Tag Archives: Trolling

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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A Conversation with Writer’s Block Part III

I burned Cate's book today in the woods as a symbolic conclusion to this project.

 

WS : Your underlying premise so far has been that writer’s block is caused by a subconscious, psychological process designed to protect me from experiencing uncomfortable feelings.

WB : Yes, that is essentially what I am in a nutshell.

WS : So how do I break through?

WB : The first method is to muster the awareness and courage to break through the writer’s block which means you have to allow yourself to experience that uncomfortable feeling that you are unwilling to experience.

WS : That sounds simple enough to do from a theoretical perspective.

WB : It is simple but unfortunately it is also impossible. At the very least it is extremely difficult to do.

WS : Why is it impossible?

WB : Because you cannot change the fact that you are unwilling to experience something simply by declaring that you are willing to experience it. The truth of the matter remains that you are unwilling to experience it and making a declaration of your willingness to experience what you are unwilling to experience is simply a misstatement of reality.

WS : How does a writer get through you then?

WB : In order to bypass the mechanism that I personify a writer must distract me or sneak by me in some manner.

WS : How does a writer do that?

WB : What I am about to tell you will probably only apply to you on the level of the specific because everyone has different fears. However, it may work to shed light on the process of writer’s block in general and in that regard may help someone other than you who happens to be reading this.

WS : Lay it on me.

WB : A method you are employing right now is to write in dialog. For some reason this allows you the freedom to generate ideas in a way that writing prose does not much of the time.

WS : Why is that?

WB : I think it works because you are in a sense stepping out of your head which is where the fear resides and stepping into the head of another entity that does not have that particular fear.

WS : Yes but the head I am stepping into is created from my head so really I’m not stepping out of my head.

WB : True, but you cannot deny the results. It is a slight of hand, but it works so why question it?

WS : Are there any other methods?

WB : Sure. Recently you have been generating a great deal of material for your blog by debating a certain individual who is let’s say easily antagonized. This seems to be another way in which you can bypass me. Do you know why that is?

WS : Well, by entering into a dialog with him it is in a sense like entering into a dialog with you. We bounce ideas off of each other and together we come up with something that neither one of us would have come up with on our own.

WB : Yes, that’s part of it. The other part of it is that you sort of “get off” on fucking with the poor guy. You get a charge out of it and that charge is perhaps more enticing that the fear is scary. Does that make sense?

WS : It does although I am not proud to admit it.

WB : Part of you is not proud to admit it. Part of you thoroughly enjoys it. We’re entering into territory that you have covered extensively on this blog. It is the addictive nature of trolling that is caused by a personality that was shaped by shame.

WS : Yes. A shame based personality enjoys making other people feel ashamed. This is the primary reason why people pass judgment on others and why they cloak their judgment in morality. They judge other people because they get off on it. It feels good to put other people below them hierarchically. But they cloak this desire for relative supremacy in morality and objectivity in order to mask this true desire.

WB : Right. We don’t need to go too deep into this. It is good to acknowledge that is what is going on here and to recognize what a powerful motivating force this is. It is so powerful, for example, that you can harness it to bypass your fears.

WS : But there is an evil negativity associated with it.

WB : Yes. It is dishonest in that it claims to be doing something good and right when it is actually serving a base desire. It is also evil in the sense that it achieves its goal of benefiting you by hurting someone else.

WS : Yes, and the more I use it the more I feel pulled to the dark side and become dominated by it.

WB : It is an addiction in other words.

WS : Yes, it starts out serving me or perhaps more accurately it starts out with the appearance of serving me but eventually displays it’s true nature and becomes my master.

WB : So although it can be a powerful force it is probably better to leave it alone.

WS : It is difficult to do that. I find that it comes and goes in waves. I will indulge in the behavior. At first it is fun and exhilarating but after a period of time it begins to disgust me. At that point I cut myself off. At first being free of it feels liberating and peaceful but after a period of time it becomes stale and boring. And so I think maybe I can do it just a little bit. And so I do and the cycle repeats itself. I know that if I were to strive for a more perfect me I would divorce myself from this cycle entirely. But again it is difficult.

WB : It is but if perfection were easy we would all be perfect.

WS : Assuming we all want to be perfect…

WB : Good point.

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The Mentality Behind Baiting and Trolling

BOANIn my last post entitled “How to Increase Traffic to Your Blog” I wrote that one method to increase traffic is to “Bait a White Supremacist.” I wrote this in part because the biggest spike in traffic I ever received throughout the history of my blog was when I was interacting on a regular basis with a person who calls himself “Thordaddy” and self-identifies as a white supremacist. But honestly, I wrote this in large part to bait Thordaddy into responding to my blog. In a very ego gratifying series of events he did in fact respond and now we are engaged in the same type of dialog we were before that did so much to increase the amount of viewers of this blog a few months back. See the comment section to my previous post.

I suppose I must admit this baiting occurred in a moment of weakness on my part. There is a still a strong part of me that likes to engage with shame based people like Thordaddy and get them angry because it amuses me to do so. I am certainly not proud of this and I make no excuses. This is the essence (I believe) of trolling, judgmental-ism, racism and all other addictive behavior. In a sense it serves two goals. The first is immediate gratification. It physically feels good. Perhaps this is the brain releasing endorphins as a reward for behavior which it believes to serve the survival instinct. The second goal is psychological. It makes the ego feel superior to the one it has shamed. Both these motivations are base motivations in that neither one serves the ultimate good. I firmly believe this despite how seductive they might seem at times.

The other point I would like to make about our most recent interaction is how easy it is for a shame based mindset to create a world around itself that feels very real. I see this in the way that he has redefined common words to suit his purposes but then reacts with incredulity when other people have no idea what he is talking about. I see this most recently in his pretentious, pseudo-logical ramblings that are designed (I assume) to sound authoritative but have no basis in logic. He will defend this world to the death because in a very real sense the death of that world he created means his own annihilation.

These are all shame based (i.e., ego based) characteristics. They are hyper-judgmental, paranoid, defensive and always carry with them an undercurrent of jealousy, rage and nastiness. How do I know this? Because I used to be this way and I recognize it in him. I suppose I still am this way to a little extent as is evidenced by the amusement I experienced when he so readily took the bait I set out for him.

Again, I am not proud of this but it is my goal on this blog to be honest so there it is.

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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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Contraception, Morality, Conservative Christians and Shame

I was involved in a comment section discussion for another blog post entitled “Breaking Sex.” The blog itself is a community for conservative Christians so it follows that they have a strong anti-contraception philosophy. Basically the author argued that contraception goes against the natural order of rolling the dice every time the urge to have sex is acted upon. Because the use of contraception goes against the natural order it is illicit and immoral. As evidence of the immorality of contraception the author points out the negative impact contraception has on the fertility rate and how a population that uses contraception will naturally be replaced by a population that does not use contraception and this is all indicative of God’s will.

It is always a little dangerous for me to get involved in comment section discussions, especially ones involving religion or politics. Although not my intent, people often interpret my view-point as hostile and accuse me (directly or through implication) of trolling. Once this happens it is easy to fall into the back and forth flame war type discussion. I used to relish this type of interaction but now I do my best to avoid them.

As I have stated many times before on my blog, these types of interactions are seemingly never about the actual ideas being discussed. They seem to always be about passive-aggressively shaming the other person. Of course this is always denied by both sides.

The Christian conservatives seemed to be arguing in favor of using shame as a means of enforcing morality on an otherwise immoral population. Specifically as to contraception one commenter argued life was better in the 1950’s when the use of contraception was outlawed both legally but also through shame and public opinion. I argued that shame is a poor means of motivating people to act morally because they will only do so grudgingly and with resentment. Further, when a person is shamed they tend to want to shame other people and it spreads like a virus creating a population of unhappy, repressed, dishonest and angry people.

This conversation does raise an interesting question. Is shame ever justified?

In his book Healing the Shame that Binds You author John Bradshaw argues that there is healthy shame and toxic shame. Healthy shame is normal and occurs when a person acts wrong and is repentant for acting that way. Toxic shame generally results from abusive situations and results in people carrying shame around with them wherever they go. They feel shame all the time in other words. I tend to overlook the healthy kind but I suppose there is a place for that. In my opinion most of the shame I see is the toxic variety so I have adopted a more sweeping anti-shame philosophy than probably John Bradshaw would espouse. Perhaps my situation is unique and my mindset is biased.

It is my observation that conservatives tend to be pro-shame as a glue that holds society together. Liberals use shame as well but generally to argue for freedom from an oppressive societal forces like religion or oppressive morality. My general feeling on the subject is that shame creates and spreads misery. In this respect I do not view shame as a fair trade-off for a well-organized society.

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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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Passive Aggressive Behavior and Shame

(The bulk of the material for this blog post came from my original post entitle Passive Aggressive Behavior, The Truth Will Set You Free. This has consistently ranked as my most popular post in terms of views.)

I used to troll a message board.  I describe this in my recently published eBook entitled Shame and Internet Trolling. I targeted a conservative, ex-military guy from Texas.  All I had to do was post an article that put the Republican party in a bad light and that would set him off on a vicious anti-Liberal rant.  It felt exciting to get him riled up.  When he accused me of trolling and / or baiting I would defend myself saying that all I did was post an article I thought would generate interesting conversation.  Because I did not comment on the article directly I maintained plausible deniability.  It was fun to get him riled up but when he attacked me back I felt horrible.  I had to get the last word in.  I could not let him get the better of me.  Sometimes other members on the message board would take his side.  Then I would feel even worse.

The truth is that trolling and all passive aggression comes from shame.  If I really felt the article was valuable in and of itself I would have advocated for it.  But instead I tried to maintain deniability to protect myself from counter attack and maintain the illusion that I merely posted the article to stimulate discussion.  Shame based behavior such as passive aggression comes from a mind that assumes that its true thoughts and feelings are not okay.  If somebody else were able to observe these thoughts and feelings they would judge the mind harshly so the thoughts and feelings must be hidden and denied.  To the shame based mind image is more important than reality.  Of course this mindset is ultimately undermining and self-defeating.  Reality is real (by definition).  If the mind values image over reality it is in a sense denying reality and at odds with it.  This results in more shame and anxiety to boot.

In the Book of John, chapter 8, verse 32, Jesus says, “[T]he truth shall make you free.”  In the context of this post this statement is very powerful because shame (the motivation behind passive aggression) is a prison of untruth and unreality.  In order to escape the prison of shame the mind must face its highest fear, to expose the truth within to the light of day and for all to see and judge (if they choose to) without excuses.  This is a very tall order for someone who suffers from shame.  I speak from personal experience and in my experience just as this prison takes many, many years to build and perfect it also takes some time (though not as much) to be torn down.  The fear of exposure must be approached with caution and the waters tested gradually over time so that trust of the outside world is built up.  Further, and most importantly, the shame based mind must learn to not abandon itself in the face of shame.  I used to involuntarily say, “I wish I was dead” to myself whenever I felt shame or embarrassment.  Then I would feel bad about what came out of my mouth. Now, when I experience shame or embarrassment I try to be aware of what is going on inside of me and then I say, “I can love myself through this experience.”  I have more capacity to let myself off the hook. The reality of the situation is that shame is just an emotion and all emotions are real and okay.  They have to be otherwise the one who feels the emotion is not okay.  It is difficult to emerge from shame and appreciate this at first.  But doing so brings forth the dawn of liberation for a shame based person and when this happens behaviors like passive aggression begin to fade away.

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How I Wrote and Published My First eBook

In 2013 I read a book by James Altucher entitled Choose Yourself. I had been a regular reader of his articles and books and at the time I was going through a major life transition on all levels. I had lost my job and moved in with my parents in 2009. I was able to find part-time work but was not making enough to move out. I was desperately depressed, my marriage was on the rocks and my life seemed stuck. There were many things that helped me to ultimately turn my life around but one of them was James Altucher’s book. One of the things he talked about that really stuck with me was the idea that the 9 to 5 corporate cubicle jobs that disappeared in the recession of 2008 were not coming back and the ones that remained would probably disappear eventually as well. The only way to survive ultimately is to become an entrepreneur — to choose yourself.

Somewhere in his book he also mentioned that he was interested in what motivated internet trolls. Knowing a thing or two on the subject I sent him a long email explaining my experiences and what I thought were my motivations when I trolled. To my surprise he responded pretty quickly and asked if he could use what I wrote for an article. I agreed.

After his article was published (thinking along the entrepreneurial lines he espoused in his book) I asked if he was interested in collaborating on a book about trolling. Graciously he encouraged me to write what ultimately became the book I recently published entitled Shame and Internet Trolling. He told me to make it personal and embarrassing and said he would connect me with an editor when I finished.

For a year I woke up at 5:00am gathering old blog posts relevent to the subject and writing new ones all of which are available on this blog. I then consolidated and edited all this information into a first draft manuscript. When I started this project my marriage was failing and I worked from home out of my parents’ basement in Connecticut. By the time I finished my marriage was great and had moved to North Carolina. The process of writing the book was incredibly therapeutic for me.

I approached James and told him I was finished with the manuscript. He introduced me to a person named Zach Obront who works with people who publish ebooks. For about $2, 500 he offered to edit and help publish and market my work. I agreed thinking at the very least this would be a learning opportunity on the process. He then assigned an editor to read my manuscript. Based on the editor’s really helpful comments I spent another couple of months rewriting and editing. Having an editor read and comment on my writing was definitely a crucial part of the process. Finally I had a finished product.

Zach suggested I use 99 Designs to set up a competition to design the cover artwork. It cost around $250 and took a few weeks to fully play out. Using their service I set up a contest where artists submitted book covers which I rated and gave feedback to. Then there was a final round where the best contributors competed for the final design. In the end I selected a winner who received a cash prize.  Once the cover art was completed Zach suggested I use Bookbaby to digitally convert my manuscript into an e-book and then distribute it to Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other outlets. This also cost about $300. I would definitely recommend both of these services.

Once the book was distributed Zach provided a list of blogs, podcasts and other media outlets I could approach to market my book as a guest writer. This, I found to be the least helpful part. Most of the outlets he mentioned specifically did not want their guest writers marketing their books and many of them were not really on point with the subject of my book. So if I had to do it over I would have skipped the marketing aspect and would have saved myself about $1000. Probably books on more marketable subjects would benefit more from the research Zach and his people provided.

So that’s my experience of writing and publishing my e-book. I am still in the marketing phase so I will probably have more to say on that subject as I figure out what I am doing.

 

 

 

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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.

 

SHAME AND INTERNET TROLLING 1562 x 2500 pixels

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The Genesis of a Troll

My first experience as a troll was on a Star Trek message board called www.sistertrek.net.  Trolls rarely admit they are wrong and I was no exception.  I started out as a member in good standing but was then converted into a troll by a board bully named Admiralbill.  Before Sistertrek I had been a regular poster on the www.startrek.com message board with the handle Gvok but there were a lot of trolls and spammers there.  Like everyone else I found them to be annoying and could not understand their motivation.  Eventually the spamming and trolling became so bad that a female named Buckeyerose created the Sistertrek message board as an alternative and many posters from startrek.com migrated there.  I followed the crowd there too.

Overtime Sistertrek developed a lively politics forum and at the time I joined I sided with the conservatives politically but was not a diehard.  This was all pre 9/11 so the stakes were not as high as they would later become.  I had voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 election because I was disgusted with Bill Clinton about the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  By the time the Iraq war began I sort of soured on the whole Republican party.  I spent a long time defending the war but eventually I found it more and more difficult to swim against the current.  I did not really consider myself a Democrat but the Republicans of the Bush administration were a bit too extreme for me.

Now Admiralbill was a staunch Republican, a real ditto head, ex-navy guy from Texas.  He vehemently attacked anyone who remotely espoused a liberal viewpoint.  After it was determined that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the whole basis on the invasion was based upon a false premise I began to have my doubts about conservatism.  Voicing this opinion brought me into the cross hairs of Admiralbill.  After a few times being attacked by him and observing him attack others I decided to attack back.  I mention all this is to show that, I at the time, I thought my motives were pure.  I saw myself as a protector of those liberals on the board who were too timid or inarticulate to make their points against Admiralbill.

As I look back on it I can see that Admiralbill was a shame-based personality like me.  He was so critical of anyone who espoused a remotely “liberal” point of view and attacked them with viciousness.  I imagine he had that sort of criticism focused on him at some point in his life, most likely from one of his primary care givers.  I am sure he passed it on to his son whom he often referred to on the message board as “the demon seed”.  I am also pretty sure he focuses that same criticism on himself.  Neither his criticism nor my criticism of him had anything to do with conservative or liberal politics.  It had everything to do with shame and the need to pass the shame along to provide a short-term feeling of relief.

 

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

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