Good advice from David Sax in the Guardian on how to deal with Donald Trump the troll.
By being the world’s most effective button-pusher, Donald Trump has brought the tactics of trolling out into the real world, where they are much more difficult to combat. And that is the single biggest problem with him running a presidential campaign like an online flame war. The tools that work to snuff trolls out online – muting, blocking and deleting accounts – don’t exist in the real world, particularly when the individual in question is guaranteed around-the-clock news coverage up until election day.
“He is now the Republican nominee,” says Reagle. “You can ban someone in an online community, but you can’t ban Trump.”
We might not be able to ban Trump, but experts agree that there are tactical ways to mitigate his impact. The question is, how can we use them?
Do not engage
“We’ve found that engaging with trolls will get them the very attention they want. Any engagement is really adding fuel to their fire,” says Jan Reischek, senior vice-president of ICUC Americas. This means that Clinton and her supporters should never resort to trolling behavior themselves, no matter what Trump says. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz fell for this, reacting to Trump’s name calling with sneers that only emboldened Trump. “I worry about Elizabeth Warren,” says Powazek, referring to the Democratic Massachusetts senator that Trump has insultingly called “Pochahontas”, and who consistently fights with him on Twitter. “She’s out there fighting fire with fire, but tactically it’s a mistake, because it allows him to set the tone of the debate, and the debate is in the mud. If you fight fire with fire on that, everyone burns.”
Instead, Democrats need to act more like New Jersey senator Corey Booker, who responded on television to a Trump insult by professing his love and concern for Trump’s mental sanity. “Treat him like a seven-year-old having a tantrum and focus on the substantive issues,” says Powazek.
Keep it factual, not personal
Deprive Trump of the emotional reactions he thrives off by focusing on policy and facts, two areas that are his proven weaknesses. Bog him down in specifics, and hold his feet to the fire on statements he makes on complicated issues like defense and fiscal policy, where his trolling tactics are of no use. Bill Eddy says this is the most effective way for dealing with high-conflict personalities. “Respond with information as assertively as the other side is responding aggressively. Aggressive tries to destroy the other party, but assertive stands up for yourself. It’s not personal.”
Defuse the anger
Trolls live to stoke rage. That is all they can do. Friendliness is their kryptonite. Clinton should muster every diplomatic skill she picked up at the state department and keep every public interaction friendly, no matter how much she despises Trump. “You have to ignore the living hell out of it,” says West.
This is obviously easier said than done, especially for the media, which may take issue with Trump’s message and tactics, but is nonetheless compelled to cover the presidential nominee.
It’s harder than you think, but it can be done. Yell at the TV, then get out there and vote.