It is an age-old tactic which depends upon two very important suppositions. If you are a troll, assume:
1) That the person you are speaking to will feel guilty whenever he or she is accused of behaving in a manner which is not seen as "normal."
2) That the person you are speaking to will want, more than anything, to avoid conflict.
You can upset almost anyone in this manner. Most people are not ready to be accused of not being nice, and most people, in an effort to find consensus, will agree that "being nice" is important.
However. In an intellectual argument, being nice is not important. What is important is supportable propositions. The measure of a supportable proposition is in how well it can be used in a practical situation and remain verifiable.
Intangibles, such as deliberations on who is respecting who and who is being nice, etcetera, are means to obfuscate verifiable argument. I have no experience with the proposition, "Be nice, get more viewers,"; or even, "Be nice, retain the number of viewers you have." I look around the web, I see nice people, and I'm not moved to read their stuff. Why? Because I don't find it verifiably true. Or because I find it dull and uninteresting. I don't see how the politeness of their presentation improves their material any.
Meanwhile, I am very familiar with the same politeness we all experience every day. The girl at the coffee shop wishes us a nice day. The fellow at the security desk smiles and says good morning as I pass by. The desk clerks at the hotel give us wide smiles and offer to help with our luggage. We learn to recognize these things as "masks." We know perfectly well that these masks conceal their true thought processes. We in turn retain our masks, thanking the clerks and servers and so on in our turn, perfectly aware that this is socially expected. We do it because it makes life easier, it greases the wheels, it helps to get one's coffee or to have one's bags carried. Still, it's all very insincere. We automatically, as a culture, identify politeness with insincerity.
We do not really see our efforts to be polite to everyone as noteworthy. In fact, we equate it with cowardice. We'd like to tell the server at the restaurant that the chicken is shit, and that we're not paying for it, but it is easier to say that it's fine. We understand that we are being cowardly. We do not like this about ourselves, but we've been trained culturally to see any other reaction as unacceptable. Others might think we're crazy.
So where we see someone who is clearly not polite, we react in two ways. The first is to expect the continued rule of social expectation. We fear the person may be crazy. We shy away, often awkwardly and sometimes fearfully.
There is, however, another reaction, one I'm familiar with because I've been living this way for so long. People wonder why this person is not being polite. They're acting like they're crazy, but the words they are using actually make a lot of sense. In fact, they're saying the sort of things I would say, if I had ... well ... the nerve.
We begin to recognize that this person is not being polite because this person is being sincere.
Making the conscious choice to ignore social expectation can be seen as brave. It says, that person does not need to be obsequiously polite, because that person is fearless. That person is ready to take chances. That person MEANS what he or she says.
There will always be trolls, on or off line, who will try to manipulate you with arguments of proper behavior. They will extol the virtues of concerning yourself with what other people think. They will couch their rhetoric in careful, habitual questions, intended to make you stop and wonder, "Am I being a good person?" The default position will almost always be that you want to be good. And you will want to convince them that you are. This is where a troll's power lies.
I am a terrible person. I tore down Tobiah Panshin's work without the least bit of consideration for the effort or the time he put into it. I deliberately mocked him. I mocked his efforts. There wasn't the least bit of empathy in anything I wrote.
If I had approached the matter from the viewpoint of, "I don't want anyone to be hurt," I could have praised Panshin's book and Panshin wouldn't have been subjected to all that abuse. But I would have had to lie. And you, the gentle reader, wouldn't have had any reason to read that post or this blog. I had to approach the work in the way that I did. All written work, of any kind, regardless of who produces it, must be measured against everything that has ever been written. I'm not going to say something is good until it is actually good, in respect to the very best book on the subject, regardless of the social consequences or the personal suffering of any human being, anywhere. That's because work - good work - is more important than feelings.
When people talk about the importance of feelings, they are speaking of the importance of insincerity, social comfort. They are arguing that the worst thing in the world is someone being hurt.
I don't agree. I think insincerity is worse. I think praise of immateriality is worse. I feel that verifiable facts and ideas are what matters, because those are things that will do more than smooth humanity's feathers as it buys a cup of coffee. They are things that will invent a better method for getting coffee altogether.
We can't get better on sugar pills. We've got to take our medicine, and quit griping about it.
I wrote this post, then I moved onto the next Ted Talk in the list I'm working through, and watched this. Couldn't embed it
There's no one word in the entire piece about "being nice" to anyone. It's all practicalities. And note the final quote. It is the definitive rule of blogging, of arguing, of believing in anything ...
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you ... then you win."
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi