Troll Management: Handling Conspiracy Theorists on a Forum

Posted on July 20, 2009

16


 

Going postal never looked so white collar

Going postal never looked so white collar

Oh, for god’s sake, Photobucket, that was a promotional image released by the studio and hosted in my Photobucket account for NINE YEARS. And you deleted it now? No wonder everyone uses Flickr now.
Is he about to go postal on Photobucket?

Is he about to go postal on Photobucket?

I’m finding more and more requests for advice on dealing with internet drama, and who, I ask, is more qualified to deal with that very tricky subject than moi? Once upon a time, when you did a search for “Internet Drama” my blog was the third hit, and trust me, I earned that spot. Most of the people who have more experience with it than I do are too ashamed to admit it, and who can blame them? Not me, that’s for sure, because thanks to their shyness, I’ve gotten more than one consulting gig helping people put out forum fires and comment conflagrations.

This specific situation arose on a father’s rights forum in the UK, and I became aware of it when the drama issue itself was posted to Boris Johnson’s forum (when you’re dealing with heavy drama, you’ll take help anywhere you can get it). Here’s a sketch of the situation:

  • dude on the forum is ranting about the Illuminati, and how the Illuminati are responsible for so many (if not all) of the problems that the people on the forum are experiencing.  It’s difficult or impossible to get him off the topic of the Illuminati, and difficult to discuss it with him, as he simply dismisses any challenge to his facts, hitting people with more links and assertions than anyone could or would check out in a million years.
  • you probably know the type; he’s the guy at the party tightly clutching his beer, scowling at the attendees and eavesdropping in order to find something with which to disagree, whereupon he will launch into his canned rant.

And this is the advice I gave. The advice is portable, platform-neutral (it works at parties as well as on father’s rights forums), and free! Best of all, if followed it will both save you time and aggro and help the troll to a healthier state of mind, if only temporarily, and as we all know, if a temporary state is repeated often enough and sustained long enough, it by definition becomes a permanent state.

Conspiracy theories of a non-rational nature are not a terribly new phenomenon, but they’re quite distinct from actual recognition of existing conspiracies. These kinds of mind-tricks happen to be an interest of mine. There is a distinct correlation between failure (according to one’s own standards) and descent into a conspiracy-festooned paranoia, which is more likely in the male than in the female although I’m not sure whether that’s because males have higher expectations of success in this world (well, when you make 25% more money than the other gender, it’s only logical) or because of a biological factor. That’s why conspiracy theories are more prevalent among male groups while female groups display a whole other range of behaviors (and god, don’t get me started on those!).
.
If you consider it’s coming from a man who had high expectations of achievement in life, has failed by his own measure, and has a big enough, inflexible enough ego to prevent him from facing his own role in that failure (thus having a need to blame it on someone else), you can understand how dealing with him as if the topic of discussion were the point is…pointless. If you can find something he excels at, like a hobby or something else he’s proud of, and focus your discussion on that, you may find it’s a better experience for both of you. After all, every time you disagree with the irrational conspiracy theorist on his chosen conspiracy rant, he comes that much closer to deciding you’re not just misinformed: you’re actually ONE OF THEM.
.
Okay, enough therapy talk. If you’re interested in Illuminati theory, you could (if you had months of your life to waste) read The Illuminatus! Trilogy: The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, Leviathan by Robert Anton Wilson, or play the card game Illuminati (which I highly recommend, it’s got organizations such as Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow) or just do a Google Blogsearch on Bilderberg or Bohemian Grove.

[there is some discussion of specific points, eg "he says so-and-so, is that really true?" I reply as below]

I would advise you, as I already have, to avoid engaging with him on these points. He’s already said that if you attempt to debate his assertions, he will treat your responses as denial of self-evident fact. Continuing to engage him on a priori statements (like “The Illuminati have been around for 6,000 years”) is to invite him to write you off, and to only excite him further and encourage him to dig himself deeper into his mental foxhole.
.
Paranoia is completely logical; the only difficulty with it is that the a priori statements are delusional. Basically, his mind works fine except the founding principles are at the moment the products of derangement.
.
This continuing dialogue is not productive for either of you, nor for the Record. It seems to me that he doesn’t require assistance at venting, so if I were you I would not provide it. If you can’t find anything positive on which to bond with him, perhaps you can let someone else on the forum take up the heavy lifting. If nobody else there is interested, Conspiracy Man will eventually supernova, sending more and more messages into the ether until finally he writes one grand “I am DONE with you ALL!!!!!11!!” post and finds another sandbox.
.
I wish I could say I hadn’t seen it a thousand times, but I have. Letting him go that way is actually much more likely to bring him back to reality than reasoned debate is, sadly. If he hasn’t indicated a violent turn of mind to this point, there’s not any particular reason for you to worry about that sort of thing [ie going postal]. People who do these things and who vent freely on the internet things other people would hide, tend to vent their violent thoughts right along with their backstory about Adam Hauptmann et all cf Kimveer Gill]. That he feels free enough to tell you his conspiracy theory most likely means that if he were considering violence, he’d be advocating violent solutions on the forum.

Hope this has been of use to anyone out there dealing with the paranoid, involuntary troll. Remember, he can’t help himself, and engaging with him on the “Macguffin” (otherwise known as his trigger subject, whether it’s the Illuminati or his neighbor’s microwave oven) is not going to lead to a positive resolution for either of you.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl