Since the new blog went live in mid-June, I’ve only banned about a dozen people (compared to 2700+ registered users).
I’ve banned someone who gratuitously insulted Kathleen, someone who had the “N” word in the registered e-mail address (no need to wait for that person to try to post), someone who tried to post what I perceived as a call to violence, and now a classic example of a troll.
A troll has a variety of meanings. Back in 2008 The NY Times reviewed the genesis of trolling:
In the late 1980s, Internet users adopted the word “troll” to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities. Early trolling was relatively innocuous, taking place inside of small, single-topic Usenet groups. The trolls employed what the M.I.T. professor Judith Donath calls a “pseudo-naïve” tactic, asking stupid questions and seeing who would rise to the bait. The game was to find out who would see through this stereotypical newbie behavior, and who would fall for it. As one guide to trolldom puts it, “If you don’t fall for the joke, you get to be in on it.”
Robert Stacy McCain also created a useful Guide to Blog Trolls, which lists several categories, including The False-Flag Troll:
False-Flag Troll — This guy pretends to be on your side, but he’s really not. Claiming to be a conservative, he inevitably advances messages that are anti-conservative. His purpose is to sow confusion, discord and demoralization.
In the past couple of days I banned someone who fits into the False-Flag Troll category. The guy showed up in July using the name Anti-Neocon posting links in the comment section to an anti-Scott Walker blogger who had criticized some of my Wisconsin posts. Then he went away. Had he kept it up he might have been banned as what McCain calls a “Regular Troll,” but it never got to that.
He showed up again in response to my post Dust off the maps of Sinai, with a comment defending the Obama administration’s handling of Egypt, and wondering why I thought the U.S. had any right to interfere in the movement of Egypt towards an Islamist government. I responded, and then he turned troll, responding to my response with the same questions and insisting that I had not responded to his prior question, in other words, creating an endless circle:
I know a troll when I see one. The old “you didn’t answer my question you just repeated what you already said” ploy. And endless circle in which you get airtime and waste my time. Bye-bye. Take it to Kos.
And then he turned False-Flag Troll, registering under another name (“Seriously”) and insisting that he was a moderate-conservative who just wanted an alternative viewpoint heard:
I am not a troll and not a Kos reader, just a moderate to conservative American who found your blog from other sources I read, chose to make a comment, and then was banned for having an alternative point of view….
Of course, he was not a “moderate to conservative,” he’s a left-wing troll who I remembered as having previously planted links to the anti-Walker blog, so he’s been banned again:
“a moderate to conservative American who found your blog from other sources I read.” Really? What sources would that be. The left-wing anti-Scott Walker blog for which you posted links in the comment section when you originally showed up here back in July? I didn’t ban you because of your “alternative point of view,” there is plenty of dissent here and plenty of criticism of me, but because you have become a troll, and now you are pretending to be something you are not. Bye-bye, again.
Commenting here is a privilege, not a right. Go get your own blog if you want to insult the authors here, make racist comments or calls to violence, or plant false flags.
Dissent is patriotic, but trolling is not.
Update: I should add that trolling v. dissent becomes more of a problem in the election season, as some commenters try to take over a blog comment section and use your traffic to promote their candidate or attack yours. I sense that happening here with a couple of the commenters, but I’ll take it on a case by case basis.