Sunday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 67. Sunrise is 7:02 AM and sunset 6:21 PM for 11h 19m 13s of daytime. The moon is full with 99.9% of its visible disk illuminated.
As cities of all sizes find themselves with Facebook and Twitter trolls, a few words about managing that ilk. (Whitewater has Facebook trolls, but really nothing similar from Twitter, as Twitter’s not a significant medium for this small town. Statewide, yes; locally, no.)
A portion of my time at FREE WHITEWATER these days includes moderating against comment trolls, who come to a post from near or far depending on the topic. All posts here go through moderation, so nothing hits this site that has not been approved. That’s a simple system. It involves no more than deleting unworthy remarks that sit in queue. This is a private publication, and so is private property: no troll will ever pass moderation here.
What’s regrettable is how local political discourse in Whitewater has its own trolls, across more than one Facebook forum. Facebook is designed to be an easy-to-use platform, and that ease of use allows trolls to make a start: they need neither reason nor write well. (It’s common among them that they praise their own work, no matter how ill-composed or ill-considered. In a pinch, they’ll settle for their own praise but they truly crave others’ emotional injuries.)
There is no greater demonstration of how our society has failed to educate properly than to watch native-born trolls misuse the English language and abuse principles of reasoning. (Strong skills do not require a college education. A sound K-12 education should equip a student with all that he or she needs to speak, write, and argue soundly. Most of the trolls one sees, by contrast, write and reason as though they slept soundly past middle school.)
A word about USDA Grade A trolls: by their nature, they write or speak to illicit an emotional reaction. They’re not in the game for the discussion, for the claims or counter-claims; they’re in the game for others’ emotional response to the discussion. If they can elicit discernible upset, shock, or anger in others, they’ve achieved their goal. While praise satisfies them, they find it not half so enjoyable as seeing that they’ve unsettled or wounded others.
Although a serious man or woman advances (and responds) to arguments with sangfroid, the troll is, at bottom, an emotional man or woman: beginning emotionally and seeking an emotional response. They begin with treacly neediness and end with repulsive malevolence.
So, how should the serious approach trolls?
Having watched people struggle with trolls in Whitewater, a few suggestions.
Not with the exclamatory. One could respond to a troll with exclamations of shock (Oh my! or How awful!) but that’s a troll’s food supply. These repulsive few are undeserving of what they crave. In any event, those of us who are not easily shocked would have no reason to answer this way.
Seldom with the interrogatory. One could ask a troll a question (If that should be so, then how do you explain…), but then they’re in the game for attention-seeking and emotional-wounding, not a solid discussion. They are not interested in answering responsively for discussion; they’ll answer responsively to prolong the conversation to wound others, get attention, or praise themselves.
If at all, respond with the declarative. One answers coldly to a troll, in direct, terse statements (point by point, nothing too much, nothing emotional). Argument is wasted on trolls, rhetoric is wasted on them, electrons are wasted on them. The troll wants a fraught conversation with serious people; serious people should want a quick dispatch for the troll.