Tag Archives: Message Board

Message Boards and Comment Sections Part II

In my last post “Message Boards and Comment Sections” I talked about how debates in these particular forums almost always turn into a battle of egos rather than an honest and authentic discussion of ideas. True to form a debate followed in the comment section where this very dynamic played itself out. Ostensibly the debate concerned whether there are any free societies and whether the freedom of citizens is a good and proper goal to which a government to aspire. But as the process played out I found myself in the anxious situation where I felt the need to respond to every comment (or risk tacitly conceding a point) and then dreading seeing the the little red circle pop up indicating that a new comment had been made.

Although to a certain (not insignificant) extent there was an interesting and legitimate exchange of ideas there was also an underlying current of egoism which over time increased in importance. Eventually, the ideas of the discussion became the weapons used to fight a battle of egos. I certainly am not accusing my worthy opponents of being entirely responsible for this. I, by no means am innocent of this process. (In fact, I wrote a book about my prior experiences and lessons learned in this world.) Perhaps because of these experiences I am simply more aware of of the dynamic. I suppose I also have to accept the possibility that I am the only one who is really experiencing this dynamic and that I am projecting my experience on to the other people. But, I say that more as a disclaimer because I truly believe this is what is playing out despite any potential denials or protestations I might receive in the near future.

More and more I find this decent into egoism to be a drain on my energy. There is certainly a part of me (my ego) that has a strong desire to jump back into the game and in the short run this game can be very exhilarating. But like all addictions, the short term benefit gradually becomes overwhelmed by the long term detriments.

At this point I am weary of writing another post on a political topic because I (sort of) dread the debate that ensues in the comment section. I dread the feeling of having to respond or risk a humiliation however small. This is not to say that I will never reengage with the game. Like all addicts I suppose that I will relapse and come back to the well eventually. And honestly, I do feel lately I have been gaining an education and questioning some liberal beliefs I have held that frankly could use some questioning.

I even have a topic in mind that I have been mulling over. These topics tend to sit in the back of my mind for a while gaining mass and organization. At a certain point they achieve a critical mass and then push themselves forward out onto the page. This is the way it always happens. The cycle will repeat.

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Message Boards and Comment Sections

I have been involved in many conversations on message boards and in blog comment sections over the years. Very few of these conversations have been respectful and compassionate although this sometimes occurs. More often these conversations start as a difference of opinion about a specific issue but then morph into a battle of egos. Neither side will admit this of course. They always couch their position as if it is motivated chiefly by a search for the truth. This proclaimed motivation, however, is almost always betrayed by the snarky, sarcastic quality the comments take on and by ad hominem attacks made against the person espousing the opposing position.

I should know better than to get sucked into these debates. They always end up the same way, sour my mood and muddle my thought process. But this is the nature of an ego based exchange. As I said, ad hominem attacks (as opposed to an honest discussion of the issues) is a good indicator that the conversation has turned in this direction. Another indicator is when the debate replays itself in my mind when I am not actually engaged in the debate. This is the ego preparing itself for the next round. And the goal is not really to show the opposing side the errors of his ways. The goal is always to humiliate the other side. This is why it always gets personal.

I have my theories as to why a person chooses to make a debate personal. Choose is actually the wrong word because this decision is made on a very primitive and neuro-chemical level. That is, reward chemicals are released when a person senses that he has humiliated his opponent through text. Over time his brain rewires itself in response to this reward. Through this rewiring he becomes addicted to the reward and then acts on it through compulsion.(1) This is why a troll does what he does. But the question remains why these chemicals are released in response to this scenario in the first place. It seems highly likely that this neural pattern is based on prior experiences of being humiliated (probably by primary care takers at an early and formative age). This creates the mechanism that rewards humiliating other people.(2) But often within the throws of an exchange it feels like a struggle for the truth is at stake. It is forgotten (or never known in the first place) that the real motivation is to humiliate the other even though this motive remains alive and well on a subliminal level.

Another aspect to this dynamic is a failure (or refusal) to appreciate the other person’s position. Once things get personal this obstinance only calcifies. For example, Zippy talks about the positivists wearing blinders in the following passage:

For sane people, a real counterexample calls for revision of the theory or metaphysics which its existence contradicts. For positivists, a real counterexample is something to be dismissed unless it can be incorporated into positive theory.

However, he fails to see the beam in his own eye in this respect when it comes to his obsessive anti-liberal stance. He is so wedded to his own belief that liberalism is the cause of all evil in the world that he dismisses out of hand all counterexamples (usually with an  ad hominem attack thrown in for good measure). Moreover, within the echo chambers of the comment sections of the Orthosphere and his own blog his absurd points of view are largely confirmed. The best example I can give as to this is his argument that the USA and North Korea are equally free societies. (See the comment section to this post). I can only attribute his ability to believe this to the fact that he has a loyal band of people who readily agree with him and reinforce this belief. Unfortunately, such is the post truth / alternative fact world in which we now find ourselves living.

In closing, I write this post mainly to put a bookend to this series of posts I started writing a while back. It started when a self proclaimed white supremacist and Orthosphere commenter by the name Thordaddy start spamming my blog with literally hundreds of comments. Something I said clearly irked him and he made it his mission to read all my posts and comment copiously on them. I sort of enjoyed this for a while because it gave me a wealth of material on which to write. But as I mentioned before this type of exchange eventually becomes emotionally and spiritually draining. Later I started engaging the more sane contributors on the Orthosphere in an honest attempt to understand their point of view. This worked for a while. My original position was merely to document my thought process as I followed their arguments and evaluated the natural counter arguments that arose in response. But eventually that position devolved into the present position where I find myself engaging in silly debates about whether a person can coherently say he would rather live in a free society such as the USA over an un-free society like North Korea. The answer is obvious to me and it is equally obvious that any further debate would only serve to feed each other’s ego. It is Lent after all and I would rather follow the advice of St. Paul and set my mind on things above rather than earthly things. (Col 3:2)


(1) See The Cure for Alcoholism, Roy Eskapa, PhD, (2008)

(2) See Healing the Shame that Binds You, John Bradshaw (2005)

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Advice to the Next Blogger Stalked by Thordaddy

ScroogeEver since September of 2015 I have “enjoyed” a playful back and forth in the comment section of my blog with an individual who goes by the name of Thordaddy. Our conversation began after I wrote a comment to a post on another blog entitled “The Orthosphere” to which he apparently took offence. Soon after he started posting comments on almost every blog post I have made ever since. These comments sometimes number in the hundreds. I have run across other instances where he has harassed other bloggers in a similar fashion. Accordingly, I have no doubt that I will not be the last “flavor of the month” on his menu (so to speak). The following is intended to be a primer for the use of the next blogger he seeks to attach himself to. My hope is to pass on the wisdom I have obtained as to how to interact with Thordaddy once he sets he sets his sights on you.

Ask Questions

My first piece of advice is that you should always end your comment by asking a question. This will allow you to frame the debate and it will keep him perpetually on the defense. The idea here is partly to exhaust him by keeping your question in the back of his mind until he answers it. Because Thordaddy is both obsessive compulsive and shame-based he will always feel the need to respond because an unanswered question wounds his pride.

Asking questions also yields fruit beyond its strategic value. He has an interesting philosophy combining Christianity and racism. Some of his philosophy contains a logical consistency. Much of it, however, makes no sense at all. But the fact that it makes sense in his mind makes it is an interesting game to pull more and more information out of him. Because he lacks the ability to coherently and concisely articulate his philosophy the process of reconstructing it based on his utterances is akin to constructing a jigsaw puzzle.

He has a hard time believing that his convoluted (verging on schizophrenic) writing does not make sense to other people. Accordingly, he may lash out accusing you of willfully feigning ignorance. Do not let this throw you. Simply lob the ball back in his court by asking him why he feels this way.

One Point at a Time

If he makes several points in one comment or posts several comments in response to one of yours it is always better to pick one and respond to it rather than trying to respond to everything. The obvious advantage to this approach is that it makes the conversation easier to follow. One ancillary benefit to this method is the fact that he will ultimately expend more energy than you do and become more frustrated. Another benefit is that you are free to pick his weakest argument and attack that. Again, you always want to frame the debate and keep him on the defensive.

Demand He Define His Terms

Thordaddy employs a unique vocabulary where he takes common words and then redefines them to his liking. For example, he has redefined the word “perfection” to mean “objective supremacy” but refuses to explain what “objective supremacy” means. He then expects you to understand his redefinitions and when you become confused he will accuse you of feigning ignorance. Interestingly, he will consistently weasel out of all attempts on your part to get him to define his terms in any coherent way. As such, demanding him to define his terms is an effective way to keep him on the defensive. It is a trap he could easily escape if he only defined his terms but for some reason he does not want to which makes his whole philosophy suspect in my opinion.

Do Not Accept His Attempts to Label You

If you argue with Thordaddy he will attempt to label you as a liberal, radical autonomist, liberationist, anti-supremacist etc. Every week he seems to come up with a new label. This is his attempt to place you in a defined box and to put you on the defensive. But of course, his definitions are wildly suspect as discussed above. Do not accept his labels by turning the conversation around on him. Ask him what he means by these labels and get him to define his terms.

“Radical Autonomy”

One of his favorite labels is “Radical Autonomy” or “Radical Autonomist.” Much like all the other redefined words in his lexicon this one is also hard to pin down. As best I can tell, he believes this term to mean a breaking away from God or defying God’s will. Now Thordaddy claims to be a Christian. He further claims that Christianity demands one to be a racist despite all the scripture instructing the exact opposite. Interestingly, he will never cite scripture to buttress his arguments. Rather, he will only come up with convoluted arguments to weasel out of the scripture’s plain meaning. As far as I can tell, he is the only one who currently believes or has ever believed what he believes in the whole history of Christianity. He belongs to no community of faith and has admitted he is separated from his family. It seems to me this accusation of “radical autonomy” is merely a projection of his own shame onto other people. So always remember that he is all by himself and his mind is dominated by his ego. This is why he compares himself to others, judges others and hates other races despite his attempts to cloak his philosophy in Christianity.

Hitler

He always becomes a bit flustered when compared to Hitler. He denies any association or affinity for Hitler because he claims Hilter’s actions actually damaged the supremacy of the White Race. Accordingly to him, Hitler is an anti-white Supremacist. However, I suspect he would be just fine with Hitler if he had been successful in World War II. As such, I see this tact as Thordaddy trying to have it both ways. Regardless, playing the Hilter card can be effective to trip him up as he will always respond angrily calling you “stupid” or “pavlovian” etc. This response only displays how close to home this jab strikes him. All that being said, I would suggest only using this tactic sparingly to preserve its rhetorical power.

How to Win

There is no point trying to get Thordaddy to admit he is wrong. Such is the nature of all anonymous message board and comment section debates. Because he will never admit being wrong, the way you win is by getting him frustrated and by always getting in the last word. If you get the last word in and he does not respond (especially after making hundreds of previous comments) count this as a victory. Of course if you run your own blog you can always delete any comment he has posted. I have done this from time to time when he has babbled on nonsensically, repeated himself ad nauseam or was otherwise being offensive.

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Shame and Internet Trolling

Check out my newly published eBook entitled Shame and Internet Trolling.

“Shame and Internet Trolling” is about my life journey through shame and how it led to me becoming an internet troll. The book is divided into three parts. In part one I discuss my life history up until I began trolling as it relates to my experience of shame. In part two I discuss my experience trolling, how it felt and the methods I employed. In part three I discuss the series of experiences that brought me out of shame and internet trolling.

 

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Things I’ve Been Accused of on Message Boards

Admiralbill frequently accused me of baiting him. That is, he accused me making posts designed to get him upset and react by responding to my post in an angry manner. He was right. I frequently posted articles in the politics section of Sistertrek.net that made the Republican party look bad. Since Admiralbill was a rabid, conservative Republican I could be sure of him responding. Since I enjoyed making him angry, that made me a troll. He called me a troll especially towards the end. He was right about that also. There is no doubt that I deliberately posted inflammatory articles for the purpose of starting arguments with him. Of course I denied this was what I was doing as all respectable trolls would do.

On another message board I joined, this guy Actionjeans accused me of being a clone pretty soon after I joined. This surprised me because I had not done anything yet to piss anyone off. I guess he thought that I was actually someone else who was operating a second avatar for the purposes of providing support to his first avatar. This was a false accusation but he was able to convince other people on the message board that my avatar was a clone. Another person, a friend of Actionjeans, accused me of being a sock puppet which I am guessing is essentially the same thing. When I tried to defend myself by denying these accusations they said I was acting just like the guy they thought I was a clone of.

Based on my prior experience on Sistertrek I decided to pull out my big guns and embrace being a troll. I fancied myself Obi Wan Kenobi, an aged master who had been living in the desert for years and suddenly compelled to come out of retirement, use his seasoned skills and fight the good fight. I made posts designed to anger my accusers. I asked them questions designed to put them on the defensive. I was relentless. It was then that they accused me of being a stalker. I did not like this accusation, so I suppose it was correct. The accusation had the effect of deflating the feeling of wise old master. Stalker seemed much less respectable. I felt ashamed of myself. But I could not stop trying to bait them because I was addicted to the rush I got when I posted something inflammatory. So, in a private message, I asked the moderator to ban me. He did not oblige me at first so then I went all out trying to make Actionjeans angry. After a few days of this the moderator banned me. At that point I could detox from the message board and get myself clean again.

That was my last experience trolling. For a long time I had the urge to get back in the game. I would think about Admiralbill and Actionjeans and get angry and wonder why they came out looking like the good guys and I came out looking like the bad guy. But the longer I did not troll the easier it became until that anger finally went away.

 

Read my ebook Shame and Internet Trolling. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.

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Getting Laid Off After Eight Years of Misery

Trolling does not have the same hold on me now because I have made progress with shame.  To make progress I first had to hit rock bottom, which occurred between 2009 and 2013. In 2009 my marriage was horrible.  My wife and I did not get along at all.  I was stressed out of my mind from my job and my home life.  I remember thinking at the time the best part of my day was the time I spent commuting on from my house to work.  I smoked a cigarette on the way to the bus.  I spent a large part of my workday trolling Sistertrek.  I drank at least five alcoholic drinks practically every night.  I was a mess.

At the time I was working this pharmaceutical document review in a building near Logan Circle in Philadelphia.  This was considered to be a high-end document review with a million different rules that I never fully learned and I do not think most people really understood. I could tell my supervisor thought I did not know what I was doing which made me depressed and anxious.  Looking back on it I could tell I was self-sabotaging.

The building I worked in was near the basilica in Logan Circle.  I went to the basilica during my lunch hour and prayed a novena to St. Jude the patron saint of lost causes that something would happen to change my career and my life.

 St. Jude, glorious apostle, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the traitor has caused you to be forgotten by many. But the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of hopeless cases, and of things despaired of. Pray for me who am so distressed. Make use, I implore you, of that particular privilege accorded you to bring visible and speedy help where help was almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and succor of Heaven in all my necessities, tribulations and sufferings, particularly, to bring change and progress to my career and my life and that I may bless God with you and all the elect throughout eternity. St. Jude, apostle, martyr, and relative of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Mary, and of Joseph, intercede for us!

On the ninth day of the novena I received a call from human resources to come to the main office building of the firm which at this time was in the Cira Center next to 30th Street Station. I knew why they called me.  People had been laid off in waves for months.  I feared the day but thought I was safe because I actually had work to do and real billable hours.  I figured the people they were letting go could not bill enough to justify their salaries.  At the time Dechert was all about streamlining expenses and cutting perks that made life less miserable for the employees.  After receiving the call I deleted all the personal files on my laptop and walked down JFK Boulevard to the Cira Center.

When I got there I was ushered into a conference room with two human resources people.  They had empathy plastered on their faces.  They seemed surprised when they asked me if I had any questions and I said no.  I am sure they were used to people blowing up at them.  On some basic level I felt relieved.  I had spent eight miserable years working at Dechert and this day would be my last.  Although there was brightness associated with closing this miserable chapter of my life I was about to begin a hellish, four-year period of being unemployed and underemployed.  Everything was about to get worse before it could get better.

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Once a Troll, Always a Troll

I felt like trolling was a waste of time but I was compelled to do it.  That is why I had to get myself banned from the message board.  There should be a rehab for trolling just as is for drug addiction.  In reality internet trolling is every bit addicting as drugs are.  Sometimes I think of all the trolls who cannot force themselves to stop.  It is probably ruining their lives because getting back at these people who wronged them on the message board is all that a troll can think about.  When I trolled I constantly and compulsively checked the board for a response to my posts and fearing a response to my posts at the same time.  It became incredibly draining emotionally and at the same time it took top priority in my life.

I remember being really angry when another poster got the better of me but I tried hard not to let that show.  I am sure Admiralbill was doing that as well but he had a very thin skin so he was not very successful.  I remember how fun it was (and depressing) to get him to blow up.  This point must be emphasized: a troll has to put forth the image that nothing affects him and that he thinks it is funny how his victims cannot control their emotions.  Meanwhile, the troll is a simmering volcano.  So on the one hand there is this aspect of a troll’s personality that really gets off on making other people angry (the limbic system / ego I suppose) then there is this other aspect that tells the troll this is wrong (the prefrontal cortex / super ego).  Meanwhile the troll’s true-self sleeps in the background somewhere.  The deeper a troll gets into trolling (or any addiction) the deeper his true-self sinks into sleep and the harder it will be to eventually wake him up.

I remember being infuriated when someone did not respond to a bait.  At the same time I knew my targets well and was confident they would take the bait eventually.  In fact, that was how they became targets in the first place.  They were so reliable.  I knew Admiralbill was a Republican, ex-navy guy, from Texas.  So I knew that posting any article on any of those subjects would get him going especially if they made any of those institutions look even remotely bad.  The Republican thing was easy because there was always an article on global warming, President Bush, the wars, the economy, the debt etc.  If I was advising a neophyte troll I would suggest he read a prospective victim’s posts and find out the things that define this victim.  Then post an article that puts any one of those things in a bad light.  When they react stick with the issues in the article until they get personal.  When this happens, claim only to want to stick to the issues rather than debase yourself by getting personal.  Of course making things personal is precisely the point but this can never be admitted.  It is totally passive aggressive and dishonest.  It is claiming not to be doing what is obviously being done.  This is the essence of shame-based behavior.

I did relapse a couple of times after I was banned from Sistertrek.  Once I came back with the handle “The Gnostic” but everyone on the message board knew it was me immediately.  They let me stay (I think because I made things interesting) until I got banned a second time.  Every now and then I feel the urge to go back but I think I have got it pretty well under control at this point.  I can see myself easily falling back into that behavior so now when I feel the urge I can usually talk myself out of it.  I am sure one day I will relapse again.  Once a troll, always a troll.

 

Read my ebook Shame and Internet Trolling. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.

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