Lately, IRL and online, it seems that the groups I'm involved in are plagued by shit stirrers. You know what a shit stirrer is, right? A shit stirrer is someone who delights in manipulating people and conversations so that others will be upset, someone who cooks up drama for the sheer enjoyment of it or for personal gain. The shit stirrer is always pointing the finger at someone else, often several someone elses. When others get upset, they often discuss this with the shit stirrer, who gets to enjoy the extra attention and even to act as a confidant. Meanwhile, the shit stirrer can sit back, relax, and watch the fireworks fly.
IRL, it seems easier to catch on. There are the conversations held through back channels that can be compared, so that very quickly, one sees the shit stirring actually taking place. Online, it can be less easy, particularly when the shit stirring is taking the form of intelligent conversation. There, it can be hard to spot a manipulative discussion, particularly when it is happening within the closed community of a listserv or bulletin board in which the members have been together for a long time.
What is your favorite way to handle shit stirrers? After seeing the stocks at the Renaissance Festival, I'm thinking that it would be great to make shit stirrers wear a big red "S" on their clothes so that we could see them coming.