Trolls Under the Bridge

Carla Congress

If you’ve ever have the opportunity to visit your Congressman, or Congresswoman, you definitely should take it.  Not just at your local congressional office, but in their offices in Washington, D.C.  We often forget the kind of privilege we have as Americans, to have this kind of direct access to the people who represent us and make our laws.  The physical manifestation of being able to literally walk the Halls of Congress can be awe-inspiring and daunting but at the same time has the ability to fill you with power, pride and purpose that each of us have as citizens in our democracy.

However, for those that do physically walk those halls, in a certain hall, one is noticeably different than the rest of them.  Every member of Congress, and their staff work in one of several office buildings that are directly adjacent to the U.S. Capitol building.  When members of Congress leave their office to go to the Capitol to conduct the business of the government, there’s a subterranean tunnel system that members use to go from their offices to the Capitol.  They’re not your typical tunnels.  They’re well lit, well traveled.  They’re fairly long and even shuttling is available.  However, when members, their staff, tourist and constituents walk down one such tunnel to the Capitol, they’ll notice hundreds of pieces of art hung on display.  As pedestrians walk down the hall, you can easily forget you are beneath Capitol Hill and think you’re in a museum.  The pieces on display are as beautiful as they are slightly out of place.  You’re in such a majestic and elegant place, but set apart from the granite columns and marble statues are these abstract, colorful, artistic expressions that surely must have been masterpieces made by the best artist in history.

Well, not really.  Because you see, every congressional office sponsors a competition, which has each member’s office contacting students from high schools in their districts for submissions.  These submissions are judged and a winner is chosen, one per congressional district and the winning piece is put on display in the underground tunnel on Capitol Hill.  The offices do not ask whether or not these students like the member.  Don’t ask whether they are Republican or Democratic students.  They don’t know if they’re rich or poor, contributors or if they can do anything for the member.  The Congressional Art Competition is what the office does for it’s district.  It’s one of the many services and functions provided by a congressional office.  They work for the people.  As members of Congress, that’s what they do.

Well, down here in Virginia Beach, Virginia, one such Congressman, Scott Rigell, Republican who served from 2011 to 2017, held a symposium for women.  The symposium, which was sponsored by a multitude of businesses and government organizations, had attendees from across the region including the particular woman in the picture above, Carla Hesseltine.  The Chair of the Virginia Beach Democratic Committee.

Last month, a Twitter account was uncovered from a @GOPJoeInVB that sent out a tweet, one of three tweets from an account barely a month old.  The tweet featured several pictures of Virginia Beach’s Democratic Committee’s elected chair attending several events with prominent Republicans and suggesting that the Democrats elected a Republican to be their chair.  The tweet was then picked up by a post written on progressive site, Daily Kos.  The post, was from a user who admittedly created the account on Daily Kos specifically to write the post about the tweet, further damning the VBDC chair and her connection to Republican politicians.  Particularly noting the picture above where the user “BeachProgressive” slams her for attending a fundraiser for Republican Congressman Scott Rigell.

Well, as noted above, the event depicted in the picture was an event sponsored by the Congressional Office for the office and for the benefit of the district and not for the benefit of the Congressman.  But, silly me, what do facts matter to some people?

Now, it’s very possible that “BeachProgressive” is fully ignorant of how congressional offices, or any elected official office actually works and just ignorantly goes about doing the dirty work of Republican troublemakers by wrongfully stating that the event was a fundraiser.  But thankfully, this information was revealed to be false and purposely misleading.

Unfortunately, this revelation did NOT stop individuals within Virginia Beach’s Democratic Committee from taking the ball and running with their own agenda.  Which is a little comical, considering the accusation that Carla Hesseltine has her own.

Armed with this information and the intent to rightfully ask of the situation at the committee’s monthly meeting, it was clear things were to come to a head.  And so the meeting started off not unlike most local committee meetings; dreadfully boring and painfully process-oriented via Roberts Rules of Order.  However, it didn’t take long for the questions to arise and the accusations to fly.  They were sprinkled throughout, but sourced from one individual.  She seemed upfront, honest and sincere with her intentions.  She said she wanted to move the party forward, united, one would say Indivisible. And yet during the course of the meeting, she began to unpromptedly disseminate flyers with the above picture attached.  Now, I allowed for the possibility that two random and bogus internet nobodies being fully unaware of the lies they were spreading.  But not her.  Particularly when I specifically and directly told her, under no uncertain terms, that the picture was purposely a lie.  Why?  Because she asked me.  So she knew the truth.  But she still came to the meeting with the picture in hand and passed it out to members KNOWING it was NOT TRUE.  She did it in the middle of the meeting, without invitation.  Now, not everyone who attends those meetings have time for internet squabbles.  They come to see how they can get more Democrats elected and progress a Democratic agenda.  Even if they knew about the allegations against Carla Hesseltine, it’s very possible they did not care.  But to purposely pass out unsolicited false information, that you know is false, then there’s no doubt you’re doing it to purposely mislead others and lie to them about your motives.  Your goal is not to elicit a honest dialogue with someone.  It’s to impugn their character.  That’s it.  Especially when it was further revealed she did it after denying Carla the opportunity to address it the way she requested.  It’s one thing to ask questions, which we definitely should do, but it’s something else entirely to duplicitously spread untrue information when you know it’s bullshit.  Even if I wanted to believe a unverified Republican twitter bot, even if I wanted to heed the word of a biased blog post, even if I really wanted to question whether Carla Hesseltine’s agenda matches my own, how could anyone possibly believe anything that is a product of a series of provable lies, fabrications and exaggerations?

Because this is what it is.

We live in the day and age where internet activity is extremely pervasive.  However, there are those that use the internet to purposely sow discord and incite others to abandon their goals and intentions for another’s amusement or ends.  This has been compared to the fable of the three billy goats crossing a bridge and being waylaid by a troll beneath the bridge.  The goal of the goats is to get across the bridge for greener pastures.  The troll, doesn’t care about the bridge.  Doesn’t care about the grass.  It just cares about stopping progress.  This is dictionary-definition of internet trolling.  So when someone creates a twitter account named “GOPJoe” to send out a tweet, they’re the troll under the bridge.  When someone creates a user account to only write about that tweet, they’re the troll under the bridge.  And when you purposely spread lies without regard to order or the truth you have been given YOU ARE THE TROLL UNDER THE BRIDGE.

Don’t feed the trolls.

Thank you.