There's a kind of internet behavior that I find particularly difficult to deal with, but I've never been able to put it into words in a way that really shows how frustrating it is. Mark Goodacre has now done so:
I am finding the comments of the bloggers, as so often, more interesting and thought provoking than the article itself, which is a bit too grape-shot in its approach to want to present a precise and coherent critique of the SBL. There are so many points at which the author simply throws out a grenade and runs away, that it is difficult to choose only a couple of points for comment.
The issues he's dealing with are irrelevant to my point. It's what he calls grape-shot that I'm interested in. I often find that a post I want to comment on, or some commenters in a comment thread I want to comment on, have done something very much like what he's saying here. They'll leave a barrage of nasty little points in grenade-like fashion, leaving their opponent to pick up the pieces. Each point is of the sort that it could take several paragraphs to respond to adequately. What I've found is that those who hang around to see the aftermath will then get mad when you write such careful responses in the comments, saying that they don't have time to read a book. They'll then accuse you of trying to monopolize the conversation. But the grenade-tossing method of argument (if it can be called that) leaves no other way to respond except to let the damage stand without argument, and sometimes that would be immoral. It's a particularly devious kind of behavior, and I wonder if this kind of tactic deserves the name 'troll' even more than some behavior that commonly receives that label. I do like the image of grenade-throwing. That struck me in Mark's description, and I had to record my thoughts on that, if only to have something to link back to when I see people doing this.