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.