Saturday, March 23, 2013

Trolls can make you doubt this post: Rationalizing Animal #1

"When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained." -Mark Twain

The "nasty effect" comes from a study of 1,183 participants who read a fake blog story about new technology. Half were... to civil reader comments and the other half to rude ones — though the actual content, length and intensity of the comments, which varied from being supportive of the new technology to being wary of the risks, were consistent across both groups. The only difference was that the rude ones contained epithets or curse words, as in: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these kinds of products, you’re an idiot” and “You’re stupid if you’re not thinking of the risks for the fish and other plants and animals in water tainted with silver.”
The result:
Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.
Yep. Trolling is effective. When people with agendas show up at sites and act rudely, they're acting effectively. When contemporary feminists and anti-racists complain that being asked to be polite is "tone policing" or "making the tone argument" or "concern trolling", they are onto something. By being vacuously abusive, they're furthering their cause.

Which makes sense if you think humans are just a bunch of pretentious monkeys. When one group is furiously flinging feces, the other monkeys suspect there's a good reason.

So next time you're trying to make a point, remember how it's done at the Brooklyn Debating Society: "Fuck you!" "No, fuck you!"


  1. "feminists and anti-racists" -- I wish you'd chosen a different pairing there. "Anti-racism" applies to a fairly specific group with a shared philosophy and common strategies and the goal of shutting down or controlling discussion. "Feminism" is still an honorable word with a proud tradition behind it. The two aren't alike, though anti-racists would approve of the comparison!

    1. I just added "contemporary" before the phrase. Does that help? Feminism has a proud tradition, but modern feminists, the sort who deny that men can be feminists and who indulge in call-out culture, are the reason so few people identify as feminist. And anti-racism has been retconned, so people who don't know much about it assume it's simply an opposition to racism. My understanding is that while all Critical Race Theorists are anti-racists, not all anti-racists are Critical Race Theorists. I dunno. Anyway, tweak made in the hope of clarity.