Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do trolls believe what they say?

I bring this up because I'm trying to decide what to be scared of.

Let's take a famous troll: Rush Limbaugh. What, you think he's not a troll? He's a troll. No, he's not provoking discussion. He'd calm the fuck down and scream less if he was trying to provoke discussion. He's a troll. He's no different than the 50000th person making a post on the tanking forums saying DKs should be nerfed and giving half-ass reasons based on terrible logic and inaccurate information. Both should be banned from their areas of 'expertise.'

Imagine if they don't believe what they say. The implications are frightening. It means that someone out there is gaining a wide audience through lies. And we're not talking regurgitated lies which they might think are true. Oh no, these are original lies. They spend their time thinking up new lies to tell people. And they are believed. These aren't even convenient lies to get things done, such as fake terror warnings in order to prevent complacency. Oh no, these are just power-grabbing, greedy lies with not a hint of regard for a greater good.

But could it not be more frightening if they believed what they say? Imagine for a moment that, despite what we might assume, that the troll screaming for DK nerfs is not an agry child in his room who just got killed in an arena. What if he is instead a father who is just trying to enjoy his game more? He sits down calmly to write a post expressing his opinions, trying to remember the facts to back his arguments, certain that he can make some small difference if he can only say it just right. Or maybe he's being a bit more loose with the truth, but he believes that as long as the underlying fact is that DKs are overpowered, it doesn't matter if he gets some facts wrong or twists the truth. It's more important to rally the crowd, to get this fixed.

These trolls may be more frightening. The outraged troll is on a crusade and no amount of factual evidence will deter them. They know what they know, dammit! Maybe this is the troll screaming about death panels at a town hall.

The calm troll, oh now this is even more worrisome. This person has no excessive emotion to blame. They are not riding high on anger or grief. They are cool and collected and completely wrong. But it gets worse! Despite their cool heads, they are still not thinking clearly. And while their thoughts are bad, their presentation is worse. Maybe Rush thinks he really is laying out the issues in a clear and concise manner so that the American people can be informed. If that is indeed the case, then we must ask: why is such a terrible presenter so popular?

When Ahmadinejad asked if the Holocaust was a hoax, did he actually think it might have not happened? We have to ask, which is a more frightening leader of a rising power in the Middle East: one who intentionally asks stupid questions to offend his neighbors or one who is so oblivious to history that he cannot see what is obvious? I really want to think the best of him, I want to believe that he is a sensible guy who simply has a different set of base assumptions about the world, someone who we could negotiate with and make mutual progress with. But it's very hard to believe that.

I suppose I should end with a question I should have asked at the start: Is it a troll if they believe what they say? Technically, no. But in practical terms, yes. The though process is different, but the behavior is the same and the reactions to counter-arguments are the same. What is a 'troll who believes what he says?' It's an idiot. It is someone who is ignorant or stupid or both. Whether troll or idiot, logic and fact do not work against them. They want attention and acknowledgment that they are correct. The only way to correct the problem of their existence is to end their existence, to ban them from whatever medium they exploit to spread their rotten messages. This may be online forums, radio, TV, or the street corner at which some lunatic is shouting.

1 comment:

Sankamsu said...

I think they believe part of what they say, but the other part is for show (as all media is nowadays).