What Is It With Trolls?

Apparently someone studied internet trolls to find out what makes them tick.

Executive summary: They’re assholes.

From an LA Times interview of a woman who wrote a book about trolls:

It’s hard to get demographics on who trolls are, but you note that their targets are usually women, people of color and LGBT people, and sometimes Christians and Republicans.

They’re asserting power and privilege in an unmistakable pattern: They’re policing against female-gendered behaviors — anything regarded by them as soft or emotional or sentimental. The idea of “raping with logic” comes up again and again. That’s how they understand and celebrate their behavior.

Trolling is gendered male. With race, there’s this presumption that everyone [trolling] is white, and anyone who deviates from that has to flag themselves. And this is leisure activity. Only a certain kind of person is going to have the time or energy to devote to something that doesn’t get them anything other than enjoyment and interest.

Sick jokes and laughing at others’ pain have been around far longer than the Internet, but trolls also mock the dead and their mourners.

The primary question I get is, “What’s wrong with them?” That sidesteps the ways in which trolling necessitates the trolling mask. Instead of thinking about [a tragedy] as a totality, they think about individual, tiny, fetishized details. If a young person was killed in a particular way and there was an “amusing” detail about the death, they would focus on that. They’re not thinking about the person who died and the people affected by that death. It’s not that they’re laughing necessarily at other people’s pain. They’re in a privileged position where they don’t need to think about it.

Like I said, assholes.


15 thoughts on “What Is It With Trolls?

  1. “They’re in a privileged position where they don’t need to think about it.”

    I don’t buy that they’re necessarily in a privileged position.
    I think these sociopathic assholes relish in punching and kicking down, while they kiss up to their betters. All for the approval of those who are better off than they are.

    Most of them aren’t privileged.
    They are just reveling in that they’re not like the people they ridicule and berate.
    These sociopathic assholes are, for the most part, “Christian,” white, and male – but not wealthy or privileged.
    So, that leaves a wealth of “Those People” for them to ridicule and berate.

  2. “A person of color or a woman or queer person who constantly has to encounter racist, sexist, homophobic language online — that affects them.”

    What am I missing here? It must be a language usage thing.. Like my grandmother referring to me as being gay.

  3. I guess I hang around in the wrong circles – I’ve never seen trolls take on Christians or Republicans.

  4. I’m not sure what a troll is really, though I suspect I could be one. I’ve been known to occasionally hang out (last week was a great week) at some of the more radical right-wing websites and spar with the dimwittedteabaggers, theblaze, would nut daily are my favorites. I don’t do it very often it gets far too depressing, just once in a while when the teabagger tears are flowing!

  5. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that they were mocking people’s pain. There’s a nasty human urge to poke sensitive people so they overreact. And this would also fit in with it coming from a position of privilege – not having to be sensitive.

    But this might be more about nastiness to women/minorities/LBGT, and less about joking about deaths.

  6. Interesting that the ‘Daily Mail’ aka the ‘Daily Troll’ was mentioned. My wife has the habit of reading my press, particularly blog comments. The comments on the ‘Daily Mail’ were the most rabidly hostile, as if the commenters were trying to outdo each other in vitriol.

    I decided not to reply and I’m glad I didn’t – the article seems to conclude that the trolls revel in getting a victim riled. My reaction reading over the crap was the same as Maha’s – they’re assholes. The best resolution for a troll is – just ban them.

    On the other hand, intelligent disagreement is not trolling. CaptainTeach or whatever his name is manages to put coherent ideas together when he honors us with a visit. That’s legit.

  7. I’m not sure what a troll is really, though I suspect I could be one.

    Yeah, uncledad. I came away with a feeling that I might qualify as a troll also according to the article..With the mention of Christians and Repuglicans being the target of trolls, and the comment about “raping with logic”, it kind of zeroed in on my dedicated pushback in those two particular areas. Had the author included a raping with faith comment to balance her argument I might not feel so set upon.

  8. Like some others, I find it curious that Republicans and Christians are named among the victims, but not liberals and friends. My right wing and conservative friends seem much more inclined to vitriol and attack than any of my liberal friends. Maybe I am distorting reality due to a greater sensitivity to a perceived threat or insult. I guess that would be par for the course.

    We do find ourselves in an historically nasty spot. Discussion seems all but impossible. Usually, when I see anger and violent posturing, I sense fear behind it, mixed with confusion. But, I shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of some Cluster B disorder. I have some very old right wing, fundamentalist friends. They’re stoked on “The Blaze” and a variety of other hate and fear mongering sources. We live in epistemically disparate worlds, and there is no crossing over. But, I did learn something from them. They are thoroughly convinced that anyone who disagrees with them is ignorant, stupid or low information. The extent of their attempts at well reasoned arguments ends there. Beyond calling names, they really don’t have anything to say, which clearly marks them as dim bulbs as far as I am concerned, poster children for the Dunning-Kruger Effect. So, I try to avoid falling into the same trap. Sometimes, it’s not so easy.

  9. “Beyond calling names, they really don’t have anything to say”

    That is par for the course even when not responding to a “troll”, the commenters over at the theblaze, WND, rarely ever say anything beyond the tired “Obummer”, “Killary” second grade type stuff, some of the more clever ones now call our president zero, or 0bama (notice the zero in place of the O) clever! There are exceptions of course but few and far between. This site is unique in that I often learn just as much from the comments as from maha’s articles!

  10. On the other hand, I usually find a lot of the commenters at alicublog very witty and worth reading.

  11. Well, I will have to check out some of the websites mentioned. I suspect that it will be as nauseating as listening to Rush or Sean. Recently, I have become more aware how thoughts have an instant effect on the body. And if I want an argument I just need to go to my brother-in-law.
    Since I don’t know much about trolls or these sites, my guess is these people need a place to vent their hate/anger. Maybe that’s a good thing or else they would be kicking the dog or beating their wife. I realize I am assuming they are male and I could be wrong. Guess I better stop since I don’t know what I’m talking about.

  12. “Well, I will have to check out some of the websites mentioned”

    Be careful make sure you have a good virus software and firewall most of the right-wing sites are running so many popup ads, scripts they will lock up your computer in a heart beat. Many lefty sites do as well, salon, wonkette, TPM, etc. Do not visit those sites with IE, I find firefox works best for me?

  13. I have been labeled a “troll” at right-wing websites where I called Sarah Palin a travesty and a geyser of toxic resentments. The regulars were certain that I was an asshole.

    At least we could each agree that the other was a jerk.

  14. Well, I don’t know about the internet, but I have noticed that people with aggressions are always looking for an easy target and what could be easier than this.

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