I have been noticing a lot of invective on the internet recently. Well, maybe not all that recently, it has been going on for some time. Some people do not engage in polite conversation on the internet. Or at least both parties do not. Sometime during the discussion, when one party decides they are not getting their point across, they resort to cussing, put downs and threats. I have experienced this myself, though I usually just back out of the conversation and block all notices of it. Recently, in a discussion of concealed carry, a young man from Russia, who couldn’t keep from crowing about his mastery of ‘self defense techniques’, threatened to push my gun up my ass. Of course, my gun was no threat to him at the range of thousands of miles, as his ‘self defense techniques’ were no threat to me at the same range. In another post by a friend, again about firearms, the anti-gun supporter voiced his wish that the government would kill the pro-gun poster and all his ilk, in no uncertain terms or language. I seem to remember things being a little more civil when I was growing up, a time before the internet and personal computers. That may just be my faulty memory, but I think not. There were societal controls on public comments at that time that no longer exist. If you wanted to post a review or a comment that people would see you had to go through the newspaper or some other publication. They would not print some of the words that make up the majority of internet replies these days. And your name was attached to the comment, so everyone knew who you were.
Robert E Howard said, in his famous Conan series, “Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.” Anonymity makes people brave enough to say things online that they wouldn’t say to the local drug dealer or street fighter down at the local bar. People post their names, or at least what they want us to think are their names. They’re still protected by the fact that most of us don’t want to spend to time and effort to find out who they really are. Or they are separated from us by enough distance that, like the young man in Russia, they have no fear that we are going to track them down and do violence to them. Of course most of us wouldn’t really do violence to them even if they lived across the street from us, though there are people in the world who would travel those thousands of miles to do just that. But mostly they post with impunity.
The biggest problem with these trolls is that they seem to have unlimited time to post, unlike those of us actually doing something productive. I have found the best strategy to deal with them is to make one final post telling them what you think of them, without resorting to their level of invective, ending the message with a statement that you are getting off that thread or blocking them, and ending with a goodbye. After that I simply leave the thread, after making sure that I no longer receive notification of their comments, or blocking them. Then, they are welcome to post as much as they want. It makes no difference to me what they have to say after that, and I am sure it pisses them off that I am no longer reading their posts.