Monday, August 13, 2012

Trolling, trolling, trolling ..

I read the blog of Sam Harris fairly often, and just stumbled on this little piece regarding how his situation has evolved during his growing notoriety.  Obviously, Sam Harris has become something of a celebrity - seen as famous in certain circles and infamous in different circles.  Discovery of this piece by Sam Harris comes on the heels of a discussion we at American Heathen had off-air, about blogging.  Al Stefanelli in particular mentioned that on his blogs, he has little time to respond to all the comments, and simply allows all comments to post unmoderated.  He says that his followers usually challenge his detractors so well he feels no obligation to join in the "conversation".  On the other hand, RJ Evans and I run moderated blogs, where we decide whether or not to publish comments submitted to the blog.  Naturally, there are some differences in the way we moderate our blogs, but mostly we agree on the basic approach - we're not afraid to publish comments critical of what we have said, but are unwilling to let stupid trolls and irrational babble through.

This conversation and Sam's blog got me to thinking about what might happen in the future.  I have no illusions of ever achieving (or even seeking) the public exposure that Sam Harris gets.  Based on his blog, that would become a nightmare for me and I probably would retreat into a dark corner somewhere and suck my thumb in dismay over what I had brought upon myself.  I like the idea of being able to speak my mind on topics and to share those thoughts in hopes of promoting meaningful, civil discussion on those topics.  That's all I hope to achieve - I'm not so naive as to believe that my words can change the world, or even change someone's mind about a topic.

The Internet being what it is, unfortunately, if the circle of those interested in my blog were to grow to dizzying new heights, there's little doubt that it would attract a plethora of "keyboard warriors" and trolls seeking to bash me for reasons having little to do with the topics on my blog.  I've already had a small number of such.  Al Stefanelli gets a substantial number, including people inclined toward off-point invective, vitriolic rants, and even death threats!  RJ Evans has revealed some scary encounters with trolls.  To date, I'm still awaiting my first death threat.  In some strange way, I see that as some sort of badge of honor - but I also see it as a sign that this blog might be starting to get out of hand.  I can't even imagine what Sam Harris has to put up with, although his essay cited above certainly paints a bleak picture.  Hence, this blog ...

How to respond to criticism is always a difficult thing - do I go through the time and trouble to write a detailed, point-by-point response, or do I blow it off, saying it's counter-productive to "feed the trolls"?  In my professional life, I'm obligated to respond point-by-point to criticism and colleagues can judge for themselves the relative merits of the arguments presented by my interlocutor(s) and me.  But this blog is an entirely different story.  For the time being, I'll continue to moderate the comments I receive in the way I've been doing.  I insist on full real names tied to any comment - no anonymous comments or posted under a partial name or pseudonym.  If you aren't willing to own your comments, I have no wish to recognize them or respond in any way other than to delete them.  If the discussion becomes uncivil or 'goes ballistic' in a way unsatisfactory to me, it's terminated immediately.  The volume of comments I'm getting is relatively easy to manage - I trust my fame/infamy will not grow rapidly out of my ability to do so.  But if I find I can't handle the volume, then I'll probably disallow comments, as Sam Harris does.  I decline to provide a platform for trolls to pour out their bullshit!   

1 comment:

Bill Eckrich said...

Good for you. It is YOUR blog thus you reserve the right to cull out inappropriate remarks. It is far too easy for people to hide behind a keyboard these days. Also, what's wrong with just reading a post and maybe keeping your mouth shut? An old cowboy friend of mine once said, "Opinions are like assholes, we all got one."