Daisy-Dog: What are you reading, Mom? You look Worried.
Daisy-Dog: Like under the bridge kind?
Me: You’ve been watching that talking dog with the maple bacon again. You’re starting to sound like him.
Daisy-Dog: He’s my hero. What kind of trolls?
Me: A normal dog, one who existed outside of my peculiar imagination, would just say, “Oh,” and then go lie down on something. You ask for a categorical clarification. You Are Not Normal.
Daisy-Dog: I’m like my Mom.
Me: That’s what worries me. No, anyway, since you asked. Trolls are beings who write things on internet sites in response to articles or postings or comments.
Daisy-Dog: Are they People? Or Dogs?
Me: You know better, Logic-Dog, than to ask a question in a false dichotomy. The class of Beings is considerably larger than the sub-class People plus sub-class Dogs, and you know it.
Daisy-Dog: Not in any empirical way, Mom. Only a priori. My nose has never categorically detected anything else.
Me: What about the squirrels and the groundhog and the bunnies and the momma wild turkey with her babies and all the robins and doves?
Daisy-Dog: Those are Prey.
Me: Ah. Well, I suppose that then these Trolls are closer in kind to Prey than to either People or Dogs.
Daisy-Dog: But Prey make you smile, and you are not smiling.
Me: No, I am not. I am troubled.
Daisy-Dog: I could Point at them, and they would Go Away.
Me: I’m afraid they would not go away, Dog. For one thing, we lure them constantly with their favorite food source.
Daisy-Dog: What’s that?
Daisy-Dog: You are not Ignorant, Mom.
Me: Not entirely true, Dog. The only reason they don’t attach to me, lamprey-like, is because if I think a lot of potentially ignorant things I rarely put them out there where they can be detected. I have been known to slip up in this capacity. It’s altogether too easy, what with Facebook and now this blog thing I’m doing.
Daisy-Dog: You are Not Quiet, though, Mom. You say a lot of things, all the time.
Me: Yes, well, this house is a Troll-Free zone, with you guarding the gates and whatnot. And in the classroom, there’s not a good chance that My Kids will say much in reply. Either out of Fear, which makes me Sad, or Apathy, which makes me Sadder. Either way, it’s My Responsibility.
(An uneasy silence.)
Daisy-Dog: What’s a lamprey?
Me: Look it up. Don’t give me the “no thumbs” excuse either. Didn’t I get you that nice OED app for the Kindle?
Daisy-Dog: But then you are Sad that there is Puppy-Nose on the screen.
Me: Puppy-Nose can be cleaned off. Learning is imperative.
Daisy-Dog: Is that why you don’t take the phone things away from Your Kids?
Me: Yes, although I pay for that, too. While one of them is busily looking up “lamprey” or “a priori” another one is writing LOL.
Daisy-Dog: I think that one is a little outdated, Mom.
Me: Probably, but I’m terrified to ask them what some of the others stand for, especially those that have an “s” in them.
Daisy-Dog: Now you are just being funny, Mom. You are not terrified of good old fashioned Anglo-Saxon words.
Me: Not in and of themselves, Dog. But think about what an acronym is, just for a second. A shorthand notation. A signal of something implicitly larger. This is Me we’re talking about, Dog. If something can be said in forty-five words or more, why would I ever be satisfied with three letters? And I am worried that there’s no way that a hundred and ninety-three of my current and former students are all so intellectually in tune with one another that they all mean the same thing by those three letters. Except, of course, on the surface.
Me: You keep saying that, and maybe I’ll believe that you’re following me.
Daisy-Dog: I follow you everywhere, Mom.
Me: Okay, so then follow this. Somebody’s got an opinion about something. I’ll even be gracious enough to stipulate that it is by definition an opinion and not an unwarranted, erroneous, or fallacious Matter of Fact.
Daisy-Dog: I know the difference, Mom. You’ve told me.
Me: All right. This person expresses that opinion in a tiny box on a tiny screen using mostly his or her thumbs. No that is not a dig; don’t waggle your eyebrows at me. Dogs aren’t even supposed to have eyebrows.
Daisy-Dog: Snoopy has eyebrows.
Me: Yes. Then someone else replies to that opinion with something even more abbreviated. Like a frowny face. Or a Thumbs Up.
Daisy-Dog: I am sensing a pattern. The problem is Thumbs.
Me: Don’t let my atheist anthropologist friends hear you say that. They’ll explode. Anyway, the conversation, if you could call it that, deteriorates rapidly into an exchange of prepackaged little points of view that are assumed to be self-contained. For example, although this rarely applies to My Kids, say it’s a political position. Like yesterday. We saw those posts, right, and they all basically said, in one way or another, “Hillary Clinton is a woman. And her husband had extramarital sex. And Benghazi. Ha-Ha!”
Daisy-Dog: One of them was a picture of a People dressed like Prey.
Me: I saw that one. It’s a giant squirrel costume left over from the ACORN protests. Apparently merely Pointing at that did not make it Go Away.
Daisy-Dog (sadly): People don’t really understand the Rules. They are very simple, as explained in this Venn Diagram:
Me: Yes, Logic-Dog. Anyway. So then someone who just Knows that Hillary Clinton Is Bad presses the “Like” button or types some letters that indicate that she is categorically affirming.
Daisy-Dog: How can you categorically affirm something that is not in propositional form?
Me: Well, it kind of is. All Hillary Clinton Is Bad. An “A” statement.
Daisy-Dog: I know you do not approve of predicate classes being described by an adjective, Mom. Especially in Universal statements such as “A” or “E.”
Me: Well, let’s be generous. Change the predicate to “the class of political people who would be Bad for Our Country when placed in Positions of Power.”
Daisy-Dog: That works.
Me: So we’ve stipulated. Now, what does this particular exchange get us? For those whose opinions match the Universal Affirmative statement “All Hillary Clinton belongs to the class of political people who would be Bad for Our Country when placed in Positions of Power” we receive confirmation that They Agree. For those who do not, and therefore reject the premise, they can only reject it as Unsound and not Invalid, since it is, after all, an opinion. But they almost never make any argument regarding its Soundness. They simply reject it. And since nobody else does anything to work on the problem at hand because they are all just using Thumbs and other uniquely human indicators to note acceptance or denial of the proposition, nobody has learned anything.
Daisy-Dog: You mean Learning is Not Occurring?
(A sacred hush falls over the room. The Cardinal Sin has been evoked.)
Me: Yes, I do mean that.
Daisy-Dog: And that is why Trolls make you Worried?
Me: Yes. I suppose it’s an unfair classification. Technically a Troll is someone who does not address the issue at hand at all, and just goes off on some rant that is negative and perhaps even ad hominum; certainly irrelevant. People try to ban Trolls but they’d get in an awful lot of trouble if they tried to ban everyone who commented in an incomplete way such as I have described.
Daisy-Dog: So you are Sad when People don’t learn things when they read.
Me: Good doggie. Here is a biscuit. (Wag.) But I’ll go you one better: I am Sad when people don’t learn but do instead hear something. They might repeat it. They probably will. It’s called “Sharing” or “Re-Tweeting.” Tweeting, incidentally, does not involve Prey, although I can understand how the picture might make you confused. They also might Accept it or Reject it, without having inquired into its Soundness. And maybe that is not a big deal right at the moment, but there will come a time when something will remind them of that Categorical Proposition and they will form Conclusions. I… (sigh.)
Daisy-Dog: Go on, please, Mom.
Me: I can’t. Who the hell am I? I have no right to tell people they aren’t thinking straight.
Daisy-Dog: You have that nice textbook that is called Thinking Straight. I found the cover to be tasty. Not as tasty as Grandma’s bread cookbook which I believe had flour and salt and Grandma-love on it.
Me: It doesn’t matter, Dog. I want to tell people to think straight, but then I feel guilty. Presumptuous. A Know-It-All. So most of the time I just don’t say anything. Then it builds up, and I end up telling you. Or that poor, innocent cashier at the Sucasunna Shop-Rite.
Daisy-Dog: From the way you described it, it sounded like you had told him Bad Dog. I wonder if his ears will ever recover their perkiness.
Me: Part of me thinks not, Dog, which is Bad. I don’t know if Learning Occurred, or if he just went home muttering angry things about the old bitch who disagreed with him and had some nerve telling him that he should go home and look things up. I never disagreed with him; I never invalidated his propositions; I asked him if he knew what the legal precedent was; and he didn’t, and I told him to go look it up before he talked about it out loud like that in public places especially if he were going to say basically mean things.
Daisy-Dog: I have heard, Mom, that You Are Entitled to Your Opinion.
Me: But not entitled to shove them down people’s throats. And I have a classroom and a blog. That might count as shoving. Especially when it takes so many words to say things in an un-shove-like way.
Daisy-Dog: Is there a word limit?
Me: Only as long as I can keep their attention. For instance, this piece has now gone on so long that I bet nobody will notice that it ends in the middle of a sen