The Art of Internet War: Tips On How To Combat a Troll!

Sherman L. McCleskyCorrespondent IApril 1, 2009

CHICAGO- OCTOBER 25:  Josh Koscheck (L) fights Thiago Alves in a Welterweight bout  at UFC's Ultimate Fight Night at Allstate Arena on October 25, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Trolls have been a topic of many Internet conversations; some very friendly, others not so nice.

It's not a huge secret that the average intellect cannot stand the presence of a troll in their message boards. They're rude and childish; their methods are crude, and their mentalities are just plain sick.

But that's not what really bothers me about trolls. What bothers me the most about them is that they created a new department in political correctness, "The Department of Troll-Land Security," ran by a bunch of self-righteous avatars, determined to point their fingers at anyone who disagrees with them and call them a troll.

This is where I step in an. I agree that trolling needs to be checked; not necessarily because I want to bring decency to a site, but because I don't want people using the "troll card" as political capital, to dispose of an opposing writer.

It's one thing to dispose of a person because he or she is harassing you, it's another thing to exploit "PC" in order to dispose of a person who had beaten you in an debate.

So how can we combat the trolls, while at the same time, preventing collateral damage?

Here's some tips for anyone who wishes to combat a troll. Because a troll is usually after one particular person, it's really up to that person to fight off that troll. My tips aren't perfect, and its not for everyone; but when properly executed, it does have a high rate of success. OK, here we go.

Tip No. 1- Always remember that the mind of a troll is usually a mind of a child.

Close to 90 percent of the trolls on the Internet are between the ages of 14 to 21. Therefore, you must logically conclude that the troll you're up against, is nothing but a young punk being mischievous. Read the troll's posting carefully; if it looks like it was written by a high schooler, nine times out of 10, it was.

My advice: ignoring it.

Young trolls have a very small attention span; if you ignore them, they'll go away. If you give them any attention, you might has well had caught herpes, because you're more than likely to get rid of herpes, before you can get rid of them.

Tip No. 2- Respond to a troll only once per thread/article... "One shot, One kill"

I will discuss later the things you'll need to have in that response to take that troll out; but for now remember,"One Shot, One Kill." Only one response is needed for a troll; but it has to be effective, it has to expose his character and it has to sting.

Tip No. 3- Take your time: Walk away from the computer, take a deep breath and calm down, before posting a response

Somebody once gave me some very good advice, "never argue with drunks and fools." A troll is either a drunk, a fool, or quite possibly both. So you don't want to argue with them; instead, you want to return one very well educated response.

There's no pressure to respond back immediately because that troll is so eager to read your response, he's going to keep checking in and out until post one.

Tip No. 4- Always respectfully challenge the troll's knowledge.

Nothing kills a troll faster than for you to expose him as being ignorant. I remember when a troll criticised one my articles by simply saying,"You need to learn how to write an article."

I responded by saying, "I agree. I don't know how to write an article. Could you please teach me how to write an article?"

He never answered back. Maybe it was because he didn't know how to write an article either.

Trolls usually post things without thinking, so expect trolls to trip themselves up, early and often in their responses. You'll have a troll that claims to be a gulf war vet; well then, ask him what unit he was in. You'll have a troll that claims to had played in sports; ask him what sport did he play and who did he play for?

My personal favorite, for those who attack you for supporting a specific player or team, ask him what team is he/she's rooting for? It's my personal favorite because I always seem to more about their team  than they do.

Trust me, the average troll doesn't care to know what they're talking about, because they're concentrating on their selection of spiteful words, instead of gathering facts to support their response.

Therefore, my advice is simple; call them out; you'll catch them off guard every time.

Tip No. 5 - Rip the "Caps Lock" off your keyboard. Never respond using words in caps and exclamation points.


Sound threatening, doesn't it. Trolls love responses like the one above because it looks angry. It's their goal to either make you mad, or make you appear to be mad. Using caps is the wrong way to respond to anyone, because it makes you look like you're yelling.

A better alternative is to use the "bold" feature. The bold gives you the power to center the trolls' attention on what you really want them to read, without the appearance of anger.

Final Tip- If you do find yourself resorting to talking trash, try to be eloquent in your choice of words.

Anybody can call you "stupid," but not anyone can say that "your knowledge of this issue is lacking." Anyone can say that "your mother is a whore;" but not anyone can say, "Why are you so angry? Did your mother confessed to you that she'd wasn't an honest woman before you were conceived?"

Choosing the right words, while talking trash, gives the other viewers the impression that you're smarter than your troll counterpart. People respect writers that can handle themselves in a dignified manner.

These were some of my tips on how to handle a troll. When executed properly, the average troll will be too embarrassed to stick around. They'll sit out for days, if not weeks, before returning because they're waiting for everyone to forget your exchange with him.

It's all about taking away the troll's credibility; if you destroy the troll's credibility, you destroy that troll's wanting to stay in your forum. In some cases, a troll will even change his/her's name in order to reenter your forum with a "clean slate".

Once again, I remind you that it's up to you to fight the troll that's haunting you. Either you fight them, or you put up with their antics. But no matter what methods you chose, it all comes down to one objective; to get into his' head before he gets into yours. Food for thought.

Good luck and good hunting!   


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