Trollology 1500 crop

sadism! psychopathy! machiavellianism! and trolling?

THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS were taken from an ar­ticle ti­tled “The One Psy­cho­log­ical Char­ac­ter­istic That On­line Trolls Tend to Share.” It’s an in­ter­esting look at what trolling has be­come, and most of the find­ings fit my ob­ser­va­tions of and ex­pe­ri­ences with per­sis­tent (com­pul­sive?) trolls on so­cial and news-oriented web­sites.

It also con­tinues nicely with my se­ries of rants against any and all bul­lies (see below).


Trolling has changed culture

“Trolling has lit­er­ally changed cul­ture, both on­line and off. The word is now used to cat­e­go­rize a wide and varying swath of be­hav­iors, from ab­sur­dist con­trarian com­ment posts to ha­rass­ment and abuse dis­pro­por­tion­ately aimed at women of all races and people of color.

There now exist troll scholars, many of whom have been studying trolls for years, and an aca­d­emic area of study, trol­lology. 1

The ques­tion for non-trolls is, be­hind the layer of pro­tec­tive anonymity, what lies at the core of the troll psyche. The find­ings of a few studies sug­gest that trolls who are mean-spirited and ma­nip­u­la­tive on­line have of­fline per­son­al­i­ties to match, and that in­se­cu­rity drives a fair amount of their trollery.

Two studies looked at the per­son­al­i­ties of some 1,200 people who en­gage in trolling: 2

‘Both studies re­vealed sim­ilar pat­terns of re­la­tions be­tween trolling and the Dark Tetrad of per­son­ality: trolling cor­re­lated pos­i­tively with sadism, psy­chopathy, and Machi­avel­lianism. 3

Of all per­son­ality mea­sures, sadism showed the most ro­bust as­so­ci­a­tions with trolling and, im­por­tantly, the re­la­tion­ship was spe­cific to trolling be­havior. Thus cyber-trolling ap­pears to be an in­ternet man­i­fes­ta­tion of everyday sadism. Sadists just want to have fun, and the in­ternet is their play­ground!’ 

[An­other] study found that male trolls who ex­hib­ited sexism in gaming—hurling misog­y­nist threats and in­sults at women online—were par­tic­u­larly likely to be among the crappy players. 

‘Men who were of lower skill were more pos­i­tive to­wards men and more neg­a­tive to­wards women. But the re­ally neat re­sult is that when men were of higher skill, they were much more pos­i­tive to women.’

‘In other words,’ the Wash­ington Post sug­gests, ‘sexist dudes are lit­er­ally losers.’ ” 4


Under the influence of paid trolls?

The ar­ticle quoted above (“The One Psy­cho­log­ical Char­ac­ter­istic That On­line Trolls Tend to Share”) was written by Kali Hol­loway for Al­terNet (Sep­tember 28, 2016). The piece does not pre­tend to de­fin­i­tive­ness; nei­ther do I present it as such here.

Ms Hol­loway’s orig­inal ar­ticle is more than 1,000 words in length; my ex­cerpts above tally 275, so there’s lots more to read. Please click on over to Al­terNet and read the piece in its en­tirety.

I’m reminded of Trump

“The dis­in­hi­bi­tion you see with trolls is ex­actly what I’m re­minded of any­time I think of Trump. On­line, people say things that they wouldn’t dare say in public. All the racist and sexist com­ments you see on fo­rums like this one are usu­ally said in pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions. Or they’re things people be­lieve, but just never say out loud.

So much of what Trump says sounds like it’s been lifted straight out of an on­line forum. It’s the things anyone who’s vis­ited the com­ments sec­tion has seen count­less times. Trump is like an on­line troll come to life. He says the things that other Re­pub­li­cans prob­ably think, but would never say out loud.” (Pro­gres­siveDog)


Extremely assertive positions

“I re­ally don’t know how preva­lent it is, but I’ve often won­dered how many of the people who take ex­tremely as­sertive po­si­tions on the web are ac­tu­ally hired guns. The many calls not to ever vote for De­moc­rats be­cause they are just as bad as Re­pub­li­cans comes to mind.

These could be Koch hires trying to grease the skids in the next elec­tion for the GOP, but they could also be true be­lievers who hon­estly thing that they can get people to vote Green through in­tim­i­da­tion. I have to wonder how many of those true be­lievers be­came true be­lievers under the in­flu­ence of paid trolls.” (PrMaine)

This is full of reasonable statements

“I wanted to troll this com­ment sec­tion, but it’s ac­tu­ally full of rea­son­able state­ments.” (Rand Johnson)


If there’s a bully, there’s a victim

Like the main Al­terNet ar­ticle, the com­ments above have been pared down a bit to stick to the point of all of my posts on the ex­tremely hos­tile, of­fen­sive (mostly rightwingnut but, yes, dear, there are left­wingnuts, too) in­ternet trolls: that they are bul­lies.

Oh, by the way—I hate f*cking bul­lies …


FEATURED IMAGE: The trolls at the top of this page should have a dif­fi­cult time ha­rassing anyone on the world­wide web as com­puter tech­nology in Middle Earth is lag­ging be­hind ours. That’s not to say we shouldn’t ask any Bag­ginses to keep their eyes and ears on or­ange alert …



1   Trol­lology is “the study of the purist form of anony­mous in­di­vid­u­alism.” (Urban Dic­tio­nary)

2   A test group of 1,200 sub­jects is rather large.

3   In modern psy­chology, Machi­avel­lianism is one of the dark triad per­son­al­i­ties, char­ac­ter­ized by a du­plic­i­tous in­ter­per­sonal style, a cyn­ical dis­re­gard for morality, and a focus on self-interest and per­sonal gain.” (Wikipedia)

4   “Here’s a re­search finding that should sur­prise no one: The men most likely to ha­rass women on­line are the men most likely to have their own prob­lems. In today’s on­line en­vi­ron­ment, alas, this is not an idle ob­ser­va­tion. Ac­cording to a re­cent Pew re­port, 40% of In­ternet users have per­son­ally ex­pe­ri­enced ha­rass­ment. While both gen­ders are fre­quent vic­tims of this abuse, women tend to get the worst of it.” (Wash­ington Post)




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