A comment on Facebook by a good friend of mine this morning has made me clap my hands in agreement – and shudder privately at the implications behind the statement.
You see, our Trolling Community (whichever the Social Site it visits) exists for one reason only: To act through hatred, perverted sexual desire or contempt.
As with bullies everywhere, Trolls do not come neatly packaged with all the trolloid accoutrements and ‘I’m a Troll, Fol de Rol – and I’ll have you for my supper!’ warbling from their misshapen lips.
They look like you. They look like me. They blend seamlessly in with the crowd. They are friends of friends. They are the people who claim they have five contacts in common with us. They appear from nowhere, and go back to – one assumes – a foetid culvert in Fungus, the Bogeyman, territory…
What, to me, is most sinister, is their one-track-mindedness; the way they look for things which will stir their mighty cauldron of hatred and twisted desire. Thus, they will descend upon a discussion (which has nothing to do with them, and into which they were not invited) and start flinging the grenades of gratuitous violence around as if they were sweeties, or the inappropriately suggestive comments, or the hard sell.
They are poisonous abscesses just waiting to erupt – and they choose vulnerability, or kindness, as their exploding point. They feel, in some way I have never understood, that knowing the online persona we all present gives them the right to tell us and our friends off; to get nasty about things we write and to sow seeds of nastiness wherever they go.
I think they choose their material with chilling deliberation – and actively go after those who are clearly (as I am) unwilling to get into heated arguments in the wake of each blog post.
They look, as I have said more than once, for types, if you will (people whose beliefs or sexuality or attitudes are part of their prejudice package) and then read those individual’s comments and posts and statuses with a view to increasing their own fury at the world.
They pick on anyone who has a faith. They swarm like ants all over anyone whose gender orientation is different from their own. They respect no one’s opinion but their own.
But it is the inappropriate levels of rage or sexual desire that mark these people out. They have a hair-trigger response which is usually completely out of order and has little to do with the post/status you have written. They are the online equivalent of the thug who starts a fight after accusing you of looking at him/her the wrong way.
An apt analogy as it happens: Trolls have what I call a sense of evil egotistical entitlement. They labour under the illusion that every post/status is written with them in mind, and that the writer is deliberately trying to wind them up or turn them on. This, in their minds, gives them the right to retaliate, either with sleaze or verbal thuggery.
Since they assume at all times that you are squaring up to, or coming on to, them, their kick-back seems totally justified in their minds – and you deserve all you get for pressing their nuclear buttons!
How can you spot them? Easy! They do not actually READ what you have written, just go off on one after skimming the key words! They read each piece pawing at the ground and with the plumes of lustful or raging smoke bellowing from their trollish nostrils, just wait to plunge a horn into your literary red rag – Oh! and they wouldn’t recognise humour if they shat on it!
After having one of these creatures descending upon my words, I am often left with a kind of baffled, ‘What the fuck was all that about?!!’ response: A, ‘Why did that trigger such an explosive reaction?’
I have been almost completely silent on Facebook recently (though my posts still land upon its troubled shores), shocked and paralysed after the River Rocket Rampage (as I call it!). Brief summary: I wrote a post in which I argued that the Olivers (and anyone else) had the right to call their children whatever they liked, whether other individuals agreed with their choice or not, without having to put up with online abuse.
This post, on reaching Facebook, stirred many to agreement – and then, out of the blue, a woman arrived and started throwing insults my way: ‘Fucking bitch…’ she called me and asked who the hell I thought I was.
Her whole demeanour appeared, to me, to suggest that she thought I’d written this post just to rile her up, to press her buttons, to make her furious.
It was extremely intimidating (and very like that gang of girls who, forty-six years ago, attacked me on a bus because they said I’d been staring at them) – and completely uncalled-for.
People do not have an automatic right to take others to task, often viciously, because they have, inadvertently, triggered a hidden wound. I see more and more of this kind of thing on Facebook: People who disagree with another’s words (in itself, fair enough) and then unleash the Dogs of War upon the other, and start barking, snapping, biting and going for the jugular.
What the fuck?!
If you are looking for someone/thing to hate (or lust after), try a punchbag in a properly set-up boxing studio, or go and see a Lady of Negotiable Affection. Stop assuming that a writer, who almost certainly doesn’t know you from Adam (or Eve), is doing this to you with malign intent!
We aren’t! We have better things to do with out creative talents than luring in, or fending off, Trolls!