mean…

  10. Brian, this is an excellent letter and thank you for sharing.
    In all my years as a writer/journalist I’ve learned an important lesson — you learn more from those who take the time to give you constructive criticism than from all those who pat you on the back combined.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I am sincerely flattered, Kathryn Creedy. Thank you so much!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.