Trolls come in various shapes, sizes, and shades of disgusting. They’re found in all kinds of places, and this weekend they’ve been lurking around the edges of the Olympics. There’s been the classic online commenter who slings vile words at others. In London, the troll’s target was young British diver Tom Daley, who lost his father to cancer last year. When Daley finished fourth in the synchronized platform diving, Twitter user Rileyy69 sent him this message: “You let your dad down i hope you know that.” Later, faced with a deluge of approbation, Rileyy69 tried to backtrack: “please i don’t want to be hated I’m just sorry you didn’t win i was rooting for you pal to do britain all proud just so upset.” His belated apology was not accepted by the public.
Then there are the Lithuanian basketball fans who engaged in Nazi salutes and “monkey chants” when their team played Nigeria. Yes, you read that correctly. A London court actually fined one fan for “racially aggravated behavior.” The fan’s lawyer said “his client believed such behavior was acceptable at sports events at home.” Not at the Olympics: Lithuania warned over basketball fans’ racism.
And then there’s this, which might not be considered trolling by ordinary internet standards, but is disgusting in plenty of other ways: Fox News complains American Olympians aren’t displaying enough patriotism because their uniforms aren’t covered in stars and stripes.
The video’s at the link, but here’s the gist. Guest host Alisyn Camerota says: “There was a proud moment at the Olympics yesterday when 16-year old Gabby Douglas won a gold medal in gymnastics. The crowd went wild with cheers – though we’re not hearing the chants of ‘USA, USA’ that we’ve heard in some Olympics gone by. And some folks have noticed that American athletes’ uniforms don’t carry the Stars and Stripes look as much as they had in past years. The famous flag-style outfits worn in years past replaced with yellow shirts, gray tracksuits, pink leotards. So how do we show our patriotism at the games?”
Her sole guest, David Webb of Sirius Radio’s “Patriot” channel, answers: “I’m proud to be an American… What’s wrong with showing pride? What we’re seeing is this kind of soft anti-American feeling that Americans can’t show our exceptionalism. And, frankly, if they are offended about our showing our exceptionalism, then they have that right and I don’t care. And neither do most Americans.”
The banner beneath the discussion reads: “New concerns about American patriotism at the Olympics.”
Forget how absurd it is to suggest that unless American athletes literally drape themselves in the flag, they are unpatriotic. Forget how ludicrous it is to claim that as Team USA performs spectacularly, winning so many gold medals that “The Star-spangled Banner” plays on a continuous loop while American athletes stand with their hands on their hearts, these athletes are actually ashamed of American “exceptionalism.” Nobody involved with the news segment actually believes that. They knew they were spouting bullshit. Pure, stinking bullshit. But they ran it anyway — the segment was utterly cynical.
But here’s the truly contemptible bit: to score political points, a powerful national news network accused sixteen-year-old Gabby Douglas of being unpatriotic. No, let me amend that — they accused a teenager who has devoted years of her life to competing for the United States, and whose father couldn’t attend the Olympics because he is deployed in Afghanistan, of hating her own country.
If that’s not being a bully, nothing is. Shame on them.