Trolling for Justice

2 05 2010

In my online journalism class we’ve spent a fair share of our time whining about how trolls are ruining forums (We’ve never used the word “troll,” though. A little disappointing.). As far as I can tell, most people in the industry think that it’s best to break out the fascist armbands when it comes to moderating comments on a website. They want to steal their users anonymity, and remove  profane or racist comments from their website. Part of it’s legal, but it’s mostly because journalists are thin-skinned pansies who want all the comments to be overflowing with thoughtful discussion and praise for their brilliant work.

I think it’s folly to expect intelligent discourse from the general public on the internet, because I think it’s folly to expect intelligent discourse from the general public in person. I live in a college town, cloistered in academia, and I think Iowa City lifers tend to forget that real people exist outside the bounds of college campuses. We imagine that regular people walk around thinking about Nietzsche, Interactive Communications, and gluten-free bread just like us. In fact, most of them are thinking about Skoal, paying the light bill, and Sammy Hagar.

So I figure that going near the internet is like going near the monkey house: if you get offended by the shit-slinging, you have no one to blame but yourself. Seriously, what did you expect? Monkeys in tiny formal wear,  re-enacting select scenes from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice?

Beyond that, I think trolling is an enjoyable, largely harmless, and occasionally constructive pastime. This rabble-rousing, defiant ethos often leads to a certain type of anarchic prankster justice that’s beyond satisfying. Say, for instance, last month when that radical Muslim group was making death threats against Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  Anonymous trolls on the internet responded by crashing their site with DDoS attacks, and redirecting to a offensive spoof site. That seems like a pretty fair trade to me. Jerks on the internet start acting like jerks. Other jerks on the internet respond by being jerks to the original jerks. As far as justice goes, it’s fun, it’s fair, it’s quick, and it was relatively easy.

So, why not do your part to give trolls a good name? I recently found out about this website which is a resource for people who want to troll those Nigerian scammers that you always hear about. The basic idea is, you toy with these scammers for as long as you can without divulging any real information, thereby distracting them from stealing from real people. Extra points for getting them to believe ridiculous things. You win the game if you actually get one of them to book a hotel room for you, or otherwise make them spend money on you. These scammers are ruining their home countries. They’re robbing from the poor and soft-headed. Their scams are responsible for most of the GDP of Nigeria, and there’s no effective way to police them. So, the only way to combat this phenomena is to screw with some heads. It’s time to put the unrestrained id of the internet to good use.

Go out there, be somebody, and help save the world by dicking over someone who really deserves it.