Of trolls and the illusion of power

A former troll explains himself:

I am going to find it difficult to tell you precisely why I was so taken by this scene and why I threw myself so enthusiastically into its underworld. The simplest and likely sufficient answer is that I was 14 years old. It all felt vaguely dangerous, vaguely revolutionary, but with ill-defined goals. Its romance was the same one that makes Randians of so many high-school sophomores. It gave the sickly sense of power one gets from finding the next button to push, laughing in a rapidly reddening face. It’s no different from the power trip a bully takes at school, except now I was the powerful one and not the victim. It was something between having power for the first time and the guilt of knowing it was ill-gotten. Power, because there is nothing quite so seductive to a teenage malcontent as a world that offers belonging coupled with authority; that is secret in the way that everybody knows you’re into something slightly criminal. Guilt, because it was all schoolyard. Even when it was less dangerous, it was offensive, vaguely sexist and vaguely racist and vaguely homophobic in the daring-to-transgress kind of way. Even if I wasn’t better than it then, I already had the sense that I might like to be.

I can’t tell you whether my experience and motives were typical or not. I am, however, certain of a few things. If there was a difference between trolling and schoolyard taunting, it was trolling’s particular take on the best way to be an outsider. The prototypical rebel without a cause is either a nihilist or self-serious, disappointed by a vapid world or giving up on it entirely; in either case, he is not content to gossip while there are motorcycles to be ridden in stoic search of the real. For us, it was neither possibility: the world was the place that cared too much, but the way to be above it all was to take aim at its vanity, to embarrass those who thought themselves too composed and too in charge to ever be caught flustered by something petty. We engaged. We had a cause. Whether it was a worthwhile one was a separate issue entirely.

I don’t know if that sensibility is still prevalent in theory, but if so, it no longer means what it once did. Now, as then, the victims of a concerted trolling effort are selected not only by the probable combustibility of their reaction but also by the sense that they have it coming. In the previous decade, you had it coming because you were pompous or entitled or privileged or foolish. The spirit was mischievous, and its intent was to humiliate unclothed emperors. Today, to have it coming is to expose the nakedness of masculinity or whiteness or some other sacred cow of the self-serious; the trolls these days are the red-faced ones, the ones who cannot stand to have their worldview made fun of. “Butthurt” used to be a schoolyard taunt for our marks, not us….

Trolling isn’t really trolling anymore. The motive isn’t sublimated. The rage is bare.

My apologies for the late start in posting today. We had a Christmas party to attend, and then there was a considerable quantity of information concerning the Great Troll Hunt to digest. I thought the article was interesting, despite its SJW slant, because it demonstrates the fundamental problem with Yama: he doesn’t understand power. He doesn’t understand right and wrong either, but many people don’t. What sets him, and some other trolls, apart from most people who can’t distinguish right from wrong is that they don’t understand that people can and will hit them back much harder than they believe possible.

He’s rather like Petyr Baelish in A Game of Thrones, rubbing his hands gleefully as he works undetected behind the scenes (or so he thinks), certain that he has everything under control right up to the moment that the Queen orders the guards to put their daggers to his throat. The Queen makes the mistake of not exercising her superior power, and eventually she pays the price for it.

Now, I’m hardly the Queen. But I’m also not helpless or without resources and allies. I’m also not invulnerable; Castalia House has been under a persistent cracker attack for over a month now. The difference is that I know my vulnerabilities and do what I can to harden them because I am aware that they will always be under attack by some SJW who disagrees with me.

Yama is quite clearly surprised that anyone is able to do anything to him despite the fact that he has committed counts of a crime in his state. This shows the extent to which he fails to understand the nature of power. It’s one thing to fail to believe that someone is going to do anything about it, it’s another to believe that no one can. But as anyone who has ever read a fantasy novel should know, the nature of ill-gotten power is that it always turns on its wielder in the end.