There was an interesting Lifehacker article recently that dealt with rhetoric in online discourse. It’s worth a read since I learned quite a bit. The Socratic method of asking questions really only works as a teaching method, and only if it’s with someone you’re not argrily arguing with online.
Anyway, I hear a lot of talk about trolls “converting” people. Let me explain to you something about conversion:
It doesn’t fucking happen.
There’s a phrase that goes “you’re preaching to the choir.” What that means is that you’re basically talking to people who already agree with you for the most part, and any conversation you have or article you read is going to affirm your view or give you a new perspective on it. You’re reading and discussing to learn or affirm. For example, people who read this blog probably already have some idea of what trolling is and what kinds of politically-incorrect hijinks and fun may happen.
On the flip side, what usually happens when you end up in a discussion with someone who already has their mind set on something? They’re seeking to push their opinion on you, and with the mindset of “conversion,” you on them. We’ve all done this, don’t fucking lie to yourself.
But it’s a mistake to go in and think you can change this person’s brain, and it gets little to nothing done. The only people who are paying attention are the lurkers, the idiot you’re arguing with isn’t the person you need to be concerned with, it’s the people who are reading this discussion who don’t have a set idea or opinion. There’s a guesstimation out there that about 80-90% of a community is made up of lurkers.
Plus, if your goal is to “convert” someone, who’s to say that they aren’t just agreeing with you to get out of the argument, yet they still hold onto their opinion? Who’s to say that they aren’t just feeble-minded and won’t just adopt the next most convincing-looking opinion out there?
So use the tips in that Lifehacker article, and be assertive. No questions, no pussing out, no name-calling. If they start calling names, you’ve won, like Schopenhauer wrote in The Art of Being Right. Go out there and be a tactful trolling prick, and take the high ground.