It Is a Waste of Time to Speak to a Troll

Beloved Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is no longer loved. In recent tweets, she expressed her view that men who identify as women are, in fact, men. Though this view is consistent with what virtually every person throughout all of human history has believed, she was branded transphobic. Checkmate, Rowling! In case you didn’t know, calling someone transphobic is supposed to be bad.

There are a lot of terms that end with “phobic”: homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, and transphobic. If someone expresses disagreement with the mainstream narrative on homosexuality, Islam, foreigners, or transgender people, they’ll be slapped with a “phobic” label.

Although a phobia has been historically understood to be a fear of something (e.g., arachnophobia is a fear of spiders), adding the suffix today is intended to signal that you hold a bigoted view on that subject … and that’s bad. You’re supposed to be so afraid of being labeled phobic that you’ll change your position or, at least, never express it again in public. If you do, prepare to be canceled.

I’ll admit there are times when using a “phobic” term, like Islamophobic, might be legitimate. I’ve met people who are genuinely fearful and angry with Muslims. It’s rare, though. That’s why I don’t believe you need to have a fear of being called “phobic” (would that be phobiphobic?). Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t let the label bother you.

First, calling you “phobic” is intended to dismiss you or your view.
Instead of providing a substantive response to your position, sometimes people will try to dismiss it. Once you’ve been labeled “homophobic,” there’s nothing left for you to do but (allegedly) cower and walk away. After all, you’ve been identified as the bigot that you are and now need to bow out from further discourse. Dismissing your position is similar to the next mistake.

Second, calling you “phobic” is often merely a form of name-calling.
In logic, this is called an ad hominem and is recognized as an illicit approach to engaging someone you disagree with. It occurs when someone attacks you or your character instead addressing your argument with a reasoned response. Elementary school children deal out ad hominem attacks to each other at recess. They don’t have a civil means to express their anger, so they resort to name-calling. “Dork,” “dweeb,” or “loser” were the go-to jabs when I was a kid. Sadly, some of the same students grew up and now use the same means of engagement. Only today, their disparaging terms sound more sophisticated (e.g., “xenophobic”). But at its core, this is simply name-calling.

Third, it’s often an irrelevant distraction from the topic at hand.
In logic, this is called a red herring. It’s a faulty way to dialogue because it diverts the conversation away from the main topic and inhibits productive discourse.

One time, I was answering questions about abortion at a secular university event. After multiple failed attempts to undermine my scientific defense that the unborn is a human being, someone got up to the microphone and said, “You’re just anti-woman.” It’s worth noting the event topic was about whether the unborn is a human being. Whether I’m anti-woman (or pro-woman) has no bearing on whether the evidence I provided was true. Even if I were anti-woman, how would that affect the scientific evidence I presented? I could be anti-woman, homophobic, racist — I could be Hitler — and it would have absolutely no impact on the arguments I presented that day. Whether or not the unborn is a human being is solely based on the merits of my evidence, not on my identity or character.

I don’t know what’s led our society to sidestep rational discourse and resort to calling people names, but it’s unfair, irrelevant, and immature. That’s why there’s no need to be afraid to get slapped with a “phobic” label. In most cases, it’s an illegitimate attack.

Alan Shlemon

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

One thought on “It Is a Waste of Time to Speak to a Troll

  1. “Consider the source”. When I was a kid and endured frequent bullying for a variety of reasons, this was a phrase I was often told to take into account whenever someone said something hurtful. Consider the source. When your response to “consider the source” is to turn the bullying back around and expose the bully for the coward that they are, you are effectively knocking them off their high horse and removing their supposed position of strength. The problem with this idea is that the bullies have learned how to use the same tactic.

    The ad hominem attack, especially when coupled with the Hegelian Dialectic (thesis + antithesis = synthesis), effectively allows the bully to then take the defiant intended victim and turn them into the bully (transphobe, homophobe, Islamophobe, etc.). They do this because they are 100% aware of the fact that they have no cogent argument to bring to bear. In fact, my counter when someone does that goes something like this, “That is what is known as the ad hominem attack. It is a logically fallacious argument that means that you don’t have anything to bring to bear and are too prideful to admit it. You know I’m right, but the idea of admitting it scares you because you don’t know where to go from there.” In effect, the bully has been removed from their high horse a second time and left with only the option of more name calling.

    Once you remove pride from the picture, those slings and arrows will not hurt the way they used to. When it becomes clear to them that their hateful words no longer have the desired effect, they will be left with little of anything else they can use. The Left absolutely depends upon the fact that we are decent people, because they know that decent people are harmed by false witness, and that most decent people don’t know how to respond to it. Y’all, feel free to use my response, or a variant thereof, because it can and will get them to shut their mouths. Recall that Scripture says that Satan flees at the first sign of meaningful resistance, and remember that all the Left has been throwing at us is lies from the pit of hell.


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