Elements of Trolldom: Katie Roiphe and Pico Iyer

Professional Internet troll Katie Roiphe has been on a tear! (If you missed her pre-Christmas salvo, “We Like Rapey Movies Because They Help All of Us to Keep Thinking Of Ourselves as Victims Even Though None of Us Actually Are, Because Rape Is So Vanishingly Rare,” well, enjoy!) Now for the new year she’s back, with a column called “Turning Off the Internet Is Impossible but Even Though We Actually Can, Thanks to Cool Tools, But Really It Is Illusory, Because Our Very Minds Are Different Now, and We Will Live Only Inside the Internet Forever”! It’s actually a weird plea about human helplessness, or her own helplessness, which pretty much contradicts her other work, which more regularly maintains that helplessness (and sexual harassment in the workplace) doesn’t actually exist so much. Importantly, however, she makes reference to the recent Pico Iyer essay in the Times, concluding, quite snippily, for her, that: “Freedom, then” — and she means the computer program that shuts off your Internet — “is a poor man’s fabulous hotel room on a cliff on a beach without wireless.” (True!) The Iyer essay is the most ludicrous, hilarious, parody-defying piece of foolishness ever published; we challenge you to even pick a favorite sentence. (Try this one: “Finding myself at breakfast with a group of lawyers in Oxford four months ago, I noticed that all their talk was of sailing — or riding or bridge: anything that would allow them to get out of radio contact for a few hours.” OR: “I’ve yet to use a cellphone and I’ve never Tweeted or entered Facebook.” (Haha: SLOWLY, GENTLY, HE ENTERED FACEBOOK. Sorry.) ALSO: “I moved from Manhattan to rural Japan in part so I could more easily survive for long stretches entirely on foot.” Remarkable. But the very first sentence is still pretty great though; don’t miss it.) So what we see here with Roiphe in comparison to Iyer is that he is the exponentially more successful troll, because he has little idea that he is trolling. Roiphe shows her hand too much, relishing in her trolldom, always crossing little lines of sense, drawing leaping bizarre conclusions, knowing that She Is Controversial. She just exists to stir pots, and so her strange, sometimes seemingly put-on beliefs seem so much thinner than Iyer’s, whose work rings with true, if unintentionally hilarious, conviction about the way the world is.