What I Learned From a Troll
A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends. – Proverbs 16:28
As an evolving center-right kind of political creature, I respect my friends who sit a bit farther to the right than I do. They are, to some degree, my people. But I have this lament: Some of them wouldn’t recognize a troll if it clubbed them over the head and dragged them under the bridge.
I speak, of course, of the Internet troll, and some people badly need to be trained in troll-spotting. If you secretly wonder sometimes what this trolling thing even is, I’m talking to you. A fine recent example, though I can’t prove it, is a blog post purporting to be from a radical feminist who aborted her male child to avoid bringing another monster into the world.
If this is true, there are hardly words for how reprehensible it is. In a world that contains ISIS, such a person certainly could walk the Earth. But I doubt that this one does. Some things are so perfectly heinous that…well, there’s your first clue that you just might be getting trolled.
Trolling is not a new concept. Before the Internet, we would have called it yanking someone’s chain – saying something outrageous just to see the reaction. The anonymous online world has allowed this perverse craft to reach new heights of artistry and new depths of virulence. Sometimes it’s still just someone’s sophomoric fun, but much of it has taken on a sharp edge of agenda-driven deceit. It’s hard to even guess the motives anymore.
In the case of the allegedly aborted boy child, you may ask, “How could she?” A more interesting question might be, “Who is trolling us and why?” There are multiple possibilities. It could be an anti-feminist trying to make feminists look bad. It could be a feminist trying to provoke outrage from anti-feminists and make them look foolish for believing such a whopper. Or it could be the aforementioned juvenile someone with no particular agenda, stoking the fire just to soak up the heat.
The most interesting question, though, is why people fall for this kind of trolling. Never mind what it says about the troll. What does it say about us? Some people no doubt are just gullible. But in others I see an undercurrent of fear and/or hate, which are closely related. It’s the same kind of thing that I believe drives some conspiracy theorists. These people so despise those who are different from them, that they are willing to believe the “others” capable of just about any evil. Why so much hate? Behind hate there is almost always an element of feat.
As a Christian, I know better than to let fear control me, even if I don’t always practice what I know. We are taught to fear God, which means to hold Him in awestruck respect, but also to know that yes, He can deliver a righteous, loving smackdown if we have it coming. But fear of anything else in creation is not from God. If you find yourself a sucker for every scurrilous claim about someone you disagree with, maybe it’s time to ask God to root out the hate in your heart, and the fear that may be feeding it.