I figured I would say a few words about identifying and dealing with Internet trolls, since I recently had one go off endlessly on me in a previous post, until I was forced to block his various email addresses and IP addresses (multiple times) and then lock the thread down.
Perhaps, the first step in recognizing a troll is how we can identify them.
An online troll, according to the OTE, is: someone who sends a provocative email or newsgroup posting with the intention of inciting an angry response.
Now if the post itself is controversial sometimes the responses will also be provocative. That's to be expected. With this respect it does us good to realize the term "troll" is subjective. There is no exact classification of what constitutes a troll, but there is a general (online) consensus of what constitutes "trolling."
As such, when looking at the act of trolling, we realize that a typical Internet troll has an arsenal of about five things. Recognizing their strategy is a good way to identify who is and who isn't being a troll.
1. Trolls tend to be two-faced equivocators, they won't cite sources, will hide behind false identities (or change identities) and usually use this anonymity to stir up confusion.
2. Trolls love to use ambiguous language to conceal the truth or avoid committing oneself to the dialog at hand, they frequently dodge direct questions posited to them, and will attempt to derail the conversation at every turn.
3. One of the ways in which trolls will attempt to derail the thread, aside from their incessant equivocating, is they will single in on a person and launch a series of ad homimens--usually to the point of trying to drag you into what is known as the Abusive Fallacy (in which they flame-bait you and get you angry and riled up enough to stoop to their level). They will use demeaning language, call a person names, make unfounded accusations, and slander to the point of libel, and they will continue doing it until they wear you down and you get fed up and leave the conversation, after which they can declare (false) victory.
4. Trolls, for whatever reason, feel terribly compelled to have the last word. If you try and compete with them, they will keep going--never giving you an inch. All the while, they steer the conversation even further off course. Interestingly enough, even if you let them have the last word, they often come back, seemingly unsatisfied, to dish out more slander.
5. Trolls want to feel superior to everyone and think they are right, period. Not you or anybody else will ever change their mind. No tactic will work, because when you ask them why, or how, they have come to that conclusion, they duck the question and/or change the subject, only to repeat the previous four steps above ad nauseam. This way they can make themselves feel superior, by always putting you down and never letting you get one up on them.
Needless to say, I experienced just this thing with my recent encounter with a troll. Now not all trolls are ignorant, even if they act like it. I actually think the guy trolling me was probably fairly intelligent. But this only goes to show there are smart trolls as well as not so smart ones.
What strikes me as odd, is why would an intelligent person, who is capable of having an informed discourse, stoop down to the level of a troll? I don't get that. The person I was engaging with certainly was capable of having a mature and well informed discussion, but he simply wanted to attack my character and not engage with the subject matter. I suppose that may just be a (personal) behavioral thing. He probably just wanted to get his kicks and giggles making himself feel superior to some dumbass American--who he sees as inferior to himself--and who had the gull to disagree with him on some sociological or cultural point (I honestly don't know why, especially since the reason he gave is not even defensible--something which I pointed out by example, twice).
So although I had some fun messing with him, after two days going back and forth, I realized I was wasting too much of my time and decided to call it quits and closed the thread. Oh, and I'll be on the look out for him popping up in other future posts too, as trolls often don't know when to call it quits. I'm hoping he's smart enough to realize that showing such a weakness would only go to show--beyond a reason of a doubt--that he is a major troll and, hopefully, the embarrassment of such a realization would be enough to stymie any further attempts to engage me.
Like most trolls, however, he probably doesn't even recognize himself as behaving exactly like the five steps as outlined above. Many trolls think they are the hero, that they are the ones bringing truth and shedding light, but you will know them by their character and quality of content.