I shut a troll the fuck down the other day.
Didn’t do it by engaging for too long. I didn’t pursue logical argument after logical argument to win them over. I didn’t ask their friends to show them the voice of reason. I didn’t apply a different voice to my arguments based on their own apparent values. And I sure as hell didn’t point out their own logical inconsistencies and fallacious notions.
I got them to admit they were trolling, and I hit them with the goddamn banhammer.
The conversation in question had taken place on a popular social medium, which involved hundreds of passive participants through individuals offering varied forms of social acceptance through the “like” options, as well as dozens of active participants providing their differing perspectives and opinions.
The topic had to do with something that is not really related to the military, although was nationally made to be linked to the military to shut up opposition. One of those arguments where people go, “You don’t like Topic X, so you don’t support the Troops!” even though Topic X is only tangentially associated with our nation’s service members.
An aside: the word “Troop” or “Troops” refers to not individuals, but groupings of individuals. Historically it was used first by military planners in relation to cavalry or airborne units. But, these types of distinctions are lost on people who don’t read too good, so trying to explain “Troop” or “Troops” to them would be met with vicious stares. The kind of look that that Neanderthals would give Denisovans or Homo Sapiens.
So, although the conversation was absolutely lively and dynamic with participants from all stripes of political backgrounds and including perspectives from civilians, active service members and veterans, things stayed pretty civil.
I mean, there was swearing and cursing, but that was more for punctuation than hostility.
And then, this fuckin’ idiot comes in.
In a sub-thread, Idiot begins to assert that not only is Military central to the premise of Topic X, but that failure to comply with mindless devotion to both Military and Topic X is proof positive toward lack of patriotism. Or is that proof negative of patriotism… Anyway.
Most of the thread was watching, but only participating via passive “likes.” To my credit, and because I am not just the better person anywhere but the best person everywhere, I received all of them. Idiot became inflamed by this, because minus my contribution to the conversation – which was done solely to flush out Idiot’s intentions – all attention was focused toward me.
Idiots hate that. As do trolls. But, we had only established that the participant was an idiot so far. Idiot had yet to self-identify as a troll.
Until, triggered into showing its hand, Idiot offered that the only purpose for its activity in the thread in question was to “Shit all over this place.”
At this point, I offered up a sweet one-liner and removed Idiot, who had now openly identified as Troll, from the existence of this thread.
“But Publius,” you bleat sullenly, “isn’t that an attack on IdiotTroll’s First Amendment rights?”
“Ah, my sweet summer child,” I respond, as condescendingly as possible, “you’re a fuckin’ idiot, too. But there’s time for you. Stay a while, and listen.”
See, Troll may have thought for a moment that it scored a victory. But, Troll lost at least one venue in which to be an attention whore. Incidentally, around a dozen people contacted me after I had flushed Troll out, and notified me that Troll had been banned from their pages as well. So, in seeking widespread attention through active disruption measures disguised as “First Amendment Rights,” Troll’s tactics had backfired.
We all know one of the top Rules of the Internet is “Don’t Feed The Trolls.”
But Trolls know that too, so they hide their intentions behind other notions in a public masquerade that is absolutely meant to waste your time and hijack your emotions. I do not have time for this, and it is not above immediate reprisals.
See, since I’m not the government, I can stomp on your dumbass display of First Amendment Rights when they trample on my Freedoms to Associate, Assemble, and Express myself or facilitate the Expression of others. It’s only a violation of rights when the government stomps on them, within reason.
For those of you stupid dummies who believe First Amendment Rights are never-ending, here’s a refresher I’ve touched on before. The Government ™ can stomp on your Free Speech, if you use it to:
- Defame others (slander or libel)
- Incite violence, panic or riots
- Lie to law enforcement (file a false report, commit perjury)
Me, however, am only exercising my rights when I institute the ban hammer. Additionally, I only use the ban hammer when there is no further question on to the motives or intentions of a poster – like when an Idiot self-identifies as a Troll.
There are other considerations to make. Feel free to apply these as necessary to your own interactions on the Internet the next time you have to deal with Trolls, their supporters, the disingenuous, or people who just don’t know that the First Amendment – when expressed among private citizens – does not come without consequence.
Trolls are the Internet’s version of people who wander through neighborhoods going door-to-door to express their own thing, like certain types of salesmen or Mormons. See, there are places that they can house themselves with a general accessibility to the public, but they’re so aggressive they need to come to where you live. When dealing with Internet Trolls, treat them the same way you’d treat a Vacuum Salesmen knocking at your door, or a Telemarketer calling about insurance during dinner, or a 7th Day Adventist asking you if you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.
Treat them just like that, because you’ve already created a standard for yourself in preventing certain people into your life. Now, expand it.
If you value your life, and you should, then you understand that the amount of time you will exist on Planet Earth is finite. That is to say, it’s not so limitless that you can just spend all your days listening to Bible Thumpers or Flat Earthers. Your time, as many people understand, is worth money, and it is worth money because it is a finite resource.
So why give your own limited amount of time in this world freely to Trolls? There’s a reason you don’t give your time freely to just everyone who comes around – it’s because there’s not enough of it.
Finally, certain public forums notwithstanding, when you’re just hanging out on your own semi-public space on your social medium of choice, here’s the best argument that you can apply to it: You, along with the publisher of that site, are co-owners. While you don’t “co-own” any space outside the page, or group, or profile you yourself create, you do have a right to set certain rules of behavior on it. As such, the “We Reserve the Right To Refuse Service to Anyone” rule applies.
So next time someone gets down on you, reverse the bait on those sonsabitches and get them out in the open. Then, when they’re reeling from the sunlight like Gollum without the ring, send them to oblivion. When you do, don’t forget to hit them with a final one-liner.
Tell ’em Publius sends his regards.