Techniques Trolls use to push people’s buttons

Have you ever been infuriated by something someone said and just had to respond? Thanks to our moderation team most of us have learned not to take the bait and to ignore Trolls when they come calling on Whaleoil. We can usually recognise a comment that is not meant to elicit reasoned discussion on a topic but that is designed to create a flame war. Not all Trolls use sophisticated techniques like the ones explained below though. Many just go for simple abuse like “you are an idiot” or deliberately misunderstand and twist what someone else has said for example ” If you believe that then you must be a member of the KKK.”

So what are some of the more subtle techniques that experienced Trolls use to try to push our buttons?

Ad Hominem (Circumstantial) 

Suggesting that the person who is making the argument is biased or predisposed to take a particular stance, and therefore, the argument is necessarily invalid.

Person 1 is claiming Y.

Person 1 has a vested interest in Y being true.

Therefore, Y is false.


Ad Hominem (Abusive)

Attacking the person making the argument, rather than the argument itself, when the attack on the person is completely irrelevant to the argument the person is making.

Person 1 is claiming Y.

Person 1 is a moron.

Therefore, Y is not true.

Ad Hominem (Guilt by Association)

When the source is viewed negatively because of its association with another person or group who is already viewed negatively.

Person 1 states that Y is true.

Person 2 also states that Y is true, and person 2 is a moron.

Therefore, person 1 must be a moron too.

Alleged Certainty

Description: Asserting a conclusion without evidence or premises, through a statement that makes the conclusion appear certain when, in fact, it is not.

Everybody knows that X is true.

Therefore, X is true.

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