The Keeping and Feeding of Trolls (or not)

Not everyone who disrupts a thread with questions that derail rather than further discussion means to be disruptive, but most feminist blogs soon learn that many disruptive posters are simply throwing anti-feminist monkey wrenches around: they have no genuine interest in substantive debate, they just want to bury the forum in sidetracks because the discusssions make them uncomfortable (that’s why they have to let us all know how irrelevant and passe feminism has become!). It’s worth reflecting on how to distinguish between the sincerely curious and the saboteurs, and how to deal with the vexatious disrupters without making comments threads such hostile places that other readers are repelled or intimidated.

A couple of good posts written a while ago:

Thinking Girl: Feminism Friday – anti-feminist trolling and responses to such
Ladyfest Romania: Dealing with Trolls (a round-up of links about coping with deliberate trolls)

About tigtog

writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

6 comments on “The Keeping and Feeding of Trolls (or not)

  1. I also highly recommend Roy’s recent post about one particular kind of derailing behavior, the “What About the Menz?!” type.

  2. I have this post that explains my aggressive moderation policy: Moderation and Free Discussion

    Basically, I engage with people who I think are sincere but clueless as long as they stay within my discussion rules and I think that the conversation is going somewhere. If they keep saying the same things over and over again, I tell them to go get better informed on the issue because I won’t be publishing anything else that rehashes their argument. Usually they try to post one more time and then go away — either temporarily or permanently.

    My personal feelings is that useful discussions aren’t fostered by constantly addressing the same basic sexist (racist, transphobic, etc) arguments that people who are excusing privilege put out. There’s only so much educating I want to do, and I make no secret that, for the most part, my blog is not a “beginner” blog. I’m a little more lenient on posts that are specifically targeted towards people not in anti-oppression movements, but even then I have a limit.

    I’ve gotten some shit for it, but ultimately I get very few trolls and there’s been (in my opinion) a lot of constructive conversation that happens on my blog.

  3. The Catholic apologist Mark Shea makes a useful distinction between two types of questioners: “hiders” and “seekers.” The latter are genuinely asking questions because they want to understand the answers; the former are seeking to disrupt and to obscure the topic. I find this distinction quite useful.

  4. Here is a great example of troll-wrangling I’ve just found.

    The troll wrangler is the great Sir Henry Casingbroke of LP.

    Here’s the troll:


    Sarah on 3 November 2007 at 4:21 pm
    Am I the only one who watched this debate who found Nicola absolutely obnoxious, bullying, arrogant, condescending, viscious, uptight and insincere?
    Obviously anyone who has decidedly jumped on the labor bandwagon adored it, so I realize I am running the risk of being mercilessly attacked.

    However, I’m sure that any in who has a clear knowledge of how the health system works would see how superficial her responses actually were.
    Furthermore, her constant nagging and references to Tony Abbots lateness got on my nerves.
    He was late, obviously it was a bad move. However, it’s not completely unforgivable. He apologised several times.

    Labor’s proposals are so weak that she had to spend a considerable amount of time chiding the opposition about not being punctual in order to cover up the fact that she had no worthwhile initiatives to propose. What relevance does Tony Abbott’s lateness have to the health system? It’s pathetic.

    I’m not a diehard fan of Tony Abbott myself; but I really sympathized with him in this debate.
    If I had someone being that unpleasant to me I’d snap as well. It doesn’t give me much faith in our political system if our elected representatives can’t even be civil and considerate of each other’s circumstances.

    Here’s Sir Henry’s response:


    Sir Henry on 3 November 2007 at 7:43 pm
    I’m with you Sarah. I know Tony pretty well. He writes to me on a regular basis. And he’s the patron of my local rugby league club (though we haven’t seen him since 1997). Like you I found Nicola obnoxious, bullying, arrogant, condescending, vicious (and viscous too, like oil – what a clever half-pun Sarah!), uptight and insincere. Add to that her lesbian hair style.

    Her and Joe McDonald sure make a good double. Like “Comeback Joe” she’s worked for unions you and I know it, Sarah. She even started when she was one of those privileged spoiled kids in her taxpayer-subsidised university course. Do you know what she studied? Industrial Law. No doubt out to foment trouble for honest, hard-working employers. Her honours thesis in Industrial Law? “Women in the Textile Clothing and Footwear Industries”. That immediately suggests something: we should decide who comes here and if they do we should decide where they work and for how much. There you go.

    Mr Abbott was, as you say, viciously and viscously set upon: “You can’t even get here on time,” the virago barked.

    And poor Mr Abbott explained that it wasn’t intentional. Ha! And then Nicola said, completely contradicting herself – because she said “can’t” and now she says: “You can control these things, mate. I’m sure had you wanted to you could.” Make up your mind Nicola! Could he or could he not get to the debate on time. Well spotted, Sarah.

    And this is whom the Labor Party is putting up as minister. Can’t even get her story straight.

    So Mr Abbott said words to the effect that this was untrue.

    “You’re being deliberately unpleasant. I suppose you can’t help yourself, can you,” Mr Abbott answered. And boy, wasn’t that the truth. That haircut says it all. She can’t help herself because it is in her vicious nature. She is a bad seed. I am glad Mr Abbott pointed that out.

    Mr Abbott also saw through that vicious fraud, Labor Party stooge and stuntman, Bernie Banton. Mr Abbott refused to back away from criticising the man just because he is terminally ill. This shows strength and that is what this country needs. Someone to tell it like it is, without fear or favour. Instead he gets pilloried by the red media.

    I mean, Sarah, we have got to ask ourselves how did this Bernie get the disease in the first place? It was in an effort to enrich himself and his family, obviously. And now he wants to blacken the name of employers who have made this country what it is today.

    Of course, Nicola Roxon has no real health proposals to propose, unlike Mr Abbott who has plenty: Like replacing the union dominated hospital bosses (similar to the ABC) that are full of public servants, with hospital boards made up of newsagents, realtors, developers and other representatives of the community. This will fix the hospital mess created by state Labor governments.

    Nicola Roxon, as her background clearly shows will cave in, cut and run and pay more money to nurses. This will put upward pressure on interest rates.

    I am glad the Liberal Party cares enough about Australians everywhere to go to the trouble to send you here to explain the situation as it really is, Sarah. Will you thank Brian Loughnane, for me? And tell him he’s a genius. More please!

  5. Indeed, Helen, taking a troll’s arguments to the ridiculous extreme as a parody works very well at times, particularly when done so nicely in this Swiftian fashion.

    (For those not up to date on the current Australian electoral politics scene, Abbott and Roxon are potential Federal Ministers of portfolio in the next government, and the quoted excerpts detail their current PR jousting efforts)

  6. […] part of this amazing screed that seems particularly relevant to FF101, and posted on a thread about anti-troll tactics? A slightly different take on gender essentialism. Any tactic/temptation that is targetted[sic] to […]

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