Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 10, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

COMMENT TRAWLING....A reader notes that the practice of trawling through open comment threads to find wackjobs who can be held up as evidence of "crazy liberals" is on the rise. Needless to say, this practice is almost self-discrediting: if the best evidence of wackjobism you can find is a few anonymous nutballs commenting on a blog, then the particular brand of wackjobism you're complaining about must not be very widespread after all. So how can we mock this practice effectively enough to make people ashamed to indulge in it?

To me the model is Godwin's Law, which in my mind has been incredibly successful at shaming people into not invoking Hitler or fascism as much as they used to. Once someone invented a phrase for that particular piece of rhetorical dishonesty, then it could be invoked over and over again as a handy slur.

So the question is: can someone invent a catchy phrase to basically mean, cherry-picking crazy comments or emails? Or, if one of your readers could find the right way to turn it into a "law," then maybe it could become "X's Law" a fitting prize for the winner.

Hmmm. "Kevin's Law" has a certain ring to it, doesn't it? It would go something like this: "If you're forced to rely on random blog commenters to make a point about the prevalence of some form or another of disagreeable behavior, you've pretty much made exactly the opposite point."

Want the law named after you instead? Come up with a better definition!

Kevin Drum 2:54 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (161)

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Comments

How about "Penny's Law", named after that little blonde girl that was brutally murdered by innapropriate blog comments?

Posted by: enozinho on August 10, 2006 at 3:06 AM | PERMALINK

While "Kevin's Law" is indeed immensely catchy, I think "Comment Trawling" is a bit more likely to achieve widespread usage.

Posted by: Petey on August 10, 2006 at 3:09 AM | PERMALINK

Strawbrain's Search -- digging for a blog comment to fulfill the strawman role required to justify the rant you really want to unleash.

Posted by: paperTrail on August 10, 2006 at 3:12 AM | PERMALINK

"Penny's Law" clearly wins. That poor little girl...damned bloggers!

Posted by: dj moonbat on August 10, 2006 at 3:13 AM | PERMALINK

"Bottom trawling" ! Having to reach the bottom of the barrel to find an edible nutjob.

Posted by: Fifi on August 10, 2006 at 3:15 AM | PERMALINK

Better yet, answer in kind. Find similarly extreme statements by right-wing commenters (it isn't hard to do), and publicize that list.

Posted by: JS on August 10, 2006 at 3:16 AM | PERMALINK

Have you seen the comments at a fine site like America Blog or DU? The hard part is finding the sane comments. Or, consider this comment thread. Or this.

Let me suggest a better tack: join with Sheldon Drobny in calling the loony comments a Rovian plot.

-- Headline Generator

Posted by: TLB on August 10, 2006 at 3:20 AM | PERMALINK

In any case, the best response to bottom trawling probably is "Who ? Who are you saying is saying what and why should we care ?". Ask for precise names, relevance and influence in the debate, "Is that guy called "anonymous coward" a Democratic Congressmen, a party official ? Never heard of him. Why should I care ?"

Remember that Ward Churchill nitwit after 9/11 ? Democrats should have asked that very question : "Who?" followed by "Never heard of him. Why should I care about what this idiot says?".

Posted by: Fifi on August 10, 2006 at 3:23 AM | PERMALINK

Bottom trolling? (since if one's looking for the perfect comment, one might just as easily add it one's self)

Freepers creepers? Little green goofballs?

Posted by: bad Jim on August 10, 2006 at 3:27 AM | PERMALINK

Malkin malpractice.

Posted by: Terence on August 10, 2006 at 3:30 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, thats easy. Goldbergs Law. Named after Jonah Goldbergs habit of linking to loony comments at DU and Kos as examples of "the left".

Posted by: Golden Bunny on August 10, 2006 at 3:40 AM | PERMALINK

I say, keep it simple and catchy. Call them BLOGOPhobe's

Posted by: troll on August 10, 2006 at 3:49 AM | PERMALINK

I say, keep it simple and catchy. Call them BLOGOPhobes

Posted by: troll on August 10, 2006 at 3:49 AM | PERMALINK

A reader notes that the practice of trawling through open comment threads to find wackjobs who can be held up as evidence of "crazy liberals" is on the rise.

This isn't hard to do. Every poster who tries to refute what I say in the comments section of this blog is guaranteed to be a crazy liberal. Liberals seem to have no good arguments to refute good conservative arguments.

Posted by: Al on August 10, 2006 at 3:49 AM | PERMALINK

Liberals seem to have no good arguments to refute good conservative arguments.

Alas, Al, in your case, this is a theory that will remain forever untested...

Posted by: Midnight on August 10, 2006 at 3:58 AM | PERMALINK

Al (supposedly)>"...Liberals seem to have no good arguments to refute good conservative arguments."

Ha Ha Ha

Talk about losers...

There are NO "good conservative arguments" !

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." - Sinclair Lewis

Posted by: daCascadian on August 10, 2006 at 3:58 AM | PERMALINK

Drum's Law: The use of anonymous individuals (or a miniscually small minority) to paint the majority.

Posted by: the good reverend on August 10, 2006 at 4:02 AM | PERMALINK

How about "the editor's law":

No matter how inane the arguments and supporting "facts" we must publish strongly worded and inflamatory editorials from "both" sides.

Posted by: B on August 10, 2006 at 4:03 AM | PERMALINK

Why just last night, as I was finishing my evening prayers, facing mecca, and starting to put more pins into my Lieberman voudou doll, I realized, boy, I could really use some brie, and some french champagne. So I sent the servants out in my stretch hummer limo, to pick some up while I got on line and traded stock tips with George Soros. Then I typed up a long screed about how much I hate America, and faxed it to my favorite senators, Barbara Boxer, and Hillary Clinton. (I'd really like to see them in Burkhas someday).

now where was I?

Oh yes, apparently, the voudou doll worked, so I'm going to dig out my old collection of Bush voudou dolls. They didn't work so good in 2004, or 2000, or in 1998 when he was elected governor, or when he got that sweet deal on the Rangers' stadium, or when he made out like a bandit on the Arbusto deal, or when he got his release papers from the TANG, or when he got his DUI purged from his records, . . . man, I've been shoving these pins in for a long time. I'm not obsessed though. Bush really is evil, and deserves what's coming to him. Whatever magical protections he has from drinking that blood out of Geronimo's Skull have to wear out someday. Then he's mine! Just like Joe Lieberman.

Oh yeah, and there's really a lot of weirdos in the blogosphere lately. LIke that slim guy. Or the bio-warfare conspiracy theory guy. Or dead-Al, who got the voudou zombie curse from Karl Rove, and is now his willing blogslave.

Oh well. Death to America, and all that!

Posted by: Liberal Strawman on August 10, 2006 at 4:04 AM | PERMALINK

I'd call it 'Boogerism': the inflation of the tiniest snot to legendary proportions.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden on August 10, 2006 at 4:09 AM | PERMALINK

How about "Troll fishing" as description? That, or "barrel-scraping".

Posted by: Calton Bolick on August 10, 2006 at 4:09 AM | PERMALINK

slim, I've got a voudou qaballah doll that looks like you. . . be afraid assclown.

Posted by: Liberal Strawman on August 10, 2006 at 4:13 AM | PERMALINK

BlogoPhobe: Any Elite Politico or Pundit with unreasonable fears of Non-Beltway Opinion, combined with a strong paranoid desire to discredit it using means possible.


Posted by: troll on August 10, 2006 at 4:15 AM | PERMALINK

Slim,

I am going to assume that you are making some kind of joke, otherwise I might come to the conclusion that you are perhaps the most paranoid, xenophobic, Elders of Zion style conspiracy theorist Ive ever had the displeasure of encountering.

But since I assume youre joking, Id say the Yale membership Skull and Bones, Knights Templar, Masonic, Dirty Frat-Paddle Fraternity conspiracy theory is a lot funnier, and would be a much more rewarding place to spend your grey matter.

T

Posted by: troll on August 10, 2006 at 4:23 AM | PERMALINK

I remember years ago, how conservative commentators used to whine and complain about how awful Democrats were. They would say we were supposed to be the party of free speech and tolerance and the like but when it came down to it, we "censored" Bob Casey at the 1992 Presidential convention when he wanted to talk about abortion.

Now the actual truth about the supposed "censoring" aside, I always wondered why nobody ever made the obvious point: If the only "censoring" they could accuse us of was from 15 years ago and of a dead guy, we must be doing pretty good... especially considering that we could probably give you 15 examples of the Republican party censoring people just from last month.

It was then that I came up with "Casey's Caveat:" If you're going to accuse a group or person of a moral lapse, make sure the accusation isn't a complete stretch or you'll end up looking like a dolt.

Posted by: Midnight on August 10, 2006 at 4:25 AM | PERMALINK

troll-trawling

Posted by: Augustus on August 10, 2006 at 4:46 AM | PERMALINK

Nutjob's Law:
If you quote a nutjob to make your case, you don't have one.

Posted by: Nutjob on August 10, 2006 at 4:51 AM | PERMALINK

How about calling it "cherry scraping"? It's like cherry picking, but digging for rotten fruit at the bottom of the barrel.

Posted by: Andy on August 10, 2006 at 4:54 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, we have the Fund, a straight out, full throated lie told with total false sincerity. The board is thinking of renaming this the Lieberman.

Another wonderful tactic is the Coulter, providing a footnote or link that points to something which directly contradicts what you are claiming in the (most often realized) hope that no one will follow up.

Now the trick in establishing these technical terms is to provide a short explanation until they appear in the Washington Post snark section. At that point they are in the language.

Headline generator provides a nice example of a Coulter when he says

"Have you seen the comments at a fine site like America Blog or DU? The hard part is finding the sane comments. Or, consider this comment thread. Or this."

So I did. The first link was to Shakespear's Sister, and showed a buch of folk holding signs in an anti-immigration demo. Of course, all the signs had spelling errors as in "Get a Brain Morans", "No Amnety" and a little girl holding a sign saying "Honk for English".....

So let us look at the comments. The first few are:

-"Amnetyville Horror."

-Well, it's bad enough that the guy up the top is a Cardinals fan, that says it all for me

-I always feel sorry for the bewildered children that they force to hold signs. I can only imagine what they're telling these kids to explain their behavior.

-Why does spelling hate America?

Lots of snark, some weak attempts at rebuttal, but, folks, not much venom there. So let us look at the second link from the Huffington Post by a character named Greg Gutfield, which starts out:

"s a white person, I really love the Huffington Post. Here's why: There are so many white people here!

And it's also why I love Ned Lamont! He is both white and rich -- what I call a Huffington Post "bi-fecta!"

"To mark this great achievement of a rich white left-wing democrat winning a democratic primary - a marvelous testament to the party moving further and further left while the rest of America yawns- everyone here at the Huffpost must sing with me "Ned Will Rock You," a song all rich lefties must embrace in a self-absorbed, masturbatory fervor!"

The comments basically call him on this troll, ranging from the obvious, if somewhat profane

-gutfeld.....you fuckin' retard. Why the hell are you here anyway?
Really, Arrianna, et al, why do you insist on assaulting our sesibilities with this excuse for intelligent life?.

to the obvious

-Awww, looks like someone's a little upset their favorite Fox News Democrat lost last night. Boo hoo for Gwegie.

Anyhow, a really good Coulter by Headline Generator: Five seconds to dash off, twenty minutes to answer. We have a winner folks.

Posted by: Eli Rabett on August 10, 2006 at 5:03 AM | PERMALINK

"Comment trawling" doesn't register with people who don't understand the connection between comments and the Internet. Perhaps "internet trawling" is better.

There's also "bottom feeding." This term is already used in MMORPG games (like World of Warcraft) to mean players advancing by killing monsters and other players far less powerful than them to advance; it is considered a design flaw in a game because players will naturally seek out the easiest and least risky ways to advance even if it isn't fun to play that way, so the players end up not enjoying themselves.

Posted by: apantomimehorse on August 10, 2006 at 5:23 AM | PERMALINK

So I should add that adopting the term "bottom feeding" might have some in-the-know cool factor, but it might not be comprehended by those not in the know. On the other hand, it's a good phrase to put into more general use to mean 'substancelessness born out of laziness/cheating' (bottom feeding is considered cheating by many players).

Posted by: apantomimehorse on August 10, 2006 at 5:27 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, there is some type of Israeli organisation that checks blogs for anti-Israeli comments and poll results and directs their members to attend to them.

I once received an e-mail message from someone commenting about some sort of "anti-Israeli" comment I had made months ago on your blog, and that is the reason I never use my real e-mail address anymore.

I saw the organisation advertised on either the Jerusalem Post or Haarety web site last week.

Posted by: Michele on August 10, 2006 at 5:38 AM | PERMALINK

Since many conservatives are illiterate and therefore can do nothing more than nod their heads and repeat "Megadittoes" when Rush Limbaugh is on the air, they don't leave an audit trail.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on August 10, 2006 at 5:50 AM | PERMALINK

"Nutpicking" like 'nitpicking'. I know, doesn't have 'law' in the name.

Posted by: BlueMan on August 10, 2006 at 6:16 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know. But I did just think of "Frisch-baiting" -- the practice of teasing some weird person on a blog to the point where they say something offensive or threatening, and then whining about it and demanding that everyone else in the world condemn it.

But this practice may be restricted solely to that Goldstein freak and his gooparoid pinions.

Posted by: brooksfoe on August 10, 2006 at 6:41 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, I like "nutpicking".

Or Google's Theorem:

There exists no opinion, no matter how insane, such that there will not at any given moment be someone posting it somewhere on the internet.

Posted by: brooksfoe on August 10, 2006 at 6:46 AM | PERMALINK

If the liberals keep having it their way, I wonder where to get a Business Liability Insurance Quote. And your children will never again afford college. It costs $30,000 per year according to the consolidate stafford loans site.

Posted by: Charles Manson on August 10, 2006 at 7:23 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget the cost of getting home equity in california which is just enormous or getting FLORIDA HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE QUOTE

Posted by: Rudolph Hertz on August 10, 2006 at 7:26 AM | PERMALINK

There's also "bottom feeding." This term is already used in MMORPG games (like World of Warcraft) to mean players advancing by killing monsters and other players far less powerful than them to advance

n.
1. A fish or other animal that feeds on the bottom of a body of water.
2. One that feeds low on the food chain; a scavenger.
3. Slang
a. An opportunist who profits from the misfortunes of others: "The frazzled, adrenaline-pumped tabloid newshounds [in the movie] are the bottom feeders of contemporary journalism" Entertainment Weekly.
b. A low or despicable person.


The way I first heard this expression used was, ahem, with regard to one's choice of sexual partners. IOW, a combination of 2, 3b and possibly 3a. I don't think 1 was involved.

Posted by: Ryan Hamm on August 10, 2006 at 7:33 AM | PERMALINK

I think trawling for insane hate-filled comments is a great idea. In fact, we should make a mini-industry of it. Keep close tabs, do statistical studies. Write analyses. Give awards. Let's document and faithfully report which blogs show the most lunacy and bile.

Posted by: Fel on August 10, 2006 at 7:37 AM | PERMALINK

I like 'nutpicking' too.
One thing to note: It would not surprise me that some right-winger writes some of the 'crazy left comments' that get nutpicked.

Posted by: es on August 10, 2006 at 7:47 AM | PERMALINK

"Secular Animist's Law" or "Hostile's Law"?

Posted by: Just saying on August 10, 2006 at 7:47 AM | PERMALINK

Hallam's law: If you are trolling through blog comments to find evidence of the extremism of your opponent's then you are an extremist.

Posted by: Phill on August 10, 2006 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK

How about Dowdification? ...oh, sorry, that's already taken. I think this would be a very easy practice to cure, because the conservatives can always rely on various Members of Congress, Kos "screw them" Moulitas, or even Kevin Drum to illustrate our points. Besides, we'll always have Diebold, so it doesn't really matter.

Posted by: minion of rove on August 10, 2006 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

I'm trying to make heads or tails out of this point...still here is my take on the situation. I don't consider myself a "blogger"...I'm a poster...if I had my own site to put forth all my wisdom/facts/research/opinions then others would go to it and respond with their "posts"...that's what I, and others, do here and on other sites. Many of us make whacked comments from time to time...that's how we express our frustration/anger/joy(when there is some) and feel a part of the process. But when I hear many in the MSM talk about the blogs I think they do NOT discriminate between those who BLOG and those who POST to those blogs. As with so much that goes out over airwaves of all kinds...much is just OPINION and OBSERVATION...not fact supported or linked to information that will clarify and enlighten a situation...it's a large part of WHY we're in many of the messes that America and the world find themselves in. Perhaps EDUCATING and INFORMING should become more of the task of bloggers rather than continuing to put forth so often just the OPINIONS of those who have the locations to express themselves. Actually that is what I find on most left-wing blogs...certainly NOT on those on the right!!!

Posted by: Dancer on August 10, 2006 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

Too easy, Kevin: Lanny's Law.

Posted by: ahab on August 10, 2006 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

As I reread my "post" I realize I should have drawn it out to "post comments"...as just saying "post" is, in itself unclear as well. Of course the original piece a blogger puts up is "posted" I guess...but when I see the little "post a comment" section that's where you usually find the sensible and the profane, the humerous and the "far out" reactions of those who visit the site and respond with their input.

Posted by: Dancer on August 10, 2006 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

And then there's the compulsion to respond to nutjobs with counter-nutjob screeds.

Call it Al's Hammer Disease.

Posted by: 2.7182818 on August 10, 2006 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

I second "Troll Trawling"! I just wish I'd come up with it first.

Posted by: Gene in Chicago on August 10, 2006 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

"Penny's Law," with its rich satirical content, is tempting, but holds too much potential for misinterpretation. Count me as another vote for "nutpicking." Neat re-work of existing word with similar definition, new definition clear in the word itself, and it even sounds vaguely nasty. Love it!

Posted by: YellowDog on August 10, 2006 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

To be fair, lefty blogs engage in this quite a bit, too. See, e.g., any Glenn Greenwald post. It's a weak practice on both sides.

Posted by: JamesKnoxPolk on August 10, 2006 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

JamesKnoxPolk,

You wrote,

"To be fair, lefty blogs engage in this quite a bit, too. See, e.g., any Glenn Greenwald post. It's a weak practice on both sides."

"To be fair,"sluring Glenn Gereenwald is itself a "weak practice."

Care to back it up with actual concrete examples if its so prevalent? First your assertion this is any Glenn Greenwald post is false on its face.
Second, insofar as you can find any that mention right wing comments its probably in the context of showing a mass media double standard.

Posted by: Catch22 on August 10, 2006 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

rhinotillexomaniac's law ?

(that's the technical term for nosepicker)

Posted by: Tom Hamill on August 10, 2006 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

i too like 'nutpicking' though perhaps another take on this would be 'slimpicking'

Posted by: snicker-snack on August 10, 2006 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Drum's Dredge?

Posted by: Rick on August 10, 2006 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

it's a large part of WHY we're in many of the messes that America and the world find themselves in. http://www.ggcq.info/sitemap.htm Perhaps EDUCATING and INFORMING should become more of the task of bloggers rather than continuing to put forth so often just the OPINIONS of those who have the locations to express themselves.

Posted by: Amber on August 10, 2006 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

I have long had a rule that anyone who mentions Hitler is instantly discredited. (Boy, is it hard not to be hypocritical on this one.) Beginning to think that holocaust bating should be added to the list.

Posted by: eCAHNomics on August 10, 2006 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

I propose using the vowel "Slurm" and the practice "Slurming"

Slurm: It's highly addictive

Posted by: kP on August 10, 2006 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

You were in marketing, Kevin? How about a shorter version of your law that is easier to say and easier to remember, such as

"If need to pick the worst blog comments to make your point, you've just proved the opposite."

Posted by: Ben V-L on August 10, 2006 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

I think Slim has clearly demonstrated the anti-Semitism rampant in the political party.

Now what were we talking about again?

Posted by: Chris on August 10, 2006 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

"Hmmm. "Kevin's Law" has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?"

Does that imply Kevin is in the habit of cherry picking quotes from other blogs? I know this isn't your intent, but if you want to coin a term after a dubious practice, then it'll probably make more sense to name it after a dubious/dishonest character. My suggestion would be the Sully law.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on August 10, 2006 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Instead of invoking a law, just make a verb out of it, as in:

Malkin (alt malkinize):vt to cherry pick comments planted by own operatives (cf Slim) in order to smear communities of political opponents.

Posted by: Tulkinghorn on August 10, 2006 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

"the anti-Semitism rampant in the political party"

Oops. I meant the Democratic party. Turns out we're stupid, too.

Posted by: Chris on August 10, 2006 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

I'd call the practice "flame farming" which - since all blog related phrases must be turned into ugly contractions - would become "flarming".

Posted by: Umlautfree on August 10, 2006 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

I have read all the suggestions and vote for "cherry scraping". It is a phrase that is easy to understand and has a nice audio impact.

Good Luck with your search. It is worthy.

Posted by: mike on August 10, 2006 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Oh - and the contention that flarming accuratley represents your opponents positions would be the Flarming Falacy of course. Alliteration is fun!

Posted by: Umlautfree on August 10, 2006 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

"Oh, thats easy. Goldbergs Law. Named after Jonah Goldbergs habit of linking to loony comments at DU and Kos as examples of "the left"."

They used to be the loons, but as the recent Lieberman purge has shown, the DU and KosKidz are the heart of the left.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on August 10, 2006 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

"Slime Molding: selective choice of rotten information to shape a bad argument."

with apologies to slime molds everywhere

--Martin Richard

Posted by: Martin Richard on August 10, 2006 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

uuhhh... right, FF.

Leibermn was toast long before Lamont, Kos, and DU ever got involved.

Posted by: Tulkinghorn on August 10, 2006 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Is the practice so self-discrediting when applied to weblog commenters? As applied to the general population, I might agree with you, but having surfed many, many blogs over the last few years, I would have to conclude that wackjobs are not rare, but almost frighteningly common. I wonder if the relative anonymity of the web simply gives free rein to the inner psychopath in many people. Can you honestly tell me that there are not a lot of mentally ill people commenting on FreeRepublic or Democratic Underground? Both are complete sewers of intellectual content and sanity.

This blog is one of the best on Left, but still has many mentally ill people commenting from both sides of the political spectrum.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on August 10, 2006 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

I always heard this practice was called "dumpster diving."

But as a rabid Georgia football fan, the practice also reminds me of the Georgia Tech fans who dig up the most obnoxious, socially unacceptable UGA fans at any given game to prop up their constant allegations that UGA fans as a general rule are horrible vicious drunks who would throw their own mothers off the top tier of the stadium if Mom dared to say anything about the Dawgs -- ignoring, of course, the multitudes of UGA fans who are perfectly polite and composed, as well as the numerous Tech fans who curse a blue streak during games, start fights, and have even gone so far as to throw bottles and dead fish at opposing teams. So maybe it could be called the "Yellowjacket Fallacy."

Posted by: Doug on August 10, 2006 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

I suggest "panning for scold." I would also suggest that those who have a strong interest in finding outrageous comments in the blogosphere might not be above planting a few themselves. Maybe you could call that "salting scold."

Posted by: Ian on August 10, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

What if we call it "Drum-beating"? (Don't forget the uppercase "D".) As in,

Their evidence for the alleged left-wing extremism is nothing but Drum-beating.

Posted by: Zeno on August 10, 2006 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

When people use the comments of anonymous nutjobs to prove a point, they are just Drumming up a false argument, and Drumming down the level of discourse.

Posted by: josef on August 10, 2006 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the relative anonymity of the web simply gives free rein to the inner psychopath in many people.

I would say there is something to this and certainly the style of discourse is something very rarely encountered in the real world. But I'd also argue that we tend to disproportionately notice the wacky comments - Yancey's law?

Posted by: snicker-snack on August 10, 2006 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

I vote for "Ward Churchill Law".

Posted by: Col Bat Guano on August 10, 2006 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

I suggest "scabpicking". It suggests reopening of wounds best left alone and evokes a sense of revulsion. But what about the practice of planting wacko comments on your opponents' blogs, and them citing them as evidence that your political enemies are part of a lunatic fringe? That certainly deserves a name too.

Posted by: Dave on August 10, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

ahab on August 10, 2006 at 8:05 AM

very good!!

Posted by: gotv on August 10, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Ha! Josef and I had almost the same idea at the same time: my Drum-beating to his Drumming.

Great minds, etc., etc., ...

Posted by: Zeno on August 10, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

How about:

"Turning over every rock in the field to find the bugs", i.e. you're having to drill down deep to find the loons on the other side, rather than, frex, just googling Regnery's list of authors.

Posted by: Urinated State of America on August 10, 2006 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

"Grappling with Hecklers"

During a debate, you must engage your opponent, not the hecklers in the balcony.

Posted by: gar on August 10, 2006 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

And note where this practice inevitably leads. Can an individual or group be discredited because of offensive blog comments? If so, then partisans will soon engage in a two-step. They'll post such offensive comments themeselves--then, they'll wail and decry them. (Who's to say this hasn't already happened?)

Posted by: bob somerby on August 10, 2006 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK
Needless to say, this practice is almost self-discrediting: if the best evidence of wackjobism you can find is a few anonymous nutballs commenting on a blog, then the particular brand of wackjobism you're complaining about must not be very widespread after all.

Its self-discrediting among people familiar with the blogosphere; however the practice (especially combined with the erosion of the distinction between "bloggers" and "blog commenters") is very good for discrediting the blogosphere entirely when targetted, as it always is in the established media, at an audience who is largely unfamiliar the blogosphere. And that's a part of the point, in addition to whatever ideological arguments are being pushed with the examples: its defending the established, top-down, one-way media's turf from an upstart new medium.

Posted by: cmdicely on August 10, 2006 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Another nutpicking vote.

Posted by: poliwog on August 10, 2006 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

To use blog comments to prove a point only proves you can't.

Posted by: Scorpio on August 10, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Another wonderful tactic is the Coulter,

Or the O'Reilley: In a smarmy, condecending voice saying one thing and contradicting it in the same sentence, then pretending you said something profound.


I vote for the Churchill Law because many people know what it refers to and it gives a concrete example of what's being done.

Posted by: gq on August 10, 2006 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

They want to play the comment trawling game do they? Well let's pull the comments off of Little Green Footballs and friend for the last couple of years. How about the Free Republic anyone? You won't just find one nutty comment there. You will find hundreds and hundreds. It's like defending Ann Coulter's "literature" there is no bottom to the misdeeds. If you look at the types of commentors that right wing media attracks on the internet on a regular basis you will clearly see that they core base is completely un hinged.

The reason they try to frame the left this way is becuase its part and parcel of the republican PR game. Project your own weaknesses onto your opponent. All that's necessary is to consistently show the truth about the right wing machines internet base.

If the left didn't consists of so many rational and rather thoughtful commentators there wouldn't be the viable level of coherent and growing discussion that fuels the whole leftwing blogsphere.

And actually if I was a leftwing blog I would get rid of the FRIST and other nonsense comments on threads, as they distract from the overall quality of the comments.

Posted by: patience on August 10, 2006 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Lest we forget, Godwin's Law has been used to 'shame' people out of making legitimate comparisons to Hitler and Nazism.

Lest we also forget, liberal bloggers are quite fond of the practice of promoting fringeworthy anonymous conservative commentary.

Sincerely,

theperegrine

Posted by: theperegrine on August 10, 2006 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Troll diving?

Hack hunting?

Augustus beat me to "troll trawling"; I like it, but it doesn't really roll off the tongue.

Posted by: zeeeej on August 10, 2006 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

LGF being investigated by the FBI?

Also, an example of a Coulter. Of course, she sells tons of books and is syndicated around the country. Every time I see her, that adams apple gets bigger and bigger.

Posted by: gq on August 10, 2006 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

How about simply Fools' Gold Quotes?
those rare and scintillating bits found by
sludge-panning;
and the law is:
just because you found it in the river
doesn't mean it's gold

Posted by: El on August 10, 2006 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

ipsodefacto trawling.

Posted by: bobbywally on August 10, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Corollary: if your blog doesn't allow open commenting, then you can't cite open comments from another blog without being a hypocritical fuck. Personally, I'd like to read the uncensored opinions of Corner readers on their site -- instead of here, fr'instance, the worst-trolled blog in the world.

Posted by: ahem on August 10, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Jesus Christ, Slim, if George Bush is your idea of a Jew, then who in America is not Jewish?

'cause for most Americans, if you ask them to give you an example of a genteel, upper class WASP anti-semite, they'll mention George Bush.

Posted by: Auto on August 10, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Yup, I'd go with Drum's Law because of all the perfectly apt plays on words available.

- Drummed-up examples
- Drum-beating the bushes for examples
- Having to resort to Drum-beaten examples

Whatever you want to call it I think it's a wonderful idea to cannonize the concept.

Posted by: David Innes on August 10, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Drum's Dictum

Posted by: aretino on August 10, 2006 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

That isn't "cherry picking", Kevin, it's "honeydipping"...

Posted by: Doozer on August 10, 2006 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

How about "bottomfeeding". That is exactly what they are doing, trying to find the most outrageous comments in a community. It works also in my opinion because it makes them complicit -- they are the scumsuckers who go down to the bottom to dredge up the garbage.... making them no better than the garbage itself.

If we could somehow bring in a "blogoism" to make it more precise.... blogo-bottomfeeding?

Bueller, anyone... bueller...

Posted by: Palooza on August 10, 2006 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK


strawcomment arguement like a strawman

Posted by: GOD on August 10, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

"Cherry picking" such comments isn't that hard when there are so many of them. The term "cherry picking" implies scarcity.

Posted by: harlanp on August 10, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

How about the idea of cutting and pasting sections from a document - "CutnRunners?" Or "Pasties?" Or how about something from the circus - "Sideshows Law"


Or the traffic Idea - "Rubbernecker Law," where the person who sees a crazy liberal just has to look and point it out to their friends.

Maybe a take off on the anonomous nature of posting "Noname Law."

The problem is that there are too many liberal crazies - maybe even one becoming Senator Lame-ont.

Posted by: Orwell on August 10, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

"To be fair,"sluring Glenn Gereenwald is itself a "weak practice."

Care to back it up with actual concrete examples if its so prevalent?

-------------------------------------------------

OK, Catch 22, you got me. My reference to "any" Glenn Greenwald post was hyperbole. I should have written "many". Here are three I found without trying too hard:

http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2006/07/journalists-its-time-for-some-articles.html

http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2006/07/celebrating-un-deaths-acknowledging.html

http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2006/02/follow-up-to-bush-post-yesterday.html

Look, I have no love for wingnut commenters and I like Greenwald's blog. I didn't "slur" him; I made a fair criticism of some of his arguments -- the same criticism this entire thread is endorsing.

Posted by: JamesKnoxPolk on August 10, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Wackjocobinism from the moderate liberals of the square table who care more about the opinions of Billy Kristol and Lanny Davis of them than about the issues themselves.

Posted by: Hostile on August 10, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

One problem, it seems to me, is how to make a clear and obvious distinction between random blog comments and/or diaries on the one hand, and the likes of Little Green Footballs on the other. Charles Johnson and others have played this game for years - their blogs are very clearly designed to promote racist and religious hatred in the comments, but they largely manage to avoid saying obviously racist things themselves on the blog. Instead, typically they'll just post a news story and let everybody go nuts in the comments section. It's important to figure out a way to explain succinctly how this is a qualitatively different thing from the few bad apples that turn up in the comments of more moderate blogs.

Posted by: B on August 10, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

How about Comment Phishing?

Posted by: Melville on August 10, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

MEMRI-ng

Not because the Middle East Medai Research Institute was founded by Mossad operatives either.

But because MEMRI exists to trawl for Moslem nuts under the guise of translating and revealing primary sources for Middle Easy scholars. MEMRI is great at what it does, by far the best at doing what you describe. And their findings are rerun as reliable by reputable mainstream media.

Posted by: skip on August 10, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Snipe Hunting
In an episode of Cheers, the group played a trick on Frasier to go hunting for them at night. Also, the comments that are being trawled for are snipes according to the dictionary.
1. To shoot at individuals from a concealed place.

3. To make malicious, underhand remarks or attacks.

Posted by: Shivas on August 10, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

I don't deny that this is a problem (relatively speaking: most people don't give a damn about "the blogosphere"), but let's not forget, folks, that what wingnuts consider "unhinged" is probably a perfectly ordinary mainstream position. Remember, they think Howard Dean is an unhinged commie moonbat. The sorts of positions that were once standard New Deal/Fair Deal Democratic fare - and were (and still are) embraced by the majority of Americans - are now supposed to be "far left."

Posted by: Alek Hidell on August 10, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Complaining about anonymous comments always raises the suggestion that the anonymous comments you complain about were put there by you.

I've urged registration and verification of registration for blogs for a couple of years. And signing your comments with your own name. It seems insane to me to think that an anonymous comment should be given any weight or consideration: after all, the person who made the comment is too ashamed of it to acknowledge ownership. As if the world needs MORE skulking whisperers.

Right, left, or in the middle: sign your name.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on August 10, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

OT:

"It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America," Bush said in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Lie by implication: there are people in the US who believe there is no threat to the US and who are saying so.

Lie by implication: it's the Democrats who believe this and who are saying this.

NOTE: A good number of the alleged terrorists were apparently British citizens of Pakistani descent. None appear to be Iraqis or of Iraqi descent.

So, again, why did we attack Iraq, rather than Pakistan? or Saudi Arabia? or even Iran?

And why is Bush allied with Pakistan and provided them advanced weapons, the same Pakistan that has engaged in nuclear proliferation to "evil" nations such as North Korea and Iran?

BTW, Bush is a neo-Nazi and conservatives constitute his fascist neo-nazi followers.

Posted by: Advocate for God on August 10, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

"Telescopism"

The habit of looking intently for something small, insignificant and difficult to find and making out as if it's big and RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY.

Note: has to be done with one eye, too.

Posted by: Ben on August 10, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Troll Trawling

Nutpicking

Both Beautiful.

Also, liked:

Sullying, Nastily make some broad sweeping claim and then just assuming it's connected to some other broad sweeping claim.

Doing a Coulter, Going hysterical.

Making a Malkin, (ridiculous unsubstantiated charge), and

Bloviatiing an O'Reilly.

Well done commenters.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on August 10, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

I like it, with the quibble that you should change it to 'Drum's Law.'

Trackback, baby.

Posted by: Tim F on August 10, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK
So, again, why did we attack Iraq, rather than Pakistan?

Because Pakistan, though far more intimately connected to al-Qaeda than any other regime save the Taliban, has actual rather than mythical WMD.

Posted by: cmdicely on August 10, 2006 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'd call it Lanny's Law - in honor of that craptastic op-ed Lanny Davis had in the WSJ earlier this week

Posted by: Eugene Oregon on August 10, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Jonah JPodding.

Posted by: nut on August 10, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Right, left, or in the middle: sign your name.

I understand the sentiment, Jeffrey, and you're a brave man to put your name out there. But anonymous commenting has a long tradition that far predates blog commenting. Benjamin Franklin wrote as "Silence Dogood" when he was a teenager (it's a nom de plume I've used myself). One of the authors of the Federalist Papers - was it Hamilton? - wrote as "Publius."

There can be many reasons for using a pseudonym, and many of them have nothing to do with shame. There can be real-world consequences for commenting, even when the comments are perfectly innocuous.

I definitely do agree with you, though, that stricter controls are needed over who uses what name. Cutting down on sockpuppetry and impostors would be an unqualified good.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on August 10, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

The Pat Robertson Protocol.

Posted by: birdie on August 10, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Fifty-three percent of Americans said they favored Democrats in November compared to 40 percent for Republicans. And only 40 percent of Americans believe that the Republican led Congress has been a success since taking control in 1995. In 1998, when asked this same question, 58 percent of Americans said they believed the GOP was successful in leading the House and Senate.

Jeffrey Davis: Right, left, or in the middle: sign your name.

Various government officials, employees, and even opposition figures and blog commenters have discovered what "signing your name" means: vicious, defamatory attacks from the Right often coupled with an implicit or explicit threat of violence.

Sign my name?

I don't think so.

BTW, the writers of the Federalist Papers didn't sign their names either.

I guess that means they weren't credible and were cowardly, eh?

Stuff it.

Anonymous writing has a long and noble history and I suspect that many of those who insist on non-anonymity (like so many Right-wing blogs - imagine that: the political philosophy that most engages in vicious attacks against its 'enemies' is the one that insists on non-anonymity!) are doing so because they want to identify a real and accessible target for their anger.

Posted by: Advocate for God on August 10, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Comment trawling is not new. Michelle Malkin was doing it over a year ago and tried to use a commennt at Political Animal, by me, to critizice The Washington Monthly and Mr. Drum.

I guess that is why commenters enjoy commenting. People of no consequence can piss off assholes like Lanny Davis and Ms. Malkin, and if we are really lucky we can scare bad leaders like Lieberman with our opposition.

Thanks Mr. Drum, for pioneering this new medium.

Posted by: Hostile on August 10, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: Because Pakistan, though far more intimately connected to al-Qaeda than any other regime save the Taliban, has actual rather than mythical WMD.

But I thought conservatives, including Bush, have the utmost confidence in our ability to shoot down any incoming nuclear missles?

Also, does Pakistan really have nuclear weapons capable of reaching any US territory (excluding foreign embassies, of course)?

And don't we have the ability to render a first-strike that would take out any Pakistani ability to respond with nukes?

Not that I'm advocating such an attack, but for such a supposedly self-confidently aggressive administration, Pakistani nukes would seem unlikely to be much of a deterrent, unless of course they are in fact actually less aggressive and courageous than they, ad naseum, publically proclaim.

Posted by: Advocate for God on August 10, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Homer Simpson Law

Posted by: Malcolm on August 10, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

And the winner is ....

Nutpicking.

Has a nice ring to it and is self-explanatory.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on August 10, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Nutpicking" is genius.

Posted by: Arr-squared on August 10, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK


There is an abiding differenceand thank goodness for it between loathing the US and lobbing missiles at it. By the former, one merely becomes part of the overwhelming majority of nations these days; for the latter, you become dead.

I fancy Iran appreciates the distinction, as does even North Korea.

Posted by: skip on August 10, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

The Synecdoche Fallacy. Not very catchy though is it? That's what all you populism elitists will say anyway, always appealing to the anti-intellectual, "Aw-Shucks", phony everymanesque, heartland, plain spoken know-nothings and proud of it crowd. I read dictionaries as a child because we didn't have Anime back then, and you know what? We liked it that way!
Did long division and had to show our work! Nowadays you just pretend you got in a cab and chatted up the driver who happens to have the same exact theories you have on representational normative filtering for membership on certain UN committies or juxtabrachial organ secretions in the higher mollusks or something. The Synecdoche Fallacy, damnit! Or the Wookie defense, either one.

Posted by: catalexis on August 10, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it one of Niven's Laws?

"There is no cause so right you cannot find a fool who believes in it."

Posted by: eyelessgame on August 10, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Something which equates minority opinion with majority opinion in an alarmist manner.

A flamer blamer?
Fanning the flamers?
Chatroom Charlie?
Blog barker?
Minimal threat crusader?
Crying wolf evangelism?
A threat hawk?

It reminds me of those weathermen that put on sweaters and tell people to fill their bathtubs with water when something expected like snowfall in Maine in January happens. I partially blame that "crying wolf evangelism" for keeping New Orleans residents at home in the face of Katrina.

Posted by: Ugly Moe on August 10, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Republican bloggers are afraid to have commments since the people who actually read those blogs are crazy wingnuts who prefer facism at home and militarism abroad. In order to release the pressure of all their readers pent up rage, they link to a left blog and send their minions to the comments.
It is a pretty smart tactic. Afterall would you want Al to be held up as an example of one of your patrons?

Posted by: Con bloggers are smart on August 10, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Bill's Law: "If you have to go "dumpster diving" through blog commenter's remarks to support your position, you lower yourself and your position to the level of the trash you collect!"

Posted by: Biil Arnett on August 10, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Arnett
People about whom Kevin is talking here do not have to dive: they are in the dumpster to begin with.

Posted by: nut on August 10, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Does it have to be in the form of a law? What's wrong with just calling it dumpster diving? Loony-picking? Dunking for turds?

I kind of like that last one. Somehow the image of David Brooks with a nice fresh turd clenched between his teeth... seems quite appropriate.

Posted by: CalD on August 10, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

How about:

"ad anonynem"

The logical fallacy of characterizing your opponents (or their position) by using random, anonymous quotes (blog comments, whatever) that have no relevance to your opponents (or their position)

Posted by: Noel on August 10, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Would anyone object to my assigning unique NUMBERS to each commenter based on their e-mail address?

Posted by: Kevin Drum on August 10, 2006 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

I would not object at all--

what would be best would be some way to connect freepers and LGFers to planted anti-semitic comments on this blog. It would be nice to see if Malkin's 'Allah' has the same address as 'Slim'.

Posted by: Tulkinghorn on August 10, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Assigning a number would be a great idea, but I'm sure that a lot of yahoos have more than one email address.

Posted by: ArchModerate2006 on August 10, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

No objection -- but I don't think it would work without changing your interface to somehow force unique email addies.

I'm sure there is a non-trivial number of fairly regular posters who use none@none.com or none@nospam.com or a@b.com, etc. If people are allowed to make up null email addies (for the perfectly legit purpose of defeating email-trawling spambots), then numbering them wouldn't produce a unique identifer for every commenter.

Or do you have a way around this?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on August 10, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Re: Kevin Drum's efforts to stop spam and mere trawling.

Any registration mechanism so that the i.d. of the poster is known somewhere is preferable to the present crud. Anonymous posters are heedless posters. (The comparisons above to The Federalist Papers is beyond fatuous. Anonymous insults, racism, and sales pitches compare to Madison? I don't think so.)

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on August 10, 2006 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

I think we should put it to a vote:

Penny's Law (named for the little blonde girl brutally murdered by internet blog comments)
Slurming
Nutpicking
Dumpster Diving

Kevin, can you set something up?

Posted by: weboy on August 10, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

Nemo's Law: As soon as you print the name attached to the comment ("phishphucker", "Lord Viper Scorpion")it loses any pretension to be a part of the rational discourse.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on August 10, 2006 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

Any registration mechanism so that the i.d. of the poster is known somewhere

Don't we all leave our IP here when we comment, so that Political Animal has that information? I would prefer Political Animal stay the same. Does the password mechanism at Greenwald's blog stop the invective, or is it caused by the popularity and daily multiple posts about current events style of Political Animal?

Last night I said that blogging creates a community where people work out what to think about current issues. Political Animal seems to have a wider variety of opinions than the few other blogs I look in on, which seem to have tighter ideological communities and a lot more censorship. Gilliard at least confronts commenters who post flippantly or with whom he disagrees. FDL will scold you, TalkLeft has become sterile after requiring registration, and Crooks and Liars forbids 911 conspiracy comments. These other sites do not have the kind of broad discussions about current events PA does and why I spend too much time here, using it like a journal and a place to vent (it seems many of us have opinions on a great many current events), which is why I do prefer anonymity.

Posted by: Hostile on August 10, 2006 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

worldmagblog will crash your computer if you post invectively there. I can no longer access it with Explorer, because is totally freezes my homebot, which is why I suspect that IP addresses are left behind when you post comments.

Posted by: Hostile on August 10, 2006 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

The Revealer has gone silent of late, but I enjoyed the spirited discussions there about religion and faith.

I notice other commenters from some of these sites. Brooksfoe at The Revealer, Serial Cat Owner at Gilliard, James of DC at worldmagblog, trex at Next Hurrah, which is a site I like very much, but it does not cover current events like WM.

Posted by: Hostile on August 10, 2006 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

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