Moosa’s Musings: Fighting Online Trolls 
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Tauriq Moosa
July 3, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Moosa

Greetings, weary traveller. Rest, by this here fire and drink with me. I see by your face that you’re one of those ignorant souls who foolishly – foolishly, I say! – decided to combine two powerful items, that upon their fusing, create such chaos and darkness and horror it’s any wonder our world still remains! Aye, you would combine the bizarre notion of “being informed” about a topic plus – by Odin’s beard! – expressing it to others on the Interwebs! Ah, what dangerous lands these are.

But I know you’ve sought me out, passing my name through the spy guild of Google, to learn the secrets of ending the foulest beast to emerge in these parts. Ah, yes, the nightmare become flesh, the terrors folding into reality! <cue lightning strike> They whose long fingers and longer line of life disappointments and entitlement makes them prominent enemies in these parts.

I speak of those creatures called… trolls. These ones were all found here.

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But do not utter that name lest ye summon them! Emphatically, I say, emphatically, they will deny it. They will claim to be “seekers of truth”, “defenders of … something” – be it the moral life or video games – but never will they admit that, in fact, their petulant whining and rapid-fire personal attacks do not even dent the skin of reality. You don’t change the colour of the sky because you scream at it long enough, young one.

They will rage, they will multiply before your eyes. Before you know it, your post – guarded or not – will be compromised and overrun. You will find yourself unable to defend yourself, no matter how well-stocked your armour or –manned your garrison. The trolls do not win through individual power, but through numerical force: relentless, pointless, unstoppable. They feed off your hate, off your anger.

But their strength is also their weakness. They require emotion to survive so do not give it to them. Stand firm: do not primarily wield a blade of criticism, no matter how sharpened it is upon the rock of reason; rather merely don the armour of justification and evidence. They will come at you, spitting their poison and throwing their rocks, but it will not dent the evidence you have, the data you’ve gathered in your quiver. Though they’ve stormed your post, it doesn’t mean they will destroy it.

Many a brave warrior, of the male and female kind, have taken on these beasts. Trolls are fearful of daylight, horrified by exposure: we know they’re out there, hiding behind their watered-down magic from the book of Anonymity. That we’re speaking out, not letting the curses of racism, sexism, homophobia become something we will tolerate; that we’re banding together and watching them froth at the mouth as we merely ask questions and watch their replies turn to ash before the eyes of all; that we’re doing this, actively, taking back the lands they think they can claim, is the reason we’re seeing them so hateful, so angry. We don’t have to hunt them any longer. We do not need to seek them out, to silence them. Their utterly irrational responses will show them to be the ungrounded noise-makers they are.

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(This right here is not a reply any person with connecting neurons could possibly utter with the intent of being reasonable. Note too the support from the horde.)

Their own anger and irrationality will be their undoing, young one. Do not be afraid to enter the lands of the Interweb. It is a glorious place, where many souls, though silent at first, will be there to support you, if they see you like an island of serenity amidst the storming trolls; they will see for themselves that the trolls have nothing to convey except how immature and irrational they are. Gone are the days where we took it as valid to attack someone as a person because he thought and expressed something we did not agree with. Gone are the days where we tolerated that behaviour and watched as fellow travellers, walking down paths we long thought safe, were overrun by the horde.

The trolls will never win because they have no goal, save a release from the curses of entitlement, the inability to handle someone dissenting from their view, and, worse, a lack of writing skill. Yes, their letters are bigger, their words look terrifying – because we don’t know sometimes what they’re saying – but do not fear! They feed off that. Worse still if you let your fear turn to anger, due to the frustration. Nay, I say! We will not – not­ – fall prey to their curse, to their attacks.

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The trolls will never win, they will never take the lands of the Interwebs. So if you encounter them, engage with them as if they had not attacked someone personally: show them it’s possible to argue about facts and ask questions that aren’t rhetorical stepping-stones confirming their previous, entrenched opinions.

Ask them what is wrong. Ask them whether swearing or reason makes something more convincing; keep asking them to clarify how they know what they do about the author’s weight, salary, friends, wives, and fondness for particular homosexual actions. Let them insult you and then: Just. Keep. Asking.

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Answers will either be forthcoming, in which case they will slowly calm, perhaps revealing a valid point – or, more likely, they will be relentless in their pursuit of… whatever, using their weapons of fire and brimstone words. Do not crack, young one.

Due to the double-magic powers of Anonymity and Audience, we will never shake loose this curse. But we can react to it better so that we ourselves do not fall prey to it. I wish you luck, young one. Now, off with ye!