Two different troll playbooks are popularly believed to have been written by political henchman Karl Rove. One of these compositions is said to be a tutorial sent by Rove to “his people” in August of 2011 to teach them the fine points of subverting online debate. As I learned from Twitter participation, the basic moves are adaptable to any subject, like the death of Kendrick Johnson, for instance.
If trollery is called out, the recipient is advised to “Simply accuse the accuser of being a troll…” This can lead to an endless loop of “You’re a troll.” “No, you’re the troll.” And then someone sympathetic to the cause steps in and says “You’re right, he’s a troll.” Ad nauseam, ad infinitum.
Another principle is, “Mere laughing dismissal is often very effective. Usually all it takes is an LOL. Call your attackers ‘Obamabots.’ Accuse them of mindless fawning…”
Trolls love clever wordplay. My first encounter with such a delightful neologism was when someone dismissively referred to the followers of Ayn Rand as “Randroids.” The thing is, all the intellectual and creative power that is put to work making puns and portmanteau words, could be much better employed.
The other alleged Karl Rove how-to manual
“Tactics for Effective Conservative Blogging,” dated November of 2011 is also attributed to Rove. This one consists of verbal bullet points such as “engage,” which in this context does not mean a dance of give-and-take, but a demand for an “elaborate, time-consuming comparison / analysis between your position and theirs.”
For instance, one staunch upholder of Valdosta bureaucracy asked, “How does a single person kill an 170 lb athletic man and THEN PICK HIM UP and stuff him head first into a rolled up mat? Then again, in the black community..snitches get stitches… Don’t they.”
Two things. First, out of all the possible scenarios for Kendrick Johnson’s demise, I don’t think anyone has suggested that one. For the troll to cast doubt upon it is simply an exercise in aggravation, which in classical times was called setting up a straw man – inventing something that nobody on the other side has proposed, just to knock it down, when it didn’t even exist.
Second, they gotta throw in a racist dig about the black community, which I’m sure they would have rather called the ghetto, or worse. But here’s the twist. You know where else snitches get stitches? In law enforcement. The average cop is as frightened of peer retaliation as the average gang member is. If you step out of line, there’s a price to be paid. Dramatists have made a big deal out of the Mafia’s “omertà” or code of silence, but cops are highly unlikely to ever, ever, ever betray their fellow cops, no matter how heinous the crime.
Who steals my time, steals my life
In other words, the troll’s prime directive is to waste the opponent’s time. The people who don’t want questions asked about the death of Kendrick Johnson have succeeded in wasting plenty of my time that no doubt could have been put to better use. Marveling over their robotic nature, and curious about what guidebook they follow, I got sidetracked.
Another instruction, “entangle,” has the same purpose. “Tie them up,” it says. “We are going for delay of game here.” Again, wasting time is the object. Who steals my time, steals my life, which is what the dedicated troll aims to do – to steal the life of the person on the other side of the debate, piece by piece. Any casual thought you throw out will be met by a fierce challenge – they want you to run off and do a dissertation’s worth of research to back up the assertion that the sky is blue.
But wait, there’s more
Next, the aspiring troll is urged to “demoralize” by arbitrarily dismissing the opponent’s point. This is where the shorthand of TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) comes into play. After inviting the person to make a lengthy and detailed case, just negate it by ignoring it. Needless to say, no respect whatsoever should be granted to the other side. Also, “Do anything you must do to prevent a poster from presenting a well-reasoned argument, or starting a civil discussion.”
One of the instructions is to attack by refusing to recognize the other person’s information source as valid. Here, the obvious ploy is to claim, by fiat, that any facts put forth by the Johnson family are automatically worthless, and that goes for their supporters and any media outlet that gives them a hearing. If a troll repeats that often enough, it’s supposed to somehow magically become true.