This article is basically an extension of a blog post I wrote about keyboard warriors. In that post, I spoke a little about the mentality of such people, who can be also be referred to as ‘Internet Tough Guys’ (henceforth referred to as ITGs).
I have personally come across such ITGs, often on iMDB, but also on Yahoo! Groups and other web forums. They sit behind their nicknames and computers, shielding themselves from criticism, but are very much prepared to dish it out.
One of the best (or worst, depending on your point of view, comes from the aforementioned iMDB. The examples are too numerous to list, but often involve very passionate and hostile denouncements of other peoples’ opinions of TV shows and films. Visit the Star Trek into Darkness boards for ongoing examples of what I refer to.
This isn’t even the worst area for such posturing. Whether the topic is gay rights, religious values, history, music… it seems the easiest way to challenge an idea or value you don’t like is not to challenge it with well-constructed arguments, but rather with hastily constructed insults, strawman fallacies, ad hominein constructs, and other petty gestures.
Is there anything that can be done? It all starts with yourself. Think about how you project yourself and your opinions, and think about how it feels to be on the receiving end of such tactics. Above all else, ITGs crave attention – they desperately need to validate themselves and the only way to do that is to trash others’ opinions.
You can ignore them. This takes away the attention they crave. You can try exposing them, but you run the risk of getting dragged to their level (which they love).
You can counter their fallicious arguments with accurate ones of your own. There’s no guarantee they’ll listen, but bystanders reading your arguments might be swayed by fact-driven arguments, which undermine the ITGs.
If enough people take a stand against their behaviour, perhaps, eventually, it will stop.