It occurred to me recently that internet trolls and terrorists share certain distinct qualities. This idea came to me when I realized that the victims of trolls and terrorists always have the same response. This response is to question why trolls and terrorists do what they do. Specifically they ask themselves, “Why they do they hate us?” Often the victims explain the actions of the trolls and terrorists by labeling them as evil or simply jerks. I am certainly not here to argue that these labels are inappropriate. But I do think they demonstrate a lack of understanding on the victim’s part as to what is truly motivating the trolls and terrorists.
I think I have a good idea what motivates an internet troll because I have acted as one in the past. Although I have never committed an act of terrorism it seems reasonable to speculate that the terrorist’s motivations are the same as the troll’s motivation because the actions of both terrorists and trolls have the same effect on their victims. That is, their actions are designed to make their victims suffer in and of itself.
When I was a troll (or when I was accused of being a troll) I felt like I was being mistreated by the people who dominated the Star Trek message board on which I was an active member. (See my book “Shame and Internet Trolling” for more details). There was one politically conservative guy on the message board named Admiralbill who I felt was particularly nasty and condescending to people who had the audacity to question the George W. Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq. I took it upon myself to passive-aggressively attack him with sarcastic remarks and by posting articles on topics I knew would make him angry. I was not particularly liberal at the time but I was willing to advocate the liberal argument to achieve my goals. The administration of the board sided with him and so I began arguing with them until they eventually banned me. When I look back upon my actions I can see that I was chiefly motivate to make both Admiralbill and the board administration suffer. In fact I took pleasure from doing so.
But there is another aspect to this behavior in that both trolling and terrorism are unconscious acts. They are unconscious in the sense that the perpetrators of both acts (I believe) are unconscious of their true motivations. It is my contention based upon my own experience that a person who derives pleasure from making other people suffer feels this way because someone else derived pleasure from making them suffer. In other the feel compelled to repeat this behavior because they are addicted to the feelings it evokes in them.
Because trolls and terrorists are unaware of (or unwilling to admit) their true motivations they tend to cloak their behavior in righteousness. When I trolled I argued that I was defending the liberals from Admiralbill’s abuse. Admiralbill argued that conservatism was rational and by contrast liberalism was irrational. (Although I admit my behavior was troll-like I suspect Admiralbill also share my motivations. This motivation to cloak this behavior in righteousness is probably why terrorism and religion attract each other in many cases. Other examples of this that come to mind are Michael Voris the snarky, condescending and judgmental producer of the Church Militant videos available on Youtube as well as the white supremacist Thordaddy who stalked my blog some months back. Both seem to take pleasure in judging and shaming others while at the same time cloaking their behavior in righteousness and religion. It is my contention that all these examples as well as the terrorists in Al Qaeda and ISIS are all similarly unaware of their true motivations. And they must remain unaware of their true motivations in order to continue with their behavior. I believe this to be true because in my own experience once I became aware that I was simply repeating the abuse I once suffered I realize that it is the cycle in which I was trapped that is evil and not the people upon which I sought to perpetuate the cycle. Once I realized this my motivation to continue with the behavior disappeared.
Have you ever argued with someone who makes you feel crappy about yourself for the views you espouse? I call these types of people “Admiralbills.” Admiralbill was my old nemesis from the now defunct message board called “Sistertrek.” He had a personality type I have observed in all corners of the internet, talk radio and conservative cable news.
Typical examples of the Admiralbill personality type include Ann Coulter, Michael Voris, Anchormom, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. This personality type is almost always conservative although there are some liberal examples. Bill Maher comes to mind. The liberals tend to be atheists interestingly enough. The conservative ones long for a return to a more virtuous era, blaming change and liberalism for the downfall of civilization.
The reason the Admiralbills of the world make you feel crappy is they make their points by shaming their opponents. They label their opponents weak, lazy, stupid dishonest with the implication that you are possessed by these same qualities if you agree with them. Admiralbills are bullies and try to intimidate their opponents into admitting they are correct or otherwise giving in to their point of view.
Admiralbills are unforgiving. They will use any olive branch their opponents offer against them as evidence of guilt.
Another interesting trait shared by many within this personality type (mostly the conservative ones) is that they talk in clichés. They typically have a snappy, prefabricated phrase always at the ready with which to label their opponents. Perhaps this technique makes it easier for them to remember their arguments. It seems a little intellectually lazy; almost a technique to avoid thinking in an Orwellian sense. Once an opponent is labeled they become that label and cease to be a person deserving respect in the eyes of an Admiralbill.
Admiralbills subscribe to a shame based morality structure. They believe shame is what keeps civilization intact. If someone is not pulling their weight or otherwise acting immoral they deserved to be shamed. What the Admiralbills of the world do not seem to realize is that their motivation to shame other people is not virtuous as they would like to believe but is really only a replaying of the shaming they received when their own morality structure was imposed upon them. They possess a loyalty to this system of shame and often become enraged when this system is challenged. Challenging this system touches the very core of their sense of self and has to be protected at all costs. They view the people who challenge this system as literally trying to destroy their world. This is why there can be no compromising with Admiralbills. Compromise destroys their world and the people who seek to compromise are traitors and terrorists.
This system of shame is passed on to others by shaming them. When a person is shamed they will instinctively want to shame other people because this lessens their own shameful feelings momentarily. It is a primitive, dominating instinct like dogs humping dogs and prisoners humping prisoners. But like an addiction the desire to shame other people can never be fully satiated. In this way shame repeats itself over and over and spreads like a virus from one host to another.
How do I know all this? Because I was once one of them. I was trapped in the shame dynamic. I was miserable but I did not want to see past it because shame had convinced me that to challenge shame is disloyal and treasonous. Breaking out of this dynamic was an eye-opening and liberating experience. It all starts with awareness of the cycle. With awareness the burning desire to pass along shame begins to diminish. There is more to it but that is the start.
My last blog post was a critique of a post written by a woman calling herself Anchormom. Part of me tried to write my critique in a non judgmental way but that was really impossible. There is part of me that judges her because I expect she would judge me (if she read my blog). I was preemptively judging her so to speak. I feel like I have encountered her type before. She is Admiralbill from Sistertrek. She is Michael Voris. She is that conservative, self-righteous, judgmental, I’m right and you are wrong type that really gets under my skin. (Note: I fully realize that I am basing my condemnation of her on one blog post she wrote and to a lesser extent the smug picture of herself she attached to her blog, and the fact that she calls herself Anchormom. All these facts about her annoy me and I know this has more to do with me than her). I don’t like these types of people because I don’t like being judged. I don’t like being judged because I was judged as a kid and it hurt me and I never really got over it. Now when I am judged (or I perceive that a person might be in a position to judge me as is the case with Anchormom whom I assume will never actually read a word I have written) it stirs up these old hurts within me and I then feel the need to lash out at other people. I do this in a judgmental way. I do this in a passive aggressive way (to allow for deniability).
Still there is another part of me that feels my critique of Anchormom was legitimate. I should not let the petty, ego driven, shame based part of me derail my criticism of her entirely simply because it piggy backed on to the logical points I made and thus derived a sense of satisfaction out of the hurt feelings I imagine Anchormom could potentially have if she ever read my blog post. (Note: so far I think only one person has read the post and I think he is part of the Entitlement Generation Anchormom originally criticized in the blog post I criticized in my last blog post).
So where do we stand here? Anchormom criticizes the Entitlement Generation because she thinks her point of view will somehow reform them or cause other people to agree with her and eventually tip the scales against the Entitlement Generation in favor of the Silent Majority of neo-conservatives. I in turn criticize Anchormom by opining that her real motivation is to shame the Entitlement Generation out of a sense of loyalty to her parents generation who originally shamed her into adopting this conservative outlook. And now I acknowledge that I (or part of me) wrote my critique of Anchormom motivated by a desire to frustrate her and make her feel ashamed just as I was frustrated and made to feel ashamed when I was young. I did this because her condescending tone stirred up these old feelings of inadequacy inside me.
If this does not adequately encapsulate the crazy, insane, overcomplicated, dishonest and exhaustingly self-defeating nature of shame I don’t know what does.
I’ve been watching videos posted by Michael Voris who is a Roman Catholic apologist and a self-appointed lay defender of the faith. Here is one of his videos:
In this particular video Michael Voris talks about a movie released on the life of christ. I have never heard of the movie he reviewed and if I had I probably would never have gone to see it. What I found interesting was the message he drew out of it and how he went about explaining his point of view.
In his review he talks about the differences between Catholic and Protestant theology. He talks a lot about the “real presence” in the consecrated bread and wine during mass and how Catholics believe this and Protestants do not. He seems to imply that a Catholic who does not fully believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not a real Catholic.
Voris talks about how this movie appeals to emotions and not the intellect. He goes on to say that this is emblematic of the Protestant view of Christianity. I don’t know whether this is true or not. What I find interesting is that Voris, like Admiralbill (the conservative on the Star Trek message board I used to torment and documented in my ebook “Shame and Internet Trolling“) has to make his points by criticizing other people. In his analysis Voris takes an “I’m right. You’re wrong” approach and then criticizes his opponents to make his point. He then says that he does what he does for the good of the people he is mocking.
Voris argues Catholic truth appeals to the intellect whereas Protestant truth appeals to the emotions. There is the sense in his argument that emotions are not authentic or important. He says “emotions do not save … often times they deceive.” Admiralbill once typed, “WE THINK YOU FEEL” as a response intended to convey his belief that thoughts are more important than feelings and conservatives base their views on thoughts whereas liberals base their views upon feelings.
It is interesting to me that Michael Voris argues using the shame playbook just like Admiralbill. He claims to be motivated by saving souls but his method of argument (ie, shaming those who disagree with him) and the hostile energy he emits suggests to me that his real motivation is to shame others to make himself feel better about himself. This is what shame-based people do.
I am not commenting on the substance of his arguments. That is a question of faith I would suppose. He seems to have faith that Roman Catholicism is the one true faith. I am a Roman Catholic, I will make no argument with that. I am really questioning the motives he claims to be striving for. If I am being honest, if his true motivation is to assuage his shame ego then his arguments seem to carry less weight to me. Perhaps this is valuing feelings over thoughts on my part. But I am not entirely convinced that feelings should be weighted less than thought.