Trolls

by John Quiggin on November 18, 2018

I’ve decided that life is too short for me to deal with any more trolls. From now on, I’m following the same zero[1] tolerance policy regarding blog comments as I do on other social media. Snarky trolling comments will lead to an immediate and permanent ban from my comment threads.

More generally, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to look at the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ and what remains of the Republican intellectual class is the light of my experience as a blogger.
Put simply. the IDW and others are trolls. Their object is not to put forward ideas, or even to mount a critique, but to annoy and disrupt their targets (us). As Nikki Haley observed, a few months before announcing her resignation as UN Ambassador, it’s all about “owning the libs
Once you look at them as trolls, it’s easy to see how most of the right fit into familiar categories. They include

  • Victim trolls: Their main aim is to push just far enough to get banned, or piled-on, while maintaining enough of an appearance of reasonableness to claim unfair treatment: Christina Hoff Sommers pioneered the genre
  • Concern trolls: Jonathan Haidt is the leading example. Keep trying to explain how the extreme lunacy of the far right is really the fault of the left for pointing out the lunacy of the mainstream right.
  • Quasi-ironic trolls: Putting out racist or otherwise objectionable ideas, then, when they are called out, pretending it’s just a joke. The alt-right was more or less entirely devoted to this kind of trolling until Trump made it acceptable for them to drop the irony and come out as open racists.
  • Snarky trolls: Delight in finding (or inventing) and circulating examples of alleged liberal absurdity, without any regard for intellectual consistency on their own part. Glenn Reynolds is the archetype in the US, though the genre was pioneered in UK print media by the Daily Mail’s long running obsession with ‘political correctness gone mad’
  • False flag trolls: Push a standard rightwing line, but demand special consideration because they are allegedly liberals. Alan Dershowitz has taken this kind of trolling beyond parody
    From what I can see, the latest hero of the Dark Web, Jordan Peterson, manages to encompass nearly all of these categories. But I haven’t looked hard because, as I said, life is too short.

fn1. Not quite zero. Commenters with a track record of serious discussion will be given a warning. But, anyone who wastes my time will be given short shrift

{ 147 comments }

1

Demigourd 11.18.18 at 7:11 am

The unifying factor is that they don’t care at all about what they’re arguing. The goal is to defend power, and they’ll spit out anything that serves to tie up the discussion so no progress can be made.

And it works, because small-l liberals always react in good faith and spend hours earnestly quoting scientific data and statistics and providing historical context, in the sad belief that the trolls are simply uninformed and will change their minds if provided with sufficient evidence.

2

Murali 11.18.18 at 7:54 am

Is there anyone to the right of you who is not a troll?

3

John Quiggin 11.18.18 at 8:56 am

@2 Lots. US-style liberals, centrists, moderate Democrats, liberaltarians for example. I disagree with them on policy and (in many cases) on their failure to recognise that those to their right are indeed, all trolls (see @1 on this). But it’s possible to have a serious discussion with them.

4

Chetan Murthy 11.18.18 at 10:11 am

@2: Jennifer Rubin is not a troll. I believe Max Boot is not a troll. Much of what Jennifer Rubin writes about American power in international affairs, many progressives (including me) disagree with *vehemently*. And yet, she doesn’t (at least, anymore) try to “own the libs”.

5

Murali 11.18.18 at 10:42 am

John Quiggin @3

Something seems off if the question of whether someone seems like a troll to you depends on how far to the left of them you are.

There seems to be a specific kind of bias (i don’t know if there is a name for it) whereby views which are more ideologically distant from my own are are so unreasonable that people who hold them must have bad motivations. (and not just in the sense that they have bad or mistaken terminal values, but that they do not argue in good faith)

And you seem to be uncritically taking that bias to represent an actual truth of the matter.

Consider Victim trolls, if you can maintain enough of an appearance of reasonableness (whatever that means) but still get piled on or banned, that says (or at least seemingly says) something about the people piling on or doing the banning: That they can’t quite tolerate seemingly reasonable views.

Consider also false flag trolls. It is perfectly possible for people to have inconsistent views. Sometimes they may be people like Dershowitz who have otherwise liberal views but hold a particular view that is out of the mainstream. Other times it may be mainstream liberals who for various historical and social reasons may have a particular grab -bag of views which happens to be inconsistent.

6

Collin Street 11.18.18 at 11:15 am

It’s not a matter of “trolling”, of structured pretense, because what we can see of the right-wing internal debates looks pretty much the same as the problematic aspects you’re pointing out here. As near as anyone can tell, they do this because it’s genuinely how they believe truth can be found, which has implications for how you deal with it.

[also… we can exclude “trolls” from private spaces individually and that’s fine as far as it goes, but the same behaviour is equally disruptive in public spaces, for which we may need a public — that is to say governmental — solution. I mean, that’s a discussion for another day, but while in australia we can probably avoid having it in the UK and US things seem to be on a not-so-nice path.]

7

Lee A. Arnold 11.18.18 at 2:21 pm

I’ve been puzzling in a related vein about the word “transactional” when used to describe Trump’s approach to policy e.g. foreign policy. Foreign Affairs just dropped its paywall for ten days as a come-on to find new subscribers and “transactional” surfaces even there, written by people who are presented to be actual professors at colleges.

But what does “transactional” mean exactly? It is bruited in its best light to connote something like “sudden clarity”, cutting through the burble, and brought to bear in the national interest — as if the history of foreign policy does not show a sincere attempt to protect the national interest, however much you may disagree with it, and however manifest its failures and horrors. And upon reflection it does not seem like a “transactional” approach could improve things better than deliberated long-term agreements, long thought-out by many experts and creating trust among the allies. “Transactionalism” is short-term and its deals can’t be guaranteed secure from the very next day’s circumstance. Worse, there must be deleterious effects from the leader jumping up-and-down and pounding his chest like a gorilla, using inflammatory rhetoric in public threats to abrogate those long agreements. No one wants to stand in the same room with a brute; this will ward off allies old and new, not gain them; and it cannot contribute to the long-term security of the country in an era of greater complexities, with the rise of serious military competitors and more dangers of war. Professors should conclude that “transactional” means the opposite of “clarity”.

Then does “transactional” really mean, “based on a moment’s whim”? This seems to be it. And since it isn’t useful, it may be a symptom of the lack of intellectual coherence in the leader’s brainpan, for which we adduce the evidence of more than a handful of his top defense, security, and legal advisers over the last two years, who have called the leader an “idiot” or “fucking moron”.

Without casting such judgments on the character of lesser trolls in general, still it could be said that “based on a moment’s whim” is a good description of the general troller’s procedure from writing one sentence to writing the next sentence. It is so predictable that I had lain it to a clinical syndrome: the True Believer’s emotional tribalism, laboring futilely under the enormous intellectual complexities of the modern scene. At these complexities (political, economic) we may all be daunted — but trollers present an extra clinical symptom: they don’t keep on top of their own central point, although they insist that they do. Indeed they may unknowingly contradict it. They exhibit a persistent atomization of the attention span at the higher contextual level, throughout the course of their arguments. They are “transactional” from sentence to sentence. In consequence I am never sure how much of a new troller’s trolls are intentional (i.e. just trying to “own” somebody — as if that goal could be interesting, important or consequential!) and how much of it is the incoherent fruit of an intention to be coherent by a patient on the shallow end of the autism spectrum.

8

Dwight L. Cramer 11.18.18 at 6:38 pm

You can discuss things with people if you share facts, but not premises, or if you share premises, but not facts, but it’s awfully hard to have a discussion when you share neither facts nor premises. And that’s before you even get to issues of good and bad faith.

Which we all skirt around, but are indisputably there, and you’ve edged into them.

I just got off the phone with my 90 year old Dad after failing to convince him that the Thanksgiving holiday is this coming Thursday, it didn’t fall last week. Afterwards my wife suggested we make sure there is a calendar and a clock in his room. I told her last time I visited, he had both. Dad’s mental failings make me sad, but it’s a confusion we have to live with.

You do not have to live with some of the behavior to be found in any comments sections.
I’ve got utterly no issue with your new policy. La lucha continua.

9

Peter Dorman 11.18.18 at 7:14 pm

I’d like to unpack right wing trolling and divide it into two pieces. One is the tribalism, responding to ideas or speakers simply on the basis of whose side they’re on, positioning and performing rather than engaging and thinking. The second is the tone of the response, often bullying or provoking but sometimes adopting the faux concern that JQ rightly pins on Haidt (performing anti-tribalism rather than dealing with the substance of a dispute).

The reason is that our side can be just as tribal, with robotic cheerleading of the good guys and heaping invective on the bad guys as substitutes for actually making arguments. This dumbs us down. I despair, for instance, at the way the term “neoliberalism” has been turned into an epithet and drained of nearly all its potentially useful descriptive content. (Can neoliberalism have any upside? Does it mean anything other than “against progressive policies”?) I don’t say this to disparage the left, rather to suggest that something larger and politically pernicious is happening to the overall culture, and the left is largely inside that process along with everyone else.

What’s distinctive about the right is the style of its tribalism. It presents itself as on the side of “fun”, unlike the dour, desiccated left, where fun for them means snark, insult and generally transgressing norms of respectful behavior. This strikes me as a dramatic reversal, since I’m old enough to remember, and participate in, the joyful iconoclasm of the 60s. Back then it was the left that wanted political action to be fun (Abbie Hoffman anyone?) and the right that was all formal attire and seriousness.

I agree with JQ that we don’t need to put up with the various forms of trolling that weigh down potentially intelligent online discussion, but I’d also like to see the rebirth of a non-nasty, mostly uninhibited sense of fun on my side of the spectrum. The contest between meanness-as-fun and dour hectoring is no fun at all.

10

bekabot 11.18.18 at 8:18 pm

From what I can see, the latest hero of the Dark Web, Jordan Peterson, manages to encompass nearly all of these categories.

Jordan Peterson is a professorial troll; Glenn Reynolds (of Instapundit fame) and Camille Paglia are his predecessors. There’s nothing they did, or do, that he doesn’t recapitulate, except that he dials the act up a notch: he’s murkier and more abstruse and less amusing to listen to, and he turns an even colder shoulder to women. What he is, basically, is a satire on academia, a self-aware one, and one of his uses is that he gives observers a workable notion of what people in civilian life think of academics. (Those of his fans who aren’t young, male, and flailing are into him because of his self-dislike.)

To be strictly fair, back in the old Stalinist-loyalist days there were figures on the left who performed a very similar function. Peterson has a trove of old Soviet art, and maybe he’s modeling himself on them. Could be.

11

Royton De'Ath 11.18.18 at 9:57 pm

Like the post. A lot. Clear and unequivocal.

(I see a number of the Very Clever People in your Trollsification have a presence in Quillette, which seems to be an Ozzie wannabee Spiked Online – an incoherent echo of the Institute of Ideas. Gawd help us! The IDW thing really is just pure theatre/stage-craft as you’ve noted before).

In a strange twist of coincidence, prior to the post’s publication, I’d been thinking of quiet ways to obtain a moderator second-opinion of some dropped-in, but mostly unremarked-on, comments in recent threads.

The apparently throw-away occasional comments, from one party, seemed to have this “pattern”: i) concern about population increase and fecundity of immigrant women (i.e. hinting at “swamping”?); ii) nationalisms are equivalent (i.e. “nothing to see here”?); iii) the NHS is a Soviet style of thing (What???); and, bizarrely, in the Armistice Day thread: iv) war is about killing and impregnation of enemy women (which seems to run perilously close to asserting a doctrine of race war?)

Of course, I’m very happy to be entirely wrong about all of that: it’s all just thoughtlessness, vacuity, or merry japing, or combination thereof. But. As serious comment, what then?

(Near-) zero tolerance seems an entirely appropriate response for the “too clever for you” crowd.

Great post. Thank you.

12

Dave Maier 11.18.18 at 9:57 pm

The only member of the IDW I’m really familiar with is Sam Harris, and he strikes me less as a troll than as a earnest and sincere thinker who has taken his early fame too seriously and is out of his depth: a competent scientist (I assume) who is – as are many competent scientists – a philosophical naif. (I don’t know a whole lot about Jordan Peterson, but my initial impression is the same, switching out “scientist” for “psychologist.”)

As for “what remains of the Republican intellectual class,” I’m not sure what that means or whom we’re talking about, but I (like John Holbo, although he likes different people than I do) have found the writing of such conservative intellectuals as Roger Scruton (admittedly a Brit) and, I don’t know, Richard Weaver to be really helpful (and okay, sometimes Scruton does seem to be trolling, like when he plays his look-at-me-I’m-so-politically-incorrect card; but he often provides an admirably clear glimpse into the conservative mind — check him out, Holbo!). But the OP is probably talking about online interactions rather than book-length treatises, both in this case and in that of the IDW. And of course we have our own such trolls right here at CT. So I concede the main point. (I’m not a concern troll, honest!)

13

John Quiggin 11.18.18 at 11:04 pm

Murali @5 A fair rejoinder. Let me add some people who are further to the right than those, but with whom I can engage.

Before doing that, I’ll mention a fairly simple troll-detection test. Anyone who engages in climate science denial is almost certain to be a troll in other respects.

Subject to that test (which sadly rules out quite a few) I can and do engage with free-market economists. Also, though these are quite rare, Oakeshott-style traditional conservatives. In policy terms, both groups are further away from me than Trumpists, but as Dwight says @8, I can argue with them on the basis of facts.

14

John Quiggin 11.18.18 at 11:06 pm

Bekabot @10 I’ve often pointed to the fact that Peterson’s stuff (what I’ve seen of it) is just a rehash of Paglia. It’s striking that he’s been so much more successful. |irony on|I wonder why?|irony off|.

15

Abigail Kincaid 11.18.18 at 11:40 pm

I find your assessment pretty spot on – though I wouldn’t have thought to use the term troll. For that perspective, I thank you. The IDW has long struck me as creating the illusion of a leftist attack on free speech in order to substantiate their desire for rogue intellectual status. They want to believe any questioning or subsequent discounting of their ideas is driven by fear of all the “dangerous truths” they imagine they tell. But they are trafficking largely in hackneyed ideas (and with no nuance to add) that have already been considered, processed, and filed away – and are thus wasting everyone’s time with their cries for attention. The Bell Curve, as an example of the type of essentialist argument I see as common on the IDW, is over 20 years old after all – and its core thesis and attempt at justification wasn’t new then. Ultimately the IDW just seems to want so badly to recast ideas similarly baked in essentialism and traditionalism as the edgy cool kids on the block – and it reads as comically desperate to me – which definitely makes the troll analogy work for me.

Alas, I’m new here. I just discovered Crooked Timber recently. Forgive me if my comment posting violates the etiquette of your community.

16

oldster 11.19.18 at 1:08 am

This ancient treatise, even if its Aristotelian credentials are in doubt, still contains a lot of wisdom on the topic:

https://philarchive.org/archive/BARAOT-9

And I think it supports the policy you propose.

17

Murali 11.19.18 at 1:09 am

John @13

Not to belabour the point, but there is a difference between “people you cannot engage with” and “trolls”. The former are people who you share nothing in common with (neither normative nor non-normative premises/facts) but for all you know may be sincerely believing what they believe and not just say stuff to trigger/own the libs. The latter say stuff just to get a rise out of people, in this case, those to their left.

One can feel frustrated and think it is futile engaging with people with whom you do not share enough of a starting point. And that certainly feeds into the idea the life is too short sentiment in the first part of post. But trolls seem to be only one subset of those it is futile to engage with.

It seems hard for me to see how trolling is an essential feature of any viewpoint. It is more likely that bad viewpoints are just the normal product of normal human incompetence and disinterest in careful reasoning.

18

Heliopause 11.19.18 at 1:13 am

A post that basically dares trolls to troll: Is that in itself a troll, a metatroll, or not a troll at all?

19

Chetan Murthy 11.19.18 at 1:38 am

Murali @17:

The former are people who you share nothing in common with (neither normative nor non-normative premises/facts)

There are two ways of interpreting this:

(1) people who disagree on the -facts-. Like flat-earthers, climate-denialists, anti-vaxxers, creationists, etc. It’s legitimate to argue that these are imbeciles to be indulged in the manner we indulge small yapping dogs. As Moynihan once said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

(2) people who disagree on (unprovable) -axioms- of the organization of human society. A good example might be “libertarians who believe that property rights, or contracts, are prior to government, sacred, inviolable, *inalienable* by government as a matter of -right-“. Now, someone who disagrees with this position can have an argument with these folks. But when they argue that the benefits of free market capitalism obtain from these preconditions, they’re arguing in bad faith. When they later argue that my right to the clean air and water my forefathers breathed, isn’t a [n equally inalienable] property right, they’re arguing in bad faith. Etc.

As for #1, perhaps these people disagree on the scientific support for some “fact”. As John Oliver put it so well, the appropriate way to have a climate debate is not to put Lord Monckton (or whoever) on one side, and Bill Nye on the other. It is to put Monckton on one side, and 9999 climate scientists on the other, giving each person equal time. B/c that’s the actual state of the scientific consensus.

Let me note one last thing: you didn’t actually give an -examples- of your “people who you share nothing in common with ” above. You need to give such examples, or, I’m sorry, but this seems to be just another variant of trolling.

20

bekabot 11.19.18 at 1:49 am

|irony on|I wonder why?|irony off|.

Well, there is the fact that she’s more conventionally talented, in a field where talent isn’t an asset. Could that be it?

21

faustusnotes 11.19.18 at 1:53 am

I find the invocation of Scruton as an example of a non-trolly rightist strange. He just gave a couple of talks in a row where he leans on the Soros-Jewish manipulation and pretty obviously recites the latest right-wing US talking points. You’re not an intellectual if you’re just putting an intellectual veil over Fox News’s virulent anti-semitism. Putting a pretty face on anti-semitism to give it some intellectual cover is still trolling. The same with Max Boot – yes, 15 years after he supported the Iraq war he has finally realized that he has been a grade A troll for most of his adult life. He’s an ex-troll, not an intellectual. You don’t suddenly get to walk away from the rhetorical and PR practices that got a million Iraqis killed and collapsed several countries, just because the new generation of trolls are now too much for you.

I am yet to see a modern conservative “intellectual” who is not at heart a troll, a liar, a fraud and likely a traitor. Find me one who opposed the Iraq war, accepts climate change is real AND proposes some kind of genuine action on it, and has been genuinely opposed to the treacherous rantings of the past few years. That is the minimum standard for having even a modicum of honesty and genuine interest in ideas. If they don’t meet that minimum standard, they’re not worth even considering further.

But I bet you even the ones who meet that minimum standard still behave like trolls.

22

Chetan Murthy 11.19.18 at 2:13 am

Lee A Arnold @7: I found this comment to be really thought-provoking, and both wanted to thank you for it, and also to make an … ‘addendum’. “transactional” is so … nebulous sometimes. It’s difficult to know what it means. I suggest a synonym for the case you describe: “tactical”. That is, in debate, foreign policy, domestic policy, whatever, a method focused ONLY on short-term gains, regardless of how they’re won, regardless of the direction of the winning argument. [Many people have pointed out this problem in the context of foreign policy.]

But even such “tactical” debaters/pundits/pols have a “deep strategy”. So in the case of Shitler, it’s “more for me, less for you” and “FYIGM”. And (of course), “white supremacy”. All the “tactics” is smoke/mirrors/flash/bang to distract from this deeper strategic goal.

TL;DR “transactional” debaters/pundits/pols have “interests”/”strategy” too. Typically “FYIGM”. It’s a mistake for us to ignore that deeper strategy: it plays into their hands.

23

Marc 11.19.18 at 2:22 am

I share your frustration about dealing with people arguing in bad faith. I do, however, think that the tendency on the left to assign the worst possible motives to people who disagree with us has been enormously harmful. And the tendency to dismiss entire classes of viewpoints as “beyond the pale” is a sign of intellectual weakness in my view – and, again, depressingly common. I’d rather see us explain why viewpoints with a significant following are mistaken, rather than airily dismissing them as so worthless that we don’t even have to say why. From your list – Haidt, in particular, is clearly sincere as far as I can tell – and, to be blunt, I think that he gets a lot more right than his critics do. Actually, whenever I see “concern troll” now, I think that this is a way of dismissing criticism from an ally that cuts too close to the bone, rather than being genuine.

24

Chetan Murthy 11.19.18 at 2:36 am

Marc@23:

Haidt, in particular, is clearly sincere as far as I can tell – and, to be blunt, I think that he gets a lot more right than his critics do.

Haidt describes -uncritically-, giving equal weight to both sides, the social divide between child-raping Godbotherers and decent upright progressives.

Oh, see what I did there? Was that trolling? Why, it’s just what Haidt does, only not dressed-up with all his fancy language. But that’s what he does. What Haidt forgets, is that there is an objective reality, in which the patriarchal and socially reactionary mores he uncritically describes, are *objectively* *harmful*. He always leaves that part out. By contrast, I remember reading a review/interview with the author of a book about white working class Americans. Like Arlie Russell Hochschild, he described their world and their worldview. But he was very clear and careful to point out that they were WRONG in their beliefs. Completely and utterly wrong.

Haidt never does that. He’s either a troll or a hypocrite. Those two aren’t exclusive.

25

Alan White 11.19.18 at 2:45 am

I’d wager that the best analogy here is with the White House Press corps. They should just stop attending “press conferences” with Sanders and Trump, because just showing up enables those trolls. We need to stop placing trolls in the place of normalizing trolling truth.

26

Demigourd 11.19.18 at 2:58 am

Haidt fell in love with conservatism writing The Righteous Mind. He seems to have concluded that, yes, conservative culture is intolerant and punitive and anti-democratic, but look how efficiently it keeps the rabble in line!

27

David 11.19.18 at 3:30 am

Hi,

I don’t know if this helps, but I came across this recently.

It’s from the meme philosophers on FaceBook looking for a simple way to refute the alt right libertarians. (It’s on their face book page – https://www.facebook.com/socraticmemes/)

They have categorised the alt-right arguments – making them easier to identify and call out. I thought it was brilliant.

https://scontent-syd2-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/46383073_2026120447469660_7652237025331904512_n.png?_nc_cat=104&_nc_eui2=AeHvE8RTHzB_cI9JN4taogn0VAcPQ9tfTDme1g-N-K8Vbxv3Lnjzh2QmvQYNewcli5YjRJFLejuXcuRsUCbYS9umkErrc7Z_yAHbicceJgIb3g&_nc_ht=scontent-syd2-1.xx&oh=277d755ff119ce48a02f6d6e528e6241&oe=5C644966

28

Chetan Murthy 11.19.18 at 3:31 am

Murali@17:

It seems hard for me to see how trolling is an essential feature of any viewpoint. It is more likely that bad viewpoints are just the normal product of normal human incompetence and disinterest in careful reasoning.

Two reactions:

(1) as a salesman friend [literally] once said to his colleague when I was in earshot: “it’s tough knowing so much about the problems of the product; it makes it hard to be sincere with the customer”. “disinterest in careful reasoning” is the *same* as “I wonder if I can get away with this trolling maneuver”. It’s trolling.

(2) Dunning-Kruger sufferers don’t get a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card, y’know?

Is this your best argument that these jokers aren’t trolls? B/c it’s pretty weak.

29

Dave Maier 11.19.18 at 3:45 am

faustusnotes, what you say about Scruton and his recent talks is certainly plausible, and I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise (although I haven’t heard those talks myself). I think that maybe (some of) his books are different because there he takes himself to be addressing other conservatives and not just making trouble. And indeed I think one learns the most from people with whom one disagrees fundamentally not by talking with them directly, where the fundamental disagreements will trip you up constantly, but by listening to them talk with each other.

30

Lobsterman 11.19.18 at 4:15 am

@Murali 2, good trolling.

31

Lobsterman 11.19.18 at 4:17 am

Also, no, there is no such thing as a conservative who isn’t a troll. The whole point of conservatism is to lie constantly in service of brutality supporting unearned privilege. It’s inherently a trolling argument.

32

Orange Watch 11.19.18 at 5:44 am

ISTM that outside of some degree of duplicity, insincerity, or bad faith, what unites trolls and separates them from the merely wrong (or even simply straightforward liars) mostly comes down to rhetorical style, and there’s enough vagueness and subjectivity there that there won’t always be clear demarcations. I’d certainly dare not try to assign them based directly on political stances. Frequently, though, if the act of making the speech is more important than the content of the speech, it’s trolling. More specifically, if the speaker could have been equally satisfied with the effect of the speech had it come about by speech in the same venue with the same listeners, but on an entirely different subject (when the point of the speech is ostensibly to persuade, debate, or expand understanding), it’s probably trolling. And if that describes a speaker’s predominant rhetorical style, they’re like as not a troll.

33

faustsunotes 11.19.18 at 6:44 am

Marc says:

the tendency to dismiss entire classes of viewpoints as “beyond the pale” is a sign of intellectual weakness in my view

Recent viewpoints that have become mainstream in the US right:
1. The Jew is using the black as muscle (to quote the Blues Brothers)
2. There were good people on both sides of neo-nazi violence
3. Climate change is a hoax (this is old news now obviously)
4. Just because you gang-raped a few chicks doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on the supreme court

But apparently if we consider any of these ideas to be beyond the pale and refuse to engage with these trolls, we somehow are intellectually weak.

I’m not sure how it’s intellectually weak to dismiss these views. Perhaps I should engage with them, and allow myself to believe that rape, anti-semitism, old-fashioned confederate racism, and scientific ignorance are cool. We have 12 years left until the window for action on climate change closes. I’m sure we’ll all be fine if we treat these ideas seriously!

34

MFB 11.19.18 at 7:00 am

I don’t pretend to know most of the people that this post is talking about, except insofar as all of them appear to be intellectually negligible apart from (possibly) Roger Scruton, who is horrible but not an idiot. Obviously, if people have nothing to say and are simply seeking attention, they aren’t really worth engaging with.

Unfortunately, however, the implications of the post, and these are taken much further by many of the responses to it, are “I really don’t want to engage with the arguments of my political opponents because these are unworthy of engagement”. The problem with this is that if a lot of other people think that they are worthy of engagement, then you are necessarily writing off all attempt at persuading those other people.

I accept that some people can’t be changed by argument. However, some of those who listen to those arguments could probably be changed. Refusing to attempt to do that has big political implications.

35

Chetan Murthy 11.19.18 at 9:29 am

MFB@34:

The problem with this is that if a lot of other people think that they are worthy of engagement, then you are necessarily writing off all attempt at persuading those other people.

I accept that some people can’t be changed by argument. However, some of those who listen to those arguments could probably be changed. Refusing to attempt to do that has big political implications.

NOBODY is saying that we will not engage with -all- the arguments of our political opponents. To make that claim is to argue in bad faith, and I’m sure you’re not doing that. And as with Murali, now I’m going to ask you to CITE some examples of arguments that we think are trolling, but you think should be debated in good faith. Examples, please.

The question is: which arguments are beyond the pale. Let’s start with an extreme case: suppose Person X’s political argument is that some population of humans [say, Indian-Americans like me] be butchered and served as barbeque for the rest of us. Is this worthy of engagement? Person X thinks so, so clearly, you need to engage with him, yes? Obviously not. So it comes down to -which- arguments are beyond the pale. We [I] believe that there are two sorts of arguments: (1) those contravening well-established scientific factd, and (2) those denying equal rights to members of our polity, that are beyond the pale.[3]

But yes [to your second point], you’re absolutely right. Here’s the thing: we [and I’m really saying “I”, but I suspect I’m not at all alone] are pretty sure that many, many of those people who (for instance) think climate change is a hoax, are simply not amenable to reasoned argument. They don’t care what the facts are, and no reasoned argument would convince them, PERIOD.

Imagine that “the Earth is round” were a subject that was critical to the future of the human race. Would you believe that it’s worth engaging with “flat earthers” in a reasoned discussion? Really? What about evolution? What about the efficacy of vaccination? Fluoridation?

It makes far more sense [to us/me] to empower those who more-or-less already agree with us, than to fruitlessly waste time and resources attempting to convert the irredeemable.

Yes, I said it: irredeemable. Maybe you think otherwise. That’s ok: we can have a discussion about that, and there’s evidence that can be adduced for each side of the argument. But if we believe that (for instance) it’s not worth arguing with some racist shitbird who accosts a citizen woman of color[2] in a voting line, telling them they’re in the wrong line, and when we have, y’know good evidence that in fact this shitbird cannot be convinced otherwise [hell, he’s 75 years old[1], not like he’s for changing at this point], we MIGHT have good reason. To instead focus on reaching & empowering his [several] grandchildren, who practice active-shooter lockdown drills in school every month.

[1] yes, this actually happened
[2] and this citizen woman of color has almost certainly done more for our country that that shitbird did, both in her career in federal service, and to our system of electoral democracy as a volunteer.
[3] I hope you noticed that I’ve already given up *enormouse* rhetorical ground, in saying “members of our polity” — basically conceding that it is a valid subject of political discussion (for instance) whether or not bombing Yemeni children into starvation and death is something America should support. Many, many progressives would see this ALSO as beyond the pale. So y’know, again, many of us are not absolutists. I mean, it’s not like we argue that “all tax cuts are good and stimulate the economy”.

36

Chetan Murthy 11.19.18 at 9:34 am

I’m going to restate this point because it’s important, I think. Several commenters have given *example* of positions that we believe are not up for debate, where we think attempts to “debate” them are just trolling. [I say “we” to refer to those comments, but really, I mean “I”, b/c I don’t want to tar anybody else with this brush]. Other commenters have argued that “we” are refusing to debate our political opponents. But they never cite particular arguments that “we” refuse to debate. They stick to vague generalities.

If you don’t cite specific positions that we refuse to debate, that you feel OUGHT to be debated, but instead argue generally that there ARE such positions, then you yourself are trolling.

Cite examples, don’t just wave your hands.

37

J-D 11.19.18 at 10:04 am

Dave Maier

The only member of the IDW I’m really familiar with is Sam Harris, and he strikes me less as a troll than as a earnest and sincere thinker who has taken his early fame too seriously and is out of his depth: a competent scientist (I assume) …

Why would you assume that?

Sam Harris has a PhD in neuroscience, but he hasn’t worked as a scientist since taking the degree.

38

Murali 11.19.18 at 11:53 am

Chetan @19 and @28

I’m not sure there is anyone out there who disagrees to such an extent that there is absolutely no argument that could be offered to them. But maybe some people come real close. For instance, Trumpist right-wingers or some Bernie-bro left wingers who are opposed to immigration.

They disagree with me about whether we have moral duties to let non-citizens access our markets, or to alleviate their poverty or to permit their free movement.

They also disagree with me about whether allowing immigrants in will benefit host countries in material ways.

Nevertheless, there is data to back me up on the latter and there are arguments that could be offered to them about the former.

The question is going to be whether it is worth offering such arguments in any given situation. That is at least in part going to be a function of how much time I have and how much effort it will take. I will grant that if Quiggin has better things to do with his time he need not offer such arguments even if said arguments are available.

Does it follow that immigration restrictionists are trolls? No. Sure, they may be gravely mistaken about what duties we have to non-citizens or what rights we have against them, but these might be sincerely believed and not just claimed to be believed in order to trigger the libs or own the neoliberals or because your political enemies happen to believe the opposite.

Granted that you couldn’t move from axiomatic private property rights to modern day capitalism without making some reasoning mistakes, it does not follow that libertarians who do so are trolling. Only that they made a mistake. The question of whether the mistake is blameworthy is distinct from whether they are trolling. Because while it is fairly obvious that they are not trolling (given their sincerity*), it is less obvious whether they are blameworthy. Trolling is about saying something just to provoke a reaction or just to gain attention. It follows that if someone is sincere, even if unacceptably sloppy in their reasoning they are not trolling since whenever you sincerely assert that P you are not saying it just to gain attention or provoke a reaction.

Perhaps your claim is that it is not trolling per se which is important, but blameworthiness for bad reasoning/views/assertions and trolling is one way in which people could be blameworthy. And it may be that blameworthiness is what is important because that is what is supposed to track whether it is appropriate to feel frustrated at people, or whether it is ok to pile on etc. Insofar as blameworthiness is what is important, my claim here is that there seems to be no plausible and consistent applied criteria that would licence the current way the left (or at least the more vocal members in social media and elsewhere) seems to assign blame.

*For a short while, I was a propertarian a la Nozick was sincerely so and I have met a lot of people who are libertarian on roughly propertarian grounds. Many of them are also very sincere and idealistic people. Of course, some of them were also trolls who would say anything that would be construed as un-PC, but you can always find such people in any large enough group of adolescents/ young adults. Now of course I am a liberaltarian on roughly public reason grounds but that is a separate issue

39

nastywoman 11.19.18 at 12:27 pm

Now – what am I going to do? –
as I never ever will stop trolling anybody who believes ”Pleasure” is ”Paradise”.

40

Raven Onthill 11.19.18 at 1:10 pm

Good on you. May all their vowels fall out.

I think there is a broader political science discussion to be had here: trolls have considerable impact in democratic politics.

41

Donald 11.19.18 at 1:38 pm

“polity” — basically conceding that it is a valid subject of political discussion (for instance) whether or not bombing Yemeni children into starvation and death is something America should support. ”

Not all such people are on the right. Not when Obama is blamed. I am speaking from experience. Not that anyone that I have seen on either side of the spectrum ever says it is okay to starve kids, but it turns out that if you are trying to calm the Saudis down after the Iranian nuclear deal you get some sort of pass.

On the far right, I know someone— a good friend of mine going back decades- whose mind has been totally corrupted by Fox. I can’t figure out if he really believes everything he says. My guess is that the details don’t matter — what is good for the political tribe determines what is true.

42

WLGR 11.19.18 at 3:13 pm

Speaking from an unabashedly left-of-liberal perspective, the problem (and I don’t mean that in a facetious way; if you consider yourself a left-liberal it genuinely is a problem) is that trying to clearly define this kind of alt-right trolling can lead quite quickly into tarring much of the respectable, establishment liberal center with essentially the same brush as outright fascism. Go back and reread Henry Farrell’s “Dark Web centrism” piece for Vox, which I still think is one of the best pieces Vox has ever published, and then try to claim with a straight face that one can draw a bright and clear line between the professed worldviews and discursive tactics of (say) Jonathan Chait or Andrew Sullivan, and those of (say) Sam Harris or Ben Shapiro. Someone like Harris is a pitch-perfect example of what you call a false-flag troll and a concern troll, but the same description can easily be applied to someone like Chait, who as I mentioned in another thread a while back, has staked his dismissal of illiberal identitarian PC college students to an assessment of “neo-Marxism” that essentially copies wholesale the same basic political categories as the reactionary anti-Semitic canard of “cultural Marxism,” itself a ’90s-era remix of the old-school Nazi canard of “cultural Bolshevism.”

As a leftist I’m all for trying to maintain and enforce high enough standards to definitively cast people like Chait, Sullivan, or Jon Haidt out into the proverbial discursive wilderness alongside slightly less thinly-veiled racist/misogynist reactionaries like Jordan Peterson or Richard Spencer, or even tarring them with the further judgment of “false flag troll” for trying to conceal these reactionary commitments underneath an avowed dedication to egalitarian social modernity and cosmopolitanism — but you at least have to admit that this isn’t just a pure procedural maneuver to enforce universally agreed-upon standards about “trolling,” in fact it’s exactly the kind of redefinition of the boundaries of acceptable discourse that respectable centrists like Chait have spilled so much figurative online ink in theatrically bemoaning.

43

Orange Watch 11.19.18 at 3:46 pm

Raven Onthill@37:

That’s a fairly basic point, but it’s one worth explicitly underscoring. Outside of purely nihilistic “for the lulz” disruption & griefing, trolling is, to tie into another recent thread, the discourse equivalent of strategic voting. It’s an exploitation of the structure/norms of open discourse and assumptions of good faith in order to achieve specific goals that would be harder to achieve in the “intended” manner. It’s trying to game the system rather than playing the system’s game. If I can be forgiven for giving a lot of trolling more gravitas than it deserves, it’s sophistry.

44

bianca steele 11.19.18 at 5:00 pm

John Quiggin @ 13 “Anyone who engages in climate science denial is almost certain to be a troll in other respects.”

I’ve come to feel the way commenters treat women is the same kind of marker, especially on a nominally left/liberal board. If one never cites women writers, OPers, other commenters, or only does in order to make ad hom attacks, or shows respect to men of equal or lower status but to women only if they’re high-status, or shows notably more hostility to fellow commenters who are women than to men, there’s almost certainly some shady accounting go on in such a person’s head.

This is a big reason why I have little patience for writers like Scruton and some other, fairly reasonable scholars, who simply cannot write a positive review of a book by a woman, a person of color, or a liberal, yet keep accepting commissions to do so and be paid for them nevertheless. It makes me more irritable than I’d like to be, but I don’t have the time to let them lead me down the garden path, only to discover their prejudice led them to mass something obvious.

45

TM 11.19.18 at 6:38 pm

Of related interest: George Lakoff on how the media should deal with Trump’s lies:

“Notice that when you repeat something, you’re strengthening it in people’s brains. The more a neural circuit is activated, the stronger it gets. Trump is using certain communicative tactics that are very sophisticated and he doesn’t realize it.”

https://www.vox.com/2018/11/15/18047360/trump-lies-media-strategy-george-lakoff

46

Murali 11.19.18 at 7:03 pm

For some reason, a previous comment I made in reply to chetan has gone missing I’ve approved one just now, maybe that was it – JQ

47

burritoboy 11.19.18 at 8:10 pm

The problem here isn’t only opposing far right-wing trolls. Another problem – I would argue is also a serious problem – is that this is also how liberals police leftists, by pretending that the leftists are trolling them. Or how analytical philosophers attack and police all other philosophical schools.

48

Joseph Brenner 11.19.18 at 8:12 pm

TM@39: George Lakoff would not (for example) deserve to be dismissed as a troll, but he’s really a pseudo-scientist who doesn’t fundamentally have anything to back up what he says– he keeps claiming to be in touch with some cognitive super-science wisdom, but he’s fundamentally just another well-meaning lefty-liberal armchair quarterback. I being this up because that seems to be one of the subjects under discussion– is “deserves to be taken seriously” synonymous with “agrees with my political biases”. Lakoff is a good example of someone who agrees wiht my biases, but he really doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.

49

Chip Daniels 11.19.18 at 8:17 pm

Once all the conservative movement lost its animating enely of Marxism, it lost any ability to think critically or evolve.
Likewise, whatever respectable intellectual ideas it had have become part of mainstream conventional wisdom.
I mean, is there anyone who refutes Buckley’s 3 legged stool by suggesting we have a weak defense posture? Wild irresponsible spending? Lax morality?

The new governor of [The People’s Republic of] California is inheriting a budget surplus, a strong state economy, and a precedent of cautious, prudent budgeting. He was elected on the strength of social class of affluent educated bourgeoisie who emphasize stable family relationships and respect for the human person.

In other words, the conservative traditions of Burke and Kirk have found their home in mainstream liberalism, leaving the opposing movement to become a top/bottom coalition of white ethnic grievance and individual capitalist radicalism.
These two strains are almost by definition trollish since they have no reasonable core. No one can mount an honest or coherent argument for them.

50

Trader Joe 11.19.18 at 9:35 pm

I’ve been quietly puzzling over this post all day. I guess at the heart, I think quite a lot of debate involves troll techniques – two people can agree wholeheartedly for example about global warming while one might say cap and trade is the answer while the other says switch to renewable. Any number of the above techniques could be employed in service of ones position, but that won’t make them a troll.

What ultimately makes something a ‘troll’ is really a matter of intention to debate in good faith versus just being an a-hole. That’s hardly tribally limited, but I’d agree most of the mentioned pundits fill the bill (though a sincere troll could probably ring-up a similar list of left-leaning hacks).

While I fully appreciate the ‘life’s too short’ nature of the stance, I guess what rubs me wrong about the post is the notion of simply ‘banning’ such posters. It strikes me as slightly akin to shouting down someone at a rally. It’s JQ’s house, so his rules. But it seems like part of the point of a political blog is to endure a little trolling to hear out other views (even when they are wrong). I get that sometimes the signal-noise ratio prevents much constructive from happening, but echo chambers aren’t constructive either.

51

Chetan Murthy 11.19.18 at 9:59 pm

burritoboy@40: You’re right, that sometimes liberals -do- “police” leftists. Unlike you, I’ll give an example, and argue that the designation is correct. Ever hear of Duverger’s Law? It is on that basis that we find idiots Stein in 2016 [and all the other “not a dime’s worth of difference” preachers] to be trolls, plain and simple.

In political science, Duverger’s law holds that plurality-rule elections (such as first past the post) structured within single-member districts tend to favor a two-party system,

Now, a leftist can disagree with Duverger’s Law, but unless they have strong evidence [and “b/c reasons maan” isn’t] they’re going to be dismissed, just as psychics are. If one takes Duverger’s Law as a given, then (for example) being a leftist is *inconsistent* with deciding not to vote for the Hillary in 2016, regardless of how much one detests her and views her as a sellout.

So, y’know, leftists like that, they’re either idiots, or hypocrites. Or they voted like that to, “stick it to the [wo]man”. You know, to troll.

52

Chetan Murthy 11.19.18 at 10:07 pm

burritoboy@40: TL;DR This sure looks like trolling to me.
You give three examples and equate them:
(a) liberals rejecting right-wing arguments as trolling
(b) liberals rejecting leftist arguments as trolling
(c) analytic philosophers from school A rejecting arguments from school B as trolling

One hopes you recognize the logical fallacy here, but just in case: [in addition to giving -no- actual examples] #c is not like #a, #b. In both the first two cases, we can give lots of examples where there is an actual fact to the matter, and that fact is accepted beyond reasonable dispute. Whereas for the most part, #c is almost definitionally beyond facts — that’s what philosophy is.

But this conflation serves a purpose: to make #a, #b look equally ungrounded-in-reality. Bad arguments, in bad faith. Try again.

53

LFC 11.19.18 at 10:17 pm

Peter Dorman @9

I like the whole comment, but the first sentence of your second graph is esp. well put. I made the same point recently elsewhere, but not as pithily.

54

TM 11.19.18 at 10:30 pm

41: Can you point me to a scientific debunking of Lakoff’s claims?

55

John Quiggin 11.19.18 at 10:47 pm

Bianca Steele @44 A good point, and certainly one that fits with my observation of CT comments threads.

56

John Quiggin 11.19.18 at 10:52 pm

@9 I don’t think there’s any way of stopping a pejorative like “neoliberalism” or (as used by US conservatives) “socialism” being extended to any political tendency that the speaker dislikes. As the case of socialism indicates, there’s the risk that the usage will be so broad as to encompass things lots of people like, with the result that the term itself becomes favorably used.

That said, neoliberalism has a real meaning or rather two meanings, one in the US and one elsewhere

http://crookedtimber.org/2016/02/29/the-three-party-system/

57

Dave Maier 11.19.18 at 10:52 pm

J-D corrects me: “Sam Harris has a PhD in neuroscience, but he hasn’t worked as a scientist since taking the degree.”

Fair enough. I guess that’s all the competence I meant anyway.

58

ezra 11.19.18 at 11:02 pm

Max boot spent his entire adult life working for racists and trying to cut social security and take healthcare away from people

why does a simple recantment excuse him from decades of abuse ?
shouldn’t we require a more strenuous atonement ?

59

Murali 11.19.18 at 11:39 pm

John @56

Add another two senses to the term

3) A kind of technocratic wonkish sensibility e.g. Matt yglesias

4) An imposition of particular social forms (e.g. private property rights) on organically developing communities to make them legible to the state.

Ostrom IIRC comments on this tendency to replace organically formed collective solutions to collective action problems with more textbook private property based solutions which do not necessarily work as well.

60

Chetan Murthy 11.20.18 at 2:01 am

ezra@58: “why does a simple recantment excuse him from decades of abuse ?”
Maybe several answers:
(1) [tactical] I’d be happy to say a kind word for Boot in the House of Commons, in these times.[1]
(2) [generosity] He -does- seem to have recanted a decent bit of his conservatism, to be a little generous.
(3) [skeptical] But (like with Rubin) I’m *betting* that when push comes to shove (and the Dems hold the trifecta (if ever again)) he’ll revert to form. And specifically, I’m assuming he’s still a “national security conservative” (like Rubin is, as she has demonstrated on her blog in recent months).

I think #1 is the important bit.

[1] As Winston Churchill said about the Devil, alluding to Stalin.

61

Chetan Murthy 11.20.18 at 6:03 am

Murali @38: OK, let’s take your two examples:

(1) immigration restrictions: True, there are influential progressives who argue for open borders. Lemme see if I need more than one hand to count ’em all …. nope. Almost all influential progressive legislators argue for two things: (a) regularization of those folks who are already here, and (b) enforcement of laws against EMPLOYERS in order to reduce DEMAND for undocumented immigrants. And this is -different- from decent treatment for those seeking asylum, esp. (e.g.) from countries that we spent a good part of the last century destroying. Y’know, like El Salvador, or Guatemala. [Not merely] B/c we’re signatory to many international conventions guaranteeing such decent treatment. There’s a vigorous debate here.

(2) property rights. People who start with “property rights are inalienable and given by God” or some such, and argue that they can do whatever they want with their property, refuse to admit any other sort of “property rights”. Like, say, to clean air, or clean water. Their usual response to such things is “show me your deed to clean air”. At which point, they’re tacitly admitting that the reason they have property rights is that the state codified and enforces them. The same sort of folks believe that intellectual property has precisely the same sort of status as real property, even though the former is -expressly- created by government. First, it’s the “Rule-Standard switcheroo” from David’s (above) “Prima Facie Logical Fallacies” link (they want to define what “property” is). But second, that which the state creates and grants, the state can destroy or revoke. And of course, when it comes to many other rights (like, say, the right to declare bankruptcy) they fully believe this.

Why do I call this trolling? B/c I define trolling as more than just about “pissing off the libs”. It’s also about bad-faith argumentation, not designed to actually prove one’s point, but rather, to obscure and mislead. Just so, as I’ve described above, with “propertarians” (I guess you called them). In short, “bullshit” (Harry Frankfurt’s definition) is trolling. Now, you might argue that this example is just a case of “lazy reasoning”. And sure, if it were 1950, or whenever that Pinochet apologist asshole Hayek came up with this shit, I might accept it. But it’s not 1950, and they don’t get a mulligan after a half-century of “lazy reasoning”.

Frankfurt tells us that there’s always a hidden agenda in bullshit. Something -else- entirely different from the surface subjectx of discussion, that the troll is trying to put over on us. And in this case, it’s “What’s mine is mine, sucks to be you”. It’s precisely as Frank Wilhoit said: “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition …There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”

Care to give other examples?

62

Chetan Murthy 11.20.18 at 6:13 am

Murali@38: I think this is really important. I worked for many years with enterprise I/T salesfolk, as they sold software/hardware to the Global 1000, and esp. banks/insurance companies. There’s a saying: “a good salesman never knows too much about the product; it gets in the way of being sincere with the customer”. I’ve seen this in action, -heard- a salesman say it to his colleague when he thought I wasn’t listening. Sincerity counts for NOTHING. Nothing.

I didn’t see this the first time:

Trolling is about saying something just to provoke a reaction or just to gain attention. It follows that if someone is sincere, even if unacceptably sloppy in their reasoning they are not trolling since whenever you sincerely assert that P you are not saying it just to gain attention or provoke a reaction.

Have you read “On Bullshit”? The punchline: “Sincerity is bullshit”. I figured this was worth calling-out separately, b/c I disagree about the definition of trolling. Let’s take the case of The Insult Comedian, aka Kaiser Quisling. During the campaign he took lots of positions, all over the map. Now, was he sincere? We can’t know, can we? And per Frankfurt, we don’t need to know. He was doing what every salesman for swampland in Florida ever did: saying what the buyer needs, to sign on the dotted line. It’s that simple. He didn’t care about the truth or falsehood of the arguments he made — only about making the sale.

And to me, that’s trolling. B/c you can’t have reasoned discourse with someone who doesn’t actually care about whether he’s right.

63

nastywoman 11.20.18 at 12:17 pm

@trolling – and
@62 ”I disagree about the definition of trolling”

You don’t have to –
Just take a different definition – like what’s about the definition from a German Dude who wrote a book on ”troll culture”?

„Trolling ist the act of disrupting people for personal amusement or the amusement of many.“

That’s why a lot of blogs even used to employ ”trolls” in order to get some more ”amusement”. And there are these rumors – that even some of the most ”sincere” -(and serious) US bloggers -(like for example ”The Great Greenwald”) – trolled themselves -(”sock-puppeting”) with very disruptive comments in order to get some very, VERY ”serious” conversations going?

– but on the other hand – there is always the definition of the urban dictionary:
”Trolling – (verb), as it relates to internet, is the deliberate act, (by a Troll – noun or adjective), of making random unsolicited and/or controversial comments on various internet forums with the intent to provoke an emotional knee jerk reaction from unsuspecting –
OR SUSPECTING?-
– readers to engage in a fight or argument
Trolling on-line forums as described above is actually analogous to the fishing technique of “trolling”, where colorful baits and lures are pulled behind a slow moving boat, often with multiple fishing lines, covering a large bodies of water, such as a large lake or the ocean. The trolling lures attract unsuspecting fish, intriguing them with the way they move through the water, thus enticing these foolish fish to “take the bait”. Not unlike unsuspecting internet victims, once hooked, the fish are reeled in for the catch before they realize they have been duped by the Troll/Fisherman.

64

WLGR 11.20.18 at 3:52 pm

Chetan Murthy, I guess it’s futile to hope that that nearly two decades since the Gore/Nader kerfuffle would be long enough that such typically simplistic centrist liberal takes on “lesser-evil” voting would have run their course and dissolved like a turd in a giant circular human centipede, but in any case the basic rejoinder from the left should be easy to fathom for anybody with a head on their shoulders. Yes, leftists who break ranks from the nominally left-wing of two major parties (or abstain from voting altogether) are consciously risking the possibility of a more right-wing outcome in any given election — but since elections aren’t one-off events, in fact believe it or not are often repeated at regular intervals, the instrumental reasoning for leftists is to issue a corrective to the nominally left-wing major party for drifting too far to the right, incentivizing it to move further left in future elections, and accordingly, the instrumental reasoning for centrists to delegitimize this strategy the way you’re doing is to prevent the party from being successfully dragged to the left. As easy as it is for the concept of “game theory” to be invoked as little more than a memefied veneer of pseudointellectual gobbledygook (Eric Garland to the white courtesy telephone please) this is still the kind of extremely basic game theory reasoning that a Wikipedia-level summary of the prisoner’s dilemma would explain quite clearly.

I say this as someone far enough to the left that I tend to doubt the utility of electoralism in the long term at all, so I’m not necessarily even claiming this medium-term leftist electoral strategy as my own… but come on, it’s a perfectly serious and legitimate strategy, neither “trolling” nor even particularly hard to understand unless you’re actively trying not to, and frankly you’re only embarrassing yourself by depicting such a sophomoric argument against it as some inherently unbeatable trump card.

65

Will Boisvert 11.20.18 at 7:34 pm

Quiggin, since you’ve identified Christina Hoff Sommers and Jonathan Haidt as trolls, how would that translate into concrete actions?

1. If Sommers or Haidt were to enter this thread to defend themselves against trolling charges, would you delete their comments and ban them? Or just not reply to them?

2. If you were invited to a widely televised debate against Sommers or Haidt on a subject you feel strongly about, would you decline because they are trolls?

3. Do you call for intellectuals to refuse to engage with Sommers and Haidt, to not talk to them or about them?

4. Do you call for publishers and lecture organizers to boycott Sommers and Haidt, to not publish their writing or book them for lectures?

5. Would you support or oppose protests that block access to events where Sommers and Haidt are speaking or that go into the venue and try to shout them down?

66

musical mountaineer 11.20.18 at 8:56 pm

Thanks for this thread JQ. As someone who has been accused of trolling here before, I may as well use this space to remind you of my endlessly-annoying existence.

Here’s my friendly recommendation to get rid of all Trolls: enforce a policy of Don’t Feed The Troll.

What do Trolls feed upon? The negative emotional reactions of others. Trolls get a sick high from making other people be upset.

Individuals participating in these threads have the individual option to not be upset by Trolls. It is a kind of peculiar mannerism to be concerned what a Troll thinks. Far better to retain your self-composure and engage, if you will, at your own choice and leisure. If every participant enforced this rule upon himself, Trolls would have zero shelf-life here.

And if some participant should happen to lose his composure and Feed The Troll, I would recommend censoring the comment. I myself have often been the object of expletive-laden tirades here. If I was the kind of guy who enjoyed that sort of thing, you would be remiss to let me enjoy it at the expense of the community. Decency goes both ways.

You don’t kill Trolls by whacking them with a hammer. You kill Trolls by denying them meat.

67

Chetan Murthy 11.20.18 at 11:16 pm

WLGR@64:

I’m not trolling you when I say: Shorter WLGR@64: “Heighten the contradictions”, viz

the instrumental reasoning for leftists is to issue a corrective to the nominally left-wing major party for drifting too far to the right, incentivizing it to move further left in future elections

Because that sure seems to be the distillation of your position, when it isn’t “Political power grows from the barrel of a gun”, viz

I tend to doubt the utility of electoralism in the long term at all

With positions like these, why should anyone take you seriously?

Serious response #1: yes COMMA the time to do this “pulling the Dems to the left, is in primaries”.

Serious response #2: you haven’t disputed Duverger’s Law at all. You just believe that somehow, losing will cause the Dems to become more leftist. When ALL EVIDENCE is that that’s not what happened in real life, when they lost in the 80s. Instead, they moved to the RIGHT.

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John Quiggin 11.20.18 at 11:20 pm

Will B @65

1. Since I’ve named them, it would be unfair not to allow a right of reply.
2. Can you suggest what such a topic might be? The point of the OP is that these trolls don’t engage in debate on any substantive topic.
3.-5. I’m making my own choice to ignore the trolls, not telling other people what to do. But no-platforming (as opposed to peaceful protest) is silly and counterproductive in nearly all cases. In particular, it plays into the hands of victim trolls like Sommers.

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Chetan Murthy 11.21.18 at 12:03 am

nastywoman@63: Fair cop. I’ve always used the definition “people who piss up my leg and tell me it’s raining”, but I grant that that’s not the commonly-used definition.

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Donald 11.21.18 at 12:51 am

“And if some participant should happen to lose his composure and Feed The Troll, I would recommend censoring the comment. I myself have often been the object of expletive-laden tirades here. If I was the kind of guy who enjoyed that sort of thing, you would be remiss to let me enjoy it at the expense of the community. Decency goes both ways.”

It isn’t always easy to identify trolls. At a couple of other blogs I have been mistaken for one. I wasn’t trolling, but people get mad at dissenters from whatever the local party line happens to be and then reach for the nearest insult.

That said, the advice above is naive. There are people who will clutter up a thread with endless polite nonsense and arguments simply bounce off them. I’ve seen it. Probably everyone has if you waste significant amounts of time online. At a certain point, people lose patience and rightly so.

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Faustusnotes 11.21.18 at 1:08 am

Actually mountaineer, the standard way to kill trolls, in the absence of a flamethrower, is to smash them with a hammer and then burn the body. The reason starving them doesn’t work is that they’re trying to eat you, usually.

A little attention to basic facts here please!!

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Chetan Murthy 11.21.18 at 1:27 am

nastywoman@63: I do wonder one thing, though: how do you discern which of various manifestly dishonest arguments is trolling, and which is just, well, y’know, dishonest argumentation? How do you tell which people are sincere, and which are insincerely trying to infuriate? For instance, I never thought Haidt was trolling. I thought he was actually arguing sincerely [ok, except for when he says he’s a “liberal” — gotta draw the line somewhere]. This didn’t change that I thought his arguments were bullshit, designed to excuse patriarchal iniquity.

Perhaps the real line here isn’t between [what is unknowable] whether someone is intentionally arguing in a manner designed to piss-off and infuriate, but rather, whether
[what -is- knowable] some is so -manifestly- arguing in that manner, that it’s undeniable?

I can understand that latter position, btw. There are a lot of trolls out there who fit that latter description.

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oldster 11.21.18 at 1:27 am

On a related point:

CT used to have unmoderated comments: write your screed, hit “submit”, and it shows up on the screen.

Now, comments have to be posted manually by a front-pager, and it can take hours.

I think it’s a big improvement.

Yes, I miss some of the old-fashioned, high-speed back and forth. But it was probably not very high-quality interaction. Slowing it down does not make it worse.

And presumably it allows the front-pagers to simply decline to post particularly egregious contributions.

So–thanks for instituting this change!

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Collin Street 11.21.18 at 2:12 am

I just wanna point out that:
+ the state of the art in community management has moved on since the mid-90s (ie, twenty-five years)
+ do not feed the trolls originated from usenet, which had poor moderation tools by modern standards
+ usenet largely collapsed twenty years as a direct consequence of the development of better moderated web spaces
+ this is all well-documented:

Basically there’s no way you can propose “do not feed the trolls” as any significant part of a serious solutionis the point. Oddly enough, “I have strongly-held and ill-founded opinions” and “you have an obligation to listen to anybody’s opinions no matter how ill-founded” are things that tend to cooccur.

(do not feed the trolls is worthless inter alia because there’s no limit to the offensiveness a person can frame. It’s basically equivalent to absolute-non-violent pacifism, without the key bonus of”I don’t hurt people” that that has. And honestly this is all obvious enough that in this space I kinda feel I’m insulting people’s intelligence by putting it in words)

I’ve deleted some gratuitous abuse. Please save me the trouble next time – JQ

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phenomenal car 11.21.18 at 5:21 am

Why did my comment from yesterday not appear? Lost to the void? Or was i deemed to be trolling?

Coarse language. I don’t like swearing in comments, and didn’t have time to check whether it was trolling. Write it again in line with the comments policy and I’ll post it – JQ

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faustusnotes 11.21.18 at 5:39 am

To add to Collin Street’s points about feeding trolls… this strategy only works if everyone does it, and if a few people break the rule the atmosphere gets ruined regardless of your efforts (I try not to feed kidneystones, for example, but usually when he shows up in a thread I have to give up on that thread because of the way his antics suffocate conversation); this strategy means that the lies and bullshit these people put out there go unchallenged, which means that they slowly pile up over the internet and lurkers may believe them (or assume their lack of challenge is proof of their truth); ignoring bullies never ever works – the only way to deal with bullies is to smash them, and smash them so hard that they stop bullying; in real life nobody deals with their unpleasant racist uncle by trying not to argue back with them, we deal with it by avoiding the places they go, which makes them think that they are tougher and more serious than their (usually younger) victims, and slowly cedes public space to them.

If trolls get routinely banned from every community they troll they will soon find out that trolling is no fun, and change their behavior. Part of the reason that globe-spanning trolls like Peterson and Shapiro continue to troll the way they do is that they have received zero punishment for their behavior. Until we show these people that they need to change their ways, they won’t change their ways.

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nastywoman 11.21.18 at 5:45 am

@72
”I do wonder one thing, though: how do you discern which of various manifestly dishonest arguments is trolling, and which is just, well, y’know, dishonest argumentation”?

– if the definition of ”trolling” is ”the act of disrupting people for personal amusement or the amusement of many.“ it doesn’t matter much…?

How do you tell which people are sincere, and which are insincerely trying to infuriate?

Once upon a time -(when small caps still ruled) – it was considered kind of ”a good thing” that ”THE internet” -(or anybody on the internet) was ”infuriating” or ”provocating” or writing whatever or however anybody liked to write – (and nobody dragged a line anywhere) – BUT then -(like everywhere – where there aren’t any ”rules” or ”structure”) – the ”Sincere” showed up – and the ”serious” ones – AND most annoying ”the grammar police”.

And THEN as it all evolved (not only) Jon Stewart started to joke:

It was/is on the Internet!

– and how do people NOT even joke lately:

”THE internet is -(or has become?) an a..hole”!

And as ”THE internet” might be ”an a…hole” everybody on there/here might be more or less a –
Troll?

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Murali 11.21.18 at 8:53 am

Chetan @61

I’m not sure how your response on the immigration bit is a) relevant or b) in response to anything I actually said. If it was not obvious, I think borders should be open or nearly so (or at least far more open than they currently are). Lots of Trumpists and and even many leftists (or at least people who self identify as such) disagree with me about this. Some of this is on the basis of empirical disagreement. The rest of it is on the basis of disagreement about certain normative principles. I think that I do have an argument to show that my own principles are correct. But I have better things to do than to provide those arguments to people who reject those principles. My point is that there are going to be circumstances where the effort of arguing for certain principles is going to be so prohibitive to make it not worth doing. This would be so even if my interlocutors were committed to making only true assertions. Therefore, there can be people who are not worth arguing with who are not trolls.

@62

At some point this looks like a merely verbal disagreement. I want to define trolling more narrowly than you do. But real disagreements do not rest on these definitional differences. Suppose the relevant moral property is bad faith. On this view, the fact that a person argues in bad faith, is a reason to feel frustrated about their beliefs, to dismiss them, to ignore them or something along those lines. The question then is whether you have a plausible account of bad faith.

On your view someone argues or asserts in bad faith whenever they do not care about the truth or falsity of their assertions. But this formulation is too imprecise. This is because caring about something is not a binary (all or nothing) thing, it is a matter of degree. We might then distinguish two versions of the principle. On the first version, someone does not argue in bad faith if there is any degree whatsoever to which they care about the truth/falsity of their statements. The problem with this, is that then almost nobody argues in bad faith except perhaps people who are trolling on my definition.

On the second version, it is not enough to care about the truth or falsity of one’s statements to one degree or another, there is some threshold below which if you do not care about truth/falsity enough you are arguing in bad faith. On this view, you might be sincere in your assertions, but since you reason poorly because you don’t care enough about the truth you are still arguing in bad faith. This fits more with how you want to account for whether we have good reason regard various sorts of conservatives and libertarians as arguing in bad faith. The problem with your view is that it still seems too demanding. You overestimate the extent to which arguments and counterarguments percolate through the public culture (to the extent there is a public culture about this. Libertarianism is sufficiently peripheral to the public culture that the kinds of replies to propertarianism that you think should be obvious to everyone are not in fact obvious and are known mostly to those who obsessively look for them.)

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bad Jim 11.21.18 at 8:56 am

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, the season for wondering how to handle right-wing uncles. As the senior uncle in my liberal family I take umbrage; the only conservative in the family is my sister’s son, who takes turkey with his wife’s family.

He’s a bit of a troll, at least on Facebook. I would not put his global warming denial or opposition to gay marriage into that category, as nonsensical as they seem. However, attacking Elizabeth Warren for the insufficiency of her Native American ancestry, or ranting about the shortage of Republicans in higher education, can hardly be regarded as serious contributions to enlightened discourse. Immigrants, of course, are stealing our jobs and living large on welfare.

Outrage is addictive, and peddling outrage is profitable. Rage is stoked, and the anger is sincere, no matter how distant the perceived offense from reality. When both sides have different facts to bolster their arguments, trust is lost, the ceremony of innocence is drowned.

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engels 11.21.18 at 11:06 am

I don’t really agree with this for the reasons Donald describes: my experience of blogs is if you’re a few degrees left or right of the centre of mass of wherever you’re commenting you quickly get treated as a troll; otoh there are usually people whose only real contribution is to pedantically or abusively defend the party line or the OPs’ personal honour who get endless licence to do that. I’m not opposed to speech rules but imho it would be better to have clear ones based on content and process rather than referring to half-empty internet concepts like ‘trolling’.

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WLGR 11.21.18 at 3:44 pm

Chetan Murthy, like it or not the critique of liberal-democratic electoral politics has a rich tradition in serious political theory, a tradition that people in philosophical settings like this one have traditionally grappled with even if they may disagree. If you’re really that eager to blithely dismiss those kinds of critiques as inherently beyond the pale, why should anyone here take you seriously?

I understand that “heighten the contradictions” and “political power grows from the barrel of a gun” are both easily quotable memes for non-leftists scrambling to pretend they have any understanding of basic precepts of leftist thought, but neither is really related to the argument I’m making. What the strategy I described tries to do is drag the Democratic Party to the left by appealing to the party’s political self-interest in purely liberal-democratic electoral terms, explicitly saying “if you move too far to the right, we’ll withdraw our support from you, and without that support you’ll lose.” Not only is that strategy entirely consistent with a narrow first-past-the-post two-party system (the state of affairs observed in “Duverger’s Law”) but in fact it’s really only consistent with such a system: a freer and fairer electoral system with procedures like ranked-choice voting or proportional representation would allow leftist parties and politicians to make these kinds of center-left coalition decisions after having clawed out a solid foothold in the electoral system, as opposed to a system like the US where operating in coalition with the center is an inherent requirement for the left to meaningfully participate in electoral politics at all. The strategy I described is basically a way for the electoral left to play hardball with the center in negotiating the terms of that coalition, and if there’s a reason the Democratic Party has been consistently moving right for decades now, at least part of it has to do with the way people like you have been conditioned to reflexively reject a hardball strategy like that as inherently out of bounds.

Why I’m skeptical of that strategy has to do with the suspicion that appealing to the Democratic Party establishment’s political self-interest in purely liberal-democratic electoral terms is a futile endeavor, based on a deeper understanding of who these people are and who they represent: in short, they’d rather be a corporate-aligned centrist party and lose, which would let them remain members in good standing of the ruling elite with easy access to well-funded sinecures at lobbying firms and think tanks and the like, than be a labor-aligned leftist party and win. To me this goes a long way toward explaining why the Democratic Party has responded to separatist electoral tendencies like that of Ralph Nader not merely with opposition, which would be understandable, but above and beyond that with perpetual “two minutes hate” level frenzies to delegitimize and demonize such tendencies in a way that only alienates their supporters even further from the Democratic-voting fold, thus ironically indulging the exact same sort of counterproductive anti-pragmatic moral grandstanding they attribute to those people in the first place. (As Nathan Robinson presciently wrote in September of 2016, “Democrats seem to have a better thought-out plan for how to blame leftists for allowing Trump to get elected than they do for how to actually defeat Trump.”)

To put it another way, if you want to know why I’m skeptical of the electoral-leftist strategy I outlined, it has to do with the ideological horse-blinders you yourself are wearing right now in this very conversation to prevent yourself from understanding that strategy, and why the centrist liberal establishment might have perfectly pragmatic self-interested reasons to allow or even encourage that kind of willful ignorance to persist. And if such bad-faith rhetorical tactics to deliberately short-circuit the possibility of basic inquiry are part of what qualifies as trolling, then on this issue both you and the centrist elites of the Democratic Party could reasonably be regarded as trolls.

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musical mountaineer 11.21.18 at 5:32 pm

I acknowledge the comments that DFTT is not adequate anti-Troll policy.

DFTT is, of course, effective against common-or-garden trolls. And I do envision a wider appreciation of DFTT as a way to make conversations more free-wheeling and sincere.

But then, yeah. There are earnest clods who will block out the sun with their walls of futile text. If people like that can’t be reformed, they may as well be banned and there’s no reason the process shouldn’t be pretty crisp.

If you’re going to comment in Brainiakistan, it seems to me you have two basic responsibilities. One, be sincere, even if you’re only sincerely crazy. Two, be interesting. Anything you put out there should have at least the potential of introducing a useful perspective or even changing someone’s mind a little.

Of course I can’t tell you how to run your website; I have no idea what it costs. If it was my responsibility, I guess I’d strive for the following ideal:

1 Wall of Not Very Good Text: let pass
2 Walls of Not Very Good Text: set trigger
3 Walls of Not Very Good Text: Censor comment with warning to quit this thread and keep it brief in the future, or else.
4 Defiance of either stipulation in warning: ban.

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anon/portly 11.21.18 at 9:38 pm

Put simply. the IDW and others are trolls. Their object is not to put forward ideas, or even to mount a critique, but to annoy and disrupt their targets (us).

Concern trolls: Jonathan Haidt is the leading example. Keep[s] trying to explain how the extreme lunacy of the far right is really the fault of the left for pointing out the lunacy of the mainstream right.

I understand the idea that in the public arena people make comments that are essentially “trolling” – in the US context, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh immediately come to mind. But even with someone like Coulter, I see her not as primarily caring whether she annoys or disrupts her targets, I see her main purpose as furthering a certain set of ideas (and her career) by trolling – ridiculing, really – her targets.

Anyway you can find many CT commenters (not the bloggers, the commenters) using similar techniques. Look at comment 33 in this thread:

Recent viewpoints that have become mainstream in the US right: 1. The Jew is using the black as muscle (to quote the Blues Brothers) 2. There were good people on both sides of neo-nazi violence 3. Climate change is a hoax (this is old news now obviously) 4. Just because you gang-raped a few chicks doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on the supreme court

The third one actually is a mainstream view, but the first one is a somewhat obscure neo-Nazi idea (in the actual right-wing mainstream, the main attitude vis-à-vis Jews is love of Israel); the second one derives from a single idiotic Trump statement – not every idiotic thing Trump has said is a mainstream right-wing view, not yet; and the last one is pure Coulterism. No one thinks there’s any compelling evidence that Kavanaugh ever gang-raped anyone – John Holbo ran several posts here at CT that explicitly incorporated this belief. Clearly with 4 (and arguably with 1 and 2) faustusnotes is ascribing views to people that he knows they don’t hold as a means of ridiculing their actual views. (Or else he’s just being a nut).

Is Haidt a Coulter? I’m not sure which of his arguments amount to blaming the left for stupid ideas held by the right. Looking at his Wikipedia page and his articles in the Atlantic, I see Haidt arguing for greater civility in political discourse and arguing against ideas like “microaggression” and “safe space” and so on.

From Wikipedia:

In chapter 8 of The Righteous Mind, Haidt describes how he began to study political psychology in order to help the Democratic Party win more elections, but in chapter 12 [he] argues that each of the major political groups—conservatives, progressives, and libertarians—have valuable insights and that truth and good policy emerge from the contest of ideas. Since 2012, Haidt has referred to himself as a political centrist. Haidt is involved with several efforts to help bridge the political divide and reduce political polarization in the United States. In 2007, he founded the website CivilPolitics.org, a clearinghouse for research on political civility. He serves on the advisory boards of Represent.Us., a non-partisan anticorruption organization, the Acumen Fund, which invests in companies, leaders, and ideas that are changing the way the world tackles poverty; and Better-Angels.org, a bipartisan group working to reduce political polarization. Three of his four TED talks are on the topic of understanding and reducing political divisions.

I find it hard to believe that Haidt’s points about political divisiveness fail to rise to the level of a “critique,” or that they are merely put forward to annoy “us,” whoever that is. (Although the rhetoric of JQ and the other CT bloggers is often dismissive and critical of right-wing ideas, for the most part – maybe Chris Bertram is an exception, I’m not sure – I don’t see him and them advocating for strategies to amplify political division specifically).

I don’t think this is any kind of “nothing” issue – I think it’s a crucial issue. Vox.com puts out a lot of wacky stuff, but I thought this interview with Joe Trippi, the campaign manager for Doug Jones (the Alabama Senator who beat Roy Moore), was brilliant:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/12/26/16810116/doug-jones-alabama-polls-roy-moore

Although you often (not just in the CT comments section) see claims along the lines of “when they (the R’s) go low, we should go low,” I think Trippi is really on to something, and people should listen to someone who helped beat a Republican in a “+28 Trump” state. Just a couple of weeks ago a lot of other Democrats won (or almost won) in “red” states or districts and I think the typical strategy employed in those races was to emphasize the “liability” aspect of Trumpism (the fact that most people dislike him) by differentiating themselves from him, not by trying to appear more like him.

Although saying that “the extreme lunacy of the far right is really the fault of the left” is wrong, what if you changed “really” to “partly?” I would say it then becomes right. Especially in a two-party system, if one side adopts an idiotic idea or ideas, isn’t this often going to be at least in part “enabled” (or something like that) by the other side’s response, or by the other party’s ideas? Let’s say that a lot of voters in swing states have dim views of things like “microaggressions” and “safe spaces.” If these things make the left in general look stupid or authoritarian or in thrall to bad ideas, maybe it’s good that people like Haidt are out there arguing against them.

In the one case where JQ touches on a “Haidt issue” specifically, he doesn’t disagree with Haidt, he agrees. From 68:

But no-platforming (as opposed to peaceful protest) is silly and counterproductive in nearly all cases. In particular, it plays into the hands of victim trolls like Sommers.

If it didn’t play into the hands of victim trolls, would it become sensible and productive? I can’t believe JQ believes that….

Bonus point:

79 However, attacking Elizabeth Warren for the insufficiency of her Native American ancestry … can hardly be regarded as serious contributions to enlightened discourse.

Forget about wacky nephews, what’s going to happen in the Democratic primaries, if Warren runs? What might look like an opportunity for “trolling” to a right-wing person might look like a hanging curveball (or “full toss”) to a Democrat running against Warren.

84

J-D 11.21.18 at 9:57 pm

faustusnotes

To add to Collin Street’s points about feeding trolls… this strategy only works if everyone does it, and if a few people break the rule the atmosphere gets ruined regardless of your efforts (I try not to feed kidneystones, for example, but usually when he shows up in a thread I have to give up on that thread because of the way his antics suffocate conversation)

Once I figured out the kidneystones schtick, I pretty much stopped reading all comments by kidneystones/ph (I’ll catch a line or two as I scroll past, or from other commenters’ quotes, but that’s all), and I find that works pretty well for me.

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Patrick 11.21.18 at 10:29 pm

Well, best of luck with this rule.

I definitely understand why you want it, and I definitely think that there are plenty of conservatives out there arguing in bad faith.

But I think you’ll have trouble with it. Part of what ideologies do is connect concepts in ways that are, for lack of a better word, stupid and illogical. The result is that people can, in what subjectively feels like good faith, strenuously insist on the truth of things that, to an outside observer, are objectively impossible for a fully rational, fully self aware person to simultaneously believe in good faith.

I think some of the CT royalty are in the thrall of those sorts of ideologies.

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M Caswell 11.21.18 at 10:43 pm

One thing that would explain the persistence of trolling, and the difficulty of discouraging it, is if the trolled- to some extent- enjoy being trolled.

As Achilles knew, anger drips like honey down the throat.

87

engels 11.21.18 at 11:04 pm

Would I be right in thinking Kidbeystones was the only commenter here to predict the Trump win? (A genuine question as there’s honestly nothing I’d like to do less than search back through comments threads from that time…)

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J-D 11.21.18 at 11:23 pm

WLGR

There’s plenty of evidence that people have achieved a lot by operating outside electoral politics, and thus evidence that the strategy of operating outside electoral politics is a useful one.

What evidence is there of success for the strategy of pulling the Democratic Party to the left by voting for the Green Presidential candidate? How long would a reasonable trial period for this strategy run?

anon/portly

Just a couple of weeks ago a lot of other Democrats won (or almost won) in “red” states or districts …

Democrats won two Senate seats from Republicans, in Arizona (Trump +2) and Nevada (Clinton +2), and seven governorships, in Illinois (Clinton +17), Kansas (Trump +21), Maine (Clinton +3), Michigan (Trump +0.2), New Mexico (Clinton +8), Nevada (Clinton +2), and Wisconsin (Trump +1). I haven’t checked all the House results (or any index of partisanship apart from the 2016 presidential election results).

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faustusnotes 11.22.18 at 1:40 am

J-D this has been my approach, but I don’t stick to it with iron discipline and when I see him make outrageously false claims I like to dispute them in case someone reading might mistake anything he writes for an important truth.

anon/portly, I’m not sure if what you are doing is wishful thinking or concern trolling (your last paragraph makes me think the latter), but in either case it’s seriously wrong. Let us consider:

1. The Jew is using the black man as muscle: this is an idea now repeatedly expressed by the president, supported by senior cabinet and congress allies, blasted all over Fox news and recently reiterated by supposed non-troll “intellectuals” as Scruton. It’s the reason, along with the related nazi idea that all leftism is Jewish, that Central European University is leaving Hungary. At this point you cannot dismiss this as an obscure view.

2. There were good people on both sides: It’s true that this is a slight exaggeration, because nobody in the modern American right thinks there were good people on the side of the anti-fascists. This is a view, let us remember, that was put forward by the President. He is supported by a bunch of republican congresspeople who associate with neo nazis, broadcast their views, and use their views in election campaigns – Steve King, the lynch-friendly woman who’s about to go to a runoff and nowheresville, Trump Jr., de Santis, and a bunch of other ne’er do wells are all in on this.

3. Climate change is a hoax is not a mainstream idea. Nobody believes it except the right.

4. Just because you gang-raped a few chicks doesn’t mean you can’t be on teh supreme court: this isn’t just Coulter. The NRO had a beers for Kavanaugh party, Trump said the man had been done wrong, and a bunch of other leading conservative figures supported the idea that youthful “indiscretion” should not be disqualifying. I note here that whether there is compelling evidence is irrelevant – the usual suspects have made this belief clear when they refused to investigate in case they found compelling evidence.

As an aside, I would like to point out that “micro-aggressions” is a serious and solid idea, and if you (as I have) live in a genuinely foreign country for more than a micro second you’ll understand the concept immediately. It’s hilarious to see all the white american good ole boys who rock up sushiside and suddenly discover themselves the victims of regular micro-aggressions, who implicitly and immediately understand the concept. A reminder of the most important adage in modern culture: just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it don’t make sense. If Haidt “argues” (to use the term loosely) against this then he’s an ignorant fool who understands nothing about race and racism.

Finally, you address the Warren “controversy” in exactly the way a concern troll would. She spent years being abused for supposed racial crimes, in an entirely manufactured right wing controversy which included the absolutely ludicrous idea that she was treated better at law school because of her native American heritage (top tip: native Americans don’t get treated better by white people). Now you want everyone on the left to disqualify her from office because she’s been trolled for years by vicious thugs. Here’s an idea: drive the vicious thugs out of polite society, and don’t give in to their bullying. But I get the impression that that is not what you want – they serve a useful purpose, like lions patrolling the edge of a herd to cull any animal that strays too far.

90

faustusnotes 11.22.18 at 3:06 am

WLGR, the problem that I see with your strategy is that in a system with voluntary voting and poor turnout, the centre-left party you abstain from voting for has no way to identify whether you’re abstaining because they aren’t left enough or because they aren’t right enough. I’ve seen this in action in Australia since 1996, when people started leaving the Labour party for the Greens, and the Labour Party responded by drifting to the right. The only time they have been pinned back is when they were forced to share power with the Greens. This is in a compulsory voting system with very high turnout, where they can make a reasonable judgement that they’re being abandoned for an alternative party, but even there their response to this abandonment has been to shift right.

I think they do this for different reasons, but risks strengthening the right. In a system like the US with no viable third parties, they interpret the abandonment of the vote as a sign they aren’t right-wing enough, and shift to the right. Where there is a third party, there is a risk they will see the political concessions they need to make as too radical, and try instead to seize voters from the right wing party. If the Democrats are truly focused on the goals you say they are in your second paragraph (appeasing the right for easy votes) then this strategy of abstention will surely make them think the easier strategy is to grab the low-hanging right-wing fruit. This temptation will be strenghtened by the regional power of the senate, which means that they need to grab some conservative states to win the senate.

The alternative to this abstention is what we have seen actually happening in the Dems since Obama, which is young left wing people getting involved in the party and trying to drag it to the left from within, which strengthens its electoral appeal and sends the message that going left works. But for that strategy to work, people have to hold their nose and vote for a party that is imperfect, in the hope that they can send the message that they will vote if it heads left. I think the party got that message very clearly this election. But in 2020, with the senate and the presidency on the line, everyone needs to hold their nose and vote this fascist out, no matter how ordinary the Democrats look.

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nastywoman 11.22.18 at 5:11 am

on the other hand –
”As for the word troll, it may be related to common germanic truzlon which like old high germanic trollen means ”running with small steps”. Trolls basically include all sociale mythic creatures, eg. giants, dwarfs, pixies, though in later Scandinavian tradition trolls have become known for their strong family ties.

The word dwarf/dværg is also common germanic and is also often used about the illnesses caused by these creatures. It may be derived from the indoeuropean verb dhreugh meaning deceive (Danish ‘at bedrage’) – and here is a quick list of Scandinavian names for the creatures we generally call ‘trolls’:

Denmark: bjergfolk, højfolk, bakkefolk, de underjordiske, puslinger, vætter, trolde
Sweden: vättar, bolvättar, underbyggarna, de underjordiska, bergsrån, troll (Southern Sweden), älvorna (speciality: dance) in the whole of Sweden, but no important role in folk tradition, vittra/vittror (Northern Sweden)
Norway: Haugtussar, haugfolk, tuftefolk, underjordiske, rorefolk
Norway/Iceland/Faroes: huldre, huldrefolk (general term for troll)
Germany: Wichten (same as vætter)

So seriously thinking about changing the moniker into ”Wicht” or ”Underbyggarna”?

92

Birdie 11.22.18 at 6:05 am

In days of yore trolling was trailing a hook in the hope of catching a nutritious fish: wandering about in search of game. Later, an assumed contrarian stance in conversation for the same purpose. Asking challenging questions or making stimulating remarks needn’t be invariably considered insulting, but (like irony) such devices seem to be unusable in the present situation, eg engles @80. Sad!

93

Faustusnotes 11.22.18 at 10:23 am

I think you’re right Engels, kidney stones got that right, but he was lucky. And everyone arguing against him didn’t know about Russian ratfucking. And a troll being occasionally right doesn’t make him worth listening to.

94

WLGR 11.22.18 at 2:47 pm

faustusnotes, this…

If the Democrats are truly focused on the goals you say they are in your second paragraph (appeasing the right for easy votes)

…isn’t even remotely close to what I’m saying.

What I’m saying is that the Democrats, like any other major-party establishment in a comparable two-party system, are primarily focused on remaining in the good graces of the wealthy and powerful, a goal that directly conflicts with trying to attract a mass voter base on a remotely leftist platform. Accordingly, the reason they move to the right isn’t because they somehow inexplicably have no way of knowing that their voters (including potential voters) would prefer a move to the left — they’re perfectly able to read the polling data that consistently shows clear public support for broad social-democratic redistributionist policies, just as well as anybody else can — rather it’s because even though they know full well that their voters would prefer a move to the left, and moving to the left would give them the best chance of defeating the fascist far right at the ballot box, they still don’t want to do it anyway.

So no, the center-left’s predilection for punching left and moving right has nothing to do with attracting “easy votes,” let alone having “no way to identify” why people despise them, it’s that punching left and moving right are more important to them than winning elections at all. Which, by the way, means that no matter how histrionically they criticize the left for its alleged unwillingness to compromise its other priorities for the sake of defeating the fascist far right, at the end of the day this criticism is far more applicable to the centrists themselves. (Yes, Virginia, sometimes politicians are lying hypocrites!)

95

JimV 11.22.18 at 3:30 pm

“Would I be right in thinking Kidbeystones was the only commenter here to predict the Trump win?”

My recollection is that he was by far the most persistent one, but that a couple other trolls popped up. Most of us (maybe all) on the other side made no prediction, just stated our own preferences and reasons. How do I know how people in other regions are going to vote? I don’t particularly trust polls (never answer them, myself).

Kidneystones was also very loud on how great a president Trump would be compared to Obama. That’s an issue that seems less a matter of luck, to me.

Lesser-evilism was also loudly derided by some. They should feel some small responsibility for Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and all the lower-court appointees, immigrant families being broken up at the border, and so on. The harm that the greater evil does can last for generations, not just until the next election.

96

Orange Watch 11.22.18 at 3:44 pm

fn@90:
. In a system like the US with no viable third parties, they interpret the abandonment of the vote as a sign they aren’t right-wing enough, and shift to the right.

This seems to miss the possibility that doubling down and canting further right is something that the 3rd Way crowd are willing – or even want – to do for its own sake. Doubling down and shifting further right need not be misinterpretation of voter abstention, it can just as easily be playing hardball to counter leftist hardball tactics… and if you look at that faction’s behavior over the past 50 years, there’s a fair amount of evidence that this is exactly what’s happening. The technocrats aren’t willing to be “terrorized” by the hippies, so they lock their fingers on the rudder and run the ship aground to teach them a lesson in obedience. It’s bog-standard Iron Law of Institutions stuff, and as long as the centrists feel confident they can maintain control of the party from within, there’s plenty of external safeguards protecting them from third-party threats. The near enemy really is more of a threat than the far, and it’s why we see responses to internal reform efforts like outrage at come-latelys like O-C as “cutting line”.

The centerist careerists actually feel more kinship with their (waning) rightwing counterparts than with leftists, and would be glad to be rid of them. Have you forgotten the triumphalism of early fall ’16 when the Adults In The Room were cheerfully describing the immanent irrevocable demise of the GOP? Of its any-minute-now fracture into an irredeemable racist (deplorable) rump, and a wandering mass of good-faith fiscal center-right status-quo conservatives in need of a new home? A mass that could finally rid the DNC of the DFHs? Because I remember. Just like I remember the procedural ploys the old guard DLC DNC pulled out 2014-2016 to maintain their control against near enemies.

It’s really not as simple as “change from within = good, change from without = bad”. If the would-be reformers have nothing to leverage, then the institutional barriers in place to maintain the status quo will be far harder to overcome. And that’s no accident, any more than the centerist refusal to consider the possibility that abstention is related to their policies is merely misunderstanding voter turnout.

97

TM 11.22.18 at 6:36 pm

kindeystones’ prediction was “right” only insofar as the candidate with 3 million fewer votes was declared winner by a mechanism that is incompatible with the basic definition of democracy – majority rule. For my part, I did point out that US presidential elections are usually decided by small margins and warned against the danger of assuming a Clinton win. Ultimately, the mistake that the MSM and really almost everyone including Trump himself made of assuming that Trump couldn’t win is precisely what made his “win” possible. Plenty of leftists have bitterly regretted their reckless behavior (the one advocated above by WLGR) and would have voted Clinton if they hadn’t been assured of her “certain” victory. In the midterms, Democrats won as decisively as they did precisely because progressive voters did not wish to take any chances again.

Now to WLGR: That thing you call a strategy has never worked now has it? So why do you still claim it’s a valid strategy? Oh it’s because Democrats are really evil. If they were just opportunist, your “strategy” would work, right, so the fact that your strategy isn’t working and has never worked proves that Dems are hopelessly evil.

Bloody nonsense. The US has just produced an election in which the left of center party won a decisive majority of votes (and seats). If Dems were a pure leftist party, they could never win a majority. No “true left” party anywhere does that. Left parties e. g. in Europe can, if at all, only win power by forming alliances with centrist parties. If the US had a “normal” party system, there would be at least a left, right and centrist party and neither would usually win a majority on its own (except in the UK where a party might win power with only a third of the votes). But the US has a two-party system, and that means that the left-of-center party has to be a coalition of progressive and centrist forces. There are valid strategies for strengthening the left forces within that coalition but voting against it is not one of them.

So, your “strategy” has put a fascist into the White House. You don’t care? Then you are not on the left. There is no genuine progressive who doesn’t care about defeating fascism. Whatever you are, don’t you try to claim the mantle of the “true left”.

98

WLGR 11.22.18 at 7:31 pm

TM, decades’ worth of “strategies” like this are what put a fascist in the White House, not anything the left did or didn’t do. Quite frankly, how dare you try to blame the left for the messes that neoliberal centrist snakes like the ones you support have made for the rest of us to try to clean up.

99

anon/portly 11.22.18 at 8:45 pm

89

1. The Jew is using the black man as muscle: this is an idea now repeatedly expressed by the president, supported by senior cabinet and congress allies, blasted all over Fox news and recently reiterated by supposed non-troll “intellectuals” as Scruton.

Since about the time Trump became the Republican candidate, I have reversed a long-standing policy of paying almost no attention to the news of the day (other than what I get filtered via blogs) and in particular have actually made an effort to watch Fox News and MSNBC, at least in small bits, as I can tolerate it. Never once have I seen this idea, or anything remotely resembling this idea, come up. As I said, it is an obscure neo-Nazi idea, not one that I think Fox News would have any desire to be associated with. Isn’t Fox News having enough difficulty with advertisers? But then okay, I admit I can be somewhat oblivious, if so please link to something that gives me some idea where you got this notion from. Here’s what I know, more or less:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/08/14/jews-will-not-replace-us-why-white-supremacists-go-after-jews/?utm_term=.2b829d352782

2. There were good people on both sides: It’s true that this is a slight exaggeration, because nobody in the modern American right thinks there were good people on the side of the anti-fascists. This is a view, let us remember, that was put forward by the President. He is supported by a bunch of republican congresspeople….

“Let us remember,” right, as I said in 83 this comes from a nutty statement by Trump, who of course also said the opposite, and always more or less covers as much of the possible terrain with nutty comments as possible. Please link to something that tells me exactly which “republican congresspeople” are out there making claims that there are good neo-Nazis. I’m not saying that Republicans aren’t often quite adept at writing the attack ads of their opponents for them, but this would be ridiculous.

3. Climate change is a hoax is not a mainstream idea. Nobody believes it except the right.

Yes. This, or something like it, is actually a mainstream right-wing view.

4. Just because you gang-raped a few chicks doesn’t mean you can’t be on teh supreme court: this isn’t just Coulter. The NRO had a beers for Kavanaugh party, Trump said the man had been done wrong, and a bunch of other leading conservative figures supported the idea that youthful “indiscretion” should not be disqualifying. I note here that whether there is compelling evidence is irrelevant – the usual suspects have made this belief clear when they refused to investigate in case they found compelling evidence.

Before one side can refuse to investigate, doesn’t the other side have to want to? I didn’t realize there was any real interest on the anti-Kavanaugh side for an investigation into the gang-rape charge. Maybe this John Holbo quote will help explain it:

I will admit that, with the third woman [Swetnick – a/p] coming forward, a skeptic could say: maybe this is just a symptom of a kind of erupting national craziness around this case. So we kind of have to stop believing what people say, if there’s no – you know – evidence. I just saw tonight that two – two! – guys have evidently come forth to say they were the ones who maybe ‘encountered’ Ford. That’s completely messed up and I don’t believe it. That’s part of why I focus just on Ford in the post. I’m applying a serious discount rate to any new stories that aren’t backed up. It’s just too likely that people get worked up and fabulate stories, or are – at this point – put up to telling stories that favor one side or the other.

http://crookedtimber.org/2018/09/26/odds-2/

https://www.newsweek.com/brett-kavanaugh-gang-rape-avenatti-julie-swetnick-1139745

I think one of the problems here is that for some of us, the “gang bang” concept is sort of strange and remote – limited to people like the wives of Roman emperors, or New York Yankee players of the 1960’s. If HBO had come up with this as a plot element in a series, maybe people would have said it was not only too lurid but also too fantastic, and they should stick with more realistic and traditional teen plot elements, like vampires and werewolves and sorcerer-stepmoms and visually-arresting dystopias.

Finally, you address the Warren “controversy” in exactly the way a concern troll would. … Now you want everyone on the left to disqualify her from office because she’s been trolled for years by vicious thugs. …

I don’t think I addressed it in “exactly the way a concern troll would,” I think I addressed it in the way someone making a commonplace observation makes a commonplace observation. I expressed no desire for anything. I admit maybe to inadvertently revealing not wanting something, i.e. not wanting to be in EW’s shoes when/if this comes up. But maybe I am wrong, maybe if she runs for President this has no potential to become an effective means for other Democrats to attack her. (Notice that I am not arguing either way about whether it should become an issue, or that Warren has done anything that I personally feel was wrong). If my commonplace observation is off point, explain it to me.

(On the other hand, I admit to not knowing what a concern troll really is, or even wanting to know – I agree with engels in 80 completely).

100

J-D 11.22.18 at 9:40 pm

My imperfect recollection is that kidneystones discussed the possibility of a Trump victory, and how it might happen, but never made an explicit unambiguous prediction of a Trump victory. But I’m not going to trawl back through the commenting history to check that, and I don’t expect anybody else to, either.

101

J-D 11.22.18 at 9:44 pm

WLGR

I understand that there are political parties which do not make electoral success a priority: I can think of a few examples, and I am sure there are more. However, the examples I am thinking of are parties which do not make electoral success a priority and do not achieve it. The Democratic party, in the US, does not have a record of unmixed electoral failure; it has a mixed record, which includes both electoral failures and electoral successes. I can’t find a way to reconcile the idea that it does not make electoral success a priority with the number of electoral successes it has actually achieved.

102

nastywoman 11.22.18 at 9:50 pm

@
”Whatever you are, don’t you try to claim the mantle of the “true left”.

Yes – please don’t –
It’s like somebody claiming to be a cute ”troll” – and then he is NOT at all a ”small sociale mythic creatures, eg. giant, dwarf or pixies, known in Scandinavia for their strong family ties”.

Instead he is YUUUGE ”Clown” -(as a ”climax expert” has concluded) with really bad hair and if he feels like it tomorrow – he would call himself just as much as ”true left” as he could call ”paradise” – ”pleasure”.

And hasn’t that become the real problem – that nowadays everybody loves to call himself or somebody else something everybody else -(or himself) isn’t?

And so everybody is very confused about calling anything – anything anymore?

-(or is that ”trolling” and I was just lucky that my soft-ware didn’t change ”trollish” and called it ”tallish”? instead – as what is ”tallish” -(or ”true left”) – anywhoo?

103

Patrick 11.23.18 at 12:59 am

WLGR’s comment at 94 is poorly informed. The polling popularity of left wing policies, particularly social safety net policies, does not translate well into electoral success or ease of passage of those policies. A lot of those policies get more that 50% support from Republican voters! But those same voters will still fight tooth and nail against those policies at the ballot box, and will argue against them at the drop of a hat once their party’s opinion leaders tell them to. Liberal social safety net policies poll well in the abstract. But politics isn’t performed in the abstract.

104

sfliberal 11.23.18 at 4:02 am

Sam Harris is a bad joke with his “trophy” PhD in a very young field (a Hollywood actress also managed to acquire one from same school; and before someone accuses me of sexism, show me the Hollywood actress who got a PhD in an established field like, say, Physics from same school). I knew people who got PhDs in Computer Science in the 70s and early 80s that wouldn’t even have qualified for an undergraduate term paper as early as mid-90s, simply because the field was progressing so fast that in many cases the work of even 10 years ago looked not only pedestrian but simplistic.

Harris managed to turn out a grand total of *three* papers while he was getting his PhD and a knowledgeable person who looked at the approx. 400 pages of his PhD found 15 pages of original work in it. Google how he funded his graduate study for more info that casts light on his modus operandi and why the whole reason for getting the PhD was so that he could use the glittering term “neuroscientist”. As far as I know, he hasn’t spent an afternoon doing research once he got his degree, and next time you come across a working neuroscientist (some university Neuroscience departments, e.g. UT Austin, run regular programs aimed at general audiences), ask them if they’ve ever heard of him.

His run-ins with established thinkers like Massimo Pigliucci and Noam Chomsky invariably show him in an unethical and shady light. Time to call BS on this toxic product of Hollywood show-biz culture.

105

faustusnotes 11.23.18 at 7:22 am

Orange Watch, I don’t think that’s a credible interpretation of what has been happening over the past 30 years. The best counter-example is UK Labour, which spent 20 years losing elections until Blair sold out a bunch of its basic principles and won in a landslide. What does that tell UK Labour?

This debate has happened ad nauseum in the Labour parties of the non-US left, and the argument of the labour right has been the exact same as yours, with the names swapped: they argue that the radical left has spent years losing elections, happy to sit in the wilderness letting the far right rule the lives of working people while they play purity-pony games with each other, while the labour right does the dirty job of actually winning elections. This is very clear in Australia, where a new party, the Greens, formed in 1996 in response to the Australian Labor Party’s failings on environmental and social issues. The Greens have done well but they have never got more than about 15% of the vote nationally, and don’t have any real strongholds in the lower house. If it were true that the centre left is abandoning its left wing base and tacking right, how come the Greens can’t get steal more than 10-15 % of the ALP’s vote in Oz, and even less in the UK? The obvious answer is that the electorate is more conservative than most of the ALP left, and they need to make compromises to win power in that environment. It’s even worse in broken barbaric systems like the UK and USA, where voting is voluntary (booo!), there are no preferences, and the regional effect in the upper house is stronger (US) or the upper house is not elected (UK).

The solution to this problem is simple and has been repeated continuously here and elsewhere: join your party and fight to drag it left, and vote! vote! vote! That’s what young people did in these midterms and they were way way more effective than all the grumpy old beardy dudes who walked away from their civic responsibility in 2016 and allowed a fascist cheeto to take over their country. What you just saw in the US was not the party finally realizing that it needs to tack left to win votes. It was young people finally getting jack of the stupid decisions their elders are making, and taking control of the political process, both within the party (in the form of people like AOC) and at the ballot box (with record turnout).

And what did the old beardy dudes do when these kids took over? Even before the election, Corey Robin was on here throwing AOC under the bus, and twitter was aflame with people complaining about how she wasn’t left wing enough. Fortunately she ignored that noise, and it looks like her and her colleagues’ tireless efforts within the party are going to drag it far further left than your abstemious crankiness ever would have.

106

novakant 11.23.18 at 7:22 am

Or maybe Clinton was just a terrible candidate running a terrible campaign…

107

casmilus 11.23.18 at 7:33 am

Is Rod Dreher a troll? I would call him a pseudo-intellectual, not bright enough to see that his present demand for “religious liberty” is just “multiculturalism but only for white guys”. At least that’s how he tells it.

His latest work includes the priceless combination of casting himself as the American Solzhenitsyn and also that he is “pitching a book” about it. Because that was Alexander’s story, wasn’t it, he went round the Moscow publishing houses pitching a book about how Stalin wasn’t very good.

108

Jan 11.23.18 at 7:39 am

The only one of those I have read in any depth is Haidt. He’s a serious academic whose books are based on real research findings. Disagreement is obviously normal, but to just denounce him as a troll is hardly within the spirit of academia.

I’m intrigued to know if you actually read either of his last two books. If so, did you dispute the underlying research or the conclusions he drew from it?

109

John Quiggin 11.23.18 at 11:02 am

I’ve only read Haidt’s public intellectual stuff, and am responding to that. To recall, a concern troll is someone who is on one side of the discussion, but pretends to be a supporter of the other side with “concerns”.

At least in his early appearances, Haidt presented as a liberal with concerns that his fellow-liberals were failing to understand that conservatives had a deep and complex moral code, valuing loyalty, authority and sanctity, incorrectly seeing them as motivated by (dominant white) identity politics and downward envy. That claim was pretty thoroughly refuted when conservatives voted for and enthusiastically supported Trump who shows no loyalty to anyone and happily violates any notion of sanctity (to loud cheers from his audiences).

Rather than revising his position, Haidt lined up explicitly with the conservatives, saying that their support for Trump was all the fault of the liberals for pushing multiculturalism and diversity. See for example, this account from the conservative side https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/haidt-inside-the-head-of-trump-voters/

I’m not clear whether he really was a concerned liberal, and changed his position without acknowledging the fact or whether he was consciously trolling all along. But, that doesn’t matter. In his actual behavior, he is a classic concern troll. Lining up with the IDW has made this undeniable.

110

Lee A. Arnold 11.23.18 at 12:11 pm

Engels #87: “Would I be right in thinking Kidbeystones was the only commenter here to predict the Trump win?”

About a month before the election, I wrote that Trump could win. This was based on the opinion polls narrowing.

I am not a troll. I am more like one of the three billy goats gruff, although I think the solution is to build a better bridge.

111

Jan 11.23.18 at 12:31 pm

109

But that article in not by him! It is not reasonable to criticise Haidt (or anyone) based on a partisan summary *by someone else* of what he says. In the actual talk (which is Haidt) he does not say “Trump was all the fault of the liberals for pushing multiculturalism and diversity” or anything remotely like it. And I struggle to see how anyone could come away from it thinking it does.

The essence of what he does say in that talk it that we should try harder to listen to and understand other points of view. Amusing, given your post is about people you intend to not listen to.

112

sfliberal 11.23.18 at 1:50 pm

2 excerpts:

“[L]eading representatives of the movement express ideas that otherwise we’d associate with the hard Right – and are celebrated for doing so.”

https://bullshitphilosophy.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/just-say-it-sam-harris-is-a-racist-warmonger

My disengagement has been gradual and not really planned, but rather the result of an organic change of priorities and interests. It has, however, also been accelerated by a number of observations and individual incidents. The most recent one, which finally prompted me to write these reflections for public consumption, was a private email exchange between Noam Chomsky and Sam Harris, which was eventually made public by the latter.

https://scientiasalon.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/reflections-on-the-skeptic-and-atheist-movements

These are years old, by now the evidence of Harris’ trollery is much greater.

113

Barry 11.23.18 at 2:24 pm

faustusnotes: “The solution to this problem is simple and has been repeated continuously here and elsewhere: join your party and fight to drag it left, and vote! vote! vote! That’s what young people did in these midterms and they were way way more effective than all the grumpy old beardy dudes who walked away from their civic responsibility in 2016 and allowed a fascist cheeto to take over their country. What you just saw in the US was not the party finally realizing that it needs to tack left to win votes. It was young people finally getting jack of the stupid decisions their elders are making, and taking control of the political process, both within the party (in the form of people like AOC) and at the ballot box (with record turnout).”

What’s doubly (triply, quadruply) maddening about the purity people was that the Tea Party faction of the GOP demonstrated how to drag a party around: primary ruthlessly and then vote 100%. They understood that the decisions were implemented at the primary level. A reporter who talked with them said that they were all batsh*t insane and detached from reality on every topic except how the GOP machinery worked.

We lost so much because the old, rural white people showed up to vote on each and every election (and then, of course, used their government power to make sure that they had additional non-democratic power).

114

Faustusnotes 11.23.18 at 4:07 pm

Casmilus, rod dredger makes up reader letters and pretends they’re real. That’s trolling.

Anon/portly, I gave you names of republican congresspeople who do the neonazi shuffle. Google them yourself. As for dismissing serious modern right wing ideas as “a nutty thing trump said”, try this for a principle: when the leader of your party and your country says things that his political allies and members of his party support, or allow him to continue publicly saying, then those ideas are mainstream in that party. It’s a simple principle that will help you to understand who is fleecing you and why.

115

engels 11.23.18 at 6:54 pm

About a month before the election, I wrote that Trump could win. This was based on the opinion polls narrowing.

👍

116

anon/portly 11.23.18 at 8:38 pm

100

My imperfect recollection is that kidneystones discussed the possibility of a Trump victory, and how it might happen, but never made an explicit unambiguous prediction of a Trump victory.

My own imperfect recollection is that ph/k unambiguously predicted a Trump victory several times, sometimes making the prediction or at least throwing out the inference that Trump would win by a wide margin. Of course maybe some of this was more rhetorical than predictive.

Trying to find examples wasn’t so easy – probably I’m inept at searching. In the sample of predictions I was able to locate ph/k did indeed at times predict a Trump win, though overall hedged his bet quite a bit.

August 2 (comment 12):

If Trump is still in the race in November, and I fully expect he will be, a percentage of the Dem base will help make Trump the next president.

August 10 (comment 517):

Trump just needs to stay in the game. If he’s within five points in October, I still say he edges it.

August 11, comment 570:

Voters decide in November. I still say Trump edges it, at least.

http://crookedtimber.org/2016/08/02/trumps-indecent-proposal/

The relatively sunny mood of August turned gloomier in October.

October 9 (comment 25):

My view, and this has not changed, is that if Trump is within 5 on election night there’s a good chance he’ll win. If he’s ahead, or even, he wins.

October 11 (comment 115):

I stand by my original. If Trump is within 5 by election day, he can win. If he’s even or slightly ahead it’s his.

October 18 (comment 356):

I stated earlier that Trump needs to close to 5 within a few days. That does not appear to be happening, although it may.

http://crookedtimber.org/2016/10/09/sex-dice-and-the-trump-tapes/

http://crookedtimber.org/2016/10/11/trump-the-ringmaster-and-his-unwitting-clowns/

Obviously, given the narrowness of the Trump victory, that he was hedging does him credit, not discredit.

My more recent but still imperfect recollection is that he at times predicted or suggested that the Democrats would not do very well in the recent midterms, but I tried to find a solid prediction along these lines and could not. I did find this:

Trump popped to 51 percent, his popularity among some African-Americans has jumped ten points to 35 percent. Changing the rules, talks of changing the constitution, and the status of the SC because Dems can’t find a positive message, or a positive candidate, or persuade the candidate to recognize and reach out to voters the Democratic party abandoned, reeks of defeatism and worse.

Hanging anything around anyone’s neck for any reason is a revolting idea. Others, of course, will try to do just that. Let them. We need better ideas and better policies from America’s academics, not poisonous rhetoric. Get out of the mud. Leave the pig alone.

The pig’s winning.

http://crookedtimber.org/2018/10/07/kavanaugh/

117

anon/portly 11.23.18 at 9:50 pm

114

Anon/portly, I gave you names of republican congresspeople who do the neonazi shuffle. Google them yourself.

Okay. It appears that Steve King’s greatest offense (so far) has been to re-tweet a Neo-Nazi saying this: “65% of Italians now oppose mass immigration. Europe is waking up….”

King says he didn’t realize that the original tweet came from a Neo-Nazi, which I would think was obvious – I would be surprised if anyone in the entire US House of Representatives could name a single European Neo-Nazi. I certainly couldn’t, unless Marie Le Pen or someone like that is one.

That becomes this, in 89:

There were good people on both sides: It’s true that this is a slight exaggeration, because nobody in the modern American right thinks there were good people on the side of the anti-fascists. This is a view, let us remember, that was put forward by the President. He is supported by a bunch of republican congresspeople who associate with neo nazis, broadcast their views, and use their views in election campaigns – Steve King, the lynch-friendly woman who’s about to go to a runoff and nowheresville, Trump Jr., de Santis, and a bunch of other ne’er do wells are all in on this.

King is not being accused of “associating” with any neo-nazis, nor (really) of broadcasting their views, since the claim that 65% of Italians means that “Europe is waking up” is not in particular a “neo-Nazi” view, it’s an anti-immigration view. If 65% of Italians think X and then you say this means “Europe is waking up,” that’s an endorsement of X, primarily, unless the phrase “waking up” is supposed to be some sort of fascist dog-whistle or something.

I declined to Google the claims about de Santis and the “bunch of other ne’er do wells,” sorry.

(Note; before faustusnotes jumps to one of his usual conclusions, I’m personally probably around P98 or P99 on the “friendly to immigration” axis for the US population, and think King’s views on immigration, to the extent that I now know about them, reflect a great deal of ignorance, perhaps even moral vacuity).

Meanwhile….

The Jew is using the black man as muscle: this is an idea now repeatedly expressed by the president, supported by senior cabinet and congress allies, blasted all over Fox news….

Look we all say dumb things. Maybe my point at the end of 83 about Elizabeth Warren is dumb – it occurs to me now that her opponents in the primaries may want avoid using any arguments already used by Donald Trump, therefore Trump may have actually inoculated her, at least to some degree. My musings on the Kavanaugh stuff were kind of dumb – I tend to think out loud, unfortunately – but then part of my thinking there is that the whole “gang rape” charge just leaves me bewildered, so maybe I at least imparted that idea.

Anyway, if that statement from 89 isn’t just a tad silly, I’d love to know why, because if it’s not, it would suggest that my level of paying attention to and understanding what is going on in my own country is pretty shocking. Can I be that obtuse?

118

Orange Watch 11.23.18 at 9:56 pm

Barry@113:
What’s doubly (triply, quadruply) maddening about the purity people was that the Tea Party faction of the GOP demonstrated how to drag a party around: primary ruthlessly and then vote 100%.

So am I to assume when you say “how to do it” that you credulously swallowed the Tea-Party-as-grassroots-not-astroturf narrative? Or am I missing some deep-pocketed “purity people” lurking in the wings with infrastructure set up to swoop in and dump obscene amounts of bodies and cash into elections all over the map and terrify the status-quo deep pockets centerist Dems into obedience?

The Tea Party was a coup, not an insurgency.

119

musical mountaineer 11.24.18 at 4:59 am

Surprised to find this thread open so late. Well, I might as well say I’ve hit on another suggestion as to how strangers with unconventional values can contribute here.

Wait until pretty late before you post a wall of fresh, hot text. It’s kind of like barging into a cocktail party; you don’t want to do it before everyone’s had a chance to catch up. It sometimes happens that a thread begins to flag and grow cold around 50-70 comments. If you sense that, it won’t hurt anything to poke things up.

120

Faustusnotes 11.24.18 at 10:00 am

Not trying very hard are you anon? Steve king endorsed a known neonazi candidate for Toronto mayor, saying she was a defender of western civilization, and refused to delete a tweet even after everyone made clear it was from a nazi. The gop refused to support him because of his known leanings. This stuff is all over a simple google search. Perhaps you don’t want to see these things so you didn’t really search?

I note you don’t want to engage with the idea that the president represents his party’s ideas. It’s all a little difficult to defend the trolls when they have stopped bothering to hide their true nazi ideals.

121

musical mountaineer 11.24.18 at 5:21 pm

What, still open? Might as well give you the neo-Nazi schtick!

Previously in this thread, I indulged in a little speculation as to how I would proceed if it was my job to moderate CT discussions and provide incentives for quality conversation. Now let’s suppose I was in charge around here and had the resources to enforce the policies of my choosing. What would I do if an earnest, well-spoken neo-Nazi came around here and started talking neo-Nazi talk?

Well, I’d almost certainly ban him. But my reasons are not the same as yours.

I wouldn’t ban him for being offensive. The views of neo-Nazis do not offend me; rather they fill me with a righteous sense of mild bemusement and pity. Nor would I worry about giving him a platform; to a first approximation the views of neo-Nazis are ignored or reviled by 100% of people, regardless of where those views may appear. Nor would I concern myself with the tender sensibilities of others in the community; we are all supposed to be grownups here, and if you need to retreat to the Puppy Room because of something someone said on the internet, then the problem is you.

I would ban him because he would fail to be interesting. Consider the burdens under which a neo-Nazi labors:

1. He is stupid. Stupid people are not fascinating.

2. His values are way out of sync with the community. He may even be a psychopath. None of this proves he’s a Bad Person, but having a radically different values stack does tend to make a person less interesting. Incompatible values reduce the scope for rational persuasion, and in this forum we would prefer to persuade and be persuaded, if possible.

Do you want to know what a neo-Nazi thinks? The good news is, you don’t have to ask. You already know. Everybody already knows, and everybody already made up their minds on the subject. A real-live neo-Nazi has nothing to add. Therefore he is boring, therefore he is banned.

122

WLGR 11.24.18 at 5:53 pm

Orange Watch is right on the money (appropriate idiom!) about a crucial difference between the Tea Party and a potential “Tea Party from the left” — to wit, the Tea Party was an coordinated Astroturf campaign whose electoral success was made possible by extensive financial and logistical support from capitalist oligarchs like the Kochs and the Mercers, with nothing remotely parallel on the left. However, even if we disregard the supreme importance of this fact, liberal centrists still haven’t taken to heart another crucial tactical lesson of the Tea Party’s success, the way in which the moderate electoral wing of the GOP has learned that build a vibrant right-wing movement depends on punching right as little as they possibly can. The moderate liberal left even used to have a word for this kind of relationship — “fellow travelers” — along with an understanding that the presence of vibrant non-electoral or even anti-electoral radical movements dragging them to the left would ultimately be helpful in pursuing moderate social-democratic electoral policies as a “compromise” position. These days it seems like the right are the ones who act on this sort of understanding, by cultivating a blurred-lines spectrum between its respectable “moderate Republican” establishment and its hardcore RaHoWa-focused anti-electoral fascist fringe, while the center-left establishment for decades now has given far higher priority to stamping out any hint of a connection between itself and the far left, even if this means sacrificing its own potential leverage to enact the policies it still (even if only on a vague pro forma level) claims to want.

This also has to do with why Patrick @ 103 is still deeply confused: what he says is pretty much exactly what I also said in the comment he thinks he disagrees with, that the actually existing landscape of US electoral politics has been set up in such a way that the allowable range of public policy is well to the right of many of the preferences of the actual US population. Where I go further than he does is in trying to think through the broader political-economic reasons why this disconnect might exist, and why the existing mechanisms of US electoral politics might not be suited for the task of forcing this disconnect shut.

123

Patrick 11.24.18 at 9:02 pm

“what he says is pretty much exactly what I also said in the comment he thinks he disagrees with,”

Hmm. Let’s see if that’s true.

“What I’m saying is that the Democrats, like any other major-party establishment in a comparable two-party system, are primarily focused on remaining in the good graces of the wealthy and powerful, a goal that directly conflicts with trying to attract a mass voter base on a remotely leftist platform. Accordingly, the reason they move to the right isn’t because they somehow inexplicably have no way of knowing that their voters (including potential voters) would prefer a move to the left — they’re perfectly able to read the polling data that consistently shows clear public support for broad social-democratic redistributionist policies, just as well as anybody else can — rather it’s because even though they know full well that their voters would prefer a move to the left, and moving to the left would give them the best chance of defeating the fascist far right at the ballot box, they still don’t want to do it anyway.”

Nope. Not even close. Go read my comment again.

124

TM 11.24.18 at 10:33 pm

WLGR 98: It is fruitless to try to argue with WLGRs illogical and fact-challenged claims about how to win elections. But I want to be clear on one thing: I’m not attacking the left, and WLGR does not speak for the left and has no right to that claim. I am attacking reckless idiots who claim to be left. As I said before, actual leftists make defeating fascism their priority, not rhetorical grandstanding.

novakant 106: Clinton won 3 million more votes than her opponent, won a higher vote share than Bush in 2000, Kerry in 2004, higher than McCain and Romney and of course Trump. She was thrown under the bus by the MSM and by a reckless faction of salon socialists, had to contend with election meddling by a foreign power and voter suppression by Republican state governments, the most powerful rightwing propaganda network that has existed since the time of Goebbels declared war on her, and her campaign was at a structural disadvantage after 8 years of a Democratic presidency. Everybody knows but seems to have forgotten that it is exceedingly rare for a party to win three consecutive presidential terms in the US. And yet she won 3 million more votes and did better than almost all other major party candidates of the last 20 years. She “lost” only because she – and all her 66 million voters – became a victim of a blatantly undemocratic and unjust system.

But for you novakant she was a “terrible candidate”, right? Have you ever stopped to think about this nonsense even for a moment? Whatever her flaws, they are no worse than other politicians’ flaws – whether Kerry or Biden or Obama. Yet nobody speaks about these other politicians with the tone of disdain that has become standard when folks like you novakant speak about Clinton. Why is that? I find it hard to believe this has nothing to do with the fact she’s an uppity woman who was shown her place. I have followed US politics for long enough to know that no male politician has ever endured anything close to the hostility and contempt that Clinton has had to endure for most of her career, hostility that she earned merely by being a successful woman politician. The shame is not on her but on those who claim to be on the progressive side but deny a feminist liberal woman politician cheated by an unjust system even the tiniest bit of solidarity, deny her even the decency of acknowledging those sixty-six million votes.

125

novakant 11.25.18 at 9:37 am

TM, the intelligent and mature response to failure is to analyse one’s mistakes and learn from them. That’s not really the vibe I’m getting from you and other self-appointed ‘centrists’. Instead there is a lot of handwringing, magical thinking and blaming.
Regarding the latter instead of blaming a European social democrat with a pacifist bent who can’t even vote in the US, why don’t you direct your ire towards, say, black people and millennials, who didn’t turn out to vote sufficiently, or white working class former Obama voters who swing towards Trump. I’m sure that will be a huge help in getting people to vote Democrat next time around.

126

Robert 11.25.18 at 8:17 pm

As far as I am concerned most mainstream economists are trolls, promoting nonsense that was exposed as such maybe half a century ago. But such trolls are part of an “intellectual” hegemony.

I do not know how to address this. I respect some efforts at boring from within. I deliberately tried to keep the attitude I express in the first paragraph in check when commenting on the chapters in John’s forthcoming book, Economics in Two Lessons. I wanted my comments to be useful.

127

wegdrop@yahoo.com 11.25.18 at 9:03 pm

120 Not trying very hard are you anon? Steve king endorsed a known neonazi candidate for Toronto mayor, saying she was a defender of western civilization, and refused to delete a tweet even after everyone made clear it was from a nazi. The gop refused to support him because of his known leanings. This stuff is all over a simple google search.

Well, first of all, I was specifically looking for something to justify the specific term “neo-Nazi,” as used here:

89 He is supported by a bunch of republican congresspeople who associate with neo nazis, broadcast their views, and use their views in election campaigns – Steve King, the lynch-friendly woman who’s about to go to a runoff and nowheresville, Trump Jr., de Santis, and a bunch of other ne’er do wells are all in on this.

Okay, you have two things to justify your statement now, the tweet and the endorsement. Both I think are pretty weak; he probably didn’t know about the source of the tweet and the Canadian woman isn’t actually a neo-Nazi, although she, unlike King, has actually done something to directly associate herself with neo-Nazis, doing an interview with the Daily Stormer, which she now claims to regret.

Anyway, if you drop the term “neo-Nazi” and replacement it with something like “white nationalist” or “far right,” I wouldn’t be objecting. King has obviously “associated with” some far-right people and ideas, like the Freedom Party of Austria and the Confederate flag.

It seems to me that describing everyone on the right or far right as “neo-Nazi” is exactly the sort of thing I described back in 83, either it’s “exaggeration as ridicule” type trolling or else it’s nutty.

Perhaps you don’t want to see these things so you didn’t really search?

Here for once you actually show some insight. I probably should have searched a little harder. King is even worse than I would have guessed, and it’s not as if I am one to expect great things from American politicians . I admit that you’re absolutely correct, I really don’t want to see or know these things. I was a little bit happier a couple of days ago than I am today. Thanks!

I note you don’t want to engage with the idea that the president represents his party’s ideas. It’s all a little difficult to defend the trolls when they have stopped bothering to hide their true nazi ideals.

It’s difficult to respond to this because of how it’s written. I hope Trump is the “true nazi” troll and not me.

Anyway yes and no. Take Obama. Did everything he say, while he was President, “represent his party’s views?” I’d say not fully, on some things he got a lot of pushback from others in his own party. Trump gets pushback too, but also I think at times they kind of ignore what he says almost completely. How can they not? He says one thing, then he says the opposite, or at least a different thing. He makes stuff up.

Anyway Trump and the Republicans (of course) have generally condemned neo-Nazis and neo-Nazi violence, and the idea that they have “stopped bothering to hide their true nazi ideals” or are “broadcasting [neo-Nazi] views or are “using [neo-Nazi] views in election campaigns” is just absurd and false.

Trump’s equivocation after Charlottesville definitely means something, though. It means that he is foolish and unfeeling and offensive and stubborn and maybe even a touch doddering and confused. It’s on a par with lots of other things he says. That to me is the underlying message that the American public is slowly absorbing and that Democrats used in 2018 and will use in 2020.

128

ecr82 11.25.18 at 11:13 pm

A classic on tricks of a master troll:

http://normanfinkelstein.com/2006/06/13/on-christopher-hitchens

Funny how this ex-Trotskyite (Richard Gott’s letter is particularly instructive on the milieu from which Hitchens and dozens of others “came to see the [Neoliberal] light” as Finkelstein puts it) finally gave in to his craving for insider status:

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v16/n01/christopher-hitchens/in-the-bright-autumn-of-my-senescence

https://www.counterpunch.org/2011/12/16/farewell-to-c-h

129

faustusnotes 11.26.18 at 5:02 am

Novakant, TM is not a “self-appointed centrist”, he/she nominated him/herself a leftist. I don’t think dismissing everyone who criticizes you or defends the Democrats as a “centrist” is very productive. You could try addressing his point. The Democrats are losing because of rat-fucking, not because of bad policies.

You also really shouldn’t ask people to direct their ire towards black people for not voting, when the swing states that cost Clinton the election (by a very narrow margin) are all engaged in voter suppression. Perhaps when you consider that (and the fact that millenials actually had higher turnout in 2016) you might consider the points TM made about how large Clinton’s voter share was, and take the “intelligent and mature response” to your own mistakes.

130

Joseph Brenner 11.26.18 at 5:56 am

Collin Street@74:

+ usenet largely collapsed twenty years as a direct consequence of the development of better moderated web spaces

A slight disagreement: (a) usenet is actually still there
(b) many people stopped using it because they were chasing
after a new bright-and-shiney.

The actual technical advantages have always seemed exaggerated
to me. People were complaining about the spam problem,
but the actual magnitude of usenet spam is tiny compared
with the quantity of email spam that we just live with,
and nothing actually prevents us from using bayesian spam
filtering on usenet posts.

> + the state of the art in community management has moved on since the mid-90s (ie, twenty-five years)

This strikes me as more “whig history” of the internet.
Things were messed up then, and they’re messed up now,
just in somewhat different ways.

(I have to admit that the “don’t feed the trolls” strategy
has never actually worked, not even in the early usenet days.)

131

WLGR 11.26.18 at 7:25 am

Faustusnotes, I understand how comforting it may be for you to believe the opposite, but the truth is that the Democrats are losing because of bad policies, not because of rat-fucking.

Novikant could have been clearer, but I don’t think it’s particularly unclear how their “centrist Democrats should blame the voters” point makes sense. If centrist Democrats really are so confident that their agenda is firmly in the interests of the most downtrodden members of US society, and they’re also confident that only from the rarefied heights of privilege could anybody even think of denying this reality, then the demonstrated fact of electoral apathy among downtrodden potential voters (not just voter suppression, which is a real enough problem itself, but honest and explicit voter apathy) obviously can’t somehow be the fault of excessively privileged leftists — after all, if it really does take such massive oodles of privilege to ever possibly think it might be a good idea to refrain from voting Democratic, then how could such privileged people ever successfully convince any significant bloc of people without that level of privilege to do so anyway?

No, for anybody committed to the self-evident righteousness of the centrist Democratic agenda, or at least the self-evident soundness of the lesser-evil argument for voting Democratic, the only viable explanation for voter apathy among the downtrodden (again, not just voter suppression but voter apathy) is either to blame some form of black-magic propaganda manipulation above and beyond ordinary means of persuasion (viz the astonishing wave of Bircher-level paranoia from liberals these days about sinister Rooskies and their nefarious Facebook ads of doom) or else to blame these potential voters themselves for being too stupid and ignorant to understand how great the Democrats really are for them.

132

politicalfootball 11.26.18 at 2:18 pm

Would I be right in thinking Kidbeystones was the only commenter here to predict the Trump win? (A genuine question as there’s honestly nothing I’d like to do less than search back through comments threads from that time…)

Kidneystones predicted that Trump would win by getting more votes than Hillary. Had he predicted that Trump would win because Martians would invade and stuff the ballot box on Trump’s behalf, he would have been just as right – which is to say, not right at all.

Playing the role of stopped clock and using the same reasoning he used in 2016, he predicted Democrats would be beaten in the House in 2018.

133

TM 11.26.18 at 11:04 pm

novakant’s 125 isn’t out of place in a thread titled “trolls”. While not remotely engaging with the comment he is ostensibly responding to, he manages to fantasize that I somehow appointed myself ‘centrist’ and am “blaming a European social democrat” for something. Of course I haven’t said anything about European social democrats. What I did is call out the reckless delusion of the likes of WLGR who advocate that the left should help fascists win power for the satisfaction of giving the hated centrists a pair of black eyes.

I know novakant can do better than that. But somehow whenever it comes to Clinton, there seems to be this overwhelming urge to dispense with some facile and borderline sexist platitudes instead of actually considering the facts, trying to understand what happened and, heaven forbid, learn the lessons. Talk of an “intelligent and mature response”. (Thanks FN).

134

zarka 11.27.18 at 12:02 am

We need to learn from past mistakes, and keep a truly sharp knife handy for separating the wheat from the chaff. One well-known mistake that needs to be acknowledged and dealt with is the folly of labeling others who come across as either centrist knaves or fools:

https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/the-ghost-of-social-fascism

On the other hand, keeping tabs on and coming up with useful critiques (in the vein of “sharp knives”) of those who cause dissension and confusion with their “beautiful soul” shtick is absolutely essential. The wordsmith who inspired the expression “beautiful soul” with his cant and vivid imagery was Camus. Almost 6 decades after his departure from this planet he continues to inspire a cult-like following among successive generations (esp. strong on naive young minds somewhat akin to Ayn Rand and Sylvia Plath):

http://coreyrobin.com/2013/12/07/albert-camus-dancing

In our age, the “best thing since sliced bread”, Ta Nehesi Coates inspired wrath of an intellectual who stayed in touch with the better strains of earlier struggles, Cornel West, but his criticism didn’t capture the essence of what’s wrong with this chosen “spokesnegro” as well as the take of Bruce Dixon:

https://www.blackagendareport.com/tncoates-reparations-bernie-not-hillary

https://blackagendareport.com/looking-down-deep-hole-parasitic-intersectionality-and-toxic-afro-pessimism-part-2

“…the term intersectionality has become a kind of brood parasite. It mimics just enough of left feminist rhetoric to deceive the unwary…”

135

J-D 11.27.18 at 3:35 am

WLGR

It is true that in Hungarian elections Fidesz consistently receives far more votes than any other party. It is not true that in US elections the Republicans consistently receive far more votes than any other party. The two cases are not similar in this respect. The difference requires different explanations.

136

J-D 11.27.18 at 5:03 am

zarka

We need to learn from past mistakes, and keep a truly sharp knife handy for separating the wheat from the chaff.

Yes, it’s anathematisation correctly done which is crucial to improving people’s lives and making the world a better place.

137

Patrick 11.27.18 at 5:18 am

I’d like to unironically endorse the “eligible voters are too stupid to realize how great Democrats are” narrative. My support for this is that I live in the midwest and know a lot of eligible voters. Also, like, its a well established bit of political science. Voters don’t understand which party stands for what, which party has accomplished what, and which policies which parties support. There’s a reason Trump could campaign on “Democrats will take away Medicare.” Voters are dumb.

I’d like to unironically disclaim the related “therefore Democrats should yell at them” narrative. The left could do with a lot less of that. With a lot less yelling at people in general, regardless of reason.

And I’d like to unironically add- given what the left has to say about privilege and about the status quo of the world in which we live, it would be downright bizarre if oppressed constituencies were as well informed and motivated to vote as the left would hope. Dealing with this hurdle is an inherent part of having a left, or even center left, political party. If you ever look out your window and discover that the oppressed people on who’s behalf you were working are equal to their oppressors in autonomy, education, and personal resources, you would just, you know, declare victory and stop.

138

Faustusnotes 11.27.18 at 12:17 pm

It takes a special kind of chutzpah to come into a thread about trolls a week after the Democrats scored the biggest wave in 20 (40?) years and say they’re losing because of bad policy. Even better when the campaign manager for trump is in the news because he’s going to go to prison for a long time rather than reveal the details of the Russian ratfucking. Well done, WLGR!

139

politicalfootball 11.27.18 at 2:42 pm

As a US citizen, I’m very interested in trollology. You really can’t understand this country without understanding trolls. Murali, I think, gets this wrong in an interesting way:

Not to belabour the point, but there is a difference between “people you cannot engage with” and “trolls”. The former are people who you share nothing in common with (neither normative nor non-normative premises/facts) but for all you know may be sincerely believing what they believe and not just say stuff to trigger/own the libs. The latter say stuff just to get a rise out of people, in this case, those to their left.

I don’t think sincerity is what separates trolls from non-trolls. In fact, I think trollism itself is a sincere belief system — an epistemic approach. Karl Rove was sufficiently self-aware to know he was a troll, but Republicans are correct to associate Trump with a certain kind of authenticity. That said, for both Trump and Rove, trolling is a method.

On some blogs – say, a creationist blog – any sincere participation by me would be trolling. I would be (and, indeed, have been) deliberately provocative by challenging the premises of people who adopt a certain kind of reading of the Bible. Likewise, kidneystones comes here and proposes methods of discerning truth that aren’t acceptable to many people here. He’s a troll.

(What happened to kidneystones/ph? Did he finally get banned?)

For my part, I am interested in exploring the trolls’ epistemic approach. I’m still not sure how this can be done without feeding the trolls, but I think this is the central dilemma of discourse in the US today.

I don’t think we can ignore people such as Rove and Trump, but how can we engage them without legitimatizing them? I find comment sections like this one – especially the bottom of comment sections, when everybody but the trolls have lost interest – a good place to explore this.

140

steven t johnson 11.27.18 at 2:47 pm

zarka@134 provides a fascinating set of links. Re the Draper, however authoritative Draper is about texts and organizational history, real political analysis is not his purview. The intimate relationship between the Freikorps and the Social Democratic government and the repression of the Spartakusbund should have been the starting point.

The notion that the Communists’ unprovoked savagery forced the Social Democrats and their police to exercise justice is notable. Although he was not so indiscreet to be so candid, that is his position. It is possible the Social Democrats did not want to break Communist power in Wedding, etc., but it will take more than Draper’s assumption to convince me.

Similarly the notion the Social Democrats weren’t committed to supporting Bruening’s rule by decree because they were committed to “democracy” fails completely as rule by decree isn’t democracy. It does speak to Social Democratic commitment to capitalism, no matter whether at the expense of democracy. Not as loudly as the silent corpses of Luxemburg and Liebknecht, to be sure.

Generally the judgment that the theory of social-fascism caused the rise of Hitler relies on the notion that it takes only one to make a fight. The Comintern’s assaults on the glorious bourgeois democracy split the democratic cause or some such nonsense. The thing is, unity between the Social Democrats and the Communists in the suppression of the Nazis (or fascists elsewhere) is a political partnership. It is a political tango. But unlike a fight, it takes two to tango. It is an enormous counterfactual to assume the Social Democrats would have ever cooperated with the Communists, opponents they previously preferred to kill.

The comment on Camus is implicitly critical of Corey Robin’s OP. But criticizing Camus largely for being a womanizer seems to miss the point.

I’m not quite sure I could agree “atrocity” is the right term for “call out culture,” which seems to be something of an internet thing. I’m not even sure internet things are really things.

Which brings up the OP. Trolling is very much an internet thing. As to defining it, it seems to me that disagreeing is being disagreeable, more or less by definition. The thing is, the rights of owners of any property, including an internet platform, do insist they have the right to control all access to their private property. The principle of trolling is the baseless insistence that an internet site isn’t someone’s living room, but a public forum.

141

MarkD 11.27.18 at 7:57 pm

steven t johnson @138. I found the links on the Camus page linked by zarka eye-opening:

Also interesting was his weird admixture of politics (e.g. his prolonged silence over deaths of hundreds of thousands under French colonial rule) and metaphysical musings that could lead to praise by everyone from police prefects responsible for “dejudaising” French cities to self-proclaimed Israeli liberals who are in favor of “finishing the work of ’48“.

Just wow! Reminds me of how disturbing it was when I learned that so many of the founders of ecological movement in first half of 20th century were flaming racists (Muir was only one of many). This excellent essay from Alex Cockburn reprinted on Thanksgiving Day in same vein is very worthwhile imo:

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/11/22/romanticisms-revenge-from-vegetarianism-to-nazi-animal-rights

142

WLGR 11.27.18 at 8:39 pm

The leftists versus centrists thing may be a bit off topic here but it’s also extremely important, which may be why people like TM are so eager to have it degenerate into easy potshots against hapless strawpersons like a left content to “help fascists win power for the satisfaction of giving the hated centrists a pair of black eyes.” On the contrary, the best way for the left to help fascists win power is to visibly yoke itself to the cause of liberal centrism, thereby suggesting to anybody alienated from liberal centrist politics that fascism is the only meaningful alternative. Similarly, the best way for centrists to help fascists win power is to disparage and delegitimize any effort by the left to distance itself from the liberal centrist albatross, deliberately arranging the theater of political conflict as a binary contest with centrists on one side and fascists on the other — which isn’t even a particularly tendentious way to describe recent centrist electoral gambits like Cameron’s Brexit referendum or Clinton’s “pied piper” strategy, often with exactly the sorts of results that leftists could (and many did) predict.

Of course in another sense, the leftists versus centrists thing isn’t off topic at all, because the behavior of centrists in these exchanges often fits Quiggin’s definition of concern trolling nearly to a T: trying to explain how the extreme lunacy of the far right is really the fault of the left for pointing out the lunacy of the mainstream right center. This is another aspect of the abovementioned affinity between anti-leftist concern trolls of the nominal far right like Ben Shapiro, those of the nominal center-right like Andrew Sullivan, and those of the nominal center-left like Jon Chait, all converging on the same basic bad-faith argument (with a snarkier ironic tone from someone like Shapiro and a smarmier self-serious tone from someone like Chait) that the left needs to submit to those to its right in order to defeat them.

143

Patrick 11.28.18 at 1:19 am

I don’t know how many columns Chait has to write with headlines like “If you’re a conservative you’d probably have supported Jim Crow” or “Trump is a racist and conservative excuses to the contrary are laughable” for people to stop claiming that he blames the left for Trump’s win because he thinks they shouldn’t call the right racist. He was writing about two of those a week for a while. He must think its ok to call the right racist at least some of the time, considering he spends so much time doing it! So presumably you’ve misinterpreted him somewhere.

This is kind of my thing from comment 85. I consider OP’s views on Haidt, and WGLR’s views on Chait, to be so ridiculous that my intuitive move is to declare them trolls who aren’t arguing in good faith. But I’ve been around long enough to know that they’re probably as committed to them as I am to the sun coming up tomorrow.

144

nastywoman 11.28.18 at 4:35 am

@”trolling”
as ”the act of disrupting people for the personal amusement or the amusement of just… nobody“:

@140
‘The best way for the left to help fascists win power is to visibly yoke itself to the cause of liberal centrism, thereby suggesting to anybody alienated from liberal centrist politics that fascism is the only meaningful alternative”.

”we are not amused” – would the Queen say – as whoever came up with this idea – that by NOT voting for ”fascists” means helping fascist win power – is for sure the ultimate ”troll”.

Similarly, the best way for centrists to help fascists win power is to disparage and delegitimize any effort by the left to distance itself from the liberal centrist albatross, deliberately arranging the theater of political conflict as a binary contest with centrists on one side and fascists on the other

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b9n10nt 11.28.18 at 10:49 am

Please continue to correct/ignore/ban those who are disagreeable and fail to show the desire or skill to engage analytically and charitably: I appreciate “CT: the moderated years”.

But no name calling is required. There are no trolls. Or, we are all trolls: ever eager for more attention and greater regard, ever desirous to feign greater emotional detachment.

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WLGR 11.28.18 at 5:16 pm

Patrick, perspectives like “If you’re a conservative you’d probably have supported Jim Crow” are such low-hanging fruit that one might as well try to pluck them in the Marianas Trench, and for pundits like Chait to spend so much of their time and energy on such takes is a criminal waste of the prominent and well-funded media platforms they occupy. That said, the deeper problem isn’t the mere fact that someone like Chait writes a bazillion cookie-cutter columns per day with headlines like “omg those durn rethuglicans r teh worst amirite folks?” — it’s that every now and then he lazily lolls his head around 180 degrees leftward for just long enough to intone that criticism of the center from the left is a distraction from the aforementioned urgently important work, which also makes a convenient excuse for him to avoid developing this critique substantially further, or responding to any substantive counterarguments from the left, before turning back to his eternal rock-’em-sock-’em-robots duel with the gosh-dang GOP. I’m sure the world could survive with one fewer Chait column about why Trump’s latest Tweet is a new low for the sanctity of the Oval Office or whatever, if the payoff was even so much as a single Chait column elaborating how his perspective on far-left radical identitarian PC college students differs from that of Jordan Peterson, or how his perspective on Russian disinformation conspiracies differs from that of Jeremiah Denton.

Actually though, for you as a moderate to default to the example of “b-b-b-but here he says right-wingers woulda supported Jim Crow!” could hardly be more appropriate, because if someone like you or Chait were truly interested in drawing necessary lessons from the political landscape of the Jim Crow era for the political landscape of today, a good baseline starting point (not the be all end all, but a good baseline starting point) might be this iconic response to centrist concern trolling:

First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

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J-D 11.29.18 at 2:36 am

politicalfootball

(What happened to kidneystones/ph? Did he finally get banned?)

I don’t recall any announcement to that effect. Sometimes people just stop commenting. I have left no instructions for my death to be announced here, so in that event there’d be no more comments from me and nobody here would ever know why. Maybe the cops caught up with kidneystones? Speculation may be amusing, but it’s otherwise futile.

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