Thursday, August 30, 2007

Doggerel #120: "Troll"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Whenever there's any argument, anywhere on the internet, "troll" will almost inevitably come up. It's a bit of slang, so there's no precise definition, but there is a fair bit of agreement on some points:

1. Merely having a certain opinion does not make someone a troll. About the only arguable exceptions are things like Holocaust deniers, flat Earthers and the like.

2. Resorting to flooding, spam, ALL CAPS ON EVERYTHING, excessive exclamation marks, blanket cursing and so on mark a person as a troll very quickly. Wetspot resorted to copy/pasting "DUMBASS" so many times in his comments that my Firefox browser was concerned that it was a looping script. Unambiguously trollish.

3. Repeating a lie over and over and over again, or "correcting" himself in one thread and repeating the lie in another, hoping no one notices. This is especially prevalent in Creationists parroting straw men that no one subscribes to, assigning those straw men to scientists, and when ruthlessly corrected, they do just the above.

4. People who keep changing the subject in a desperate attempt to put the people in the thread on trial, and not their arguments. This is one of the leading causes of doggerel. This goes double for people who try to "frame" comments on the stupidity of a fallacy they commit as a personal attack.

Simply being passionate about having a dissenting opinion isn't trollish. What separates a troll from a legitimate dissenter is the methods they employ. It's just like woos and skeptics, cranks and scientists: Methods are what matters.

No comments: