On the nature of trolls

Every so often in the Scriblerus group we get various types of trolling attacks. Which some justify with the WW2 derived dictum; “If you’re taking flak, you must be over the target.” Yes, we occasionally get abuse, which is why many of us have some form of moderation on our comments section because without it we’d be forever chasing our tails deleting dozens off topic comments intended to drag a discussion thread into a morass of a given trolls own unhinged obsessions. Whatever those might be.

For me this isn’t a problem, as I tend to have a rather simple ‘delete and ban’ policy toward provocateurs and police my WordPress spam filter assiduously. Theres also a handy feature in WordPress that blocks some anonymous proxies which I make use of to keep out the unwanted. My comments policy for this blog lays down some very simple rules which boil down to the following: if you’ve something to say and are willing to be civil, no problem. If you’re just abusively trolling just to see if I’ll bite, don’t even bother. You’ll waste your time and energy, not mine.

But what makes a troll? I’d call it a behaviour rather than a person. Someone who disagrees with me might indulge in a trollish attack, which in footballing terms would be called ‘playing the man, not the ball’ or if you prefer, foul play or underhand tactics. Lurking under bridges, attacking the unwary. Attacking the person, not addressing their arguments. Now that’s being a troll.

You can’t call someone Troll either simply for voicing an alternative or simply criticising a given point of view, as has been described by many of the more thin-skinned commentators out there. To them, any opposition is the work of ‘Internet Trolls’. Which isn’t true. At worst it’s heckling. A heckler openly tells you you’re being an idiot. A troll is the person who tries to push a speaker off their soapbox, throws rocks or tries to shut them up using the power of social media. Indeed, the Twitter and Facebook hate mobs who infest those benighted platforms are being trolls if they ‘go after’ someone for simply holding an opinion they don’t like, costing someone their job or damaging any other part of their social life. Which isn’t fair play by anyone’s standards.

In the words of Gomez Addams;

As for the Scriblerus group of bloggers, one thing we do when under attack is co-operate, acting as a mutual support group where an outside threat is trying to disrupt one or more of the contributors. This is a purely informal arrangement, but seeing as certain of our members have extensive experience of Interweb related stuff and a great deal of real-life experience, it works quite well. For any would be attacker I would point out that nothing on the internet is truly anonymous, just as there’s no such thing as a burglar proof house. There are only degrees of difficulty in tracking. So don’t be surprised if your nastiness comes back to bite you.

This is not to say that we in the Scriblerus group agree on everything (or anything), far from it, we might not fight like cats in a sack, but we can disagree without it turning into a mudslinging bitch-fest, regardless of style or content. It’s called maturity. We’re grown-ups (mostly). And we’ve retained our own individual senses of fun. With the emphasis on ‘our own’. So a little light ribbing between members does not lead to meltdowns or petty vendettas. Because we’re all (I think) about freedom of speech and opinion, in varying degrees. So long as it’s not destructive or abusive.

As for those taking umbrage at any point of view espoused within our loose coalition I’d say; “Just because you’re offended, it doesn’t make you right.”

Of course, this blog only reflects my personal view, you’d have to ask the other members of Scriblerus for theirs.

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