Weekend Diversion: Fighting on the Internet

“When you roll around in the mud with a pig, you both get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.” -Old Folk Wisdom


One of the things I’ve learned over the time I’ve been blogging is that, no matter what position you take on any issue, whether it’s science, politics, religion, morality, or anything else, is that there will be no shortage of people willing to argue against it. Perhaps it’s for the best that Jeff Tweedy didn’t think of that when he wrote his most excellent song,

How to Fight Loneliness.
Because while many issues really are mere differences of opinion, it stirs up intense feelings of frustration when people are misinformed about facts.

Image credit: xkcd.

And initially, I found myself getting sucked into many of them, figuring that if I stuck to the highest levels of this argument pyramid (sourced from here), the argument would get us somewhere.

Perhaps if everyone were genuine about searching for the best, most sound arguments to reach their conclusions, and if we were all willing to change our positions when our arguments were exposed to new facts, this would actually work. After all, I’m wrong about things fairly frequently, including just yesterday, and I strive to do my best to get it right in the end.

But — and my most diligent commenters and comment-readers know this — sometimes people simply say things just to troll. Every once in a while, I wind up saying something, and each time I do I wind up wishing I had just left it to the wonderful community that you, my loyal readers, make up, to lay the smackdown on them.

So I had a good laugh when I came across this comic, and thought that many of you would instantly recognize your favorite internet trolls (as well as the frustrating futility of arguing with them) the farther down you go.

Image credit: Rosscott, Inc.

So thanks to all of you who help call out the trolls on their trollish behavior, and for encouraging me to keep the level of discourse high and informative; I’ll keep trying to not repeat my mistakes of the past!

In the meantime, a great weekend to all of you, and I’ll see you back here on Monday with more of what we actually know about our Universe!

Comments

  1. #1 TS
    September 17, 2011

    Funny stuff. Though I’d say the people who respond to trolling are the real problem. They actually turn a comment into a dialog. If everyone just ignored off-topic or baiting posts the posts would just pass by incidentally and everyone else could stay on point.

  2. #2 dieselengine9
    September 17, 2011

    JUST BECAUSE YOU THINK ARGUING ON THE INTERNET IS WRONG DOESN’T MEAN IT IS ASSHAT!!!1111!!!

  3. #3 G127
    September 17, 2011

    I wanted to tell you why you where completely and utterly wrong about arguing on the internet, but I have a sandwich to get back to.

  4. #4 Christopher
    September 17, 2011

    Thanks for this post. I really did watch the first moon landing on Italian TV. That was on July 20, 1969. I saw it on a small TV in a ballroom in the Parco de Principii Hotel in Sorrento. I was on the way back to the US from two years in what is now Bangladesh. The rest of this poem is a total fabrication by one of the poet gremlins that lurk in my house. I think.

    No, Really, This Is The Truth

    The sky is falling
    my aching teeth tell me so.
    You can’t steer me off
    without falling too.
    I know you are wrong because
    your beard’s far longer
    than mine. I hate that.
    Quarks are a Communist plot.
    The moon landing fairy
    tale curdles my milk.
    I watched it in Italy
    so I know the truth.

  5. #5 Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor
    September 18, 2011

    So, you want us to earn dick ratings battling trolls, while you get the sandwich.

    …what a dick.

  6. #6 P Smith
    September 18, 2011

    I agree that generally there’s no point in arguing with a troll. Some morons will never be convinced no matter how many facts you can present (e.g. holocaust deniers).

    That said, there is a good reason to argue with trolls and refute their bullshit: bystanders and observers. There are too many people who are willing to listen to stupid ideas when no one challenges them – “It must be right if no one’s arguing against it!” Why do you think there are so many teabaggers and supporters so quickly?

    Sometimes it’s worth stating the facts just so the ignorant or uniformed don’t hear only the liars. On a different site yesterday, there was a discussion of Troy Davis – the phony conviction and Georgia trying to murder him for a crime he didn’t commit. It was no surprise to hear pro-”death penalty” sociopaths say things like:

    “Don’t allow appeals! Kill them after they’re convicted!”
    “Innocent people don’t end up on death row!”
    “Kill the n*****!”

    There were also – incredibly – people who still are surprised to learn that innocent people have been wrongly convicted and eventually released from prison and even from “death row” (re: The Innocence Project, Amnesty International, etc.). When I and others point to how many have been exonerated, they wake up to reality.

    If the liars’ words go unchallenged, the ignorant might assume the lies are true. It is for the ignorant who might actually listen that I respond to trolls.

    .

  7. #7 Paulino
    September 18, 2011

    The high road, while, lovely and safe,:
    http://www.wildnatureimages.com/Ca%20to%20H/CAMPER-EXIT-GLACIER-ROAD.jpg

    is not always fun:
    http://www.baixaki.com.br/imagens/wpapers/bxk11341_waallpaper-offroad800.jpg

    The oxytocin levels after a good winning-groin-thrust are just oooo! ahhhh!! oohhhhh!!!

    and mud is great for the skin…
    ;)

  8. #8 Neil Craig
    September 18, 2011

    I have rarely found any “sciencebloggers” on the global warming alarmist side even trying Counterargument. Normally they go for Name Calling (eg liar”, “idiot”). I’m not sure if you would consider obscenities part of Name Calling or lower. Is censorship below that or is it outside the pyramid?

    I wish “sciencebloggers” generally held civilised standards.

    On the other hand in his 1st 2 paras Psmith refers to “morons”, “bullshit”, “stupid” and “teabaggers” and i assume more in other paras.

  9. #9 Art
    September 18, 2011

    P Smith @ #6 makes a good point.

    A lot of forums are mostly peopled by folks with few firmly supported, evidence based, opinions. It is interesting to ask people to provide proof of a assumed correct belief. A common one is to ask normal, well adjusted, and fairly well informed people to provide evidence for the earth being round.

    A lot of people ‘know’ it is nearly spherical but a lot of people have any logically constructed argument. A good number essentially claim that it is round because some credible, sometimes not so credible, expert/s hold the view. This points out how vulnerable people are to arguments from authority.

    A good number were even less well founded in their agreement. They simply state that it is ‘a fact’ and some version of ‘everybody knows that’. Those people are one well worded and presented argument away from believing that the earth is round, but there is some doubt.

    Both groups are subject to being manipulated. Particularly if they lack experience on internet forums or value conformity and community over a firm rooting in reality.

    Failure to respond to falsehoods leaves the the false proposition standing. On the other hand a detailed, point-by-point, take-down may not be the way to go. The fact is that spouting false assertions is quick and easy. A detailed take-down involved time and effort. It is also highly unlikely that a take-down will change the behavior of the people spouting falsehoods if, as so many are, operating out of emotional preference and a need to protect their religion and irrational beliefs. Defeating an argument on one thread doesn’t eliminate that argument.

    The end result of all this is that often, IMHO, the best response is to register an assertion that the poster is wrong and that their claim is wrong. It may not have the cerebral charms of a detailed refutation but it has the advantages of being quick and low energy, and it doesn’t leave the field entirely undefended against falsehoods.

  10. #10 dean
    September 18, 2011

    How amusing to read the comment from Neal. It should be pointed out that on a discussion about climate change Neal posted a list of 7 questions claiming “no ecofascist can answer these”. After they were answered he continued to state same, along with gems like this:

    However it is obvious that more than 99.9% of ecofascists have not done so and are wholly corrupt, lying, filth with absolutely no concern for human life.

    How’s that for “civilised standards”?

  11. #11 bobby van deusen
    September 18, 2011

    dickfinity. I think that in the top 10 funniest things I’ve ever heard.

  12. #12 Saqib Imran
    September 19, 2011

    I agree with ” TS ” But I still think the post is 100% true also funny as well but remember the point behind it……!!!

  13. #13 Wow
    September 19, 2011

    “I have rarely found any “sciencebloggers” on the global warming alarmist side even trying Counterargument”

    Yup, you never hear global warming alarmists like Niel, Monckton or Ball trying a counterargument. The best they can manage is either “do the maths completely wrong” or “it’s all a conspiracy!”.

    See for example:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Cartoon-about-global-warming-alarmism.html

  14. #14 Neil Craig
    September 19, 2011

    “How’s that for “civilised standards”?

    Pretty good Dean bearing in mind the continuous stream of lies, obscenities and tran-internet physical threats those who allegedly in the “environmental” cause believe in the supporesion of free debate (by definition eco-fascists) had been using as a substitute for honest discusiion. Dean knows this to be true because he is an enthusuastic one of them.

    Dean also knows that every word I said had been proven true, step by step, using the words of such as him, and that there was no factual dispute of that. I therefore call on him to apologise for saying it was anythingb other than factual.

    When attacked thus, with , apparently, the full approval of the author, I reserve the right to defend myself, though I do nit reply with either lies or obscenity since I consider that rather declasse.

    Dean’s claim that my 7 questions were answered is, of course, a total and deliberate lie unless one takes such obscenities ans such as an answer. I am willing, however, to acknowledge that Dean’a answer does represent the very highest standard of honesty to which he ever aspites – if he considers that an insult perhaps he will explain why.

    Art I agree with you about the annoying trick of asking for stupid questions to be answered in ways that would take pages and derail the discussion.

    This is known as Moving the Goalposts in this list of false argument techniques http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html
    For example Greg Laden has recently accused me of being paid by by the nuclear industry, on no evidence whatsoever, and challenged me to produce inspecific but obviously extensive evidence against despite the fact that he actually knows not only my name but my employment.

  15. #15 dean
    September 19, 2011

    “Dean’s claim that my 7 questions were answered is, of course, a total and deliberate lie…”

    No, not true. You posted the questions in several places and, in response, a link to a discussion was provided: In that discussion the implications around which you made your questions were shown to be, in polite language, completely bogus. the fact that you continue to repeat those questions, in the face of the disproof, indicates your lack of concern for truth. That makes you, as they say, a liar.

    “For example Greg Laden has recently accused me of being paid by by the nuclear industry, on no evidence whatsoever, and challenged me to produce inspecific but obviously extensive evidence”

    No. After you accused him, several times, of being an “ecofascist” because he understands the science behind climate change and you don’t, and after you misquoted another person ‘s comments about fukushima , and after you repeatedly accused him (and others) of being “on the government payroll”, he asked you the same type of question: who provides your funding?
    He stated he would not be surprised that there was some industry money behind you.

    You can’t make mindless assertions and incoherent rants about others as you routinely do neil, and then try to claim the moral high ground on other sites (especially when your rants clearly show your lack of morals).

  16. #16 dean
    September 19, 2011

    Ask neil how he reconciles this outburst

    I do not believe I can be honestly accused of rudeness to anybody on “scienceblogs”, not even the racist, murdering, genocidal, child raping, cannibalistic, organlegging Nazi savages who make up the “Democratic” party

    with this comment made above.

    I reserve the right to defend myself, though I do nit reply with either lies or obscenity since I consider that rather declasse.

    And no, neil, nothing you’ve said about climate change has ever been shown to be true.

  17. #17 dave w.
    September 19, 2011

    Commenter #2 is a spaz-tard. I know this for a fact. I have seen him dance.
    ‘Great post, Ethan….. sadly, I fall into the dickfinity category most of the time…..

  18. #18 P Smith
    September 19, 2011

    Neil Craig (#8): “On the other hand in his 1st 2 paras Psmith refers to “morons”, “bullshit”, “stupid” and “teabaggers” and i assume more in other paras.”

    If someone disagrees with me, I don’t use those words.

    If someone disagrees with unquestionable facts, I will.

    For example, anyone who believes drilling for oil in ANWR is a “long term solution” is someone too lazy or stupid to check the facts (re: the USGS estimates of oil compared to the US consumption of oil) or didn’t finish grade two math. Either way, he’s a pinhead.

    Those who refuse to think or refuse to do even cursory research do not deserve respect for their words, and especially not if they are liars or cretins with political agendas.

    “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
    - Patrick Moynihan

    .

  19. #19 Waydue
    September 19, 2011

    Good post Ethan, once every year or so I poke my head out and involve myself in some thread. I try to restrict myself to something I may actually be able to contribute to meaningfully. And yet, shit still happens. Hopefully the ‘bystanders’ got something out of it.

    I think I learned my lesson though, just stick to reading.

    Oh no, not again…

  20. #20 Neil Craig
    September 21, 2011

    Dean denmonstrated the very highest standard of honesty and intelligence to be expected from alarmists:

    “For example Greg Laden has recently accused me of being paid by by the nuclear industry, on no evidence whatsoever, and challenged me to produce inspecific but obviously extensive evidence”

    No. After you accused him, several times, of being an “ecofascist” because he understands the science behind climate change and you don’t”

    Anybody reading that can see that the claim that he did not accuse me of being paid by the nuclear industry and his claim that he did but it was justified cannot both be truthful. Though they can be and are total and deliberate lies. What I actually did was to ask Greg who does pay him if he is indeed the only climate scientist, anywhere in the world, promoting CAGW, who is not paid by the state. He has declined to answer, for undisclosed reasons.

    “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
    - Patrick Moynihan

    Indeed Psmith. I wish everybody in the “environmentalist movement understood that. Indeed I wish that ANYBODY activist in it did.

    But I still disagree with your resorting to ad hom insults. It is perfectly possible merely to show that such people are wholly corrupt liars by using the facts as I do. (see answer to dean above)

  21. #21 Wow
    September 21, 2011

    Yawn, trite troll repeating the rantings of a complete certifiable nutter is a trite troll and boring.

    You’re boring me, whiner, because you’re boring.

  22. #22 dean
    September 21, 2011

    “But I still disagree with your resorting to ad hom insults. It is perfectly possible merely to show that such people are wholly corrupt liars by using the facts as I do. (see answer to dean above)”

    If by “answer” you mean lie, you are correct. If by answer you mean answer, wrong again.

  23. #23 Neil Craig
    September 22, 2011

    Only responses, in the argument pyramid from warming alarmists are name calling and allegedly “responding to tone” at the nottom and 3rd bottom.

    Experience shows this par for the course among proponents of that fraud.

    I find myself unable and unwilling to refute the central point – that it would be a good idea to have honest and logical discussion on alleged warming.

    However, being agreed on that Ethan what attempt, if you sincerely want logical discussion, do you propose to discourage the bottom eaters?

  24. #24 Wow
    September 22, 2011

    You’re still boring eveyone here, whiner, and your piteous weeps at how nastily you’ve been treated doesn’t gel with the accusations of naxi you propound ad nauseum.

    You’re boring me, you boring person.

    You are, however, right, that “Experience shows this par for the course among proponents of that fraud.”.

    See, for example, Glen Beck’s “There aren’t enough knives” and your “econazi” drivel.

  25. #25 Raging Bee
    September 22, 2011

    Neil, where’s the peer-reviewed science debunking AGW? You’ve been asked this simple question many times, and your only responses have been evasion and name-calling. Which is not at all surprising, coming from someone who explicitly supports (among other nonsense) aggressive development of nuclear power, “no more wind farms,” and lots of draconian restrictions on immigration to Britain.

  26. #26 P Smith
    September 22, 2011

    Raging Bee (#26):

    You can tell he’s a mental midget because he can’t grasp that I was disagreeing with him. He actually “thinks” I’m supporting his nonsense, rather than my example about ANWR being opposite to his view.

    .

  27. #27 Neil Craig
    September 23, 2011

    No Psmith your irony circuits are inoperative. I was not saying you agreed with me I was merely pointing out that if you had had the intellectual capacity you would have spotted that what you were saying actually supported my position not yours.

    Bee, inlike you, Wow and Psmith I have never engaged in name calling, that would be putting myself near the bottom of the intellectual pyramid. I have on occasion drawn attention to the implications of what you say.

    I’m not sure what you nmean by peer reviewed evidence that we are not currently experiencing catastrophic warmin is supposed to mean. Are you claiming that weather reports of snowstorms are not peer reviewed and thus the weather never happened?

  28. #28 jp52
    September 23, 2011

    This is my first visit to this site and I’m glad I did. Reading Neil Craig’s deranged rants, it’s the best laugh I’ve had for a while.

    I think YOU’ve been eating too many bottoms.

  29. #29 jp52
    September 23, 2011

    “Are you claiming that weather reports of snowstorms are not peer reviewed and thus the weather never happened?”

    OMG!! This is the bottom of the ignorance pyramid.(Where Neil finds all the bottoms to eat.)

  30. #30 Wow
    September 23, 2011

    “Are you claiming that weather reports of snowstorms are not peer reviewed and thus the weather never happened?”

    Who understands where from his sick imaginings this idiot gets that “and thus” from?

    Or where he things that snowstorms can’t happen in a warming world (hint, you nutcase: if it warms from -10C to -5C you can still get snowing)

    And of course, as any denialist will do, he’ll happily confuse weather with climate if it suits his purposes but will INSTANTLY pounce on any climate scientist saying “This heatwave is the sort of thing that will get more common if we don’t stop MMCC” with “THAT’S WEATHER, NOT CLIMATE!!!”.

  31. #31 dean
    September 23, 2011

    “I have never engaged in name calling”

    Nc is such a denialist he even denies his own behavior. What a pathetic person.

  32. #32 Neil Craig
    September 25, 2011

    4 posts, the only things any alarmist “scientist” has been able to say in answer, is the equivalent of “Neil you are an ass-hat”.

    A pathetic demonstration of the intellectual bankruptcy of the entire alarmist movement.

    Or am I wrong? Is there somebody, anybody, anywhere, in the warming alarmist movement who has some shred of dignity, integrity or even self awareness willing to tell the bottom feeders (who clearly aren’t educated enough to understand the term) what idiots they are.

    We will see tomorow.

  33. #33 Raging Bee
    September 25, 2011

    I’m not sure what you nmean by peer reviewed evidence…

    Exactly: your grasp of the actual science, and of how scientists work, is crap; and all you’re good for is hatemongering, bigotry, lies, and dumbing down adult debate every chance you get. (You’re certainly not a decent candidate for ofice, if you even intend to be: I googled your name, and no one seems to have noticed your political activity anywhere. Unlike the recently-retired football coach who has the same name as you, you have nothing relevant to offer in the real world.)

  34. #34 Wow
    September 26, 2011

    “Or am I wrong?”

    You never seem to get out of being wrong, whiner.

    “Is there somebody, anybody, anywhere, in the warming alarmist movement who has some shred of dignity, integrity or even self awareness”

    It doesn’t look like it. See for example, RPSr’s accusations against SkS about how he loathes ad hom attacks yet refuses to call out Anthony Watts on it similarly.

    Or how Wegman’s proven plagiarism is not a problem, yet the accusations of some ephemeral conflict of interest means that Michael Mann has faced several committees.

  35. #35 Neil Craig
    September 26, 2011

    “”Is there somebody, anybody, anywhere, in the warming alarmist movement who has some shred of dignity, integrity or even self awareness”

    It doesn’t look like it.”

    Indeed not.

  36. #36 Wow
    September 26, 2011

    “”It doesn’t look like it. See for example, RPSr’s accusations against SkS about how he loathes ad hom attacks yet refuses to call out Anthony Watts on it similarly.”

    Indeed not.

    Posted by: Neil Craig | September 26, 2011 7:56 AM”

    Glad you agree about the vitriol, ad homming and lack of dignity or even self awareness at WUWT.

  37. #37 Raging Bee
    September 26, 2011

    Is there somebody, anybody, anywhere, in the warming alarmist movement who has some shred of dignity, integrity or even self awareness?

    Is there somebody, anybody, anywhere, in the warming denialist movement who has some shred of actual peer-reviewed science to refute AGW, without having to do idiotic things like steal emails and lie about their content?

  38. #38 dean
    September 26, 2011

    “Neil you are an ass-hat”

    Yes, yes you are. The first step towards getting help is your self-diagnosis. Congratulations.

  39. #39 Tess Elliott
    New York City
    November 18, 2012

    It only goes to show the truth of the cartoons and my belief that every single comments page attracts trolls who really want to take it out on others because they can. I shall respectfully go eat my sandwich, and a glass of wine too!