Is this the secret to trolling?

Some people in the media, especially activists and pundits, feel a compulsion to stay visible in the public eye either because of ego or because that is how they make their living by giving talks and selling books and the like. The way they do that whenever they sense that they are being forgotten is to troll for attention. In an earlier post, I said that it was easy to be a conservative troll. All you had to do was say something outrageous or extreme that would anger or at least annoy and exasperate liberals who would then rise up and condemn you.

I also said that I found it hard to think about how to be a successful liberal troll. But I think that I have found the secret and that is that a liberal troll gains attention by adopting a conservative position on some issue. In other words, the secret to political trolling whether you are conservative or liberal is to say something to annoy liberals.

A case in point is Michael Kinsley, considered by many to be a liberal. He was picked by the New York Times to review Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide and he addresses the question of who should get to decide to reveal government secrets. His answer: the government.

The question is who decides. It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government.

The response to Kinsley’s piece has been fierce. Greenwald of course responded while Digby provided a detailed takedown of this and earlier Kinsley writings. Kevin Gosztola, Erik Wemple, and Barry Eisler have also weighed in.

So if Kinsley was seeking attention, he succeeded. So the secret to being a troll seems to be: if you are conservative, say something outrageous even by conservative standards; and if you are liberal, then say something conservative. In both cases, successful media trolling involves annoying liberals.


  1. says

    His answer: the government.

    Sure, because that’s how things work in a “democracy” — the will of the people is ignored by the, ummmm…. people? No, wait, it’s ignored by the aristocrats in charge.

  2. says

    successful media trolling involves annoying liberals

    It means annoying people who are concerned with truth and consistent thinking; which happens to mostly be liberals.

  3. says

    Successful trolling just uses anything that gets an emotional reaction often. You can often troll a conservative by talking about Socialism.

    But in this case an article that not only sneers with personal distaste, but tries to suggest that we let the government choose what the public learns about it’s own illegality and incompetence is “emotion provoking” indeed.

  4. hyphenman says

    Good afternoon Mano,

    I think you’re on to something.

    When Have Coffee Will Write was a new blog (2004-05) I got a lot of conservative comments from North East Ohio, but they tapered off and by 2006-07 those commenters all but stopped.

    My take was that conservatives just don’t argue very well. When they can’t spout talking points they don’t know what to say. Liberals, on the other hand, are, or think themselves to be, more intelligent and able to present a cogent position.

    Do all you can to make today a good day,


  5. lpetrich says

    Here’s a strategy that I’ve thought of.

    Describe conservatives’ favorite sorts of government as socialist. Especially the military and the police.
    * The military and the police are almost shamelessly collectivist.
    * They offer on-the-job training essentially for free.
    * They have on-duty medical care essentially for free.
    * They are protection welfare, supported by other people’s money and other people’s lives.
    * They are supported by taxes, which are theft.
    * Private-sector solutions are superior, like vigilantes, hired guards, and mercenaries.
    * They protect people who are too lazy to protect themselves. If one is unwilling to protect oneself, one does not deserve to be protected. If one cannot protect oneself and nobody else is willing to do that protection voluntarily, then one should accept that one does not deserve to be protected.
    * They deprive people of the initiative to protect themselves.

  6. colnago80 says

    Re lpetrich @ #6

    Note how the Rethuglicans are agitating for privatizing the VA medical system.

  7. dano says

    Or how the dumbocrats, sorry after colnago80’s post had to come up with something witty, want the government to provide all of life’s necessities to everyone for free.

  8. newenlightenment says

    Good example of left trolling from my own country, the Revolutionary Communist Party. Started out as a Trotskyist group, basically worked on the assumption that since there was more likely to be a revolution if capitalism was harsh and unpleasant, what good Marxists should do is support Thatcherism, and denounce anyone trying to protect the welfare state as a counter-revolutionary. They’ve now turned into a right-wing think tank, but come out with statements like ‘as a Marxist I think…’ and then find some absurdly convoluted way to argue against the left. Main issue for them now seems to be dissing the green movement:

  9. hyphenman says

    Good morning Mano,

    If anyone ever needed proof of your thesis, this is it:

    “Your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights.” —Joe “The Plumber” Werzelbacher, in an open letter to the parents of those killed by Elliot Rodger, referred to as “this sad and insane individual. I almost said ‘Obama voter,’ but I’m waiting for it to be official.”

    As reported in Doonesbury’s Say What? archive for 29 May.

    Hope you’re enjoying your conference,


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