Tuesday How To: Feed The Trolls
I hear you already. “No Witch, NO! Don’t feed the trolls! Why would you do that?”
A valid question and one that I’m happy to answer as should be obvious because I decided on this subject and fabricated said question.
I luuuuuurve trolls. Love them. I find them to be the most entertaining aspect of living in Internetlandia. Here, everything is masks and nothing is masks. We are at once our most authentic selves and the persona we put forward to try and contain that authenticity.
One of the groups I’m in on Ravelry was trolled to hell and back yesterday. The first post in what turned out to be a long and involved thread managed to Godwin itself by the fourth paragraph. It was a delight. I mean that. Watching the reaction was fascinating. Everyone learned.
Yes there was rage, because three days after a bunch of people get killed in a grade school is not the day to go on an irrational pro-gun rant. But the people who responded in agreement with the troll who weren’t going to the Nazi place? They were thinking, they were listening. They learned and when the troll flounced the conversation continued as did the learning. It’s still going on.
In a larger sense, this is why the Left won the election. The Republicans trolled the shit out of women and minorities and the LGBTQ community and the poor and the results were a decisive victory. First we got angry, then we started educating ourselves, then we educated others, then we won.
It functions the same way in a smaller sense. First you get angry, then you educate, then you win.
Trolls come in two flavors. They are either attention seekers or abusers. The abusers want to hurt you. Any response you give them will lead to further abuse. You can’t do anything about that. That’s who abusers are. But if you can take the pain you can use them to teach.
As an example, in a debate on gun control, after shutting down point after point from some individual who basically just really likes his guns and wants to keep them. No really, after filling my Pro-Gun BINGO card, that’s pretty much what it came down to. After having been personally abusive all thread he wrapped things up with a rant that started with “MARRY A STRAIGHT PERSON,” and went rapidly downhill.
Mini How To: Have Fun With Abusers
Be extra super polite while making them the butt of the joke. I thanked him for his response in that it proved so clearly that he was unable to rebut any of the points I’d made.” I followed by pointing out to others that someone who has such difficulty controlling their outbursts should probably not be allowed to carry a firearm.
And that discussion was over. Because he trapped himself with his own hatefulness. The meaner he got the nicer I got and he nothing to grab onto. While that was happening the other people in the thread were engaging a real, edifying conversation about guns and gun control.
The moral of the story? Sometimes you take the hit. You do that so other people can do the work. If you’re skilled and lucky you can do both at the same time.
The specific troll on Rav was an attention seeker. That type makes itself clear in that they will flounce and return and flounce and return to get more and more. That type is the most fun, at least for me because once a couple of other people respond to them they can be ignored completely. Added bonus; being ignored drives them fucking nuts. We talked around and over her. We taught and learned and every time she came back and tried to engage our attention again, we patter her on the head and went back to the grown folks conversation.
Both of those trolls, despite their abusive or attention seeking goals, had value to me and to the rest of the people in the actual conversation. All trolls have value. The Good Men Project? They’re trolling feminists and you know what? I thank them for it. Without that trolling fewer people would be having conversations about rape and rapists. The American Family Association? Right now, they seem to be trolling life by blaming the deaths in Sandy Hook on gays, abortion or lack of Abrahamic values in schools. The Westboro Baptist Church? They are who they are and every time they pick a fight with a dead person they draw attention to that person’s life and message.
Trolls are lightening rods for emotion, which is what they want. They draw people in and make them pay attention. With a little bit of effort on the part of the rest of us they can be used as spring boards to education and understanding. That’s the opposite of what they want, which makes the effort worth it.
Go forth and feed the trolls.