Blog Post

This is why we can't have nice things

One of the things I've noticed in my work with FB trolls (and /b/ trolls, but I've been doing more FB stuff lately) is that trolls are uncannily attuned to social and political trends. This isn't to say that trolls are necessarily socially-conscious or political (though many of them are), but they are about 3 days ahead of the media curve -- they pick up on the microtrends that snowball into full-blown media firestorms. They were all over the gay teen suicide story, for example, a full week before the media took notice. Of course, "being all over" something in trolldom means...you know...trolling that thing. So it's not as if trolls deserve a medal for raising awareness on a particular social issue. But collectively they have an amazing nose for drama, and know exactly the kinds of stories that are destined to go viral. Oddly enough, I stay current on emerging and established media narratives not by reading the news (although I do that too, of course), but by paying attention to the pages that are getting the most trollish attention. In that sense, trolls can be thought of as (amoral? apolitical? but sometimes not?) cultural first responders -- they're the ones sitting at their computer screens, waiting for something to happen. And as soon as something does, off they go. Frequently they descend on pages and groups --for example the group demanding the resignation of Clint McClance, the Arkansas school board member who made light of the recent teen suicides-- and take one of two extreme positions, either hysterically in favor or hysterically opposed, thus riling "normal" users into a similarly hysterical debate. Although the McClance case was more polarizing than most, this is the pattern trolls tend to follow -- a pattern that has been exacerbated by the impending midterm election. 

Indeed, taking a cue from the 24-hour news channels, trolls have taken great joy in exploiting the perceived gulf between hyper-liberal, anti-Christian extremists (these are not my opinions, but the trolls' appropriations of perceived political "types") and racist, ignorant and thoroughly Palinized Tea Partiers (again, speaking in the trolls' generalizations here). By "taking on" current events, then, trolls end up parroting (and, intentionally or not, critiquing) "real life" political discourse (or what passes as political discourse during this, the silliest of election seasons). The other day, for example, I watched as one of my trolling collaborators staged a conversation between two of his own profiles -- one of which argued that Clint should be rewarded for speaking the truth and one which argued that he deserved to be raped and murdered for his violations of the First Amendment. Both sides took the bait (that is, a huge number of non-trolls either agreed with or reacted to one of the two positions), and for the better part of an hour hundreds of strangers hurled incoherent insults at each other over a manufactured, 3-minute troll. It was quite a thing. 

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1 comment

While trolls do tend to sometimes be ahead of the game when it comes to news or something else,  they also can be the ones makeing the news themselves.  google Jessie Slaughter or Gene Simions Vs 4chan and you can see that they can occosionally be the ones makeing the news that the old media reacts to after the fact

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