As conservative writers for online magazines are all too well aware, their leftist adversaries are not interested in serious debate or mannerly conversation. Civility is not the left’s strong suit. Tactics vary along a spectrum of readily predictable talking points, false assertions, vituperation and obscenity, the stock in trade of those who have come to be known as trolls. Who and what is a troll?
Originally, trolls were unsightly folklore creatures dwelling in caves, forests, and, as in the famous folk tale, under bridges. Unlike their doppelgängers in the Disney film, they were not sweet and innocent powder-blue creatures resembling the Smurfs and the Na’vi, but gnarled and revolting specimens of indiscriminate voracity. Distinctly hostile and governed by an appetite for human flesh, they became the source of the contemporary internet troll.
The modern troll is the digital form of the contract killer. He lives in the shadows; is prone to using an alias behind which he hides; has no known street address or postal code; is often paid for his services by some powerful figure whose public presence may be known—say, a bloviating multi-billionaire with a highly dubious personal history who manages to evade the law; has no conscience and is not very intelligent but is as cunning as he is unscrupulous—in short, the internet troll is a coward who “kills” in the dark. He is motivated by envy and resentment and has neither self-respect nor moral fiber. He is devoid of productive talents and lacks the ability to make a success of his life. He is, in the current idiom, a loser.
Or course, not every troll is a hired gun. Some like to devour their prey as self-elected vigilantes who need not bother with the labor of constructing a convincing counter-argument—that, after all, takes real work. But in either case, they are the gremlins of the internet world, sniping away at the legitimate participants in the cultural debate or infesting the Twittersphere, often under the cloak of anonymity and the camouflage of fake accounts. They are not part of the conversation but the dregs of the hermeneutic exchange.
Trolls come from all across the political gamut but the vast majority, as noted, hail from the left. There can be no doubt about this. The “families” of the left constitute a political mafia that holds the country to ransom to further their own ends, operating a protection racket to dwarf all such criminal undertakings. They profit from open borders to swell their voting ranks; domination of the school system to create a cohort of political bosses, cultural enforcers, lying informants, and foot soldiers; high taxes to impoverish working people and the middle class whom they treat the same way as ants milk aphids; “trade deals” to fill their own pockets; collusion with enemies of the nation to solidify their fiefdoms and promote their seditious policies; and scams like “global warming” and single-payer health care to distribute resources to their cronies and hangers-on and to centralize command of the economy. And as in all such rackets, authority is assured via various forms of coercion, whether threat of sanction, public vilification, “canceling,” legal action, fiscal ultimatums, censorship, blackmail, ban, or boycott—and, as we’ve seen, dispatching swarms of internet assassins to harry, insult, and bludgeon their designated targets with obscenities on the one hand and false data on the other.
Trolls are particularly obnoxious when they leave the shelter of the internet and band together to raise petitions and agitate as mobs to get people fired from their jobs, to crowdfund for disreputables, to disbench an unpopular judge who merely followed the rule of law, or to support women who file claims of sexual assault without credible evidence or testimonial consistency, a staple of the #MeToo movement. On the Net as commenters to articles and interviews, their effect is largely insectoid. They disgrace only themselves. Engaging with them is pointless and only inflates their counterfeit sense of importance. Trolls are either talking-point automatons who never entertained an original thought or vulgarians by nature oblivious to the usages of decorum, or both.
Indeed, trolling has become a cultural practice amounting almost to an obsession, rooted in the satisfaction that more and more people seem to derive from the act of contending, attacking, denying, and slandering in prolonged disputations—feeds and chains—without the benefit of strenuous knowledge and cordial deportment. Clearly no one is exempt from such failings but the progressivist woke have a virtual monopoly on them. Indeed, the phenomenon has been exponentially amplified by the internet with its easy access to slippery Wikipedian data, the picking up of hearsay and rumor, and the temptation to pontificate without analytical rigor or good faith, often incognito. Thankfully, the smart communicant is not helpless and is immune to noxious or maladroit persuasion. Using common sense, practicing the art of skepticism, doing at least a modicum of diligent research, and keeping one’s cool is a response the troll cannot abide. He can be dismissed with silent contempt and effortlessly put to shame—assuming so coarse a sensibility is capable of feeling shame.
What is especially significant is that the psychology of trollism is spilling into all the domains of public discourse and institutional transactions affiliated with the various sectors of cultural Marxism—feminism, social justice, media depravity, climate change advocacy, corporate agendas, and leftist political rhetoric and action, which rely equally on fallacious arguments and the debasement of discursive etiquette. The “value” of trolls, if one can use that term, is that they are symptomatic. They show how far the standard of reasoned dialogue has fallen in the culture and how the capacity for independent thought has virtually ceased to exist in the progressivist world. Indeed, one might regard the left as a vast collectivist troll feasting on the greatest civilization known to history.
The only antidote to the great decline, so far as I can see, is to keep doing one’s homework—reading, thinking, arguing from fact, resisting the infusion of the moral and lexical contaminants that vitiate the conduct of the left, and standing one’s ground in the public domain—in genuine debate, in authorship, in daily life, in electoral politics. Nothing beats an educated and resolute mind.