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The Way of the Troll: 4 Examples of Trolling Explained
By skrotkanon | Edited by Learned Nand | 22nd August, 2015 | 2:17 pm

Trolling, i.e. the language the internet would speak if it gained sentience, did not begin with rabid misogynists, contrarians, or Scandinavian folk lore. It can trace its origins back to Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" wherein he argued that eating children would be the best way to fix poverty. Of course, people took him seriously, starting one of history's first flame wars (most likely to Swift's great amusement). The era of modern trolling began in old Usenet groups, where people would post purposely inflammatory comments, called "flame-bait" and wait for angry replies. Yes, trolling is a fishing metaphor).

These guys are real trolling masters

Trolling isn't just about holding unpopular opinions or disagreeing with people, and given its prevalence on the internet, it's important to understand it. So here, I will try to explain the rationalizations of a number of trolls across the internet, even on websites that popular media may dismiss as extremist hate-sites. After all, even trolls think they're the good guys.

Trolls trolling troll trolling trolls

4chan, and specifically its infamous /b/-board, is said to be the most wretched hive of villainy on the internet. If a girl makes the mistake of linking to a picture of herself, she is told (in not entirely polite terms) to uncover her bosom or take her leave. They even sometimes go as far as revealing personal information, prank-calling people at home and work. They’re a collective of nihilistic teenagers who don’t care one bit about other people.

Well Actually…

Anonymous is not a collective; it is however extremely collectivist. The concept of anonymity on the internet is derived from Japanese boards like 2channel and Futuba, after which 4chan is modeled. These boards have the distinction that no registration is needed to post. There is a field where you can fill out your name, but not many users do, and in fact you are discouraged from doing so. And if you don't fill in the name field, you are anonymous. Yes, that’s all there is to it. If you post anonymously on the internet, you are anonymous. No secret handshakes, no hidden sub-boards for hackers. There is just the board, and if you post there you are anonymous. This became the basis of 4chan's culture, in opposition to Facebook and other identity-based social media. On 4chan, no one cares who you are. In fact the whole point is to give up your identity. This eases social anxiety, which is one of the reasons for /b/'s extreme conversational tone. So if you've made a funny meme, then you aren't funny, the meme is. No one cares about you. This isn’t personal, the /b/-regulars simply don't go there to read about your problems. They only go there to look at funny shit and mock each other.

There is nothing the 4channers hate as much as people appropriating the anonymous moniker for their own agenda. However, going to 4chan expecting to get praise or acknowledgement is likely to piss them off almost as much. People who do so are called newfags, and are trolled mercilessly or worse.This confuses people who usually frequent Twitter, Facebook, or the dreaded LiveJournal, and they often mistake the trolling for pure malice or misogyny. Make no mistake, there are a ton of misogynistic cockwranglers on 4chan, but that's not the point. The point is no one wants your narcissistic shitposting. As an example:

One of the classics!

There are two things that the people who love 4chan's anonymity hate about the above post.
  1. He’s clearly not anonymous, what with the picture and all.
  2. It’s self-congratulatory i.e "Look at me and what a great friend I am!"
Giving up your identity to become an undistinguished part of the community is the whole point. This could have been cool on Facebook, but they don't want that kind of thing on 4chan. They love their anonymity, and if you're not interested in maintaining it, get out!

It's the same reasoning behind "tits or GTFO". If you come to 4chan expecting to get praise for your looks, your abs or your fanart, you will be mocked mercilessly. "Tits or GTFO" is a vile catchphrase, but it's meant to be.
People who hate Facebook, Twitter and so on may only have 4chan. Shouldn’t they be allowed to have their own corner of the internet? Sure, they fling vile insults at people who come there and unknowingly violate their unspoken rules, but they have nowhere else to be, so they have to stop newfags from clogging up the boards with their shitposting.

4chan's trolling is meant to scare away all the people with fragile egos who take insults on the internet seriously. If you start flinging shit back then you're one of them, and if you get "butthurt" ,as they say, then you're a target and will be mocked until you leave. Trolls trolling trolls trolling trolls is their modus operandi, and they clearly like it that way. When it comes down to it, the point of 4chan is the content itself, not who created it or what any particular person thinks about it. The content is all. By 4chan's standards, this is the perfect thread:

Carlton, lord of darkness and dance

There isn’t one iota of self-congratulatory bullshit to be found, just four anons working together to create something beautiful. The point of this thread? Hell if I know, it’s bizarre as fuck, but that itself may be the whole point. Only on /b/.

In lulz we trust

Encyclopedia Dramatica is the polar opposite of Wikipedia. It is a wiki filled with lies and slander of the worst sort. The website is even banned in several countries because of all the hate, not to mention the extremely graphic gore and porn. In short, it'd all the worst parts of the internet neatly gathered in one place.


Unlike people who post on /b/, the EDiots (as they call themselves) take special pride in their trolling. The old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" takes on a different meaning on ED. Instead of being about the importance of pictures, it is used to say that a funny picture is the lazy man's way to create a funny article. I used to spend several hours a day lurking on ED (due to severe depression), and there are a number of well-written pieces in there, just dripping with sarcasm. Here, for example, is a helpful guide on how to care for your black slave. (Warning: all of Encyclopedia Dramatica is extremely NSFW.)

A proper slave arrangement, according to Encyclopedia Dramatica

There's also a step-by-step guide on how to have sex with dolphins (I'm not linking that, find it yourself). In this way they're the opposite of /b/, putting great effort into generating the maximum outrage possible. They want you to scream bloody murder, and then click the Offended link (definitely not linking to it, NSFW as hell and seriously NSFL, find it yourself) so you’ll become even more offended than you previously thought possible. You should quickly notice that all the pages are filled with hate. The page about white people is just as insane as the one about women, jews, muslims or men. An excerpt from the page about men:

Encyclopedia Dramatica wrote:Men are all inherently great hairy piles of lust and rage. These latent rapists and murderers believe themselves to be "nice guys", because they are slightly less of an asshole than their local drug pusher.

This isn't even to mention the pages on liberals, conservatives, or aboriginals or what have you. Every single page about a man describes him as a gay, rapist pedophile, and every single article about a woman describes her as a vapid cumdumpster. If you click on a single link on ED and read just that page, you’ll probably think it’s a hate-site, but it's really not. It's one of the most extreme examples of free speech, and all of it is sarcasm. It's not very subtle either to be honest. Oh, but they do like Bucholz. And had this been all ED was about, I'd be proud the server is now located in my home country of Sweden. However…

At the heart of ED, we have the term "for the lulz". Lulz can be loosely translated to “Laughs at other peoples expense” and it's what drives the people on ED. It's a free world, they have the right to be assholes.
And unlike /b/-tards, they actually seek out people who get outraged over nothing. ED becomes a lot less defensible when they start "milking the lolcow".

Seen here doing its usual thing

It usually starts with someone on DeviantArt getting critiqued for some picture. The artist gets defensive, refusing to acknowledge anything wrong with the picture, perhaps because of low self-esteem. Then, someone in the lulz-brigade (that’s an actual term) sees this and realizes they have a potential gold-mine of lulz here. So he will try prodding the insecure artist, first starting with a more "serious" critique to see if the person stays defensive. If he does, the rest of the brigade is called in to milk the lolcow for as much lulz as possible until the victim gives up and "leaves the internet forever".

There are endless screen-caps of people saying the most insane things because of the pressure the lulz-brigade puts on them. So yeah, ED bullies insecure teenagers for laughs. Real classy. Their rationalization is actually similar to that of 4chan's, i.e that the person thinks too much of himself and needs to be taken down a peg. There's a bizarre logic to this, but it's the job of parents and relatives to make sure their kids don't grow up to be narcissists, not the job of random assholes on the internet. So the worst part of ED is not the gore or the hate-speech, it’s the fact that they bully insecure teenagers for laughs.

The Hatemaster

Adam Todd Brown used to be our dear Cracked’s most hated writer. He tackled subject after subject with the wit and grace of a drunken elephant, and never seemed to care when the readers sent that vitriol right back to him. Thankfully he shaped up, and is now a moderately-liked columnist. But where did all that bitterness come from to begin with?


Imagine a large public web-site paid you regularly for pissing and moaning about whatever you wanted to. If you were mad about something, you could do a minimal amount of research on the topic, proceed to shit all over it, and then get paid for it. Dream-job! The hateful ATB we knew was a crafted persona. The whining was his shtick, because he knew he’d get page-views and more writing gigs that way. Hell, he's an editor now, so it definitely worked.

The other part of it is that ATB is an extreme introvert (by Carl Jung’s definition, not BuzzFeeds). The vast majority of people check out what other people like and incorporate that into their own tastes and thoughts. Cracked itself has reported on this effect, talking about how people who move into a conservative neighborhood soon find themselves more conservative. Wanting to fit in is human, after all.

ATB, however, generates all his opinions and preferences entirely from within. He sees or hears something and only considers what he thinks about the subject. What other people think isn't relevant. Other people might be right, but there's no reason to assume they are. A person like ATB is only going to like something that is popular by coincidence, and so the number of popular things he likes will be few and far between.

ATB’s podcast is even called Unpopular Opinion, which should be telling you all you need to know. It's not that he's contrarian, saying controversial things just to stir shit up, or to feel special. These are the conclusions he has genuinely reached after serious consideration, whether or not he's right. Still, he certainly used to spice up his opinions in order to generate extra outrage. I always liked him because I knew it was an act, and having lurked on Encyclopedia Dramatic for so long, his act seemed relatively tame.

Goddamn Stormfront

Sorry, I don't have a catchphrase this time. I'm staying as far away as possible from that echo-chamber of stupidity. Stormfront and other sites of its ilk (Sweden has its own called Avpixlat or "Depixeled") are a depressing mix of confirmation bias and prejudice. Numerous hate crimes have been connected to each these sites. They are real hate sites, not just sarcastic online hang-out places for teenagers.

And so…

Racism is what happens when the brain's organizing functions goes overboard. Human brains love categorizing and labeling things, so when you see or meet a new person, the personality traits he or she exhibits gets lumped in with the physical traits the person has. This way, when you meet a new person with similar physical traits, your brain can immediately assume some of the person's personality traits, making it easier for you to know how to behave. If it didn't, meeting new people would be an endless parade of anxiety. In fact, people with autism often lack this function, and for them meeting new people can be ripe with anxiety for this reason. I’m not saying autistic people can’t be racists, but a lot of us seem to suck at it.

Of course, a person's racial traits don't imply personality traits, so racism is illogical and only born of faulty brain-function. But the asshats on Stormfront and a lot of MRA's seems to believe that they're the calm, rational ones when really they just lack self-awareness.


Racism is, after all, the most international thing of all; every single country has racists in its population. Everywhere, people believe that foreigners are stupid because they don't speak their preferred language perfectly. Saying something like "All foreigners exhibit trait x" should be grounds for a psychological evaluation, as it's such utter nonsense that a reasonable person's head should explode from saying it. Yes, all men and women from all cultures except yours are lazy, totally!

I can handle statements like "Poor people have poor impulse control." Statistically, some poor people must have poor impulse control. Or "Black people from poor neighborhoods are more often criminals". It’d be nice if you omitted "black" from that sentence and realized poverty in general tends to cause violent crime, but I can see where you’re coming from. But "all foreigners are lazy"? You meet one unemployed Pakistani guy, and suddenly women from Nigeria are lazy and stupid? The mind boggles.

In fact, racism is the true madness of modern society. Unlike suicidally depressed people or schizophrenics who can admit that some of their thoughts have no basis in reality, racists won't, and they refuse to get help.

Bonus troll – Nicholas Pell

I wrote this article as a response to Pell’s awful "I’m such a troll" piece. I was mad at it because it was a cool concept, and he could have done something with it, but instead it was a big nothing. So I decided to write an article about trolls I would have liked to have read myself. So, according to modern internet lingo, what kind of troll Mr. Pell be?

Well, he’s a hipster with a Twitter account, so he's without a doubt a newfag. On the other hand his article followed the rule of "Most outrage for minimum amount of work" which fits in with the philosophy of 4chan trolls. This makes him an unfunny shitposting newfag.

Tags: Internet 28

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