I like to read comments. It’s a bit of a hobby. Reading an article or a status update or watching a video is *edifying* and all, but it’s in the comments that the fun really begins. That’s why you should wait awhile after an item has been published online to read it; the comments will pile up and then you can go see individuals doing their best to illumine why everyone is wrong and they are right.
The New York Times is going to implement some changes to its commenting system that they hope will make the process more streamlined and – more importantly – improve the quality of comments. This heartily distresses me. Moronic, predictably bad comments are what make the Internet the modern-day Wild West, a new coliseum where we can see the freaks at play while we are sitting safely in the risers.
I love the trolls. They are the cool kids who sit at the back of the class and give the nerds and the near-sighted teacher the ride of their lives. I love how easy it is to see the the trajectory of their vile comments.
The troll lobs some easy missile about sexuality, politics, or religion. It may or may not have anything to do with the original subject. The trap is set.
It gets a reaction, a torrent of thumbs down. Several more if the comment permits the inclusion of a trollface emoticon. Those in the know will immediately be tipped-off to the inauthenticity of the commentator’s thoughts when they see the grinning face, but the uninitiated will see the face and immediately get to retaliating against this menace who is putting the morality of all society in jeopardy.
The experienced troll will disguise his identity more stealthily. He will have chosen as his emoticon a picture of an old white dude with no shirt on who lives in Craptown, USA. Intrigued and distressed, the upstanding citizens of the online community wonder how this character managed to get a computer with Internet access at all. He must be schooled.
The retaliation begins. Lots of comments in the thread to set him straight and demonstrate the troll’s own backwards idiocy. Some are longer than others. Although they will initially address the troll directly (as he eagerly awaits the masses’ response), the best refer to him in the third person. The public humiliation of the now-mute imbecile begins.
A few will come to the troll’s aid and say something that is even more egregious than the original fabricated statement. These are the actually disturbed people who genuinely agree with him and can only be handled with tact and a thousand thumbs down. Back away slowly.
But then – AHA! – the climax of the thread: the troll’s identity is revealed! A commentator indicates his suspicion that the originator of this thread is a troll! A mean prankster who intentionally got everyone’s panties in a knot over a sentiment he doesn’t even believe! Some Internet bastard.
The thread huffs and puffs over how it’s been duped by some stupid jerk who enjoys getting a rise out of good, hardworking people who are just taking a break from their long days at work to berate idiots online. Shame on him. Probably one of those Occupy Wall Street communists.
The thread is abandoned as quietly as it was begun. All is well on the interwebs again. But beware; the troll will strike again!