A couple of pieces I’ve posted this week drew fire from someone aptly named Null. I took the trouble to respond to his comments, but the process quickly grew annoying. I won’t be letting anything further from him remain on the blog, but I may as well leave those messages up. They’re educational, though perhaps not quite in the way one might at first expect.

It wasn’t until I re-read the course of the conversation that I realized Null is a troll. At no time did he voice an actual opinion. His entire output consisted of attacks.

Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. By default, I give people credit for actually wanting to engage in dialog. This is what trolls crave, of course. The more you try to reason with them, the more outrageous their responses. Their entire purpose is to goad and infuriate other people.

I do hope this individual seeks psychiatric help for his character disorder. It seems unlikely to happen, though. I mean, a psychiatrist would only put up with this kind of shit for about three weeks. After that it would be, “Get serious or go find another psychiatrist.” And of course the troll would try to argue with that — attack the psychiatrist for not being competent, for not really wanting to help, etc.

As Jim Morrison said, people are strange.

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2 thoughts on “Beware of the Trolls

  1. I never had a handle for what you are labeling “trolls” but I’ve fenced with many. I don’t particularly care what they have to say because, as you point out, they are not arguing but merely contradicting or “baiting,” if you will (reminds me of the only Monty python sketch I really liked). One can actually use this type somewhat in the same way one can use a useful argument. That is you can explore your own thoughts on a topic. They won’t rationally challenge you as an intelligent person might through a linear, considered in-depth exploration of a line of reasoning, but their constant, uncoordinated attacks can keep you on your toes.

    1. I’ve had a little experience, on a newsgroup I’ve participated in over the years. The guy’s name (possibly his real name, or not) was Jacek Pudlo. He would start with a seemingly almost-sensible question, wait for you to respond to it, and then start stretching further into the territory of the bizarre. Sooner or later (and sometimes it was sooner) he would start slinging personal insults.

      There was a period when he registered a few fake identities at Google, so that you would think you were having a conversation with a newcomer, and then gradually the papier-mache mask would slip and you would realize you were dealing with Jacek again.

      That community has largely migrated over to a moderated forum — partly because of spam on Google groups, but also to be rid of Jacek Pudlo.

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