Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Trolls, trolls, everywhere a troll

Except for copious amounts of fried okra, I tried to be a good raw-foodie this week! At left: SC farmers market tomatoes.

I had a pretty hectic weekend and have mostly just been playing catch-up. The best part of my weekend was meeting RACHEL of MOODY SPRINGS blog! My first blogger-meeting! Rachel is a real sweetheart! (Of course, I had no camera with me, so you'll have to take my word for it.)

And I dealt with my troll.

As many of you are undoubtedly aware, I once was pretty self-righteous about my "Anything goes" policy at my blog. And so was Mike, the guy these trolls first invaded and began harassing. And now, Mike is moderating all comments on his blog. As we used to say, I can dig it.

I finally started deleting troll comments. My first deletion was on the topless thread. Although it appears I deleted nearly half the thread, I only deleted one comment, and the troll went ahead and deleted the rest of his comments himself. (I am not sure why.) I also deleted two posts (both mine and another person's) that had degenerated into personal name-calling, on the Mary Jo Kopechne thread. And then, I deleted Bob's, over the weekend.

What is pertinent about these three trolls is that they all have their own blogs. I am confident I have not inhibited their free speech, as Bob repeatedly challenged me. In fact, two out of three trolls wrote about my statements on their own blogs--one wonders why they had to come here and make a fuss IN ADDITION to airing their own opinions (in their own space) about what I had written. I would not have deleted a link to their respective posts, if they had posted it. For some reason, they just wanted to make me MAD. And manipulating emotions is the troll's entire raison d'etre.

This past weekend, I was particularly inspired to delete by this wonderful post on trolling by genderbitch. She really lays it all out, quite knowledgeably, as an ex-troll.

I advise any blogger to read the whole thing, but here are some perceptive highlights:

Trolling is merely a specific version of social engineering. A specific type that incorporates a certain methodology in the abstract (while the complexity and differences sit in the details). However they all exhibit a set of shared traits. Trolls seek a response. Invariably. It is about your reaction as the target. Stop reacting and they lose interest. Trolls attempt to elicit an activity and in doing so they draw people out. Trolling in and of itself is an act of drawing a person out. It’s a lot like fishing. You put bait on the hook. Drop the hook into the water. Fish nibbles and bam. You yank the pole, the hook sets and suddenly the fish is out of water and at your mercy. What trolls do is they apply social engineering in such a way as to create stimuli that draw people to them (usually angrily) and then they continue to engage in behaviors that in turn keep the people around and engaged.

Trolling is, generally, a very harmful state of affairs. Quite often an energy drain on the resources of any network to deal with, Trolls, among other types of draining social engineer types, are intensely damaging influences. Not only do they suck the energy and motivation out of a network but they often harm and scatter the members of that network to the four winds, further damaging its integrity.
I used to believe trolls had to be a certain type, but genderbitch delineates 6 distinct types:

1: Offenders: Offense trolls target based on things found personally offensive. They will try to pick up on what will affect their target the best and then use it to their fullest power. This tends to be the most common method of bigot trolls because of the absolute ease with which marginalized groups are targeted and offended.

2: Concern Trolls: Concern trolls pretend to be (or genuinely believe that they are) helpful and concerned about things that are going on. However most of their concerns incorporate the begging the question fallacy (e.g. “when did you stop beating your wife?”, “I never started beating my wife… o_O”) and tend to imply really awful things about the people they pretend to (or are) concerned about.

3: Clever Trolls: Clever Trolls are those who employ antagonistic satire. They always have a distinct purpose to their actions of getting an idea across or raising a view and are inciting reactions to get the idea noticed instead of ignored. Bigots usually fail at this because a clever troll’s ideas or views need to be logically supportable and most bigotry is based off of fallacy driven emotive arguments used to justify and rationalize internalized hatred and feelings of superiority.

4: Noise Makers: Basically spam of incoherence, pictures or weirdness. Usually the most simple and least effective of trolling methods because it is so easily recognized as trolling by its obvious nature. Often mixes with Offense Trolls.

5: Griefers: Trolls that don’t necessarily have offensive content (in fact their views may be quite reasonable) but are intensely antagonistic, nasty, rude, insulting, demanding or vicious. They also tend to mock people when they lose a debate or back down, making it extraordinarily hard to back down even when you’ve been proven wrong.

6: Devil’s Advocate Trolls: Trolls that play DA and use arguments that they don’t believe in for varying purposes, usually presented in an offensive or antagonistic manner.

Trolling, whatever archetype it fits, is still a form of social engineering and ergo a form of control. This means that inherently and invariably, when you troll anyone you are attempting to control them and their responses. This does act as a form of dominance, even if you don’t intend to be dominant (say merely protect yourself). Not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re trolling a group who attacks and hurts your people. But, if you troll a marginalized group, then you are attempting to control and dominate a marginalized group. And that is silencing and marginalizing behavior in and of itself.

So no matter what, trolling marginalized groups is marginalization and therefore it is a bigoted act.
Yes it is... and thank you for that definitive statement.

You know you're being picked on, but of course, they couch it in democratic language and mess with your mind.

Indeed, the goal of the troll is to silence us. For example, I am now reluctant
to write about guns and assault weapons again, because I don't want these trouble-makers and assholes showing up here again.

They have succeeded, haven't they?

Trolls draw a person out. Normal silencing techniques are designed to work when you speak up. But a troll puts out a wide net, catches you in it before you’ve even thought to speak out and then controls you to make you reveal yourself. Once you are revealed, the troll swoops in and plays hack and slash with you, using as much offensive and triggering material as possible all while using the methods of Griefer Trolls to further push fear into you. The energy used dealing with these social engineers is intense. It can be beyond draining to respond to constant bullshit arguments interspersed with triggering and painful images or words. It exhausts a person and it creates fear. Both of these are highly dangerous emotions for a marginalized activist. Not only has the troll silenced us from speaking, the troll has pulled us out of hiding and silenced us even then. The fear is pushed to such an intensity that most of us will train ourselves to not even respond to such grandiose and ridiculous levels of offensive hatred as these trolls spout just to avoid being hit by them. And this means that people can get away with the less intense but still damaging ism and privileged bullshit they normally spout because of the troll.

That’s a pretty horrifying level of effectiveness, wouldn’t you agree? It works in the long term because trolls don’t just seek to quiet us, they literally seek to make permanent wounds.
Italics mine.

I did not blog all weekend, as focused as I was on the troll invasion. Another form of silencing: keeping me preoccupied with their ongoing abusive shit.

The best way to handle trolls is to disengage. Always. And it will be hard to do, obviously. The best trolls will make it extraordinarily hard to pull away from them. They will make you feel like a coward or feel like by backing down they’ll convince everyone of the horrible things they believe. For a marginalized person this is especially painful, because so many people tend to believe the shit the trolls are peddling. But the fact is, fighting a troll is always a losing battle. Invariably.

Trolls are, in the end, energy sink traps. You may see them like an opponent, whom you must fight against, but the moment you strike out even once, you are caught and they will drain you of every drop of vitality and sense of safety you have. It is vital that all activists remember this.

Don’t feed the trolls. Because it is you they’re feasting on.
Advice taken, my friend.

I won't be allowing trolls to hold forth any more on my blog. If you can't be polite and tactful in your comments, you are cordially invited to fuck off. And if you can't BE polite because my words have infuriated you beyond mere civility, post your dissenting opinion on your own blog and link it here; I won't delete a link (unless its obscene or disgusting). But I will delete troll-rudeness and overt hostility. You will not attempt to control me in this way. No.

New sheriff in town.


genderbitch said...

Hear hear.

As a minor correction: I'm a retired troll but not an ex troll. I will always have those skills and that urge and there are times where trolling methods are indeed justified and helpful (like handling the Tucker Max trolls on The Sexist comments).

I just have far more brilliant self control now. XD

Rootietoot said...

And the beauty of a blog is, that it's NOT a democracy, there ISN'T a right to free speech. Delete away.

Did I tell you how much I'm in love with Neem Oil? Did I?!

I am glad your raw vegetarian self hasn't given up fried okra, because raw okra tossed in oil sounds nasty.

Rachel said...

Oh, geez. I did not even read all of that comment thread because it was making me dizzy. It was also reminding me very much of The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol. J. Adams, which I'm in the middle of now. The argument that, "We grew em for food and so it's our right to eat them because we gave them life they would not have if we had not raised them for meat," is one of the favorite sit-down-to-dinner-with-a-vegetarian comments that "friends" and "loved ones" like to play (put those in quotes because it's actually not a loving thing to confront people at dinner like that.) Anyway, anyway; the main point that really got me is that she said, when they say these things, they're not trying to get the vegetarian to explain why this line of thinking is wrong, they are just enjoying feasting on the vegetarian, and playing a game of hunting you and consuming you. It made so much sense to me, that they aren't really seeking the answer, because they're not open to receiving it, they just think it's fun to harass.

Darners, I should have brought my camera! Cause you didn't know I was going to be there, but I did. Suppose we'll have to take one another day. Thanks for the kind words. :)

Blue Heron said...

I was feeling pretty good today, decent check up at the doctor, blue skies, a little money coming in this week, then I read the troll categories. I think I fit every damn category. Now I'm depressed. Thanks.

John Powers said...

I do love the way you write. You've really the economy of words thing down; as well as excerpting and linking to another post.

I don't think you were pretty self-righteous about your previous "Anything goes policy" no matter what you say;-) Ok, I am trying to listen, but you know how dense I can be.

It's very important that dissent be heard. And the protocol you advance:

"And if you can't BE polite because my words have infuriated you beyond mere civility, post your dissenting opinion on your own blog and link it here"

seems quite appropriate.

I love to read your posts, but I also come here to read your commentators. (I'll admit I didn't read the comments on the assault weapons thread because that subject tends to attract rhetorical styles I don't deal with well.) Part of the reason your commentators are generally so important to read is you've got a strong constitution and not easily sent to the fainting couch.

Your commenting policy leaves plenty of room for dissent. Tell me: "Put it on your blog" and I'll get it.

I want to come to Daisy's Dead Air not just for your incisive posts, but for the lively commentary of your diverse readership. Seems like you're striking a good balance here.

Sungold said...

Daisy, I moved from Blogger to Wordpress because I had a nasty "offensive troll" and didn't want to deal with deleting. Wordpress lets you block trolls by IP number and/or name, though you still see the trollery because their comments land in a spam file. Wordpress has some definite disadvantages (mostly when you want to embed something) but I've had a very persistent troll for the past couple of months, and I've been glad to have some control.

Just FYI, his name is Mark Nuckols, and while he seems to have used other handles in the past, this does seem to be his real name. He apparently got his start on the Autoadmit boards, and he doesn't have a blog; he's just pure troll through and through.

I like the typology from genderbitch, but Nuckols really fits almost all of the categories, except for concern troll. He's got a long history at other feminist blogs, so I know I'm in good company. I hope you don't mind my venting about him here. I don't want to do it at my place anymore, because I'm hoping he'll just go away if I keep ignoring him.

I often think that if we attract trolls, we're probably doing something right! But it's still a huge energy suck.

Anyway, this latest pest has made me arrive at the same point you're at, Daisy. I'm still willing to discuss other viewpoints, but I'm not willing to put up with being called a "cunty cunt." That's not discussion, it's bludgeoning and assholery. Life is too short, and my energy too limited, to waste it on such people.

D. said...

That was a wonderfully, um, pointed article.

I probably need to work out something like a policy, especially since I just linked to articles on Polanski. Maybe when I have ten readers (no, I'm not looking for traffic!)

(emessess? Does your word verification know something I don't?)

Anonymous said...

I love the troll analysis. That's the first time I've read it.

I've been reading the gun blogs for a little while and I've discovered a few things. While there are a zillion Pro-gun/2nd Amendment blogs and boards, I've only found about six Anti-gun blogs. The Pro-gun blogs have very little dissent in them. They seem to share a lot of the same posters.

I'm aware of a lot of Liberal/Progressive/Dem political blogs and boards and some of them touch on guns occasionally. (There are a handful of Pro-gun Progressive blogs but they really don't sound like Progressives to me. Most of them don't talk about politics at all and it seems like the label "Progressive" is just being used in a branding attempt to try and make them different from the other Pro-gun blogs.)

Anyway... You can learn an awful lot just by reading around on the internet. :)

queen emily said...

Heh, I'm with Blue Heron, lately I feel like a troll a lot of the time too.

Cos I mean, some things you *can't* be rational or polite about, cos it's just too fucked up...

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking...

Back in the late 1990s, I used to post on the New York Times discussion boards. They had a rule against personal insults and everyone abided by the rule or they were banned. We were arguing the Clinton Impeachment at the time and, as you can probably imagine, things got quite HOT at times!

Anyway, you could not post "You are a jerk" or "You are too stupid to live" or any kind of direct insult. This lead to people posting very couched insults.

One of my very favorites was "I understand the average chimpanzee has an IQ four points higher than the average Republican." (That was posted by a doctor who did brain surgery in France!)

Anyway, since those days, I've always hated the blunt personal insult. Blunt personal insults are just so un-smart.

mikeb302000 said...

Right on, Daisy.

I have to admit though, that I do enjoy engaging these characters. At first I hated being driven to use the comment moderation, but I got used to it. I have my own code of ethics, basically never to delete a comment because its absence will strengthen my argument. I only delete the worst of them if they violate my rules.

Since the latest blowup on my blog, which I was honored to have you involved in, I've left the comments open. I had taken the moderation function off when I went away for the weekend and since then I've only had to remove two comments.

genderbitch said...

@Emily and BlueHeron:

Trolling isn't always bad, y'all. It's when it's used against marginalized groups as a silencing technique that it's bad.


I fit several of those categories myself.


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