GRACE, TRUTH, AND INTERNET TROLLS

trollFrom time-to-time I get emails.  Usually, the emails come from political campaigns, even Democrats. Occasionally, I get emails from people asking that I link to their website. I don’t have that large an audience, but I suppose if you ask enough bloggers to link to your website it adds up.

What follows is email traffic related to a rare example of a request to link that I honored.

Subject: Understanding the internet troll

Hi Tom,

My name is Jack, and I’m hoping to get in touch with you about a video I helped create that explores the psychology of internet trolls. I saw this post citizentom.com/2013/01/18/have-we-turned-the-constitution-upside-down/, and thought you and your readers might find some value in it.

The video highlights the phenomenon of the online disinhibition effect. Let me know if it’s something you’d be interested in seeing or sharing, and I can forward it along.

Thanks for your time,

Jack Collins

This email from Collins went into my spam queue, but he followed up.  Because there were two emails, I decided there must be a real person behind the email.  So I looked for his website. Then I replied.

Subject: Re: Understanding the internet troll – Follow-up

Jack

Not positive, but I presume this video is yours: http://academicearth.org/electives/psychology-internet-troll/.

Your first email got filed in the spam queue. Why? I suspect some bloggers think you are trying to sell something. Others probably think you are accusing them of being trolls. That is, that’s because the trolling technique described in that video could be construed as portraying bloggers as trolls. Do bloggers lure unsuspecting victims onto their blogs and trash their egos? I don’t think so, but that video might be interpreted that way.

Anyway, I am no expert, but I don’t think the post you referenced involved an Internet Troll. Check out https://citizentom.com/2009/10/29/infested-with-an-internet-troll/. Note the comments too.

RR Edwards is the only genuine troll I ever had visit my blog. When he became absurdly inflammatory, I just quoted a few Bible passages. Not long after that, I started encouraging the people who visit my blog to ignore him. So I guess that video’s advice about how to deal with a troll is good. However, I don’t think the video does a good job of helping people to identify a troll, and identifying a troll is more important and more difficult than figuring out what to do about one.

I have no way of quantifying the matter, but I suspect many more people call people trolls than behave like trolls. That is, when some people need an insulting name to call somebody they “meet” on the Internet, they often find the term “troll” suitable. That’s unfortunate and just as vile as behaving like a troll, but too many of us do not do a good job of controlling our tempers.

If that’s your video, and you want me to link to it, I might. What will I say about it? This note provides a good indication.

Thank you.

–Tom

Anyway Jack confirmed the website.

Subject: Re: Understanding the internet troll – Follow-up

Hi Tom,

Yes, that’s my video. Thanks for taking the time to provide your feedback. I respect your view; I welcome any comments. I’ll be sure to share your thoughts with the rest of the team.

The video explores the psychology of internet trolls. If you decide to share or post it on your site, let me know. I’d love to see it posted.

I look forward to your response!

Thanks again,

Jack

Even if the accusation happens to be true, when we call someone an Internet Troll, we should do so reluctantly. Why? Consider how the Apostle John described our Lord.

John 1:14 English Standard Version (ESV)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

If we are to follow the example of Christ Jesus, we must strive to be full of both grace and truth. Without both grace and truth, Jesus would not have saved us.

  • If Jesus had offered us only grace, He could not have offered us salvation. If Jesus had not told us the truth, we would not know how much we need to repent of our sins.
  • If Jesus had offered us only the truth, He would not have exercised the grace required to offer us salvation. He would not have died on the cross so we could be forgiven of our sins.

Without truth, we give and forgive to no purpose. Without grace, we become brutal monsters; we will neither give nor forgive.

12 thoughts on “GRACE, TRUTH, AND INTERNET TROLLS

  1. Interesting enough video, maybe a bit vague on the actual definition of internet troll and kind of obvious as far as anonymity contributing to the behavior. I guess there is not a definitive definition. I’ve relied on this guide http://rsmccain.blogspot.com/2009/04/quick-guide-to-blog-trolls.html, and figured anyone who just wants to disagree in a belittling way deserves the label. That loose of a definition would cover comments of my own from time to time, esp on the Twitterz.

    The internet is a faceless impersonal place, so I reckon my instinct is to not take it all too seriously: he/she calls me a RWNJ, and I call them a troll, whatever who cares. One of my first posts a commenter said I was paranoid & other stuff I no longer remember, so I’m like, right. I better toughen up. Unfortunately that often translates into how you treat others, not just your reaction to how they treat you.

    So you provide an important reminder, that we should be gentle and all.

    Perhaps a key thing that makes a person an authentic “internet troll” is dishonesty. I may get sarcastic or insulting but I don’t say anything that I don’t think is true. In my experience the trolls will say anything, absolutely anything, regardless of truth in the hopes of causing the most grief.

    Yeah. It’s the intent behind the comment that defines the term “trolling,” and boy that’s hard to pin down. I jumped to the conclusion that a couple different commenters of yours were up to no good in this way. Turned out one was your brother!

    oops.

    Cheers Tom!

    Like

    1. Because I cannot think of a good definition, I did not try to define when someone becomes a troll. Even though most of us want to believe we are good, each of us is stained with evil. So it is that when we find someone intolerable, we may call that person a troll.

      At some point, we must point to evil conduct and call it out for what it is, but right and wrong conduct — appropriate behavior — such can be difficult to define. There are absolute truths, but only God is absolutely good.

      Christ Jesus is full of grace and truth; but we are only a works in progress. Because I have put my foot in my mouth so many times and found that hurts, I try to avoid accusing people too abruptly. Yet I still sometime speak before I think. It is then I remember again what C. S. Lewis observed.

      On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light. ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

      Like

    2. A troll defined? It’s worth the ponders
      (Perhaps it might involve a Saunders)
      But to some good these thugs can bend
      One catalyzed a newfound friend!

      The key defining attributes
      That separates these faceless brutes
      From merely foolish and mis-spent:
      Their goals derive from bad intent

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Like

      1. Or I should have said the excellent poetry. That is a talent I appreciate but do not have.

        Their goals derive from bad intent

        You also nailed the problem. When we cannot read minds, how do we define intent? We cannot. We can only infer another’s intent.

        Like

  2. “Without truth, we give and forgive to no purpose. Without grace, we become brutal monsters; we will neither give nor forgive.”

    Much needed common sense advice. Thanks.

    Like

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