Before we begin, let’s get some truths out of the way.
- You are not going to have a discussion with a right-wing troll because they are not there to have a discussion. They are there for one reason only: to disrupt.
- Their dishonesty is not a character flaw, it is a deliberate strategy to gaslight you. (Gaslighting is a method people use to “win” an argument by getting you to question your own reality by denying things you both know to be true just for the sake of denying them.)
- Their outrage is entirely duplicitous. They will pretend to earnestly demand proof of right-wing racism, and while you’re scurrying for evidence, they are at the top of the discussion calling Michelle Obama a gorilla. They will complain that liberals are intolerant of opposing ideas, and while you’re busy typing up a thoughtful response to that, they’re at the top of the comments typing out a comment where they are giddily condoning the police brutalizing trump protesters.
- Ignoring them does not work because not everyone is going to ignore them. They need only a single person to respond to them to validate everything they’ve already done.
- You will not win. This is not about winning. They want you to think it is, but there is no winning with a right-wing troll because they were already losers long before you ever encountered them. They are already self-aware. They know exactly what they are. You do not. That’s their best weapon against you. They know what they are, and they know you think they don’t know. The best you can hope for is to make the environment unappealing to them so they go away on their own.
Before you go any further, accept those truths. Your commenting world is no longer ideal. No matter how badly you want those right-wingers to behave honestly and with forthrightness, it’s not going to happen. Accept that. Then accept it again. They do not care how earnest you are. They do not care what your background is, what your military service was, how much you love America, how disappointed you were in Obama/Clinton/Sanders/[Insert-Name-Here]. Accept those things. If you can’t accept them, then do your best to not stop your fellow ideologues from accepting them and following the rules.
You do not have to follow every one of these rules, but know that the more you follow, the more effective you will be in helping your fellow commenters eventually rid your space of right-wing trolls.
Before we begin, one more truth you have to accept. It will get worse before it gets better. Once the trolls begin to realize they are being out-trolled, they will become even more hysterical, their efforts even more alarming, shocking and brazen. When this happens, remember Rule No. 8 below. Do not forget Rule No. 8. No, we aren’t goose-stepping right-wingers, but sometimes, you must become that which you loathe in order to defeat them.
Now, the rules.
- Beg their questions. Go ahead and treat what they’ve said as though it were true. You both know it’s not true, but the troll knows that you’re going to waste your time trying to prove him wrong, or demanding that he offer proof for his claims. He’s not going to do that. His intent is to get you chasing after his claims. While you’re doing that, he’s stringing everyone else along, too, with other, equally asinine claims. By now, you and your compatriots are busy trying to put out his little lie-fires while his other troll-buddies are flooding the comments with equally, or more, outrageous lies.
- Don’t deny their name-calling. Face it. We all have egos, and those egos can be bruised. Trolls know this. They also know that liberals are just as susceptible to juvenile name-calling as they are, so they throw us off our guard by calling us names, knowing we’re likely respond in kind. Don’t give in to the desire to deny that you are what they say you are. You’re mostly anonymous. No one cares if you tell a troll that you do need some play-doh, or that you are in your mom’s basement. They are banking on you denying it. When you don’t, they are at a loss for a response.
- Respond to every comment they make with only four words: “Explain what you mean.” Trolls cannot explain what they mean, because they don’t know. If you aren’t willing to follow Rule No. 1, then follow this one, even if their comment doesn’t really allow for this kind of response. It will drive them to distraction. They will tire of you and eventually stop responding to you. Multiply that by thousands.
- Respond to every comment they make with non sequiturs. Professional trolls prepare for their exchanges with you like politicians prepare for debates. They practice how to respond to just about everything they imagine you might reply with. They are scripted and rehearsed. They are lousy at improvisation. Responding to their bullshit with non sequiturs throws them.
- Do not chastise your ideological compatriots for engaging trolls. You are not everyone, and everyone is not you. We know it bugs the living hell out of you that those trolls are in “your” space, but you have to realize that it isn’t “your” space at all. It belongs to the domain registrant and the comments are open to anyone who hasn’t been banned.
- Don’t be afraid to become deplorable yourself. Trolls say things purely for effect. You might have to go against your better judgment and say things you might not like saying but that you know is going to derail the trolls’ game. They say things purely to derail you, and it works. Turn the tables. Sacred cows to these people are images of America: the flag, patriotism, “TheTroops”, cops…things like that. Don’t be afraid to go there. If you lack the gumption to get into the mud, at least have the understanding to know why your friends are doing it. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.
- Answer demands for proof with, “No.” They will respond to that with something like, “So, you’ve got nothing, then.” At this point, simply repeat the claim, or go with Rule No. 4.
- Stick to the script. They “win” because they don’t deviate from what they’ve rehearsed. They don’t deviate from it because they aren’t capable of having a normal discussion. You are capable, but you keep forgetting that they aren’t, and so you look for any opportunity to open a line of dialogue. They know this, and they will try to disarm you by pretending they are willing to have an honest exchange with you. This is a lie. Remember, their only purpose is to disrupt your discussions, and they will do whatever it takes to accomplish that.
- Don’t display your better nature. Trolls know you have a better nature, and will appeal to it, for no other reason than to get you on the defensive. They will feign remorse, or regret, or any other “emotion” designed to invoke your better nature. They are looking for you to put your guard down so they can ridicule you for it. Don’t let them exploit your better nature. This is the Internet, not your workplace or people that you know in real life. You are not trying to earn their respect, you are trying to chase them off.
- Do not try to change their minds. You will not change their minds. Do not enter into a discussion with a right-wing troll believing you will get them to rethink their ideas. Remember, they are there to disrupt your discussion, not to have an open exchange of ideas.