An Internet Troll Explains Why He Loves Going After Atheists

Like a lot of other public atheists, I’m used to getting random emails, comments, and tweets from people wanting to challenge me on my atheism. I only respond to a small fraction of them — the people who I think are genuine, who probably wrote the message themselves (instead of copy/pasting it from some Christian website), and who seem to really want an answer.

Everybody else? I ignore them or delete their emails.

Brian Limond is one of those people I wouldn’t respond to in the first place. He just wrote a piece for The Guardian about how he’s an Internet Troll and proud of it. He’s one of those people who gets off on making otherwise decent people frustrated. He has nothing to contribute himself so he just tries to disrupt everyone else.

And atheists are among his favorite targets:

For example, I enjoy trolling atheists. I’m an atheist myself, but arguing with the religious is infuriating, draining and it actually hurts my head. Atheists always seem to come out of religious arguments worse, in terms of how much it ruins their day. I fancied switching sides, for a laugh, and so I tweeted, “It’s such a shame that athiests will never know true love. #atheism.”

Look at the misspelling of “atheists” — what pedant could possibly resist that bait? Not many, and I must have had a dozen catches almost straight away. You know the type. Militants. Wanks. The type that have “atheist” in their bio, like anybody gives a fuck. The type that searches for #atheist on Twitter. And I argued with a handful of them simultaneously for close to an hour, giggling like a schoolboy as I typed, “Your going too hell!” They didn’t know whether to go after the religious debate or the grammar. It was hilarious. A collection of atheists despairing for humanity — and, for a change, I wasn’t one of them. But trolling isn’t just about winding people up for the sake of it. It’s a great way to redress the balance when you’ve been wronged; to put things right so that you can get to sleep without grinding your teeth in anger.

Of course, he hasn’t “been wronged.” He’s just a dick.

But who are these people engaging him in a conversation? Why would you waste your time on someone who just wants to mess with you?

It’s not hard to tell who sincerely wants to have a conversation. To waste your time trying to correct someone who doesn’t even grasp some basic concepts? Not worth your time.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Chris Wallace

    Proud of being an internet troll. The guy must be a real winner in real life.

  • scipio1

    Please don’t feed the trolls.  It’s all they have to live for.  Starve the bastards.

  • Nkendall

    So why are you taking his bait? Why are you feeding the trolls? 

    As a long-time moderator for rather large forum (400k and growing), we get A LOT of trolls. And yet here you are, empowering them. Trolls need this attention, ignore them and they slink off to some other corner of the world. He knew he could get a rise out of us with just some stupid line any person might hang up on their status and you know what… he was right. 
    What does that say about us? About our movement. Sometimes a soapbox is for holding soap, not standing on. 

  • vexorian

    I am not sure who came up with the “don’t feed the trolls” meme. But I am rather sure it was a troll.

    Not feeding the trolls, gives them the impression that there are no consequences to their actions. But there are. This guy is an idiot.

  • Nkendall

    I am fairly certain it was forum moderators and admins who got sick of cleaning up the two or three pages of bile that would crop up behind the troll as every poster with a messiah complex came to “set the record straight” or “tell the troll off”.

  • DougI

    So he’s a douchbag with too much time on his hands.  Being that he’s an absolute loser he can’t do anything productive with his life so he trolls the internet.  I’m probably not alone in thinking the guy couldn’t get laid to save his life.

  • Dartigen

    I don’t even bother responding on the Internet. If they get really insistent, I might report them for spam or harassment (or block them). They usually don’t get banned, but if they’re blocked then you don’t have to put up with them. (Well – bans tend to depend on the site, so yeah, on a small website you might get them banned; on something like Twitter they probably won’t notice.)

  • Richard Wade

    Trolls are narcissists and sadists. They crave attention, regardless if it’s positive or negative, and they enjoy causing others distress. They are pathetic, nasty little time thieves. It usually only takes about 3 or 4 comments to detect even the more subtle ones. 

    I used to subscribe to simply ignoring them, hoping they’d eventually go away, but on a blog this big with so many readers coming in for the first time each day, there are always several who will get suckered into feeding the troll du jour.  So now I think they should be unceremoniously banned the moment it becomes obvious what they are.  A blog is like a private home, not a public square.  Sincere discourse and earnest disagreement is not the issue, and those should be encouraged.  But if a guest abuses the owner’s hospitality and the other guests who are behaving themselves, they’re out immediately.

  • Adam Byers

    And this is “feeding the trolls” incarnate.

  • m6wg4bxw

    “They didn’t know whether to go after the religious debate or the grammar.”

    Why is correcting grammar such a big deal? I see it frequently,  including here, in the comments. Most of the time, a typo or grammatical error isn’t such that it causes misunderstanding. Many of the corrections seem to be spiteful or intellectually belittling.

    I’ve had much trouble posting comments yesterday and today. Some get through, but more of them disappear after the page has been reloaded. Any help with this would be appreciated.

  • 3lemenope

    Besides the most flagrant trolls, I couldn’t disagree more. And it’s not because trolls are somehow deserving of protection or that there is any “free speech” issue implicated, but really more because my confidence in any community coming to a reasoned conclusion about whether any given newcomer is a troll has degraded to the point where I almost reflexively don’t trust them when they are made. 

    So incredibly often, someone who announces a disagreement with the community’s prevailing opinions is insta-labeled a troll, or a person that makes a pointed but respectful criticism regarding an approach or a comment is a dismissed as a “concern troll”. It’s happened to me, I’ve seen it happen to others, and it’s a cruddy way to welcome newcomers. “Troll” becomes a handy label to keep the out-groups out, an easy weapon to strangle discourse before it begins, and done consistently it ends up killing the communities it was intended to protect by making them homogenized, boring places.

    Pulling the trigger quickly just seems to me not the way to go unless a person is being actually abusive, which is a much smaller category that what we seem to be discussing.

  • PersephoneK

    It’s human nature to feed trolls. people want to defend themselves and their positions. Personally I’m more annoyed by all the demonizing of people feeding the trolls than the trolls themselves. if you don’t like watching trolls eat, don’t watch.

  • Bckm

    i’ve been an atheist for 43 years.  I don’t need to (and usually won’t) defend my atheism to anyone – it works for me, and that’s all that matters to me.

  • Bridget Gaudette

    HM- I don’t understand why people respond to this nonsense either. Although, I find his tactics a little funny. We know we all hate it when atheist is spelled incorrectly. I had a giggle.

  • Tori

    Honestly, sometimes I’m just bored, and that’s why I respond to the trolls. I usually only respond once though. Then they reply and I ignore them to make them angrier.

  • Richard Wade

    I think you and I are talking about the same animal, what you call the most flagrant trolls. I agree that the label is sometimes too quickly used whenever someone is simply frustrated by another’s contrary opinions, and in such situations the person misusing the label should be challenged. 

    In the end, it is up to the blog owner to make the determination, and in the six years that I’ve been reading this blog, Hemant has been remarkably patient, tolerant and forbearing with commenters who dance on the line. We’ve had several dozens of people who clearly come only to hijack and degrade the conversation, and most have slunk away after making their little mess for a while, but I have only twice suggested that he ban someone, the second one just recently.

  • RebeccaSparks

    I’m ambivalent about the admonition, “don’t feed the trolls.”  It’s often true that if you don’t give a troll the emotional reaction that they were looking for, they will often move on to greener pastures.  However, it’s not a guarantee.  The ultimate reason for a Troll trolling is the troll him/herself, and not your reactions.
    Which brings me to the first problem that I have with DFTT; it can lead to victim blaming, in that you gave a response, so now you are getting what you deserve.  The troll would have just disappeared, but now that you’ve responded, it’s your fault they’re still here or if you’re feelings are hurt.

    I also don’t like how there’s no like belief of rejecting trolling or rehabilitating trolls; we all know if a troll attacks a community and moves on, it’s not because he’s left behind a life of trolling to start posting with wisdom and love.  I understand stopping trolls is extremely difficult–it’s hard enough in RL to stop an abusive person, but internet anonymity doesn’t help the situation.  Still really the goal should not be to ignore trolls but to stop trolls.

    Because really the line between trolling and bullying is thin to non-existent.  The reason I would say it’s thin is because some people seem to think that posting a contrary opinion that its trolling, and I don’t think that it’s necessarily the case.  But posting something to irritate people so that you can feel superior certainly is bullying.  Sending death threats, publishing people’s private information or photo-shopping people in obscene and humiliating ways is also bulling.  And cyber-bullying is not easily resolved by ignoring the problem.

  • facebook-740856118

    I don’t care if you feed trolls or not.  Just don’t let them stop you from speaking out, or doing what you like to do. 

  • Octoberfurst

     I agree that we should not immediately dismiss someone who states objections to atheism as a troll. But the problem is figuring out who is sincere and who is just being a jerk.  If you get someone who just writes, “You atheists are deluded and are going to end up in Hell”, is that person a troll or just a sincere believer trying to warn us to stop our “wicked ways”? I think though for most of us it takes only a short amount of discourse with said person to figure out if they are honestly trying to engage in dialogue or not.
      But on the other hand I have commented on Christian videos on YouTube and inevitably some Christian will challenge what I said. I then engage them in conversation and make a point to be civil. But more often than not after arguing with them for awhile I come to the conclusion that the person I am talking to is either a blithering idiot or a troll because they always end up making absurd arguments and telling me how vile atheists are, i.e. “You atheists are just sick, twisted creatures who hate righteousness & I renounce you in the name of Jesus!”  Is that person a troll or just a moron?  Hard to tell.  LOL.

  • Brian Pansky

     One of the parts to stand out to me was

    “A collection of atheists despairing for humanity — and, for a change, I wasn’t one of them.”

    So, he’s contributing to despair.  It is actually reasonable to despair for humanity when there are people who will contribute to despair.  Just saying.

  • Guest

    Good to know there are those who can laugh at themselves.

  • trivialknot

    So, he does it so he doesn’t have to grind his teeth in anger at night?  Can’t say I ever have that problem.

  • 3lemenope

    Ah. What threw me was: “It usually only takes about 3 or 4 comments to detect even the more subtle ones.” To my mind, a subtle troll is an unsuccessful troll, since intentions beyond the most obvious are impossible to know over the Internet and so generally must be removed from the analysis of what a comment is; if there’s any doubt that persists across multiple comments, it almost isn’t trolling by definition, since even if the would-be troll is acting insincerely, nobody knows it. 

    What I worry about is changing the default assumption when in doubt from “not a troll until shown otherwise” to “assumed to be a troll until exonerated”. Your follow-up comment clarified that that’s not what you’re advocating. 

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    How about this, only qualified commentators should feed the trolls, like they do in zoos.  How do you think this Brian Lemon chap would do in a written debate with Hitchens. Let that type of thing happen and see who runs out the room crying like a gurl.

  • Coyotenose

    No it is not. And good job going after the wrong target.

  • Coyotenose

     This is not feeding a troll. This is exposing someone who needs some public ridicule.

    Unless talking about being a troll is now somehow trolling.

  • Coyotenose

      This is not feeding a troll. This is exposing someone who needs some public ridicule.

  • Coyotenose

     Patient, tolerant, and forbearing definitely, and I envy those qualities, but they make things painful sometimes also. I brought up that most recent one’s trolling many times*. He was deliberately ignoring responses so he could repeat himself for weeks on end.

    *Of course, that was probably annoying also.

  • 3lemenope

    Usually I assume idiot before troll, and fool before either. The absolute best is a fool who thinks him or herself a genius. Of course, we are all fools about something or other, but at least I think it is a reasonable expectation for a person to know of themselves when they are not formal experts in that field on which they are opining. 

    What makes it so much harder is this tendency for people to be taught that what they feel is a good guide to objective truth (which is not to say that feelings don’t have other profound utility). Offender number one in this regard is religion, since religious thought relies so strongly on unexamined intuition to squeeze itself through factual tough-spots. So, any discussion that intersects with religion is quickly going to be filled with people that are feeling their way though the conversation, and consequently saying incredibly stupid things. 

    I often drive myself crazy responding on the two topics that I can plausibly claim expertise on–political science, and philosophy–because like religion, lay people tend to feel their way through them, and trust their intuitions far more than in most other fields. Further, people are often invited by social expectation to have very strong opinions in these areas without even a cursory familiarity with study of the same, leading to even extremely intelligent people making simple factual errors and errors in definitions of foundational terms and concepts because they’ve been taught at some point, implicitly or explicitly, that expertise in these areas isn’t of much explanatory value compared to, say, the hard sciences, medicine, or engineering, and that consequently having a personal opinion is all that is required. 

    It’s something that I’ve been working on not driving me so crazy, not least because it is a pointless exercise to correct every misconception, especially when people are primed to ignore the correction. I guess my broader point is, especially when the topic is religion, I think it wise to perhaps relax one’s standards of what ought to be judged intentional provocation and trolling if only because the normal mode of a person working through the topic is one that sounds very similar to the way a troll might, except that it is quite sincere, and on the Internet it is impossible to tell the difference.

  • Chris Irwin Davis

    I think the frustration with “text speak” causes some people to over react and patrol the borders of grammar with more zeal than may otherwise be warranted. If they allow one  “your wrong” to pass without comment, then the world will go down the slippery slope of… omg i cant blve u sed thatt!!

  • Rory

    Probably wouldn’t be much of a debate.  Since Hitchens is, you know. Dead.

  • 3lemenope

    Some people (like me, for example) get tweaked on a nearly subconscious level when they run into a grammar error. That alone wouldn’t be much of an excuse for coming down on people for it. The additional factor, if I were to guess, is that many people worry more generally about declining standards and expectations in communication, and see the Internet as the final front in the (losing) battle for the English language as they know it. Not only does it drive them crazy, in other words, but it is indicative of a downward trend that they can do something simple to help stop. 

    Since this is a pointless and thankless battle (ask any English teacher), the people engaged in it become curmudgeons very quickly, and it soon becomes less about correcting an error and more about being an outlet for a particular frustration. Correction becomes condescension, and since people don’t generally seek to be corrected–or much appreciate it when it is offered–when talking or writing informally, it is all downhill from there. 

    Call it an armchair hypothesis. :)

  • 3lemenope

    You know, even with his opponent dead, he might still lose. :)

  • Karen Loethen

     Everyone else has already said it.  I just have to add:  LOVE the clip art!

  • Wrich Printz

    You spineless, snotty-nosed pervert, your kind makes me sick…I came here for an argument! Oh, this is abuse. Try next door….. (appox. Monty Python.)

  • julie

    Whenever I’m reading something with a grammatical error, it always stops the flow of the sentence for me. If someone says, “I want that to.” I just think “I want that to…what?” Of course I knew what they meant, but it’s just so drilled into my head that it throws me off when it’s not right.I usually don’t comment unless it’s horribly unreadable. The main time I will is when someone is arguing rudely with me and doesn’t want to be reasonable. Then I might as well point out ways they could improve their argument and be taken more seriously. I mostly just ignore it though.

  • The captain

    I admit I’m playing a bit of devils advocate here, and this response should have been longer but it’s late, I got into the bourbon, and want to watch this documentary on Alan Turing.

    I find I would really like to agree with you, but alas I just can’t. Not because I believe a blog has some legal right to not ban people, you’re right they can it’s their place and they can do what they want. And while I agree that “Troll” is used to shut down legitimate criticism all too often and 3lemenope pointed out, that’s still not why I find myself disagreeing.

    i think fundamentally trolling, for all its dickishness, can provide a service and advance the conversation. Trolling works because it hits on things and ideas that the people who respond to them have not dealt with yet. They get upset because they have not yet moved past considering the trolls comments legitimate. That’s not on the trolls, it’s on the people responding and the troll provides an opportunity to show others where their argument may be weak, or where their vulnerabilities are.

    Hell fundamentally Socrates was just a troll most of the time. His death even was one the greatest trolls in history.

  • m6wg4bxw

    Interesting responses from julie, 3lemenope, and Chris Irwin Davis — I can relate to all of that.

    I think there is a benefit from trolls. Sure, they often impede worthy discussions, but I think their presence has taught many people to be more cautious about what they read. Maybe it will lead to more skepticism, and more skeptics. I hope.

  • The Captain

    Trolling is not the same as cyber-bullying. And cyber-bulling is not the same as real bullying. When you see kids get hit over the head with BigWheels on a weekly basis in front of your house you realize that words on the internet are not even in the same league. 

  • Sandy Kokch

    This guy is not only a total tit, he is a pretty stupid one as well.

    Printing your full name, which in the UK is a pretty unusual one (not like John Smith), AND your photograph on top of an article sniggering about what a total arsehat you are?

    And the bloke lives in Scotland of all places! The Scots, once a few beers have been imbibed, are not known for their understanding and forgiving natures, especially young males. My prediction? Wee Bri is going to have that smug stupid smile wiped right off his face on the forehead end of a Glasgow Kiss the next time he goes out to the pub.

    Gotta say, for the hubris alone, I wouldn’t be surprised, or shed a tear.

  • Iamjennyturner

    Well, his type of trolling is the type I’d just ignore anyway. Also, for what it’s worth, I know about Brian Limond, I’ve seen his TV show (“Limmy’s Show”) and though it’s a bit uneven to say the least, I like it.

  • jose

    That dickwad theory doesn’t hold up.

  • Coyotenose

     Playing on emotional vulnerabilities is not the same thing as playing on logical vulnerabilities. Intelligent, sane people are wary of their own positions; that’s why they seek out debate on them. Attacking that insecurity, which is what a troll does, is not a contribution.

  • Caroline Miller

    “To live is to war with trolls.” – Henrik Ibsen.

  • Chas Stewart

    What are the consequences for anonymous trolls?

  • xytl

    Yes, the stereotypical violent Scot (nice racism there by the way) sure gives a shit if someone winds up easily trolled atheists on the internet.

  • Carmelita Spats

    I’ll ‘fess up…I used to have a hilarious character on the Internet named “Betty Binderbottom”…This was a creative writing experiment…Betty had a blog and was extremely opinionated about all thing Christ. Since I live in Texas and teach with a bunch of church ladies, I just adapted their lingo, their accent, their taste in atrocious Christmas sweaters, their opinions about politics/religion/the Rapture/Obama-the-Antichrist. Whenever I found a Fundamngelical spouting nonsense on an atheist blog,  I would troll the troll by going even MORE Southern Baptist nuts on him to the point of having him yell, “That’s not TRUE Christianity!”…It was like Landover Baptist, only funnier…Yes, reasoned discussion is ALWAYS the best way to go but some of us do have a funny bone and like to see how far the comedy can be pushed. I was never censored or kicked off the blogs but some of the Christian trolls were. Religion is a source of comedy…See “Black Adder”.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I generally ignore things that could reasonably be typos….Say, forgotten letters, a skipped period, things like that. 

    But full-on chatspeak drives me up the wall. “You” is a three letter word. Most of the shortened stuff is easily spelled…”Please” and “people” are other ones I see get murdered often. It comes down to laziness, really.  If you’re too lazy to type out basic words, then you’re likely too lazy to form coherent thoughts. And I dislike wasting my time on people like that. 

    Sounds elitist, I know. But thus far, I’ve not been proven wrong. 

  • RebeccaSparks

    Why are trolling and cyber-bulling not “real” bullying?  What about Amanda Todd and Megan Meier?

  • Stev84

    It’s not about voicing disagreement, but how they do it. If someone asks two dozen times where atheists get their morality from and never acknowledges the answers, then they are a troll and not interested in discussion or learning something.

  • brianmacker

    So basically you don’t believe in self taught geniuses. I know plenty of computer programmers with not “formal experts” in computer science and yet are far superior in both talent and expertise than people who hold masters degrees. In particular I remember one incident where a woman programmer who held a meters degree asked another programmer far more skilled, intelligent, and knowledgable than her a shocking question. That other programmer didn’t evennhave a college degree. The question was: “I don’t understand. When I call min(x,y) and x equals y, which dies it return?” My thoughs on overhearing this? How did she possibly earn and undergraduate degree let alone a masters.

    There are plenty of self taught geniuses out there, and the only valid way to question them, or anyone else is to properly refute their arguments, not bring up any lack of credentials. You should know that seeing that you claim to be an expert in philosophy.

  • RebeccaSparks

    Being banned, losing their anonymity.   

  • brianmacker

    The self proclaimed troll doesn’t even fit your profile. He was motivated by revenge against the English gamers and didn’t care whether he ensnared a guilty or innocent party just so long as they were English. He did it because the revenge made him feel empowered against his tormentors. Having let trolls control him emotionally he became one.

  • RebeccaSparks

    I usually only point out typos and grammatical errors in 3 ways-
    1) It’s  a grammatical error in the main article/blog post.  I figure this is embarrassing  like an egg-on-your-face-type of mistake.  I usually wouldn’t point out the same thing in the comments, because they are not “professional”.  In comments you’re trying to get out a quick reply instead of your best work.    
    2) I can’t understand what you’re saying in your comment/article, but I’d like to respond.  I’ll ask for further clarification.
    3) When a  spelling/grammatical error is unintentionally hilarious and it’s brightened my day.  

    These are all situations that I would appreciate comments on my own spelling and grammar.

  • 3lemenope

    Self-taught geniuses do exist, but are extremely rare. Nor is expertise a guarantee of competence, but it is usually a very good indicator. Many more people think they are self-taught geniuses than are actual self-taught geniuses, and their supposed genius disintegrates upon contact with actual expertise. The only people I’ve met who deprecate expertise on a regular basis are people who feel that their “genius” outstrips that of people who have spent their entire lives, and formal study, in a field and are incapable of taking even basic correction.

    I would say, at the very least, is that a person ignores an expert on matters of basic definition and usage of terms in the field of expertise at their own peril. Credentials are an important indicator when the discussion devolves to arguing over objective facts, specific terms, and methods of application.

    For example, in the study of political science, one often unavoidably encounters law as a subject. They are closely related fields, to the point that political science is one of the most common pre-law fields of study. I had the experience of mentoring a younger friend who was interested in going into the law, and he ended up going to law school. Now, I’m no slouch when it comes to the law as it intersects with political science, but my knowledge of the law, to the extent it is functional on any serious level, extends only to those intersections. I also have a very sharp memory, so I’m the guy in undergrad that everyone would ask for factual tidbits (these were the days before Wikipedia, hard as those bygone days are difficult for some to remember :). 

    I mention this only because he’s in law school now, and I’ve had many opportunities to chat with him about the subject of the law, and the one thing that quickly became clear is that his knowledge and capacity in the law now outstrips mine by several orders of magnitude. The only thing that changed is that he gained what I continue to lack, which is formal expertise in the law. I would be a fool to argue basic terms within the area of the law with him, because despite my breadth of knowledge his is sharpened by training that makes his knowledge of the law useful in a way mine is not; his has depth in addition to breadth, as that is what expertise does.

    Some people become infatuated with their own intelligence because it served them well during childhood development, or made school a breeze. Some people become used to being the smartest person in the room. When such people come upon an expert, they have a choice; they can either respect the expertise and try to learn something, or they can try to prove their superiority to them. One of these avenues is usually a very stupid thing to do.

  • Jeff P

    I sometimes wonder if there are actually no religious people left in the world and all people seemingly religious are really immature atheists posing as being religious just to get a reaction out of the rest of the atheists.  And that some take it to extreme by actually going to church…

  • 3lemenope

    What I’m saying is, just within the realm of my personal experience, communities have a very hard time distinguishing between content and form beyond the most obvious of cases. It would be hard to exaggerate the number of times I’ve seen someone be accused of not being a real [whatever] because what they’re saying–regardless of how polite or well-formed–doesn’t conform to the expectations that people have of members of [whatever]. Once that disjunction happens between prior expectations and the current experience, accusations of trolldom inevitably (and unjustly) follow.

    I’m not arguing that there aren’t people who do exactly as you describe. Those are the easy ones. My concern is mainly the borderline cases, which my further discussion with Richard Wade helped to clarify for me he wasn’t talking about.

  • chicago dyke, Blonde

    it’s worse than that if he gets space in a major publication like the Guardian. my respect for them just went down a great deal; there are countless more important and worthy technology stories out there they could’ve covered. but this is what they waste limited space on? deplorable. 

  • Antinomian

    I think that this blog is one of the hardest to successfully troll. Trolls on the internet come in alot of flavors from the 4chan/b and DDOS at one end to the passive/agressive drive-by at the other end. Cyber-bulliers on the other hand, may get grouped in with the trolls, but are really nothing but cowards who pick on those  that they perceive as weaker or a person or group they see as the ‘other’ than themselves and it will some times be someone they know personally. Their cowardice is because they do it from a place of anonimity.  The 4chan/b and DDOS trolls many times are doing it for the LULZ (like the dickwad in the subject above) and/or demonstration of power against a perceived authority.

    What we get here, as far as I’ve seen, are mostly either the passive/agressive drive-bys and what I call the ‘Double Bonus Jesus Points’ collectors. The P/A drive-bys may come back later to see the responses to their post here to only confirm their biases but will never answer back to any responses from us or defend their position in a meaningful way. Occassionaly we do get the cyberbully posting their projection of their desire for us to burn in the “eternal lake of fire”. The ‘Double Bonus Jesus Points’ collectors like to think that they’re a modern day Saint Paul writing the 21st century  ‘Romans’ or ‘Collossians’ by trying to teach us the right way to “believe” with their expansive circular arguments.

    That said: I think our engagement with our ‘trolls’ is important in that we can show our side to the lurkers, the undecided and doubters, and maybe even get the occassional unquestioning believer who happens to stumble upon us to rethink their views. The bonus is that some of us ( at least myself ), with these discussions, gets a clearer thought proccess on the subjects (not just theology and atheism) that we discuss here.

  • Larry Meredith

    Trolls get a bad rap. They’re not all bad. If you’re in on their joke it’s pretty entertaining. The Onion, David Thorne, Daniel Tosh and Stephan Colbert are all excellent trolls.

  • jose

     Colbert isn’t a troll, Ann Coulter is a troll.

    Everybody knows Colbert and the Onion are openly humor stuff that you’re supposed to take as humor. That’s the opposite of what a troll wants, as stated by the piece.

  • Justin Miyundees

    I have family members that I’ve watched over many years who find such tactics infinitely entertaining. I don’t know what it is, but I suspect there some culture aspects to it.  If you ever watched “The Office” (U.K. version), they allude to “wind ups” frequently – it’s almost considered an art.  

    Half my family is from the U.K. and the ones who have persisted in this tedious self indulgence  (of pissing people off for fun) have gradually alienated all but their most feeble minded and/or esteem challenged acquaintances. 

  • The Captain

    Two girls that killed themeless after being made fun of on the internet, while tragic does not “bullying” make. Sorry, but having people say mean things about you on Facebook is not the same as having bricks thrown at you until you walk a different way home, or give up your bike.

    I know there is a tendency in this country to have the greatest freak outs over what happens to white, pretty, middle-class suburban girls, but to redefine what happened to them  “bullying” when they where just brutally made fun of does a huge disservice to those poor kids that have to deal with actual bullying.

  • The Captain

    If you have an “emotional” vulnerability to what os said on the internet…. Yea, that’s something you need to deal with.

  • Ray Odd-Hominid Merrick

    Really now? Engaging in humanity through a little ‘trolling’ is now unacceptable because you fail to see any productive outcome? Welcome to the human experience – if you intend to antagonize or instigate – you’re not welcome. Since when has this species been so inclined to pass such judgement with a stick up their ass? Uh….never mind.

    Trolling 101

  • Larry Meredith

     Colbert is well known for trolling his guests in interviews. It’s the reason he had to discontinue his Better Know a District series. Congresspeople knew he would troll them.

  • Sandy Kokch

    Justin, there is a world of difference between the British “wind up” and what this prat is laughing about doing. The artful wind up a very British form of humor.

    Its easy to tell the difference – a wind up makes a group laugh, even the subject. The stuff this bloke did just makes minself snigger and pisses off every body else.

    See the difference?

  • Sandy Kokch

     One half my family is Scots pal, so I think Im on safe ground and it isnt a stereotype.

    I was born and raised down south of the border in Manchester, and believe me, if he lived there he would last even less time than wherever he lives in Scotland.

  • JBC

    What about JT Eberhard calling Chris Stedman “a little shit” on the Nov. 7th thread?

    Was that trolling?

  • Jack Richard George Wing

    Someone who thinks Brian Limond has ‘nothing to contribute’ has obviously never seen Limmy’s show, which is much more likely to make someone think rationally about religion (and much more besides) than some worthier than thou ‘public atheist’ condescending to set only the best of his christian correspondants on the right path. 

    And it’s also funny, unlike this article.

  • vexorian

     Having to face the reality that they are full of crap.

  • Gunstargreen

    Trolling on the Internet was fun… when I was 14. Seriously isn’t there enough real stress in the world without pretending to be on the other side of a debate just to piss people off?
    What I got from this is he likes arguing and upsetting people but hates feeling upset himself so he doesn’t argue against people he actually disagrees with. Apparently it’s alright to to piss of other people even though he hates the rotten feeling he gets from honest arguments. What a piece of crap. I almost feel bad for him in a way.

  • brianmacker

    Except that self taught geniuses ( as opposed to ignorant smart people) actually study the areas they claim expertise in. Sometimes for decades, and when some kid fresh out of college with a formal degree meets with a true self taught genius it is they who usually ends up learning something.

  • troller #6

    Grammer knotsees suk.

  • Coyotenose

     That still isn’t advancing the conversation. Neither is telling people who assume sincerity from those who post online to toughen up, which is what you’re doing.

  • Coyotenose

     Being brutally -and inescapably-  made fun of IS bullying, thanks. Claiming that your extreme definition is the only legitimate one is a nice way to dismiss the suffering of others.

  • ruth

    Oh dear.  I was bullied as a child.  It was all words.  It crushed me.  I wish they had beat me up and stole my bike instead. You have no idea how words can destroy a person, especially children.  No idea. 

  • Coyotenose

     I trolled under a pseudonym for about four days to make a point. A thuggish, chickenhawk neocon columnist kept haranguing “liberals” off a newspaper forum, people who just weren’t equipped to tear down his garbage arguments. I portrayed myself as a classic conservative briefly to demonstrate to the city editor that this representative of his paper was running off website traffic and reducing participation with his fits and abuse. Disagree with his hypocrisy or an overt lie being spread by neocons and you’re a stupid liberal, period, even if you still want that Obama out of office.

    He didn’t learn anything, but he was so embarrassed at the reveal that he disappeared for a week after posting a huge RANDOM CAPS rant.

  • Coyotenose

     If Limond’s fans feel the need to defend nasty behavior, and to do so by trying to change the subject, that only speaks ill of them.

    Oh, and cry more, noob.

  • Coyotenose

     People who behave like that will do other things that will piss off people who react really badly to being pissed off. Narcissists are not known for their powers of discernment once they start feeling cocky.

  • Chas Stewart

    If one is a dedicated troll, then surely they’ve learned to not give a damn about being banned nor will they associate themselves with the troll identity (therefore they probably won’t ever think they’re full of crap. They’ll just create a new new and find some other way to rile up the masses because they think it’s fun.

  • Chas Stewart

    Hardly do they ever lose their anonymity but I can sometimes endorse the exposure of trolls. No, usually, they just create a new login and continue to attempt to piss off their victim.

  • Chris Algoo

    What a loser.

  • Baal

     grammAr.  Obvious troll is obvious.

  • Baal

    I didn’t think so.  JT will respond to responses or address issues in his blogging.  Trolls tend not to do either.  Also, his response was germane to the topic.

  • Thegoodman

    My only problem with the word troll is how many people misunderstand it. I have encountered on numerous other sites (but not FA for some strange reason…) that any claim of dissension is fair game for being labeled a “troll” or “sockpuppet”. This is particularly prominent on many atheists and feminist sites.

    We all hate trolls but in their own round about way they can help us all understand and formulate our own arguments better, despite how frustrating they can be. If you are confident in your arguments, a troll should not make you sweat.

  • Thegoodman

     Just because the internet/facebook/twitter are a silly thing that you can just dismiss, it does not mean that they are equally invaluable to teenage girls.

    Teenagers often take otherwise insignificant things very seriously and you dismissing them does not make the teens any less suicidal. Your attitude of “man-the-fuck-up” is absurd and does nothing to address the problem. Diminishing ones plight be comparing it to something worse doesn’t make it go away, it just make you feel better about ignoring it.

  • Thegoodman

     PZ Meyers outed my real name via LinkedIn one day during an argument. I honestly was not even trolling, we just disagreed on a few things. He didn’t “ban” me per say, but I do not feel welcome on his blog and I rarely post anything there of consequence.

    I was actually quite upset about it, not for fear of anyone knowing what I said, I still stand by those words. But rather, potentially being harassed by an unstable person from the thread (there were a few I thought seemed to have less than noble intentions for dissenters).

  • freemage

    In addition to the other replies here, there’s also a certain schadenfreude to be had from correcting the grammar of a post that starts off by insulting the forum audience’s intelligence or education.

  • Deven Kale

     ^ This.

  • m6wg4bxw

    Yes, that’s what I consider to be appropriate circumstances.

  • vexorian

    Except that the whole “they don’t give a damn” is is bullshit invented by trolls to look tougher.

    They do care. They really do. In fact, they probably care a lot more than anyone else. Why else would they spend so much time on this?

    This guy has invested a good portion of his life in “annoying atheists”. Why is that? It is only because he has unfinished resentment towards atheists. Whether he admits it or not does not matter.  There is something in this topic that clicks with him and makes him very angry and emotional.

    That’s the ultimate truth, it is the trolls who get the most trolled and emotional by their actions.

  • mobathome

    @Hemant Metha: You ask “Why would you waste your time on someone who just wants to mess with you?”
    Just look at this xkcd drawing for an explanation:

  • mobathome

    @brianmacker:disqus : You wrote “I know plenty of computer programmers with not ‘formal experts’ in computer science and yet are far superior in both talent and expertise than people who hold masters degrees.”
    Why should anyone consider you a credible judge of people’s skill and knowledge in computer science?  What evidence do you use to judge the relative abilities of the people you’re comparing?  Please give information that would enable us to contact many of the people you were comparing so that anyone may look for themselves and judge your ability at making judgments.

  • Tracy Bradley

    Umm… that bullying starts offline – it’s not just online. And how is being ‘brutally made fun of’ NOT bullying?? So it’s only bullying if you throw a punch? You’ve obviously never experienced how young/teen girls bully: ostracizing, nasty words, rumours, etc. Social media is just another outlet for it.

  • He didn’t graduate college

    Contact Bill Gates.

  • mobathome

    Whatever for?  He’s a published author in a mathematical journal: Gates, William; Papadimitriou, Christos (1979). “Bounds for sorting by prefix reversal”. Discrete mathematics 27: 47–57. doi:10.1016/0012-365X(79)90068-2

  • hardcore lib

    It’s fun and hilarious actually, I quite enjoy it.

  • hardcore lib