Second, we all need to become as competent as possible as consumers of communication. Don't be naive. You need to detect these literary devices. Understand that writers/speakers have ulterior motives. I'm not going to clear out material that requires you to exercise your mental muscles. If you can't tell a moby when you see one, I'm not going to delete him: You need practice. If I see you responding to him as if he were sincere, it makes me sad. Where's your mental toughness? How will you be a competent citizen in the political arena where everyone's always more or less bullshitting?
What is a moby? It's surprisingly hard to Google for your answer. Perhaps the singer Moby — after whom the particular sort of trolling is named — has had more success petitioning Google for reputation help than has Rick "frothy mix" Santorum. So here's Urban Dictionary's most popular definition of Moby:
An insidious and specialized type of left-wing troll who visits blogs and impersonates a conservative for the purpose of either spreading false rumors intended to sow dissension among conservative voters, or who purposely posts inflammatory and offensive comments for the purpose of discrediting the blog in question.But you don't get banned on my blog for doing that, even though my comments policy, as stated above the compose window, says "we delete... bad faith comments," defining bad faith as "comments that we believe have the ulterior motive of destroying the conversation and driving people away from this forum." A moby can cross the line into bad faith, but mobyism per se is not what I'm talking about. What I want is for readers and commenters not to get suckered by comments that come in this insincere form. I want you to raise your game!
The term is derived from the name of the liberal musician Moby, who famously suggested in February of 2004 that left-wing activists engage in this type of subterfuge: “For example, you can go on all the pro-life chat rooms and say you’re an outraged right-wing voter and that you know that George Bush drove an ex-girlfriend to an abortion clinic and paid for her to get an abortion. Then you go to an anti-immigration Web site chat room and ask, ‘What’s all this about George Bush proposing amnesty for illegal aliens?’”
The strategy has been frequently attempted on conservative blogs, but has not been nearly as effective as Moby envisioned, since false rumors are easily debunked by fact-checking minions, and cartoonishly extreme commenters often get immediately identified as mobys and banned.
On to the specific incident. This morning, I posted for the first time about the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The point of my post was, as I put it in the comments, to demand that everyone pay attention to and value the actual facts of the case and not to fall prey to more prejudice and stereotypes as they snap up a seemingly useful incident for the purpose of saying something they already want to say about — ironically — prejudices and stereotypes.
A commenter called Dane County Taxpayer posted:
Why was this hoodie black boy walking around this neighborhood? He was out looking to provoke a reaction. He definitely deserves a Darwin award for getting himself killed. Let face it, it is reasonable to assume the worst when you see a hoodie black youth in your gated community. This boy should have known that. The gun grabbers are now using this to push their agenda.Now, that's obviously a moby. Anyone who took DCT seriously and argued with him on the merits was duped. Please don't be duped. Others, like Palladian, called him out:
"Dane County Taxpayer" is what's called a "moby" troll; it posts deliberately inflammatory, racially-charged comments in order to provoke others to make such comments and therefore have "proof" that the commenters here are "racist".And I said:
This particular troll has a very long and ugly history here. Ignore it.
Yes, if you didn't recognize Dane County Taxpayer as a moby... you need to up your game. Be a savvy commenter. There are mobys afoot.Meade wanted us to delete DCT's comment, but I argued with him about the proper meaning of our key policy term "bad faith," and I was adamant that what we will delete is only the commenter who we believe hates this blog and is out to wreck it by undermining the conversation and driving people away. I'm not about saving readers from having to be smart about detecting insincerity and sarcasm. Admittedly, I don't know when someone has crossed my "bad faith" line, but that is the line.
I realize that by drawing the line there, it is possible that someone on some other blog might quote that comment and say Aha! Proof that those terrible right-wing commenters at Althouse are a bunch of disgusting racists! And if I believe the commenter is trying to make that happen, with the purpose of wrecking my blog, I will see him as crossing the bad faith line. And, actually, now that I think about it, I'm inclined to view Dane County Taxpayer as having crossed the line. I think anti-Althousians of the web will see his comment as a delicious tidbit. DCT himself could even start another blog, under a different name and use his own quote to attack me and my commenters.
Having written all this, and given all the pointing out of the mobying that appears in the context of the original comments thread, I'm going to leave the comment up, as a lesson in free speech and reading comprehension.