Whose worse the troll or the ignorant believer?

The Washington Post did a recent article:

about a trollster, Christopher Blair, that in 2016 created a Facebook page (America’s Last Line of Defense) with outlandish claims (labeled as satire and untrue) for the purpose of trolling ignorant conservatives. Stories such as California Adopting Sharia Law, Undocumented Aliens Defacing Mt. Rushmore, etc. When stupid conservatives “Like” or “share” their posts, he along with other liberal members of his group, jump on them attempting to shame them for believing their posts.

The article goes on to profile a woman in Nevada, Shirley Chapian, who spends most of her retired days reading through conservatively leaning posts on Facebook that she subscribes to and “liking” them, sharing them, or commenting on them. She dismisses Blair’s groups attempts of shaming her after she falls for one of his troll posts as “nasty liberals”.

Doesn’t appear there is a meeting of the minds here.

But who is worse? The troll or the ignorant believer? I’m gonna put more negative emphasis on the troll. If anything his tactic of trolling isn’t solving anything and may be making it worse.

You’re probably not going to teach critical thinking skills to “believers” by taking advantage of their gullibility and then shaming them.

On the other hand, after attempts to patiently explain the facts to people are repeatedly met with denial and/or the dogged insistence that evidence can be discounted because it’s part of a government/corporate/scientific/intellectual conspiracy, then ridicule may well be appropriate.

As you point out, you’re not going to fix the believers. They became believers by their willingness to deny evidence they don’t want to accept.

But exposing them does serve to warn other people of who the believers are.

I don’t think it’s trolling if you make it clear that you are satirizing things. The Onion and Landover Baptist are not trolling people.

If they are really ignorant you’ll not teach them anything. That’s what scares me about them. A troll may have some thinking skills that will keep them from doing something real stupid. It’s apples and oranges, really.

In my long life I have observed that human beings, although they can be skeptical, are generally trusting. This is why cons and trolls can be successful. We generally believe information that we receive, either in person or what we read. If we didn’t, it would be very difficult to make it through life. I would suggest this is all part of the “social contract”. In return, most people don’t spend their days lying to others.

But this is also why we have laws and regulations. We can’t be expected to go through life being suspect that the can of soup we purchase is not actually toxic sludge, or the treatment that a doctor prescribes is going to kill us (problematic!).

Of course there are degrees. There is a difference between being cautious and skeptical, and deeply gullible and easily duped. Studies have shown that as people get older they lose their ability to guard against scams (which is why the elderly are such easy targets), so the same individual can be at different levels at different points in their lives.

All of this is to say I give the “ignorant” believers my sympathy, and consider the trolls to be worse as they are liars and cons.

These people have given up using their rational minds and instead think about things only in emotional terms. Their idea is that “if something brings me satisfaction or makes me feel good, it is more likely true.” If emotional reasoning is the only plane on which these people operate, then are emotional attacks the only way to communicate with them?

In general, trolling is worse, but that goes to intent. Here they have a germ of a good idea, but then they ruin it by making the person defensive. There’s nothing wrong with tricking someone and then revealing the trick to try and get them to think more critically. But ridiculing people only makes them stick to their beliefs harder.

Which I guess is fine if you’re 100% sure they’re stuck in their ways, and it won’t make anything worse. But that seems a rather dumb assumption here, since you had a chance at a teachable moment.

Still, while true believers are not very reachable, trolls are even less reachable. You can maybe put some chinks in the armor of the true believers, even if they don’t change right away. But about the only chink you can put in a troll’s armor is about trolling itself.

BTW, this focus on people being convinced right away or not at all is, I believe, a huge problem in our discourse. I was not convinced right away to switch from conservatism to liberalism. It took a bunch of little things. It took a bunch of little things to get me to not believe in Christian Fundamentalism.

Anyone who talked to me in the middle could have easily thought that I was unreachable.

It’s sort of like the chicken and the egg. I’d say the ignorant believers came first and trolls are a result of the ignorant wanting to believe anything that supports their view.

I would say, as a rule of thumb, it depends on the behaviour of the ignorant believer. Ignorant believers who keep themselves to themselves aren’t doing harm to anyone else. Once they become evangelical (and not necessarily in the religious sense, of course) then they’re in the business of poisoning minds, and a little well directed trolling may be exactly what is called for.

Perhaps we just need better trained trolls - in terms of both target selection and execution.

So I’ll go against trend and speak up for the troll. Well, some trolls, anyways.


Trolls get banned here, while ignorant believers are welcome.

He is an author of fake news. He is getting paid for his lies and trolling. The article also says he has around 100 liberals that go around and make fun of the people he fools. I’m sure he is changing lots of hearts and minds.

He is a piece of shit. He knows he is spreading lies and does it anyway. Why, for money and the chance to laugh at some yokel he fooled.

“You can’t fix stupid”
-Ron White