How to be mad on the internet

By Phil Plait | August 3, 2011 12:30 pm

I sometimes post about things that make people mad. Sometimes it’s because they disagree with my politics, or my stance on pseudoscience, or the idea that I think science-based medicine is better than quackery.

No matter what you think or believe, there is something on the web that will make you angry. When this happens, I suggest you peruse the web comic "So you’re MAD about something on the Internet…" by Rosscott, Inc (NSFW drawings and perhaps language if you’re tetchy). That way you can rate where you stand with the Flowchart of Internet Argumentative Spittle-Flecked Keyboard Banging Trollery.

They’re selling posters of the comic, too. I can think of lots of places it should be hung prominently…


Related posts:

Don’t Be A Dick Part 1: the video (also see Part 2 and Part 3)
Interview with Suicide Girls
A reasonable mug

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Cool stuff, Humor
MORE ABOUT: DBAD, Rosscott Inc.

Comments (65)

  1. Thanks for linking the comic! It’s the work of myself and H. Caldwell Tanner of http://www.loldwell.com/.

  2. Daniel J. Andrews

    According to the graphic, just pointing out someone has misinterpreted some lovely bit of science gives you a dick-rating of one. It seems the graphic advocates not commenting at all.

  3. Carey

    What confuses me is when people back away from a legitimate discussion as if it’s made of kryptoplutoniacid. No, this isn’t argument, folks. It’s just two commenters discussing a difference in frameworks. No need to trot out “arguing on the internet is like…” jokes. Move along, intelligent discussion is happening.

  4. jaranath

    I got the same impression, Daniel. Any critical/disagreeing comment is, apparently, at least slightly dickish. Which I suppose thus applies to me, commenting on the comic. And the comic, commenting on commenters…

    Woah! It’s dicks all the way down!

  5. @3 jaranath:

    “Woah! It’s dicks all the way down!”

    I think that was the theme of a movie I once saw on the internet ;)

  6. mk

    Yes… no disagreement please! Daniel, you’ve already got one “dick” point, don’t push it!

  7. Pete Jackson

    ” I think science-based medicine is better than quackery.”

    Interpreting quackery as the deliberate purveying of false cures, then I would absolutely agree. But there is a broad field of healing that is not science based, often because humans are so individual that properly designed scientific experiments are often not possible. In these cases, experienced and skillful healers can definitely make a difference, even if it just harnessing the power of the placebo effect, which scientific experiments are designed to eliminate.

  8. QuietDesperation

    So is Phil basically announcing he won’t be posting on controversial subjects anymore? Or he doesn’t want them discussed?

    What would Cave Johnson do in this situation? Well, that’s obvious. SCIENCE! (Warning: tumors may happen)

  9. Crux Australis

    Ummm…actually I think Level 2: Middle Ground has some definitely NSFW language. Just sayin’.

  10. Idlewild

    @QuietDesperation, He’s saying he doesn’t want anyone to say anything against him. Unfortunately, comments are enabled on this blog, and we aren’t all clones of him, so he’s going to need some thicker skin.

  11. Scottynuke

    Note to self: Never ask Pete Jackson for medical advice. :-)

  12. Narvi

    Well, the poster only applies when you’re mad about something (hence the title). If you’re trying to help them get the science right, and you’re being polite about it, chances are, you’re not mad, just helpful. Hence, not a dick.

  13. As a friend of Ross’, color me a little giddy about seeing this pop up in my RSS feed here. It’s so weird when different parts of my life cross each other like this.

  14. What would Cave Johnson do in this situation? Well, that’s obvious. SCIENCE! (Warning: tumors may happen)

    And maybe a few combustible lemons.

  15. I feel like I should give due credit to Caldwell Tanner as well, who Ross partnered with on this graphic, as well as the So you found something cool on the internet graphic

  16. CraterJoe

    OMFG I AM SOOO MAD ABOUT THIS! *grin*

  17. Thomas Siefert

    You think you have entered the room for an argument, but then you get: “Shut your festering gob, you tit! Your type really makes me puke, you vacuous, coffee-nosed, maloderous, pervert!!!” and you realise that you went through the wrong door.

  18. Jorge

    Yeah, as Navi said: only applicable if you get mad over it. If your mood remains cool about it, reply away. If you feel fuming and wishing to have the other person’s blood dripping down your mouth… then don’t post :D

  19. hurf

    Needs more Trollface

  20. Pointybirds

    I don’t see how this poster is necessarily a positive message. Perhaps their idea of “argument” leans towards name-calling, but it seems to advocate a just-say-no approach to the free exchange of opinions. Not every argument is dipped in Godwin-flavoured bile, and not every decision to walk away from a confrontation automatically puts one on the moral high road.

    I’m afraid I cannot heartily endorse this product or service.

  21. QuietDesperation

    I have no further opinion on this matter lest my comment be considered doubleplus ungood, and awarded a dick level. Questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself.

    Here is a related soothing image: Enjoy!

    If you feel fuming and wishing to have the other person’s blood dripping down your mouth…

    Stop! You’re turning me on! Blood from the neck? Oh, yeah… from the neck!

  22. duckdodgers

    So in other words, this comic and the people here replying to it are claiming the right to dictate to everyone else what emotions they’re allowed to feel. It’s also arguing that you’re a bad person for arguing something, expressing your opinion or attempting to engage in any kind of meaningful debate at all.

    Screw that comic and screw any of you who agree with it. And before you reply to me or talk about anything I have said here at all, remember, you’re arguing on the internet and therefore, you’re a dick too. And the clown who made the comic in the first place is making an argument, therefore so is he. So what does that label really mean?

  23. Messier Tidy Upper

    I think there’s good arguing on the internet – and bad arguing on the internet.

    Good = rational, calm, polite arguing using examples and backing up your position with evidence and logic and reasonable witty humour.

    Bad = “flaming”, irrationally arguing using unsuported ad hominem attacks and rude insults & name-calling, being deliberately provoctive & objecting only for the sake of it, IOW, trolling etc ..

    There is a BIG difference between the two.

    Arguing well has its place and everyone can learn from doing so.

    Arguing badly and engaging in “flamewars” not-so-much.

  24. QuietDesperation

    Screw that comic and screw any of you who agree with it. And before you reply to me or talk about anything I have said here at all, remember, you’re arguing on the internet and therefore, you’re a dick too.

    I shall now only respond to others online with adorable images.

    [RESPONSE IMAGE LINK]

  25. tmac57

    @Scottynuke # 7- Yeah buddy! :)
    But seriously, this issue has been covered pretty well by Prof. Richard Roald PhD at University Lancashire uk in this lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0
    He has some brilliant insights into the origins of abusive internet exchanges.

  26. QuietDesperation

    Bad = “flaming”, irrationally arguing using unsuported ad hominem attacks and rude insults & name-calling, being deliberately provoctive & objecting only for the sake of it, IOW, trolling etc ..

    [RESPONSE IMAGE LINK]

  27. Grizzly

    Guys, did you read the title? Does the word “MAD” not mean anything to you? Did you thoroughly read and assess the situation?

    Eh?

    Eh?

  28. CR

    Wow, I’m stunned that this comic (and this BA post about it) has spawned more vitriol & broken more sarcasm meters than all of the religion–versus–evolution posts combined! OK, perhaps it’s not quite that bad yet, but sheesh, this has really brought out the venom from the “you can’t tell ME what to think” crowd.

    I wonder how people would react to the old online video “How to behave on an internet forum… on the internet!”

  29. Utakata

    Someone should send that pic over to Jerry Coyne at WEIT…

    …not because he’s a dick. He just likes anything to do with cats. :)

  30. QuietDesperation

    Wow, I’m stunned that this comic (and this BA post about it) has spawned more vitriol & broken more sarcasm meters than all of the religion–versus–evolution posts combined! OK, perhaps it’s not quite that bad yet, but sheesh, this has really brought out the venom from the “you can’t tell ME what to think” crowd.

    My god, you need a hug!

    {{{{{{{{{{CR}}}}}}}}}}

    [RESPONSE IMAGE LINK]

  31. QuietDesperation

    Does the word “MAD” not mean anything to you?

    All caps, so acronym?

    Mutually Assured Destruction?

    Mind Altering Drug?

    Memory Address Driver?

    Mean Absolute Deviation?

    Mobile Armored Division?

    The airport code for Barajas Airport in Madrid, Spain?

    Magnetic Anomaly Detector?

    [THIS???]

  32. Ksessoking

    THAT is AWESOME!!!

  33. Derek

    I’m not convinced – in the right setting, I’ve had incredibly informative and productive arguments on the internet (mostly on Facebook, where it’s a safer environment). And if someone is wrong (*) on the internet, you SHOULD call them out! In a broadly respectful way, of course :)

  34. Andreas H

    That reminds me of an alltime internet classic:

    [i]Arguing on the internet is like running in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you’re still retarded![/i]

    it might be borderline offensive, but damn it’s just true…

  35. Nigel Depledge

    Pete Jackson (7) said:

    Interpreting quackery as the deliberate purveying of false cures, then I would absolutely agree. But there is a broad field of healing that is not science based, often because humans are so individual that properly designed scientific experiments are often not possible. In these cases, experienced and skillful healers can definitely make a difference, even if it just harnessing the power of the placebo effect, which scientific experiments are designed to eliminate.

    You make it sound as if the placebo effect is not evidence-based.

    In fact, that the placebo effect exists and is a potent influencing fctor on a patient’s wellbeing is firmly established by clinical studies. Therefore, exploitation of the placebo effect is indeed science-based, but it is not medicine. Most medical professionals (IIUC) consider it unethical to tell a patient that the sugar pill you give them will cure their ailment when in fact the only reason they feel better is because the medico has activated the placebo effect.

  36. Nigel Depledge

    Oh, wait, I just disagreed with someone, does that give me a point of dickishness . . . ?

  37. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (24) said:

    I think there’s good arguing on the internet – and bad arguing on the internet.

    Good = rational, calm, polite arguing using examples and backing up your position with evidence and logic and reasonable witty humour.

    Bad = “flaming”, irrationally arguing using unsuported ad hominem attacks and rude insults & name-calling, being deliberately provoctive & objecting only for the sake of it, IOW, trolling etc ..

    There is a BIG difference between the two.

    Arguing well has its place and everyone can learn from doing so.

    Arguing badly and engaging in “flamewars” not-so-much.

    Yes. This.

  38. Joseph

    Um…I think the comic is just meant to be humorous.

    I do not think the comic is saying that if you comment on things you are a dick.

    I think it is saying if you get MAD at something on the internet THEN comment on it in a corrective or angry fashion you become some level of dick. This is probably not a universal truth but I can see where it would be a good generalization.

    Also: IT IS A COMIC! Meant to amuse and not be taken overly seriously! Get over it!

    (1 Dick Point) :-D

  39. uudale

    QD:

    I was laughing so hard my face was red, mouth open, with no audible sound escaping. Tears were streaming down my face. People at work were walking by and wondering what the @#&$ I was looking at.

    I now declare QD king of the internet!

  40. Aubri

    @QD: I like your style, kid. Stay awesome.

  41. jaranath

    So, I guess it needs to be stated more bluntly:  This comic is flawed.  It attempts to make a point, but does so clumsily and with likely unintended effect.

    The problem is that the comic doesn’t really say what some here claim it means:  That this is what tends to happen when, as the title implies, you’re MAD.  Instead, as written it says that:
    –Any time you disagree with someone online you are automatically angry
    –Posting a critical/disagreeing comment online at all is a pathetic waste of your time.  You should feel ashamed of yourself for even doing so.  Award yourself a dick point, go make a sandwich, and make sure the dog hasn’t eaten the baby.

    I recognize that it’s intended to be humorous, and it is.  And it’s pretty much spot on once you get to the higher (lower?) levels of dickishness.  But as presented, the comic smacks of a certain smugness in taking the moral “high road” and rising above all this Internet noise, and that’s what motivates me to criticize it.

    The author is right the scenarios he portrays are bad, and they occur all too often.  But I’m sorry, the title and the humor don’t neutralize the clear implication that anyone engaging in an Internet argument is somehow socially or morally wrong or pathetic to do so.  I’m not sure that was the author’s intention, but unfortunately it’s not a rare theme.  I think it happens less because of the genuine observation that there’s too much unproductive emotional blather, and more because of a general distaste for confrontation.

  42. QuietDesperation

    I now declare QD king of the internet!

    I prefer God Emperor, actually.

    @QD: I like your style, kid. Stay awesome.

    The ponies have enlightened me. I am one with the herd.

  43. TerryEmberson

    Apparently, I forgot the NSFW language in my original comment. Sorry about that. I was quoting the comic, but it still had the wrong language.

  44. Dickishness is the manner in which you post the comments, not the number of points you’re arguing. What’s wrong with this comic is that it presents so many false dichotomies and conflates disagreement itself (regardless of the actual content of the comments) with dickishness.

  45. Grand Lunar

    I usually reach Level 2; coming to a point where I want to make a point, then wash my hands of it.

    Exceptions would be with the anti-vax movement, hoax believers and other similarly minded conspiracy theorists, creationists, ect. ;)

    Incidently, what would the female equivilent of those ratings be?
    Women need a rating system too!

  46. rob

    can anyone tell me what this “internet” thing is? i don’t get what the comic means.

  47. uudale

    “Incidently, what would the female equivilent of those ratings be?
    Women need a rating system too!”

    They already have one. It starts with the letter b.
    Higher levels are indicated with a capital B.
    The highest level attainable is with a capital B followed by an !

  48. Don

    Is it REALLY so hard to distinguish between “Argument” and “Discussion”?

    Humor is not that hard to understand! (Unless you read XKCD when he goes off on an esoteric mathematical concept).

  49. Michael Swanson

    You know, I’ve actually won arguments on the internet. Twice. The other six thousand times I just should have walked away.

  50. Sam H

    @8 QD: HELL YEAH!! I’m not the only Portal fan on this forum!!! :D

    As an aside, it appears the bronies have infiltrated even science itself with their…uh, spectral optimism. Can’t say that’s too bad, eh? :)

  51. Joseph G

    Is it bad if you spend much of your time hovering on the border between levels 3 and 4? :)

  52. jaranath

    That’s quite enough game geekery out of you, Sam H. Under the circumstances Phil’s been shockingly nice, but if you keep it up he’ll only want you gone.

  53. Joseph G

    @20 Hurf: Needs more trollface

    I interpreted that one stick figure as sort of a trollface in apologetic mode.

    Quiet Desperation: Oh, yeah… from the neck!

    I always knew there was something odd about you. You don’t sparkle, perchance?

    Also, I find it ironical (yes, I said it, therefore it’s a word) that those posters wishing to refute the poster are inadvertently reinforcing it.

    Pure win, this thread is.

  54. Joseph G

    I’d like to ask someone to explain the My Little Ponies thing to me, but I’m afraid I’d ultimately get pulled into a screaming vortex of mind-shattering insanity that’d make Lovecraft faint.

  55. jaranath

    Joseph G:

    Somehow my knowledge of My Little Pony is mostly limited to Robot Chicken’s Apocalypse Ponies (Punish Mankind for Their Sins! ™) So I don’t really get it either, beyond the general humor of oppressive cuteness.

    Regarding things ironical: That’s kinda part of the point. The comic is wrapped up in this weird recursive thing where even itself is part of “the problem”. But don’t think that I HAVE to be here. I have a life! I can quit commenting any time I want! Any…time…

  56. Rift

    “This comic is flawed. ”

    I would comment that this a comic (Snoopy flies a friggen doghouse in a comic) and not a doctoral thesis, but I have a sandwich, a dog (not Snoopy), and a baby that need my attention.

  57. CB

    @ Rift:

    Dude, you need to ditch that needy co-dependent sandwich.

  58. Rift

    It’s already been dealt with and no longer exists, sadly.

  59. jaranath

    Rift: With all due respect (and good humor, even!): Don’t do that. Comics aren’t a frivolous medium just because Snoopy exists. This one is definitely trying to make a point, however lightheartedly, and I think it’s a generally good point that doesn’t deserve to be blown off because it happens to include pictures. Even if some of the pictures ARE of dicks.

  60. QuietDesperation

    I’d like to ask someone to explain the My Little Ponies thing to me

    The new 2010 version of the cartoon has spawned about 95,270 internet memes. Hasbro hired people from the teams that gave us Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack, and mostly let them have their way with rebooting My Little Pony. The result is composed of concentrated awesome for anyone with the ability to get over themselves and enjoy something bright, colorful and cleverly executed.

    @8 QD: HELL YEAH!! I’m not the only Portal fan on this forum!!!

    Cave Johnson was actually my favorite character in Portal 2, and you only even hear recordings of him.

    “Just a heads up, we’re gonna have a super conductor turned up full blast and pointed at you for the duration of this next test. I’ll be honest, we’re throwing science at the walls here to see what sticks. No idea what it’ll do.” — Cave Johnson.

    “Alright this next test may involve trace amounts of time travel. So word of advice: if you meet yourself on the testing track don’t make eye contact. Lab boys tell me that’ll wipe out time – entirely. Forward and backward. So do both of yourselves a favor and let that handsome devil go about his business.” — Cave Johnson

    “We haven’t entirely nailed down what element it is yet, but I’ll tell you this: it’s a lively one and it does not like the human skeleton.” — Cave Johnson

  61. CB

    @ Rift:
    Good for you! I guess it’s sad because no more sandwich, but there will be others, I promise!

    @ QD:

    I watched the first episode because hey who knows where awseome might lie, and it was pretty cool. I didn’t realize it had those people working on it, or I wouldn’t have been surprised. I did think it was a little strange how the only male equines seemed to basically be servants, who made horse noises instead of speaking. What’s up with that? I’d have rather they just not mention the other half of the sex equation at all.

    @ The Comic and General Responses

    This is just me, but I think that any time you engage someone who you think is wrong, dumb, or super-wrong in order to correct them on the internet it’s worth one dick point. Even if you carefully consider their words and respond politely. Because of the sense of superiority you had to feel in the first place to decide you’re their educator, and the sense of hopelessness at educating some dumbass you had to have felt but ignored in order to show off. But, uh, this is the *internet*. If you only acquire one dick point in a day, you’re in the top 1% at least. :)

  62. QuietDesperation

    @CB Plenty more male ponies in later episodes, but it *is* ultimately targeted at the girls, even if they intended the parents to be entertained as well. Hey, Spike is male.

  63. mike burkhart

    I’m not trying to start an augrment in my comments just presenting a point of view ,I don’t expect everyone to agree with me This is a free country .Wikipedia has an extensive articals on Quackery I think people should read them ,you will see that the pseudoscience healing claims are the same as the snakeoil salemen ,things never change.Off topic :The creationist musem has a new ad that ends with:”prepare to beleve”’ sounds like they have shown there true colors .This musem is not about presenting facts .It is about converting people to fundamentelist Christanty I think schools should be bared from haveing feldtrips to this place since its only about pushing a religous agenda and not science.

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