Stealing the Troll Food

Readership at the Whatever has been up recently, and with it, alas, has apparently come a certain number of people who are under the impression that when I post on controversial topics (particularly regarding politics), I am willing to tolerate trollage in the comment threads. Actually, that’s not accurate. It’s better to say that people are coming here expecting that the same sort of poor argument skills they employ on other sites are going to fly here. What these people don’t know is that I find this sort of crap annoying. So, for the new folks:

1. Please read and study this list of logical fallacies.

2. Try not to engage in any of them.

3. Don’t complain that I or others here “can’t answer” you when we point out you’re making a bad argument; it’s not that we can’t answer you, it’s that responding to poorly-constructed arguments with anything other than snark and derision is not worth our time.

4. Don’t be surprised that after a couple rounds of your bad argument, I tell you not to comment in that particular thread any longer and/or warn you that further posts containing this bad argument (or of you “declaring victory” because no one will seriously respond to your bad argument) will be deleted.

5. Likewise, don’t be surprised when these further posts are in fact, deleted.

6. However, feel free to try again, using better arguments, in a different post. Likewise, if you can turn around a bad argument into a good argument, expect to be taken more seriously almost immediately.

I mention this for a couple of reasons. First, one of the things I am generally very proud of here at the Whatever is the level of discourse from people of all sorts of political, cultural and philosophical persusaions — we’ve got smart people from all over the spectrum discussing things in an intelligent and largely civilized way, with just enough snark and bile to make it fun for everyone. I cherish this and want to see it continue. Trolls do a disservice to those who (unfortunately for them) happen to share some political/cultural/philosophical points in common with the trolls, because the trolls’ bad arguments and bad actions tend to call more attention to themselves. So I’d rather not have that. Also, trollage generally brings down the level of discourse here, and I feel I owe it to people who want to have a serious discussion to give them a place to have it. I want that for the Whatever and the people who come here.

Second, jackass trolls just insult my internal feng shui because, god damn it, I know how to argue; I have a degree in Philosophy of Language from the University of Chicago, so I’m academically trained to argue, and I’ve spent the last decade and a half making a living from writing, so I know how to use words, and use them to good effect. This is not to suggest I expect everyone to have the same facility for argument as I have (nor does it suggest that I always make good arguments; I am human). But you know what? I expect them to try. Here at the Whatever, I want you to argue well. If I think you’re making the effort, I’m going to cut you a whole lot of slack. If I think you’re just being an ass biting troll, I’m going to shut you own. Yes, I am wholly empowered to make these decisions, by education, by profession, and because it’s my damn site and what I say goes.

This is not about people’s politics. Give me someone whose politics are not my own who can make an elegant argument, I’m going to hold my door open to him; give me someone whose politics are mine, but who is an ass-biting troll about it, and I’ll close the door on him. It’s also not about snark — God knows I love me the snark, so please keep putting it in there. I promise I’ll do the same.

What it’s about is quality control. I’ve made the executive decision that I deserve good arguments; I’ve made the executive decision that others who visit here deserve them too. So that’s what we’ll be having here. I have faith that those folks who honestly don’t know they’re trolling can learn not to and become part of the conversation; I welcome them. Those folks who are trolling and know it are simply going to get deleted. Either they’ll pick up the hint or they won’t; either way, this site will be shut of them.

71 thoughts on “Stealing the Troll Food

  1. JS Scribbles: one of the things I am generally very proud of here at the Whatever is the level of discourse from people of all sorts of political, cultural and philosophical persusaions — we’ve got smart people from all over the spectrum discussing things in an intelligent and largely civilized way, with just enough snark and bile to make it fun for everyone. I cherish this and want to see it continue.

    I have to say I really love this blog space, too. I am so amazed at the intelligence massed here that often I can’t really comment any more intelligently than “duh” “huh?” “what john said” and “I farted.”

    So I second John and ask people to help keep up the intelligence here and I will police myself and maybe spellcheck a post once or twice. I may even try to muster up an intelligent comment.

  2. John,

    Thanks for the reminder. I enjoy reading this blog immensely, and especially enjoy the mature way in which individuals of differing political opinions can express themselves without resorting to “I know you are, but what am I?” type arguments. I will do my best to police my comments accordingly.

  3. I’ve just recently discovered this site and I’m enjoying it immensely. I completely support John’s position for the following reasons.

    If trolls are permitted to wreak havoc on this site, all of our hard drives will crash on November 3rd.

    If trolls post bad arguments, John will be unhappy. If John is unhappy, he will grow grumpy. If John grows grumpy, he will be unpleasant to his wife and beautiful child. No child should suffer for your poor writing skills.

    ……rebutalle???

  4. You know, I miss CoolBlue. His rhetorical tricks drove me batty and I disagreed (sometimes vehemently) with the majority of his opinions and conclusions. But at least the man could write, believed in what he said, had historical context, could defend his points (at least for him) and actually made a coherent point or two. I believe (it’s difficult to tell from blog comments) he argued his own opinion from a passion.

    I say this as a comparison to Snarkwarrior. Snark, I’ve read your posts, and there are no arguments there, there’s very little context to the discussion, and your points are only variants of “you liberals make me laugh.” Then, to call the owner of the blog a troll? Just bad form man.

  5. Snarkwarrior,

    I, for one, am still waiting for the “passionate argument” you claim on this thread. Mostly I see numerous examples of the logical fallacies defined in the Wikipedia link provided by John, not to mention name-calling and gross generalization (“thought police” and “you people”). Did you have a point, or were you just attempting to rattle the cages of those who have the temerity to disagree with your opinion?

  6. Snarkwarrior,

    This is first and foremost the blog of a professional writer. As such, there are certain quality standards we like to see in reader contributions. Also, good writing skills tend to lead to clearer arguments. Put simply, if you don’t like that the club has a dress code, you’re quite welcome to go to the dive bar down the street. I hear LGF is nice this time of year.

    As to not receiving a valid reply, I believe that your point was addressed earlier in the referenced thread. Just because no one is responding to your particular question doesn’t mean the core issue has been ignored.

    As to “progressive tolerance”, no one has attacked your ideas here, just your method of delivery. Seriously, switch to decaf and read the wikipedia article Scalzi posted and then come back. You’ll find most people here are quite willing to debate you, provided you don’t call them idiots and belittle their argument straight out of the gate.

  7. At the risk of feeding the troll:

    1. This isn’t the media. If you’re justifying your argument style by comparing it to modern ‘Newstainment,’ you’ve pretty much already lost. Just sayin’.

    2. You hear that sound? That was the sound of the fact that Nathan was joking flying right over your head.

    3. If you think we all always agree with Scalzi on everything, you really haven’t been hanging around here long enough. There are several conservetives who come here to debate. The difference between them and you is that they do so responsibly. There are also several people here who are far more liberal than Scalzi, and when they (we) say stupid things, we get mocked too.

    4. Just for the record, I believe that Scalzi is in fact an independant. So for accuracy’s sake, you might not want to lump him in with the pinko commie liberals just yet.

    and 5. Afraid to answer you? Fear implies that we have something to lose. Maybe you get scared of strangers on the internet who you’ll probably never meet calling you foolish, but seriously, until you knock on my front door with a baseball bat, I’m not going to be ‘afraid’ to answer you. None of this actually matters for anything except the social experience and the opportunity to better ourselves (through exposure to different viewpoints and hands-on debate practice).

    In closing, getting into internet flame fights is like participating in drunken road-chicken: even if you win, you’re still an idiot.

  8. Snarkwarrior:

    If you read my posts, you will see that I am definitely not a member of John’s crowd. However, I think that those of us who disagree with him need to remember the following points:

    1.) This is John’s site, and he pays for the bandwidth here. This is why when I make posts that disagree with his positions, I a.) try to be brief, and b.) let John have the last word. We are guests here; and guests shouldn’t act like they own the place.

    2.) John is a (mostly) liberal individual; and his blog attracts a disproportionately large number of people who have liberal views. Therefore, if you make a post here supporting a conservative position, you had better be prepared with some good arguments, because the pirahnas *will* swarm on you.

    3.) If you really want to oppose John’s views, then the solution is not to flood his blog. The solution would be to start your own blog and create an alternative forum for competing views. Because of his blog, John is now what I would call a 2nd- or 3rd-tier celebrity (sorry John–you’re no Paris Hilton yet); but about 8 years ago he was just a guy with a website. I am sure that John has no desire to rid the internet of competing views; he is only setting restrictions on the way in which those views can be expressed *here*–which is reasonable per item #1 above.

  9. Snark,

    I think I saw a point in your last post, so I will respond.

    The “war on terror” is not simply a military issue, nor is it simply a legal issue. To attempt to place it in such black and white terms oversimplifies the issues at hand, and makes logical decision making difficult, at best.

    The fact of the matter is that the war on terror is an issue that touches Americans on many levels – militarily, legally, morally, economically, etc.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, the military is guided and controlled by civilians as a matter of law. They are bound by many laws, including the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Convention, and others. The military construct, from the lowest Private to the Commander in Chief, is NOT above the law, and to “bend it just a little” for expediency’s sake is not okay with me, and for many others. You obviously have a different opinion, and as long as you can support it logically and reasonably, I think you will find the responses to be civil and open-minded. If you cannot support your opinion logically and reasonably, then the proprietor will (obviously) have an issue with you.

  10. “A common enough error when the writer is excited or when there is no editing feature. ”

    Just like when a commentator attributes a post to the wrong person. Like you did in the very next paragraph. Interesting? Nah, just another point that you aren’t actually paying attention to the discussion. Must be from trying to make too many posts on too many blogs to make all those astroturf dollars.

    ” I raised a serious points about judicial activism and the liberals failed reliance on treating the war on terror as a legal, rather than military issue.”

    Really? I don’t’ remember you making a serious point. And I don’t remember anybody on this blog, or in the “liberal” media make the argument that terrorism should be only fought by lawyers. Which as I remember was your “serious point.” You haven’t received an “intelligent” reply because it isn’t an argument anybody was making. Setting up an opposition point and knocking it down isn’t a valid argument tactic. It’s a strawman, and you received the reply it deserved.

    As for the “liberals” unable to answer in a military fashion, let’s see. First WTC would have meant using the military as a domestic police force, posse comitatus. Khobar Towers was when Bill Clinton began his campaign against Al Qaeda which was hampered by the Radical Right shouting “wag the dog” every five minutes. The African Embassy bombing saw more bombing in Afghanistan and the Sudan. As for the Cole, I’ll remind you that newly appointed Bush officials cut the legs off of the FBI team investigating and tracking down the attackers and their supporters. President Clinton then also bombed Al Qaeda training camps when intelligence put a high probability that Osama would have been at one. After action reports say we missed him by three-hours. I also remember the Radial Right shouting about attempted election engineering.

    Unable or afraid to answer? You’re joking right?

    Also, for your implied argument that liberals are too weak to fight terror, shove it pal. That’s the level of argument you’re making, that’s the level I’ll reply to you on this matter. Again, you’re making this error because; one, you haven’t read the posts on this blog; two, you’re brain has been temporarily replaced by a fax machine.

  11. Greg:
    I do not comment on political matters here because, although I’m intensely interested I am not, as the saying goes, the sharpest hammer on the Christmas tree. Or something like that. I know (I think) when I’m in greatest danger of embarrassing myself.
    But speaking as a fellow visitor here, I think you show by your argument that you’re very much a part of this crowd. Based on how I read John’s initial post, anyway.
    And by the way: it’s Liberal with a capital “L,” buddy. I’m proud of the label, so show some respect and sling it like you mean it.

    Nathan:
    A “rebutalle” is someone who is being a butalle over and over again.

  12. You think the Washington Post is a conservetive paper? Wow. You really must not be that conservetive.

    When you said your points are ‘not unlike those used in the media,’ I assumed you were talking about Fox, because that’s the only news outlet where I can see any resemblance to your ‘debate style.’

  13. Snark says,

    “……rebutalle???”
    A common enough error when the writer is excited or when there is no editing feature. Are you that uptight about spelling and gramme…grammar?
    Interesting…

    Well, yeah, actually I am that uptight about spelling and grammar. When someone goes to the effort to spell stuff right and to use a reasonable facsimile of grammar, it indicates to me that they’ve thought a little about what they’ve written.

    Excuse me if I think that your inattention to what you write invites my inattention to what you’ve written.

  14. “Serious as cancer. Scalzi wouldn’t address my points and several others also avoided them instead attacking the messenger and style rather than the content.”

    Your points were straw man arguments. You showed up telling everyone that we were daft to argue that anti-terrorism should be left to lawyers (using semantically null but emotive keywords like islamo-fascism), when that was an argument nobody had made. When that was pointed out to you, you simply repeated the point over and over. Nobody engaged with the point because nobody was going to defend an argument that they hadn’t made to start with.

    If your internal narrative demands that this is persecution, feel free to believe it. But don’t expect us to conform to that narrative.

  15. Hurrah for moderation. This is your site, John, and I applaud you for taking the steps you wish to keep the discourse how you desire it. (It’s the internet; if you want to set your own rules for debate, start your own blog.)

  16. “insults my internal feng shui”

    *that* is a brilliant phrase,which I shall be using in the future. *yoink*

    Thanks.

  17. Snark, one suggestion: use your real name. If you use your real name, then you’ll be more careful about what you write, because it’ll have your name on it.

    And if you find yourself pressed for time in answering, and so do not have time to spell, I have another suggestion for you. John’s article went up today. You’ve written what, about four or five thousand words in response to it? That’s a lot, in one day. Brevity is the soul of wit.

  18. re Snarkwarrior/anonymous,

    As a Brit, I find your use of the word “liberal” very amusing – it appears (imho) you use it as an insult, in line with “commie pinko subversive traitor”, and as such, are opposed to anyone or any group who holds “liberal” views.

    Funnily enough, the wikipedia definition of (american) liberal is –
    “American liberalism — that is, liberalism in the United States of America — is a broad political and philosophical mindset, favoring individual liberty, and opposing restrictions on liberty, whether they come from established religion, from government regulation, from the existing class structure, or from multi-national corporations.”

    “Liberals share a belief in individual rights, free enterprise, representative democracy, and the rule of law.”

    “In 21st century American politics, there is considerable confusion over the meaning of the term “liberal”. Beginning in the early 1990s, the Republican Party has made a concerted effort to change the meaning of the term, by a method called “framing”. [4] Instead of arguing against liberal beliefs, “framing” attempts to change the meaning of the word in the public consciousness, so that a belief in equal rights for all Americans is framed as “special rights for homosexuals”, a belief in the rights of those accused of crimes is framed as “soft on crime”, and a belief in freedom of religion is framed as “hatred of Christians”. This has been successful to such an extent that the term “liberal” has become stigmatized and is now generally avoided by those running for office”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_liberalism

    I have to admit, that to the outside world, what you call “liberals” are seen as fairly right-wing, and what you would call “conservatives” are seen as extremely right-wing, supporting the rights of those who have over the rights of those who would like to have.

    The things you deride in “liberals” are the things the rest of the world feel made the US great.

    As an aside, we don’t get Fox News in the UK, which is a shame, because I have been told by other Brits who have seen it, that it is very funny (often unintentionally).

  19. Snarkwarrior:

    “Apparently, he had to devote an entire thread just on me.”

    It’s cute, how much pride you take in crapping all over other people’s sites.

    And yes, I think I’ll go through and delete the posts of yours I find exhibiting the bad arguing I noted earlier.

    Update: There, done. Some of Snarkwarrior’s posts stay because there appears to be something there to argue about. Apparently he can think, he just needs to be prodded.

  20. Oh, one other thing — simply as a matter of organizing, I’d appreciate it if the political discussion gets transferred over to the “Thing That Ought Really…” thread. Thanks!

  21. “Political discussion gets transfered…”
    Sorry, John, my bad.

    Dan, there’s that monkey again. Vandermeer has one, John’s got his, and now Dan. What is this, “everybody’s got something to hide except me and my monkey”?

    Yeah, I’m on a Beatles kick.

  22. John – My Bad, too. I apologize.

    Hugh – Thanks for the differing perspective. I also find it amusing how the word “liberal” has come to mean something somewhat negative in Amercian politics, when I think of it as a compliment. As in, “favorable to progress or reform.”

  23. You think the Washington Post is a conservetive paper? Wow. You really must not be that conservetive.

    Speaking as a really liberal guy, I think that over the past few years Fred Hiatt’s taken the Post editorial page way, way to the right of where it had been previously. It’s still liberal enough to have endorsed Kerry in 2004, but that’s not really all that liberal in the grand scheme of things.

    (Note, people often confuse the Washington Times, a clownishly far-right organ of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, with the Washington Post. They are very much not the same.)

  24. “…I know how to argue; I have a degree in Philosophy of Language from the University of Chicago, so I’m academically trained to argue, and I’ve spent the last decade and a half making a living from writing, so I know how to use words, and use them to good effect. This is not to suggest I expect everyone to have the same facility for argument as I have…”

    Translation: These are trained professionals. Do not attempt this at home.

  25. Hugh’s said what I would’ve, so I’ll respond to the Snark’s, um, rebuttal.

    Snark, I share your distaste for proving arguments using Wikipedia, however I do find it’s usually a good basic source of definitions. What Hugh quoted is a fairly good definition of the word liberal. I say this as a card carrying UK Liberal Democrat, and a former student of political theory who studied JS Mill, founder of modern liberal thought, extensively.

    As Hugh said, the Republicans have tried to make the word mean something it doesn’t. The great shame is, some “liberals” have bought into their definition and try to live up to it, silly fules.

    Also? You say you’ll choose the US system over the UK, yet in reality the systems are almost identical, it’s voter behaviour and identification that is different, the only difference in candidate election is your use of open primaries compared to our use of more private selection systems (depending on party).

    However, most of us like to exclude Galloway, the man’s an arse, and has done great damage to the anti-war coalition on this side of the pond by his pointless antics.

    Aside: Strangely, I thought this post was aimed directly at “liberal twit” on the last thread I was reading here, a few days back, not this mysterious “snark warrior”, who seems to love his straw men.

    John? your place, your rules. I like this place, reminds me that, despite the biased media portrayal, there are in fact many many intelligent USians, and some of them are even conservative. Don’t have a smuch time as I’d like to read all the threads though.

  26. Scalzi might know where the phrase “I’d like to be home with my monkey and my dog” comes from since he’s pretty hip to those abstract music quotes. I give biscuits to anyone who can come up with it.

  27. i haven’t been following the trolls (my bad…it IS september, after all) but it seems to me that if john doesn’t want to waste time arguing with people who are lacking in grace and style vis a vis arguement, he shouldn’t do so and that is his perogative…

    …i wouldn’t argue with the man as i know a master when i hear one. if you can’t keep up, just admit it and enjoy the show. at least he isn’t calling you a “shit for brains” which was the favorite epithet of one of my favorite straw man flamers….

  28. Snarkwarrior:

    “I express myself with a little tongue in cheek but I don’t try to be nasty until you are. Sorry you don’t get the joke.”

    You apparently continue to be unable to parse the difference between calling your arguments idiotic and calling you an idiot. A problem, that.

    MatGB:

    “Aside: Strangely, I thought this post was aimed directly at ‘liberal twit’ on the last thread I was reading here, a few days back, not this mysterious ‘snark warrior’, who seems to love his straw men.”

    It’s almost certainly the same person, considering that he argues the same way (which is to say, poorly), and shows the same rhetorical tics, which is to say, is under the deluded impression peppering the word “liberal” here like an epithet is a clever use of the word.

  29. Snark,

    Just because I finished typing yet another report for Council and I’m feeling all community servicy. Here’s some more tricks, Notes on Rhetoric and Rhetorical Strategy. You’ve got a few down, but you haven’t mastered all the steps. You’ve got; A Priori, Barred, Chorus, Entertaining, Fascism, Historical Record/Reminders, and Tenuous down fairly well. Still doesn’t work for you.

    You’ve also tried Goaded, Humour, Criticism of Israel, Neither a lender, Nomeclature, Precisely My Point, and To Argue Is to Lose with less success.

  30. Hey, John, one suggestion. While I certainly think it’s a good idea to apply a cluebat as necessary, the problem with deleting comments is that they break up the conversation flow when people comment *on* the comments.

    A possible medium might be a plugin that hides a comment from the thread, but gives people a link to click on should they actually want to read it anyway. (And if more trolls use that opportunity to respond to the first troll, then the result is that all of them end up in a walled virtual ghetto while the main thread is preserved here.)

    Not sure if this is possible on MT, but I’d guess it is — I’ve seen it used effectively on a few different online discussions.

  31. This entry is written on the topic of the illogical, and is therefore illogical itself.

    I declare victory over this thread. As a consequence of my victory, this thread shall henceforth be:

    Lars’ thread.

    You are welcome to edit your posts and the posts of others from it, I like to hear myself think.

  32. Speaking as one of those people who has (I believe) made cogent arguments that disagree with John in the past, let me add these thoughts:

    First, while there are certainly trolls on the site as John describes, it is John’s discretion that determines when someone is trolling or when they’re just disagreeing with him. There have been several cases in the past where I’ve felt (my opinion only – your mileage may vary) that John has jumped down someone’s throat simply because he defined disagreeing with him as “arguing badly.” I have no concrete evidence to offer, other than to point out that I’ve never seen John accuse someone who agrees with him of arguing badly.

    John – it’s your blog and your perogative, but please don’t suggest that there’s some fact-based litmus test that trips the troll meter and makes you delete a comment.

    It’s all you…

  33. Well said Brian!

    The fact is that it’s almost impossible to have a truly logical, fact-based argument in a blog comment thread. Most of the views expressed cannot be proven logically one way or the other; they’re just opinions. Instead it usually boils down to rhetoric, which seems to be confused for logic here.

    Most of the friction seems to arise from the dissenters feeling picked-on. That can easily happen in the blog format since any post from the site host is guaranteed to be followed by several “right on!” posts expressing support.

    The simplest solution is to resist the urge to convince the host of your opinion since it’s not going to happen anyway.

    If you really need the warm fuzzy feeling of agreement, start your own blog and then you can declare dissenting opinions illogical and cut them.

  34. I think John is running into a similar problem that SC Justice Potter Stewart had in defining pornography; he can’t define trollage, but he knows it when he sees it (and deletes accordingly).

  35. I don’t care for censorship myself, but at least partly for less than noble reasons: I rather enjoy a knock-down drag-out fight myself, can give as good as I get, and on at least a couple of occasions have (in verbal fisticuffs terms) left a troll sufficiently battered and bloody to have him merely limp away wordlessly.

    But, ya know, when you’re a houseguest, it’s house rules, and pretty much the same on someone else’s website. Now when I have my own, it’s going to be no holds barred, Ultimate Fighter territory. I wanna see some eye-gouging out there, lads!

  36. Anna Feruglio Dal Dan:
    Dan: Radio Kaos is where I heard it.

    Yep. It’s Radio KAOS from Rodger Waters. I always thought that was a pretty cool album.

  37. Brian Greenberg:

    “There have been several cases in the past where I’ve felt (my opinion only – your mileage may vary) that John has jumped down someone’s throat simply because he defined disagreeing with him as ‘arguing badly.'”

    Another outburst like that, Brian, and you’re going to be deleted.

    I disagree that merely disagreeing has been the only cause for saying someone has a bad argument, but, yes, you’re right — there have been times when I have let annoyance color my judgment, in terms of whether I think something is a good argument. It’s something I work on, and I think I’m getting better at dealing with.

    However, I’d note that typically in the past I haven’t deleted these folks, even when I’ve been annoyed with them, and in the future I don’t expect to do all that much deleting, either. You’ve been on the end of my “you’ve made a bad argument” stick more than once, Brian, and I don’t recall deleting you even once (unless by accident, and when I do that I invite people to repost).

    This entry isn’t announcing a change in site policy, because I’ve always reserved the right to edit and moderate posts. It’s just that we’ve got more folks now, and some folks have been less than clueful about this, so it’s useful to put it out there.

    I certainly don’t expect to do any deleting of people who have a history with the site — most of those folks know how I run things, and how I value good adversarial comments, even when I’m annoyed at the time. I don’t expect to delete new people who eventually clue in that I expect a relatively high standard of comment. And I don’t expect to delete every comment that is spuriously constructed in a logical sense, either, since I expect most of them are meant hyperbolically, not seriously.

    But if I feel someone is being a troll, or otherwise engaging in a level of discourse I think is below my standards, out they go.

    “I’ve never seen John accuse someone who agrees with him of arguing badly.”

    You may have never seen it, but it doesn’t mean it’s not true; I’ve noted when people I’ve thought people have bad arguments even when they’re agreeing with my positions, and I’ve definitely told people who have had my positions who were arguing with others in an ad hominem manner to calm down, and treat the other commenters with respect. I do expect everyone to try to keep things on an even keel as much as possible.

    I do expect that it’s axiomatic that trolls here tend to be of the adversarial type, since there’s really no point in trolling the site of someone you agree with.

    “please don’t suggest that there’s some fact-based litmus test that trips the troll meter ”

    Brian, I’d like for you to point out to me where I said there was some sort of fact-based litmus test for me to trigger moderation. The whole entry, in fact, is me saying I would make my moderation determination based on my opinion that the poster was being a troll. I do think that given my rhetorical expertise I make an informed opinion, but yes, it’s my opinion. Which is okay because it’s my site. My site, my rules. Again, this is not new.

    An Ominous:

    “The simplest solution is to resist the urge to convince the host of your opinion since it’s not going to happen anyway.”

    This seems to imply that the intent of commenting is to try to change the host’s mind, which I find puzzling. I would suggest the intent of commenting is to post one’s own thoughts on a subject for the edification and amusement of other readers. I don’t expect or want people to agree with me all the time, and I like it when they don’t, because I think a lively comment thread is one of the attractions of the site and why people come back.

    “If you really need the warm fuzzy feeling of agreement, start your own blog and then you can declare dissenting opinions illogical and cut them.”

    I think it’s evident in the comment threads through the site that I don’t, in fact, cut posts because they dissent from my own, because the comment thread are jam-packed with people who don’t share my opinions. I reserve the right to cut them if I find them obnoxious and stupid. Whether they dissent is neither here nor there to their being obnoxious and stupid.

    You want to make sure your comment sticks, don’t be a troll. If you’re confused as to what constitutes being a troll, don’t worry, because I will tell you. It’s if I have to tell you over and over, that you’re going to find your comments deleted.

  38. “[S]ince there’s really no point in trolling the site of someone you agree with.”

    Therefore, no one trolls on sites they agree with.

    Hmm… If I was in a snarky mood… Actually, I AM in a snarky mood… I’d say that implied a bad argument. But there’s a reason I’m yanking John’s chain here by putting extra words in his mouth.*

    Trolls DO, in fact, prowl the sites of hosts they agree with. The comment sections become platforms for trolls to attack those that don’t agree with them. They usually, in the process, imply their agreement or at least admiration of the host gives them added authority.

    My personally favorite response to disagreement: The Internet is rife with [insert favorite insult here].

    *Don’t try this at home. He’ll just spit them back all over your shirt. Then you have extra laundry.

  39. Dear Snark,

    If you want everyone to recognize and validate any statement you make, go join the Politics forum at Baen’s Bar. There, any opinion left of Atilla the Hun is leapt upon and destroyed by the pack.

    I am sure they will sniff your arguments and find them good, heaping praise on your perspicacity and rhetorical deftness — and then they will let you help them tear at any reasoning that does not include sucking up to Bush and his cronies.

    But that won’t happen here.

  40. I propose that if Snarkwarior gets to use Galloway to define the left, we leftists can use the American millitia movement to define the the right.

    Fair is fair, yes?

  41. Wow. Y’all got a lot of time on your hands. I got some mad yard work to do. Anyone want to help with that? I promise I won’t compromise your freedoms.

    Much.

  42. Brian,

    I’ve never seen John accuse someone who agrees with him of arguing badly.

    I will aver to the fact that John has told me to ‘cool it’ even when I was more or less agreeing with his point of view. I think his phrase was something like “play nice.” I think I deserve credit for swallowing my “but he started it” reply.

    And I agree that the following is pedantic, but I’m gonna say it anyway – the word is spelled ‘prerogative.’

  43. Snarkwarrior spewed forth:

    “Jim Winter says,
    “Trolls DO, in fact, prowl the sites of hosts they agree with. The comment sections become platforms for trolls to attack those that don’t agree with them. They usually, in the process, imply their agreement or at least admiration of the host gives them added authority.”

    Well then that makes calling me a troll a little problematic sinc I’m certainly not getting ‘approval’ from the host am I?”

    I only describe one type of troll, not all of them.

    Your response to anyone attacking you is to call them a liberal. That argument is not valid; it’s merely name-calling. THAT is what trolls do.

  44. “However, most of us like to exclude Galloway, the man’s an arse, and has done great damage to the anti-war coalition on this side of the pond by his pointless antics.”

    Yet fools such as he are very popular on the left

    Really? Not here. Perhaps you’re mistaking us with some other lefists. I can’t name any leftists I know who support him. Certainly none here seem to. And yet you aregue as if we did. Odd that.

    the militia movement has no representatives in Congress and have been largely disavowed by the right.

    There are millitia groups ‘patrolling’ the US border with Mexico right now, and getting chummy with Republican congressmen. What’s more, they’re aryan supremacist millitiamen.

    The millitia movement is extraordiarily popular among the right wing in the USA. Dave Niewert, an investigative journlist in Seattle has documented it quite well.

    Were you to be fair you’d have to admit that there really is no elected conservative representative here that seemingly approaches the level of toxicity of a Galloway, Dean, McKinney, Conyers, Maxine Waters on the left.

    Randy “Duke” Cunningham trumps them all. Oh, and then there was the congressman who joked, while in church, about detonating a nuclear bomb in Damascus. Sam Johnson. Also a Republican.

    I can keep this up all year. It’s not like there’s a shortage of elected racist, homophoic, mysoginistic, corrupt republicans.

    But that leaves behind the point that, if you’re going to pick the worst representative of liberalism to represent the views of your oponents, your oponents have that right where you’re concerned, unless they admit that they agree with the views.

    Again, not many of us agree with Galloway. In fact, I’ve seen none here who claim to.

  45. Whereas the Galloways carry significantly more political weight given that they’re actually in government

    bing bing bing. Galloway is NOT in Govt. Hate to disappoint you. He scraped a victory in one constituency in a ver acrimonious campaign in which very few, including he himself, thought he could win. His victory speech was a hastily re-written second place loser speech in fact.

    fools such as he are very popular on the left

    Not over here he isn’t (obviously can’t speak for your side of the pond as easily). I can easily point you at left of centre, anti-war UK commentators and bloggers who can’t stand the man, including many of the higher rated UK blogs.

    We can’t stand him, he’s not actually that popular, he’s just a shameless self-publicist and the media like a showman. Bit like Coulter really, and about as sane.

    I think the Republican definition is on target. They’ve succesfully pointed out that today’s liberals don’t seem to measure up to their self-described ideals

    Self-described. And the opposing definition. If someone calls themselves vegetarian, yet eats fish and chicken, are they actually a vegetarian? No. Yet I have to deal with idiots like that regularly. If someone describes themselves as liberal, but isn’t actually liberal “don’t measure up to their ideal”, are they actually liberal? No.

    The Republican attack on the usage of the word devalues the language and the discourse. If the best you can do is try to insult someone by using a word incorrectly, then you fail, simple really.

    There are liberal socialists, liberal capitalists, liberal centrists. You’d call a liberal capitalist a “libertarian”. I call them an ally against the state’s attack on my liberty. The word has many different meanings, but none of them are insulting.

    Meh, I care not, I’m going back to theming my new site.

  46. General points; I will try hard to remain non-political.Snark accused Scalzi of having a biased opinion. Of course he does. Every opinion is biased, in favor of the beliefs of the person expressing the opinion.Another comment was made about attacking the messenger. True, that is usually thought of as inappropriate. But that is because we usually think of the messenger as delivering the message in some rational way. If the messenger shouts his message in your face, calls you a name, and demands that you refute him right now, on his terms, he is inviting attack. As for who is liberal or who is conservative, “liberal” and “conservative” are not meant to be insults, they are merely descriptive of an opinion, or of a person. If you automatically think that liberals are always wrong, or conservatives are always wrong, or one of them is always right, you probably haven’t done a lot of thinking about issues in general.So let’s everybody take a pill or two, sit back and think, then post. OK?

  47. An Ominous,

    The fact is that it’s almost impossible to have a truly logical, fact-based argument in a blog comment thread. Most of the views expressed cannot be proven logically one way or the other; they’re just opinions.

    Opinions can be fact-based. (The better ones are). To be sure, many of the opinions expressed here will necessarily be based on values as well. As a result we will from time to time find arguments unconvincing, as we do not completely agree on values. But that does not prevent us from analyzing the logic in the arguments for validity.

    Instead it usually boils down to rhetoric, which seems to be confused for logic here.

    I suspect most of the commentators here are reasonably good at distinguishing the two. To be sure we use rhetoric a lot – but that doesn’t mean we’re trying to obscure the logic.

  48. Scalzi said: “This seems to imply that the intent of commenting is to try to change the host’s mind, which I find puzzling.”

    …but….but JOHN, how else can you WIN? I mean, that’s what it’s all about, right? To win?

  49. Andrew Wade:
    Opinions can be fact-based. (The better ones are).

    True, but a fact-based opinion is still not a fact. If you don’t think it’s possible to reach the wrong opinion using actual facts, go read some Rush Limbaugh or some Al Franken (depending on your political persuasion and/or your stomach for bullsh*t).

    Tripp:
    I will aver to the fact that John has told me to ‘cool it’ even when I was more or less agreeing with his point of view.

    I don’t really feel the need to argue about this, but I will point out that “cool it” is a far cry from “take your comments to someone else’s blog” or even the occasional “you’re an ignorant ass.”

    the word is spelled ‘prerogative.’

    Seriously? Holy cow, I’ve been spelling that one wrong since junior high. Thanks.

    At any rate, however you spell it, I think we all agree that on John’s blog, it’s his.

  50. Andrew,

    No problem about ‘prerogative.’ I wasted a couple fruitless hours one afternoon trying to find ‘perogative’ in the dictionary. I was amazed when I finally found the word.

  51. Reminder, folks: I’d prefer not to have a political discussion in this thread.

    Just as you say, big bwana.

  52. I expect you and I disagree on more issues than we agree on, but, by God sir, I admire your attitude!

    (And let me point out that there’s nothing more cringe-inducing and disheartening than to see a position you support being advocated by some ignoramus who can’t spell, can’t write a coherent sentence, doesn’t know where the apostrophes go, and is using a completely unintelligible argument.)

  53. I know how to argue; I have a degree in Philosophy of Language from the University of Chicago, so I’m academically trained to argue, and I’ve spent the last decade and a half making a living from writing, so I know how to use words, and use them to good effect.

    From your list of logical fallacies

    Appeal to [self] authority
    IOW: “I’m a trained argument professional. Don’t dare argue with me because I’m trained damnit.” Color me unimpressed. No one except you gives a flip about your academic credentials. People that put those forward usually have pretty weak arguments.

  54. Locomotive Breath:

    “No one except you gives a flip about your academic credentials.”

    Correction: You don’t give a flip about them. You aren’t everyone.

    See how easy it is to bat aside people who argue poorly, when you actually know how to argue? Say, through academic training?

    I’ll be happy to show you again how it works, if you like.

    I’m more than happy to have people argue with me. I just hope they do a better job than you just did.

  55. Locomotive Breath,

    What are you, like 15 years old?

    You are putting words in John’s mouth so you can ‘catch’ him at a logical fallacy. The problem is that the words you put in his mouth are not his words.

    And yes, I know I called you a name. I figure you and I ae not debating. Instead, you are trying for some reason to put John down and I’m enjoying exposing your clumsy attempts.

    I gotta ask – who put the burr under your saddle? Why do you do this? What is in it for you?

  56. I’d take “urban high school teacher” over “philosophy major/writer” in 11 out of 10 arguments, mostly due to real-world application of argument skills.

    Writers tend to get used to writing both the remark and the response in arguments (it’s why I’m never surprised when lightweights like Katie Couric can repeatedly get the better of authors like Anne Coulter), and even people who brag about having a philosophy degree don’t actually use the philosophy degree in many IRL situations.

    Very few to-do lists look like “fill the gas tank, drop off the kids, pick up the dry cleaning, check with the Philosopher…”

    I used to have at least one argument before I even started trying to teach every class… usually just getting them into the classroom. This would be followed by half of what I say being contested, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg lettuce, believe me.

    I’m probably off my game somewhat since I retired, but my remaining wisdom on the matter would trump all but the best arguers. Perhaps only cops argue with a greater cross-section of the general population than teachers do.

    My husband refuses to argue with me, for the following reasons:

    – “You’re French… you sneer everything you say.”

    – “Arguing with a teacher is like a New Hampshire Standoff (your car and a moose facing opposite directions on the same road, both refusing to step aside).”

    – “A man must eat.”

    Of course… teachers get to say “because I said so” as an argument stopper, but all parents start with that advantage. The SAHD thing is hurting your skill… you simply don’t see enough people that you don’t pay, or who aren’t fans. Two geeks arguing about how alien attack fleets might come at Earth- as technically impressive their argument may be- are still both wrong… or at least both not able to be proven right.

    *******************************************

    Off topic, but what sort of penalty would fall on you if you just said into the phone something like “I”ll finish the f*cking book when I finish the f*cking book. Stop calling me about it…. you’re f*cking up my good mood.”

  57. Brian Greenberg:

    Andrew Wade:
    Opinions can be fact-based. (The better ones are).
    True, but a fact-based opinion is still not a fact.

    Okay, sure.

    If you don’t think it’s possible to reach the wrong opinion using actual facts, …

    Oh goodness no, I don’t believe anything as silly as that! (Not that I’m offended; people do believe all manner of damn-foolishness about logic and science.) It is entirely possible to have good arguments for wrong opinions. (And bad arguments for correct opinions). Good arguments can be thought-provoking, bad arguments are generally a waste of time. (I would also point out that there is no shortage of venues providing bad arguments of any flavour; good arguments are harder to find.) I have no objection to Scalzi discouraging poor argumentation.
    Now, to be sure the difference between a good argument and a bad one is at least somewhat subjective. (At least for the arguments we’re discussing here). And I really cannot comment on Scalzi’s moderation policies (Use a light touch please!). But I can get behind discouraging the logical fallacies Scalzi linked to.

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