Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Keyboard Warrior (Part Two) - The Soul Of The Troll

A few years ago I wrote a post about Keyboard Warriors, also known as Trolls (you can read it here).

These are people who hide behind their keyboards in total anonymity and post vile and vindictive comments, posts etc. under an assumed name, and cause anger, pain and sometimes worse. They range from being anonymously insulting to being utterly malicious cyber bullies.

A couple of days ago I received a comment on a post I wrote three years ago about my thoughts on William Shakespeare (you can read it here). Basically I said that he was rubbish (or at least rubbish in a contemporary way), in what I thought would be an amusing little article with a witty title – and it provoked a Keyboard Warrior, albeit a relatively mild one, to respond.

My desire for the post, like just about all of the posts I write, was to provoke a little debate, with a little light-hearted humour, giving me a chance to reminisce a little about English classes as school and poke fun at a British establishment. I added a little self-deprecation, as I usually do, in order to make reading the post a fun experience.

I was – and still am – quite proud of that particular post. I received a fair few comments, some of which agreed whole-heartedly with my views, and others that disagreed with valid reasons.

It was a bit of fun and I think most people who read it enjoyed the fun too. The post was even mentioned in a Shakespeare blog (something that made me quite pleased with myself).

And then I received another comment from a Keyboard Warrior called “Edward”. Here it is:

I found this drivel by accident. I'm just amazed that there are people out there like you, very many people in fact, who wear their ignorance and foolishness so proudly. I thought I was reading the ramblings of some over-opinionated teenager until I saw what an old fart you were. 

Now I have a thick skin and my first reaction was to laugh out loud. As Edward quite rightly points out – I really am an old fart – which is why I can laugh about it and take his jibes on the chin. Had Edward actually left me a link to his blog or a profile where I could mail him, I would have done that and offered to enter a debate on the pros and cons of the Bard.

Sadly, like all Keyboard Warriors, poor Edward has chosen to hide behind, what I assume, is a pseudonym. There was no debate, no intelligent responses to my points – nothing more than, effectively:

“You are a dickhead”.

And it is this kind of blind thinking that makes a Keyboard Warrior a menace. While I am thick skinned enough to shrug off such abuse, there are a lot of people who take such insults and anonymous negativity to heart.

Trolls cannot debate; they simply have to say nasty things.

Compared to some trolls out there, Edward is an extremely mild form; he didn’t swear yet he chose to call me ignorant, foolish and over-opinionated as well as an old fart – mild by comparison to some troll output I have read.

As somebody who loves the debate, I always find that when the person I am arguing with resorts to petty insults, then I have simply won the argument because they cannot respond.

Believe me, dear reader, I have had some lively debates over the years and been on the receiving end of extremely heavy defeats.  Unlike your average troll, however, I brush myself down and admit defeat.

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are wrong.

Most debates and discussions I have end up with both parties agreeing to disagree and metaphorically shaking hands across cyberspace as we part amicably having had a fabulous and sometimes lively discussion.

I pride myself in having the ability to be able to be open about things too. I have changed my opinions on many things because of a well-argued and logical point of view. In my experience a large percentage of people are like that.

Of course I can be stubborn – but at least I can and do admit it.

To be honest, the only times I have fallen victim to trolls is when I have commented on other peoples’ blog posts or dived into a debate on a message board. People who stumble across my blog rarely engage in troll-like comment writing.

On one particular message board, I have seen a troll actually threaten another poster with violence, from behind the cover of a pseudonym of course. Thankfully, the other members of that particular community reacted and rallied round the victim, before the board moderators banned the perpetrator.

Sadly, on other social media, trolls can run riot.

My stance is the same as it has ever been; if a troll attacks me I will respond but without resorting to low tactics if I can help it. However, it does annoy me.

Bullying is something that I have dealt with physically in the past; I despise bullies and in one particular episode from my childhood, the red mist descended forcing me to lash out at the perpetrator without fear of the consequences.

It worked and I never suffered again. I have made a pact with myself that I will not succumb to bullying of any kind and I will do my best to bring the bully down as hard and as fast as I can.

There are people out there who simply can’t do that and, worse, it is even more difficult if the bully is a troll who can hide behind anonymity, sitting there behind his keyboard pouring scorn on the world without fear of reprisal because, he thinks, he can get away with it.

I do pity some trolls though, because I have a theory that they have, in the past, been victims of bullying themselves and consider their behaviour to be acceptable. This breed of troll has been a victim in the past and has decided that he will become the very thing he despised because he thinks it will make him a better person.

It’s a kind of warped view on survival of the fittest. Behind the anonymity of the keyboard, the troll can be the alpha male he wants to be without fear of being conquered by others.

I pity those guys and hope that they see the error of their ways. The best way to respond to a bully is to fight back – not bully others.

Anyway, you’re probably curious about how I responded to Edward. Here’s what I said:

Hi "Edward",

It's very nice of you to comment; in particular it is very nice of you NOT to actually attempt to debate with me about the merits of Shakespeare. I am certain that Shakespeare himself would be impressed by your heroic defence of his work.

Except it's not really a defence is it? Clearly you can't put forward a cogent argument as to why I am wrong; you can't give me examples of why I should care one jot about the bard's work, like the other, more reasonable commentators on this post.

But hey - all I do is write drivel, eh?

If you dare, please try commenting again, this time with an email address or something, rather than under the anonymous name "Edward" and with less of a hint of the Keyboard Warrior.

I am willing to listen to people who can debate - but not people who blindly insult without actually thinking about what they are saying.




I even added my usual smiley.

One last thing, Edward – if you stumble across THIS piece of drivel and feel I am picking on you, then please feel free to engage in a discussion:

(a) Why Shakespeare ISN’T rubbish.
(b) Why you are not a Troll.

Let’s have a debate about it.

Anonymity can be used for many things – but using it to become a troll is something I struggle to forgive.


jeremy north said...

It staggers me to see how incredibly abusive these idiots can be.
"Edward' was relatively mild compared to some. It is depressing to see the bile heaped on some just for making a simple comment or question
The warriors try to destroy them with comments along the lines of 'there is already a thread for that you ********************' as if it has cost them, or it is they who are in charge.

I detest this pathetic bullying tactic, as well as weak minded individuals like 'Edward' who think it is enough to be smug and resort to abuse, rather than argument. They should put up or shut up

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jeremy,

I totally agree. You get this kind of nonsense even on so-called technical forums.

I work in IT so often have a look at them for opinions, solutions etc. and you would be astounded at how nasty some "experts" can be when they see what they consider to be a stupid question.

I hope Edward responds - alas - I don't think he will.




Elephant's Child said...

And sadly your baby troll (because he is obviously only an apprentice) will no doubt brag about his actions. And be encouraged by the elders in his tribe to escalate...
Somethings I will argue for, and in other instances I will quietly tip-toe away. And yes, I too have changed my mind from time to time - and am better and richer for it.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

Bring on the escalation I say. I can hold my own and have a very thick skin.

I would rather be their target than somebody who takes them seriously and reacts badly.




River said...

I never learned the art of debating and now that I'm in blogland, I sometimes wish I had. I do have the art of admitting I'm wrong learned pretty thoroughly though.
I'm also pretty lucky not to have had any trolls visit me. Spammers I've had and if the comments make it onto the blog I just delete them.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi iver,

All I can suggest is that if you do become a victim of a troll, simply ignore them and delete any of their nasty comments.

I wish I could myself to be honest though - I prefer to take them on.




lotta joy said...

Here's a conundrum for you. I read a particularly aggressive post a few days ago. The blogger was stating his political beliefs, which I don't share, so I went to another blog.

When I came back later, just being nosey, he was being annihilated with vile comments and disgusting tirades. The worst coming from a woman with only initials to show her true identity.

Leave it to me. I barged in, defended the man's right to saw whatever he wanted to say on his blog, and suggested she was pumping way too much testosterone for her own safety.

Now the entire lynching party is on MY tail, and I didn't even agree with the post to begin with!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi LJ,

That's typical troll behaviour and you're probably best keeping out of it.

It's as if you are not allowed to have an opinion about anything and it annoys the hell out of me.

And that's why I, like you, would be tempted to wade in just to attempt to put the troll in his/her place.