This week, events in two blog circles in which I travel drew the trolls out from under their bridges: the League of Maternal Justice’s BreastFest and the "retirement" of a PR blog character whose public face was attractive but who was best known for its ill-spirited, trollish attacks on other bloggers.
When a topic is controversial, even if only mildly so, the trolls are inevitable. What do you do when they show up in your place or in your face?
The safest and sanest approach is to ignore them.
That’s why I don’t feed the trolls. Sure, I’ve had them here from time to time, but lack of sustenance leads them to go elsewhere for their jollies. I don’t respond here, and if they attack in the comments on other blogs or Web sites, I ignore them there. It’s hard, especially when they get personal, as they always do. But the child’s nursery rhyme is true: sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.
Dealing with the trolls was particularly hard for some of the women actively engaged in the breastfeeding debate. The act and the decision itself are so highly personal, and it didn’t take long for the trolls to get offensive. But remember: the troll is the one with the problem. Not you.
If a troll or two turns up here as a result of this post, I’ll ignore them. But unless a comment is obscene or libelous, I won’t delete it. I stand by my words. Let them stand by theirs.
Some folks take a different approach. They bait the troll, on the theory that a troll’s arguments are so ridiculous, the troll will end up proving the initial point it is attacking. This can be successful, but you have to have a really strong stomach. Because a troll is not rational. No matter how logical your argument, it will never penetrate the troll’s generally thick skull. You will never convince him. Or her.
But maybe, just maybe, proponents of this approach argue, if you can stay the course, the weird non-logic, personal attacks and ramblings of the troll, as compared to your logical, reasoned arguments, will convert a few folks on the fence. And of course, initially there is an adrenaline rush from building your argument to beat the troll.
The rush doesn’t last, the troll will get ugly, and the chances of changing anyone’s mind this way are pretty slim. So, think hard before troll-baiting. Because it is going to hurt.
As for the late, not lamented blog character, Robert French’s "eulogy" for the not-so-dearly departed says it best.