A Troll of the Highest Order

troll03We need an official word for a person who visits blogs and offers up a comment. They are not the blogger, exactly. Although they often make a blog meaningful. I use the term “commenter” and it is so . . . . oh . . . . contrived and lacking in character.

I’ll argue that the term “troll” can be used, but in a positive way.

According to Wiki, as the term troll derives from internet slang:

  • A troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog), either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

By convention, the term “troll” is negative. It is used generally to characterize someone who goes around from blog to blog stirring up trouble. And it is used sometimes to characterize someone who disagrees with another commenter. It is meant to mean “you idiot, you have no legitimate business prowling this web site and disagreeing with me”.

Now I put “troll” in the headline here because I wanted to get attention to the article. Putting “Commenter” there simply did not cut it.

But it fits, in a way, if we define the word “troll” according to the INTENT of having intent, and consider it may have positive application. From the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary, International Edition we get:

  • troll (noun) A person making a comment on a blog thread who offers a consistent message or point of view.

A troll consciously adopts a viewpoint, or relationship with other commenters, and is consistent with it. For example, a person who goes immediately to insult is a troll, for his consistent viewpoint is that he can win the argument if he diminishes his opponent.

But what if the view point, the consistent relationship, is positive? I think of our Enumerator in Chief, Edgar Lores, who is currently off in pursuit of his own intellectual nirvana. His comments were always anchored around a common point of higher values for mankind, not attached to any religion or institution or political persuasion or nation.

He was able to extract petty from argument and focus on meaning, because meaning to him was always the gap between how we often think and behave and how we OUGHT to think and behave. It wasn’t personal. It was a matter of striving for understanding, and, upon reaching understanding, a matter of discipline. During a year of his daily writings, I never saw anyone get angry at Edgar. And I never saw Edgar demean another writer.

Well, I strive mightily to achieve a similar calm but find it difficult sometimes. I find it difficult when I think people simply don’t want to listen. They aren’t open to ideas. They keep pushing the same line and I KNOW it is wrong. Like the GRP writers who have hung their reputations on the belief that President Aquino is weak and dysfunctional, and their reputations are more important than accuracy in fact.

So I wondered, do I do the same thing? If manuelbuencamino challenges me over American exceptionalism, do I get my back up? Bristle to defend who I am and neglect the facts?

Yes, yes. I suppose I do.

Now, if you go back and read my blogs from three years ago, you will find my view to be a lot more strident and complaining and defensive. Less well-written. Less compassionate toward Filipino culture.

What inspired the change? Well, manuelbuencamino, essentially, by forcing me to face up to a different reality about America. That forced me to reconfigure how I approached looking at the Philippines, too. I essentially tried consciously to zero out my pre-formed bias of what culture SHOULD be and decided culture SHOULD BE what it IS. Not what I think is proper.

So now I have taken the consistent perspective one step further. I have figured that the best way to work in ANY comment thread as a Troll of the Highest Order is to zero out all personal history, to zero out all emotions, and to zero out all pre-formed opinions. Well, that opinion thing is tough. But the idea is that the only allowable information I should bring to the table is facts and reasonable deductions from facts, along with the best alignment of words possible to make a clear point. Sometimes making a clear point requires color or even shock. But it ought not include insult. And it most assuredly ought not try to block opposing thought, for that is where learning resides.

Learning does not come by defending what we already know.


It comes from new ideas, something those who disagree with us are impeccably qualified to give us.

So what does a Troll of the Highest Order do?

He or she strives to arrive at a blog with an open mind. Consistently. Every time. That will sometimes be offensive to those commenters who are not Trolls of the Highest Order. The Troll of the Highest Order will counter insults with information and calm. He will counter ignorance with information and calm. And he will counter new ideas and new information with  . . . with . . . with nothing but appreciation.

Come to think of it, a Troll of the Highest Order is by standard definition a troll because he or she is likely to be consistently irritating to those who arrive at a blog to push a predetermined view without listening.

7 Responses to “A Troll of the Highest Order”
  1. Jo says:

    One thing I’ve noticed for a while now (and really disliked) with commenters in other websites (I only consistently visit three blogs, one of which is yours) is how they automatically call a person a troll because said troll’s views are either antagonistic, irreverent, or ignorant. Antagonistic because the expressed views don’t conform with the rest, irreverent because the views are challenging the original poster’s declarations, and ignorant because said troll is asking questions that can be answered by common sense–or so the majority believes.

    Just, what if said troll sincerely believes in his views and disagrees with the majority? Or what if said troll is genuinely asking? What makes his opinions invalid? I get that a lot are just kicking up a firestorm for fun–Youtube has loads of such ‘fun’ people–but to automatically brand anyone who disagrees with you a troll? It quickly closes the door for conversation, I find.

    Consistency is one of the hallmarks of a troll and it’s not always a bad thing–if it’s positive, like you said, it can be a great thing. You can become the anchor by which the lost gets grounded.

    Majority of your commenters (it IS contrived and even spell-check hates it) are Trolls of the Highest Order (TOHOs) so congratulations, Joe, for the quality in the comment section–quality begets quality and it’s always true.

    “Learning does not come by defending what we already know.”

    ^ Now that, Joe, is another wisdom to write on my post-it note. That’s a beautiful reminder.

    • Joe America says:

      We seem to have similar patterns and perspectives. It used to drive me nuts when I’d comment sincerely on an issue and be labeled a troll. I was able to keep my sanity by “considering the source”. Now it makes me smile, and I strive to respond without returning insult. The smile is because I know I can win an argument against someone who uses the “troll” label as an insult.

      As for this site, yes, it is special in the comment section. The high level of commentary actually serves as a filter to keep out the childish chat-room posturing, and so I appreciate the tone that contributors (a better word, heh) take. Then I am fortunate enough to have the time to tend to the, so people who comment usually get some kind of feedback. They are not just shouting into the wind. That seems different from other blogs, too.

      I came up with that little gem on “learning” by arguing with my wife. hahahahaha I can’t remember if I used it on her or she used it on me. Selective memory.

      • Jo says:

        I’m coming to realize that as well. 🙂 I don’t agree with some of your points but most of the time I find myself nodding in agreement with you. Occasionally, I shake my head in wonder at your gems, like the “learning” gem. When I read it out loud for the office to hear, my boss/friend laughed out loud and agreed with enthusiasm. 😀

        That IS a good thought, and probably true–if the only argument you can give is a troll insult, you’re probably losing the argument. Same as when your grammar/spelling is called out and your intellect is mocked because of it–the other person is losing or tiring and just wants to end a conversation/argument on his term.

        Well then, you and the wife should argue more often, haha.

        (By the way, I’m flattered that you think we have similar patterns and perspectives. I know you didn’t mean it as a compliment but it is one to me. Thank you!)

  2. I just have to say… this is by far my favorite blog entry out of the entries of the 217 blogs on my feed in the past 30 days or so. You’re actually repurposing the idea of trolling into a term for fruitful, respectful commenting and civil discussion.

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