On Trolls


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But here’s the key: it turned out he wasn’t outraged about my work. His rage was because, in his mind, my work didn’t deserve the attention. Spoiler alert: “deserve” and “attention” are at the heart.

That’s a keen observation. I’ve seen that twice this week. On these very forums.


What a horrible story. I can remember folks around here defending weev as well, although the name meant nothing to me. Nobody deserves this kind of treatment; it’s very much like rape.


These stories are important, but they make me want to DO something with my impotent rage, and there’s just nothing I can really do aside from the ephemeral “support.”

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Man, even the Weev is a nazi Gawker article couldn’t be bothered to mention the previous loathesome acts against seriouspony, and kinda had a “oops, this just in” kind of vibe…


Says the charlatan.


Wow, this story was rather emotionally crushing.


What a grade one shit he is!

His type will do more in the long run to wreck the internet and vocal freedom than anything else!

No restraint…

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My wildly non-scientific theory was this: the most vocal trolling and
“hate” for a brand kicks in HARD once a critical mass of brand
fans/users are thought to have “drunk the Koolaid”. In other words, the
hate wasn’t so much about the product/brand but that other people were falling for it.

Huh, hadn’t heard that one before. Maybe that explains the notion that some people get about fanpersons ruining “everything” .

Typically, the hacker trolls are technically-talented, super smart white men. They’re not just hackers. They are social engineers. They understand behavioral psych.

Surely this description only applies to a small proportion of the troll population?

I think it describes people who exhibit psychopathic behavior.
I was going to write that I agree with you that its got to be just a small subset of trolls but now I can’t reconcile these two sentences.


This guy is nuts. (rabite == weev on hacker news)


Not sure the size of the population matters when it’s so easy to be heard. Easy to get the mob mentality going, which has been well documented for enabling horrible behavior in people.

I don’t know how you fix this, I’m not sure it can without a shift in society. We just have to keep pressuring people to be nice to one another and hope it can reach a critical mass. If society can make being a troll enough of a taboo eventually they’ll be forced to quit opening their mouth.


I hate the idea that “no matter what you do, the trolls win”. That’s the kind of bullshit Trolls tell you because they always claim they win.

Defeating a troll involves getting the other people in the discussion to dismiss them as a troll and preferably not engaging with them. It’s not always possible, especially on hot button topics, but sometimes you can shut them out. Unfortunately, a lot of trolls will be more than happy to argue with another troll, or even with themselves, if they can roll in some other people to the furball. Also, for topics like climate change the troll often isn’t intending to attack people but the topic itself. The point isn’t to make people angry but to fill the discussion with so much noise that all of the reasonable people leave and don’t discuss the issue.


And yet, there are some things that should be discredited. Especially once they get popular enough that people begin (or seem to begin) to start overlooking some of their flaws. Society can easily make “being a troll” enough of a taboo that people start getting afraid to speak up, if history is an indication.


Part of the problem here is terminology and degree.
The term “troll” is used for everything from someone posting mildly inflammatory messages in a forum, to teasing a buddy on their facebook page all the way through to individuals who make threats of violence that would be legally actionable if done over the telephone lines, in mail or in person, who harass children online into suicide, who take actions like doxxing and swatting that expose people to personal danger.
It doesn’t take much common sense to realize that this sort of abuse can’t stand. Something will have to be done. And most of the interventions that would be necessary to protect people from assault, keep law enforcement from being used to terrorize innocents, protect sensitive personal information from being published, etc are not going to be things that will foster a freer internet.
These “trolls” are creating situations that can only end in legislation that does exactly what they claim they are fighting against. You don’t fight gun control by pulling out your gun and threatening to kill and rape individuals who disagree with you.


I agree.

Ignoring works. Period. However, it doesn’t matter is the target of a troll ignores the troll when there is an entire industry almost devoted to stirring the pot on either side. If anything twitter itself doesn’t spread or organize the trolls anymore than they could previously, but a hashtag meme will always find its way into the media no matter how stupid. Media coverage of things like #gamergate is the same as media attention to a lone gunman who went out to cause a massacre, and should be considered to be in as good of taste.

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But the Koolaid-Point-driven attacks are usually started by (speculating, educated guess here, not an actual psychologist, etc) sociopaths. They’re doing it out of pure malice, “for the lulz.” And those doing it for the lulz are masters at manipulating public perception. Master trolls can build an online army out of the well-intended, by appealing to The Cause (more on that later). The very best/worst trolls can even make the non-sociopaths believe “for the lulz” is itself a noble cause.

I don’t think it is helpful to characterize trolling as something started by sociopaths doing it for the “lulz”. The Cause is not a smokescreen, it’s the point. Hence why trolls target the same kinds of people over and over again. Sociopaths only differ in that they have no qualms about the methods used. Weev has been open about his far right politics for a very long time, and they much better explain his actions than simple cruelty. Which makes this trolling so much more scary and dangerous, because it’s being employed for political gain instead of just malice. It’s root lies deeper than people being assholes.

Because trolling is about being disingenuous in order to antagonize, the only basis for judging what it’s trying to advance is what methods it uses. Weev’s champions excused his misogynistic, homophobic and racist trolling as a kind of put on, and it took him getting a giant swastika tattoo and writing and article for a white supremacist website saying “I am literally a Nazi” for them to disavow him. He was being offensive troll because he actually believed in what he was using to offend others with. The campaigns of terror employed against internet feminists are not simply for fun, it’s because those trolls hate feminism. And the oppressive terror tactics are entirely consistent with anti-feminism, because it reinforces the gender inequality feminism seeks to eliminate. It’s not about stirring shit up with a fake cause, it’s a real cause of kicking down.


So what we need is an understanding of the difference between being a whistleblower and being a troll.

(And, yes, trolling has degrees.)

Sometimes it may be hard to tell the difference. Sometimes it’s not. We need not to make the mistake of lionizing and defending everybody who has the slightest thing in common with a whistleblower. That will just discredit actual whistleblowers.


“I am not a Nazi” kinda fails when you have a giant fucking tattoo of a swastiki on your chest.


No, it doesn’t. Not even a little bit. Every unmoderated Internet forum I’ve seen was overrun with trolls, or worse. It takes a great deal of active moderation to nurture a healthy community, and one of the things required is dealing firmly with trolls. My phrase has been that you don’t ignore trolls: you burn them with fire, so they don’t regenerate.

In the specific case of Auernheimer, one thing that Sierra touches on is that he had an extensive body of supporters, including supposed feminists. It’s come to light in the last few days that at least a few people, who pose as left indie journalists, knew that he was a Nazi, covered up this fact in their reporting, and continued to call him a beloved friend. The lack of principle is incredible.