Malwebolence.
July 31, 2008 9:44 PM   Subscribe

Zeno of Elea, Socrates and Jesus, Weev said, are his all-time favorite trolls. He also identifies with Coyote and Loki, the trickster gods, and especially with Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction. “Loki was a hacker. The other gods feared him, but they needed his tools.” The New York Times investigates the ever-evolving, LOL-corrupting, epileptic-seizuring, iPod-leaving-on-gravestone-ing phenomenon of major Internet trolling, featuring interviews with Jason Fortuny, Weev, and a gentleman named Christopher Poole (prev).

Choice bit from the article: One promising answer comes from the computer scientist Jon Postel, now known as “god of the Internet” for the influence he exercised over the emerging network. In 1981, he formulated what’s known as Postel’s Law: “Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.”...Trolls embody the opposite principle. They are liberal in what they do and conservative in what they construe as acceptable behavior from others. You, the troll says, are not worthy of my understanding; I, therefore, will do everything I can to confound you.
posted by Sticherbeast (91 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Oxydude at 9:51 PM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


You, sir, are and idiot.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:54 PM on July 31, 2008


Quite frankly, I'm disgusted that he would compare our savior to a troll. I hope someone murders him and his family.
posted by empath at 10:01 PM on July 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


"Empathy is a factor"
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:03 PM on July 31, 2008


File under "stuff I never thought I'd see in the Times": 1. Do whatever it takes to get lulz. 2. Make sure the lulz is widely distributed. This will allow for more lulz to be made. 3. The game is never over until all the lulz have been had.
posted by one_bean at 10:04 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


"An hero" is one of the most disturbing memes spewed up by 4chan. That's one where I think they just went way too far.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:08 PM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'd have to say that this is one of the more thorough and even-handed articles I've read about the /b/ subculture and the likes thereof, and I'm actually surprised that this came from a mainstream outlet rather than something like Wired.
posted by chimaera at 10:15 PM on July 31, 2008


I've often wondered if trolls can regenerate.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:39 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Weev seems to be high on the pathological exercise of trolling.

If I were the Messiah, I'd recieved a sign
posted by captainsohler at 10:52 PM on July 31, 2008


Fortuny frames his acts of trolling as “experiments,” sociological inquiries into human behavior. In the fall of 2006, he posted a hoax ad on Craigslist, posing as a woman seeking a “str8 brutal dom muscular male.” More than 100 men responded. Fortuny posted their names, pictures, e-mail and phone numbers to his blog, dubbing the exposé “the Craigslist Experiment.”

OOOH! This gives me my second opportunity in about as many weeks to milk some kind of authority status from my Sociology degree!

*ahem* Speaking as a fully credentialled Sociologist, this is bogus and not a valid experiment of any kind, unless there was an attempt to at least analyse the demographic backgrounds & motivations of the respondents. Demonstrating that some people will respond to online offers of sex is - in itself - not adding one iota to the sum of human knowledge.

It's not unlike *that guy* (everybody must know one) who styles himself as some kind of "psychologist" "probing peoples' minds" when in reality all he's doing is juvenile shit & mindgames like sending a Valentine's card to Ugly McUgly to laugh at the reaction.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:56 PM on July 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


It's tough to tell who's trolling whom, what with blustery, self-important paragraphs like the one about the movement of free speech towards and away from truth and when it crumbles "into the Babel of trolling, the pointless and eristic game of talking the other guy into crying 'uncle'?"

But, you know what? Looking at this, I think the joke's on the Times even if Mattathias is playing along. (I mean, plus, the New York Times trolling? I just don't think that's their style.) So I guess, well, /b/ just trolled the Gray Lady. I suppose I've got to give them some props for that, for taking every stereotype about the internet and pushing it as far as they could and being accepted at perfectly straight face value. Next week my friends' parents are going to think /b/tards have Rolls Royces with drivers and check visitors' heads for nits. I don't really have anything I can say about that except, well, congrats, internet people. You did a thing. You did a thing in front of a whole damn lot of people.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 12:08 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Trying to dress trolling up as a sociological or psychological experiment is just stupid, but trolling does teach several valuable life lessons:
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:12 AM on August 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


"Get over it," the trolls say. If I'm bothered by anything they do, it's not their problem, but mine. So the NIGGERJEWHAHA bullshit is all MY fault. NO, FUCK YOU.
posted by waraw at 1:11 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


I once had a "friend" that did that green hair thing all the time. He'd throw out something designed to insult me, and if I was at all defensive, he'd take that to mean I was insecure and so on. He used psychological games like these to constantly be dominant in conversation. And it was always combative, not friendly and playful. Some people really do get off on fucking with other people in this way, simply so they can feel right, or for whatever reason. They see conversation as some kind of psychological war that they have to win. And sometimes, especially on the Internet, it's hard not to want to take part in the war myself, to varying degrees. I can't say I never fell for my former friend's bait.

Anyway I'm glad I read this article because I was able to make the connection between his behavior and the mindset behind trolls. I'm glad to be living in this new era of fucking-with-people. Hopefully it won't be long before empathy is dead and misanthropy reigns supreme!
posted by palidor at 1:39 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Quite frankly, I'm disgusted that he would compare our savior to a troll. I hope someone murders him and his family.

That's exactly how I interpret "turn the other cheek".
posted by Dark Messiah at 1:42 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


eponysterical!
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:24 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I typically chalk it up to an underdiagnosis of the number of people suffering from borderline personality disorder and/or asperger's syndrome on our planet.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:37 AM on August 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


Livejournal response from weev.
posted by vira at 2:41 AM on August 1, 2008


and Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America - are those your final conclusions from all your activity here, or do you have some further research objectives up your sleeve?

Aside from that, your first, third & fourth point can easily be learned through a skim of any introductory secondary text or two on poststructuralism, existentialism &/or buddhism. This can be done without offending people or behaving like a giant douche.

As for point two, that's just the difference between being an asshole or not. The true test of one's moral character is what one would do if there were no chance of being caught.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:42 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I love this article — the way everyone involved is constantly trolling each other and the reader: the author repeating the exploding-van "a corruption of LOL" quote; weev showing up in a Rolls Royce!
posted by blasdelf at 3:57 AM on August 1, 2008


Thank you, New York Times, for giving me my headstone quote!

In loving memory of
IAN A.T.
1974-2008
Beloved Son, Brother, and Friend
The game is never over until all the lulz have been had.
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:14 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


What's that old quote? "Mean People Suck?"

It's interesting that the subject of this article compares himself to various venerated martyr figures, when in fact his primary interest is injuring and damaging others. Somehow I don't picture him drinking hemlock out of support for the structure of the state or allowing someone to nail him to a bit of wood as part of some divine plan. I also think he isn't very familiar with his favourite figure Loki, since while Loki's role is more ambiguous, he missed the bit about Loki getting his mouth sewn shut, or being impregnated by a horse, or for that matter that the 'trickster-as-early-hacker' theory missed the whole 'trickster-as-cultural-bad-example' aspect of things.

In the end, it's the trolls who end up justifying the sort of controls, and arrogance they rail against. For example in the case of the 'auto admit' scandal, the initial premise behind the website was sensible, but inevitably failed due to lousy moderation that allowed sadists and mental children to try out bullying. I also find it amusing that puncturing the pompous is cited as the moral justification for trolling, because it paradoxically makes you all the more pompous to feel it’s your job to screw with people, and to dress up your trolling in a moral costume is about as hard blowing as a blowhard can get.
posted by Phalene at 5:21 AM on August 1, 2008 [11 favorites]


Thanks for posting this, Sticherbeast, because last night when I was reading the article I was like "I can't wait to see what MeFi says about THIS part! Oh, or this part here!" Now will somebody please post this article so we can talk about whether that lady is full of shit or not?
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:26 AM on August 1, 2008


Aside from that, your first, third & fourth point can easily be learned through a skim of any introductory secondary text or two on poststructuralism, existentialism &/or buddhism. This can be done without offending people or behaving like a giant douche.

But taking pains to avoid "ofending people" or "behaving like a giant douche" means one hasn't actually learned anything at all. Merely reading something isn't always enough.

As for point two, that's just the difference between being an asshole or not. The true test of one's moral character is what one would do if there were no chance of being caught.

"Asshole" and "moral character" are just point one words. People's moral judgments represent their desire to control, and nothing more.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:55 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think it's a shame that early, unwanted, buttsecks turned Jason Fortuny into social pariah. Also, that picture is hilarious: when you look into the void, a sweaty nerd looks back into you.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:03 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


I also think he isn't very familiar with his favourite figure Loki, since while Loki's role is more ambiguous

I'm glad you pointed that out, Phalene, because I was thinking of disputing the bollocks about Kali being the "Hindu Goddess of destruction" for a while, but thinking that would be a bit esoteric.

Kali is a self-emanated manifestation of Durga, who herself is a kind of avatar of Parvati, consort / shakti of Lord Shiva, who, in his Nataraj avatar is the Lord of the Dance, which might be thought of as something to do with destruction (according to the trinity of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver & Shiva the destroyer), but only to an idiot who has no clue about the destruction/creation aspect of Shiva.

To quote from a blurb about the iconic bronze sculpture in the the ancient temple of Chidambaram, "the significance of the Nataraj (Nataraja) sculpture is said to be that Shiva is shown as the source of all movement within the cosmos, represented by the arch of flames. The purpose of the dance is to release men from illusion of the idea of the "self" and of the physical world. The cosmic dance was performed in Chidambaram in South India, called the center of the universe by some Hindus. The gestures of the dance represent Shiva's five activities, creation (symbolized by the drum), protection (by the "fear not" hand gesture), destruction (by the fire), embodiment (by the foot planted on the ground), and release (by the foot held aloft)."

As Nataraj (Sanskrit: Lord of Dance) Shiva represents apocalypse and creation as he dances away the illusory world of Maya transforming it into power and enlightenment."


I doubt to the extreme that your average troll would have the slightest fucking idea of any of this, let alone having the ability to parse it in any way that didn't amount to the equivalent of wearing a che guevara tshirt.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:07 AM on August 1, 2008 [8 favorites]


People's moral judgments represent their desire to control, and nothing more.

Don't worry, Steve. Things will be a lot better when you get to college.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:08 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


But taking pains to avoid "offending people" or "behaving like a giant douche" means one hasn't actually learned anything at all. has been well brought up, educated, and is a reasonably fit & normal member of society.

Untrollified that for you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:12 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


octobersurprise: Don't worry, Steve. Things will be a lot better when you get to college.

UbuRoivas: has been well brought up, educated, and is a reasonably fit & normal member of society.

This is hilarious. Even after I explained that I recognize such attempts at shaming as simple manipulation, you both still have to try it.

The optimism is kind of impressive. "Yeah, he just said he didn't care, but I'm sure my zinger will make him feel the error of his ways!"
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:25 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


the author repeating the exploding-van "a corruption of LOL" quote

I thought the guy sort of understood when he wrote "A corruption of 'LOL,'" but when he seemingly failed to realize that Weev was trolling the shit out of him I realized he didn't.

One solution that has proved effective is “disemvoweling”


Corrupted LOL.

In recent LULZ news:

There is a tradition of Anonymous raiding Habbo, some shit avatar-chat program designed to separate naive children from their allowance. A popular tactic is for everyone to sign on with avatars of a Black guy in a suit with an Afro (Why a Black guy? Because if they used a White guy no one would say "Why a White guy?") and block access to the game's pool, proclaiming "POOL'S CLOSED."

On the day of the most recent raid, someone printed out a popular image of the smiling Afro-ed Black man in a suit, arms crossed, with the POOL'S CLOSED caption, and put it up on an IRL pool in Texas.

A grandmother of two half-Black children decides to interpret this as a directed racist attack against them, contacting the police and the TV news. As always with the TV news, the coverage is best used for lulz. That's not all, though, as Anonymous is definitely interactive. The most interesting part is that besides the predictable prank calls, she gets nice calls explaining the whole thing, and the TV news people manage to find Encyclopaedia Dramatica, but they all still completely fail to understand simple things like the fact that the sign means the Black guy is the one saying "POOL'S CLOSED," not that "POOL'S CLOSED" applies to Black people.

ED article for MOAR, but as always don't go to ED if you don't know what you're getting into.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:32 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think it's a shame that early, unwanted, buttsecks turned Jason Fortuny into social pariah.

I think it's more likely that in actuality there was no early, unwanted buttsecks.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:34 AM on August 1, 2008


But taking pains to avoid "offending people" or "behaving like a giant douche" means one has been well brought up, educated, and is a reasonably fit & normal member of society.

This is hilarious. Even after I explained that I recognize such attempts at shaming as simple manipulation, you both still have to try it.

no, that was a simple statement of fact.

just because you chose to call it "simple manipulation" does not stop it from being the main basis by which almost six billion people try to get along.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:52 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


People's moral judgments represent their desire to control, and nothing more.

Don't worry, Steve. Things will be a lot better when you get to college.


huh? are kids these days so retarded that they have to wait until college to work out that Nietzsche was a total load of bollocks?*

* apart from his brilliant writing skills; in the original German, naturlich
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:02 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


"One has been well brought up, educated, and is a reasonably fit & normal member of society" is not a statement of fact, though, at least not the way you're using it.

"Educated" is plausibly a factual claim, but "well brought up," "reasonably fit," and "normal member of society" aren't factual statements--at least not in the sense you're using them.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:03 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


The upshot on trolling, as Dr. Steve so handily demonstrates, is that whatever your imagined point, it's easy and it's lazy. No one learns from or listens to the troll. Unlike the trickster, the troll teaches nothing. The troll satisfies only him or herself - or attempts to - in an infantile bid for attention. The conversation then moves on around and without them, perhaps elsewhere if the troll is really determined to remain the center of attention in the original locale.

Because trolling is an activity that plays on human emotion, the only sensible response to trolling is, ultimately, to view it rationally rather than emotionally and shrug it off as unimportant. Trolls get pleasure from seeing how far they can draw an opponent out before that person overcomes their natural and respectable human emotional reaction and arrives at the rational response (if they ever do). It's a fixed game which the troll always gets to win, because the opponent either does the rational thing and quits the game, or continues to mount a counterattack. The experiment, though, is always really on the troll: how deep-seated is the desire for power and attention? Ones that become notable for their trolling are pretty well advanced in this area and unlikely to respond to "hey, knock it off."

That said, I still enjoy the zingers, because the vast majority of readers agree with them and enjoy them despite the troll's flailings. I think it's helpful to see a few of them in trolling threads, here or elsewhere, not because they impact the troll -- the troll may interpret them as direct counterattacks or attempts to score points -- but because, to the rest of the community, they are actually a great reinforcement of the overall norms of the discourse. It makes it clear that the troll is a marginal figure.
posted by Miko at 7:05 AM on August 1, 2008 [29 favorites]


but when he seemingly failed to realize that Weev was trolling the shit out of him I realized he didn't.

Well, when the Rolls was mentioned, the writer subtly said something to the effect of "for the next two days, at least".

So he got it, but chose to ignore that fact for some of the article.
posted by taumeson at 7:11 AM on August 1, 2008


The upshot on trolling, as Dr. Steve so handily demonstrates, is that whatever your imagined point, it's easy and it's lazy. No one learns from or listens to the troll. Unlike the trickster, the troll teaches nothing.

You might as well criticize meditation and prayer on the grounds that they teach nothing to others. The critique doesn't even make sense.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:13 AM on August 1, 2008


well said, miko. and especially funny because you obviously typed it up whilst MPDSEA was trying to let fly half-assed haymakers at a bag of jello of his own creation.

because i'm lazy & it's not really worth a typed response, i'm pasting loquacious back: "you're tilting at windmills, except instead of a lance and a horse you've got a asthmatic pug, a cocktail swizzle"
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:13 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Trolls who try to justify their actions are hypocrites: it's more grandiose and pretentious to get 'srs' about harassing people and being wilfully stupid on the internet, than it is to get serious about whatever interest or debate you want to pursue on the internet. Comparing yourself to Loki, Socrates and Jesus because you spammed macros at someone would be the epitome of this.

Trolls who don't try to justify their actions or claim that they don't need to are sad. Ironically pretending to compare your dicking around on forums to Loki, Socrates and Jesus just emphasises how worthless and self-indulgent what you're doing actually is.

And trolls who honestly have no thought about the matter either way and just get a thrill when people get "butthurt" over being fucked with are childish bullies, covering for the fact that they're missing something important.

Yeah, Encyclopedia Dramatica can be pretty funny. It doesn't change the fact that whichever type of troll you are, you're an asshole.
posted by Drexen at 7:21 AM on August 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


miko: in case it wasn't clear, i was posting back at the troll, not at you.

in fact, that was a remarkable screed of yours. was that off the top of your head (rhetorical question)?

this, in particular, was a perfect synecdoche: whatever your imagined point, it's easy and it's lazy. No one learns from or listens to the troll. Unlike the trickster, the troll teaches nothing.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:24 AM on August 1, 2008


"Yeah, he just said he didn't care, but I'm sure my zinger will make him feel the error of his ways!"

Made you reply, didn't I?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:26 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Unlike the trickster, the troll teaches nothing.

I would disagree (using the meaningful definition of troll, rather than how it is often used as a broad term to include anything on the internet that one disagrees with, doesn't like, views as mean, is crapflooding, etc.). Good trolling can be thought-provoking or useful, or would you say that "A Modest Proposal" is without worth?

In fact, your own post sort of contradicts itself: That said, I still enjoy the zingers ... they are actually a great reinforcement of the overall norms of the discourse.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:33 AM on August 1, 2008


was that off the top of your head (rhetorical question)?

Thank you. Yes and no. I composed it just now, but I've thought about it for a long time watching these folks - particularly the ones dressed up as intellectuals - at work.

The "intellectual" ploy is really just another brick in the wall of defense. "I'm vulnerable here,because people will say I do this because I'm not too smart; so I'll look for something in philosophy or history to justify these actions and show that I'm really better educated than they are. Then my actions will not seem like need-based, emotional ones, but like some sort of amusing supergenius game that they are too weak-minded to understand. Intimidation point!"
posted by Miko at 7:35 AM on August 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


TOCT: I don't think it's a contradiction. The community norms would exist whether the troll tested them or not; but in order to prevent the troll's new views from seeming the norm, the zingers come in handy. They would be unecessary, after all, without the trolling.

I would fall short of calling literary satire "good trolling." Satire is created to advance discussion of a particular issue or idea. Trolling advances discussion of the troll.
posted by Miko at 7:38 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


would you say that "A Modest Proposal" is without worth?

If your average self-identified trickster-troll tried to write something like that, the result would be without worth.
posted by Drexen at 7:40 AM on August 1, 2008


Trying to dress trolling up as a sociological or psychological experiment is just stupid, but trolling does teach several valuable life lessons:

* Words like "good," "evil," "mature," "psychotic," etc. are just tools people use to manipulate you into doing what they can't force you to do. You can use these tools yourself.


I sort of agree, sort of. Manipulation is ubiquitous, but I've found that people rarely try to manipulate me in order to get me to 'do' anything. Instead they are trying to put me into a certain role in relation to themselves - not necessarily in a negative way. They do this in order to prop up a certain image of themselves. And, of course, I do it too if I'm not paying attention.

* It doesn't matter what you do. It only matters what you get caught doing, and what you feel bad about doing. There's no reason to feel bad if you don't get caught.

Radical. I remember once reading Socrates arguing that people who do bad things suffer more if they aren't caught, and I was all like 'Socrates, wtf?!'. And I've read several different people arguing that you are what you do. So, you know, I have no idea what to believe. I can't even tell if Socrates believed his own argument, or whether he was just being cheeky.

* Authenticity is an illusion. Everything is an affectation.

Sure. It's also pretty much unavoidable. The world's a stage, and all that.

* The "self" is a very thin and largely useless concept, despite the weight so many people put on it.

Someone on metafilter (I think) once snarked thusly: 'I just want people to accept me for whatever it is I'm pretending to be at that moment.' I felt that summed it up nicely.
posted by Ritchie at 7:41 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


@TheOnlyCoolTim

Which definition of trolling are you using? Are you sure you're not over extending the term to include all satire, sarcasm and absurdism? The origin of the term traces back to people deliberately fomenting arguments about dog eating in a dog fanciers newsgroup, and generally refers to being offensive for the sake of being hurtful.
posted by Phalene at 7:54 AM on August 1, 2008


Good trolling can be thought-provoking or useful

Let's not expand the definition of trolling too far. If someone posted something that actually advanced the conversation, even if posted in a snarky or combative way, that's just being argumentative. Trolling is more for when you're not trying to contribute so much as to set off the more excitable commenters. There's a sense of mocking detachment that is necessary to make the leap from arguing to trolling.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 8:00 AM on August 1, 2008


I would fall short of calling literary satire "good trolling." Satire is created to advance discussion of a particular issue or idea. Trolling advances discussion of the troll.

People try to define "troll" in a way that seems to include the idea that "anything I think is good or useful is not a troll," but then things get sort of tautological and I don't think that's useful as a definition.

In my book, Jonathan Swift was trolling, and I'm not alone in this. To quote the Encyclopaedia, for example:

Jonathan Swift was an unfunny author of many shitty books and a renowned IRL Troll from Ireland.


For a contemporary example, see famous troll Stephen Colbert.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:01 AM on August 1, 2008


There can be a thin line between trolling and satire. But if you're a satirist that chooses to walk that line, you run a real risk of getting your teeth punched out, and deserving it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:04 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


The "pool's closed" thing that TOCT reports above is a pretty good example of the difference between "trolling" (to misuse the term) like "A Modest Proposal" and the tone-deaf bullying LULZ in the article.

Race is sensitive stuff. Doesn't mean you can't joke about it (the opposite is true, in fact -- there is little better than jokes to get at the heart of difficult topics), but the "pool's closed" event was extraordinarily tone-deaf, even for a bunch of poorly socialized teenagers.

it's not a "zinger" when the Encyclopedia Dramatica uses lines like

Mary Alice Altorfer, on why her nigger son-in-law won't work.

That's the kind of humor that's funny in very particular contexts, and outside of those contexts it's seriously not funny. New Braunfels has a pretty spotty record of racial problems -- this wasn't the context for such socially dissonant "humor." Everyone likes to give seat of the pants diagnoses of Aspergers for everything here, but in this case I have to wonder if it might be right.

I'm all for people deciding to épater le bourgeois. But not all épater-ing is of equal value, whether for laughs or for social commentary.

Also, MPDSEA's trolling in this thread approaches performance art, given the context of a thread about, well, trolling. He's a world-class blowhard, but he's nailed his performance on this one.
posted by Forktine at 8:04 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


@TheOnlyCoolTim

This is not 'nam. There are rules.

Which definition of trolling are you using? Are you sure you're not over extending the term to include all satire, sarcasm and absurdism? The origin of the term traces back to people deliberately fomenting arguments about dog eating in a dog fanciers newsgroup, and generally refers to being offensive for the sake of being hurtful.

What's trolling and what's not trolling is hard to define, as the article notes. To me, a troll generally involves:

-arguments or actions meant and designed to be provocative or offensive
-if beliefs are espoused, they usually don't quite reflect the true personal beliefs of the troll
-humor

These do not require usefulness or worth, but do not preclude it. There are certainly heavy elements of "satire, sarcasm, and absurdism."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:08 AM on August 1, 2008


The "pool's closed" thing that TOCT reports above is a pretty good example of the difference between "trolling" (to misuse the term) like "A Modest Proposal" and the tone-deaf bullying LULZ in the article.

The whole pool's closed thing definitely isn't trolling, just an in-joke (the initial posting of the sign) that progressed to variously appropriate and inappropriate levels of pranksterism and harassment when Altorfer went and assumed it was targeted racism (and I find it a bit of leap with the picture of the smiling, confident, well-dressed Black man) and run to the TV.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:16 AM on August 1, 2008


@TOCT

Hmm, but do you have a better, pithy term to describe what we're objecting to? When one says 'I hate trolls', one is generally talking about bullying someone in a way that does not demonstrate anything but cruelty. when we extend the term 'troll' to refer to someone we disagree with, it's because we think that they are in such obvious error that the only way they can claim what they do is to annoy.
posted by Phalene at 8:32 AM on August 1, 2008


I really am having a hard time seeing MPDSEA's trolling in this thread. Can someone please point it out for me? He's got a slight point, his comments create and participate in the discussion, and the conversation moves forward. There's a level of participation in the discourse that, to me, is not trolling.
posted by Stynxno at 8:52 AM on August 1, 2008


Because trolling is an activity that plays on human emotion, the only sensible response to trolling is, ultimately, to view it rationally rather than emotionally and shrug it off as unimportant.

There's a web site I frequent (posters there know ALL about Mr. Fortuny) where members tend to respond to any trollish post by either posting recipes or simply stating "Alan Rickman is hot." Everyone else either ends up talking about food or Alan Rickman and gets so caught up quoting Severus Snape lines at each other that the troll just leaves. It seems to be one of the more effective ways to handle trolling that I've encountered.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:04 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


He looks exactly like I expect a troll to look.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:08 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


The whole pool's closed thing definitely isn't trolling, just an in-joke

Well, let's not forget it was originally "POOL CLOSED ON ACCOUNT OF AIDS," Which had at least a smidge of homophobic trolling behind it.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:23 AM on August 1, 2008


I really am having a hard time seeing MPDSEA's trolling in this thread.

I don't know if he's trolling. that word gets used way too much around here. he's certainly playing the violin ubu's dancing to, though.
posted by shmegegge at 9:46 AM on August 1, 2008


"Alan Rickman is hot."

That is so true. I always thought it was a bit quirky of me to find him hot. I'm comforted that a lot of other internet geeks agree.
posted by Miko at 10:30 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


How come this article reminds me so much of the fake stories that Stephen Glass used to write for The New Republic?
posted by Benevolent Space Robot at 11:42 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


How come this article reminds me so much of the fake stories that Stephen Glass used to write for The New Republic?

Probably because it's half fake, the subjects treating the mainstream media as the joke it is.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:09 PM on August 1, 2008


They are liberal in what they do and conservative in what they construe as acceptable behavior from others.

Related, and more to the point: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:41 PM on August 1, 2008


"No, Fortuny argued; no one is entitled to our sympathy or empathy. We can choose to give or withhold them as we see fit. “I can’t push you into the fire,” he explained, “but I can look at you while you’re burning in the fire and not be required to help.”

That seems to be about it right there.
posted by kosem at 1:20 PM on August 1, 2008


"A Modest Proposal" isn't a very good example, not because it's satirical (trolling can be satirical, of course), but because it's contained in a way that trolling isn't. In that pamphlet, Swift wasn't trying to fool or confuse anyone (at least anyone who read the whole thing); at the end, he basically steps out from behind the curtain and says what he thinks the real solution to the Irish problem would be: "Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither cloaths, nor houshold furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture [and so forth...]"

Part of the ethos of trolling seems to be a stubborn refusal to give up the game. If you really want to enlist Swift as a troll avant la lettre, a better text would be the Bickerstaff papers, an honest-to-God prank to which my response is twofold: 1) that's fucking hilarious; 2) Swift was a dick. Which is also my response to trolling on the few occasions when it's actually funny.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 2:05 PM on August 1, 2008 [7 favorites]


Steve President etc. wrote:

People's moral judgments represent their desire to control, and nothing more.

I assume you read the article, right? And you're cool with all of the trolling there? You don't find anything morally wrong in, say, a group of people harassing the parents of a girl who'd just committed suicide?

When I read this article, I say, "These people enjoy hurting strangers. What sociopaths they are."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:06 PM on August 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


so, apparently Jonathan Swift is the wrong dude to piss off.
posted by shmegegge at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2008


I've always gotten a kick out of deadpanning ridiculous stuff just to get a reaction -- from by close friends. With people who know each other well there's a fun game in seeing if you can evoke that moment of horror and repulsion ("oh god I didn't know my friend was a closet racist") before dawning comprehension sets in.

But telling someone they have green hair to elicit a reaction or yelling racial epithets at random strangers isn't some high-minded way of exposing people's misconceptions, it's just being a dick. It's especially dickish if you're the only one that gets that it's a joke. Just because you can yell obscenities doesn't make you the next Bill Hicks -- you also have to be funny.

The /b/tards are their own audience -- the people they're antagonizing usually aren't in on the joke, because that would defeat the purpose. The argument that people should just develop thicker skin doesn't wash: the entire claim is that the trolling wouldn't be effective if the targets didn't react -- but when that happens, the herd either ups the vitriol or moves on to a new target until they found someone who does react. They're claiming that the point is to teach people a lesson, but you only win the troll game if the target doesn't learn a lesson.

FAIL.
posted by spiderwire at 2:26 PM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


he's certainly playing the violin ubu's dancing to, though.

well, it was a merry dance!

and i did start by calling him a troll in the first place, so picking up that violin and playing it was entirely appropriate. well played, too, as Forktine pointed out.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:26 PM on August 1, 2008


Adequacy
posted by papafrita at 5:14 PM on August 1, 2008


I think the fact that respectable Internet users only feel comfortable shouting down and abusing people who are "trolls" has led to endless arguing about just what is a troll. This is silly, and ultimately just a rationalization.

Shout down and abuse whoever you please, and don't feel guilty about it. When you find a group of people who shout down and abuse the same people you do, you have a community!
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:19 AM on August 2, 2008


I concur with my noble & learned colleague.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:34 AM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a troll? Awesome!
posted by tehloki at 1:41 AM on August 2, 2008


A troll keeps favouriting my comments? Awful!
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:52 AM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's a fixed game which the troll always gets to win

I feel I should point out that it is completely possible to lose when trolling. A Google search for "fail troll is fail" gives over 9000 results.

Amy Chozick trolled the nation in the WSJ and at least online she failed. Really, "journalists" today are the biggest and most harmful trolls of all.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:21 AM on August 2, 2008


A problem with adopting a philosophy where everything is artifice is that the adherent can never be sure of not being trolled themselves.
posted by klangklangston at 11:42 AM on August 2, 2008


I think a bigger problem for the troll is the whole boy who cried wolf thing: If the one guy was actually molested as a child or the other guy actually does own a Rolls Royce, etc. no one's going to believe them.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:54 PM on August 2, 2008


Forgot to mention an older example: I'm not 100% convinced that famous troll klerck really did kill himself. Might just be a really epic troll.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:56 PM on August 2, 2008


All that tl;dr just to reiterate the Greater Internet Fuckwad theory? I guess the NYT pays by the word?
posted by meehawl at 3:45 PM on August 2, 2008


lupus_yonderboy: When I read this article, I say, "These people enjoy hurting strangers. What sociopaths they are."
Exactly, exactly, EXACTLY!

When people- like obvious chan-ophile TheOnlyCoolTim, who is neither cool nor the only Tim- try to defend this behavior, or think it "funny" and post asinine Bel-Air or rickroll bullshit, they do so because they are borderline sociopaths themselves who think is this is normal, desirable, or healthy. It's not; the chans are breeding grounds for sociopaths, ready for a cultural revolution. Today it's fake pizzas and telephone death threats and harassing mourning parents; tomorrow it's killing their teachers on the school steps. This shit is really inarguable; thinking it's funny to phone up parents of a suicide for a year and a half for "lulz", or posting rabidly racist images and text, is as clear a warning sign as "tortured small animals as a child".


An aside, I think this whole thread acts as a pretty clear confession that MPDSEA is a troll. He admits that he doesn't care about anyone or anything, he just likes to hurt or confuse people. He brags with teenage bravado about his utter lack of empathy; he admits that you won't fool him playing the same trolling game he likes to play. Why the fuck is his account not banned yet?!
posted by hincandenza at 4:40 PM on August 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


Dude, borderline sociopathy is great. You should definitely give it a try.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:36 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


These are the just same douches who, in another era, would make malevolent phone calls, commit direct mail fraud, graffiti people's houses, break into buildings at night and vandalize, or any number of other idiot youth disruptions. There were legal remedies for them then; there soon will be again. Invoking Loki doesn't lend it any mysticism just because on the interwebs.

After 20 years, we're still marveling at the internet like it's some new thing, and all the old rules about how we interact don't apply. It's just another communication medium; the people haven't changed. Douchebags are still douchebags.
posted by electrasteph at 6:12 AM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Knowing these people personally, casually, it's a crazy life. They are hugely paranoid. But they do know how to party.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:58 PM on August 3, 2008


hincandenza says that certain Mefis should be banned, not for actual trolling behavior but simply for providing a defense of it. Yet he is the one trying to suppress discussion by threatening other members for their points of view - trolls can ruin an online community, but so can people who can't tolerate dissent.

PS: the article was great... go Weev!
posted by Spacelegoman at 3:59 PM on August 3, 2008


I think ultimately, for most of these people, its an arrogant sense of humor taken too far. Resilience in the face of bad taste can build camaraderie, can create a strong and loyal clique, and can actually be comforting and confidence-building. There's no such thing as the boogeyman. But bullying other people to rise to your level of aggressive philosophical misanthropy is unkind, and uncouth.

It's odd that weev participated in this, creating an obvious foil to the seriously damaged Jason Fortuny, with his full name, legit job and no Rolls Royce. I think he craves acknowledgment for his finely developed sense of right and wrong, to compensate for its underutilization, which is in itself, very normal behavior.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:56 PM on August 3, 2008


Shout down and abuse whoever you please, and don't feel guilty about it. When you find a group of people who shout down and abuse the same people you do, you have a community!

Your comment is both an attack and a plea, used to simultaneously insult the entirety of people here, while attempting to manipulate them into feeling pity for you, that most of your commentary elicits the disregard that it does.

In light of this passive aggressive stab, your previous comments seem to yield more insight into you than perhaps you would like:

Words like "good," "evil," "mature," "psychotic," etc. are just tools people use to manipulate you into doing what they can't force you to do. You can use these tools yourself.

People's moral judgments represent their desire to control, and nothing more.

Your sociopathic words are your tools—your craft. By casting a coercive judgement into what otherwise looks like a minor aside, you are indeed a troll of the highest art, Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America. It is breathtaking to see how you carefully manipulate others, including myself, into a response.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:04 PM on August 3, 2008


I've always found the /b/tards, Anonymous, and Internet trolling in general to be fascinating. While I avoid direct contact with trolls in much the same way I'd avoid it with someone who has the bubonic plague, I often find a great deal of amusement from second hand accounts of their activities. I also often find their activities appalling, and the two aren't mutually exclusive. I usually think memes are amusing, generally long after everyone else has grown sick of them. But for all that I'm amused by trolling, I've never trolled myself and would probably feel badly afterward if I tried. I'm not quite sure what it says about me, except possibly that I'm a cruelty voyeur.

In short, I think Drexen said it better above: Yeah, Encyclopedia Dramatica can be pretty funny. It doesn't change the fact that whichever type of troll you are, you're an asshole.
posted by Caduceus at 5:06 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


The thing about the fake Craigslist post is people have done that stuff for a long time - Jason Fortuny is just the only fuckhead who would post the results online. It's like anything else, I guess - it's trivial to capture internet traffic over a coffeeshop wireless access point for example, just as it is easy to break into most homes. But we don't do it through some sense of common humanity. These losers seem to have abandoned that in the hate-refuge of the wire.

They also seem to wrap themselves in some symbolic importance, when really they are just a common evil, like the Nazis. But at least the Nazis looked good while doing it - can someone get weevil a gym membership?
posted by plexi at 5:18 PM on August 3, 2008


It's also interesting how the whole Anonymous/ /b/tard/ Encyclopaedia Dramatica/ Something Awful / etc., etc. complex, which is really what this article is about more than just "classical" trolling, though "trolling" has a shifting definition, tends to get discussed like a homogenous entity when it's enormously distributed, completely unorganized, and ridiculously heterogeneous. I mean, I don't even know how many Chans there are.

Could it be that some of them are variously sociopathic, homophobic, racist, meanspirited, and so assholes, but others are harmless pranksters, while others are equivalent to offensive comedians, and so on, and so on? Or is that too much nuance? For homophobia as an example, there's probably a bunch of homophobes, a bunch of satirical homophobes, a bunch of people saying "fag" originally just because it was taboo/derisive but now because it basically means "dude" in certain circles, but there's definitely, just two examples, gay porn boards on 4chan and a crossdressing/transexual board on 420chan.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:31 PM on August 3, 2008


# “I think it's more likely that in actuality there was no early, unwanted buttsecks.”

Though I’m not inclined to take a single sentence of this article at face value, the fact that the Fortuny’s mother corroborated the buttsecks story (page 2, graf 5) adds at least some credence to this bit.
posted by ijoshua at 5:31 PM on August 3, 2008


My friend S runs an irc network. Another friend, M, has finally been perma-banned from that network for repeated trolling and general assery -- acting like a drunk 25/8, impersonating others' nicks (in a super-obvious manner), insulting the ops, etc etc. I am one of the few on that network who'd actually met, hung out with, and (briefly) worked for M, so my perspective is somewhat different. S and I were discussing M's activities; S believes M is about to experience liver failure from the mass amounts of alcohol M seems to be consuming. "It's an act," I replied, "he knows he's getting your goat, it's just a troll." "Yeah, but even if it is a troll -- what's the difference?" This is I think relevant to what others have said: it doesn't matter if it's deliberate assery, ironic assery, or trollish assery -- if the effect of all is the same, there is zero difference.
posted by waraw at 7:45 PM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


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