(picture from Homotron)
It happens on nearly every site I visit. I'll read a solid article presenting a case in support of or against something or the other, and right below, in the comment section, they'll be an explosion of ridiculous statements that only have a remote connection to the topic of the article. A story on President Obama's talking points on the air strike in Libya will be followed by comments about how he is really a Muslim, Communist, God-hating Kenyan. A story on the Japanese earthquake/tsunami disaster will bring out comments on kamikazes in World War II. And of course, any story on anything Christian gets bombarded by atheists, Catholic Church haters, inhumane humanists and posts on homophobia.
But why? Why all the trolls?
It can be pretty entertaining to read well-crafted dissenting views in comboxes, even if I do agree with the actual story. Sometimes a reader will pick up on a point I might have missed, or highlight an error in the piece. Unfortunately, this has become the case less and less. Many comments do not add a thing to the online discussion except poorly constructed verbiage, and many result in a virtual yell fest between readers full of capital letters, exclamation points and now, the overused asterisk, as in "Maybe if you had a *brain*". It's such a shame about that asterisk, too, because I really do like it's shape.
A good example of the trolling can be found after this story on The Root about being a male feminist. One particularly long-winded commenter wrote: "The sad part - look at how many people actually response and converse to this Jerry Springer quality perverse made-up media propaganda article...." Um, is it sad that YOU are one of them? But anyway back to his post: "If you participated in this article and actually read anything other than a few lines, then you are the reason why we do not have quality media because someone at a board meeting is arguing we love these kind of articles and that is why they keep putting it out." Again, wouldn't that include you? "This guy is a homosexual that the Root allowed to publish this illogical ideological nonsense that is nothing more than bashing of heterosexual men." He continues in this same vein, not actually pointing out what, within the actual story he objects to. Instead, he insults fellow readers for... reading the whole thing (presumably, he did not, so as not to be guilty of the same sin he warns others against) and equates being a male feminist with being a gay man. Uh huh. I can't see how the author's self-chastisement for staring at female strangers' bodies on the street makes said author a homosexual.
Over on HuffPo, a story about the Pope staying neutral on Libya brought out comments such as these:
"Ah the love and forgiveness of their mangod; it is amazing this rottweiler priest matters at all!"
"Italy gets oil from Libya - why would the Pope speak up?. The Popemobile doesn't run on used cooking oil, like Willie Nelson's bus."
"The pope couldn't be bothered with this. Besides, he was having his favorite Chinese dinner item, Cream of SumYungGuy and warm BOYsenberry juice."
That last one was not only crude and tasteless, it was stupid.The strangest thing is, many of the commenters actually think the Pope should stay neutral, but rather than admitting they agree with anything that comes out of his mouth, they would rather make stupid troll comments not related to the story posted.
But we Christians aren't so great under the semi-anonymity of the interwebs, either. In a Christian apologetic forum on CARM in the Jehovah's Witnesses' category, I found this response to a JW from an Evangelical Christian: "...when you JW's come to the end of your days and stand before the Great God and Judge Jesus and have to give an account for your misserable and Satanic lives as to why you JW's did not accept Him as God and Savior then He will toss you JW's into Hell for all eternity to be with your god Satan." Yeah, I'm sure that'll get that Satan-worshiper to come running out of their Kingdom Hall. Over on the Roman Catholic forum I found these comments:
"Catholics literally don't trust scripture. The reason being is that it contradicts the teaching of the romanist organization. They MUST trust only their heretical leaders or be anathema. They have NO choice."
"Catholics just want the blind leaders they follow to be the final authority and no amount of wishing will make it so."
Yes, that kind of rudeness in a discussion on "Sola Scriptura" will get those "Romanists" to Martin Luther it up over to Protestanism!
On Twitter, trolling takes the form of ridiculous and often misogynistic or racist Trending Topics, or #TT in tweet talk. Last week, there was the White People Stink #TT, with comments like "The b**** behind me smells like a f***ing wet asshole,,,ughh #whitepeoplestink".
I find it sad that this type of behavior- from the simply misinformed to the truly nasty- seems to be growing by leaps and bounds, no matter the forum. It seems once a site gets beyond a few thousand hits, it is destined to start seeing the appearance of trolls- and unlike the 1990's hit toys, it isn't cute or funny, just really bad. Then again, those trolls were kind of bad. Here's to hoping today's trolls will get played out, too, and just become a memory in the trash heap of pop culture past.