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These 5 Celebrity Takedowns Of Hecklers Are Great Ways To Fight Online Trolls

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Facebook logoEditor’s Note: With #NoPlace4Hate, Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook have joined hands to help make the Internet a safer space for all. Watch this space for powerful stories of how young people are mobilising support and speaking out against online bullying.

Whether it be advice on handling trolls, or arguments about free speech, trolling generates a lot of discussion today. And while this may be a relatively new phenomenon on the internet, as the internet itself is new to the world, hatred directed at political speech or speech in general isn’t new. Long before trolls, there were hecklers.

There might be a certain amount of difference between the two, but hecklers and trolls follow pretty much the same behaviour patterns. The words nearly share the same definition.

Advice on dealing with the two is also similar. If you think the person is engaging in unlawful behaviour, you report the person to authorities. If you don’t want to take that trouble, you get a moderator to remove the person from the forum. You crack a joke, you argue back with facts, and so on.

For those of us who have lived outside of social media, too, our online problems seem to make more sense when we find an analogy for them offline. If you are looking for guides that help you handle trolls online, here are some offline heckler take-downs that are worth watching.

1. Where You Listen And Argue Back With Facts

Trolls are often trying to just upset you or try to provoke an emotional response. They attack you personally instead of focussing on arguing their point. Although this appears counter-intuitive, sometimes they might have a point to make, where you might benefit from hearing them out.

During the Q&A session after a lecture at Boston University, the well-known linguist Noam Chomsky did just that and more when handling an angry heckler. In the video below (at 1 hour, 11 minutes), he even appears to be making notes as the heckler passionately attacks him, and then does a brilliant takedown.

2. Where You Use The Comment To Your Advantage

In the middle of her 2008 presidential primary campaign, Hilary Clinton faced a heckler who wouldn’t stop shouting, “Iron My Shirt!” That isn’t much different from online forums where a troll hurls abuse.

Clinton’s response, though, was something not many might be adept at doing online. When intimidated or abused by somebody online, most people rarely report this to the platform’s moderator or law enforcement agencies. Doing this can be a strong signal to everybody that the person’s act is not proper, if not criminal, and definitely not an argument against your speech. Clinton not only got the person removed from the auditorium, but also used his comment to her advantage. “I am also running to break through the highest and hardest glass ceiling,” she told her audience pointing to the sexism in the heckler’s comment, and got a resounding applause.

3. Where You Explain To Them That What They Are Doing Is Wrong

In India at least, a whole lot of people will descend to threaten and intimidate you if you are saying something political. Perhaps they do so under the impression that they can get away with it. A helpful way to shut them up might be to explain to them how what they are doing can be punished.

The British comedian Russell Brand did a version of that when a really loud heckler shouted abuse during his Messiah Complex tour. Of course, his skills at comedy make his response funny too.

4. Where You Minimise Hatred

If you are a public figure or even if you are running a social media account for an organisation, things can get more difficult. There is always that person who hasn’t even read your post, but responded with a barrage of hate, that maybe does not violate your filters for comments, but is also close to that boundary.

Jagmeet Singh, a Canadian politician, recently showed how to deal with such tricky situations. When a heckler started making racist comments at one of his “JagMeet and Greet” events, he told the audience to hear her out and to respond with love and respect, but also stood his ground by stating, “This is a little bit awkward, but it’s OK. We’re not intimidated by hatefulness.”

5. Where You Unmask Them

Researchers who study trolls seem to agree that trolls thrive on the anonymity internet provides. If you use this right to abuse, it is likely that you will be required to give up some of it. Comedians seem to have made this a standard response to handling hecklers, who, like the trolls on internet, use the darkness of an auditorium to shout abuse.

In the video below, Amy Schumer does exactly that. She makes everybody point at the heckler, who shouts abuse at her, at which point he has no option but to leave.

And as all these instances show, another important thing to remember is to not lose your cool. If you don’t want any trouble at all, of course, you can also ignore the troll or report them.

Do let us know in the comment section if these videos help you handle trolls online.

Featured image source: Wikimedia Commons and Flickr
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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