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Old 09-22-2019, 11:24 AM
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Difference between a "troll", and someone who sincerely holds a loathsome opinion


This is more of an ATMB thread, but many people don't go there, and such threads usually vanish after a few days anyway in ATMB:


I think there is a fine, but real, difference between someone who is "trolling" and someone who sincerely and genuinely holds a noxious opinion. The former is someone who is deliberately trying to bait and anger people, whereas the latter is someone whose views are simply either wrong and/or at odds with the vast majority of people, but may not necessarily have any malicious intent.

One difference, for instance, might be that trolls try to hijack a thread and steer it away from its intended purpose, whereas the person with a genuinely held offensive opinion (I don't know if there is a term for such a person) only posts such a noxious viewpoint in threads where it is directly relevant. Another example of the latter might be someone who isn't malicious at all, but whose posting style simply aggravates and annoys people by its very style - someone who perhaps isn't capable of writing any other way, or whose mind is simply fixated on certain topics ad nauseam.

What other differences can be found between these two types?
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Old 09-22-2019, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
I think there is a fine, but real, difference between someone who is "trolling" and someone who sincerely and genuinely holds a noxious opinion. The former is someone who is deliberately trying to bait and anger people, whereas the latter is someone whose views are simply either wrong and/or at odds with the vast majority of people, but may not necessarily have any malicious intent.
That's all well and good but TPTB at the SDMB make no such distinction. Anyone who deliberately tries to bait and anger people is trolling, sincere or not.

Last edited by Skywatcher; 09-22-2019 at 11:55 AM.
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Old 09-22-2019, 12:22 PM
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I think the main difference is what their goal is. Somebody who sincerely holds a loathsome opinion wants people to agree with him. His ideal is that the thread will end up with everyone in peaceful agreement.

A troll wants to upset people. He may be saying something he believes or he may be making it up. But his goal is still to cause disruption. He doesn't want a rational discussion of the topic.
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Old 09-22-2019, 01:53 PM
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... the person with a genuinely held offensive opinion (I don't know if there is a term for such a person) ...
I'd suggest you could call them "the Other" or "outgroup"

Last edited by HurricaneDitka; 09-22-2019 at 01:54 PM.
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:29 PM
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One area where the line gets blurry is in cites for arguments. Trolls usually don't have one, but neither do some LOH's (loathsome opinion holders). Another possible indication the poster doesn't want to engage in substantive debate is the refusal to respond to the questions or arguing points of other posters--again, true of some LOH's.

In short, here are outright trolls, and then there are those who use trollish tactics, who have sincere beliefs but who post not to discuss but for the sense of satisfaction they get from ticking off the opposition. Not all LOH's are trollish, but those who are must cause a lot of headaches for mods.
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:48 PM
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I'd suggest you could call them "the Other" or "outgroup"
Why reward them with acknowledgement of their self-seeking martyr/victim status?
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:53 PM
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Trolls frequently troll on a large number of topics, while someone who has a sincerely held loathsome opinion is much more selective and will only express such opinions on a small number of subjects, often just one.
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Old 09-22-2019, 03:01 PM
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I agree with Little Nemo and nelliebly above, and I think an additional complicating factor is that many people, well-intentioned or not, don't really stop to think about what they're hoping to achieve and whether what they're about to say is in furtherance of that goal before blurting it out or hitting "Post." I've been guilty of this myself. Of course I'd like to engage in reasoned debate in which I persuade people with loathsome views to reexamine them, and to learn something myself, but sometimes I just get annoyed at yet another hateful idiot posting the same hateful idiocy he should've been talked out of ten times over already, and I just want to snap at him. It's not like I go in to a thread hoing to pwn the snowflakes or whatever supposedly goes through a troll's mind. It's just that I can only endure so much before I need a break, and giving myself that break before I hit the breaking point requires constant vigilance.

Last edited by Esprise Me; 09-22-2019 at 03:02 PM.
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Old 09-22-2019, 03:02 PM
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In general, someone with a loathsome opinion that isn't trying to upset people will present that opinion differently. Either they know it's unusual and couch it, or they mention so casually that they And when people get upset about it, they aren't gleeful or snarky in response.

The one thing a non-troll may do is lash out, because they feel under attack. So someone being hateful isn't necessarily indicative of trolling, especially if their first post wasn't hateful. It's the happy responses that I think are highly correlated with trolling.

Though there is the possibility of fake anger. Because one of the main things about trolling is that you have to hide it for it to be effective. And you can sometimes misjudge the tone--it can be hard to tell the difference between snark that is an attempt to punch back, and snark which is happy. (It's much easier in real life, when you can read the body language.)

Ultimately, no guide on how to tell will be absolute. But this is the sort of thing I look at: do they seem happy that others are upset at them?
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Old 09-22-2019, 03:28 PM
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What other differences can be found between these two types?
I think they are largely overlapping magisteria. Both enjoy the deliberate stirring up of target audience reaction. Differences lie mostly in the level of effort and preparedness in their rhetoric.
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Old 09-22-2019, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
I think there is a fine, but real, difference between someone who is "trolling" and someone who sincerely and genuinely holds a noxious opinion. The former is someone who is deliberately trying to bait and anger people, whereas the latter is someone whose views are simply either wrong and/or at odds with the vast majority of people, but may not necessarily have any malicious intent.
Do you consider devil's advocacy to be a form of trolling, or distinct from? Because a devil's advocate may, as a troll, seek to bait and anger, but not necessarily with malicious intent.
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Old 09-22-2019, 04:20 PM
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Do you consider devil's advocacy to be a form of trolling, or distinct from? Because a devil's advocate may, as a troll, seek to bait and anger, but not necessarily with malicious intent.
I don't think this is trolling at all. This is argumentation in good faith. The purpose is to spur discussion and get people to see things from a different standpoint.
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Old 09-22-2019, 04:59 PM
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Gonna answer the OP with "the Potter test" from Jacobellis v. Ohio.

YMMV.
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Skywatcher View Post
That's all well and good but TPTB at the SDMB make no such distinction. Anyone who deliberately tries to bait and anger people is trolling, sincere or not.
Mens Rea, anyone?
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Old 09-23-2019, 01:07 AM
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“Noxious Opinion” and “Offensive Opinion” are entirely subjective descriptors which mean different things to different people and what some people find noxious or offensive are perfectly reasonable to others, and therefore the entire premise of the question is loaded and poisoned from the start.

A “troll” posts with the intent to piss people off and nothing else. A person is not a troll if their opinions and views are offensive to you. Just because someone says something that gets you upset doesn’t mean they are troll.

“Vast majority of people” is also subjective, because there is very little that a vast majority agree on. Just because a lot of people believe one thing or want one thing doesn’t mean the opposing view is wrong or “trolling”.
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Old 09-23-2019, 08:54 AM
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"Troll" is one of the most overused/misused labels on the Internet. Often it's used as a synonym for "someone who has the gall to disagree with me when it's obvious I am perfectly in the right."
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Originally Posted by PastTense View Post
Trolls frequently troll on a large number of topics, while someone who has a sincerely held loathsome opinion is much more selective and will only express such opinions on a small number of subjects, often just one.
There's one person who repeatedly shows up in comment threads on a site I frequent, who evidently has sincerely-held beliefs on a single topic. However he goes out of his way to use ridiculously loaded language in an obvious attempt to enrage the opposition, with no real effort to persuade.

Now that's trolling.

You see this a lot on subjects like abortion, guns and vaccination.
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Old 09-23-2019, 09:50 AM
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Someone who tells dead baby jokes at the local bar is just a jokester.

Someone who tells dead baby jokes at a crib death support group meeting is a troll.
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Old 09-23-2019, 11:34 AM
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Someone who tells dead baby jokes at the local bar is just a jokester.
Whatís so funny about dead babies?

...

Waitódonít answer that!
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Old 09-23-2019, 01:18 PM
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I've got at least one opinion that would really piss off a bunch of people, and would make a few conservatives gleeful about how they can use me to broadbrush liberals as anti-Americans.

If I were a troll, I'd sincerely and repeatedly post this opinion in any thread where I thought it was even vaguely relevant. I'd sneer at those who lacked my opinion as being stupid or knee-jerkers or ideologues or whatever. I'd make sure to turn threads about anything tangentially related into threads about me.

None of this would mean I wasn't sincere about my opinion. It'd mean I was thriving on riling people up.

But I don't thrive on that. So I almost never mention this opinion of mine. Mentioning it wouldn't persuade people, and it wouldn't do any real good. So I keep it to my damn self.

I suspect most people have similar opinions, and deal with them similarly.
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Old 09-23-2019, 01:58 PM
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But I don't thrive on that. So I almost never mention this opinion of mine. Mentioning it wouldn't persuade people, and it wouldn't do any real good. So I keep it to my damn self.

I suspect most people have similar opinions, and deal with them similarly.
I don't know if I have or could imagine myself having a similar opinion that's so far out there that it's not worth bringing up. Maybe there are opinions about trifling matters that aren't worth the time and effort of articulating, but I won't censure myself on these forums if I feel my opinions are out of line.

I mean, when I first learned about civics in grade school I had the idea that stupid people shouldn't be allowed to vote. It was so clear to me that this would solve the world's problems, until I mentioned it to another human being who promptly changed my mind.

Neither do I enter philosophical debates with the sole purpose of persuading other people. I can always be wrong, especially when I think my view is nonconforming.

~Max
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Old 09-23-2019, 03:15 PM
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I don't know if I have or could imagine myself having a similar opinion that's so far out there that it's not worth bringing up. Maybe there are opinions about trifling matters that aren't worth the time and effort of articulating, but I won't censure myself on these forums if I feel my opinions are out of line.
It's not worth bringing up because I think it'll hijack threads. I've talked with plenty of people before about it, and I can see the other side, but I still hold the opinion.

My point, however, is that if I brought it up constantly, knowing that it would outrage people, and especially if I were bringing it up in tangential threads, I'd be trolling for all purposes.

(FWIW, the opinion--which I'm not gonna discuss here, but am offering to show that I'm not just making shit up--is that for most people, under most circumstances, joining the armed forces is an unethical decision, and that the military should not therefore be celebrated with holidays, parades, etc. I know that most folks find this opinion appalling and risible, which is why I so rarely bring it up).
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Old 09-23-2019, 03:18 PM
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^^^^ (That's a lot milder an opinion that what I was expecting)
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Old 09-23-2019, 03:21 PM
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^^^^ (That's a lot milder an opinion that what I was expecting)
Fair. I've gotten mellow in my old age.

Last edited by Left Hand of Dorkness; 09-23-2019 at 03:22 PM.
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Old 09-23-2019, 03:49 PM
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Fair. I've gotten mellow in my old age.
Yeah, you had me thinking it would involve declawing cats or something.

But you make a good point about insincerity. Trolling is not the same as insincerity.

~Max
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Old 09-25-2019, 08:22 PM
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Do you consider devil's advocacy to be a form of trolling, or distinct from? Because a devil's advocate may, as a troll, seek to bait and anger, but not necessarily with malicious intent.
The entire point of revealing that you are just being a devil's advocate is to try and mitigate anger that might be directed towards the person for making such an argument.

As such, it follows that hiding that you are being a devil's advocate means that you are aware that what you are saying will likely anger people, and avoiding doing anything to mitigate that. At best, not revealing does nothing. At worst, it unnecessarily engenders hostility, and thus harms the discussion. There is no outcome where it makes things better.

It also harms you in further posting, as you now have a reputation for having certain beliefs that you do not hold. Your inconsistency will be used against you, if shown. You will be assumed to have been trolling due to this inconsistency, and belatedly arguing devil's advocacy will not be believed.

So whether it is strictly trolling or not, the outcome is the same as if it were trolling. You might as well avoid it.

Instead, if you feel that a situation requires a "devil's advocate" (which is, IMHO, rare here), be sure to reveal this as you are doing it, and make your argument accordingly. Make sure it's clear to everyone that you don't believe what you are saying.

(And make sure you don't actually believe what you are saying. If you ever make the same argument under other circumstances, people will assume the claim of devil's advocacy is a lie.)
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