David Pogue writes the excellent ‘Circuits’ column about digital technology in the New York Times. I find him to be a perceptive and reliable observer. But he gets some really foul email from trolls who disagree violently with his views. This week he’s published a nicely ironic response…
RULES FOR TROLLS AND PILLS
WHEREAS, 95 percent of all the e-mail received by critics and columnists is civil, friendly or respectfully constructive;
but WHEREAS, this is the Internet age, and we’re all anonymous and can avoid making eye contact forever;
and WHEREAS, there’s so much information overload, a little heat and drama on your part may be necessary just to be heard above the din;
and WHEREAS, many of those who fire off potshots are missing out on some of the best techniques for effective snippiness;
THEREFORE let us now post the rules for membership in the Pills of the American Internet Neighborhood Society.
1. Use the strongest language possible. Calling names is always effective, and four-letter words show that you mean business.
2. Having a violent opinion of something doesn’t require you to actually try it yourself. After all, plenty of people heatedly object to books they haven’t read or movies they haven’t seen. Heck, you can imagine perfectly well if something is any good.
3. If it’s a positive review that you didn’t like, call the reviewer a “fanboy.” Do not entertain the notion that the product, service, show, movie, book or restaurant might, in fact, be good. Instead, assume that the reviewer has received payment from the reviewee. Work in the word “shill” if possible.
4. If it’s a negative review, call the reviewer a “basher” and describe the review as a “hatchet job.” Accuse him of being paid off by the reviewee’s *rival*.
5. If it’s a mixed review, ignore the passages that balance the argument. Pretend that the entire review is all positive or all negative. Refer to it either as a “rave” or a “slam.”
6. If you find a sentence early in the article that rubs you the wrong way, you are by no means obligated to finish reading. Stop right where you are–express your anger while it’s still good and hot! What are the odds that the writer is going to say anything else relevant to your point later in the piece, anyway?
7. If the writer responds to your e-mail with evidence that you’re wrong (for example, by citing a paragraph that you overlooked), disappear without responding. This is the anonymous Internet; slipping away without consequence or civility is your privilege.
8. Trolling is making a deliberately inflammatory remark, one that you know perfectly well is baloney, just to get a rise out of other people. Trolling is an art. Trolling works just fine for an audience of one (say, a journalist), but of course the real fun is trolling on public bulletin boards where you can get dozens of people screaming at you simultaneously. Comments on religion, politics or Mac-vs.-Windows are always good bets. The talented troll sits back to enjoy the fireworks with a smirk, and never, ever responds to the responses.
9. Don’t let generalities slip by. Don’t tolerate simplifications for the sake of a non-technical audience. Ignore conditional words like “generally,” “usually” and “most.” If you read a sentence that says, for example, “The VisionPhone is among the first consumer videophones,” cite the reviewer’s ignorance and laziness for failing to mention the prototype developed by AT&T for the 1964 World’s Fair. Send copies of your note to the publication’s publisher and, if possible, its advertisers.
And there you have it: the nine habits of highly effective pills. After all: if you’re going to be a miserable curmudgeon, you may as well do it up right!