Long before I knew the word for it, I was trollin’. But luckily I’m not alone, there have been probably been trolls for as long as we’ve been here as a species. Socrates? Troll. King Henry V? Troll. John Hancock? Troll. Don’t believe me? Look it up!
But trolling isn’t just for basement kids on 4chan or Greek philosophers anymore. You may have recently heard political commentator Bill O’Reilly trying to argue for the existence of god by asking us questions that most 3rd graders know the answers to. You may have seen the bajillion image macros made in the wake of such inquiry. Well if you haven’t, take a peek as O’Reilly interviews President of the American Atheists David Silverman:
(Skip to about 1:50 for goodness)
Two minutes in, the bomb is dropped, and the look on Silverman’s face is priceless. O’Reilly later put out another video where he asks philosophical questions about the nature of the sun’s rise and set, our apparent special place in the universe because we have a moon and Mars doesn’t (Wait, what?), and where the aforementioned moon came from. You can’t explain that.
But hilarious memes and awesome angry David Silverman face aside, I have to be the bearer of bad news: You’ve been trolled.
Think about it, the conditions are perfect. You have the attention of millions of people, you have your liberal, atheist opponent in front of you, and your goal is to make them all rage, while making your oafish, unimaginative supporters hoot and holler behind you. Bill O’Reilly unleashed the perfect storm of internet trolldom. He didn’t just invoke the god of the gaps. He won it. He won God of the Gaps. Don’t ask me how. You can’t explain that.
Bear with me a moment. Now, I may be giving O’Reilly too much credit, but the guy got his master’s degree at Harvard. I find it hard to believe he doesn’t know why the tide comes in and out. I now risk sounding like a conspiracy case saying that O’Reilly trolled atheist/skeptic/rational America for nothing but lulz. You can’t expla– okay I’ll stop.
I cannot believe the man is that stupid. Agree or disagree, these people know what they’re doing, and painting them as idiots only leads you into making uninformed judgment calls. In a way, Bill O’Reilly might be poisoning his own well, but whether he does it or you do it, it’s still a logical fallacy. I feel like there’s a Sun Tzu quote in here somewhere, but the take away is: Don’t feed the trolls.
Brian Dunning of the Skeptoid Podcast has an article called “Sarah Palin is Not Stupid” which touches on this very subject. I high recommend you go read/listen to it. Because part of being a skeptic is not rushing into judgments. Immediately pegging your opponent as a buffoon not only makes for bad logic, but it paints you in poor light as well.
Oh by the way. SISKO WAS BETTER THAN PICARD. PEACE!
This post has been brought to you by Hafnium (Hf) and ”Horta Hears a Who”, which I’m still patting myself on my big nerd back for, even if I did find it elsewhere on Google later.