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Can We Raise Our Standards A Bit?

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I’ve been around the intertubes long enough not to be surprised by the fact that many people are happy to feed trolls whenever an interesting discussion threatens to break out. But I’d like to think that around here it would at least take some moderately clever trolling to stimulate thirty+ comment digressions. The fact that “YOuR aLL CoMMUNisTS! OooGA [email protected]!” seems to be more than enough recently is pretty depressing. Would it hurt to make trolls work for it a bit at least?

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  • c u n d gulag

    I trying to do that.

    If I don’t read something new or creative, I give them the old cartoon, ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZzzzzzz…

    And I haven’t read anything new or creative in a few tenths of a degree increase in the global temperature.

  • david mizner

    Isn’t this your fault for not attracting a higher quality of troll? We have to work with what we have.

    I must admit, though, I actually haven’t noticed the trolls, which suggests that I am one.

    • R Johnston

      The internet needs more trolls who 90% of the time post serious or amusing posts that are entirely sincere and thoughtful and primarily aimed at being serious or amusing, while resorting 10% of the time or so to not-quite-entirely sincere but not facially insane posts designed in large part to tweak specific segments of readership.

      Alas, very few trolls are Scott Lemieux.

      Of course if you haven’t noticed “Anonymous” as of late, you’re facially lying and you’re the bad kind of troll.

      • elm

        Yes. If we are to take Scott at his word, then we all need to vow to stop commenting on his and his co-authors posts that are entirely designed to troll the readership.

        Unless they’re really clever.

    • DocAmazing

      You post online with the trolls you have, not the trolls you wish you had.

  • Holden Pattern

    DNFTT doesn’t work, has never worked, and will never work.

    • DrDick

      I think this is generally true. I prefer telling them they are generating money for causes they hate.

      • Hob

        They’ve been doing that here. It obviously doesn’t work for guys like Anony, who either a) is being paid by the post or b) is too angry/dumb to care.

      • UserGoogol

        It’s an unfounded assumption to presume that trolls actually hate the causes they are trolling. Some people are just jerks.

        • UserGoogol

          And adding to that, going “+$$$$” seems like it’s just trolling trolls, which is just exacerbating the situation.

        • R Johnston

          As an assumption it’s unfounded; as an estimation subject to revision of the plurality choice between hate, disinterest, and support it’s the only possible rational position.

          People may troll positions they don’t really care about, but if they troll obsessively they care and they hate, without a reasonable doubt, and obsessive trolling in the norm.

          • UserGoogol

            They need a certain passion to commit to a particular target, but that doesn’t have to be ideological. Quite a lot of trolls pick nonideological targets. Someone who trolls a Twilight message board probably hates Twilight, but they probably don’t have a deeply held ideological belief that Twilight is terrible, they just think its fans are stupid.

            People who have sincerely held beliefs… have reason to be sincere. They might phrase their beliefs in a trollish way just to piss people off, but they do have an actual opinion which they would have incentive to want others to understand.

            Or to take a compromise between the two positions, trolls do hate, but they don’t hate the positions, they just hate the people themselves.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Doesn’t work to what end?

      DNFTT does not drive trolls away, I agree.

      But if everyone DNFTT then there won’t be multi-comment subthread digressions. It’s not rocket science.

      • Holden Pattern

        DNFTT doesn’t work because people don’t comply. Lots of things work in theory, but not in practice. This is one.

        • Hogan

          But it’s a worthy aspiration.

          • timb

            Nope. Tim likes to belittle and, if I don’t do it to an outsider, then I probably end up doing it to joe from lowell and fights with him last too long.

  • Walt

    I agree with this. As Holden points out, DNFTT doesn’t work, but come on. People are now jumping all over the dumbest comments ever committed to the ether.

    • Scott Lemieux

      And responding means that they can’t be deleted without completely wrecking the thread. Although I concede that it’s important to get it on the record that you don’t in fact agree with Stalin’s decision to start randomly killing doctors.

      • Daragh McDowell

        Yeah sorry about my inner Russianist compelling me to jump on wholly inaccurate slanders of my beloved Soviet homeland…

      • redrob64

        Wait, why? I mean, who needs them elitist so-called experts anyway?

  • UberMitch

    I know, right? Can’t they even work Robert Byrd in once and a while?

    • John F

      That’s a dry well, the lefties pre-empt the “Robert Byrd was a klansman therefore Jesse Jackson is the real racist” by mocking it before it’s even gets made anymore…

      It still gets pointed out on wingnut sites… but not by people “trolling” those sites

      • It still gets pointed out on wingnut sites… but not by people “trolling” those sites

        Luckily, nobody ever flogs that particular dead horse here.

      • John

        Manju’s been on top of this one for some time. He’s a much better sort of troll than Anonymous.

    • Manju

      Wait! I meant Larry Byrd this whole time. I’ve been really pissed ever since I saw that scene in “Do the Right Thing”.

  • efgoldman

    Well, since (SEK? I think) told the trolliest of trolls last week that every comment provides a little ca$h to the site, I respond to trolly comments with “$$$”.

    • efgoldman

      I respond to trolly comments with “$$$”.

      And no words at all.

    • Hob

      It was a nice idea, but it doesn’t seem to work at all. The trolliest is still doing his thing, and it just confuses people who don’t already know what it’s about, requiring further posts to explain that.

      • Anonymous

        Exactly. Someone gets it at least!

  • joe from Lowell

    I thought the point of the off-set comments was that multiple conversations could happen at the same time.

    There are several different law-geek conversations, pristine in their wedgie-inviting seriousness, in the very comment thread in question.

    • efgoldman

      I thought the point of the off-set comments was that multiple conversations could happen at the same time.

      Except this version of FYWP seems to limit how far to the right that comments can go. After a while, the reply button just disappears.

    • timb

      Well, if the lawyers who posted their inane rantings here were man enough for you to stoo you from teasing us, then….well, we wouldn’t be posting here

  • BradP

    Yeah.

    Lets get into back-and-forth blog posting with the worst of conservative blogs, repeatedly post mocking links to bastions of reactionary neanderthals, and then blame the commenters for the troll problem.

    • Surreal American

      Wait, isn’t that what blogging is all about?

      • timb

        Besides, Althouse needs someone to make fun of her. She took on Charlie is a most pre-literate way

        • I just read that in another tab. “There are better things to do in Wisconsin than to be this publicly dim.”

          • Holden Pattern

            Charlie Pierce FTW!

        • DrDick

          She is punching well above her weight there. I think she may want to quietly retreat to her corner and pray he does not notice.

          • Hogan
          • BigHank53

            “Good sense” hasn’t ever seemed to be Professor Althouse’s forte.

            • cpinva

              ok, i insist on seeing ms. althouse’s long-form law degree. and i don’t mean some cheesy xerox copy either, i want the damn original, done in quill pen, ink and sand (for drying)!

              • R Johnston

                Cracker Jack boxes don’t do long forms.

                • R Johnston

                  And yes, Ann alone is enough to render NYU a Cracker Jack box.

  • norbizness

    My completely hypothetical 2005 solution (insofar as I had no threads to speak of and definitely nobody took notice of me on the reactionary side of the aisle, even though as a young dumbass I committed several of the offenses listed by Brad above) was to immediately ban all trolls and anybody who responded to them.

    • Furious Jorge

      Your blog was badass. Don’t sell yourself short.

  • Surreal American

    My apologies for feeding the trolls.

  • Robert Farley

    Unless there’s only one or two comments per IP, I normally spam the entire IP, which disrupts comment threads. If there’s only a couple comments, then I’ll sometimes replace and simply ban the IP.

    If you like feeding trolls, get used to broken comment threads.

    • catclub

      I know that other websites make some comments only available to the submitter until they have passed moderation.

      If Troll IP’s could be identified ( I assume they have _bridge somewhere in them), the troll still sees his post, but no-one else does and no-one else will respond to it.

    • Anonymous

      You better get used to them too, Fuckstick Farley. I consider broken comment threads epic victories.

      • DocAmazing

        Aim high, guy.

        • timb

          How sad, eh?

        • Anonymous

          Keep whining like a bitch about how uuunffffaaaaiiiir it is that Wall St. traders will make a million times more money than you will ever see in 100 lifetimes, guy.

          Envy is the root of Marxism.

          • Heron

            Not really. Marx was born into a thoroughly bourgeois family, and was himself perfectly happy to live in poverty so long as he could still visit the library. Of course, his wife and kids saw things differently.

            More than that, Marxism as a philosophy is, when separated from its Hegelian attempt to give history a metaphysical purpose, primarily concerned with how industrialization and capitalism altered the lives of working people. The purpose of Marxism was 1) to explain what was happening to working men, and 2) to provide a possible solution to it. There’s no envy in it at all.

            Where’s the envy is saying “what you do for a living is an important part of your life”, or “paying someone an abstract wage detached entirely from their work detaches them from that work”, or “a person detached from what they do to stay alive is detached from an important part of their life, and this alienation has wide-ranging negative consequences?” Where’s the envy in any of that? Or where, for that matter, is the envy in some of his more “political” writings, like “beating up and shooting students who advocate for social change is morally contemptible” or “hiring mercenaries to kill your workers when they disagree with your shop policy is inhuman”? Where’s the envy in Marx’s most important contribution to human society; the popularization of dialectical analysis?

            I get that “Envy is the Root of Marxism” is a nice little soundbite that you picked up somewhere, and that it has that short, sure, sweet ring to it that makes it feel like wisdom, but anyone who would say that has obviously never read any of the philosophy behind Marx’s work, or any histories about the god-awful society he was born into as a citizen of Central Europe under the Metternich system. Marx was writing in response to turbulent and terrible time, and the “capitalist elites” of Germany, France, and Eastern Europe he was writing to condemn and undermine were about the furthest thing from civic-minded Carnegies that you can imagine.

            • Nice summation–though you realize, of course, that you might as well have written it in ancient Akkadian for all that the troll’s capable of understanding it.

              • Heron

                Maybe, maybe not. The human brain can’t help but think about the things it reads, even if the purpose of its writing is just to annoy people. Besides, unless you’re writing an email or IM, anything written on the internet it for a public audience, so something written in response to a troll can still lead to interesting responses and discussions involving non-trolls.

            • DrDick

              So were the Carnegies. There is no envy in Marxism. Envy implies that we want what others have and that is not at all what Marxism is about. We Marxists do not envy wealth, as we do not seek such wealth for ourselves. Rather we do not think anyone should have such wealth, as all wealth comes from the theft of the value produced by the workers. As all value is produced by labor, it is the workers who should receive the bulk of the rewards.

              • Heron

                Yeah Carnegie wasn’t a nice guy either by any means, but to an American, which is what I assume the troll is, Carnegie is a ready-at-hand example of a capitalist who beleives in civic involvement. For all the bad Carnegie did regarding labor and pollution, he’s also largely responsible for the spread of libraries throughout the vast middle of the US. Furthermore, his numerous philanthropic organizations were instrumental in civic reform (which among other things gave most of America clean water and working sewage systems), and medical research, which has had a very positive and personal impact on the average US citizen’s life.

                So while a person who studies his life will likely come away from it viewing Carnegie as an ambiguous figure, the view most USians get of the man from a public school education is universally positive, and that isn’t necessarily all propaganda.

                • DrDick

                  I do not begrudge the good he did in seeking absolution for his sins, but he remains an irredeemable bastard, as are all the Gilded Age moguls.

            • Dave

              Nice try, but I think most workers, then and now, get paid very concrete wages; as indeed did artisans before them – unless you think the price for making a chair ought to be 3 chickens, or something?

              • Heron

                First off I’m summarizing Marx’s argument, not making an argument about wages myself.

                Second, Marx’s argument was two-fold. First, that the wage paid to labor is determined by the labor market, not by the actual value of the product they create. That necessarily makes it an abstraction. This abstraction of the value of labor -this transformation of labor from work to commodity- alienated workers from their work, and thus from their identity. Second, that by removing the worker from the process of negotiating the price of the objects they create (or similarly, by removing them from the process of negotiating the wage they receive for their work) you transform work from something fundamentally active that a worker does to something fundamentally passive that a worker receives. He then argues that this makes workers feel detached from their own existence, and again, alienated from their own identity, which has various negative personal and social side-effects.

                • DrDick

                  Marx argues that the value of the product is determined by the labor embodied in it, not vice versa.

                • Anonymous

                  I’m saying that his critique of the capitalist wage system was specifically how it commoditizes labor, determining wage by availability of labor and detaching the price of goods from the labor put into them.

                  He certainly argues that labor should determine the price of goods, but arguing it should do that necessarily implies that most of the time it doesn’t. This was one of the many reasons he felt the capitalist wage system was aberrant and alienating.

                • Heron

                  OOps. Forgot to put my tag on that one :/

          • Daragh McDowell

            I’m sorry, but did you just implicitly criticise your opponents for being insufficiently ambitious and desiring only to tear down the work and success of others, AFTER declaring that to you, breaking a comment thread on a moderately popular academic weblog was an ‘epic victory?’

            It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

      • fasteddie9318

        FUCK YEAH! WAR BITCHEZ!

        derp derp fart derp

      • cpinva

        if i recall correctly, this was a saturdy morning children’s cartoon show, when i was but a young sprout in the early 60’s:

        Fuckstick Farley

        for some reason, the name of his sidekick escapes me.

        • DocAmazing

          Little Sure Scott.

          • cpinva

            that’s right! he wore the really tight, red stretch pants!

            Little Sure Scott.

  • LKS

    You could blacklist-moderate offenders who keep responding to trolls. Or delete the entire comment tree that has its root with the troll’s OP (and maybe post something to the effect that a comment-tree has been deleted because ____ ).

    Neither of these solutions would annoy me in the least, although they might make somewhat more work for the LGM posters, especially in the short term. But aside from that, I don’t see any logical reason to tolerate troll-feeders any more than the trolls.

  • BigHank53

    There’s always disemvoweling.

    • cpinva

      i believe that’s illegal, under the current geneva conventions:

      There’s always disemvoweling.

      • Holden Pattern

        I have a secret memo that says otherwise.

  • Heron

    As a Farker, I prefer the alternative of simply mocking them off the boards. People always say the troll wins if you argue with him, but I’ve seen far too many trolls driven out of threads and even Fark itself by the sheer heat of concentrated condemnation to believe that entirely.

  • Warren Terra

    It would be nice if we could just collapse subthreads so they don’t bother us, without depriving those interested in that subthread of their fun.
    This doesn’t just apply to intellectually void trolling, either; there was a recent subthread with seemingly many dozens of comments at the lowest level of nesting arguing about something that all sane people had by then lost all vestiges of interest in.

  • Stag Party Palin

    What we need is some anti-troll message on our clipboard(s), along the line of the Magrethean Answering Machine:

    It is most gratifying that your enthusiasm for our blog continues unabated. As a token of our appreciation, we hope you will enjoy reading an explanation of how your participation results in increased revenue for our site. To ensure on-going quality of service, your embarrassment may be monitored for training purposes.

    • Warren Terra

      A blog post isn’t a very satisfactory substitute for a pair of nuclear missiles. Heck, I’d settle for launching a bowl of petunias at the troll.

  • If you want better trolls you need to have better posts. It is impossible for me to troll the Madmen posts. I don’t think you are all communists. But there are in percentage terms a lot more self described Marxists among American academics, particularly during the last century, than most population groups. Right now I am trying to figure out why historically Africa has had so few communists. The claims that it is because the continent had a small working class does not wash with me. American academics in the 20th century were not working class either.

    • Heron

      There’ve been plenty of communist political movements in Africa during the 20th century. I’ve never looked at any statistics on it, but Communism sure seemed to me, from my own study of history, to be a popular political philosophy in post-colonial Africa. There is a significant difference between pre and post WWII Communism that we should consider, however, in that international Communist orgs were largely co-opted by Stalin to act as arms of USSR foreign policy after his rise to power, and that this change in behavior and motivation played out largely after the Cold War had begun, which is to say, in the Post-Colonial world.

      As to the “academics weren’t working class” argument, that has a series of problems with it. To begin with, students -who are the self-selecting population that become “academics”- are unquestionably proletariat, or at the very least, Bohemian. Sure, there are always those who live on rich allowances from home, but most students, then and now, have had a tight budget, and have bolstered it by working the sort of low-pay, part-time jobs someone primarily spending their time and effort doing something else can afford to take. These jobs are typically quite working class in nature. Political orientation doesn’t tend to change just because your employment does, so when they become bourgeois “professors”, they continued to consider themselves “working class”. Secondly, “teaching assistants” aren’t a new phenomenon, and just as today’s instructors and “adjunct professors” are unquestionably part of the service-industry working class, by dint of their meager pay and precarious employment, so too were their late 19th century and 20th century antecedents.

      But we shouldn’t make Marx’s mistake and assume that economic relations are everything, for academics -particularly “larval” academics like students- have, consistently since the mid 1800s, been at the forefront of social and political reform movements in Europe, which is primarily where their political closeness with labor comes from. In Metternich’s Europe, both academia and labor started to radicalize against different aspects of the authoritarian police-states that rules Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Imperial France, and their alliance arose from this share position as “revolutionary vanguards”. For labor, this was part of a much longer process resulting from the tensions arising from the transformation of the traditional guild system of industry into the the modern joint-stock industrial corporation, as well as the alienation of management from labor(and the resulting exploitation of labor) that this change created. For academics, this resulted from an ethical opposition to the authoritarianism of the day(remember democratization became hugely popular in European academia beginning with the American Revolution), and the radicalization resulting from the various governmental attempts to squash democratic and nationalist advocacy among the student populations. As those students grew up, they eventually became professional academics, and as that played out, European academia radicalized. As the communist movement more or less coalesced the various radical strains in European political thought after the introduction of Marx’s theories, this also mean European academia gradually became more communist over time. This process was aided by the economic turmoil of the last quarter of the 19th and the first quarter of the 20th centuries. The constant instability of that era’s capitalism convinced many that the Marxist critique of capitalism was correct, and the various defenders of the status quo couldn’t really seem to provide an adequate response to his argument, because the society created by “laissez faire” capitalism (which really meant capitalist-government partnership) really was what Marx claimed; unstable and violently oppressive of workers, the poor, and social opposition movements (the Suffragettes, ect).

      Then, of course, Keynes came along and provided just such an argument, while the political alliance between Keynes’ managed capitalism and social liberalism, forged in the US and in the anti-fascist “United Front” movements that would become the European socialist parties, ameliorated many of the excesses of “laissez faire” capitalism by recognizing labor and social reform movements as valid political actors.

      • There actually were not very many strong communist movements in Africa compared to Europe or Asia. Only Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique ever had communist governments and then only after 1974. Other than that the largest communist movement was probably the SACP and there was a small communist movement at one time in Cameroon. South Africa is kind of an exception because it did have European style industrialization. But, compared to Asia where there were millions upon millions of Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, Mongolian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Lao, Cambodian, Indonesian, Burmese, Thai, Japanese, Philippine, Malay and even Indian communists the African communists were very few.

        • DocAmazing

          There were some infamously bloodthirsty anti-Communist outfits working in Africa, too, with lots of US support. That may have some bearing on the number of self-identified Communists one sees.

          • The same thing could have been said about Asia and Latin America. But, there seem to have historically been a lot more Asian communists despite that. In the 1940s and 50s there were lots of strong Asian communist movements. A number of them came to power in North Korea, China, and Indochina. In Africa no communist movements come into power until the 1970s. I don’t think the French in Indochina or the Japanese in Korea were any less blood thirsty than the South Africans or Mobutu and yet both North Korea and North Vietnam became communist states.

            • DocAmazing

              Very true in Latin America, and please note the result: apart from well-established outfits like FSLN and FMLN, you have tiny, fractured movements–even labor unions are afraid to stick their head up.

              Note also that Asian communists had the advantage of geographic proximity to the USSR and to Mao’s crew, while African and Latin American communists were physically very separated.

              • Good points, especially the second one as regards to Africa.

          • DrDick

            I would argue that it has everything to do with it. The US and USSR fought a brutal proxy war in the Middle East and Africa, which largely resulted in the installation of numerous brutal far right dictators.

    • Slocum

      What the fuck is wrong with you?

    • It is impossible for me to troll the Madmen posts.

      Did you know that Don Draper, like thousands of others, was kept out of teaching by Loomis because he was not a Stalinist?

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