Trolls have been the bane of this blog pretty much since the Euromaidan, and I have had to do all sorts of things to try to limit their toxic effects and I did call them out quite often. Today, I want to do a nice thing for aspiring trolls, which is to give them a short vademecum on how to be the best troll you can be!
I will make that short, bullet point style, for practical use. So here we go:
- Rule number one: always make sure your comment is either the very first one (best!) or, at least, one of the top ones. This way you can best derail the discussion away from the actual article and make it all about your talking points. This was almost always the case when I was still writing for the Unz Review, and it is still very often the case on the Saker blog today. I would call this rule “the golden rule of trolling”.
- Do not, ever, refer to the actual contents of article you comment upon. Doing so might lead the readers to familiarize themselves with the author’s arguments or, worse, the factual and logical substantiation of these arguments. You want emotion, not analysis.
- Make sure to psychoanalyze both the author and the blog itself. Use sentences such as “you only write this because” or “in spite of the horrific censorship on this blog…” etc. This is basically the good old ad hominem disguised as some kind of insight into things the troll cannot – by definition – have any information about.
- In your comment, make sure to align as many Neocon talking points as possible, you can join them together into (apparent) sentences and (apparent) paragraphs. This way you give the external appearance of making an cogent argument while doing no such thing.
- Ignore the author’s arguments. If the author write “A”, do not directly dispute it, don’t even refer to it. Instead, write “non-A”. In fact, the ideal troll comment is one which never gives the reader a reason to look up the author’s actual arguments.
- Make sure that your comment is formally polite. Thus not only do you sound respectful and sincere (“all I want is an honest discussion!“), but it reduces the chances that the moderators will send it to trash. You can be snarky, of course, but that opens up your comment to being sent to trash on formal reasons.
- Claim the coveted “victim of censorship” status. Yes, even when you ignore (deliberately or not) the commenting rules! This technique is especially useful if your comment is illogical, off-topic or plain stupid. After all, in our times of “positivity” and “acceptance” it would be most politically incorrect to call any comment “nonsensical” or “stupid”!
- Misuse terms, especially those which are often misunderstood by non-specialists. The perfect example would be the difference between “air superiority” and “air supremacy”, or use “contested airspace”. The goal here is not to make a fact based and logical argument, the goal is to repeat Neocon talking points as often as possible. With some luck, other commentators will pick up this misuse of terms and you will achieve a synergistic effect.
- Go fishing. By that I mean this: post a number of statements and see if anybody else will “bite”, possibly a fellow troll (paid or not). Example, “it appears that a single Ukrainian MiG-29A shot 3 Su-35S in one mission“. With any luck, somebody will bite and, there we go, the synergistic effect will be achieved.
- Ignore points made in the original article. This is a crucial one. If an author writes “A” and then goes into some details explaining the factual and logical basis for this argument, don’t engage, but ignore it! Pretend as if it did not exist. With some luck, those who just skimmed over and article won’t realize what you are doing.
- “Bounce” external arguments. By this I mean simply write “I read fill in the blank” and ask for a rebuttal. The function and purpose of this technique is double: derail the conversation and (try to) force the author to waste his/her time debunking as many idiotic arguments as possible.
- When all else fails, use emphasis, hyperbole and gravitas. For example, “the shelling of Donetsk is a disgrace for Russia, the Russian military and Putin himself!“. If something is a “disgrace for Russia, the Russian military and Putin himself” then it must be pretty awful indeed! And the fact that this entire line of (pretend) “thought” is based on exactly *nothing* becomes obfuscated by the emotional content of the troll’s statement. That is not very effective, but when all else fails, it still can sometimes work. This is simply a recycling of an old lawyer’s trick: “When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither is on your side, pound the table“.
These are just a few basic, but crucial, rules. Aspiring trolls, take heed!
And everybody else – simply recognize these techniques when you see them :-)