Life under the bridge

We Internet savvy types like to throw around the word 'troll'. I've started to wonder what it means.

I like to think I use words with reasonable precision. This isn't always true; sometimes I'll work for emotional effect instead of measured objectivity. I've been known to call someone a polehumper, for example, without having any actual knowledge that said dickweed does, in fact, hump poles. Communication is a science, but sometimes it's an art, too. Even the most articulate of us feel our way.

And many words, especially abstracts of the pejorative inclination, are largely or entirely subjective. 'Bastard' and 'sonofabitch' are relics from an earlier age, when the status of one's birth was considerably more significant from a social perspective, which the contemporary discourse makes liberal usage of without consideration regarding the actual circumstance's of the intended subject's origin. And then, of course, there are those blooming bouquets of invective like the aforementioned 'dickweed', along with 'douchebag', 'wanker', 'pud walloper', 'dingleberry', 'buttmunch', 'muffin stirrer', 'turdherder', and... well, the list is as limitless as an overpopulated planet's collective imagination, one must suppose.

Many of these coinages have no actual meaning other than the user's displeasure with their subject. Others do have a specific meaning -- for example, there are many insulting twists of verbiage that essentially boil down to either (a) this person masturbates, or (b) this person enjoys certain non-mainstream forms of intimate intercourse -- but such attacks, when rationally considered, do not constitute much of an actual insult, since only the emotionally unhealthy or the sexually disabled don't masturbate, and what one does or does not in the privacy of one's home with other consenting adults really isn't reasonable fodder for negative commentary.

Such, also, is the word 'troll', when hurled about with mad abandon by most Internet consumers. I have, for example, seen the word 'troll' used simply to describe someone who, upon coming across a particularly objectionable screed on some stranger's blog, happened to comment in a fashion differentiated from the mainstream of commenters on said blog only by the fact that this particular comment was not notable in its sycophancy to said blogger.

"What a troll!" the spineless lickspittles inhabiting such comment threads will opine... leading one to wonder as to the specific meaning of the word 'troll' as it exists within their rudimentary intellects, as well as, perhaps, how in the name of sweet baby jebus they manage to type at all, with their tongue engaged so firmly within the region of the blogger's taint.

Yet I've historically hired the word "troll" to do some work for me within this particular vineyard as well, and I hope I haven't directed its labors so disadvantageously as to describe someone as such who merely showed up on my blog and voiced an opinion I found unpleasant. In fact, I'm fairly sure I manifest somewhat more discernment than this when I apply the label.

Past all that, though, let's see if we can't refine us some sugar from all this cane, or, if not, then at the very least render down a few quarts of molasses out of it.

What, then, is the proper framework for deploying the phrase 'troll'?

Anonymity is generally a fine indicator of true troll stature. It isn't always an adjunct; some people are just unable to decipher the log in requirements of certain comment threads, while others may end up posting anonymously by accident. Anonymous comments do, on occasion, add something worthwhile to the discussion.

Yet, still, those that mean to do harm, whose only purpose on the Internet is to deride and insult and cause as much injury to others as possible from a safe and sheltered distance, generally use anonymity, or a carefully unattributed psuedonym (sometimes an entire array of such) to maintain their own immunity while they work their petty, childish, insecure spite.

And it is here, in this further explicatory passage, I feel I may have struck close to the heart of the matter. Anonymous or not (and few if any troll openly under their own names, although I suppose there may be some in the employ of powerful patrons who feel protected against any potential personal repercussions of their spew, and are thus emboldened to take a byline), a troll is someone who seeks only do wreak havoc and do harm. Someone like my self declared enemy Gandalf, who from the depths and toils of his own insecurities and mediocrities, possessing no vestigial capacity for self control whatsoever, takes furious umbrage when some unknown says something he disagrees with on the Internet, and thus vows a personal electronic jihad of a sort perhaps more appropriate to lunatics strapping plastique to themselves in hope of explosive translation to a more pleasurable afterlife.

A troll is someone who brings nothing to the table but bluster and invective, who raises no valid topics, who adds nothing of interest or even amusement... and, sadly, most trolls are so incapable of formulating even a proper sentence, much less a graceful one, that their insults and imprecations aren't even a pleasure to read, unless, of course, they suborn some more verbally talented lackey to serve as their locutory Boswell.

A troll is someone who hopes to ruin someone else's day, generally, one assumes, because they are powerless to have any other effect in any other meaningful way within actual objective reality. There have always been trolls; before the Internet they made crank phone calls, or wrote vicious letters to their betters, often anonymously, generally displaying only the crudest rudiments of coherency in their painful, spiteful efforts. They have nothing meaningful to say so instead they heap up invective and strike a match, hoping some passing steamboat will take notice and tie up at their ramshackle dock. Their comments have no cogency; they cannot construct an argument or make a point; their shrill sputterings are a blind, furious, and ultimately vacuous middle finger flung petulantly into the face of a universe they believe has done them wrong by not providing them with the comforts they regard as their just due merely for existing.

Now, on the other hand, you come across some post in which some venomous twat is screaming to her suck-ups about how horrible her husband is for having the intransigent and intolerable temerity to sing along, in public, while in her company, with a song she herself doesn't like very much, and you take a few moments to try and give this obsessively self orbital shrew an actual reality check... that would not make you a troll. That would, in fact, make you someone with enough self respect to point out the truly wretched misbehavior of a very nearly worthless human being who is showing her ass to anyone who may happen across her bilious screeching, and on behalf of all humanity, find it somewhat embarrassing.

Still. You know, I generally believe in living and letting live, and when I'm offended by someone else's idiocy, I generally let it go. I imagine I should have in this particular case as well, but... I don't know. I miss the girls. It's been a stressful week at work. A couple of people I've tried to be kind to have spent the last few days doing their best to get their pointy little heads as far up my ass as possible. All of that, and I came across this one post, and, well, I guess I just went off a little.

It doesn't make me a troll; the blogger in question is, to all appearances, someone with the emotional maturity of a spoiled six year old, and the coterie of asskissers in her comment threads are pretty clearly not part of any kind of solution to any problem that exists anywhere in the universe. Still, I'm generally more forebearing than that; this woman doesn't live anywhere near me, and if her husband wants to put up with her pitiful tantrums, I suppose that's his look out. And certainly, mean spirited selfishness is a common enough impulse; it's no shock to me that she's managed to attract and engage a pack of equally immature satellites who take her passages on her emotional inadequacies as validation of their own.

I generally leave such messes to tend themselves. I should have in this particular, as well.

But what the fuck. At least I got a blog post out of it.

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