Trolls and the Escapable Inescapable
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Trolls and the Escapable Inescapable

This is a discussion on Trolls and the Escapable Inescapable within the Venting forums, part of the Feeding the Fire category; This post has vague references to violence and the death penalty. This is not the first time I've talked about ...

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Old 04-30-21, 09:25 PM   #1
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: You know that place between sleep and awake—that place where you still remember dreaming?
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Default Trolls and the Escapable Inescapable

This post has vague references to violence and the death penalty.

This is not the first time I've talked about arguing with Internet trolls.

It might not be the last.

But... Yeah.

Sometimes I think a part of me is broken, and it's the part of me that would look at someone's utterly ridiculous comment and EVER think "maybe there's actually a reasonable person inside of them that I can coax out!"

That turns out almost never to be the case.

And it's almost never the case with people who aren't even trolling, either.

People just completely miss my point, so, so goddamn always.

I had an argument with someone quite a few months ago that got under my skin and somehow still does.

In a way I'm grateful for it because I think it betrays a problem deep inside me, such that a mind-parasite like that guy could so easily latch onto.

Whatever that thing is, I should figure it out and address it.

But until then, fuck that guy.

Fuck him for thinking his ineffectual rant had at any point defended his belief in the death penalty, and that I was the one whining.

Fuck him for thinking that innocent people being sentenced to death are "irrelevant" outlying cases.

Fuck him for calling it a strawman who would believe those cases don't matter because I referred to the fact that he called those cases irrelevant.

Fuck him for then USING a strawman to accuse me of suggesting I am completely fine with the death penalty but only wanted someone OTHER than the government to dole it out, when I said the literal opposite of that.

Fuck him for not understanding the VERY SIMPLE difference between the entire system of convictions and the death penalty itself. Neither is inextricable from the other. Many countries have easily done this. It's not difficult. A five year old could do it. It's called just not having a death penalty.

Fuck him for telling me to "lay out" an alternative to the death penalty when my entire argument was in fact laying out the groundwork for that alternative.

Fuck him for even thinking that this was something I had the onus to prove to him, like he was the sole arbiter of the future of all convicted wrongdoers.

There's a lot more. We could talk about the psychology of punishment, of systems of might makes right, of how to describe the moral hypocrisy of a society that has very conditional beliefs as to when to accept retaliatory violence on a schoolyard, let alone in a courtroom, what kind of violence it chooses to enact upon someone locked up and disarmed.

And that's all before we even get to the rate of convictions and how many people have been exonerated postmortem with better evidence gathering means and forensic science.

There was a good few weeks were I spent like an hour a day, sometimes more, just trying to figure out how to respond to someone so impossibly stupid, without insulting him, without being disrespectful, and debating with myself if this guy was even worth that effort and if I should just hold nothing back and write the slam dunk that he basically handed to me because his entire modus operandi was to try to sound smart (the irony in me using that term notwithstanding) without saying anything that to the discerning eye isn't pure mental vomit, and watch him try to just squirm out of it.

I would probably not admit that to anyone, anywhere else. Why would I?
It's embarrassing. I wasted hours of my life arguing with someone, who was just so completely wrong in every conceivable way it was even possible to be wrong. He was so wrong he contradicted his own beliefs.

And I don't even think it was because he was that stupid.

It's because he wasn't even trying. He didn't care about being right, at all. He had no shame in that.

And I keep falling for that.

I let him have that last word and there's some part of me angry that I walked away and didn't finish him off, rhetorically speaking. Maybe that's the part of me that I need to destroy. It's the part of me that cares too much what other people think of me, and it's the part of me that is constantly surprised that there are so many people in the world who say and do dumb shit.

Many of those people even resort to trolling to mask the fact that they feel stupid about a stupid thing they've said and just don't want to look weak, or whatever.

I also find it at least a little dismaying that I chose to have this conversation, and other similar conversations, to show myself that I can handle this kind of tough dialogue and that I can have a thicker skin. This guy had been borderline insufferable and arrogant throughout the entire conversation. I can handle the pointless insults; those just roll off. The stuff that really bothers me is how I try to be humble and inquisitive while all it can take is a single pointed question to set off alarms in someone's mind, and they start projecting hardcore. It's no surprise that he accused me of whining while his rant was basically an ineffectual whine against progress. It's no surprise that he told me to lay out my argument while my entire line of questioning was to try and understand his own.

I've heard this called cognitive dissonance.
Okay, well, the self-contradiction part was the cognitive dissonance part, mainly. I think. I'm not a professor.
The point is, people fall into all kinds of mental traps.

And I guess constantly replying to people like this is one of my own.

But maybe in the future it doesn't need to be.

I don't need to prove myself to guys like that.

I only need to prove myself TO myself.

And maybe the surest sign that I did the right thing is the surest reason I should use in the future to remove a person from my life.

If I ever feel pressured to think THAT hard about forming the right combination of words just to get someone to have a fair and reasonable discussion with me, I should probably just not ever speak to that person.
Stop trying. Take long walks. Look at scenery. Doze off at noon.
Don't even think about flying.
And then, pretty soon, you'll be flying again.

—Hayao Miyazaki
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Old 05-13-21, 08:17 PM   #2
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I've been through this struggle before. You never think you're going to get pulled into a heated debate with someone you've never met, but slowly the misunderstandings build, the time you put into the conversation grows, and it becomes harder and harder to pull away the more invested you become.

Sometimes theses conversations are with trolls, but sometimes not. One important thing to remember about humans is that, in general, we are less likely to admit that we are wrong when we are engaged in a heated argument. It's embarrassing to admit, but in my life I've been in arguments where I've realised mid-way through that I'm wrong but I feel that I can't give in. My behaviour was so cocky and so rude that the emotional impact of falling off of my high horse would be so great that I'd rather try and "win" an argument not with truth and logic but instead with intellectual slight of hand. Needless to say this is not good, and I've tried to work on it over time, but it is something that many people have experienced. Some people will experience this more often and/or more intensely than others, but many will experience it none-the-less.

Other times people genuinely may not see the flaws in their own reasoning. They may be unintentionally giving in to a logical fallacy, we all do from time to time, and sometimes people may almost be lying to themselves. They may not consciously realise that they are rejecting an argument simply because it leads to a conclusion they do not like, but that could, in effect, be what is happening. I think most of us tend to lie to ourselves more than we do to others.

Of course (and I'm not trying to say this applies to you in this situation), sometimes I've been frustrated at someone only to realise they are right!

When I think of these things it sometimes gives me more empathy towards the person I'm talking to, they may be rejecting an argument because they are obtuse, but they could be rejecting it because they are trying to avoid embarrassment by admitting they are wrong (something I know all too well). The conversation might be causing a deep internal conflict that is challenging some deeply held belief that they may not have ever questioned before. I've had to give up some deeply held beliefs in my life and in most cases I did not give them up immediately upon hearing an opposing viewpoint; it took a long time and many conversations. Hearing a logically constructed, and true, argument is not always enough to change someone's mind.

It happens less often, but even now I sometimes get sucked into these dumb arguments with random people on the internet. It is deeply frustrating not just to have someone who disagrees with you, but to have someone who doesn't even seem to be engaging with your arguments in good faith. I don't know about you, but the allure of these arguments isn't just trying to spread an idea that you think is right, there's also something fun and challenging about trying to formulate your thoughts on the issue in a logical and coherent manner. When the thoughts are in our heads they are typically all muddled up and very ephemeral, sometimes we might not even realise this until we try to write them down. There's also something exciting about the interplay between two people who disagree on something - the dialectic. But bad faith interpretations, name calling, and just general malice is not something that entices me - the dialectic is what hooks me in, the malice is a negative side effect I could do without.

If this applies to you too, then perhaps there is a way for you to feed in to the positive aspects of these conversations while trying to avoid the negatives. It's good that you've recognised the negative aspects are only serving to harm you. Perhaps you could look for groups where people try to engage in discussions about morally complicated topics? I don't mean something like a debate club; they typically devolve into bad faith interpretations and strategies to "win" instead of focusing on finding truth. There might be groups that meet up locally in your area, or if the virus is still a big problem in your country you could look for online discussion groups. I think it's easier to communicate in person, but that might not be an option in these times.

Not everyone is deserving of empathy, but sometimes we forget that there is a real human being on the other side. It doesn't justify their treatment of you, if it was done intentionally, but sometimes I find it hard to get angry when I think of the circumstances someone else is in or could be in. And it helps to realise how long it can take me to change my mind on a topic, so I try not to expect too much of other people on short timescales.
This isn't how it always was, but it's how it turned out
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Old 05-16-21, 02:25 PM   #3
Join Date: Feb 2011
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Yeah, I think I just have a frustrating time with the fact that there are so many beliefs people still have today while refusing to actually support those beliefs.

He deflected so hard from my questions that he ended up attacking an absurd extrapolation of my beliefs that ignored everything I wrote contradicting that extrapolation.

It's this weird sort of twilight zone effect when you realize you're talking to someone who is refusing to employ a level of literacy higher than a five year old, yet they insult you with every word they can find in a thesaurus that's synonymous with the word "childish."

It's hard for me to have empathy for that. I really tried with this person. I had made several replies only for them to just throw away everything they said. It may well be true that they just felt stupid or trapped into arguing a bad position and I can try to just be respectful of that fact but I really just don't understand that behaviour. When I hit a wall of cognitive dissonance I just walk away and think about it for a bit. I have every reason to do that; it helps me to not be wrong in the future. And as for saving face, admitting you're wrong about something can do a lot to save face.
Stop trying. Take long walks. Look at scenery. Doze off at noon.
Don't even think about flying.
And then, pretty soon, you'll be flying again.

—Hayao Miyazaki
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