MOLA:42’s Guide To Making Friends and Influencing People
Many years ago I went to the Minor Theater with a friend to watch Monty Python’s “And Now for Something Completely Different.” Before the start of the movie, St. Clair Adams (a local celebrity due to his being the station manager of Chanel 13 and thus being seen by a wide public at least twice a year) sat down in front of us.
My friend impulsively (and loudly) blurted out, “It’s St. Clair Adams!” Slowly Mr. Adams turned toward the two of us and gave a withering “What is wrong with you?” look (I think I smiled awkwardly, slumped down in my seat and gave a half-hello wave). He then slowly, with class and distinction, stood up and got the hell away from us.
We were both sitting in stunned silence when my friend laughed out loud and said, “How to Make Friends and Influence People!” That’s when everybody else sitting nearby also got up and got the hell away from us.
Back in those days, before the Internet when we would gather around bonfires to keep the predators away, it was difficult for the average citizen to behave like a nit wit before more than one or two people at a time (unless one was on a roll like my friend). The Internet has freed us from that limitation.
Trolls are really nothing new. In fact there have been Media Trolls of one sort or another throughout history. The first recorded Media Troll was in ancient Assyria, “Hootmood the Snarky.” He would leave out in public clay tablets with such taunts written on them as, “The Assyrians Are Pansies” and “Assyrians Suck Brown Elephant Tusks.”
Needless to say, Hootmood broke the one and only law on the books, “Don’t Piss-Off the Assyrians”: He was eventually caught and found guilty. There were but two punishments, Death by Slow Torture and Death by Being Run Over By Chariots.
Ironically Hootmood the Snarky was killed on his way to his sentencing hearing when, while trying to jay-walk across three lanes of traffic in front of the court house he was run over by a chariot.
“He saved us the cost of a Slow Torture,” the people said.
Since then Media Trolls have been tortured, stabbed, hung, beheaded, beaten, garroted, strangled, burned at the stake, mobbed, mugged, pilloried, exiled and in most recent times; given their own radio and television talk shows.
And on the Internet the Media Troll now thrives; unlike in Hootmood’s day there are no laws saying “Do not piss-off anyone” and even if there were the Troll’s anonymity protects them from consequences.
So, you may ask, “Why DO people go in for a life of Trollery?”
At this stage the futility of asking questions like that to me should be obvious; the answer will always be, “Heck if I know.”
My guess: The Troll is here on the Internet for the exact same reason the rest of us are here: To not be ignored.
Yes, we all tell ourselves there are lofty reasons for our presence on the Internet, trying to make our society a better place to live and so on. I share them. But deep down we’re all here to say something important to lots of people and have them respond. Even if that important “something” is just to say, “I exist.”
We want to be heard. Do you think the Tuluwat Examiner is in it for the money? See any ads? Am I in it for the money? Yeah, like that’s going to happen. Are you, the citizens of the Blogosphere, in it for the money? If so, let me know how that works.
Which is why “Do not feed the Trolls” is still the best remedy.
Another thing to consider: Just like the saying “One man’s Terrorist is another man’s Freedom Fighter,” one can just as easily say “One man’s Troll is another man’s Defender of Truth, Justice and the American Way” (or stuff like that).
No doubt I have been considered a Troll on numerous occasions by numerous people. If you’ve ever commented on a blog I can just about guarantee the same has been thought of you.
So, Rule Number Two (what about Rule Number One?): Just because someone disagrees with you does not necessarily make that someone a Troll. A Stupid Weak-Minded Moron perhaps; but not a Troll.
I have a confession to make: For one Dark and Glorious Day I was a Certified Troll.
It was a few years back, I had been “on the blog” for nearly two years (mostly on the Times Standard blog when it was worth something) fighting the good fight against Walmart’s, Home Depot’s and Marina Center’s and had become heartily sick of it. I needed a break. I told myself, “After the election I’ll put it all aside for a while.”
But I didn’t. After the election I felt the “mission” was still not completed. Then I did something really, really bad. I had used a temporary handle just to make the wit more wittier for a reply to someone and I hadn’t changed back to my usual handle (The True Anonymous). And then, up popped an article in the Times Standard that really annoyed the hell out of me. The first few on-line comments annoyed me even more.
So I weighed in with my temporary handle and really went berserk. In my defense all my statements at their core made perfect sense but I really let loose with the Snarky. I used all the nastiness in the book, hurt every feeling that got in my way, stomped on every sensibility with an iron hobnailed boot and just made a general pest of myself.
And boy did the other commenter’s FEED me. It was hardcore nastiness all around.
And you know something? It was a rush. Here I was, years of practicing patient, logical and sensitive reasoning… then suddenly I got more reaction being an ass for one day then I ever did over years of being an angel.
My imagination ran away with me: I sensed if I pushed just a little harder there would soon be rioting in the streets; Eureka, Arcata and Fortuna would be burning. Darth Vader danced a jig of joy at my side and said, “Hissss… Embrace the Dark Side! Hisss….. Luke, I am your Father! Hisssssss…..”
Well, there were no riots, cities did not burn. But interestingly enough Darth Vader did come by for a visit and mistook me for a blood relative.
That got me out of the Blogosphere for a few years.
This incident was the only time I have ever trolled (on purpose anyway) but perhaps that gives an insight as to why Trolls on the Internet behave the way they do.
One of the perversions of our existence is that it is just simpler and easier to pull down than it is to build up.
I was going to classify the various types of Trolls there are out there (too bad, it’s hilarious stuff) but I see I’m running quite a bit long. So I’ll just give some quick general advice.
First, just don’t lock up with a Troll. Period. Remember: “Feed a Moron, Starve a Troll.”
If the conversation gets circular (everyone’s repeating the same arguments over and over) then leave the field. There is no scoring system; the last one standing is not automatically the winner. Announce you’re getting out or just stop responding. You have either already made your point or you never will.
Some Trolls like to take on multiple identities to make it seem like you are up against a large number of people. Don’t call them on it. There is no way you can prove it unless you are the moderator; you’ll just look silly when the Troll in question claims they aren’t all the rest of the folks after your scalp.
This is especially true when you can’t tell the various Anonymouses apart when they are all assigned by the system with the same Avatar.
Trolls adore minutiae; they love to hash numbers, be Grammar-Nazis, introduce minor rhetorical points or go off on poorly or unrelated tangents. For all our sakes don’t follow them. If you do then, “We’re All on the Road to Nowhere.” Cool song, bad place to be.
There are other types of Troll out there but I think you get the idea (unless you are some stupid Troll or something).
Do I follow those rules I just laid down without exception?
Perhaps I do enjoy yanking on a Troll’s chain every once in a while. Sounds rather Troll-ish of me, doesn’t it?
Standard Disclaimer: My opinions are my own and not necessarily those of the Tuluwat Examiner. I am not on the Staff of the Tuluwat Examiner. I don’t even know who these people are. But I have information that they are really Chet Albin impersonators (Tea Partier and newly minted Democrat member of the Eureka City Council). They go forth into the night and hang out in bars to seduce young progressives into the dark underworld of Tea Party politics; heartlessly consigning their victims to the depravities and ultimately soul crushing existence of constant Fox News viewing. The Horror… the Horror…
On the other hand; I’m told they are excellent dancers.