Friday, June 22, 2007

What we were saying the other day about percentiles

I've been having a lovely time the last few days, thank you. Between the thunderstorms and the birdwatching. Watching Mike across the street running with the lawnmower to beat the thunderstorm. (There was a special on sentence fragments at the deli, I stocked up, I might use up a few of these run-ons too, they seem to be getting stale, I'd better use them now, they might go off.) But Internet-wise, the most fun has been over at Professor Althouse's site. She kicked it off with a post about the new Hillary Clinton campaign video, which is "a take on the last scene of 'The Sopranos.'" Onion rings! Carrot sticks! Freudian interpretation! Whoopee! (Not for Bill.) In keeping with the link dump spirit of this place, I'll list the posts so far:

The new Hillary Clinton video is a take on the last scene of "The Sopranos."
Let's take a closer look at Bill's carrot and Hillary's onion ring.
Ah, a nice, refreshing, troll-diluting...
For some, onion rings. Others do better with the calamari.
"Get away, Onions."
Let's think more deeply about the meaning of carrots.
Think of a vegetable, lonely at home....
"Democrats always know how to implode, how to be ambiguous, how to waver, how not to be authentic."
"I fear the best I can do is to say that I'm rather sorry to have engaged her at all."
Friday pop quiz: Explain this.
My word, I had not realized there were so many. And all this interspersed with other posts, some on serious topics. If, O best beloved, you should choose to read all of these, with the comments, you had better set aside some time for it. Probably over a thousand comments on this extended thread, and that number is unlikely to grow smaller. And most of them just the worst kind of trash. What, you say, is the worst kind of trash? That would be the kind of trash that takes up your time and distracts from the discussion that could be underway if there wasn't ALL THIS SENSELESS SHOUTING GOING ON! Which economists refer to as an opportunity cost. Which rhymes with "opportunity lost." Which is what an opportunity cost costs you.

But to get back to the percentiles: The trolls on this [extended] thread seem to fall into a couple of main groups. 1) the ones who just don't get it, and are resentful about that. Explaining a joke is tedious; explaining it over and over again, to people whose self-esteem is now invested in the idea that it was a lousy joke and that not getting it shows superiority, must require the patience of a teacher, or the subtlety of an artist or a lawyer. [Gosh—who does that profile resemble?] 2) the ones who are just making noise to keep other people from saying anything sensible. You know what I mean: you're trying to talk about business or love or politics, and every time you get a sentence out, your pesky brother interrupts, just to get attention. A classic trolling tactic, uncoupling the cars of the collective train of thought. (Luckyoldson makes a short, senseless, often obscene response to every post by anyone else. A variation is used on political websites by posters who put up long screeds about nothing in particular just to shut down the conversation. I am thinking of "Muslim Unity" at Wizbang!, but it's not an uncommon tactic. "Flood the zone" kind of thing. "Cyrus Pinkerton," not present on these threads, does a lot of this chez Althouse. I suspect that "Cyrus" is a sock puppet of Amanda Marcotte; maybe he/she/they are on vacation this week? Both Lucky and Cyrus have empty blogs that could have hundreds of posts if they had redirected the writing impulse that way, instead of scrawling on someone else's pages.) So what we have is a few people trying to conduct a conversation about a witty observation on current events, while some others, resentful of their incomprehension and too proud to admit it, are banging on pots and pans. Outside the window of a person with degrees in both art and law. Their mothers told them, "Do not meddle in the affairs of artists, for they are subtle, and lawyers are subtle also, and a lawyer who is also an artist, hoo-boy, watch out." But did they listen?

This is a preserv'd specimen of the loneliness of the high percentile. What universities are good for. Why people join Mensa, if they can find a local chapter that has not been taken over by bureaucrats and lingo-slingers. Why Steven den Beste shut down the forum at USS Clueless. Why I said the other day that spending time in conversation with people who are smarter than oneself is a good thing. Did I say that? I meant to. But one has to listen.

I would like to think that Prof. Althouse is cultivating a troll garden, for fun. I hope she is having fun, anyway. My own patience would be sorely tried.

It might be worth noting that (as far as I can recall) not even the worst of the trolls has tried to defend Céline Dion. Some things … maybe she's better en français.

Update: A troll has left a dropping in the comments, which we may examine. Observe the characteristics: anonymity; hostility; willful ignorance; arrogance; irrelevance; confusion of humorous sarcasm with plain viciousness. Trolls often, erroneously and characteristically, imagine that they are funny. I wonder if they also think that they are good-looking. That would be more irrelevance.

Another update, much later: Blogger backlinks are busted, it seems; so here's the backlink for this post: "I would like to think that Prof. Althouse is cultivating a troll garden, for fun."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank yew for supportin' my favrite non-partisan blogger, the independent Ann Althouse. Some may call her the leser perfesser, but you an' I know better. Yer amazin', "Rain in the Doorway" (by the way, what the hell's that mean?)

Prezint George Bush
The White House