Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

I Want To Know What's Wrong With Being An Internet Troll

From time to time, The Awl offers its space to everyday citizens with something to say.

In light of a recent gripping narrative I wrote about air travel I have been hearing a lot of complaints about "internet trolling."

"Henry only wrote this to get attention," some people said. "This is a new low, even for Henry," Twitter users complained. "How does this dumb fuck even breathe properly, let alone dress himself in the morning," asked all three members of the Council of Economic Advisers.

And so on.

But I have an interesting and important question.

(To me, all questions are interesting and important. As are all experiences! I took a cab ride the other day where the guy went up Sixth instead of Madison and I think it was just so he could charge me more! As soon as we finish assembling the slide show you can read all about it.)

What is the problem with Internet trolls? Why do people dislike them so much? Is it just an example of following-the-herd mentality? Some kind of deeper prejudice? A love of bridges?

What is the source of this animosity? Why does it perpetuate itself? Where did this prejudice come from?

What is wrong with writing something deliberately inflammatory, or even hysterically obtuse, just so enough people will pass it around that it goes "viral" on the "Internet"?

Look, I'm not stupid. I know that when I die the first line in my obituary is going to include the phrases "securities fraud" and "banned for life." It would not be inaccurate to call me the poster boy for the kind of insider dealing and duplicity that made Americans realize just how rigged the game is against them. In fact, you could say that I'm the guy who caused the financial crisis and all the suffering we are still going through five years later. Sure, it would be overblown and largely inaccurate, needlessly overdramatizing a minor issue just to get attention and maybe make a point, but still, you could say it. I mean, yes, the fact that I have been able to move on to my current career, and to do quite well from it, is a testament to the total decline in the traditional concepts of personal responsibility and moral behavior to which the men of every preceding generation in this country had to adhere if they wanted to consider themselves decent human beings. Thirty years ago someone found culpable of the kinds of gross fraud and deceit I perpetrated would have thrown themselves out a window or gassed themselves in a garage, and while people would have shook their heads and muttered a few things about how awful suicide is, deep down they would have thought, "Well, good for him; at least in the end he did the only right and honorable thing he could have done." But today, so long as you have a total lack of shame about your actions, not only can you survive the justified opprobrium of society, you can do quite well from it. It's weirdly freeing: Once you realize that, for the rest of your life, everyone is going to point fingers at you in the public square and hiss, "Scumbag," having them also think you're an idiot is a small price to pay, particularly if you can monetize that imbecility. Is there a sweeter revenge than coming to the point where your personage is so tarnished that even you stop caring what people think of you? Once you get past the very real truth that everyone thinks you're a vile, disgusting human being you can let yourself do almost anything without worrying that people will laugh at you. So what if they laugh? More money for me! Admit it, you even occasionally entertain a grudging admiration for my talents. Some days you find yourself envious of my ability to go about life with a complete disregard for the utter lack of esteem every even marginally respectable person in the world holds for me.

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, right, so I honestly can't understand what is the problem is with trolling, and I don't know why anyone won't tell me. I guess it will always be a mystery, like why [deaf people talk funny/women suck so bad at math and science/you can't trust a Greek guy around sheep—check what's trending and pick one]. It just seems weird that I'm the only one who is willing to talk about it.

Henry Blodget is the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Business Insider, a leading online business publication.

UPDATE: Henry Blodget asked us to make clear that this is a piece of parody which he did not himself write.

SIGH, RELATED: Why I Am Leaving the Muppets, by M.B. Cluckerton

I Enjoy Being A Lesbian, by A Lesbian Blogger

Why Won't You Simply Let People Despise Jews?, by Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina

Fine, I'll Talk, by Harper Lee

40 Comments / Post A Comment

brianvan (#149)

Considering there's a Twitter troll right now who's continuously posting messages accusing me of being involved in specific instances of sexual assaults, I show you a few examples of "wrong" in Internet trolling.

OHHHHHH, you make money on trolling, Henry, THAT'S why you're defending it. I liked your stock tips better.

brianvan (#149)

@brianvan yeah, OOPS

Leon (#6,596)

Can we just have a series where Blodget, over time, becomes a full-on houellebecq character?

conklin (#364)

I went to read the linked post and was asked to stare at a static 300×250 American Airlines ad for 20 seconds before proceeding. Well played, Henry.

I don't encourage; I do applaud.

Phil Koesterer (#2,708)

A+, would get trolled again.

alorsenfants (#139)

Verily I say: drop the "r", add an "o" –

vanderlyn (#240,462)

@alorsenfants tooll?

Spencer Lund (#2,331)

Henry, you're so courageous.

freetzy (#7,018)

That long paragraph is the best thing on The Awl in a very long time. Thank you.

hershmire (#233,671)

Is this clever Swiftian satire written in a characterization of Henry Blodget or an example of Poe's Law? I am genuinely confused.

scrooge (#2,697)

Well, Henry, do you like Amazon in here?

jfruh (#713)

QUESTION: Does this magnificient masterpiece itself constitute an example of Internet trolling? Discuss.

davidwatts (#72)

@jfruh No, because it's safe to assume that most Awl readers hate Henry Blodget. If it was an actual honest defense of trolling, that would itself be trolling. In any event, I prefer the older construction: "to Slate."

pissy elliott (#397)

Meta-enabling trolling

Bill Peschel (#170,856)

I'm more interested in knowing if Henry Blodgett really exists. Didn't The Onion run a bunch of columns by him?

Aatom (#74)

Too insidery, of course.

Alex Howe@twitter (#17,808)

At the risk of revealing that I Don't Know What's Happening—I wish Blodget actually wrote this. (I had to look at other Guest Op-Eds to be sure!)

Screen Name (#2,416)

This post needs a little blue checkmark next to the author's name so people don't confuse it with satire.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Of all the awful bullshit listicles/slideshows I see linked on a daily basis, Blodget's airplane diaries are probably some of the least awful (which does not preclude Blodget's awfulness).

Anarcissie (#3,748)

Where's the trolling? I came here to see some trolling, and I aint seen nothin.

davidwatts (#72)

Spare a thought for the trolls. I have myself been accused of being one due to a certain high-traffic post I once composed (while on an airplane, in a Blodget-y twist) for a media outlet it's currently fashionable to dislike. I just want to say that I'm not a troll, I'm just an honest curmudgeon that has a platform from which to speak.

deepomega (#1,720)

@davidwatts It was thought catalog, wasn't it?

who is henry blodgett?

Brian Calandra (#3,753)

Yuck – this reads like an early draft of Bane's speech on the football field in Dark Knight Rises or some other stock villain from a superhero movie.

I would, however, like to read similar "the more you hate me the more I get paid" touchdown dances from Ken Layne, Tom Scocca, Drew Magary and other loathsome demi-provocateurs – can this just be a weekly feature? Clear statements of purpose make the world a better place.

Tom Scocca@twitter (#10,955)

@Brian Calandra Sorry. Here's a clear statement of purpose: I mean what I write. If you find it disagreeable or loathsome or provocative, you should go ahead and conclude that I genuinely despise you (or the identity you've constructed for yourself out of your value system, at any rate), and that I want to destroy you and yours. Not that I don't also enjoy getting paid! Have a nice day. By which I mean: drop dead.

jolie (#16)

@Brian Calandra I don't know that penning weather reviews and exposés about the Food Industrial Complex's lies vis a vis sautéing onions merits inclusion alongside Ken and Drew in a list of loathsome demi-provocateurs, but sure.

NinetyNine (#98)

Does this mean it's safe to say rude things about Henry Blodget again?

hockeymom (#143)

From Wikipedia (I KNOW):

(Blodget) agreed to a permanent ban from the securities industry and paid a $2 million fine plus a $2 million disgorgement.[7]

"Disgorgement" sounds very Monty Python.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

@hockeymom Wafer-thin margins, or something.

carpetblogger (#306)

The internet confuses me.

Shane Ferro@twitter (#241,259)

Obviously the issue with this particularly parody is that it was too good. It's 100% believable that Henry Blodget wrote this post. "Not transformative enough" in fair use terms.

However, the Joe Weisenthal meltdown on Twitter made my morning fun.

scrooge (#2,697)

@Shane Ferro@twitter Too true. It never occurred to me for a moment that it wasn't written by Henry B.

deepomega (#1,720)

I miss

fried mars bar (#3,055)

Such a troll move to claim after the fact that your article was really written by someone else as a parody. We're onto you, Blodget!

Ralph Haygood (#13,154)

Dearest Awl, you slay me! The juxtaposition of "Henry Blodget" and "everyday citizens with something to say" is, all by itself, the funniest thing I've read today.

kamakiri (#202,641)

I thought it was pretty cool to post a blow-by-blow account of an entire trip in Economy, with all the worthless little details only you ever think you're thinking, but are wrong, everyone else is thinking exactly the same thing as you just that they never post about it.

Let me tell you, it's really miserable sometimes being alone on those long flights. Believe me, I know. My son lives in Japan and I live in Montreal, so if I want to go see him, I'm going to be doing a lot of what Henry was doing. You wouldn't believe the difference between 9 hours and 14 hours in Economy. But I'd love to have Henry sitting beside me, because then we could have a bialogue instead of the monologue I usually have with myself, making exactly the same observations that Henry did, (which I'd love to, except that I don't have access to my own online business magazine and an audience of 723,978 regular readers). Usually I prefer videoing these things — ( , in which I inadvertently get bumped to Business Class on Air Canada with my 5-year-old son, on an 11-hour flight from Vancouver to Osaka).

I'll mail you a camcorder, Henry, for your next trip, if you promise to video it and then mail it back.

"What is the problem with Internet trolls?" Seriously? You can't be asking that seriously. Do you want a bulleted list, or a dissertation?

How long have you been online, Blodget; a week? "What is the problem with trolls." Jesus. It wasn't bad enough you displaying your epic level of ignorance about the online world in your previous post about air travel, but you follow it up with this? I haven't read something so out-of-touch since a Microsoft guy got an item placed in Slate called "In Praise of Bloat." (That's programming bloat, btw.)

Man, what a maroon.

The satire would have been complete if a pop-up ad had appeared midway though the piece since it's doubtful the real HB would ever submit an op-ed for free.

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