When I imagine the worst possible sub-species of opinionated troll, I simply have to cast my mind's eye back 20 years to my ex Mother in Law.
She was the personification of everything I am not. A domineering parent. A woman who always felt compelled to unthinkingly voice the strongest of opinions on every subject imaginable, with little forethought, background knowledge or consideration for others. One who played her family like puppets.
As a young 20 something I listened to the homophobic, racist drivel, cringed inside and distanced myself from her and ultimately the son she had irrevocably damaged. Today, I would have countered her bigotry with something a little more challenging.
And so, it was with this type of minority reader in mind that we set up an interview in the Mail on Sunday for an article designed to question the increasingly accurate and routine use of screening for Down's Syndrome in unborn babies. They were in fact the only newspaper to run a story that didn't simply hail the arrival of the new test as a miracle. (For more background information on this subject read DS Screening: A Few Cautionary Thoughts.) It is a controversial subject, so we were prepared.
But we trust the freelance journalist Alison who we've worked with on Natty's modeling stories. We understood she would present both sides of thinking about the test. I think the main aim was to make parents realise that the test is not compulsory and will only bring anxiety with it. That termination is not the only option, that life with a child with DS is a real and wonderful path to take.
I think the article did achieve this. The headline was questioning, inviting a rethink, Natty's beaming face shining out from the page. The enduring image of the piece.
Of course you can nit pick over semantics, and we parents might have written the article differently, but it was the Trojan horse inside which we got our concerns into the heads of the more unquestioning Readers.
And if just one of them steps back and has a rethink, then we have reached our goal. I believe in choice and want support for all women whatever their decisions, but we need to stop and think about what and why we are testing.
Many comments that accompanied the online article, which you can read here were unpleasant, friends have told me. We didn't look. We didn't read. The trolls were out in force. But then we knew they would be.
So to the ex MIL I thank you for teaching me how to ignore the opinions of those who don't warrant my attention. A valuable lesson in life indeed.
And a final thought. In all matters such as this, we must remember the wise words of Daddy Downs Side Up:
"Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.
However opinions are like, well, ummm, bottom holes.
(My clean version for the blog)
Everyone has one, but some of them really stink."
For more thoughts on dealing with hurtful comments, read Outshining the Bigots.
You might also like to read the evidence I gave in the Parliamentary Inquiry into Disability Abortion Law.