I have tussled with a troll on my blog lately. I shall not name him directly in this post but anyone can review the comment sections of other posts I have written to know who I am talking about. Like all trolls he has an over inflated ego and sees (or at least presents) himself as fighting the good and moral fight. But also like all trolls he remains largely unaware of his own true motivations. If he is at all aware of his true motivations he represses this knowledge so that he can maintain the feeling that his cause is righteous. How do I know all this about his psychology? I know this because I was once in his shoes. I recognize the pattern of behavior an the mindset. I even wrote a book about it.
I admit freely that I enjoy tussling with him on occasion and it always follows a similar pattern. I will publish a blog post that draws his attention. Sometime I specifically write on subjects because I know it will get a reaction from him and other times he simply responds to something I have written without this intent. We then argue back and forth each telling the other person that they are wrong. Sometimes it starts out on the issues but it always devolves into ad hominem attacks. Eventually the tussle becomes tiresome and I tell him I have had enough. He then attempts to post a response which I delete. He usually gives up after that.
Now the fact that I do derive enjoyment out of the interaction in a sense makes me a troll as well. Because the true motivation of a troll is to derive pleasure from getting a reaction out of another person. This is a very ego oriented drive. It makes the self feel good by putting itself hierarchically above another person. The ego is always comparing itself in this way. Some trolls are aware of this dynamic and are therefore able to exercise a degree of control over their behavior. Other trolls do not have this awareness and are unable to control their behavior or perhaps one could say that their behavior controls them. I suspect the gentleman who has been trolling my blog falls into the latter category.
In a sense our interactions have turned trolling into an art form or sport from my perspective. I am using his trolling against him to in effect perform what I would like to label a “reverse troll” or “troll jujitsu.” This of course is my way of making myself feel better about my role in this interaction. I am telling myself that it is all just a bit of fun. But in reality, my intuition tells me there is a dark side to all this that leaves us both muddy. So maybe I am not as aware of my true motivations as I think I am. My growth in this area is a work in progress I suppose.
For example, lately I took a little pride in the fact that this gentleman took it on the chin in the comment section of another blog he trolls. I need to provide some background on this. I first caught this gentleman’s eye more than a year ago when I posted a comment to a post on the blog “The Othosphere.” He took offense with my point of view and after that he began to obsessively post comments on my blog and has been doing so with remarkable consistency ever since. He originally accused me of trolling The Orthosphere. At the time I assumed he was a regular and respected contributor to that community. Over time it became clear, however, that at best the members of that blog’s community tolerated his presence. Typically they ignore his comments by not responding to them at all. At worst they express contempt for him. But I think in his mind I am the interloper to that community which he feels he is a part. Anyway, recently I commented in a post as an attempt to goad him. He naturally snapped at the bait but the beautiful part was that the author of the post entered the conversation making all the arguments against him that I typically make (e.g., his writing is unclear and confusing, he redefines words and expects everyone to use his definitions etc.). To my troll persona this was a spectacular turn of events. Not only was he made to look foolish on his supposed home turf but someone else did the heavy lifting for me. All I had to do was stoke the flame a bit here and there when it started to go out. This was black belt level troll jujitsu.
Of course I am not proud of this behavior. It is dark. It is ego driven. I can make excuses that he was the one who started it, or his belief system is ridiculous and bigoted, or I am not the only one who sees him for the buffoon that he is. But in truth these are all excuses covering up my true intentions. That truth is that there is a part of me that enjoys this and to the extent that I do enjoy it I remain unconsciously controlled by it. This is not a question of morality. From that perspective we are both wrong. But morality is largely an ego oriented enterprise. Morality says I am right and they are wrong and whoever is wrong should feel ashamed. Addressing trolling from the moral perspective will never heal the wound because the wound is a wounded ego. It is truly nothing more and nothing less. Moralizing this problem would only serve to reinforce the ego’s sense of self. The only way to heal a wounded ego is simply (but not easily) by becoming aware. Obviously I am not quite there yet but I am working towards that goal.