The Big Red Troll for President

It just occurred to me randomly: Donald Trump is a troll. Really. I’m not sure he means to be, I think he actually wants to be president, but intent is not a requisite part of trolling.

I used to run discussion forums, back when forums were the main way people talked about stuff online. At most forums moderation has two goals: The first is of course to remove spam, which is pretty straightforward. The second is to discourage trolling, which can be a bit more challenging. Free speech is a beautiful thing but, given enough free speech, trolls will chase away your entire user base.

There are a lot of different kinds of trolls ranging from angry 14 year olds discovering the freedom of anonymous communication to experienced trolls who look at it as a game where the ultimate goal is to permanently disrupt the community. There are also trolls that don’t mean to be trolling at all, pissing people off just comes naturally to them.

The trolls themselves are never really the problem, though, it’s the following they develop. It never ceased to blow my mind how many people in a given community would get behind someone who was so clearly full of shit. It didn’t seem to matter how blantantly concocted the story or how obvious the logical fallacy, people bought it and cheered for more. But why?

The first thing the internet taught us was that everyone likes porn. The second was that people crave attention even more than we realized. The third was there are a lot of angry people whose social inhibitions keep that anger carefully hidden under the surface but given a sense of anonymity it will come geysering out. To a certain degree, though, those people are an exception, a larger part of the online world needs more than anonymity: They need a proxy, which is where trolls come in. They spew the vitriol for the good of the herd, who cheer them on calling it honesty or bluntless. Telling it like it is. Giving them permission for their rage.

One example in particular comes to mind, a troll who, for years, devoted countless hours a day to attacking a forum (which shall go unnamed). I would estimate, at minimum wage, this guy put $100,000 worth of his time into trying to kill this forum. That’s using really conservative numbers, it could easily have been three times that much. It was mind boggling, this was an articulate even passingly intelligent person by all accounts, but he was completely obsessed. The problem was that, unlike most forums, this one had a very lenient policy on trolling. As a result a troll could get comfortable, recruit devotees, get positive reinforcement and ultimately change the overall tone of the forum. In short they would find solace for whatever deep, insecure, lonely parts of themselves were soothed by online hate. It’s invariably about attention, for trolls, and once they get enough of it they’re hooked. So when they finally get banned, and then banned again, they decide that if they aren’t going to be let in to play, they will burn the whole place down. The troll I have in mind was just the most dramatic example, there were others, always the pattern was the same, always ending in concerted (though entertainingly low tech) attempts to ‘bring down’ the forum. And in the process they would turn on their followers. This too never failed to happen because respect was never part of the equation, followers were a means to an end.

Now lets consider Donald Trump. He’s undoubtedly insecure. There is no such thing as a secure septuagenarian who feels the need to defend the size of his penis during a presidential campaign. It’s just not possible. If you have another explanation then you — and I promise I have no ulterior motive here, I’m not partisan — are one of the troll devotees I referred to earlier. In which case I am begging you: Please reconsider. Because he doesn’t respect you, or care about you, or have the slightest compassion for your problems. You are a means to an end.

He thrives on the attention. He wants to be seen as UGE and powerful. He doesn’t seem to care about the consequences as long as he acheives the public attention he craves. And when the attention isn’t enough, or when public opinion starts to shift, or Putin wears a T-Shirt featuring Trump with a micropenis, or the international press unanimously denounces him, he’s going to have a tantrum. Not a mini tantrum like the ones we’ve seen so far, but a very large tantrum that, I suspect, will suprise even the most cynical. When that happens I’m really hoping it’s not in the oval office. Don’t let Trump troll America.