Thursday, December 08, 2005

Political Trolling 101 - Always Attack Never Defend

The golden rule of election blog politics seems to be the same as message board and newsgroup trolling: Always Attack - Never Defend.

The best defense is awareness.

Some effective attacking techniques:

  1. Outing consists of finding personal information - name, address, etc - of a formerly anonymous poster and putting it in messages on the net.

  2. Another tactic is the creation of "conversations" where the provocateur is both members of the conversation. Either agreeing or disagreeing but pushing their agenda by making the "opposing" side look weaker. Other tactics include the provocateur responding incoherently to his own posts to make the other side look weak and foolish.

  3. Try to discredit people's ideas by referring to defects in their character. It's most often used when provocateurs have no way of rebutting claims made by someone. For example, someone will say something that cannot be refuted; they then will refer to him as a slime that defaulted on his child support payments. Whatever the truth of those allegations, it can be said that this behavior has nothing to do with the truth (or lack of same).

  4. Distract them...get them OFF defending their points any way you can.

  5. If possible, turn the opposition against each other. This turns other people off, and they stop posting or reading the blog.

  6. Make the blog no one wants to stay or go there.
Other common tactics:

Ad hominem - attacking the arguer and not the argument.
Appeal to ignorance (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence).
Begging the question (assuming an answer in the way the question is phrased).
Observational selection (counting the hits and forgetting the misses).
Statistics of small numbers (such as drawing conclusions from inadequate sample sizes).
Non sequitur - "it does not follow" - the logic falls down.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc - "it happened after so it was caused by" - confusion of cause and effect.
Meaningless question ("what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?).
Excluded middle - considering only the two extremes in a range of possibilities (making the "other side" look worse than it really is).
Slippery slope - unwarranted extrapolation of the effects (give an inch and they will take a mile).
Straw man - caricaturing (or stereotyping) a position to make it easier to attack..

The following are suggested as tools for testing arguments:

Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts.
Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities").
Spin more than one hypothesis - don't simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours.
Quantify, wherever possible.
If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.
"Occam's razor" - if there are two hypothesis that explain the data equally well choose the simpler.
Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, it is testable? Can others duplicate the argument and get the same result?


Blogger "Expert" Tom said...

Welcome to the blog Pale. Now that you have joined we might finally have some coherent posts on this blog!! :-p

4:46 PM  

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