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Fri Aug 22, 2014, 10:02 PM

Trollmanac: A Guide to Identifying Invasive Fauna on Liberal Websites

Most of us have been politically active on the internet long enough to have a modest understanding of troll phenomena. The most obvious - right-wingers dropping in to post some idiotic insult, not caring about concealing themselves or their intentions - is so easy to guard against, and so easy to remedy once it occurs, that we don't really have to concern ourselves with that. But that fact has merely served as a selective pressure, breeding hardier and more cunning forms of information saboteur. I would like to explore a few of those forms below, from least to most sophisticated.

1. Liar-loos

Variants: Rumorbots / Meme Monkeys

Behavior: At its most basic, a Liar-loo is a troll who repeatedly and consistently makes unsubstantiated claims to the detriment of liberal Democratic politics, values, and public figures, ignores or side-steps requests for evidence, and performs a propaganda function for right-wing agendas in this way.

Analysis: Deliberate Liar-loos can be identified over the medium-term by the overwhelmingly negative significance of their claims toward liberal Democratic agendas over time, but it becomes more complicated when they are clever enough to engage in camouflage or else are actually not self-aware and have some kind of narcissistic belief that their idiosyncratic set of bigotries and irrational conspiracy theories are the "progressive agenda" despite being objectively quite far from it. This is where the "Rumorbot" and "Meme Monkey" variants of Liar-loo come into the picture.

We can define a Rumorbot as a deliberate Liar-loo that engages in camouflage in order to increase the effective penetration of the false claims they wish to disseminate. For instance, they may build up credibility as members of unrelated, social-oriented groups on a liberal site while regularly injecting right-wing propaganda on their target issues. Their intent is to be accepted as contributors to a community, and thus their false claims to be more readily accepted at face value by other members who are lazy about critical thinking. If a Rumorbot does a good enough camouflage job, that's exactly what will happen, and some of their false narratives will be accepted and repeated by weaker minds, who then become the third-tier variant - Meme Monkeys.

A Meme Monkey doesn't necessarily intend to lie, but their emotions play far more of a role in what they believe than any rational analysis of facts, and once they're fed something that plays to their prejudices, they may just uncritically repeat it, becoming a conduit for the Liar-loo's propaganda. Such intellectual failings can occur in any direction, but when the prejudices involved are anti-liberal, anti-Democratic, and anti-Progressive - possibly even subconsciously - the result is a Meme Monkey who spreads right-wing propaganda while self-righteously believing themselves to be doing the opposite.

The narcissism and unaccountability of a Meme Monkey borders on total - you cannot pop their bubble of denial about what they're doing, because from root to stem their entire behavior is predicated on their own moral infallibility. So, for instance, if they hate Barack Obama, and they hear some Liar-loo make an unsubstantiated claim that Obama is, let's say, planning to approve some egregious oil company plan, they will instantly believe and repeat the claim as fact, and interpret any challenge to their repeating it as an attack on environmentalism rather than a defense of fundamental liberal values of reality and truth-telling. Usually they can't be reasoned with, so regardless of their own self-image as progressives, a Meme Monkey is basically a Typhoid Mary of right-wing propaganda - not necessarily deliberately out to sabotage us, but so reckless and self-involved they really don't care if that's the result of their actions.

Fortunately, Obama Derangement Syndrome is such an overwhelming feature of all three variants, that their behavior tends to be highly compulsive and conspicuous at least some of the time, making it easier to identify them. The following examples give some taste of that:

Hypothetical samples:

Ex. 1:

(Article about a mailman somewhere shooting a dog)

Liar-loo: More glorious "freedom" in Obama's militarized America, just like what he did to Libya and Iraq.

X: What the hell does the President have to do with a mailman shooting a dog? And what do you mean "Obama's" militarization? You saying he gave an Executive Order or signed legislation that logically resulted in this shooting? And what do you mean "what he did to Libya and Iraq"? WTF are you talking about?

Liar-loo: Oh, I suppose the buck stops somewhere else, huh? Typical. (Note the trivially obtuse and cavalier attitude toward rational argument)

Ex. 2:

Rumorbot: I always love fishing at Tahoe, it's a beautiful place. Unfortunately, I had to cancel this year's trip because of all the added expenses that Obamacare put into my budget, and the President's tax increases didn't help. But, you know, I can manage, there's a nice river near where I live.

X: Umm...what expenses? And what tax increases are you talking about?

Rumorbot: I'm a small business owner, and Obama has really been squeezing us. And it's sad because I voted for him.

X: Again, what Obamacare expenses? What tax increases? What are you talking about?

Rumorbot: Just this year my taxes went up 5%. (Notice how the entire subject of Obamacare quietly disappears)

X: Which taxes? Are you talking about your entire combined tax bill, or only federal taxes? You do know the President of the United States can't control state taxes, right?

Rumorbot: Frankly, that's a private matter. I'm happy to have a civil discussion about taxes in general, but you really shouldn't be prying into my private finances demanding detailed information about my income. We need more privacy in this country, as Obama's NSA totalitarianism shows. (The subject became too hot for him, so he changed it to some other hot-button)

Ex. 3:

(Same article about mailman shooting dog from Ex. 1)

Meme Monkey (replying to Liar-loo): I know, it's so frustrating how this President is doing nothing to protect people and promote freedom in this country, and instead helping murdering totalitarians run roughshod over all of us.

X: Umm...huh? This is still an article about a mailman shooting a dog, right? And you do know your statement is factually false, right? That I could cite dozens of examples over the past year alone of this President standing up for liberal, humane values?

Meme Monkey: I'm sure those trivial, token anecdotes of Obama making a nice speech here and there really mean something to the families of his police state's victims.

X: What are you talking about? Specifically now - what are you talking about?

Meme Monkey: (Lists litany of events with no connection to the President whatsoever). Don't you care about any of that, or are you a police state apologist?

X: One, none of that has anything to do with the President. Two, this article has nothing to do with the President either. Three, this article has nothing to do with any of the things you just mentioned. Four, half the things you mentioned never happened. Five, you haven't even tried to argue otherwise, just tried to name-drop as many hot-button issues as possible without actually connecting them to any kind of argument. What exactly is your intention?

Meme Monkey: Police state apologists like you make this country worse and worse. I hope you enjoy your Glorious Leader Obama's totalitarian hell. (Notice how the person's mind bends inexorably back to the central motivator of their political existence, Evil Obama - they don't actually care about any other issue, only if they think it gives them an excuse to expound on that one agenda)

---

2. Hysterrorists

Behavior: A Hysterrorist is a particularly sadistic right-wing troll who identifies matters of sensitivity within a liberal community and tries to whip up hysterical reactions out of the ether to divide and conquer, and also to make fools out of those who follow their cues.

Analysis: They're basically the equivalent of the person yelling "She's a witch!" in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, only if that person knew for a fact their accusation was nonsense and they're just trying to stir people up for shits and giggles. I've seen it happen in many places around the internet over the years, and it's particularly galling watching otherwise reasonable people compromise their sanity to get along with a crazed mob whipped up by an obvious troll. The results are often shameful and gut-wrenching, and leave everyone involved with a lower opinion of their community for being so easily manipulated, and make people afraid to constructively pursue the issues that had been thus perverted. It also provides popcorn-fodder for right-wing troll observers to then post the episode in their own websites for entertainment.

I've noticed that several issues are particularly effective for Hysterrorist exploitation: Most notably the NSA, but also gender and racial politics. If they tune their accusations and lies just right, they can whip up a perfect storm including all the various forms of Liar-loo as well. They can sort of recreate a Jacobin-like environment where people are terrified to say anything lest the tiniest inflection or the most outlandish lunatic interpretation of what they say be denounced as evidence of witchcraft, or treason, or whatever the Thing is that's whipping up paranoia. That's basically why I call them Hysterrorists, and don't think the second half of the term is an exaggeration: They make people afraid to speak their minds in communities that exist specifically to let them do so, and even make the weaker ones afraid not to participate in the mob's silencing of others.

Hypothetical samples

Ex. 1 (this is based on actual experience a few years ago)

Meme Monkey: (bilious, unhinged rant denouncing Barack Obama over the NSA scandals, equating him with Hitler and his defenders with Holocaust deniers)

X: That's utterly insane. (Long, point-by-point dissection of claims made in OP)

Hysterrorist: "That's utterly insane." You know, every authoritarian state from the Soviet Union to the MK Ultra program used accusations of insanity to silence its critics, locking them away to suffer unspeakable torments in psychiatric hospitals. And now you've contributed to that tradition. Your unconscionable slanders not only echo those horrors, but malign everyone in America - in the world, really - who suffers from mental illness. And that you do so in defense of a murderous police state, you sicken me. You really are worse than Hitler.

X: (Sigh). The claims made in the OP are irrational, illogical, and counterfactual. They're basically lies. And those that aren't lies, are nonsensical gibberish based on just randomly namedropping events with no logical connection to the subject. That was my point, and you know that was my point, so please stop playing make-believe and just deal with the facts concerning the administration and its disposition relative to the NSA - you know, the ostensible subject of this discussion.

Hysterrorist: There you go again, "irrational." You're questioning the OP's sanity again. Won't someone please stop this troll asshole from spewing his hate against the mentally ill?

X: (Long, carefully-worded logical rebuttal.....fails to post because account has been banned)


Ex. 2:

X: (OP)...I've read extensively about organized crime history, and I see quite a few parallels with the way Republican groups operate on the ground, particularly their approach to financing. Specifically, there was this anecdote in (book title) about Whitey Bulger in Boston, the way that he ran his criminal enterprises...(several page discussion of the analogies of organized crime groups to Tea Party and GOP organizations)

Hysterrorist: Whoa, whoa, whoa...."Whitey" Bulger? Whitey? You just drop a racial epithet in the middle of that like it's nothing?

X: ???? James Bulger - "Whitey" was his street name. That's what the guy called himself, and how he's generally known to history.

Hysterrorist: So if his "street name" were the N word, would you just casually drop that into conversation? Are you that dense and insensitive?

X: (jaw drops) ...M'kay, I'm a little flummoxed here. I wrote about the way organized crime money laundering resembles GOP fundraising tactics. I don't know why you're seizing on this random thing, but I'd rather talk about the actual point of my post.

Meme Monkey chimes in: Come on, you really didn't think people would have a problem with that? Why did you say "Whitey Bulger" instead of "James 'Whitey' Bulger" to indicate clearly that you were referring to a street alias?

X: ...This is starting to get a little too Twilight Zone for me, folks. Does anyone want to talk about the subject of my post?

Hysterrorist: Don't try and change the subject, Bull Connor.

X: (jaw drops even farther)...Excuse me, you are changing the subject. That's all you've done since your first comment is ignore the subject of the post and make this shit up out of nowhere. You seem to be kind of obsessing on it and trying to exploit real racial issues. What exactly are you up to?

Hysterrorist: Oh, so now you're playing "I know you are, but what am I," huh? I'm the racist for defending against racial slurs? Well, I accused you first, so nyeh! You Klan-loving troll poopypants!

X: Okay, you're acting like a troll. Or a child. Or a troll who is a child. (Comment removed by moderators: Stay civil!)

X: (deep breaths...deep breaths) Okay, let's try this again. No, your comment is utter nonsense. You're making these nonsensical accusations because you're trying to disrupt our conversation about GOP organized crime, and your doing so rather transparently. (Comment removed by moderators: Do not accuse other users of being trolls!)

Hysterrorist: HAHAHAHA, look at the racist loser troll, can't even respond when he's called out on his racism!

---

3. Deflecticons

Behavior: Attempt to distract liberals from important issues by creating a lot of emotional ferment around trivial or peripheral ones.

Analysis: A lot of elected Democratic politicians are actually Deflecticons - e.g., the DLC types (like Hillary Clinton) who try to play off marginal Culture War issues to distract attention from being flamingly conservative on economics and/or foreign policy. They may utilize Liar-loo or Hysterrorist tactics to achieve this objective. However, most Deflecticons tend to be Tea Party types and Libertarians.

The most prominent issue ecosystem they appear in is surveillance, where they utilize unhinged rhetoric to speak in sweeping terms about "the police state" not because of cops shooting and terrorizing people - such people couldn't care less about poor black people being gunned down in the street for being in the wrong neighborhood - but because the thought of a Washington bureaucrat knowing things about them invokes their most fevered and self-important apocalyptic fantasies. You can sort of tell them apart from people with real concerns because people with sincere objections are worried about what the government would do with their information - Libertarian trolls are just ideologically outraged about the abstract fact that "gubmint" knows stuff about them.

And, of course, since all right-wing trolls ultimately tie into the same agenda, they will usually prioritize attacking Barack Obama for being in any way associated with the NSA over actually articulating ways to deal with the NSA's activities. Like Liar-loos, though, not all Deflecticons are actually conservative - some of them are just serving the right-wing agenda by default because they prioritize some ideological fantasy or puritanical vision existing only in their own head over the reality that other people have to deal with.

So, for instance, you get people who have decided that Obamacare is The Enemy, not because of its specific shortcomings, but because it's not a utopian single-payer system paid for by liquidating Wall Street or whatever. And this is sufficient in such people's minds to distract attention from The Problem - people not having healthcare - toward focusing on every petty way that the people who are being served by the new system experience issues with it. But more broadly, and going back to Republicans, it's people who try to make you forget what the issue is and instead focus only on whatever level is most divisive on our side of things.

They will rail on and on about the President not accomplishing something, but will never acknowledge that the only reason is because of Republican Congressional obstruction - which itself is only possible because of Republican corruption of the electoral process through gerrymandering and prison-districting. They don't want you thinking about the millions of people who now have healthcare that didn't before - they want you focused on the website for providing it being temporarily dysfunctional (until the White House fixed it). They don't want you discussing ways to improve the environment, and celebrating victories - they want you focused on vague fears and suspicions against the administration, against other Democrats.

They want to turn liberal values against themselves: To make you tolerant of intolerance, and intolerant of tolerance. To make you more afraid of and angry at each other than focused on moving forward. They want you questioning the motives and haggling over the trivia of a Democratic administration's liberal policies while Republicans conduct a campaign of unyielding obstruction against all progress, and hold the entire nation hostage for years on end.

So ultimately it's not hard to identify trolls: They're the ones telling you to ignore the overall point to focus on some fabricated trivia. They're the ones telling you to stop seeing the Big Picture and only look at the next instant, the next fad, the next nincompoop Buzzfeed article. They're the ones telling you not to be concerned with facts, only with memes and emotions. But hopefully this guide will help someone, at some time identify these patterns early and not let them become cancerous on their blogs and communities they participate in.

Basically just look out for people who persistently try to change the subject. If they change the subject to something completely crazy and hysterical that divides people and tries to attack other liberals, they might be a Hysterrorist. If they change it to something more innocuous and less central to the issue, they might be a Deflecticon.

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Reply Trollmanac: A Guide to Identifying Invasive Fauna on Liberal Websites (Original post)
True Blue Door Aug 2014 OP
grahamhgreen Aug 2014 #1
True Blue Door Aug 2014 #2

Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Fri Aug 22, 2014, 10:11 PM

1. Blue linker lurkers!

 

Usually found in groups, provide links to circular logic leading nowhere

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Response to grahamhgreen (Reply #1)

Fri Aug 22, 2014, 11:14 PM

2. Ah yes, I've run into those.

I especially like the ones whose link chain leads back to their own claims in previous blog posts - basically saying "It's true because I said so!"

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