[ Image from Chuck Williams Kickstarter. ]
Sam Harris says all we have are words or violence.
Unfortunately, there are no words you can use to stop a Troll.
As a former Troll, I will attempt to explain what motivates them. (Let’s just assume they have the same twisted operating system I did — or at least some variation.)
Quick definition: A Troll is a person who seeks out negative social attention from strangers. The more, the better. It is a form of addiction. The quickest path to negative social attention is to pretend to be stupid or wrong — in order to attract attackers.
Some key points:
1.) Trolls feed off of negative attention. They don’t want just any attention — it has to be some form of attack. Bad reviews, or getting booed off stage, as examples. To paraphrase the Jerky Boys, they “put mustard on it and they eat it.”
2.) Trolls go out of their way to make themselves look bad, from every angle, so that there is no angle left to attack them. Every vulnerability is already exposed and exaggerated by the Troll himself. They are a walking self-parody. A living sign that says “Kick Me.” When they successfully trick you into attacking, they have achieved their goal and won their little game. They have proven that you can be deceived. Haha, sucker.
3.) Trolls seek to make others as unhappy as they are. They spread confusion and want to make us question our sanity. (See Gaslighting.) This gives the Troll an unexplainable inner joy. You know that feeling normal people get from puppies or a sunset? They get it from other people screaming at them.
Am I suggesting some form of “violence?”
I don’t know. Maybe physical containment. Best determined and performed by mental health professionals. (I’m serious.) But at the very least, words directed at them do nothing.
1.) Logical debate has no value to a Troll. As soon as a Troll is cornered, they resort to offensive humor to distract. They tell their opponent to relax; it’s just a joke (or a Tweet), bro. And besides, reality is boring!
2.) Money also means nothing to a Troll. You can’t punish them financially. You can’t fire them or cancel a book deal to teach them a lesson. A powerful Troll will find a way to sustain his bullshit at the expense of all else.
3.) Before social media, you could simply punch a Troll or walk away from them. Their area of effect was whatever small town their parents lived in. Now it is possible for a Troll to prey on millions of people. And it is far too easy. If just a small percentage of millions of people buy a Troll’s stupid T-shirt or hat, he’s set.
Bottom line: You can’t cure mental illness through arguing.
1.) Identify Trolls. (Hint: weird hair.)
2.) Do not invite Trolls onto your TV show.
3.) Do not elect Trolls as President.
In all seriousness, our civilization has never faced Trolling on such a scale. It is a black swan that emerged from The Internet, and what we are experiencing might only be the beginning. Who are the Trolls influenced by our current Trolls — the next generation that will build on their success? We can’t even beat this generation of Trolls, let alone imagine what “worse” could be. But five years ago, even five months ago, we never conceived of the idea that a Troll could get nuclear weapons. It couldn’t happen, but it did.
If there is a way for us to overcome Trolling, and if that way is not words or violence, I hope someone discovers it soon.