In our journeys across the Internet in our never-ending search for knowledge and entertainment, we've all had contact at some point with that fascinating creature know colloquially as "The Troll."

Trolls - also known as "flamers" - are easily spotted on the Web. They always make statements about a particular subject that are so mind-bogglingly asinine that most regular folks reading them will involuntarily drop their jaws or open their eyes wide in the disbelief of it all. Coming across a troll expressing his or her opinion is like spotting a train wreck - we can't help but watch because of the horrible fascination of it all.

One favorite tactics of trolls is to sprinkle their statements with sexually-related comments that are so crude they would make a sailor blush. If talking about politics, they will imply that the family tree of the target of their scorn contains no branches. In their postings, many trolls will often express their admiration of Hitler, bemoaning the fact that such a fine fellow was not permitted to carry out his plan for racial purification via extermination to its logical conclusions.

In their never-ending quests to make themselves heard, trolls generally project the genial warmth of a rattlesnake, the diplomacy of a ravenous wolverine, as well as the friendliness of a rabid grizzly bear. Their grasp of the English language demonstrates that they must have failed the third grade at least twice, and they all display the same emotional maturity of a undisciplined teenager who has spent a lot of time in a juvenile detention center.

However, a troll's statements are almost always a sham. Truth be known, trolls have one reason and one reason alone for their existence - to stir up controversy. When they make such illogical contentions, it's not because they believe in such things. No, their main purpose is to sit back and watch the fun as people react to their statements, gleefully counting the number of responses they get from people who attempt to challenge their way of thinking.

Unfortunately, it's a no-win situation. Because for a troll, the response is everything. A troll's victory comes not from winning an argument, but rather how many responses he or she can generate. The Internet, with its ability to post comments in linked "threads," is tailor-made for these people, who savor such back-and-forth banter the same way others would enjoy a close and hotly contested sporting event.

Like their namesakes, Internet trolls are never seen by the light of day. They always remain hidden in the darkness of their anonymity, content to spew their poisonous controversies, secure in the knowledge that there will always be someone willing to rise to the bait they offer, as they constantly attempt to drag decent folks down to their level.

Which is sad, because one can tell that the I.Q. of a troll is usually between their shoe size and their shirt size. One should never engage in open debate with a troll, because it's impossible to beat them under such circumstances. No matter how brilliant your counter-argument might be, no matter how clever your riposte, trolls will always come swinging back with some crude insult - which would probably get them arrested if they were to say it out loud in public - then congratulate themselves on having thought up such a witty response.

The only way to win against a troll is to refuse to debate in the first place. Always keep in mind this piece of sage advice if you get tempted: "Never argue with an idiot."

C.J. Marshall is a writer/columnist for The Daily Review. He can be reached at (570) 265-1630; or email