Trolling: “Facetious not Malicious”

Down under, a war is being waged on the trolls of cyberspace. For the last few months, the Australian media has put the Internet trolling subculture under the media spotlight, in an attempt to bring down what most view as a despicable pastime.

However, there are those who are self-proclaimed trolls who care to challenge the current popular opinion of their regular hobby. Jaime Cochran is a 20-something, female professional, who’s (fairly) articulate. She doesn’t exactly fit the stereotype of what we’ve thought trolls to be huh? That is – she’s not a misogynistic teenage boy, pumped on red bull, bored with life, not getting laid enough and a general miser of a human being. But she still calls herself a troll – and still enjoys making people angry.

She claims that trolling is an artful form of entertainment. She calls it a “way of evoking a reaction.” And she finds it hilarious when people get upset over issues that she considers banal (such as their taste in music). Check out the video of her interview on The Age.

But the war against trolling was instigated from some quite serious consequences from this sort of behaviour – such as Charlotte Dawson who ended up in hospital over a trolling incident. And her father having to watch his daughter’s tribute page get mauled by a bunch of trolls – who just found it funny.

Cochran and the other trolls involved in the interview on SBS’s Insight quickly claimed there was a difference between what they do and what those trolls do. Those are evil trolls who are, in their opinion, simply bullies.

Trolling, in Cochran’s opinion is something she does to make “people laugh, and maybe think about things differently.” She believes that what she does is “harmless fun” and that the evil trolls are “downright mean and cruel” while she is the type of troll that would “put some thought into what [she's] doing.”

But where do you draw the line? When does something become trivial? I feel that walking the trolling path is walking a dangerous one. I’m all for intelligent debate, but when you start purposely looking for fights over meaningless things, I would think that that sets you at a very precarious edge. And when you fall off that edge, you start hurting people in ways that are cruel and malevolent, though you may not see it that way at the time.

What do you think? Have the ‘evil’ trolls besmirched the good name of trolling for those who are just in it for a bit of fun? Or is the whole culture a bane on cyber-society that should not be tolerated?

[Via The Age]





17 Responses to Trolling: “Facetious not Malicious”

  1. I've been sitting here watching this argument for the past couple months. Some of the news pieces make my head hurt (much like the "Charlotte Dawson in hospital over Twitter"), especially since you could easily just say "take a break from being online." A lot of celebrities do it. Hell, when Doctor Who started airing, Moffat took quite a backlash and wound up deleting/deactivating his Twitter account. I fail to understand how people are allowing themselves to breakdown over things mostly anonymous people are saying.

    (Hooray for irony.)

    • Agreed.

      The whole point of trolling (trying to upset other people for one's own entertainment) is the equivalent of kicking anthills for the fun of it. It's pointless and destructive.

      Most of the people who'd do that sort of thing ARE the sort of juvenile idiots who fit the stereotype. The fact that Jaime doesn't fit the stereotype — despite the fact that the ACTS LIKE the stereotype — isn't exactly something to be proud of.

  2. Let me summarize the situation with a little point/counterpoint.

    Point: Trolling isn't about hurting people, it's about making people think and laugh. It's like being a devil's advocate with a wonderful sense of humour.
    Counterpoint: By making people angry and creating confrontations?
    Point: Yeah, it's hilarious when they get really upset. Also, I'm pretty sure people are more open to new ideas and viewpoints when they get defensive.
    Counterpoint: …

    Point: Trolling is bad. It makes people feel bad about themselves.
    Counterpoint: You're talking about bullying. Trolling makes people angry and hate the Troll. Bullying makes people sad and bad about themselves.
    Point: Trolls killed this man's daughter. Don't you feel bad about yourselves now.
    Counterpoint: Kinda… and somewhat defensive…

  3. Did this article just longwindedly quote Supertroopers:

    But our shenanigans are cheeky and fun!
    Yeah, and his shenanigans are cruel and tragic.
    Which… makes them not really shenanigans at all.
    Evil shenanigans!

    I have to agree with the female here. There is fun and good trolling. Its much like pranking and satire. Its irreverence and social satire at a very intimate level. This whole argument is like comparing iconoclastic stand up comedians such as George Carlin and Dane Cook. One is awesome and funny, the other is Dane Cook.

  4. When we suggest that random people can make us mad or angry by their words, then what we're really saying is that we are willing to abdicate control of our thoughts, feelings and emotions to people who have not earned the right of our respect nor the right to affect us in any way. Technically speaking, its called co-dependence.

    If we can point to others and throw a tantrum, or deflect our problems and call them bullies, it may probably help us feel better about ourselves, but it will not solve the core issues. People who respond to trolls are like fish who bite bait: they're hungry for attention and acceptance in light of their personally held convictions. The troll is not the problem: how you let the troll affect you is the problem. It is time to grow up.

    • Seriously? There's letting things run like water over a riverstone, and then there's getting stabbed in the heart, having the knife twisted, and then salt poured in the wound just because someone thinks it's funny and doesn't consider your heart to be worth anything to them. The basic flaw with her argument that there are 'good' trolls out there is that she fully admits that she picks on subjects that she considers "banal". The problem with that is that what she or other trolls may consider un-important can be *very* important to the people they are trolling. It doesn't matter if it's taste in music or political views. Everyone has something that is important to them and random strangers crapping all over them is a definite problem. Everyone out there has something at their core that they value and which makes them who they are. It doesn't matter if it's religion, music, politics, a veridium micro arc-reactor, or thinking that they're better than others because "words will never hurt me". When someone starts digging at that core, they're gonna react. And that reaction is what the trolls are after, most of them don't care about the consequences afterward.

    • Yes but what your talking about is learned with experience, which is why these kids and young people a) do it and b) can be hurt by it. They have not learned yet. Bullies have always been around, it's now just moved onto another level with the internet…. as all thing have.

  5. What I think should be a key point is that trolling/pranking or jibing/jesting/mocking/making fun off … it's all in good fun when it's between friends! You know the person, how they'll react and they'll take it with a different tact….

    But it's not fun when it's from someone you don't know, and someone who doesn't know you…. and now someone who is just a "person typing on the internet for all the world to see" (not just the people in that corner of the school playground who happen to be in earshot to the "jests").

  6. There's a difference between trolling and being a bully/criminal. The media makes it sound like trolling is being a criminal, it isn't. They have mixed the two separate things up and now call a criminal a troll which isn't right.

    If a person is being a dick or annoying or they are stirring someone up, then sure they are a troll. If a person is abusing another person online then they are a bully/criminal. They aren't the same thing and I wish people would stop getting the two mixed together, especially those who don't use the internet.

  7. Jaime Cochran is not your stereotypical troll, she’s far worse. She’s obviously intelligent and informed but instead of using her gifts to make a positive impact on the world she chooses to be negative instead. She could be creative but chooses to be destructive.

    She defends her action by contriving some sort off an agenda, I think she’s even convinced herself of this but in the end she’s doing it to amuse herself. Sure the subjects she chooses to troll on are, to her, trivial. But to the person posting their thoughts they may mean a lot. That person may be very young, lack confidence, be mentally unstable or someone who is being abused. She has no idea what mentality she may be crushing with her games. It’s sad really.

  8. There is a point here which most people seem to be missing, which is that the terms troll and bully do not mean the same thing. A troll is attempting to provoke a reaction; a bully is trying to hurt someone. If someone posts a comment such as "you are fat and you show die" tosomeone's facebook page that is not a troll, and calling it such is only a sign of ignorance. Which is why the media do it, I suppose.

  9. She's a bit of a snobby dirtbag, she looks the part, and she oughta be ashamed of herself. Instead, she's granted celebrity status by engaging in bad behavior. No doubt, she makes her parents proud.

  10. Trolling used to be about finding people blowing things out of proportion or being particularly douchebaggy, like the Pon Hams evgelical group or youtubers being premadonnas. Now though, as the ration of newer people who didnt really undertand the concept overtook those that did but didnt care enough to continue, trolling has become more generic and stupid. It isn’t about subtle digs designed to highlight stupidity while under a guise of being of a specific postion, it is now just about saying “lol fag” over and over on a page about a murdered homosexual person. It’s about being inflammatory when it used to be satirical.

  11. Offensive behavior is offensive behavior, no matter what the intent is. Saying that I should not be hurt or offended by something because you don't "intend" it to be hurtful is just plain stupid. I teach my kids that impressions matter. The results matter. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. This woman is justifying her juvenile actions with a completely indefensible argument. There is no such thing as a good troll. A troll is a troll. The action, the results…they matter.

  12. Sorry, but no. People over the internet are people still, and "harmless shenanigans" like this are why some people group people in reality, and those from the internet into two separate bins, if not have worse things happen. There's the story of a facebook employee that made an underage girl commit suicide after she sent him pictures of herself topless after he acquired just one such picture.

    Trolling blurs the line between acting in good ways and being actively malicious. If not for it, anytime we saw someone being malicious, we could more easily call them out on it.

    Anyone intelligent enough to make a game out of trolling should find a more productive source of entertainment.

  13. I have to agree with some others here that are saying trolling and bullying are different. It's important not to mix the two up! Trolls say things that make people angry, and it's been going on long before the internet ever existed. Heck, our news media does it all the time! So do families (siblings troll each other all.the.time.) It's annoying and aggravating but I don't think there should be any laws or anything against.

    Bullies don't make you angry, they make you hate yourself. They belittle and mock and tear down until there's nothing left inside the victim. Internet bullying is a nasty beast because the people doing it think they are anonymous and free from any consequences. They also have bullies from all over the globe to back them up.

    I moderated a forum for years…. I can speak from the heart when I say I don't like trolls. They are a frustrating group of people to deal with. That being said, they aren't dangerous. They aren't going to kill anyone.

    Bullying, on the other hand, should never be acceptable. The fact that it thrives on the internet is disheartening. Even if you could outlaw bully behavior in your own country, it won't stop people from other countries from being douches.

    Honestly? We need to start having Internet Protocol classes in school. Teach them to use the Internet in safe environment, teach them appropriate behavior, teach them who to wary of, and what to expect…. before they are using the internet extensively at home. I think educating would go a long long way.