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The Kos-tapo

By Michael J. Smith on Saturday May 27, 2006 12:33 PM

There's something wrong with me, I admit it. I can't seem to stop reading Daily Kos. I know, I know, I need a twelve-step program, or something. But it's just irresistible -- like slowing down on the highway to take in all the gory details of a thirty-car pileup.

Pretty dreary stuff, for the most part. Occasionally, though, there are wonderful moments, like this contribution from "Hunter", entitled The Tao of Troll Rating. Hunter is apparently a member of the Kos inner circle, and his/her 2,650-word treatise bears all the marks of an ex cathedra pronouncement. So far it has attracted nearly a thousand comments.

witch huntingIt reminds me of Malleus Maleficarum, the fifteenth-century treatise on witch-finding: the same obsession with categorizing and sub-categorizing, the same elaboration of process and procedure.

"Hunter" gives six characteristics of trolls and distinguishes five main types. He (or she, of course; but somehow, I think it's a guy) provides seven guidelines for deciding what is a troll and what isn't. It's really quite an intellectual edifice. Not on the same scale as the Malleus, of course, but not bad for an evening's work by a blogger with no theological training. Here are the learned, long-dead friars:

...It first must be noted that there are, as was shown in the First Part of this treatise, three kinds of witches; namely, those who injure but cannot cure; those who cure but, through some strange pact with the devil, cannot injure; and those who both injure and cure. And among those who injure, one class in particular stands out, which can perform every sort of witchcraft and spell, comprehending all that all the others individually can do.... And this class is made up of those who, against every instinct of human or animal nature, are in the habit of eating and devouring the children of their own species.

The friars sure had their talking points worked out, didn't they? Here's Hunter:

... there's been an accepted practice of returning a retaliatory troll rating on someone in an argument who is very, very clearly abusing the ratings rules themselves. In that this is a nice Darwinian pressure that tends to remove overactive troll raters from the Trusted User pool themselves, I... can't see fit to argue with it. If the troll rater is quite clearly breaking the rules as laid out themselves, it is generally accepted practice.

Hey, nobody said this stuff was easy. Make a little effort, okay?

More interesting even than Hunter's Torah is the swarming Talmud of comments it has attracted. It's very difficult to do justice to these. Here's one, picked, I swear, absolutely at random -- I closed my eyes, jiggled the mouse, and clicked:

You've gone off topic again (4+ / 0-)

Are you doing that intentionally, or can you not control it, or do you not notice it?

Your point about a lack of redress is reasonable. You're wrong, in that one can simply post another comment saying "what the hell was that about?", as many do, but what I think you mean is that the person troll rated has no other means of retaliation.

Then you go off into Lieberman land. Can you do that in a separate diary? We're trying to have a discussion here.

I can only conjecture that the institutional fetish, the one that keeps these folks in the Democratic Party in the first place, is also driving this passionate debate about exactly how the Kos troll-purge should be run.

I'm a veteran of Left sects -- fanatical little groupuscules who would call each other Nazis over some refined point of doctrine. But it gives me a strange, uncanny feeling to realize that the Democratic party, at least at the Kos level, is a sect too. Would have thought a sect needs to be about something -- but apparently not.

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