"The Care and Feeding of Trolls"
We are all familiar with the concept of a troll - a person (or occasionally, persons) who posts topic or replies with the intent of provoking a reaction or getting attention.
Now whether we believe in them or not (or whether we're upset that the word troll is actually a corruption of 'trawl') is besides the point.
They exist, and therefore we are annoyed.
So, in the interests of scientific advancement and so that they may be better studied, tracked down, tagged, put in captivity, mistreated and eventually vivisected, I hearby institute "G.O.A.T.", the Gregarious Order for the Abolition of Trolls.
Named for the first great troll-killer, the Billy Goat Gruff, G.O.A.T. will dedicate itself to the study and 'occasional' elimination of the more obnoxious trolls - after all, if we killed them ALL off, we wouldn't have any reason to exist.
So, in the interest of 'knowing our enemy', I present a careful catalogue of Trolls currently known to the GOAT at this time. Feel free to add to the list; knowing is half the battle...
Identifying marks: Flame-retardant underwear, flamethrower, singed appearance.
Threat Rating: Large Red Dragon
Identifying marks: Big, puppy-dog eyes, curly locks, lollypop in mouth.
Threat Rating: Cute Furry White Mouse carrying the Bubonic Plague.
Identifying marks: Foam in mouth, wide staring eyes, veins bulging in temples.
Threat Rating: Large man with Ax.
Identifying marks: Drool, large stubby fingers, inability to locate the backspace key or edit button.
Threat Rating: The big zombie guy from "Plan 9 From Outer Space"
Identifying marks: Swastika on forehead, gun control and/or abortion slogans on shirt, political campaign buttons all over his jacket.
Threat Rating: Howard Stern
Identifying marks: Bad personal hygene, crackly voice, pimply, usually male.
Threat Rating: Bull in a China Shop
Indentifying marks: Very similar in appearance to Baby Trolls and Typo-Trolls- known to interbreed. Twitchy mouse hand, pale complexion, talks in incomprehensible abbreviations and constantly beats chest.
Threat Rating: Cacodaemon
Identifying marks: Air is blue around troll. Lots of parental advisory stickers all over his body.
Threat Rating: Eminem
Identifying marks: Twitchy, squirrelly look. Trying desperately to look cool, but failing miserably.
Threat Rating: BB Gun
Identifying marks: Glassy, staring eyes, wide-mouthed belief.
Threat Rating: Upham
Identifying marks: Chameleon-like appearance, lack of any creativity.
Threat Rating: Photocopier
Identifying marks: Looks like the people they try to imitate - doppelgangerish.
Threat Rating: Uncertain... although they often target groups which deserve to be targetted, deception in representation is always a bit reprehensible. We'll call it... Pandora's Box
Identifying marks: Shifty eyes
Threat Rating: None - these guys are on OUR side.
Identifying marks: Unknown
Threat Rating: "If you meet the Buddha... kill the Buddha."
When trolls find that their efforts are being successfully resisted, they often complain that their right to free speech is being infringed. Let us examine that claim.
While most people on the Internet are ardent defenders of free speech, it is not an absolute right; there are practical limitations. For example, you may not scream out "Fire!" in a crowded theatre, and you may not make jokes about bombs while waiting to board an airplane. We accept these limitations because we recognize that they serve a greater good.
Another useful example is the control of the radio frequency spectrum. You might wish to set up a powerful radio station to broadcast your ideas, but you cannot do so without applying for a license. Again, this is a practical limitation: if everybody broadcasted without restriction, the repercussions would be annoying at best and life-threatening at worst.
The radio example is helpful for another reason: with countless people having a legitimate need to use radio communications, it is important to ensure that nobody is 'monopolizing the channel'. There are only so many clear channels available in each frequency band and these must be shared.
When a troll attacks a message board, he generally posts a lot of messages. Even if his messages are not particularly inflammatory, they can be so numerous that they drown out the regular conversations (this is known as 'flooding'). Needless to say, no one person's opinions can be allowed to monopolize a channel.
The ultimate response to the 'free speech' argument is this: while we may have the right to say more or less whatever we want, we do not have the right to say it wherever we want. You may feel strongly about the fact that your neighbour has not mowed his lawn for two months, but you do not have the right to berate him in his own living room. Similarly, if a webmaster tells a troll that he is not welcome, the troll has no "right" to remain. This is particularly true on the numerous free communications services offered on the net. (On pay systems, the troll might be justified in asking for a refund.)
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