An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the intention of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion. (Wikipedia Link)
As anyone who has spent any time in a forum or comments board can tell you, any and all kinds of engagement with a troll can only lead to frustration and negativity. A troll’s entire reason for being is to make you mad, to get you riled up and, by extension, to get attention. Lots and lots of attention.
That last seems to be the root that feeds the gnarled and sickly branches that pass for a troll’s intellect. Even dismissing them casually feeds into the particular emotional ecosystem that is at play in these sad, stunted lives.
A troll doesn’t want to engage in a dialogue.
A troll doesn’t want to deal in facts.
A troll simply wants to get attention with inflammatory rhetoric.
A troll will not listen to reason or come to any kind of epiphany. You could argue yourself to death and the troll will merely bask in the glow of your anger and frustration, warming its hands with a gleeful cackle on your emotional turmoil. A troll gains a sense of power over the world when it causes other people to lose their tempers. Because the troll doesn’t have the emotional maturity to live in the world as a reasoning adult, because the troll cannot gain power over its own fears and desires, the troll feels utterly powerless in the face of a complex world. To compensate for this, the troll steals power from you by inciting anger and by making itself the center of attention in whatever room–be it analog or digital–the troll happens to be in.
Trolls do not just happen on the internet.
In fact, there’s one specific troll that has been in the news a lot lately and is getting lots and lots of attention from progressives and liberals. On the one hand, I understand the tactics of using this troll and making him the SpokesTrollTM for the GOP. On the other hand, I am suspicious of any attempts to feed the trolls and this particular troll is gorging on the attention it has received over the past few weeks.
Of course, the situation is made worse by the fact that the mainstream media LOVES trolls. The uglier and louder and more inflammatory the better, so in a sense, even if the progressive and liberal communities wanted to do the right thing and starve this troll by withholding attention, it would survive by open grazing on our national media which would spread itself out like an open and verdant field just waiting to be turned to cud.
Trolls can also survive for long periods of time by chewing their own cud, however they can’t survive indefinitely without feeding on other people’s anger.
So what to do about these free range trolls? I think the best thing is to ignore them completely. Let them starve to death. However, since that isn’t always practical on the national stage, if you do feed the trolls, make sure to feed them poison pellets. You probably won’t kill them, but may get lucky enough to give them a case of serious indigestion that will slow them down and, for a moment or two, shut them up.
Just remember, however, that anger is what feeds them. Don’t ever let a troll steal your power by making you feel anything more than amused pity at these ugly, stunted, terrified, and small-minded creatures.