Trolls, Moles, Ogres, Orcs…and Goblins!

My daughter recently won the award for the best “Anti-troll” on her favourite k-pop site. “What’s an anti-troll?” I asked.

“I troll the trolls,” came the expected reply, “that’s what I do online – trolling. It’s fun.”

“But I thought you were the year’s best anti-troll.”

“Yes, but I told you – I troll the trolls, so that’s alright. It’s easy. They say such stupid things. I think a lot of them are about 12.”

The presiding spirit of the internet is egalitarianism, a belief that all people are equally valuable and have equal rights. All deserve to be treated with respect and have their voices heard. Transgressors are those who fall short of these ideals, or appear to deny or obstruct them. Invariably, the insults hurled on-line are accusations of racism or homophobia, or whatever. They are the most cutting attacks.

Some people, however, delight in breaking the rules, safe in the knowledge that they can’t be caught. They say the most appalling and outrageous things, gleefully, in the most inappropriate situations. 

These are the proper trolls. They view themselves as heroes, resolutely questioning and testing the limits of language and of conventional, conformist norms. They reject the hypocrisy of righteous indignation, which they see as a lack of courage: you won’t admit to yourself why you like fighting. They know who they are: they are Viking raiders and they fight for the joy and power of war itself. 

Perhaps they are less dependent on the internet for their sense of identity. They go online only to hunt. The internet isn’t their natural home but they use it to fabricate identities. 

This, and the internet’s universal accessibility[1], allows trolls and opponents of our values to burrow into our most hallowed forums, like moles or wax moths in a beehive, to pop up, spray everyone with their toxic shit, then disappear again into the night, laughing: a hit-and-run raid.

The connectivity of the world-wide-web makes everyone vulnerable to these wounding attacks. We feel threatened, and fiercely defend our enclaves. This we can only do with our words. 

[1] An absolutely necessary quality of a self-avowedly democratic medium.

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