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Dissent is patriotic, but trolling is not

Dissent is patriotic, but trolling is not

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.


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Trolls are a nuisance and a time-waster. Thanks for saving our time and reducing the annoyance level by culling the saboteurs.

The best kind of “trolling” (if it is really trolling) is to calmly present a set of facts (careful to leave out the non-sequiturs) and let them tell you where you are wrong. Facts are funny things; they are typically hard to refute, which typically leads to frustration. Then the fun begins.

If you banned every dissenting viewpoint, I’d have been gone long ago. There’s certainly a difference between arguing the other side of an issue and being an adbot for left-wing blogs.

The first amendment limits government action, not private action, more people need to learn that.

like I said in an earlier post where you questioned your own fairness, its your blog/money/time/etc and we are guests here.
I get a kick out of people claiming they have a 1st amendment right to post on a private site.
in the process of getting my domains setup but do have small site running, its expensive. software I chose was few hundred then vpn costs, etc.
and I’ll be damned if I allow someone to consistently irritate me on my own site. disagreeing is one thing, trolling is another.

I understand your frustration, but the fact that you are quoting the individual, is probably providing for him or her a source of grand jollity.

Professor, I’d like to add another bit of info. I was a Hillary supporter in 2008, and I remember there were many many “trolls” Obots lambasting Hillary supporters on Hillary blogs, even many concern-trolls or disruptive trolls

Later, it was found out Axelrod paid hundreds of people, via craig’s list, to troll to help that moron in the WH. Hillary supporters only figured it out after we got proof of Craig’s lists ads for about $3000 for about 3 months trolling work (I believe Hillaryis44’s website has all this info archived).

This will get worse as the election gets closer. These are chicago thugs, they will use chicago thug tactics.

    Milwaukee in reply to alex. | November 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Damn. And I missed out on this potential revenue stream? I like to write, enjoy satire and even pretend to have a sense of humor. I could have done that. But then, there are consequences for ones behavior, sometimes severe consequences. It’s one thing to own stock in munitions companies, since guns don’t kill, people do. It’s another thing to write lies and distortions of the truth which would propel the likes of President 0bama into the White House*.

    “If you can bear to hear the Truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to be traps for fools.” Now that man was good. Good enough to be buried in Westminster Abbey. I just pretend to think I can write. Actually, I just type. I’m not a writer.

    *At least, with the new Health Care Reform, I, like other artist, would only need to worry about my art and not my health insurance. (What sort of artist worries about health insurance? I thought they, er, we, worried about our art?)

Professor, perhaps you should consider implementing a “Troll Toll” also known as my “Troll Management System for Capitalist Bloggers”. See “If You Want to Troll Me, You Will Have to Pay”, linked below, for how I deal with the little creeps:
It works.

Donald Douglas | November 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm

You’re right to ban the mofo. Trolls turn to stalker, then to criminals and harassers. Take it from me. I have lots of them. They cant’ stand moral clarity and the do the devil’s bidding to take it out.

Commentors also need to accept that some blogs are general politics and some are specific to one politician. IMO the owner of the blog has every right to decide that they want the agenda of their site to be and comentors can either accept that or move on. There are a couple of sites I used to read that went where I wasn’t interested and they got removed from my favorites list.

Support Our Trolls! Bring them back from the internet!

I’ve only recently begun reading and commenting on conservative blogs and so I find this useage of the interwebs to sow distrust among the conservative field by trolling their blogs a biazzare strategy. If the Dems in general (Obama in partiucular) hadn’t so overtly used such tactics in 2008, I’d say it’s paranoia, but I know better now.
That being said, Prof, I come from the Wild Wild West of the internet, Gaming Sites. I’ve even served as forum enforcement on a few of them. So if you don’t mind a little advice from a product of the internet, what you need is a moderator. An obstensibly neutral, non-author, comment reading, member of the community moderator.
The inevitable problem with self moderation is that you can’t escape the perception that you’re being unfair and/or overly defensive about your work. (To be clear, I’m not accusing you of actually being unfair or overly defensive, I’m merely stating that you can’t escape that perception of accusation.)
Additionally, you made mistake #1 in dealing with “anti-neocon” you “fed the troll” as it was. Snarky endings like “enlighten us with your widom” get at most 1 warning (it’s an ad hominim style personal attack, and I’m not sure I’d let it slide even on a gaming site, where things are must looser). By snarky comment 2, he’s just being an arse. Problem is, you (as author and site owner) can’t really call him on that without said perception problem (again.) A community member whose just interested in good, civil, intelligent discussion however can get away with more.

Finally, I feel the need to make a point, this will only get worse. Google has made it far too easy to troll. I had a *Satire* blog years back that I killed just because it was getting to hard to mock stories coming out of the news with enough regularity to make it worth it for my 6 friends reading it (and we all moved back to the same town, so we met in person). I never deleted it and some time after I stopped updating it (1 maybe 2 years?) I got a comment on a post I made about the UAW stopping employees of a Ford plant from parking in the plant lot if they owned a foreign car. The post was about the absuridity of the entire rule (like the fact that my ford was assembled in Mexico, and the Chevy I bought after that was made in Korea) and that the car makers didn’t even trust their own products. The comment was about the “usefullness of unions” and how we’d fail without them. Point being, UAW probably has trolls on their payroll who subscribe to google search results and run around with each new crop of posts and comment. (12 months is about what it would take a slowly traffic page to get indexed in google.) With the vast number of unemployed people my age just looking for something to do, I expect a ton of crap to hit the interwebs around May (if not earlier.)

    JayDick in reply to tsrblke. | November 27, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Moderation can be OK to a point, but there are a couple of sites I like but which have very tight moderation. If you post a comment, it doesn’t appear until a moderator has checked it out. Sometimes this takes a long time, which greatly reduces the value of commenting.

    I think the ability for logged-in users to flag comments for a moderator to look at is a good feature. I also like the capability for users to give a comment a “thumbs up” or even a “thumbs down”.

      tsrblke in reply to JayDick. | November 27, 2011 at 4:22 pm

      It’s less about teh moderation itself (this blog is small enough it’s at least within logistics for Professor Jacobson to actually handle the moderation himself) it’s more about the appearence of the outside moderator. Even large comapanies who could hire a staff of moderators (e.g. Microsoft) tend to utilize the community volunteer because it’s a lot harder for the troll to create a staw man out of him/her/it/they.

O/T: a friend of mine sent a email to me, I’m trying to find out if the information within is accurate. The Good Professor has a link to the right which we can use to buy things and he will receive a small portion of the sale. The contents of the letter stated that the Texas Democrat Party is doing the same thing, but all proceeds will go to Obama Victory Fund! Has anyone heard this, and do the Republicans have similar tactics in place? There was an incredibly long list of web sites that are participating.

This is the only blog that I ever have registered to comment on. Of course the primary reason is the extraordinarily outstanding quality of the posts. But also I was and remain impressed by the generally consistently thoughtful intelligent commentary of the community here, even when in disagreement. Probably should have put this on the Thanksgiving post…

Professor, in my view you are doing great. I agree you could use a good non-commenting moderator, but those are few and far between.

I think I could be on the edge of trolldom because of my tendency to skewer Ron Paul and the Pauliacks. I guess I will have to be nicer to the dear ones.

Why do so many leftists gravitate to conservative sites? I can’t even read the comments on NRO anymore. WSJ is the same but not quite as bad. I can’t imagine conservatives posting continually at lefty sites. I’m sure it happens but not as frequently.

TeaPartyPatriot4ever | November 27, 2011 at 2:11 am

I absolutely agree with you Mr. Jacobson. The good web sites, with good moderators, as well as honest fellow bloggers, can discern the difference between those who are actual bloggers, and those who are tactical and strategic web trollers.. Mostly from liberal camps, who are on a mission to subvert, and cause dissention, wherever they can.. They infest some web sites, like parasites.. But it is not hard to spot them, like you have stated and mentioned in examples of their tactics, of which I have also, on many occasions, realized who they are by their obvious tactics, which you have mentioned, and either ridicule and mock their own obvious absurdity with sarcasm, or expose them for what and who they really are, just tell them to leave.. but I never get into an fight with them.. that’s what they want.. I just tell them to leave, and go home and play in their own demented liberal web sites. After they’ve been exposed, they get lost for getting caught.. because they know they are now ineffective..

But, there are those who use these prevention methods, to otherwise suppress contradicting facts and truth aganist them, and their topic, subject, or base of arguement, from anyone who exposes their lies and false narratives.. That’s what some of these web sites, and the people who congregate them, engage in..

For example, some who ardently disagree with me, on any issue, subject, and or topic, and that’s fine.. but those who disagree with me in any and all topics, issues, subjects, etc, in whatever format of web based sites, have tried their best to stifle my Freedom of Speech, by technical means, ie; web labeling someone as spam, or just blocking someone from stating his or her opinion outright.. These are the worst kind of people, as there is nothing worse than free speech hypocrisy, and blatant suppression of free speech. Those hypocrites, who espouse Freedom of Speech, but use radical liberal tactics, to deny it, against those whose opinions are different, do so, because they cannot win their argument, or propaganda tripe, against facts and the truth, so they do the next best thing to in suppressing the truth, and all those who speak it.. they unplug their access to the forum, via, spam labeling, or just outright block the blogger.. This is typical for sites on both sides of the political aisle..

This form free speech suppression, due to intolerance of differing views, but mostly of, and to factual evidenced based opinions, assessments, and conclusions, that not only contradict what they say, but backs it up, and proves it, with facts, logic, reason, and common sense, which completely dismantles their ideological political argument.. Thus, they hate this, and will do anything to stop this intrusion on their propaganda campaign of lies and deceit..

I will always debate and argue, with facts and truth, but never try to ever stifle one’s free speech, like some who have done to me.. And most important, I will never be deterred in this, or any other manner, but just serves to make me more determined, to voice the facts and the Truth, and my opinion and position, based on those facts and truths, no matter what.

My…favorite is I guess the right word…kind of troll is the Moby.

The truly nasty trolls, as described in the post, should be banned out of hand, but…

As someone mentioned above, lefty trolls seem to make one particular site as their own. Althouse has a passel of regular trolls. Powerline has a couple. Riehl has some. Their job, either in fact or at least as they see it, is to kidnap a thread, to thread-jack it, to turn any discussion about the post into something else. Preferably pointless. With lots of name-calling and anger.

There are only two good ways to deal with them. Ignore them or, if appropriate, present a cogent argument and then ignore them. A really good argument will occasionally see the troll disappear of their own accord. Nothing else, however, works like ignoring them. The trolls don’t arrive for the give and take, they have no regard for opposing positions. They arrive solely to “eff things up”.

In this regard, to be honest, it’s not the trolls I find annoying, it’s those who react to them. There will always be trolls, but the knuckleheads who can’t stop themselves from responding to them, who they’re gonna get the last word, who think the trolls have the slightest regard for what they think, these are the people who should be warned and then banned.

Professor, what you have here is called a retread. Better get used to it. The more popular your blog becomes, the more people will register and there will will be posters like this.

I am on the Hannity forums and have been since 2005. You get that sort of thing there all the time. Troll gets banned, troll signs up again and troll gets banned again. Over and over. And through it all you will be the bad guy limiting his “freedom of speech”…lol.

Funny, didn’t I say let the bannings begin? LOL …precient…

Don’t ban me bro! LOL /sarcasm/

The most effective solution to keeping out trolls is probably to just require real full names. But then you as the owner/operator have to conduct your own balancing test: the elimination of all (or most all) trolls, or running the risk of losing regular commenters who are not comfortable posting under their real names.

I R A Darth Aggie | November 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Let us buy the Professor a mighty Ban Hammer!

The most effective solution to keeping out trolls is probably to just require real full names.

Really? why do you believe that is true or even useful? in a couple of weeks, some Joe making $10/hour is going to place on my door step a book. It’s contents? names, addresses and phone numbers, listed alphabetically by last name. All the “real full names” a troll would need.

My advise? don’t bite on stinky bait. Also: if you feed the troll, you get to take him home.