Open Thread: Why Do You Respond to Trolls?

argument-cartoon-yellingJames’ post about tweets exchanged between Allen Brauer, former communications chairman of the Democratic Party of Sacramento County, and Amanda Carpenter, Ted Cruz’ speechwriter, has generated a lot of reader discussion. Part of James’ argument is that Brauer’s actions can be seen as part of a larger pattern of treating one’s political opponents as enemies (for another example of this type of behavior see a recent post I wrote on Rush Limbaugh’s use of the term). James calls this trend the “politics of hate.”

In the discussion section of the post, many agreed that the politics of hate were unproductive and lead to approaching policy/political issues as a “game” (in a negative sense).

Yet at the same time, when one looks across the responses we see the “game” being waged in that very thread.

There are clearly commenters at the site that many identify as “trolls.”* People who have proven time and time again to not be interested in a grounded debate (i.e. one based on actual facts). These are folks who rarely if ever will admit to flaws in their argument (in particular factual problems with it). And yet, when they post, it’s almost guaranteed that someone will respond to them.

So here are the serious questions: why do you keep feeding the trolls? Do you have a strategy? Or do you just enjoy the fight? And how do you reconcile that type of action with everyone’s near unanimous hate for the “game” (the politics of hate)?

* – BTW, it should be noted that everyone’s “troll” list is different. When I’m using the term here, I’m not specifically thinking about just conservative or liberal posters. I’m thinking about anyone who a given poster feels fits the description that I laid out above.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Media, Quick Takes
Matt Bernius
About Matt Bernius
Matthew studied Cultural Anthropology at Cornell University, researching the intersection of technology and culture. Prior to Cornell, he earned a Masters in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and was a visiting professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He started writing at OTB in May 2013. Follow him on twitter @mattbernius.

Comments

  1. Ernieyeball says:

    I think the Trolls are like the bums poor homeless folk on the streetcorners with their cardboard signs full of amatuer theology (god bless you) and guilt trips (have kid, god bless you).

    Those who respond to either with witty remarks or cash should take heed of P.T. Barnum:
    “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

  2. Gustopher says:

    Because while Superdestroyer is a crazed racist, he’s our crazed racist!

    Everything boils down to one thing for him. He doesn’t see the world in shades of gray, or in black and white, he just sees it in black. He’s smart enough to recognize demographic changes — there are a lot of brown people in this country of various shades, and their birth rates are higher than average and they’re bringing their relatives over when they can — and he doesn’t see a land of great ethnic food options and revitalized music, he sees a threat to the Applebee’s he loves.

    You just want to take him under your wing and protect him. If not from the scary black people, than at least from himself. And you can’t, not really, but you want to try.

    And it’s not just the commenters. When he hasn’t been seen for a while, one of the front pagers will post something about race and demographics, just to make him pop in so we know he’s all right and he hasn’t had some kind of accident or something. It’s sweet.

    He’s like a mascot. Our crazed, racist mascot. Like the Washington Redskins used to have.

  3. Todd says:

    Nobody comes to a political blog to become better informed.

    We all come to “debate”.

    No matter how much we may claim to abhor “the game”, if we’re here, reading this, we are “players”.

    Why do we respond to Trolls?

    Because it’s much easier to say something like “just ignore them and they’ll go away” than it is to actually ignore them. And humans being humans, most of us will tend to do the easier thing most of the time.

    … oh yea, and also the fact that none of us are nearly as righteous, magnanimous, or well intentioned as we might be inclined to sometimes imagine ourselves to be.

  4. Matt Bernius says:

    @Todd:

    No matter how much we may claim to abhor “the game”, if we’re here, reading this, we are “players”.

    Ohhh… interesting argument. So simply *reading* — not *commenting* — puts us in the game?

    I dunno…

  5. wr says:

    One thing I’ve noticed: Ignore them or not, the trolls around here keep trolling. (As an experiment I simply ignored this site’s chief troll, and there was no change in his output.) So then the lies keep piling up and up and up.

    I know on one level it’s a waste of time to engage them. But I also know that back in the 90s, there was no way for the right’s lies about Clinton to be countered once they’d gotten the New York Times caught up in the phony Whitewater scandal, and we all know where that went.

    Beyond that, I really enjoy this site. It’s the only site where I read and participate in the comments, because there’s such an interesting mix of voices. And I’d hate to see it completely overrun with trollery.

    Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe responding to them actually does get them to post more. But I don’t think so. They’re following orders from the voices they hear in their heads (or from their radios) and pushback doesn’t necessarily encourage them.

  6. superdestroyer says:

    @Gustopher:

    If you use the definiton of trolls, I do not qualify. I regularly link to government data that supports my position. What is amazing is many times a link to government data (such as the percentage of black and Latino children born to unwed mothers) is met with personal attacks, insults, the race card, or snark.

    I find many of the liberal who post regularly are much closer to trolls because the either repeat talking points from MSNBC, they just write another post that Republicans are stupid, evil, racist, or insane, and they refuse to deal with data.

    As I have written before, what is amazing is not the demographic changes of the U.S. but how the ruling dominant political party is so absolutely afraid of what they mean to the U.S. that they will not tolerate any discussion of demographics or demographic changes in the U.S.

  7. Todd says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Ohhh… interesting argument. So simply *reading* — not *commenting* — puts us in the game?

    I dunno…

    If someone is reading a blog such as OTB they are part of the game … whether they’re actively participating at this point in time or not.

    For me personally, I’m here because it’s a “healthier” (or at least more appropriate) outlet for these sort of topics, that I can’t seem to resist, than Facebook (where I have done a fairly good job for the past 8-9 months of avoiding most political “discussions”)

    I will note (with a bit of a self-congratulatory tone) that the conversations that take place in the comment threads here, even when they “devolve” a little bit, are never as bad as those which take place regularly on say a site like Politico.

    lol, this is definitely the minor leagues … but it’s still part of the game.

  8. dennis says:

    @Matt:

    I don’t consider Florack, Jenos and superdestroyer trolls. I believe they are dead-gat-dayumed-serious when they post. It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted but I come to OTB every day. I almost never engage them, but every now and then they make a comment so outrageous that I can’t help myself! And, as I’ve said in the past, there’s sometimes a rare moment when Jenos will say something that makes sense, although his predilections usually dominate. I’d say Jenos is the least worst of the three of them.

    @Todd:

    Nobody comes to a political blog to become better informed.

    I do. It gets me outside of this almost-idyllic life I’m living to see just what-in-the-hell is going on out there.

  9. Scott says:

    I don’t respond to trolls because I try to edit myself. Usually, if my first reaction is “what a douchebag”, then the little voice in my head says, “ignore it and just move on”. I suspect that there are a lot of responders who don’t possess the edit key.

  10. Todd says:

    @dennis:

    Nobody comes to a political blog to become better informed.

    I do. It gets me outside of this almost-idyllic life I’m living to see just what-in-the-hell is going on out there.

    I kind of feel the same way Dennis (there are 4-5 political blogs that I read, and this is probably the only one that I actually comment on with any regularity). Perhaps I should have put “better informed” in quotes, as this is one of the benefits of these discussions. I’m just not sure it’s the primary reason most of us read political blogs …

    In fact, I would posit that if all the “trolls” were to suddenly leave, the comments section of this (or any other similar blog) would probably be fairly deserted.

    It would be like a hockey game with no fights, or a NASCAR race with no crashes.

  11. Richard M Nixon says:

    @superdestroyer: If you use the definiton of trolls, I do not qualify.

    And I am not a crook!

  12. Tony W says:

    @Todd:

    Nobody comes to a political blog to become better informed.

    I do! (edit) and apparently I’m not alone 🙂

  13. superdestroyer says:

    @Richard M Nixon:

    To quote the orginal post People who have proven time and time again to not be interested in a grounded debate (i.e. one based on actual facts).

    I find that most progressives have little interest in facts such as demographic data, government economic data, or even polling data. What most progressives are more interested in is repeating the talking points they heard from Jon Stewart or Rachel Maddow. It you want to drive a progressive crazy, one just has to link to NAEP data. They will refuse to believe it.

  14. Todd says:

    @Tony W:

    Something tells me I’m going to regret putting it that way. Not exactly what I meant, but no denying it’s what I typed. 🙂

  15. Woody says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Maybe – but then, one could certainly say the same about conservatives as well – particularly in this era.

    As to the question posed by Mr Bernius, it’s more a matter of tone to me – I can respond without going full metal berserk.

    I’ll add that I respect an awful troll far more than I respect the Chuck Todds of the courtier media. A troll doesn’t expect to be treated with anything but deserved contempt – and is thus worthy of greater esteem.

  16. Richard M Nixon says:

    @superdestroyer: Arguing with a corpse! I can’t believe I could hook you from the grave!

  17. dennis says:

    @superdestroyer:

    superdestroyer, it’s not the data, it’s the abject and naked racial attitudes with which you interpret it. You demonstrate NO interest whatsoever in WHY education, economic and social underperformance among “minorities” exist; you simply consider the black & white “facts” and make your conclusions.

    Your own lack of awareness will cause you to criticize me of unsubstantiated stereotyping for attributing to you the “Blacks are inferior” “Blacks are morally bankrupt” “Blacks are intelligently deficit” racial themes while you obviously and blindly just did the same thing with your “repeating the talking points they heard from Jon Stewart or Rachel Maddow” comment. (Forgive that run-on rant!)

    Much of what you blame on Progressives (and I’m not one, btw), the GOP is guilty of. And you get flamed by other commenters here because you either 1) willfully or blindly fail to see and acknowledge it or 2) you make lame and disgusting excuses for it. Basically, you criticize the stink that you perceive is all around while failing to check the bottom of your own shoe.

  18. Scott O says:

    There is the argument that, even though you won’t change the troll’s mind, not responding to their “facts” may leave the impression that they are valid. Maybe another reader will be better informed next time they are having a discussion with a crazy relative.

  19. superdestroyer says:

    @dennis:

    I challenge you to find one post where I have argued that blacks are inherently less intelligent or morally bankrupt. The biological arguments I leave to others not only because I believe they are generally wrong but because they lead to policy positions that cannot be sustained in a free, democratic country. However, it is obivous that black culture is different than middle class suburban white culture in the U.S. and that leads to massive statistical differences between blacks and whites in the U.S.

    II feel that the government should acknowledge that there are statistical differences. Much like the lawsuit by black firemen over promotion and hiring exams, I believe that whites who study harder should be rewarded before black firemen who claim that other blacks were discriminated against in previous years. You believe that it is OK to discriminate against white firemen because not only does it benefit blacks but that is somehow makes up for past discrimination and punishes whites for previous discrimination by other whites. We can have that discussion without personal insult and just acknowledge that people will weight different facets of the problem differently. However, too many progressives will just scream racism and play the race card instead of discussing the situation.

  20. Ernieyeball says:

    …it is obivous that black culture is different than middle class suburban white culture in the U.S…

    Comparing all black culture to middle class white suburban culture does not even make sense.
    Oh. That’s SuperD…
    He does like to make statistics conform with his prejudices.

  21. dennis says:

    @superdestroyer:

    You believe that it is OK to discriminate against white firemen because not only does it benefit blacks but that is somehow makes up for past discrimination and punishes whites for previous discrimination by other whites.

    I challenge you to find one post where I have argued that blacks are inherently less intelligent or morally bankrupt. it is OK to discriminate against white firemen because not only does it benefit blacks but that is [sic] makes up for past discrimination and punishes white for previous discrimination by other whites.

    See how that works, sd? You accuse me of what you do. That’s been my point all along. And STILL you fail to recognize it. Mmm.

  22. Gustopher says:

    @dennis: Superdestroyer reminds me a lot of myself when I was 12. Smart enough to see patterns, lacking the life experiences to distinguish caused from effects or understand anyone’s life. Oh, and functionally a racist if not actually racist.

    He sees a cycle of poverty, doesn’t see how racism outside the black community reinforces it, and wonders why blacks can’t pull themselves out of it, like the good hardworking folks.

    He sees an alarmingly high rate of incarceration for black males, and wonders why so many are criminals rather than what is wrong with the criminal justice system.

    He has a very narrow, very wrong worldview, and ignores everything else. He’s like Doug Mataconis, except he found racism rather than Libertarianism. I hope he’s 12, and he has a chance to grow out of it

  23. John Burgess says:

    Trolling is not restricted to political sites. ESPN had a chat board that recently saw a change in registration policy (one needed to provide a link to one of several other social media sites). The trolls fled to a similar MLB board at CNN/Sports Illustrated. The proceeded to trash the place for over two months, at least until the NFL season started.

    Off-topic commentary, gratuitous and often racial slurs, direct insults to others on the board, playing ‘homer’ for whatever team they followed (whether or not they were actually in the particular game the board covered) — my God, even A-Rod fans! Well, they made the board almost unusable. They seemed to be and had the energy of 14-year-olds on Jolt.

    Ignoring them was the only thing that worked. Not feeding their egos hurt their egos.

    I think, though, that the start of the NFL season and the opening of other venues in which they could demonstrate their wit and superiority was why they really ended up leaving.

  24. dennis says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Now, let’s get down to the valid points in your above argument, points which SHOULDN’T lead you to the conclusions you reach, but nevertheless do via some circuitous route you take with logic. You said:

    However, it is obivous [sic] that black culture is different than middle class suburban white culture in the U.S. and that leads to massive statistical differences between blacks and whites in the U.S.”

    That is a valid premise. But have you considered why that difference exists? Have you considered that your comment inherently and completely promotes divisiveness by comparing “black culture” with “middle class suburban white culture,” as though those two cultures alone represent blacks and whites? How about you compare middle class suburban black culture with middle class suburban white culture, to be more honest and equitable? Do you see what you do, how you process these things?

    It appears that you blanket categorize ALL blacks under the “black culture” subtext, but you categorize whites in specific groups: white urban, white suburban, white rural, etc. It would lead me to conclude, maybe not logically, but rationally, that some of the, shall we say, less desirable portions of white culture you don’t want to acknowledge; but you blanket all of us in one category and conclude we’re all dysfunctional. (Well, this whole damned species is dysfunctional, but that’s another argument for another time. ;-))

    You said:

    “II [sic] feel that the government should acknowledge that there are statistical differences.”

    That is a valid premise. Actually, the government DID acknowledge those statistical differences. That’s how affirmative action policy came into affect.

    You said:

    “We can have that discussion without personal insult and just acknowledge that people will weight different facets of the problem differently.”

    That is a valid statement. Have you considered that minorities, blacks in particular, weight these issues differently because, historically, the white-dominated system benefited white mobility and handicapped black mobility? And still does to a large, nefarious and not-so-obvious extent?

    See, until you acknowledge these things exist, you will continue to get flamed for your black-or-white thinking. Your lack of consideration of contributory factors for the ills that plague all of us in society — and make no mistake; we ALL are affected by disadvantaged populations, whatever the ethnicity — are part of the larger philosophical problem currently debated around the country. Furthermore, I can only assume that your lack of consideration of other factors is deliberate, in light of this statement of yours:

    “The biological arguments I leave to others not only because I believe they are generally wrong but because they lead to policy positions that cannot be sustained in a free, democratic country.”

    So, you are conscious of these arguments being wrong philosophically and wrong practically for the country, yet, you give silent, tacit credence to them in your arguments. And you’ll probably STILL fail to see that.

  25. dennis says:

    @Matt:

    NOW you see why people engage the trolls. Although, as I said before, I don’t believe superdestroyer is a troll. His world view and philosophy are legitimate — to him.

  26. wr says:

    @Gustopher: “Superdestroyer reminds me a lot of myself when I was 12.”

    Yes, but if your image reflects what you look like now, you must have been adorable at 12!

  27. rudderpedals says:

    OTB doesn’t have a troll problem. We have provocative commentors. Non-interactive automaton trolls are one thing, but particularly the named commentors are interesting and sometimes maddening and sometimes insightful and sometimes funny. They evoke thoughtful sometimes funny sometimes snarky responses. It’s what makes OTB comments interesting.

    /no love for headline trolling

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    Those who respond to either with witty remarks or cash should take heed of P.T. Barnum:

    Wow. How privileged you have lived to have never seen the end of one’s existence.

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @dennis: I would give you a hundred thumbs up for that Dennis if I could. Wait a minute…. I CAN!!!! I just have to reboot this POS computer and POS router and POS satellite every time I want to….. Sorry, This is all you get. 😉

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    why do you keep feeding the trolls?

    Because it is fun. It is fun to kill, gut, and butcher the troll. It is even more fun if he/she does not know it. I get to say, “I eat your entrails for breakfast.” and he/she comes back to feed me more.

    Nothing like fresh tripe in the morning.

  31. Franklin says:

    To answer the question: I often don’t. But certain people straddle the line – they make a legitimate argument, and then add some random comment about libtard mentality. If I had any self control, I would only respond to the legitimate part.

    @Todd:

    Nobody comes to a political blog to become better informed.

    Add me to those who disagree with this statement. I originally came to OTB because I was following the Carpetbagger (long ago liberal blog) and he suggested he had respect for the ‘opposition’ in Joyner, and I wanted a balance of opinions. Oddly enough, that blog changed its name, went really wacky liberal and I stopped going there.

  32. rodney dill says:

    We have met the enemy and he is us.

  33. anjin-san says:

    Why do we respond to trolls? That’s and easy one. Because all of us are obsessed with Jenos. You know you are!

  34. anjin-san says:

    @ dennis

    But have you considered why that difference exists?

    The very first words out of my Soc 101 professors mouth were “things are the way they are for a reason.”

    I think super missed class that day…

  35. Ernieyeball says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: How privileged you have lived to have never seen the end of one’s existence.

    Of course you know nothing of me or my life to make such a statement.
    Over the past 65 (soon to be 66) years I have been out of work, out of Unemployment Insurance Benefits, on Food Stamps, flat broke more than once…I have been homeless, sleeping in garages and on friends front porches. But I have never stood on the public way begging for money, trying to make others feel guilty for not supporting me.
    I do not contribute to panhandlers on the street. I do support local shelters with donations when I can. I encourage mendicants to take advantage of these havens. Inevitably they complain that they are asked to leave since they refuse to comply with the no alcohol and no drug policy.
    My daddy died when he was 85. My mom and I were at his side as he took his last breath.
    This after I had spent several weeks living at my parents home helping my mom take care of him.
    (I was out of work at the time.)
    The greatest privilege in my life was to meet my buddy Joe. He was stricken with polio as an infant. He lived his entire life in a wheelchair.
    We were both in our early 20’s when we met. One of the first things we did together after I learned how to be his attendant (you know, wipe his ass every day since he could not do that for himself) was to drive him from the midwest to California and back on a month long trip.
    He was a lifelong friend who could not put down the goddamn cigarettes and died of lung cancer in 2008. I carried him to his grave. I think of him every day.

    “…to have never seen the end of one’s existence.” You don’t know what you are talking about.

  36. Rick Almeida says:

    I occasionally engage the “trolls” because bad information and specious arguments, left unchecked, become “truthy”.

  37. al-Ameda says:

    @superdestroyer:

    I find that most progressives have little interest in facts such as demographic data, government economic data, or even polling data. What most progressives are more interested in is repeating the talking points they heard from Jon Stewart or Rachel Maddow. It you want to drive a progressive crazy, one just has to link to NAEP data. They will refuse to believe it.

    LOL! Chutzpah! Coming from the conservative side – the same side that believed and in some cases still believes: (1) in 2012 all political polling was wrong, that Romney was coasting toward an inevitable victory, (2) Obama was (and is now) not a legitimate president of the United States, (3) that Benghazi is the worst foreign policy mistake in American history, (4) Earth is 7,000 years old, and much much much more (or maybe it’s less).

  38. Bob @ youngstown says:

    @Todd: actually Todd I do come to this website to be better informed , not so much from a factual basis. What I enjoy is trying to understand the perspectives of those who I might disagree with.
    Generally speaking, I also appreciate the civil discussion. What I’m disappointed with is when a “discussion” devolves into name calling , as a couple did last week.

  39. angelfoot says:

    @Franklin: I remember the Carpetbagger Report, that was Steve Benen’s thing, who moved over to Political Animal at the Washington Monthly and now runs the Maddow Blog.

  40. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    OK, I waited until my name was mentioned three times before I commented. I’ve been Beetlejuiced.

    OK, semi-seriously. The authors here rarely provoke my desire to “troll;” it’s mainly the commenters here. And I actually do resist that desire, more often than many would believe. I’ll freely admit that I did a little bit of trolling during the Zimmerman trial, when there was a blackout (formal or informal) on coverage of the trial itself, and was pretty certain that was because the trial was a complete and utter disaster for the prosecution.

    On a more general note, I think of myself as more “contrarian” than “troll,” again mainly in response to other commenters. I try to go into each thread with a “blank slate” in regards to other commenters, with a few exceptions. I won’t name names, but I can pretty much count on two specific people to go out of their way to attack me in a predictably stupid manner. A couple others are less predictable and more intelligent, but it seems that pretty much anything I say provokes attacks. Hell, in one recent thread I tossed out an extremely appropriate Monty Python quote, and The Usual Gang Of Idiots jumped all over that one. (I’m waiting for one of them to discover I made two of the three comments on the Bohemian Gravity post and go after me there.)

    Part of that, I’ll admit, is because of my own weaknesses. I don’t have a great memory for carrying grudges, so I tend to forget just who said what to me. So I find it easier to just ignore most of the personal attacks.

    I recently decided that I would ignore those two in particular, but I’ve already failed on that one. And I’m sure I will again.

    And I will admit to a certain thrill when I see my name dropped in a thread where I haven’t made a single comment. There’s a delight in finding out that I’m living, rent-free, in the heads of such people…

  41. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “And I will admit to a certain thrill when I see my name dropped in a thread where I haven’t made a single comment. There’s a delight in finding out that I’m living”

    And a more honest explanation for trolling has never been made.

  42. anjin-san says:

    “And I will admit to a certain thrill when I see my name dropped in a thread where I haven’t made a single comment.

    Most of us are seeking somewhat bigger thrills in life, but, as we discussed recently, a man’s got to know his limitations. Apparently you are aware of at least some of yours.

  43. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: So, your latest schtick is to quote my setup lines, and ignore the punchlines? If you’re going to make dishonest quotes, you really shouldn’t do them RIGHT BELOW the actual quote.

    At least others toss in a “fixed that for you.” Give it a try.

  44. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: It’s not my only thrill in life, but it beats a kick in the head.

  45. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I won’t name names, but I can pretty much count on two specific people to go out of their way to attack me in a predictably stupid manner. A couple others are less predictable and more intelligent, but it seems that pretty much anything I say provokes attacks.

    Go ahead, name names.

  46. john personna says:

    There is a phrase I’ve used … rational disinterest? Rational something. I have really been trying to convince myself. As much as it feels like something is happening in the lower levels of commentary, it would run the same course if we hardy few just didn’t tune in. In other words, answering a troll may kill a little boredom, but there are much better choices.

    I’m happier when I take a MOOC and give politics a pass.

  47. Grewgills says:

    I will engage some trolls because I like a good argument, as I think most that bother to comment here do.
    When I go to stridently conservative sites (Red State for example) that makes me a troll of sorts, though I do try to strictly attack arguments and not people.

  48. James Pearce says:

    why do you keep feeding the trolls? Do you have a strategy? Or do you just enjoy the fight? And how do you reconcile that type of action with everyone’s near unanimous hate for the “game” (the politics of hate)?

    I do enjoy the fight. There is no real strategy to it and for the most part I don’t regard it “feeding the trolls” until it gets pretty obviously trollish. (As it did the other day when a guy called me fat and (sniff) really hurt my feelings.)

    Years ago, when I was a wee teenage lad, I was delighted to happen upon a televised broadcast of Parliament. The deliberative body, not the band. Everyone was “My right honorable gentleman” but it was rowdy and spontaneous and witty. There’s a place for that kind of thing in our politics.

  49. @Gustopher:

    I don’t comment here much but one has to understand the mindset of the Paleoconservative like SD. For the paleocons race is their main thing, just like for neocons main ideological objective is to bomb every Muslim country in order to make Israel safe. For the paleocon they love that a mixed race man is president and the radical left calls any opposition to him as racist. They simply say “You see this is what happens when you put minorities in power” and other related nonsense.

    As a libertarian the fight between the Neoconservatives and Paleoconservatives is a fight on wanting control of the government guns. Neither are interested in the free market or personal liberty. Regarding the paleos (or more specifically Pat Buchanan) they’re more or less the conservative counterpart to the Al Sharpton/Jess Jackson left. One group cries on how minorities are ruining the US and that being against racism is “code word” for Anti-White and communism while the other group still thinks it’s still 1950 and every white person is Bull Conner. I personally looking forward to the day when CNN, Fox and MSNBC announce their deaths.

    My overall point is let these clowns spew their crap, their talking points have been the same thing for a good solid 20 years. Your better off ignoring them than engaging them

  50. anjin-san says:

    @ john personna

    I’m happier when I take a MOOC

    I just completed my first weeks course work for a class at MITx – my first MOOC experience. So far, so good.

  51. anjin-san says:

    There’s a delight in finding out that I’m living, rent-free, in the heads of such people…

    Shorter Jenos – “I’m desperate for attention” (even the negative kind)…

  52. wr says:

    @anjin-san: “Shorter Jenos – “I’m desperate for attention” (even the negative kind)… ”

    Although to be fair, that’s the “shorter” of everything he’s ever posted.

  53. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Go ahead, name names.

    Sorry, but you didn’t make the cut. I put you into the ” less predictable and more intelligent” category.

  54. Rob in CT says:

    Late to this, but here goes:

    1. I’m not always certain someone is trolling. The definition is, after all, fuzzy.

    2. As for fighting the fight (whether against a troll or just against someone you vehemently disagree with, Every. Single. Time.), well, there are two schools of thought on this. One is that nothing good ever comes from comment thread combat. Another would be that if you let falsehoods go unchallenged, that is worse than getting down in the mud to do battle. I err on the side of the latter.

  55. Rob in CT says:

    And I agree with Dennis:

    I don’t consider Florack, Jenos and superdestroyer trolls. I believe they are dead-gat-dayumed-serious when they post.

    Of the three, the one who is most likely to make a semi-serious half-trolling attempt is Jenos. To me, trolling is all about posting stuff you don’t really think is true, just to get a rise out of people. People overuse the term. Somebody who is earnestly wrong about everything, or holds awful beliefs sincerely is not a troll.

    And it’s far, far harder to ignore the non-trolls who are Wrong On The Internet (see XKCD for more if you don’t know the reference) than it is to ignore a genuine troll (if you can tell the difference, that is).

  56. gVOR08 says:

    @anjin-san:

    The very first words out of my Soc 101 professors mouth were “things are the way they are for a reason.”

    That’s really a great line. A preamble to a lot of good discussion, including undercutting the basis of conservatism, that the current distribution of wealth and power is how it must be. I trust you won’t mind too much if I steal the line.

  57. john personna says:

    I think the phrase I was looking for was rational inattention. I heard as the rather shocking explanation for why people say “don’t know” on polls.

    Maybe they aren’t just clueless, maybe they have made rational allocation of their attention.

  58. gVOR08 says:

    I have a couple of hardcore conservative friends who sometimes discuss politics. Well educated, intelligent people; who nonetheless believe stuff that is provably wrong. Not opinion, provable falsehoods. One sent me a story about Arctic sea ice growth. I sent him links with data and charts showing his source was inferring a trend from one outlier occurrence. Best I’ve been able to do is get him to change the subject. He still believes Arctic ice is growing.

    I read Chris Moody’s The Republican Brain awhile ago. I read it looking for an answer to how one can break through to these people, just to the extent of accepting obvious facts. After reviewing the science involved, Moody basically said – you can’t.

    You’ll never get some of our OTB commenters to get past their view of the world. Downvote and move on.

  59. john personna says:

    @gVOR08:

    That’s the flip side of inattention. It’s easy to dip in just enough to confirm bias.

  60. Ernieyeball says:

    @gVOR08: I am aquainted with folks of many political persuasions who take it as an article of faith that they must make certain that everyone on Earth agrees with them.
    More than once I have asked them if they support the Constitution of the United States.
    Most reply in the affirmative. I then produce a copy of Our Great Charter that I carry and call on them to show me the clause that requires me to listen to them to be a Citizen of this country.
    It almost always shuts them up.

  61. Ernieyeball says:

    “things are the way they are for a reason.”

    Maybe. But it is not always a good reason.

  62. Pinky says:

    I’m very bad at remembering people’s names on sites. Partly that’s because I’m bad with names in general, but partly it’s because I find it easier to avoid falling into petty rivalries if you don’t keep track of who wronged whom.

    I find this site to be dominated by trolls – people who post to insult and propagandize rather than discuss. There are some on each side, but the lefties comment much more often. Why do I respond to them? Three reasons. One, this site doesn’t require registration so it’s easy to use. Two, other, more open-minded people may read the corrections and counter-arguments I make. Three, I like to think that 20 years from now trolls will be loading their groceries into the back of their cars and suddenly think, man, I used to be a jerk and I believed a lot of stupid stuff — I don’t remember what made me gradually realize how off-base I was, but I’m glad I did.

  63. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    Three, I like to think that 20 years from now trolls will be loading their groceries into the back of their cars and suddenly think, man, I used to be a jerk and I believed a lot of stupid stuff — I don’t remember what made me gradually realize how off-base I was, but I’m glad I did.

    It’s wishful thinking of the highest order to hope that right wing trolls will evolve to become thoughtful reasoned and reasonable people.

  64. Ernieyeball says:

    @Pinky: …20 years from now trolls will be loading their groceries into the back of their cars and suddenly think, man, I used to be a jerk and I believed a lot of stupid stuff…

    I was a jerk 20 years ago (Just ask my ex). I am a jerk today. (Ask my neighbors) And if I make it another 20 years I will be a jerk at 85.
    (Since I eat in restaurants all the time your grocery loading epiphany will never touch me.)

  65. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda:

    It’s wishful thinking of the highest order to hope that right wing trolls will evolve to become thoughtful reasoned and reasonable people.

    What about left-wing trolls?

  66. dennis says:

    Wow. The galaxy just went from being heliocentric to being Pinky-centric in two shakes of a rat’s a**.

    What about left-wing trolls?

    I thought you had that covered in your previous post? Since we’re all supposed to think just like you, isn’t the question just you being redundant?

  67. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Ernieyeball: Maybe. But it is not always a good reason.

    That reminds me of the old saying that God answers all prayers. It’s just that sometimes the answer is “no.”

  68. merl says:

    @Grewgills: I tried to post a rational comment at Red State and was immediately banned. This was after they said they wanted open debate. I wasn’t rude, or calling names or anything. It seems like they lied about wanting open debate.
    The best part was receiving an email begging me for money right after banning me

  69. Ernieyeball says:

    As far as “old sayings” go today’s winner is

    …two shakes of a rat’s a**.

    Don’t think I’ve heard that one before.

  70. Pinky says:

    @merl: What was the comment?

    I’ve seen a lot of people describing the irrational reactions they get to their reasonable questions, and it strikes me as suspicious. (Note: I don’t think I’ve ever been to Red State, and for all I know it’s wall-to-wall cranks. There certainly are sites like that. But still, you don’t often hear people say that they got banned from a site because they deserved it, and surely not every banning is wrong?)

  71. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Ernieyeball: Sounds like a cross between “three shakes of a lamb’s tail” and “don’t give a rat’s ass.”

    I agree, I kinda like it myself. I might have to use it myself…

  72. Ernieyeball says:

    @Pinky:..it strikes me as suspicious.

    Pinky, self appointed Grand Arbiter of the Internet.
    With a name like Pinky who could possibly be suspicious of you?…Comrade.

  73. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    @al-Ameda:
    It’s wishful thinking of the highest order to hope that right wing trolls will evolve to become thoughtful reasoned and reasonable people.

    What about left-wing trolls?

    Well, the same thing generally applies except that there are far more right wing trolls than there are left wing trolls, and that is borne out by empirical evidence. There are higher toxicity and malevolency coefficient levels associated with right wing trolls. Does that help?

  74. Pinky says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    self appointed Grand Arbiter of the Internet

    Of course I am. Everyone is. But don’t worry, you’re not required to listen to me to be a Citizen of this country.

  75. john personna says:

    I think Pinky is just trolling the troll thread, which is pretty bald faced, IMO.

  76. Grewgills says:

    @Rob in CT:
    My wife almost fell out of her seat laughing when that one first came out and made me come look.

  77. Grewgills says:

    @Ernieyeball:
    and he doesn’t give a lamb’s tail

  78. aFloridian says:

    @dennis:

    I don’t consider Florack, Jenos and superdestroyer trolls. I believe they are dead-gat-dayumed-serious when they post.

    This the first thought that popped into my head too. That, and there are about three liberal posters which are/almost are as bad, the only difference being that they receive accolades from a left-leaning readership.

  79. Tillman says:

    I just ignore ’em.

    Unless I’m bored.

  80. Ernieyeball says:

    @Grewgills: and he doesn’t give a lamb’s tail

    Yes. Of Course.

  81. rodney dill says:

    @aFloridian:

    This the first thought that popped into my head too. That, and there are about three liberal posters which are/almost are as bad, the only difference being that they receive accolades from a left-leaning readership.

    Bingo

  82. Pinky says:

    @rodney dill: That’s the thing – I guess technically, it’s impossible to have a majority-troll political site. If trolling means to post for the purpose of making people feel worse, then you can’t troll with the crowd. So I shouldn’t have said that this site is mostly trolls. But what’s the right word? “Hacks” comes to mind, but that typically refers to someone who does something for a living. I think maybe “parrot” is what I mean. Penn Jillette defines an interesting person as someone who can tell you two of his views then really surprise you with the third. Most of the most frequent commenters on this site don’t strike me as interesting.

  83. john personna says:

    Grades same in. I got a 99% grade, “with distinction” in Stanford’s MOOC on Startup Engineering.

    As a boredom killer, that kicks all over political discussion.

    @Pinky:

    The best reason to be a lowly commenter at any internet site is to use the exercise to organize your own thoughts, to explicitly state your own logic. If you do that, you also as a necessary byproduct, open yourself for change.

    If you don’t do that, if you just say what you think people in your group should say, you just move with mood affiliation.

  84. Tillman says:

    @Pinky: I see it differently. Most people parrot bits and pieces they agree with rather than a coherent whole message either the Democrats or the GOP put out. You engage them in conversation* with assumptions that they speak the entire party line, and in my experience they begin to show more multifaceted views.

    Unless they don’t, in which case they’re honest parrots or trolls. There isn’t much outward difference between the two.

    * Note that I say “engage them in conversation,” not “accuse them of supporting baby-eaters” or whatever abominable policy position you think they hold.

  85. Pinky says:

    @Tillman: Well put; and that’s why I continue. But sometimes you get tired of digging through the manure looking for the horse.