The Martialist is an online magazine. As such, most of its readers find it through various online discussion fora. Online discussion can be very rewarding, but it is also rife with hazards. One of these is the presence of trolls.
The following Field Guide to Trolls has appeared in many forms over the past couple of years and was originally written by me, though it is not always attributed. The profiles herein were inspired by my "web travels" but do not refer to specific individuals. No correlation to any person, living or dead, is intended or implied.
A troll is a bulletin board participant who posts for one or both of two reasons: 1) to disrupt; 2) to gain attention.
THE MAJOR BREEDS
The Vulgar Troll. These, the crudest of all trolls, make no attempt to hide their species. Often, they make racist comments, or they may post porn and other spam. Vulgars usually confine their comments merely to primitive, profane, off-topic observations. When you log into the Really Profound Serious Philosophical Discussions board and see the post, "I smell my farts," you've spotted the Vulgar Troll. Other species of troll sometimes revert to this form when cornered.
The Deceptive or "Classic" Troll. More sophisticated but often easily identified and exposed, the Classic Troll gratifies his ego by pretending to be someone or something he or she is not. Classics make up elaborate stories about themselves, sometimes weaving some amounts of truth into their lies. As a web of lies is difficult to build with consistency, however, Classics are often "outed" by other forumites. When this happens, Classic Trolls have a bag of tricks to which they turn:
– Classic Troll Tactic Number 1: If the heat gets too much for you, claim it was all "a joke." In this way you can excuse any and all deceit by claiming people just weren't smart enough to "get" the humor of it.
– Classic Troll Tactic Number 2: Create another account, and log on pretending to be someone else, in order to show support for the Troll in Question (TiQ). These puppet accounts sometimes claim to be disinterested third parties. At other times they pretend to be "friends" of the TiQ.
– Classic Troll Tactic Number 3: When your lies paint you into a corner, claim that your little brother, or some unnamed friend, has commandeered your account and made you look foolish. This technique can also be applied in claiming that the puppet account(s) you created may not, in fact, be disinterested third parties or friends, but that they are your relatives ("little brother" is most common) only trying to help support you.
– Classic Troll Tactic Number 4: When nothing else works, claim that now, finally, you're telling the truth about all the lies you told before. Make up a fresh set of lies, and throw yourself on the mercy of the forumites.
– Classic Troll Tactic Number 5: When all else fails, claim to be leaving forever. Trolls who claim they are leaving never do, of course; you can bet that anyone who proclaims, "I'm never coming back here," will most certainly at least check back for responses, and probably will not be able to resist posting again.
– Classic Troll Tactic Number 6: Have a tantrum. When all their other tricks are exhausted, Classic Trolls will become angry and start shouting. Often they revert to Vulgar Trolls when this happens.
– Classic Troll Tactic Number 7: The insincere apology. Similar to Tactic 4, this involves pretending to repent for one's trolling and is accompanied often by great melodrama. Insincere troll apologists hope that they'll be forgiven if only they act disgusted enough with their own behavior.
Classic warning sign behaviors may be shared by other breeds.
Virtual Tough Guys are a subspecies of Classic Troll.
Virtual Senseis are a more dangerous breed of Virtual Tough Guy.
The Contrarian Troll. A sophisticated breed, Contrarian Trolls frequent boards whose predominant opinions are contrary to their own. A forum dominated by those who support firearms and knife rights, for example, will invariably be visited by Contrarian Trolls espousing their beliefs in the benefits of gun control. It is important to distinguish between dissenters and actual Contrarian Trolls, however; the Contrarian is not categorized as a troll because of his or her dissenting opinions, but due to the manner in which he or she behaves:
– Contrarian Warning Sign Number One: The most important indicator of a poster's Contrarian Troll status is his constant use of subtle and not-so-subtle insults, a technique intended to make people angry. Contrarians will resist the urge to be insulting at first, but as their post count increases, they become more and more abusive of those with whom they disagree. Most often they initiate the insults in the course of what has been a civil, if heated, debate to that point.
– Contrarian Warning Sign Number Two: Constant references to the forum membership as monolithic. "You guys are all just [descriptor]." "You're a lynch mob." "You all just want to ridicule anyone who disagrees with you."
– Contrarian Warning Sign Number Three: Intellectual dishonesty. This is only a mild indicator that is not limited to trolls, but Contrarians display it to a high degree. They will lie about things they've said, pull posts out of context in a manner that changes their meanings significantly, and generally ignore any points for which they have no ready answers.
– Contrarian Warning Sign Number Four: Accusing the accusers. When confronted with their trolling, trolls immediately respond that it is the accusers who are trolls (see Natural Predators below). Often the Contrarian will single out his most vocal opponent and claim that while he can respect his other opponents, this one in particular is beneath his notice.
– Contrarian Warning Sign Number Five: Attempts to condescend. Pursued by Troll Bashers (see Natural Predators below), the Contrarian will seek refuge in condescending remarks that repeatedly scorn his or her critics as beneath notice – all the while continuing to respond to them.
– Contrarian Warning Sign Number Six: One distinctive mark of Contrarian Trolls is that every thread in which they dissent quickly devolves into a debate about who is trolling whom. In the course of such a debate the Contrarian will display many of the other Warning Signs mentioned above.
Contrarian warning sign behaviors may be shared by other breeds.
The EuroTroll. A subspecies of Contrarian Troll, EuroTrolls frequent US-based forums, or forums that are otherwise dominated by Americans. They never tire of disagreeing with American sentiments or challenging statements and concepts favorable to the US. EuroTrolls generally believe that Americans are arrogant and ignorant of the great civilizations in Europe and elsewhere – civilizations far superior to America, if only Americans would stop to notice this fact. Usually quite proud of socialism and other European institutions and conventions unpopular among American individualists, EuroTrolls often devolve into some lesser species of troll when they can find no one but other trolls (and fellow foreigners) to agree with them.
The UK EuroTroll. The most common manifestation of EuroTroll, the UK EuroTroll is often sexually ambiguous and prone to making homoerotic comments. Vulgar and hostile, UK EuroTrolls are also the most hoplophobic* of trollkind. The breed is characterized by a penchant for pontificating from ignorance and will speak at great lengths about subjects on which its kind are totally uninformed.
*Suffering an irrational fear of weaponry.
The YerATroll. YerATrolls are those whining forumites who devote a tremendous amount of time and energy complaining about the tremendous amount of time an energy expended by Troll Bashers and Angry Forumites on the practice of troll-hunting. A self-righteous and hypocritical breed, YerATrolls spend all their time pointing fingers at everyone but trolls, petulantly demanding that their opinions be granted the significance the YerATroll believes they deserve. YerATrolls often start threads excoriating others for troll-hunting, all the while completely oblivious to the fact that they're engaging in trolling by picking fights with everyone else. One of the most ill-tempered of troll species, YerATrolls are characterized by a childish need for attention disguised as cynical nobility and pretensions of being "above it all."
The Agenda Troll. Agenda trolls are those participants who join a forum specifically to pursue an agenda of their own – often a feud or grudge with another member, or perhaps a dispute with some party not participating in that forum. When a flame war erupts on another board, for example, Agenda Trolls will follow their opponents to other forums in order to continue the spat.
Some Agenda Trolls are subject-matter oriented. An Agenda Troll who thinks Self-Defense Instructor X is a fraud, or who feels he has been ripped off or otherwise dealt with unfairly by Instructor X, will visit forums devoted to self-defense and martial arts in order to spread his or her negative opinion of Instructor X.
Agenda Trolls may also be of the milder Spam Agenda subspecies; these are Trolls who join a board specifically to advertise some venture of their own. They are not often troublesome, though their shameless plugging is met with varying degrees of irritation.
The Sophist Troll. Sophist Trolls, or "philotrolls," fancy themselves Enlightened Philosophers or Learned Experts of the highest order. Often well educated, Philotrolls are capable of speaking intelligently on a number of topics, and when the spirit moves them they can be worthwhile forum participants. Unfortunately, Sophist Trolls are an extremely hostile and intolerant species.
When confronted by opinions with which they do not agree – particularly when they do not see any means of successfully arguing their contrary views – Sophists resort (repeatedly) to a variety of intellectually dishonest tactics. Most often, this is characterized by an overly snide, condescending, patronizing attitude. Philotrolls consider anyone with whom they do not agree to be "immature," and are fond of quoting that old saw that "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."
When cornered they are quick to resort to personal attacks. A philotroll's bag of rhetorical tricks includes a variety of transparent ploys, such as willfully misinterpreting the opponent's words, committing Straw Man fallacies, accusing his or her opponents of engaging in the very tactics used by the philotroll, and so forth.
When engaging in their sophistry, philotrolls are among the most hypocritical and aggravating of trollkind.
The Affected Profundity Troll. A mutant subspecies of Sophist Trolls, Affected Profundity Trolls post endless pages of pretentious drivel that is intended to appear wise, but which generally makes little sense (if any). Affected Profundity Trolls enjoy asking themselves questions, sometimes answering them and sometimes leaving them hanging, for they believe this looks intelligent and lends an aura of mystery to their incoherent ramblings. Affected Profundity Trolls aspire to become Sophist Trolls, but lack the intelligence necessary to make the leap.
The Don King Troll. Related to Affected Profundity Trolls, Don King Trolls spout gibberish in the hope that they'll either bore or confuse to death those with whom they disagree. The average Don King Troll is "a pursuitist who gromulates his adversarial computerists with height defining formulations to the disinterestingest adjunct."
The Limey. Limeys are, as the name suggests, British. It is very important to them that you know they are British. More importantly, it is very important to them that you understand just how obnoxiously British they are. Limeys are usually hoplophobes and prone to pontificating from ignorance (regardless of subject).
The Sportfighter Troll. Sportfighter Trolls are tough. Ask them, and they'll tell you. Don't ask them, and they'll still tell you. Sportfighters have memorized every UFC, MMA match, and NHB bout ever televised. They have extensive video libraries constituting the proof that their "stuff works." Sportfighter Trolls believe anyone who does not engage in their training methodology is a limp-wristed pansy who'll probably wet himself the first time a mugger throws a punch at him. Such trolls should not, however, be confused with anyone and everyone who engages in some form of martial sport. To be a Sportfighter Troll requires a high degree (in equal measures) of aggression, immaturity, and hostility.
Sportfighter Trolls become extremely irate when told that sports are not self-defense and are prone to waving their penises madly about (one hopes only metaphorically), demanding the respect they feel they've been denied. They are fond of issuing ring challenges and generally suffer from a great deal of insecurity about their masculinity, which is tied directly to the sports in which they engage. Sportfighter Trolls are exclusively male and, while fond of speaking of women as sexual objects, are not known for their prowess in the dating arena.
The Anonymous Know-it-All (AKIAL). The AKIAL troll is an expert on the martial arts. He, she, or it, knows everything there is to know about fighting, self-defense, martial sports, and anything else you can name. Just ask him, her, or it – and he, she, or it will tell you. The AKIAL troll is characterized by a need to criticize – most often ignorantly – anything and everything posted or published by others on the Web. While only rarely specific (for when one is specific one's criticisms are easily identified as uninformed or intellectually dishonest), AKIAL trolls are characterized by an affected mastery of the martial arts and a thorough disdain for anyone more accomplished in that field than are they (which is just about everyone). (Special thanks to Sean Tracy.)
The Mall Ninja. I didn't invent the "Mall Ninja" moniker. It stems from a famous series of threads at an Internet discussion forum in which one deluded troll regaled the assembled participants with tales of his dangerous life providing covert security as part of a secret ninja group keeping safe a public shopping mall. More generally, Mall Ninja trolls are full of wild tales and bizarre ideas. They frequently speak of life experiences that are obviously fictional and that sound like plots from episodes of Highlander or B-grade science fiction and action movies. They usually consider themselves experts on everything and affect a "been there, done that" attitude that masks profound foolishness and insecurity.
The Ninja Hunter Wannabe Wannabe (NHWW). Ninja Hunters are those Internet trolls who spend a great deal of time outing "wannabes" and going on at great length about how tough they are – because they don't go on at great length about how tough they are (as do Mall Ninjas and other would-be tough-guy trolls). The success of NHWW behavior is built on reverse psychology: If the troll holds pretenders in contempt, he or she must therefore be "the real deal." Most NHWW trolls are, in fact, insecure spectators who busy themselves in this manner because they wish to affect an aura of being above such childish behavior (while engaging in the very nonsense they decry).
The Hokum-Fu Disciple One of the more bizarre Internet phenomena I have observed is the popularity (among a very small segment of online martial artists) of little-known fringe systems characterized by fabricated histories and unproven, even obviously dangerous techniques. Disciples of these arts do not take kindly to being questioned. Unbelievers are punished online with all the fervor of a Jihad. Hokum-Fu Disciples display certain traits that make their agendas obvious:
Libelous and slanderous attacks on the character or profession of their system's critics.
Intellectually evasive and dishonest ad hominem arguments.
Constant appeals to authority regarding the rank or credentials of their system's critics (which is particularly hypocritical given the backgrounds of some of these trolls).
Flippant dismissals or outright lies to the effect that the critics just don't "get it."
Distortions of past arguments with Hokum-Fu Disciples desperate to defend their systems from unbelievers.
Dishonest and evasive inflation of the credentials of anyone who does agree with the Disciples' opinions.
The Bruce. Inspired by the dictionary definition of the term – and by the movie They Call Me Bruce? – Bruces may correspond to any number of troll profiles but are characterized by a single, external characteristic: They are invulnerable. In the world of Internet fora, this means they cannot be banned from a site. No amount of complaining on the part of a forum's membership can convince the administrator to ban a Bruce, no matter how disruptive or useless such a troll's participation becomes. Bruces possess some innate ability to remain active despite exhibiting behavior that would draw warnings and discipline if displayed by other, more productive members of a bulletin board. A curious and perhaps hypnotic species, Bruces are often hybrids descended from Sophists, Affected Profundity Trolls, and Don Kings.
The Brucie. As the name indicates, these are curiously associated with the unbannable Bruces, perhaps because site administrators cannot bring themselves to be unkind to anyone suffering a Brucie's difficulties. "Brucie" is a slang term for a troll suffering from mental derangement or physical malady. Brucies often speak of their mental and physical problems, either out of some sad obsession or in an attempt to garner pity. A troll who displays erratic, almost mentally handicapped behavior is rightly described as a Brucie.
The Artistic Troll. A higher species of Classic Troll, Artistic Trolls are intelligent individuals who understand the subtle art of trolling, and who do what they do specifically to make others look foolish. Often employing the techniques of Deceptive Trolls, Artistics will string forumites along until some point in time designated by their own desires, at which point they will reveal the ploy, admit that it was a ploy, and laugh at everyone for being stupid enough to fall for it. Artistic Trolls delight in sowing discord, but do it in a highly developed and fully aware manner. They do not care if they are despised, and do not seek the approval of forum participants. Chaos is their only goal, and preferably chaos with a humorous bent to it. Without a doubt, this is the most dangerous species.
The Bitter Troll. Bitter Trolls are a curious cross-species. They can be trolls of any breed in their larval stages, but become Bitters after their previous activities are seen for what they were. What sets these trolls apart from other classifications is their behavior after they have been spotted and labeled as trolls. Angry, frustrated, and resentful about being "outed," the Bitter Troll will wage a campaign of indignant complaints intended to focus attention away from the troll and on whomever is responsible for identifying the creature. Often, a troll mutates into a Bitter just prior to becoming a Vulgar.
The Bustr. Bustrs are obsessive Bitters by whom you could practically set your watch. A Bustr never forgets, never forgives, and holds a grudge until the day it dies. Also a variant of Agenda trolls, Bustrs typically move from forum to forum complaining about the objects of their ire, often cutting and pasting age-old diatribes that have little meaning to most of their audiences. Most Bustrs are relatively incoherent, though a few of the more lucid ones are potentially dangerous stalkers.
The Mutt. Alternatively known as Dogs or Yapping Dogs. Mutts are pack animals characterized by their loud barking – vociferous, repetitive, usually ignorant and irrational criticism of anything and anyone they do not like. Mutts frequently become obsessed with a few or even a single poster with whom they disagree, often for purely personal reasons. Like a dog gnawing at a bone, the Mutt will attack the object of its ire over and over again, making a fool of itself in the eyes of those who understand such childish behavior for what it is. Often one Mutt in a group of Yapping Dogs will act as the alpha of the pack, while the others chime in to voice their mindless (but loud) support for their leader's opinions.
The Ian. There's this kid, Ian. Remember those old cartoons with the bulldog who had a fawning sidekick? The sidekick was a scrawny little guy who followed the bulldog and was constantly yapping away as if the bulldog cared what he thought. Chances are you know a kid – maybe a kid named Ian – who is just like this. He desperately wants the approval of those he idolizes and spends his time trying to ingratiate himself to them, when he's not acting as if he belongs in their midst already. Ians are a form of Mutt characterized by a "me too" mindset. Their contributions to most discussions can be boiled down to imitative behavior or "me too" and "attaboy" affirmations.
The Hybrid Troll. Trolls can be any combination of types, though some Hybrids are more common than others. Just because a given poster is a EuroTroll, for example, does not mean he or she is not also a Contrarian Troll. (The EuroContrarian Hybrid is actually very common.)
The Pretender Troll. The mutant offspring of Bitter Trolls, Pretenders become outraged when outed and attempt to channel their distress by mimicking their tormentors. Pretenders always "accuse the accusers," as they say, frequently (and falsely) charging that they are being wrongly labeled for merely dissenting in the course of a debate. Pretenders sometimes try to invent their own species labels and descriptions in desperate attempts to deflect and redirect the attention of other forumites. They may also ape the language and demeanor of their accusers (though they typically fail).
The KungFool (aka the Kungfools or Kungfoolss). A unique breed of troll that is generally a member of the AKIAL family (see below), this particularly virulent species is characterized by an affected arrogance that masks both an obvious lack of knowledge and a pitiable lack of self-esteem. As the name suggests, Kungfools are subject-specific trolls that plague martial arts-related sites.
Kungfools derive some measure of satisfaction from pretending they know more about the martial arts than, well, anyone, their pretensions pointing to the fact that they feel threatened by most others. Kungfools are almost always entirely anonymous online, for any information they revealed about themselves would be used by their many enemies to expose them for the frauds that they are. Kungfools have endless amounts of free time to spend online and devote most of their activities to ignorantly criticizing others. Tearing down those by whom they feel threatened is the only way such trolls can feel better about themselves. A sad breed, the Kungfool has little for which to live and is generally quite depressing to behold.
The Holy Misroller (HM). Holy Misrollers are those online fora participants who give Christians a bad name. The HM believes himself or herself to be a Christian and will generally tell anyone who'll listen about his or her faith in God and in Jesus. At the same time, however, the HM will display decidedly un-Christian behavior, frequently making an [Oops!] out of him- or herself. The HM is often characterized by a great deal of anger and hostility. The breed tends to lash out at anyone and anything not in keeping with its incorrectly narrow worldview. The saddest part about HMs is that they do not truly understand Christianity at all.
The Marketing Genius. A Marketing Genius is absolutely convinced that you are profiting from your participation in an Internet forum. If you have a link or a graphic block in you signature, the Marketing Genius just knows that this is your subtle attempt to assert your hypnotic powers on other bulletin board participants, luring them with the siren song of your complex and inscrutable advertising of your site. It does not matter to the Marketing Genius that forum members have been placing links and pictures in their signatures since the ability to do so was first created. Having never created anything of value themselves, Marketing Geniuses have only their bitter envy and their firm belief that you are a Dot Com Billionaire to motivate and occupy them.
The Honorable Nitwit. Honorable Nitwits absolutely love to speak about honor. This breed invokes the concepts of honor, integrity, humility, and other traits straight from the Boy Scout Oath more often than a Klingon warrior on anti-depressants. Honorable nitwits are convinced that everyone around them suffers from a lack of honor – an idea they thoroughly fail to understand in attempting to use its lack to smear others.
The Old Warrior. The Old Warrior has been there and done that. He has little time to spare for those who have not been there and done that. The Old Warrior has been there and done that to such an extent, in fact, that he is always right. Anyone who disagrees with him, therefore, is wrong by definition and should shut the hell up. Old Warriors place a very high premium on one's credentials relevant to the subject matter discussed – failing to understand the logical fallacy of appeals to authority.
The Forum Cultist. Forum cultists are extremely proud of the incredible Internet communities to which they belong. They pride themselves on the exclusivity of those communities and actually believe that "it can't happen to them" – "it," of course, being their own banishment. Forum cultists place a very high premium on groupthink and generally react to differing opinions with outrage, banning all who dare to speak them.
No activity gives a forum cultist more joy than to speak ill of a member who has been judged a heretic and banned. The forum cultist knows he may say whatever he likes about the banished member without consequence. As forum cultists are generally cowards who derive a sense of strength from the company of the virtual mob, these are the only times such individuals can feel safe enough to speak their minds.
Trolls often have many basic characteristics in common:
1. Low post count. Trolls usually do not last long enough on a forum to rack up a large number of posts. Be particularly suspicious of any poster whose count is not yet in double digits and who appears to be causing trouble.
2. Suspicious IP addresses. Puppet accounts will have IP addresses identical to that of the TiQ.
3. Suspicious E-mail Addresses. Accounts that are similar in nature to those of the TiQ can indicate a puppet account. AOL accounts, for example, are particularly suspect, because AOL allows multiple usernames for a single account.
4. Syntax and grammar. Trolls, particularly Deceptives, invariably have trouble hiding their writing styles. Puppet accounts, or serial accounts created after previous accounts have been thoroughly discredited, will display traits similar to that of the TiQ.
Trolls have certain naturally-occurring enemies. Among them are these:
Moderators. An active moderator is the bane of trollkind, as a moderator can lock a troll's efforts before they come to fruition, see to it the troll is banned, and generally make the troll's existence unfulfilling. Moderators are normally above more direct efforts to humiliate or expose trolls, which makes them ultimately more dangerous but less intimidating to all breeds.
Troll Bashers. The worst enemy of trolls, Troll Bashers appear to possess an almost pathological hatred for trolls. Fully aware of the tools and tactics of trolling, Troll Bashers expose trolls whenever they see them. Often the first to identify Contrarians, and unforgiving in the pursuit of Deceptives, Troll Bashers are experienced and venomous. Often accused of being trolls themselves, Troll Bashers understand the difference between the initiation of trolling and the retaliation against it – and believe any amount of retaliatory abuse is justified when a troll rears its ugly head.
Angry Forumites. Though normally slow to anger, and lacking the venom of Troll Bashers, Angry Forumites can pose a danger to trollkind when they gather in groups. While it takes three to five Angry Forumites to equal the danger represented by a single Troll Basher, they are not to be underestimated.
The Antrollpologist® Antrollpologists are those fascinated by the psychology, behavior, and identification of trollkind. They tend to write lengthy guides about spotting and dealing with trolls, which makes them particularly troubling to the disruptors in question.
Summary of your post:
sounds a lot like libtards
This post includes just about every type of posting habit possible.
This thread is impossible to masturbate to.
You're just not trying hard enough.
Interesting list, but it seems to be heavily influenced by a martial arts forum that the author likely belonged to.
My Head Hurts!
It ought to...
Joined :: January 2006
Post Number :: 68
Holy crap that's a lot of trolling in less than 3 days!
A lot of that sounds like the creedo of the Democratic Party platform.
Or the DU membership.
What he said.
I'll add 3/8ths
Damn dude ! There are easier ways to raise your post count .
That's allot of troll info for me to absorb at once!
I'm very offended that you would name a troll species after a person (Ian). That is reprehensible, then again I'm kinda biased. Could it be because my name's Ian?