Do Not Feed the Trolls!
The bills in Congress address many controversial issues, so it’s no wonder that the comments on many bill pages can get pretty tough. Many people lack the social skills to deal with disagreement in a productive way. Instead, they call each other names and use vulgar language here on the site.
We don’t like it, but there’s little we can do about it. There are thousands and thousands of bills in every Congress, and intense discussions going on all the time. It would be prohibitively time-consuming to try moderating all the conversations.
So instead we treat discussions on the site as discussions among adults. It is the responsibility of the participants to manage their own conversations.
If someone is rude to you here on WashingtonWatch.com, treat it as you would rudeness in the real world: by rising above. Ask people to stop. Show empathy for the strong feelings they have even as you disagree with their conclusions. Calmly invite people to reason with you. That’s not always going to work, but it’s all you can do.
It’s a waste of your energy to try convincing one person of something. There are thousands of other visitors to this site every day, and they are your more important audience. When these other people see that you are the more reasonable participant in the debate, they will be inclined to trust you and believe you, and perhaps come to your side. Your most important audience is not the person you’re debating with!
There are some people who won’t respond even to your careful invitations to good behavior. They seem to gratify themselves by offending others. These are the real misfits, and the Internet community calls this kind of person a “troll.”
Wikipedia says that an Internet troll is “someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional or disciplinary response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.” If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen that kind of behavior.
And there’s a simple rule for dealing with trolls: Ignore them.
Talking back to them—even talking about them—makes them more energetic and eager to insult and annoy you. Ignore them. Go on with your discussions as though they weren’t there.
The Internet motto for this situation is “Do Not Feed the Trolls,” or “DNFTT.” Take that to heart, and encourage others to avoid feeding the trolls.
Join together with the other normal, well-adjusted participants in your conversations to shun any troll. Set a policy among yourselves of never responding to trolls and never speaking about trolls. Eventually—after even more aggressive attempts to draw attention—they will go away.
WashingtonWatch.com is a free speech zone. We don’t require people to identify themselves before speaking. We don’t try to ban people from speaking. We will sometimes modify a post to eliminate vulgarity and other policy violations, but it’s extremely rare that we will delete a post. And given the ever-increasing traffic on the site, we can’t promise to maintain any policy about monitoring, editing, or deleting comments. It’s up to you, the community, to keep things under control.
In order to encourage good behavior, we do post the names of logged in users in light blue. It shows that the speaker is a stable identity, who will take credit or responsibility for the things they say. (You should register and create yourself a stable handle now!) Others can be ignored if they are not willing to be identified even by a handle they’ve created on our site.
We’re sorry that we can’t moderate all the discussions all the time. Instead it’s up to you and other members of the community to improve the situation when a troll invades your conversation. It’s up to you and other thoughtful debaters to organize joint action (i.e. silence) against rude behavior and trolls.
Take this rule to heart: Do Not Feed the Trolls! DNFTT!
(Read more posts about comments and commenting here.)