No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service

Digby has a post up (referencing Ruy Teixeira) about a noticible recent trend of Democratic defeatism. I’ve been a nay-sayer myself at times — I think that Kerry’s media relations have been weak and inept, and I think that he was stupid to ask MoveOn to pull the Bush National Guard ad. But nonetheless, things look pretty good for Kerry. Bush has gained a few points, but there are always fluctuations in the polls. The only short-term changes that makes any difference are the ones in the last week of the campaign, and you only really find out about these when the votes are counted. As Teixeira points out, Kerry’s still in good shape.

Morale is important, and a lot of Democrats have the morale of a whipped dog. Even well-intended nay-saying can have a bad effect, and we can expect tons of ill-intended naysaying on top of that. Which leads me to my main topic: trolls.

Why do trolls waste so much time making stupid posts on opposition sites? Are they just loony, pathetic, losers?

The answer may be yes, but it’s not because they are trolling our comment threads. The purpose of trolling is to derail productive discussion and to hurt morale. Whether or not trolling is organized or not, and whether the trolls are paid or not, they are rational political operators who know what they’re doing. They’re disrupting the opposition.

(Some people pooh-pooh blogs and blog comments and laugh at the idea that organized disruption might take place. I personally think that some people are being silly. Websites play a significant role in the internal communications of the most committed Democrats, and the Republicans would not be foolish if they were to spend money disrupting them).

Today I’ve seen several threads that were half troll. The effect was depressing. This is an especially critical time, and I don’t think that we really need to find out what Al and Adrian thought about Zell’s speech.

The answer is easy: delete their posts. Ignoring them doesn’t work. Ridiculing them and cursing them is more fun, but that doesn’t really work either. Banning them can work unless they’re IT-proficient, but deleting their posts is the only effective response.

No host has the obligation to allow anyone he doesn’t like on his comments: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”. Anyone who feels like it run a forum open to all, but there’s no obligation to do so. An internal center-left dialogue is a good thing, and certain people need to be excluded in order for that to take place. We have lots to talk about among ourselves, and morale-building is a good thing.

Policing a thread is work, but it can be delegated. Matt, Kevin, Atrios, and the others should give some of their regulars the codes required to delete hostile posts (Kos is a model).

You can expect them to whine about free speech and open debate, blah blah blah, things they don’t care about at all, and accuse us of running an echo chamber. But let them whine elsewhere.

If Democrats can’t defend themselves against feeble little moron shits like Al or Adrian Spidle, how can they defend the US against Osama?