Subject: Re: Why learn Lisp
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 29 Aug 2002 18:37:27 +0000
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Paolo Amoroso
| That's good advice.  But leaving the troll's claims unchallenged may give
| the wrong messages to those with limited or no Lisp background who may later
| happen to check the comp.lang.lisp archive.  What do you think?

  I think the desire to correct mistakes and help those who appear to believe
  in falsehoods is the driving force behind every useful contributor to Usenet.
  The educator personality cares about the state of the information individual
  people hold and about the aggregate state of the information in a community.

  The more passionately you care about something, the more time and effort you
  expend to make sure other people get it right, too.  Repeated myths, unfair
  claims, misrepresentations, outright lies, etc, cause you to defend what you
  care about, to set the record straight.  Passion is a double-edged sword,
  though.  You cannot both care strongly and always be nice towards the people
  who cause you to feel a rush to correct their misstatements and especially
  towards the idiots who refuse to listen despite your efforts to correct their
  mistakes.  It is precisely because people care so much that they keep the
  high level of discourse /and/ fall victim to the trolling idiots.  Were there
  little to value and care about and protect, nobody would bother to waste
  time on some obnoxious idiot who is unlikely to change his mind no matter
  what people do in the belief that they help him, because he is simply not
  after the same kind of social interaction as those who care about truth and
  honesty and justice and correct information.  Their kind of community is one

  where people feel each others' pain.  In the general population, this kind
  far outnumbers the rational type that benefits from technical discussions,
  arguments, and getting things straight.  The former would, in effect, rather
  remain misguided than hurt by realizing it, while the rational course of
  action is to realize that you will inevitably be hurt when you are wrong and
  therefore seek to learn as much as possible as early as possible even though
  it may hurt briefly when you are wrong.

  This is not just a clash of intentions.  It is a clash of personality types.
  When one type benefits from a heated argument and relishes the chance to
  learn something new by challenging his own beliefs and skills and knowledge
  -- which does not happen too often in so-called "friendly environments" ,
  the person who seeks others for company and sharing pain and body heat will
  wimper under the table and not even understand that there is a valuable
  exchange going on, partly because the technical arguments are involved and
  esoteric and he could not even bring himself to consider the possibility
  that people feel strongly about anything so "impersonal" and "rational".

  For the trolls are also passionate -- passionate /anti-thinkers/ who defend
  their "right" not to think with much stronger emotions than anyone will
  defend something they care about rationally.  If you think about something
  and your purpose is to understand and figure things out, you will also
  understand when it is in your best interest to back down -- you hold on to
  something only as long as you have good reasons to do so.  Some people love
  the all-out war that goes on in court rooms and real public debates, while
  others have neither the commitment nor the inclination to engage in any sort
  of fight over what they believe in--because they do not believe in anything,
  and if they believe in something, it will be primitive, concrete things and
  not abstract ideas or principles.  Some idiots will harrass those they see
  as instigators of "trouble" and whine "can't we all just get along" while
  they feel strongly enough about disallowing passionate arguments that they
  stage wars over some feel-good etiquette.  This is all "rational" to them,
  because their core premises are that people should be friendly and not hurt
  one another, communities should be support groups and pain-sharing fora, and
  that it is more important to blend in than to be someone and something.  It
  is therefore perfectly legitimate in their warped, anti-social world-view to
  attack people who want something other than they want out of a forum, but
  since they are not principled, this is obviously not extended to anyone else.

  It took me some time to realize this, but people who run on faith do not
  accept failure or correction as part of their life experience -- they just
  believe /stronger/, probably believing that their faith is tested or whatever
  and that it is important not to "lose their faith".  Faith alone is not the
  problem; the problem is what you have faith in.  Primitive people have faith
  in what rational people want to know as facts, and they do not understand
  that advanced people have faith in abstract and general principles, instead.
  Faith in human nature, in the ability of reason to understand the world we
  live in, in universal human rights, etc, are good things to believe in, but
  very primitive people will only raise to such principles to argue "freedom
  of expression" when they are asked to stop posting drivel such as UFOs or
  alternative medicine or conspiracy theories.  They probably really feel they
  are expressing themselves when they post falsehoods and whine in public and
  that people who want to shut them down are evil because they refuse to share
  their pain and ask them to go suffer in solitude.  Morons who come to this
  newsgroup to whine about not being able to use Common Lisp do /not/ want
  people to help them use Common Lisp.  They want people to feel sorry for
  them and comfort them, and what rational people think is helpful, such as
  showing them that they can in fact use Common Lisp, is just making things
  worse for these poor suckers: not only do they feel bad, they are told they
  are wrong to feel bad.  We even have people who come to Usenet because they
  have no friends and feel lonely and hope Usenet can fix that.  I am reminded
  of a quotation attributed to Mark Twain: "If you can't stand being alone, you
  probably bore other people, too."

  What makes a troll is the lack of basic introspection and thinking skills.
  They literally have no idea how they arrived at their stupid opinions, where
  their notions come from, how their ideas work together, indeed /that/ things
  they know are supposed to make up an integrated whole, but they are all
  emotional about having the "right" to express these vacuous opinions.  This
  means that if you find out how they arrived at their positions, you know more
  than they ever will.  Since any good argument must dig deeper than the words
  on the surface to uncover purpose and meaning and especially where any
  mistakes were made, just starting to talk seriously to these guys will cut
  through them like a bullet through hot butter and this is undoubtedly a very
  frightening experience to them, which is probably a contributing cause of
  the troll's behavior.  People tend to respond irrationally when they are in
  a situation from which they do not understand how they can escape, feeling
  like threatened animals with the flight-option ruled out.  However, that this
  is possible with something you read off of your computer should probably be
  the topic of some serious research into human psychology.  The reader has to
  construct the threat from his own conclusions about what other people intend
  and usually also what they actually do.  More often than not, a reader has
  felt threatened by something the writer did /not/ intend or even do.  The
  sheer lack of precision in recounting the story of what happened and the
  amazing amount of /invented/ hostility that they impute to their enemy in
  order to feel that it is acceptable to attack in return should have been able
  to tell people something about themselves.

  So I think trolls are basically your average non-thinking guy whose brain
  works on the default settings and who has no general or specific clue about
  anything, but has moderately successfully stumbled through life without ever
  achieving an intellectualy stimulating experience.  Faced with the prospect
  of being required to think, his first reaction is along the lines of "you're
  not the boss of me", that nobody has the /right/ to demand anything of him,
  but he has the /right/ to express himself freely without any such demands.
  To the non-thinking average joe with no inclination to engage his brain
  before his mouth, the demand that he think will necessarily feel like, and
  indeed be, limiting on his freedom of expression.  The demand that he know
  what he talks about will likewise reduce his ability to voice his opinions.
  Now, instead of feeling that his rights are abrigded, he could exercise the
  opportunity to learn and listen, but this is where the troll differs from
  the rest of the average joes: He has something on his mind and he will not
  allow anyone to change the subject.  A modicum of fanaticism will make the
  troll continue to annoy people precisely /because/ they ask him to go away,
  as he sees the abridgment of the God-given right to speak his mind whatever
  might be on it, wherever he wants to speak.

  The only way these people will shut up is when their desire to speak their
  mind is /not/ met by criticism of its contents.  They have spoken, it was
  wrong and misguided, but anyone who read it and thinks about the lack of
  intellectual effort on the part of the writer and his lack of interest and
  desire to listen and learn new things that must have manifested itself
  before they could have made the statements they made, should realize that
  there is no point whatsoever in trying to help this individual.  With
  terabytes of high-quality information available on the Internet both for
  free and for very small fees, with millions of books available in libraries
  and bookstores, gigabyte upon gigabyte of archived news articles, someone
  who comes to a newsgroup and utters ignorant drivel has /proven/ that he
  lacks basic thinking skills and has made it abundantly clear that he has no
  desire to invest in his own learning and understanding.  Wasting time to
  respond to such people is morally reprehensible, as it rewards behavior that
  should be strongly discouraged.  Trolls are the parasites of the information
  society; thiefs of time, stealing from those who have desired to learn on
  their own and to invest in their education and skills.

  The damage that trolls do is not understandable to the trolls themselves.
  They are oblivious to the value of intellectual effort, of thinking skills,
  of precise communication.  To them, the value of communication lies only in
  affirming their value as warm bodies.  These are not the scum of the earth;
  these are the fundamentally average people who get by without making any
  serious effort to improve their own condition, and who react to requirements
  (they think) they cannot meet with hostility and personal attacks against
  those who make them, in the obvious  belief that their inability to meet
  these requirements will be alleviated by discrediting the perceived requirer.

  The solution to this problem is that those who have the highly desirable
  educator personality traits refrain from squandering their efforts on the
  hopeless cases.  The problem with not responding to them, however, is that
  those who have very little to offer see an opportunity to offer what little
  they can.  It might therefore be helpful to the community (but one should
  not expect it to be helpftul to person asking) to post something that will
  discourage the clueless dogooders from exacerbating the situation caused by
  the trolls.  The purpose of this undoubtedly elitist approach is to maintain
  the forum as useful and attractive to those who have something worth sharing
  with eachother.  Anyone can read news, but it is highly desirable that those
  who post are limited to those who are at least willing to read the forum.

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.