Yes. They’re real. They’re disgusting. They think they’re always right. But they don’t live under bridges; they live on the Internet.
‘Trolls’ is modern shorthand for people who use the broadcasting power and, occasionally, anonymity of the Internet to spew their opinions at people. No matter how ignorant or misinformed those opinions might be, these people like nothing better than to put themselves out into the world as experts in their fields. There are times when you can’t grok the context or tone of plain text when presented, but in the case of these folks, there’s almost always an air of smugness and faux superiority. I don’t know how they do it; but they do.
As succinct as ‘trolls’ is as a descriptor, I feel like a better, more descriptive one already exists. Guttersnipes. Think about it. It fits perfectly. People take aim at a topic or comment they wish to inflict themselves upon, and fire off idiotic rounds of so-called ‘knowledge’ into an unsuspecting crowd that had neither the desire nor the need to hear what they have to say. That covers the ‘snipe’ part – the ‘gutter’ part comes from the fact that it’s one of the best places to live when you surround yourself in shit. Much like pigs.
The thing about the perspective of a pig, is that they likely see things around them in the context of pigdom. When the farmer comes by, unless the pig is Babe or a MENSA member, pigs likely belive it’s just a bigger pig who happens to walk upright and always carry a slop bucket. When you’re a pig, all you see is other pigs. Pigs, however, are better than trolls.
“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” – Winston Churchill
Trolls don’t see you as equals. Like cats, but without the benefit of cuddly fur or attractive purring, they look down on us. They think they’re better than us, more enligthened, better informed. Let’s overlook the fact that a lot of their opinions tend to come from FOX News, or hate groups like GamerGate, or some place even more idiotic like 8chan. Any intelligent creature can expose themselves to this sort of hateful, ignorant, inflammatory dross and recognize it for what it is. It takes a particularly loathsome human being to simply parrot those things.
The worst ones are the ones that backpedal. When they get called on their bullshit, they start to take up a less controversial position. They will make a racist remark, and then when called on it, will say something like “I’m colorblind”. That way, they maintain their supposed moral superiority and can accuse their accuser of being overly sensitive. It’s bullshit, and these people live in it.
How do we deal with them? Don’t feed them. If you engage them, you will find their positions intractable and their smugness insufferable. They may consider silence a victory. Some fights, we just can’t win.
Image courtesy Bewytchme.com & GU Comics