For a period of time, I was a moderator on an online forum for people with an interest in weather. The group ranged from professional meteorologists to rank amateurs like myself.
The forum had subforums, including sports, off-topic, and politics. Weather attracts a wide range of people, across the political spectrum. Sometimes things could get heated.
On the weather side, this is a strange world where sunshine is the worst and boring and hurricanes, tornadoes, and snowstorms are reasons for giddy excitement. It may seem strange, even a bit sick, to get happy about events that cause death and damage, but Earth’s atmosphere really is fascinating. Elsewhere, various subjects were discussed, ranging from events of the day to sporting events to simple things like gardening and weekend plans.
Moderating this group could be like herding cats, and during major weather events it was near impossible to curb misinformation, terrible analysis that confused the discussion, and yes, trolls. In all the subforums, there were trolls. Some were full-time trolls, who were there just to cause chaos, and some were part-timers, those who liked to agitate certain people on occasion.
After a while, you begin to recognize what a troll is. Professional Bond Movie Villain Elon Musk is a troll. And he is a troll on the very platform he likely will buy, Twitter.
One of the odder things to me is that a lot of people seem to not really see Musk’s terrible, petulant child-like behavior. Tech journalist Kara Swisher is someone I admire. But she’s pretty much doing a defense dance of Musk that I’ve heard about trolls here (her piece overall is well worth the read):
Elon Musk is apparently mad at Biden because he doesn't mention Tesla when talking about electric cars, reports @karaswisher, who knows Musk. If so, we're dealing with a level of pettiness here than we may not have anticipated:https://t.co/oTwkEb4wcS pic.twitter.com/mCA5eCdgLk
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) April 28, 2022
“In person, he’s much different.” The problem is, that’s like saying pre-internet “yeah, he may be a jerk in the office and screams at people, but outside of work he’s great.” Trolls thrive off of that kind of thing. And also, it echoes the “it’s just the internet” talk that used to be trotted out to defend bad online behavior. The people being trolled, and the trolls themselves, are human beings made of flesh and blood with a mind, not bots with 1s and 0s.
Trolls tend not to be complete idiots. They know what they are doing.
Troll culture has overrun our offline society as well. Krysten Sinema, is a great example, with her fuckoff ring and her felt-cute-screwed-over-the-poors thumbs down to raising the minimum wage (Note: a common troll technique: do something offensive but leave just enough room for benefit of the doubt that you were misread).
The Republican Party has made trolling their preferred strategy, doing and saying things for no more purpose than to “own the libs.” Many of the bills they are ramming through are just plain troll moves.
Musk operates very much in this spirit on Twitter. Musk has Tweet trolled repeatedly, from accusing someone of being a pedophile over not taking his idea of a submarine to rescue kids trapped in a mine seriously. He even won a related court case using the trolling technique I mentioned above. His COVID Tweets were absurd, and often his other Twitter antics are similar to a 15-year-old’s. Even the Twitter sale price—$54.20 per share—included a troll with the marijuana reference of “420.”
It’s never good for a troll to take over his or her’s playground. We may find out just how awful that looks very soon.
Last word is sort of a troll on you, the reader. If you click on the link, you’ll wish I rickrolled you.