Trolls (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

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.

I’ve used US examples here, but most of them have Australian counterparts. Feel free to point them out.

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

32 thoughts on “Trolls (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

  1. Duncan, if Jordan Peterson is asked personally face to face to call someone their preferred pronoun, does he?

    And pardon me if posting this seems inappropriate, yet this disinterested interested ContraPoints has Peterson nailed down. What is he actually saying? Good points about the left and excellent points about what ‘western civilisation’ needs to include.
    Jordan Peterson | ContraPoints

    Warning: drag queens, bathroom scene, lobster mask and swearing. Still the best half hr about Peterson I’ve read or seen. If it bores / annoys you go to 21mins. Tell me if you go back to watch the rest.

  2. @KT2 that video is great 😉

    I agree a lot of what Peterson says doesn’t make much sense. I find most of the 12 rules to either be just common sense or possibly wrong (the kids one bothers me). But his point about the government getting involved in speech issues seems valid. Just dismissing him as a troll seems odd to me.

    The irony is I heard about J Peterson in the same place I first heard about J Quiggin:

  3. The very issue Duncan cites is good evidence Peterson is a troll. Peterson says he’s fighting against the government’s requiring him to use gender neutral pronouns. The government is doing no such thing. When someone uses imaginary restrictions to get a soapbox – from which they announce their free speech is under threat – they’re very likely a troll. When you have to confect the threat, you’re not serious.

  4. I propose a new category of troll called a Llort. Here is a good example of a Llort:
    “Democracy Dies in Darkness
    ‘Nothing on this page is real’: How lies become truth in online America
    …”Christopher Blair, 46, sits at his desk at home in Maine and checks his Facebook page, America’s Last Line of Defense. He launched the political-satire portal with other liberal bloggers during the 2016 presidential campaign.
    “The more extreme we become, the more people believe it,” Blair replied.
    He had launched his new website on Facebook during the 2016 presidential campaign as a practical joke among friends — a political satire site started by Blair and a few other liberal bloggers who wanted to make fun of what they considered to be extremist ideas spreading throughout the far right. In the last two years on his page, America’s Last Line of Defense, Blair had made up stories about California instituting sharia, former president Bill Clinton becoming a serial killer, undocumented immigrants defacing Mount Rushmore, and former president Barack Obama dodging the Vietnam draft when he was 9. “Share if you’re outraged!” his posts often read, and thousands of people on Facebook had clicked “like” and then “share,” most of whom did not recognize his posts as satire. Instead, Blair’s page had become one of the most popular on Facebook among Trump-supporting conservatives over 55.”

    Q: does a llort anihalate a troll?
    A: I doubt it, yet if you have time it maybe worth $14k a month.

    So I propose a Llort factory to fund this:
    “But soon it will gain the ability to analyse claims and automatically retrieve the pertinent primary data from the Office of National Statistics’ API.”

  5. Jordan Peterson is charismatic and he appears cool and in control in interviews but he says nothing new or interesting as far as I can tell.

  6. Pr Q said:

    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).

    Pr Q misunderstands both the political appeal of Trump in particular and the relationship between personal character and political ethics in general. In doing so he does an injustice to Haidt and Peterson whose work stands up well in the “genersl rot” of the replication crisis-ridden professon of social psychology.

    Trump won over the populist base of the REP party because he spelled out the demographic writing on the wall and its partisan implications: vote for Clinton and face “the coming of the minority majority” and with it “the emerging Democratic majority” or vote for Trump and at least win a reprieve.

    For the REPs, 2016 was “the Flight 93 election”:

    You charge the cockpit or die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees. Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain.

    Demography is political destiny in a “woke” democracy. When you threaten a national demos with a political extinction event they are unlikely to be too fastidious about their means of survival.

    So its false to label Trump supporters or apologists as “trolls”. Although Trump himself is a kind of meta-troll President.  His popularity does, to a large extent, depend on his capacity to, as Pr Q puts it, “annoy and disrupt” the kind of people who conservatives dont much politically care for. Thats a side benefit from the main aim, which is to obtain a stay of execution whilst hoping that something more palatable turns up. A Bannonite Nixon to Trump’s Wallace, as Ross Douthat suggests?

    Pr Q said:

    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

    Haidt is justified in having “lined up explicitly with the cobservatives” considering the intellectual corruption of the “liberals”. The science of human nature and social structure must be based on Darwinian-Durkheimian fundamentals to be even half-way credible.

    Yet virtually all social-psychologists subscribe to the discredited Boasian model, garnished with half-digested bits of Foucauldian post-modernism. Hence 95% of practioners are, as Haidt reveals, Left-liberal in ideological orientation, The result is, as Stove predicted, an intellectual “disaster area…of the active kind, like a badly leaking nuclear reactor, or an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle”.

    Haidt and Dreher are quite correct to argue that the Trump phenomenon is “all the fault of liberals for pushing multicultural…diversity”, in the sense that absent this push, there would be no political demand for Trump.  There are no Trumps in Switzerland or Japan, which countries seem to be travelling well based on their conservative social solidarity.  But Rotherham voted 68-32 for Brexit. Suggesting that the Right-wing Culture War is grounded in “lived experience” and survival instinct, rather than “downwards envy”.

    Right-wing populism is an ideological outcome of a polarised society/hyper-partisan polity where every SJW action generates an equal and opposite Alt-Right reaction. As Dreher, paraphrasing Haidt, points out:

    Most people are not naturally authoritarian. But the latent authoritarianism within them is triggered when they perceive a threat to the stable moral order.

    In the US, most white Christians regard the imminent prospect of their demographic replacement by non-whites and anti-Christians with some combination of fear and loathing.  Yet these past 50 years Democrat strategists have tirelessly worked for it. And now liberal ideologists triumphantly celebrate it, when they are not vindictively relishing it.  This is legitimate cause for alarm.

    Which is why many white Christians are, with varying degrees of reluctance, tending towards authoritarian “white nationalism”, with all its attendant evils, as the lesser evil. They have no place else to go.

    More generally most voters, when it suits them, are able to make a Machiavellian distiction between a candidates obnoxious personality and the worthwhile aspects of his policy. US conservatives put the glass to their blind eye and voted for Trump in spite, not because, of his obvious lack of “loyalty” and “sanctity”. Just as US liberals held their nose and voted for Clinton in spite, not because, of his propensity to exercise “droit du signeur”.

    US Republicans intuit that the nature of the polity depends more on the kind of people that compose it, rather than the kind of politician that leads it. Thus it is perfectly possible for US Republicans to vote for Trump on Flight 93 tactical grounds whilst still holding fast to some version of Haidts shopping list of conservative moral values. They did the former to save the latter.

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