2005 just called. I think it was a wrong number.

On today of all days, an obliviously clueless liberal has decided to advise us all on how to deal with Milo Yiannopoulos. You may be amused, or not. It’s the old “don’t feed the trolls” speech from the last decade.

My advice: Ignore him.

When he’s giving a speech, don’t protest it. When he says something offensive, ignore it. When he acts like a bottom-feeding lowlife, understand he’s doing it so you’ll get offended and give him attention, so don’t.

Don’t prove him right.

If you really want to “get at” Milo Yiannopoulos, do what trolls hate most — ignore them. They thrive on attention, anger, and getting a reaction out of people. The more hostile, offended, and outraged folks get by things Yiannopoulos says and does, the more vindication he gets and the more he’s going to do it.

Oh god. Oh god oh god oh god. That is so painfully stupid.

It’s wrong. People like Yiannopoulos are playing to a crowd, and it’s not us. He throws bloody red meat to assholes, and thrives on their approval. What gave 4chan a bit of corrupt power was not liberals either avoiding or criticizing them, it was a gigantic mutual circle-jerk of horrible people reinforcing each other’s regressive views. Ignore them and you’re just giving them room to grow.

It’s also the kind of thing only an oblivious man who has not been the target of the concentrated hatred of the mob could say. Yiannopoulos and his ilk have been ranting, pointing their fingers and screaming shrilly, at people for years. The women who have been doxxed by his kind will tell you that ignoring them doesn’t help when you’re stalked, when you get bomb threats, when your inbox is clogged with detailed plans to rape you. The transgender individual who was gaily outed by Yiannopoulos in public doesn’t have the option to just ignore him.

This guy claims he can effectively deal with trolls by ignor[ing] them or respond[ing] with kindness. Bullshit. That works with small numbers of casual haters that you can deal with one on one. But clearly he has never had to cope with a swarm of fanatical, obsessed people who find his identity itself to be offensive.

Don’t feed the trolls does not work. Seriously. I’ve got experience in this area, and even at that, I have not been the focus of the same flamethrower of hatred that others have experienced.

Weirdly, this guy is delivering his archaic and useless advice at a time when we’re finally getting through to demolish Yiannopoulos’s authority. He lost his book deal, he has just resigned from Breitbart, and none of this was accomplished by ignoring him. It was by keeping up the pressure, exposing him for what he is, and letting his own words turn him into a pariah.

Do you know who we should ignore? Ignorant liberals who keep on indignantly informing us of the same wrong solutions, over and over.


  1. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Don’t feed the trolls means the troll logic is unrefuted and stands.. *Bronx Cheer*

  2. Robert Dorr says

    “He lost his book deal, he has just resigned from Breitbart, and none of this was accomplished by ignoring him. It was by keeping up the pressure, exposing him for what he is, and letting his own words turn him into a pariah.”
    Thank you!

  3. cartomancer says

    I think too many people are thinking of Yiannopoulos as simply a troll. But he isn’t. He isn’t someone sat typing abuse and mischief into an internet forum – he’s a rabble-rouser, demagogue and attention-seeking narcissist who makes public appearances.

  4. militantagnostic says

    Ignoring Yiannoupolis and his ilk is a viable strategy only if no one else is listening to him. Otherwise the lack of push-back only encourages them.

    This message is brought to you by Captain Obvious

  5. Holms says

    Ignoring trolls only works when they presently don’t have a platform for their views, and by shining a spotlight on them you would draw attention to them and thereby give them one. It does not work, does not even have a chance of working, if they have a platform and a sympathetic audience.

    He lost his book deal, he has just resigned from Breitbart, and none of this was accomplished by ignoring him. It was by keeping up the pressure, exposing him for what he is, and letting his own words turn him into a pariah.

    Well, it was more by him being incautious with his words and kinda sorta endorsing pederasty. If he’d stuck to harassing women and trans people, no amount of attention would cause the shine to wear of in the eyes of his right wing troll audience.

  6. says

    Punch them in the mouth. Trolls like to be anonymous because they avoid retaliation (consequences of their actions, views, beliefs)

    Milo’s just discovered that he’s not free to say whatever he wants. I guess we can look forward to a lot of trolling the CPAC for violating his freedom of speech, right?

  7. microraptor says

    Marcus @7:

    I guess we can look forward to a lot of trolling the CPAC for violating his freedom of speech, right?

    We can only hope. An open fight between Yakface and his supporters and traditional conservatives would be fantastic.

  8. gijoel says

    I think I said it on another forum, but these guys aren’t really trolls. They’re not interested in your attention, they just want you to shut up and agree with them.

  9. essexgreen says

    After the latest events I feel somewhat better about Milos invitation to Real Time . Maher is trying to create a safe space for the loons to come over and get whacked by Larry Wilmore . Maybe that’s his master plan for the Trump Games era .

  10. Ichthyic says

    Clifton sez:

    Until his interview with Bill Maher, I hadn’t really sat down to watch Milo Yiannopoulos say much of anything

    …but he feels free to then pontificate on how to interact with him.

    fuck this guy.

    Clifton.. you fail at being a skeptic. turn in your fucking badge.

  11. Ichthyic says

    Maher is trying to create a safe space for the loons to come over and get whacked by Larry Wilmore

    by agreeing with their most egregious statements himself?

    yeah… Wilmore should have whacked Maher at the same time.

  12. nmcc says

    Well said, PZ.

    Needless to say, that massive arsehole, Jerry Coyne – the world’s most accomplished dictatorial democrat – has a different view. Coyne has just posted that we should all lament the fact that this ludicrously shallow, self-promoting nonentity has lost his job and his book deal, and that he is now viewed by the world as a paedophile. Coyne wishes him well and, as Yiannopoulos is undoubtedly “smart” and has “charisma” (seriously, Coyne’s own words!), hopes he finds a new role in the world for himself and lives happily ever after. Mercifully, Coyne hasn’t actually suggested we all organise a whip-round in the hope of collecting enough funds for this fascistic little weasel to live on for the rest of his life. Not quite! Though it certainly wasn’t for the lack of sentiment on Coyne’s part.

    Maybe Coyne can give him a job editing his blog. Yiannopoulos would certainly be kept pretty busy editing out all the offensive shit Coyne writes – though I doubt he’d recognise much of Coyne’s musings as such.

  13. Ichthyic says

    *runs over to look*

    I haven’t followed this complicated tale closely


    another one who admits the same thing as Clifton… that they haven’t a clue who this motherfucker is, but hey, they have lots to say about him anyway!

    fuck you Jerry.

  14. Ichthyic says

    FWIW, the vast majority of comments on his page do NOT agree with Jerry.

    so at least there’s that.

  15. Dunc says

    2005? More like 1995… Maybe even 1985. I’ve seen this “don’t feed the trolls” bullshit repeated endlessly on every iteration of what we now call social media since the days of Usenet and BBSes, and in every single instance, it’s resulted in the forum in question being overrun by trolls until everybody else gives up and goes away. Over the same period, I’ve seen a few successful communities resist and shut down troll attacks, and continue to thrive for long periods. We now know, without question, exactly what does and doesn’t work, and there can be absolutely no doubt that the only way you successfully deal with trolls is by active moderation. Don’t give them a foothold.

  16. essexgreen says

    I fear we live in an age of unkillable monsters (hopefully pedophilia is a strong enough rat poison in this case) , but I live in Greece and this idiot is now “News” ( ok , his name helps) , but also in Germany and who knows where else.

  17. Saad says

    I just saw a comment on Facebook on this topic and it’s probably the epitome of the white liberal asshole dude:

    Well it looks like this is why the right has a future.
    You must say he has dealt with these crazy attacks very well. I only wish the left had some charisma and a fluent youthful figurehead.

    Book deal is bigger than ever.
    Audience bigger.
    Platform bigger.

    I understand why the left dislikes him and I disagree with some of the stuff he says.

    But he’s just so damn charismatic.

  18. Anri says

    Yep. Because smart, charismatic people are always worth listening to.

    At least I can’t think of any exceptions.

    I mean, except for pretty much all of recorded history, but other than that…

  19. says

    So I saw him on Maher too, happily declaring that only the left, not the right, enforces political orthodoxy.

    Ah, young Paduwan – you have much to learn.

    They are not young and dumb and full of passion and prone to set buildings ablaze. No, they are older and wiser, and first they will invite you to CPAC to their “big tent,” and then they will do 5 minutes of oppo research necessary to find you saying something suitably outrageous that all their grandkids howled at with laughter the last dozen times it was said on South Park. Much to their glee, they found you reinforcing every stereotype they ever thought of about how Teh Gay is transmitted by sexual predation, leaving you hungry for their little children, like vampires. And then they were so sadly forced to disinvite you from their “big tent,” and yet it is *you*, not they, who somehow finds himself apologizing and his career in ruins. For that is how they roll, young Paduwan.

    Also, young Paduwan – you were never going to be one of the crowd in the “big tent.” You were going to be the circus attraction. For that is how they roll.

  20. chrislawson says

    “Don’t feed the trolls” was good advice way, way back when it specifically referred to people who would jump onto message boards for the sole purpose of inflaming others. Since these people only wanted to have a laugh at making others angry, the best way to get them to leave was to ignore them.

    This works fine for a very, very small percentage of abusive people. But it doesn’t work to “not feed” all trolls because (i) trolls have learned how to organise themselves into virtual armies of harassment — it’s not just making obnoxious comments, it’s death/rape threats, doxxing, hacking home pages, sending employers fake allegations, swatting and so on, (ii) they love making their victims angry, but even without any victims handy they will amplify their own fury on sites like Breitbart with nary a countervailing voice to be heard, and (iii) while the original trolls would say whatever would make people angry, modern trolls tend to write from a stable personal ideological position that is almost always harmful in itself: antifeminist, anti-immigrant, racist, pro-Confederate, anti-civil rights, etc.

    Responding to trolls can serve several purposes. it can remind victims that they have support. It can rebut specific harmful statements (e.g. that immigrants are more stupid). And while it probably won’t change the mind of any genuine troll, it can certainly persuade onlookers who might believe some of the troll’s froth if left unanswered.

  21. chrislawson says

    Saad, are you sure that comment came from a white liberal asshole? I mean, definitely an asshole, and possibly white, but liberal? I don’t think so. Disagreeing with “some of what he says” is the kind of thing a liberal might say about Noam Chomsky or Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. But Milo Y?

  22. Becca Stareyes says

    About the only time I’ve seen the ‘don’t feed the trolls’ work is on moderated comment sections and forums where it is presented as ‘don’t comment to/address posts the mods are going to delete as soon as they see, because it makes more work for the mods and can derail the discussion’. Which doesn’t work outside of having mods and having the ‘troll’ in question be one of the audience.

    In this case, Milo was the one invited to speak and have his book published, so he’s not exactly comparable to a comment troll: he’s the one given a platform, not someone who comes in as part of the ‘everyone can respond if they follow the rules’. He’s already getting the attention: if we ignore him, that proves he’s right as no one disagrees, and if we respond, that proves he’s right because it’s angering people. (Trolls may think that getting banned on a blog proves something, but they have far less ability to brag about it afterward.)

    So, if we can’t block Milo from getting some publicity now, we focus on other goals.

  23. microraptor says

    Ichthyic @17:

    Apparently things have changed. Out of bile fascination I just checked and now it appears that while there are a few people expressing concern, the majority are now either bobbleheading and congratulating Milo for his successful offending of liberals or engaged in quibbles over whether or not his comments were pedophilia or some-other-philia.

  24. Rick Pikul says

    The problem with the “standard advice” is that people keep trying to apply it to people _WHO ARE NOT TROLLS_. It works very well, _IFF_ the person is posting for the sole reason of getting a reaction. It does not work when:

    The person is trying to wreck a community.
    The person is trying to spread a message.
    The person is trying to suppress a position.
    The person is trying to hurt people.

    For not feeding the trolls to work, the goal of the alleged troll has to rely on reactions of the people he is trolling. If his goal can be achieved through his posts alone and/or the silence of others then he is not a troll and the standard advice should not be applied.

  25. says

    So I read this today…


    …and sure enough, there was a clueless white guy telling this African-American woman “don’t feed the trolls” and explaining to her what she did wrong.

    (By the way, the OP there is well worth reading. It’s a series of images of an interaction between Ijeoma Oluo and a troll that’s just amazing, but is obviously something that can’t be done regularly.)

    As for not feeding the trolls that are Milo and his followers, maybe Clifton should sit down with Leslie Jones and let her know that she should have just ignored all the abuse they flung her way.

  26. Ichthyic says

    “There’s a strange taboo that’s grown around Milo: don’t write about him, don’t even say his name, because every time you do he grows stronger. Milo’s supporters tell us that the left created him by disliking him, and we glibly nod along. But what really created him was an American public that treats a private-school accent as if it were mind-control wizardry, and a conservative establishment so intellectually famished that they’d promote an acrylic-painted mannequin doing its best Hitchens impression as their greatest living mind.”


  27. Ichthyic says

    Iit is my understanding that Mussolini was Charismatic…

    …but he just couldn’t pull off wearing strings of fake pearls.

  28. nmcc says

    #33. Ichthyic

    Are you as naïve as me? I was busy criticising his ridiculous adornments when someone pointed out it was, ahem…a pearl necklace. Whatever that means! Blush.