Subject: Re: The toxicity of trolls From: Erik Naggum <email@example.com> Date: 27 Sep 2002 03:33:38 +0000 Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> * Brian Palmer | Wow, you really take things seriously. My intention is to make people think about things they tend not to think about. This means taking things seriously. You appear not to be used to be taken seriously and consider your flippant comments harmless because of your harmless intent. Such is the opposite of sensitivity. However, it appears that you do not have a well-developed concept of public vs private, so I hope to show you how differently one would think and react with such a developed concept. | It seems we have somewhat of a misunderstanding here -- shall we try again | rather than bringing out the verbal nukes? There are no verbal nukes. I am frankly puzzled by the need for people to liken words to physical threats. The images you conjure up from a word are your own responsibility, even when emotive words are used. However, it appears that you need to imagine your opponent instead of reading and trying to understand what he says and then prefer the more emotional images to the more reasonable. Such is consistent with taking sides. Why would we need to try again? Just when did you imagine that I had finalized my judgment of you? Or is it that you arrived at /your/ jugdment prematurely (again consistent with taking sides) and therefore are willing to re-open /your/ case? Just trust me when I say this: I judge quickly whether someone thinks or not, but slowly about what they think about. You will find me fantastically hostile to non-thinkers if you are used to throwing flippant comments around and not used to be taken seriously, but also find me patient with people who actually express ideas and reason well. | If it's someone I have a certain amount of respect for, my tolerance for | their sensitivities goes up. That is, if you do not like people, you can treat them any way you want. This is a pretty common way for people to interact in real life and the cause of almost all the idiotic fights and wars that people get themselves into, as well as the fundamental cause of the need for legal systems to ensure that proper procedure is followed when society takes over the function of exacting revenge for wrong-doing from the people who were quite happy to take revenge on a personal level in their "natural", i.e., uncivilized state. Letting your treatment of others depend on how much you "like" them is the very antithesis of ethical and just behavior. The whole point of having laws in addition to ethics in a society is to ensure that those who suffer from selective empathy do not hurt people they do not respect or like. The need for this is alarming -- many people actually believe that they do not need to act morally if they can believe they are taking revenge for something the other guy did. However, revengeful people tend not to listen to what the other guy has to say, because they neither respect his sensitivities nor his word, so whether he did it or not is immaterial. This kind of lynch mobs is the most base, most evil form of the human group psychology, an undeveloped stage that one would have hoped evolution would have taken care of, but our advanced societies are still so young that such primitive properties remain. To the primitive pre-intelligent human, "us vs them" is a question of rights. "We" have rights, "you" have none, and so "we" can murder and destroy "you" if it serves our purposes. Mistreatment of those who land in the "them" category is legion the world over, and the very ability to understand human rights and the concept of justice appears to be unavailable to people whose selective empathy is not curtailed by education and serious training in how to cope with the unpleasant. Non-thinking people take sides based on fickle emotional responses and feel no compunctions about mistreating those on the other side. Thinking people realize that taking sides is a primitive tendency that predates reason and ethics and rights, dating back to primordial times when one's survival was intimately tied to the group's. This is no longer the case, and especially so on the Internet and on Usenet, where we can all assume that all possible fundamental needs are satisfied and secured for the future -- or people would presumably be out there in the real world catering to such needs. Therefore, no one is under threat when they participate in discussions on the Net and there is no group survival at stake, either. Continuing to use the primitive survival-directed emotional responses is counter-productive and inexpedient, and the reasons to think in terms of proper procedure and rights of those who make unpopular and unpleasant arguments or appearances are very good -- "survival" on the Net is a question of intelligence and intellect in action much more than it is in the real world, and it is much more personal. Your physical ability to intimidate and ward off an intruder increases with a group to back you, but appealing to your group decreases the value of your arguments, meaning that it could not and would not stand on its own. Most things that work well in near-physical combat do not work at all intellectual battles. Some people appear not to figure this out at all, and think they are in physical combat on the Net and have to be defeated on such terms before they figure out what is going on. | It's fairly easy in a local community where people often share similar values | and sensitivities. The group agreement on sensitivities is simply an agreement not to "offend" one's peers with information or arguments that is known to be historically hurtful in that community. For instance, Germans who are reminded of the atrocities of WW II tend to become defensive in counter-productive ways and Common Lispers tend to get annoyed with the repetitive nonsense from Schemers. However, the "similiar values" part can be seen from two vantage points: There are those who have attractions in common and those who have avoidances in common. People congregate because they are all for or all against something, but that agreement is actually quite precarious. The best reason to respect people's sensitivities in real life is that you do not want in-fights in your group; divisive elements get thrown out of the group, without which they are much less able to achieve their goals, so it makes good sense for individuals to abide by the sensitivities of others in order to keep the group alive. However, when groups of people meet with much less interpersonal contact, call it the size of the area of interface, the group survival issue vanishes and it becomes a question of the individual's value to the group as opposed to the group's value to the individual. A member of a group who presents his sensitivities for others to respect when there is no group survival at stake, is the divisive element -- quite the opposite situation from real life. The core principle we respect when the group's survival is at stake is that the group would feel the loss of the individual member. However, this presupposes that the group is the individual's primary protector. This is true of social groups and small physical communities. It is not the case for professional groups and public fora. Some people have no concept of the public as different from the private (see «The Fall of Public Man» by Richard Sennett, 1992 paperback edition ISBN 0-393-30879-0), and therefore lack the professional dimension to their interaction with other people, leading them to inject and interject personal matters into their public discourse. Now, we all have emotions, and getting rid of them is a bad suggestion, but there is the question of whether you feel personally or professionally about something. I am not threatened personally by misinformation, but I want to protect my profession from misinformation. I want to help people learn and understand, not because I want to take part in their personal lives, but because I want better professionals around me in my carreer. Chances are pretty high that I would like people from other professions better personally than fellow programmers, just as I would expect to socialize with people because I bring something of social value, not my programming prowess, to parties and dinners and the like. Therefore, personal questions should not interfere with professional conduct in professional fora. | How this scales to communicating in a forum such as this, where there are | many different nationalities and backgrounds interacting, I don't have all | the answers on that one. I do. Leave your personal issues at home when you enter professional fora. If you want somebody to heed to your personal issues, write them personally. If you make such issues public, you not only flaunt your personal life, you invade that of others with your personal concerns, as well. | What are your views? In general, I think people need to rediscover the role of public man and learn to totally avoid personal issues in public. That does not preclude personal warmth, of course, but asking people in public to take part in one's emotional life is incredibly insensitive to others. I firmly believe that people need to have their house in order before they venture into the public space. If they seek to satisfy or fulfill personal needs in public places, they feed off of other people's unwillingness to be harsh in return. I think of people who take their personal problems public as demanding beggars. -- Erik Naggum, Oslo, Norway Act from reason, and failure makes you rethink and study harder. Act from faith, and failure makes you blame someone and push harder.