Media Influencer has a good piece on Trolls, looking at the way in which Andrew Keen avoids debate in favour of provocation for the sake of publicity. Now there is a role for provocation and a danger that many an online forum or workshop can degenerate into a fluffy bunny group hug, although Neurophilosophy reports that bees group hug hornets to death so bunnies may be more dangerous than I thought. What is becoming increasingly clear is that we need some new language and conventions, or at least some more distinctions. Being provocative does not a troll make, however not engaging in debate, merely repeating the original provocation (something the Frank is good at) seems to me to provide evidence of a desire to have culinary exchanges with passing goats.
Now there is a related issue here, which is use of an ad hominem argument. A form that I don’t think this can be dismissed completely. If someone argues a position, but their life or behaviour contradicts that then it is legitimate to point it out. If some becomes a troll then the direct labeling (with cause and argument) is again legitimate. At least an ad hominem has a quality of honesty, it is direct and its subject self evident. There is a more dishonest form, frequently used by people (Uncle Jerry did it recently in ActKM) which is a special type of Troll like behaviour. Here a comment is made along the lines of People who say X are obviously stupid. The target of the attack is generally known to a significant number of participants and now has a choice. To respond to the attack, allows the attacker to say something line Oh you, I didn’t mean you but if the cap fits … or similar. To fail to respond can be seen as an acknowledgment of the the statement.
It would be interesting to create a taxonomy of trolls.