31 December 2012


Today I received an e-mail from a friend from whom I hadn't heard in months.  The text was abrupt ~ no greeting, just relaying an attack originating with the friend's daughter-in-law (a total stranger to me), taking exception to my 20 November post on tax reform.  The reader may wish to refer to that post, then click on 'return' to continue here.

The second-hand response in its entirety reads as follows ~ "Your graph conveniently skips the most prosperous years when the effective tax rate on the top bracket was 28 percent.  Your argument is so full of holes I thought I was looking through my grandmother's lace doily."

Assessing her statements, one quickly realizes that (a) nowhere does she cite any sources or documentation for her opinions, (b) she fails to name the purported "most prosperous years" allegedly omitted, and (c) she combines a lack of substance with an ad hominem insult.  Taken together, her response amounts to trolling, i.e., "posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion."  Here is Andrew Heenan's guide to recognizing trolls.

Gratuitous opinions, devoid of evidence and laced with sarcasm, are a troll's trademark.  This one was devious, to the extent that she avoided simply posting a comment directly beneath the blog post, and instead infiltrated my privacy by communicating through her mother-in-law, a friend since childhood.  And the friend agreed to act as a channel, thus involving herself in the attack.

In my friend's case, the fact of disagreement comes as no shock.  Her views differ from mine in matters of religion, politics, and conservation.  Although my blog is a public forum, and my stand on certain issues is certain to meet with opposition from some readers, my expectation is that responses (whether from friend or stranger) will be registered at the "comments" prompt at the bottom of each post.  All I ask is that the reader respond with civility and (in the case of disagreement) with credible evidence.  Like most bloggers I know, while I'm open to persuasion, I reserve the right not to publish comments that are abusive, gratuitous, or discourteous.

It is an abuse of friendship to use private e-mail for collusion in such behavior.

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