November 13, 2006

Internet Bullies, Internet Trolls; The Same?

I received this in an email today. How sad that it comes to this just because some commenters cannot restrain themselves.

I regret to inform you that my commentary or opinions will not be posted here. I thank you for your hospitality in extending the invitation, but I will refrain from it for one reason. That reason is the ever present use of ad hominem attacks by one individual who consistently disagrees with nearly everyone. I have a profound respect for opinionated people because it depicts one who is not afraid to make decisions based on the facts they have gathered. Right or wrong, they don't sit on the fence constantly arbitrating and are left without a true compass for their own direction. It is those who add personal insult and use degrading adjectives to describe their opponent and anyone else not available to defend themselves that cause me to move on to more civil territory.

I've been wrong many times in my life, but I refuse to be constantly insulted and watch others be insulted day after day. And I realize that I don't have a constitutional right to be free from insult, but I don't have to paint a target on myself either for those who like to take pot shots so indiscriminately.

One could use the old flies/honey analogy as a manner in which to sway other's opinions and it is a good approach to take. Or just simple dispassionate logic. However, in saying this, I am not implying that I wish to be coddled nor am I afraid of having my views challenged. Only that I demand my opponent display civility and respect when stating their case or I'll move on to a place where insult is not part and parcel of debate. I will not respond to a never ending barrage of mockery. It's quite simple - this is not debate. This is bullying and rigid, unbending cynicism and I refuse to stoop to such a level or even ignore it.

And that is what my letter is about. I'm not writing this to challenge the validity of any of his arguments, but to denounce an individual who thinks his behavior is acceptable due to an over-inflated opinion of his own intellect over others. This person, in using sneering insult as part of his argument, has revealed nothing about his opponents more than his own character flaws. He is guilty of everything he accuses others of.

I have watched others attempt to hold debate here with honest composed commentary on your blog only to be characterized *at best* as "trying to be honest" because he seems to think that allowing any challenge to his views to stand is unacceptable. Regardless of the civility used by those who oppose, the level of censure by this person only decreases slightly, but remains ceaseless. Perhaps his perception of others' lacking intelligence grants him license to be abusive. It does not. And I see today that his vocabulary of four letter words has reached a crescendo coupled with his threat to not come back. Pardon me for this, but I hope the door hits him squarely and firmly. Perhaps he can start a blog called "GMWatch" to assuage his overwhelming and uncontrollable indignance.

You know of whom I speak (although I could be speaking about any number of people we have all run across on the Internet) and I have tried to approach him with my grievances only to garner more insult, mockery and belittlement merely proving my point. I think I speak for most people in saying that if one's argument is so strong then there is no need, nay, it is repugnant, to be so vindictive and insulting.

I've enjoyed past discussions on your blog even with people with which I have disagreed because they kept the discussion in the arena of the actual issue and I've sometimes had to adjust my own thoughts due to a compelling argument. But as long as your site is frequented by one who likes to use crass swipes at everyone, I'll merely move on.

Posted by gmroper at November 13, 2006 03:45 PM | TrackBack

That stinks that someone would leave. This is the wild wild west in todays world and people have to be think skined.

Posted by Michael at November 13, 2006 05:25 PM

May I make a big assumption and conclude that the unidentified writer of the note is not named reg?

I'm pretty upset that such an apparently nice person who wrote the note above is moved to remove himself from the discussion because someone else uses vulgar personal attacks as a substitute for reasoned exchange. I have regularly had my fill with one certain commenter and choose not to put up with his attacks and have no problem letting him know that he's not God's gift to the common man--as if he even had God in his life.

It must be very tough to know that you're the smartest person around and everyone else is too stupid to know it.

Posted by Woody at November 13, 2006 05:42 PM

Well, more's the pity, because I had just reviewed the past few threads and decided that I was no longer going to answer reg, but was going to enjoy watching him froth. I hope whoever wrote the letter can enjoy our own personal Wormwood working himself into a caterpillar.

Posted by Assistant Village Idiot at November 13, 2006 08:33 PM

It is unfortunate that people assume they have some right to enter a blog that they are not paying for and enter items stored on a server they are not paying for in some ill perceived and incorrect idea of free speech.

It is also unfortunate that any person would attack others in an effort to make an argument. The lack of debating skills shows an obviously infantile mind with delusions of grandeur [sp].

Here is a bit of advice to those who act in such a fashion, get your own blog and write your garbage there.

The Dog has spoken.

Posted by Big Dog at November 13, 2006 08:35 PM

I hate to see a reasonable minded person withdraw from discussion. This just feeds into the bully/trolls purpose: to shout down, intimidate, etc. in order to impose their view on others. People that do so have a serious personality flaw as well as being a threat to freedom of thought, free expression of ideas, etc.

I used to take offense at add homonym attacks. :-) I've come to either gnore them or point out how juvenile and illogical their attacks are.

BTW - I love mispelling ad hominem.

Posted by DADvocate at November 13, 2006 08:37 PM

I just read the thread where reg was banned. Here is a person that sits in a room (probably in his mother's house) and writes things attacking other people. He does this because it is easy to gather courage when you do not have to face the person to whom you are speaking.

One thing that the Internet does is give strength to those who are otherwise spineless cowards.

Good job banning this person GM. As you are well aware, cut out the cancer before it spreads...

Posted by Big Dog at November 13, 2006 08:42 PM

Who is Reg?

Posted by Magnarc at November 13, 2006 08:59 PM

There does come a point for some people when they can no longer hear because they have stopped up their ears with their own noise. Fortunately, we don't have to try to "understand"; bullying and flagrent disrespect are unacceptable behavior and have consequences, especially when the behavior continues to escalate. That's part of Parenting 101 (along with setting limits). So, blogfather GM, it's good to see that you care enough to enforce some limits.

My guess as to the identity of the writer leads me to the following aside/friendly admonition.

One of the side effects of internet communications like this blog is that the sex of the commenters is not always evident. I'd really hate to see all the female commenters leave; it's not healthy for the conversations. Guys, do keep in mind that it's a good idea not to let an excess of testosterone poison the well here.

Posted by civil truth at November 13, 2006 10:05 PM

Wow GM..the letter was actually quite beautiful...My slant is that it comes down to psychological immaturity..if you talk with a troll..u are feeding them..if u ignore them..they have no anger to feed off and will shrivel up and find another haunt to stalk.
what say u GM?..:)

Posted by Angel at November 13, 2006 10:08 PM

I appreciate the commenter policy here, although mine differs, somewhat. In general, I allow just about any comment, although persons who insist on proving that they are fools are forewarned in my blog's comment policy that I will hold their follish comments up for excoriation and ridicule.

I'm not as nice as GM. Hey, I know! Send your trolls to me, cos I haven't had a troll to spank in a while, now!

BTW, DADvocate, I just love misspelling misspelling, too.


Oops. I neglected to misspell it above. Oh, well.

(Yeh, yeh, I know it was probably just a typo. :-))

Posted by David at November 13, 2006 10:26 PM

"In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

Words of wisdom from Jimmy Stewart.

I think the 'bullies' of the Internet could benefit from watching the movie this line is from, at some point in their lives. Well maybe in some cases more than one viewing might be required, if truth be told.

Simply insulting and deriding your opponents is not much different than taking' direct action' against them. Frankly it shows a deep-seated 'classlessness', a rather unappealing lack of self-control, and a dangerously distorted perspective on 'reality'. I don't fully accept that the free exchange of 'ideas' really leads to to the TRUTH, but it really is not required to ALWAYS be disagreeable in order to disagree.

Some people seem never to have learned that.

Sad I guess but frankly as Mr. 'X" more eloquently said, it is mostly just damn annoying.

Posted by dougf at November 14, 2006 12:28 AM

smells better in here already......amazing what that new "Troll-B-Gone Lemon Fresh Spray" will do, isn't it?

Posted by Kender at November 14, 2006 12:51 AM

As a a female commenter to others' blogs, I just ignore the vulgarities when a troll crosses the line. I scroll down and leave them unread after I take one step--dishing out a barb to the offender.

That said, I'm grateful when blog owners ban offenders who hijack postings and use profanities non-stop in personal attacks. Were I to receive a letter such as this one, I'd post the letter and take the steps to oust the offending commenter because the offending commenter has interfered with discussion.

Posted by Always On Watch at November 14, 2006 05:59 AM

Gee whiz, David, I make misteak after anover.

Posted by DADvocate at November 14, 2006 08:13 AM

In cases like this you just have to ignore the person and just continue your way that is based on the freedom of speech! You may have not realise this, but Internet is all about freedom of speech: communicating to one another our stating our point of view!

Posted by JerryDobsin at November 14, 2006 11:44 AM

Obscenity is the recourse of an untrained mind. Vulgarity merely demonstrates for all to see the filth lying in one's own gutter. Insults and ad hominem attacks display a meager psyche unused to and unable to participate in rational debate--the mark of adolescence.

Unfortunately, the blogosphere is a multitude of playgrounds and sometimes children wander in who have difficulty playing well with others. While we can ignore their childish attempts at attention seeking, there is also some instruction to be had by learning from their juvenile behavior. Then, of course, there is the mockery factor. While trolls should never be addressed directly, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to carry on our conversations around the pest-in-question.

For me, I see no need to read or respond to trollish posts. I’ve got a scroll button—and I’m not afraid to use it. -cp

Posted by cold pizza at November 14, 2006 11:46 AM

It's hard to know what to do with objectionable comments, particularly where the commenter makes a habit of going over the line. If your blog is like your home, you obviously don't want to permit or encourage a toxic situation. On the other hand, blogs aren't real in the physicial sense so hearing someone's unvarnished voice can help us make better judgments about the commenter's reliability.

It reminds me of my early years growing up in small towns. You think no one notices what you do but the reality is that everyone notices and remembers. In addition, the character flaws of youth don't magically disappear with adulthood. Similarly, the internet is an interesting community of young and old values and large and small communities, and it is not as anonymous as some think.

Of course, it's up to the blogsite owner to decide what he wants for his/her blog environment and I admire GM for sticking up for his standards.

Posted by DRJ at November 14, 2006 12:01 PM

To answer your question whether Internet trolls or bullies are the same. No, I don't believe they are.

Trolls can be annoying because they're often simply argumentative, but bullies will try to set the tone, hijack threads, insult and swear at everyone they disagree with (including their host) and often will own half the comments - sometimes three or more in a row - trying to respond to everyone. In short, they treat the forum as if they own the place. I can deal with a troll. It's been my experience over the years that even those I find annoying can occasionally come up with a pearl. But bullies are disruptive and counter productive. And sometimes they gang up.

Conversely, the word troll is sometimes too widely interpreted. For instance, I disagree with e. nonee mouse, a lot, but she(?) is not a troll simply by virtue of holding a minority opinion. I know of some blogs that would quickly and without fanfare ban someone as innocuous as mouse.

I applaud GM for the effort to maintain a civil atmosphere. Captain Ed is another who does a good job of keeping the discussion flowing by ousting overt disruptors.

Posted by Oyster at November 14, 2006 03:06 PM

Oyster, let me second your point about e. nonee moose, who is a liberal but not a troll. I initially had him pegged wrong, from previous experiences with others, but he proved that someone can disagree with conservatives and still make his points in a respectful manner. I appreciate his input and wish others would use him as a model.

Posted by Woody at November 14, 2006 04:55 PM

Oh, it's "moose" and she's a he? I always read it as "mouse". My apologies to Moose. ;-)

Posted by Oyster at November 14, 2006 05:11 PM

Since e. nonne moose is simply a variant of anonymous, there's nothing intrinsic in the name to indicate male vs. female. Or do you have some outside information, Woody?

Posted by civil truth at November 14, 2006 06:25 PM

If the commenter was female, then it would be "e. nonne cow." For some reason, I think that "e. nonne moose" is a male, but I can't remember why I think that. The only clue of being a female is that he/she doesn't care about SEC football, which is how my wife feels. BTW, I'll be at the Auburn-Alabama game this weekend, and CBS Sports is going to cover our pre-game gathering/party. I'll be the sober one.

Posted by Woody at November 14, 2006 07:00 PM

Oh, yeah. I forgot that I thought Oyster was a male the first time I responded to her. Oysters can actually change their sexes, so the name was no clue.

Posted by Woody at November 14, 2006 07:02 PM

Boy, this is starting to sound like an episode of "As The Thread Devolves :)

Posted by jim hitchcock at November 14, 2006 07:14 PM


I love college football and I agree it's hard to beat the SEC. You folks have great rivalries, dedicated fans, quality football, and some seriously good tailgating.

Posted by DRJ at November 14, 2006 08:58 PM

Go Gators!

Posted by Oyster at November 15, 2006 07:36 PM

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