Internet trolls use certain standard techniques. Learn to not fall for these tactics!
1) Trolls attack the person, not their ideas.
“Yeah, well, you’re an idiot!” This is a 2nd -grade tactic. But it IS successfully used every day,
by people who want to distract you. Rather than argue your point, they’ll just insult you.
“You’re a moron, and probably a terrorist, too!” If you get mad, they win. Refuse to take the
bait. They WANT you to stop explaining your ideas.
2) Trolls use a “Straw Man” argument.
They try to make your argument look ridiculous, by taking it absurdly further. “Next thing,
you’ll want us all to pledge allegiance to North Korea!” DEFENSE: “No, I didn’t say anything
like that. Nobody says that.”
Don’t take the bait – keep arguing your point, NOT the point they tried to foist on you.
If you say “Stalin murdered millions of his own people” and they reply “What about your
nation? You wiped out the Indians!” See how they are trying to change the topic? DEFENSE:
“We were talking about Stalin.” Or: “What, I have to be perfect before I can call out someone’s
“Everybody says so!” Yeah, everybody KNEW that there were witches. And everybody was
wrong! Horribly wrong.
5) Appeal to authority
“Einstein said __________, so it must be right!” If someone smart and famous say so, that
doesn’t make it right. Einstein never agreed with quantum mechanics, but it’s been thoroughly
The opposite is also common – “You know who else liked your idea? HITLER!” It’s a good
way to smear someone, but no one can be wrong about everything. Hitler said cigarettes are
terrible. And I agree with him about that.
The Internet is largely familiar with “Godwin’s Law,” that when someone brings up Hitler, the
conversation is basically over.
6) The slippery slope
“If you allow marriage equality, people will be wanting to marry their dogs, next!” This is
another way of moving the goalposts – we WERE talking about one thing, now you want to
change the topic? Sounds like you knew you were losing.
7) It’s my right!
So, the best you can say for your behavior is that it’s not actually illegal? Well, there ARE no
laws against being a jerk. 😡
8) Burden of proof: “Prove to me that it ISN’T!”
No, Mr. Troll, YOU are the one who made an extraordinary claim – (The moon landing was
faked, or the pyramids were built by aliens, or Mr. Kestenbaum might be a halfway decent
teacher.) Therefore YOU must give extraordinary evidence to back up your extraordinary claim.
THE ONE POLITICIANS USE QUITE A LOT:
9) No true Scotsman:
This is a way to make sure they can’t lose. “No true Scotsman would say that!” “Well,
MacTavish says that.” “Then he’s not a TRUE Scotsman!” If you let them set the definitions,
10) The anecdote as evidence:
They’ll tell the story of a person who, for instance, was born very poor but became a huge
success. But a story is NOT data! Statistics cover everyone, a single story doesn’t prove a
darned thing. And as we all know, being born poor is a huge factor in whether you make it in
So, please, DON’T LET THEM get away with twisting the argument! Keep it plain, and keep to
one idea at a time. When in doubt, google up “Logical Fallacies,” which are the ways people
fool themselves or others into believing things that just aren’t true.
Now, get off the Internet and go play outside, eh?