A superior kind of troglodyte

By D. J. Webb

This is a brief note on a relatively new phrase. The word “troll” literally means a cave-dwelling giant or dwarf, but its use has been extended to people who inhabit Internet discussion boards and post deliberately provocative opinions. The idea is that such people are just trouble makers and should be ignored: don’t feed the troll. However, a much more recent term has come to my attention: a high-functioning troll. This phrase is new enough to have only 226 instances on Google.

I would argue that the high-functioning troll jibe reflects an increasing intolerance in debate in politically correct circles. Detailed and careful argumentation is now regarded as just as offensive as simply name-calling. The latter may be clearly a more classic form of trolling, but the former is now regarded as a form of trolling too. If you marshall detailed arguments on subjects such as immigration, your views can be dismissed, no matter how carefully argued, by labelling you a high-functioning form of a troll.

A high-functioning troll is simply someone with arguments that sound like they might be cogent, or that would require detailed analysis to pick apart, and it is quicker to simply dismiss inconvenient arguments with a jibe. But isn’t a high-functioning troll therefore simply someone you fear because his arguments appear to successfully refute yours?

Another implication of the term is that the person is making the non-politically correct arguments simply to be upsetting, to put the cat among the pigeons, to enjoy the spectacle of the upset he has caused. This is a self-serving PC perspective, as it assumes as axiomatic that PC views are all correct, so anyone advancing alternative views must simply be a bored person trying to create distress for his own enjoyment. If all decent people support the ingress of a million immigrants a year, anyone arguing in a detailed way that this should be stopped is simply trying to be provocative and to generate alarm.

Curiously, the anti-trollers never appear to be high-functioning: they never marshall detailed arguments to support their views. The jibe is sufficient. I think in some sense this explains why some conservatives (including the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos) have self-consciously adopted the trolling mantle: if all their opponents have is jibes in return, then we are losing the ability to engage in rational debate at all. Long live the high-functioning trolls!


  1. “But isn’t a high-functioning troll therefore simply someone you fear because his arguments appear to successfully refute yours?”
    If somebody puts forward an argument which successfully refutes mine, I should be grateful to them!

  2. Mr Webb, I congratulate you on your successful age-reversal as evidenced in your profile picture! What is your secret?

    Regarding trolls, I too have noticed that the concept has been used to shut down debate, either by closing comment sections or ignoring cogently-argued comments from a right-wing/conservative perspective. The question is how to overcome the automatic “don’t feed the troll” response in left-wingers. It is important to remember that these people are fundamentally conformists, and that perhaps they do not approach arguments with 100% interest in the truth, but with one eye on their peers, on how people would perceive them if they said this or took that position. Perhaps playing their game to a certain extent would be a viable strategy. For example, by having an opening sentence which in effect virtue signals one’s moral character, then imperceptibly changing the subject so that it becomes an irrefutable argument in favour of libertarian/conservative positions. Before they realise that they are reading thoughtcrime, they will have read it, and their brains will hopefully be permanently changed for the better.

  3. Once again, I have awarded Mr. Webb five stars; for he is right on this issue. Would that he would do the same for me when I am right!

    The problem is that our enemies have lost contact with reality. It’s all part of their anti-Enlightenment “philosophy.” They need to deny truths, like “human activities aren’t causing catastrophic global warming.” And in order to do that, they need to deny the existence of truth and falsehood.

    As to troglodytes, I say: Cave controllorum!

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