Feeding The Trolls Only Makes Them Stronger

Deny them the pleasure of an angry reaction, and they'll probably leave you alone.

This is your periodic reminder that OTB’s comment policies prohibit, among a variety of other things,

Any form of trolling, defined as comments that appear intended to send the discussion in a fruitless direction, including repeated raising of only tangentially related points.

Relatedly, they state,

A note on pseudonyms:  In an ideal world, Internet conversations would happen under our real names and likenesses. That would both make it easier to see each other as people rather than as targets but also tend to induce more caution than posting under the cloak of anonymity. That said, there are legitimate reasons people need to protect their identity. We ask that those who can’t post under their name establish a pseudonym, sign up for a Gravatar with an associated email account, and stick with that pseudonym over time. Doing this at least establishes a modicum of an identity in the community.  Relatedly, commenters who post under pseudonyms—or who frequently change pseudonyms—will be scrutinized more closely than those who post under a “real” name with an associated email address, simply because the presumption that they are trolls is heightened.

On balance, OTB’s is relatively free from trolling and sockpuppetry compared to most online fora that allow open commenting. We’ve attempted to rid ourselves of the worst offenders, with a decent amount of success. Still, we have a couple of folks who continue to resurface time and again under different aliases, apparently enjoying the game despite being repeatedly told they’re unwelcome here. Additionally, some regular commenters occasionally de-rail threads either by taking the conversation into tangents having nothing to do with the post topic or, worse, by giving trolls what they want and repeatedly engaging them.

Don’t feed the trolls. It only makes their task easier.

I started this site more than sixteen years ago and Steven Taylor soon followed suit with the now-defunct PoliBlog. A few months in, he started a regular satirical feature called Parade of Trolls to name and shame the worst offenders. He canceled a few months later because he found it just encouraged them.

Evita March, a Lecturer of Psychology at Federation University Australia, provides an excellent backgrounder (“‘Don’t feed the trolls’ really is good advice – here’s the evidence“):

Trolling behaviours typically include deliberately posting inflammatory comments and argumentative messages in an attempt to provoke, disrupt and upset others. “Trolls” may pretend to be part of the group, but their real intent is to create conflict for their own amusement. Shockingly, more than a quarter of Americans have admitted to engaging in trolling behaviour at some point.

Most concerning, however, is that harassing behaviours online (such as cyberbullying and trolling) are shown to have psychological outcomes similar to those of harassment offline. These outcomes can include depression, social anxiety and low self-esteem.

But while cyberbullying is a clear extension of offline bullying, there is no obvious real-world counterpart to online trolling. This can make it harder to grasp exactly why it happens.

Who are the trolls?

Research has defined a typical troll as an internet user who takes on a fake identity, which they then use to cause disruption and trigger conflict among others for their own amusement.

The cover of anonymity allows the troll to treat the internet as their personal playground, throwing provocative comments into forums like grenades into a crowd. Trolls remain unknown to victims and, unlike cyberbullying, their victims are unknown to them.

Online organisations and government bodies have made various attempts to govern and combat trolling. These include anti-troll.org and the online group Zero Trollerance.

But trolling has largely eluded most attempts to control it – as shown by the huge numbers of people who admit to having done it.

Is there a trolling ‘type’?

One way to try to understand why people engage in trolling is to investigate whether they are likely to show particular personality traits, such as narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism and everyday sadism – known as the “dark tetrad“.

These traits commonly underpin many forms of social manipulation and deception, and involve a drive for ruthless self-advancement, aggression and, most notably, a lack of empathy and severe callousness. Taking each of the tetrad in turn, narcissism is associated with feelings of superiority and ego-inflation; psychopathy is linked to impulsivity and callousness; Machiavellianism is associated with manipulation and exploitation of others; and sadism is defined as the enjoyment of inflicting pain on others.

2014 study found that people with higher levels of sadism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism were more likely to engage in online trolling behaviour, with sadism being the strongest predictor.

What’s the ultimate motivation?

But research on trolling behaviours has not yet considered the direct motivating factors. So my recent research sought to understand what motivates individuals to engage in trolling behaviours.

If a behaviour is rewarding, an individual is more likely to do it. Because trolling depends on interaction with others, we were interested in the social rewards experienced by those who provoke these interactions.

[…]

The effect of negative social potency was far stronger than the effects of psychopathy and sadism.

This means that while antisocial personality traits do play a role, what really influences trolling behaviour is the social pleasure derived from knowing that others are annoyed by it. The more negative social impact the troll has, the more their behaviour is reinforced.

Fighting back

Happily, this discovery suggests an easy way to deal with trolls: ignore them, rather than giving them the satisfaction of an angry reaction.

Individuals seeking a negative social reward may still engage in trolling. But if they don’t receive that negative social reward, then their motivation to engage in this behaviour will likely diminish.

So it appears that the classic internet adage really does hold true: don’t feed the trolls. Deny them the pleasure of an angry reaction, and they’ll probably leave you alone.

I’ll continue to do what I can on the backend to deal with commenters who are pure trolls. They can be persistent but I can delete their comments en masse, limiting their impact on the site.

But we also have a handful of commenters, mostly from the conservative side of the aisle, who are only occasionally trollish. Sometimes they genuinely post comments simply to derail the discussion. Mostly, though, they’re just frustrated that the front-pagers and most other commenters are ignoring the Fox News/Breitbart talking points of the day and trying to inject their perspectives. They can be frustrating to deal with, especially when they move the goal posts, but they’re not garden variety trolls and there are so few commenters from that side of the debate remaining in our stable that I’m loathe to simply ban all of them and risk turning the site into an echo chamber.

Regardless, they can’t derail the discussion without help. So, please, refrain from giving it to them. Engage them if they’re making an honest effort to contribute to the discussion. Otherwise, just ignore them.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Blogosphere
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Barry says:

    James, after years on blogs, there is one and only one method which deals with trolls – block user features.

    With Disqus, you can block a troll with one click.
    I’ve used this heavily on Lawyers Guns & Money. I can see the replies to the trolls, and am very happy to not see the original trolling.

    If you want trolls handled, you have to have a way of blocking them.

  2. becca says:

    “Never argue with idiots. They just drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

    Trolls and idiots are interchangeable.

    (Quote from Wayne of Letterkenny)

  3. R.Dave says:

    @Barry: With Disqus, you can block a troll with one click….I can see the replies to the trolls, and am very happy to not see the original trolling.

    Oh god, I hate that approach. In my experience (as a commenter, not a mod, so YMMV), it just encourages what I consider counter-trolling. People whose point of view or in-group status on a site makes them more acceptable to the mods pile onto the now-silenced initial commenter in a stream of snarky insults and smug self-congratulation, taking a perverse pleasure from the assumed frustration of the target. It’s basically the internet equivalent of Mean Girls laughing and making snide comments as the outsider that dared to try engaging them in conversation gets in trouble for stuff they know they would get away with themselves. If a comment is sufficiently trollish to warrant deletion, I say to just nuke all the replies as well.

  4. Teve says:

    @R.Dave: I’ve been helping moderate a discussion board for a decade, and the board has a very good way of dealing with trolls who try to derail conversations. we have a dedicated thread called The Bathroom Wall, for rando garbage, and when a troll and a bunch of replies clogs up a serious discussion, we kick the troll and the replies to the bathroom wall, so nothing is deleted, and the troll and his accomplices can continue the irrelevant discussion, but the original discussion isn’t derailed.

    OtB doesn’t seem to have a problem serious enough to warrant that approach, I don’t think. Although I do think an Open Thread every few days would be valuable here. Some of us want to bring up topics with the commenting community here, when there’s no relevant thread posted. I even thought about starting a Fans of OtB group on Facebook for that purpose.

  5. DrDaveT says:

    James, do have any sense for the relative population of lurkers versus regular commenters here? I know that my personal incentive to respond to particularly egregious disinformation depends on how many silent observers there might be who could benefit from some facts.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @Barry: @R.Dave: I tried Disqus or some other external commenting system [edit: turns out it was something called IntenseDebate] a long, long time ago but didn’t like it. I suppose I could try it again to see if it’s improved but I’ve gathered from past conversations that many regulars would be reluctant to login to a third-party system. Similarly, I’ve considered requiring everyone to establish an OTB WordPress login so that I can maintain control of who has privileges. Same issue, really.

    @Teve: I could give the Open Threads a try. We’ve had an OTB Facebook Page for well over a decade but it doesn’t get much commenting.

    @DrDaveT: Not really. We had some 22k visitors last week and far fewer commenters. But I don’t know how many of those are drive-bys, let alone how many read but don’t participate in the comments threads.

  7. Eric Florack says:

    @James Joyner: 3rd party systems have a tendency to slow down your own site as well, James. I speak from serious experience on that one…

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  8. Eric Florack says:

    @James Joyner: during my years in radio I was constantly exposed to statistics about talk shows and the number of people that actually called in to participate.

    And usually ended up being between one and 3% depending on the show. I suspect that the active number of people on online discussions sites such as this one are fairly similar.

    but you know, I’ll bet Glenn Reynolds can bring something to that table. I can’t imagine that they’re not using serious analytics over there that would have such information. I’ll ask him about it later today.

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  9. Totally not a troll says:

    Alabama’s football team looks pretty weak to me. Just sayin’.

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  10. Teve says:

    @James Joyner: I had no idea the FB page existed, I just never thought to look.

    Give an open thread every few days a try for a month, see what happens. If it doesn’t work, you can always abandon it, but I think people might like it. It would be nice to post things that the commenting community would be interested in, without a little nag of guilt for posting it on an irrelevant thread.

  11. CSK says:

    “…the Fox News/Breitbart talking points of the day…”

    The Trumpkins have been abandoning Fox for OANN. Fox News is growing far too left-wing for them. So they say over at Lucianne.com.

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  12. Teve says:

    @CSK: That’s like when just swallowing the Adderall doesn’t do it for you anymore, and you have to start crushing it and snorting it. 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

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  13. Teve says:

    @CSK: So based on your comment I went to OANN and it was kind of a letdown, I saw erroneous things, but nothing super nutty and entertaining, at least today,…

    …and then I clicked on the story about Hillary and started reading some comments. Holy shit.

    SheBabyMammaSay Mark Jones
    18 hours ago

    What Species has No Morals, No Conscience, No Remorse and No Guilt?
    1. Criminal Illegals
    2. Black Lies Matters
    3. The Politicians that Protect them.
    4. All the Above.

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    Avatar
    NorthwindAk SheBabyMammaSay
    13 hours ago
    Black History Month is Racist and Discriminates against all other ethical groups,
    It’s should be ethical History Month.
    What makes blacks so special, other than they burned and destroyed others property to get their Month!

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    Avatar
    Buzzy SheBabyMammaSay
    4 hours ago
    They are living in absolute luxury that’s why with the Tax payers money!

    Reply

    Avatar
    Verite Buzzy
    2 hours ago
    While gassed on drugs

    Heavens to Betsy.

  14. CSK says:

    Teve, I should have added QAnon. Did you know that Q predicted a year ago that Mueller would exonerate Trump? True fact.

    Of course, Q also said that Trump and Mueller were secretly working together to uncover the Deep State Global Pedophile Ring headed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

  15. CSK says:

    @Teve:
    I rest my case.

  16. Teve says:

    @CSK: the average person who reads Florack’s comment about how the Mueller investigation in 22 months spent 675 million dollars, might think, “wow that is extremely stupid, who could possibly be so bad at numbers that they passed that along as if it’s a fact?”

    But what the average person doesn’t know, and QAnon does, is that Hillary and Tom Hanks and Obama have pedophile bases on Mars, and do you know how much it costs for Mueller to take a rocketship to Mars round trip? A LOT!

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  17. Andy says:

    I’ve been a strong advocate for Disqus here over the last decade or so, but it’s not without its flaws. There is a distinct trade-off between a multi-site third-party system and the bespoke, one site system present here. At this point, I think it’s best to stick with what works and what you know.

    I also understand the difficulty of moderation. I currently moderate a FB group with about 50k members and an associated website/blog (which uses wordpress comments). Fortunately, both are non-political endeavors and we have strict rules about no political content, so it’s relatively easy to keep that stuff out and I and the other moderators do so ruthlessly. But it still amazes me what inanities some people can get outraged about, even in niche, non-political communities.

    More generally, I’ve been commenting online since the dialup BBS days in the early 1980’s and I learned long ago not to feed the trolls, though I still fail to often (or fail to realize quickly enough when someone is a troll). I see this problem as endemic to online discussions.

    But we also have a handful of commenters, mostly from the conservative side of the aisle, who are only occasionally trollish. Sometimes they genuinely post comments simply to derail the discussion. Mostly, though, they’re just frustrated that the front-pagers and most other commenters are ignoring the Fox News/Breitbart talking points of the day and trying to inject their perspectives. They can be frustrating to deal with, especially when they move the goal posts, but they’re not garden variety trolls and there are so few commenters from that side of the debate remaining in our stable that I’m loathe to simply ban all of them and risk turning the site into an echo chamber.

    I’m not at all “conservative” but one of my long-standing frustrations with the comment section here is that even reasonable conservative-leaning or heterodox opinions are generally unwelcome by the comment section. And often it’s not possible to have a productive discussion because, at least in my case, I consistently find my motives twisted and impugned into caricatures which are then attacked. It’s an effective tactic for shutting down a discussion and “winning” a debate. It also gets old really fast. It’s the main reason I take long breaks from this site entirely. And I think it explains why there are so few commenters from “that side of the aisle” who don’t descend into trollish behavior – it’s just not worth the effort in a lot of cases.

    And I’m sure you see this – a lot of comments on your views or analysis are decidedly uncharitable when they rub against the grain here.

    The problem is I’m not really sure what you and the other authors/administrators can do to get more diversity of thought in the comments here, it’s not something one can simply create. And of course, we are seeing the internet (and even the real world) sort itself into like-minded communities that are quick to pounce when someone new and different comes along. So maybe that is endemic as well. And I’m not immune – I’ve found myself gravitating to communities that are more friendly and accepting of my own views.

  18. MarkedMan says:

    James, I wonder if your hands off policy for people you judge not quite a troll is inadvertently contributing to the lack of rational conservative voices here. The people you are reluctant to ban spout ridiculous “facts”, move goalposts, fail to respond to legitimate criticisms of what they posted etc. Human nature being what it is, this pisses some people off and they respond with anger and snark. I’ve seen one timer Conservatives try to post and the minute they make a point that could in any way be compared to our resident Trumpers the gang goes off on them. Even if a few of the regular commenters try to legitimately engage they get lost in the snark and I suspect that newbie decides it’s not worth the effort.

    The reason you ban trolls is because they derail the discussion. I think it is counterproductive to try to see inside people’s heads and guess which ones are actual trolls and which ones are inadvertent trolls. Ban the behavior, not the intent.

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  19. john430 says:

    Well, we have the defibrillators standing by to assist all the anti-Trumpers who go into cardiac arrest over the Mueller Report that says NOTHING!

    Conversely, some of us are proposing that Trump turn around and reappoint Mueller to investigate Hillary’s campaign and money laundering. Then we’ll see who the trolls really are.

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  20. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy:

    one of my long-standing frustrations with the comment section here is that even reasonable conservative-leaning or heterodox opinions are generally unwelcome by the comment section. And often it’s not possible to have a productive discussion because, at least in my case, I consistently find my motives twisted and impugned into caricatures which are then attacked.

    Wow. I made my post, and then checked to see what new posts had hit while I was writing it, and there you were with the exact same concern, but from the other side of the fence.

    I originally came to this site all those years ago because I thought the Iraq war was a huge mistake and the handling of the war in Afghanistan was criminally inept, but wanted to hear rational arguments from the other side. It’s becoming increasingly hard to find those voices.

  21. Mister Bluster says:

    @john430:..the Mueller Report that says NOTHING!

    So you’ve read the Mueller Report!
    Come on Johnny! Give us a link. Post up a copy.
    What have you got to hide?

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  22. R.Dave says:

    @James Joyner: I would stay away from Disqus. I’ve had a few profiles on that platform, and over the years, each and every one of them has eventually been flagged in some way such that nearly all my comments get auto-deleted as spam. No idea what I’m doing to trigger the algorithm so reliably – editing comments multiple times when I reread them and find typos, using blockquotes and linking to articles, or what – but I’ve gone through three profiles so far and now my fourth is starting to “spam out” as well. Very frustrating.

  23. mattbernius says:

    Kudos to @john430 for trolling the trolling thread.

    Also, I agree with @Andy:

    [O]ne of my long-standing frustrations with the comment section here is that even reasonable conservative-leaning or heterodox opinions are generally unwelcome by the comment section. And often it’s not possible to have a productive discussion because, at least in my case, I consistently find my motives twisted and impugned into caricatures which are then attacked. It’s an effective tactic for shutting down a discussion and “winning” a debate.

    I have seen this happen in the past as well.

    I’m not sure what the solution is.

    I also know that, following the truism that “someone’s wrong on the internet,” its often hard to keep oneself from posting even when you know it will do no good. There was a particular posting, for example, on the recent Parkland Student Suicide post, that I drafted a frustrated response to and, only at the last minute, chose not to send because I knew it wouldn’t be productive and would have only resulted in a thread hijack (which of course ended up happening anyway).

    I sometimes wonder if the comments section of this blog has become an extended “two minute hate” for some people (or they way that some posters fulfill a particular self-abuse kink — not unlike Dinesh D’Souza tweeting about history).

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  24. James Joyner says:

    @Andy: @MarkedMan: @mattbernius: Yes, it’s a longstanding frustration. From the perspective of Trump supporters, the front-pagers are socialists who love Bernie, AOC, and Hillary. From the perspective of most of our commentariat, we’re Trumpish Fellow Travelers because we’re not sufficiently strident or leftist in our critique. I don’t know how to fix that.

    And, yes, I wonder if it’s counterproductive keeping a couple of the more annoying but seemingly earnest commenters around. I tend to be more reticent to ban those who have been around a long time and ruthless with those who start off as trolls.

  25. James Joyner says:

    @R.Dave: That’s interesting. I think I’m more likely to implement mandatory registration within our own backend before switching to a third-party system. But I’m not sure the problem is sufficiently bad to impose that requirement and risk driving away regulars.

  26. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    And, yes, I wonder if it’s counterproductive keeping a couple of the more annoying but seemingly earnest commenters around. I tend to be more reticent to ban those who have been around a long time and ruthless with those who start off as trolls.

    I’m not a huge fan of banning people for content. Or rather once you start to go down that path, you need to apply it fairly. And, my perception is, as the tone of arguments has gotten more brusk, there are some popular left-leaning folks here who have been pushing some of the rules as well (in particular around personal attacks).

    Further complicating things is that, there are cases where what can be interpreted as a personal attack is simply stating facts about an individual. Or rather, how many times can someone post repeatedly false statements before we can call them “willingly ignorant” or “a liar.”

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  27. Teve says:

    From the perspective of most of our commentariat, we’re Trumpish Fellow Travelers because we’re not sufficiently strident or leftist in our critique. I don’t know how to fix that.

    FWIW I wouldn’t criticize any of the front pagers as Trumpers. Center-right and/or libertarian with decent educations and no more blind spots on average than any of the rest of us.

    If I thought you guys were Trumpers I wouldn’t be here in the first place. I come here because I spend plenty of time at liberal blogs, and I like to get a diversity of opinion.

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  28. Teve says:

    @mattbernius:

    I sometimes wonder if the comments section of this blog has become an extended “two minute hate” for some people (or they way that some posters fulfill a particular self-abuse kink — not unlike Dinesh D’Souza tweeting about history).

    😀 😀 😀

  29. MarkedMan says:

    Is there any way to ban someone for a set amount of time? That might help with the people who are just going ad hominem. (I’ve been guilty of that myself. )

  30. EddieInCA says:

    @mattbernius:

    Further complicating things is that, there are cases where what can be interpreted as a personal attack is simply stating facts about an individual. Or rather, how many times can someone post repeatedly false statements before we can call them “willingly ignorant” or “a liar.”

    I was banned from RedState for, literally, pointing out a factual error in a Front Pager’s Post. I have found that most of the trolls on this site, save a few, are of the hit and run variety, especially when a Post is about Guns.

  31. James Pearce says:

    They can be frustrating to deal with, especially when they move the goal posts, but they’re not garden variety trolls and there are so few commenters from that side of the debate remaining in our stable that I’m loathe to simply ban all of them and risk turning the site into an echo chamber.

    In many ways, the site is already an echo chamber and the “trolls” have taken over.

    I made the mistake yesterday of expressing empathy (ie, “I understand”) and confessing vulnerability, only to be called an attention-seeking troll who should be banned. (Someone also called me a “sanctimonious prick.”)

    I recognize I’m not well liked or respected around here, and even accept some responsibility for that. But you have a very lopsided problem here where certain folks think they can say anything, including calling people sanctimonious pricks, and others have to tread very carefully, lest –as Andy describes– their words and motives get twisted and impugned.

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  32. Teve says:

    @CSK: dude speaking of QAnon, check this shit out

    Craig Silverman
    @CraigSilverman
    There’s a truly incredible Qanon account on Instagram with +11k followers that’s been pumping out totally fake quotes attributed to Beto, AOC, Bernie Sanders, John McCain, Kamala Harris. Just totally bonkers stuff getting good engagement!

    linky

  33. CSK says:

    @Teve:

    Speechless.

  34. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce: oh, for fucks sake, Pearce…

    Your first comment on that post read as amazingly insensitive. I’ll assume that wasn’t your intent, but the right response when you accidentally write something amazingly insensitive isn’t to then argue that you’re being attacked and be all “woe is me”

    Maybe try “Holy shit, what I wrote seems really offensive. Not my intent. Wow. Sorry guys. What I meant was blah blah blah (longer coherent statement of what you meant).”

    Do you know how you keep telling us all that we need to listen more to our opponents, and treat them like people and be excellent to one another? You’re right about that. Try that with the people here.

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  35. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: I cannot tell if that is parody or “real”, but I want more.

  36. Guarneri says:

    There is a difference between trolling and mocking the often bizarre comments seen on blogsites. If one can’t differentiate, I can’t help. You have a disproportionate number of commenters who reflexively call people who disagree racist, stupid, homophobic, evil, etc. Witness Exhibit A – Reynolds. It is not, as your website advertises, debate from an educated point of view. Perhaps a nearby mirror might be useful.

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  37. mattbernius says:

    @James Pearce:
    James, let me break something down for you:

    You wrote:

    I understand looking at the world and wanting to have no part of it, but I’ve chosen non-conformity over non-existence.

    Of that:

    I understand looking at the world and wanting to have no part of it,

    Was really empathetic and vulnerable. I say that as someone who has also had ongoing mental and emotional health struggles. I think it was very brave of you to write about that.

    It you had just stopped there, you would have been golden. Change that comma to a period and we’d have all been on your side.

    The problem wasn’t that section, it was:

    but I’ve chosen non-conformity over non-existence.

    Here are the two primary problems with that phrasing:

    1. “but” — the issue with “but” is its a contrasting conjunction. It serves to negate everything that came before it. Case and point: “your statement started out as empathetic, but turned into something that wasn’t.” The natural effect of “but” is that you stop paying attention to the first part of the statement (i.e. “you’re a great guy, but…”) and only concentrate on the second part, which leads to…

    2. “I’ve chosen…” — this gets into a complex issue of choice and suicide. A lot of people in the medical and mental health community are increasingly *not* seeing suicide as a choice. I.e. that the individual who committed suicide is unable of fulling making a rational choice in the matter (this is akin to suggesting that some people choose to beat cancer and other people choose to die from it). Intentionally or not, to the reader this, combined with the “but” leads to a reading that this came down to a bad choice on her part AND that you made a better choice. It transform you statement from being empathetic to her pain to celebrating your success (and contrasting it in a positive way to her negative choice).

    (Please tell me you can, with a little distance, see that as a viable reading of what you wrote.)

    And thus, that is where the entire thing went to crap.

    (Aside: If you had added another sentence to the end such as “Under different circumstances (or her circumstances) I could see myself choosing differently…” you probably could have recovered.)

    Once again, this is a situation where people are drawing deeply different understandings of what you wrote than what you apparently meant to communicate. At some point, for your own personal development, you need to ask yourself why this keeps happening and work on your communication style. Because if you want to be an effective communicator, you need to take responsibility for your words and understand that when this sort of problem keeps happening over and over again, the issue might not be with the listeners.

    (Alternatively — and I say this with all due respect — if you’ve ever been diagnosed with any form of neurodiversity, this might a good time to share it, as that would provide really important contextual information to help us all interpret what you are writing)

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  38. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: “Real” QAnoners are claiming it’s a fake to discredit QAnon. But real QAnoners also include people like Liz Crokin who seems to be legitimately mentally unwell. So…

  39. mattbernius says:

    @Guarneri:

    You have a disproportionate number of commenters who reflexively call people who disagree racist, stupid, homophobic, evil, etc.

    Sigh.

    As I said up higher in the thread, I do think this gets out of hand — in addition to Andy, one can go back and see similar things happening to people like Hal and past commenters like PD_Shaw.

    We also have a not insignificant number of conservative commenters who have routinely written racist, stupid, and/or homophobic things enough times to demonstrate that they are either (a) racist, stupid, and/or homophobic, or (b) are happy to write “racist, stupid, and/or homophobic” things in order to pwn the libs. Or just lie outright.

    As a general rule: if you don’t want to be accused of those things, then don’t write “racist, stupid, and/or homophobic” stuff.

    Plus in your case, it might help to actually not just post an opinion and disappear, but actually engage with the people who post thoughtful critiques of what you wrote. All to often you post some bit of talk radio bullshit and then either “peace out” of the thread or simply engage with the most off the wall critiques of what you wrote. That behavior doesn’t exactly scream “I’m making a point in good faith.”

    Nor does starting most of your comments by insulting everyone who had previously written in the thread. Though, that move does wonders for perpetuating your reputation as a raging asshole.

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  40. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce: I think you suffer from the delusion that your writing is clearer than it is. Also, most people’s reading comprehension is a bit lower than you would hope.

    Since we are analyzing your first post carefully…

    I understand looking at the world and wanting to have no part of it, but I’ve chosen non-conformity over non-existence.

    The first clause can mean anything from “I’ve struggled with depression and thought of suicide for years” to “oh, the ennui, the crippling ennui.”

    The second clause is favoring wordplay and alliteration over clarity. That makes it a lot easier to read the first clause as being about ennui. I expect that you meant “it’s ok to be a bit fucked up, and it’s a shame she couldn’t live with that because of society’s expectations” or something. I think that’s where your weird comment later about a reservation or something was referring to. But it’s really unclear. I’m making all sorts of jumps in logic based on the next half dozen comments.

    Try writing as if we are all 12-16 years old. You don’t like Michael Reynolds, but he’s very clear. When he’s coming across as an asshole, it’s because either he wants to be an asshole, or he genuinely is an asshole. It’s clear. (Hi Michael!)

    I think more than half the time when you’re coming across as an asshole, you don’t intend it, and that you’re not actually an asshole.

    It’s a little frustrating to watch.

  41. James Pearce says:

    @Gustopher:

    Your first comment on that post read as amazingly insensitive.

    To people who don’t like me and are primed to misinterpret me.

    I didn’t “accidentally write something amazingly insensitive.” I intentionally wrote something (between tasks at my job) that was so carefully worded that it conveyed exactly what I meant and it was attacked anyway by people primed to see everything I say in the worst possible light.

    Maybe try “Holy shit, what I wrote seems really offensive. Not my intent. Wow. Sorry guys. What I meant was blah blah blah (longer coherent statement of what you meant).”

    There was NO CHANCE I was going to go “Wow sorry guys” after I was accused of “smug self-righteousness” for speaking from such a vulnerable place.

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  42. EddieInCA says:

    @James Pearce:

    I apologize for calling you a sanctimonious prick. No qualifiers. Full stop.

  43. mattbernius says:

    @James Pearce:

    I intentionally wrote something (between tasks at my job) that was so carefully worded that it conveyed exactly what I meant

    James, it seriously didn’t convey what you meant. Really, this isn’t us reading into it. The phrasing was bad for all the reasons that I pointed out.

    To be clear, I understand how the mistakes were made. I’d made that type of mistake before in phrasing things. It took conscious effort on my part to learn a better way of writing and speaking to avoid the mistakes that were made in that statement’s construction.

    That gets me to, this isn’t simply “people don’t like you.” If I had written the same thing, while it might not have been as extreme a reaction (I do think you have a point there – see below) I would have been down-voted. Pretty much anyone would have.

    I agree that you got extra-hate due to your history with people here. But that is a separate issue to the construction of what you originally wrote.

  44. grumpy realist says:

    Speaking of trolls and people trying to attract attention, Uri Geller is now claiming he’s going to stop Brexit by telepathy!

    (Brexit report: a) EU gave Theresa May two deadlines, depending on whether she manages to get the WA over the line next week or not. April 12 is now the drop-dead date. b) Theresa looks to be trying to set up for a last-moment parliamentary vote with seven options. c) a whole lot of Remainers marched in London. Result: no one knows what the hell is going on. The Brits still haven’t managed to come to an agreement on anything and the EU seems to have become totally fed up with the situation. )

  45. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Guarneri: If you could charge Reynolds rent for living in your head, you might even round up the capital to do all those deals you periodically brag about here.

  46. DrDaveT says:

    @James Pearce:

    I recognize I’m not well liked or respected around here, and even accept some responsibility for that. But you have a very lopsided problem here where certain folks think they can say anything, including calling people sanctimonious pricks, and others have to tread very carefully

    I don’t agree with much you’ve said lately, JP, but I agree with this.

  47. James Pearce says:

    @mattbernius:

    James, it seriously didn’t convey what you meant.

    Granted, but that doesn’t mean that sentence couldn’t convey what I meant. The reader has to bring something too, if nothing else, a willingness to try and understand.

    @EddieInCA:

    I apologize for calling you a sanctimonious prick.

    I appreciate you saying that, Eddie, and I accept your apology with gratitude and humility.

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  48. mattbernius says:

    @James Pearce:

    [Y]ou have a very lopsided problem here where certain folks think they can say anything, including calling people sanctimonious pricks, and others have to tread very carefully.

    James, apologies. I passed over this in my focus on other parts of your post. I think you are 100% right about this. The reality is that there are popular commenters who regularly violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the discussion TOS/civility policy.

    @James Pearce:

    Granted, but that doesn’t mean that sentence couldn’t convey what I meant. The reader has to bring something too, if nothing else, a willingness to try and understand.

    James, again, this is a bit of goal post moving. If everyone is telling you that it read in a certain way, then the reality is, despite your intent, it probably read that way. Now, perhaps, that could work on a different thread. But we’re talking about an incredibly emotionally charged issue — the suicide of a young, traumatized woman. That makes everything a little more heated.

    Asking people to embrace alternative readings instead of the primary one that everyone apparently read isn’t realistic or fair. Or rather, its again saying that all the work needs to happen on the reader’s side. That’s essentially the equivalent of the deeply frustrating non-apology-apology template “I’m sorry that you feel that way” or in this case “I’m sorry that you read it that way.”

    I’ll also note that I’ve yet to see you even agree that the construction of your sentence could easily be read the way all of us appear to have read it. I know you’re using the term “empathy” a lot here – that’s a two way street. It would go a long way to see you express empathy for the rest of us and acknowledge the issues with your original construction.

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  49. An Interested Party says:

    James, again, this is a bit of goal post moving.

    Unfortunately, this is a pattern that is repeated over and over and over again…it is hardly surprising that such a pattern would engender hostility…

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  50. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    Granted, but that doesn’t mean that sentence couldn’t convey what I meant. The reader has to bring something too, if nothing else, a willingness to try and understand.

    Glup.

  51. James Pearce says:

    @mattbernius:

    I’ll also note that I’ve yet to see you even agree that the construction of your sentence could easily be read the way all of us appear to have read it.

    It could, and it was. And I understand why.

    It should have been read as its author intended, as a brief thought floating on the waves of deeper thoughts I couldn’t quite communicate at the time.

    @DrDaveT: You agree that I’m not well liked or respected?

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  52. Liberal Capitalist says:

    I just dropped in to see if the trolls were defending themselves as not trolls.

    … and leaving, with my nom de plume and email de plume, completely entertained.

  53. Kylopod says:

    @Teve: A while back you stated (I’m paraphrasing) “In the entire history of the Internet, telling people not to feed the troll has never once worked.”

    I agree with this sentiment, and I would expand on it. I believe the idea that the only appropriate response to commenters deemed “trolls” is to ignore or block them is in fact counterproductive. Let’s put aside for the moment (which I’ll get to shortly) that the term “troll” is often thrown around for anyone who disagrees with the consensus view on a particular forum. The Internet culture has built up trolls to be a lot more than they actually are. There’s a tendency to think of them as being sly tricksters, when in reality many of them are simply narrow-minded individuals too stupid to realize when they’ve been destroyed in an argument. Their inability to back down isn’t some impressive, backhanded achievement on their part, no matter how much they may perceive it that way.

    Take that moment a couple of years ago when Bungles described Donald Trump as “one of the most accomplished non-military men to win the Oval Office in American history.” This provoked a string of thoughtful responses, including an especially good one from HarvardLaw92. As usual, Bungles ignored all the rebuttals and wasn’t seen again in the thread.

    It’s obvious Bungles believed he was successfully “owning the libs” whenever he posted these hit-and-run comments, and that his ability to provoke indignant replies he would go on to ignore was itself a praise-worthy accomplishment. But just because he perceived things that way doesn’t mean the replies were an exercise in futility. The question is not whether he was persuadable, it’s whether the dozens of lurkers were. And I believe they were. I believe that, by responding to his posts, we objectively weakened his attempts to persuade readers, in a way that simply ignoring his posts wouldn’t have done. His inability to ever realize that is on his head, not ours.

    That’s not to suggest that every single argument by a “troll” deserves a response. Sometimes to respond to them is simply to be pulled down a rabbit hole. Nevertheless, I believe it is worthwhile to know what the opposition is saying and be prepared with a basic rebuttal more substantive than “How’s the vodka taste, comrade?”

    Underlying the DFTT axiom is a form of defeatism, a belief that no matter what we say to trolls, they’re going to “win,” because their purpose is to sow discord, not to engage. The fallacy in that argument is the assumption that their motive should matter to us at all in determining how (or whether) to respond. Just because they think they’ve succeeded doesn’t mean our response was futile. We don’t need to judge our success on their terms.

    And that brings me back to the point about how “trolls” are commonly defined. As James Joyner notes, “Mostly, though, they’re just frustrated that the front-pagers and most other commenters are ignoring the Fox News/Breitbart talking points of the day and trying to inject their perspectives.” That would be fine if they were actually willing to debate these talking points with the regulars here, which we’ve seen repeatedly they are not. They just drop the talking points and go on to ignore the rebuttals (usually fleeing the thread entirely). Even when confronted by empirical evidence objectively disproving their claims, they don’t budge. Whether you choose to call these commenters “trolls” or not, the idea that the best response is simply to ignore them and let their points stand is, to my mind, madness.

  54. DrDaveT says:

    @James Pearce:

    @DrDaveT: You agree that I’m not well liked or respected?

    I agree with everything I quoted.

  55. MarkedMan says:

    @James Pearce: Obviously, I’m not your favorite person here but know that I am offering this with the best of intentions. Making your point clear in a web forum is difficult enough. Getting people to recognize who you are or what you are feeling is essentially impossible. I am willing to bet that none of us come across the same way in person as we do in this comment section. I’ve been posting on Internet forums since before it was called the internet and have had what I thought I had clearly stated misinterpreted hundreds of times. Over the years I’ve learned that the fault is almost always mine. I go back and reread what I wrote and ask myself “why is this person thinking I said something I didn’t mean?” And if it is 10 people who all view it the same way, well, that just erases any remaining doubt as to where the fault lies.

  56. MarkedMan says:

    The more I read through this thread the more I think it would be helpful to have a 1 day ban and a 3 day ban as well as a perma ban. And also that you recruit a bunch of volunteer moderators that would wield those bans whenever someone makes an ad hominem attack. I say this knowing that I would get at least the 1 day ban from time to time. Heck, I would ban myself under that regime.

  57. de stijl says:

    @James Joyner:

    We had some 22k visitors last week and far fewer commenters. But I don’t know how many of those are drive-bys, let alone how many read but don’t participate in the comments threads.

    Is there a tool that allows you to see who sees the OP vs. who then scans the comments?

    Interesting but off topic. I like OTB a lot. I also like how OTB handles their shit. Open-handed and fair. You have to be an utter d-bag to get banned here. And the resident trolls are easy to contain, and every now and again offer up interesting tidbits.

    There is a tendency to pile on to non-conforming opinions which is bad / not optimal, but the pile-ons usually are “You’re wrong because X, Y and Z.” and not “You’re wrong because we hate that opinion.” That’s a really important distinction.

    OTB is a very strange beast – y’all are center-Right and the commenters are, as a class, center-Left. How did that happen? (It must drive you guys nuts, BTW. Your most ardent consumers disagree with you on a base level.)

    It does force you be a better writer – you have to accommodate other takes and defend your own. Totally approve 100%.

    OTB is very odd. Best commentariat going – by far. LGM does well in that space but the infrastrucure is whack.

    Seriously, how do you take us folks? We fundamentally oppose 2/3’s of what you pitch. OMG, you should utterly hate us. We are so shitty to you. You allow us to jibber jabber amongst ourselves and there you are thinking “That’s a bad idea, A really, really bad idea.”

    And 15% percent of the time you’re right and correct and we’re wrong. Must drive you effing nuts. You host a commentariat that fundamentally disagrees with you on the basics.

  58. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Compare and contrast OTB to Balloon Juice. Balloon Juice used to be a thing and now is a place where regulars just trade recipes and ritually bemoan Trumpism.

    BJ used to have a really good person on health care, but he just got subsumed by the sheer number of people sharing their killer chili recipe and dissing whatever Trump said today.

    This should so be a dissertation. How and Why is OTB different than BJ? They are clearly on different paths.

  59. James Joyner says:

    @James Pearce: @DrDaveT: @mattbernius: @Gustopher: I fully agree that some people are treated worse than others here for similar transgressions. Partly, it’s a function of people of a more leftist perspective starting with most of the commentariat on their side and those from a more conservative perspective starting with most of the commentariat ready to pounce. But there’s more to it than that.

    The Arabs have a word, “wasta,” that “loosely translates into nepotism, ‘clout’ or ‘who you know’. It refers to using one’s connections and/or influence to get things done, including government transactions such as the quick renewal of a passport, waiving of traffic fines, and getting hired for or promoted in a job.” American troops, at least American Marines, have adopted it as their own but use it in a modified fashion. They use it to mean something akin to “street cred” but with a deeper connection. That one’s reputation in the organization is taken into consideration. So, if a staff sergeant who has been a stellar dude during his time in the unit, pulled his weight and then some during three deployments, and effs up, he’s going to be treated differently than a new guy, much less somebody who’s a marginal performer or all around pain in the butt. He’s simply earned more “wasta.”

    So, yes, there are some regular, longtime commenters who violate the comments policies by name-calling. Reynolds is certainly high on that list. But he’s spent years making himself part of the community, providing valuable insights. He’s earned enough wasta to get away with being cranky occasionally, usually with specific commenters who are themselves on the fringes of the community.

    For that matter, so has @James Pearce. I frequently find him exasperating and have some difficulty figuring out why his style has changed so much in recent years. But, unlike some commenters, I don’t think he’s mostly trolling.

    Similarly, it took me a long time to finally decide that MBunge and even Jenos had to go. And I’m kind of there with Florack, with is really a shame because he’s been in the comment threads almost from the beginning of the site. At some point, though, they’re just a cancer on the site.

    Relatedly, I agree with @MarkedMan that expressing oneself in these fora in a way that those primed to disagree won’t interpret is extremely difficult. And, yes, it’s often poor wording on our part when it happens. But, like @James Pearce, I find it frustrating when it happens to me. And, as in the case of Pearce’s weirdly-phrased initial comment on the suicide thread, there can be a feeding frenzy wherein everyone downvotes, several comments ensue about what a jerk the commenter was, the commenter explaining that what he wrote wasn’t exactly what he meant, and then commenters piling on and saying their initial interpretation was nonetheless right because, reasons. There’s a frustrating tendency to not give people the benefit of the doubt even after repeated explanation and unpacking of the original comment.

  60. James Joyner says:

    @Kylopod:

    Underlying the DFTT axiom is a form of defeatism, a belief that no matter what we say to trolls, they’re going to “win,” because their purpose is to sow discord, not to engage. The fallacy in that argument is the assumption that their motive should matter to us at all in determining how (or whether) to respond. Just because they think they’ve succeeded doesn’t mean our response was futile. We don’t need to judge our success on their terms.

    Yes, I agree with that.

    I would differentiate, though, on-topic and off-topic trolling. If someone makes an assinine point that’s about the topic under discussion, responding to it may or may not be productive in the sense you describe. All too often, though, someone will come in with some Breitbart talking point that’s really irrelevant to the discussion and then the thread gets highjacked with a back and forth on that comment. (Sometimes, they’ll make essentially the same comment on multiple ongoing posts and tie them up. If it’s happening on my posts and I can catch them early, I tend to delete those. But if it happens across posts from multiple authors or while I’m occupied, the threads all get hijacked.)

  61. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    and be excellent to one another

    Bill and Ted 3 in legit coming in 2020. Reeves and Winter are on board. Wyld Stallions!

    https://youtu.be/2_x2C4L6quA

    And they shot the teaser at the Hollywood Bowl which is so adorable.

    And they’re writing in William Sadler as Death. Yeah! B&T2 was not excellent, but Sadler was the mothereffing bomb. I heartily approve of any movie that has Sadler portraying Death.

    This could be interesting: imagine B&T as middle aged adults coping with their failure to launch – dealing with that by poorly chosen compensatory behavior. Totally on board. If handled well B&T3 could be totally excellent.

  62. de stijl says:

    @James Joyner:

    I appreciate your effort and time. This is optional for you but you do it very well. It must be infuriating at times.

    Thank you. My life is better because of you.

  63. Teve says:

    @Kylopod:

    A while back you stated (I’m paraphrasing) “In the entire history of the Internet, telling people not to feed the troll has never once worked.”

    it’s always nice to be remembered! We are evolutionarily wired to notice when someone in the tribe is being an outrageous lunatic, so it’s simply not possible to have a discussion board where everybody ignores the troll.

    Notice though when I said that, I didn’t say what people should do in response to a troll. This is because there is not always a rule that works with trolls. Trolls have many different personalities and objectives and amounts of time to spend.

    I’ve spent over a decade helping moderate a biology website where we follow the activities of the creationists, and, not so much anymore, but a few years ago when “intelligent design” was still thought to be a viable legal strategy, we had to deal with a lot of trolls ranging from the harmless and dumb, to psychopaths intent on wrecking every discussion thread on the board. Through trial-and-error we had to develop a mixture of responses, based on the nature of the troll. Some could be ignored, some could be put in check with a few educated responses, some had to be restricted to their very own discussion thread, and some had to be outright banned. The goal was always to preserve the ability of science-oriented people to have productive discussions with each other, with a minimum of ‘censorship’ for want of a better word. I don’t think the trolls here present a serious threat to discussion, in fact it seems like over the last two years they’ve diminished, which is easy to understand, it’s harder and harder to pretend like Trump is anything other than garbage.

  64. de stijl says:

    @Teve:

    Black History Month is Racist and Discriminates against all other ethical groups

    I love how guy conflated ethnic with ethic in his head and just went with that.

    And you delved into the commentary. Bless you.

    Good advise from Chef in Apocalypse Now: stay in the boat, never get out of the boat

    https://youtu.be/YbFvAaO9j8M

    Man, AN is a really problematic movie but the sound design is so excellent. Coppolla nailed that bit. And Laurence Fishburne was 14 or 15 when it was shot. Dude lied about his age to get the gig! He’s so young!

  65. Kylopod says:

    @Teve:

    Notice though when I said that, I didn’t say what people should do in response to a troll. This is because there is not always a rule that works with trolls. Trolls have many different personalities and objectives and amounts of time to spend.

    I totally agree. That’s why I mentioned about the dangers of being pulled down a rabbit hole by responding to trolls. By no means am I putting myself forward as the ideal on how to confront trolls. In fact I have a weakness for getting pulled down a rabbit hole just as I described. It was worse in my early years using the Internet; I’ve learned a great deal since then about how to pick my battles.

    Nevertheless, I have found that people responding to trolls–or unreasonable commenters–sometimes winds up leading to some very valuable and insightful posts. Yet whenever that happens, it’s a good bet there’s still someone screaming “DFTT!” So it’s not just that by the time we hear the DFTT rallying cry, it’s usually a lost cause by then. It’s also that it leads to missed opportunities to make much-needed points, and it ironically does the opposite of what it’s supposed to do: it actually increases the trolls’ power over us by implying it’s impossible ever to draw blood from them.

  66. Kylopod says:

    @James Joyner:

    I would differentiate, though, on-topic and off-topic trolling.

    Agreed. And I admit I have sometimes taken the bait to these off-topic stink bombs, though I try to avoid it. I remember back when Bungles was being warned for his thread-derailment, he argued that the regulars go off-topic all the time, in technical violation of the site’s rules, without getting punished for it. He did have a point; the rules of this site are, to some extent, selectively enforced. But there’s clearly a difference between commenters going off topic in order to pass along some news and the outright disruptive behavior of Bungles, where he would pop into just about every thread attacking the hosts here for something unrelated to the thread’s topic. (The commenter Superdestroyer had similar behavior before he disappeared; I don’t know if he was banned or not.)

  67. Teve says:

    It was worse in my early years using the Internet; I’ve learned a great deal since then about how to pick my battles.

    tell me about it. I’m 42, and while I had some success in the last few years of arguing less, it’s only in 2019 that I decided to never, ever argue with a rando stranger on social media, and somehow I’ve managed to keep that up for two and a half months so far.

    By late last year I had firmly concluded that social media was both an addiction and aggressively diminishing my quality of life, so the no argument policy and being quick to ban idiots has turned things around for me. I actually like Facebook and Twitter now.

  68. Teve says:

    @Kylopod: when we started moderating the biology site, the guy who owns the site, who is strongly on the spectrum, spent a lot of time and effort trying to come up with a very concise and strict set of rules to be followed stringently.

    This was a complete disaster.

    After several early years of trial-and-error, we realized that there was a certain ineffable quality of judgement that had to obtain. An identical comment could be made by person a or person b, and if you let person a slide, nothing would happen, but if you let person b do it, it would become a dumpster fire. In the end there was no way to moderate the site without just making gut decisions based on years of experience. The same thing exists in the legal system, it’s called discretion. it can certainly go wrong, and be abused way too often, but the system can’t function without it, as you see when zero tolerance and minimum mandatory policies are implemented and lead to horrible problems.

  69. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    I miss that era of movies. The ’70’s were a golden age for movies and music.

    Coppolla re-made The Heart Of Darkness on film with Viet Nam as the new stand-in for Congo. It’s ballsy and bold. Yeah, he and Sheen both had nervous breakdowns while filming it, but they were making an omelet. And they got better afterwards. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

    The hotel scene was epic. When the voice over kicks in you just know that Sheen will be an unreliable narrator. He’s in Saigon.

    And the Sheen emerging from below the water surface is indelibly iconic.

    https://youtu.be/HSWtc01BlqM

    Kurtz was walking suicide who invited and encouraged his own death, but I do feel bad for the cow. She was just being an awesome cow and had lovely cow babies and loved her baby calves and fed them milk and love. Aww! So sad, but you must die Because Symbology! (and also cool visual images)

    The scene I find most interesting is when Sheen is being briefed his handlers. It’s baffling. But I think I’m at the limit of allowable embedded links.

  70. de stijl says:

    Ah, the briefing scene. Where a surprisingly verbose general, a very young Harrison Ford, and the scary CIA guy in the white shirt tell Sheen to go upriver and kill Kurtz by any means.

    https://youtu.be/GjB8z0Bvi14

    It’s a weird scene but so well framed and shot. I like the bit where Captain Willard is sorta shocked back into day to day reality and keeps pumping out the “Yes Sirs! I’m totally on-board with the plan. The plan must succeed and will if you assign totally unreliable me to make it happen. I would really like a Marlboro if you could offer me one. Thanks, nicotine is super yummy.”

    And Sheen blatantly breaks the forth wall and stares directly into the camera and Coppola kept it in.

    Willard is clearly unfit for duty, but the triumvirate of verbose General, super young Han Solo, and creepy homoerotic CIA guy give him the gig anyway. Go up-river and kill Kurtz by any means necessary.

    Nowadays, we have Marvel extended universe pretender to throne movies. Bah! I like the guy who plays Loki – he’s cheeky, but the rest is so boring.

  71. Kylopod says:

    @Teve:

    tell me about it. I’m 42, and while I had some success in the last few years of arguing less, it’s only in 2019 that I decided to never, ever argue with a rando stranger on social media, and somehow I’ve managed to keep that up for two and a half months so far.

    We’re the same age. My first experience I can remember using an Internet discussion forum was in 1997. I was an effective, articulate debater even back then. But looking back now, I’m amazed at how naive I was in assuming the good-faith intentions of other commenters. I could be like Charlie Brown and the football. The word “troll” rarely came up, and I really didn’t know the first thing about how trolls could manipulate the situation through their anonymity. (The closest was one commenter describing another as a “troller,” a reminder that the Internet term troll–which goes back to the hoary days of Usenet–began its life as a verb.) Nowadays I usually act like I’m accepting a troll’s argument at face value, and I avoid engaging in ad hominem attacks. But by now it’s simply a strategy. I give them the rope to hang themselves.

    I don’t currently use much social media, and I don’t know how I’d approach the endless arguments on Facebook or Twitter. I do have some experience with the cesspool that is Youtube commenting sections. Generally speaking, my policy is not to start an argument with some random nutball commenter. The problem comes when someone responds to me with some bit of lunacy. Do I ignore them, allowing their point to stand? Or do I allow myself to be dragged down into a “debate” with some truly deplorable character (or someone pretending to adopt such a persona for the lulz–as if there’s a difference)? Not long ago, within the same day I found myself arguing with a Trump supporter who felt Scott Adams was a prophet and a different commenter who denied there was any evidence Louis Farrakhan is an anti-Semite. A mistake, in both cases. It shows how I’m still vulnerable to these things.

    It gets even trickier when it comes to moderating my own blog (which I haven’t updated in years). I used to occasionally get comments from some rabid conspiracy theorist or racist or pseudoscience defender. I probably just should have banned them right away, but I have a certain lingering distaste for censoring people based on their opinion alone.

  72. de stijl says:

    @Teve:

    After several early years of trial-and-error, we realized that there was a certain ineffable quality of judgement that had to obtain.

    You became practical. It happens.

    As pertains to here, I do not view Pearce as a problem. He is lower case a problem but not A Problem. I scroll past him (usually) and remind myself not to poke the bear. But then I poke the bear because reasons. It’s humiliating and shamelessly awful and I can’t help myself.

    I think some of it is my justice orientation. Dude claimed to be something he wasn’t for years and offered up terrible political advice. I will forgive the terrible advice, but pretending to be someone you’re not raises my hackles and makes me want to punish. I find it very hard to shut that impulse down.

    I try. I scroll past. I will criticize ideas, but try not to @ him. I often fail.

  73. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    A mistake, in both cases. It shows how I’m still vulnerable to these things.

    It’s okay and understandable. Sometimes, one feels compelled to correct (cliche) someone who is wrong on the internet (/cliche). It’s a really hard impulse to ignore. And if you decide to poke the bear because the bear espoused a wrong opinion, and then the bear pokes back, you bring out all of the guns – then it’s game Mother Effnig on. Suddenly you have a beef with some person and it escalates.

    It’s easy to say DFTT and tsk, tsk at people who do, but sometimes a troll says a very bad thing you cannot allow to be unchallenged.

    My twitter is entirely apolotical. I do not engage (that’s a lie – I’m desperately trying to get Andrew WK (total mensch, btw) to cover Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance Party Hard- style because that would be super awesome and would tickle me to no end. Other than the Andrew WK Bad Romance thing, I tweet about songs I like and pangolins.

    Scrolling down, I apparently have a weird fascination with Jamie from the Flo Progresive Insurance ads. In my defense, Jamie is pretty awesome.

    I adore pangolins. They’re so hideous and cute. They’re opossums with scale armor and they stand on their tiny hind legs and flex the guns for the crowd.

    Back on topic – my tweets are apolitical – basically because it’s an outlet and I don’t want to fight on that front

    So it’s:

    – songs I like
    – pictures of pangolins
    – Jamie from the Flo ads (he hugged his mom’s kness in that one and then he had an interior life where Great Big Jim was playing inside his head in the other). I like Jamie; in the one where he said “Present” that was a stab in the heart. Progressive, you need to do right by Jamie – he is an innocent lamb.
    – movies I like

  74. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod:

    It’s also that it leads to missed opportunities to make much-needed points

    I agree with you. And would also add that sometimes someone posts something egregiously wrong but sufficiently plausible that people might believe it, and it is important to correct the record. Whenever I feel it’s important to respond to a disruptive commenter I try to avoid hitting the Reply button and instead just starting a new comment. I don’t mention the commenters name. What an actual troll wants is validation that it was their effort that derailed the conversation. I have no idea what some of our non-troll but highly disruptive commmeters want, but what they seem to need is to get into arguments that descend into personal attacks. In either case, keeping their name out of it seems to keep the discussion on track.

  75. al Ameda says:

    @john430: sa@James Pearce: @Andy: @Guarneri:
    Look, I’m not delicate, I can handle an opposing viewpoint- I’m from a law enforcement family, I’ve been the very outnumbered minority viewpoint in my family, and among friends of family for many years.

    Too many people have no regular interaction with people who have views that are really different from their own. We tend to gravitate toward people and places where we feel comfortable , where our values and opinions are shared by friends and neighbors. This does not serve an exchange of ideas well.

    That said, among the OTB respondariat (#fakeword) conservatives are clearly a minority, and I think it’s because this is not a radical right blog, the Landlords (Steve, James, Doug) are or seem to be what used be called mainstream conservatives on most issues. That ‘type’ is no longer acceptable to Republicans, the radical Right is in charge.

  76. de stijl says:

    Back to Apocalypse Now.

    The scene where Willard (Sheen) is freaking out in his hotel room and punches the mirror was not just acting – well, maybe it was deep Method. Regardless, Sheen was drunk as fuck and also having a full-on existential freak-out and cut his hand on the mirror and was actually bleeding – that wasn’t faked – and Coppola just filmed it.

    https://youtu.be/ytOD9ZxLvEs

  77. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce: pearce, I should probably leave well enough alone, and I have no idea whether you will wander back here, but…

    I understand that it’s frustrating to have people read something different from what you intended when you wrote something, and some of it is that some people have given up on you and decided that you are a troll, but…

    If you’re going to get angry that you are misinterpreted, you need to try to be better at explaining yourself, and maybe try to avoid the defensive spiral. Unless you just enjoy being angry, but I don’t think you do. So take that as nugget one.

    Here’s nugget two: When I saw your first comment in the suicide thread, and everyone piling on, I ignored it. I could only read an awful meaning to it, and didn’t think that was what you meant, so I just ignored it.

    I wish I, or anyone really, had responded earlier with “wow. I really don’t think you meant that the way it reads.”

    People are too quick to ascribe bad motives to you. And to a lot of people. That’s a shame. A problem even.

  78. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    I appreciate this take. You are being kind and doing outreach.

    Pearce was very tone-deaf.

    He also intentionally shot that bolt. He chose to. I’m all for sympathy, but choices have consequences. Being an aggressive dick is a choice. Guy is not being compelled to be here and forced to comment; he chooses to do so of his own volition.

    I’m not going to go easy on him because he’s misunderstood. He needs to be better at not being misunderstood.

  79. wr says:

    @James Joyner: ” There’s a frustrating tendency to not give people the benefit of the doubt even after repeated explanation and unpacking of the original comment.”

    If I write something so inartful that the vast majority of readers misunderstand it, I will post a correction, explain what I meant, and apologize, and at that point I hope people would give me the benefit of the doubt.

    But there’s a big difference between that and saying “this is what I really meant, and even though the words I used can’t possibly express my intended meaning, it is your job as readers to see past the actual words and understand what is in my heart, and if you didn’t it’s because you hate me.”

    That’s the level of argument used by Humpty-Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland.

    I understand that the majority of commenters here are not professional writers, and are not used to having their sentences judged on a daily basis. But the responsibility for understanding lies first with the writer, and only distantly with the reader.

    If I read a Pearce comment and think he’s saying something completely different from what he says he means, it’s probably on me and my history with him. If EVERYONE reads that comment and comes away with the same “wrong” interpretation, it’s on him.