Actually, Farhad Manjoo makes a few good points in his Slate screed against the overuse of “trolling.” Because, yes: some people who look like trolls are just trawling, for pageviews (or book deals, or maybe sex, who knows what dark things people want). Like for instance, if you have to say “Sure, my piece and its headline were hyperbolic,” then you are probably just trawling the Internet with a big, loud net, but you are not actually trolling, because you do believe what you are saying. Despite being hyperbolic. Which, understandably, gives readers confusion.
And then probably some famous trolls aren’t actually trolls! It sometimes happens that people believe crazy, impossible things. The problem is that then those beliefs (like, say, that rape in colleges is an overblown media phenomenon of women’s self-victimization) lead those that hold them to dumber and/or even wronger beliefs and then they don’t have much of a functional moral framework anymore. Then they are Lost To Us. Bad beliefs are gateway drugs to straight-up trolling.
Then concern trolls like Times Christian Ross Douthat, who practices a “love the sinner… BUT” brand of societal concern trolling, are worse. Mostly because their “concern” work is in service of trolling us back in time at least a century. Or at least before our infernal gay marriages happened.
But Tina Brown’s Newsweek. Man, that is just an opening session of the Troll Model U.N. pretty much.