Here Be Trolls

Urban Sophisticat dropped by the office yesterday looking tanned and fit. There was almost a 70s era Robert Evans look about him. His teeth were unnaturally white.

“You look… retired,” I said. “Like Palm Springs retired.”

“I feel as good as I look, if that’s what you’re saying.”

I wasn’t but, sometimes you just have to go with the B-movie star vibe Urban Sophisticat brings with him.

“Yep. I highly recommend it.”

“Recommend what?” I asked.

“Stepping away from the fray. Keeping one eye on the ball and the other on the rest of life swirling around you.”

I immediately thought of Marty Feldman.

“It can’t be all this, Cityslikr,” I was informed, his right arm circling his head to indicate the room, I guess is what he was doing. “Step back. Observe but don’t engage. It’s done wonders for me.”

This was a familiar tune of his ever since the election in 2010. The results had almost killed him. He’d really taken it to heart and decided to limit his participation with municipal politics to part time status. Drop in, pass judgement, tune out.

“So, what brings you to these parts then,” I asked him.

“The wind just kind of pushed me this way.”

“Hang the rich.”

(OK. So it didn’t happen exactly like that. I just wish more of my life contained Robbie Robertson stylings.)

It seems Urban Sophisticat was taking things in from a Twitter-view – you might recognize him, he’s the one who looks like an egg – and he felt I was engaging too much with what are known as trolls. You don’t have to be a Twitter user to know what they are. They turn up in the comments sections in newspapers and internet sites, yelling inanities, spouting easily discredited nonsense and generally carrying on like drunken dads at a wedding after their daughter’s been given away by their stepfather.

I generally assume these internet trolls to be lonely, bitter sods who spend much of their time pantless in their domiciles, always just this far from masturbating yet again to some new pornographic anime clip they’ve discovered on the internet. However, I have been informed by those more knowledgeable about the topic (internet trolls not pornographic anime) that it can be a sophisticated operation you’re stepping into when you decide to engage with these beasts. It’s not so much that they’re screaming for attention as they are simply trying to muddy the waters of civil discourse.

We’re talking political operatives, paid to stir up shit and move the focus from particular issues to the outrageousness of their shrieking voices. Baiting and distracting anyone to waste time in conversation that only ends up on a dark, ugly cul de sac of how on earth did I wind up here?! Seriously. I just asked you to provide a link to back up that highly questionable claim you made and 4 exchanges later, we’re hurling expletives at each other. What gives?

I should know all this. I should know better. Yet I’m a sucker when accused of being afraid of free speech, of not wanting to hear different opinions. I do want to hear different opinions, regardless of how half-cocked and utterly devoid of reason they may be.

To a point.

I block and ignore reluctantly. Part of the reason is that to do so, to make a conscious effort to disengage can be seen as a certain type of intolerance. What’s the matter? Don’t want to listen to an opposing view? Censorship much?

But there comes a time when all the abusive, attacking, mocking of the messenger instead of arguing the message simply becomes counter-productive. And that may be far too generous. It becomes the thing. The cat fight. Lots of screeching, growling, hissing and howling with very little ever getting settled.

A pissing match, if you will, where everyone involved gets wet, urine-y wet.

I’ve always been suspicious of the grandmotherly sentiment of ‘I’m not even going to dignify that with a response’. So condescending and patronizing. I don’t care for your tone, young man.

It’s just, some interactions these days are starting to feel futile. Could it be I’m giving legitimate weight to voices that haven’t earned any sort of legitimacy? By simply acknowledging their presence, I am lending them the kind of credibility they crave but don’t work for?

“You bet your sweet ass, you are,” Urban Sophisticat pipes in.


So what’s the block function on Twitter again?

shamefacedly submitted by Cityslikr

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