Some Thoughts On Trolls

What a remarkable age in which we live.

A mythical troll

“The troll has it both ways. He is magnificently indifferent to social norms, which he transgresses for the lulz, yet often at the same time a vengeful punisher: both the Joker and Batman. The troll acts ‘as a self-appointed cultural critic’ in a tradition of clowns and jesters, according to Benjamin Radford, while simultaneously ‘plausibly maintaining that it’s all in good fun and shouldn’t be taken (too) seriously’. According to John Lindow’s ‘unnatural history’ of trolls, the original trolls of Scandinavian folklore punished improper behaviour and upheld social norms. If you take the behavioural code of lulz seriously and erase any commitment to social norms, what you are left with is the logic of punishment in its distilled form: if even the grieving are punishable, who isn’t? ‘None of us,’ goes the refrain, ‘is as cruel as all of us.’ It is around this principle that the most infamous trolling community forged its identity: ‘We are Anonymous, and we do not forgive.’ And what goes unforgiven is weakness.”

LRB · Richard Seymour · Schadenfreude with Bite: Trolling

See also: The Internet’s Vigilante Shame Army