• How to Deal With Professional Trolls


    How should we deal with professional trolls? The same way we deal with regular trolls; by refusing to feed them.

    The UK’s most prolific causer of controversy Katie Hopkins frequently draws the ire of the general public by making extreme statements. What follows is a popular outcry, a whole lot of media attention, and more publicity for Hopkins. How could this not be an incentive for Hopkins to continue making such statements? Just as academics are incentivised to take a nuanced position, preempting and charitably addressing opposing ideas (by respect from peers, etc.), professional trolls are incentivised to make statements designed to anger the masses.

    Recently, MP for Rochdale Simon Danczuk reported Katie Hopkins to the police for some admittedly vile and racist tweets. I don’t want to defend such tweets, but I doubt that even Hopkins herself really believes them. The point is to stir up media attention, and that is what they did, with Danczuk’s reporting her to the police ensuring that Hopkins was all over the papers in the days following.

    If I’m right and she doesn’t really believe what she’s saying much of the time, then providing a counter-opinion or attacking her isn’t going to enlighten her in any way. The only thing you can do is click the Unfollow, Block, or Mute button on Twitter, or grow a thicker skin.

    I defend Hopkins on the grounds of free speech, but also I’d say that if you’re tired of her, and want her to stop being rewarded for saying these sorts of things, then don’t give her what she wants: attention1.

    I’ll leave you with this, from a serious political candidate:


    1 Before someone points it out – yes I’m aware I’ve just written a blog post about her!


    Category: Freedom of ExpressionMiscellaneous

    Article by: Notung

    I started as a music student, studying at university and music college, and playing trombone for various orchestras. While at music college, I became interested in philosophy, and eventually went on to complete an MA in Philosophy in 2012. An atheist for as long as I could think for myself, a skeptic, and a political lefty, my main philosophical interests include epistemology, ethics, logic and the philosophy of religion. The purpose of Notung (named after the name of the sword in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen) is to concentrate on these issues, examining them as critically as possible.
    • As a sincere contrarian, I’ve been dismissed as a troll on occasion. How do we distinguish between trolling and broadcasting unpopular views?

    • It’s an educated guess about their motivation. Are they saying what they say to wind people up, or are they saying it because they believe it?

      I might be wrong about Hopkins not believing what she says, and if so, then ‘troll’ is the wrong word. However, this post assumes I’m right! :p

    • Otto Greif

      It’s tragic Danczuk is tolerated. Even more tragic is how many agree with him.

    • In practice, I think it is rarely difficult to discern the two. A more pressing problem is people who counter-troll by trying to dismiss people like Damion as trolls, even though they privately have little or no suspicion that he is. It’s handy way to dismiss anyone who strongly disagrees with you, as long as you’re none too honest.

    • Gaujo

      regarding point 1, I think on the balance you’re doing good as you’re suggesting people walk away from a whole avalanche of her future mischief.

    • Gaujo

      Everyone who wants to, knows the difference. You’re just being dismissed because it’s convenient. Trolls always aim to disrupt by being offensive. Contrarians aim to disrupt by challenging viewpoints.