Why “Russian Troll” is NOT a Useful Category/Class

Caitlin Johnstone makes a great case in Accusing someone of being a ‘Russian troll’ is admitting you have no argument.

From the post:


Bottom line: when a stranger on the internet accuses you of being a Kremlin agent, of being a “useful idiot”, of “regurgitating Kremlin talking points”, this is simply their way of informing you that they have no argument for the actual thing that you are saying. If you’re using hard facts to point out the gaping plot holes in the Russiagate narrative, for example, and all they can do is call your argument Russian propaganda, this means that they have no counter-argument for the hard facts that you are presenting. They are deliberately shutting down the possibility of any dialogue with you because the cognitive dissonance you are causing them is making them uncomfortable.

Yes, paid shills for governments all over the world do indeed exist. But the odds are much greater that the stranger you are interacting with online is simply a normal person who isn’t convinced by the arguments that have been presented by the position you espouse. If your position is defensible you should be able to argue for it normally, regardless of whom you are speaking to.
… (emphasis in original)

Johnstone’s: Russian Troll accusation = No meaningful argument, postulate is a compelling one.

However, as the examples in Johnstone’s post also demonstrate, there is no common set of attributes that trigger its use.

“Russian Troll” is a brimful container of arbitrary whims, caprices and prejudices, which vary from user to user.

Arbitrary usage means it is unsuitable for use as a category or class, since any use is one off and unique.

I would not treat “Russian Troll” as a topic subject to merging but only as a string. Hopefully the 434K instances of it as a string (today, with quotes) will put users on notice of its lack of meaningful usage.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.