Sunday, August 2, 2015


I ran into two interesting posts about internet trolls Saturday morning, here and here That got me thinking about what defines a troll.

It may not seem like an easy thing to define. Some would post their views on blogs or news stories or other places, and if they disagree with the prevailing view, are at risk of being called a troll.

Disagreement does not equal trolling.

Therefore, it is important to ask the question, “What is a troll?”

In mythology, a troll is a creature that is large, dull, and muscular; it preys upon humans and is usually found in mountainous areas inhabiting caves or under bridges.

According to, an internet troll is a person who posts inflammatory or inappropriate messages or comments online for the purpose of upsetting other users and provoking a response.

A troll then is a person defined by behavior with the literary allusion indicating dull and predatory in nature, which is in keeping with the internet definition.

How do they do it?

Tell-tale Signs of an Internet Troll

11.  Faulty generalization: if one does it, all do it.
2.       Ad hominem attacks: trash the person, not the idea (usually because there are no arguments against the idea.)
3.       Hyperbole: it’s the end of the world as we know it.
4.       False perspective: the classic example is the New Yorker cover which shows how Manhattanites view the world--google images to see it.
5.       Gratuitous insults: make up cute nicknames for persons disagreed with, a la talk radio.
6.       Non sequiturs: state conclusions that do not follow from the premise or antecedent.
7.       Sheer prejudice: I know what I want to believe, don’t confuse me with the facts; often combined with obstinacy.
8.       Argumentation: continuously replies to replies in order to keep the fun going. (This is why we are told not to feed the trolls—arguing with them only increases the perverse pleasure they are getting.)
9.       Red herring: diverting the discussion to an unrelated issue.
10.   Beg the question: posing a proposition so that there can be only one answer or assuming the conclusion.
11.   False dichotomy or forced choice: choose one or the other, there are no other options or compromise possible.
12.   Bandwagon: everyone agrees with me (not often seen in trolls, who know they are going against the current.)
13.   Affirming the consequent or confusing cause and effect: Best illustrated through an example: If it is raining and I am outside, I am wet. I am wet; therefore, it is raining outside. Uh, no, I have only been taking a bath.
14.   Doublespeak: using a word to mean something other than its usual meaning. Or use the sentence structure to confuse meaning (English is exceptionally prone to this as its lack of cases makes it overly dependent upon sentence structure.)
15.   Fallacy of division: something that is true of a whole must be true for all of its parts. Example: humans, on average, need 8 hours of sleep every night. Teenagers and babies need 8 hours of sleep. No, studies show they need more.
16.   Missing the point: ignoring the main argument and failing to address it.
17.   Trick questions: the classic example of which is “Did you beat your wife last night?” Answering yes or no implies that you beat your wife.

All of us fall prey to these on occasion when we post, so the mark of the troll is the intent: to upset others and provoke responses. And I suppose that many of us, like drunk driving, have done it at least once in our lives, but we should know better.