THEODORE ROOSEVELT'S TAKE ON TROLLS

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat"

— Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic" delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, France , 23 April, 1910

Most published authors have encountered trolls—“reviewers” who seem to pop out of the woodwork on Amazon, Goodreads, and other venues for the sole purpose of savaging a story. Unlike legitimate, thoughtful criticism, troll-ish reviews are malicious and even personal in nature. I’ve encountered my share of trolls and always react the same way—I ignore them. (Goodreads and Amazon encourage readers and authors to report offensive and profane reviews, and I’ve done that, as well.)

Of course trolls don’t just attack authors. I saw an example of random troll attacks recently on Bainbridge Island, where I live. First some quick background: An Ohio developer just clearcut 800 trees in the middle of the island, to make way for a shopping center. Judging from the letters in the local paper and the crowds of angry citizens at recent council meetings, this is a development the island doesn’t need or want. People are upset because this big out-of-state developer just seems to be ramming the project down our throats. Just before the clearcutting began, 19-year-old college student Chiara D’Angelo climbed one of the trees to protest the logging and development. Most islanders saw Chiara’s tree sitting as a courageous act— an example of a regular person with the guts to stand up to rapacious development. But trolls attacked Chiara on Seattle news sites and some of the comments were vicious and personal.

I was thinking about troll attacks—wondering what kind of people make them, when I stumbled across this quote by President Theodore Roosevelt—from a speech he gave at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, in 1910. This famous passage is referred to as “The Man in the Arena.” I like it so much I’ve put it on my wall—something to remind me how inconsequential trolls really are.

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