Sometimes, these things write themselves. Halstead, it seems, is not capable of taking his own advice about feeding the trolls. He’s claimed he’s not going to come interact on my blog anymore (which, okay, he’s choice). But, it seems, he just can’t let me have the last word.
Technically, he fought with a troll. But hey, if he want’s to say he got played and taken advantage of…I’m not a censor. Let him speak and others judge the truth.
I know, I know. Some of you warned me. And a lot of you were silently shaking your heads in disgust.
When you engage with a troll, the troll always wins.
I suppose the trolls are grateful for this acknowledgment of their strength on the battlefield. Many people in the World of Warcraft will be pleased. Certainly Vol’jin be not complaining.
I’ve encountered a lot of trolls since I started blogging, usually in the comments, but sometimes they have their own blogs. You can identify them as the people who want to debate, rather than discuss. Ultimately, they don’t want to understand (or even be understood); they want to humiliate. They may compare themselves to Socrates or Martin Luther, but there is nothing sacred about trolling.
First off, yes, there is a difference between debating and discussing. However, Debates are as valuable in society as Discussions. Funny thing though, they’re mostly the same thing. looking at the dictionary (more on that later) it seems debate is more formal (with a separate group making conclusions at the end) and a discussion is more informal (with no outside judgements at the end).
For example, two friends talking is a discussion. Two candidates is a debate. In this instance, Halstead and I have been debating. Neither of us is going to change the other’s mind about either of our positions, but we have (or at least my intention has always been) to put both positions out there and let the public decide which it wants.
Now here Halstead has made a mistake. I have understood his position quite well and presented his position unedited so that others might understand it. Judging by the comments on my blog and posts on other blogs, I have also been understood on my position, which was my intention.
But understanding a position doesn’t mean you agree with it. At least not in any class or book I have had. Perhaps Halstead has had a different education, where understanding means you must agree.
This, in turn, has been an act of trolling. A free, open discussion of ideas, presented in their entirety. Is everyone expected to understand them? No. But some will, and this then is good, because people can make an informed decision. Given that debate has been a ritualized and practiced art form since Ancient Greece and given that there are many Gods of Wisdom such as Odin, Minerva, Athena, Thoth, and so forth I ask…
What could be more sacred?
Also, it seems that Halstead has never heard of Talmudic Debate.
How to Spot a Troll
The difference between the troll and the non-troll is that the troll trying to “win.” The non-troll, in contrast, is trying to be understood and (ideally) to understand. That’s the difference between a debate and discussion. In fact, amateurish trolls will often use the words “debate” or “argument.” (The really skilled ones won’t tip their hand like that though.) Trolls often talk a lot about logical fallacies and rules of debate. And they will often try to take the discussion off on multiple tangents, so you feel like the ground is always slipping out from under your feet. Those are some of the warning signs that you might be dealing with a troll.
Interesting, so every debate is filled with nothing but trolls?
The entire process of a debate then, is nothing but ritualized trolling behavior. The entire idea of having two or more side come forth and make reasoned arguments for their position, presented with logic, facts, and so forth is no more than a vile activity of trolling and harassment. At least according to Halstead.
Have I been trying to “win?” Certainly. I hold that my position on this Pagan issue to be the correct one. Halstead holds that his is the correct one. I wanted to (and have) presented facts and arguments showing my position to be “correct” and show that my “opponents” were “incorrect.”
And yes, Trolls often talk about “logical fallacies” and the “rules of debate.” Do you know why? Because a good, sound position doesn’t need to commit logical fallacies or violate the rules by which debates work.
Given how Halstead has tried to paint himself through much of the debate as a “rational person” it is interesting to me that he would be so completely fine with the commission of logical fallacies. Which go against every basic tenant of rationalism
But interestingly Halstead seems to think there don’t need to be rules in a debate/discussion. Which makes his use of this image in reference to trolls in general (and me specifically) rather interesting.
So here I am saying “there must be rules” and Halstead is basically saying “phh, we don’t need rules!”
In which case I’m more like this:
Trolls do not seek to further the discussion; they seek to end it — by “winning.” Of course, nobody really “wins” when a discussion is ended in this way. It just furthers the deterioration of civil society. But that’s the troll’s goal. It’s a game to them. You see, there’s a whole culture to trolling. Trolls believe they have “won” when they get someone to lose their temper. When they get a sign that the other person has lost their temper, like an ad hominem attack or use of a pejorative, then they can go off and brag about their victory to their troll colleagues. Yes, there are actually online forums where trolls congregate to do this!
We’re hitting almost thirty posts on my blog alone this whole pagan/polytheist issue. I’m pretty sure I am no where near “ending it.” If anything, I helped get this discussion going. Rampantly.
Maybe I’m not much of a troll then.
If anything, Halstead’s the one that seems to be pushing for an end of the discussion. I’ll admit, I don’t spend time running around to see what he’s saying, but even a lazy perusal of comments sections of people writing their own posts about this shows Halstead being rather super-active about telling people they’re wrong, they don’t understand, and if they would just shut up and listen to him this wouldn’t be an issue.
Though this whole “furthers the deterioration of civil society” thing is kinda funny. I am the barbarian horde, raping sacred Rome and destroying civilization, apparently. Because I decided to have a debate.
Also, yes, most trolls feel they have won when the other person loses their temper. I feel like I have won because Halstead devolved from having any defense of his position to running around on multiple blogs trying to assassinate my character with ad hominems so that no one would listen to me when I showed he was making things up whole cloth and misrepresenting his position.
That’s kind of a victory anywhere from internet forums to the National Debate Tournament. A Tournament I might add which has been part of civil society since 1947, by the way.
Also, Halstead has this image of a troll during this part of the post:
Which, you know, may just be me, but…it looks kinda racist. I’ve seen cartoons from Nazi Germany about Jews and they kinda look like this. And given that I actually spent several years studying Judaism (and have talked about that on my blog…)
Meh, I’m sure it’s nothing. But hey, I’ll just go ahead and save him some time for the next round. Here you go, Halstead, you can use this as your image for me on your blog from now on.
Damn, it hurts to admit this, but this one troll got the better of me. It took a dozen posts, a lot of mockery, sarcastic memes, and outright insults from him, and finally his calling my children “trolls.” But he got me to break. And I lost my cool. I resorted to ad hominem attacks. I attacked him … and I attacked his gods (which from my perspective are an extension of him). And then he had what he wanted. He believed he had “won.”
Actually, I don’t believe I “won.” I know I won. Halstead failed to present any good arguments that stood up to review. He changed the meanings of words so that he could argue from false premises. He committed logical fallacies and resorted to personal attacks to discredit his opponent.
Now, have I mocked him? Sure. I laughed at some of his really bad arguments and made fun of them. Did I insult him? Well, I called him an idiot for making such poor cases for his position, to be sure. Did I call his children trolls? Yeah, they managed to basically commit a series of actions which fit Halstead’s own definition of trolling. And if I am truly a troll, calling his kids trolls is no insult, it is recognizing a kindred spirit.
It’s just that Halstead hates trolls and can’t imagine his kids being them. I imagine it was quite a painful thing to consider. Like a devout Catholic realizing his son is gay.
Of course, as people reading my posts know, my intention was never to break Halstead. I wasn’t interested in the man, just the arguments. That’s why I never delved into his personal life, I never really theorized about his psychology, and I never claimed that he should be denied a voice in Paganism or this debate simply because he was an Atheist with a penchant for being an asshole. All these things I could have done, but I have only held the debate with his position, not his person.
Shit, if I wanted to break Halstead I’m pretty sure I could have done it in a third of the posts I’ve spent debating his position. But well….
there goes me being all lawful neutral again.
How to Deal With a Troll
Here’s why a non-troll can never “win” a debate with a troll: According to their rules, they can mock and insult you all they want, but as soon you do you the same thing, then you have fallen into the trap, and they have “won.” Because their goal was to bring you down to their level. Even calling them “trolls” can be interpreted as an ad hominem attack, so you can’t even call them out on what they are doing.
Actually, a careful reading of the timeline of posts will show that Halstead insulted me long before I ever declared a “win.” Franky, I didn’t care if Halstead insulted me. Still don’t. Heck, when he called me a “sad little man with sad little gods” I didn’t say a single word about it on the blog for a long time. I didn’t crow victory because he’d just outed himself as a bigot or anything like that. Because the insults through most of it did nothing to really discredit my position in the argument.
Calling me an asshole or pathetic? Meh. I’ll openly cop to the first, and depending on how badly my depression kicks in, even the second at times. But being an asshole doesn’t mean I don’t have my facts correct (in my experience of seeing things on the net, it generally means you do). And being pathetic is no measure against the logic of my arguments for my position.
I only declared “victory” when instead of insulting me directly, Halstead began to go around on my blog and others and attempt to assassinate my character by claiming I was insane and other things in order to invalidate my ability to hold and defend my position in the debate.
That is the difference between an insult and an ad hominem. That was when it was apparent my position/argument had won, when the only thing Halstead could do was attempt to take away my ability to speak.
And as for “bringing him down to my level,” I guess, yeah, I did do that. I took his mighty theology and brought it down to where we mere mortals could debate it. I soiled his precious creation with my grubby, trollish hands, and found that instead of shining like the morning sun…it was as hollow and cheap as a chicken’s egg. Everyone who has debated and responded to Halstead has done the same and found the same. And when Halstead came down from his Patheos Throne to tell us to stop, mud splattered on his white robes and he found the plebs could beat him in a fight.
And that’s a sin he cannot forgive.
When you engage with a troll, the troll always wins. As soon as you realize you are dealing with a troll, end the discussion. It may smart to let them have the last word, but know this: The worst thing you can do to a troll is ignore them. (Even this blog post is probably feeding my troll’s ego.)
Actually, as always, my ego really isn’t involved in all this. And if Halstead had ignored me this entire time rather than engaging me….I wouldn’t have cared at all. Heck, I’d have been as happy with him ignoring me as I was to have him interacting with what I posted. I’d have still written just as much as I have.
So to all my fellow (non-trollish) Pagan bloggers, I hope I can serve as a cautionary tale. Remember: Do Not Feed the Trolls!