Common Troll Tactics

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Derived from: It was originally written to describe disruption in the comp.os.linux.advocacy (COLA) news group but the same things have been observed everywhere software users, especially where OS/2, Apple, Amiga and GNU/Linux users gather. A similar resource was written for Slashdot users, which quotes Eric Raymond, Bruce Perens and others.

7 Anti-Linux Propagandists and Trolls


Boycott Novell is under siege by anti-GNU/Linux propagandists and trolling groups as is every free software advocacy site. In the past, professional propagandists have appeared to be confident and smug. Lately, they are desperate and have taken to more brutal attacks. Instead of subtle spin, they resort to a barage of insults and threats. One reason for their desperation appears to be as a result of growth of the mind share of Linux and the continuing failures of their chosen cause, especially the growing irrelevance of mass media sources that billions of dollars have been spent corrupting. A number of tactics are employed cyclically and all have been seen before. One of the best guides to professional trolling is training material written by Microsoft. Richard Stallman noted the the basics of attack 25 years ago, which include propaganda, namecalling, physical raids and enlistment of stool pigeons. Besides the professional anti-Linux propagandists there are also the occasional classic newsgroup troll. Currently a large number of professionals are at work on Boycott Novell. These activities complement, judicial extortion, the purchase of oppressive laws like ACTA, industrial espionage, supply chain sabotage, even the destruction of charities, and more public attacks on decision makers and academicians. The stepped up attacks on Boycott Novell show that Boycott Novell may be tripping up these other, more expensive efforts.

Free and open discussions between the experienced users and the new users and the would be users of is our goal, along with sharing current items of common interest. That is the goal of all those who would be free software advocates as well as all others who come to discuss GNU/Linux. All of us, free software users new and old and those curious have come to advocacy groups as students and as teachers. Anti-GNU/Linux propagandists and the trolls have come to disrupt and prevent groups from being an asset to the larger free software community.

It can be difficult to determine what type of person a particular disruptive personality is; an anti-GNU/Linux Propagandist or just a troll. Their motivation is different but their goals and tactics are the same. Common trolls are motivated by pure malice. They enjoy wasting people's time and causing emotional distress. Professional propagandists are driven by malice too but are also paid or have a financial stake in the discussion. What it not difficult to determine is what their purpose is when they post.  To get what they want, they have to make themselves obvious. They disrupt the newsgroup and sidetrack its purpose of existence. Regardless of their reasons, they try to prevent the free exchange of knowledge and support based on experience of using GNU/Linux that would happen without their interference. While common trolls come and go, the professionals are only satisfied when the community has become a vehicle for their own propaganda or is destroyed.

All are welcome here, except those who come to disrupt. Free software is all about sharing.

7.1 Disinformation

If free software advocacy groups met at a physical location, the anti-GNU/Linux propagandists would be raiding that building. They would be vandalizing the building, painting graffiti on the walls, defecating and urinating on the floors and furniture, breaking down the doors, setting fire to the building and physically assaulting the resident Linux advocates and the visitors who happen to be in the building at the time of the raid. They would then chase the survivors through streets filled with hostile mobs, blaming the victims for their crimes. They want advocates to quit and casual users to stay away.

Advocacy forums are not physical locations, so vandals do an on-line version of what was described in the prior paragraph. A key method used by anti-Linux propagandist to attack GNU/Linux, its users, sysadmins, developers, advocates and those who have come to lean about free software is a form of propaganda known as disinformation. A constant drumbeat of lies is kept up in the popular press through manipulation of it's members and institutions.

7.3 A Common Name Calling and FUD of the Anti-Linux Propagandists

One of their favorite version of disinformation is known as Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). The basic idea of FUD is that bad things will happen to those who do not stick with whatever commercial software is being promoted. Everyone and everything else is smeared, often in subtle ways.

 An example of dishonesty of the anti-Linux propagandists is their common claim that the GNU/Linux proponents oppose the use of any other operating system. As the above referenced Microsoft training manual shows, this and most name calling attacks are pure hypocrisy. The truth is that a user of one or more operating systems are not opposed in GNU/Linux advocacy groups. Most of us, sadly, grew up with non free software and many are tasked with maintaining it. This is welcome knowledge because it brings a rational basis for comparison and improvement of free software. It is due to this experience that any disinformation regarding the capabilities of GNU/Linux and other operating systems are easily detected by the Linux advocates.

 It is not difficult to tell the difference between an anti-Linux Propagandist and a true advocates of another operating system. Occasional mention of other operating systems is fine. However, it is the frequent or continuous promotion of other operating systems that turns a welcome poster into an unwelcome troll or anti-Linux propagandist.

7.6 Trespasser Disinformation Tactics

 This is a list of the disinformation tactics that the that the anti-GNU/Linux propagandists use. All of these tactics have been used in COLA by the anti-GNU/Linux propagandists against advocates and the rest of the COLA readership. This list has been worded as though you are one of trolls, so that you can better see how they think.

1. Act offended or claim that opposing viewpoints are incredible, unbelievable or even offensive. When you are unable to valid argument to refute a Linux advocate, use empty statements such as:

  • "Only a Linonut would say that"
  • "And they wonder why no one takes Linux seriously!"
  • "How dare you say that!"
  • "That's the way to offend thousands!"

2. Distract your opponent from the issues at hand by accusing your opponents of being "petty", "pathetic", "childish" or any of a number of other such terms.

3. Put your opponent off guard by insulting him.  The liberal use of profanity and vulgarisms can be very effective, particularly when used against you more dignified opponents.  Your experience as a school yard bully can be handy here

4. Be patronizing, condescending and present an air of superiority. It may hide your inferiority to the casual reader.  Use phrases like "kid" or "son", to elevate your relative apparent authority by attempting to diminish that of the Linux advocate you are addressing.

5. Discredit your opponent or his position through the use of inappropriate laugher and other non-verbal grunts.

6. When your tactics are turned on you, call your opponents trolls.  Do not accept the fact that by calling someone using your tactics a troll that makes you the real troll.

7. Keep posting non-stop.  Flood the group with your idiocy and nonsense. Some readers may equate your volume with proof of quality.  You will tie good Linux advocates in knots trying to refute you and they won't have time for real advocacy.

8. Brag about destroying newsgroups and threaten to do the same wherever you are.

9. Drive as many good Linux Advocates out of the group as possible. Exploit their differences and create fights that lead to banning.

10. Refuse to admit your errors, no matter how blatant they are.  If you find no way out and have to admit that you are wrong, phrase it so that you can accuse your opponent of being wrong and pretend to be insulted.

11. Never apologize for your misbehavior.  Never ever apologize no matter how out of line you have been behaving. If you should ever find it to your advantage to apologize, phrase it as a slap in the face of the person who you have already wronged.

 12. Blame your stupidity and lies on your opponent. Blame your own stupidity on the Linux advocate you are dealing with.  Such as when you have made an unsupportable claim that suggest a list of details and your are asked to present your non-existent list reply with, "I don't have to list them for you; you aren't bright enough to know what you're missing by using X instead of a real Y, I'm not going to explain it to you." Then hope that nobody reading the thread realizes that your statement translates as, "I lack the knowledge or facts needed to counter your position or your position is too complete and accurate to be refuted.  So, I will say things to sound superior to avoid admitting you are right."

13. Embarrass your opponent. Locate or create apparently embarrassing information or detail and utilize it out of all proportion-trying to create a scandal around it, to hijack a thread or drive everyone to distraction.

14. Blackmail your opponent. Locate or create apparently embarrassing information or detail and threaten your opponent with exposure to force him to do as you want him to. This tactic can be combined with the "Embarrass your opponent"  tactic if you can no longer get your way though Blackmail.

15. Avoid answering direct questions.  Avoid answering a direct questions that you fear by claiming to not  have seen the question then refuse to address it for other reasons.  Keep it up along with other tactics until your opponent is distracted from the question.

16. Turn a question asked of you back on the Linux Advocate with a question like: "What do you think is the `right' answer, lamer?" You have now taken the heat off of your ignorance and you have cast doubt on the credibility of your opponent.

17. Don't substantiate your claims.  Refuse to present evidence to support your invalid claims. Repeat your invalid claims and have your anti-Linux propagandist comrades do the same. Do the same for any invalid claims that you have notice your anti-Linux propagandists comrades make.

18. Don't discuss evidence counter to your position.  Avoid examining or discussing evidence counter to your position. This is especially effective when combined with 3.2.8, Dancing Fool, wherein you change your position with every post.

19. Present multiple personalities.  Change your position with every few article you post to comp.os.linux.advocacy. Appear to be supporting all sides of the issues. You can make a statements or opinion in one posting then follow it up with a another post with a contrary opinion. You can even get into an argument with yourself. This could cause readers to dismiss the subject of the thread.

20. Narrow the scope of threads so that you can handle it. Narrow the scope of the issues that are being addressed in a thread to details you feel that you can refute, ridicule, or dismiss leaving the main issues unaddressed.

21. Widen the scope of threads to swamp out the original issue.  Widen the scope of the issues discussed in a thread to the point that the original issues are buried away and hopefully soon forgotten.

22. Use invalid statistics. Introduce statistics to try to hurt Linux, Linux Advocates, and/or the  Linux community at large. Do not about them be valid or real. It would  be nice if you can find those statistics on-line, but if you can't find any, invent them out of whole cloth.  If they are discredited, don't let that bother you, keep citing them. If you see a fellow anti-Linux propagandist using statistics, cite them as well, no matter their lack of validity.

23. Lie, lie, lie, lie.  If you do it often enough you may create the appearance of truth.

24. Ignore dictionaries when they don't support you.  Rage against the use of dictionaries or other such documents, their use can only hurt you and expose your ignorance. Be the first to use one when an advocate blunders.

25. Attack new posters who favor Linux. Some of these Linux Advocates may be new to GNU/Linux and COLA. Show no mercy. Pounce upon their innocence with every single one of these tactics. If you are lucky you might turn them to your side, at the very least you may be able to drive them out and neutralize them as a threat.

26. Attack typos and ignore the content of the message.   Point out your opponent's grammatical flaws and spelling errors. By doing this you can concentrate on form while ignoring substance. This is a very handy method to discredit your opponent and by extension his position, without once again exposing your ignorance of the issues begin discussed in the thread.

27. Use Spelling and Grammatical Errors to Distract. Make statements like, "Why do you nea d to dbug the cernal? Is lienux not working agen!" When this tactic works, you have disarmed the supporters of Linux who have chosen to ignore you because of your idiot act, others may react to your style and fail to refute your disinformation. Meanwhile, you have posted your disinformation in support your cause.

28. Start trolling threads with subjects like "Linsux Sux", "Linux fonts are bad", etc. Manufacture false evidence to back up your claims when possible, but don't worry that that is not important. All that is important is that you consume the efforts and resources of Linux Advocate as they try to refute your trolling threads and that you scare the new and casual readership of COLA.

29. Unreasonably proclaim your reasonableness.  If your method to deliver anti-Linux propaganda is not among the more article style, you can try to claim to be reasonable. Of course if you really were reasonable, you would not be an anti-Linux propagandists in he first place; however, compared to your more radical comrades you may seem to be more reasonable. You can not be certain that the readership will accept your actions as being reasonable without your prompting them to think of you that way. So you need frequently mention how reasonable you are.

30. Expose yourself.   Post articles containing ASCII art depicting your body including your genitals, either in the message body or in the sig.  Discuss your bodily functions and your bodily wastes, the more disgusting the better. It will tend to drive away more of the casual and new readers. The Linux Advocates who are frequent posters may become disgusted enough to avoid threads that you involve yourself in. Accuse those who complain of intolerance.

31. If it makes Microsoft or Windows look bad call it a rumor.   Claim that anything that tends to make Microsoft or Windows look bad  is an unfounded rumor and that you opponent is being unfair, making things up and lying.  If the information is obscure enough claim that it is an urban legend, hoping that no one knows that many legends are based on fact. Accuse advocates of being petty and go back to trashing GNU/Linux, "Who cares about that? I just want my $Microsoft_sabotaged_device to work like it does in Windows."

32. Promote Windows at every opportunity.  Microsoft Windows needs a lot of help to be successful in the mind  share of its targeted user base. Point out to everybody on COLA how wonderful it is. Ignore the meaning of the name of the newsgroup and its charter.

33. Claim false Alignment. Remind Everyone that you are a long-time Linux user and advocate. Of course it is not true, so you will be accused of being what you really are.  When that happens and you are accused of working against Linux. Deny!  Deny! Deny!

34. Use of false identities.  Create throw away identities to enter the newsgroup to spread discord and after a few days or weeks, stop using that identity. If you are losing an argument create a new identity to support the position of your main identity. If things are getting slow, create a few identities counter to your primary identity.  Start a n-on-1 argument with your primary identity being outnumbered.  Then have each of your new identities be convinced by your primary identity to the error of their ways.

35. When thing get too hot go away.   When all else fails and things get too hot, disappear from the group.   This is not as drastic as it sounds.  You might stay away for a few months and then return hoping that the other wintrolls have softened up the field a bit.  If you don't want to stay away at all.  Create a new primary identity and drop the use of the other one.

36. Enter the group as a sleeper.  If you are a new anti-GNU/Linux propagandist, or at least your current false identity is new, then make your entrance as a dedicated Linux user. After a little while, claim to have seen the light and "convert back to Windows".  Then you can promote Windows all you want for a while, before your true nature is commonly known. Sometimes this works for several hours before you are shouted down and have to move on to a new identity or continue on as "normal" anti-Linux propagandist.

37. Enter as a false disgruntled Linux user. Create a throw away false identity to enter the newsgroup in order claim to be short or long term Linux users who "have had enough of Linux and are returning to Windows." Stir things up for a day or two and disappear forever.

38. Never leave a Linux positive thread unchallenged.  If there is a thread developing that is positive for Linux, hijack that thread at all cost.  Even if it means sacrificing your current identity.  One method to do this is to ramble on about other topics, with or without the use embedded insults.  Even if you fail to hijack the thread, you may be able to derail it enough to cancel the positive-for Linux-impact that it could have had.

39. Lie about what you know.  Claim credit for experience, knowledge, or education that you do not have. It will impress readers who are not knowledgeable on the topic of the moment. Be careful to not engage someone who is truly knowledgeable on the subject in conversation or your actual ignorance will be exposed.

40. Avoid providing any help. Because you claim to be such an expert so often, you may from time to time be asked for assistance.  Don't provide it, you would only destroy the image you have lied so long to create.  Treat an honest request based on a real situation as an argument: Restate the request for assistance in a real situation as a hypothetical situation that you can argue against.

41. Use of Undefined and Insulting Terminology.  Use terms such as "indoctrinated" as a substitute for "educated" or "experienced" when referring to a Linux Advocate.  Use "pedantic" in place of "correct", "precise", or "accurate" when referring to a GNU/Linux Advocate.  Create and use personal definitions such as "commercial quality" for impressive sounding terms to mislead the unwary.  But never share your definitions for your inappropriate terminology. This is commonly known as Troll-speak.

42. Use fake email addresses.  Use a fake email address, not just a de-spammed address like real advocates use, but a completely fake and made-up one. If you feel the need for the appearance of normality use a real appearing email address-maybe not one of yours, but you can try to explain your act of  identity theft as an accident.

43. Citing vapor postings. Cite the statements that you had "intended" to include but never actual written into your past posting. Gamble on the possibility that nobody will remember what you posted and that nobody will do the research to determine what you have posted. If you loose that bet, use another disinformation tactic to deflect the results of your using this tactic.

44. Use being an idiot as an excuse.   When you are criticized for using disinformation tactics, claim ignorance of the disinformation tactics and use your apparent idiocy as an excuse for your actions. Do the same for your comrades, when a Linux Advocate corners one of your fellow anti-Linux propagandists tell that advocate something like "What are you doing? It's only John Doe for goodness sake!"

45. Criticize GNU/Linux Advocates but ignore anti-Linux propagandist transgressions.  Always criticize the behavior of Linux Advocates, but, ignore the same and even worse transgressions are being committed by your fellow Trespassers. Make the same mistakes with your other accounts soon after correcting those of GNU/Linux advocates. Create as hostile, unfair and oppressive an environment as you can.

46. Accept the claims of other anti-Linux propagandists as face value. Always treat other anti-Linux propagandist's statements as being true.  Accept their interpretations without question, don't bother verifying their statements. If they claim something against a Linux advocate always side with the anti-Linux propagandists.

47. Don't do your own homework.   Make your opponent do your research for you. Depending on how much credibility you still have will determine how successful you will be at this tactic.

48. Don't let your ignorance stop you from posting.    No matter how little you understand of the issues being discussed in a  thread, post anyway. If you don't know what you are talking about just pretend that you do. Always move the topic of discussion to how great Windows is and how much GNU/Linux sucks.

49. Restate the issues to support your preconceptions. If the issues being discussed in a thread are not exploitable by you for your purpose, restate the issues to support your ability to attack Linux Advocate opponent.

50. Claim god like attributes, such as being all knowing. If you don't want to make that claim, behave as though you are, any way.

51. Claim only you understand what the issues are.   Claim and other wise present the attitude to imply that only you know what the issues really are. Attempt to project the attitude that would tend to discredit your opponent at the same time.

52. Invoke the mythical average user.   Always use the mythical average users as your yardstick for usability.   No matter what is being discussed about Linux, restate the abilities of the average users to fall short of that needed.

53. Use extortion to build an army and make your enemies fight each other.  When things are not going the way you want, crosspost a threat in another newsgroup a thread of your intention of making things miserable for them if they don't take up your battle for you. This is a dangerous tactic for the anti-Linux propagandists and may cost you a nym. If they don't react the way you wanted them to, you will either have to forget it or you could carry our your threat. If you forget it, you will loose even more credibility. If you carry out your threat you will still loose credibility and you could open yourself up for reprisal from those your are hurting by carrying out your threat. Even in success, you may be held responsible. A recent case (as of this writing) of this tactic being used by a anti-Linux propagandists can be revived by reading the thread that resulted with the crossposting of Message-ID:      ozub8.40974$ to comp.os.linux.advocacy and      comp.os.linux.misc.

54. The devil made me do it, aka blame the victim.  When you are caught in a situation for which you can not explain you actions without a confession of your dishonesty and your alignment, blame it on someone else. Create a boogyman to take the blame. A variation of this tactic was used in the thread cited above, in which the failed extortionist blames all the Linux Advocates in COLA for forcing him into attempting extortion.

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