John Nimmo is not a ‘troll’: Defining male violence online
John Nimmo has been charged with sending "a message causing anxiety or distress" at the South Tyneside Magistrates' Court. The charges stem from multiple emails sent to Luciana Berger, the Member of Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree. One email allegedly included this statement: "she is going to get it like Jo Cox did". Nimmo has been remanded into custody, as he was on bail for a previous offence for threatening to burn down a mosque in an email to Tell Mama, an organisation that tracks hate crimes against Muslims. He was sentenced to 8 weeks in prison in 2014 for sending abusive messages to campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and MP Stella Creazy.
The Guardian, in one of the most ridiculous misrepresentations of male violence we've seen recently, has suggested Nimmo went to jail for telling Criado-Perez to 'shut up'. If we were to convict every man who tells a woman to ''shut up' online, a not insignificant percentage of men online would be facing prison. Our criminal justice system would collapse. Granted, the Guardian did remember to include a reference to Nimmo threatening Criado-Perez with rape, but that hardly makes up for minimising the targeted campaign of harassment involving abuse and threats.
Despite multiple arrests for online harassment abuse and threatening acts of violence, Nimmo is still labelled a 'troll' by the press. This is precisely why we do not use the term 'troll' to refer to men who engage in stalking, harassment, threats and abuse online. Men who tell women to 'shut up' for daring to have an opinion in public are trolls. Men who stalk, harass, threaten and abuse women are perpetrators of male violence against women and girls. Threatening individual women is meant to serve as a warning to other women: speak publicly and we will target you too.
We need to stop minimising the stalking, harassment and abuse of women online and start recognising it as a both a crime in and of itself and as part of the conducive context in which all other forms of violence against women and girls occur.