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Andrew Heenan's Guide to Trolling

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Troll problems in newsgroups

I caught an expert

"Paul Ryan" wrote:

The secret is in identifying the personality type. I might be able to help on this one.

The personality type attracted to the roles of troll and netnanny is extremely well described in the professional literature to the extent that even the untrained observer after a first reading is able make recognition without much effort.

Using this information will make you better able not only to spot this condition, but also to understand it. You will then be more adequately prepared to both evaluate the advice and also deal with the provocation emanating from this source.

It is better described than any other aberrant personality type.

According to the literature they tend to be emotionally and sexually immature. Quite unstable. Personal relations are a nightmare for them, more so for the object of their attention. They just cannot cope with other people especially those of their preferred sex.

They are described as being highly authoritarian and very seriously pedantic.

Taking the highly authoritarian aspect first, they defer to and are weak with the strong (others who have some sort of control or hold on them). They make ideal followers, or apostles. (Sometimes described as an arsehole looking for a body to attatch itself to!)

On the other hand they "kick the shit" out of those they regard as weaker or inferior to them. They are the sort of people who when asked to kill people only ask how many and how often.

Pedantry, in this type of personality, is a consuming and all pervading passion. In newsgroups they tend to examine messages for spelling, punctuation, grammar, query syntax, whether the message is on topic, and general netiquet before getting down to the message contained in the posting. If they get down to the message they have nothing to contribute and bizarrely may even congratulate you for being on topic etc.

A word to the wise. They are very easily offended because of their basic underlying pathology. Being rigid and unable to make concessions or to admit they may be "mistaken" every disagreement is taken as personal slight. Coupled with their inability to correct misinformed notions and their lack of adaptability they tend to have ill balanced aims way out of proportion to any perceived slight.

Responses to perceived slights are always over the top. War can break out over the miss-spelling of a word, a miss-placed punctuation mark, or minor difference of opinion. Cause indeed to have you banned from the Net. They fall out at the drop of comma!

Newsgroups, are ideal for them partly because face to face relationships are not just a nightmare for them, but anyone within 50 mile radius and partly because each group has a "charter" which they can refer to. A weapon with which to keep us all in line. A number of news groups are so badly infested that they either become deserted or the domain of one small "clique", ruined for everyone else.

It is best to remember that interpersonal relations of any kind always become a veritable nightmare for them. There is also a large degree of sexual inadaquacy and deviancy present usually of a sado-masochistic nature. Meet them in an ally way with a cleaver in one hand and a hard in the other and you would have something to fear from both. But the damage would mutual.

This is not an exhaustive description but I hope it helps. From what I have said I am sure that you will have gained the (correct) impression that advice given by such individuals, or, collectives stands a good chance of being pure shite. Maybe even malicious. I hope this helps.

Andrew Heenan's Response:

Excellent analysis, and goes to support the general advice of "Don't Feed the Reptiles", coupled with the desirability of not allowing the vermin to take over; just as weakness gives them an illusion of control, so strength sends them away, seeking weakness elsewhere.

Panic, as ever, is self defeating (and ill becomes a professional group).

Their loyalty, as 'Paul' notes, is second to none (and I particularly like the symbolic "arsehole looking for a body to attatch itself to") but like any vermin, loyalty comes second to hunger as a motivator.

Starve them out; ignore them.

Newsgroups are successful because they empower shy, introverted folk who may find an open discussion difficult; but for every person empowered, visualise the skunk in the corner - also empowered by the anonimity and the shadowy corners.

Politeness dictates that you ignore that smell.

Another useful comparison is with graffitti - and I'm not talking about art* - most graffittists are inadequate souls who feel ignored and powerless; like a dog, they have a yearning to piss on a lamp post and say "This is my territory, it is, it is, it is!" - they daren't, of course, lest they are seen and further humiliated.

Creeping out at night and marking a wall or a train gives them that illusion of power and ownership.

Similarly, the average net vermin has little original to say, and fears ridicule in a 'straight' discussion; but trolling a group, if the group shows its fear, allows that illusion of ownership, of 'leading the pack', of mattering.

[May 2001]

Footnote *Art: I recognise that graffitti is rather more complex than I've suggested above; but not for most graffittists; for most it's as far from art as you can humanly get, other than the average art gallery. Or the Turner Prize.

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06 January 2018   Copyright Andrew Heenan