Monday, May 09, 2016

This Is Quite Wonderful: Aristotle on Trolling

In the Journal of the American Philosophical Association Rachel Barney of the University of Toronto writes about Internet trolls.  You can download the whole short article on the linked page.

A few snippets:

That trolling is a shameful thing, and that no one of sense would accept to be called ‘troll’, all are agreed; but what trolling is, and how many its species are, and whether there is an excellence of the troll, is unclear.
And this is how the troll generates strife. For what he indicates is known to be false or harmful or ignorant; but he does not say that thing, but rather something close. In this way he retains the possibility of denial, and the skilled troll is always surprised and hurt, or seems to be, when the others take his comments up. And so he sets the community apart from each other, and introduces strife where before there was scarcely disagreement.

So lovely!   I haven't met many trolls of such excellence, though maybe the ones who do circular debating* qualify as examples.  Still, wouldn't it be quite wonderful if all trolls were so skilled, assuming that they, like death and taxes, are unavoidable.

*  I used to get my exercise from circular debating with trolls.  The nature of those is of a perfect circle, starting and ending at the same place, and that place is the troll's first assertion (A) which pops right back after some minor Greek goddess has spent hours bringing up evidence first against A, then its mutated form B, then a sidestep argument (C) etc., all the way to assertion Z.

It took me a while to realize that this exercise was not a debate but just a bizarre form of trollish entertainment.

The picture is of a Scandinavian troll doll, probably having nothing to do with the etymology of Internet trolling.  But the hair is good, almost Trumpian!

PS:  Don't forget that it's my fund-raising week...