too many immoral people are trolling more effectively

Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

TOO MANY IMMORAL PEOPLE are trolling more ef­fec­tively than ever! This state­ment is taken from Jenny Pier­son’s “Don’t Feed the Trolls: How Out­rage Fuels Sick­ening Ca­reers.” The ar­ticle is sub­ti­tled “The guy who wrote the book on trolling has some tough-to-swallow sug­ges­tions on com­bating the worst of it.” It ap­peared on Al­terNet on Feb­ruary 11, 2017, and I just found it!

This is part of my on­going se­ries of ar­ti­cles on in­ternet bul­lies, also known as trolls. This time I am let­ting Pierson do all the talking: all the text be­tween the two im­ages below is from her article.

I have made changes to the orig­inal ar­ticle: mainly, it is trun­cated. Pier­son’s piece is 1,165 words long; my adap­ta­tion below is 440 words, so there’s plenty more to read in “Don’t Feed the Trolls.”

I also made a few small styl­istic changes to keep the ar­ticle con­sis­tent with my own pieces on this site.


Immoral Parade 1000 1

Combating trolls

In an ar­ticle for The New York Ob­server, media strate­gist Ryan Hol­iday ex­plains the way a mar­keting cam­paign based on trolling works. The more out­ra­geous and of­fen­sive the product, ide­ology, or per­son­ality, the more of a duty high-road, moral media has to cover it and call it out. But con­versely, all that free pub­licity helps to am­plify the troll’s reach to find more of the oth­er­wise tiny au­di­ence that would buy such atro­cious ideas

What’s in­ter­esting about Hol­i­day’s ar­gu­ment isn’t just the dilemma about whether or not to give free pub­licity to people making money off hate, but also the pro­posed solutions.

The media’s first option

The me­dia’s first choice—not to cover the per­pe­tra­tion of hate—doesn’t ap­peal to Hol­iday: he thinks it could set a stan­dard of let­ting hor­rible things go unnoticed.

The media’s second option

The me­dia’s second op­tion, which Hol­iday sup­ports, is es­sen­tially to give trolls a chance to em­bar­rass them­selves and prove them­selves ei­ther un­qual­i­fied, un­knowl­edge­able, or just not com­mitted enough to pro­mote the hor­rible things they’re promoting.

Frankly, it seems like a bad idea to give a plat­form to people with a his­tory of in­fringing on the rights of others.

A third option

There must be a third way, per­haps one that’s not as fea­sible or ef­fec­tive in a land­scape where at­ten­tion is short and sub­tlety is often wasted. Here are two com­pro­mise options:

1. Make public men­tion of the ter­rible thing, but give the hate less at­ten­tion than the con­text spin­ning its false­hood or wrong­ness, and pri­or­i­tize more valu­able news.

2. Let the troll speak, but make sure it’s with a battle-ready in­ter­viewer and that it’s si­mul­ta­ne­ously fact-checked.

The latter presents a chal­lenge: even when an interviewer/opponent is skilled at cut­ting down hateful lan­guage or lies, a ded­i­cated troll can spew more in­cen­diary com­ments than are pos­sible to ex­pose as fast and ef­fec­tively as they are spouted.

Fight normalizing trolling

An­other key point Hol­iday brings to the table is that as much as we worry about nor­mal­izing trolls when they’re re­peat­edly suc­cessful, it’s not in the troll’s in­terest to be nor­mal­ized be­cause then they lose the spot­light and aren’t fa­mous for being out­ra­geous anymore.

Oddly, this cre­ates an un­ex­pected common goal be­tween pro­gres­sives and trolls: to keep fighting the nor­mal­izing of the troll’s behavior.

If there’s any­thing to learn from Ryan Hol­i­day’s strategy, it’s that all too many im­moral people with dan­gerous ideas are using trolling more ef­fec­tively than ever be­fore. Both the media and the public have to con­stantly be on guard with coun­ter­mea­sures to fight it until the idea loses steam, or as Hol­iday sug­gests, until the troll is caught aban­doning the hateful prin­ci­ples he rode in on.”


Immoral Parade 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was lifted from a poster/meme that I found on an ar­ticle ti­tled “Preda­tory Trolls: The Evo­lu­tion of Classic In­ternet Trolls” by Michael Nuc­citelli, Psy.D., on the iPredator web­site. The people at iPredator iden­tify them­selves as an “In­ternet Safety Com­pany founded to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tional and ad­vi­sory prod­ucts and ser­vices to on­line users on cy­ber­bul­lying, cyber ha­rass­ment, cy­ber­stalking, cy­ber­crime, in­ternet defama­tion, cyber ter­rorism, on­line sexual pre­da­tion, and cyber deception.”




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I think be­fore the “media” can pro­vide any useful ser­vice in this area they have to re­build their own brand. Right now their trust­wor­thi­ness polls on a level with Con­gress. So if you see a hard-hitting in­ter­view be­tween a news star and a high pro­file troll or politi­cian or who­ever, the first ques­tion is “who do I trust in this con­ver­sa­tion.” If the an­swer is nei­ther, then it hardly mat­ters the quality of the ques­tioning. Now, as to how they should go about re­building “trust”....that would take a book!