This is a troll. It is a mythical creature. It tends to be ugly. Sometimes it lives under a bridge. Normally trolls are assumed to be male.
On the internet, a troll is defined as ‘one who purposely and deliberately starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers’ http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=troll
But another common usage of ‘troll’ in online discussions is often, ‘anyone who disagrees with me’, or ‘anyone who disagrees with me and is better at arguing than me’, or ‘anyone who shows me and my views up to be not quite as cool/intelligent as I think they are’.
I have seen people get called ‘trolls’ when they challenge others to a rational debate. I have especially seen journalists from the Guardian’s online forum, ‘Comment Is Free’, talk about ‘trolls’ who lurk ‘under the line’ and who ‘attack’ the journalists and their precious opinions. What I would call these people is ‘readers’.
We live in an age where dissent is no longer seen as acceptable, where ‘argument’ is translated as ‘fight’ and most people seem to think ‘you are e ither with us or against us’. There can be no ‘two sides’ in discussions eg about gay marriage, sex work, rape, religion, homophobia. Because the only side is the side of ‘right’ and ‘good’.
The whole point of the internet for me is to open the means of communication. And yet it seems more closed to me now than it ever was.
In a quite nicely ironic twist to this tiny little troll like fairytale, the most recent example of me being accused of ‘trolling’, was in relation to a tweet about that defender of freedom of information, Mr Julian-do-you-think-Im-sexy-Assange himself. And the result was I got ‘blocked’ from the original tweeter’s online consciousness, i.e. her twitter timeline.
But, as the three billy goats gruff know to their cost, you can block someone on the internet, but if you want to kill the troll, you are going to have to bring out the big guns and really come out ready for a fight.
This ugly little creature may not have Julian’s charm, wit and silver fox hair, but she shares with him a bit of arrogance and some tenacity and the belief, which I think he must hold at some quite basic and important level, that when you restrict freedom of information and communication, you threaten the principles of ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘democracy’ that we in post-industrial capitalist society are supposed to hold so dear to our hearts.
Viva the troll!