Don't Be Afraid to Go Low — And 12 Other New Strategies for Dealing with Right-Wing Trolls

How to mess with a troll in ways they don’t expect, ways that are perfectly suited to your wits and potential repertoire -- but that you haven’t let yourself use until now.

The US is rapidly becoming just another Hypocracy, a state ruled by absolute hypocrites – no self-aggrandizing hypocrisy they won’t perpetuate. Hypocrisy tends to corrupt; absolute hypocrisy corrupts absolutely.

We’re way better educated, smarter and more articulate than these absolute hypocrites, so why do they have us on the run?

Because we’re way more conscientious than they are. We fight with our fighting hands tied behind our backs for out-of-touch moral reasons, reasons that did make sense out of civic loyalty but not anymore.

We try to stay receptive and therefore responsive to their challenges. We empathize with them and then automatically feel charitable toward them. We operate by self-contradictory moral principles – you shouldn’t be judgmental (which is a judgment), don’t be negative (which is negative) and be intolerant of intolerance (which is intolerant).

When we cut that out, we’ll be able to dance circles around them.

You may think that it’s best not to feed the trolls, but it’s too late for that. We have to feed their flame whatever will dampen them whatever dampens their flame, anything that makes their trolling cost more than it’s worth.

Voting, getting out the vote, building a more strategic opposition, imposing what’s left of our rule of law – all of that is essential. But to succeed at those challenges, we’re going to have to learn to thwart trolls from the top to the bottom of their cult, the media getting sharper at confronting the pundits, and you getting smarter at disappointing the trolls you engage with.

Trolls are one-trick phonies, same as every other cult in world history. Though the “doctrines” change from cult to cult, it’s just costume anyway. They’re know-it-all gloataholics in whatever ideological clothing happens to fit their lifestyle.

Their one trick which excites them as though they invented it rather than rediscovering it, is fake infallibility through unconstrained hypocrisy. It gives them a hard-on to fantasize that without any effort other than learning their simple formula, they can take on and beat all comers.

They can’t. They just think they can because we keep coming at them in predictable, hands-tied ways.

Here’s how to mess with a troll in ways they don’t expect, ways that are perfectly suited to your wits and potential repertoire but that you haven’t let yourself use until now. Now is the time. We have entered an era when it’s moral to be immoral to the goon squads and immoral not to – immoral because if we continue to let them run roughshod America is as good as over or at best destined for the bloody civil war these goons have been arming for.

Though trolling employs a simple formula, there’s no simple formula for thwarting them. It’s mix and match, trial and error. The suggestions below are only suggestions some of many things worth trying.

Still, there is one overarching rule: Don’t try to prove your integrity to someone who shows you none. Limber up. Be inconsistent and don’t fret when these masters of inconsistency call you on it. They’re leeches whose sustenance comes from calling other people on their inconsistencies as though it proves they’ve got integrity.

Oh, and another: Keep your eyes on the prize – thwarting them. Nothing else matters. If you think you can do that by getting your yayas out, venting at them, darting in to give them a piece of your mind and then darting out, you’re wrong. Anything you just blurt and spew at them, they count that as just one more self-titillating “like.” Thwarting requires strategic engagement.

OK, some tips:

Leave your angst, disgust, outrage, fury and moralizing the hell out of it:If you’ve got sensitive skin in the game, you’re doomed. Feel all those things on your own time. Treat troll-baiting the way a surgeon treats surgery, a criminologist treats crime, a military strategist treats strategy, or a mixed-martial artist treats the ring. Your emotions, however justified, are only going to get you tangled up.

Have fun: You’re tooling up, adding to your repertoire behaviors you never had or that went dormant in more civilized times. These are street fighting skills you not only need, but can enjoy. Imagine how much fun you could have learning combat in preparation for war. Not much fun? I get that. This is more fun and a way to keep from having to learn combat in preparation for war.

If you make a bet that you’re dealing with a troll, stick with it:You may, in fact, be wrong about them. Expect some error while trying to minimize it. There’s only one thing worse than disrespecting the respectable. It’s showing respecting those undeserving of your respect. It’s like having trust and faith in a rapist. There’s a serenity prayer in here: Grant me the generosity to engage the receptive, the aggressiveness to thwart the unreceptive, and the wisdom to know the difference. You’ll fail some on both fronts, being generous with the unreceptive and aggressive with the receptive. At this point though, the right is flooded with unreceptive hypocrites. Don’t be giving right-wingers much benefit of the doubt.

Troll-proof your bet:  A troll will pretend you’re off your meds for messing with them. They’ll act shocked and say in so many words, “Hey, you don’t know that I’m troll” Say “You’re right I don’t,” and leave it at that. It’s true. You don’t. It’s your bet and having made it, you’re going to stick with it, no need defend it.

Non-stick surface:Parents of brats eventually learn that giving reasons for their decisions invites debate. It’s like offering handles for the brats to grab and manipulate. By the same token, don’t give trolls reasons why you’ve decided things. It implies that you are trying to convince them of something and worse, that you think they’re interested in reasoning things out. Be unreasonable because that’s what they are.

Have spectators and swing for the bleachers:The troll isn’t your audience but your straight man. Belittle them by talking past them to anyone listening. Don’t say, ‘look what you’re doing,” say “look what he’s doing.”

Have low expectations:Never expect to change a troll’s mind about anything. Your goal is to flummox them, prove that their formula isn’t as foolproof as they think. Their silence or slinking off muttering curses at you on the way out is evidence of your success.

Do not lead by example: When they go low, you have license to go wherever. Do not think you can win them over by moral example. They are enjoying a psychopathic holiday. Do not be generous, respectful or kind with psychopaths. They will not reciprocate.

Never take their bait:Never engage with them on their terms. Ignore their arguments on morality, current events, facts, good authority, hypocrisy, logic, values, history, fairness, principle – anything that they lead with. Their formula is designed to lead you around by the nose.

Control everything, even their exit:You don’t need the last word. Give it to them. Cut and shame them and then say, “I’ll let you have the last word” and then let them have it. It isn’t about last words. It’s about exposing them and others to the failure of their formula.

Don’t enable their feigned authority:Right-wing trolls are just a Hannity wannabes. They regard themselves as pundit authorities deserving of everyone’s attention rather than the dime-a-dozen dickheads they really are – plenty more where they came from. Don’t get hung up any one of them. Walk away anytime. Don’t feel obligated to respond to them.

Taunt and tease them about their desperation: When you’ve got them hooked into playing out their formula, say “I’m flattered that he cares so much about convincing me that he’re right. I understand. He need the attention desperately and has latched on to me as the one who can give it to him.”

Trolls don’t care what they believe. Why should you?: Never ever mistake this for an dialogue about what’s right and feel free to tell him so. “I get the impression that he thinks I care about his opinion. Of course, I don’t. He has already demonstrated that he isn’t paying the slightest attention to what’s right. No, I’m using him for practice, just another easy asshat on the asshat rack.”

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Jeremy Sherman Ph.D. researches how the living interpret, from their cradle at the origin of life to our current grave situation.
 

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