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Rant: My Troll in Meatspace

16/12/2008

I know the rule on the internet: Don’t feed the troll.
But in the real world, sometimes it’s hard to recognise the trolls. They look like normal people. They act like perfectly reasonable polite human beings. But don’t let them fool you! The will rope you into pointless arguments that will rile you up and from which they can blithely walk away, satisfied that they got a reaction out of you.

At the shop where I slave away for a pittance, we ship all of our stock through a courier. Every delivery, in or out, is through the same guy.

It all started innocently enough. Polite conversations led to some political discussion, which led to (dun, dun DUN!!!) the 9/11 “conspiracy”. Apparently this guy saw Loose Change and swallowed the whole thing. At first I tried to explain how it was wrong. How none of the claims (though there are few claims actually made) added up to anything but anomaly hunting. I then used the JFK conspiracy theory as an analogy and found out he believed that one too, not to mention the fact that he didn’t even have all of his facts straight (e.g. he didn’t realise that Jack Kennedy was the same person as John F. Kennedy and that Robert Kennedy was also assassinated). At this point, I asked if there was anything that would falsify it for him, he admitted that there wasn’t and I explained that it was therefore impossible to argue with him because if you can’t falsify it, it can’t be proven.

The following week, he brought up some book he read about CIA mind control experiments and tried to use the fact that there was a movie made about it as supporting evidence. At this point I told him there was no point in arguing with him because he had left the realm of reality and sanity.  (Note: It was in this conversation that he made the first reference to “sympathising with paedophiles” not making him a paedophile. WTF?)

This man seems to lack the basic tools with which to evaluate evidence or think critically. To make matters worse, my co-workers got the impression that he had a crush on me since he was always seeking me out (going so far as to call him “loverboy,” at which I would pantomime emesis). So, instead of wasting my energy getting all worked up about his nonsense, I’ve taken the high road and started avoiding arguing with him at all, responding to everything he says with nothing more than a one word answer. (He also ruined my high during Obama’s victory speech by coming into the store and trying to engage me in conversation, to which I responded, “Please leave, I can’t talk right now. I’m overwhelmed.”) The “Yep.” “Nope,” “Dunno” smile and nod and goodbye approach was working.

Until this week.

He came into the store as usual, I pulled out the book he must sign when picking up a bag, and he asked me if I’d heard the latest news about Bush. I said, “The shoe thing?”

“Yeah. Apparently that’s a pretty big insult in their culture.”

“Yep, second only to calling someone a dog, I think”

“It’s a shame. You know, America, a country founded on Christian values can be…”

And here’s where I made a mistake.

“Actually, it’s not founded on Christian values. The founding fathers weren’t Christians, they were Deists and wrote the consitution based on reason and the values of the Enlightenment.”

“No, they’re Christian values. Like Democracy, Freedom of Religion…”

“Excuse me? I don’t remember those being in the Bible…”

“Well, I could show you.”

“Where. Let’s start with Freedom of Religion? Are you familiar with the Ten Commandments? The first one is “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” That’s not exactly freedom of religion, that’s the opposite. And show me where in the Bible it says anything about Democracy. They aren’t Christian values. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Christanity or that Christians don’t value those things, but they aren’t Christian Values. They came out of Enlightenment philosophy and reason. That is a fact. You are wrong.”

Then I walked away and he kept talking to my co-worker who was standing nearby and tried to change the subject, “Well, a lot of people misunderstand when you talk about Christianity, thinking that by Christian, you mean Catholic. There’s lots of other types of Christianity. In fact the first founders of the American Colonies, were Puritans fleeing persecution by the Papacy…”

I stormed back over, “No, again, you’re wrong. They were fleeing England, which was a Protestant country. They were Protestants fleeing other Protestants. Also that was about 150 years before the constitution. Don’t try to lecture me on my own country’s history. The claim you made is false. America was not founded on Christian values. You are wrong.”

“Well, I choose to interpret it differently.  Your interpretation is different, I accept that. ” (Note: At this point he said the same creepy paedophile thing again)

“No, your interpretation is wrong. Your claim is not true. My interpretation is based on FACTS, the historical record and evidence. Yours is based on opinion.”

“It’s what? Based on ignorance.”

NO, OPINION.

“Well, Christianity is about Loving Thy Enemy and Charity and Forgiveness…”

None of which is in the Constitution.”

“But the constitution mentions God.”

“That doesn’t make it a Christian document. It doesn’t say “Jesus” anywhere. It means God as an abstract. They were Deists, which meant they believed in a God, a creator, but not in miracles or Jesus or dogma.”

“Well then summarize in a few words, what it is based on.”

“The values of the ENLIGHTENMENT which were based on REASON, not RELIGION”

“The…uh…Enlightenment? Is the same as the Rennaissance?”

“No, it was several hundred years later. The Rennaisance was in the 15th and 16th Centuries, The Enlightenment was in the 18th Century. The Constitution was written DURING THE ENLIGHTENMENT which was a time when culture was moving away from religion, toward reason and secularism.”

“Well, but Christianity is about…”

I could see I had hit the end of intelligent conversation and this man was completely unaware of how bloody ignorant he was.

“Look, I don’t have time to talk about this anymore. This conversation is over, I have work to do.” I retreated to the back room and slammed the door (well, it sort of slams on its own anyway).

At this point I was shaking with anger and disgust. I knew better. I should ignore trolls. But to make a claim so ignorant and stupid, especially about something I care about deeply. It just pissed me off so much I couldn’t stand by and let him try to claim the U.S. Constitution for Jeebus.

I’m going back to ignoring him. I just needed to rant this out of my system. (However, the repeated comments he made about paedophiles really have me freaked.) On the positive side, I feel more confident about my arguing skills. Then again, winning a battle of wits with an unarmed man is hardly a victory. The whole thing just made me feel kind of dirty. I hope he isn’t stupid enough to start another argument with me.

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2 Comments
  1. 16/12/2008 11:53 pm

    Always count to ten before replying. Save it for the people on the fence, who might actually listen.

    Of course, any other people loitering around may benefit from your discussion with the troll. They sure aren’t going to take his side!

  2. 18/12/2008 3:27 am

    Just tell him you’re not interested and he’ll stop trying to flirt/argue with you. 😛

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