Tag Archives: Troll

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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Denying a Troll His Fix

img_0826One of the hallmarks of a troll is that he (it’s always a he) becomes extremely uncomfortable when the person he intends to annoy does not respond to him. Again, I claim some authority here because I was once a troll. Actually, I was accused of being a troll but at the time I did not consider myself as such. I saw myself as a simple member of a Star Trek message board community who decided to give a certain bully named Admiralbill a taste of his own medicine. But for some reason the other members of the board seemed to side with him. That was how I came to be labeled as a troll and as I came to find out once a person has been labeled a troll it is very difficult for him to shed that label. But I digress.

As I said, trolls do not like to be ignored. I can remember times I issued a zinger against Admiralbill and sat waiting for his response. I remember the rush of adrenaline anticipating him flying off the hammer as he had done so many times before. I lived for that feeling. There were, however, a few times when he did not respond which resulted in the reverse effect. I would compulsively refresh the screen over and over. I became irritable and agitated. Eventually an anger would well inside of me. Obviously, this emotional reaction resulted because Admiralbill’s non response triggered something inside of me. An old, unconscious pattern played itself out in a new form.

Unconsciousness is another hallmark of a troll. That is, the troll is typically unconscious of his own motivations. He wants to describe his actions as a crusade for truth or righteousness or some such. When I fought with Admirallbill I saw myself as standing up for those other members of the message board who could no defend themselves for example. But what any troll is really doing when he attacks his victim is replaying a drama that had once been played upon him. More basically, what he is doing is getting off on and becoming addicted to the endorphins that get release every time he engages in his trolling behavior.

In a sense, when the object of a troll’s desires refuses to respond to him it is like parent stealing the stash of heroine from his or her addicted son. Once that juvenile mind who is anticipating a high discovers that he will not get his fix he becomes angry and lashes out. This is the first phase of the withdrawal process.

It is tough medicine indeed for the object of the troll to deny the troll the fix he needs. On one level this is a satisfying way to fight back against the troll because there is satisfaction in knowing that the troll is justly experiencing pain as punishment for his previous actions. On another level this experience is what the troll needs. He needs to learn that his actions are evil and carry consequences. On the highest level, the troll may gain insight into himself. Through the process of being denied his fix he may come to realize the dynamic at play. He may come to recognize the old pattern that he had been unconsciously playing out over and over again. He just might become aware of his true motivations. It is probably only through this awareness that the troll will ever be able to reform himself.

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Things I Learned Dealing With a Troll

picThe key aspect of trolling is a lack of impulse control. The true troll cannot help responding to a post or comment he (or she but I suspect most likely he) interprets as insulting or morally incorrect according to his troll sensibilities. This lack of impulse control indicates that the troll is addicted to his behavior. That is, the reward neural pathways in his brain have developed through previous trolling behavior to the extent where it is very difficult for him to resist the urge. From this perspective, trolling is a legitimate mental disorder.

In addition to this lack of impulse control is an ignorance of his true motivations. He wants to believe that he is “opposing evil” but in reality he is truly motivated to get that endorphin rush his brain releases when he judges other people. It is this endorphin rush that creates the addictive behavior. Along with this chemical reinforcement, psychologically, by judging other people he makes himself feel better about himself by placing his self image hierarchically above the object of his judgment.

It seems self-evident that this need to improve his self image proceeds from the reality that his self image is unacceptably low. In other words he suffers from a lack of self esteem that he needs to rectify along with, most likely, a great deal of shame. Paradoxically this personality type is often associated with an over inflated ego to compensate.

Given this nexus of shame and ego it is not surprising that this personality type typically falls prey to ideologies he can use to inflate his ego and deflate his shame at the expense of others. The ego delights in comparing the self to others. As such, hierarchical ideologies can be particularly appealing to this mind type. Racial ideologies seem to be an obvious choice to make as an obvious and extremely basic point of comparison.

In the real world, the shame based egoist loves wearing a uniform displaying his rank. The Nazis and Ku Klux Klan come to mind as blatant examples.  Behind the safety of this shield he can feel free to judge others. By contrast, in the virtual world of the internet, the anonymity of message boards and comment sections of blogs serves a similar protective purpose. His rank in this instance, must be displayed through bullying and belligerence against those whom he judges.

I bring all this up for three reasons. The first reason is that I understand the mindset. I used to troll a message board because I felt I had been wronged by some of its members. At the time I felt very much like I was fighting the good fight but I now see that my true motivation was that I wanted to make those I felt wronged me feel the shame they made me feel. The second reason is that I have recently had the insightful experience of being trolled by a person who has been for the last year or so trolling my blog. His comments are legion. Feel free to look at other posts to see what I mean. The experience of being trolled has now given me the perspective of seeing this behavior from both sides. I truly feel like I have come to a more rounded understanding of what trolling is really about. At its heart it is a mental disorder and is not a pleasant place to exist. The troll mindset is obsessed. He is constantly thinking of new arguments to make and the next chance he can seize to shame his enemy (with the same shame he, himself is tortured with). It is an anxiety-ridden, dark and evil place to exist. I do not wish this on anyone, not even the troll in my comment section. This leads me to my third reason why I bring all this up. That reason being it is my intention to cease my communication with him on my blog going forward.

I wish to cease communication with him on my blog because it is an evil and negative business. It is evil because it is based in shame on both sides. Both of us are trying to shame the other both for the shame each of us has already inflicted upon the other and because of all the previous shame that has been inflicted upon us that the present shame calls forth. Accordingly, to continue with this behavior is to feed its energy and to make it grow. That is not what I want to do and so I will not do so anymore on this blog.

Accordingly, any comment he makes on this blog going forward will be deleted. There is a part of me that gets a charge out of trading barbs with him. But this charge is the endorphin rush of trolling that I described. Giving into this charge and acting on it repeatedly forges those neural pathways that give rise to addiction. I can pretend that I engage him because it amuses me but this only makes me like him and I do not want to be like him. The only difference is that I am aware of the dynamic at work and he apparently is not. That is why it is my moral responsibility to be the one to end this interaction on my blog.


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Troll Jujitsu

trollI have tussled with a troll on my blog lately. I shall not name him directly in this post but anyone can review the comment sections of other posts I have written to know who I am talking about. Like all trolls he has an over inflated ego and sees (or at least presents) himself as fighting the good and moral fight. But also like all trolls he remains largely unaware of his own true motivations. If he is at all aware of his true motivations he represses this knowledge so that he can maintain the feeling that his cause is righteous. How do I know all this about his psychology? I know this because I was once in his shoes. I recognize the pattern of behavior an the mindset. I even wrote a book about it.

I admit freely that I enjoy tussling with him on occasion and it always follows a similar pattern. I will publish a blog post that draws his attention. Sometime I specifically write on subjects because I know it will get a reaction from him and other times he simply responds to something I have written without this intent. We then argue back and forth each telling the other person that they are wrong. Sometimes it starts out on the issues but it always devolves into ad hominem attacks. Eventually the tussle becomes tiresome and I tell him I have had enough. He then attempts to post a response which I delete. He usually gives up after that.

Now the fact that I do derive enjoyment out of the interaction in a sense makes me a troll as well. Because the true motivation of a troll is to derive pleasure from getting a reaction out of another person. This is a very ego oriented drive. It makes the self feel good by putting itself hierarchically above another person. The ego is always comparing itself in this way. Some trolls are aware of this dynamic and are therefore able to exercise a degree of control over their behavior. Other trolls do not have this awareness and are unable to control their behavior or perhaps one could say that their behavior controls them. I suspect the gentleman who has been trolling my blog falls into the latter category.

In a sense our interactions have turned trolling into an art form or sport from my perspective. I am using his trolling against him to in effect perform what I would like to label a “reverse troll” or “troll jujitsu.” This of course is my way of making myself feel better about my role in this interaction. I am telling myself that it is all just a bit of fun. But in reality, my intuition tells me there is a dark side to all this that leaves us both muddy. So maybe I am not as aware of my true motivations as I think I am. My growth in this area is a work in progress I suppose.

For example, lately I took a little pride in the fact that this gentleman took it on the chin in the comment section of another blog he trolls. I need to provide some background on this. I first caught this gentleman’s eye more than a year ago when I posted a comment to a post on the blog “The Othosphere.” He took offense with my point of view and after that he began to obsessively post comments on my blog and has been doing so with remarkable consistency ever since. He originally accused me of trolling The Orthosphere. At the time I assumed he was a regular and respected contributor to that community. Over time it became clear, however, that at best the members of that blog’s community tolerated his presence. Typically they ignore his comments by not responding to them at all. At worst they express contempt for him. But I think in his mind I am the interloper to that community which he feels he is a part. Anyway, recently I commented in a post as an attempt to goad him. He naturally snapped at the bait but the beautiful part was that the author of the post entered the conversation making all the arguments against him that I typically make (e.g., his writing is unclear and confusing, he redefines words and expects everyone to use his definitions etc.). To my troll persona this was a spectacular turn of events. Not only was he made to look foolish on his supposed home turf but someone else did the heavy lifting for me. All I had to do was stoke the flame a bit here and there when it started to go out. This was black belt level troll jujitsu.

Of course I am not proud of this behavior. It is dark. It is ego driven. I can make excuses that he was the one who started it, or his belief system is ridiculous and bigoted, or I am not the only one who sees him for the buffoon that he is. But in truth these are all excuses covering up my true intentions. That truth is that there is a part of me that enjoys this and to the extent that I do enjoy it I remain unconsciously controlled by it. This is not a question of morality. From that perspective we are both wrong. But morality is largely an ego oriented enterprise. Morality says I am right and they are wrong and whoever is wrong should feel ashamed. Addressing trolling from the moral perspective will never heal the wound because the wound is a wounded ego. It is truly nothing more and nothing less. Moralizing this problem would only serve to reinforce the ego’s sense of self. The only way to heal a wounded ego is simply (but not easily) by becoming aware. Obviously I am not quite there yet but I am working towards that goal.


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Similarities between Trolls and Terrorists

OBLIt occurred to me recently that internet trolls and terrorists share certain distinct qualities. This idea came to me when I realized that the victims of trolls and terrorists always have the same response. This response is to question why trolls and terrorists do what they do. Specifically they ask themselves, “Why they do they hate us?” Often the victims explain the actions of the trolls and terrorists by labeling them as evil or simply jerks. I am certainly not here to argue that these labels are inappropriate. But I do think they demonstrate a lack of understanding on the victim’s part as to what is truly motivating the trolls and terrorists.

I think I have a good idea what motivates an internet troll because I have acted as one in the past. Although I have never committed an act of terrorism it seems reasonable to speculate that the terrorist’s motivations are the same as the troll’s motivation because the actions of both terrorists and trolls have the same effect on their victims. That is, their actions are designed to make their victims suffer in and of itself.

When I was a troll (or when I was accused of being a troll) I felt like I was being mistreated by the people who dominated the Star Trek message board on which I was an active member. (See my book “Shame and Internet Trolling” for more details). There was one politically conservative guy on the message board named Admiralbill who I felt was particularly nasty and condescending to people who had the audacity to question the George W. Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq. I took it upon myself to passive-aggressively attack him with sarcastic remarks and by posting articles on topics I knew would make him angry. I was not particularly liberal at the time but I was willing to advocate the liberal argument to achieve my goals. The administration of the board sided with him and so I began arguing with them until they eventually banned me. When I look back upon my actions I can see that I was chiefly motivate to make both Admiralbill and the board administration suffer. In fact I took pleasure from doing so.

But there is another aspect to this behavior in that both trolling and terrorism are unconscious acts. They are unconscious in the sense that the perpetrators of both acts (I believe) are unconscious of their true motivations. It is my contention based upon my own experience that a person who derives pleasure from making other people suffer feels this way because someone else derived pleasure from making them suffer. In other the feel compelled to repeat this behavior because they are addicted to the feelings it evokes in them.

Because trolls and terrorists are unaware of (or unwilling to admit) their true motivations they tend to cloak their behavior in righteousness. When I trolled I argued that I was defending the liberals from Admiralbill’s abuse. Admiralbill argued that conservatism was rational and by contrast liberalism was irrational. (Although I admit my behavior was troll-like I suspect Admiralbill also share my motivations. This motivation to cloak this behavior in righteousness is probably why terrorism and religion attract each other in many cases. Other examples of this that come to mind are Michael Voris the snarky, condescending and judgmental producer of the Church Militant videos available on Youtube as well as the white supremacist Thordaddy who stalked my blog some months back. Both seem to take pleasure in judging and shaming others while at the same time cloaking their behavior in righteousness and religion. It is my contention that all these examples as well as the terrorists in Al Qaeda and ISIS are all similarly unaware of their true motivations. And they must remain unaware of their true motivations in order to continue with their behavior. I believe this to be true because in my own experience once I became aware that I was simply repeating the abuse I once suffered I realize that it is the cycle in which I was trapped that is evil and not the people upon which I sought to perpetuate the cycle. Once I realized this my motivation to continue with the behavior disappeared.

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How To Write About Painful Topics (Interview)

Here is a link to an interview I had with Gary Smailes of Bubblecow, a company based in the UK that provides editing and publishing assistance for self-published authors.

In this interview Gary asks me about writing honestly about painful topics as it relates to my first self published eBook “Shame and Internet Trolling.”

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To Any E-Book Author Needing a Book Review… I will Review Yours if You Review Mine

I recently wrote and published an eBook entitled Shame and Internet Trolling and am looking for an independent reader to write an honest review on Amazon and Goodreads. I have noticed that there are many services available on the internet offering to review independently published books for a fee. I assume there are a lot of authors out there who are in my situation but do not want to pay for a review. Here is what I propose:

If you are an independent author who has recently published and want a review please contact me in the comment section below. I will read and review your book if you read and review mine.

I am looking forward to hearing from any other independent authors!


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