Lately, we’ve had a number of threads blow up into furious arguments, which is fine and normal, except that they’ve also been fueled by contributions from an assortment of new (Yay! We like new people!) noisemakers who don’t seem to respond well to argument themselves (Boo!), and there’s been a great deal of non-productive turmoil going on. It may be time to purge a few of the more poisonous commenters.
This is stage 1 of our Survivor Pharyngula competition, in which we’ll determine if we really do have an infestation of pests that need to be culled. After all, I’m not going to invest in helicopters, exotic tropical real estate, imported venomous snakes and poisonous insects, hand grenades, and all those tiki torches if there isn’t sufficient cause, and if we have no contestants! So today we’re just going to poll the readership and see how far we get.
In the comments to this post, please post the names of any trolls you’d like to see banned, with an explanation — just plop a name out there, and I’ll ignore your comment. Your explanation should state why this person detracts from the discussion and foments confusion and derails discussions. To pseudo-quantify everything, please also give the individual a p*o*o score.
The p*o*o score consists of 3 assessments, on a scale of 0 to 5, of the three parameters that define an annoying troll. Here are those three:
Persistence: In itself, this isn’t a bad thing; most of the regulars here would have to give themselves a 5 in this category, too. Trolls that only rarely pop in, throw out a drive-by bit of noise, and don’t hang around to ramp up the chaos really aren’t much of a problem and don’t deserve the effort of banning. It’s the ones who squat in one thread and obsessively comment a hundred times in a day who need some cleaning up.
Obliviousness: Does the individual actually respond intelligently to argument? Then they’re not a troll. Intelligent response does not equate to simply surrendering to the will of the dominant clique, either; disagreeing but actually replying to criticism with efforts to clarify and defend is a habit that should be encouraged. Repeating the same noise over and over again is to be discouraged. The purest examples of this have been the occasional posters who do nothing but post Bible verses in threads, often with no connection to the topic at hand.
Obnoxiousness: This is the parameter that everyone notices. We do have certain values in the Pharyngula culture that can be rubbed the wrong way: in general, we despise sexism, homophobia, stupidity, and anti-scientific attitudes, and people who charge in brashly and flout those values are going to annoy a lot of us. So let’s be honest, sometimes we just feel that we “hate that guy”, and it’s because they violate the norms here. It is perfectly fair to evict someone who does not fit in, especially if they’re persistent and oblivious. But also be fair here: if a creationist showed up who honestly wanted to discuss evolution, we should be tolerant. This should be the parameter you give the most thought to, since there is a lot of subjectivity tied up in it.
Let me give you an example: the notorious Piltdown Man, because he has once again this morning appeared in the comment threads under a new pseudonym, despite being banned long ago.
Pilty clearly gets a 5 for persistence. Just the fact that he’s banned yet keeps creating new posting accounts to throw out his drivel is sign enough. When he was allowed to comment, he’d go on and on in threads to stir up crap. In fact, Pilty was so stubborn and determined and noisy that if we are restricting ourselves to a 5 point scale, maybe I shouldn’t assume the regulars here get a 5 — nobody competes with Pilty for inane repetition.
Pilty also gets a 5 for obliviousness. Among his recent attempted postings is a copied 4500 word screed claiming that it is a good thing to stigmatize people who engage in unapproved behavior (such as homosexuality), but that stigmatizing pedophilia is part of a witchhunt that fractures social structures — none of it original, he just copied and pasted in this big block of text. Not only is it not an attempt to discuss, but it’s so predictably Pilty — he’s easily spotted despite his penchant for changing pseudonyms because his obsessions are so well known.
Pilty always gets a 5 for obnoxiousness. Posting a treatise instead of a link? Obnoxious. Arguing that gays are justifiable targets? Obnoxious. Knee-jerk support for every policy of the Catholic church, including minimizing the crime of pedophilia? Obnoxious.
He’s easy. Are the new crop of trolls also easy? Justify why they should be banned.
Now for the twist. There has to be a twist, right?
Everyone who nominates a troll for banning must also give their own p*o*o score, as honestly and objectively as they can. I’ll reject your ballot if you can’t exhibit that much self-awareness.
For instance, as a commenter, I’d give myself a 2 (generously) for persistence: I’m always around, but I usually avoid getting into prolonged wrangles in the threads. I’ll also give myself a 2 for obliviousness, because I’m a rather strongly opinionated guy, but I at least try to pay attention to what people are complaining about. I’m also going to give myself a 3 for obnoxiousness — opinionated again — but also because I don’t mind provoking a little controversy (as the guy writing the articles, I’d probably get a 5).
You are allowed to argue with other people’s p*o*o score. If I’d said my obnoxiousness was only a 1, I would hope you’d challenge me on that. If you think I’m even worse than a 3, link to a comment where I’m clearly evil, and argue for a higher score. We’ll try to reach a consensus on our scoring of the trolls.
Now for the twist on the twist. Everyone with a p*o*o score is auditioning for Survivor Pharyngula. That means you’re in the running if you are so obnoxious as to throw stones at some else.
OK, everyone, got it? If you want to throw someone in the dungeon, name them, give a good argument for why getting rid of them would improve the commenting climate here, and give us your estimate of their p*o*o values. Then give your own self-assessment and your own p*o*o scores.
If there are no nominees, Survivor Pharyngula will be cancelled…and that’s OK.