It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. Case in point:
“Former” Manboobz regular Erica Stratton decided to grace the public with the list because:
In all the debate about how nasty comment sections should best be dealt with, too few people recommend mockery, pile-ons or relentless hounding with dozens of links to peer-reviewed studies. And in my opinion, they’re missing out.
Forget “don’t feed the trolls.” What I’m here to tell you is that fighting back against trolls is fun — albeit a peculiar, geeky, pedantic kind of fun. It’s time consuming, requires thick skin and the tenacity of a bulldog, and unless you’re getting paid to blog, is probably not worth it. But if you have a lot of excess time and emotion just laying about, the payoff can be huge.
This sounds fine until one reads the “troll-fighting” tactics.
Troll-Fighting Tactic #1: Mock Mercilessly
Where Man Boobz really helped me personally, however, was that it taught me how to “win” on the Internet (as dubious a distinction as that may be).
If you have to say you “won” then you did not win. But go on:
Unlike stereotypical high school debates, where you get points for using specific reasoning strategies, Man Boobz was an arena where you had to fight all comers. There were people who used three-dollar words to dress up worthless ideas, people who would simply regurgitate the same talking points over and over no matter how you tried to get clarification on said talking points, or people who would spend hundreds of words arguing for a subject they only had a passing familiarity with.
Yes, and all of them were the regular feminists of Manboobz, including Futrelle. They seem particularly adept at making fools of themselves.
In an environment like this, speaking nicely to people and never pulling out the capital letters wouldn’t even put a dent in their 2,000 word screeds, so the core group of Man Boobz commentators had to develop new strategies.
None of which are apparently important enough to share because that is where the first item ends. Setting that aside, of course an environment like Manboobz makes it difficult to have civil discussions. Futrelle writes with the snarky prose of a middle-schooler who just learned to curse, which in turn attracts like-minded feminists who apparently need of more masturbation material.
Troll-Fighting Tactic #2: Cite Real-Life Sources
It was only after getting hit with the fire hose stream of opinions on Man Boobz (at that point, comment threads regularly went over 400) that I fully realized how vital original sources really were, as opposed to a formality in academic papers. A troll might continue in the same vein as before after you posted the original version of what a long-dead feminist said, but in the process, they made themselves look pretty stupid.
Much unlike Futrelle posting an out-of-context reddit comment. When someone presents him with the comment in context or corrects his misunderstanding of it, Futrelle makes every effort to ignore the correction and continue beating the “teh menz r sexist!” feminist drum, which makes him look pretty stupid.
Troll-Fighting Tactic #3: Retain Some Humility
The emphasis on citations also made me realize for the first time how uninformed most of my own opinions were.
A rational person might take this as a cue that one’s ignorance might lead to conflict with others, but not Stratton:
Even though I might have a better handle on, say, evolution than the average troll, my ignorance was still more insidious than I had previously given it credit for. Today I still try to keep that in mind even when arguing for “the right side of history.” A little humbleness is good, even when your goal is to flip your opponent out of the ring.
If you have to tell people you are humble, you are not humble. You also cannot call yourself humble if you think you “have a better handle” on anything “than the average troll.” That is called arrogance, and it is the opposite of humility.
Troll-Fighting Tactic #4: Give ‘em the Snark
Man Boobz also taught me that tearing into the trolls with snark can serve as a kind of stress relief, a benefit that I’d never imagined back when the advice I most often received for dealing with nasty people on the Internet was “ignore them.”
Perhaps, but it also makes you look like a total jackass. Snark is little more than an insult designed to make like-minded people feel superior to whoever you are mocking. It is no different than a group of right-wingers calling President Obama a Kenyan and then high-fiving each other. Contrary to what you think:
Case in point:
To that end, one of my most satisfying memories is of spending almost an hour on the Man Boobz forum, systematically shredding a nerdy dudebro who had unwisely claimed that Game of Thrones had rape in it because that made it “historical.” Doing the same to people I lived with might have endangered my living situation, but my online shenanigans allowed me to brush off their real-life arguments with much less frustration.
In other words, you do not have the intestinal fortitude to act like an ass to the people you live with because they would put you in your place. You would prefer to vent on someone online who did nothing to you?
Troll-Fighting Tactic #5: Be Creative
Of course, snarking back means you may lose the moral high ground in some people’s eyes, but as long as you’re not threatening them with death or posting their home address, creative smackdowns are a perfectly acceptable response to someone who thinks you’re lesser simply due to your genitalia.
Which apparently does not apply to thinking someone is lesser than you because they are a “dudebro.” Here is the thing: it still counts as abuse if you do not make death threats or dox anyone. It is ironic how similar these tactics are to what abusers use.
One of the more effective anti-troll methods the Man Boobz crew discovered was to take a troll’s more nonsensical statements and form a Mad Libs-style game out of them. Perhaps due in part to the usual “don’t feed the trolls” advice, many of our cruelest commentators seemed honestly shocked that we decided to fight back and would often flounce in confusion when they couldn’t come up with something equally amusing.
Ironically, the Manboobzers often flounce in confusion when they cannot come up with something equally as amusing as their critics. That might explain why Futrelle has the habit of banning anyone who does not fall for these tactics.
Troll-Fighting Tactic #6: Feed the Trolls Until They Explode
Finally, Man Boobz offered something that I had previously never had on the Internet and unfortunately can’t be easily replicated: We were a posse.
That is not the best word to describe those at Manboobz since “posse” implies a rabid group of outlaws, thieves, and trouble makers. Then again, perhaps it is the apt descriptor:
The privilege of having a group on your side wasn’t something I fully appreciated until I tried to take on a nasty xoJane comment section alone. The result was the written equivalent of Johnny Storm vs. the billion monsters: a very pretty flare with nothing to show for it.
In other words, it did not feel so clever and fun when another “posse” ganged up on you.
On Man Boobz, we called it “feeding the trolls until they explode” (though I’m sure the term didn’t originate with us). As result of getting piled on, the trolls would often break out the gendered insults — specifically forbidden by Man Boobz’s mod rules — and then David would just have to perform clean-up by banning them.
Simply put, you would goad someone until they lashed out in anger, and then Futrelle would ban them.There is a word for that: asshole.
Unsurprisingly, Futrelle supports this list, proving yet again that he is a man without a shred of integrity or decency.
Yet is also proves what I suspected of Futrelle and his “posse” years ago: they intentionally try to provoke people and then use it to “prove” how “bad” men’s rights activists are. As the author admits:
Though I’ve spent some time trying to figure out whether these strategies are particularly fair, they are effective. At Man Boobz, 99 percent of the time these strategies resulted in the trolls either being banned or abandoning the comment section, though sometimes it might take them a few days or months to do so.
If you have to ask whether something is fair, it likely is not fair. If it takes months for the tactic to work, it is not effective, especially if it only “works” when you ban the person.
Now, more than a year after the original group of core commentators stopped troll hunting, the still 200+ comment threads are almost entirely free of people trying to argue that it would be better for everyone if we just put men and women on different sides of the Mississippi.
Yes, but it is still rife with people who defend hateful ideologies, watch child pornography, accuse male survivors of lying about their abuse, use terrorist attacks to bash men and men’s rights groups, attack survivors using their own abuse, support sexist shaming language against men and boys, and then complain when someone uses their own tactics against them.
If I had to pick between the two groups, I would go with the guy wanting to put men and women on different sides of the Mississippi.
Of course, Stratton realizes that these are not fair tactics:
One last warning: If you decide to use any of these strategies, understand they do have a time and a place. After I “retired” from being a regular commentator, I found that, unless I was commenting on, say, the more virulent parts of YouTube or Reddit, most comment sections are completely unprepared for an assault of snark.
That is because most people understand how to communicate without snide remarks. Only the most arrogant, petulant, ideological bigots soaked in fountains of stupidity would create a space solely for mocking another group of people and then act surprised when normal human beings are shocked by their behavior. That is how most people avoid doing things like this:
I still wince about the time I unleashed the full force of my ire on an LiveJournal comment section full of teen girls who didn’t understand how copyright laws worked.
I cannot tell which is more ironic and stupid: that the Manboobzers behave worse than the people they hate or that they are essentially trolling their own space.