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Do Not Feed or Annoy

May 15th, 2007 by Madeleine Robins

I have been musing, of late, about trolls. Trolls on line, trolls in person. There’s been all this flap about a Blogger’s Code of Conduct, with many sources weighing in. A Code of Conduct seems like a particularly toothless way of dealing with Trolls. What works better is to have someone on hand to take on Troll whumping duty; but it has to be the right person, someone temperamentally and creatively suited to the job. My friend Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who has been moderating discussions on Making Light for some years now, has been justly extolled by Cory Doctorow as a Troll whisperer. Her unwillingness to suffer rudeness, wedded to a creative soul and a sense of humor, ensures that Trolls are swatted down with a minimum of disruption to the rest of community.

Because disruption is what a Troll lives for. Trolls are not interested in reasoned discourse or argument; they’re interested in roiling the waters. Many Trolls believe that they are simply arguing a point or defending themselves from attack, but no: the tactics of a Troll pretty much rule that out. And a troll’s triumph, the thing that makes him feel all creamy and delicious, is reducing others to spitting idiocy. Like this: a BBC reporter completely losing it when trying to interview a spokesman for Scientology.

Note the technique: the Troll dodges any useful response to a question and starts talking straight through the interviewer until the interviewer (who said later, in his apology, that his only defense was that he’d been among Scientologists for a week and his patience and temper were fraying) explodes in frustration. And who winds up feeling guilty? Not the Troll. Just watcing the clip makes me want to lie down.

I’m not a Troll-fighter by nature. I’m a pretty good Troll-ignorer, however. What’s your tactic?

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