Troll: One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument — Urban Dictionary
Trolls. Don’t you just love them? Internet trolls, I mean. I guess the other kind might be okay, too. The ones made of stone, with diamond teeth. Or so Terry Pratchett says, anyway. His troll, Detritus, is quite personable, if somewhat dangerous with a crossbow. Although I wouldn’t like to meet the type who live under bridges, as in Billy Goats Gruff. Not unless I had a brave billy goat along, anyway.
But internet trolls? What’s not to love? They toil away, night and day, in their mothers’ basements, bringing clarity and accountability to the internet. While the rest of us spend all our time reaffirming our biases, agreeing with people we find agreeable, they dedicate themselves to rooting out our complacency. They hold up our assumptions to the cleansing light of scrutiny, forcing us to look at our shallow lives in that pitiless light. At least, that’s what they say when they’re challenged. I don’t know if it’s true. As far as I know, they might just be dyspeptic twits trying to dilute their own unhappiness by spreading it around. And I don’t know about their mothers’ basements, either. Surely that can’t be true for all of them, can it?
Trolls aren’t the stupid moaners they make themselves out to be, either. Some of them are actually quite intelligent, by internet standards. Not only do they have to have the wits to concatenate words into sentences, they have to do so on topic, and in such a way that they cause optimum discomfort. That means that they have to understand what we’re saying, and then they have to be able to cogently and succinctly offend us. As many of us as possible, as much as possible. A talented troll can disrupt an ongoing conversation and divert it onto their chosen path with just a few well-chosen words. But to the best of them, that is just a means to an end. The real purpose of their unwelcome attentions is to wake us up to our hypocrisy. All their bad manners and their virtual bad breath and acrid body odor are gifted to us in their altruistic mission to make the internet a better place.
You’ve got to love them for that, right?
Unfortunately, we don’t get to enjoy the benefits of their hard work here on Green Comet. We’re too small. There are not enough of us to be worth their while. Their gifts are better used in service of the much larger numbers to be found elsewhere. That’s unfortunate, but I think we should take solace in the fact that our loss is the internet’s gain.