In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory,extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. The noun troll may refer to the provocative message itself, as in: “That was an excellent troll you posted”. While the word troll and its associated verb trolling are associated with Internet discourse, media attention in recent years has made such labels subjective, with trolling describing intentionally provocative actions outside of an online context. For example, mass media uses troll to describe “a person who defaces Internet tribute sites with the aim of causing grief to families.” Source: Wikipedia.
Paul Krugman, (New York Times columnist, professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University, and 2008 Nobel Prize laureate in Economics), on his NYT blog “Conscience of a Liberal” recently posted a short, curt message regarding the constant flow of comments he receives written by “trolls.” See the above definition. Still thinking about my previous post “Hospital Food for the Mind: Benanke, Jackson Hole, and the Importance of Being Wrong,” I realized that trolls fall into the category of ignoramuses I referred to there.
Krugman’s ongoing problem with the troll attacks is that he writes as a pundit as well as an economist. His often pointed remarks and his notoriety as a Nobel Prize winner make him a high-profile target for those who do not see eye-to-eye with him. This is not a surprise. Trolls have often been historically portrayed as quite large. All of us familiar with the Lord of the Rings movies, along with the Harry Potter series also know the wide range of images in which they are portrayed. The point being that by their very stature rather than character or intellectual capacity, mythological though they may be, trolls can’t see eye-to-eye with anybody.
Battle Troll from Lord of the Rings. (c) New Line Cinema. Photo: allthetests.com
Since trolls were certain to respond to Krugman’s banning them (the fact that doing so would reveal themselves probably never crossed their minds), I, too, decided to write a comment. I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not a troll. I’ve have had numerous comments published on Krugman’s blog (22 to date) so I’m a known quantity on the positive side of the equation, even when I disagree with him. He decided, however, not to publish any comments. I don’t blame him, really. But I’d written what I though was a pretty good comment, so I present it here.
Reply to “Trolls:”
It seems counter-intuitive–or just odd, if you like—to comment on this particular post.
The trolls (although I fancy your use of the term “ignoramuses” in a recent post) seem to have three flaws in their character. First, they have no capacity to understand either irony or sarcasm. Therefore, they won’t understand this comment. Second, because they think they are completely right, they also believe they are clever enough to slip one of their tirades past your anti-troll sensors…or perhaps they are just oblivious to the fact you can read and recognize their M.O. Finally, they think they are right, not because they have ever studied economics or whatever else you happen to be writing about, but because they can point to who is wrong. That’s very important. They know they are right because they know you are wrong. That’s their rule: you have to be wrong. About everything, it would seem.
That creates an interesting dilemma for the trolls (along with certain pundits, bloggers, etc.). The problem, of course, is that here we have two diametrically opposed solutions on how to fix the economy. Everybody can’t be right. Somebody gets to be wrong. Somebody has to be wrong.
This probably keeps them up at night agonizing over the prospect that they aren’t the ones who are right, even though they believe they must be right, because if they get to be wrong, then you get to be right. And based on the negative reaction to your recent comments about Texas (from not just the trolls, but pundits and certain economists clinging to failed models), it looks like that their growing sense of anxiety about getting to be wrong escalated into a full-blown panic attack. They, of course, won’t get that either.
Afterthought: Trolls looked a lot different when I was a kid…
Troll Toy (c) RUSS