Thursday, June 15, 2006

Last thread on trolls

The goal of trolls? To take over a thread and ultimately a blog, and get everyone to dance to your tune. The technique? Have a feed and jump on the thread immediately, setting the tone and the topic. If at all possible, let your comments be off-topic and repetitively insulting. Have a lot of energy for this. And then, wait for the reaction of the other commenters, since--people being the way they are--reaction there will be, and plenty of it.

Trolls are many things, but among those things are provocateurs, egotists, and parasites. The first because they like nothing better than to cause a stir and get people energized and enraged, the second because they like to be the center of attention, and the third because rather than start their own blogs (or, if they have a blog, deal with the small amount of traffic they have, and try to attract more) they feed off the audience they get from a more heavily-trafficked blog.

Right now the trolls have come way too close to dominating the conversation, for the simple reason that people are responding. With trolls, as I've said before, the best response is no response. This is true for several reasons: the first is the aformentioned thriving on attention. The second is because trolls only give the appearance of wanting to have a substantive discussion, and only do that for a short time; there is no way to discuss issues with them in a logical and respectful manner except for very brief periods, which are a sort of setup for the next barrage of personal invective, goalpost moving, non sequitors. The tone of the troll is a dead giveaway: insulting, arrogant. And now, with the trolls on this site, the gloves and the masks are off, and they've dropped even the pretense (always somewhat transparent) of having a substantive discussion.

One would think trolls might have something better to do with their time. But apparently not. To a troll, there is something remarkably and deeply satisfying about what they do. Harrassment is no doubt very reinforcing to some personalities.

But what's most interesting about trolls is how, in the playing of the game, they give themselves away. Trolls, as I've noted before, are instructive. They are their own worst advertisement. Even an argument with some weight to it loses something when esposed by a troll. But most of their arguments are not of that nature, they're instead a demonstration of those logical fallacies I never did get around to writing about. Logic isn't a troll's interest, though. Either they simply don't get it, or the emotional rewards of trolling far exceed the emotional rewards they might get by actually advancing an argument point by point, and following a discussion.

They also love "last touch," almost as much as they love "first touch."

Psychologically, the profile is similar to that of a person who makes harrassing phone calls. But perhaps more than anything else, trolls are an excellent example of what I've called the "Martin Higby phenomenon," and written about, here.

This will probably be my last pronouncement on the troll problem until I implement the solution.


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