Social conflict case study #1: deception and symbol stealing

Case Study #1: transgenderisomer/nbp7

I’m going to start a series of case study posts where I take a troll, other commentator or anything else useful and dissect them as a means of pointing out things of interest. This first one will be a little different however. I’m going to spend A LOT of words on this one because I’m trying to figure out how I want to organize information on how we do social conflict in general and in text. So I’m going to be pretty stream-of-consciousness here.


Pulling out an organization structure

In order to get things going I need to create an organization scheme to introduce topics. This is a bit trickier than I thought since I’m trying to mentally organize things that I see or do automatically, which I think is something everyone trying to get more serious about writing has to do anyway. I’m dissecting a recent troll on Pharyngula, a poster going by transgenderisomer who portrayed themselves in PZ’s “Now there’s an idea” thread as someone that they were not. It turns out that they were also posting as nbp7 in PZ’s “Maybe we should outlaw ownership of guns by men” post where they sowed as much doubt as they could about claims of rape. In the end this attack was also an example of deception.

As I go I am going to underline things that can be individual categories or can be broken down into individual categories. After this post, and maybe in the comments, I will organize them into a rational hierarchy of topics that I want to individually cover in future posts. I would be happy to consider any suggestions and look at any patterns that others see that I do not (especially since I got all this stuff from watching or listening to others anyway, I just have a brain that likes to focus on these things). It would be foolish to assume that I have seen everything. For such a simple set of exchanges (the whole thing covered 16 posts from #53-#76) this is going to get complicated, but it’s supposed to make future posts more clean and organized and I often have issues organizing my thoughts and language.


Note: Before I continue I should mention that I consider something as small as a single claim meant to oppose, contradict, or otherwise assert/demonstrate something as wrong/incorrect as an attack and dominance display. Even a tepid and friendly “I’m sorry, but I think you are incorrect about X.” is an attempt to remove an obstacle, and the emotion associated actions of with obstacle removal is anger (1). The structure of that statement bears this out as the “I’m sorry…” is an attempt to blunt the feeling of an attack and can be seen as a “I know that I’m pointing out that you are wrong about reality and that is a potential weakness, but I want you to be able to fix this for your sake” (optimistically). The reason I see things this way is that brain science has to be able to explain the phenomena of criticism at its most basic level and the phenomena that I believe most closely compares to it is the dominance display, and that seems to be correlated to what testosterone does on a computational level in both male and female people. In this case a very small and proactively blunted dominance display (“What I have is better than what you have” with an actively reduced aggressive profile). I know that there are plenty of people engaging in discussions about things they disagree on that would say that they don’t feel these things as conflicts, but in this post the subject is arguments over things people disagree about. Naturally this way of seeing things could be biased by my own combative psychology that I work to moderate and I felt that this was worth mentioning.


A. The social context of an engagement: “Battlefield”

Social context is always important when considering someone acting in a combative posture, an individual engagement and those following from it. You can roughly compare an article or post a social context like a “battlefield” that influences the conflict occurring within it. For a commentator the social context is not only the post, article or other topic, it’s also the preceding comments that can alter the social environment of the thread. In this case I consider PZ’s post a “hard” contextual boundary, and the preceding comments “soft” contextual boundaries. A hard contextual boundary is something that most people can easily recognize as directly relevant to the content of a communication. For example if someone criticizes the content of an article as a non-literal characterization (like hyperbole or “feelings about” statements), the actual text of the article that is being characterizes can be demanded with a little social pressure because the connection is more obvious. A soft contextual boundary is something less obviously connected and requires more work to get someone to respond to such as information implicitly connected to the main post or article, or the content of comments earlier than the ones of the combatants that contain relevant information. One reason social conflict occurs is because the combatants have very different perspectives and experiences leading to very different sensitivities to content (experience creates sensitivity). In order to get someone to acknowledge the soft context one has to apply social pressure towards it with reason, logic, rhetoric or a combination. Reason and logic are about being correct and rhetoric is about winning.

(I may change “hard/soft” to something like “explicit/implicit” or “direct/indirect” as categorization of these topics may require better terminology. I’ll take any suggestions anyone may have.)

As a hard contextual boundary a post or article creates the battlefield in its most broad form, it includes the topic that derails can be measured by, the content that can (and should) be quoted, the sources that the author uses, and other things that can explicitly influence a commentator. These are things that can be appealed to when confronting an opponent, for example lack or quoting or deviating from the topic. A soft contextual boundary is like the previous engagements that occur (and may still be occurring) on a battlefield that can affect current engagements. Sometimes the comments that are already there affect the social environment to an extent that can be advantageous or disadvantageous.

In this case the hard social context is a clipping in a newspaper that says the following:

“To the two men whose anti-abortion letters were published on June 28: Unless you have a woman’s body, I don’t want hear your opinion on what woman’s bodies should or should not do. In fact, it would be a delight if the “Star Tribune Editorial Board ceased publishing men’s letters about women’s bodies entirely. Perhaps newspaper readership among round people would grow if every time we opened a paper, we didn’t have to read old men’s fusty opinions about uteri.”

… and the soft social context is the previous 52 comments that may be relevant to what a commentator posts but for which there is less implicit social pressure to take into account, and related issues and concepts that pertain to abortion, female bodies, personal autonomy, listening to relevant perspectives, deliberately elevating relevant perspectives for socially strategic purposes and more.

Now we go from battlefield to individual engagement and what counts as hard context gets an addition: a comment that someone is responding to, the respondee, in this case #47 by Nerd of Redhead who transgenderisomer was acting as responder towards when they first entered the thread. Nerd was already engaging with another commentator (parrothead) when transgenderisomer decided to attack them.


B. The structure of the engagement.

Transgenderisomer entered the thread not by responding to the hard social context of the post, they entered the thread by attacking a commentator who was already engaged with someone else. This is a derail, which some social circles tolerate more than others (how relevant or tangential a derail is can often be a source of argument). So we already have three pieces of hard context that can become relevant to the responder’s first post:

*The original post

*The respondee

*The respondee’s opponent.

Note on different engagement structures: That this attack involves one commentator attacking another already involved in an engagement alludes to many kinds of engagements including engaging with the post offensively/defensively, engaging with another commentator offensively/defensively, engaging with multiple opponents implicitly in one post, and other permutations. In this case transgenderisomer could be assisting the respondee’s opponent by attacking the respondee, or they could just be attacking the respondee and/or the respondee’s content (it could be personal conflict affected by feelings about one’s opponent or the opponent’s group and/or impersonal conflict that targets content only).

I’m assuming that transgenderisomer’s primary targets are their opponent and their opponent’s group (3) (probably atheist/skeptic social justice in general) in a personal conflict based on the nature of their attack and the rest of this analysis.


C. transgenderisomer’s attack, comment #53

Do you understand where the term “freeze peach” comes from? Next time you try to defend a person’s autonomy, you may want to avoid using blatantly misogynistic terms.

The nature of this attack is an assertion seeking to disarm via redirection of social momentum back towards an attacker not attacking the responder. This is a disarm because the term “freeze peach” is a pejorative (2) and thus inherently a term-weapon as pejoratives are insulting characterizations, and transgenderisomer is trying to prevent their opponent from using that weapon. Additionally I categorize this kind of disarm as a form of “symbol stealing” since a person is trying to take control of a social symbol (3) from another person. The power of a pejorative is entirely in its socially symbolic nature as the damage done is not physical (unless we start talking about the neurobiology of feeling and that might be a bit much, though even there I consider negative feelings in bad people from reasonable attacks to be good things).

The means of prevention of weapon use is to assert that the term is inherently misogynistic, and the respondee (Nerd of Redhead) is part of a social justice community that opposes misogyny. Because the term freeze peach is being used in defense of women and female people, it has social momentum driven by the respondee’s concern for women and female people, motivation to act by experience based social attachment in other words. By suggesting that the term is inherently hateful or contemptuous towards women (misogyny) the responder, trangenderisomer, is trying to make the respondee feel like they are harming women indirectly (“social splash-damage”) if they try to attack anyone with that weapon. This is an attempt at a transformation of the respondee’s emotion connected to the weapon-object and the people they care about. Turning social feelings of peer protection and assistance into social feelings of unintended harm of peers would alter the motivation to use the weapon, IF transgenderisomer were correct about the historical origins and social splash damage associated with the weapon’s use.


D. The first counterattack of the respondee and their in-group

New elements of hard social context come into play as the attack on the respondee motivates multiple members of the respondee’s in-group to respond to that attack, including me. Thus every following comment in a chain of responses between people becomes new hard context. These commentators and the respondee are now acting as counter-attackers. These counterattacks are bound by their own relationships with the social context (hard and soft) and will be motivated, advantaged, or disadvantaged by different things.

The first four response-counterattacks on transgenderisomer are all directed at the same thing, the implicitly socially threatening conceptual link between freeze peach and misogyny. The nature of the counterattacks comes in different forms:

*Assertion(4) that freeze peach is a form of linguistic mockery as opposed to a a sexist term with insulting misogynistic origins (#54, Gilell)

Maybe you can enlighten us, but to my knowledge the term is a humorous homophone of “free speech”

*Assertion that the meaning of freeze peach has to do with evasion of social responsibility for speech and not anger or contempt for women (#55, Nerd of Redhead).

Do you understand where the term “freeze peach” comes from?

Yep, it means free speech without responsibility for what is said. You can say anything, anytime, anywhere, without criticism or “censoring”. The misogynists are simply an example. Any form of bigotry, or speech without responsibility fits the bill.

*Rationally shifting the burden of proof onto transgenderisomer’s assertion about the historical origins of freeze peach (#56, me). Depending on the reality this social pressure could strengthen the social attack’s effectiveness from assertion to argument transformation if true, or place social pressure that would force the attacker to deconstruct their own attack and making it an attack on themselves if false (which almost never happens because that makes someone feel weak and is usually part of an apology). The person being counterattacked can attempt to meet or avoid the attack.

By all means, tell us of the misogynistic origins of “freeze peach”. That way when I get done with work I can be sure that you are not another advocate of the status quo trying to prevent a social opponent from using in-group terminology that expresses our viewpoints more efficiently.

*Arguments of a different historical origin of freeze peach that would negate the attack and attack the immediate reputation, (as opposed to long-term reputation) of the attacker with a demonstration of ignorance (#57, ).

Do you understand where the term “freeze peach” comes from?
— transgenderisomer (#53)

Sure do! Allow me to elucidate; Adam Lee posted back in 2013 the difference between Free Speech and Free Peach:

Free speech doesn’t include the right to speak your mind on any forum anywhere ~ the right to be believed or to be taken seriously ~ the right to be listened to ~ [and] the right to suffer no consequences whatsoever for your expressed opinions.

There are countless people who don’t understand this, or at least pretend not to understand it, and who insist that their free speech does include all these spurious rights ~. <b The social-justice community has a punning homophonic description of this whiny, entitled behavior: not free speech, but “freeze peach”. (emphasis mine)

Hope that helps.


E. transgenderisomer’s counterattack (#60)

Dead wrong. I’ll sit here and explain what it means since you’re apparently too lazy or stupid to search the inernet before mansplaining to me what “freeze peach” means. The term “freeze peach” has origins going back at least to the 1920’s and is essentially a derogatory term for a woman who isn’t sexually receptive to a man. In case this doesnt make sense to you, consider that nowadays women who show no interest in sex at a given time are often insultingly called “cold” and that “peach” is still commonly used as a derogatory term for a woman or her vagina (or both to insinuate a woman is nothing more than her vagina).

transgenderisomer ignores Gilell and chooses to respond to Nerd of Redhead. The nature of the response is an assertion of factual wrongness, essentially “No! You’re the one whose wrong!” because they included no sources and only asserted a different reality connected to the term freeze speech. If we did not already know that transgenderisomer was being deceptive there are two possibilities:

*transgenderisomer really believes that freeze peach is a historical term for “a woman who isn’t sexually receptive to a man”, but is unwilling or unable to defend that view. They are posturing as if they know that this is a fact, but choosing to make this a personal conflict (5) by attacking Nerd of Redhead by irrationally asserting that they have the burden of proving transgenderisomer’s assertion via the insult of “too lazy or stupid” (personal characteristics unrelated to substance), instead of an impersonal conflict by providing an example of the asserted usage of freeze peach or a history of the term (especially when they say that it’s a commonly used derogatory term).

*transgenderisomer is lying about the origin of the term in order to prevent its use as a weapon as I previously mentioned. They can’t prove what is not true so they have to do whatever they can to manipulate the attention of a potential audience. They do this with more symbol stealing (sexism, misogyny), and attacking the person of their opponent instead of the argument of their opponent. It is true that women disinterested in sex get called things like “frozen b***h”, and that “peach” is a believable sexist term in the same category as “sugar” or “honey”. So the two together seem like it could be a misogynist term allowing this to be an example of a deceiver using a group’s values and the symbols that represent them as a shield against effective criticism (effective via the shorthand of an unpackable insulting characterization). And as I mentioned above they are personally attacking Nerd of Redhead because they can’t attack the substance of their response.


F. The in-groups’s second counterattack on transgenderisomer.

These response-attacks:

*Tentatively accept the possibility of of transgenderisomer’s claims being true and reasonably asking for evidence (#61, The Student). This is less of an attack, or a very soft attack or blunted attack, because The Student still allows the possibility that transgenderisomer might be correct.

transgenderisomer @60

I’m sure neither I nor anyone else had ever heard of that use. And I have yet to figure out a combination of words that will pull up that meaning of “freeze peach” on google. In contrast, the majority of links that appear when “freeze peach” is googled define it as a mispronunciation of “free speech” (or a few pages about freezing peaches for snacks).

I’d personally be interested in a link about the more misogynistic term because old slang interests me. But I think it’s safe to say that this particular meaning has fallen out of use.

*Emphasizing the lack of evidence for transgenderisomer’s assertion contrasted with the existence of evidence for the connection to speech connections (#63, Nerd of Redhead)

The term “freeze peach” has origins going back at least to the 1920’s and is essentially a derogatory term for a woman who isn’t sexually receptive to a man.

Interesting, a lack of link to said term, and out of context with the usage about the rights of speech. Hmm…That kicks my skepticism into overdrive.


G. transgenderisomer’s second counterattack (#64)

Your skepticism could be solved by typing some words into a little box towards the top of your screen rather than continuing to mansplain. Plus, the fact that its usage was out of context is your fault for being a bigoted dope who used it out of context and does not give credence to your “skepticism” (read sexism).

Note that there is no identifier for which comment transgenderisomer is responding to. In some cases the context is obvious enough to figure out who someone is responding to, and I believe this is that sort of case due to the choice of “skepticism” making this a likely reply to Nerd of Redhead #63. However sometimes an attacker will leave a response that does not refer to a specific person as a means of referring to a group of commentators (and possibly the author of the piece being commented on). This can have the effect of making people do more work than they need to.

This response to Nerd of Redhead is also interesting in that it establishes a pattern that they consider Nerd of Redhead to be the most important person to respond to for some reason. There are several possibilities for each potential nature/disposition of attacker that I outlined in part E (honest attacker versus dishonest attacker). They might have a history with Nerd of Redhead and feel like attacking them more. Nerd of Redhead has a history of being a more intense and confrontational commentator and transgenderisomer may feel that they need to deal with them. They may feel that Nerd of Redhead is the “alpha in the room” as it were and treat them as the most threatening opponent. But I have to admit that this paragraph is pretty speculative and mostly serves to cover some concepts.

A likely possibility involves Nerd of Readhead’s comment at #23 where they use the term mansplain. This is a term that many people have found threatening suggesting that it is a rather potent social weapon (6) and insulting characterization. In the dishonest condition this is an example of symbol stealing in an attempt to use a group’s social weapons against itself which if successful can prevent its use by “going there first” because a counter claim of mansplaining would look like “No, you’re the mansplainer” to less perceptive audience members even if true (receiving a pattern can be biased by previous exposures of the pattern if comprehension is incomplete or incorrect). The use of mansplain can also serve as social camouflage because a member of an out-group pretending to be a member of an in-group needs to be able to use the symbolic language to pass as an in-group member, especially in emotionally intense situations where people are scrutinizing more closely. In the honest condition if there was a misogynistic history to freeze peach and transgenderisomer experienced it, it would be an example of mansplaining (as this is a term that gets misused on occasion I welcome anyone pointing out that I’m getting it wrong too).

The use of “bigoted dope” is a similar example of symbol stealing (bigot) combined with a personal attack (dope) that seeks to distract from the lack of support for transgenderisomer’s claims. transgenderisomer’s claim that Nerd of Redhead is the one using the term out of context remains an assertion that looks less and less likely given the evidence presented that only free speech related uses of freeze peach are being found. The assertion that Nerd of Redhead’s rational skepticism (based on the evidence so far) is sexist is simply name calling.


E. The community’s second counterattack and the “death blow”

At this point the evidence is in favor of freeze peach being a term related to free speech, and there is literally no evidence for a connection to misogyny (outside of times where the term is used on misogynists) beyond transgenderisomer’s personal testimony. The remaining responses are people saying they can’t find a connection to 1920’s terminology or current use, reasonable accusations of trolling (7), claims that they have never heard this use of freeze peach, alcoholic recipes and fruit references, and finally PZ’s lethal piece of information at #76. transgenderisomer was posting from the same IP address(8) as a poster going by mbp7 in another thread. In that thread mbp7 was doing everything they could to socially undermine claims of sexual assault, to the point that I now suspect that they are personally invested in seeing claims of sexual assault as threatening (9). This strongly suggests that they are not a person that wants to do anything about sexism, misogyny or bigotry.

F. Other notes and considerations

*This probably does not apply in the case of this troll, but I think that some trolls give clues to their identity in their usernames (unless very blatant it’s unwise to use this as a single piece of evidence). “Trans” in chemistry indicates that parts of a compound are on the opposite side of a double bond while “cis” means that they are on the same side. This terminology makes the prefix terms conceptually useful to the trans community. The addition of “isomer” is also interesting as an isomer is a compound with the same number and kind of atoms, but with those atoms in a different configuration. If nothing else it suggests more familiarity with chemistry than trans issues, but in the case of someone that does not match common transgender stereotypes and is not cis it might have meaning. This is probably not meaningful in this specific case, but imagining the reasons people take symbols can occasionally be useful and is interesting.

*I’ve often thought that the reason that political conservatives and other traditionalist types who fear change refer to “false flag operations” (a group pretending to be another group and doing something bad as a means of discrediting that second group) is a phenomenon similar to psychological projection where a more conflict oriented person (like me) willing to use deception (unlike me) instinctively imagines that someone else might use the same tactics that they would be wiling to use. That makes sense in the context of a person used to social authority being vigilant towards threats to that authority and calling on what they already know. It’s only speculation at this point, but the existence of people like transgenderisomer who are willing to use deception to avoid bad reputation and pretend to be an in-group member makes me wonder about the people claiming that something is a false flag operation.


Expanded points.

(1)Why yes this is evolutionary psychology. But it’s universally applied evolutionary psychology. That does not mean it’s correct (theories are always subject to change), or that it’s unbiased (personal experience always colors objective reality including subjects like scientists trying to describe objective reality). But since it’s meant to be applied to all humans it’s less likely to be biased in a problematic way.


(2)All insults, pejoratives and insulting characterizations are inherently arguments. In this case the claim that a person is “…a freeze peach absolutist.” is a claim that one’s opponent is making an irrational appeal to free speech as a means to force any platform, public or private, to host speech when privately held social spaces can and should be regulated by the owners of those spaces. The pejorative is meant to protect the right of people to control their own social spaces and exclude speech that they do not like as people should be allowed to do within their own homes. In this case the respondee’s opponent is trying to claim that newspapers disallowing kinds of speech from kinds of people is censorship.

Additionally freeze peach can imply that a person is trying to avoid the consequences of speech as people are allowed to choose how they want to interact with others based on their speech. For example shunning xenophobic bigots (on the internet and in meatspace) and banning them from one’s blog.

Personally I am not bothered by pejoratives, insults, and insulting characterizations that are not inherently bigoted. The important issue there being that a characterization can implicitly be unpacked into characteristics applicable to an individual person. Bigoted ones are inherently false as they irrational and/or illogically divide groups of people (discrimination) or irrationally/illogically make assumption about groups of people (prejudice) which make people reasonably offended by their use.


(3) A new feature of the social context of a social conflict engagement becomes obvious here, the social characteristics of the groups on either side of the social battle,  and the symbolic text or meatspace objects used to identify them with respect to in-groups and/or out-groups. Just as the “sides” of physical conflicts can get complicated such as the difference between a war between nations and a civil war within a nation, so too are social conflicts complex on the internet (arguably more so). This complexity is based around how the groups in a conflict are conceptually organized in perception and on the internet it possible for opponents in one battle to be allies in another because as human beings we can group by many things both rational/logical and irrational/illogical such as:

*Physical characteristics, biological or ornamental (height, weight, eye-color, perceived attractiveness, assumed genetic heritage, worn symbols or physical alterations…)

*Activities (work, play, social, individual…)

*Beliefs (religious, social, philosophical, moral, ethical…)

*Manner of thought (skeptical, rational, cynical, optimistic, pessimistic, xenophobic, bigoted…)

*Manner of action based on beliefs and manner of thought (passive, active, aggressive, submissive, supportive, playful, honest, dishonest…)

*Manner of communication based on beliefs and manner of thought, which I see as equivalent to actions (racist, sexist, honest…same as above since communication IS and action, people just often seen them differently).

*More, because I’m sure there are other ways that we categorize ourselves and one another that I have not included here. We are endlessly creative and inventive primates to our benefit and detriment.

These feed into one another in many cases such as where beliefs feed into actions taken based on those beliefs, actions shaped and chosen by manner of thought. Or groups based on play activities can include sub-groups that sort based on beliefs such as when social and political conflicts occur in sports or other games (see: gamergate).

A key concept is that there must be a socially useful symbol (perceptual-conceptual link to a relevant group based on how the group is defined) that a group can organize or be organized around in how one mentally categorizes people they encounter. These are constantly being created and falling out of use. The symbols of religions or political parties are obvious, but less obvious is organization around the use of in-group pejoratives, concepts or actions. Skeptics are organized by manner of thought, misogynists are organized by hatred and condescension towards women and resulting thoughts and actions.


(4) Assertions (aggressive opinions, arguments without the support) and demands of information are valid responses to transgenderisomer because all transgenderisomer offers is an assertion themselves. The rules of Tis-for-Tat morality allow this. Normally mere assertions are weak attacks because they are mere opinion with no support rendering insulting characterizations mere name-calling. They are being treated as they are willing to treat others. But since transgenderisomer offered no support for their assertion assertive counterattacks are of equal strength. Providing evidence makes an assertion into an argument so response #57 is a strong attack. Demands of evidence for an assertion are attacks on weapons (arguments, pejoratives) AND immediate reputation because if unanswered they leave the question of transgenderisomer’s competence and/or honesty open to doubt.


(5) It’s strategically important to note that in a case where a term really does have misogynistic, racist, or LGBTQphobic connotations the fact that the people relevant to the group get tired of pointing this out is important. It gets exhausting for such people to have to repeatedly point these things out and that very exhaustion may be a strategic goal in social conflict. I consider it important to at least consider it possible and have a process in place to deal with a potential deceiver and minimize the pressure on someone who is telling the truth. In this case our community is familiar enough with the origins of freeze peach and experienced enough in the identity and nature of existing problematic terms that it was worth the risk in putting the burden of proof on transgenderisomer, but choosing to do a search for evidence was a reasonable response to minimize pressure in the unlikely event that the assertion was true.


(6) Many people find mansplain to be a threatening insulting characterization. It is the act of a man (or male person and men probably*) explaining the experiences of women and female people to them as if they are more knowledgeable about the experiences of women and female people. The term does not have to only deal with things that only a woman (or a female person) would have direct experience in such as pregnancy, (or passing as a women in the case of trans women). It can also be the case that a women (or female person) is experienced in a skill, area of knowledge, trade or other thing and the man (or male person) feels like they need to need to act like they know more than the expert since this is about social dominance displays.

One popular way to try to eliminate its use is to claim that it is a sexist term. This is functionally similar to trying to claim that pointing out racism among white people is racist. This is not a rational claim when considering mansplaining in the context of dominance displays on two levels. On the first level there are people who feel socially threatened by skilled and powerful women (and female people, like misogynists, overt or covert) and in order to deal with that they devalue the power or skills of women (and female people) in some social manner. On another level it is more socially acceptable for women (and female people) to be talked over and criticized making this a phenomena worth addressing in raw statistical terms as many sexist social structures have to be addressed as a raw numbers phenomena in addition to the underlying causes when trying to change society (in fact the overt and covert misogynists will hide in the patterns created by the second level and may even be how they originate).

*I believe that the physical and social characteristics historically associated with women can be separated as independent things that a mansplainer would react to in mansplaining (intersectionality and the trans community have implications). Nevertheless I am obligated to point out anything in parentheses that tack on male person/people and female person/people is my addition.


(7) Trolling is an interesting insulting characterization to me. I believe that its actual use has evolved beyond the original meaning of a person deliberately causing disruption in a community by starting arguments, and deliberately offending people, deliberately derailing from relevant topics (in fact some people like to sort trolls based on types). Given political realities some people cause disruption by their mere presence even if they are being honest and claims of trolling can be mere expression of a feeling of disruption (not in this case given the evidence). Maybe I’m being too sensitive here, but I think that the issue of political differences causing disruption is something worth taking into account as the strategic elimination of people and their arguments via claims of trolling is something that reasonably exists (as well as such a claim being used to get out of a justified ban). I’m probably being too sensitive because I think in social strategy terms far more than most people.

Tangentially, the claim that someone is “just trolling” as a way of reducing or eliminating criticism is also not relevant because people don’t “just troll”. I feel safe in asserting that people are far less likely to be trolling communities that address things they care about, and more likely to troll communities that address things they dislike making trolling a means of social conflict. In this way “just trolling” is like “just joking” when a joke is used to relieve a person’s tension about something related to groups of people and the joke functionally preserves stereotypes, insults the group and its members, and other things that reasonably make someone offended at a joke (as opposed to a joke being at the expense of xenophobic bigots themselves).


(8) Since I can’t help thinking of these things in terms of social conflict strategy I have to consider the possible claim that it was someone else posting from that address, as a means of having a response to such a claim if nothing else. In this case the utter lack of evidence for transgenderisomer’s claims, and the reality that loss of use of freeze peach has social effects advantageous to people who want to be able to shout down the claims of female people is good enough.


(9) I have a long term goal of being able to identify rapists and abusers on the internet by the patterns contained in their text. I do not yet have that level of skill, but its become useful to point out when a person’s positions make life easier for rapists and abusers. Much useful rhetoric can be added to that substance.


  1. John Morales says

    Possibly trivial, and certainly irrelevant to your analysis, but… it grates to see your otherwise excellent grammar spoiled by your indiscriminate use of “it’s”. Not that you are alone in this.

    A very good heuristic to check whether it reads differently when you (mentally) test it by changing it to “it is”, then you are not dealing with a contraction, but a possessive — “its”*.

    “but it’s supposed to make future posts more clean” is right.
    “to explain the phenomena of criticism at it’s most basic level” is wrong.

    * Yeah, I know. A quirk of English.

  2. says

    I appreciate you pointing that out. I’ve been working on the its/it’s bit of grammar lately so I’ll take the time to correct those. After that it’s working on forms where the apostrophe shows possession but is all by itself without an s on the end.

  3. says

    It was inevitable that trolls would show up at some point. While I like to play with trolls and twist around in the emotional-instinctual dance of social posturing, attacking, dodging and misdirecting, I’m a bit bored with the typical ones outside of conflicts affecting other people in the social spaces of others.

    If a troll wishes to have a comment come through they will have to shed a bit of that cowardice that drives their behavior and include some substance with the typical drivel. You can be as insulting to me as you wish, but you must have the courage to address me directly without hiding behind other people, be able to unpack those insults into the characterizations that match to things you are seeing, and include the reasons and logic of your feelings about things and tie them to the text of my comments.

    Troll #1: of feelings and hiding behind other people.
    Your personal feelings about length do not matter, if that were really an issue you would simply not read, or you would not ignore the reasons for the length stated up front which an honest discusser or arguer would mention. I am interested in what is connected to your feelings and not the feelings themselves.
    Your references to other bloggers and commentators do not matter, I am not those other bloggers. Have the courage to address me without shielding yourself with other people.
    Your feelings about expanded point #9 do not connect with any reasons or logic for why they are a problem. All you offer are characterizations with no substance making your reference to skepticism meaningless, you do not give the appearance of being capable of any kind of careful thought.

    Troll #2: of hiding behind other people.
    You also have a need to hide behind other people in relation to my expanded point #9. It’s quite cowardly to use other people to derail from something so serious, unless you and troll #1 have other reasons to be bothered by a potential for identifying the behavior of rapists on the internet.

    Troll #3: of hiding behind other people and and preferring cartoons of reality.
    Hyperbole is not what it represents, and you also have a need to hide behind other people in addition to hiding behind exaggerated, distorted and inverted versions of things. When you are capable of describing reality absent your social shields and the cartoon running in your head I will consider letting your comments through.
    I’m unsurprised that a person that needs to paint their experiences with unreality would be unable to conceptualize mental illness in realistic terms that allow them to interact with reality effectively or efficiently.

  4. johnson catman says

    re Brony@2:
    Oh no! But you are violating their freeze peach!

    Seriously, an interesting read and a thorough analysis. I look forward to reading more here.

  5. says

    Thank you!

    I hope to reduce that to an organized list and best starting topics soon. I’m thinking that a general post on what emotion is and how it actually intersects with our experience might be a best first post.

  6. John Morales says

    OK, since it’s been a while and no one else has mentioned it, I think your featured example amounts to a very amateur attempt at false-flagging (i.e. at being an agent provocateur) — and further, that it’s not consciously acknowledged as such, but rather it’s rationalised as being done just for the yuks.

    (Poor target choice, though! 🙂 FTB regulars are inured to such)

    Here is a similar example (in my estimation):

  7. LittleLurker says

    I found this by following a link on WHTM and since I also have “a brain that likes to focus on these things” I found your essay very interesting. Your model seems to be based mostly on theories from psychology and sociology (very broadly, I have only a very general layman’s knowledge of these subjects, so this is likely a superficial impression).

    I would be interested to learn more about this, especially the aspects of social conflicts, social conflict strategies, social weapons and social dominance displays and how those things manifest in seemingly non-aggressive verbal or written discussions between disagreeing parties. Can you quote any literature that your considerations are based on in this regard? If you developed all of this yourself, maybe something about the key concepts so I can better follow your considerations here? I realize, of course, that this is a blog and not an academic essay, but I would be very interested in the opportunity for further reading.

    “I have a long term goal of being able to identify rapists and abusers on the internet by the patterns contained in their text.”

    Okay, that’s ambitious. I hope you elaborate on this in the future, since in its preliminary form it’s far too general for me (or anyone) to form an opinion on. I think. I work in history myself, so I’m pretty used to considering what can and can’t be inferred from textual sources and I’m honestly interested in learning how you intend to accomplish this goal. I realize you are still in the early stages of developing/thinking about this, but it did spark a lot of thoughts and questions in my mind. I’d love to know more.

    Anyway, thanks again for writing this. I didn’t think it was very disorganized or stream-of-consciousness like at all. Just very ambitious in the sheer number of terms you underlined and mean to elaborate on and organize into some hierarchical model. Impressive. 🙂

  8. says

    I was referencing false-flagging as a similar phenomena and was unclear about it. I agree that it is not an example or a poor example of false-flagging. The goal was less doing something to incite the group into doing something detrimental to the group or doing something detrimental themselves, and more attempting to reduce the group’s effectiveness. Your comment lets me know that I need to define my phenomena and examples more concretely.

    What interested me in that part was the phenomena akin to psychological projection. The references to false-flagging by people that can’t admit that terrible actually exist among the people in “their group”. For example the people convinced that the Sandy Hook shooting was fabricated. Another example of this phenomena is the widespread belief among racists that a “race war” is imminent. I see that as an example where racists used to acting in a more socially overt and often physically dominant fashion to maintain their dominance imagine that the same will soon happen to them. This is compatible with a hyper-vigilant personality used to scanning for threats in a conceptually polarized fashion.
    I’m also interested in the possibility that these projection-related-prediction phenomena are functionally used as excuses to act before a perceived enemy acts resulting in actions like the shooting of government officials by government paranoid individuals on the political right.

    I’ve also seen the humor related rationalization. After I get into emotion I’m going to tackle humor at some point. The current theories on humor portray it as having to do with eliminating false belief, reasoning, or other ways of doing things in a group, but don’t look at inter-group competition much. At that level humor is very much a weapon and such “yuks” are very often responded to as if one is attacked. The spread of stereotyping in such humor is easily compared to actively damaging a group’s reputation.

    You are right about this community. I’ve been reviewing posts and comment threads from after the schism started for other examples and there are many (especially in the comments of Stephanie Zvan’s posts). The one you posted looks both like an attempt to make racism a less threatening concept (if used lightly it can be taken less seriously), and a means of creating something they can point to (“look at what they call racist! The whole thing is ridiculous!”). At the very least it’s an example of humor by someone who has not learned to avoid trying to reduce tension about something serious because it necessarily makes light of it.

  9. says

    Thank you!

    I have to point out that it’s how I see social conflict as a person with a conflict oriented psychology (what Tourette’s Syndrome effectively feels like in some ways), and that I have made an effort to make it consistent with what I know of brain science broadly, including psychology and sociology. I am coming at this as an amateur so I would not be surprised if a psychologist or sociologist pointed out something problematic somewhere. I try to take my biases seriously and admit them openly so that I can learn to make the picture I paint is as accessible to common experience as possible, but I’m sure that there will be places where I’m being too polarized or lacking emphasis that this is about situations that are obviously conflict. I want to address a spectrum from discussion to argument at some point.

    I can see how that point about identifying rapists by how they act online might be concerning. At this point I can’t do that but as I said I do pay attention to people that take a lot of positions and make a lot of arguments that are specifically advantageous to rapists or disadvantageous to victims. Here is an example from a comment on a post from Pharyngula from last year where I outline some of it (quoted below). If I am successful to any extent this will probably be related to how it can work. Like every other human being in a social conflict context a rapist will actively and passively try to take advantage of and shape their social environment to their advantage, and to the disadvantage of their opponents (victims in the case of rape). All the biases that produce the legal system that has such pathetic outcomes in investigating and prosecuting sexual assault come from somewhere.

    There is a person that I am actively strategizing against on the internet, the rapist.

    The rapist has allies, knowing and unknowing. The cries of “be charitable” set up an obstacle that I have had to figure out how to work against as I create a profile of the rapist and learn to use it. Like any other human being the rapist will work towards their advantage in social situations of all sorts and make use of any social tool that exists to continue to live as they have. So in order to deal with that demand for charitability I have several profiles for the rapist and their allies: the rapist who does not know they are a rapist, the knowing and unknowing friends and family of the rapist, and people used to society working a certain way that misguidedly act in the interest of the previous.

    So while I keep those profiles in the back of my head, I ask reasonable questions of a person who is acting in a way that benefits a rapist so that I can start eliminating options. A rapist has social tactics for attack, defense, deception and obfuscation. Those are used to maintain a system that allows them to rape and escape consequences. I ask myself “does this person’s actions benefit or disadvantage a rapist?”

    Actions and communications that place the responsibility of avoiding rape on the victim, victim blaming, are advantageous to a rapist, and disadvantageous to a victim of rape.

    Actions and communications that represent or maintain the societal and intuitional irrational hyper-skepticism of claims of rape are advantageous to a rapist, and disadvantageous to a victim of rape.

    Actions and communications that represent or maintain societal and institutional bias for rapists and against victims are advantageous to a rapist and disadvantages to a victim of rape.

    *Pressuring a rape victim to use the law enforcement system that exists is victim blaming that forces the rape victim to deal with the institutional bias and hyper-skepticism that exists. This is advantageous to rapists and disadvantageous to rape victims without other factors that will ensure the societal and institutional problems are effectively dealt with. This is our responsibility to create, and a reasonable demand of the person victim blaming.

    *Reducing a rape victim to property or body functions represents and maintains institutional bias against rape victims. This is advantageous to rapists and disadvantageous to rape victims. The people doing this should be publically called out for the advocates of social slavery that they are.

    *Neglecting social obligations in law enforcement represents and maintains social and institutional bias and hyper-skepticism of rape victims. This is advantageous to rapists and disadvantageous to rape victims The people neglecting their duty should be fully investigated and considered to be engaging in criminal neglect. The lay public should be looking to see why these people were motivated to be biased and hyper-skeptical.

    *Telling a rape victims to or allies to stop talking about a rape, or an investigation into a rape accusation, is victim blaming. This is advantageous to rapists and disadvantageous to rape victims. This cuts off normal human communication that people in distress have a right to and is a literally dehumanizing demand to stop doing what people in distress get to do. The lay public should be looking to see why someone would be biased to tell another to stop reasonable communication.

    *Similarly to the above, demanding that rape victims or allies talk about what another person wants to talk about is victim blaming. This is advantageous to rapists and disadvantageous to rape victims. The lay public should be wondering what would bias a person to want to make a rape victim change the subject.

    *Demanding that social communication outside of legal institutions abide by the rules of communication inside of legal institutions is victim blaming. This is advantageous to rapists and disadvantageous to rape victims. This is literally a toxic flow of legal bias and hyper-skepticism in support of rapists and against rape victims to places outside of the legal realm. The lay public should be asserting that they will not play pretend games of “court room”, and they should be looking to see why someone would be biased towards an environment that treats a rape victim like they would be treated by legal institutions. The public looking at and talking about the situation as it exists is not “guilty until proven innocent” because the public outside of legal institutions is not a court room. Additionally the public looking at and talking about the situation as it exists is a neutral at a meta level.

    *Since humor acts to make a person feel better about something, rape jokes are:
    – Advantageous to rapists and disadvantageous to rape victims when they occur at the expense of rape victims or allies or merely make a random person feel better about rape as a general subject. We should not be feeling better about rape as a society on a general level. This supports social and institutional bias.
    – Advantageous to rape victims and disadvantageous to rapists when they occur at the expense of rapists and their allies.

    I take social conflict very very seriously

    So while I don’t tend to point out people and suggest that they are a rapist, it’s not too difficult to point out that they are personally motivated and that their actions are directly benefiting rapists and hindering efforts help victims and fix our society.

  10. fuzzycaterpillar says


    I was wondering…in your analysis of transgenderisanomer, you posit that the reason they used deception was they wanted to look better in the eyes of the community.

    Is it not possible that the reason they created a dual account was to try and undermine true social justice problems by acting like “freeze peach” was something misogynistic? I have seen this behaviour before, where misogynists create blogs with ridiculous concepts like “all men are rapists” and “how dare you criticize my gender! I am a potato!” and try to pass them off as real things that people actually think, so they can then point to it and say “look at what these social justice warriors are like! You can’t take them seriously!” That way they feel free to wave off any real concerns women may have with sexual assualt and rape.

  11. says

    By “look better the eyes of the community” I mean that they wanted to successfully pretend they were someone who cared about women’s issues. There could many reasons for that.

    I would agree that one reason was undermining attempts to solve social justice problems and as transgender isomer they tried to do that by preventing the use of freeze peach in general. I’ve seen people try to prevent the use of words, terms and concepts that they find threatening (like rape, mansplain…) and it makes sense that there would be deception based strategies. I have also seen that second example you brought up where they pretend to be one of us and say or do something that would look bad from the outside. If you look at what they said as nbp7 it’s obvious that they are strongly motivated to reduce attempts to take rape seriously as a social problem and in that thread the means was sowing doubt.

  12. says

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