On Ignoring Trolls

By Xah Lee. Date:

Dear troll readers,

I resent your uncouth advice on dealing with trolls. To the average intellects rampant here, the “gospel of ignorance” seems to be the sage advice for dealing with trolls, but has anyone noticed that it is a rhetorical advice and never worked?

Alas, it is never going to work, because, like corruption or thievery or mistrust, it takes a single cell to thwart the whole system, where society necessarily became law-laden, lock-decorated, and mistrustful, and that is the nature of things.

I have been more and more viewing things from a Artificial Life or Dynamical Systems point of view. Ignoring trolls is indeed a above-average advice, because it is a form of education, of the probable theorization of how troll operates. However, it is a bit valueless if one do not understand the core of the problem, or never took time to think and analyze the complete picture. There are indeed many perspectives and questions to be asked on the subject of troll. For example, why do trolls troll? What is their ilk, if any? What caused their disposition? Apparently a simple first question like this already calls for researches that likely no sociologist has undertook. Immediately the question begs how do we define a “troll”. As with “intelligence”, i'm sure it is elusive. Of the liberally or literally endowed, one can probe on the writing styles of good trolls, such as mine. Now, have you observed, that certain trolls tend to exhibit phantasmagoric reconditeness in their produce? Say, the Erik Naggum fellow (or Richard Stallman, Linus Torvald, Larry Wall), who has i'm sure in various times been labeled a troll, and a big monstrous one at that. As you can see, a clear definition of troll now becomes painfully necessary. Just exactly who is troll and who is not? Is it by intent or by result?

The issue of how to deal with trolls is in fact a stupid question not realized. If one traces the origin of troll, she'll find that it is a human phenomenon, not particular to newsgroups. The word trolling has somewhat specific meaning in the beginning. According to the Jargon File (http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/index.html), it originally means the act of message posting that ensures fire, knowingly or not. Today, the word troll is both verb and noun, and is applied loosely to any outsider. If you don't like someone's manner, he is a troll. If you don't like a gadfly, he is a troll. If you don't like a philosopher, he is a troll. If you don't like a inquirer, he is a troll. If you don't like a humorist, he is a troll. If you don't like a teacher, he is a troll. If you don't like witches, they are, well, witches and must be witch-hunted. Thusly, from weirdo to witch, from teacher to philosopher, from gadfly to firebrand, from loner to gay, they are all trolls online at your call. Quick spun the guild of killfilers and troll-criers. Anyone who has contrariwise things to say or the manner of saying it is a troll.

Before the internet, there are epithets of weirdo, geek, oddball, screwball, crank, kook, crackpot, jester, queer, fruitcake, firebrand, gadfly, hell-raiser, rabble-rouser, outsider, loner, desperado, witch. Their owners exist everywhere, from your highschool to your workplace. As you can see, trolls were not born with the internet. It was with us from the dawn of time. It is of course oblivious to the mainstream. After all, who like witches?

Now what about the process aspect? I'm sure all of you who read me have at least ten years of living experience. Of these years, 2/3 of the time your eyes must be open. So, you must have some inkling of the general situation of human activities. In conglomerations, people do all kinds of things; and throughout a life time, view changes, behavior changes, life-style changes. What is it, that has every online discussion groups plagued with the troll phenomenon? Of course both troll and troll-dealers are responsible, but what made them tick? Now coming back to our original sagacious advice of ignoring trolls, why would it _never_ work? Could you now see the complexity of the problem? From a process point of view, troll-criers feed trolls because that made them both happy. Spatting and babbling is a inherent part of discussion. Do you honest think there should or would be a pure society filled with perfect logicians who have unilateral goals and impeccable manners? Good trolls, such as myself, ENJOY trolling. Troll-feeders, enjoy spitting on their targets. (it's a human need.) Troll advisers, enjoy giving troll-dealing advice. Bleeding-hearts, enjoy speaking out for so-called trolls. The more open a forum, the more diversity. Nothing can be less natural.

I don't know if i should have some conclusive remarks about troll. You see, i'm beginning to view things as a process, a ever changing dynamic system, a Artificial Life system model. The human-simpletons are just little insignificant entities in a environment of billions of them, each effecting local happenings in a diverse and extreme complex way with some simple but fuzzy needs, along which some emergent phenomena arise, among them trolling.

PS i as a troll is rather special because i tend to put a final say on things, in contrast with one-liner trolls i myself despise. (In a sense i'm a anti-troll, untroll, or a atrocious atroll.) At first i balked at being branded a troll. Now i revel it. I as a troll is rather recent, beginning and getting worse about in 1998. I have been using online discussion medium since 1990. Perhaps one day i'll write “how i became a troll”. It is bound to be a tragedy.

    I'll find a day to massacre them all,  
    And raze their faction and their family…
          —William Shakespeare, in Titus Andronicus

Gratuitous poem:

magic a scissor i wish
so sharp and so cross
so that i can chop
chop off brainless heads

i would like to swing
a giant ax swing
off with their heads
of priests and deans

evil wish i be
hatred i behold
the righteous and the main
torture with no death
befalls to them
recently i read,
mankind was not kind,
Charles Bukowski,
how i love you so.

speak truth you do,
of folks on this earth,
pettiness and conceit,
fcking asses and holes.

humble and polite,
decent and all-right,
God this, children that,
motherf���ing lies.

i'm on your side,
let us make a friend,
power shall we hunger,
death to those differ.

we shall speak truths,
truths of our own kind,
just like mankind,
fck opposing kinds.

ethics we device,
moral we indite,
praying we force,
down mankind's throats.

mankind you fckface,
we are truth harbingers,
conform and revere,
lest God strike you down.