How to deal with Abuse

Trolls & John Locke’s Irrationality Argument

Consider the following scenario… You’ve just finished creating your latest YouTube video and shared it with the world for all to see.

Soon afterwards you receive a notification of a comment. When you read it, it is such a vicious, unprovoked and personal attack on you and your work, that you’re shocked. What should you do?

You have three options. You could use the weapons or tactics of your opponent, even if you find them unpleasant, and reply in just as vicious a tone (fight fire with fire).

Or, you could report the abusive behaviour to try to teach them a lesson.

Both of these first two methods would be an attempt to publicly shame the culprit with the hope they’d come around and accept your analysis of the situation is correct and they were wrong. Of course, this rarely happens as almost nobody changes their mind on the internet.

The English philosopher John Locke took another view. In 1689 he published ‘A Letter Concerning Toleration’. In it was contained his “Irrationality Argument”, where he argued that you can’t change someone’s mind by force because it is irrational. He believed that no threat can persuade anyone to believe something that they think is false.

Even if the troll stops, withdraws or even apologises for their abusive comments, they may well still believe that they were right. Locke suggests that meeting their insults with tolerance could be your best bet to change their mind.

Therefore, the third and in Locke’s opinion, best option is to simply ignore the person and their comment and show tolerance (don’t feed the trolls).