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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why people are obsessed with "trolls" and "trolling"

Trolling: Why are some people obsessed with trolls of both the real and imagined variety? - Quora

For this answer I will keep to the definition of trolling as trying to provoke a reaction rather than being sincere. Since the word "obsessed" is used, this implies accusing people of being trolls even if they are not.

When you disagree with somebody, there could be several reasons for the disagreement:

- you are wrong and don't know it
- the other person is wrong and doesn't know it
- both of you are wrong and don't know it
- it is an issue about which intelligent, informed people disagree
- the other person is disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing

(We assume you are not wrong and know it and are disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing, i.e. you are not a troll)

Some people are unable or unwilling to entertain the idea that they are not correct (not the same as the idea that they are wrong - if it is an issue about which intelligent, informed people disagree, neither side may be wrong). This is not always unreasonable - I am pretty sure anyone defending the Holocaust (or claiming it didn't happen) has an indefensible position.

So you are left with the other party being unknowingly wrong or being knowingly wrong but continuing to argue.

We often assume that the other side is well informed and intelligent (either because the person appears to be so or we are charitable in our evaluations of others). So when you have explained our side of the argument and the other person still disagrees, you can no longer think that the other person is unknowingly wrong - he must be disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing.

Ergo, you have a troll who is just trying to provoke you.

(for simplicity I am not considering cases where people disagree about premises or think the other side is just being stubborn, but the general idea explaining why people are obsessed with trolling remains the same)
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