Trollzy Antidotes -- Part the First

Regarding Trolls: I told you they was tricksy. I told you they was false.

OK. That about sums it up. My work here is done. /*dusting off palms*/
Oh, don't get all knicker-twisted -- of course that isn't all of it.

I'm going to take you through the Portly Dyke step-by-step program of troll-handling. Basically, it involves 3 basic activities:

  1. Assure that you are actually dealing with a troll, rather than a person who may simply be ignorant on the issues (and therefore, who someday may actually come to enlighten you, and/or be enlightened, through the process of intelligent, respectful conversation or dialogue).
  2. Once you have assured that you are actually dealing with a troll, make a clear decision about how you want to deal with the troll. (See below)
  3. Once you have made a decision about how you want to deal with the troll, STICK the FUCK to your approach!
Gee. That sounds so simple, doesn't it?

Let's start with step 1. How can you know if you're actually dealing with a troll?

There are some tell-tale signs. I listed a few in my first post about this, but here those basics, plus some more:
  1. Asks lots of questions, never really answers any. Then, demands that you answer their questions, even though you have already answered their questions.
  2. Spouts unequivocal statements that are wildly speculative, but includes no facts to back up the statements.
  3. Acts like an ASSHAT
  4. Uses the phrase "I love cake" without proper context and/or irony.
  5. States "I just like being contrary for its own sake" (h/t Moira)
  6. Claims that they're not a anti-(fill-in-the-blank), but rather, anti-(fill-in-the-blank) (h/t Emily)
  7. And the list goes ON and ON and ON
But I haven't really answered the question have I? How do you know if you're REALLY dealing with a troll? Cuz -- Trollz Can B Trickzy. Trollz Can B Falz.

Sorry to be so vague about this next bit of advice -- but essentially, you're going to have to rely on your own mad google skillz, your intuition, and your experience in determining whether a troll is a troll is a troll.

However -- I do have a suggestion -- in general, I advocate using an age-old native american women's tradition (especially when you are participating in a blog/board community where you have ongoing experience).

In some first-nations peoples, if a woman came to sit in council with other women, and she bitched about something, and then received advice from the other women, everyone would sit and listen/receive, then advise/counsel. The second time the woman came and bitched about the same thing, she would receive further counsel. However, if the woman came back a third time, bitched in the same way about the same thing, and had not acted upon the action that had been recommended, the other women in the circle would not say anything to her. They would, very respectfully and quietly, simply get up, move the circle over a few yards, sit down, and continue the circle. This, in the teaching I got, was called "moving the circle". It is not a message of "we hate you and you are bad" -- it's a message of "we've said everything we have to say to you -- what you choose next is up to you."

So, for me, one way to identify a troll (read "energy vampire") is to offer my opinion/answers/responses once -- twice -- and when they come back a third time with the same crap, I move away. Usually. Unless I'm just having fun and fucking with their heads (never a really good idea, I've discovered).

Step 2 -- Having identified a troll, how are YOU going to deal with it?

The topic of the "best" way to deal with a troll has been a subject of some debate. The conventional wisdom is "starve it to death" (which I generally concur with) -- don't answer it, don't respond to it, glance by its comments as if you have smelled a lethal lentil fart and move on to fresher air. In my opinion, once you have identified an individual troll (one that is not associated with a troll-mass), this is a good strategy, in my opinion . . . . . . UNLESS . . . .

You may post or comment on blogs or boards where the owner has an honest intent to allow freedom of speech (what a concept!) -- this blog is one of those. Yes, I do use "comment verification" (which some of my commenters despise -- -- and I don't blame them for despising it -- but hell, it does slow the process down, and prevents auto-bots from spamming my blog from afar without even bothering to take the time to get here, think for the moment it takes them to type in the verification, etc. -- before spewing complete dreck).

You may be frustrated by the fact that a blog author/administrator allows certain posts and comments to continue to exist upon their blog/board -- you might scream "Ban them! Burn them! Remove those trolls and their vile drivel! You're only giving them a platform and more exposure!" -- but think about this: If a blog moderator extirpated every entry you made that ever pissed them (or other people) off, how could any discussion of any remotely difficult topic continue in the blogging community?

Also -- Consider that the very presence of a troll's absurd and/or extreme statements may actually support your argument/stance via demonstration. That is one of the things that I appreciated about the One True Thread (h/t to Phydeaux fer that name, and no, I am not going to link to it again, for psychically hygienic purposes -- check this post for a link to the One True Thread) If anyone ever wanted a clear demonstration about the thriving existence of misogyny in present-day society, the comments from trolls on this thread prove it, for me, beyond a shadow of a doubt. (As we at the Lesbian Grand Council like to say -- "Thanks for all the fish!")

In my opinion, there are, basically, two pretty solid options when dealing with an individual troll:
  1. Ignore the Troll. Starve the Troll. Don't respond to It at all. Ever. In Any Way. However -- if you don't have the emotional or mental discipline to accomplish this, then:
  2. Have fun with The Troll (I'll be putting up a whole new post tomorrow on "How to Enjoy Trolls"). If you choose this second option, then, BY GOD -- CHOOSE IT! Don't entertain regrets later. Understand, from the get-go, that you are engaging with an irrational creature that wants your attention, and donate that attention passionately in a way that is truly enjoyable for you. If you don't have the emotional or mental discipline to accomplish this, then return to option 1!
You may have noticed that I emphasized "individual trolls" above -- this is because I distinguish Individual Trolls from Troll-Mass Events. I believe that Troll Mass Events (such as those found on the One True Thread) require completely different strategies, because of the different motivations of individual trolls and troll-collectives.

IME, an individual troll is generally someone who simply wants to affirm their existence by elucidating the response/reaction of others -- any others -- no matter what that response/reaction may be. I believe that individual trolls are sitting at their computers (all alone and feeling blue) and that they desire some outside validation that they still exist. I actually experience compassion for this, because I will confess that I love it when I open my browser in the morning and there is a comment on my blog, or someone has responded to a comment that I made elsewhere. However, I have a strong preference for connective and expansive feedback (even if this is feedback where someone is saying something that doesn't necessarily "agree" with my point of view -- as long as it is proffered in a manner which invites me to connection, I feel glad to connect). Trolls seem to want any response, whether it is connective or not -- like a child who is willing to throw a tantrum in order to get their parent's attention (whether positive or negative).

So, dealing with an individual troll by the starvation tactic listed above as option #1 is, I think, the most effective approach. Sort of like ignoring a child as they throw a tantrum (regardless of how much embarrassment you may experience as you stand in the cereal aisle at the local grocery while they do it -- and yes, I've been there, done that).

Troll-Mass Events (DDOS attacks, 4chan, etc.) seem, to me, to be something else entirely -- they seem to be engaged in an effort to affirm the strength or reality of a community, whether real or imaginary. Notice, in the One True Thread, how many times the trolls try to imply the multitudinousness (is that a real word?) of their community, and the exponential energy of their "group" -- they threaten dominance -- often by any means available. These trolls, in my opinion, are not seeking simple "reaction" to prove to themselves that they continue to exist -- they want to elucidate a sort of submission from others that validates their sense of "might" as a perceived community.

The first part of this scene from Breakfast Club comes to mind:

The irony is, I'm sure, from what they say (Oh, the femnsts R ohprssin me!) that the members of the troll-collective that I recently encountered would think of themselves as Bender, and me as Vernon, while I think of myself as Bender, and them as Vernon.

But -- hmmmm -- let's think about that for a moment. They claim that they are many, and claim that they have power (Vernon and the establishment of the school) and I claim that I am one and claim no power over them (Bender, the outcast). They represent oppressive power that has been in place for many centuries (Vernon), and I am the emerging thought daring to rebel (Bender). Hmmmmm.

It's all sooooo relative, nay? Because this same clip contains fat-phobic, sex-phobic, misogynist, classist, etc., etc., etc., content. Plus the added goodness of a description of child-abuse that is similar to that which I endured. "Did I stutter?"

OK -- I'll be back tomorrow with Part 2 "How to Enjoy Trolls", and Later, with Part 3 --"Troll and Troll-Collectives -- Distinct Strategies".

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:33 AM  


Emily said... August 12, 2007 at 6:36 AM  

This is fantastic. I love the idea of moving the circle -- perhaps I should do this when I teach.

I will mostly stick to option 1. My co-bloggers are all much, much better at option 2 than I am - they all have more fun with responding to mass troll attacks than I have. And they're all just funnier than I am.

But when we have a single troll, I do enjoy taking step 2 and using my high school teacher voice (I didn't teach high school for very long and I don't have to deploy "teacher voice" quite so often when I teach college students - for an example see my response to the kid who commented on this post). I enjoy that. But I'm probably just weird that way.

I look forward to the future installments of your program.

Jennifer said... August 12, 2007 at 10:58 AM  

Hi Portly!

Something occurred to me before the OTT Extravaganza of Hate, back when it was just randyson.

It just struck me in a particular thread (sorry, I have no idea which one it was) that it would be helpful if randyson's comments could somehow just be rendered in pink, making them easier to go back and review, or simply ignore.

Now, I doubt that Haloscan actually provides the blog owner the ability to do that, and even if it did, a mod would have to be available to flag the username or IP that was posting the objectionable content without banning or deleting it.

And of course I'm sure pink would be too controversial - it would probably have to be gray instead.

In short, I doubt it's even feasible, but for some reason it stuck in my mind as a useful tool, especially if the real community were trying to ignore a troll or two and simply continue their conversation.

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