You may wonder how to win a debate on the Internet. It’s really easy. Just declare yourself the winner.
It seems to work for trolls, anyway. Well, except that they don’t actually win (but in their heads, there’s tickertape, a parade, adoring fans …).
Remember, a troll is not just anyone who disagrees with you, regardless of how many times someone claims I said that. A troll is someone who purposely posts inflammatory material with the aim to provoke others and hijack debate. Sometimes it may take a while to recognize who is and isn’t a troll, but as the Bible says, you shall know them by their fruits.
And the heads of a few trolls just exploded because I cited the Bible (especially the ones fond of pretending to be holy). Those fruits, by the way, smell like they’re way past the sell-by date.
For those also in battle with these nasty creatures, I offer a few tips from the troll playbook so that you too can proclaim “Point, game, set, match. I win, again.” Ad nauseam. You know who you are.
♠ Memorize terms such as ad hominem and straw man. There’s no need to actually learn what constitutes such things; all you need do is, in any retort to another commenter, accuse opponents of having employed them. That’ll larn ’em!
Of course, when a more knowledgeable commenter points out that the terms are being misused, just ignore them. Ignoring works with most things.
♠ Insult, insult, insult. Words like “moron,” “libtard,” “Rethuglican” and other not-so-nice terms are integral to the troll game. Just make sure you always say that someone else started it because you would never, ever be so infantile.
I’m tellin’ Mom you did, though.
♠ Revel in your anonymity. When you’re anonymous, you can create any sort of persona you want, such as being a rich jet-setter happily engaged in a busy, fulfilling life. There’s no need to let others know that you’re really just a sad, lonely person who has nothing better to do than spend your time (at all hours of the day) putting down others to make yourself feel better.
♠ Be as vague as possible. Details just mess everything up when you’re trying to school some imbecile who thinks that facts are important. You only need to use whatever makes your point, so you can always just go with prepared talking points. If you allude to a study, don’t offer enough information or a link for people to be able to check the information themselves since it (most likely) is either a flawed study with cherry-picked data or is wildly misinterpreted. Again, ignore anyone who disputes your “iron-clad” evidence. Told ya, it comes in handy.
And logic? We don’t need no stinkin’ logic! Those people who think that logic is a good thing are seriously misinformed and are probably low-information voters.
And they’re doody-heads too.
♠ Always, always repeat yourself. Always. Because coming up with new material is hard and requires original thought, just cut and paste the same “winning” arguments. And the more comment threads you post them on the better.
♠ History is rewritten by the whiners. If history doesn’t back you up, just rewrite it. No one pays attention to that stuff anyway. As one commenter on a recent Washington Post article noted, it was only because of a Democratic-majority Senate that President Bill Clinton wasn’t impeached by both houses of Congress. (And no, the article had nothing to do with Clinton.)
Except that in that session, the 106th Congress, both houses were Republican majority, as they had been since the 104th Congress. Not that facts matter (ooh, but she kept saying she only offers facts and called anyone who challenged her a moron).
And that Senate Historical Office is obviously unfamiliar with history.
♠ Oh my Lord, is that a flaming pork butt headed straight for us??? It matters not what is being commented on; if you want to make a thread on knitting baby booties all about your deep, abiding loathing of a certain presidential candidate, have at it. People who don’t think you should post off-topic comments are just big wimps and probably still suck their thumbs. Misdirection is the name of the game, baby.
♠ Reading comprehension is for losers. We often say at the paper that we’re responsible only for what we write, not what you read. There’s a special breed of people, though, who just don’t cotton to that. They’re mad as hell because of what they imagine was written, and they’re gonna tell everybody about it. Loudly. At length. And it will probably be horribly, horribly misspelled.
There are a lot of different types of trolls, but the ones we generally see on our newspaper’s site tend to be mostly harmless, along the lines of annoying gnats (and they really don’t like when people call them trolls … truth is anathema to them). Far more dangerous trolls exist, such as stalkers.
Luckily for me, I don’t really get trolls here. That’s one of the benefits of having a small number of followers.
But trolls in general tend to share many of the same traits. In 2014, Canadian researchers Erin Buckels, Paul Trapnell and Delroy Paulhus found through personality tests given to over 1,200 people that those who reported trolling to be their favorite Internet activity scored higher for “Dark Tetrad” traits—narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism.
So yeah, that troll does just want to make you feel bad. He has to do something to get his jollies. Winning at computer solitaire only does so much.