Engaging trolls online

From How to argue against Assange smears:

Never let them trick you into expending more energy than they’re expending.

This one’s important. The internet is full of genuinely trollish individuals who spend their time acting out their inner pain by trying to suck the life out of other people, and political discussion is certainly no exception to this. A common tactic is to use short phrases, half-thoughts, or word salads which contain few facts and no actual arguments, but contain just enough of a jab to suck you into wasting energy making thorough, well-sourced arguments while they just lean back and continue making weak, low-energy responses to keep you going. This enables them to waste your time and frustrate you while expending little energy themselves, while also not having to reveal the fact that they don’t know much about the subject at hand and don’t really have an argument.

Don’t let them lean back. Force them to lean in. If someone makes an unsubstantiated assertion, a brief quip, or a vague insinuation, tell them Make an actual argument using complete thoughts or go away.” If they throw an unintelligible word salad at you (a tactic that is also common in abusers with narcissistic personality disorder because it tricks the abusee into falling all over themselves guessing how to respond appropriately, thereby giving the abuser power), tell them That’s gibberish. Articulate yourself using clear arguments or go away.”

This often enrages them, partly because they’ve generally been getting away with this tactic their entire lives so they feel entitled to demand compliance with it from you, and partly because you’re forcing a very unconscious and unattractive part of themselves into attention and consciousness. But if they’re interested in having a real and intellectually honest debate they’ll do it; if they’re not they won’t. If they refuse to provide you with lucid, complete arguments that meet their burden of proof, make a show of dismissing them for their refusal to do so, and say you’re doing it because they’re too dishonest to have a real debate.

Never chase them. Make them chase you. Never let them lead the dance chasing them around trying to correct their straw man reframing of your actual words or guessing what their word salads are trying to articulate. Make them do the work they’re trying to make you do. Force them to either extend themselves into the light where their arguments can be properly scrutinized, or to disqualify themselves by refusing to.

Subtext: Social media most of the time aren’t worth the trouble.

April 20, 2019


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