Trolling as Fetish, Generative, and as a Mask.

The Dark Knight Joker meme. Source:(

Any body who has ever visited a comment section, discussion board forums, or review pages on the internet has seen trolling at some point in their lives. Trolling, defined by author Whitney Phillips in her book, This is why we can’t have nice things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture, a troll is a person who likes to disrupt stupid conversations on the internet (Phillips 1). Trolling can even have a spectrum of behaviors. Some trolling is incredibly aggressive, and meets the legal threshold for harassment. Other forms of trolling-for example, Rickrolling — are comparatively innocuous (Phillips 23). Trolling in general is not all bad and can be an amusing conversation to watch unfold. Some times trolling can be harmful and can have drastic consequences to their targets. In either case trolling is apart of our internet lives whether we accept it or not. Trolls do what they want, when they want, to whomever they want, with almost perfect impunity (Phillips 26).

Trying to decipher trolling. Source: (

What’s interesting to point out is their philosophy and why they even troll in the first place. I believe their main focus is to get a reaction out of the readers and eventually make the readers upset with themselves and their arguments. Trolls don’t mean, or don’t have to mean, the abusive things they say. Which makes it so difficult to combat these individuals because if you give in and start “flaming” them you’ve already lost. You may not realize it but the sole purpose of trolling, by Phillips analyze’s, “they do it for the lulz” which is most troll’s excuses for participating in trolling. With that being stated, Phillips mentions there is varies characteristics of trolling, such as trolling as a fetish, trolling as a generative, and trolling as a mask. Phillips describes lulz are fetish not in a sexual sense, no in the religious sense, but in the Marxist sense — specifically as a play on the concept of commodity fetishism, the process by which material commodities are “made magic” by capitalism so that the social conditions and relations of power that create and sustain economic disparity are rendered invisible (Phillips 30). To give an example, the Washington Post, reported an article about Jon Oliver and his recent video segment upload about the declining of the coal industry. Jon Oliver specifically criticizes Murray Energy Corporation and chief executive Robert E. Murray who was blamed the industry’s troubles as an “evil agenda” (WASHINGTON POST). While scrolling through the comment section of this article I found a few examples of lulz fetish:

Comment reactions to the news article and the video. Source: (

Phillips then describes generative trolling as the resulting content feeds into and sustains an interconnected nest of constitutive content, which simultaneously contextualizes and reconfigures the explicit meaning(s) of additional content (Phillips 31). The more you try to justify what you did or try to battle trolls you end up being a bigger joke and will be taken advantage of. In the same article I found a few examples of generative trolling:

Comment reactions to the news article and video. Source:(
Comment reactions on the news article and video. Source:(

Phillips describes the last trolling characteristic as a mask. More specifically, trolls believe that there exists a fundamental difference between what they do as trolls and who they are as people (Phillips 34). Thoughts expressed by a person’s trolling persona do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of the person’s public persona (Phillips 34). It seems as though trolls have a “two face” identity where online they may act in a open-minded way whereas in real-life they may be shy and soft-spoken. It’s not a matter of where the trolling occurs but what the behaviors signify. It’s almost like a switch, or mode they engage in. Here are a few examples of trolling with a mask with the intent to “piss them off” :

Comment reactions on the news article and video. Source :(
Comment reactions on news article and video. Source:(
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