Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Our own (O)CT(O)PUS has brought this subject to light here at the Swash Zone as well as posting in the comments of several other blogs. There is a long, heated comment thread over at Pam’s place The Oracular Opinion but I can’t figure out how to post there so I thought I’d just weigh in on the subject as a post – just because I can.

Some commenters missed the point and went on to attack others. Some commenters took other comments to be a personal attack and some commenters are just trolls, stirring the pot and wreaking further havoc.

There are blogs I simply don’t bother with anymore because the comment section has become a playground for infantile bullies, hiding in the dark in their computer rooms, gleefully typing profane and disturbing comments/threats/insults.

But the larger question remains; are some of these trolls dangerous and should we be taking their threats more seriously?

I, for one, have no problem with someone using their blog to engage trolls and do whatever they want at their place. I understand that some people view trolls as harmless gnats. If I am uncomfortable or disgusted, I’ll exercise my right to not visit.

But 8pus has a very credible point in suggesting that not all trolls are benign. And he has cited some recent examples, including the woman who so viciously attacked the girl on MYSPACE, she committed suicide. And when I saw this woman being arrested I was horrified at her lack of repentance. It seems she believes she bears no responsibility for what happened! This is not a benign troll but a sick, sick individual.

Yes, in our internet anonymity we can bring forth our alter egos and to coin an old phrase, “let it all hang out” but should we not remain responsible for our words and deeds? In this Information Age, internet stalkers can be potentially very dangerous and any escalation on their part should be taken very seriously.

So while I respect the rights of others to operate their blogs as they see fit, I do hope that visitors will respect our comment policy. I think most of us are capable of recognizing the difference between heated debate with the occasional snarky comment as opposed to outright trollish diatribe.

The final word here goes to (O)CT(O)PUS:

“The Internet is an amazing tool for research and idea exchange, but there are always folks who abuse a good thing … who use it to harass, humiliate, stalk, and victimize other bloggers as if the Internet were a giant phantasmagoria for self-amusement by masochists and sadists … or a medium for narcissists and character disturbed folks who do not know how to manage their anger.”


  1. They know how to attack but they can't take their own medicine.
    The cowards think that they are really so smart, but they are all a bunch of wacko sicko's .

  2. Rocky, I regret Pamela got caught in the cross fire on this one. Although we come from opposite sides of the political aisle, I have come to value her sincerity and friendship. Pamela posted “Hatred101” in response to a comment I made in an earlier posts, “Coffee, Tea, Vote for me or NOT.”

    An appeal for Internet Civility seemed a worthy cause at the time but, regrettably, had unintended consequences. Pamela disabled the comment function when the discussion turned shrill. Why Pamela got caught in the line of fire is unknown to me but, in fairness to Pamela, I felt an obligation to take one of our own liberal bloggers to task for acting in bad faith:

    [Truth101], this is the third comment thread in a week about Internet abuse, and the third time you trolled the conversation. I have repeated the same talking points about toxic Internet behavior that puts the safety of others at risk … along with linked examples of taunts and death threats (…) I have tried to avoid a confrontation, but you are annoying the hell out of me.

    What annoyed me about Truth101 was an obtuse refusal to comprehend the seriousness of the topic. T101 instigated an argument with low key taunts as if to him blogging were a perpetual game of “thump-a-winger" for self-amusement.

    Personally, I think civility is an important topic. Pamela thought so too and went out on a limb to bring her readers into the discussion. The way I see it, Truth101 abused this opportunity.

    (My apologies to Pamela for this regrettable outcome.)

  3. They're trollin', Trollin', Trollin'
    Their comments are so swollen
    Keep them dogies Trollin' Outside!
    No matter what the weather
    Or how the ice gets thinner,
    In their postings global warming is denied.
    They write extended missives,
    Of evidence dismissive,
    Their links are all to pages that have died.

    Move 'em on, head 'em off,
    Head 'em off, block 'em out,
    Take 'em on, block 'em out Outside!
    Put 'em out, ride 'em off
    Ride 'em off, knock 'em out,
    Cut 'em out, move 'em on Outside!

    They're postin', postin', postin'
    Though monitors removin',
    Take their comments postin' Outside!
    Don't try to understand 'em,
    Just mark, delete and ban 'em,
    Their paranoia's poison to your mind.
    By my quick calculatin'
    Nine tenths of it is spammin',
    just pimpin' out a blog that we'll deride.

  4. Matt, LOL but I think you must have entirely too much time on your hands - very creative, though.

    8pus, I've gathered that you and Truth have had some sort of falling out although I probably don't travel all the same blogs so I only see bits and pieces, but I did feel that internet civility and really, civility in general deserved another go around.
    I think each person has to decide how to run their own blogs and if they want to play with trolls, that is their perogative. I find it distracting and totally without merit or purpose. Mostly, I just stop visiting those blogs.
    We have our policy in place and should expect visitors to abide by our policy.
    I thought the far greater issue was the aspect of dangerous trolls. While we are tempted to dismiss the foolish rantings, there are times when we should be more diligent and attentive to the tone and message, which could indicate an escalation to something more ominous.
    Most people operate on the mistaken belief that we are protected by layers of anonymity,quite the opposite is true. The ease with which information can be obtained is scary.

  5. Rocky: “I thought the far greater issue was the aspect of dangerous trolls (…) which could indicate an escalation to something more ominous.

    When I started this discussion, my concern was that sooner or later the incivility we experience in the blogosphere would eventually spill into the streets … as I witnessed firsthand in the clubhouse at my condo, in my e-mail box, and various accounts about online abuse as linked in my comments. Yes, I agree, this is the far greater issue … and Pamela thought this too … but not according to Truth101 who saw it as a game, a sport, another opportunity to toy with people. Did we have a falling out? Not exactly, but there is this expression, “to have one’s back.” It means to “back up one's friends and allies.” It shouldn’t have to mean, “watch your back.”

  6. It's a strain on one's (my) maturity sometimes; not to respond in kind, and worse now that the tables have turned and the party that has been taunting me with incoherent rage, insulting me with snotty condescension and sometimes threatening to kill me is out of power.

    I'm aware that excessive concern with signs of weakness is a sign of weakness, but I think our decades long fear of ogres and our reluctance to fire back at them has been a very major weakness.

    After all we let them take over our country and we abetted their looting and pillage, perhaps thinking we were above it or that they would go away if we didn't give them a forum. Yes, I know, I don't have to see every stupid, pathetic sticky-fingered troll as a personal representative of all the forces of mindless evil -- but I do. Ich kann nicht anders.

    Yes, of course we can't let them ruin this place, as they would love to do, but I truly think we ignore them at our nation's peril.

    Sometimes, I believe it was Everett Dirksen who said it: sometimes you have to rise above principle.

  7. We do have civil and constructive conversations with a few conservative bloggers. Once a conversation starts, after the name-calling and distrust fades away, we actually discover areas of common concern … and find there is more to like than dislike. At least that has been my experience with Pamela and Open Minded Republican. It seems only fair that courtesy should be mutual and reciprocal.

    I feel there is an obligation, especially in a group blog, to support not just our own blogging family but also readers who come here in good faith, which is why I venture forth, read, and participate in other forums. What disappointed me most about this experience: There is always the wild card that one does not anticipate, i.e. trolls:

    “Video game” or “pinball machine” Trolls – who interrupt comment threads just for self-amusement and entertainment;

    Africanized Bee Trolls – even the slightest provocation cause them to swarm and go into attack mode;

    Tribal Trolls –graduates of the School of All-or-Nothing Thinking, whose credo is “you’re-either-with-us-against-us;”

    Narcissist Trolls – seriously character-disordered individuals who demand attention and have verbal temper tantrums when not supplied with ego-food;

    FReeper Trolls – self-appointed and/or paid Internet assassins who disrupt forums with personal attacks, deceptions, and disinformation.

    Sadly, the Internet has devolved into a jungle with predators everywhere, and appeals for civility are ignored. And, yes, I have to agree with Captain Fogg: The worst is yet to come when predatory behaviors move from the Internet into our public life. It already has.

    One conclusion I have made: The Internet is no medium for sensitivity training or group therapy. Bruised but wiser, perhaps I should stay within my own comfort zone.

  8. The worst of all is that pea-brained troll named Pitbull

  9. Lynne, I must chastise you. This post from Rocky, bless her heart, is in support to my post, which was closed down to comments because of name calling, etc. And here you are heckling. Did you learn nothing? That was why I posted my thread in the first place. I wanted to TEACH something. Blogging isn't just about typing away on a keyboard. It's a way to reach a broad audience with information. If you want to join in then give us something we can sink our teeth into. Don't just pop in and insult. That's immature and doesn't help the agenda. Especially THIS ONE.

    I'm sorry if I sound preachy, Rocky, but I believe Lynne has totally missed Octo’s, yours and my point ENTIRELY.

    Rocky, I also want to thank both you and Octo for your contribution to my post. Both of you have always been kind to me and I appreciate that. You're always welcome at my blog.

  10. Pamela, like naughty children when no one is looking sticking hands in the cookie jar - sometimes the internet brings out the worst in us.
    We need to keep trying to bring civility into our discourse. I like to think about what would I say if I was sitting across from a person instead of being just a bunch of words on a screen.
    I'd like to think that if I were to meet those I interact with on the internet they would smile and be happy to meet me.
    I know there are many arguments about trolls and what to do with them, but I still learn toward ignoring them and deleting their comments. I believe many of these people are unbalanced and I don't think we can accomplish one thing by encouraging them.
    I enjoy your blog and being able to have thoughtful discussions.

  11. Your a fine one to preach Pamela.
    Your post comment to me was rude, insensitive, and downright arrogant.
    So think twice before you throw stones at anyone.

  12. Lynne, I left a comment at Pamela's site and am duplicating it here (this should be self-explanatory):
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    SarahG, this article by Pamela about hate and incivility evolved into a joint effort by both “conservative” and “liberal” bloggers. For the liberal side of this same discussion, please link here.

    If you read the comments here and at the other referenced site, you will find this:

    They know how to attack but they can't take their own medicine.

    Compare this comment with this:

    They can not debate the issues like adults, and need to resort to calling people names.

    So here we have two people from opposite sides of the political divide … saying the same things about each other. Each side paints the other in broad strokes -- ALL liberals do this -- ALL conservatives do that. Another word for making blanket statements about people is “stereotyping.”

    In truth, not all conservatives and liberals are uncivil to each other. For instance, Pamela and I are friends. We may disagree about issues and topics, but we never disrespect each other. A political discussion does not necessarily need to degenerate into personal attacks and insults.

    I understand you may have had unpleasant encounters at liberal websites. Did you leave an angry comment? If so, was the anger met with anger?

    My point is: There is a point where the cycle of rancor and bitterness needs to be broken … where each side learns how to argue the topic without pushing those personal buttons.

  13. Lynne: No, I'm not rude, insensitive or arrogant, and my readers can attest to THAT. As a matter of fact I'm probably the most empathetic, sympathetic person you'll every encounter. You on the other hand have been playing games with the blogging community. You go on conservative blog sites and act like a Liberal spewing insults. Then you post insults as a Conservative on liberal blogs. This is ill-mannered and not well liked in the blogosphere. I voiced my opinion and I condemned your ACTIONS, not YOU personally with ugly insults.

  14. "As a matter of fact I'm probably the most empathetic, sympathetic person you'll every encounter."

    Yes and Hitler liked dogs. You may fool yourself, but you don't fool anyone else. Anyone who supports torture in the name of personal safety doesn't qualify as empathetic, sympathetic, moral, decent or even civilized.

  15. Wow I disappear for a little while and I miss all the action, although in this case, I am glad I did.

    I am a conservative and everyone knows it, but I have had many positive debates and conversations with many people on this blog who are liberal. I left the blogosphere for personal reasons, but I'm hoping to get back in the swing of things soon. Our discussions brought forth new ideas and never got nasty. I think we all need to hold ourselves to a certain level. Yes, emotions run high but I truly don't understand the name calling, etc. I've been reading conservative and liberal blogs today and I am stunned at the animosity displayed on both sides. This was a terrific post and I hope people take something from this!


We welcome civil discourse from all people but express no obligation to allow contributors and readers to be trolled. Any comment that sinks to the level of bigotry, defamation, personal insults, off-topic rants, and profanity will be deleted without notice.