Home Culture Sociology The triumph of trolls: Everyone likes controversy

The triumph of trolls: Everyone likes controversy

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Every time you respond to a troll, his dick grows.

It’s true.

Laura Sneddon commented on this last night and she was referring to Christopher Murray’s Comics studies has been undervalued for too long: we’re fighting to change this, but it could also have referred to Comic-book heroes deserve better than a trashing her response to Jonathan Jones’s po faced When did the comic-book universe become so banal?. Sneddon’s “Comics are good!” piece got so little comment I didn’t even even hear about it until I was checking her twitter stream for the above tweet. All three pieces were published in The Guardian, a generally left leaning UK paper that has had a lot of comics coverage in the New Era. But if you have any doubt that we all got punked, and the punkings will continue until morale declines, check out the shares and comments on all three pieces:

Jones: 3528 shares, 157 comment

Murray: 1093 shares, 8 comment

Sneddon: 130 shares, 5 comments

A pretty dismal showing for rationality, I’m afraid.

Of course, we’re all prey to the “outrage-o-meter” syndrome. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to be more aroused by outrage than nodding your head in agreement.

A 2013 study, from Beihang University in Beijing, of Weibo, a Twitter-like site, found that anger is the emotion that spreads the most easily over social media. Joy came in a distant second. The main difference, said Ryan Martin, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, who studies anger, is that although we tend to share the happiness only of people we are close to, we are willing to join in the rage of strangers. As the study suggests, outrage is lavishly rewarded on social media, whether through supportive comments, retweets or Facebook likes. People prone to Internet outrage are looking for validation, Professor Martin said. “They want to hear that others share it,” he said, “because they feel they’re vindicated and a little less lonely and isolated in their belief.”

This simple fact of human nature has led to our amygdala-based headline culture, political polarization and the constant stream of bad news, leavened only by pictures of young Kurt Cobain holding a kitten.


And the trolls know this, and live off outrage. It’s the triumph of Diplo. And he’s absolutely right: we may rail and shake our tiny fists at him for being an insensitive sexist asshole, but he’s the one having sex with Katy Perry and producing tracks with noted feminist icon Madonna. All with his giant, outrage pumped hard-on.

Jonathan Jones is laughing as well. Having upset the apple cart and prompted thousands of hits, he’s already moved on to wondering if tattoos are art—the answer, is of course, yes!

This reveals something fascinating about why tattoos are not treated as “serious” art. It is not because they come from the Pacific. Works of art from Hawaii and Easter Island are museum treasures. But tattoos were taken up by the European lower orders: thus they got a plebeian, even criminal, reputation and are still seen as disreputable by some, despite becoming more and more popular now.

 

Sneddon gets to the heart of the matter. Outrage fuels discussion, social sharing and traffic. It works. Believe me, I could get a ton more traffic and attention by trolling and stoking the outrage fires—and indeed I’m often chided for not being more outraged—but I’d rather go the way of attempting to be informative and offering positive information. The internet has gamed humans need for outrage in a very negative way—and I often see people defending their response to trolls as a personal decision to offer the other side of the story, wasting even more time. It’s the flip side of “the need for balance” that positions climate change deniers as somehow equal to 90% of the world’s scientists.

Anyway, next time you see someone trolling, stop and think before you hit the twitter button. Are you REALLY doing good or just ensuring that trolls have giant dicks? The internet’s secret of penis enlargement has indeed been found, and it’s outrageous.

15 COMMENTS

  1. ‘ It’s the flip side of “the need for balance” that positions climate change deniers as somehow equal to 90% of the world’s scientists.’

    An in the middle ages 90% thought the world was flat. Twenty years most thought homosexuality was a disgusting act and blacks were inferior.
    Just because the majority believe something doesn’t make it right.

    It’s funny how the Earth is supposed to be getting warmer yet the last 5 years have been the coldest winters I’ve ever known. Where I live never I never saw snow for 10 years yet the last 5 years have seen ankle deep snow lasting for weeks yet I’m supposed to believe the climate is getting hotter where I live.

    And no I’m not trolling I just happen to an opinion that differs.

  2. >>>>It’s funny how the Earth is supposed to be getting warmer yet the last 5 years have been the coldest winters I’ve ever known

    Observation is not the scientific method, as much as we would like it to be. Those who used astronomy as opposed to dogma quickly figured out that the earth revolved around the sun.

    You know I get why people want to deny climate change— it’s expensive to limit greenhouse gas emissions— but the cost of NOT DOING anything is so much greater. And what if WHAT IF the very heavy scientific evidence for climate change is RIGHT. WHAT IF. Wouldn’t it be better to find out?

  3. Beautifully done, Heidi. Even though I thought you were hacked for a second. I’m going to think about THIS article and retweet it every time I get angry about some BSD troll.

  4. >> An in the middle ages 90% thought the world was flat.>>

    But not the educated people doing research on the subject. [Also: Earlier than the middle ages.]

    >> Twenty years most thought homosexuality was a disgusting act and blacks were inferior.>>

    I think your timing there is off, too. Twenty years ago was 1995.

    >> Just because the majority believe something doesn’t make it right.>>

    While this is true, nobody said that climate change is real because a majority believe in it.

    The comparison you cited was between “90% of the world’s scientists” and “climate change deniers,” and you apparently don’t see anything in the comparison but numbers. Not education, not experience, not skill, nothing but numbers.

    When the vast majority of experts in a particular field tell you that expert research shows something to be true, and what the other side has is “I just happen to have an opinion that differs,” then it’s worth pointing out that equating those two things is a fallacy. One outweighs the other, and not merely in numbers.

  5. while I do enjoy reading, adding my two cents of opinions, and sometimes commenting on other folk’s comments on this site (the vast majority of folks on this site are pretty polite with each other, even when they disagree), when I’m at other sites (mostly news sites), i skip over the comments section because of all the trolling and unreasonable disagreement that goes on. when discussing the issues of today i find I’d rather talk about these topics with someone face to face. it’s amazing how you really don’t hear any snarky troll-like comments directed at you when having a face to face conversation. i wonder how much trolling would go on if all comments were accompanied with a person’s name and home address attached to them.

  6. “Every time you respond to a troll, his dick grows.”

    I come for the market analysis, but I STAY for the casual hypocritical misandry.

  7. I agree with pretend park product’s logic. I had a sandwich yesterday, so I no longer believe world hunger is a thing.

  8. While “Don’t feed the trolls” is always good advice, I’m increasingly of the opinion that just ignoring them won’t make them go away.

    If everybody stopped commenting on controversial articles and all the comments went under happier articles, that would be great — but the trolls would follow them there. And you’d better believe they’d be right there in the comments section bringing up totally unrelated but controversial issues. (Like our friend the climate change denier in this comments thread.)

    The nastiest trolls, the people posting misogynistic, racist, and/or violent content, the ones who don’t just want attention but really seek to hurt and upset people — when you ignore THOSE trolls, they don’t go away, they escalate until you can’t ignore them anymore. An extreme example was the case a few months back where trolls started posting rape images to the Jezebel comments section. Ignoring them didn’t make them go away; it made them spread to EVERY comments section in the Kinja family of websites.

    If you want to keep trolls down on popular sites, there’s really nothing better than an active moderation team.

    The next best thing is a community comment moderation system where heavily-downvoted posts are hidden. The downside of this is that it CAN result in people upvoting comments they agree with and downvoting comments they don’t, regardless of merit or quality — Ars Technica’s moderation system is decent, but I HAVE seen the occasional comments section there where pointless “me too!” posts got heavily upvoted and well-argued “I disagree” posts got heavily downvoted.

    Slashdot’s moderation/metamoderation system (where only a select group of members have the ability to up- or downvote posts, but other users are randomly selected to evaluate those moderators’ decisions) is probably the most effective means of community moderation, but it’s also too complicated to appeal to most users, and lacks the instant gratification of clicking on an up- or downvote button.

  9. They do pop up everywhere. Someone recently used an article I wrote about rising ticket prices as a platform for the evils of marriage equality.

  10. I think, on top of humans being attracted to and rewarded for outrage, there’s also the novelty factor of negative/controversial posts. The more interesting conversations are the ones where someone has something new to add or a differing viewpoint to introduce. Statements followed by, “Yep, I totally agree,” usually don’t go much further. When I read glowing reviews of a comic I like, I don’t feel inspired to comment because I have nothing interesting to add.

  11. ” … the vast majority of folks on this site are pretty polite with each other, even when they disagree …”

    Agreed. I abandoned a few sites (including the Comics Journal and Captain Comics) because of the vitriolic anger and snarky insults, and the overall crankiness. I rarely see that here, at least not in great abundence. If I did, I would stop posting.

    For real nastiness, check out the comments at YouTube. It’s one of the few places, outside of neo-Nazi and Klan sites, where posters routinely use words like “nigger,” “fag” and “kike,” and the comments are rarely removed. These posters fit the profile of “the nastiest trolls, the people posting misogynistic, racist, and/or violent content,” as Thad put it.

  12. “Every time you respond to a troll, his dick grows.”

    If the troll is female, will her boobs get bigger if we feed her?

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