The Kitten Setting
My friend Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) has a comment policy, in which she reserves the right to take the postings of the most obnoxious trolls in her comment threads and change the words to something else entirely, subverting the message of the troll. The troll usually returns, outraged that his golden prose has been changed; that comment gets changed too. This continues until the troll realizes that there is nothing he can say that won’t get subverted, and eventually the troll runs away.
I was reminded of this yesterday when, after posting about a racist sexist homophobic dipshit, one of the racist sexist homophobic dipshit’s craven lickspittles popped up in the thread. This particular craven lickspittle is already on my moderation list for being a contentless troll, and I usually end up deleting his posts, but this one seems honor-bound to continue trying to be an asshole on my site, deletions or no. So I tried Jenny’s technique on him. This is how it went, and bear in mind I am paraphrasing the lickspittle’s original comments:
Craven Lickspittle: WAAAAARGLEBAAARGLE LOTS OF SPITTLE AND JACKASSERY I THINK “LIBERAL” IS AN INSULT I MAY BE TWELVE SMELL MY MANLY ARMPITS
My edit: I love hearts and flowers and pretty bows! I could dance in sparkly showers all the day long! Fa la la la la la!
Craven Lickspittle: WHAAA WHY DID YOU CHANGE MY WORDS MORE WAAAAARGLEBAARGLE HATE STOMP FOAMY HISSY FIT
My edit: When I think about all the kittens in the world that need to be cuddled, I just break down into wee little sobs.
Craven Lickspittle: YOU ARE SO MEAN WITH YOUR MEAN MEANNESS AND NOW I WILL RUN OFF TO ALL THE OTHER RACIST SEXIST HOMOPHOBIC DIPSHITS OVER AT MY FAVORITE TURD-LADEN CUDDLEPILE OF HATE AND TELL THEM HOW MEAN YOU ARE
My edit: Sometimes all I do with my day is brush my hair and sing Gilbert and Sullivan tunes in as high a voice as I can possibly manage.
And off he went, not to return.
A commenter in the thread called this “Setting the Mallet to ‘Kitten,'” which delighted me, so now I think of this technique as “the kitten setting.” Other commenters voiced concern about changing anyone’s remarks, even those of trolls, without making it clear that editing had taken place. I thought this was an excellent point, as the object is to subvert the troll, not deceive the rest of the commenters. So the Craven Lickspittle’s converted posts now sport an asterisk, which links to another comment in the thread where I explain what I’m doing.
Having a night to think about “the kitten setting,” here are my thoughts about it and its use here.
1. I don’t think I will probably use it a lot; my standard Malleting method works just fine for 99% of people who get out of line, and it’s easier and simpler to use.
2. However, for a particularly pernicious sort of troll, the sort with neither no interest in genuine participation, nor capability for taking a hint, “kittening” their posts seems like an effective tactic. So I’ll be keeping the kitten setting for now, with appropriate signifiers for everyone else (probably a link back to this very entry) that the alternation has taken place. It’s not the tactic of first resort, but it’s a tactic.
3. For any commenter outraged that his post has been thus kittened: Good, you sad little smudge of a human. If you’ve been kittened, your only purpose in coming here, in my estimation, was to shit all over the carpets. I like my carpets shit-free. So you get what you deserve. As the comment policy makes clear, I both expect intelligent, considerate commenting here and reserve the right to deal with comments how I see fit — and how I see fit now includes the kitten setting. If you don’t like it, don’t post comments. If the fear of being kittened dissuades various sorts of shitbags from posting risible nonsense here, I think everyone wins.
Feel free to discuss in the comment thread.
(also, the picture above is of Ghlaghghee, the very first day we got her, back in 2003.)