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The Right-Wing Trolls Have a Strategy. What's Ours?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Andrew Schmookler     Permalink
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Years of interacting on the web with right-wingers have taught me: to engage with right-wing trolls is to play into their hands.

The first conclusion I drew was that there must be something amiss in their way of thinking, at least about political matters, that made them ineducable. Their arguments so often had no substance, but seemingly relied on slogans and bald assertions creating reality by magic. Paul Krugman talks about "zombie ideas" - ideas that have been killed, but somehow keep on coming - and that fits the way the right-wing trolls keep pushing their repertoire of arguments, no matter the logic or the evidence.

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But I've learned that there's more to it than just bad thinking.

Many of us in Liberal America learned to regard ideas as a way to capture the truth. But ideas in the world of the right-wing troll don't seem to be about truth. Instead, they are tools to use in political combat. Any crazy statements will do, if they help gain advantage over the enemy, the "librels.''

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These trolls do not argue in good faith because, in their code, good faith in dealing with the enemy is not required.

Why do right-wingers come to a liberal site? It's not an attempt to persuade, much less to learn. These men - almost all of them are men - only pretend to be involved in a discussion. They're really on a guerrilla mission behind enemy lines to disrupt communications.

It's not about ideas. It's about fighting to win.

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There's testimony about concerted efforts to attack and disrupt. One can find discussions among right-wing trolls, sharing strategies for frustrating liberal commenters and techniques to circumvent the efforts of liberal blogs to ban them for their deliberate disruption and annoyance. Some of the trolling forces of the right are neither free-lance nor volunteer: reports tell of "help wanted postings" for paid commenters -- soliciting a kind of mercenary army to advance the political force that's taken over the right.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
 

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