Quit Calling People Trolls

Trolling is essentially what everyone does all the time anyway, Damon Linker argues
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2014 1:19 PM CDT
Updated Jul 7, 2014 1:53 PM CDT

(Newser) – If you want to troll Damon Linker, just accuse him of being a troll. In his latest column for the Week, Linker calls the term "facile, vacuous, imprecise," and "insipid." After all, "everyone online wants to be noticed, have a say, start an argument, be recognized as clever." There are thousands of people online saying things that someone considers outrageous. "Are they all trolls?" We can never know if someone means what they're saying, which means accusations of trolling "invariably amount to an ad hominem attack."

Was Niccolo Machiavelli trolling when he wrote The Prince? Was Nietzsche trolling when he said that "God is dead"? Malcolm X, Ayn Rand, HL Mencken, and countless others could look like trolls in the right light—and it's much easier to call them that than engage with their ideas. "At its most basic level, trolling is what everyone is doing online every hour of every day. … And at its best, trolling is coterminous with thinking itself—which often requires provocation as a goad to move the mind out of its well-worn grooves." Click for Linker's full column.

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