I haven't visited the Whatevereque in a while, for reasons I've mentioned elsewhere.
But, as one of the original members of the forum and as what was once one of it's most prolifically posting commenters, I feel a certain compulsion to to stick my head in every once in a while and see if the situation has improved.
So I did, and it has not. If fact, I think it's gotten worse.
A number of juvenile, asinine dickheads have taken up residence, and they seem to be attracting more juvenile, asinine dickheads. You simply can't have a decent conversation without these trollish children sticking their dirty noses into it. When they can't find a suitable thread for their obnoxious bullshit, they start one. I've used the 'enemies' function to suppress comments from people that I find idiotic, annoying, stupid, disruptive, and just plain obnoxious - and that doesn't leave much. This irritates me, tremendously, because the place was interesting and just plain fun before the population turned into the IMDB comment thread.
I've noticed a few things:
1) Almost without exception, people who engage in trollish behavior use online handles instead of their names. I find this fairly telling. I suspect that in real life they are unhappy, friendless jerks of the sort who believe that it's the rest of the world who is responsible for their misery. Without exception, trolls lack respect for any opinion other than their own, even if a commenter agrees with them. The very fact that there are opinions other than their own seems to make them insane, and they immediately resorted to bluster, name calling, and empty threats. However, I suspect that in real life they are timid cowardly creatures who can only find their courage when hiding behind the anonymity of pseudonyms. I suspect that in real life, they are the type of people who lie about themselves, their experience, their past - to make themselves seem more interesting, more important, or more credible than everyone else around themselves. I suspect that as a species, trolls hate themselves even more than they hate others, and the only thing that keeps them from slitting their own throats is the belief that the world simply couldn't survive without them - I think they regard their behavior as a public service.
2) I find trollish pseudonyms enlightening. Take 'Sgt E" for example in the above 'e' link. Here's a guy who by his own admission, was in the Marines for about ten years, leaving the service about ten years ago. Yet he still identifies himself by his (assumed) former military rank. I suspect, though I don't know him personally (and really, really wouldn't want to), that he is one of those blowhard assholes who demands respect and attention for his service all those years ago. I suspect he is one of those annoying vets who constantly brings up his former military experience, regardless of it's relevancy, in every conversation - because it's the only thing he has. By his own admission his experience in the combat zone was brief and limited, and is now a decade or more out of date - yet he considers himself an expert in all things military, or even vaguely military related, or anything not military related. It's fairly apparent to me that he considers his former service as a trump card in any conversation, military related or not. I know a few folks like this, and they are without exception avoided by everybody around them. I suspect that the online community is the only form of sustained interaction they get.
3) Trolls, as a group, seem to require validation. They constantly list their (supposed) credentials, relevant to the situation or not. I.e. "As a former National Guard supply clerk, short order cook, IT Wizard, and dog groomer I'm sure everyone will agree with me when I say your opinion of The Princess Bride theme song is totally lame and that you are stupid and ugly." There are times when your background is relevant and it is necessary to state your experience in a conversation - but trolls do it in almost every post. This, to me, speaks volumes about their lack of self worth and self confidence.
4) Trolls seem to require conflict. They seem to be incapable of interacting with other people on any kind of equitable or respectful basis. I suspect that in real life, they are the annoying dickheads who manage to insinuate themselves into every meeting or presentation and who constantly argue over minor points and throw up roadblocks until you just want to beat them over their square heads with the powerpoint projector.
5) Trolls are incapable of letting go. They must always have the last word. They must. Have the last word. Always. Must.
6) Trolls cannot admit error. They may start out sounding fairly reasonable, but they will inevitably, and in short order, resort to the most inane and bizarre rationalizations to justify their positions. They consider themselves intellectuals, and they'll link and quote and cherry pick any source to make their point. The argument, whatever it may be, is the single most important thing in their pitiful lives, if they lose, they lose it all.
7) Trolls have no sense of humor, they are deadly serious about everything - even humor.
8) Trolls always, without exception, consider themselves 'students of the human condition.' When called on their obnoxious behavior by a third party, they will invariably reply that they are just trying to provoke a 'real' response in their targets in order to 'understand the situation better.' They consider their bile and vitriol justified because they are 'trying to cut through the bullshit and get to the heart of the matter.'
9) Trolls consider politeness and respect to be the purview of small minds and the weak. A real man speaks his mind, bluntly, and lets the chips fall where they may. If you're offended by anything a troll says, it's your failing, not his.
10) Trolls are offended by anything and everything, no matter what the subject or the context. Trolls can twist any off-hand comment into a personal insult. When countered, Trolls will inevitably decide that even though they aren't insulted per se, the commenter has insulted a large group that they're a part of, i.e. Dog Groomers, Evangelicals, the Marines, America, Martian Americans, something, and it is the Troll's civic duty to take up the sword in the offended party's defense.
One of the reasons I've never made the effort to expand my reader base, is because I don't want these trollish idiots showing up on my electronic doorstep. I like you people, I think you're fun and interesting. Scalzi often says that his readers are just words on a screen to him, he's not being an ass, that's just how he feels about it and with 50K plus readers a day I can understand why. But for me, you people are a bit more than that, and I enjoy the sense of community I get from our interactions and I won't allow Stonekettle Station to turn into the shit flinging monkey fest I see over on the Whateversque. I've had a few trolls around here; you might not have noticed them, because I delete their bullshit without comment as soon as I notice it, along with the spam.
No snappy wrap up, I just thought it needed to be said, again.
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