Trolls, flames, and responsibility.

2003-06-05 22:07

“What should be done about a member who repeatedly misquotes, paraphrases and sets up strawmen, only to get the other posters upset and frustrated, and when the other posters reply in this upset and frustrated state, the member who set the whole thing in motion reports the members who have been upset or frustrated by the tactics?”

This was posted recently over on ChristianForums. It’s a good question. The site has rules against flaming, but not really against flamebait. A few users have gotten the hang of doing just this, time and time again. One of them, in fact, I can’t find a single post from him that doesn’t appear to be trying to do something along these lines, and he’s been posting for over a year!

There is always a question of responsibility with things like this. Who is responsible? If you attack me, and I respond, am I responsible, or are you? What kind of responsibility does one acquire by inciting others to inappropriate behavior? How much responsibility does the person thus baited have for losing control?

This is a scary question, because it reminds us that we are emotional beings, capable of simple errors, and that others may not be able to control us completely, but they can certainly exert great influence on how we behave.

For a beautiful example, check out this discussion. Start with post #32 – that’s me. Now watch the entire thread decay into chaos as a true master baiter does his level best to anger me. You have to give him credit for style; he uses every trick in the book, and invents a few of his own.

Edit: The thread I referred to was lost in a database crash, making it hard to show context. Basically, one of the site admins repeatedly misquoted me, lied about what I’d said, and simultaneously accused me of doing precisely that. I have saved copies of the posts, but I don’t think I have legal permission to post them.

It’s art. But should it be allowed?

Peter Seebach

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Comments

  1. right on

    — gytre · 2004-02-14 19:27 · #

 
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