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 â€” 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.