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Trolls and other internet vermin


Here’s a handy field guide to spotting and dealing with trolls.  I’m not talking about the kind that live under bridges or appear in Tolkien novels, I’m talking about the sub-human vermin that infest blogs and corrupt discussion threads.  Scientists have not yet determined when they mutated into their present form or how they were first introduced into cyberspace, but these parasites are now as ubiquitous as cockroaches.

Trolls feed on two things:  attention and disruption.  When you hear the expression “Do not feed the trolls” it means do not engage the trolls in discussion or argument and do not allow the troll to hijack threads.  If you feed a troll it will never leave and may bring friends.  Site monitors can delete the troll’s comments and block its IP address, but if it knows there is food to be had it will find a new IP address and return.

Several sub-species of troll have been identified but they mutate quickly so there are always new types appearing.  Here are some of the more common types:

1.  The Suicide Bomber – This is the most common and easiest to recognize troll.  The name comes from this troll’s behavioral pattern of arriving at a blog and almost immediately posting profane and offensive comments.  This troll feasts quickly on the flaming responses of the blog residents until banished by the moderator.  Even after they are blown to bits they lurk and absorb sustenance from any residual attention or disruption.

2.  The Mole– This troll takes on a human appearance in order to join a blog and pose as a regular.  After their residency is established they will begin trying to undermine morale and sow doubt and dissension among the sincere blog residents.  The commonest form of this subspecies is the “concern troll,” but there is also the “sockpuppet troll” that exists to participate in team trolling (see below).

3.  The Bully (aka The Pugilist)– This troll is believed to be a crossbreed between The Suicide Bomber and The Mole.  It is often an infiltrator, but once established they become aggressive and try to dominate threads.  They will push the envelope with offensive and insulting comments to other commentors but when confronted by a site monitor they claim they were joking or were taken out of context.  They will team troll with the sockpuppet troll.

4.   The Sweetie (aka The Seeker) – This is a fairly new troll that first appeared near the end of the 2008 Democratic primary campaign.  So far its habitat appears limited to the PUMAsphere and former pro-Hillary blogs.  Researchers are in dispute as to whether it was genetically engineered or is the result of the mutagenic properties of Kool-aid.   

5.   The Everlasting Blogstalker– This parasite prefers to attach itself to an individual rather than any particular site.  Once the troll fixates on a human blogger, it will follow its host throughout the blogosphere harassing the host and spreading lies about him/her.  This troll is known to think of itself (to the extent that trolls are capable of thought) as the host’s “nemesis.”  The host, on the other hand, usually thinks of the troll with the terms “pest,” “hemorrhoid,” or “who?”

Because of their skill at mimicry, trolls can be difficult to spot.  With the exception of The Suicide Bomber, which often utilizes an alias that identifies it as a troll (like “PUMAf*cker” or “Palin is a c*nt”) they can only be identified and exposed by their words and actions.  After The Suicide Bomber, The Sweetie is the easiest to identify because it only uses a limited number of words and phrases, sometimes called “talking points.”  The phrases “Roe v. Wade,” “party unity,” and “help me understand” are very common, as is “Hillary lost.”

The Everlasting Blogstalker is easily identified by the host due to their distinctive odor and speech pattern, but The Mole and The Bully are much harder to spot, and it usually requires numerous hours of blogging in one location because any single comment or group of comments can be ambiguous and a pattern is required to confirm trollishness.  One common pattern of these trolls is “team trolling.”

Team trolling is a misnomer because it actually involves a single troll.  It is usually performed by The Bully using multiple aliases or “sockpuppets” that are often (but not always) Moles.  This tactic is typically used to “win” arguments or to defend The Bully when it is confronted.  To the uninitiated, it looks like this:  The Bully says something, then two or three other commentors chime in to side with the troll.  If used in an argument, the sockpuppets will agree with whatever The Bully says, and if used in The Bully’s defense the sockpuppets will invariable find no offense in anything The Bully has said. (“I didn’t think it was rude“)

The Bully is not always abusive and/or insulting, it may attempt to dominate threads by using “word fogs.”  A word fog is a long comment filled with jargon and terms unknown to the average person.  Outside of the blogosphere word-fogs are used by bad academicians, pseudo-intellectuals and con-men.  The Bully troll hopes that others will be confused and intimidated by the flowery phrasing and excessive verbiage.  Here is an example of a word fog:

“Why? Because it’s turned out that meta matters. The American public is by and large in favour of a social-democratic policy consensus. But that doesn’t necessarily effect how things go at the ballot box. How things go at the ballot box is related to all kinds of meta issues. And the meta that matters now is that, regardless of the truth of the matter, it is widely held that Obama is winning on a populist platform. That perception is the 0.0001% margin you get out of the elections, even if it is very likely that you’ll get nothing else.”

That paragraph is completely meaningless.  “Meta” is either a prefix to another word or an adjective that modifies a noun.  Here is another word fog:

In a nutshell, even if we assume that Liebowitz’s numbers are all correct, you still have to accept his ideological assumptions in order to agree that his data allows him to lay the blame where it does.  His ideological assumptions are inserted via a certain amount of familiar slight-of-hand. They’re standard glibertarian cant. Need I explain what that is?

I believe that the predictable and observed consequence of that form of libertarianism is a preservation of racially-biased economic hierarchies.

So that is my objection to Liebowitz.

The Bully knows that many people are afraid to admit they don’t understand something and will shut up, giving the appearance that The Bully has “won” the argument.  But it doesn’t work on everyone, some will demand explanations or persist in pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes.  When a word fog is questioned or confronted is where The Bully can be distinguished from a real person.

The purpose of communication is to express our thoughts and ideas to others in a way that can be understood.  This is especially true when we engage in persuasive argument.  Typically, if the speaker or writer knows they are not being understood they explain themselves in simpler terms rather than using even more complex terminology.

For example, if I were to use the term “double jeopardy” and the other person didn’t understand what I was talking about I wouldn’t tell them it was similar to the principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel, I would tell them it meant they could not be put on trial twice for the same crime.

The Bully, on the other hand, will do exactly the opposite and if the person persists in questioning or challenging them it will typically dismiss the person as ignorant and inferior to itself and then flee the scene claiming it has to leave. (“You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about and I don’t have time for this.“)  The sockpuppets however, can hang around to defend The Bully after it departs.

The Bully will also use the word fog as a defensive tactic.  Other common defensive tactics of trolls include “playing the victim card, “the misinterpretation,” “false citation” and arguing apples and oranges.  Playing the victim card takes place when the troll is questioned or confronted and responds by claiming to be offended or that it is being picked on.  The misinterpretation is where the troll intentionally twists or misinterprets what others are saying.  Frequently, when either of these tactics are used the troll then leaves (or pretends to while lurking or sockpuppeting.) 

False citation occurs when the troll gives a reference or link as a supporting authority but the citation doesn’t actually say what the troll claims it does.  A troll that argues apples and oranges will simply ignore the person’s facts and/or points and talk about something is similar but that doesn’t disprove what the person has said.  An example of this is when the person says “75% of sino-peruvian lesbians believe _______” and the troll responds with “My friend is a sino-peruvian lesbian and she doesn’t believe that.”

I hope this guide is helpful and informative.  Good hunting and remember, they are not endangered but they are not edible either.  But whatever you do, DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!

75 Responses

  1. Spammy the Moderator is automated so if you use the word “troll” he will grab you!

    Use “tr0ll” or “tro!!” instead

  2. myiq: You are very funny!
    Thank you for making my day.

  3. sigh… I wish I had your way with words, myiq. This post is great.

  4. Good morning! I will be off buying groceries today, we are out of everything. Really, everything!

    I’m surprised any tr0lls bother to come here anymore.

  5. Where is IronMan….

  6. Do you think that British spelling is a tr0ll give-away?

    You know: favour, colour, etc., as in that first word fog.

  7. JJM:

    We have excellent exterminators and the regulars don’t feed ’em.

    Some blogs have been overrun and the trolls have taken control, driving out all the real people

    Dkos for example

  8. Nice post but dude what’s with the photo. I just ate breakfast. Uggg.

  9. dww:

    Americans and the British are two peoples separated by a common language

  10. ld82:

    As you can see, the troll in the picture is looking for his breakfast too.

  11. myiq2xu, on November 10th, 2008 at 11:21 am Said:

    As you can see, the troll in the picture is looking for his breakfast too.


    lol! That’s just WRONG.

  12. Myiq this is great – thank you.

    Having been away and missed so much I went back to read through this AM – I just watched the video that was at 4:58 yesterday by conflucians say on the Hillary Humiliation thread – I am literally in tears – how could they do that to another human being – and one who has done so much for the country she loves.
    What kind of animals are these DNC leaders and tro!!s.
    I realllllly want to know what is going on with Hill and how we can support the work that she had started that will now not get done under this administration.

    And yes, where is IronMan, garychapellhill, mawm and Chelsea?

  13. If I had any clean socks, I would have brought along a sockpuppet to say, “Great post!”

  14. I have to go beg for money so if Spammy grabs you you’ll have to get Katiebird or Bostonboomer to bail you out or wait for me to get back

  15. So, you are throwing out the legal terms. I would understand res judicata and collateral estoppel.

    Great Post, but sometimes tr0lls just really piss me off.

  16. Where have you been reading about tr0lls, myiq? …you have any link by any chance? From my one little experience with a tr0ll/s on another board, they don’t confine their activities to just a board. They collect personal info and then track you down and harass you and your family. Trust me, it’s not pleasant. Watch what kind of info you give out when your out on the web.

  17. This place has too many lawyers.

    No wonder the trolls stay away – professional courtesy

  18. On the road(via iPhone) & just saw someone reading the NYTimes editorial page–an orgy to Dear Leader–and one heading jumped out:

    Franklin Delano Obama?

    OK, let’s all puke in unison. Why doesn’t he just put HRC in a dungeon and feed off her brain for 4 years? He is now the reincarnation of Lincoln, FDR, JFK, RFK, and all without actually DOING anything.

  19. I hate lawyers, except you, of course.

  20. jvsp:

    Reading about trolls?

    This was a creative writing exercise, not a research paper.

  21. fif,

    There is already a movement afoot to declare a national holiday for BZero — without even being inaugurated or having taking the oath of office.

  22. From today’s WSJ:


    “Pay As You Go Is Gone”

    Democrats ran on “paygo” in 2006, promising to offset any new spending increases or tax cuts with comparable tax increases or spending cuts. Once in charge on Capitol Hill they quickly made exceptions, waiving paygo no fewer than 12 times to accommodate some $398 billion in new deficit spending — not that the press corps bothered to notice. That didn’t stop Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from announcing in May that “We’re absolutely committed to paygo. Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] is committed to paygo. I’m very committed to paygo. Our caucus is committed to paygo.”

    Yet now Mr. Cooper is delivering official last rites, as the Washington spending machinery powers up in earnest. Paygo was always a big con designed not to reduce spending but to stop tax cuts. It was invented to stop the GOP Congress and then a Republican President, but it is inconvenient when Democrats run the show. With the recession available as an excuse for just about anything, get ready for the first $1 trillion federal budget deficit. And don’t expect any howling from the Blue Dogs

  23. TRK:

    And Angie! Ya gotta love Angie!

  24. Angie is an attorney?

  25. …. thought you might have run across some interesting links 🙂

  26. Prolix: OMG…each time I think it can’t get any worse…

  27. An excellent taxonomy of tro!!s. I esp. like your breakdown of the word-fog tactic.

    Sometimes, it’s hard not to respond to trolls, esp. the concern kind and sockpuppet kind. I think it’s because occasionally they bring up good points (although with bad motivations) or they bring up bad but common points that Conflucians are likely to be confronted with off-board, and an on-board conversation deconstructing the points is worth it. But only after the tro!! has been escorted off board.

  28. Eeek, I’m in moderation (used one tro!! spelled correctly). Can someone let me out?

  29. Joanelle, there’s an article on ALEGRE’S CORNER that is about Hillary and going forward.


  30. myiq2xu, you can see a more complex range of tr0lls than I’ve been able to identify. I don’t know whether some people I’ve observed are tr0lls or not – those people who befriended us in order to encourage the McCain vote. They didn’t seem to really believe in the rest of our causes. I don’t meant those who were very upfront about their alliance with us and their Republican allegiance. They were very respectful.

    I have enjoyed those that came to join for some other purpose and grew to respect Hillary in the process.

  31. clever, myiq

    the pic, def coulda done with out 🙄

  32. Clinton – Sec of State??? Could it be true??? I don’t believe it:

    Obama’s most dramatic step would be to name New York Senator Hillary Clinton, his defeated rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, as secretary of state. Two Obama advisers confirm the idea has been discussed, though they say they don’t know how seriously the president-elect is considering it or whether Clinton would accept it.

  33. SoS — I doubt Obama would offer. But it’s a tough thing. If she were SoS, she’d have to spout the Obama line. As Senator she does not, but the rest of the party will bully her into falling in line anyway.

  34. Jmac: Funny that they wouldn’t consider her for health and human services, isn’t it?

    Hope she doesn’t take any position in that evil regime. She should “bloom where she’s planted.” as she has said, or better yet, resign and become president of a country that respects women. Wonder what country that would be….

  35. In moderation, please help. The troll pictured is making eyes at me, gack!

  36. I hope she doesn’t take a cabinet position. She’d be under BO’s thumb.
    Look at Gov. Whitman — she took a lot of damage by accepting a position in W’s admin.

  37. Ha!Ha! I wonder if the term “chew toy” rings a bell and if occasional, cuter trolls could be saved fr that purpose
    meanwhile, the story of Hillart and the healthcare committee is spiffed up with fresh insults by recently self-redeemed WaPo

  38. I hope she “sees” through that whole SOS bs.. Because after all that has gone on, she shouldn’t trust Obama one bit.

    If she accepts, she loses her Senate seat. And then, she serves at the discretion of BO. Which means, that she could be easily eased out after a couple of years (or less) for any number of reasons. And the media and the administration will always, always spew something to the effect that it is her fault (isnt is always!!?) and that she’s the bad one who could not get along with His Holiness.

    And in the meantime, since her Senate seat is lost forever, her political career over, fulfilling the ultimate aims of that evil trio of Brazille, Pelosi and Dean.

    The offer,if made, is an obvious setup (just my 2 cents..)

  39. oops! I misspelled tr0ll and am in moderation! Help!!!

  40. Thank you so much for the word fog explanation. I actually saw the “meta” thing that you quoted when it first appeared. I didn’t get hide nor hair what the person was trying to say. But then I thought to myself,
    ” You’ re middle-aged and haven’t kept up with the new usage of old words. That’s why you don’t understand.” But your word fog explanation makes more sense. It was a bunch of “who shot John” to quote Judge Judy.

  41. great post lol on the types so true! — trolls are cowards who use a blogging pseudonym to say things they probably wouldn’t face to face–

  42. Has anyone seen the evil trio..Brazille,Pelosi, and Dean? Dean may still be hiding under his rock. Brazille is still listening to Mama, and Pelosi..with the small brain and spineless back is crawling up obama’s a$$. Let the trOlls take that back to their leader.

  43. Personally, I would very much like to see Sen., Clinton become Justice Clinton on SCOTUS. That gets her out of everybody’s clutches, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg will retire soon, leaving the court without a female presence.

  44. “He is now the reincarnation of Lincoln, FDR, JFK, RFK, and all without actually DOING anything.”

    The Amazing Okreskin – is as the saying goes:
    “Jack of all trades, master of none”

  45. chatblu, I would like to see her on the SCOTUS too, but I dread what her confirmation hearing would be like — a field day for her enemies.

  46. deetee:

    Interesting analysis. I would not put it past O to try any means possible to silence Hillary. She’s been around a long time. Hopefully she recognizes who her “friends” are. Although, after this election season, many of her “friends” have bailed.

    I wish she could just tell us what the heck is going on, and truthfully. But that would be too dangerous, I’m sure.

  47. jmac
    Absolutely cannot be true. See my post about WaPo story – now with fresh insults. I think there are more chances for me to develop flying abilities and become Miss Universe at the same moment than Hillary to get anything but scorn from these people.

  48. 1. I hope that Senator Clinton does NOT accept any post in the Oblahblah administreation. She will be much better as an honest opposition figure (even if in the same party). And I wouldn’t want to see him as her boss…

    2. Myiq2xu: your “thesis” on “trollology” was entertaining and even somewhat useful. But I have seen some people labelled as “trolls” simply for having a different viewpoint. That type of positiion does not, I think, serve the general good. Differing viewpoints are very necessary. IMHO!


  49. Funny. I read the different types of trolls and I see Obama’s DNA in all of them. The fish rots from the head.

  50. Am I in moderation because I used the word “tro!!?”


  51. Someone up thread asked about a link for info on Tr0ls/vermin in need of ’round up’ … I found this lady to be both helpful & hysterical .. She has links in here that are both funny & informative …. think you will get a kick out of some of her stuff …. haven’t read her in a long time…. I found her in a google search for ‘Tr0ls’ – I was so dumb about this subject – never knew what I was dealing with ‘regularly on another board ‘ that I was posting on every day …


  52. Well, I will re-type my comments, w/o the “bad” word:

    1. I hope that Senator Clinton does NOT accept any post in the Oblahblah administration. She will be much better as an honest opposition figure (even if in the same party). And I wouldn’t want to see him as her boss…

    2. Myiq2xu: Your “thesis” on tro!!ology” was entertaining and even somewhat useful. But I have seen some people labeled as “tro!!s” simply for having a different viewpoint. That tyoe of position does not, I think, serve the general good. Differing viewpoints are very necessary. IMHO!


  53. NEW POST UP!!!

  54. Maybe not, Voter mom. Might be tempting for them to quietly remove her from challenging Harry Reid, or running when he retires. IF we can manage to hold a majority of the senate in 2010l.

  55. Kennedy’s refusal to have Hillary lead a separate subcommittee represents an ignoble end to an otherwise distinguished career in the Senate.

    It looks like perhaps his last major act in the Senate may be one of simple spite.

  56. Help …. Out of moderation PLEASE … ;)) – I even spelled the T word right .. with the 000 etc ..

    Hello .. ???

  57. Someone up thread asked about a link for info on THIS subject … I found this lady to be both helpful & hysterical .. She has links in here that are both funny & informative …. think you will get a kick out of some of her stuff …. haven’t read her in a long time…. I found her in a google search for ‘THIS’ subject – I was so dumb about this subject – never knew what I was dealing with ‘regularly on another board ‘ that I was posting on every day …


    O.k. .. reposted totally wiping out ‘teh’ word ..

  58. hahahahahahahah……

    *word fog* —— sounds like government speak to me
    they never actually make a point but just bore you to death,,,,
    thanks for the laugh!

  59. Hmmmm…I’m feeling lonely upstairs with my new post and no comments!

    Someone come up there and keep me company…


  60. O.k. .. I re – wrote my comment .. Completely without that ‘word’ … and even THAT comment is in moderation .. wtheck ..??? .. please explain .. .

    or .. is no one here .. ?

  61. Madamab .. I read it and IT is EXCELLENT .. !! .. I came back down here to check on my comments in moderation ….

    this time I am only going to try & post the ‘important’ link .. & not my comment .. Cause .. this lady is funny .. about ‘this ‘ subject & informative …


  62. o.k. … that’ s it .. 3 comment now in moderation..

    I don’t understand .

  63. PSV, yep. Spell it tr0ll or tro!!.

  64. Great post myiq. Not only was it very funny but it was very informative. You really know your trollology. 😀

  65. Maybe it’s time to let it go…

    Just saying.

  66. Gxm17 I did .. I even rewrote without the ‘word’ and substituted .. ‘this subject’ .. still in moderation..

    chit. 😉

  67. Guys, putting a link in your post can also put it in moderation.

    Not that anyone cares, but…New Post UP

  68. I’m in moderation too… for a word I made up with tro!! in it.

    Other tagged words are r@cist and c0lin p0well. So maybe you used another tagged word?

  69. Thanks for the ‘suggestion’ – Change, .. however there is a link there that is both funny & full of information that I wanted everyone to have …

    If it was just my ‘blathering’ … yeah .. I would let it go .. BUT – it Wasn’t – it is something that would bring information and laughs to TC…

  70. Gxm17 .. Nope , I didn’t .. but thanks for caring, I mean it …:) .. and I mean that .

  71. and I didn’t even use the efffff word .. LoL …

  72. No cabinet positions for Hillary. That is an old trick to hire your enemy/competition away from somewhere else, then fire them a year later. In the Senate the only thing that they can do is shun her and I would consider that an honor.

  73. Hi PUMA’s thanks for the nice essay on the various types of blog creatures of the vermin types. I commend your tro!! patrol on the good job you do keeping it nice around here. one of the things that bothered me the most this year was the lack of intelligent discussion. There was way too much of “our guy is good and your guy is evilll ! no getting down to brass tacks and discussing actual policy or proposals. of course the media has a lot of the blame. I guess that a John vs Hillary campaign might have been a lot more focused on those sort of issues, but we can never know. So anyway thanks for letting me come and hang around. I am not exactally a PUMA but I am a creature of the center. I value truth and honesty greatly and I dont toe any partys line

    I cant wait for the tinfoil hats and liquor post. I have 5 year old Demerarra rum from Guyana. the way it mixes with coke a cola can be nothing short of a miracle. I think it must be god’s plan and proof of itelligent design. I could go on about that , but then I might start to be one of those sneak in a change the subject Tro!! types. so I will save that for the proper thread.

  74. troll,troll,troll

  75. It was fun being called a Troll every time I questioned a post and it was hysterical being edited/deleted when I was actually answering a question or an attack. I got to know what being in a totalitarian society was like if only on the page. The best part of all these blogs is that you get to type out your frustrations even if you get deleted or Trolled off the site. The act of typing is the event whether anyone hears you because even those who enjoy status on these things don’t really listen to each other. I’ve been able to go 24 hours without making the rounds and checking the pulses of blogs on both sides of the fence. This must mean I am getting my life back. Thanks guys and gals, its been fun but like the dwindling number of responses per posts the clock on the wall is telling me its time to get back to the real world. Nite!

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