The Secret Playbook of Internet Trolls
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
What’s confusing you
Is the nature of my game
– The Rolling Stones
The reason that Internet trolls are effective is that people still don’t understand their game.
As one interesting example, trolls start flame wars because – according to two professors – swearing and name-calling shut down our ability to think and focus.
And trolls will often spew divisive attacks so that people argue against each other, instead of bad actions and policies of the powers-that-be. For example, trolls will:
Start a religious war whenever possible using stereotypes like “all Jews are selfish”, “all Christians are crazy” or “all Muslims are terrorists”.
Yesterday, the alternative news site Common Dreams caught a troll using scores of different user names to spew anti-Semitic bile. (Common Dreams discovered that the same troll was behind the multiple user names by tracking their IP addresses. And the troll confessed to Common Dreams.)
The troll is a “a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel”.
He posted anti-Semitic diatribes – such as Hitler should have finished the job and killed all Jews – using one alias. Then – a couple of minutes later – he’d post an attack on the first poster using a different alias, claiming that criticism of Israel is the same thing as anti-Semitism. (Note: Holocaust survivors and Israeli ministers say it’s not.)
Why would a Jew post vile anti-Semitic comments? Because normal people are offended by – and don’t want to be associated with – pure, naked anti-Semitism, and so they will avoid such discussions. If the discussion was originally criticizing a specific aspect of Israeli policy, the discussion will break down, and the actual point regarding policy will be lost.
Similarly, anti-Semitic posts weaken websites by making them seem less reputable. Indeed, Common Dreams says that the troll’s anti-Semitic comments drove away many of that site’s largest donors … dealing a severe blow to its continued viability. That’s exactly what trolls spewing anti-Semitic bile are trying to do: shut down logical discussion and discredit and weaken sites which allow rational criticism of policy.
And American students are also attempting to influence internet discussion.
While the Common Dreams troll claims that he’s not sponsored by the state of Israel, government agencies have manipulated Internet discussion for years. This includes the use of multiple “socket puppet” aliases. The potential for mischief is stunning.
Unless we learn their game …