Politics. You’ve been warned.
I’ve received today four emails from Facebook regarding people who, in some way or another, want me to be aware of and take action against the third Intifada group page. These are people who don’t know each other, and people whose company I like and whose opinions I respect. But in their actions, they are enabling those that work against our country.
This is something that goes back a long time for me; a phenomenon that I’ve spent most of my life thinking about, whether it be in application to the Israeli-Arab conflict, in application to American or world events, forum wars between proponents of different video game consoles, or your simple schoolyard bully. People don’t know how to handle trolls.
That’s what we need to realize is going on here: we’re being trolled. That sounds like I’m trivializing things, and maybe I am a bit, but the first step towards combating a troll, whether he’s doing it for the lulz or doing it to generate a populist movement in order to kill people and destroy a country, is to realize that what you are up against is a troll. The basic psychology, and the basic reactions, are the same across the board.
The first rule of being trolled: ignore the troll. Nine times out of ten, whatever reaction you give will either motivate the troll further, give him more ammunition, or at the very least provide him with more screen time to promote his agenda. Much as this seems self-defeating, or cowardly, or even outright stupid, doing nothing is often the best course of action, and it’s a course of action that’s usually not even considered.
I’m sure a lot of you are writing me off already. You know I’m a leftist, you know I’m a pacifist. This is obviously my ideology trumping my logic, right? No. This is experience. This is twenty years of looking at how these kinds of people think and learning from trial and error what works and what doesn’t.
The second rule of being trolled: when you act, act big. Be concise, be decisive, come out of goddamn nowhere, and then go back to ignoring them. And don’t do anything unless you *know* you are going to win. Every failure makes the next attempt harder, whether we’re talking about letting the troll goad you into saying something you shouldn’t or letting him get you to have his argument instead of establishing your own.
The third rule of being trolled: when you’re not acting, act anyway. Be subtle. Maneuver where you can without directly butting heads against the troll: the troll will win because he has no morals. Every situation is different here: you may be establishing relationships that make it easier to put up a united front against the troll, you may be creating an environment that makes it more difficult for the troll to work, or you may simply be making it easier for others to spot the troll.
It’s rare that you can get an entire forum to follow these rules when a troll shows up, and it’s next to impossible to get a society to do so. But this is what we need to do. Not petition Facebook in a way that Facebook has basically told us won’t change anything, not spread the word about the Intifada group and do their PR for them, not prolong their spotlight.
We need to realize that the 300,000 people who like this group are most likely not even Palestinian. They most likely don’t really want an Intifada. They want to play a rhetorical game: they want to make people think that an Intifada is just a normal thing to have happen, and they want to scare us. So what we do is ignore them. That way they have no idea if they’re scaring us. When the time comes to do something, and figuring out when that is will be one of the most difficult decisions one can make, it needs to be well-thought out and executed flawlessly. When we’re not doing something, we need to prepare, but prepare silently.
Don’t give them the satisfaction. Don’t give them the stage. Don’t let them control your actions. The only way to defeat a troll is to take his blows and then stand up again unaffected.