June 5, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Hey look, here are two articles about my research! One was for Fast Company, written by Nidhi Subbaraman; I describe trolling in terms of water facets and glasses of water. Sure!
“Trolls are symptomatic–there’s not doubt about that–and by dealing with just the system, you’re not dealing with the underlying cause,” she says. “Let’s deal with our problems first, and then more than likely, you turn that faucet of hatred off and there’s going to be fewer trolls holding up their water glasses.”
But Phillips argues that trolls reflect the content, ideas and customs that society already embraces. The Internet makes visible what already exists in a culture, Phillips said, and trolls work off that content.
“Trolls are like the salt on your soup,” she said. “They bring out the stuff that’s already there.”
Cool stories! But seriously. It’s odd to give interviews about trolling, especially when I’m explaining things on the fly (I have a penchant for mixed and otherwise unlikely metaphors). No matter what I say or how I say it, I feel like I could have given a better soundbite. OH WELL, life is hard.
Update: Yes soup. EAT IT. EAT IT ALL.
May 28, 2012 § 22 Comments
Recently I was approached by a newspaper reporter (who shall remain nameless) about a possible article on trolling. I agreed under the condition that I could talk about the importance of defining one’s terms. I was also asked to put the reporter in touch with a troll. I asked “Brian Macnamara,” who sometimes trolls under the name Paulie Socash (further info on Paulie here). In the end, the paper wasn’t able to run the piece (perhaps unsurprisingly, given Brian’s responses), but I asked for permission to post his answers.
How long have you been trolling for?
This depends on how one defines trolling, which few seem to know how to do and I hope you at least attempt to in the article. Really, I could ask a journalist the same thing given the similarities between what trolls and journalists do online. The goals are very much alike: to draw public attention to something (often without a full knowledge of it because that’s not the point) and invoke an emotional response from the public. Journalism that misinterprets things, fails to get the full story, or is deliberately provocative gets angry or otherwise impassioned responses, right? From where I sit, this is done deliberately to get more attention/page views. Same basic model as trolling. Trolls do it for the lulz. Journalists for a paycheck.
What exactly do you do – please give examples if you can (in broad terms if you don’t want to ID yourself)
This depends a lot on when and where (ie, what platform/space). Right now I’m not very active. One thing is that trolling really should be done in public: message boards, comment sections, social media sites, etc. Posting on a person’s facebook wall isn’t really trolling, and trolling isn’t the same as “cyber-bullying.” Base level trolling is just interjecting unwanted/controversial opinions one probably doesn’t even hold into a community that will react to them: pretty much any forum that isn’t regulated all the time has trolls of some sort. It’s not a new phenomenon at all.
I personally concentrate on making spaces that troll people and where this basic trolling can happen: these usually relate to whatever is sensational in the media. To use a UK example, if you recall Raoul Moat, I made facebook pages memorializing him after his death and saying what a great man he was. These drew a lot of angry people who couldn’t believe someone would pay tribute to a murderer. The ironic thing here is that I would actually get death threats from people mad about someone saying nice things about a killer. Likewise, I’ve made sites that condemn people for things most are praising them for (I didn’t make it, but the facebook page “Soldiers are not heroes” is a good example).
Who have you targeted and why?
In general, I target earnest people. People who take what they do online far too seriously. Grief tourists, for example, who are individuals who seek out the latest media-sensationalized death and grow far too attached to it as if showing “respect” for some random dead person (usually white, young, attractive, media-friendly) fulfills emotional needs. The kind of people who care way too much about Natalee Holloway or Chelsea King or about catching the kid in the viral video who was mean to a cat via posting their opinions and heartfelt emotional rants online.
Obviously targets are also chosen based on political leaning and the like. I once trolled a bunch of Klansmen by acting like one of them and joining their communities to start, then acting like I changed my mind and creating a “former Klan for racial equality” site. They were targeted because they were earnest, stupid, and easy marks, but also because I hate racists (even if I sometimes play one on the internet). It may be just for the lulz, but nearly every self-identified troll I have ever interacted with has certain tendencies (and limits) that are part of their “real” persona.
Why do you troll? Why did you start?
For the lulz. Because people who are overly earnest and serious online deserve and need a corrective. I started because there was no way to have rational conversations with some people and because I like to debate things. But there’s also a time to just say, You are an idiot, which is the most basic, entry level of trolling and most honest people will admit they have done it.
What does it feel like when you’ve successfully trolled somebody?
Feels good, man. Probably a lot like breaking a news story that exposes some idiot politician or public figure who groped his masseuse. You are drawing attention to some other person’s failings. For me the goal isn’t the individual, though, it is the overall public reaction. It’s about controlling the outcome and the presentation of an event.
Could you tell me some details about yourself? Even if it was something like your gender and age range then that would be helpful.
I’m 30ish, male, college educated, gay, employed, and I do not live in my mom’s basement. I even lift weights.
Do you think trolling is fair game, or do you think it’s unjustified?
Of course it’s fair game. All the internet is a game. Unjustified and unfair would only be if the targets can’t just walk away, which is where the difference between trolling and bullying/harassment and where the legal difference is or should be. Saying mean things is often justified and necessary, and expectations of decorum online are ridiculous.
Do you ever think about the impact on the people who are on the receiving end of trolling?
Sure, they are willingly joining the party. Only those who choose to be trolled can be trolled. And hopefully they learn to not be such fools in public about whatever the thing they care too much about is.
I also think quite a bit about the victims of real, criminal problems like sexual predators, stalkers, etc. online and am baffled as to why people and the media get so worked up over trolling.
Last thoughts: the use of “trolls” by the media is way too broad and people need to define it better. The poor disabled girl whose image was used by people making offensive pictures and has been in the media a bunch was not “trolled” (though her mom probably was since for being an idiot): she was not the target of the meme, just a convenient photo to use. Likewise, people who are bullied online by classmates under fake names are not being trolled. Trolling is a art and not a crime.
April 9, 2012 § 2 Comments
Facebook just bought Instagram for one hundred krillion dollars. This is excellent news, people are already very excited! No really, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. “Like” that in your “like” button and “like” it! Because nothing bad ever happens when an entire economic sector becomes dependent on the solvency of a single corporate entity. NOTHING BAD AT ALL. Certainly not the possibility that Facebook will soon saturate every possible market, then in its inevitable decline pull the rest of the cyber-circus tent down with it. Nope, some things are too big to fail, like the banking or auto industries!
In conclusion, good job Zuck! You have just surpassed the lovely Samantha Brick as honorary troll of the week.
February 2, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I like the part about finding teeth that Michael can’t explain. I’d be crying too!
I like the part about OH MY GEE. I’d be night puking too!
I like the part about how Zuckerberg is basically playing Tech Jesus, taking credit for all of the good in the world and blaming all of the bad on MySpace or whatever. I’d be counting my gold doubloons while stroking my own penis too!
August 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Giving everyone a bad name. (context here)
Dear god why.
But it is important to temper the bad with the good. And it doesn’t get much gooder than this.
July 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The sanctity of marriage ya’ll!
Awesome troll is awesome.
Bacon bacon is bacon.
Also. You guys. STOP BEING SO MEAN TO THE NICE ANTI GAY JESUS MONSTERS. Some of them used to be HOMOSEXUALS and ALCOHOLICS. Have some respect.
July 22, 2011 § 1 Comment
Oh man. As many of you know, nothing brings me greater joy than a well-executed political troll. The kind of troll that goes far beyond “tits or GTFO” or “lol your dead” or “ZOMG ZOMG RULES 1 & 2″ or whatever other boiler-plate trolling response. Political trolling, take-no-prisoners trolling, really can be a art. See Stephen Colbert’s utterly masterful White House Correspondent’s Dinner reception speech; see audre lord’s study in honeybadger badassery, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” In a nutshell, there was this conference, see? Focused on feminism and how important it is for women to Stand Together as One. audre lord, a token black-gay-former poor, was invited to speak (she was a black person people knew!), and took the opportunity to smack the proverbial shit out of her audience. She was like listen. It’s real great all you middle-class white ladies are so eager to make the world a better place for women. The problem is that by “women” you mean “white middle-class women.” So when you talk about “female solidarity” you’re actually not including the interests or acknowledging the differences between groups of women. You tolerate these differences, sure. You even devote whole special journal issues to Third World Feminism! But this is little more than celebratory, uncritical pandering which shields you from ever having to examine the ways in which your own life choices impact lesbians and/or women of color and/or poor people. ”If white American feminist theory need not deal with the differences between us,” she says, not giving a shit, “and the resulting difference in our oppressions, then how do you deal with the fact that the women who clean your houses and tend your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory are, for the most part, poor women and women of Color? What is the theory behind racist feminism?“ So– devote all the Special Issues you want; however noble your intentions, you are effectively silencing difference, difference –and not solidarity– being the only way to break the chains of oppression. Hence “the master’s tools.” You can’t commit the same indignities as the assholes in charge and expect to be anything but a perfect carbon-copy embodiment of that which you profess to abhor.
And, scene. [crickets]
I can only imagine what the audience’s response to this speech must have been. It’s beautiful –verging on art, even– because they would have no choice but to sit there and take it; any protestation could be construed as evidence of lorde’s claims. Just. Fucking. Brilliant.
In terms of the exams, golly. I somewhat doubt my examiner will go the “social change” route — but if she does, this will be the framing text. And actually connects to an idea I was kicking around this morning on my run, about cyberbullying. Not that I’ll be sharing here, it’s locked safely in my dissertation dream-journal. But just so everyone knows. I have a plan.