Recently I have come across the phenomenon of Trolls calling other people "Trolls" because those people had the gall to call them Trolls for acting like Trolls.
That is as confusing as it reads, so I though I would write some pointers for people to spot a Troll, especially if the Troll is you. People far better than me have written on this before, but allow me my take.
Hopefully, for those encountering Trolls, this will save you time and aggravation by avoiding someone who is a humongous waste of your time.
For those who are Trolls, this might help explain why despite your unparalleled genius, keen debating skills and ability to post faster that you read, people still think you are a wanker.
I will add to this as more occur to me. Feel free to offer your own suggestions.
The Screen Name Pun
A Troll will often reveal himself early when he makes some sort of snide comment on or pun of your screen name. While most everyone will be tempted to mock someone’s screen name during a tense argument online, a Troll grabs that bait like a Great White grabs chum-covered surfers. Usually, a Troll who is challenged will go for the screen name taunt within 2-3 exchanges. If really spooked, they’ll use it right off the bat.
Examples : “So, Wearing Me Out…”
“Tell me, Wears Garters, what do you…”
“You mean to tell me, Wear’s Your Brain…”
A friend a mine once likened people who try to participate in a conversation without actually listening to anyone to a spectator at a Knicks game shooting free-throws from the stands. You can spot a Troll easy when they make a comment which is at best tangential to the flow of the ongoing conversation or post. It may be a single line, or a mighty manifesto, but in both cases you are straining to understand its relevance to the ongoing discussion.
Example: On thread dealing with drilling in ANWR, a poster pops in to state: “Of course, if Bush were really serious about fixing illegal immigration, we wouldn’t need that much oil in the first place.”
If someone copies and pastes their own words from one blog’s comment thread to an entirely other blog’s comment thread, red flags should go up. It bespeaks of someone who is trying to disseminate their viewpoint and “brilliance” rather than actually, you know, engaging in a conversation. It’s sorta innovative in that it’s like mobile blogging, but ultimately it is annoying and Trollish.
Example : Poster writes: “I left a comment on Bloggerama that I think was so brilliant, you guys should have chance to read it as well.”
There is nothing wrong with cutting and pasting material relevant to your point from whatever source (except if you're quoting you. See Xeroxing). In fact, it’s a great ability in an online forum. However, Trolls often go overboard. Instead of quoting a small portion, and linking to the original, they feel the need to put whole sections in a comment thread. This serves a couple of purposes. One, Trolls likely feel that larger quotations are more impressive than smaller ones. Two, Trolls believe that making you read a whole bunch of stuff will make you tired, sap your will and make you more likely to either succumb to their will or give up entirely. I mean, they know you have a life and job to get back to, which is your weakness.
Example : “Let me give you a quote from Moby Dick I found on page 93:
‘Call me Ishmael…’ ”
The Catch Phrase
While everyone has a favorite turn of phrase, like all good things, moderation is called for. When something is not so good to begin with, you really should drop it after the first use. Not so for Trolls, where repetition just makes it better every single time. Someone who keeps using the same phrase, particularly one of their own creation, could very well be a Troll.
Example : Well, if you Wankers of War…I would think that Wankers of War like yourself… Hail the Wankers of War!…Wanking off on your War, War Wankers?!?
Some Trolls apparently think they can read your mind, knowing what you must have been thinking when you posted, rather than actually reading what you wrote when you posted. Surprisingly, they usually find out that you were a racist, fascist, homophobe, etc., and you didn’t even know it! Sometimes its pretty overt, and sometimes more subtle, but the bottom line is it’s an attempt to get you to really understand what your are all about. I also think it is a way for Trolls to write politically incorrect statements and get way with it.
Example : “The
A curious subset of this I have seen is the homophobic, gay-rights Troll. On several occasions when I was engaged in an online debate, I had people trot out the "right-wing, rethuglican gay basher" themes against me. At the same time, after they became completely frustrated when they were losing the argument, they began to insinuate I was gay and used stereotypical language to do so. No one out and out called me a "faggot" or "fruit", but I was told I was a mincing or shrieking pansy, must love show tunes, was getting boned by my boyfriend, etc. I once had this kind of crap thrown at me by a woman claiming to be a liberal and a lesbian! Pointing out the, uh, irony of this was, no pun intended, fruitless.
Oh, and the most telling thing was that of all the other left-wing progressives posting in those threads, I think ONE called the gay-baiters on it. ONE. That says much more than the random spittle of cranks, doesn't it?
Example: Not sure I need one after the preceding paragraph
** Update : Here's a great example of the Homophobic progressive that Jeff Goldstein encountered at Protein Wisdom.
The Hypocritic Oaf
While other catagories may contain elements of hypocrisy, it deserves its own catagory when it comes to Trolls. Why? Because Trolls are acutely aware of any whiff of hypocrisy in those with which they disagree, but have absolutely NO concept of it when it relates to themselves or those that agree with them. A Troll can make statement in a thread, and in the following post, they can write something completely at odds with their previous statement. Pointing this out, even quoting their own words, have absolutely no effect on them. Think of them as Hypocrisy Vampires or Werewolves; they can't be harmed by normal means.
Post 2 "Thanks to Bush's "War on Terror", the threat from terrorism has only gotten worse. If something happens, and it will, Bush is at fault."
Raging Against the Machine
This should be bloody obvious, but I added it anyway. Anyway who pops in to tell everyone and/or the host to "'eff off!", or to do something unnatural to themselves or otherwise calls them a "*$&%@" or a "$%&!*", is a Troll. True, if you were to see them in person, they would more resemble a angry, sputtering dwarf of ancient European legend, but they are still a Troll.