Thursday, December 15, 2011

Never Bring a Gun to a Banana Fight


I've noticed a pattern of behavior in people on Facebook where they will read something that they disagree with and lob a hand-grenade into the comments section.  They have nothing constructive to add but they want to indicate their disagreement with some of the following characteristics:

  • The comment disagrees with the essence of some post - no problem with this...
  • The comment is generally disrespectful of anyone who would agree with the post and is a smear or insult toward supporters of the post (see also: Argument from Intimidation)
  • The comment provides no real substantiation for the position of the commenter.  No facts, no logic.  It is generally devoid of content.  This last is important.
  • When faced with a reply that contains argumentation, the commenter enjoys the implied legitimization of his position by the defensiveness of repliers.  Meanwhile he can pick a strawman out of your argument and focus on that.  
We usually call these people "trolls".  And we do ourselves no service my taking their nonsense seriously.  Here's how I suggest we deal with it.  

Go Meta and Call It What It Is

I don't spend a lot of time on this one.  My recent response to an obvious hand-grenade was "I sense a boring troll."  Incidentally, my reply was more a warning to people who would reply than a slight toward the detractor, though it does serve as both.

Don't take it seriously.  

The detractor has provided nothing but nonsense.  Reply with nonsense.  Again, don't spend time crafting argumentation here.  The more absurd the better.  If you're not laughing when you're typing your response, you're not letting go enough.

For Fuck's Sake, Don't Argue It Seriously

This is my big takeaway... never provide deeper argumentation than the detractor brought to the table.  If he spouts a nonsense opinion, don't come back with a treatise.  Don't give troll the opportunity to be taken seriously or to pick strawmen out of your hastily written argumentation.  FB comments are a poor place to have a real discussion anyway.

The Summary: Never bring a gun to a banana fight.

Look.  Objectivists... We love our ideas. They make us who we are more than anything else. We've spent a lot of time curating them and we want to express who we are. That's great! But keep perspective. If someone believes differently and they want to be disrespectful about it, that's a reflection of their insecurity.  

What we need to be is relaxed and groovy, not only about our own positions, but about taking down bollocks on the internet.  Fight serious with serious.  Laugh at and ridicule absurdity.  But know the difference between a real argument and a hand-grenade.