When So-Called Trolls are Useful

I’ve been asked by a reader to boycott a regular commenter, the infamous anti-gun Mikeb302000. Joining something like this isn’t something I’d take lightly. For those of us who remember the infamous Jadegold, he’s certainly not the first trollish anti-gunner we’ve had around these parts. So I am reluctant to join in such a boycott.

Someone like MikeB won’t change his mind about the issue, but an undecided looking up information on a gun policy they hear about in their own state might come across the very posts where he comments. Refusing to discuss the issues makes him seem like the rational one, regardless of how absurd the comment might be. As an activist, it’s that person I want to truly engage, not MikeB. The chocolate/vanilla argument from Thank You for Smoking at the 6:21 mark is a great example:

“I’m not after you, I’m after them.” Perhaps more importantly to reaching the undecideds both online and in real life is that every once in a while, MikeB does raise a fair concern I’ve heard from those who don’t understand firearms and gun control. It’s always useful to keep your mind sharp for these sometimes unexpected arguments, and if I can learn from him while honing my skills to speak to the middle, then I’ve gained far more than he has by spouting off in his corner of the internet. Even if we all realize we won’t convince MikeB, people who are serious about the issue need to keep their debating skills sharp. Hiding our heads in the sand & living only in an echo chamber is what got us to this place initially. In the past, it was hiding out in the gun clubs and just sitting out of the political game. Nowadays, it is all of that, plus creating new echo chambers online.

So when it is trolling?

I’m not going to argue that MikeB isn’t a troll at all. He does seek attention, particularly to his blog. But what upstart blogger doesn’t want attention? I don’t blame those who simply don’t want to promote him, or acknowledge him. I’m not going to suggest MikeB isn’t trying to play certain angles in hope of comments and links, and it’s up to each blogger whether or not to send him any. But for me, I’ll continue to engage him when he raises useful points. As long as he respects my comment policy, and respects other commenters, he’ll be welcome to post here.

I would suggest that folks consider the anti-gunners here as “useful idiots”. Use their arguments to make sure your skills to engage the undecided are still sharp.  I worry greatly about our community becoming an echo chamber. There was a time in the blogosphere when we condemned such an attitude. We used to pride ourselves on our openness to debate. I will ignore MikeB when I believe he’s making shoddy arguments, but as they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and even MikeB can raise good points that deserve to be addressed from time to time. Anti-gunners aren’t necessarily a waste of time, even if you’ll never convert them. “I’m not after you, I’m after them.”

18 thoughts on “When So-Called Trolls are Useful”

  1. I’m certainly not going to ban him from commenting at my place. I’ve never done that and see no reason to start now.

    That said, I can only deal with his level of stupid for so long. Responding to it gets old after a while and i can certainly see why some folks have simply said “enough of this idiot mucking up my comment section.”

    Frankly I don’t think anyone really reads his blog aside from pro-gunners. I see literally NO increase in traffic whatsoever when he links to me.

  2. Anti-gunners like Mikeb and his irrational comments are easily defeated with facts and common sense.
    Don’t ban him Seb, he is truly a useful idiot.

  3. Personally I’m against outright banning people just because they disagree with your point of view. Unless somebody is outright trolling I wouldn’t band them simply because it puts our side into the avenue of “reasoned discourse.”

    We always complain about anti-gunners banning or censoring our point of view on their sites so it’s going to make us look like big time hypocrites if we do the same.

  4. Sebastian, Thanks for saving my ass. I’m serious, if you’d agreed with Weer’d, I’d have had to close up shop.

    I didn’t like that “useful idiot” tag very much, I have to admit. I think I’m a bit more than that. And about being a troll, no way. I always thought trolling was more about messing up a thread on someone else’s blog rather than pulling in traffic to one’s own. Another aspect of the troll for me, is insincerity, you know those guys who go on the feminist sites and say macho things just to rile them up.

    Anyway, your post made me cringe and flinch a couple times, but I take it as a compliment overall. You said “every once in a while, MikeB does raise a fair concern” and then kinda ruined it with that stopped clock stuff.

    But, thanks.

  5. Mike:

    I put it in quotes for a reason. It wasn’t meant to be nice. I think a lot of times you won’t let go of things you don’t really have any evidence for, like your Famous 10%.

  6. Let him comment. If we banned dissenting opinion, we’re no better than those we are fighting.

    Some people may never agree with some pro-gunners stances on firearms, and that’s their right. Because… this is a free country (i hope).

  7. Well said, Sebastian! I would rather not see pro-gun blogs stoop to the level of censorship that nearly all anti-gun sites eventually devolve into. If someone brings up a useful point, then it should be discussed.

    I get where Breda, Weer’d and others are coming from as well. While MikeB is capable of striking up thought provoking conversation, he seems wholly incapable of looking at the data that does not agree with his preconceived view on guns. I’m sure it would get tiring to continually rehash the same arguments with him over and over and over, ala his unsubstantiated 10% argument.

    At the end of the day, I think the best action is just to ignore him. There’s no reason to drive any more traffic to his website. If all of the pro-gun bloggers would quit visiting there, he’d just be left with Laci, Daisy, and an empty echo chamber.

  8. I began by giving MikeB the benefit of the doubt, but he’s proven to be allergic to facts, logic or reason. Well that and he insults gun owners every chance he gets.

    MikeB – I hope you realize that after a while people don’t want to put up with the stupid, unsubstantiated crap you post (like your 10% crap or “shared responsibility” claims)

    Your claims get throughly debunked, and then your back the next day making the exact same BS claims that we’ve already proven wrong.

    I tend to think that with folks like MikeB the best approach is to calmly & rationally lay waste to all of the BS and lies he posts on his blog. In addition his bigotry, hatred and intolerance should be highlighted.

    Once that’s done you pack up and move on, and his site will die and fade into obscurity. Anyone who happens upon his blog will be presented with a wealth of well-researched pro-gun information. This effectively destroys his message, his credibility, and essentially turns his own site into a pro-gun resource the same way we did with the Brady Blog before they turned off and purged comments.

    It’s not like MikeB really comes out with any new or interesting anti-gun positions. It’s always the same tired arguments that we’ve hacked to death 1000 times before. There’s no ingenuity, no creativity, it’s just blind regurgiation of the same old stuff. Frankly it gets boring having the same discussion over and over again with the same thick-skulled useful idiot.

  9. Sebstian had you voiced this argument as recently as 6 months ago, I might have agreed with you. Also I don’t fully understand how Google manages to pull up results for search queries (and therefore direct people unenrolled but curious of this debate) and direct them to various blogs.

    But I must say that our attendance and commenting at his blog is essentially enlarging his pulpit. I would see this as just fine, and there are at least a half-a-dozen left-wing blogs that devote at least some of their discussion to anti-gun rights that I read on a regular basis. The difference? Those blogs don’t control and manipulate their comment sections to best suit their needs. MikeB does.

    So while we lend traffic to his site, our information is all presented at his personal approval thanks to his nebulous and dishonest “Commenting Policy”.

    Very recently MikeB has withdrawn much of his commenting outside of his blog, so the bulk of his dishonest and twisted message is through his blog…a blog we essentially are pimping through our traffic.

    As for “Useful Idiots” I’m not sure we as pro-rights bloggers need to go after such small fish as MikeB and his like when the Pros offer very similar messages, and are just as bigoted and illogical.

    Seriously, who makes a better target when the message is the same: A lowly blogger who brags about being a criminal, fabricates a biography for himself and generally just makes inflammatory statements, or Paid lobbyists like Paul Helmke, Peter Hamm, Bryon Miller, or Joe Rosenthal who do many of the same activities but are public figures rather than shady basement dwellers?

    I mean for all we know MikeB could be an Autistic teenager blogging on Mom’s Packard Bell while she leaves him unsupervised while she works the night shift.

    He might be, he might not be, we don’t know. And with that uncertainty how “useful” is he exactly?

    BTW thanks for picking up my link and discussing this topic, indeed there is nothing wrong with upstart bloggers wanting attention, and certainly there’s nothing I like more than to have a rational discussion of an issue.

  10. I support Weer’d on this one.

    I’m not saying that everyone should delete MikeB302000 comments. That is an individual decision and should be based on the appropriateness of his comments.

    Another aspect of the troll for me, is insincerity, you know those guys who go on the feminist sites and say macho things just to rile them up.

    Comments like this are too valuable in showing MIkeB302000’s hypocrisy. While he does have a rare point, most of the time he’s just stirring up trouble.

    I won’t be linking to his site nor will I be reading it very often.
    If there is something particularly outrageous that needs to be addressed — his useful idiot comments– we can do that on our own blogs. Why give him what he wants — traffic and attention.

    We used to pride ourselves on our openness to debate

    I think there is a big difference between some blogs that ban or delete comments from someone like Mikeb302000 after many useless and trolling comments and sites like the Brady, the Gun Guys, Laci or others that do not allow any comments.

    Our decision is based on actual and repeated behavior instead of what someone might say or do.

    I was one of the folks who started talking on MikeB302000’s blog months ago, I’ve provided him with many links….because he said he was willing to consider things and be open. He’s proven that he is not.

    Let him comment on people’s sites, let’s use our blogs to show he’s just another lying, hypocritical gun banner instead of giving his blog traffic.

  11. I rather think Mike B’s blog would be just another blog with 20 readers a week if it weren’t for all the esteemed pro-gun bloggers who comment there — including yourself and others who have commented above.

    I commented there for awhile but to be honest I lost all respect for Mike B after a while. In the end he’s just an anti-gun faithful guy who cares nothing for logic and repeats the same arguments no matter what he is confronted with.

    I totally agree with your post about who’s mind we need to change, of course, and respect your logic for staying engaged.

  12. I didn’t like that “useful idiot” tag very much, I have to admit.

    Perhaps you should try improving your behavior so that it become less accurate, then.

  13. Just keep your copy of GunFacts handy. I find that it allows me to quickly and efficiently debunk myths (“arguments”) using legit statistics and facts from mostly government agencies.

  14. I actually agree with Weer’d Beard. He’s not advocating deleting Mikeb’s comments; that’s something Breda is doing. Weer’d is just advocating not linking or reading Mikeb’s blog, which could reduce his ranking in search engines.

    As for deleting comments, how appropriate that is really depends on whether your blog has a political focus, or is just a place to share your experiences with firearms. I really see Breda’s in the latter category, which would make deleting his comments there perfectly reasonable. But if Sebastian, or Kevin at Smallest Minority, started deleting comments from every gun control fanatic out there, we’d have that echo chamber he mentioned.

  15. Laughingdog, Dress it up any way you want, but what Weer’d is doing with his latest campaign against me is antithetical to the pro-freedom and pro-rights position he claims to hold.

    Your point about Breda’s blog not being a place for arguing is well taken. I had already given her the benefit of the doubt based on the idea which I hold dear that we can all do what the hell we want on our own blogs. But the way you described the difference between her site and this one, for example, makes perfect sense to me.

  16. MikeB302000,

    Once again you show you are the master of hypocrisy.

    Weer’d asks people not to read your blog. An exercise of his right to free speech and an exercise of our right to choose.

    And you call it antithetical to pro-freedom? Because we choose not to visit your site!! You who freely admit to deleting comments are talking about someone not being pro-freedom?

    You subscribe to the idea that people can do what they want on their own blogs, but seem to be upset that Weer’d and I for that matter are doing exactly that.

    We are calling on people not to read your blog – – for very good reasons. You delete comments that question your honesty, you delete comments concerning a valid analogy (porn -1st amendment vs firearms 2nd amendment), you say you don’t want personal attacks yet allow Laci, P-Politics and others to make personal attacks against pro-2nd amendment commenters.

    You say that you want to discuss the issues, yet when you visit my blog you seldom leave a comment concerning the issue.
    Why is that?
    I’ve notice the same thing on Linoge’s site as well as Weer’d’s?

    The answer is simple, we don’t link back to your site! You comments on our sites do little to increase your site’s hits so you don’t comment there. That is why Breda banned you…because she felt you were making comments just to pimp your site.

    I find it ironically interesting that you are complaining about people freely exercising their rights because they are pointing out you are proposing every greater restrictions on our rights.

  17. Tho I actively want to pursue MikeB’s comments outside his blog, because at MikeB’s Blog, comments like BobS’s and Mine would be deleted to preserve the narrative, here all I have to do is conform to Sebastian’s commenting policy and I’m free to exposes MikeB as an idiot, a liar, and a hypocrite. (I especially like the bit how he doesn’t like Breda Deleting his comments at her place *without arguing weather her reasons are sound or not* all while dumping anything he doesn’t see fit at his own place).

    I like it MUCH better this way, MikeB. also I’m amused at how much your traffic is down, and I would like to further encourage the blogger who read here and at Mike’s place to please stop and simply engage him in places that respect discussion, not mock it.

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