‘Don’t touch that dial’

The truth about any one of us would shock all the rest of us.”

“I guess it’s just that knowing someone I care about who is in the same situation forces me to actually think about it instead of just swim with the rest of the fishes.”

“The whole concept of God taking time out from his busy schedule to match you with the that one perfect person for you is no different from athletes actually expecting God to intervene so they can win.”

“They were applying Biblical ideas found all throughout the Scriptures, but they were completely missing the point.”

It is easier for Barth’s Church Dogmatics to pass through the eye of a needle, than for an orthodox person to enter the kingdom of God.”

“Quoting a verse that implies that I would have been pummeled to death with a bunch of large rocks, and the ‘blood would be on my head,’ well — that doesn’t exactly win me over to anyone’s line of thinking.”

“If you’re a religious news journalist most of your job consists of talking to Christians so that they can tell you lies about each other. … I don’t know anyone who has been converted by the people they cover.”

“If we got education, health care and infrastructure right, a lot of our other economic problems would take care of themselves.”

“It has been great to meet you, and I feel like I’ve just learned so much — about myself, about concealed carry laws and purifying water — about more than I could name.”

“Your vocal run is gonna run the participation right out the building. Keep It Simple Whitney.”

“Mr. Moreland — having more stake in the proceedings, or rather less interest in pursuing what amounted to, in his opinion, a goose chase the likes of which only Mr. McNulty would subject himself — put his cigar in his mouth and looked down at the sketches which they had obtained from Scotland Yard.”

Church Sign Epic Fails: ‘Holy Sex'”


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  • A gay friend of mine told me about an article in The Advocate(I think) where the author talked about how well known Louisville, Kentucky’s largest metropolis, is for married men in the closet. We have several parks where cruising is notorious, there’s a large enough homosexual community they can get lost in if they want to step out on their wives, and a deep streak of retrograde homophobia that typically only comes from people invested in the illusion of heteronormacy. So that link in the first doesn’t surprise this Kentucky girl at ALL.

  • aunursa

    “I think it’s no secret that I’ve tried to take chances in my career and also in my life.”
    – Nicholas “Captain Ray” Cage on the Today show
    (albeit discussing his current role in an animated movie)

  • (Completely off-topic question related to the recent Disqus change, and the community’s approach to “trolls” of various sorts.)

    As I’ve said earlier, I’m happy to adopt whatever the group consensus is, whether I agree with it or not, so if the consensus remains that engaging with trolls so as to communicate the community’s disapproval of their comments to third-party observers in English is valuable, that’s fine and I’m not challenging it here.

    That said, it occurred to me that the new voting tools give us new options, which might change the consensus in the first place.

    So, I’m asking: does down-voting such comments without further discussion achieve the same goal? Or is replying in English still seen as valuable, over and above that?

  • aunursa

    As one in the unique situation of expecting many up votes for my comments in LB threads and many down votes for my comments in political threads, I would say that neither an expection of approval nor of disapproval affects my decision to contribute to the discussion. If the goal is to discourage trolls, I doubt that down voting would be an effective deterrent.

    (Unless I’ve misunderstood, and the goal of promoting down-voting is for some other reason, in which case the above doesn’t apply.)

  • Worthless Beast

    A part of me wants to check out that Anglican church in the Church Sign fails… the one with the sign about robots.
    I haven’t been to church in years, but if churches started having sermons on science fiction…!!!
    Though, if Robot Hell is real and in New Jersey…that would be sad.

  • phranckeaufile

    Pope Francis gives his first press conference today but he will not give interviews. He does not like the press. “Journalists”, he said once “risk becoming ill from coprophilia and thus fomenting coprophagia”. In case your Greek is deficient, this means that we love sh*t and encourage others to consume it.

    If that’s true, it’s hard to imagine a better beat than the Vatican.

  • I believe treating the trolls as symbols to be interacted with by pushing a button probably does them a disservice, provided there is even the slightest chance of a reasonable discussion with them.

    That said, I respect the rights of people to go deathly silent in response to anyone. Shunning is a thing. Sometimes it’s the only act that gets through to someone. Sometimes it takes a variety of techniques to pop somebody’s world bubble and let in the reality.

    I’m less thrilled with being yelled at for engaging with a troll. I can hold two separate conversations at the same time if I feel inclined. If I instead feel inclined to do one and not the other, then that’s what you’ll see.

  • Heh, reminds me of a certain legal incident in Provo, Utah.

  • So, a couple of things.

    First, it’s not my intention here to yell at anyone. As I’ve said elsewhere, I mostly believe that engaging trolls in conversation encourages them to stick around. But individuals are certainly free to either disagree with me about that (as some do), or to agree with me and choose to engage trolls in conversation anyway, either with the intention of encouraging continued trolling, or out of a sense of obligation, or for whatever other reason.

    Second, I do think there exist communal issues for which communal responses are appropriate. I endorse conforming to local conventions on such issues, and encouraging discussion of those conventions when that seems called for, rather than ignoring local conventions on such issues and just doing my own thing. (I’m far from perfect about doing that, admittedly.)

    Third, I completely agree that engaging a troll in discussion provides services to the troll which silent downvotes do not provide. That seems clear. (It also seems clear that it provides services to the person doing the engaging, such as the emotional satisfaction of telling others that they are wrong on the Internet.) What I was wondering about was the community’s thinking with respect to the services provided to third parties.

  • EllieMurasaki

    My impression is that the people who say ‘I am reassured by the people who engage the trolls to defend my beliefs’ would not get anything from downvoting rather than engaging. Not being one of those people, I’m not sure.

  • > If the goal is to discourage trolls, I doubt that down voting would be an effective deterrent.

    I doubt that, as well. I also doubt that talking to them is an effective deterrent.

    But what has come up in earlier conversations is that responding to such comments in English is an effective way to communicate to third parties that their comments are not welcome here, and is valuable for that purposes. And I do think that downvotes are an effective way to communicate that.

  • EllieMurasaki

    And not one in which I can participate. Not at all while at work, because fuck Disqus and old IE, and not worth my time while not at work, because I participate in comments via email and I am not clicking over to Disqus just to downvote a comment.

  • (nods) That’s entirely plausible, and i could understand it if so. And if so, I’m happy to continue as we’ve been going.

    And like you, I’m not sure.

  • (nods) That’s entirely plausible, and i could understand it if so. And if so, I’m happy to continue as we’ve been going.

    And like you, I’m not sure.

  • Useful data point; thanks.

  • Useful data point; thanks.

  • It’s really not that hard for the complete Barth’s to be carried on a camel’s back through the eye of a needle… Jesus never said anything about the SIZE of the needle, did He?

  • Nick Gotts

    It’s also now technically possible to encode text in DNA sequences. I’m not sure the amount needed to encode any author’s complete works, together with whatever would be needed to stabilise it, would even be visible to the naked eye.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    I’ve read that “Robots do not suffer when cloned” quote five times now, and I don’t get what they’re trying to say. Are they expecting the future written about in Jeff Somer’s The Electric Church book series, where people have their brains transplanted into cyborg bodies?

  • Oh no, not you specifically. I’m referring to the occasional “This is a troll, WHY are you people still talking to it, you’ve RUINED this thread” posts that I’ve seen a few times. I don’t think those help anybody. They just shame people, which is not something I enjoy having thrown in my face.

    Maybe I’m just overly optimistic, but my intention for engaging with people is to make them think. If they’re just spamming or trying to be absurdly inflammatory (less J- and more Winston), it’s one thing, but I like to think that a reasonable argument does more to change a troll than getting a -67 rating. In the worst case scenario, I can see a troll seeing a negative score as a quantifiable way of measuring how much of an asshat they’re being and trying to break their “high score.”

  • Ah, gotcha. Yeah, agreed with all of this, though it’s helpful to distinguish between among trying to change the troll, trying to make the troll go away, and various other goals.

  • Well, then, boy, do Tom Cruise & John Travolta have just the church for you!

  • EllieMurasaki

    Disqus did another update, it looks like. Now I can only see two lines of the replied-to comment in the comment notif. I liked being able to see the whole replied-to comment. That was a good change. They should have kept it.

  • “Damn it, people, there are still things our users like! I expect you to correct this problem immediately!

  • Loquat

    I can’t speak for Dave, but I assume you’ve seen the occasional thread on this blog where an obvious troll manages to post early and then the first couple pages of the thread are pretty much solid flames? I favor down-voting and threading in combination so the troll and the responding flames can be down at the bottom and the thread won’t look worthless to the casual observer.

  • dr_ngo

    I remember being told, in all seriousness, that the “Eye of the Needle” was in fact the name of a narrow gate in the wall around Jerusalem, so Jesus wasn’t saying at all that getting a camel through was impossible, only that it was a bit tight. And there were even slides (?) of said gate. So don’t worry if you’re rich.

  • dr_ngo

    Don’t worry; it won’t happen again.

  • Years ago, Fred wrote a post referencing that old story. He told an anecdote about the tired sigh of the Jerusalem tour guide when, for the nine thousandth time, some group of young evangelical tourists asks to see the Eye of the Needle gate.
    Apparently a lot of young evangelicals have their faith badly shaken by a trip to the holy land.

  • There’s a very strange element of “I won’t give interviews because journalists have it bad enough already” in that statement.

  • Were those records anonymized? Because I kind of find that disturbing.

  • Why is it whenever people give excuses for why they don’t want to be interviewed, it’s so screamingly obvious that they’re trying to peddle a complete load of hooey?

  • Worthless Beast

    I’m not interested THAT church. I was more talking about being interested in a church for geeks.
    If my president can wield a lightsaber to entertain the public, why can’t pastors and priests?

  • http://youtu.be/pzbnhVg4PQg?t=3m33s

    Was instantly reminded. :P

  • I take it there are no members of the Jedi religion around your parts? :p

  • banancat

    Honestly, I’ve recently changed my entire opinion of trolls. I think it’s fine and great to engage them as much as possible. It’s also fine to skip over them you just don’t have the mental energy to deal with them.

    Everyone claims that Do Not Feed The Trolls is effective, but is it? Have there really been cases where ignoring a troll resulted in them leaving? The only times I’ve seen trolls go away is when they are banned and/or the rare cases where they change their opinions because of the responses. I also occasionally see trolls who come to one or two threads, realize they aren’t brilliant geniuses who will instantly convert everyone, and then slink away in shame.

    When I was a kid, my older brother teased me frequently. The adults around me told me to ignore it or to not react to it because he was only doing it for the reaction. From my perspective, that seemed like a bunch of crap that the adults said because they didn’t want to deal with the problem.

    Trolls are internet bullies. We no longer tell people in real life to just ignore their bullies until they go away. We know that isn’t effective. It’s not effective for trolls either.

    Frankly, there may not be any way of dealing with some trolls in a way that is intended to make them go away and stop trolling. But more importantly, we need to call out harmful opinions and views whenever we encounter them. Silence often means support, or at least the trolls will see it that way. We should show the trolls that some people don’t agree with them. And we need to show observers that those opinions are not acceptable. When engaging a troll, you could be reassuring another reader that their experience with oppression wasn’t imagined or over-reaction. You could be showing a reader that agrees with the troll that their opinions aren’t as widespread as they seem.

    I frequently ignore trolls. It’s tiring to engage them all. But whenever anyone chooses to engage them, it’s nearly always beneficial in some way.

  • banancat

    And I’m sure these same people claimed be literalists that take every word of the Bible at face value and take nothing metaphorically.

  • > Have there really been cases where ignoring a troll resulted in them leaving?

    Beats me.

    That said, I’ve certainly seen threads in which trolls post twenty or thirty times because I or others engage them in conversation, where I have difficulty imagining them posting twenty or thirty times in succession into a vacuum while conversation goes on around them about the things we would otherwise be discussing.

    That said, my poor imagination doesn’t constitute data. Perhaps that’s exactly what they would do.

    That said, were I a moderator, I would have an easier time justifying banning someone who kept making unsolicited comments that were heavily downvoted and not responded to than banning someone who replied to comments directed at them.

    > more importantly, we need to call out harmful opinions and views whenever we encounter them. Silence often means support [..] we need to show observers that those opinions are not acceptable.

    Yup, I understand that, and I’m not challenging that policy. That said, I am wondering whether downvotes are an effective way of communicating a lack of community support for an unacceptable opinion, or whether a heavily downvoted comment would still be seen as accepted and supported by the community.

    > We no longer tell people in real life to just ignore their bullies until they go away. We know that isn’t effective.

    Y’see, that’s where the analogy breaks down for me.

    If I see some jerk harassing someone at a party, my response is to step in and talk to the person being harassed. Introduce myself, make smalltalk, be friendly, invite them into another conversation, ask them if they’d like me to get rid of the jerk, whatever the situation seems to call for. And sure, if they ask me to engage the jerk in conversation, or to insult them, or what-have-you, OK, but I don’t assume that paying extra attention to the jerk is the best or only way to make the harassed
    person feel supported, in part because paying extra attention to my tormentors would so not be the best way for a community to make me feel supported.

    And I accept that online forums aren’t analogous to parties, and that the analogous behavior is therefore not necessarily applicable, and in any case isn’t conventional here. And that’s fine, and I conform to local conventions.

    But if we’re going to use the analogy, well, it doesn’t really work for me.

  • Turcano

    For those of you who don’t want to play Blog Click-through, here’s the whole set:

  • Turcano

    When you compare trolls to schoolyard bullies, it’s actually worse in a way, since at least with a bully you always have the option of responding with violence. On the internet, people are divorced from the potential threat of a slap to the face and therefore from any sense of basic human decency. At least not until The Device enters the prototype phase.

  • Have there really been cases where ignoring a troll resulted in them leaving?

    That reminds me of an experience of mine from middle school. While taking the bus back home one afternoon, the kid sitting in the seat behind me punched me in the back of the head. I remembered the advice I had been given, that bullies just do this kind of thing to get a reaction out of you, and you should just ignore them and they go away.

    So I ignored the kid. I continued to ignore him as he hit me again, and again, and again, and again for several blocks, never reacting as I felt each impact on my skull. After a while, he paused to speak, saying to the other kid sitting next to him, “Check this out! You can hit this guy and he doesn’t even react! You have to try it!”

    I spent the rest of the trip home ignoring impacts from alternating directions with alternating sizes of fist.

  • Yeah, but how are we going to market The Device?

  • Lori

    I don’t know about that specific case, but in general the response to that type of request for information comes in digest form. If that’s the case they would have found out what was rented in a given time period, but not by whom and probably not exactly when.

  • arcseconds

    I think the main reason Do Not Feed The Trolls is ineffective is that people always feed the trolls :]

    Feeding trolls seems almost as inevitable as the trolls themselves.

    I have seen trolls ignored completely, and some of them do leave, but that’s only in forums that have a tiny number of participants. Once the number gets above, oh, I dunno, 6, someone always responds.

  • arcseconds

    I also occasionally see trolls who come to one or two threads, realize
    they aren’t brilliant geniuses who will instantly convert everyone, and
    then slink away in shame.

    there was a recent couple of examples, one guy had just read ‘Why I am Not a Christian’ or Hitchens or something and was eager to educate us as to how Christianity held us from Progress! for a thousand years or more.

    The other agreed that the USA was quite racist in the recent past, but completely isn’t any more.

    they both ‘slunk off’

    I think it was a good result — we may have got through to them.

  • Hexep

    I’m not quite sure how to process that first link. I mean, the stuff about people in Kentucky searching for gay porn, that’s just garden-variety hypocrisy. But if the truth of any one of us would shock the rest of us…

    I mean, I have no doubt in my mind that if someone were to get inside my head, and to view all of my memories like they were video-tapes and fast-forward and rewind as they saw fit, with a commentary track for my running internal monologue, I mean, the more they saw, the more they would loathe me.

    This is why I am secretive. At my work, there are some 200 people I interact with on a daily or semi-daily basis, who all keep their desks in the same vast cubicle farm as me. As I am one of the three foreigners on the floor – one of the six in the entire building – they are endlessly curious about me. I make a little game out of telling endlessly more outrageous lies about where I come from and how I got here. Look, here, I even have a little spreadsheet for the different personas I take up. To this guy, I’m a South African whose father died in Rhodesia. To that lady, I’m an American who owned a motorcycle. And to those people, I’m Australian, and once worked on an oil rig. The truth is written on a file somewhere, in the hands of the relevant authorities; everyone else gets lies, lies, lies.

    I don’t want to know them. And I don’t want them to know me. We get along know; we have little things that we chat about, and nobody goes in too deep or asks too many questions. We’re a team; we know each other intimately by our work, and by our styles of activity, but other details are unnecessary. If to know someone is to come to know their worse nature, better to keep throwing up smoke.

  • McvNulty is rather fond of one particular word, I notice.

  • Not feeding the trolls is effective at keeping the trolling from causing a derail. It’s not effective at getting rid of trolls. It’s a piece of advice that means “we already have a troll. I don’t want to have to deal with a troll plus a troll-fighting derail,” in the same way that “Just ignore the bully” actually means “I don’t want to have to deal with a bully plus a fight between you and the bully”.

    It’s all well and good for the person saying to ignore the troll, but it does require you say that everyone else being spared the fight is more important than the victim not being bullied.

  • banancat

    It is obnoxious when a troll dominates the conversation, but that’s not the fault of the engagers. The obnoxious person exists; we can only decide how to respond to it. It’s sort of like a loud street preacher who will yell whether you engage or not, or the WBC.

    Frankly, if I were at a party and some jerk started saying terrible things, I would freaking love it if a bunch of people called them on their shit. I wouldn’t be offended by them paying extra attention to that person; I would be glad that others were voicing the opinions I share but might be too afraid to share. What I’d hate to see is everyone looking the other way while quietly hoping that the tormenter gives up and goes home.

    And engaging has seemed to be very effective in one recent case. I haven’t seen Alanlionheart on any threads besides the mock-Ark one where he got called on his arrogance. Yeah, he filled up that thread, but he hasn’t stirred things up on other threads yet. I think he got a hard dose of reality that we don’t take kindly to people who pretend to argue in good faith but are really just being disingenuous.

  • banancat

    You framed it perfectly. I wish I could give this comment a thousand up-votes.

  • Likewise Ginny. Giving them the attention they crave can sometimes keep them focused on people more willing to deal with their shit, as opposed to ignoring them and having them go to further and further lengths to get attention — possibly running into someone who just doesn’t have the spoons to deal with a troll on that particular day.

    It’s not a perfect solution, but I don’t think there is such a thing, especially in a community that is almost 100% unmoderated.